Monday, October 26, 2015

Winter Melon Soup with Ginkgo Nuts, Tofu, Wood Ear Mushrooms and Water Chestnuts

     Healthy Vegetarian Soup!
     Today's vegetarian soup is tasty and it has medicinal qualities.  The three medicinal ingredients in this soup are ginkgo nut, wood ear mushroom (cow's ear fungus) and galangal.  Galangal is known as blue ginger and it has a nice earthy, citrus, ginger kind of flavor.  Galangal is a natural blood thinner and antioxidant.  Ginkgo nuts are a very strong antioxidant and they help to ward off the common cold.  A steady diet of ginkgo nuts will cause the skin to become smooth, silky and healthy.  Wood ear mushrooms are a strong immune system booster and they also have anti aging properties.
     You might say that today's recipes qualifies as a rejuvenating fountain of youth soup.  Many chefs in Asia and India say that food is medicine.  That is food for thought!
     Winter Melon Soup with Ginkgo Nuts, Tofu, Wood Ear Mushrooms and Water Chestnuts: 
     This recipe yields 1 large portion of soup!  (About 3 cups)
     Step 1:  Soak 4 or 5 dried wood ear mushrooms in 2 cups of water overnight in a refrigerator.
     Step 2:  Set the reconstituted wood ear mushrooms on a cutting board.
     Slice the wood ear mushrooms into thin strips.
     Step 3:  Place the wood ear mushroom strips in a pot.
     Add 2 3/4 cups of light vegetable broth.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over medium high heat.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground galangal.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese five spice powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 3 to 4 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 2 sliced water chestnuts.
     Add 6 fresh peeled ginkgo nuts.
     Step 5:  Cut the rind off of a 6 to 8 ounce piece of winter melon.
     Scrape the loose seeds and pulp off of the winter melon.
     Cut the winter melon into large bite sized cube shaped pieces.
     Add the winter melon to the soup.
     Step 6:  Bring the broth back to a boil.
     Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer the soup till the winter melon pieces begin to turn clear and translucent in color.
     *Do not stir the soup after the winter melon becomes tender or the delicate winter melon pieces will become damaged!
     Step 7:  Pour the soup into a large soup bowl.
     Place 3 to 4 ounces of cube shaped pieces of semi firm tofu in the center of the soup.
     Float a few very thin slices of onion on the soup.
     Float a few cilantro leaves on the soup.
     Delicious and healthy! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Banh Pho with Fish Balls and Pak Chee Farang

     Rice Flour Flat Ribbon Noodles!
     Food like today's pho soup can help to bring balance back into a stress filled lifestyle.  I have published several Asian style broth soup recipes in the past.  From a nutritional standpoint, the importance of broth cannot be understated.  This is why most Asian restaurants served a broth soup or pho in a huge soup bowl!
     The word "Pho" refers to Vietnamese rice noodles, but pho can also refer to the way that the rice noodles are served.  Pho is most often pictured as rice noodles in a big bowl of broth.  A wide variety of items can be added to the broth.  Certain combinations of added ingredients are required for well known pho soups that have traditional names.
     Nearly every culture in Southeast Asia offers a pho soup of one kind or another.  Pho is often spelled as "Fo" in Thai translations.  Both Thai and Vietnamese recipes require many herbs that are not commonly found in an average grocery store.  Pak Chee Farang is also known as saw tooth herb and has a strong "cilantro like" fresh flavor.  Pak Chee Farang most often is used to flavor beef.  Fresh Pak Chee Farang can be found in most Asian food markets.  
     Fish balls are fairly easy to make from dried fish meal powder.  Frozen pre-made surimi fish balls are a nice convenience and these fish meatballs can be found in Asia food markets.
     Banh Pho is also called "square noodles" or "flat ribbon noodles."  This noodle has a fettuccine shape.  Dried Banh Pho can be soaked in cold water, then steamed.  Dried Banh Pho can also be boiled.  Either way, Dried Banh Pho should be cooked to order, so the noodles do not become too soft.  Fresh Banh Pho are sometimes available in Asian food markets too.  Making fresh Banh Pho from scratch is always an option.

     Banh Pho with Fish Balls and Pak Chee Farang:
     This recipe yield 1 large portion.  (About 3 1/4 cups)
     When using frozen pre-made surimi fish balls, thaw them ahead of time.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 portion of banh pho noodles in boiling water till they become tender.
     Cool the noodles under cold running water.
     Drain off the water.
     Set the noodles aside. 
     Step 2:  Heat 3 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 2 tablespoons of dried shaved pickled bonito flakes. (Katsuobushi)
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 lemon grass shoot that is tied in a knot.
     Boil the broth for about 10 minutes, so the lemongrass flavor infuses.  
     Remove the lemon grass knot.
     Step 3:  Add 1 tablespoon of Vietnamese Fish Sauce.
     Add 1 teaspoon of Coarse Ground Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste (sambal).
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ground galangal.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of Madras Yellow Curry Powder.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 4:  Add 7 surimi fish balls.
     Add 6 thin sliced carrot sticks.
     Add 1/5 cup of julienne sliced onion.
     Add 2 small baby bok choy that are cut in half lengthwise.     
     Add 5 thin sliced red bell pepper strips.
     Add 2 sliced small shiitake mushrooms or portobello mushrooms.
     Add 6 feather cut snow peas.
     Add 1 green onion that is cut into bite size pieces.
     Step 5:  Boil till the vegetables just start to become tender
     Step 6:  Add 1/2 cup of coconut milk.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 2 to 3 pak chee farang leaves that are cut into 1" long pieces.
     Stir the soup.
     Remove the pot from the heat.
     Step 7:  Pour the hot soup into a large bowl.
     Place the reserved Banh Pho noodles in the center of the soup.  (The hot broth will reheat the noodles.)
     Garnish the soup with a few whole fresh Pak Chee Farang leaves.
     Float a thin slice of lime on the soup broth.

     The bonito flakes create a rich fish broth and the lemon grass adds a lightness.  Pak chee farang wilts in the hot broth and it imparts a strong cilantro flavor!  

Monday, October 5, 2015

Spicy Dried Shrimp and Napa Cabbage Soup with Enoki

     A Healthy Soup With A Comfortably Spicy Savory Umami Flavor! 
     Dried shrimp are used in recipes nearly everywhere, except western countries.  Dried shrimp are often used to make broths and sauces.  In China, dried shrimp are sometimes used like a spice, like when dried shrimp paste is added to a ground pork meatball recipe.  Dried shrimp impart a rich umami flavor.
     Dried shrimp are available in Asian food markets.  Tiny dried shrimp that were no bigger than a penny were used to make the broth for today's soup recipe.  The shells do not need to be removed, because tiny shrimp shells are soft and edible.  Dried shrimp create a nice looking pinkish orange color broth.
     Spicy Dried Shrimp and Napa Cabbage Soup with Enoki:
     This recipe yields 1 large bowl of soup.  (3 cups)
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium low heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced garlic
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Briefly sauté the garlic and ginger for a few seconds, so it becomes aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 3 1/2 cups of water.
     Add 1/3 cup of tiny dried shrimp.
     Add 2 to 3 pinches of Chinese chile powder.  (To taste.)
     *The broth should be comfortably spicy, but not super spicy hot level #10!
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt.
     Step 3:  Raise the temperature to medium high heat.
     Bring the soup to a boil.
     Step 4:  Add 1 medium size shiitake mushroom that is thin sliced.
     Add 6 thin slices of peeled lotus root.
     Boil the ingredients, till the soup turns a pink color and the lotus root is tender.  (About 8 minutes.  Allow the broth to reduce to about 2 3/4 cups.)
     Step 5:  Add 1 1/2 cups of napa cabbage that is wide sliced.
     Add 6 thin slices of green bell pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of ground Szechuan Pepper.
     Step 6:  Boil the soup till the cabbage is cooked al dente and it still has slightly crisp bite.  (About 4 to 5 minutes.)
     Step 7:  Pour the soup into a large bowl.
     Float 5 or 6 feather cut snow peas on the soup.
     Float a few thin sliced onion rings on the soup.
     Float 1 small bunch of trimmed enoki mushrooms on the soup.
     Float 1 thin bias sliced green onion on the soup.
     Float 8 to 12 cilantro leaves on the soup.
     Garnish the soup with a large Thai Basil sprig.
     The broth has deep rich dried shrimp flavor.  The small amount of Chinese chile powder adds a mild spicy kick.