Archive for the ‘Asian’Category

‘Stir Crazy’ makes simple, fast, tasty Chinese

Stir Crazy Front Cover US

Rarely does a new cookbook so readily insinuate itself into our weekly menu planning. Stir Crazy by Ching-He Huang (Kyle Books, $24.95) is the latest volume of make-at-home Chinese cooking by the prolific Taiwan-born chef and host of Cooking Channel shows. The subtitle—“100 Deliciously Healthy Stir-Fry Recipes”—speaks volumes. The recipes for two servings include estimated prep and cooking times along with calories and grams of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

Few dishes exceed 400 calories per serving, yet every one is a satisfying one-dish meal, especially if paired with rice or noodles. It’s no secret how she keeps them in nutitional bounds. Wok cookery uses very little oil, and cooking times are brief. Most ingredients are readily available in most supermarkets.

Once we embraced the book, we did have to change a few habits. First, we stocked up on a few seasonings we don’t usually keep on hand—oyster sauce, fish sauce, toasted sesame oil, and an upgrade to our usual soy sauce. Ching mostly uses peanut or canola oil; we found a grapeseed-canola blend with a little higher smoke point. After trying some wok recipes in conventional frying pans, we relented and bought a good wok at C-Mart in Boston’s Chinatown.

Once we were appropriately equipped, it was surprisingly easy to incorporate some of these recipes into our menus. Ching uses somewhat larger portions of meat than traditional in most Chinese cooking. Beef might be 4 ounces for two servings, chicken is almost always 7 ounces. (We suspect that the original British edition of the book gives those measurements as 150 grams and 250 grams, respectively.) What has so far impressed us is that Ching’s proportions produce perfectly balanced flavors.

Here’s one of our new favorites.

beef and spinach fried rice

BEEF AND SPINACH FRIED RICE


If you have some cooked basmati rice to hand, this dish is incredibly quick to make. If you want to make it carb-free then omit the rice and add some add some broccolini or Chinese cabbage to make the dish go further.

Preparation 20 minutes (includes cooking the rice)
Cooking 6 minutes
Serves 2
cal 429 carbs 43.7g protein 19.4g fat 20.7g

For the beef


4 ounces beef sirloin, fat trimmed off, sliced into thin strips
knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
pinch of sea salt flakes
pinch of ground white pepper
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry

For the fried rice


2 tablespoons canola oil
1 garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
7 ounces spinach leaves
1½ cups cooked basmati rice (¾ cup uncooked)
1 tablespoon low-sodium light soy sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
pinch of ground white pepper

Directions


Combine all the ingredients for the beef in a bowl, then set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat until smoking and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add the garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds to release its aroma, then add the spinach and cook for 5 seconds. Add in the cooked rice and toss with the spinach for 30 seconds.

Push the rice to one side, then heat up the center of the wok and pour in the remaining canola oil. Add the beef and let it brown and sear for 10 seconds, then flip it over. Stir-fry until all the beef has coated the rice, then season with the light soy sauce, oyster sauce, and toasted sesame oil. Sprinkle with some ground white pepper and serve immediately.

CHING’S TIP
Work quickly so the spinach doesn’t become mush.

Reprinted from Stir Crazy by Ching-He Huang, published by Kyle Books. Photography by Tamin Jones.
Here’s the link to buy it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stir-Crazy-Deliciously-Healthy-Stir-Fry/dp/1909487678

26

11 2017

Even Japanese cooks love asparagus

Pan-fried asparagus with soy and sesame
In Cook Japanese at Home, author Kimiko Barber demystifies Japanese cuisine for western cooks. But she never dumbs it down. The new cookbook, available this month in the U.S. from Kyle Books, provides 200 recipes that most cooks could replicate without any special equipment—or terribly exotic ingredients. Emma Lee’s photographs show how classy the dishes can appear.

Barber observes that western appreciation of Japanese cooking has made a quantum leap since she first moved to London in the 1970s. She does a marvelous job of summarizing Japanese culinary history and the influence of Zen aesthetics on the preparation and presentation of meals.

But as true as she is to the spirit of Japanese cuisine, she does not shy away from fusion dishes. Her Japanese-style beef bourguignon, for example, uses sake, red and white miso, hot pepper, and ginger along with the traditional cubes of beef and slices of bacon. It also uses smoky dried shiitake mushrooms in place of French champignons. It’s a very successful meeting of two great culinary traditions.

She notes that Japanese kitchens have also warmed to certain western ingredients, including our beloved asparagus. Here’s the recipe for Emma Lee’s photo at the head of this post.

PAN-FRIED ASPARAGUS WITH SOY AND SESAME


Asparagus, although a relative newcomer to Japanese cuisine, is loved for its taste, and prized for its tantalizingly short season.

serves 4

12 to 16 asparagus spears
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons sake
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon white toasted sesame seeds, to serve

Asparagus has a natural breaking point below which it is stringy and inedible—hold a spear between your hands, then bend until it breaks, and discard the lower part. Cut each trimmed spear into 1 and 1/2-inch lengths.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the thicker, lower part pieces of asparagus first, followed by the rest, shaking the pan to toss, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the sake and soy sauce, and continue to cook while still shaking the pan, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Turn off the heat, then sprinkle the sesame seeds over and serve.

31

05 2017

Toronto Chinatown awash with flavors

Exterior of King's Noodle in Toronto Chinatown
“Growing up in Chinatown,” said chef and culinary educator John Lee, “was a Duddy Kravitz kind of experience.” He was making a very Canadian reference to Mordecai Richler’s nostalgic novel of the Canadian Jewish immigrant experience. John was showing us around his childhood haunts in Toronto’s Old Chinatown. (It’s not to be confused with at least five other Chinatowns east of Toronto proper.)

Toronto Chinatown street scene The Toronto neighborhood radiating from the corner of Spadina Avenue and West Dundas Street was a Jewish immigrant neighborhood for the first half of the 20th century. As the Jewish population moved north after World War II, Chinese immigrants flooded into the area. Of Korean descent, Lee waxed nostalgic about his Chinese and Jewish friends as well as the old-time Jewish shopkeepers and deli owners.

Fruit stand in Toronto Chinatown Although new money from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland has poured into Chinatown over the last few decades, the neighborhood retains that bustling edge of striving newcomers. Shoppers crowd the streets. Merchandise seems to spill out of stores packed to the rafters. Street merchants are always ready to haggle. It’s hard to tell whether the neighborhood has more fruit stands selling mangosteens and sweet sops, or more restaurants promising congee and crispy duck.

Taste of Chinatown


John Lee pours tea In such a restaurant-packed neighborhood, it’s useful to have a guide who is in the trade. John’s stories continued over a raft of dishes at the colorful, well-established King’s Noodle Restaurant (396 Spadina Ave., 416-598-1817, www.kingsnoodle.ca). We started with excellent shrimp dumplings—one of the ways to judge the quality of a Chinese kitchen. Side dishes of Chinese broccoli (kai lan) in oyster sauce and a Yeung Chow fried rice (made with barbecued pork bits) set up the main focus of our meal. John took the lead, ordering a barbecue plate with barbecued pork ribs, soya chicken, and crispy pork belly (below). As we left, John confessed that King’s Noodle is one of his reliable fall-backs for great barbecue. Duly noted—we’ll be back.

Barbecue plate at King's Noodle in Toronto Chinatown

24

10 2016

Sweet tastes at Waikiki farmers’ market

Waikiki farmers' marker
As on the mainland, farmers’ markets are thriving in Honolulu as more and more people embrace fresh, local foods. The best market for visitors—who don’t have to gather all the ingredients for dinner—may be in the pretty atrium at the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki (2424 Kalakaua Avenue). It’s held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 8 p.m. and has a nice array of exotic fruits, such as the spiny red and slightly acidic rambutan or the sweeter lychee. There are also plenty of options for a quick snack, such as bowls of diced mixed fruit or coconut juice straight from the shell. The market is also a great place to pick up food gifts for the folks back home. You’ll find local coffee and coffee jelly, green tea, ginger chips, sea salt, and an array of fruit butters, including guava, mango, lilikoi, and haupia.

Waikiki farmers' market fruit Several bakers also set up tables offering everything from malasadas, or “Portuguese donuts,” to loaves of guava bread and pineapple-macadamia nut muffins. I was most intrigued with the muffins, though no one was willing to share their recipe. Those that I sampled were very tasty but quite dense and perhaps a little too moist. I’m guessing that the bakers used canned crushed pineapple, since the enzyme in raw pineapple breaks up protein chains and messes up the way baked goods rise. But I liked the flavor combination and the textural contrasts of the pineapple and nuts, so I decided to come up with my own version once I got back home.

I started with a classic muffin recipe that can be altered to add fruit and nuts, and crossed it with an unusual recipe for dried fig muffins from The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book. I thought I would like to use dried pineapple, but those pineapple tidbits can be tough compared to the soft crumb of a muffin. The fig muffin recipe called for soaking the figs in hot apple juice. I thought orange might go better with pineapple, so I grated the peel, squeezed the juice, heated it, and added the pineapple bits. They soaked for 10 minutes, and voila!, I had pineapple with the right texture for muffins and without the sogginess of crushed fruit.

PINEAPPLE MACADAMIA NUT MUFFINS

Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients

Wakiki farmers' market pineapple mac muffins2 juice oranges
1 cup dried pineapple cut in raisin-sized pieces
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup tart yogurt
1/2 cup milk
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Directions

Grate peel from the oranges, then cut and squeeze for juice. Heat juice and peel to near boiling. Add pineapple pieces and soak 10 minutes. Remove pineapple and grated peel from juice with slotted spoon and reserve.

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease 12 muffin cups,

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, ground nutmeg, and baking soda. Whisk to mix thoroughly

In another bowl, beat together eggs, yogurt, and milk. Beat in brown sugar, melted butter, and vanilla.

Add the egg-sugar mix to the flour mixture and stir just enough to moisten all the ingredients. Batter will be lumpy. Fold in the reserved pineapple and orange peel and add the macadamia nuts.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full (a rounded quarter cup of batter). Place in oven and bake 14–16 minutes—until tops begin to brown and toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle of a muffin comes out clean.

Cool on rack.

28

03 2016

Great tastes rule Hawaii Food & Wine Festival

Hawaii Food & Wine Festival
As the sun set over the water and the air began to cool, Mayor Kirk Caldwell toasted the fifth anniversary of the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival. “We started with spam and sausage and took it to a unique Pacific Hawaiian cuisine,” he told the crowd assembled on the outdoor decks of the Modern hotel in Honolulu (above). “We’re chop suey,” the mayor said with a laugh. “We make great looking people and great food. We are proud of who we are as a people and we are proud of our food.”

Started as a modest three-day event on Oahu, the festival (scheduled for October 14-30, 2016) now features events on the islands of Maui, Hawaii, and Oahu, with the bulk of activities in Honolulu. With an emphasis on local foodstuffs and talented chefs, the festival encourages creativity and even a sense of fun.

The festival is also a great springboard for exploring the unique cuisine that the mayor described in such memorable terms. For a taste of Pacific Hawaiian cuisine, I spent a few days sampling some of the festival events, searching out up-and-coming neighborhoods, visiting a farmers market and the fish auction, and dining at modest restaurants serving traditional dishes as well as those setting new standards in Hawaiian dining. Look for more in the upcoming posts.

Sarah and Evan Rich from Rich Table at Hawaii Food & Wine Festival For the Chopstix & Cocktails event, where I met the mayor, 13 chefs from around the world created dishes inspired by Asian countries that use chopsticks. The challenge of balancing the morsels on chopsticks while weaving in and out of the crowd did not deter diners from sampling such goodies as grilled ono with guacamole and Romanesco sauce by chef Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto restaurant in New York and Top Chef Masters fame, Vietnamese beef tartare on a sesame cracker from chef Charles Phan of the Slanted Door in San Francisco, and kampachi with hearts of palm and bone marrow salsa verde from husband and wife chefs Sarah and Evan Rich from Rich Table, also in San Francisco (above). “They invited us and gave us a list of ingredients and told us to do our thing,” said Sarah Rich.

Morimoto green tea soba at Hawaii Food & Wine Festival Local chefs were also well-represented, including two from the Modern, which usually hosts the opening event of the festival and is the hotel of choice for many of the visiting chefs. Executive chef Keith Pajinag created a lovely twist on a sweet treat with his foie gras macaron, while chef Masaharu Morimoto, who has one of his signature restaurants at the hotel, offered a lovely plate of cold green tea soba noodles with vegetables and a tempura shrimp garnish. Chef’s Morimoto’s dish was one of my favorites. It’s also a good example of how a real culinary star can elevate a fairly simple concept. He simply cooks green tea noodles and steams some vegetables. The dish is topped with pico de gallo and a Thai fish sauce-based dipping sauce, then garnished with a tempura shrimp, micro greens, and shredded nori.

By the way, if you decide to dine at Morimoto Waikiki (808-943-5900, www.morimotowaikiki), schedule a table on the terrace or by a window on Friday night for a view of the fireworks over the beach.

15

12 2015

Tuk Tuk Taproom weds Asian street food & craft beer

Thai papaya - Tuk Tuk sign
San Antonio certainly has its native spice (thanks to Mexican chile peppers), but David Gilbert has given the city an injection of southeast Asian flavors that pair perfectly with hoppy, malty craft beers at Tuk Tuk Taproom. Raised in Dallas, chef Gilbert has traipsed all over the world to cook — and to dive. Recipient of a StarChefs Rising Chef award for work in Los Angeles and a multiple nominee for James Beard awards for work in San Antonio, he came to the Alamo City in 2011 at the behest of Texas cuisine master Stephen Pyles, who was opening a new restaurant in the Eilan Hotel and wanted Gilbert to run the show for him. Ever restless (see his book Kitchen Vagabond: A Journey Cooking and Eating Beyond the Kitchen), his travels in southeast Asia sealed his culinary fate.

Thai papaya - David Gilbert headshot On a extended journey that began as a SCUBA-diving vacation, Gilbert fell in love with the street food of Asia, especially the street food of southeast Asia, and most especially the street food of northern Thailand. “I was tired of placing microgreens with tweezers,” he says breezily of the decision to turn his back on a successful fine-dining career to do something funkier — much funkier. In September 2013, he and beer meister Steve Newman opened Tuk Tuk Taproom (1702 Broadway, San Antonio; 210-222-TAPS; tuktuktaproom.com) in a small building that had been both a repair garage and a Mexican fast food joint (not, presumably, at the same time).

Thai papaya - David Gilbert The food, Gilbert insists, is authentic Asian cuisine made the way it’s prepared in the streets of Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, and other parts of Asia. During San Antonio’s Culinaria food festival in May, he demonstrated three different versions of green papaya salad. Our favorite — and the one almost always on the menu (along with 60 craft beers on tap) — is the Thai salad. He insists that the granite mortar and pestle are essential because they break down the food differently than any other technique. He also cautions against putting peanuts in at the beginning, because the result will be too creamy.

Thai papaya salad
GREEN PAPAYA SALAD, THAI STYLE

You will need a Thai salad mortar & pestle — a deep-bowled mortar usually made of dense granite — to make this salad. Most Asian grocers stock the tool, or David Gilbert advises purchasing it from www.importfood.com.

Ingredients

2 cloves of garlic (peeled)
2 Thai chilis, whole
3 ounces long beans (or substitute green beans)
14 ounces Asian green papaya
1 plum tomato (cut lengthwise)
5 dried shrimp (medium size)
1 ounce fresh squeezed key lime juice
1/2 to 1 ounce fish sauce
1 tablespoon Thai palm sugar
2 ounces roasted peanuts, crushed

Directions

1. Pound the garlic and Thai chili with pestle in the mortar until mashed.

2. Add the long beans and green papaya. Pound again, bruising and breaking down the papaya.

3. Add tomato and shrimp. Lightly pound and mix the salad with a spoon inside the mortar.

4. Add the liquids and adjust the balance between sweet (palm sugar), salty (fish sauce), and sour (lime juice).

5. Add peanuts and mix all together.

6. Remove the salad from mortar and serve with raw cucumber slices and generous hunks of green cabbage.

15

07 2014