Saturday, September 19, 2015

Ribbon Noodle Soup with Squid and Tofu

     Healthy Noodle House Style Soup!
     There are specific names for traditional rice bowls, noodle bowls and soups in every region of Asia.  Restaurant menus usually list several chef's recipes along with traditional food items.
     Sometime a chef's creation has an inventive name that is kind of catchy.  Noodle house chefs excel in thinking up good names for recipes they create.
     More often than not a chef's creation on a menu has a descriptive title.  The name might be just a short list of a few featured ingredients written in a way that creates customer interest.
     Customers that are health conscious might glance at a menu item like Ribbon Noodle Soup with Squid and Tofu and say to themselves, "Those ingredients are low fat, high protein and mild tasting.  That might be what I need right now after enduring this stress filled day.  Perfect!  I will order this soup!"
     A descriptive menu item name should be kept simple.  Describing all sorts of cooking techniques, a long list of herbs or any unnecessary details will result in a menu item name that reads like a novel.  Long involved names for menu items can be too tedious for a tired customer to bother with.  Just write a few choice words for a descriptive recipe title and the customers will envision the rest or ask for more information.  When customers ask questions, a crafty waiter will have more opportunities to make suggestive sales.    

     Ribbon Noodle Soup with Squid and Tofu:
     This recipe yields 1 large bowl of soup.  (About 2 cups)
     A soup like this can be made in less than 10 minutes!  
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/4 cups of light vegetable broth in a sauce pot over high heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of rinsed chopped salt packed dried wakame seaweed.
     Bring the broth to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to medium heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 3:  Gently boil the soup till the seaweed reconstitutes.
     Add a few very thin sliced cabbage strips.  (about 1/6 cup)
     Add 3 or 4 thin slices of green jalapeño.
     Add 1 sliced small button mushroom.
     Add 1 small portion of fresh wide ribbon noodles.
     *Fresh Wonton Wrappers can be used as wide ribbon noodles.  Slice 3 or 4 wonton wrapper squares sheets into wide ribbon noodle shapes.
     Add 1 thick slice of firm tofu that weighs about 3 ounces.
     Add 2 tablespoons of thin bias sliced green onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of sliced cleaned squid.
     Step 4:  Gently boil the soup for one minute.  (The squid and noodles only take one minute to cook!)
     Take the pot off of the heat.
     Ladle the soup into a large soup bowl.

     Adding the squid last,ensures that the squid will still be tender.  Squid only takes a few seconds to cook.  This soup is very healthy and it has a pleasant mild flavor. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ramen Noodles with Moroccan Sardines, Leek Shrimp Broth and Wasabi Sauce

     Everybody has their own unique way of turning a package of ramen noodles into an interesting meal.  Dressing up ramen noodles is a fun pastime for many home cooks.  College students on a tight budget really know how to kick the ramen noodle game up a notch.  Modern noodle house chefs like to let all hang out when creating new Gourmet Ramen Noodle recipes.  Ramen noodles are a great medium for creativity!

     When I recovered from a serious illness a few years ago, I landed in the thick of the Great Recession that has caused many families to lose their homes in Las Vegas.  The only job that I could find in Las Vegas was a low end sales rep job.  Nobody was making much money at that company, but it was better than having no money at all.
     Most of the employees made a ramen noodle lunch in the break room each day.  I cannot even count how many times I heard the employees say "I can't wait till I can afford to eat something besides ramen noodles!"
     One weird guy at that business preferred to just eat the ramen noodles dry without cooking them!  He would sprinkle the package of seasoning on the dry uncooked ramen noodles as he ate.  That is about as basic as ramen noodles can get!
     Most of the rest of us employees would fancy up the boiled ramen noodles with cheap canned food or fresh ingredients.  I always preferred my own lunch break ramen noodles with sardines and lots of hot sauce.
     At about the same time during the recession, a few new ramen noodle house restaurants opened up for business.  During bad economic times, consumers seek cheap eats, so the new ramen noodle restaurants became popular overnight.  Modern ramen house restaurants offer both traditional Japanese favorites as well as exciting new ramen creations made with gourmet items.  Ramen noodle house restaurants offer good dining value when times are tough.

     Wasabi Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1/3 cup.
     Only a small amount is needed for today's gourmet ramen recipe.  Any extra sauce can be saved for other recipes.
     Pre-made Wasabi Mayonnaise in a plastic squirt bottle is available at Asian food markets and some grocery stores.  The problem with manufactured Wasabi Mayonnaise is that it has very little flavor.  Making a tastier Wasabi Mayonnaise is easy to do. 
     Step 1:  Place 1 teaspoon of wasabi powder in a small mixing bowl.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of water.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of soy sauce.
     Stir till the wasabi becomes a paste.
     Step 2:  Add 1/3 cup of mayonnaise.
     Whisk till the sauce is blended.
     Step 3:  Place the wasabi mayonnaise in a squirt bottle.
     Refrigerate the sauce for 1 hour, so the full flavor develops.  
     Canned Moroccan Sardines Preparation:
     This recipe yields 1 ramen entrée.
     Moroccan brands of sardines caught in the Mediterranean region are true sardines.  The flavor is superior to canned small herring, which are sold as sardines in many countries.  Moroccan Sardines can be found in Mediterranean food markets.  
     *Care must be taken when cleaning and separating canned sardine filets, because they are easily damaged!  
     Open a can of good quality Moroccan Sardines.
     Gently and carefully scrape the skin and scales off of each sardine.  (This is easily done by holding the sardine under gently running water while brushing the fish with a pastry brush.)
     Carefully pry the sardines open from end to end to separate the filets.
     Remove the spine bones and innards.
     Set the sardine filets aside.  (About 6 whole filets are needed.)
     *Canned sardines must be handled gently if the filets are to remain in one piece.  If the filets do break apart, just leave them alone, till it is time to set them on the noodles later in the recipe.  They can be pieced together at that time.

     Ramen Noodles:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  
     Cook 1 portion of ramen noodles in a pot of water over high heat till they are tender.
     Drain the water off the noodles.
     Shock the noodles in a container of ice water while stirring, till they gain a chewy texture.
     Drain off the water and set the ramen aside.
     Ramen Noodles and Moroccan Sardines in Leek Shrimp Broth with Wasabi Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 ramen bowl entrée.
     Step 1:  Place 2 cups of shrimp broth in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced French leek.  (The green part can be used too.)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of a minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of sesame oil.
     Add 1 pinch of ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Add sea salt to taste.
     Simmer till the leeks are tender.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add the reserved cooked ramen noodles.
     Stir till the noodles are reheated.
     Step 4:  Pour the broth and ramen noodles into a noodle bowl.
     Use a fork or chop sticks to mound the noodles in the center of the bowl.
     Step 5:  Carefully place the prepared Moroccan Sardine filets vertically on the noodles, so each sardine points outward from center.
     Step 6:  Use the squirt bottle to paint the sardines and noodles with streaks of Wasabi Sauce.
     Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of toasted white sesame seeds over the noodles.
     Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of black sesame seeds over the noodles.
     Step 7:  Place 1/2 tablespoon of chopped roasted red bell pepper on top of the noodles.
     Insert 2 or 3 long thin green onion top slivers vertically into the roasted pepper garnish.
     A simple yet nice looking bowl of modern gourmet ramen noodles!

Avocado and Mushroom Miso Soup

     Another Nice Miso Soup Flavor! 
     This is a very healthy soup!  A Shrimp and Wakame Dashi Broth was made for this soup recipe.  The essence of shrimp marries with mushrooms and avocado to create an appealing flavor.  
     Shrimp and Wakame Dashi Broth:
     This recipe yields enough broth for 1 large portion of miso soup.
     Step 1:  Place 2 3/4 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of uncooked shrimp shells, shrimp heads and shrimp scraps.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped rinsed salt packed dried wakame seaweed.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to medium heat.
     Gently boil the broth for 10 minutes.
     Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.  (The volume of broth should be about 2 1/4 cups)
     Step 3:  Discard the shrimp shells, but save a few pieces of the wakame seaweed for later in the recipe.
     Avocado and Mushroom Miso Soup:
     This recipe yields 1 large bowl of soup.  (About 2 1/4 cups)
     Step 1:  Place the sauce pot of Shrimp and Wakame Dashi Broth over medium low heat.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 3 or 4 small pieces of the reserved wakame seaweed that was saved after making the dashi broth.
     Simmer the soup for 4 minutes.
     Step 2:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of White Miso Paste.
     Stir the miso paste into the broth.
     Add 4 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 2 or 3 thin sliced small button cave mushrooms.
     Simmer the soup for 1 minute.
     Step 3:  Ladle the miso soup into a soup bowl.
     Float a few thin slices of avocado on the surface of the soup.
     Garnish the avocado slices with a little bit of thin bias sliced green onion.

     Nutritious miso soup!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tapioca Thread Noodle Bowl with Baby Octopus and Fermented Black Bean Broth

     Is It A Soup Or A Noodle Bowl Entrée?
     Noodle Bowl Entrées can look like a mound of noodles with very little sauce or they can look like a bowl of broth with plenty of noodles added.  At many Asian restaurants, a portion of soup is very large and it is served in a big bowl.  The same goes for a noodle bowl.  Because of the large portion size, a broth noodle bowl looks like a soup.
     In effect, a broth noodle bowl can be called a soup.  In Southeast Asia, the word "Pho" traditionally refers to Rice Noodles in a bowl of broth.  In modern times it is okay to describe any broth noodle bowl as being Pho, no matter what kind of noodles are used.  Even so, traditionalists still prefer to only call rice noodle and broth entrées by the name Pho.
     In one Asian restaurant, today's recipe might be listed in the Pho section of the menu.  At another restaurant, it might be listed in the Noodle Bowl section.  Yet at another place, it might even be listed as a soup.  In the end, all three classifications are correct.  It is the chef's choice as to what designation is attached to the bowl of broth of noodles.

     Broth is an important staple in nearly every Asian cuisine.  This is because broth quickly revitalizes the body and mind.  Nutrients in a broth are the easiest to digest and uptake happens quickly.
     The broth for today's soup soup is made like a Japanese Wakame Dashi with fermented black bean paste added.  The vegetables add flavor to the broth.  The little octopus have a very mild flavor and they are a fat free protein.
     Tapioca Thread Noodles are also called Glass Noodles.  These noodles hold up well in a broth and they add a nice visual effect.  Glass Noodles are slightly firm and wiggly.  Glass Noodles are fun to eat!
     Tapioca Thread Noodles:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of tapioca thread noodles in boiling water till they are fully cooked.  (The glass noodles should be slightly al dente.)
     Drain the water off the noodles.
     Step 2:  Immediately cool the noodles in ice cold water, so they gain a chewy texture.
     Drain most of the water off the noodles and set them aside.
     Fermented Black Bean Broth:
     This recipe yields enough for one large noodle bowl portion! 
     Step 1:  Boil 3 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 4 tablespoons of dried pickled bonito flakes.  (katsuobushi)
     Add 3 tablespoons of rinsed salt packed dried wakame seaweed that is chopped into small pieces.
     Boil the dashi broth for 5 minutes.
     Step 2:  Pour the dashi broth through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.  Discard the bonito and seaweed.
     Step 3:  Place the pot of dashi broth over medium heat and bring it to a gentle boil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 3 or 4 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 2 teaspoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of fermented black bean paste.  (Fermented Black Bean Paste can be very salty, so do not add too much.  A spoonful is enough to flavor this recipe.)
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Step 4:  Gently boil for 1 minute and leave the pot on the heat.

     Tapioca Thread Noodle Bowl with Baby Octopus and Fermented Black Bean Broth:
     This recipe yields 1 large noodle bowl that can be shared by 2 guests!
     Step 1:  Keep a small pot of water boiling on a backburner so the Tapioca Thread Noodles can be reheated later in the recipe.
     Step 2:  Keep the Fermented Black Bean Broth Gently Boiling over medium heat.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced celery.
     Add 2 to 3 baby bok choy that are sliced lengthwise into quarter wedges.
     Add 1 green onion that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped red bell pepper.
     Step 3:  Gently boil till the vegetables are al dente.
     Step 4:  Add 8 small octopus tentacle sections.  (Be sure to remove the tiny octopus beaks.)
     Gently boil for 30 seconds.  (Do not cook them for too much time or they will be chewy and rubbery!)
      Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the Fermented Black Bean Broth, vegetables and baby octopus into a large bowl.
     Reheat the tapioca thread noodles in the pot of hot water.
     Drain the water off the noodles.
     Mound the noodles on the center of the soup broth.
     Try to expose some of the vegetables and octopus in the surface of the broth so it looks nice.
     Garnish with a large Thai Basil sprig.
     The fermented black beans add an interesting savory flavor.  This noodle bowl only takes about twenty minutes to prepare.  Quickly cooked broth noodle bowls like this are healthy to eat! 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Winter Melon Soup with Buna-Shimeji and Surimi

     A Nice Winter Melon Soup Variation!
     Today's Winter Melon Soup idea came to mind while shopping in Chinatown, Las Vegas.  I was looking at the Sam Woo Chinese BBQ menu and I saw many kinds of Winter Melon Soup offerings.  Previously I had only experienced the plain chicken broth version at other restaurants.  Seeing that that there is much more that can be done with Winter Melon Soup was like opening a door to creativity.
     I have published a couple of Winter Melon Soups recently that are traditional.  Chicken or ham often is added to this soup.  Basically, just about any item that has a mild savory flavor can be added.  White Beech Mushrooms (Bunapi-shimeji) and Surimi taste mild and savory, so they are a good choice.
     Surimi offers very little umami taste sensation, so the flavor is far from overbearing.  High quality Surimi is available in any fancy shape and decorative colors are an option.  The fancy Surimi in the photos has a colorful cherry blossom design.  Each slice looks like a miniature painting floating in the soup!
     Winter Melon Soup with Buna-Shimeji and Surimi:
     This recipe yields 1 large serving of soup!  
     Winter melon can grow up to eight feet long, so they are usually cut into 1 pound to 5 pound pieces at an Asian food market.   
     Try to only cook Winter Melon till it is soft, because if it is overcooked it will disintegrate in the broth.  It is important to not over season a winter melon soup or the delicate flavor will be lost. 
     Step 1:  Trim the rind and seed pulp off of a winter melon section.
     Cut the winter melon flesh into large bite size cube shaped pieces.  (About 1 1/2 cups of winter melon cubes is enough.)
     Step 2:  Boil 3 cups of chicken bouillon or chicken consommé in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add the reserved winter melon pieces.
     Add 10 to 15 whole white beech mushrooms.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Add 1 small pinch of Chinese five spice powder.
     Step 3:  Boil the soup till the winter melon pieces just start to turn clear around the edges.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer till the winter melon cubes are tender and they look semi translucent.
     *Do not stir the soup after the winter melon becomes tender or the pieces might break apart. 
     Step 5:  Ladle the soup into a large soup bowl.
     Place 3 or 4 very thin slices of fancy surimi on top of the soup.
     Garnish with a few cilantro leaves.
     This is a delicate tasting, soothing Winter Melon Soup!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Hot-Sour Beef Soup with Pak Chee Farang

     Sawtooth Herb!
     The hot-sour flavor of this soup has a nice balance.  Pak Chee Farang (Sawtooth Herb) has a strong cilantro flavor.  Pak Chee Farang is traditionally is used to flavor beef recipes in Thailand and Southeast Asia.  Today's soup is healthy and it offers some medicinal qualities, because galangal, turmeric and wood ear mushrooms are on the list of ingredients.  
     When cooking the traditional food of foreign countries it is easy get hung up on "one size fits all" cooking rules.  For example, one chef stated that all Thai is started by boiling coconut milk.  Another chef stated there is no stir fry cooking in Thailand.  One size fits all statements like these are misleading, because they are half truths.  
     The reality is that Thailand is a big country and there is a wide variety of cooking techniques used by local chefs.  No stir fry in Thailand?  One of the best quail recipes I know was provided by a good cook from farm country Issan, Thailand and it just happens to be a stir fry recipe.  Traditional Thai stir fry recipes involve boiling coconut milk till it becomes coconut oil, then the stir frying begins.  In modern times, cooks just open a jar of pre-made coconut oil.  Voila!    
     The regions of Thailand that border Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia share the cooking styles of those neighboring countries.  Yunnan Provence Chinese cuisine shares Northern Thailand cooking influences and vice versa.  China has thousands of years of trade history with all their neighboring countries, so Chinese influence can be found in all Asian cuisines.
     This brings up the soy sauce topic.  Soy sauce is not used in most traditional Thai recipes, but in Northern Thailand the Chinese influences abound and soy sauce is added to some local recipes.  In modern times, just about anything goes and chefs use whatever ingredients they prefer when creating new recipes. 
     When cooking traditional recipes it pays to play by the traditional rules.  When designing food to create interest in certain ingredients, like Pak Chee Farang, bending traditional cooking rules can broaden the spectrum of appeal.  Today's recipe combines ingredients from several Asian cuisines. 

     Hot Sour Beef Soup with Pak Chee Farang Recipe:  
     This recipe yield 1 large portion of soup that can be shared by 2 guests!  
     Prepare all the ingredients ahead of time, because this soup has a short, quick cooking time.  The vegetables all should be cooked al dente.  Al dente loosely translates to slightly crisp to the bite!  
     Step 1:  Soak 4 or 5 dried wood ear mushrooms in water overnight in a refrigerator.  (Enough for 1/4 cup of thin sliced wood ear mushroom strips.)
     Cut the mushrooms into thin strips.
     Step 2:  Place a sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil.
     Add about 2 1/2 ounces of thin sliced lean beef.
     Sauté till the beef is lightly browned. 
     Step 3:  Add 3 1/4 cups of light vegetable broth.
     Add 1 stalk of lemon grass that is tied in a knot.
     Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Gently boil the broth for 10 minutes, so the lemongrass flavor infuses.  
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar. 
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced fresh galangal.  (Galangal is Thai Blue Ginger.)
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/4 cup of the reserved sliced wood ear mushroom strips. 
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce. 
     Add white pepper and sea salt.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Korean style Coarse Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste (Sambal).  (Or substitute 1 chopped small Thai Chile Pepper. 
     Add 1 pinch of Madras Yellow Curry Powder.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric. 
     Step 5:  Mix a little bit of cornstarch and cold water together to form a slurry.  (About 2 tablespoons.)
     Add just enough of the cornstarch and water slurry while stirring to thicken the soup to a very thin consistency.  
     Step 6:  Add 1/4 cup of thick sliced small portobello field mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms.
     Add 1/2 cup of sliced white stalks of bok choy.
     Add 4 baby bok choy that are cut in half lengthwise.
     Add 1/4 cup of thin sliced green bell pepper strips.
     Add 1/4 cup of julienne sliced onion.     
     Add a few thin sliced carrot strips for color.
     Add 1 green onion that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Add 6 to 8 whole pak chee farang leaves.  (sawtooth herb)
     Step 7:  Gently boil for one minute. 
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat. 
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice. 
     Simmer the soup for 2 to 3 minutes.
     Step 8:  Ladle the soup into a bowl.  
     Place some pak chee farang leaves against the rim of the soup bowl as a garnish.  
     Float 1 thin slice of lime on the soup.  

     The hot sour soup flavor combines with the beef and pak chee farang in a nice way!  

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Tea Smoked Salmon & Crispy Vegetable Rice Paper Roll Platter

     Variety Is The Spice Of Life!
     Sometimes making a lunch platter that has a wide variety of items on the plate does have a way of cheering up a dreary day.  When dining at a Korean restaurant, the endless variety of complimentary small banchon side dishes never fails to make guests smile.  
     At a nice buffet, some people simply like to nibble away while sampling a variety of taste sensations.  It is the tasting experience that counts and it is not important to fill up on large portions of food.  
     Staring at a solitary grilled cheese sandwich on a plate does nothing to awaken the senses on a rainy day.  A plate full off petite portions of interesting food items actually acts as an escape mechanism.  Thoughts drift in many directions with each bite.  A platter full of tasty tidbits can be an inspirational experience.    

     Assembling A Miniature Makeshift Smoker For Tea Smoked Salmon:
     It is easy to make a small fish smoking box with an old worn out soup pot or sauce pot.  An old leaky pot or one that has the handles broken off is a good candidate for being turned into a miniature meat smoker.  A cheap 99¢ sauce pot from a dime store is a good choice too.
     Once an old pot is used for smoking, it should only be used for that purpose.  The makeshift smoker can be used several times and it does not need to be thoroughly scrubbed after each use.  When the creosote and carbon builds up, tossing the old pot in the garbage is an option, because that is where the old pot was destined to be anyway.  
     Smoking a small amount of meat with spices or tea in a home kitchen does cause a little bit of smoke to build up indoors.  An exhaust fan helps to evacuate the smoke.  Smoking a small portion of salmon will not make the house smell like fish.  The aroma of tea or spice smoke actually smells like incense burning and it makes the house smell nice.  
     *This recipe yields 2 tea smoked small salmon filets.  (about 4 ounces apiece)
     • Select an old worn out pot that has a capacity of 2 quarts. 
     • Mix 1/2 cup of coarse ground salt with 1/3 cup of tea leaves.  (Cheap tea leaves or old stale tea leaves are the best choice.) 
     • Place the tea and salt mix in the old pot.  
     • Place 3 or 4 metal spacers in the pot.  The spacers should be about 1" tall.  (Old rusty ring molds are a good choice.)  
     • Select a wire screen or an old small colander that will fit inside the pot.  Place the wire screen on the metal spacers.  (The wire screen or colanders will act as a roasting rack.)
     • Season 2 small salmon filets with Kosher Salt and white pepper.  Place the salmon filets on the roasting rack.
     • Place a lid on the pot.  (The lid should not fit tightly.  There should be a tiny space for the excess smoke to escape.)
     • Place the the assembled fish smoker pot on a burner that is set to medium/medium low heat.
     • Let the smoking pot cook the salmon undisturbed.  
     *When the salt gets hot, the tea will smoke.  Even after the tea leaves are spent and they do not produce any more smoke, the air in the smoking chamber will be like an oven and the fish will cook.  It takes about 20 to 25 minutes for the small salmon filets to be fully cooked.     
     • After 20 to 25 minutes, check the salmon for doneness.  Continue cooking in the smoker if the fish needs more baking time.
     • Remove the salmon from the smoking box after it is fully cooked and smoked.  Set the Tea Smoked Salmon aside to cool.  The Tea Smoked Salmon can be chilled for 7 days.  
     Cleanup:  For the home made smoker, just scrape the carbon black residue out of the pot.  Sanitize with soapy water and rinse.  The home made smoker can be used any time that a small amount of meat needs to be smoked! 

     Teriyaki Yukon Gold Potato Wedges:
     This recipe yields 2 petite portions.
     Step 1:  Boil 4 ounces of Yukon Gold potatoes, till they are tender.
     Cut the potatoes into small wedges.
     Step 2:  Heat a small sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 tablespoon of sugar.
     Simmer and reduce, till the teriyaki glaze is a syrup consistency.
     Step 3:  Add the potato wedges.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Remove the pan from the heat.    
     Keep the potatoes warm on a stove top. 
     Crispy Vegetable Rice Paper Roll:
     This recipe yields 1 rice paper roll.
     Step 1:  Heat a sauté pan or mini wok over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1/3 cup of very thin sliced red cabbage.
     Add 1/3 cup of very thin sliced white cabbage. 
     Add a little bit of thin sliced onion.
     Add a few strips of thin julienne sliced green bell pepper.
     Add 1/4 cup of mung bean sprouts.
     Stir fry the vegetables, till they are half way cooked.  
     Step 2:  Add 1 pinch of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1 pinch of white pepper.
     Add sea salt.  
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     Set the vegetables aside.
     Step 3:  Soften 1 dried large 10" to 12" rice paper spring roll wrapper in warm water to reconstitute it.
     Place the wet rice paper flat on a dampened counter top.
     Step 4:  Mound the vegetables across the center of the rice paper.
     Fold the rice paper over the ends of the vegetable row.
     Roll the rice paper into spring roll shape.
     Step 5:  Heat 6" of vegetable frying oil in a sauce pot to 360ºF.
     Dust the spring roll with cornstarch.
     Fry the spring roll, till it starts to become crispy.
     Step 6:  Place the spring roll on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off the excess oil.
     Keep the spring roll warm on a stove top.
     Tea Smoked Salmon & Crispy Vegetable Rice Paper Roll Platter:
     This recipe yields 1 lunch platter.
     The banchan items are easy to make.  The Kimchi varieties are available in most Asian food markets.  
     Step 1:  Cut the ends of the fried rice paper roll flat, so the rice paper roll will stand up straight on a plate.
     Bias slice the rice paper roll in half.
     Set the rice paper roll halves on the plate vertically.
     Step 2:  Mix dry wasabi and water for one sauce.
     Mix chinese dry mustard and water for the second sauce.
     Pour the sauces on the plate next to the rice paper roll.
     Step 3:  Set the petite tea smoked salmon filet on the plate.
     Step 4:  Garnish the plate with mini banchan portions of your choice!  The banchan in the photos are:
     - Teriyaki Yukon Gold Potato Wedges
     - Mung Bean Sprouts marinated with sesame oil, chopped scallion and rice vinegar.
     - Firm Tofu Cubes flavored with sesame oil, Chinese five spice powder and ginger paste
     - Reconstituted small sun dried anchovies coated with hoisin sauce and rice vinegar  
     - Napa Cabbage Kimchi
     - Daikon Radish Kimchi

     A tasty tea smoked salmon lunch platter full of interesting flavors!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

King Trumpet Mushroom and Vegetables with Lobster Sauce

     Healthy King Mushroom!
     Today's recipe features King Trumpet Mushroom.  King trumpet mushrooms have a very long shelf life.  I bought this mushroom 3 weeks ago and it still looked like I just brought it home from the market!
     King Mushrooms are the largest member of the Oyster Mushroom family.  These mushrooms have a delicate gentle flavor.  Large King Mushrooms can be fibrous, but if they are thin sliced, they are quite palatable.
     I have experienced various entrees that benefitted from the delicate flavor of egg sauces at Chinese American restaurants.  Lobster Sauce is basically an egg sauce that is made the same way as Egg Flower Soup.  Lobster Sauce can include fermented black beans and pork in the recipe, but most times it is made with just eggs and cornstarch thickened broth.  I thought that the mild savory flavor of Lobster Sauce would be a nice match for the delicate flavor of King Mushroom.
     Today's recipe takes very little time to prepare.  I made this recipe in the same amount of time that it takes to cook the rice.  Be sure to have all the ingredients ready before starting this quick recipe!
     King Trumpet Mushroom and Vegetables with Lobster Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 entrée.
     Be sure to prepare the ingredients ahead of time.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of plain sticky rice and keep it warm on a stove top.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan or wok over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Place 1 whole king trumpet mushroom in the oil.
     Sear the mushroom till it is lightly browned on all sides.
     Remove the mushroom from the oil and set it aside.
     Step 3:  Pour off any excess oil in the pan or wok before you start to stir fry the vegetables.  (Only about 1 tablespoon of oil is needed.)
     Step 4:  Keep the pan on medium/medium high heat.
     Step 5:  Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 2 teaspoons of minced ginger.
     Add these vegetables:
     - 5 thin slices of carrot
     - 2 sliced baby bok choy
     - 1/4 cup of sliced onion
     - 5 bite size broccoli florets,
     - 5 asparagus tips with the thin sliced tender part of the asparagus stalks
     - 4 sweet snap peas
     - 3 green bell pepper strips
     - 3 red bell pepper strips
     - 6 bite size pieces of green onion
     Step 6:  Sauté and stir fry the vegetables, till they are halfway cooked.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 1/2 cups of light chicken broth.
     Add 2 ounces of rice wine.
     Add the reserved seared whole king mushroom.
     Step 7:  When the liquid in the pan becomes hot, push the vegetables to one side of the pan so the broth is exposed.
     Add just enough cornstarch and water slurry, while stirring, to thicken the broth to a thin sauce consistency.
     Step 8:  Stream 3 tablespoons of whisked egg whites across the sauce like thin ribbons with a spoon.
     Allow the egg whites to cook for 10 to 15 seconds, so they become firm.
     Step 9:  Gently toss the Lobster Sauce and vegetables together.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     Place a ring of sticky rice on a plate and leave the center of the plate bare.
     Remove the king mushroom from the pan and set it on a cutting board.
     Spoon the vegetables and egg flower sauce in the middle of the circle of rice.
     Cut the king mushroom into thin bias slices.
     Overlap the king mushroom slices on the rice ring around the vegetables and egg flower sauce.  
     Sprinkle a little bit of thin bias sliced green onion over the vegetables.
     The flavor of this vegetable entrée is gentle and satisfying!      

Tapioca Thread Noodles in Lemongrass Galangal Coconut Broth with Salmon and Banana Flowers

     A Healthy Noodle Bowl! 
     Banana blossoms are a popular food in tropical regions.  From India to Fiji, banana blossoms are used in many traditional recipes.  A whole whole reddish purple banana blossom has an artichoke kind of flavor, but the rows of flowers inside taste quite different.  The flavor of banana flowers tastes like a strong bitter wildflower combined with a hint of starchy unripe banana.  The banana flowers look like pale yellowish white miniature bananas.
     Fresh banana flowers are best for recipes, but dried salted banana flowers are a nice convenience.  Dried salted banana flowers are available in Asian food markets.  I used dried salted banana flowers for today's recipe.
     Many Southeast Asian banana flower recipes require chile pepper and coconut milk.  Those two flavors seem to accent the bitter banana flower flavor.  Shrimp is the most popular kind of seafood for a soup that is made with banana flowers.
     Salmon is not exactly a tropical fish, but it tastes nice with banana flowers.  Lemongrass and galangal (Thai Blue Ginger) gives the broth an exotic flavor by western standards.  Any fish or vegetable broth can be used to make today's recipe.  I made the soup in the photos with a light shrimp broth.
     Glass noodles llok like translucent clear noodles.  Glass noodles are made with various starches that turn clear, like mung bean flour, corn starch or tapioca flour.  Glass noodles can be soaked in water to reduce the cooking time.  Some types of Tapioca Thread Noodles do require a long boiling or steaming time to become tender.
     Tapioca Thread Noodles in Lemongrass Galangal Coconut Broth with Salmon and Banana Flowers: 
     This recipe yields 1 large pho style noodle bowl!
     The ingredients are added in stages in this recipe.
     Shocking the glass noodles in ice water is an option, but tapioca noodles usually retain a chewy texture if they are cooked to order. 
     Step 1:  Heat a pot of water over high heat to cook the glass noodles with later in the recipe!
     Step 2:  Place 3 1/4 cups of light shrimp broth in a pot over high heat.
     Tie a lemongrass shoot into a simple knot.
     Place the knotted lemongrass in the broth.
     Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.  
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground dried galangal.
     Add 1 sliced shallot.
     Add 1/3 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 8 to 10 dried banana blossom flowers.  (If you are using fresh banana blossom flowers, then add them a little bit later in the recipe.)
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of Fish Sauce.  (Thai or Vietnamese Fish Sauce is available in most grocery stores and Asian food markets.)
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of coriander.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Stir the broth.
     Step 5:  Start cooking 1 portion of tapioca thread noodles in the pot of boiling water.  Tapioca Thread Noodles may take 12 minutes to cook.
     Step 6:  Cut a 4 to 5 ounce filet of salmon into large bite size pieces.  (Leave the skin on the salmon.)
     Add the salmon to the simmering broth.
     Add 1/2 cup of coconut milk.
     Add a few thin slices of carrot for color.
     Add a few thin slices of celery.
     Add 1 cup of napa cabbage that is cut into wide slices.
     Step 7:  Simmer till the salmon is fully cooked.  Do not stir or the salmon pieces will break apart!
    Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Step 8:  The Tapioca Thread Noodles should be tender by now.  Drain the water off of the tapioca thread noodles after the noodles are tender.
     Step 9:  Add 1/2 of a thin sliced green jalapeño pepper. to the broth.
     Add 6 to 8 feather cut snow peas.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Step 10:  Remove the lemongrass knot from the broth and discard it.
     Ladle the soup into a large soup bowl.
     Place the noodles in the center of the soup.
     Arrange a few pieces of salmon and a few vegetables on the surface of the soup around the noodles so the soup looks nice.
     Place a few of the simmered banana blossom flowers on top of the glass noodles.
     Sprinkle 1 thin sliced green onion top on the broth.
     Place a few cilantro leaves on the surface of the broth.
     Float 2 thin lime slices on the broth.
     The banana blossom flavor is comfortably bitter with a long lasting fresh banana flower after taste.   Salmon skin is very healthy.  The layer of fat under the salmon skin is good for healthy skin and a strong heart.  Wiggly glass noodles are fun to eat! 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Corn Noodles with Zhijiang Red Fermented Bean Curd and Pork Belly

     Try Something Different!
     People that just look at the food photos without reading the text will probably think today's recipe is some kind of a Italian style spaghetti recipe.  The noodle entrée does have an Italian red sauce kind of look, but the ingredients have no relation to anything Italian.  The vermicelli noodles are made with corn meal, not semolina.  The red sauce is made with the hóng qū mǐ (red yeast rice), which is a component of Zhijiang Fermented Red Bead Curd.

     I was impressed with the flavor of Chinese Corn Vermicelli Noodles the first time that I tried them.  The flavor is similar to cornbread that is made in the American south.  Chinese Corn Vermicelli is made with fine corn meal and this product should not be confused with cornstarch noodles, which are considered to be a type of glass noodle. 
     Chinese Fermented Bean Curd is considered to be a gourmet specialty that commands the same respect as a matured fine French cheese.  There are many regional varieties of Fermented Bean Curd that have specific names.  Some have a white color and delicate flavor, while others have a dark color and stronger flavor.  
     The texture of Fermented Bean Curd can vary from very firm to soft and creamy.  The characteristic aged cheese flavor can range from a mild fresh brie flavor to putrid smelling Limburger.  The pickling brine strength and the amount of time that the tofu ages contributes to how strong the bean curd will taste.  There is no single starter bacteria used in the fermentation process and the bacteria can vary from one region to another. 

     Zhijiang Red Fermented Bean Curd is one of a kind.  Zhijiang fermenting brine gets its color from Red Yeast Rice.  Red Yeast Rice is rice grain that is consumed by Red Yeast.  Red Yeast is a beneficial purplish red colored fungus that is called Monascus purpureus.  Red Yeast has been proven to lower cholesterol levels.  
     After the Red Yeast consumes the rice grains, the rice barely looks like rice anymore.  When prepared as a fermenting brine for Zhijiang Red Fermented Bean Curd, the Red Yeast Rice thickens the brine to a medium thin sauce consistency.  The flavor is one of a kind.  
     Selecting a brand of Zhijiang Red Fermented Bean Curd is best done by asking for advice from an employee at a Chinese food market.  Zhijiang Red Fermented Bean curd is packaged in glass jars of various sizes and it is also packaged in cans.  Either way, the level of quality is good.  Small or single portion packaging is available.  The prices usually are based on the amount of time the Fermented Bean Curd is aged. 
     The salt content can vary greatly, so if one brand is too salty for personal taste, then try another brand.  Many chefs only use a small portion of red yeast rice fermenting liquid to make a sauce with.  Some serve the fermented tofu with no sauce.  Others use all of the sauce from the jar, if the salt content is not overbearing.  Some chefs soak the fermented tofu in water to leach some of the salt out, but others frown on that practice.   
     Basically, a tolerance of salty food is required when eating Zhijiang Red Fermented Bean Curd.  Serving Zhijiang red fermented bean curd with steamed rice or boiled noodles does help to tame the salty flavor. 

     Chinese Corn Noodles:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Boil a pot of water over high heat.
     Add 1 portion of dried corn vermicelli noodles.
     Stir the noodles occasionally, till they are fully cooked.
     Step 2:  Drain the hot water off of the noodles.
     Place the hot corn noodles in 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 corn noodles.
     Set the corn noodles aside.

     Zhijiang Red Fermented Bean Curd and Pork Belly:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion that can be shared by 2 guests.
     The square fermented tofu pieces must be handled gently or they will break apart!
     Step 1:  Keep a pot of water boiling on a back burner, so the corn noodles can be reheated.
     Step 2:  Separate the Zhijiang Red Fermented Bean Curd pieces and the red yeast rice fermenting liquid into two separate containers.  
     *5 or 6 large squares of fermented bean curd are needed.  (About 6 ounces.)
     Set the fermented tofu aside.
     Step 3:  Taste the Zhijiang Red Fermenting Liquid to judge the salt content, before setting it aside.  If it is extra salty, use less later in the recipe.  
     Step 4:  Heat a sauté pan or mini wok over medium heat.  
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 3 ounces of pork belly that is cut into small pieces.  (The pork belly is only added for flavor.)
     Sauté till the pork belly turns a golden color.
     Step 5:  Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced Asian leek or minced green onion.
     Add 2 tablespoons of small chopped onion. 
     Briefly sauté till the onions become aromatic.
     Step 6:  Add 1 1/2 cups of light vegetable broth.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese chile powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Step 7:  Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Add just enough cornstarch and water slurry to thicken the sauce to a thin consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Step 8:  Add just enough of the reserved Zhijiang Red Fermenting liquid to the sauce, to give the sauce a red color and red yeast rice flavor.  
     *If the red fermenting liquid is very salty, then only add a little bit.  If the salt content is tolerable, then add more.    
     Step 9:  Carefully place the reserved square pieces of the Zhijiang Fermented Red Bean Curd in the sauce.
     Gently simmer till the bean curd warms.  
     *Do not stir or disturb the tofu pieces after they are added, or they will break apart!
     Corn Noodles with Zhijiang Red Fermented Bean Curd and Pork Belly:
     This recipe yields 1 large portion that can be shared by 2 guests.
     Step 1:  Place the prepared corn noodles in a pasta net and reheat the noodles in the pot of boiling water.
     Drain the water off of the noodles.
     Line the border of an oval plate with the corn noodles, so an empty well is in the center.
     Step 2:  Spoon some of the sauce on the center of the plate.
     Carefully use a serving spoon to place the square pieces of Zhijiang Red Fermented Bean Curd on the center of the plate.   
     Spoon some of the red sauce over the bean curd pieces.
     Step 3:  Sprinkle some thin bias sliced green onion top over the bean curd and noodles.   

     This entrée is meant to be shared by guests at a table.  The salt content is a bit much for one person, so small tasting portions are best.  This is a nice way to present aromatic Zhijiang Red Fermented Bean Curd!