Monday, April 24, 2017

Ginger Orange Beef Udon Noodles







     A Classic Flavor Combination!
     For many people, marinate can be a confusing term.  When some people hear the word marinate, they picture something soaking in a flavored liquid for several hours, but that is not usually the rule of thumb in Asian cuisines.  Many Chinese, Korean and Japanese recipes only require marinating meats for a minute or two, which is just long enough to slightly increase flavor.
     Chinese chefs use a technique of combining all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl, including the corn starch, before the stir fry begins.  The vegetables and meat are stir fried and the uncooked marinade is added to create the sauce.  Not one drop of food is wasted when using this cooking technique and the food is cooked in a matter of minutes.  Being able to cook quickly is essential in a busy Chinese restaurant.
     Often a featured item, like thin sliced beef, is marinated in the cold sauce mixture before the cooking starts.  The meat is removed from the sauce after briefly marinating, then it is stir fried.  The cornstarch in the cold marinade creates a velvety coating on the meat after it is briefly stir fried and the rest of the sauce mixture is added.  This technique is called "Velveting" and it takes good timing to master.  Stir frying for too much time or boiling the sauce for too long will cause the velvety coating to disappear.
     Udon Noodles originated in China.  They were introduced to Japan during the Edo period of history.  Udon have a different name in China, but the Japanese name of these noodles is what most people recognize in modern times.
     Today's Udon Noodle recipe only takes about three minutes to cook!  This recipe is cooked quickly over a high flame.  The ingredients cook so quickly, that the flavors remain crisp and bright tasting.  The main thing to remember when cooking a fast pace recipe, is to treat the noodles gently once they are added to the sauce in the pan or they will break apart.  A Chinese wok spatula is perfect for tossing the noodles with the sauce.  Never breaking a noodle is a hallmark of a great Chinese chef!
 
     Ginger Orange Beef Udon Noodles:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Prepared Udon Noodles are a convenient product.  Vacuum sealed packages of pre-cooked Udon Noodles are available in Asian food markets.
     Step 1:  Keep a pot of water boiling, so the pre-cooked Udon Noodles can be reheated later in the recipe.
     Step 2:  Select a 3/4" thick piece of beef top round steak.
     Place the steak on a cutting board.
     Hold the knife at a 35º to 40º angle to the cutting board and cut the beef into wide ribbon slices that are about 3/16" thick.  (About 4 ounces will be needed for this recipe.)
     Step 3:  Place the portion of thin sliced beef in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 2 tablespoons of rice wine.
     Add 1/4 cup of chicken broth.
     Add 1/4 cup of fresh squeezed orange juice.
     Step 4:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add a few long thin strips of fresh orange zest.  (About 1/2 teaspoon in volume.)
     Add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Set the bowl aside and let the beef marinate for 5 minutes.
     Step 5:  Cut 1 1/2 tablespoons of small diced carrot and set it aside.
     Cut 1 tablespoon of thin bias sliced green onion top and set it aside.
     Place 1 portion of Udon Noodles in a pasta net and set it aside.
     Step 6:  Heat a mini wok (or sauté pan) over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Remove the beef from the marinade and set the marinade aside.
     Add the beef it to the hot oil.
     Stir fry till the beef is almost fully cooked and a few brown highlights appear.  (This step only takes less than one minute!)
     Step 7:  Remove the stir fried beef from the pan and set it aside on a platter.
     Pour the excess oil out of the pan into a container.
     Step 8:  Return the pan to medium/medium high heat.
     Return the beef to the pan.
     Add the reserved diced carrots.
     Stir fry till the carrots become aromatic.  (About 10 seconds.)
     Step 9:  Add the reserved marinade.
     Bring the sauce to a boil.
     Boil till the cornstarch turns clear and the sauce thickens to a medium thin consistency.
     Step 10:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat and keep the Ginger Orange Beef warm.
     Step 11:  Use the pasta net to dip the portion of Udon Noodles in the boiling water till they are hot.
     Use the pasta net to drain the water off of the noodles.
     Add the hot noodles to the Ginger Orange Beef in the pan.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 12:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the Ginger Orange Beef Udon Noodles on the center of a plate.  Try to expose the slices of beef around the surface of the noodles.
     Pour any remaining sauce over the noodles.
     Sprinkle the reserved sliced green onion tops over the noodles.
 
     Chinese stir fry techniques will keep a cook constantly moving.  The flavors of soy, ginger and orange are perfect with beef and noodles!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Enoki, Mung Bean Sprouts and Ham Egg Foo Young with Red Chile Sauce






     Egg Foo Young!
     There are many Egg Foo Young recipe variations.  The most basic is a flat omelette that is flavored with ham.  Many kinds of vegetables and just about any kind of meat or seafood can be added to Egg Foo Young.  The Egg Foo Young batter can be made with only eggs and it can also be enriched with flour or cornstarch to create a firm pancake texture.  Egg Foo Young can be served dry or it can be smothered with sauce.  Egg Foo Young can even be garnished with fancy toppings.  Egg Foo Young can be made as small as a silver dollar or as large as a dinner plate.  As one can see, there is more than one Egg Foo Young!    
     Today's recipe is a large Egg Foo Young that has a little kick from the spicy Red Chile Sauce.  A big Egg Foo Young like this will satisfy a big appetite, but it can also be shared by guests when served during a multi course meal.  The Mung Bean Sprouts and Enoki Mushrooms are sandwiched in the center of the egg batter, instead of simply being mixed with the eggs from the start.     
 
     Red Chile Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.
     The level of spicy heat is fairly mild.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of blended sesame oil.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Briefly sauté till the garlic and ginger becomes aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of raw sugar.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese Five Spice Powder.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Korean style Coarse Ground Red Serrano Chile Paste (sambal).
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water to make a slurry.
     Add the slurry while stirring with a whisk to thicken the sauce.
     Bring the sauce back to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.  (Add a little water if the sauce becomes too thick.)
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Keep the sauce warm till the Egg Foo Young is ready.
    
     Enoki, Mung Bean Sprouts and Ham Egg Foo Young with Red Chile Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 large Egg Foo Young entrée.  (1 or 2 portions)
     Western style cooking techniques are used to make this big Egg Foo Young.
     *Have all the ingredients ready before starting the stir fry and Egg Foo Young!
     Step 1:  Heat a mini wok (or wide sauté pan) over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of blended sesame oil.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1/4 cup of julienne sliced ham.  (Julienne = 1/8" x 1/8" x 3".)
     Add 1/4 cup of julienne sliced onion.
     Add 2/3 cup of Mung Bean Sprouts.
     Add 6 snow peas that are julienne sliced.
     Add 1 thin sliced green onion.
     Stir fry till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 2:  Add 1 small bunch of trimmed whole Enoki Mushrooms.  (About 1/3 cup.)
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese Five Spice Powder.
     Briefly stir fry till the ingredients are mixed together.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat, while the vegetables are still slightly crisp (al dente).
     Set the pan of stir fry vegetables and ham aside.
     Step 4:  Place 3 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
     Whisk the ingredients till they are blended and foamy.
     Step 5:  Heat a non-stick wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Pour 1/2 of the whisked egg mixture into the hot pan.
     Evenly spread the stir fry vegetable and ham mixture on top of the loose egg batter.
     Sauté till the bottom half eggs are cooked firm, but not browned.
     Step 6:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Pour the remaining egg batter over the vegetables and ham in the pan.
     Step 7:  Place the sauté pan in a 350ºF oven.
     Bake the Egg Foo Young till the egg batter is fully cooked and golden highlights appear.
     Step 8:  *This step is optional.  By flipping the Egg Foo Young, the surface of the eggs will look smoother.
     Remove the pan from the oven.
     Slide the large Egg Foo Young onto a sheet pan.
     Place a large serving plate over the Egg Foo Young.
     Invert the plate and sheet pan together as one.
     Remove the sheet pan and the smooth side of the Egg Foo Young will be facing up!
     Step 9:  Pour a generous amount of the Red Chile Sauce the Egg Foo Young and onto the plate.  (About 2/3 cup to 1 cup.)
     Place a few fresh Enoki Mushrooms on top of the Egg Foo Young as a garnish.  (The heat of the eggs and sauce is enough to cook the tiny enoki mushrooms.)  
  
     This is a nice big Egg Foo Young that has plenty of flavor!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Pork, Roasted Tofu and Yellow Chive Stuffed Wax Peppers with Tamarind Sauce and Ngò Om










     Tasty Stuffed Peppers!
     Today's fancy Stuffed Peppers can be served as an appetizer or entrée.  Either way, these tasty stuffed peppers are meant to be shared by guests at a table.  Pork, roasted tofu and rice is a pleasant tasting savory stuffing for peppers.  Wax Peppers are mildly spicy, so those who have sensitive tastes do not have to hesitate when taking the first bite.        
     Roasted Tofu is usually sold in cryovac sealed packages in Asian food markets.  Sometimes the label will say Roasted Bean Curd instead of Roasted Tofu, but it is the same product.  Roasted Tofu is very firm and dense.  It is usually stewed in sauce when making Korean or Chinese specialty dishes.  Roasted Tofu has a dark color and a nice mild roasted soy flavor that goes well with pork.    
     Yellow Chives are actually garlic plant tops.  Garlic tops are green when exposed to sunlight, but when the sunlight is blocked, the garlic tops turn yellow.  Yellow Chives have a pleasant mild garlic flavor.
     What makes this stuffed pepper appetizer interesting is the combination of herbs and tamarind, which is common in Vietnamese cuisine.  Tamarind is used in Mekong Delta soups and stews to add a tangy fruit flavor.  Tamarind Sauce is nice choice for accompanying sauce for pork stuffed peppers.  Ngò Om is also known as Rice Paddy Herb.  Ngò Om has a unique lemony exotic herb flavor that has a hint and cumin aftertaste.  Fresh Ngò Om also garnishes Vietnamese Mekong Delta soups that are flavored with tamarind, so this flavor combination is well proven.   
     If Rice Paddy Herb looks familiar, it is because it is a common aquarium plant in the western world.  Many people that have fish tanks do not realize that the Rice Paddy Herb that is growing in the tank is one of the finest tasting herbs that there is.  Of course, consuming common an herb that has been growing in a fish tank not advisable, so only serve Rice Paddy Herb that is meant for human consumption.  This herb is usually labeled as Ngò Om in Asian food markets.  

     Tamarind Puree Sauce:
     This recipe yields a little more than 1/3 cup.  (2 or 3 garnish portions.) 
     Nothing extra is added to the Tamarind Puree Sauce.  The natural tangy flavor of Tamarind goes well with the stuffed peppers!
     Step 1:  Place 3 tablespoons of Seedless Tamarind Fruit Paste in a small sauce pot. 
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Place the pot over low heat.
     Gently simmer the tamarind pulp is very soft.
     Step 2:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the tamarind liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a second small sauce pot.
     Press the tamarind pulp through the strainer too. 
     Step 3:  Place the sauce pot of thin tamarind puree over medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the tamarind sauce is a thin consistency that can glaze a spoon.
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Place the tamarind sauce in a ceramic cup.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.

     Pork, Roasted Tofu and Yellow Chive Stuffed Wax Peppers:
     This recipe yields 4 to 5 Wax Peppers, depending on the size.
     Leftover plain Jasmine Rice is good for this recipe!  If none is on hand, then cook a small portion of white rice ahead of time. 
     Step 1:  Place 4 ounces of ground pork in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of finely chopped Roasted Tofu.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Cooked Jasmine Rice.
     Add 3 tablespoons of thin sliced yellow chives.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced cilantro.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Add 1 pinch of Ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Step 2:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Set the stuffing mixture aside.
     Step 3:  *The amount of Wax Peppers needed depends on the size of the peppers.
     Cut the tops off of 4 to 6 Yellow Wax Peppers.
     Scrape the pulp and seeds out of the peppers.
     Fill the peppers with the stuffing.
     Step 4:  Set up a steaming pot and add enough water to steam the stuffed peppers.
     Lightly brush the stuffed wax peppers with blended sesame oil.
     Place the stuffed peppers on a steaming rack inside the steaming pot.  
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Steam the stuffed peppers over medium high heat till the pork stuffing is fully cooked.  
     *About 7 to 10 minutes is plenty, depending on the size of the peppers.  Do not steam for too much time or the peppers will become mushy!  A probe thermometer should read 165ºF.

     Pork, Roasted Tofu and Yellow Chive Stuffed Wax Peppers with Tamarind Sauce and Ngò Om:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer portion that can be shared by 2 guests.
     Place 4 or 5 of the steamed Pork, Roasted Tofu and Yellow Chive Stuffed Wax Peppers on an oval serving plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the Tamarind Sauce on the plate around the stuffed peppers.
     Sprinkle a generous amount of Ngò Om (Rice Paddy Herb) on the tamarind sauce.  (About 3 or 4 tablespoons of leaves and small top sprigs is plenty.) 

     This stuffed pepper appetizer has a flavor that will give guests something to talk about!  

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Malaysian Sambal Dried Shrimp and Yard Long Beans










     Spicy Healthy Malaysian Food!
     Modern Malaysian cuisine has an interesting mixture of culinary influences from many foreign cultures that is infused with the traditional local cuisine.  Just like in Singapore, Malaysia and many Southeast Asian nations have adapted cultural fusion cuisine styles in modern times.  The traditional local cuisine may not be in the limelight at trendy restaurants, but good old fashioned traditional Malaysian food can still be found at local restaurants and in the home kitchen. 
     Traditional Malaysian food is quite tropical.  Fruits grow year round and seafood is plentiful.  Tropical pacific root vegetables, native exotic vegetables and herbs are all part of traditional Malaysian cuisine.   Rice has always been a main staple in Malaysia and it accompanies most traditional dishes.  Tropical banana leaf style cooking and serving food on banana leaves are signatures of old Malaysian cuisine.
     Ever since the Columbian Exchange took place, chile peppers have entered the tropical cuisine of every region in the sun belt.  There are over 100 varieties of Sambal (chile paste) in the Southeast Asia region.  Sambal is an important part of Malaysian cuisine.  There are specific names for each Malaysian Sambal style.  Some are made with kaffir lime, dried shrimp and other local flavors.  There are also specific names for raw or cooked Sambal.  
     Belacan can refer to Shrimp Paste or Dried Shrimp in Malaysia.  I chose to use tiny Dried Shrimp for today's Malaysian Yard Long Bean recipe, because I had them on hand.  The dried shrimp combine with a Mild Sambal to create a very nice flavor that goes well with Yard Long Beans.  
     Yard Long Beans are popular in tropical Asia and India.  Yard Long Beans are in the Cowpea family and they grow from climbing vines that are similar to air-plants.  Yard Long Beans are great for food shortages, because they grow very quickly and they are loaded with nutrients.  

     Malaysian Sambal Dried Shrimp and Yard Long Beans:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Dried Shrimp are available in a variety of sizes.  For this recipe, try to select tiny dried shrimp that are about as big as a fingernail.  These shrimp are so small that the the shells are edible and they do not have to be peeled.
     Be careful not to choose a Sambal that is salty.  Some Sambal brands more salt than others!  Korean style Coarse Ground Red Serrano Chile Pepper (Sambal) is mildly spicy and it usually is not salty.  
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of Sticky Rice or Long Grain White Rice till it is tender.  (About 1/3 cup of dried rice.)
     Keep the rice warm till later in the recipe.        
     Step 2:  Place 2 1/2 cups of water in a sauce pot.
     Add 1/4 cup of tiny dried shrimp.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground galangal (Thai Blue Ginger).
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper. 
     Place the sauce pot over medium low heat.  
     Simmer the dried shrimp till they are tender and the broth reduces to about 2 cups.  (About 10 minutes.)
     *Check the amount of broth in the pot.  About 2 cups of broth will be needed for the next step.  If necessary, add water if the amount of broth is too low. 
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Add 2 cups of Yard Long Beans that are cut into 2" to 3" long pieces.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Boil till the long beans start to become tender.  (About 3 to 4  minutes.)  
     Step 4:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Remove the lid.
     Set the pot dried shrimp and long beans aside.  
     *Check the amount of broth in the pot.  About 1 1/2 cups of broth will be needed for the next step.  If necessary, add water if the amount of broth is too low.
     Step 5:  Heat a wide sauté pan (or mini wok) over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of chopped garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/2 of a small red Thai Chile Pepper that is thin sliced.  (Optional for extra spicy heat level!)
     Sauté till the onions start to become tender.
     Step 6:  Add the reserved long beans, dried shrimp and 1 1/2 cups of the broth from the other pot.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Coarse Ground Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste (or Malaysian Mild Sambal).   
     Add 1 tablespoon of Sriracha Sauce.
     Add 1 pinch of crushed dried red pepper.  (crushed dried red chile caribe)
     Add 2 teaspoons of thin soy sauce.
     Toss the ingredients together
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till only about 3/4 cup of the spicy thin broth sauce remains.
     Step 7: Remove the pan from the heat.
     Use a custard cup mold to place 1 portion of rice on the back half of a shallow plate.
     Place the Malaysian Sambal Dried Shrimp and Yard Long Beans around the rice on the front half of the plate.
     Pour any remaining sauce over the Yard Long Beans.
     Garnish the plate with lime slices and a cilantro sprig. 

     Sometimes a great flavor combination comes from only a few choice ingredients and such is the case with Malaysian Sambal Dried Shrimp and Yard Long Beans!  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Miso Bead Molasses Glazed Pork Loin with Coconut Lime Vegetables






     Appealing Tropical Flavors!
     Trying to satisfy favor cravings often results in creating an appealing entrée.  When outside influences are ignored, it is easier to focus upon an idea that comes from within.  Often a cooking idea is subconsciously related to what the body needs to maintain health or a psychological need for something different.  Sometimes it is a combination of both.  Today's recipe satisfies cravings for roasted pork with a deep tasting savory glaze and nutritious vegetables with a healthy coconut sauce.  
     The Miso Glaze for the pork loin is flavored with Bead Molasses.  Bead Molasses is the by-product of sugar refining and it contains all the nutrients that are removed from the sugar.  Sugar Cane Grass grain actually is loaded with valuable vitamins and minerals, yet refined sugar has no vitamin or mineral nutritional value other than offering calories as an empty carbohydrate.  Bead Molasses has a deep flavor that is mellower than Sorghum Molasses, because the Iron content is much lower.  Bead Molasses is often used to add brown color to food, because it stains so dark.
     The vegetable mixture for the stir fry is not exotic and most of the ingredients can be found at a common grocery store.  The coconut lime flavor of the stir fry vegetables accents the flavor of the the Miso Bead Molasses Glazed Pork Loin.  Coconut Milk is used extensively in nearly every tropical region around the globe.  Food that has a coconut flavor has a way of triggering thoughts of sunshine and white sand beaches, even on a chilly day.

     Miso Bead Molasses Glaze:
     This recipe yields about 1/2 cup.  (Enough glaze for 12 to 14 ounces of pork loin.) 
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over low heat.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Red Miso Paste.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Bead Molasses.
     Add 2 tablespoons of palm sugar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese Five Spice Powder.
     Whisk the ingredients till blended.
     Step 2:  Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin consistency that can coat a spoon.
     Step 3:  Remove the sauce pot from the heat.
     Place the Miso Bead Molasses Glaze in a container and chill till it is needed.  

     Miso Bead Molasses Glazed Pork Loin:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     The stir fry vegetables can be cooked while the pork loin finishes roasting.
     Step 1:  Select a 12 to 14 ounce piece of lean boneless pork loin.
     Trim off any fat and silver floss.
     Step 2:  Place the pork loin on a wire screen roasting rack on a roasting pan.
     Brush the pork loin with about 3 tablespoons of the Miso Bead Molasses Glaze.  (A thin coating is good for a start.)
     Step 3:  Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Remove the pan from the oven about once every 5 minutes and brush the pork loin with the Miso Bead Molasses Glaze, till all of the glaze is used and the pork loin is thoroughly coated.
     Continue roasting till the pork loin is fully cooked.  (A probe thermometer should read at least 145ºF in the center.)
     Step 4:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Keep the Miso Bead Molasses Glazed Pork Loin warm on a stove top.

     Coconut Lime Stir Fry Vegetables:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     The secret to a good stir fry is simple.  The sauté pan or mini wok must be hot before you start cooking!  All of the ingredients must be ready before the stir fry begins, because this style of cooking is quick.  When a stir fry is finished, it must be immediately served. 
     Step 1:  Heat a wok (or wide sauté pan) over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 2 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced carrot
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced celery
     Add 1/3 cup of julienne sliced onion
     Add 1/3 cup of thin green bell pepper strips.
     Add 1/3 cup of half moon shape sliced zucchini.
     Add 1/3 cup of half moon shape sliced yellow squash.
     Add 1/4 cup of thin sliced mushrooms.
     Add 1 thin sliced Green Serrano Chile Pepper.
     Stir fry till the vegetables start to cook.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Briefly stir fry till the ginger and garlic become aromatic.
     Step 3:  Add 1/4 cup of sliced water chestnuts.
     Add 6 canned baby ears of corn.
     Add 2 green onions that are cut into bite size pieces.
     Stir fry till the vegetables are almost fully cooked and a few golden brown highlights appear.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of rich canned coconut milk.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Bring the coconut milk to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the coconut milk is just thick enough to cling to the vegetables.
     Toss the ingredients together one last time.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     Miso Bead Molasses Glazed Pork Loin with Coconut Lime Vegetables: 
     This recipe yields 1 entrée. 
     Step 1:  Place 1 portion of the Coconut Lime Stir Fry Vegetables on plate as a bed for the pork.
     Pour a portion of the coconut lime sauce from the pan over the vegetables.
     Step 2:  Place the Miso Bead Molasses Glazed Pork Loin on a cutting board.
     Cut the pork loin into 3/16" thick slices.
     Step 3:  Place 1 portion of the sliced glazed pork on top of the vegetables.  Try to overlap the slices in a round circular pattern.  (About 6 to 7 ounces of pork per portion.)
     Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of thin bias sliced green onion over the pork.

     The Miso Bead Molasses Glaze turns dark and tastes rich after roasting.  The vegetables have a light coconut lime flavor that is not overbearing.  This is a tasty roast glazed pork entrée!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Dried Shrimp, Onion and Sriracha Mapo Tofu








     A Saucy Ma Po Tofu Variation!
     Chen Mapo Doufu is the full name of any Ma Po Tofu recipe.  The Chen family first created this tofu entrée long ago.  Many chefs and Chinese restaurants separate the word Mapo into its two root words, Ma and Po.  Ma is short for the word Mazi.  Mazi refers to a disfigured person who has severe pockmarks or leprosy.  Po translates to old woman.  So, Ma Po literally translates to "old pock marked woman."  
     There is a few stories about the origin of Mapo Tofu.  Apparently a Chen family member was an old pock marked woman and she sold this tofu entrée and beef to travelers on a busy trade route on.  Mapo Tofu soon became popular with laborers and hard working people.  The old woman made enough money to open her own restaurant and her specialty was her own Mapo Tofu recipe.  Beef was added to the recipe by customer request.  
     The original Mapo Tofu was spicy hot and only enough dark chile paste sauce was made to coat the ingredients with flavor.  Mapo Tofu can be made saucy, when noodles or rice are served on the side.  Adding Sriracha Sauce is the easy way to make Mapo Tofu extra saucy.
     Fresh seafood is traditionally used near the coastline and dried seafood is traditionally used inland.  The tiny Dried Shrimp in today's Mapo Tofu recipe adds a savory umami flavor.  
     Szechuan Pepper comes from a Prickly Ash Tree.  Plenty of Szechuan Pepper was added to the original Mapo Tofu recipe.  Szechuan Pepper numbs the mouth, so back in the old days when this entrée was first served, poor laborers with bad teeth were able to enjoy a good meal with less dental pain.  The high amount of Szechuan Pepper in Mapo Tofu became a tradition.  
     Today's recipe is a saucy version of Mapo Tofu that features a popular combination of dried shrimp, onions and Sriracha Sauce.  Tomato puree is added too.  This saucy entrée is meant to be served family style with rice or noodles on the side.  The Mapo Tofu and as much of the spicy sauce that a guest prefers can be placed on the starch accompaniment.  Plenty of mild chile peppers and mild chile pepper sauce is in this recipe, so it is pleasantly spicy hot.

     Dried Shrimp, Onion and Sriracha Mapo Tofu:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Soak 1/4 cup of tiny dried shrimp in 1/2 cup of water for 1 hour in a refrigerator.
     *Do not drain off the soaking liquid.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan or mini wok over medium/medium high heat. 
     Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add 3 crushed garlic cloves.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Briefly stir fry for a few seconds till the garlic and ginger become aromatic.
     Step 3:  Add 3/4 cup of small chopped onion.
     Add 1 or 2 thin sliced jalapeño peppers.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped green bell pepper.
     Stir fry till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add the soaked dried shrimp and the soaking liquid.
     Add 1 cup of shrimp broth.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of red bean paste.  (red miso paste)
     Stir till the bean paste becomes part of the sauce.
     Step 5:  Add 1/3 cup of Sriracha Hot Sauce.  (Sriracha is a mild, semi sweet, garlic and red serrano chile pepper sauce.
     Add 1/4 cup of tomato puree. 
     Add 1 tablespoon of Hoisin Sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese Hot Red Chile Pepper Powder.  (to taste)
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of coarse ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Add sea salt to taste.
     Step 6:  Bring the sauce to a boil. 
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium thin consistency.
     Step 8:  Add 2 green onions that are cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 6 large triangle shape pieces of firm tofu that are 1/2" thick.  Each slice of tofu should weigh about 2 to 2 1/2 ounces.
     Simmer till the tofu becomes hot.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the heat. 
     Use a serving spoon to overlap the tofu triangles across the center of an oval serving plate.
     Spoon a little bit of sauce over the tofu.
     Pour the rest of the sauce on the plate around the tofu.
     Serve with 2 portions of steamed sticky rice or noodles on the side.

     This saucy Dried Shrimp, Onion and Sriracha Mapo Tofu awakens the senses!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spicy Thai Eggplant







     Healthy Mild Spicy Hot Vegetarian Food!
     While shopping at an Asian food market in Las Vegas, I noticed that the small round Thai Green Eggplant were selling for a nice price.  Thai Green Eggplant are used as a base for making Thai Green Curry and they can be used to make a wide variety of vegetarian recipes.  A spicy Thai vegetable entrée sounded good, so I picked up a bunch of Thai Basil and a few other ingredients.
     Thai Basil has a mellow basil flavor that is not sharp tasting or overpowering.  Regular Thai Basil should not be confused with Thai Holy Basil.  Thai Holy Basil has an interesting complex flavor profile that is similar to Perilla, but it is not always available in food markets.
     Garlic and Thai Chile Pepper are a classic combination for making spicy Thai sauces.  The level of chile pepper heat is always a matter of personal choice.  Most Thai restaurants offer spicy food on a scale of one to ten.  One is the mildest and ten is the hottest.  Customers usually prefer spicy level #1 through #3, because these are mild flavors.  Spicy heat level #10 is fiery hot and this level of spicy heat sure will bring tears to the eyes!
     Thai chile peppers are one of the hottest peppers that there is, so for a mild spicy heat level only 1/2 to 1 Thai pepper should be used.  Red Serrano Peppers are also used to create mild spicy food.  Course ground Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste (sambal) is easy to work with and it adds a classic mild chile pepper flavor.
     That stir fry is not done like Chinese style stir fry.  The temperatures are much lower and rich coconut milk starts the recipe.  To start a Thai style stir fry recipe, coconut milk is rapidly simmered and reduced till it turns into coconut oil, then the meats, vegetables or aromatic ingredients are added.  Starting a Thai style stir fry with a coconut oil product does save time in a home kitchen and the flavor is almost as good as cooking coconut milk till it turns into oil.  The difference is the sauce consistency.  Coconut oil products are refined, so the sauce will have a thinner consistency.    
     The key to cooking the eggplant in this recipe is to use multiple reductions of a small amount liquid over high heat.  Adding too much liquid at one time will cause the eggplant to become mushy, like boiled eggplant.  Cooking at too low of a temperature will cause the eggplant to simmer and become mushy too.
     Today's recipe is made quickly at a moderate temperature.  As soon as the eggplant becomes tender, the basil leaves are added and the entrée should be immediately served.  By adding the basil late in the recipe, the Thai Basil retains its full flavor profile.

     Spicy Thai Eggplant:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     The chile pepper heat level is mild to medium.  The spicy heat level can be adjusted to personal preference.  
     Be sure to prepare all the ingredients ahead of time!  Have the spices, oil and fish sauce ready, because this recipe progresses quickly.
     Coconut milk can be simmered till it turns into coconut oil to start the recipe.  Using a coconut oil product is a nice convenience and it reduces the cooking time.  
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauté pan or mini wok over medium heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of coconut oil.
     Add 6 chopped garlic cloves.
     Sauté the garlic till it starts to turn a golden color.
     Step 2:  Add 7 or 8 Thai Green Eggplant that are cut into thick wedges.
     Sauté the eggplant till golden brown highlights start to appear.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of Coarse Ground Red Serrano Chile Pepper Sauce.  (sambal)
     Add 1 chopped Red Thai Chile Pepper.  (Optional for medium spicy heat.)
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds till the chile pepper is aromatic.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Thai Fish Sauce.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till the liquid is almost evaporated.
     Step 5:  Repeat Step 4.
     *Check the eggplant.  The eggplant should be tender, but not mushy.  If the eggplant is still firm, then repeat Step 4 one more time.
     Step 6:  After the eggplant is tender and the liquid is almost evaporated, add 1/2 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Add about 15 to 20 whole Thai Basil leaves.
     Toss the ingredients together till the Thai Basil wilts and becomes aromatic.
     Step 7:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Mound the Spicy Thai Eggplant on the center of a plate.
     Garnish the plate with a Thai Basil sprig and a few Thai Basil leaves.

     This Green Eggplant entrée has a nice aromatic flavor!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wood Ear Mushroom and Enoki Miso Soup with Sprouts and Wakame Salad






     Healthy Miso Soup!
     Wood Ear Mushrooms are also called Cows Ear Fungus, Jelly Ear, Judas Ear, Jews Ear and a few other descriptive name.  Wood Ear Mushrooms usually grow in deciduous forests in the Northern Hemisphere and they flourish on Elder Trees.   
     This mushroom species offers good health benefits that include improving respiratory function, cancer fighting properties and they contain chemicals that slow the aging process.  Wood Ear Mushrooms also reduce cholesterol levels, they have anti coagulant properties and the help to control diabetes related hypoglycemia.  Sore eyes and throat irritations are a couple more things that Wood Ear Mushrooms help to cure. 
     Dried Wood Ear Mushrooms can be found in grocery stores and fresh Wood Ear Mushrooms are usually stocked in Asian food markets.  Wood Ear Mushrooms are often referred to as "meat" by vegetarians in Asia.  The flavor of this mushroom is very mild and the texture is as firm as cooked cabbage.  These mushrooms are usually featured in soups and saucy stir fry entrées.  Chinese Hot Sour Soup usually has Wood Ear Mushrooms in the list of ingredients, so most people that dine in Chinese American restaurants have tried these mushroom at some point in time, whether they know it or not.            
     Enoki Mushrooms have a delicate flavor and they have health benefits that include anti aging properties as well as improving immune system capability.  Wild harvested Enoki offer more potent health benefits and they have a stronger flavor.  Wild Enoki are usually sold dried as Golden Mushrooms.  Cultivated farm fresh Enoki can be found fresh at Asian food markets and grocery stores.  
     Collecting Enoki and Wood Ear Mushrooms in the wild is an option, but a word of advice is best given.  I spent more than 10 years studying and collecting edible wild mushrooms in the sub tropics.  I read volumes of mushroom identification books, before I collected my first edible wild mushroom.  The Audubon mushroom identification books have clear photographs and descriptions, but like all mushroom identification books, there are a few errors.  Some mushrooms in every mushroom identification guide seem to be misidentified or mislabeled, so it is best to cross reference when doing research.  
     An understanding of the Latin language makes mushroom identification much easier.  Most scientific mushroom names are written in Latin and the names are descriptive.  If you are not sure about the identity of a wild mushroom, then never assume that it is edible!  Many wild mushrooms contain deadly toxins, so never take risks!        
 
     Dried Wood Ear Mushroom Preparation: 
     This recipe yields 1 garnish portion.
     Step 1:  Place 4 Dried Wood Ear Mushrooms in a container.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Soak the wood ear mushrooms in a refrigerator overnight.
     Step 2:  Drain off the soaking liquid.
     Julienne slice the reconstituted Wood Ear Mushrooms.  (1/8" wide strips)
     Set the mushroom strips aside or chill them for later use.
 
     Iriko Wakame Dashi:
     This recipe yields about 2 cups.
     Iriko Dashi is made with Sun Dried Anchovies.  Asian style Sun Dried Anchovies have a nice savory umami flavor that is much milder tasting than Mediterranean anchovy products.  An Iriko Dashi is usually boiled for 10 minutes.  
     Wakame adds a bold savory seaweed flavor.  Salt Packed Dried Wakame is only partially dried and a little bit will dramatically increase in size when reconstituted.
     Step 1:  Place 2 3/4 cups of water in a small sauce pot.
     Bring the water to a gentle boil over medium heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of small sun dried anchovies.  (1" length anchovies)    
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of small chopped rinsed Salt Packed Dried Wakame Seaweed.
     Step 2:  Gently boil for 10 minutes.  Allow the volume of broth to reduce to about 2 cups.
     *Only add water if the broth reduces too much.
     Step 3:  Pour the Dashi Broth through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     *The anchovies and wakame can be eaten as a snack, saved for other recipes or discarded.
 
     Wood Ear Mushroom and Enoki Miso Soup with Sprouts and Wakame Salad:
     This recipe yields about 2 cups.  (1 portion)
     Packages of Pickled Wakame Seaweed Salad (Chuka Kuki Wakame) are available at Asian food markets and some grocery stores.  
     Step 1:  Place the sauce pot of Iriko Wakame Dashi Broth over medium low heat.
     Add the reserved reconstituted Wood Ear Mushroom Strips.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of a minced garlic. 
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of soy sauce.
     Add 2 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 2:  Gently simmer the Wood Ear Mushrooms for 5 minutes.
     *Add a splash of water if the broth reduces to less than 2 cups in volume.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of Pale Yellow Color Miso Paste while stirring with a whisk.
     Simmer and stir for one minute, so the miso paste combines.
     Step 4:  Pour the miso soup into a shallow soup bowl.  (2 1/4 cup capacity bowl)
     Step 5:  Place 1 small bunch of trimmed raw Enoki Mushrooms on one side the soup, so the Enoki point out from center.  (About 20 Enoki)  
     Place 1 small bunch of Mung Bean Sprouts on the opposite side of the soup, so they point out from center.  (About 15 sprouts)
     *The small bunches of Enoki and sprouts will displace the Wood Ear Mushrooms in the soup and this will create an interesting visual effect! 
     Step 6:  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of thin bias sliced green onion on the center of the soup.
     Mound 2 to 3 tablespoons of Pickled Wakame Seaweed Salad on the center of the soup.

     This is a good tasting healthy miso soup that has nice eye appeal!