Tag Archives: Asian

Lies and Little Trees

My mother was a great illusionist.  Or maybe I was an unobservant child.

I remember the evening the scales fell from my eyes as I sat at the dining table.  My mother did not eat broccoli.  How could that be?

In fact, she didn’t seem to eat a lot of vegetables.  I watched the bowl of bright green steamed broccoli reach my mother, a mere mouthful amount was dished out, and it was then passed on to the next person at the table.  That small amount of broccoli was eaten, but clearly not enjoyed.  Yet, my brother and I were constantly being lobbied to eat all the green things on our plates.

Broccoli was called little trees.  We were told how delicious it was…how good for us it was.  Dessert was withheld until the entire portion of broccoli was consumed.  (Chocolate has always been a motivator for me.)

Hmph.  Unfair, I thought.  How can she make me do something I don’t want to do?  I had been fooled!  I had been lied to!

Then, I realized that I actually like broccoli.  In fact, I like all vegetables.  Really.  Even brussel sprouts and lima beans.

My mother encouraging us to eat all things green has made me a great eater.  I don’t just tolerate vegetables, I seek them out.  I experiment new ways to prepare them.  I enjoy all growing seasons.  Thanks, Mom.

Here is just one of the my recent experiments with broccoli…it is delicious paired with Asian-flavored tuna steaks or pork tenderloin.

Roasted Sesame Broccoli
Serves 4

about 1 lb broccoli, washed and trimmed to florets
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Toss broccoli florets with olive oil and then spread onto a rimmed baking sheet.

Roast  for 15 to 20 minutes, until browned.  It will cook faster on a dark-colored baking sheet than a light-colored baking sheet.

Remove from the oven and toss with soy sauce, lemon juice, and sesame seeds.  Serve warm.

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Filed under Personal, Vegetarian

Fermentation is My Friend

Salty…spicy…crunchy…subtly sweet.  Mmmm…  I really enjoy eating kimchee.  Kimchee (or kimchi) is a Korean dish of fermented vegetables.  Luckily, my friend Virginia is willing to make it and share her recipe for cucumber kimchee with me.

I understand that kimchee is not for everyone.  Some folks don’t like the heat of the spice.  Some folks don’t like the smell.  I suppose that it could be the fish sauce, but it adds the necessary umami flavor.  (What is umami?  It is a Japanese word for savory, one of the five basic tastes – sweet, sour, salty, and bitter.)

It could also be the fermentation factor that turns some people off the dish.  I think fermentation is fascinating, though. I do not fear the bacteria.  And not just because I enjoy beer and other alcoholic beverages.  The ancient person(s) who discovered how to cultivate yeast or helpful bacteria to create delicious foodstuffs deserves a place in our history books.  I, for one, am very grateful.  There is a character in the food world, Sandor Katz, who writes about fermentation and teaches folks how to make things like sauerkraut.  He likes to say, “that without culture, there would be no civilization.”  Of course, he means bacteria cultures, not just art and stuff.

Now, go cultivate some bacteria. Mmmm…

Virginia’s Cucumber Kimchee

6 to 10 smallish unwaxed, thin-skinned cucumbers (pickling, Kirby, or Korean)
1/4 cup salt
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup Korean chili powder
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/3 cup shredded carrots
2 Tbsp sugar
Glass container(s) tall enough to hold the cucumbers upright with lid

Wash cucumbers, and trim the ends.  The cucumbers need to be sliced to expose the center, but stay whole.  Stand each cucumber upright on your cutting board and slice through the center down almost the whole length, but stop before you cut all the way through.  Rotate the cucumber and repeat the slice in a perpendicular direction.

Fill a large bowl with water.  Add the salt and let it dissolve.

Fully submerge the cucumbers in the salt water for 30 minutes.

You may want to put a plate on top to keep the cucumbers under the surface of the water.

While the cucumbers are soaking, make the stuffing.  In another bowl, combine garlic, chili powder, fish sauce, carrots, and sugar.  Mix well.

After about 30 minutes, remove the cucumbers from the salt water.  Don’t rinse them.

Fill each cucumber between the connected pieces with spicy stuffing, and place them in a glass container next to each other.  Virginia often uses gloves when she fills the cucumbers so her hands do not smell like fish sauce for days on end.

Once you’ve used all the stuffing mixture, don’t rinse the bowl.  Add one to two cups of water to the bowl so you can get the last of the spice mixture and then pour it over the cucumbers.  They should be almost submerged.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and store at room temperature for at least 12 hours.  (Sometimes Virginia leaves it on her counter for about 18 hours.)  Then, move and store in the refrigerator.

Cucumber kimchee is good by itself, but I also enjoy it with rice or as a garnish for other dishes.  We even like it on hot dogs!

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Filed under Preserving, Snacks, Vegetarian

A Little Something Fancy

This week Washington, DC was host to the Summer Fancy Foods Show by the National Association of Specialty Food Trade.  And, I was lucky enough to go.

Um…wow.  This was my first time and I was completely overwhelmed.  There were over 2400 exhibitors and 180,000 products on display.

This is not an event open to the public.  It is a business trade show and a large number of attendees are buyers of food products.  The show gives specialty food purveyors an opportunity to showcase their goods, and for some, it becomes a fast track to success.

I didn’t t have press credentials so I can’t provide you with pictures of the hottest products direct from the showroom floor.  I can offer you my opinion about some of the big trends.

Popcorn.  Lots and lots of popcorn products.  I love the stuff, but I didn’t realize there was this great a need in the marketplace.

Heat and spice.  Spicy elements were all over the place, especially chipotle and jalapeno flavors.  Bring it on!

Salt.  Exotic salts and just plain sea salt were added to unexpected products…Some were intriguing, but others felt like just an excuse to introduce something new.  What have we got?  Hmmm…I know, let’s sprinkle it with sea salt!

Pork is king.  There is saw a continued (stale?) emphasis on bacon writ large, but there were several purveyors of Spanish ham, too.  We did not turn down any samples.

Asia rising.  I noticed a pretty large number of products with an Asian influence (that were not from Asia), and I lost count of how many folks were peddling crispy seaweed snacks.  I was partial to the ones labeled Beer Mate.  We also drank several versions of aloe juice.  I like it and I hope it spreads.

Goat.  Tons of dairy products using goat’s milk…not just rounds of goat cheese, but yogurt, ice cream, baked goods, and more.  Yay!

Water.  Too many lame fancy-pants waters.  It felt very ugly American.  I find them a bit too precious and out of touch with our current economic situation and not too environmentally friendly either.

I am very grateful to the person who supplied our complimentary passes.  She knows who she is, and I hope she knows we appreciated the opportunity.

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Filed under Personal, Travel

Ditch the Boring Chicken Recipes

Break out of your chicken rut.  This is an easy one-dish meal that is cool and refreshing for those hot summer nights.  Combine simply grilled chicken breasts with a bag of crunchy coleslaw mix and liven it up with a pleasantly spicy, sweet, and salty dressing.

Vietnamese-Style Chicken Salad
Serves 4

Modified from Fine Cooking

3 – 4 green onions
1 jalapeno, chopped (seed, if you want less spice)
1 Tbsp sugar
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup rice vinegar
3 Tbsp fish sauce
about 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (pounded thin, 1/4 tp 1/2-inch thick)
kosher salt
10 oz package coleslaw mix (shredded cabbage and carrots)
1 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Coarsely chop green onions.

 With a mortar and pestle, pound the green onions, jalapeno, sugar, and about 1/8 tsp pepper until the onions are soft and liquid is released.

Transfer to a large serving bowl, and stir in vinegar and fish sauce.

Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper and grill until cooked through.  Probably about 2 minutes for each side.

Let the chicken cool and then shred with your fingers or slice into long thin strips.

Toss the coleslaw mix into the vinegar mixture.

Add the chicken, mint, and cilantro, and combine well.

Serve at room temperature.

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Filed under Chicken, Salad

Noodles You Want To Eat With Your Hands

I love this noodle dish.  It is so easy to make, and the toasted sesame seeds and sesame oil smell wonderful.  It pairs well with so many things, it holds up to travel so you can take it to a party or picnic, and you can prepare it in advance.  Plus, it is great to eat straight from the refrigerator in the wee hours of the morning when you come home from an evening of fun.

I love this noodle dish so much that sometimes I even start to eat with my hands when I make it, or in the wee hours of the morning when all that fun has made me hungry.

Sesame Noodles
Serves 2 to 4
Modified from Nigella Lawson

1/3 cup sesame seeds
salt, to taste
8 to 10 oz soba noodles
2 tsp rice vinegar
6 tsp soy sauce
2 1/2 tsp honey
2 tsp sesame oil
3 to 4 scallions, chopped

In a dry pan, toast sesame seeds over high heat until the are golden brown.  Pour them into a bowl and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a bit of salt.  Put in the noodles and cook them for about 6 minutes (or follow the directions on the package) until they are tender, but not mushy.  Have a bowl of ice water waiting to plunge the noodles into after draining.

Using the bowl in which you are going to serve the noodles, mix the vinegar, soy sauce, honey, and sesame oil.

Add the cooled, well-drained noodles to the bowl and the finely chopped scallions.

Toss together and the add the toasted sesame seeds and toss again.

I find this dish tastes best if you let it sit for at least 20 or 30 minutes before serving.

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Filed under Vegetarian

Happy New Year, Rabbits!

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit.  It began on February 3, 2011 and ends on January 22, 2012.  Chinese New Year starts at the second full moon after the Winter Solstice, not January 1.



The Rabbit is considered a lucky sign.  According to Chinese tradition, the Rabbit brings a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your nerves.  It is believed that to gain the greatest benefit from this time, focus on home, family, security, diplomacy, and your relationships with women and children.  So, think mellow thoughts and take advantage of this time to cook at home more.

In honor of the Chinese New Year, I made Longevity Noodles with Chicken, Garlic, and Ginger.  They are called longevity noodles because their long length represents longevity and noodles like these are typically served at all occasions that relate to long life.  I was born in the Year of the Rabbit, so I thought it was a good idea to make a simple, but lucky dinner.  


Longevity Noodles with Chicken, Garlic, and Ginger
Serves 2 to 3


12 – 16 oz thin fresh noodles (I used lo mein)
2 tsp sesame oil
12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast (or thighs) cut into bite-size pieces
1 Tbsp finely shredded ginger
1 tsp plus 1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp plus 1 Tbsp soy sauce
salt, to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp peanut oil
2 tsp pepper oil, optional
2 cups thinly sliced cabbage
1 cup fresh shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced



Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil over high heat and cook noodles until just done, less than 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.  



Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until cool, then shake well to remove water.  Return noodles to pot, add sesame oil, and toss.


Put diced chicken in medium bowl and add ginger, 1 tsp rice wine, cornstarch, 1 tsp soy sauce, and salt and pepper.  Mix gently to combine.



You don’t want much liquid in your stir fry initially, so in a separate bowl combine remaining 1 Tbsp of rice wine and 1 Tbsp soy sauce.


Heat work over high heat until a bead of water evaporates almost on contact.  Swirl in 1 Tbsp peanut oil and 1 tsp pepper oil.  Add chicken, spreading in a single layer to maximize contact with heated surface of wok.  Let it cook undisturbed for about a minute, until chicken begins to sear.



Stir-fry chicken, tossing in the wok, for about 2 more minutes or until just done.  Remove the chicken to a clean bowl.  


Add cabbage, mushrooms, and garlic, and stir-fry just a minute or so until wilting, but not cooked.  Empty the vegetables into the bowl holding the chicken.

Reheat wok, swirl in remaining 1 Tbsp peanut oil and 1 tsp pepper oil, and add noodles.  Stir-fry only about 30 seconds, moving constantly to heat through.  



Swirl the soy sauce-rice wine mixture and add to wok along with chicken-vegetable mixture.  Sprinkle with a dash or two of salt and stir-fry another 2 minutes or until the chicken and vegetables are heated through.



Serve immediately.


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Texan Bulgogi with Bibim Bap

I started planning for round two of Project Food Blog before I even finished my entry for the first round.   I liked the idea of making a traditional family dish with the recipe coming from a friend.  I knew my friend, Virginia, could help.   She’s a terrific cook with a generous spirit.  I called her up and we brainstormed some traditional Korean dishes.  She helped me decide on bibim bap (mixed vegetables on rice) and bulgogi (marinated beef), something that her family often ate.

Now, for the shopping…I visited two Asian grocery stores within a few miles of our temporary house here in Fort Worth.  The vegetables, rice, and seasonings where easy to find, and it was fun to just wander down the aisles.  The butcher counter was a slightly different story.  
From my conversations with Virginia, I knew I was looking for very thinly sliced beef, and we both believed it would be fairly common to find.  Let me emphasize here that I am not at all squeamish, and I thought it was important in the spirit of the challenge to step outside my normal routine.  I was not deterred by the lack of labels behind the glass, the various animal body parts in plastic, or clerks who didn’t speak English.  I walked slowly up and down the counter case, all along the freezer case, and back to the counter case.  Hmmmm…I didn’t really see what I wanted to find. 
I found one pile that looked like beef, and was thinly sliced, but it looked basically like scraps left from trimming more favorable portions of the cow.  Well, what the heck, the price was only $1.49/lb.  Note to my reader – that should have been my first clue.   Using sign language and pointing, I placed my order.  The clerk reached into the pile with his bare hands and dumped it by the handful into a plastic grocery bag to weigh, then placed it in another plastic grocery bag, knotted it, and handed it over.  This probably should have been my second clue.
Once I got my packages home, I was going to prepare the marinade for the beef.  I unwrapped the meat with the intent of trimming it.  On closer inspection, I noticed that it was really discolored.  It also had a lot of fat on it.  Now, we don’t have the best knife set in our rental kitchen, but I couldn’t even cut it.  No matter what direction in relation to the grain I used, it was too tough.  Alright, enough is enough.  I threw the whopping $3 of meat in the trash and headed out to the store again. 
This time I visited a butcher I knew who could help me figure out what to do.  We put our meatheads together and decided that the best course of action was to buy fajita meat.  Yeah, that’s right.  I bought Texas fajita meat to make Korean bulgogi.  Hear me out…fajita meat is sirloin made for marinade and thin slicing.  Plus, it isn’t too expensive.  Meat crisis over, I went home to make my marinade.

Bulgogi

For 1 lb of meat, very thinly sliced
1 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp garlic powder
¼ cup sesame oil
1 bunch spring onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
dash of rice vinegar
Place all ingredients and meat in a gallon sized ziploc bag.  


Using your hands, distribute the marinade around and over the beef.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  The meat can then be stir fried, broiled, or grilled.  You may want to chop it into bite-size pieces, as I did.

Bibim Bap
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups medium-grain Korean (or Japanese) rice
1 large cucumber, sliced into thin strips
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts
1 1/2 cups spinach, trim stems
2 carrots, julienned
1/2 lb meat, optional
Fried egg as a topping, optional
Sesame oil
Sesame seeds
For making the right rice, which is really important, here’s what Virginia says to do.  Rinse the rice to get rid of excess starch.  Then put enough water in it so that when you lay your hand flat on the surface of the rice, the water goes up to your big knuckle on your fingers.  She uses a rice cooker, but if you want to do on stove, just bring it to a boil and then immediately cover, turn heat down to low, and then let that “steam” for 20 minutes.  Do not open lid during the 20 minutes.  I used 1½ cups of dry rice and 2 cups of water.  I brought it to a boil, then covered and turned down the heat to low and cooked for 20 minutes.
I cooked all vegetables separately and kept them separate until serving.
Soak the cucumber in saltwater for about 20 minutes, then drain.
Place the bean sprouts in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, and drain. 
Cook the spinach in boiling water for no more than 3 minutes and drain very well.  I squeezed it with my hands to remove excess water.  I seasoned each with a drizzle of sesame oil, a dash of salt, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds.


Sauté carrots in a bit of sesame oil and sprinkle with salt.

Spoon cooked rice in large bowl or platter and arrange vegetables on top.
If you like, the bulgogi and egg can be placed in the center.
This was delicious, and we ate until we were almost sick.  We attempted authenticity by eating with chopsticks, but my husband reverted to using a fork because he couldn’t shovel it into his mouth fast enough.  Thanks for the recipes, Virginia!


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Filed under Beef