Friday, December 23, 2016

Lemongrass Steamed Idiot Fish with Chinese Corn Noodles, Kohlrabi and Vietnamese Perilla











     Noodle House Style Idiot Fish! 
     Today's entrée has a nice fusion of popular Chinese and Vietnamese ingredients.  Lemongrass (Xả) is a great herb flavor for delicate tasting seafood.  Lemongrass infused water carries the flavor when it turns to steam and this imparts a nice flavor for fish.    
     Vietnamese Perilla (Tiá Tô) is in the mint family of plants, just like basil.  Vietnamese Perilla leaves are green on top and purple underneath.  Vietnamese Perilla are milder tasting than Green Perilla, yet the flavor is still very complex.  
     Chinese Corn Vermicelli Noodles are made with ground dried corn and they are not like Korean Corn Noodles that are made out of corn starch.  Corn Vermicelli Noodles kind of taste like American corn bread.  I really like the flavor of Chinese corn noodles, because they go well with seafood.
     Kohlrabi is popular for making Vietnamese salads and soups.  Kohlrabi is native to India and it tastes like a combination of cabbage and broccoli.

     The featured ingredient in today's recipe is Idiot Fish.  Idiot Fish are also called Shortspine Thornyhead, Longspine Thornyhead and Idiot Cod.  Idiot Fish live in very deep water that contains very little oxygen or sun light.  Idiot Fish have big eyes and their mouths usually hang open like a cartoon caricature of an idiot.  They are deep red in color, small and there are only two small short filets of meat.  
     Idiot fish actually are in the Scorpionfish family, just like Rockfish and Pacific Ocean Perch.  Idiot Fish spines do contain minuscule amounts of neurotoxins, but not as much as the deadly Scorpionfish species.  The downside of handling raw Idiot Fish is that they are covered with very sharp spines that can easily puncture skin and cause infections.    
     To served poached whole Idiot Fish is to knowingly serve a dangerous meal.  A customer that orders whole poached idiot fish must made aware that the spines are sharp and there are many of them.  The spines of a poached whole Idiot Fish do add to the exotic food presentation, so they should be retained.  
     Filleting Idiot Fish is not worth the effort, because there is very little meat on this species of fish.  Other fish can be substituted for idiot fish in this recipe, if you are shy about whole fish presentations and sharp spines!  Red Bream and Tilapia are good choices.
     Just like deep water Ruby Red Shrimp, the Idiot Fish meat has a rich clean flavor and it is coated with sticky fat.  The meat is white and it flakes like King Crab claw meat.  The layer of sticky fat is much darker than the meat.  Idiot Fish are usually poached or steamed whole and are only delicately seasoned.  
     Canadian and Japanese Shortspine Idiot Fish currently are endangered species.  Longspine and Shortspine Idiot Fish from the California coastline are sustainable, because of strict federal regulations.  
     All species of Idiot Fish are dwindling in numbers, even though strict regulations and the high price of fuel have restricted fishing for idiot fish.  There is another factor involved in the declining idiot fish numbers, but marine biologists cannot state exactly what the problem is.  It is probably due to the deep water low oxygen related slow breeding cycle of this fish. 
     I rarely feature a recipe for a fish that is dwindling in numbers, because I try to only feature sustainable seafood.  I did choose sustainable Idiot Fish from the California fishery for today's recipe, but I have no plans to cook more of this fish species.  Those who practice sustainable seafood ideals, do have to exhibit self control.  Sometimes trying a species of fish only once, is enough for a lifetime.  Gluttony and greed are the cause of most seafood sustainability issues.
     
     Lemongrass Steamed Idiot Fish with Chinese Corn Noodles, Kohlrabi and Vietnamese Perilla: 
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
      Be sure to have all the ingredients ready, before starting to cook this recipe!  The stir fry vegetables and sauce at the end of the recipe only take a few minutes to cook.
     Step 1:  Place 1 quart of light white fish broth (fumet) in a steamer pot.
     Tie a long fresh lemongrass stalk into a simple knot.
     Place the lemongrass knot in the pot.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt white pepper.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Step 2:  Place the pot over medium heat.
     Allow the lemongrass broth to gently boil and reduce, till 2 cups of liquid remain.
     Keep the steaming broth warm over very low heat, till later in the recipe.
     Step 3:  Cook 1 portion of Chinese Corn Vermicelli Noodles in boiling water.
     When the noodles become tender, drain off the hot water.
     Place the noodles in ice water and stir, so they cool quickly and gain a chewy texture.
     Drain the water off of the corn noodles and set them aside.
     Step 4:  Place 2 small Idiot Fish in steam basket.  Spread the fins out, so they look nice.  
     *The whole idiot fish should only gutted and scaled.  The head and fins should be left on the fish. 
     Step 5:  Raise the temperature of the lemongrass broth pot to high heat and bring the broth to a boil.
     Place the steam basket and idiot fish in the pot.  (The steam basket should be elevated, so the fish does not make contact with the broth.) 
     Place a lid on the pot.
     Steam the fish, till they are fully cooked.
     Step 6:  Remove steam basket with the idiot fish from the pot.
     Set the steam basket on a stove top.  
     Keep the steam basket and fish covered and warm, while the sauce is quickly made.
     Step 7:  The lemongrass steaming broth will be rich tasting by now!  
     Remove lemongrass knot and discard it.
     Keep the lemongrass broth warm on a stove top.
     Step 8:  Heat sauté pan or mini wok over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Briefly sauté till the garlic becomes aromatic and till it turns a golden color.
     Step 9:  Add 1 small whole Red Thai Pepper that has the top cut off.
     Add 1/4 cup of kohlrabi that is cut into 1/4" thick stick shapes.  (1/4"x1/4"x4")
     Add 1/8 cup of sliced Bermuda Onion.
     Add 1/8 cup of julienne carrot.  (1/8"x1/8"x4")
     Add 2 green onions that are cut into bite size pieces
     Sauté and stir fry till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 10:  Add 1 1/4 cups of the lemongrass poaching broth.
     Add 1 pinch of turmeric.
     *Add sea salt and white pepper only if the flavor needs adjusted!
     Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of cold water to make a slurry.
     Add the slurry while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a medium thin sauce consistency.
     Step 11:  Add 8 Vietnamese Perilla Leaves.
     Add the reserved cooked corn noodles.
     Toss ingredients together.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     Presentation:
     Delicate steamed fish, like Idiot Fish, can be easily damaged.  The whole lemongrass steamed Idiot Fish are the focal point of this entrée, so they have to look nice! 
     Place the sauced corn noodles and vegetables on an oval shaped plate.
     Carefully use a spatula to remove one lemongrass steamed Idiot Fish at a time from the steam basket. 
     Set the Idiot Fish on top of the corn noodles and vegetables.   
     Garnish the plate with Vietnamese Perilla Leaves.
     *After the plate is presented, the filets can be easily popped off of the bones and the fish carcass can be removed and set aside.  Some guests like to fiddle around with the fish on their own.  Be sure to warn the guests that the spines are sharp!   

     This is an interest looking plate of noodle house food that is exotic and exciting!   

Monday, December 19, 2016

Seared Kabocha with Curry Black Rice Macaroni and Kale








     A Vegetarian Super Grain Noodle Entrée!
     Super grains are popular these days, because of their high nutritional value.  Black Rice has become a regular staple in health conscious households and it is not longer looked upon as being exotic.  
     Noodles that are made with super grains, like Quinoa, have become available at grocery stores, but Black Rice Noodles are not always stocked.  The best place to find Black Rice Noodles is at an Asian food market.  Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean grocery stores usually have a vast selection of dried or fresh noodles to choose from.  Even Black Rice Macaroni can be found.  
     While shopping, Black Rice Macaroni captured my attention, because I like creating gourmet Macaroni & Cheese recipes.  Fancy Macaroni & Cheese recipes have reached a peak in popularity, but very few of these macaroni recipes are designed to satisfy vegetarians.  Some vegetarians tolerate dairy products, but not all do.  
     Indian curries are usually made with butter and some curry recipes require milk, cream or yogurt.  Todays curry sauce recipe features a mild thin curry sauce that is made with no cream, butter or yogurt.  Only coconut oil is used to make the sauce.  The sauce is thickened and no coconut milk is added.  
     Kabocha Squash is a good choice of winter squash, because it has a long shelf life.  Kabocha is sweet tasting and it is often served as dessert.  Kabocha caramelizes easily, so care must be taken when searing this squash.    
     
     Kabocha Preparation:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Kobocha Squash can be huge, so try to select one that is an average size (6" to 8" in diameter).
     Cut a wedge of kabocha that is about 5" wide.
     Scrape off the seeds and pulp.
     Use a paring knife to remove the skin. 
     Cut the trimmed piece of kabocha into thin wedges that are about 3/8" thick.  (Refer to the shape in the photos.)
     Set the kabocha wedges aside.
      
     Black Rice Macaroni:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion.
     Cook 1 large portion of Black Rice Macaroni (about 3/4 cup) in boiling salted water over high heat, till the noodles are al dente.
     Cool the noodles under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the noodles.
     Set the noodles aside.

     Japanese Style Curry Sauce (for kabocha):
     This recipe yields 1 portion..    
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
     Add 2 pinches of whole cumin seed.
     Add 1 pinch of whole fennel seed. 
     Sauté till the seeds make a popping noise. 
     Step 2:  Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced green onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced celery. 
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced seeded green jalapeño pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoons of minced shallot.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 3:  Add just enough flour while stirring, to soak up the oil in the pan.  (About 1 tablespoon.  All purpose four or non-gluten flour can be used.)
     Briefly stir till the flour and oil combine.  
     Step 4:  Add 3 cups of rich vegetable broth.
     Add 1 small pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Add 1 tablespoon of Garam Masala.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1 tablespoon of agave nectar. 
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of palm sugar.    
     Add sea salt to taste.  
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil while occasionally stirring with a whisk.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat. 
     Simmer and reduce, till the sauce becomes a very thin consistency.  The volume should be about 1 1/4 cups.
     Remove the pot from the heat and set it aside. 

     Seared Kabocha:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
     Step 2:  Place the 5 prepared kabocha wedges in the pan.
     Sear the kabocha on both sides, till golden brown highlights appear and the squash becomes tender. 
     *Flip the squash occasionally to prevent excess browning.
     Step 3:  Use a spatula to place the tender kabocha pieces on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan.
     Keep the seared kabocha warm on a stove top.

     Seared Kabocha with Curry Black Rice Macaroni and Kale:
     This recipe yields 1 hearty vegetarian entrée.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add the reserved thin Japanese Curry Sauce.  (About 1 1/4 cups)   
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.  
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of finely chopped kale.
     Add the reserved Black Rice Macaroni.
     Stir the ingredients together. 
     Step 3:  Bring the sauce back to a gentle boil.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till the sauce clings to the macaroni and the kale wilts.
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the Curry Black Rice Macaroni and Kale on a plate as bed for the kabocha.
     Step 5:  Arrange the seared kabocha wedges on top of the noodles, so they point outward from center.
     Garnish with an Italian Parsley sprig or a cilantro sprig.

     The Japanese style Curry and sweet kabocha make this Black Rice Macaroni entrée perfect for a chilly day!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ramen Noodles with Vegetables, Tofu and Spicy Fermented Black Bean Sauce





     Hot Spicy Vegetarian Gourmet Ramen Noodles!
     Everybody has their own favorite way of dressing up ramen noodles.  Ramen noodle house restaurants in Chinatown, Las Vegas, have taken gourmet ramen noodle entrées to a higher level.  Some of the Vegas ramen noodle house chefs serve traditional ramen bowls, while others create new recipes with trendy food items or international classic food preparations.
     Many home kitchen cooks create gourmet ramen bowls too.  A plain bowl of snack ramen noodles made with a package of dehydrated bouillon can be the start of something nice.  All it takes is a little imagination to turn a package of snack ramen into a complete meal.      
     Fermented Black Bean Sauce is popular sauce in Chinese American restaurants.  Adapting this sauce to a vegetarian style ramen noodle recipe is easy to do.  Adding a little bit of hot chile pepper adds a spicy kick!
 
     Ramen Noodles with Vegetables, Tofu and Spicy Fermented Black Bean Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Jars of Fermented Black Bean Paste are available in Asian food markets and some grocery stores.  Some of these products can be salty.  It is best to taste the black bean paste to check for saltiness, before deciding to add extra salt to a recipe.   
     Step 1:  Boil 1 portion of ramen noodles in a pot of water over high heat.
     After the noodles become tender, drain the water off of the noodles.
     Step 2:  Place the noodles in a container of ice water.
     Swirl the noodles in the cold water till they gain a chewy texture.
     Drain the water off of the noodles and set them aside.
     Step 3:  Heat a sauté pan or mini wok over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Briefly sauté till the garlic and ginger are aromatic.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of mixed green bell pepper and red bell pepper that are cut into small bite size pieces.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced cabbage.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped onion.
     Sauté till the vegetables are halfway cooked.
     Step 5:  Add 1 cup of vegetable broth.
     Add 1/4 cup of frozen peas.
     Add 1 tablespoon of fermented black bean paste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Korean style Red Serrano Chili Pepper Paste.  (Sambal)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     *Taste before adding salt.  Fermented black bean paste is usually very salty!   
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Bring the thin sauce to a boil.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 5 ounces of firm tofu that is cut into 1/2" cube shapes.
     Add the prepared ramen noodles.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Simmer for a few seconds, till the noodles and tofu become warm.
     *The excess liquid should be evaporated by now and the thin sauce should cling to the noodles.  
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the Ramen Noodles with Vegetables, Tofu and Spicy Fermented Black Bean Sauce a plate.
     No garnish is necessary!
 
     This is a healthy vegetarian gourmet ramen entrée that tastes great!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fusion Alphabet Soup







     Fun Fusion Food!
     Many fusion chefs make the mistake of continually challenging customers with complex flavor combinations, which results in a decline in customer comfort.  Experienced chefs realize that the average customer only seeks comforts, especially when times are tough.
     "You do not put the whole alphabet of ingredients in a soup to make it good!  Keep it simple!"  Old veteran pro cooks often express this ideology to young cooks that are learning the trade.  More ingredients and more complex does not always equal customer satisfaction.  Keeping sight of the original food creation idea and not adding excess ingredients or garnishes is a discipline in itself.
     For today's soup recipe, adding the entire alphabet is actually a necessity!  Where does Fusion Alphabet Soup fit in with the fusion cuisine trend?  Fusion comfort food!
     A few chefs in Las Vegas actually specialize in fusion comfort food and they have built a loyal clientele base.  These chefs have adapted Asian ingredients to average American diner restaurant food and customers like the level of comfort that this cuisine provides.  Items like Asian Style Beef Short Rib Grilled Cheese Sandwich or Chicken Bulgogi Lasagna are easy for customers to imagine, so a customer's level of comfort is not challenged.
     Soup is a great medium for creating fusion comfort food, because there are so many classic soups that have a reputation for providing comfort.  There are even a few canned soup products that home cooks rely on when comfort is needed.  Canned Alphabet Soup happens to be at the top of the list, especially when the cold and flu season arrives.
     Many people have fond memories of Alphabet Soup from childhood.  Spelling words and messages with the letter shaped pasta is a great way to have fun with food.  Fusion Alphabet Soup adds a comfortable twist to fusion cuisine, which is kind of entertaining.  Fusion cuisine should not leave a customer in a state of confusion.  Fusion cuisine is not a classic cuisine.  Fusion food is a trend and trendy food should be fun!
     Table manners?  Nightmarish memories of parents saying, "How many times have I told you not to play with your food?" do have an impact on an adult's life.  As far as table manners are concerned, just throw the rule book out the window, because it is okay to play with your food when eating Fusion Alphabet Soup!

     Fusion Alphabet Soup:
     This recipe yields about 4 1/4 cups.  (2 large portions)
     There are no tricky techniques involved in making this soup.  This is simply a one pot boiled soup!
     Alphabet Noodles can be found in some grocery stores and Latin food markets.  
     Step 1:  Place 3 1/2 cups of vegetable broth in a sauce pot.
     Place the pot over medium high heat.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of powdered galangal.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add sea salt to taste.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of Imported Italian canned crushed tomato.
     Add 1/3 cup of each of these vegetables:
     - sliced small carrot dimes
     - small chopped green pepper
     - sliced celery
     - diced onion
     - diced potato.
     Add 1 thin sliced large shiitake mushroom.
     Add 6 thin slices of lotus root.
     Add 1 cup of chopped Napa cabbage.
     Step 4:  Return the liquid to a boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil.
     Simmer till the vegetables are tender.  Allow the volume of the soup to reduce to about 4 1/4 cups.
     Step 6:  Add 1/3 cup of uncooked alphabet shaped pasta.
     Simmer and occasionally stir, till the pasta is fully cooked.
     Step 7:  Add a few fresh snow peas that are cut into bite size pieces.
     Simmer the soup for 1 more minute.
     Step 8:  Ladle the soup into a bowl.
     Float a few cilantro leaves on the soup.
     Float 1 thin slice of lime on the soup.

     This vegetarian Fusion Alphabet Soup spells comfort and fun in any language!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Sesame Galangal Garden Vegetable Omu with Chinkiang Vinegar Sauce







     A Tasty Asian Style Omelette!
     Many people in the western world think that the only Asian style egg entrée is Egg Foo Young.  The truth of the matter is that there are many great Asian egg recipes, but eggs are more often served as an evening meal rather than breakfast.  Traditional Asian breakfast food is usually a bowl of savory or sweet rice porridge.  
     Just because an omelette has a French name, it does not meant that an omelette is a French creation.  Ancient Mesopotamians and Indians were making fine omelette style entrées for thousands of years before the country of France came to be.  Persian baked egg entrées are similar to omelets and these items are some of the tastiest egg dishes that there is.  Persia is where the modern Italian frittata actually originated. 
     In the early 1900's, Omu was a trendy item in Japan.  Omu is the Japanese version of a 1920's style American style omelet with ketchup.  Omu eventually evolved into a popular Japanese street food and Omuraisu is by far the most popular recipe variation.  
     In modern times, fancy Asian style omelette (omu) entrées have once again become popular.  A fancy omu can be a nice lunch or dinner entrée.  In a restaurant, omu is cost effective because eggs are still relatively low in price.    
     Today's omu recipe can be cooked in less than a few minutes.  The short cooking time includes making the sauce to order.  
     Fresh Galangal (Thai Blue Ginger) has a much stronger flavor than dried Galangal.  Galangal must be sautéed till it becomes tender or it will have a hard fibrous texture.  Galangal melds with the flavor of garden vegetables and eggs in a nice way.    
     Chinkiang Vinegar is also called Black Vinegar.  Chinkiang Vinegar is a heavy fermented malt and rice grain vinegar that is often compared to Balsamic Vinegar, yet the flavor of Chinkiang Vinegar can be much more complex.  Chinkiang Vinegar is a highly respected gourmet vinegar that is rich tasting, yet it is gentle enough that it can be used to make a sauce for eggs.
     Flipping eggs in a sauté pan becomes easy with practice.  A heel slice of bread and one egg are the same weight.  To practice, place the heel slice of a loaf of sandwich bread in a dry non-stick sauté pan.  Practice flipping the bread with a forward and backward flick of the wrist.  After practicing the flipping technique with a slice of bread, flipping an omelette becomes easy!  

     Chinkiang Vinegar Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 3/4 cup.  (2 portions)
     Chinkiang Vinegar (Chinese Black Vinegar) can be found at Asian food markets.  There are many brands to chose from.  Some brands do offer a richer flavor than others, but even so, the black vinegar is usually diluted when making a sauce for light meats or eggs.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of light vegetable broth.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of chinkiang vinegar.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add 1 small pinch of powdered ginger.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of cold water to make a slurry.
     Add the slurry while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a thin consistency.
     Simmer and stir till the sauce is translucent.
     Step 4:  Keep the sauce warm over very low heat or in a 135ºF bain marie.  

     Sesame Galangal Garden Vegetable Omu:
     This recipe yields 1 petite omelette.  
     Minced fresh galangal (Thai Blue Ginger) has to be cooked for a few minutes or the texture will be as hard as wood. 
     Step 1:  Place 2 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of water.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 small pinch of Chinese Five Spice Powder.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Whisk the ingredients till they combined. 
     Set the omelette batter aside. 
     Step 2:  Heat a non-stick sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced fresh galangal.
     Gently sauté till the galangal is a golden color and it is fairly tender.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds, till the garlic is aromatic.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced brown mushrooms (portobello) or shiitake mushrooms.
     Add 2/3 cup of a mixture of these vegetables: 
     - very thin bias slices of peeled celery
     - thin strips of green bell pepper.
     - julienne sliced carrot strips for color
     - thin biased sliced green onion
     - julienne sliced onion
     - thin strips of red bell pepper
     - julienne sliced slow peas 
     Sauté till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 5:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lightly toasted sesame seeds.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of black sesame seeds
     Toss the vegetables and seeds together.
     Step 6:  Add the reserved omelette batter.
     Use a rubber spatula to even the edges of the omelette. 
     Sauté till the eggs start to become firm on the bottom half of the omelette.
     Step 7:  Flip the omelette.  
     Saute till the omelette becomes firm and fully cooked.
     Step 8:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Flip the omelette a second time.  (By flipping twice, the sesame seeds can be seen on the surface of the omelette!)
     Step 9:  Triple fold the omelette into a cylinder shape, while sliding the omelette onto a plate.
     Pour a generous amount of the Chinkiang Vinegar Sauce over the omelette and onto the plate.  (About 1/3 cup)
     Garnish the top of the omelette with thin bias sliced green onion tops.  

     This is a nice tasting savory omu! 

Choy Sum, Eggplant and Galangal with Fermented Black Bean Sauce








     Tasty Vegetarian Food!
     Vegetarian entrées can be a saving grace after feasting on large amounts of rich food during the holiday season.  After being loaded down with extra large holiday feast portions, a few extra pounds can be noticed while standing on a scale the next day.  Eating fast food or pizza the days after a big heavy holiday dinner will practically guarantee that shopping for clothes that fit a bigger waistline will be necessary.  
     Sooner or later, the body rebels after being fed one heavy meal after another and the body starts sending subconscious demands for lighter food.  Those who are sensitive enough to decipher their own cravings soon realize what has been missing from their diet and what kind of food will get the body back in tune.  Vegetarian entrées are the top choice for regaining a dietary balance after eating rich holiday food for days on end.  Seafood usually follows as a second option.     
     Many vegetables, like leafy greens and cabbage, actually help to shed excess weight.  If a shopper only purchases vegetables at a common grocery store, the chances are that the shopper will only see four kinds of cabbage and four kinds of leafy green vegetables in their lifetime.  This is because major grocery store chains tend to only stock mainstream fruits and vegetables that are easy to recognize.   
     There is an extensively long list of interesting leafy green vegetables that the world has to offer.  Some varieties of leafy green vegetables are considered to be exotic, but they are actually commonplace in foreign countries.  The only way to find a greater variety of leafy green vegetables is to shop outside of the box!
     A trip to an Asian food market can yield many more leafy green vegetable choices than what a mainstream grocery store is willing to offer.  A good suggestion for those who are daring enough to try new food items every chance that they get, is to just go ahead and purchase a bunch of unusual leafy greens at an Asian market.  Writing the Asian name of the leafy greens down while at the market will make it easier to research information about the vegetable later on.  
     At Asian markets, the food is not always identified with an English name.  As a chef or enthusiastic home cook, learning the food words in foreign languages comes in handy, especially if recipe research is necessary.  Using an internet encyclopedia to learn about newly found leafy vegetable greens or any newly discovered food item is good practice.  Encyclopedic food articles often provide traditional recipe names from many cultures.  
     Napa Cabbage is often called Chinese Cabbage in the western world.  Cooks in the Asian hemisphere sometimes refer to dark green Choy Sum as being Chinese Cabbage.  Choy Sum is not really in the the same family of plants that white cabbage or savoy cabbage are in.  Choy Sum is in the mustard plant family.    
     Choy Sum cooks quickly and it is usually prepared as a stir fried item.  The stems will usually become tender, before the leafy end overcooks.  If the leaf stems are extra thick, splitting the stems in half lengthwise, so they remain attached to the leafy end is a good idea.    
     Stir fry cooking usually involves adding a small amount of a sauce, after the vegetables begin to become tender.  The sauce quickly braises the vegetables as it adds flavor.  It is important to not let the vegetables boil in the sauce for too long, or the vegetables will become limp.  
     Choy Sum is best when it is cooked tender, yet it should still have a little bit of fresh crunch to the bite.  This is what Italians call "al dente."  
     Highly skilled Chinese chefs usually place all of the ingredients needed for a sauce in one small bowl, before the stir fry cooking begins.  Stir fry cooking can be so quick, that there is not enough time to add the sauce ingredients individually.  
     One of my favorite chefs is Martin Yan and he is one of the best at teaching traditional Chinese cooking techniques.  When I was a young teenager, before working professionally in restaurants, I learned a lot of good cooking skills by watching Martin Yan cook on television shows.  Any readers of this food website can certainly learn good stir fry cooking techniques or any traditional Chinese cooking method, by watching the Martin Yan cooking shows on the internet at the YouTube website.    

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large portion!

     Fermented Black Beans Preparation:
     Jars of fermented black bean paste or sauce are convenient, but the product can have a high salt content that can limit the amount of fermented black beans that can be added to a recipe.  
     Bags of semi dried fermented black beans are available at Asian food markets and this product tends to be less salty.  The semi dried fermented black beans do not require much soaking time for them to become tender.  It is best to only use a small amount of liquid when soaking the dried fermented black beans, because the soaking liquid will have a lot of good flavor. 
     Step 1:  Place 1 1/2 tablespoons of semi dried fermented black beans in a small container.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Step 2:  Place the container in a refrigerator.  
     Chill till the fermented black beans soften.  (About 1 or 2 hours.)

     Vegetable Preparation:
     Cut these vegetables stir fry style and keep them separated from each other.  Some vegetables are added early in the recipe and some are added late!  
     - 1 1/2 tablespoons of very thin sliced fresh galangal.  
     - 6 to 8 large bite size pieces of eggplant that are cut into thick rectangular shapes.
     - 1/4 cup of julienne sliced Bermuda Onion.
     - 8 thin slices of carrot that are cut into decorative shapes.
     - 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
     - 8 to 10 trimmed Choy Sum Leaves with the stems attached.  (1 small bunch)
     
     Stir Fry Sauce Preparation:
     Step 1:  Place the reserved bowl of fermented black beans and the soaking liquid on a countertop.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.   
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red chile pepper.  (chile caribe or chile japon)
     Add 2 pinches of coriander.
     Add 1 small pinch of cumin.
     Add 1 pinch of ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Step 2:  Add 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing Wine.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1/3 cup of vegetable broth or chicken broth.
     Step 3:  Add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.  
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Set the stir fry sauce aside.
     Step 4:  Stir the sauce again, just before adding to the stir fry.  

     Choy Sum, Eggplant and Galangal with Fermented Black Bean Sauce:
     Professional kitchen woks use a jet blast of heat that is controlled with a food pedal.  Pro wok cooks step on the gas pedal when heat is needed when stir frying.  Asian chefs are adept at timing when heat needs to be generated and they can gauge how much heat will maintain a certain temperature.  A professional kitchen wok takes a little time to learn how to use, but the skill is rewarding.  
     In a home kitchen, a wok, mini wok or sauté pan that is placed over a constant medium/medium high heat is best.  If the pan gets too hot, the pan can be removed from the heat for a few seconds.  When simmering is required during the last few steps of a recipe, the temperature can be turned down to a low heat range.  
     Eggplant absorbs a lot of oil, so be ready to add a little more oil if necessary.
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan or wok over medium/medium high heat.  
     Add 3 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add the eggplant.   
     Briefly stir fry the eggplant till it just begins to cook.
     *Add a little bit more oil if necessary.
     Step 2:  Add the galangal.
     Add the garlic. 
     Briefly stir fry for a few seconds till the garlic and galangal become aromatic.
     Step 3:  Add the Choy Sum.
     Stir fry till the Choy Sum leaves wilt and the stems just start to become tender.  
     *Be sure to toss the ingredients in the pan often!
     Step 4:  Add the Bermuda Onion.
     Add the carrots.
     Briefly stir fry till the onion and carrot starts to become tender.
     Step 5:  Step Add the stir fry sauce.
     Stir the sauce for a few seconds, as it comes to a boil.
     Step 6:  Cover the pan or wok with a lid for about 20 to 30 seconds, so the steam finishes cooking the Choy Sum.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use tongs to bunch the Choy Sum leaves on a plate.  Try to arange the Choy Sum so the stems are on one side of the plate.
     Step 8:  Spoon the rest of the ingredients and the sauce over the Choy Sum and onto the plate.
     No garnish is necessary!
     Serve with steamed white rice on the side.

     Aromatic fresh galangal really wakes up the flavor of fermented black beans.  This is a tasty plate Choy Sum!  

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Turmeric Lime Seafood with Thai Basil and Lucky Fuzhou Noodles






     Lucky Noodles!
     Fuzhou Noodles are also called "Long Life Noodles or Lucky Noodles."  Chinese Fuzhou Noodles are made with a special fine Fuzhou region flour and high alkaline lye water.  Lye does occur naturally in lake water around the world.  Bottles of food grade lye water are available in Asian food markets and this product can be used to make a wide variety of noodles, salad dressings or even German style pretzels.  
     The locally available lye water is why Fuzhou Noodles have their own unique characteristics.  When dry, Fuzhou Noodles are as thin as a thread and they are very fragile.  Fuzhou Noodles cook very quickly and they can be finished in less than one minute.  Fuzhou Noodles can be shocked in ice water to give them a chewy texture, just like many other Chinese noodles are prepared.  Many chef do not shock Fuzhou noodles, because they want to retain a soft texture.  Even when served soft, the elastic thin Fuzhou Noodles are quite durable and they do not break apart.
      Fuzou Cuisine is one of the four styles of Fujian Cuisine.  Fujian Cuisine is one of the eight classic Chinese cooking styles.  The taste sensation of umami is important in Fujian Cuisine.  Sauces should not mask the flavor of food in Fujian cuisine.  Fujian food tends to be light and lively, yet there is no shortage of flavor.  Fuzhou Cuisine is famous for fine soups.  Sweet and sour flavors are also a recurring theme.
     Today's noodle recipe looks like it has strong flavors.  Because of the bright turmeric yellow color, one may assume that the flavor of this noodle entrée will have a strong curry spice flavor.  Looks can be deceiving!  Turmeric is a spice and it is not just a food coloring agent.  Turmeric can be tasted and it has a very delicate flavor.  If you can notice the delicate flavor of turmeric in this entrée, then you did very well at using a light touch when seasoning!

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large noodle entrée that can be shared by 2 guests!

     Preparation:
     This noodle recipe only takes a few minutes to make, so all of the ingredients must be ready before starting to cook.  
     Step 1:  Keep about 2 quarts of water boiling in a small pot on a back burner, so the Fuzhou Noodles can be cooked later in the recipe.
     Step 2:  Place 1 tablespoon of salt packed dried wakame seaweed in a strainer and rinse the salt off with cold running water.
     Chop the wakame and set it aside.
     Step 3:  Soak 8 to 10 small sun dried anchovies in a little bit of water, till they become soft.
     Drain off the water and set the anchovies aside.
     Step 4:  Poach 10 Blue Mussels in boiling water.
     Cool the mussels.
     Shell the mussels and set them aside.
     Step 5:  Prepare 1/2 cup of thick sliced squid.
     Step 6:  Cut 4 ounces of whitefish into bite size pieces.   (Tilapia, pollock, catfish, carp or any sustainable whitefish is good for this recipe.)
     Step 7:  Select 8 medium size shrimp and remove the shells
     Step 8:  Large dice 1/3 cup of mixed red, yellow and green bell pepper.
     Set the peppers aside.  
     Step 9:  Prepare 3 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Step 10:  Chop 1 green onion.
     Step 11:  Prepare 3 tablespoons of small chopped daikon radish.
     Step 12:  Thin slice 1 shiitake mushroom.
     Step 13:  Be sure to have the rest of the ingredients handy, before starting the recipe.
     - 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
     - 2 minced garlic cloves
     - 1 teaspoon of minced ginger
     - sea salt and white pepper
     - 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
     - 10 whole Thai Basil Leaves
     - 1 teaspoon of Korean style Red Serrano Chile Pepper Sauce (sambal)
     - 3/4 cup of Fish broth
     - 1 1/2 portions of Fuzhou Noodles
     - 1 tablespoon of lime juice
   
     Snow Peas & Bok Choy Garnish:
     Step 1:  Boil 3 cups of salted water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 baby bok choy that is cut in half lengthwise.
     Add 10 feather cut snow peas.
     Blanch the vegetables for about 45 seconds.
     Step 2:  Drain the water off of the bok choy and snow peas.
     Set the blanched vegetables on a dish and keep them warm on a stove top.
 
     Turmeric Lime Seafood with Thai Basil and Lucky Fuzhou Noodles:
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan or mini wok over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 cloves of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds, till the garlic and ginger are aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of mixed of red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper and green bell pepper.
     Add 3 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Add 3 tablespoons of small chopped daikon radish.
     Add 1 thin sliced shiitake mushroom.
     Add 1 tablespoon of the prepared wakame seaweed.
     Add 1 chopped green onion.
     Stir fry the vegetables till they are halfway cooked.
     Step 3:  Add 8 medium size shelled shrimp.
     Add 8 to 10 small reconstituted sun dried anchovies.
     Add 10 poached shelled Blue Mussels.
     Add 4 ounces of whitefish filet that is cut into small bite size pieces.
     Add 1/2 cup of sliced squid.
     Stir fry and toss the ingredients together till the seafood is almost fully cooked.
     Step 4:  Add 3/4 cup of light fish broth.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Korean style Red Serrano Chile Sauce.
     Add 10 whole fresh Thai Basil leaves.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Bring the liquid to a boil and stir the ingredients.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Simmer till the noodles are ready.
     Step 6:  Place 1 1/2 portions of Fuzhou Noodles in the pot of boiling water.
     Stir the noodles occasionally till they are fully cooked.  
     *Fuzhou noodles cook quickly.  Just drop them into boiling water and one minute later they are fully cooked!
     Drain the water off the noodles by pouring the thin noodles into a fine mesh strainer.
     Step 7:  Add the cooked Fuzhou Noodles to the seafood and thin sauce.
     Add 1 generous squeeze of lime juice to the seafood and noodles, while tossing the ingredients together.
     Remove the pan from the heat.  

     Presentation:
     Use a long tine carving fork (or big chop sticks) to mound the noodles and seafood on the center of the plate.
     Try to expose a few of the vegetables and seafood on the surface, so they can be seen.
     Arrange the blanched baby bok choy halves and feathered snow peas on the plate around the noodles.

     Even though this is not a traditional Fuzhou region entrée, it was made with the cooking style of Fuzhou in mind.  Light umami seafood flavors taste nice with Lucky Fuzhou Noodles!