Thursday, July 23, 2015

Chinese Buckwheat Noodles with Nutty Bead Molasses Sauce and Pickled Ginger

     Something Different!
     While cooking a recipe that required two hours of simmering time, hunger started setting in.  After working all day and eating very little on the job, cooking something that takes several hours to make is really not a good idea.  When the stomach growls and the mind feels weak, food is what the body needs immediately.
     Oddly enough, it seems like when a cook is hungry, a cook will think up plenty of new food ideas.  Hunger kind of inspires creativity.  Taking a creative approach does help when there are only a few ingredients left in the kitchen or when a weird food craving strikes.
     Instead of waiting a few hours for dinner to finish cooking, I set that project aside for the next day.  Cooking something quick took over as the dinner goal.  Chinese style food is about as quick as it gets, so the dinner plan went in that direction.
     The first item I saw in the cupboard was Chinese Buckwheat Noodles.  The thinking process branched out from there.  Buckwheat Pancakes taste good with dark molasses and this thought kept going through my mind while looking at the Buckwheat Noodles.  Once again, when an idea come to mind, it pays to just go with it!  I thought that a sauce made with Bead Molasses might be interesting with buckwheat noodles.  A mixture of nuts and ginger seemed like nice accompanying flavors.
     Today's noodle recipe turned out to be interesting.  This definitely is not an ordinary vegetarian recipe.  The sauce is not sweet at all.  Bead Molasses looks  like Blackstrap Molasses, but Bead Molasses is not sweet.  All of the sugar is extracted from Bead Molasses during the sugar making process.
     Bead Molasses is a byproduct of making refined sugar.  Bead Molasses is loaded with the calcium, vitamins and minerals that are left behind when processing raw sugar cane into the purest form of complex carbohydrate, sugar.  Basically, Bead Molasses has the nutrients and flavor of the sugar cane, while the sugar only has the sweetness.

     Chinese Buckwheat Vermicelli Noodles: 
     Boil 1 portion of Chinese Buckwheat Vermicelli Noodles in water over high heat.
     When the noodles are fully cooked and tender, drain the hot water off of the noodles.
     Cool the buckwheat noodles in a container of ice water, while stirring the noodles, so they gain a chewy texture.
     Drain the ice water off of the buckwheat noodles and set them aside.

     Chinese Buckwheat Noodles with Nutty Bead Molasses Sauce and Pickled Ginger:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Chinese Five Spice Powder does contain Szechuan Pepper.  Some food items, like today's recipe benefit from adding a little more Szechuan Pepper.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan or mini wok over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
     Add 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped walnuts.
     Add 2 tablespoons of sliced almonds.
     Briefly sauté the nuts, till they start to become aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds.
     Add 1 teaspoon of black sesame seeds.
     Sauté till the nuts are toasted to a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 3 tablespoons of bead molasses.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add sea salt to taste.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese Five Spice Powder.
     Add 2 pinches of ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Step 4:  Raise the temperature to medium heat.
     Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water to make a slurry.
     Add just enough of the slurry, while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a very thin sauce consistency.  (Save any extra slurry for another recipe.)
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add the reserved cooked buckwheat noodles to the sauce.
     Simmer the till the sauce and noodles are hot, while tossing the ingredients together.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     Step 1:  Use a long tine carving fork or chopsticks to coil the noodles.
     Place the coiled buckwheat noodles across a plate.
     Spoon a generous amount of the sauce over the noodles and onto the plate.  Be sure that plenty of the nuts are exposed on the noodles.
     Step 2:  Place about 2 tablespoons of thin sliced sushi style pickled ginger on a cutting board.
     Place about 8 cilantro leaves on the pickled ginger.
     Finely chop the two ingredients together.
     Sprinkle the chopped cilantro and pickled ginger over the buckwheat noodles and onto the plate.
     Step 3:  Garnish the noodles with cilantro leaves.
     Garnish the noodles with 1 thin bias sliced small green onion.

     For a spur of the moment idea, this buckwheat noodle entrée turned out to be quite tasty!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Scorpion Tongues!

     Brine Poached Duck Tongues en Pomegranate Scorpion Pepper Glacé with Buckwheat Soba Noodles ... Scorpion Tongues!
     It is easy to get sidetracked when duck tongues are the subject matter.  When talking about duck tongues, it is nearly impossible to make it through the first sentence without hearing someone say, "You mean you really eat those things?"  Yes, I am a weird chef and I eat just about anything! 
     All kidding aside, duck tongues are considered to be a delicacy by gourmands worldwide.  Restaurants in Chinatown, Las Vegas, serve authentic food that is unlike standard Chinese American restaurant cuisine.  A high percentage of tourists from Asia dine in Chinatown, so authentic traditional Chinese food items are offered on the menu.  
     There are at least a half a dozen restaurant in Chinatown that offer duck tongues on the menu.  I published an article about the dining experience at the King Fu Chef restaurant a couple years ago.   The Kung Fu Chef restaurant has since gone out of business, but that restaurant was quickly becoming famous for its odd cuisine, which featured gourmet Asian style offal offerings.  During my visit, I ordered Brine Duck Tongues and I was quite impressed with how tasty those little tidbits were.  
     After trying duck tongues for the first time, I did a little bit of research on the topic.  Apparently duck tongues were once lauded as being a gourmet food item by European gourmands many decades ago.  Duck tongues pickled in sweet brine served with mustard and pickles, was a snack that the wealthy elite enjoyed.  
     In China, duck tongues are not limited to elite circles.  Duck tongues are pretty much eaten by anybody that likes duck tongues.  

     I do not know if scorpions have tongues and this certainly is another worthwhile topic to research.  The word "Scorpion" in today's recipe title refers to Scorpion Peppers.  Scorpion Peppers are the world's hottest chile peppers.  These peppers are about 10 times hotter than a habanero pepper and they are about 4 times hotter than a Ghost Pepper.  Care must be taken when preparing a Scorpion Pepper recipe for guests.  If too much Scorpion Peppers are added, the food will simply be too spicy hot to eat.
     The sauce for today's recipe is a glacé that is semi sweet and full of flavor.  Chinese Five Spice Powder adds a complex flavor that is hard to resist.  Pickled ginger was added to the sauce and this flavor really tastes nice with duck tongues.  Pomegranate Molasses gives this sauce a tangy flavor.  The level of spicy Scorpion Pepper heat can be adjusted to suit personal taste.  A medium hot spicy heat level is best for this recipe.  
     Since Scorpion Peppers are rarely sold fresh at food markets, a bottled Scorpion Pepper sauce is the best choice.  Dave's Gourmet makes an unadulterated Scorpion Pepper Sauce that can be used as a cooking sauce.  One or two teaspoons in a sauce will send the spicy heat level to the uppermost limit!     

    Scorpion Lollypop Garnish
    I have eaten several scorpions in my lifetime and they taste pretty good when they are cooked.  Scorpion Lollypops are a popular candy here in Las Vegas.  In fact I just happened to have a one handy, so I took a picture and posted it in this article.      
     Scorpion Lollypops are worth recommending!  These lollypops are great conversation starters.  They are available in several flavors.  The crunchy scorpion in the center does taste pretty good!
     As far as garnishing food goes, serving a Scorpion Lollypop as a garnish with Scorpion Duck Tongues is not a bad idea.  The sweet candy will soothe the hot chile pepper scorched palate.  Those who relish the thought of eating exotic food, will savor the though of munching on the crunchy scorpion in the center of the lollypop!

     Marinated Duck Tongues:
     This recipe yields 2 portions!
     Step 1:  Place 12 ounces of duck tongues in a container. 
     Add 2 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Marinate for 12 hours in a refrigerator.  Toss the duck tongues in the pickling brine marinade occasionally.
     Step 3:  Drain the marinade off of the duck tongues.  Discard the marinade.
     Keep the prepared duck tongues chilled till they are needed.

     Scorpion Tongue Sauce:
     This recipe yields 2 to 3 portions!
     Step 1:  Heat a stainless steel sauce pot over mediom high heat.  
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1/2 cup of sugar.
     Step 2:  Boil till the water evaporates and the molten sugar starts to bubble.
     Cook the sugar till it becomes a light amber color.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Immediately add 1 tablespoon of Pomegranate Molasses.  (Available in Mediterranean Markets.)
     Add 1 1/2 cups of water.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of cider vinegar.
     Step 4:  Add 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice Powder.
     Add 1 pinch of ground clove.
     Add 1 pinch of allspice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 2 tablespoon of finely chopped pickled ginger.  (sushi ginger)
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of coarse ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Spanish Paprika.
     Step 5:  Add 1 to 3 teaspoons of Scorpion Pepper Sauce. 
     *1 Teaspoon = Medium Spicy Hot ... 3 Teaspoons = Extra Super Spicy Hot!
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin soy sauce. 
     Add 1 tablespoon of organic ketchup.  
     Add 1 to 3 drops of red food color, to give the sauce a red tint.
     Step 6:  Simmer and reduce the sauce, till it is a thin consistency that can glaze the back of a spoon.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.   

     Buckwheat Soba Noodles: 
     This recipe yields 1 small portion!
     Shocking noodles is a traditional Asian method for creating a chewy texture.  
     Step 1:  Boil a pot of water over high heat.
     Add 1/2 portion of Buckwheat Soba Noodles.
     Stir the noodles occasionally, till they are fully cooked.
     Step 2:  Drain the hot water off of the noodles.
     Place the noodles in a bowl of ice water.
     Stir the noodles by hand, till they feel like they have a firm chewy texture.
     Step 3:  Drain the ice water off of the noodles.
     Set the noodles aside.

     Brine Poached Duck Tongues:
     Care must be taken to not overcook duck tongues because they will skrink in size and the meat will become tough.  
     Step 1:  Place 3 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 teaspoons of Kosher Salt.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan Black Salt.  (available in Indian markets)
     Step 2:  Bring the brine to a gentle boil.
     Add the reserved marinated duck tongues. 
     Return the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Turn off the heat.
     Let the duck tongues sit in the hot water for 1 to 2 minutes, till they are fully cooked.
     Step 4:  Drain the brine off of the duck tongues, just before serving.

     Scorpion Tongues:
     This recipe yields 1 serving!
     Step 1:  Reheat the 1/2 portion of prepared Buckwheat Soba Noodles in a pot of hot water.
     Drain the water off of the noodles.
     Mound the noodles on the center of a plate.
     Step 2:  Place the brine poached duck tongues in a mixing bowl.
     Add enough of the Scorpion Tongue Sauce to generously coat the duck tongues. 
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 3:  Mound the Scorpion Tongues on top of the noodles.
     Spoon a little bit of the sauce on the plate around the noodles.
     Garnish the plate with cilantro leaves.
     Serve with chopsticks and a Scorpion Lollypop garnish on the side.

     Be prepared for the sting of the scorpion!    

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Peachy Five Spice Black Vinegar Chicken Thighs

     Presentation Is Nine Tenths Of The Law!   
     One thing that I have noticed over the years, is that many pictures of economical food recipes that are marketed for the average cook in a home kitchen tend to look like something along the lines of bulk food that is meant to be served in a military mess hall.  There is no style.  There is nothing exciting.  There is only a picture of something like a casserole dish filled with a heaping messy pile of ingredients smothered with canned cream of mushroom soup, cheese and bread crumbs.  
     Modern home cooks are capable of creating much better food than this, so why would a home cook settle for an easy bake recipe that looks like a time capsule from the 1960's?  
      In today's age, home cooks have more cooking knowledge than ever before.  During the last two decades, the media has increasingly focused upon culinary arts.  Periodicals, newspapers, local TV news shows and TV networks all present plenty of culinary information and cooking ideas on a regular basis.  Food topics are in the the entertainment industry spotlight.  The viewing audience is not only entertained by TV food programs and food articles each day, the audience is also learning more about cooking in general.  Viewers are becoming more open minded about accepting new food ideas and learning about the food traditions of other cultures.  

     Because of the media focus upon culinary topics, food items that were once considered to be exotic and hard to find are becoming commonplace.  This media exposure has created consumer interest and demand, so grocers who are in tune with the current times realize the marketing potential and they stock new items on store shelves that have never been marketed before.  Sooner or later, the food items that were once considered to be exotic end up being commonplace.
     Home cooks that are way ahead of the game realize that new exotic food items at grocery stores have always been available at specialty food markets.  Items like Chinkiang Vinegar (Chinese Black Vinegar), Ponzu or Vietnamese Fish Sauce have always been available at Asian food markets.  
     Items that are used in today's chicken recipe were once considered to be exotic items, yet they are becoming commonplace in the western world.  None of the items in this recipe are expensive.  Chinkiang Vinegar sells for a few dollars per bottle and a little bit goes a long way.  Chinese black vinegar is often compared to balsamic vinegar, but the the flavor of black vinegar actually is more complex. 

     Chicken thighs sell for a cheap price, because the demand for white chicken meat is high.  Experienced gourmands tend to like dark chicken meat, because the meat is tender, juicy and it has more flavor.
     A great chicken thigh recipe can be a real crowd pleaser that sells for a modest price at a restaurant and the actual food cost yields an extreme profit percentage!  Since "presentation is nine tenths of the law," tastefully presenting a new chicken thigh creation on a plate is the key to creating consumer interest.  
    The simple café style presentation of the chicken thighs in the pictures above is good enough to inspire home kitchen cooks to take interest in cooking some fusion style chicken thighs.  In this day and age, an Asian fusion style café chicken thigh recipe is far more appealing to home cooks than a boring chicken thigh casserole made with canned cream of mushroom soup! 

     *This entire recipe yields 2 lunch entree portions!  (4 chicken thighs)

     Five Spice Black Vinegar Marinated Chicken Thighs:
     Step 1:  Place 3 tablespoons of Chinkiang Vinegar in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese chile powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ground galangal.  (Thai Blue Ginger)  
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Stir the ingredients.
     Step 2:  Add 4 skinned chicken thighs.
     Toss the chicken thighs with the marinade.
     Place the ingredients in a sealed container.
     Refrigerate for 1 hour. 

     Peachy Five Spice Black Vinegar Chicken Thighs:
     Step 1:  Peal and pit 1 peach.
     Cut 8 thick peach wedges.
     Add the peach wedges to the marinade and chicken.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Step 2:  Place the 4 marinated chicken thighs on a roasting pan that is brushed with vegetable oil.
     Place 2 of the peach wedges on each chicken thigh.
     Place the pan in a 300ºF oven.
     Roast the chicken, till it is fully cooked and a few caramelized highlights appear.

     Five Spice Black Vinegar Sauce:
     This recipe yields enough sauce for 2 servings!
     This finishing sauce can be made while the chicken thighs roast.
     Step 1:  Heat a small sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Chinkiang vinegar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 2 pinches of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 2 pinches sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 cup of water.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Step 2:  Bring the sauce to a gentle boil.
     Add just enough cornstarch and cold water slurry to thicken the sauce to a thin glace sauce consistency.  (About 1 teaspoon to 1/2 tablespoon.)
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.  Add a splash of hot water if the sauce is too thick.

     This presentation describes 1 plate. 
     Step 1:  Blanch 8 peeled asparagus spears and 7 bias sliced carrot flower shapes in boiling salted water.
     Drain the water off of the vegetables.
     Toss the vegetables with 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil and 1 drop of pure sesame oil.
     Season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 2:  Place 2 Peachy Five Spice Black Vinegar Chicken Thighs on the front half of a plate.
     Fan out the asparagus spears on the back half of the plate.
     Cascade the carrot flowers over the asparagus spear stalks and the plate.
     Step 3:  Spoon the Five Spice Black Vinegar finishing sauce over the chicken thighs and onto the plate.
     No garnish is necessary.
     Serve with steamed white rice on the side.

     Viola!  A tasty nice looking café style chicken thighs entrée.  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Chinese Medicine Cabinet Noodle Bowl!

     Just What The Noodle House Doctor Ordered!
     Every culture around the globe values soup as a cure all.  For example, plain old Chicken Broth Soup is also called Jewish Penicillin, because it is such an effective cure for the common cold.  The medicinal effects of Chicken Broth are not just some kind of mythical lore.  Scientists have proven that Chicken Broth actually boosts the immune system, while providing complex proteins that strengthen weakened body tissue.  
     In effect, all broth soups do have some medicinal value, because the liquified nutrients in the broth are easy for the digestive tract to uptake.  When the body is weak or ill, the body needs nutrition that easily digests.   

     Some cooks around the globe take medicinal soup making much more seriously than the average home cook that relies only on chicken broth alone.  To go beyond making a simple broth soup cure all, a cook has to understand the nutritional and medicinal value of each food item in the list of ingredients.  
     Examples of the medicinal value of ordinary food items can be likened to these examples; An orange is a fruit, but something as simple as an orange can cure many illnesses that are attributed to Vitamin C deficiencies.  When eye strain is a problem, carrots and eggs provide nutritional components that help to maintain healthy eyes.  Knowing the beneficial effect that each common everyday food item has on the body is a good way to understand the role that common food items play in preventative medicine.  
     The next level of medicinal soup making involves utilizing food items that are renowned for their medicinal value.  Two things to keep in mind when using medicinal plants are balance and toxicity.  Not everybody has the same tolerance.  Many children and adults are hypersensitive, so "the more is better" ideology may not be beneficial.  Consuming too much of a medicinal food item can have toxic effects that range from mildly distressing to dangerous.  
     Every culture in the world has a history of natural medicine.  Some ancient cultures were more scientific about natural medicine than others.  Chinese natural medicine involves much more than the scientific study of chemical effects on the body.  There are intangibles involved and Chinese natural medicine practices effectively explain the intangibles in great detail.  One might say that Chinese natural medicine philosophy is the result of thousands of years of research.  
     Basically, Chinese natural medicine focuses on a central theme of achieving and maintaining balance.  When the common cold sends the body's balance out of whack, their are certain kinds of medicinal food that can help to regain balance.  This is what today's recipe is all about.  
     Today's recipe focuses on a few medicinal food items that effective improve health by achieving balance.  Today's recipe is not some kind of cure for the common cold, but the ingredients certainly will help to fight cold symptoms off.   Today's recipe features a bunch of medicinal food items that cure many minor ailments.  Many of these food items are overlooked by modern western society.  Overseas, these items are well known.  
     Chinese Mountain Yam is known by a few different names in Asia.  Mountain Yam is one of the only true yams that can be eaten raw.  Most yams contain toxins that are neutralized after cooking and they are unsafe to eat raw!  
     There is a difference between a true yam and what most of the world calls a yam.  Basically, the yellow, white, purple, orange or red yams that are sold in food markets are actually sweet potatoes.  A sweet potato comes from a different plant than a true yam!  
     Raw mountain yam is safe to eat.  Grated raw mountain yam is commonly served with Japanese soba noodle as Tororo.  In China, mountain yam is eaten as a cooked food and it is also used as a tonifying medicine for kidney and blood ailments.
     Whole mountain yam requires preparation before consumption.  Mountain Yam is usually soaked in vinegar water to dissolve the sand like oxalate crystals that form on the skin of the root.  The root can be peeled as an alternative, but a peeled mountain yam root is very slippery and difficult to grasp!  When mountain yam is finely grated, a liquid white slippery substance is formed.  
     Mountain Yam was once banned for women to eat, because the loud slurping noise while eating grated mountain yam was considered not to be ladylike.  During the Edo Period of Japanese history, grated mountain yam was commonly used as a sexual lubricant.  Grated Mountain Yam (Tororo) is slicker than a greased piglet!
     Grated mountain yam has a delicate mild zesty flavor with earthy undertones.  Care must be taken not to eat too much mountain yam, because the medicinal chemicals in mountain yam do affect the kidneys.  A 1 ounce to 4 ounce portion of grated raw mountain yam is plenty.

     I have written about the medicinal value of Korean Red Dates and fresh Ginkgo Nuts in past recipe articles.  Both of these medicinal foods are good immune system boosters and they are strong antioxidants.  Strong antioxidants help fight colds and influenza, while helping the body to recover more quickly on a cellular level.  Care must be taken with Ginkgo Nut consumption.  Eating too many Ginkgo Nuts will result in a light headed feeling that can be compared to taking a little too much over the counter cold & flu medicine.     

     Ginger is a common healthy medicinal plant that has an effect that is similar to Ginseng.  Ginger is a natural blood thinner and it also is a strong antioxidantLime is a source of vitamin C.  
     Garlic has medicinal effects that include blood thinner and immune system strengthening qualities.  European Leeks and Asian Leeks have the same medicinal effect as garlic, but not quite as strong.  Kohlrabi helps those with asthma and bronchial problems.  Soy sauce proteins reportedly contribute to longevity.  Snow peas have antibacterial properties.  Capsicum from chile peppers helps to fight off colds and helps to alleviate arthritic pain.  Perilla is a good antioxidant herb.  All these ingredients are in today's recipe and they all offer beneficial medicinal value for achieving a healthy balance when the common cold strikes!   

     Cha Soba are buckwheat noodles that are flavored with green tea.  Green Tea is a medicinal plant that offers many health benefits as everybody knows.  A portion of green tea noodles do contain a fair amount of caffeine.  Caffeine does aid the respiratory system.  Hot green tea helps to sooth a cough and hot green tea noodles can do just about the same thing, while providing vital nutrients from buckwheat flour.  
      Even the chicken broth and egg in this recipe are considered to be medicinal.  Chicken broth and eggs help to boost a weak immune system.  Two oil soluble chemicals in raw egg yolk are essential for maintaining healthy eyes.  

     Every item in today's recipe is healthy and most of the items are medicinal in one way or another.  Trying to think up a name for today's recipe took a while to do.  Originally the name of today's recipe was written like a list of ingredients, but the list was too long to be used as a title.  Creating a nifty name that has a catch phrase was a better idea.  The name Chinese Medicine Cabinet Noodle Bowl kind of has a ring to it.   

     *This entire recipe yields 1 large noodle bowl portion!
     Cha Soba Noodles:
     Boil a pot of water over high heat.
     Add 1 portion of cha soba noodles.
     Stir the noodles occasionally, till they are fully cooked.
     Drain the hot water off of the noodles.
     Place the noodles in a container of ice water.
     Stir the noodles by hand, till they feel stiff, chewy and rubbery.
     Drain the ice water off of the noodles.  
     Set the noodles aside.

     Korean Red Dates:
     Korean Red Dates are used in many Chinese and Korean recipes.  Korean red dates are usually dried and packaged for sale.  Dried red dates can be found in Asian markets.  
     Some red dates are pitted before drying and some are not.  If the dates have pits, pit the dates after they are reconstituted.  It is always best to check reconstituted pitted red date too, because sometimes a piece of broken seed remains in the date.  
     Gently simmer 7 or 8 pitted Korean red dates in water over medium low heat in a sauce pot, till they become tender.
     Remove the red dates from the water and set them aside.

     Chicken Broth with Ginkgo Nuts, Korean Red Dates and Vegetables:
     Cryovac packaged shelled fresh ginkgo nuts are available in Asian food markets.  
     Step 1:  Boil 3 cups of light chicken broth in a pot over medium high heat.
     Step 2:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 minced clove of garlic.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add the reserved reconstituted Korean red dates. 
     Add 9 fresh peeled ginkgo nuts.
     Add 1/2 of a medium size peeled kohlrabi that is cut into half moon shaped slices.
     Add a thin julienne sliced 4" section of European Leek.
     Add a few thin carrot strips for color.
     Add 1 Yellow Wax Pepper that is cut into strips.
     Step 3:  Boil the vegetables, till they are halfway cooked.
     Add 10 to 12 feathered snow peas.
     Remove the pot from the heat.

     Chinese Medicine Cabinet Noodle Bowl: 
     Vietnamese Perilla Leaves are green on top and purple underneath.  They have a complex mint and basil like flavor!  Mountain Yam has a light earthy vegetable flavor of its own.  Mountain Yam is one of the only yams that can be eaten raw.  Fresh Vietnamese Perilla and Mountain Yam can be found in Asian food markets.
     Step 1:  Soft poach 1 egg in salted water over medium/medium high heat in a sauce pot.  (Soft poached = the yolk is uncooked) 
     Step 2:  Place the reserved cooked cha soba noodles in a large soup bowl.
     Ladle the vegetables and broth over and around the noodles in the bowl.
     Place the poached egg on the noodles.
     Step 3:  Sprinkle a little bit of very thin sliced onion on the hot soup broth.
     Garnish the soup with whole Vietnamese Perilla Leaves.     
     Garnish with 2 lime slices.
    Step 4:  Peel about 3" section of one end of a whole Chinese Mountain Yam with a pairing knife.
    Finely grate the bare peeled end of the Chinese Mountain Yam over the cha soba noodles in the soup.   (The finely grated yam will liquify and it will have a medium thick slimy texture.  About 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of grated Mountain Yam pulp is plenty.)    

     Although the ingredients of this soup may seem exotic, the flavors are very gentle and soothing.  This medicinal soup will certainly make a somebody that is "under the weather" feel a little better.  This soup also is good nutritious preventative medicine!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Winter Melon Soup with Lotus Root and Tofu

     Savory Winter Melon Soup!
     Sometimes a very light, soothing soup is perfect for the moment.  There is something about the way that the flavor of winter melon becomes very savory tasting when simmered in chicken broth that is very special.  The flavors infuse and become one.
     One of the keys to making a good winter melon soup is to go very light on the seasoning.  The better tasting the chicken broth is, the less seasoning is needed.  Any extra ingredients that are added to winter mellon soup should have fairly mild flavors.  Strong tasting food items will overpower the delicate winter melon and chicken broth flavor balance.
     Winter Melon Soup with Lotus Root and Tofu: 
     This recipe yields 1 large bowl of soup.  (About 3 1/4 cups.)
     Traditional Chinese restaurants are not shy about serving big portions of soups or noodles in broth.  The same can be said about Vietnamese Pho portion sizes.  
     Just about the only place to find authentic large Chinese soup bowls or Pho Bowls is in an Asian food market. The big bowl in the photos above can hold 4 1/2 cups and the extra hard glazed ceramic is very thick.   
     Step 1:  Boil 3 cups of light chicken broth in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of large bite size cube shaped winter melon pieces.  (3/4" cube)
     Add 5 or 6 thin slices of lotus root.
     Step 2:  Boil the soup for 3 minutes.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Simmer till the winter melon becomes a clear translucent color and it is tender.
     *After boiling and simmering, the volume of the soup should reduce to 3 1/4.
     Step 4:  Add 8 bite size cube shaped pieces of firm tofu.  (1/2" cube)
     Simmer for 1 minute.
     Step 5:  Pour the soup into a large soup bowl.
     Sprinkle a few cilantro leaves on the soup.
     Sprinkle little bit of thin bias sliced green onion on the soup.
     This winter melon soup is simple to make and it is healthy!

Jellyfish Satay

     Jellyfish Satay!
     Jellyfish Satay is a popular street vendor style food item in Thailand.  Marinated jellyfish strips or pieces are placed on a skewer and grilled over an open flame.  Curry Spices are most often used to flavor Jellyfish Satay.

     Not everybody in the western world knows that Jellyfish is a food item.  Most westerners that know that Jellyfish is a food item usually think of it as being exotic.  In reality, Jellyfish is just a common everyday food choice in most parts of Asia.  Jellyfish is usually sold as a snack or it is sold as a preprepared salad component.
     There are many kinds of saltwater and freshwater Jellyfish.  Only a few species in a specific order of Jellyfish are harvested for human consumption.  The edible species is a type of "Drinking Cup Jellyfish" that live in warm ocean waters between China and Japan.  The size of edible Drinking Cup Jellyfish can range from small to enormous.
     Fresh edible Jellyfish will rot within a few hours no matter how it is handled.  All commercial edible Jellyfish are dried.  The tentacles are removed and the cap is quickly dried before packaging.  Dried Jellyfish look thin and flat.

     Packages of Dried Jellyfish can be found in Asian food markets.  Vacuum Packaged Reconstituted Prepared Dried Jellyfish For Salads is also sold in Asian food markets.  The Jellyfish Salad product is cut into thin strips and a small package of sauce is in the same container.
    Vacuum Packed Jellyfish Salad Strips can be used for today's Satay recipe, but the thin strips will have to be woven around the skewers.  Soaking Dried Jellyfish till they reconstitute, then cutting it into wide ribbons is best, because it is easier to place larger pieces of Jellyfish on a skewer.  Either way, the Satay portion size is usually small, because the flavor is strong.

     What does edible Jellyfish taste like?  Iodine!  Jellyfish contains a very high amount of Iodine and they contain much more Iodine than edible seaweed.
     Because of the Iodine content, Jellyfish have medicinal value.   Edible Jellyfish prevent and curb many kinds of cancer.  Edible Jellyfish is effective for controlling high blood pressure.  Edible Jellyfish also helps to curb thyroid disorders.
     The Iodine in Jellyfish removes radioactive isotopes and heavy metals from soft organ tissues in the human body, especially radioactive compounds that accumulate in the thyroid glands.  So, if there is a nuclear power plant disaster nearby, eating edible Jellyfish can be beneficial.  Eating Jellyfish may also help rid radioactive isotopes from the body after doing chemotherapy too.
     I did a 48 week chemo treatment a few years ago.  This is why I took an interest in edible Jellyfish and wrote a few recipes.  Honestly, after eating Jellyfish for a few days just a few months after the chemo session was completed, I did feel like some kind of toxins were removed from my body.  I actually felt a little better.
     On the other hand, the flavor of Iodine hangs around on the tasting palate for about 2 days.  After eating Jellyfish, anything that you eat for the next 2 days will taste like Iodine or it will taste metallic.  The metallic Iodine flavor carryover on taste buds certainly is an odd sensation.

     *Today's Jellyfish Satay is a platter presentation.  Thai street food vendors usually just sell the Jellyfish Satay by the stick.  I figured that presenting petite portion skewers on a platter with a few other items would be better for folks that have never tasted Jellyfish before.  The Iodine flavor certainly is a shocker, so having a few items on the plate to chase the metallic flavor away is good for beginners.    
     Asian Style Cucumber Salad: 
     This recipe yields 2 portions.
     Step 1:  Place 1 cup of sliced peeled and seeded cucumber in a mixing bowl.
     Add about 6 thin slices of carrot.
     Add 1 green onion that is thin sliced.
     Add 1/4 cup of mung bean sprouts.
     Step 2:  Season with 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of fresh lime juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1 pinch of five spice powder.
     Step 4:  Toss the ingredients together.
     Chill the cucumber salad.
     Serve within 1 hour, so the cucumber is still crisp.
     Sun Dried Anchovy Wakame Seaweed Salad: 
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Soak a few small pieces of salt packed wakame seaweed in water till they reconstitute.  (About 1 tablespoon.)
     Step 2:  Boil 2 cups of water over high heat in a small sauce pot.
     Add a few small sun dried anchovies.  (About 1 tablespoon.)
     Boil till the seaweed and anchovies become tender.
     Drain the water off the the seaweed and anchovies.
     Allow the seaweed and anchovies to cool to room temperature.
     Step 3:  Place the seaweed and anchovies in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Set the sun dried anchovy seaweed salad aside.
     Chilled Spicy Rice Vermicelli Noodles:
     This recipe yields 1 petite portion.
     Step 1:  Boil 1 small portion of vermicelli rice noodles in water over high heat.
     When the noodles become tender, cool the noodles under cold running water or shock them in ice water.
     Drain the water off of the noodles.
     Step 2:  Place the cooked vermicelli rice noodles in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Coarse Ground Korean Red Serrano Chile Paste.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of fresh lime juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 2 blanched snow peas that are cut into very thin strips.
     Add a few thin slices of green onion.
     Step 3:  Toss the ingredients together.
     Chill the noodles in a refrigerator.
     Jellyfish Satay Platter Set Up:
     Place a bed of the cucumber salad across the middle of a plate as a bed for the skewers.
     Place the anchovy seaweed salad on one side of the plate.
     Set chilled noodles on the other side of the plate.
     Place a couple of chile oil marinated lotus root slices on one end of the plate.  (Vacuum packaged prepared chile oil marinated sliced lotus root is available in Asian food markets.)
     Place two dollops of Thai Peanut Sauce on the other end of the plate.  (Bottles of Thai Peanut Sauce can be found at nearly any food market.)
     Jelly Fish Satay:
     This recipe yields 1 petite portion.
     Step 1:  Place 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric in a small bowl.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Thai Yellow Curry Powder or Indian Madras Curry Powder.
     Add 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.
     Add 1 teaspoon of soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of corn starch.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 3 tablespoons of water.
     Add 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil.
     Step 2:  Cut 3 ounces of reconstituted dried jellyfish or vacuum packed fresh jellyfish into long thin strips or ribbons.
     Place the jellyfish strips in the marinade and toss the ingredients together.
     Marinate for 2 minutes.
     Step 3:  Thread or weave the marinated jellyfish strips on bamboo skewers.
     Step 4:  Hold the skewers above a low flame or an electric burner that is set on medium heat.  
     Roast over an open flame till the jellyfish is fully cooked and it is lightly caramelized around the edges.
     *It does not take much time to cook jelly fish.  Jellyfish cooks as fast as squid and it shrinks like squid!  Do not allow the skewers to touch the flame or the electric burner.
     Step 5:  Place the Jellyfish Satay skewers on the bed of cucumber salad on the prepared platter.
     The Iodine jellyfish flavor and the curry spice marinade is a nice tasting combination!