Archives for category: Asian

I am the worst blogger ever.  My last post was in February.  I’m not even going to try and explain why I haven’t posted because there’s no real reason.  As a matter of fact, I photographed this recipe three weeks ago. Just. Plain. Lazy. Anyway, during my unplanned hiatus my husband and I took a much needed vacation.  We visited Thailand and had a fabulous time.  We went to Bangkok and Koh Samui.  Thailand was so different than what I had pictured in my mind.  It was the first time my husband or I had been there and we both loved it.

I pictured Bangkok to be a hectic city.  In some ways it is, but I mostly saw it as controlled chaos.  Traffic without beeping or honking.  Everything was beautifully orchestrated.  I can still hear the lovely greeting, “Sawadee kha”  echoing in my head.  I loved the Thai people.  They were so friendly.  I saw so many smiling faces in Thailand that I began to smile for no reason at all.

I could picture myself living in Bangkok.  I do say that for a lot of cities I visit, but Bangkok appealed to me very much.  Koh Samui was also fantastic.  The hotel we stayed at was super quirky and really fun.  The Island had some rundown parts and also some parts that were absolutely spectacular.  Beautiful ocean, like I’ve never seen before.  All in all I have fond memories of our trip to Thailand.

Let me discuss the food!  We ate and ate.  I got so used to eating lavish breakfast spreads that when I got back home a bowl of cereal and fruit in the morning was not cutting it at all.  We enjoyed spicy curries and surpassed our quota of seafood for a year.  I miss all the softshell crab dishes with lots of red chilies, Thai basil, and lemongrass.

We ate gargantuan river prawns, simply grilled and served with a refreshing fresh chopped vegetable relish.  This was one of my favorite dishes in Thailand.  We don’t get prawns like that here.  The week after we returned I was craving the grilled prawns so much that I had to make them.  I had no real recipe, but with some trial and error I got it right.

I was so excited that I was upset my husband wasn’t at home to try them hot and fresh.  When he got home and tried them, I sat next to him eagerly and kept looking at him to say, “these taste just like the ones in Thailand!”  After I finally asked him, he agreed and continued to watch the TV un-phased, typical.  Here’s the recipe and I hope you try them.  And if you’ve been to Thailand and find they taste THE SAME, do let me know. 😉

Grilled Thai Prawns with a Fresh Vegetable Relish

serves 3-4, as a starter, can easily be doubled or tripled

Ingredients

for the shrimp

1 pound large-size shell-on prawns/shrimp, de-veined

2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil of your choice

2 tablespoons tamarind pulp

2-3 cloves garlic, mashed

1 inch piece of ginger

1 stalk lemon grass

zest and juice of 1 lime

1 long red chilli, roughly chopped, de-seeded if you like

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon red chili flakes, or to taste (this much will make it spicy)

sea salt, to taste

for the Fresh Vegetable Relish

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 radish, finely chopped (I used a watermelon radish for color)

1/2 cup cucumber, finely diced

1 red chili, de-seeded and finely chopped

1/2 stalk of lemon grass, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1 teaspoon sesame oil

juice of 1 lime

fresh chopped herbs like cilantro, Thai basil, or mint

salt, to taste

Method

Place the shrimp in a bowl.  Combine all the ingredients except the shrimp in a blender or food processor.  Pulse ingredients in the blender until pureed and well combined.  Pour the marinade over the shrimp and toss with the shrimp.  Marinate the shrimp in the fridge for 1-2 hours.  After 1-2 hours, heat a grill pan or use an outdoor grill and grill the shrimp on each side until cooked.  it should take about 2 minutes per side.  If you would like you may grill the shrimp on skewers.

While the shrimp is marinating prepare the relish by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and allow it to sit in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.  Serve with the shrimp after it is done on the grill.  I also like to serve red chili paste on the side for some extra spice.  Serve with lime wedges as well.

I hope anyone on the Eastern seaboard stayed safe throughout Hurricane Irene.  My parents live in Rhode Island and haven’t had electricity since early Sunday.  My mom says she’s so bored.  I can imagine, but I’m glad the storm wasn’t as severe as anticipated.  Slowly, lights will turn back on and the scramble to cook something by candlelight will be a fond tale people tell their kids time and time again.  If the word hurricane is even mentioned my dad will go on about how my sister was born during Hurricane Gloria and about the little stream in the back of my house that was used for water.  He likes to tell us how they managed without electricity for over a week with a newborn baby.

We are so accustomed to a life where electricity runs all the time and food and water are plentiful.  In Toronto, where I live I looked out the window yesterday and the sun was peeking through the clouds.  Imagine, while life is normal where you are, people in other areas may not have the same luxury.  That’s what I thought as I looked outside and that a few hundred miles away the scene was completely different.

I hope the fallen trees get picked up soon and people are able to get back to their normal routine.  I know it won’t take very long.  But until then you can whip this salad as you read my blog on your mobile device or while using the free wireless at Starbucks. It’s a simple salad with clean flavors.  It requires no excessive work and is full of freshness.  I’ve been making this salad way too often, it’s the kind of thing where once you start you can’t stop.  I pair it with chicken, fish, or even on its own.  I love this recipe because it literally takes 5 minutes to make and it’s so healthy.  Give it a try before summer is over.

Cucumber Salad with Black Sesame Seeds

Serves 2, as a side can easily be doubled or tripled, etc.

Ingredients

1/2 a large English cucumber cut into thick match sticks (de-seeded if you like, I don’t mind the seeds)

3 scallions, sliced on an angle

1 tablespoon mint,  cut in a chiffonade

1 tablespoon toasted black sesame seeds

for the dressing:

1/2 a jalapeño pepper, chopped finely and seeds, removed if desired

1 small shallot, chopped finely

juice and zest of lime juicy lime

1 teaspoon Sambal Oelek, more or less depending on how spicy you like it

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon neutral-flavored vegetable oil

raw sugar, to taste

pinch sea salt

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes, or to taste

Method

Make the dressing first by adding the shallots and jalapeño to a bowl and letting them soften in the  lime juice and zest, soy sauce, rice vinegar for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, add in the Sambal Oelek, sesame oil, vegetable oil, salt, sugar, red chili flakes and whisk well until combined.  You can make the dressing ahead of time and toss it with the cucumbers and herbs at the last-minute.

Next, toss the dressing with the cucumbers, scallions, and mint.  Also add in the toasted black sesame seeds.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes before serving.  This is not a “make ahead” salad and should be served fresh.  But as I said before the dressing can be made in advance.

I have tried to write this post for a few days now, finding it kind of out of place.  With so many people suffering right now, I felt a sort of guilt that I have the luxury to write a blog post about soup whereas for many this would be the last thing on their mind.  I couldn’t find a way to fit it together without sounding forced.  Usually I have an idea about what my blog post is going to be about.  Here I am just typing, whatever words come out, I don’t know.  Let’s hope it makes some sense.

The world has been a tumultuous place lately–revolutions, earthquakes, floods, poverty, slavery, injustice.  I guess these things have always existed, maybe I just notice more now, now that I’m older and not as aloof as I used to be.  I watch the news in a daze sometimes, in awe of the hate and the suffering in the world.  My eyes often well up with tears and I hold them in.  My husband would tease me and call me a softy.  I feel safe where I am, just as people all over the world feel safe in their homes, eating meals cooked by loves ones everyday.  Sometimes we are shaken, as life can throw a curve at us.  It’s amazing how resilient the human spirit can be–how strong we are.

We do what we have to to get by.  A mother will still look after her children even when her world is shaken.  She will find a way to feed and comfort them.  Eating gives us fuel, gives us a feeling of the familiar.  We all have our favorite meals and sometimes when you sit down to a meal after a long hard day, you can unwind and just relish in food.

This Thai Soup is a family favorite.  Usually in restaurants, it’s called Tom Yum Goong, but I couldn’t find lime leaves, galangal, and Thai Basil, so I improvised.  The results were still delicious.  I also added coconut milk, because something about the aroma of coconut milk soothes the soul–comfort.  Chilies and spiciness are also soothing for me.  We always ask for our Thai food extra spicy.  Sometimes we regret it, but most times we enjoy the fiery spice.  How ever you like your soup, enjoy it and take a minute or two to reflect on life and be grateful for the small things.

Thai Style Soup with Shrimp

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

Vegetable oil of your choice

2 shallots, roughly chopped

4 cloves garlic roughly chopped

2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

1 stalk of lemon grass, bruised with a knife and roughly chopped

zest and juice of one lime

6 dried red chilies, or to taste and a few extra for the broth

1 tablespoon brown sugar

15 sprigs of cilantro, stems included

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, any size you prefer

crimini mushrooms, quartered

handful of pea pods, optional

6-8 cups chicken stock

salt, to taste

1 teaspoon fish sauce

1 3/4 cup coconut milk, I used light

1 red chili, sliced

1 green chili, sliced

cilantro, basil, limes, for garnish (or any combination)

Method

Put the shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lime zest/juice, dried red chilies, brown sugar, and cilantro springs in a food process and pulse until it forms a smooth paste.

Next, heat a large pot on medium and heat about 1 tablespoon of oil and add the paste to the oil and mix for 3-4 minutes.  Add in the chicken stock and mix the paste and chicken stock well so tat they become uniform. Taste for salt, and add salt, if necessary.  Also, throw in a few extra dried red chilies into the broth, optional.

Cook until the stock boils, once the stock boils add in the coconut milk and let it come to a boil again.  Add in the fish sauce and let the soup boil until you can see the oil separately.

Add in the mushrooms, pea pods, and shrimp and cook until the shrimp turns pink.  Garish with the red and green chilies, cilantro, basil, limes.  Serve hot.

A few other recipes of Thai Soup:

Temple of Thai

The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook

Thai Food About

Rasa Malaysia

**A good breakdown of a few organizations you can donate through for earthquake/tsunami relief via Slow Like Honey**

I love my food to be spicy and flavorful.  Many times, I find some cooking too bland for my taste.  Not to say that I don’t appreciate subtle and delicate flavors, I do as long as they are well-seasoned.  It is amazing to me, how taste buds can vary so much.  What is bland to me might be spicy to someone else.  By well-seasoned, I do not only mean spicy, I also mean the salt content.  Yes, salt is bad for you, but to the point where your food has no real taste?  Sometimes, I really ponder about these things.  Strange?

It’s just how my taste-buds are, I guess.  I like powerful flavors, just how I am drawn to bright and vibrant colors.  My rendition of fried rice is just that–powerful.  Savory, sweet, herbacious, and last but not least spicy.  It is in the style of Pakistani Chinese cuisine, sometimes called, Hakka Chinese.  It is of course not at all authentic Hakka Chinese, but a corrupted and masala laden version of it (in my opinion, at least).

I used ketchup, cauliflower, turmeric, and long green chilies, an out of the ordinary combination to add to fried rice, but it works.  I do not use ketchup often, not even for for French fries, so my addition here is only because it adds a great taste component.  When you are stumped on cauliflower, go Pakistani.  The South Asian flavors go so well with the bland nature of cauliflower.  Ginger and cauliflower are soulmates, I do not know how or why this pairing works, but it is one of those things just does.  Also, to keep it a little healthier I used brown rice and could hardly notice the difference.  Use any vegetable and/or meats/seafood you like or have on hand, anything works!  🙂

Sesame Chicken and Vegetable Fried Rice with a South Asian Twist

Serves 2

Ingredients

vegetable oil

1 cup of brown rice (dry), and then cooked according to instructions and cooled in the refrigerator

1 chicken breast, in small chunks

1/2 a red onion, chopped

5 cloves on garlic, roughly chopped

1 inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped

1/2 a head of cauliflower, in small pieces

2 cups mushrooms (any variety), sliced

1 long green chili, sliced on an angle

1/2 a bell pepper (orange, red, or yellow), in chunks

1/4 cup sesame seeds, toasted

1 egg beaten

2 scallions, sliced on an angle

fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

handful of cilantro, roughly chopped

For the sauce combine all the following ingredients together:

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons Vietnamese chili garlic sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup, preferably organic

2 tablespoons chili oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce (I used low-sodium)

1 teaspoon sesame oil

pinch of turmeric

salt, if needed

(Extra soy sauce and hoisin sauce may be needed for the end when tossing in the rice)

Method

Saute the onions on medium high heat in a wok or large skillet until they start to become transparent.  Next, add in the garlic and ginger.  Turn heat down so that the garlic does not burn.  Add in the cauliflower and the chicken and allow them to cook, about 5-7 minutes.  Next, add in the sauce and let it to coat the chicken and cauliflower.   Toss in bell peppers and green chilies or any other vegetable you may be using.  Also, at this point, add in the toasted sesame seeds.  Cook until the chicken is done.  Move the contents to the rims of the wok and fry the beaten egg in the middle so that it is like an omelet.  Then, using your spatula break the egg up into strips and toss in the chicken and vegetables.  Turn up the heat and toss in the rice, scallions, basil, and cilantro.  If necessary, add more soy sauce and hoisin sauce to the rice.  Garnish with toasted sesame seeds, a sprinkling of chili oil, scallions, basil, and cilantro.

IMG_8052Yesterday, on my walk home from the gym an entirely random craving for Spicy Wok Basil Noodles came over me .  This past summer my husband and I were both working research positions in New Haven, Connecticut.  New Haven, an unexpected mix of “Yalies” and urban culture had a surprisingly good restaurant scene.  It is also well catered to the student population.  Our living arrangements this summer, were last minute and may I say less than desirable.  I hardly stepped foot in the kitchen of the apartment we were staying at, much to my husband’s dismay.  Basically, we ate out quite often (everyday).  (Thankfully, we were able to move out after a month to a better place 🙂 ).  A note to women– please do not let your husband/boyfriend/partner pick out a place to live because they can adapt anywhere, whereas we cannot!  Anyway, enough with my rant!

Back to the food!  In New Haven, we stumbled upon a restaurant or more aptly, a dive called York Street Noodle.  It is an entirely “studenty” place that serves noodle bowls and wok creations.  Every time we went there I ordered the Spicy Wok Basil Noodle (either vegetarian or shrimp).  I always asked them to make it extra spicy for me and Yummmm, it just hit the spot!  I know my re-creation can never be AS good.  To my surprise, my version turned out quite good, not the exactly the same but pretty close.  My husband loved it so much he had three servings, which can only mean it was tasty!

IMG_8041

I have conducted an in-depth online search in order to find a recipe resembling it but, unfortunately, no luck.  But, I did find a photograph of the dish here yay!  My inspiration comes from this picture and my memories of the dish’s flavor.  A close cousin to this dish would be Drunken Noodles.

The noodles are wide and velvety.  There isn’t a sauce but a glistening glaze covering the noodles.  The flavor is smokey, nutty, and spicy.  The vegetables were pretty basic; green peppers (I substituted red peppers), mushrooms, white onions (I substituted shallots), wilted basil, and scallions.

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My version is as follows:

Serves 4

Ingredients

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon of ginger of galangal, minced

3 shallots, sliced

1/2 red pepper, sliced

1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced (stems removed)

Handful of snow peas (clean by pulling off strings)

1 cup firm tofu, cubed

1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (any size to your liking)

3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil (or to your liking)

1/3 of 16 ounce package of wide rice vermicelli noodles, Banh Pho

5 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoons fish sauce, Nuac Mam Dac Biet

1 tablespoon scant rice vinegar

juice of 1/2 lime

2 teaspoons chili oil

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teapsoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cornstarch

crushed red chiles to taste (I used 1 tsp for spicy)

10-15 Thai basil leaves (I was not able to find Thai basil so I used regular basil)

2 scallions, sliced on a bias

a few cilantro and basil leaves, for garnish

1/2 a lime in wedges, for garnish

Method:

Make the sauce by combining the soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar,  1 teaspoon of the chili oil, lime juice, sugar, cornstarch, kosher salt, crushed red chiles in a bowl, set aside.  Bring a large pot of water to boil, then put the noodles in a large bowl and cover with the boiling water allow to soften, about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, fry tofu on medium heat in 1 teaspoon of oil until golden, about 5 minutes, set aside.  Keep heat on medium, add 2 tablespoons of oil to a wok, when oil is heated add the shallots and allow to sweat.  Add garlic and ginger and stir constantly so they do not burn.  Next add shiitakes and allow to soften, add red peppers and snow peas at the end, for about 1-2 minutes.  Remove from wok and set aside with tofu.  Put the remaining oil in the wok and fry shrimp lightly, add the vegetables and tofu that was set aside.  Add the basil leaves and allow them to wilt.  Next, add the sauce and combine everything together.  Add the softened noodles (make sure to drain the water).  Toss everything together until the shrimp are cooked, about 5 minutes.  (Do not over cook, they can become rubbery; also keep the vegetables crisp, otherwise they will be soggy).  Drizzle the remaining 1 teaspoon of chili oil on top.  Add scallions and garnish with limes, cilantro, and basil.  Serve immediately.

Note:  I know this dish requires quite a few ingredients.  But, keeping a well stocked pantry will avoid a high grocery bill when making such a dish.  I always keep these sauces on hand so that I can whip up a fast dinner.  Use whatever vegetables you have on hand, you do not have to make a special trip to get snow peas if you don’t have them on hand.  If you would like to substitute chicken, beef, or make it vegetarian, feel free!  Adapt it to your tastes!  This dish took me 45 minutes with all the chopping.  Enjoy!