Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pho Mushroom Soup with Oysters and Arugula








     Soothing, Savory and Healthy!
     Pho translates to noodles or rice noodles.  Pho noodle soups are popular these days.  I have published a few pho soup recipes that are traditional Thai or Vietnamese.  Some are modern style pho creations.
     Pho creations?  The truth is, if a pho entrée is made with Asian ingredients, then it probably has already been made thousands of times in the past  Asian cuisine has traditional recipes that have not changed for thousands of years and many more that have never been written.  Asian style fine dining entrées are among the most popular of today's food trends and this adds to the mystique.
     Pho soups are very healthy and comfortable.  There are so many variations of pho soup.  Mushrooms and seafood are a classic pho flavor combination.  Oysters are excellent in soups or stews.  The fresh ocean flavor of oysters combine with the mushroom broth in a nice way.
     The health benefits of shiitake (shitake) and enoki mushrooms are well known.  They both are immune system boosters and they slow the aging process.  Dried shiitake have more of an anti aging effect than fresh shiitake because the active chemical compounds are freed during the drying process.  
     The Asian market that I went to had some of the best looking fresh shiitake that I have seen for a few months, so I could not resist!  The oysters were fresh shucked farm raised oysters that impart a gentle flavor to a soup broth.

     Fresh herbs are used to garnish a pho soup.  Usually a generous amount of fresh herbs and sprouts are served on the side.  The fresh aromatic items are added to the hot broth at the table.
     Szechuan Pepper was used to season today's soup broth.  Szechuan Pepper comes from Prickly Ash trees.  Szechuan Pepper has its own distinctive flavor.
     The broth is made with rinsed salt packed seaweed and sun dried anchovies.  Sun dried anchovies taste like a mild savory fish (umami) and they are not salty at all.

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large portion of noodle soup!
   
     Ikan Bilis and Wakame Broth: 
     This is a Japanese style fish and seaweed broth that only takes a short time to prepare.
     Step 1:  Boil 4 cups of water over high heat in a sauce pot.
     Add 1/3 cup of small sun dried anchovy.
     Add 1/5 cup of chopped rinsed salt packed dried wakame seaweed.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Step 2:  Boil the broth for 10 minutes.
     Step 3:  Pour the broth through a strainer into a container.
     Discard the anchovies and seaweed.  (The discarded seaweed and anchovies actually can be used to make other recipes, like a marinated salad.)
     Set the broth aside.
 
     Mushroom Soup and Noodle Preparation:
     The soup can be made while the pho noodles are cooking.  Shocking 
     Step 1:  Keep a pot of water boiling to cook the rice noodles later in the recipe.
     Step 2:  Heat a pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil.
     Add 2 thick sliced large shiitake mushrooms.
     Add 1 thin sliced button cave mushroom.
     Stir fry the mushrooms, till they are lightly browned.
     Step 3:  Add 2 pinches of ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fish sauce.
     Add 2 ounces of dry white wine.
     Add the reserved sun dried anchovy and wakame seaweed broth.
     *Now is the time to cook the rice noodles!  Be sure to continue making the soup while the noodles boil.
     Step 4:  Cook 1 portion of Vermicelli Rice Noodles in boiling water over high heat till the noodles are tender.  When the noodles are fully cooked, drain the hot water off the noodles.  (Rice Vermicelli take 10 to 12 minutes to cook.)
     Step 5:  Bring the soup broth to a boil over medium high heat.
     Add 4 or 5 very thin slices of peeled fresh lotus root.
     Add sea salt to taste.
     Boil the soup, till the rice noodles are ready.
     *The volume of the soup broth should be about 3 1/2 cups.  Add water if the volume is too low.
 
     Pho Mushroom Soup with Oysters and Arugula:
     It is best to have all the finishing ingredients ready ahead of time, so the soup can be quickly assembled!  When placing the ingredients on the surface of the soup, try to arrange them so they look nice.
     Step 1:  Add 2 large shucked farm raised oysters to the boiling soup broth in the pot.  (The shucked oysters should weigh 3 to 3 1/2 ounces apiece.  The oysters only take a a minute to cook.)
     Add 2 tablespoons of the oyster liquor.  (oyster juices)
     Step 2:  Pour the steaming hot soup into a large soup bowl.
     Mound of the rice noodles in the center of the soup.
     Try to expose the two oysters on the surface of the soup.
     Step 3:  Place 2 julienne sliced snow peas on the soup.
     Step 4:  Place a small bunch of trimmed enoki mushrooms on the soup.
     Step 5:   Garnish the soup broth with a small amount of each of these vegetables and herbs:
     - Very thin sliced onion ring pieces
     - Thin sliced green onion
     - About 12 cilantro leaves
     - About 12 arugula leaves
     - roasted nori seaweed chiffonade  (Chiffonade = thin ribbons.  Use scissors to cut the roasted nori seaweed sheet into very thin strips.)
     Step 6:  Place 1 large sprig of Thai Basil on the edge of the soup.
     *Serve with bean sprouts, lime wedges, sliced jalapeño, arugula leaves and more Thai Basil sprigs on a side dish.

     This is a great tasting and healthy pho soup!  Break out the chopsticks and an Asian style soup spoon for this noodle soup entrée!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spicy Drunken Duck Wings








     Shaoxing Wine Drunken Duck Wings!
     Shaoxing Wine is one of the world's greatest classic wines.  A good Shaoxing wine can easily rival a fine sherry.  This wine is made from specially fermented red rice and grain malt.  Nearly all Chinese "drunken style" recipes require Shaoxing Wine.  As any gourmand knows, sherry is not an acceptable substitute for good Shaoxing Wine because the difference in flavor can be noticed. 

     Chicken wings used to sell for pennies per pound many years ago, because they were just scrap meat.  After the Buffalo Wing craze began, chicken wings have dramatically risen in price.  During the 2013 holiday season, I noticed that chicken wings were selling for $11 per package of about 15 wings.  This is a ridiculously high price!  
     Another thing that I noticed over the holidays was that very few viewers were looking at the chicken wing recipes in this food website around New Years Eve and the Superbowl.  In years past, my chicken wing recipes got hammered by tons of viewers who were looking for chicken wing recipe ideas.  When the price of chicken wings go sky high, nobody purchases wings and nobody seeks chicken wing recipes.  Ce est la vie.

     While shopping in Chinatown Las Vegas, I was happy to see that duck wings were selling for almost half the price of chicken wings.  Birds of a feather flock together, so duck wings are a nice alternative choice!  
     It has been a while since I have written a duck wings recipe and drunken duck wings certainly seemed like a good idea.  Duck wings are not as tender as chicken wings, because ducks use their wing muscles quite a bit.  Duck wings cannot simply be deep fried like chicken wings or they will be so tough, that eating them would be an unpleasant experience.  
     It is best to "go the whole nine yards" when preparing duck wings for a drunken duck wing appetizer.  Marinating, slow roasting till tender and then preparing the duck wings drunken style is the best cooking method.  The extra steps are well worth the effort, because drunken duck wings really taste nice and they will be tender! 

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large appetizer portion that can be shared by 2 guests!

     Roasted Marinated Duck Wings Preparation:
     A marinade does not have to drown the item that it marinates!  All a marinade needs to do is coat the food item.  When a small amount of marinade is used, it is necessary to occasionally toss the duck wings with the marinade.
     Step 1:  Place 3 tablespoons of thin soy sauce in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese chile powder.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Sir the marinade.
     Step 2:  Cut the wing tips off of 10 to 12 duck wings.  (Save the wing tips for making broth for another recipe.)
     Cut through the wing joint on each duck wing to separate the wing from the drumette.
     Place the duck wings in the marinade and toss the wings with the marinade. 
     Marinate the duck wings in a refrigeratore for 2 hours.  Toss the wings with the marinade occasionally.
     Step 2:  Drain the marinade off of the duck wings.
     Place the wing in the roasting pan that is brushed with vegetable oil.  
     Slowly roast the duck wings in a 300ºF oven, till they are fully cooked and lightly browned.  (Be sure to toss the duck wings in the pan occasionally, so they do not stick to the pan.)
     Allow the duck wings to cool to room temperature and set them aside.

     Spicy Drunken Duck Wings:
     This recipe starts like a stir fry and is cooked quickly, so be sure to prepare the ingredients ahead of time.
     Step 1:  Heat a mini wok pan or sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add these aromatic vegetables:
     - 2 cloves of chopped garlic
     - 2 tablespoons of diced carrot
     - 1 tablespoon of diced celery
     - 2 tablespoons of diced onion
     - 1 teaspoon of minced shallot
     Briefly stir fry the vegetables for a few seconds, till the garlic is aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of Shaoxing wine.
     Add 3/4 cup of chicken broth or light vegetable broth. 
     Add 1 to 3 pinches of crushed dried red pepper.  (To taste.)
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese chile powder.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1 teaspoon of coarsely ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground galangal powder.  (Blue Ginger Root Powder)
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.  (Thin soy sauce is a cooking soy sauce that is not concentrated and it is not salty.)
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of hoisin sauce.
     Add 3 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 3:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Add just enough cornstarch and cold water slurry to thicken the sauce to a thin sauce consistency that can glaze a spoon.
     Step 4:  Add the reserved roasted marinated duck wings.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer till the duck wings are hot and the sauce clings to the duck wings.
     Step 5:  Add 2 tablespoons of thin sliced green onion.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 6:  Mound the Spicy Drunken Duck Wings on an oval appetizer platter.
     No garnish is necessary!

     The aroma of the hot Shaoxing Wine Drunken Sauce really awakens the senses!  This is a nice tasting duck wing appetizer! 

Miso Hot Wings!





     Miso Hot!
     Buffalo wings that are prepared with creative new sauces are popular at trendy casual restaurants.  Usually a chef give a new creative chicken wings recipe a catchy name that has a ring to it.  This increases customer interest.  The name should represent the featured ingredient or support the theme  new chicken wings recipe.  For a Red Miso Paste flavored hot chile pepper wing sauce, "Miso Hot" obviously is the best choice of name!
     Today's Miso Hot Wing appetizer is unique and it tastes good.  Red Miso Paste and Korean Red Serrano Chile Paste combine with the added seasonings to give these wings a rich Asian style flavor that is not too spicy hot for most people's taste.

     *This recipe yields enough for 1 full appetizer order of 12 chicken wing pieces!  (6 whole wings) 

     Miso Hot Wing Sauce:
     This sauce is mildly spicy!
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of Red Miso Paste in a sauce pot.
     Add 3 tablespoons of coarse ground Korean Red Serrano Chile Paste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce.
     Add 1 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 ounce of rice wine.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 2 teaspoons of ginger paste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese hot chile powder.  (Optional for spicy hot flavor!)
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of palm sugar.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Step 2:  Place the pot over medium low/low heat.
     Whisk the ingredients together as the sauce heats.
     Simmer and reduce, till the sauce becomes a medium thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 3:  Taste and add sea salt if necessary.
     Remove the pot from the heat
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.
     
     Miso Hot Wings: 
     Step 1:  Heat 6" to 8" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided pot to 360ºF.
     Step 2:  Cut the wing tips off of 6 whole chicken wings.  (Save the wing tips for making stock.)
     Cut wings the apart at the joint.
     Fry the chicken wings in the hot oil, till they are fully cooked and crispy golden brown.
     Step 3:  Use a fryer net to gather the wings and to drain off any excess oil.
     Place the wings in a mixing bowl.
     Add enough of the Miso Hot Sauce to generously.
     Toss the sauce and wings together
     Step 4:  Mound the wings on the center of an appetizer plate.
     Garnish with Italian Parsley sprigs or cilantro sprigs.

     Miso Hot Wings are an instant classic!

Red Miso Vegetables and King Trumpet Mushroom with Fried Egg







     A Noodle House Style Egg Entrée That Can Be Served As A Healthy Breakfast!
     Originally when I prepared this egg dish a few years ago, it was intended to be only a breakfast item.  The reason being was because when it comes to breakfast cuisine, many western world cooks never think of making something that has Asian cuisine flavors.
     In reality, most Asian breakfast entrées are not like American or European breakfast entrées that feature eggs as the main course.  A broth soup with rice, miso soup, rice with fresh fruit or rice porridge are usually served as breakfast in Asian countries.  In most Asian cuisines, eggs are more often served as a lunch or dinner protein or as a protein garnish for savory dinner recipes.
     Miso Soup actually is a traditional breakfast item in Japan.  Miso Paste is an appealing breakfast flavor.  The stir fry vegetables and King Trumpet Mushroom are glazed with Red Miso Paste and sesame oil in today's recipe.
     Technically speaking, just because a fried egg garnish was added, it does not really make today's recipe a breakfast entrée.  However today's recipe would be a very healthy nutritious breakfast entrée to start a day with!

     Red Miso Vegetables and King Trumpet Mushroom with Fried Egg:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Be sure to prepare all the vegetables and ingredients before starting the stir fry!  The egg can be started cooking shortly after the stir fry is underway. 
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan or mini wok over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced ginger.
     Briefly stir fry for a few seconds so the garlic and ginger become aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 3/4 cup of King Trumpet Mushroom that is cut in half lengthwise and bias sliced.
     Add 1/5 cup of thin julienne sliced onion.
     Add 5 or 6 thin slices of carrot.  (Use a fluting tool to cut lengthwise grooves in the carrot, so the slices resemble flowers.)
     Add 1/4 cup of thin sliced red bell pepper strips.
     Add 5 to 7 baby bok choy that are cut in half lengthwise.
     Add 1/4 cup of feathered snow peas.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of crushed dried red pepper.
     Stir fry the vegetables, till they start to become tender.
     Step 3:  Add 2 tablespoons of red miso paste.
     Add 3/4 cup of light fish broth.
     Stir the miso paste into the broth as it heats.
     Step 4:  Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Add just enough cornstarch and water slurry, while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a thin sauce consistency.  (Only a small amount is needed.)
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 green onion that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 2 teaspoons of sesame oil.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 6:  Place the red miso vegetables and king trumpet mushroom on a plate as a bed for the fried egg.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of toasted sesame seed over the vegetables.
     Keep the plate warm on a stove top.
     Step 7:  Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 large egg.
     Cook the egg sunny side up.
     Season the egg with sea salt.
     Step 8:  Place the fried egg on top of the red miso vegetables.
     Serve with a bowl of steamed sticky rice on the side.
    
     The king trumpet mushroom adds a nice mellow oyster mushroom flavor.  This is a rich tasting quick stir fry entrée that can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

KoMex Fusion! Beef Short Rib Asada with Miyeok Guk and Cactus Fruit Cut Noodles











     KoMex!  Korean-Mexican Fusion Cuisine!
     KoMex is a popular new Las Vegas cuisine trend.  A Komex Express Restaurant and a Komex Food Truck currently are doing business in the Las Vegas Valley.  Customers rave about the KoMex flavor combinations.  Adventurous gourmands are interested in this new Korean-Mexican Fusion Cuisine! 
     Korean bulgogi seems to the key to early success in the KoMex frontier!  Bulgogi is rated as one of the top ten best tasting recipes of all time.  Bulgogi is not the only food in Korea, just like tacos are not the only food in Mexico!

     Asada basically is a Mexican style roasting technique.  The Spanish explorers introduced their asada cooking style at many ports around the world.  It was the Central American Achiote and Mexican chile peppers that made asada one of the best tasting roasting methods for cooking meat.  As the Spanish found out, asada was a cooking style that natives already knew.  Pork asada is popular, but beef asada is a good selling at Mexican restaurants too.  

     Kalbi Beef Rib is an old favorite recipe in Korea.  L.A. Kalbi is a modern version of traditional Kalbi.  L.A. Kalbi is Korean style thin beef short rib steaks that are cross cut through the bones.  
     American beef short ribs are thick and meaty, as you can see in the pictures above.  American beef short ribs look nothing like thin L.A. Kalbi Ribs.  For thick and meaty short ribs, the Mexican Asada cooking style is a good choice.  Asada Style Short Ribs turn out plump, juicy and tender.  

     The short ribs are the Mexican component of today's KoMex recipe.  What are the Korean components?  Miyeok Guk and Cactus Fruit Flavored Cut Noodles!
     Miyeok Guk is a very good tasting healthy Korean seaweed and beef broth soup.  Miyeok Guk is renowned for sharpening mental clarity.  Miyeok Guk provideds vital nutrients for pregnant women and this soup is a good source of Iodine for the body's thyroid system.  
     Iodine rich seaweed rids the thyroid gland of radioactive isotopes.  Iodine is a proven cancer fighter.  Iodine and electrolyte producing minerals in Miyeok Guk generate mental clarity.  Korean college students will attest to the benefits of Miyeok Guk when studying for college final exams!  Miyeok guk tastes great too!
     There are many variations of Korean Miyeok Guk recipes.  Most use beef broth.  Some have beef in the soup.  I published a traditional Korean Miyeok Guk recipe in one of my other food websites a few years ago.  For those who have not tried Miyeok Guk, it is hard to imagine just how great that beef and seaweed taste together.  It is simply a must to experience!

     Korean or Chinese "Cut Noodles" are made by stacking thin sheets of noodle dough, then cutting the stack into thin strips.  Asian noodles of any kind are usually boiled, then shocked in ice water, so the noodles develop a chewy texture.  
     The Cut Noodles in today's recipe are flavored with Dried Powdered Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit.  Prickly Pear has a nice light strawberry flavor. 
     Fresh chilled Cactus Fruit Cut Noodles can be found fresh in Korean food markets or Asian food markets.   I purchased several portions of these noodles while shopping in Korea Town, Las Vegas.  Korean Cut Noodles are not difficult to make from scratch.  Drying and grinding prickly pear cactus fruit to a powder can be easily done too. 

     *This entire recipe yields 1 serving!

     Mexican Asada Style Roasted Beef Short Ribs:
     Select 4 American style meaty beef short ribs.  The total weight should be about 10 to 12 ounces, including the bone.  
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sugar or piloncillo.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground anatto.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ancho chile powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of New Mexico Chile Powder.
     Add 2 tablespoons of water.
     Add the short ribs.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Marinate the ribs in a refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours.
     Step 3:  Lightly brush a roasting pan with vegetable oil.
     Remove the short ribs from the marinade and place them on the roasting pan.
     Slow roast the short ribs in a 300ºF oven, till the meat shrinks back slightly from the ends of the bones.  (Roast till the short ribs are fully cooked and tender, but not dried out.)
     Allow the Costillas de Res Asada to rest for 1 minute, before serving.

     Miyeok Guk:  (Korean Seaweed Beef Broth Soup)
     This recipe has no beef meat in the soup, just beef broth.  There is plenty of beef meat on the short ribs.  The soup should be started when the marinated asada beef short ribs start roasting.
     Step 1:  Rinse some Dried Fresh Salt Packed Wakame Seaweed under cold running water.  About an 8" to 10" long strand is plenty.  (Salt Packed Dried Wakame has a dense soft texture and it is still alive!)
     Place the wakame seaweed in a bowl and cover the seaweed with water.  
     Allow the seaweed to reconstitute to its original size.
     Cut the wakame seaweed into wide strips.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of pure sesame oil.
     Immediately add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of minced ginger.
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds, till a fragrant aroma develops.
     Step 3:  Add the reconstituted slices of wakame seaweed.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Spicy or Mild Red Chile Paste (Sambal).
     Stir as the hot soy sauce marinates the seaweed as it reduces and almost evaporates.
     Step 4:  Add 3 cups of rich dark beef broth.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes.  Allow the broth to reduce to a volume of about 2 1/2 cups.  
     Keep the Miyeok Guk warm over low heat.

     Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Cut Noodles:
     These noodles can be found in Asian food markets.
     Step 1:  Boil a pot of water over high heat.
     Add 1 portion of Fresh Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Flavored Cut Noodles.
     Stir the noodles occasionally, till they are fully cooked.
     Drain the hot water off of the noodles.
     Step 2:  Immediately place the noodles in a container full of ice water, to shock the noodles.
     Stir the noodles by hand, till they feel stiff, chewy and rubbery.
     Drain the ice water off of the noodles.  
     Set the noodles aside and let the noodles reach room temperature.

     Beef Short Rib Asada with Miyeok Guk and Cactus Fruit Cut Noodles:
     Mound the  prickly pear cactus fruit cut noodles on the center of a large deep soup bowl.
     Ladle the Miyeok Guk soup broth and wakame seaweed around the noodles, till only the peak of the noodles can be seen.  Be sure to pour some broth over the noodles.  (The hot broth will reheat the noodles!)
     Place the 4 Beef Short Rib Asada against the sides of the mounded noodles, so the short ribs are only partially submerged in the soup.
     Sprinkle thin sliced green onion on the soup broth as a garnish.

     A tasty KoMex creation!  The combination of flavors in this Korean Mexican Fusion Cuisine entree are interesting beyond belief.  Korean food and Mexican food are both chile pepper cuisines.  This truly is a KoMex recipe that is worth trying!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Five Spice Batter Fried Kabocha Sticks







     Tempura 
     Tempura batter fried kabocha squash is popular just about everywhere in Asia.  Kabocha looks like a small small green pumpkin.  The flavor of this squash is sweet and it is often used to make desserts.  Kabocha does not take much time to become tender when it is cooked.  When thin slices of kabocha are batter fried, a nice combination of textures is produced.  Crispy coated sweet soft kabocha really has a nice way of pleasing the senses! 

     Tempura batters have an endless list of variations.  A very thin tempura batter made with club soda produces a delicate lacy crisp coating.  Adding an egg creates a golden color and more of a lacy look.  A medium thin tempura batter made with water produces a thin coating that clings to the featured ingredient.  Baking powder can be added to create a light cake like coating.  Tempura can be flavored with spices, herbs, wine or just about anything that accents what the batter coats.  
     Traditionally, tempura batter is quickly made to order, just before an item is fried.  The batter should only be mixed with chop sticks, so the batter is intentionally not fully combined and smooth.  The little clumps of unmixed flour in the batter create a porous texture.  
     The oil has to be at a proper frying temperature, so the tempura batter coating cooks quickly and solidifies in place.  If the oil temperature is too low, then the tempura batter will fall off of the featured ingredient and the frying oil will have to be filtered. 
     
     Fry Cooking Safety:
     Tempura batter frying can be dangerous, because the wet batter can cause hot oil spatters and oil saturated steam vapor.  Any time steam carries oil, the vapor is extremely flammable.  Care must be taken when tempura frying.
     • The first rule of fry cooking in a home kitchen is to keep children, pets and folks who have distractful personalities out of the kitchen.  Hot oil burn can cause a severe injury.  Frying is not worth the risk if a home cook is not in complete control of the kitchen environment.  
     • All of the cook's focus should be on the fry cooking.  Distractions cause problems.  Loud music is a distraction.  A good fry cook can tell when food is frying properly just by listening to the sound it makes.  The sound of food frying furiously should be respected as a danger sign.      
     • A clean ventilation hood over the fry pot will not pose a fire hazard.  A dirty greasy vent hood and filter can go up in flames like a Roman Candle, so it pays to clean the hood surfaces before frying.  
     • Wearing a long sleeve chef jacket, gloves and eye protection will prevent minor grease spatter burns.  If a grease spatter hits the eye, the first involuntary reaction is to move a hand upward to protect the eyes.  One clumsy movement like this, can cause a wok or pot of oil to be tipped over, then serious burns might occur.  Every move must be calculated!
     • Keeping a wide metal pot lid handy to smother a hot oil fire is a good idea.  Water should never be used to put an oil fire out, because the steam will carry flammable oil vapor.  An "oil fire rated" fire extinguisher should be in every kitchen, so a minor cooking disaster does not turn into a major catastrophic event.  Never view a fire extinguisher as a last resort.  Oil fires can rapidly increase in heat, which in turn can cause spontaneous combustion of any nearby flammable objects.  Do not hesitate to use a fire extinguisher if necessary.  Those who hesitate are lost. 

     Japanese Teriyaki Sauce:
     Place 3 tablespoons of soy sauce into a sauce pot.
     Add 3 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Place the sauce pot over low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the teriyaki sauce, till it becomes a syrup consistency and till the sauce can easily glaze a spoon.
     Place the teriyaki sauce in a ramekin.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.  

     Kabocha Squash Stick Preparation:
     Step 1:  Cut a wide wedge of kabosha squash.
     Scrape off the seeds and pulp.  (The seeds can be toasted for a snack!)
     Step 2:  Cut 4 to 6 long strips of kabocha that are about 1/4" thick and about 5" long.
     Trim the skin off of the kabocha strips.  
     Trim the kabocha strips, so they are only slightly curved. 
     Step 3:  Line the kabocha strips up flat on the edge of a countertop, so the ends point to the edge. 
     Place something like a cutting board over the kabocha strips.
     Press the cutting board down and run a thin sharp bamboo skewer about 1" deep, into the end of each kabocha strip.  (Holding the kabocha strips in place with a cutting board, lessens the chance of piercing a finger with a skewer!)
     Set the skewers aside.  

     Five Spice Batter Fried Kabocha Sticks:
     This recipe yields enough batter for one portion (4 to 6 kabocha strips).  
     This is a modified tempura batter recipe that produces a coating that clings tightly to the Kabocha.   
     Tempura batter should be quickly made to order, just before the item is fried.  Every other item for the presentation should be ready before the frying starts.  Tempura frying takes very little time! 
     Step 1:  Heat 8" of vegetable frying oil in a high sided tall pot to 360ºF.
     Step 2:  Place 3/4 cup of pastry flour in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/3 cup of rice flour.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder.
     Add 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of Chinese chile powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice Powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Step 3:  Add just enough water or club soda, while quickly stirring with chop sticks (or a fork), to create a medium thin batter.  The batter should be able to leave a thin coating on a spoon. 
     Step 4:  Transfer the batter into a long narrow container.  
     Step 5:  Dredge the kabocha skewers in flour.
     Dip one kabocha stick in the batter at a time and coat the kabocha.
     *Using a spoon to pour the batter over the kabocha in the container may be necessary.  The batter must coat the area where the skewer and kabocha meet, so the batter holds the skewer in place.  This must be done because the kabocha will become soft enough after frying to allow the skewer to easily slide out.  The crispy batter will keep the skewer glued in place!  
     Step 6:  Hold the skewer and dip the kabocha stick in the hot fryer oil.  
     Repeat these steps, till all of the kabocha sticks are in the fryer.
     Fry till the batter becomes crisp.  (The batter will turn a copper color, because the kabocha squash juice will stain the coating and Chinese five spice also stains a bronze color!)
     Step 7:  As each skewer finishes frying, place it on a metal screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Keep the skewers warm on a stove top.
  
     Presentation:
     Place bed of kale leaves on a plate.
     Place the ramekin of teriyaki sauce on the plate.
     Arrange the Five Spice Batter Fried Kabocha Sticks on the plate.
     Garnish the teriyaki sauce with a few thin slices of pickled ginger.  (This adds a nice crisp ginger flavor!)   

     This appetizer appeals to the senses!

Five Spice Pork Stuffed Betel Leaves with Drunken Grapefruit Sauce





     A Nice Noodle House Tapas Style Appetizer!      
     Asian chefs have been making appetizers that could be considered to be tapas for thousands of years.  Korean Banchan certainly qualifies as tapas.  Vietnamese light entrées and appetizers are often served as tapas size portions.  Chinese chefs have a list of petite portion traditional appetizer recipes that is a mile long. 
      
     Minced beef or minced pork stuffed herb leaves are part of Vietnamese cuisine and they are usually marketed as an appetizer.  Betel Leaves are in the Piper family of plants and they have a bitter spicy hot pepper flavor.  Betel Leaves have a few different symbolic meanings when used in cooking and this topic is interesting to research.  Betel Leaves do have medicinal value and they create a mild euphoric effect that is similar to tobacco.  
     There are two varieties of Betel Leaves.  One is thick and it is used for Betel Nut chewing.  The Betel Leaves that are used as an herb tend to be thin and delicate.  Both come from the same species of plant.   

     Spicy sour tangy flavor combinations are a recurring theme in Vietnamese cuisine.  Usually the sour tangy flavor is achieved with tamarind or lime.  
     Grapefruit creates a sour tangy sauce flavor that is slightly bitter.  Shaoxing Wine tastes like a good light sherry, but the flavor is a bit more complex.  Shaoxing Wine mellows the bitterness of the tangy grapefruit flavor in today's sauce.  A small amount of Agave Nectar adds a gentle balance of naturally sweet flavor.  
     
     Today's recipe is not really a western world style fusion tapas appetizer, because there is no marriage with European or new world ingredients, other than the Agave Nectar, which is part of Aztec cuisine.  Today's recipe is like the regional Asian fusion creations that are served at trendy restaurants in Singapore and Southeast Asia.  
     Singapore is the Asian Fusion Cuisine capitol of the world.  Many Singapore chefs create fusion recipe themes that marry the ingredients and cooking styles of several Asian regions.  Western world cuisine ingredients are not always part of the recipe.  

     Five Spice Pork Stuffed Betel Leaves:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer size portion!
     Step 1:  Place 4 1/2 ounces of ground pork in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced onion.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Malaysian spicy sambal.
     Mix the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Divide the pork stuffing into 5 equal size portions.
     Roll each portion into a short cylinder shape that is about 3/8" to 1/2" thick. 
     Step 3:  Trim the stems off of 6 or 7 large Betel Leaves.
     Place 1 shaped pork stuffing on the narrow end of the betel leaf and roll it up!  Repeat this step, till all of the betel leaves are stuffed.
     Step 4:  Place the stuff betel leaves on a small roasting pan that is brushed with vegetable oil.
     Brush the stuffed betel leaves with vegetable oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan.
     Cover the pan with a lid.
     Step 5:  Roast in a 300ºF oven till the pork stuffing is fully cooked.  
     Keep the stuffed betel leaves warm on a stove top.

     Drunken Grapefruit Sauce:
     This recipe yields enough sauce for 1 tapas portion!  This sauce has to be quickly made, just before serving, or the grapefruit supremes will completely disintegrate.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced shallot.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Sauté for a few seconds, till the ginger becomes aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of pink grapefruit juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Agave Nectar.
     Add 3 ounces of Shaoxing wine.
     Add 1/2 cup of light chicken broth.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 3 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     Step 3:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Add just enough cornstarch and cold water slurry to thicken the sauce to a thin sauce consistency.  
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 2 to 3 pink grapefruit supremes.  (Supreme = whole wedge sections of citrus fruit that have the rind, membrane and seeds removed.)
     Simmer till the supremes are warmed.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Five Spice Pork Stuffed Betel Leaves with Drunken Grapefruit Sauce:
     Arrange the Five Spice Pork Stuffed Betel Leaves on a tapas plate, so they look nice.
     Spoon a generous amount of the drunken grapefruit sauce over the stuffed betel leaves.  Try to center the grapefruit supremes on top. 
     Use a channeling tool to cut a few wide strips of grapefruit zest.
     Garnish the stuffed betel leaves with the grapefruit zest.
     Garnish the plate with 2 betel leaves.
     
     This pork stuffed betel leaf tapas is tasty beyond belief!

Char Siu Chicken Breast Sandwich








     Flavor Is The Word!    
     During the warm spring and summer seasons, lighter fare is popular.  Chicken sandwiches are good selling summer season food.  It seems like fried chicken sandwiches sandwiches are the only option at many low price casual restaurants.  Why sell the same old fried chicken sandwich when there are thousands of other options!
     I used to sell Hunan BBQ Chicken Sandwiches as a lunch special du jour at a French café many years ago.  Hunan BBQ Sauce is about the same thing as Char Siu Sauce.  Hunan BBQ Sauce almost always is a red color.  Char Siu Sauce can be a natural color or it can be tinted red.  
     
     Sweet potato, soy beans, garlic and seasonings are used to make Hoisin Sauce.  Hoisin Sauce is a pre-made Chinese cooking sauce that can be purchased in cans or jars.  The flavor is rich, so a little bit of Hoisin Sauce goes a long way.  The flavor of hoisin is sweet and rich.
     Honey naturally goes well with hoisin sauce.  Char Siu Sauce can be sweetened with honey instead of sugar to increase the healthy appeal.  If the proportion of honey is high, then the sauce will be more like a Chinese Honey Glaze for duck of pork.

     Char Siu Sauce:
     This recipe yields enough sauce to glaze 2 to 3 chicken breasts.
     There are a few different styles of Char Siu Sauce.  This version that is sweetened with honey.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1/4 cup of rice wine.
     Add 1/4 cup of hoisin sauce.
     Add 2 tablespoons of honey.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese red chile powder.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 pinch of garlic powder.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 2 pinches of Chinese 5 spice powder.
     Step 2:  Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin BBQ glaze sauce consistency.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Keep the Char Siu Sauce warm on a stove top.
     
     Chicken Breast Preparation:  
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Trim the fat and skin off of a 6 to 8 ounce chicken breast filet.
     Butterfly cut the chicken breast and split the chicken breast into 2 separate thin filets.
     Step 2:  Place the chicken breast halves in the marinade in the mixing bowl.
     Coat the chicken with the marinade.
     Marinate the chicken in a refrigerator for 10 minutes in a refrigerator.
  
     Char Siu Chicken Breast:
     Whole Char Siu Chicken or Char Siu Duck is usually slow roasted on a spit that is slowly turned high above embers or a low flame.  For this Char Siu Chicken Sandwich, a home kitchen oven roasting method is used.
     Step 1:  Remove the chicken breast filet halves from the marinade.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Sear the marinated chicken filets, till a few light brown highlights appear on both sides and the chicken is about halfway cooked.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Drain any excess oil out of the pan.
     Brush the chicken with the Char Siu Sauce.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Flip the chicken filets occasionally.  Brush the chicken with Char Siu Sauce occasionally, so the chicken is thoroughly glazed.
     Roast the chicken filets till they are fully cooked.
  
     Char Siu Chicken Breast Sandwich:
     Brush a split hamburger roll with vegetable oil.  (Butter is not used much in Chinese cooking.  Vegetable oil is a better flavor for this recipe.)
     Grill the hamburger roll halves on a sauté pan or griddle over medium/medium low heat, till they become toasted.
     Set the hamburger roll on a plate.
     Place these items on the bottom half of the hamburger roll:
     - baby mixed lettuce leaves
     - sliced tomato
     - sliced onion
     Place the char siu chicken filets on the sandwich.
     Lean the top half of the hamburger roll against the sandwich.
     Garnish the plate with parsley sprigs and pickles.  (Persian Pink Pickled Turnips garnish the plate in the pictures.)

    A Char Siu Chicken Sandwich is a nice lunch munch!