Wednesday, April 29, 2015

KoMex Fusion! Cactus Fruit Cut Noodles with Chile Colorado Sofrito Sauce and Shrimp Bulgogi

Left to Right:  1 Chile Morita, 3 Chile Pulla, 1 Chile Negro, 1 Chile Guajillo
     KoMex!  Korean Mexican Fusion Cuisine!  
     KoMex cuisine is a popular food trend in Las Vegas.  Ever since chile peppers, corn, peanuts, sweet potatoes and tomatoes were introduced to Asia during the Colombian Exchange, a new wave of Asian cuisine flavors took shape.
     Korean cooks really took a liking to hot chile peppers.  Many Korean recipes are loaded with red chile pepper powder or chile pepper paste.  Mexican cuisine makes use of a wide variety of chile peppers.  It was a natural for the two most respected chile pepper cuisines to merge as one and become the KoMex cuisine!

     Not all Korean food is spicy.  Bulgogi is a traditional Korean recipe that is over 2,000 years old.  Nearly any kind of meat can be used to make bulgogi.  Pork and beef are the most popular.  Shrimp is an option too.  Bulgogi involves thoroughly marinating meat, then grilling the meat over an open flame or on hot cast iron.  
     Chile peppers were not available when Bulgogi was first created.  Only modern Bulgogi recipe variations have chile peppers in the recipe.  I chose to use a traditional Bulgogi marinade recipe for today's KoMex creation, because the Mexican style noodle sauce is loaded with chile pepper flavor.
     Korean or Chinese Cut Noodles are made by stacking sheets of noodle dough and then slicing the noodle dough sheets into long thin noodles.  Flavored noodles have become popular in recent years.  Dried powdered Prickly Pear Cactus fruit is sometimes used to flavor modern fancy noodles.  Prickly Pear Cactus fruit has a nice mild strawberry flavor.
     Koreans have a method for making noodles chewy.  The boiled fresh noodles are removed from the hot water and then they are shocked in ice cold water.  The noodles are stirred in the ice water by hand, till they gain a chewy texture.  The noodles are removed from the ice water and set aside, till they are used in a recipe.  This technique is good for Cut Noodles.

     Sofrito is pretty much the same thing as mirepoix.  Sofrito often refers to basic vegetable sauce that is used to create the base flavor of a recipe.  There are a few different kinds of sofrito and the choice of sofrito vegetable combination depends on the recipe application.  Today's KoMex recipe requires sofrito vegetables that accent the flavor of tomato.

     Chile Colorado Sauce is always made with dried red chiles.  It is the chef's choice as to which Mexican chile peppers are used.  I chose a combination of dried chile peppers that have a complex combination of fruity, tobacco, licorice and classic robust chile flavor characteristics. 
     The spicy heat level of this entree is on the lower end of the mild to medium range.  In a noodle house restaurant, the spicy heat would be described as "Spicy Heat Level # 4 or #5."  If you prefer a spicier sauce, add 1 chile arbol or add 1 chile habanero.  If you prefer a milder sauce, you are out of luck!  So sorry, Charley!

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large noodle house KoMex entrée!

     Shrimp Bulgogi Marinade:
     Step 1:  Peel and devein 10 medium size shrimp (21/25 per pound count).  Leave the tails on the shrimp.  
     Select 2 nice looking whole medium size shrimp that have the heads attached, so they can be used as a garnish.  (Trim the thin long antenna feelers off of the 2 whole shrimp.)
     Step 2:  Place all of the shrimp into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 cup of thin julienne sliced onion strips.
     Add 1/2 of a chopped green onion.
     Add 1 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 3/4 tablespoon of granulated sugar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ground sesame seed.  (Use a spice grinder or a food processor if you have one.  I ground and chopped sesame seeds by hand with a chef knife the old fashioned way for this recipe.)
     Add 2 teaspoons of pure sesame oil.
     Add 2 pinches of white pepper.
     Step 3:  Gently toss the ingredients together.
     Refrigerate for 1 or 2 hours, till the ingredients thoroughly marinate. 

     Chile Colorado:
     Step 1:  Remove the stems and seeds from these dried chile peppers:
     - 1 chile morita
     - 3 chile pulla
     - 1 chile negro
     - 1 medium size chile guajillo
     Crush the dried chile peppers.
     Step 2:  Place the crushed chile peppers into a sauce pot.
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Simmer the chiles over low heat, till they become soft.
     Step 3:  Allow the broth to cool to room temperature.
     Puree the chiles and the chile broth liquid together.  (Use a blending wand, food processor or blender.)
     Step 4:  Place the thin dried red chile puree in a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of cumin.
     Add /4 teaspoon of coriander.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground anatto.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Step 5:  Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a thin medium thin sauce consistency.
     Set the chile colorado sauce aside.

     Tomato Sofrito:
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of blended olive oil.
     Add 3 tablespoons each of these small chopped vegetables:
     - onion
     - celery
     - green bell pepper
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Sauté till the vegetables are tender.
     Step 2:  Add 4 canned plum tomatoes that are diced and a proportion of juices from the can.
     Add 1/4 cup of tomato puree.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1 pinch of Mexican Oregano.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced epazote.
     Add sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin tomato sauce consistency.

     Chile Colorado and Tomato Sofrito Sauce:
     Add the chile colorado sauce to the warm sofrito sauce in the sauce pot.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit Cut Noodles:
     Boil a pot of water over high heat.
     Add 1 portion of prickly pear cactus fruit flavored fresh cut noodles.
     Stir the noodles occasionally, till they are fully cooked.
     Use a pasta net to drain the hot water off of the noodles.
     Place the noodle in a container of ice water.
     Stir the noodles by hand, till they gain a chewy texture.
     Drain the ice water off of the noodles.
     Set the noodles aside, till the bulgogi shrimp is cooked!
     Shrimp Bulgogi Topping:
     The shrimp bulgogi only takes a few minute to cook, so finishing this recipe moves along at a quick pace.  
     *Keep a pot of water boiling so the noodles can be reheated in the final part of the recipe! 
     Step 1:  Heat a seasoned cast iron griddle or a seasoned cast iron skillet over medium/medium high heat.
     Drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil on the griddle.
     Place the bulgogi shrimp, onions and marinade on the griddle. 
     Grill the shrimp, till they are fully cooked and brown highlights appear.
     Step 2:  Use a spatula to transfer the shrimp bulgogi to a bowl. 
     Keep the shrimp bulgogi warm on a stove top.

     KoMex Fusion!  Cactus Fruit Cut Noodles with Chile Colorado Sofrito Sauce and Shrimp Bulgogi:
     Step 1:  Place the prepared cactus fruit cut noodles in a pasta net.
     Reheat the noodle in the pot of boiling water.
     Drain the water off the noodles.
     Place the noodles in a mixing bowl.
     Step 2:  Add just enough of the warm Chile Colorado Sofrito Sauce to generously coat the noodles.
     Toss the noodles with the sauce.
     Step 3:  Mound the sauced noodles on a plate.
     Sprinkle a few pinches of chopped cilantro over the noodles.
     Step 4:  Place the warm shrimp bulgogi on top of the noodles.
     Set the 2 whole unpeeled shrimp on top as a garnish.
     Sprinkle some thin bias sliced green onion on the plate around the noodles.

      If you like Korean food and if you like Mexican food, then you will really like KoMex Fusion food!   The spicy flavors go well together!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Thai Green Curry Chicken Wings

     Noodle House Style Extra Spicy Hot Chicken Wing Appetizer!
     Thai food has a reputation for being spicy hot food, but the reality is that not all Thai food is extra spicy.  Some of the most delicate flavor combinations can be found in Thai cuisine.  On the other hand, if a customer in a Thai restaurant requests something like Spicy Hot Option #10, then be prepared for some super fiery chile pepper heat!  
     Thai curry differs from Indian curry in many ways.  One common factor is that the spiciest curry in both Thai and Indian cuisine happens to be Green Curry.  
    Thai Green Eggplant is the foundation of Thai Green Curry.  Green Thai Chile Peppers and Green Serrano Peppers give Thai Green Curry its spicy kick.  The balance of spice flavors is very complex, yet the list of spices in Thai Green Curry is not a mile long.  The list of spices for an Indian Green Curry can fill an entire page.  Thai Green Curry is an example of getting the most flavor from the fewest ingredients. 

     The easiest way to make a good Thai Green Curry at home, is to use a good pre-made Thai Green Curry Paste product.  The best Thai Curry Pastes can be found at Asian food markets.  Thai Green Curry Paste usually has Thai Green Eggplant in the list of ingredients.  Kaffir Lime Leaves are also in the paste.  Kaffir Lime Leaves are usually added late in the recipe while the curry simmers, so the Kaffir Lime Leaf flavor can easily be noticed.  In America Thai Green Eggplant and fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves are not always easy to find, so a good Green Thai Curry Paste product is a real convenience.

     Many chefs oversimplify the cuisines of foreign cultures, in order to boast their own cuisine.  Those same chefs usually say things like "All Thai food is just boiled in coconut milk and no ther cooking method is used."  A statement like that is not exactly correct!  
     Thailand is a very big country and there are many regional cooking styles.  Stir fry and roasting is part of Thai cuisine, especially in the north.  Every Thai entree is not simply boiled in coconut milk.  In fact, Thai stir fry is usually done by cooking coconut milk until it becomes coconut oil, then the stir fry process begins.  Purchasing coconut oil saves cooking time.  
     One of the best Thai stir fry recipes that I learned was given to me by a good cook that lived in Issan, Thailand.  Issan is farm country and this Thai cook did his own quail hunting.  His Issan style Stir Fried Quail recipe was tasty beyond belief!  

     The chicken wings for today's recipe are fried before simmering in the curry sauce.  This Thai Green Curry Chicken Wings recipe is not a thin soupy Thai coconut milk curry version.  The Thai Green Curry in this recipe is thick enough to cling to the wings.  This is the style of chicken wings that American snack food fans like. 
     The rice for today's recipe is basically meant to be an edible garnish.  A combination of Brown Basmati Rice and Black Jasmine Rice produces an interesting color.
     Basmati and Black Rice:
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Those readers that use a rice steamer already now how to get the rice cooking task done.  Both Black Jasmine Rice and Brown Basmati Rice do require just a little more water than regular white long grain rice.
     Boil 2 1/2 cups of water in a sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 1/2 cup of Black Jasmine Rice.
     Add 1/2 cup of Brown Basmati Rice.
     When the liquid returns to a boil, reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Simmer and steam, till the rice becomes tender.
     Keep the rice warm on a stove top.

     Thai Green Curry Chicken Wings:
     This recipe yields 1 appetizer portion that can be shared by 2 guests.
     *This recipe is Spicy Heat Level #10!
     Step 1:  Cut the wing tips off of 5 or 6 chicken wings.  (Save the wing tips for making broth.)
     Cut through the wing joint to separate the drumettes and wings.
     Step 2:  Heat some coconut oil in a high sided pot or wok to 360ºF.  The oil should be about 3" to 4" deep.
     Step 3:  Season the wings with sea salt and black pepper.
     Dredge the wings in regular wheat white flour.
     Fry the wings, till the flour coating starts to become crispy and light golden brown. 
     Use a fryer net to place the wings on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Step 4:  Heat a sauté pan or mini wok over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced galangal.  (Thai Blue Ginger.)
     Add 1 or 2 minced Green Thai Peppers.  (Extra spicy hot!)
     Sauté for about 10 seconds, till the vegetable become aromatic.
     Step 5:  Add 2 tablespoons of Thai Green Curry Paste.  (The paste should have green eggplant in the ingredients.)
     Stir the paste in the hot oil for a few seconds, till it becomes aromatic.
     Step 6:  Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1 cup of coconut water.
     Stir till the green curry paste blends into the liquid and the liquid becomes a very thin sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of lime juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced cilantro.
     Add 1 minced green onion.
     Add the reserved fried chicken wings.
     Step 7:  Bring the sauce back to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Add 1 cup of coconut milk.
     Simmer and reduce till the sauce is a medium sauce consistency that can easily coat the wings.
     Place a ring of the Brown Basmati & Black Jasmine Rice on a plate.
     Mound the Thai Green Curry Chicken Wings on the center of the plate.
     Pour any excess sauce over the wings.
     Sprinkle thin bias sliced green onion slivers over the wings.

     The spicy heat from these saucy wings will bring new meaning to hot lips! 

Glass Noodles with Roast Chicken & Chorizo in Thai Basil Chile Sauce

     A Different Kind Of Sauce!
     Today's meaty noodle house entrée is mildly spicy and it has a comfortable flavor.  The featured flavor is Thai Basil.   A good size portion of Thai Basil is used to make this recipe.  The flavor of an Italian Tomato Basil Sauce can be noticed after the first taste, but there is no tomato in this recipe.  
     Both Spanish and Mexican style Chorizo Sausage is sold at most Asian food markets in America.  The flavor of Chorizo is compatible with spicy Southeast Asian recipes.  For today's recipe, I used Mexican style uncased bulk Chorizo Sausage.  Mexican style Chorizo is usually packed in an inedible plastic casing and the bulk sausage is squeezed out.  This type of Chorizo has a high fat and moisture content.  The paprika and spices thoroughly flavor the fat, so the deep dark reddish brown fat is often used to flavor sauces or rice.
     Glass noodles are translucent clear noodles that are usually made from mung bean or tapioca flour.  Tapioca Thread Noodles were the choice for today's recipe.
     After butchering and deboning a whole chicken, there is always a small amount of scrap meat.  The scrap meat from the wings and back bone section can add up to 4 ounces, which is enough for a noodle entrée.  Roasting the chicken scrap meat while it is on the bone is the best way to retain flavor.  Plucking the cooked meat scraps off the bone is easier after roasting and there is little or no waste.
     Combinations of meats are common entrée themes throughout all of Southeast Asia.  Chicken and Spicy Sausage is a classic flavor combination.  This recipe can be made in almost the same amount of time as it takes to cook the glass noodles.
     Glass Noodles with Roast Chicken & Chorizo in Thai Basil Chile Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 noodle entrée.
     Glass noodles can be soaked in water for about 20 before steaming or they can just be boiled like regular noodles.  Either way, the noodles will have a nice chewy texture if they are not overcooked.  Shocking glass noodles in ice water is an option, but it is not necessary.
     *Keep a pot of water boiling so the noodles can be cooked later in the recipe!
     Step 1:  About 4 ounces of roasted chicken is needed for this recipe.  Scraps from cutting a whole chicken into parts are a good choice.  If no scraps are handy, then roast a couple of chicken thighs or a chicken breast in a 325ºF oven.  Mildly season the chicken with sea salt and white pepper.
     Remove the chicken meat from the bones and cut the meat into thin shreds.
     Set the chicken aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan or mini wok over medium heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 3 ounces of Mexican Style Raw Uncased Bulk Chorizo Sausage.
     Sauté the sausage and break up any clumps.
     Saute till the sausage is halfway cooked.
     Step 3:  Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 thin sliced green serrano chile pepper.
     Add 1/4 of small chopped red bell pepper.
     Sauté till the sausage is fully cooked and the vegetables are tender.
     Step 4:  Add the reserved 4 ounces of shredded roasted chicken.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth.
     Stir the ingredients.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Step 5:  Now is the time to start cooking the tapioca thread noodles!  Cook 1 portion of Tapioca Thread Noodles in the pot of boiling water, till they are tender.  The sauce can be finished while the noodles cook.
     Step 6:  Simmer and reduce the sauce, till the excess liquid evaporates and it is a thin consistency.    
     Step 7:  Add 2 1/2 tablepoons of oyster sauce.  (Oyster sauce is available in most grocery stores or Asian food markets.)
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped Thai Basil.
     Add 1 green onion that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium thin consistency that easily coats the sausage and chicken.  (If the sauce becomes too thick, then add a small splash of vegetable broth.)
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
     Step 8:  When the tapioca thread noodles become tender, drain off the water.
     Mound the tapioca thread noodles in the center of a shallow soup bowl or noodle bowl.
     Spoon the Roast Chicken & Chorizo in Thai Basil Chile Sauce in the bowl around the glass noodles.
     Garnish the noodles with a Thai Basil sprig.
     Just because this noodle entrée is red in color, it does not mean this appetizer is extra spicy hot!  Most of the red colored spice in chorizo is mild Spanish Paprika!  This is a tasty chili style glass noodle bowl!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Shime Saba Hoe Naengmyeon

     Chilled Buckwheat Noodles with Korean Pear and Red Chile Sauce with Pickled Mackerel!  
     The red color of the sauce does not come from tomatoes.  It comes from mild red chile peppers!  Chile peppers and fruit are a classic Native American flavor combination.  After the colombian exchange, chile peppers became a big part of Korean cuisine.  It did not take Korean chefs much time to figure out that Korean Pears taste great with mild red chile peppers.  The chilled Korean Pear and red chile pepper sauce (gochujang) buckwheat noodle dish was an instant classic!
     Hoe Naengmyeon is chilled buckwheat noodles and marinated fish tossed with Korean Pear & Gochujang Sauce.  The Gochujang red chile sauce can be mild or moderately spicy hot.  The marinated fish choice is usually skate, but dried pickled squid is another popular choice.  Many food historians say that Japanese Shime Saba has its origins in Korea, so it too is a good choice for making Hoe Naengmyeon.      

     Shime Saba is made with a few varieties of mackerel.  For those who have never caught wild mackerel and eaten the mackerel in the same day, it is hard to describe how good fresh mackerel tastes.  After mackerel sits for 12 hours or more on ice, the color of the meat becomes opaque and the meat becomes oily.  Mackerel spoils quickly.  Mackerel also travel through tropical waters, so parasitic pathogens render mackerel unsafe to be served raw.  
     Shime Saba is the name for mackerel that are lightly pickled the same day they are caught.  Shime Saba actually looks like fresh caught mackerel!  Fresh mackerel are heavily salted for a while, then the salt is rinsed off with sweet rice vinegar.  This process produces a nice clean fresh pickled mackerel flavor and it makes mackerel safe to be served as sushi.  

     Spicy Sweet Korean Pear Red Chile Pepper Sauce For Hoe Naengmyeon:
     This recipe yields enough sauce for 2 to 3 servings! 
     Red jalapeño peppers produce a mild spicy heat.  For a spicier sauce, use red Fresno Peppers or Red Serrano Peppers.
     Sticky rice can be added to the sauce to make it thicker, but this is not really necessary for a fresh puree sauce.
     Step 1:  Place 1 chopped peeled and seeded Korean Pear (Asian Pear) in a container.
     Add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Korean Mustard or Dijon Mustard.
     Add 6 to 8 chopped garlic cloves.
     Add 3 tablespoons of small chopped onion.
     Puree the ingredients with an electric blending wand or with a food processor.
     Set the light colored puree aside.
     Step 2:  Heat 3 cups of water over high heat.
     Cut the stem end off of 12 to 14 mild red jalapeño peppers.
     Blanch the trimmed peppers in the boiling water for 1 minute.
     Drain the hot water off of the peppers.
     Cool the peppers under cold running water.
     Step 3:  Split the peppers in half.
     *Scrape most of the seeds and pulp out of the peppers, if you prefer a mild sauce.  Leave the seeds and pulp attached if you want a spicy flavored sauce!
     Coarsely chop the blanched peppers and place them in a container.
     Add 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
     Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of honey.  (The amount of sweetness is a personal choice!)
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Puree the ingredients with an electric pureeing wand or a food processor.
     Step 4:  Combine the light colored puree with the red colored puree.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of toasted sesame seeds.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of Korean red chile powder.  (To taste.  Chinese chile powder can be substituted.)
     Add 1 tablespoon of Spanish Paprika.
     Step 5:  Mix the ingredients together.
     Chill the sauce in a refrigerator for 1 hour so the flavors meld.

     Korean Buckwheat Noodles:
     Boil a pot of water over high heat.
     Add 1 portion of fresh Korean style buckwheat noodles.
     Stir the noodles occasionally, till they are fully cooked.
     Drain the hot water off of the noodles.
     Shock the noodles in ice water.
     Stir the noodles by hand, till they feel like they have a firm chewy texture.
     Drain the ice water off of the noodles.

     Shime Saba Hoe Naengmyeon:  
     I only suggest preparing home made shime saba with fresh caught mackerel.  Pre-prepared shime saba is available as a frozen product at Asian food markets.  Frozen Cryovac Packaged Shime Saba is a nice quality product!
     Step 1:  Place the cold noodles in a mixing bowl.
     Add enough of the chilled spicy sweet Korean Pear Red Chile Pepper Sauce to generously coat the noodles.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Use a long tine carving fork or chop sticks to twist the noodles and place them on a plate.
     Sprinkle some thin julienne sliced carrot over the naengmyeon.
     Step 3:  Bias slice 4 to 5 ounces of Shime Saba into large bite size pieces.
     Overlap the shime saba slices on top of the naengmyeon, so they look nice.
     Garnish the plate with a savoy cabbage leaf, a couple of thin slices of jalapeño pepper and a green onion that is flower cut.

     The flavor combination of light sweet pickled mackerel and spicy sweet naengmyeon is incredibly delicious!  

Friday, April 24, 2015

Japanese Breakfast! Dried Shrimp Dashi Miso Soup with Egg and Yellow Sunburst Tomato

     Turning Dietary Habits Upside Down
     It is funny how many people in western society think that normal breakfast food has to be something that is highly processed, sugary sweet, starchy and is loaded with artificial ingredients.  Breakfast food that only provides a quick energy boost is detrimental to health over a long period of time.  A starchy sweet breakfast has only a temporary effect of making a person feel good.  A sugar or corn syrup "hangover" from a sweet breakfast can be diagnosed as an early warning sign of diabetes.  The worst breakfast from a health standpoint, is a sweet breakfast that is made with corn syrup products.

     Hot grain porridge, like cream of wheat, grits, oatmeal or rice pudding is what many folks eat for breakfast worldwide.  From a dietary view, this makes no sense.  Fibrous grains take nearly 12 hours to digest, so the nutrition that porridge provides will not even be made available to the body till sometime after the day is done in the early evening hours.  The best time to eat grain porridge actually is in the evening hours, so the full nutritional value is available in the morning hours when energy from proteins and fibrous carbohydrates is needed the most.

     Savory breakfast food is healthier than sugary sweet breakfast food, yet many folks in western society draw the line when seafood is the savory breakfast food choice.  Other than those who live in coastal or lakefront fishing communities, many mainstream Americans just cannot get up the gumption to eat any kind of seafood for breakfast.
     Other than eggs, the traditional mainstream breakfast proteins are restricted to sausage, bacon, ham, steak and corned beef hash.  Fish or shellfish are not even in the menu lineup at most American diner style restaurants.  From a health standpoint, it is obvious that fish or shellfish would be a healthier choice, but not everybody relishes the thought of umami flavors in the morning.

     Miso Soup is a popular breakfast item in Japan.  The best breakfast breakfast food choice is one that offers proteins and nutrients that are easy to digest.  Miso Soup certainly falls into this category, so it actually is a perfect breakfast food choice.
     Seafood broths, like Miso Soup, are among the easiest items to digest of them all.  The nutrients in a broth are readily available and the uptake of broth nutrients in the digestive tract is very efficient.  Dashi broth made with an oily fish and seaweed will provide essential omega-3 fatty acids and essential Iodine.

     Many traditional broth soups and miso soups in Japan are garnished with an egg.  Garnishing today's Miso Soup recipe with an egg was done in part to give the readers in the western world something that is easy to identify as a breakfast food item in the recipe.    
     Eggs are one of the easiest to digest high protein items.  Eggs that are hard boiled or cooked over-hard are less healthy than eggs that are cooked soft or runny.  Cooking the yolk hard does change the physical characteristics of cholesterol.  A hard cooked egg will have a higher percentage of hardened cholesterols that can contribute to long term cardiovascular health problems.  
     Soft cooked eggs offer higher percentages of soft cholesterol profiles.  Soft cholesterols are a type of lipid that is good for the body and they are essential for healthy cell production, especially for internal organs.  Just like a rare cooked steak is healthier than a well done steak, a soft cooked egg is a healthier choice.

     Fruit is a great source of carbohydrates, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.  Fruit should always be served with breakfast.  A couple pieces of fruit served with today's miso soup easily qualifies this breakfast entrée as being one of the healthiest breakfasts of all time.  Now, the thought of miso soup for breakfast, instead of oatmeal, does not seem so upside down after all!

     *This entire recipe yields 1 bowl of soup! 

     Dried Shrimp and Wakame Dashi:
     Place 2 1/2 cups of water in a sauce pot.
     Place the sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 3 tablespoons of rinsed salt packed dried wakame seaweed that is coarsely chopped.
     Add 3 tablespoons of tiny sun dried shrimp.
     Boil the dashi broth for 10 minutes.  Add water if necessary.
     Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     *You can leave the dried shrimp and seaweed in the soup if you wish to.  For this recipe, I strained the dashi broth.  The dried shrimp and wakame are edible.
     Dried Shrimp Dashi Broth Miso Soup with Egg and Yellow Sunburst Tomato:
     Never add vinegar to egg poaching water!  The vinegar gives an egg an unpleasant flavor and it give the egg a rubbery texture!  
     If you poach an egg in a shallow saute pan with barely enough water to cover the egg, then the poached egg will have a nifty looking yellow "eye" on top.
     Step 1:  Place the sauce pot with the dried shrimp dashi broth over medium high heat.
     Add 1/2 of a minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 pinch of ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1 teaspoon of soy sauce.
     Boil for 2 minutes.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 2 to 3 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of red miso paste to the dashi broth, while stirring with a whisk.
     Stir till the miso paste combines.
     Step 3:  In a separate pan, boil enough salted water over medium high heat to poach an egg.
     Poach 1 large egg in the gently boiling salted water.
     Step 4:  Pour the miso soup into a shallow soup bowl.
     Use a slotted spatula to place the poached egg in the middle of the soup.
     Place 3 thin sliced Yellow Sunburst Tomatoes next to the egg in the soup.  (Sunburst Tomatoes are the size of cherry tomatoes.)
     Float about 10 cilantro leaves on one side of the soup.
     Float some very thin bias sliced green onion slivers on the other side of the soup.
     This soup has all the necessary ingredients for getting a healthy start in the morning.  This miso soup broth has a rich and tasty flavor!

Ginger Cilantro Chicken Tom-Toms

     Gourmet Tom-Toms!
     Anytime that a chef can make chicken legs look like a gourmet meal, then that chef is doing something good!  Some Chinese chefs use a meat fabrication technique that involves pulling the chicken leg meat over the knuckle joint.  This creates nice looking chicken leg presentation.  
     Chicken Tom-Toms are perfect for serving as finger food.  The bone acts like a skewer and the hands remain clean when eating a chicken leg Tom-Tom.  

     To make Chicken Tom-Toms, the leg meat can be pulled over the joint, so the leg meat is inside-out.  The leg meat can also be slid down the bone, so it gathers like a thick ball at the end of the drumstick.  To fabricate To-Toms this way, the skin is removed and the tendons are clipped where the attach to the leg bone.  The meat is pressed down to the thick end of the bone, till it can be slid no more.  Narrow blade kitchen shears can then be used to clip off all of the exposed tendons.
     Poultry shears that have a bone lopping notch make easy work of clipping off the lower leg end of the bone.  Poultry shears that have narrow blades make it easy to clip the tendons too.  
     The poultry shears in the picture above are my favorite style of shears.  There is a bone clipping notch on the lower blade.  The blades are thin, curved and they come to a point.  This style of kitchen shear is good for doing fine meat fabrication work!  
     Good strong heavy duty poultry shears like the one in the photo are available at commercial restaurant supply stores.  Regular department store poultry shears are pretty much nothing more than fancy looking junk that will not last a lifetime.  When selecting kitchen tools, even for a home kitchen, it pays to buy the same heavy duty kitchen tools that are used by professionals.  Restaurant quality heavy duty kitchen tools get the job done with ease.

     *This entire recipe yields 5 Tom-Tom appetizers!

     Chicken Tom-Tom Fabrication:
     Poultry shears with a bone lopping notch are the best choice.  A bone saw or a razor sharp cleaver can be used to lop the end of the bone if the shears have no bone lopping notch.  The tendons can be cut with a paring knife, but shears are safer to use.
     Lop the ankle joint off of 5 chicken legs.
     Pull the skin off of the legs.
     Trim the excess fat off.
     Cut the ends of the tendons that attach to the bare end of the bone.
     Press and slide the meat down the bone as far as it will go, till a plump apple shape of meat is formed around the knee joint.
     Clip the exposed tendons off.
     Scrape the bone clean with the back of a paring knife.
     Ginger Cilantro Marinated Chicken Tom-Toms:
     Place 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar into a mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced ginger.
     Add 4 tablespoons of finely chopped cilantro.
     Add 1/4 cup of water.
     Add 1/4 cup of dry sherry.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add the 5 Chicken Tom-Toms.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Marinate for 2 hours in a refrigerator.

     Ginger Cilantro Chicken Tom-Toms:
     *A portion of plain white long grain rice will need to be cooked, while the Chicken Tom-Toms are roasting.
     Step 1:  Remove the Chicken Tom-Toms from the marinade and place them on a roasting pan.  (Save the marinade for later in the recipe.)
     Press the meat down the bone one last time to adjust the shape.
     Stand each Chicken Tom-Toms upright on the roasting pan, so the bone points up.
     Step 2:  Roast the chicken legs in a 325ºF oven, till they are about three quarters fully cooked.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Pour the reserved marinade over the Chicken Tom-Toms.
     Step 4:  Return the pan to the oven.
     Roast until the Chicken Tom-Toms are fully cooked and light brown highlights appear.
     Step 5:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Place the Chicken Tom-Toms on a dish, and keep them warm on a stove top.
     Add 1/2 cup of water to the roasting pan.
     Deglaze the pan.
     Step 6:  Pour the deglace jus from the roasting pan into a small sauce pot over medium heat.  (Do not strain this jus!  The cilantro bits add character!)
     Simmer and reduce till only about 3 ounces of jus remains.
     Remove the sauce pot from the heat.

     Use a mold to place a portion of cooked plain white rice on the middle of a plate.
     Evenly space the Chicken Tom-Toms on the plate around the rice.  Try to point the bones in the same direction.
     Spoon the ginger cilantro jus over the Chicken Tom-Toms and onto the plate.
     Garnish the rice with a cilantro sprig.

     These plump Chicken Tom-Toms are a pleasure to eat!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sixi Wanzi ~ Four Happy Balls

     Four Happy Balls!  Tasty Northern Chinese Style Red Lion's Head!
     There are several variations of Lion's Head style recipes.  I published a recipe for the traditional pale color Lion's Head pork meatball a few years ago.  The boiled or steamed Lion's Head has a gentle delicate flavor.
     Red Lion's Head has a much bolder flavor.  The red sauce rich tasting.  It is flavored with bean paste and soy sauce.  The red sauce version can be dark reddish brown or bright red in color.  A small amount of Chinese chile powder gives the sauce a mild spicy hot flavor.
     Tomato puree or catsup is sometimes added to the Red Lions Head sauce.  Keep in mind that catsup originated somewhere in northern China or eastern Russia.  Catsup was created as a cooking sauce and it was not originally intended to be a condiment.  Before the Colombian Exchange took place, Red Lions Head recipes relied on red bean paste for the color.  Chiles and tomatoes came from the new world.
     This entrée is called Lion's Head is because the cabbage wraps around the pork meatballs like a lion's mane.  In Beijing, a special version of Lion's Head is called Sixi Wanzi.  Sixi Wanzi translates to "Four Happy Balls."  Sixi Wanzi is usually served as four medium size red sauce meatballs on a bed of cabbage.  The four meatballs and cabbage can also be simmered together in the red sauce.  Sixi Wanzi are some very good tasting happy meatballs!

     *This entire recipe yields 1 appetizer of 4 meatballs that can be shared!

     Lion's Head Meatballs for Sixi Wanzi:
     Step 1:  Place 6 ounces of ground pork in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of finely minced water chestnuts.
     Add 1 tablespoon of shrimp paste.
     Add 1 minced green onion.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of a whisked egg.
     Add 1 tablespoon of rice flour.
     Step 2:  Mix the ingredients together.  (If the pork mixture is too moist, then add a little bit more rice flour.  The meatball mixture should be able to hold its own shape.)
     Step 3:  Heat a sauce pot of water over high heat.
     When the water starts to boil, start making the meatballs.
     Divide the pork mixture into 4 equal portions.
     Roll 4 round meatballs.
     Gently drop each meatballs into the boiling water as soon as it is rolled.
     Step 4:  Let the meatballs boil undisturbed for 10-15 minutes, till they are fully cooked.
     *The red glaze can be made while the meatballs cook!

     Red Lion's Head Sauce:
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Add 2 tablespoons of red miso paste.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 2 tablespoons of organic catsup.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese red chile powder.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese 5 spice powder.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Step 2:  Stir the ingredients with a whisk.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a medium sauce consistency that easily coats a spoon.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.

     Sixi Wanzi:
     Step 1:  After the pork meatballs are fully cooked, remove them from the boiling water and place them in the red sauce.
     *Keep the meatball cooking water hot over medium high heat, so the cabbage can be cooked later in the recipe.
     Simmer the meatballs in the red sauce over very low heat.
     Roll the meatballs in the glaze so they are completely coated.
     Step 2:  Place about 5 or 6 medium size napa cabbage leaves in the boiling water that the meatballs were cooked in.
     When the cabbage leaves are tender, remove them from the broth.
     Arrange the cabbage leaves on a plate as a bed for the Sixi Wanzi.
     Step 3:  Roll the meatballs in the red glaze one last time and then place them on the bed of cabbage.
     Spoon a little of the poaching broth on the cabbage leaves to moisten them.

     If you like exotic meatballs, then this recipe is a must to try! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Hong Kong Nachos

     Noodle House Fusion Style Nachos!
     The only place in Asia that I could think of that possibly has a steady supply of Cheddar Cheese is Hong Kong, because of the age of British occupation.  The possible Hong Kong cheddar factor inspired the name of today's unique appetizer creation.  The name Hong Kong Nachos kind of does have a ring to it!
     Fried lotus root chips take the place of tortilla chips in this interesting Asian style nachos recipe.  All of the ingredients in this nacho recipe add up to create a nice Asian fusion flavor.  Surprisingly, the sharp cheddar cheese goes well with the Asian cuisine flavors.

     *This entire recipe yields 1 medium size nacho appetizer that can be shared by two guests!
     Lotus Chips:
     Step 1:  Heat 4" to 5" of vegetable frying oil to 360ºF in a high sided pot.
     Step 2:  Cut 2 peeled lotus roots into very thin slices.  (The slices should be as thin as a potato chip.  Use a French Mandolin if you have one.)
     Step 3:  Fry the lotus root slices in small batches, so they cook evenly.
     When the lotus chips are crispy golden brown, use a fryer net to place them on a wire screen roasting rack over a drip pan to drain off the excess oil.
     Season the lotus chips with a light sprinkle of sea salt.
     Teriyaki 5 Spice Ground Pork:
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 4 to 5 ounces of ground pork.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of Chinese five spice powder.
     Sauté till the ground pork is lightly browned.  Break any clumps of pork up as it cooks.
     Step 2:  Place the pork in a small colander to drain off any excess grease.
     Place the cooked ground pork in a small mixing bowl.
     Keep the ground pork warm on a stove top.
     Step 3:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/4 cup of soy sauce.
     Add 1/4 cup of sugar.
     Reduce the soy sauce and sugar together, till it is a thin syrup consistency.
     Step 4:  Add just enough of the teriyaki glaze to the warm ground pork in the mixing bowl, to coat the pork with flavor.
     Toss the pork and sauce together.
     Keep the teriyaki 5 spice pork warm on a stove top.
     Garlic Fermented Black Bean Sauce:
     Fermented black bean paste can be very salty!  Adding salt may not be necessary.  
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of fermented black bean paste.
     Add 1 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1 cup of light chicken broth.
     Step 2:  Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Add just enough corn starch and cold water slurry, while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a very thin consistency.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a medium thin sauce consistency that easily glazes a spoon.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.
     Hong Kong Nachos:
     Nachos are best if they are assembled in loose layers.  When assembling nachos, leave spaces and air pockets in the nachos so the hot oven air can thoroughly heat the middle of the mounded nachos.  Densely packed nachos usually end up being soggy and greasy. 
     Step 1:  Place a layer of the lotus chips on an oven proof serving plate.
     Sprinkle a small portion of each of these items on the lotus chips:
     - teriyaki 5 spice ground pork
     - grated cheddar cheese
     - sliced green onion
     - chopped red bell pepper
     - sliced green serrano pepper
     Step 2:  Repeat these steps, till there are several layers and the mound of nachos stands tall on the plate.
     Sprinkle a little extra grated cheddar cheese over the mound of nachos.
     Step 3:  Bake the nachos on the plate in a 350ºF oven, till the ingredients become hot and the cheese melts.  (Do not brown the cheese!)
     Step 4:  Set the hot nacho plate on top of a second serving plate.  (Always put a cold plate under the hot nacho plate, so guests do not get burned by the hot plate!)
     Step 5:  Spoon a few very small dabs of the garlic fermented black bean sauce over the nachos.  (Fermented black beans are salty, so use the sauce sparingly.)
     Pour a few streaks of Sriracha Sauce over the Hong Kong Nachos.
     Garnish the plate with cilantro leaves..
     This is not your average plate of nachos!  Gourmet Hong Kong Nachos are the flavor bomb!