Friday, January 27, 2017

Lap Cheong and Vegetable Egg Foo Young with Shiitake Sauce

     Tasty Savory Egg Foo Young!
     Chinese Lap Cheong is a sweet dry cure sausage.  The traditional dry curing process involves hanging the sausages where they will be dried by the wind.  The flavor of Lap Cheong is unique and it can be added to a wide variety of recipes.  Lap Cheong tastes nice with Egg Foo Young.
     Egg Foo Young is a Chinese recipe that is popular worldwide.  There are many regional variations of the Egg Foo Young recipe.  Most often the eggs are flavored with Mung Bean Sprouts and ham, but nearly any vegetable, meat or seafood can be added.  When Egg Foo Young is served with a sauce, the sauce tends to be savory.  The simple Shiitake Mushroom Sauce in today's recipe goes well with the Lap Cheong and vegetable flavored Egg Foo Young.
     Egg Foo Young can also be made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  Today's recipe uses stainless steel ring molds to give the Egg Foo Young a uniform shape.

     Shiitake Sauce:
     This recipe yields about 1 cup.   
     Step 1:  Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium high heat.
     Add 1 cup of light chicken broth.
     Add 2 ounces of sweet rice wine or sherry.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of soy sauce.
     Add 2 pinches of Chinese Five Spice Powder.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 2:  Bring the sauce to a boil.
     Add 1/4 cup of very thin sliced shiitake mushrooms.
     Step 3:  Mix 1 tablespoon of cold water with 1 tablespoon of corn starch in a cup to make a slurry.
     Add just enough of the corn starch slurry to the boiling sauce while stirring, to thicken the sauce to a thin sauce consistency.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes.
     Step 5:  Keep the sauce warm over very low heat.
     Add 1 thin bias sliced green onion just before serving.

     Lap Cheong and Vegetable Egg Foo Young:
     This recipe yields 2 large Egg Foo Young. 
     Lap Cheong is available in Asian food markets.  This dry cure sausage is very dense and hard.  Poaching helps to soften this sausage.  
     Step 1:  Place a 3 ounce piece of Lap Cheong in a small sauce pot.
     Cover the sausage with water.
     Simmer the sausage over medium low for about 10 minutes, to soften the a little bit.
     Remove the sausage from the water and let it cool.
     Bias cut the sausage into 12 very thin slices.  (About 1/8" thick.)
     Set the sausage aside.
     Step 2:  Place 1/3 cup of very thin sliced bok choy in a container.
     Add 2 tablespoons of very thin sliced small onion strips.
     Add 2 tablespoons of very thin sliced small green bell pepper strips.
     Mix the vegetables together.
     Set the vegetables aside.
     Step 3:  Place 4 large eggs in a mixing bowl.
     Add 1 tablespoon of flour.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Whisk the egg mixture till it is thoroughly combined.
     Step 4:  Heat a wide non-stick sauté pan over medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Step 5:  Select 2 ring molds that are 3 1/2" to 4" wide.
     Brush the inside of each ring mold with vegetable oil.
     Place the 2 stainless steel ring molds in the sauté pan.
     Place a small amount of the vegetable mixture in each ring mold.
     Place 3 slices of the Lap Cheong in each ring mold.
     Place equal amounts of the remaining vegetable mixture in each ring mold.
     Step 6:  Cover the pan with a dome shaped lid.
     Let the vegetables grill and steam for 2 minutes.
     Step 7:  Remove the lid.
     Slowly pour 2 to 3 tablespoons of the whisked egg mixture over the vegetables in each ring mold.
     *The small amount of egg will seal the bottom of each ring mold, so the rest of the eggs do not leak out of the bottom of the ring mold.  Add a little more egg if necessary.  If any egg mixture leaks out, scoop up the excess egg and set it on top of the vegetables in the ring mold.  
     Wait till the small amount of egg cooks firm, so it seals the bottom of each ring mold.  (This only takes about 15 to 20 seconds.)
     Step 8:  Slowly pour an equal amount of the remaining whisked egg mixture into each ring mold.
     *If any egg leaks out, gather it up and place it back in the ring mold.
     Step 9:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Cover the pan with a dome shaped lid.
     Place the pan in a 325ºF oven.
     Bake till the eggs are firm and fully cooked.
     Step 10:  Remove the pan from the oven.
     Remove the lid.
     Use a large spatula to set each Egg Foo Young and ring mold on a cutting board.
     Step 11:  Use a spatula to flip each Egg Foo Young ring mold over, so the golden brown side faces up.
     Remove each ring mold by gently pressing the Egg Foo Young down, while lifting the ring mold up.  (If necessary, run a thin small knife around the inside if the ring mold, to free the Egg Foo Young.)

     Lap Cheong and Vegetable Egg Foo Young with Shiitake Sauce:
     This recipe yields 1 large entrée that can be shared by 2 guests.
     Step 1:  Use a spatula to place the 2 Egg Foo Young on a plate.
     Spoon a generous portion of the Shiitake Sauce on the plate around the 2 Egg Foo Young.  (Serve any extra sauce on the side.)
     Step 2:  Garnish the top of each Egg Foo Young 3 thin slices of Lap Cheong.
     Garnish each Egg Foo Young with bias sliced green onion.

     This style of Egg Foo Young entrée takes a little bit of effort to make, but the flavor is well worth the wait!

Friday, January 20, 2017

House Special Soup! ~ Pork Tenderloin, Surimi, Wakame and Lotus Root

     A Hearty Southeast Asian Style Soup!
     I decided to make a soup to start my day today, instead of settling for an average bacon and egg breakfast at a local diner.  Sometimes a decision like this is subconscious, because the body craves something to maintain good health.  A soup with high proteins, vegetables and wakame seaweed sounded like a good choice.  Quickly made Asian style soups like this have good nutritional value and there are some intangible effects.  A broth soup with high proteins, vegetables and seaweed actually does help to maintain balance, especially during the winter cold and flu season.  
     Cooked food nearly always offers more efficient uptake of nutrients than most raw food.  The exception is fruit.  Those who believe raw food is healthy are really only benefiting from a portion of the available nutrients that could be digested if the raw food was cooked.
     Ancient food history does provide evidence of how lifespans nearly doubled after mankind harnessed fire and began cooking food.  Part of the reason for extended lifespans is cooking eliminated most food borne illness.  The other reason is that cooked food offered more available nutrients that are easy to digest.  A loss of potential nutrients can potentially occur with many raw foods.  Raw food nutrients can exit the body along with fibrous carbohydrates, because the food never had a chance to break down into readily available components within the digestive tract.
     A pot of soup always has a broth or liquid medium of some kind.  Nutrients from the solid ingredients are broken down and they become part of the broth.  Soup broth offers nutrients that are easily absorbed by the digestive tract.  Soup broth provides nutrition quickly and efficiently, especially when the immune system is compromised.      
     I had a piece of pork tenderloin and a roll of surimi in my refrigerator after recently doing some shopping in Chinatown.  Those items made it into the list of ingredients for today's soup.  On an Asian restaurant menu, soups that combine various meats, seafood and vegetables are often given the name "House Special."  Often the name of the restaurant is part of the menu item title and this designates the item as being a house special.  For example, a Thai Pho Tom Soup that combines pork, fish, vegetables and chicken may read on a menu as "Pho Tom + The Name Of The Restaurant" on a menu.  Usually a house special soup offers pretty good value from a nutritional standpoint.  When considering that the Asian restaurant industry has been around for a few thousand years longer than the restaurant industry in western society, it is easy to see that using the words "House Special" is an effective soup marketing tool!
     Lotus Root is starchy like a potato and it adds some eye appeal to today's soup.  Lotus Root takes a bit of simmering time to become tender and it is best when it still has a slightly crisp texture.  Thai Basil and lime juice are added last, so the flavors remain crisp and bright.

     Wakame Seaweed Preparation:  
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Salt Packed Dried Wakame is dried, but the seaweed is still moist and it is actually alive.  Salt Packed Dried Wakame reconstitutes quickly and it looks like fresh harvested seaweed in a short time.
     Rinse the salt off of a few strands of salt packed dried wakame seaweed.  (About 1/6 cup)
     Soak the seaweed in water till it reconstitutes.
     Cut the seaweed into large bite size pieces and set them aside.
     Pork Tenderloin:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Step 1:  Lightly season a 5 ounce piece of pork tenderloin with sea salt and white pepper.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan or mini wok over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add the pork tenderloin.
     Sear the pork tenderloin on all sides, till it is lightly browned.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Step 4:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the pork tenderloin is fully cooked.  Simmer till the excess liquid evaporates sauce clings to the pork.
     Keep the pork tenderloin warm on a stove top.

     House Special Soup! ~ Pork Tenderloin, Surimi, Wakame and Lotus Root:
     This recipe yields 3 1/4 cups.  (1 large hearty portion of soup)
     Surimi is available in a wide variety of shapes and colors.  A round cylinder shaped Surimi with a pink spiral design is a common garnish for soups.  
     Step 1:  Heat a wide sauce pot over medium high heat.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil.
     Add 3 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 1 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Saute till the garlic and ginger become aromatic.  (About 5 to 10 seconds is all it takes!)
     Step 2:  Add 3 1/2 cups of light pork broth.
     Add 1 cup of water.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of Korean style Coarse Red Serrano Chile Pepper Paste.  (sambal)
     Bring the broth to a boil.
     Step 3:  Add the reserved sliced wakame seaweed.
     Add 5 or 6 thin slices of peeled lotus root.
     Boil till the lotus root starts to become tender.
     *Allow the broth to reduce to about 3 1/2 cups.  Only add water if the broth reduces too much.
     Step 4:  Add 1/3 cup of thin bias sliced carrot.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced onion.
     Add 1/3 cup of thin sliced mushrooms.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Boil the soup till the vegetables start to become tender.  (About 4 to 5 minutes.)
     *Allow the volume of the soup to reduce to about 3 1/4 cups.  Only add water if necessary.
     Step 5:  Add 5 or 6 slices of Fancy Surimi that are 3/16" thick.  (About 3 ounces.)
     Boil the soup for about 30 seconds, so the Surimi becomes hot.
     Step 6:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Add 1 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of pure sesame oil.
     Stir the soup.
     Step 7:  Ladle the soup into a large soup bowl.
     Try to place a few pieces of the lotus root and surimi on the surface of the soup, so they can be seen.
     Step 8:  Cut the pork tenderloin into bias slices and place them on top of the soup.
     Step 9:  Sprinkle 2 bias sliced thin green onions on the soup.
     Sprinkle a few small Thai Basil leaves on the surface of the soup.
     Garnish with a large sprig of Thai Basil.

     Soups like today's House Special Soup are served in Las Vegas Thai and Vietnamese restaurants.  With noodles or without noodles, a soup like this is quite appealing to those who live the Las Vegas timeless lifestyle.  Taking vitamin pills is a proven waste of money.  A soup like this provides better vitamin and mineral uptake!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Banh Pho with Lemongrass Shrimp, Snow Peas and Enoki

     A Quick Easy Snack Noodle Style Banh Pho Recipe!
     Nearly everybody has made Snack Ramen Noodles at one time or another.  All that needs to be done is to drop the portion of dried Ramen in a pot of water, bring the water to a boil and add the bouillon flavor packet.  When the noodles are tender, then they are ready.  There is no need to shock the noodles in cold water or do anything else.  Snack Ramen are meant to be a simple one pot meal.  In fact plenty of ingredients can be added to the Snack Ramen while they cook and the noodles will still turn out good.
     Not every kind of noodle can be cooked like Snack Ramen.  During the course of a few days during the work week, I experimented with cooking a few different kinds of noodles with a basic Snack Ramen Noodle cooking method.  Some of the noodles became so gummy that they stuck together in one big glob, while another kind of noodle just completely fell apart.  
     When I tried cooking a small portion of thick Banh Pho Noodles with the simple Snack Ramen Method, something interesting happened.  The excess rice starch from the Banh Pho actually thickened the broth.  The Banh Pho noodles remained intact and they were tender, but enough of the rice flour must have dissolved to thicken the broth like a sauce.  Because shrimp broth and a few whole shrimp were added to the boiling Banh Pho, the thickened broth had an interesting pink color.  
     Instead of just casting the results aside, I decided to turn the noodle experiment into a recipe.  As can be seen in the photos above, the simple Snack Ramen Noodle cooking style resulted in an appealing Banh Pho Snack Noodle Bowl!               
     Banh Pho Lemon Grass Shrimp, Snow Peas and Enoki:  
     This recipe yields 1 petite noodle bowl.
     The starch from the banh pho rice noodles will thicken the broth and the broth will become a sauce.  The heat from the sauce in the bowl is enough heat to cook the delicate Enoki Mushroom garnish.  Season this dish lightly, so the full lemon grass flavor is not masked.  
     Step 1:  Tie 1 lemongrass stalk into a simple knot.
     Place 2 1/4 cups of shrimp broth in a sauce pot.
     Place the pot over medium high heat.  
     Add the lemongrass knot.
     Bring the liquid to a boil.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer till the lemongrass flavor is infused.  (about 15 minutes)
     Discard the lemon grass knot.
     Step 3:  Bring the broth back to a boil over medium high heat.
     Add 1 small portion of dried flat ribbon rice noodles (banh pho).
     Boil till the noodles are almost become fully cooked.
     Step 4:  Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of chopped garlic.
     Add 5 whole medium size shrimp.  (Leave the heads on the shrimp.)
     Boil till the shrimp are almost fully cooked.
     Step 5:  Reduce the temperature to medium low heat.
     Simmer and reduce till the volume is about 1 2/3 cups.
     Stir the ingredients, so the starch from the noodles thickens the broth.
     Step 6:  Add 8 snow peas.
     Simmer for 30 seconds.
     Step 7:  Remove the pot from the heat.
     Ladle the noodles, sauce and shrimp into serving bowl.
     Place a few fresh Enoki mushrooms on top of the noodles and sauce as a garnish.  Try to arrange the shrimp, so they can be seen.
     No garnish is necessary!

    This is a nice tasting noodle bowl!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thai Basil Cucumber and Snow Pea Salad with Peanut Sauce Satay Chicken

     A Tasty Salad Entrée!
     Today's recipe is not traditional Thai food, but it is interesting none the less.  Sesame Oil is not used in Thai cooking.  Oil of any kind is rarely used to make authentic Thai salads.  Oil is not used for hot food cooking in Thailand either, or so it would seem.  
     Many chefs say that the start of every Thai recipe requires a technique of simmering ingredients in coconut milk.  That is not exactly true.  When oil is needed, coconut milk is cooked till it reduces to coconut oil, then the stir fry or frying technique begins.
     The cuisine of Thailand has many regional styles of cooking.  Stir fry entrées actually are common in northern Issan farm country, where Chinese cooking is an influence.  In modern times, Thai street food chefs have adapted many foreign cooking styles.  Ingredients that are not native to Thailand are becoming more commonplace with street venders too.
     As far as Thai street food is concerned, the old traditional favorites are still number one.  Satay is probably the most popular Thai street food and there is a good reason why.  Satay is tasty beyond belief and it is easy to eat!
     Satay is basically thin pieces of meat, seafood or vegetables that are places on a skewer, then marinated in a sauce and cooked on a griddle or over an open flame.  Street venders simply pull a skewer out of the marinade, cook it quickly and hand the finished Satay to a customer.  Busy street venders even start cooking the Satay before the crowds show up, because the tasty aroma acts as a customer magnet!
     There are several traditional Satay marinade sauces and spice rubs.  In modern times, the list of Satay sauces has gotten even longer.  Creative street venders definitely have an edge over the competition and in places like Bangkok there is plenty of competition!  
     One does not have to walk down a busy city street in Thailand to get Satay.  Many modern noodle house restaurants offer Satay style appetizers too.  Since customers tend to sit down and socialize while dining in a noodle house, just serving some Satay on a stick may not be good enough to get the customer to return for a second visit.  Serving some Satay on a refreshing salad adds a nice touch, which may lead to increased customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.  Customer loyalty is where the money is at!

     Peanut Sauce Satay Chicken Preparation:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Bottled Thai Peanut Sauce is fine for this recipe.  Pre-made Peanut Sauce is a nice convenience and it can be found in most grocery stores.
     Step 1:  Soak 1 long bamboo skewer in water for 10 minutes.
     Cut 2 long chicken breast strips that are about 1/2" wide.  (About 2 ounces apiece.)
     Weave chicken breast strips on the bamboo skewer.
     Step 2:  Place the chicken skewer in a shallow container.
     Lightly season with sea salt and white pepper.
     Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of coconut milk over the chicken.
     Pour 1 tablespoon of Thai Peanut Sauce over the chicken.
     Rub the Peanut Sauce and coconut milk onto the chicken.
     Step 3:  Place the container in a refrigerator.
     Marinate for 30 minutes.

     Thai Basil Cucumber and Snow Pea Salad:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     This is a simple salad that features the flavor of Thai Basil.  Thai Basil tastes fairly mellow and it has a nice aromatic effect.  Thai Basil can be found in Asian food markets.  
     Step 1:  Cut 1/2 of a peeled and seeded cucumber into bite size slices.  (About 1 1/4 cups is plenty.)
     Place the cucumber slices in a mixing bowl.
     Step 2:  Add 8 blanched feather cut snow peas.  (Just cook the snow peas in boiling water for 10 to 20 seconds.)
     Add 5 red bell pepper strips.  (1/4" thick)
     Add 5 yellow bell pepper strips.
     Add about 1/6 cup of julienne sliced onion.
     Add 1 bias sliced green onion.
     Step 3:  Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 8 whole Thai Basil leaves.
     Step 4:  Add 1 teaspoon of blended sesame oil.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of rice vinegar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of soy sauce.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of granulated sugar.
     Add sea salt and white pepper to taste.
     Step 5:  Toss the ingredients together.
     Chill the salad for 5 minutes, so the flavors meld.
     Stir and toss again before serving.

     Thai Basil Cucumber and Snow Pea Salad with Peanut Sauce Satay Chicken:
     This recipe yields 1 salad entrée.
     The chicken skewer can be broiled or cooked on a griddle.  
     Step 1:  Place the marinated chicken skewer on a roasting pan.
     Place the chicken skewer under a broiler set to a low flame.
     Broil till the chicken is halfway cooked.  (Turn the skewer over occasionally.)
     Step 2:  Brush the chicken with Thai peanut sauce.
     Return the skewer to the broiler.
     Broil the chicken is fully cooked and the peanut sauce is lightly caramelized.  (Turn the skewer, so the chicken cooks evenly.)
     Keep the Satay Chicken Skewer warm on a stove top.
     Step 3:  Mound the Thai Basil Cucumber and Snow Pea Salad on the center of a plate.
     Set the skewer on top of the salad.
     Garnish with a Thai Basil sprig.

     This is a nice looking noodle house style salad!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Shrimp and Chinese Garlic Chive Miso Soup

     Tasty Miso Soup!
     The presentation for today's miso soup recipe is really not too farfetched.  The Garlic Chive garnish is very simple to do and the visual effect is interesting.  Not only is the Garlic Chive garnish part of the design, it is integral to this Shrimp Miso Soup.  
     The fresh Chinese Garlic Chives are meant to be stirred into the hot miso soup by guests at the table.  The garlic chives will wilt in the hot soup and the result is a fresh crisp garlic chive flavor.  Chinese garlic chives are garlic plant shoots and they are not in the chive or onion family of plants.  
     I have used Wakame Seaweed to make Dashi Broth in the past, because the savory Wakame flavor is quite nice.  For today's miso soup recipe, Kombu Seaweed was used to make the Dashi.  Kombu Seaweed has a high amount of natural stickiness and it has a nice delicate sweet flavor.  Kombu has a high proportion of natural Monosodium Glutamate, which helps the flavors of the soup to transcend on the palate.  
     Iriko (sun dried anchovy) was used in place of Katsuobushi (Shaved Bonito Flakes), so the Dashi was cooked for ten minutes instead of five.  Red Miso Paste adds a deep fermented soy bean flavor.  

     Iriko Kombu Dashi: 
     This recipe yields 2 cups of dashi.
     Step 1:  Soak a piece of dried Kombu Seaweed in cold water for 10 minutes, so it becomes soft. (Select a pice of Kombu that will be enough for 1/4 cup after it is chopped.)     
     Coarse chop the Kombu and set it aside.  
     Step 2:  Place 3 cups of water in a sauce pot over medium high heat.  
     Add 1/4 cup of tiny sun dried anchovies.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped reconstituted Kombu Seaweed. 
     Boil the Dashi Broth for 10 minutes.  Allow the volume of broth to reduce to about 2 cups.  
     Step 3:  Pour the Dashi Broth through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Set the Dashi pot aside.  
     Discard the anchovies and seaweed (or use them in another recipe).
     Shrimp and Chinese Garlic Chive Miso Soup:
     This recipe yields 2 1/4 cups.  (1 portion)
     Step 1:  Wash 1 small bunch of Chinese Green Garlic Chives with cold running water.
     Trim off the root ends.
     Trim off the pointed tops. 
     Cut the Chinese Garlic Chives into 5" lengths.
     Set the prepared Chinese Garlic Chives aside.
     Step 2:  Place the pot of Dashi Broth over medium low heat.
     Bring the broth to a gentle simmer. 
     Add 4 drops of thin soy sauce.
     Add 3 drops of pure sesame oil.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced ginger.
     Add 1 minced garlic clove.
     Add 1 small pinch of sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 6 peeled and deveined medium size shrimp.  (Remove the tails from the shrimp.)
     Simmer till the shrimp are fully cooked.  (About 3 or 4 minutes.)
     Step 3:  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of red miso paste.
     Gently whisk the miso paste into the dashi broth.
     Simmer the soup for 1 minute.
     Step 4:  Gently whisk the broth again, so the miso paste combines.
     Ladle the miso soup into a shallow wide rim soup bowl.  Try to place the shrimp in the center of the bowl.
     Step 5:  Evenly space the prepared Chinese Garlic Chives around the rim of the bowl, so they point outward from center and they rest on the rim.  (This must be done quickly, so the miso soup is still hot when served!) 
     Step 6:  Float 3 very thin slices of red jalapeño pepper on the miso soup.

     Shrimp and Chinese Garlic Chive Miso Soup tastes as good as it looks! 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Thai Black Jasmine Rice Pudding with Toasted Coconut and Palm Sugar Candied Mango

     Bubur Pulut Hitam!
     Black Rice Pudding is popular throughout Asia, especially in Malaysia and the Philippines.  Black Rice Pudding is traditionally served for breakfast, but it can be offered as dessert.  
     There are a few varieties of Black Rice.  Some varieties have long grains with a fair percentage of brown colored rice grain in the mixture.  Thai Black Jasmine Rice is a short grain variety that is jet black, with no brown grains of rice mixed in.  Thai Black Jasmine Rice is full of nutrients and it has a high protein content.  Black Jasmine Rice is one of the healthiest "ancient super grains" that there is.   
     Thai Black Jasmine Rice stains a deep maroon color, so it has always been sought after by royalty.  Centuries ago, Black Jasmine Rice was called "Emperor's Rice or Forbidden Rice."  Only emperors were allowed to eat Black Jasmine Rice and the general public was banned from eating the forbidden rice.  In modern times, Thai Black Jasmine Rice is sometimes marketed by the name Forbidden Rice or Emperor's Black Rice.  It can be found in Asian food markets or specialty food markets.
     Palm Sugar is required for most Asian style Black Rice Pudding recipes.  Palm Sugar is used extensively in Thai cuisine and other cuisines of Southeast Asia.  Brown Sugar will not produce the same flavor.  Palm Sugar can be found in Asian food markets.
     Coconut Milk is also part of today's recipe and unsweetened coconut milk is best.  For the garnish, sun dried mango was used.  There are so many mangos harvested during mango season, that a large percentage of mango is dried for later use.  Dried Mango is very dense, but after simmering it becomes very tender and it takes on a candied fruit texture when cooked with sugar.

     *The toasted coconut and candied mango garnish can be made while the rice simmers! 

     Toasted Coconut:
     This recipe yields 2 petite garnish portions.
     Place 2 tablespoons of shredded coconut on a small baking pan.
     Place the pan in a 300ºF oven.
     Bake till the shredded coconut is lightly toasted and crisp.  
     Set the toasted coconut aside in a small container.

     Palm Sugar Candied Mango:
     This recipe yields 2 garnish portions.
     Dried mango slices are available at Asian food markets and Latino food markets.  Several varieties of Palm Sugar can be found in Asian food markets.
     Step 1:  Place 2 slices of dried mango in a small sauce pot.  
     Add 2 cups of water.
     Bring the water to a boil over high heat.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer the dried mango slices till they become tender.
     Step 3:  Remove the mango slices from the liquid.
     *Leave the pot of mango flavored water on the heat.
     Cut the softened dried mango slices into strips and return them to the pot.
     Step 4:  Add 1 small pinch of cinnamon.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of palm sugar.
     Simmer and reduce till a thick candy syrup is formed.
     Keep the palm sugar candied mango warm on a stove top.  (The excess thick syrup will be poured over the rice pudding.)
     Thai Black Jasmine Rice Pudding:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/4 cups.  (2 portions) 
     The rice has to be overcooked and very soft for this recipe.  The rice can be soaked in a refrigerator overnight or it can be simmered for an extended time.
     Pandan Leaves and Kewra Extract both come from a tropical tree that is like a predecessor of palm trees.  Pandan is used extensively as a seasoning in Southeast Asia as an aromatic herb.  It can be found frozen, fresh or dried in Asian markets.  Kewra Extract is very strong, so only use a little bit!  If none can be found, then skip this ingredient.  The black rice pudding will still have plenty of flavor!  
     Step 1:  Place 3/4 cup of black jasmine rice in a small sauce pot.
     Add 3 cups of water.
     Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat.
     Step 2:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1 pinch of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add 1 whole Pandan Leaf (or 1/8 teaspoon of Kewra Extract).  (optional)
     Simmer till the rice is very tender and soft.  
     *Do not cover the pot with a lid.  Add water if the liquid drops below the level of rice. 
     Step 3:  When the rice becomes tender, simmer and reduce till most of the excess liquid evaporates.
     Step 4:  Remove and discard the Pandan Leaf.
     Add 1 1/4 cups of coconut milk.
     Add 3 tablespoons of palm sugar.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Step 5:  Gently simmer and reduce till a thick rice pudding is formed.  Be sure to stir and mash the black rice pudding often, so it gains a smooth thick texture.
     Keep the black rice pudding warm over very low heat.

     Thai Black Jasmine Rice Pudding with Toasted Coconut and Palm Sugar Candied Mango:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.
     Place about 1 cup of the warm Thai Black Jasmine Rice Pudding in a tall stemmed parfait glass.
     Place a few Palm Sugar Candied Mango Strips on top of the black rice pudding.
     Pour 1 teaspoon of the mango flavored palm sugar candy syrup over the pudding.
     Place a small mound of the toasted coconut on the black rice pudding.

     Thai Black Jasmine Rice Pudding is a great tasting dessert and it is nice for breakfast! 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Nigiri Style Cajun Spice Spam Musubi

     Hawaiian Spam Musubi!
     Canned Spam happens to be highly respected in Hawaii.  Hawaii hosts some big time Spam festivals.  At the Waikiki Spam Jam, the Spam recipe contest is one of the highlights of the festival.  Many great Spam recipes have spawned from this event.
     Tons of Spam were unloaded in Hawaii during WWII.  Spam was often the only choice of meat during the peak of the war years, because fishing boats could not risk going out to sea.  The Japanese Hawaiian population also relied on Spam.  Spam Musubi actually was a Japanese Hawaiian creation.  
     Spam Musubi eventually caught on with the local Hawaiians and it became a tradition.  Now nearly every Hawaiian style casual restaurant offers Spam Musubi.  Spam Musubi also spread to Las Vegas, which is known as the "Ninth Hawaiian Island."  Spam Musubi is now a standard offering in restaurants around the Las Vegas valley, because the locals have taken a liking to this easy to recognize food item.
     One small can of Spam was enough to make 3 or 4 Spam Musubi.  Spam Musubi can be prepared Nigiri sushi style or it can be made the same way as a sushi roll.  Either way, Roasted Nori Seaweed holds the Spam in place.  Most casual restaurants serve Spam Musubi plain on a plate, with soy sauce on the side.  Fancier restaurants add a little more pizazz to the Spam Musubi presentation.          
     Cajun Blackening Spice is popular in modern sushi bars.  Hawaiians also like the spicy Cajun flavor.  The only problem is that Cajun Blackening Spice does not stick to Spam if it is dredged in the spice mix.  The spices have to be rubbed onto the surface of the Spam.
     Since Spam is a precooked canned product, there is no sense in blackening the Spam till it is dark brown or black when making Musubi.  The Spam is better of being lightly seasoned with the Cajun Blackening Spice mix and only blackened till a few brown highlights appear.  
     I purchased a bag of nice quality Nigiri Sushi Rice a few weeks ago with the intention of creating modern sushi rolls.  Rice for sushi tends to be a fatter grain and it looks more translucent than regular long grain white rice.    
     The definition of sushi is "soured rice."  The original sushi was cooked rice that fermented in warm humid conditions.  Later in history, combinations of rice vinegar and sugar were added to steamed rice to duplicate the original sour flavor.  The amount of sweetened rice vinegar added to rice for sushi should only create a delicate sour flavor.   

     Sushi Rice: 
     Yield:  1 cup of dried short grain sushi rice will yield about 3 cups of cooked rice.  (It is best to cook at least 1 cup, so the rice can be properly cooled.)     
     Short grain rice for sushi is a top grade rice that costs a bit more than regular long grain white rice.  When steamed, the grains of sushi grade short grain rice have a translucent quality.  Short grain sushi rice becomes sticky enough to hold its shape when pressure is applied.  
     It is best to buy a bottle of sweet vinegar for sushi making, if you are making sushi for the first time.  Becoming familiar with the sweet and sour balance will help when making your own sweet sushi vinegar with sugar syrup and rice vinegar. 
     *If you have a rice steamer, then follow the directions for the proportion of water needed for short grain rice.  Steamed rice usually requires a little less water than what is needed for the boiling technique.        
     Step 1:  Place 2 1/8 cups of water in a sauce pot.  
     Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat.
     Step 2:  Add 1 cup of sushi style short grain rice.  
     Return the liquid to a boil
     Step 3:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.  
     Cover the pot with a lid.
     Gently simmer and steam till the short grain rice is tender.  
     *Do not remove the lid or the steam will escape!  The cooking time is about 22 minutes. 
     Step 4:  Place the rice in a thick cedar bowl (or any thick wooden bowl).  
     Immediately start stirring the rice from the bottom up, so it cools evenly at a controlled rate.  
     While the rice is hot, sprinkle just enough sweet sushi rice vinegar on the rice to give the rice a delicate sour flavor.  
     Continue tossing and stirring the rice, till it stops steaming.  
     Step 5:  Let the rice sit undisturbed and allow the rice to gradually finish cooling off with the heat that the thick wooden bowl captured.  (The gradual cooling will cause the rice to have just the right amount of stickiness.)
     Keep the rice at a room temperature (72ºF) and keep the rice covered, so it does not dry out.

     Teriyaki Sauce with Black & White Sesame:
     This recipe yields about 1/4 cup.
     Adding a high proportion of black and white sesame seeds to Japanese teriyaki sauce creates an interesting looking garnishing sauce!  
     Step 1:  Place 1/4 cup of water in a small sauce pot.
     Add 3 tablespoons of sugar.
     Add 3 tablespoons of thin soy sauce.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon black sesame seeds.
     Step 2:  Place the pot over medium low heat. 
     Gently simmer and reduce till the sauce is a thin syrup consistency.  (This only takes a few minutes.)
     Step 3:  Place the sauce in a ceramic cup.
     Keep the sauce warm on a stove top.

     Basic Cajun Blackening Spice Mix:
     This recipe yields a little less than 1/4 cup.  (Enough for several Musubi.)
     Place 1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of Spanish Paprika.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.
     Stir the spice mixture together and set it aside.

     Cajun Spice Spam:
     This recipe yields 1 portion.  (Enough for 3 Nigiri Style Musubi.)  
     A full slice of Spam will yield rather large Nigiri style sushi, like the ones in the photos above.  If smaller sushi pieces are preferred, then cut the sliced Spam in half lengthwise.   
     Step 1:  Cut 3 slices of Spam that are about 3/16" thick.
     Lightly dust the slices of spam, with the Cajun spice mix.  
     Try to rub some of the spice onto the surface of the Spam.
     Step 2:  Heat a sauté pan over medium heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter.
     Place the 3 Cajun Spice Spam slices in the pan.
     Sauté the Spam on both sides, till a few brown highlights appear.
     Step 3:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Place the Cajun Spice Spam on a small platter. 
     Keep it warm on a stove top.

     Roasted Nori Seaweed Ribbons:
     Use kitchen shears to cut 3 long strips of roasted nori seaweed that measure 1 1/2"x 7".
     Use a dampened towel to lightly moisten the nori strip, so it will bend and hold its shape.  
     *Do not add too much moisture, or the nori will easily tear!
     Triple fold the nori strips lengthwise, to create 3 ribbons that are about 1/2" wide.

     Nigiri Style Sushi Rice Shaping for Spam Musubi:
     Nigiri region sushi is one of the traditional Japanese sushi styles.  A small cake of sushi rice with a featured ingredient on top is Nigiri style.  A ribbon of roasted nori seaweed can wrap the finished sushi.
     • The goal is to shape 3 Nigiri sushi rice cakes that are the same shape as the Spam.  The sushi rice cakes should be almost 1/2" thick.
     • Traditionally, only the thumb and index fingers on both hands are used to shape Nigiri sushi rice.  The rice should be quickly squeezed with 4 motions of the thumb and fingers to create a perfect Nigiri style rice cake.  Because a full slice of Spam is larger than a bite size piece of fish, squeezing the rice more than 4 times may be necessary, unless you have large hands.  The rice should be fairly densely packed and it should not be loose enough to crumble.  
     • The rice cake platform should be about the same size as the item that is placed on the sushi, so make the pressed rice platform the same shape as a slice of Spam.  For a quick and easy method, simply press a portion of sushi rice inside an empty can of Spam, then pop the rectangle shaped rice cake out.       

     Nigiri Style Cajun Spice Spam Musubi:
     This recipe yields 1 large appetizer portion that can be shared.  (3 Nigiri Musubi.)  
     Step 1:  Place 1 nori ribbon on a countertop.
     Place 1 Cajun Spice Spam across the middle of the nori ribbon.
     Place the sushi rice cake on the Spam.
     Step 2:  Wrap the ribbon around the sushi and Spam, so the ribbon ends overlap.
     Trim off any excess nori ribbon. 
     Dampen the ribbon with water, where it overlaps, so it sticks together. 
     *Make all 3 Musubi the same way.

     Step 1:  Arrange the 3 Nigiri Musubi on a plate, so they look nice.  (A symmetric pattern looks good from all angles.)
     Step 2:  Spoon a little bit of the Teriyaki Sauce with Black & White Sesame over the Musubi and pour a generous amount on the plate.
     Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of blended sesame oil on the plate.
     Sprinkle some diced roasted chile poblano on the plate.
     Step 3:  Place a small mound of thin roasted red bell pepper strips on the center of the plate where the 3 Musubi meet.
     Garnish the roasted red peppers with curly leaf parsley sprigs.
     Sprinkle some thin bias sliced green onion slivers over the Musubi.
     Serve with wasabe, soy sauce and pickle ginger on the side.

     Cajun Spice Nigiri Musubi!