Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Thai Yard Long Beans with Pork!

     Thai Comfort Food!
     Thai Long Beans with Pork (Phat Phet Thua Fak Yao Mu Sab) is not a well known recipe in the western world.  In Southeast Asia this recipe is well known.  Long Beans with Pork is a home cooked meal, but in many Thai restaurants the same recipe is used as a topping for pan fried whole fish.
     Yard Long Beans come from climbing tree vines that are like air plants.  These vines are not the same genus as bean plants, but the flavor of the cooked beans is nearly the same.  Yard Long Beans have a very nice green bean flavor that is perfect with pork.
     The sauce in todays recipe is rich tasting and a little bit spicy.  Bottled Thai Oyster Sauce adds sweetness with a hint of umami flavor.  Soy Sauce is part of modern Thai cuisine.  There are several kinds of soy sauce and I usually specify Thin Soy Sauce.  Thin Soy Sauce is available in large bottles at Asian food markets.  Thin Soy Sauce has a very gentle flavor and it is forgiving if too much is added to a recipe.

     Thai Yard Long Beans with Pork (Phat Phet Thua Fak Yao Mu Sab): 
     This recipe yields 1 large portion that can be shared by 2 guests.
     Step 1:  Finely mince 3 garlic cloves and 1 green serrano chile pepper together.
     Continue to mince till the ingredients resemble a paste.
     Set the garlic chile paste aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan or wok over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil.
     Add the minced garlic and chile pepper mixture.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Saute the mixture till the garlic turns a light golden color.
     Step 3:  Add 7 ounces of lean ground pork.
     Stir fry the pork.  Break the ground pork into small pieces as it cooks.
     Step 4:  When the pork is almost fully cooked, add 2 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 2 cups of vegetable broth.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of palm sugar.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of shrimp paste.  (Shrimp paste is used as a flavoring ingredient in many Asian pork recipes.  Shrimp paste is very strong and a little dab goes a long way.)
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of galangal powder.
     Add 2 pinches of white pepper.
     *No salt is needed!  The soy sauce and shrimp paste have enough salt content to flavor the recipe.  The oyster sauce that is added later also has salt in it.
     Step 5:  Stir the pork and the seasonings together.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of trimmed long beans that are cut into 1/2" long pieces.
     Stir the ingredients as the liquid comes back to a boil.
     Step 6:  Add 3 tablespoons of Oyster Sauce.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce till the excess liquid evaporates and there is only enough sauce to glaze the pork and long beans.  (The long beans should be fully cooked by this time.  Long beans only take 3-5 minutes to cook.)
     Step 7:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Add 1 thin chiffonade sliced Kaffir Lime Leaf.  (If none is available, then add 1 teaspoon of grated lime zest.)
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add about 12 small whole Thai Basil Leaves.
     Toss the ingredients together till the herbs wilt.
     Remove the pan from the heat.

     Thai Yard Long Beans with Pork can be served with rice or over a pan fried whole fish.  When served with rice, a fried egg usually garnishes the entrée. 
     Step 1:  Place 1 portion of sticky rice in a rice mold or small cup.
     Invert the mold onto a plate.
     Remove the mold from the rice.
     Step 2:  Spoon the long beans and pork on the plate around the rice.
     Place 1 fried sunny side up egg on the pork and long beans.  (optional)
     Garnish the plate with a Thai Basil sprig and a couple of sliced lime curls.
     As one can guess because of the sweet flavor, most folks like extra spicy hot Thai Yard Long Beans with Pork.  If you prefer extra spicy, then add 1/2 teaspoon of Thai Chile Paste or 2 minced fresh Thai Chile Peppers.          

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Chinkiang Vinegar Galangal Pork Belly with Yu Choy Sum

     Chinkiang Vinegar is also called "Black Vinegar."  Black Vinegar is made with rice, but millet or sorghum can be part of the blend.  Black Vinegar has a complex semi sweet acidic flavor that is similar to Balsamic Vinegar.  
     Like with most products, some brands are better than others.  It seems like the Chinkiang Vinegar brands that have the fewest ingredients are the best.  Brands that include extra ingredients, like caramel color, stabilizers or sweeteners, are pretty much mass produced products.
     Vinegar is often used to tenderize and flavor pork.  Vinegar is also used to tame the flavor of wild game or strong tasting meats.  Sometimes pork can taste fairly strong.  Modern pork tends to be a very light color and the flavor is fairly light.  Dark colored pork cuts a strong flavor that is similar to wild boar.  Chinkiang Vinegar is perfect for making strong pork meat or wild boar taste palatable.
     Galangal is Thai Blue Ginger.  Galangal is a little bit stronger tasting than the average ginger root.  Galangal is used by cooks just about everywhere in Asia.  Many Chinese cooks prefer galangal over regular ginger, because the flavor is pungent and brighter.  Fresh galangal root can be found in Asian food markets, Indian food markets and specialty markets.  
     Galangal should be sliced thin or julienne sliced, so it cooks quickly.  Galangal does take some time to become tender, so after starting the stir fry, liquid is added and the galangal is simmered till it starts to become tender.  Undercooked galangal is like chewing on wood.  
     For todays recipe, the galangal and pork are cooked in one pan and the Yu Choy Sum (Chinese Cabbage) mixture is stir fried separately.  Galangal and pork belly takes time to simmer and become tender, so it is given a head start.
     Pork Belly can be found at butcher shops or Asian food markets.  Common grocery stores rarely sell pork belly, because they are in the business of marketing bacon products.   
     The best prices for pork belly can be found in Chinatown food markets.  The pork sales volume is so high at these markets, that purchasing power comes into effect and lower prices can be offered.  Whole pork belly sections or 2 to 3 pound slabs of pork belly can be purchased.  The skin is usually attached to the pork belly.  It is easy to remove the thick skin with a butcher knife.  The skin can be saved and prepared as cracklins or crispy pork rind snacks.  A few cracklin recipes have been posted at this website so far.  
     After the skin is removed, the pork belly is easy to handle.  Trimming the fat is not necessary, because the gelatinous pork fat is part of the pork belly dining experience.  This is why pork belly is only eaten occasionally and it is usually reserved for festive occasions.  Pork Belly is usually cut into thick rectangular bite size pieces or cube shape pieces, when used in Asian recipes.

     Yu Choy Sum is a variety of mustard plant that resembles cabbage.  Both Napa Cabbage and Yu Choy Sum are referred to as Chinese Cabbage, even though these two vegetables look completely different.  When Chinese Cabbage is written in a recipe, most often this refers to Napa Cabbage.  
     Yu Choy Sum has a crisp pleasant spicy cabbage flavor.  The stems can be thick, so splitting the stems in half will help them to become tender quicker.  Yu Choy Sum should only be stir fried and braised for a short time, so it is still fairly crisp to the bite (al dente).  

     For those who wonder where to find fancy bamboo chopsticks and Asian style plates, food markets in Chinatown offer these items.  An ordinary small European soup bowl is not a rice bowl.  An Italian pasta bowl is not an Asian noodle bowl.  Every culture has tableware that is best suited for the cuisine.  
     Acquiring a few shallow Asian noodle bowls and oval plates can make plating Asian entrées much easier, because many Asian recipes are designed to be served on those kinds of plates.  Besides, an Asian style entrée looks much more authentic when it is served on a colorful traditional plate.  Plain white plates are the standard in European fine dining, but in Asia, fine dining plates are rarely plain white.  Color is a major part of the Asian dining experience, because the food is designed to satisfy all of the senses.   

     *This entire recipe yields 1 entrée!

     Chinkiang Vinegar Galangal Pork Belly Marinade:          
     Step 1:  Cut an 8 ounce slab of skinned pork belly into thick rectangular bite size pieces.
     Step 2:  Place the pork belly in a bowl.
     Add 3 tablespoons of Chinkiang Vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
     Step 3:  Add 2 tablespoons of short julienne sliced galangal strips.  (Short Julienne = 1/8"x1/8"x 1/2" to 1")
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of garlic paste.
     Step 4:  Add 4 coarse ground Szechuan Peppercorns.
     Add 1 pinch of Chinese Five Spice Powder.
     Add 1 small pinch of Chinese chile powder.  (ground chile japon)
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
     Step 5:  Toss the ingredients together.
     Marinate in a refrigerator for 20 minutes.

     Chinkiang Vinegar Galangal Pork Belly:
     *The Yu Choy Sum should be started in a separate pan while the pork belly is simmering.
     Step 1:  Place the marinated pork and galangal mixture in a strainer over a container.
     Set the meat and galangal aside and reserve the marinade for later in the recipe.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan or mini wok over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.
     Add the pork belly and galangal.
     Quickly stir fry and toss, till golden brown highlights appear on the pork.
     Step 3:  Drain the excess grease out of the pan.
     Return the pan with the pork belly to medium/medium high heat.
     Step 4:  Add 1/2 cup of light vegetable broth.
     Add the reserved pork belly marinade.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Stir as the liquid thickens.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce, till the galangal and pork belly is fully cooked and tender.  Allow the sauce to reduce till it becomes a thin glaze consistency and can lightly coat the pork.
     Keep the Chinkiang Vinegar Galangal Pork warm on stove top, till the yu choy sum is ready.

     Black Vinegar Braised Yu Choy Sum:
     Step 1:  Trim about 8 to 12 yu choy sum leaves.
     Split the thick stems lengthwise.
     Step 2:  Heat a large sauté pan or wok over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 2 cloves of thin sliced garlic.
     Add about 1/6 cup of julienne sliced onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of short thin carrot strips.
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds till the garlic becomes aromatic.
     Step 3:  Add the prepared yu choy sum leaves.
     Sauté and toss till the leaves start to wilt and become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 1 1/2 cups of light vegetable broth.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Chinkian Vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar.
     Add 1 small pinch of crushed dried red chile pepper.  (chile caribe)
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Cover the pan with a lid.
     Braise the yu choy sum till it is al dente.  (About 5 minutes.)
     Step 6:  Remove the lid from the pan.
     Keep the braised yu choy sum warm on a stove top.

     Chinkiang Vinegar Galangal Pork Belly with Yu Choy Sum:
     Step 1:  Place the yu choy sum in a wide shallow bowl as a bed for the pork belly.  Arrange the leaves so they look nice.
     Pour a portion of the braising liquid over the yu choy sum in the bowl.
     Step 2:  Mound the Chinkiang Vinegar Galangal Pork Belly on the center of the yu choy sum.
     Serve with steamed rice on the side.
     No garnish is necessary!

     Chinkiang vinegar is rich tasting, yet it is light enough to be used generously.  This is a nice recipe for spring or summer!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Banh Pho Noodle Bowl with Broiled Eel, Surimi and Sun Dried Anchovy

     A Delicious Healthy Noodle Bowl!
     "Pho" translates to rice flour noodles.  "Banh Pho" translates to flat rice noodles or ribbon rice noodles.  Pho noodle bowls are usually served with varying amounts of broth.  If the proportion of broth is high, then the noodle bowl is usually called a soup, but not always.  This is because more often than not the focus is on the featured ingredient, which is noodles!
     Fresh Ribbon Rice Noodles were used in today's recipe and these noodles can be found at Asian food markets.  Some fresh noodles are uncooked and they will need to be boiled then shocked in ice water.  The Ribbon Rice Noodles that I purchased were cooked and shocked before being packaged.  Pre-cooked Banh Pho is a nice convenience.
     Eel is popular in Europe and Asia, but in America eel is not really a mainstream item.  The Broiled Eel in today's recipe is the same as what many sushi restaurants use.  Prepared Broiled Eel is available at Asian food markets as a cryovac packaged frozen food product.  Prepared Broiled Eel is basted, broiled and ready to serve.
     Sun Dried Anchovies are used in nearly every Southeast Asian cuisine.  In Japan, Sun Dried Anchovies are often used to make a rich flavored Dashi Broth for Miso Soup.
     Surimi is made from ground dried fish meal.  In America, Surimi is marketed as Imitation Crab Meat.  The Surimi fish meal paste can be shaped in just about any way imaginable.  The Surimi that I chose for today's recipe had a decorative cherry bloom design.

     Banh Pho Noodle Bowl with Broiled Eel, Surimi and Sun Dried Anchovy:
     This recipe yields 1 large noodle bowl.
     Be sure to have all of the ingredients ready ahead of time.  This brothy noodle bowl only takes a short time to cook!
     Step 1:  Heat a large sauce pot over medium heat.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1 clove of minced garlic.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Briefly sautee for just a few seconds, till the garlic and ginger become aromatic.
     Step 2:  Add 2 3/4 cups of light vegetable broth.
     Add 4 thin slices of peeled fresh lotus root that are cut in half.
     Add 5 thin slices of daikon radish.
     Add 1 tablespoon of Vietnamese Fish Sauce.
     Add 14 small sun dried anchovies that are about 1" long.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped rinsed salt packed wakame seaweed.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 3:  Bring the broth to a gentle boil.
     Boil the soup till the dried anchovies and wakame are reconstituted.
     Continue boiling till the lotus root and daikon radish start to become tender.
     *Lotus Root will have a crispy bite (al dente) even after it is gently boiled for more than 10 minutes.  Allow the broth to reduce to 2 cups.  Add a splash of water if the level of broth is too low. 
     Step 4:  Add 2 thin slices of onion.
     Add 4 to 6 slices of green serrano chile pepper.
     Add 2 thick slices of fancy surimi.
     Add 1 portion of fresh Banh Pho (ribbon rice noodles).
     Add 4 very thin julienne sliced snow peas.
     Add 5 or 6 whole fresh Thai Basil Leaves.
     Step 5:  Bring the broth back to a gentle boil.
     Briefly boil for about 1 minute, so the aromatic vegetables still have a crisp bite.
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Pour the ingredients into a large bowl.
     Use chopsticks or tongs to arrange the surimi and lotus root slices on top, so the noodle bowl looks nice.
     Step 7:  Cut 2 pieces of Prepared Broiled Eel that are about 4" long.  (About 3 to 4 ounces is plenty.)
     Place the 2 pieces Broiled Eel in the hot broth on the center of the of the noodle bowl.
     Sprinkle 1 thin bias sliced green onion top on the broth.
     Place a small bunch of cilantro sprigs on the edge of the noodle bowl.

     This is a good tasting noodle bowl that has eye appeal!