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Posts Tagged ‘Asian’

Congee is a type of rice porridge that can be found on breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables all over Asia.  Despite its many variations it can be recognized by a thicker texture.  Easy to consume and digest, it is the Asian equivalent of homemade chicken noodle soup – perfect for sick days or lazy days, any time of the year. 

It’s fitting I had a hankering for it today.  Eleven years ago today, my Mother passed away.  As a toddler and child, I was a picky eater.  Fortunate for me, Mom had all the patience in the word – she’d reheat my meals and lovingly spoon-feed me while I sang, danced, and played at the dinner table.  (That gene must have skipped a generation because, lord knows, Rice Kernel is not the recipient of such tolerance at meal times.)   Rice porridge, infused with stock, bits of meat and finely-chopped vegetables, was comfort that my Mother happily doled out when I was feeling ill and in need of some nourishment.  It’s one of a handful of vivid cooking memories I recall with my Mom.  One that I am happy to revive for my slightly-under-the-weather little boy.

Congee

Ingredients

2 cup long-grain white rice (or brown rice, or 1 1/2 cups rice and 1/2 cup millet) 
1 tsp kosher salt 
6 cups liquid (water, chicken stock)
Fish, Chicken, or Ground Beef (optional)
Finely-chopped scallion and ginger for serving

Directions

  1. In a sieve, rinse rice under cold water and let drain. 
  2. Put rice, 6 cups liquid, and salt into a 4-quart saucepan.* (See note below.)  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, partially covered, until the rice takes on the consistency of porridge, about 1 1⁄2 hours.
  3. If adding fish, add into porridge 15 minutes before the porridge is finished.  Cook through and carefully flake the fish before serving.
  4. If adding chicken, steam or bake dark or white meat chicken and shred.  Add shredded chicken before serving.
  5. If using ground beef, cook in a saute pan, breaking up the beef into small chunks.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add beef and drippings into the porridge before serving.
  6. Top with scallion, ginger, white pepper.

Note:  Soaking the rice overnight supposedly helps create a smooth porridge.  Some also believe that if you add a handful of cooked rice to the raw rice, it makes for an even starchier consistency.  If you prefer a heavier consistency, reduce the amounts of liquid.

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Growing up in the 1980s, tiramisu was ubiquitous at dinner parties and on restaurant menus.  And I consumed my share of them.  (With a Shirley Temple in my other hand, of course.  I wanted a “drink” like the adults.)  But in the intervening decades, my parents rarely ordered or prepared the Italian dessert – they were turned on to (and, hence, turned off by) the raw eggs and copious of heavy cream and mascarpone.  These days, I don’t come upon tiramisu often but when I do, I can’t deny a few bites of the Italian-American favorite.   

I can’t recall with certainty how or when I dreamt up this recipe.  I was thinking about tiramisu – and thinking that my husband doesn’t share my affinity for coffee and liquer-infused desserts.  Feeling (momentarily) indifferent about typical American dessert flavors, this idea was conceived.  Here, the ladyfingers are soaked in sweetened green tea and sandwiched between rich mascarpone cheese and nutty, sweet red bean paste.  Matcha powder is sifted between layers and atop the dessert as both a bitter counterpoint to the sweetened layers and as a garnish. 

How was it, you ask?  The texture of the dessert is much like a traditional tiramisu – creamy with a softened, moist cake layer.  There is a richness and creaminess from the mascarpone, a nutty sweetness from the adzuki bean paste, and a slightly bitter (but refreshing) contrast from the green tea.  Frankly, if you enjoy the flavors of green tea and red bean you’ll find this delightful – and addicting.  If the flavors aren’t your cup of tea (ha!), may I suggest lemon, strawberry, vanilla, or chocolate for your sweet tooth? 

Matcha Tiramisu with Adzuki Red Bean and Mascarpone, from Rice Kernel’s kitchen

Ingredients

1 cup boiling water + 1 tbsp macha powder + sugar (to taste).
16 Savoiardi biscuits (ladyfingers)
Matcha powder for dusting
1 cup (1/2 pound) mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese, or vegan cream cheese)
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar 
2 tbsp matcha powder for dusting
1/2 cup adzuki bean paste (thinned with a few tablespoons of water)

Directions

  1. Beat cream and powdered sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until soft peaks form.  Fold in mascarpone.
  2. Pour 1 tbsp matcha and water mixture in a shallow bowl.  
  3. Dip both sides of half of the ladyfingers in the espresso and use them to line the bottom of a glass or ceramic baking dish.  Dust the ladyfingers with matcha powder.
  4. Spoon a third of the adzuki bean pasta atop the ladyfingers and spread in a smooth, even layer.  Follow with the mascarpone mixture.  Repeat with ladyfingers, adzuki, and mascarpone.  (End with the mascarpone.)
  5. Cover and refrigerate the tiramisu for at least 4 hours or overnight.
  6. Just before serving, sift the matcha powder over the top of the tiramisu.

Note:  Tiramisu can be refrigerated up to 2 days.

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When I think of clay-pot chicken rice I imagine glossy brown chicken, sweet Chinese sausage, and plump, slightly toothsome soy-saucy rice cooked and served in a clay pot.  Oh, and I’m forgetting the best part – the crispy “shell” of rice on the bottom and sides of the pot.  FHE and I ordered it time and time again from a little Vietnamese-Chinese cafe while in college.  (One of the few authentic Asian eateries – or so it seemed – in suburban Chicago.)  One of our favorite comfort dishes, it’s been years since we’ve delighted in clay-pot chicken rice.  So when I happened upon a modern version on Gourmet’s website, I knew I had to try. 

This rich, homey stew is a modern interpretation of a Mexican stew but with Japanese ingredients.  (Only Momofuku.)  While it shares some similar ingredients with Asian clay-pot chicken, it tastes nothing like the traditional.  But that’s not to say it is not delicious.  After roasting in the oven and braising in a savory, earthy broth for an hour, the chicken thighs are fall-off-the-bone tender and the wood ear mushrooms add a unique crunchy textural contrast.  The flavors are satisfying and well-balanced – a blend of spicy ginger and garlic, sweet and salty shiro miso, earthy mushrooms, and sweet vegetables.  It is a satisfying one-pot meal – even if it isn’t the authentic clay-pot chicken rice we are accustomed to.

Modern Clay-Pot Miso Chicken, adapted from Gourmet and contributed by Momofuku Restaurant

Ingredients

8 chicken thighs with skin and bone
1/2 cup dried wood ear mushrooms
2 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups dried shiitake mushrooms
2 tbsp finely chopped peeled ginger
2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup mirin
4 tbsp white shiro miso
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 lb mustard greens, napa cabbage or green of your choice
Rice, for serving
Sliced green onions, for garnish

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Pat chicken dry, then roast, skin side up, shallow baking pan or dish until skin is golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
  2. While chicken roasts, soak wood ear mushrooms and shiitakes in hot water until softened.  W hen soft, cut the stems off the shiitakes and slice.  Set aside.
  3. Transfer roasted chicken to a bowl and pour pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass measure.  Let stand until fat rises to top, 1 to 2 minutes, then skim off and discard fat.  Add enough stock to bring a cup of liquid.  (At this point I removed the chicken skin.  You can, of course, keep it on for more flavor.)
  4. Reduce oven to 300 degrees F.
  5. Heat oil in a small heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then sauté onions until softened and beginning to brown.  Add ginger, and garlic and sauté until garlic is golden, 3 to 5 minutes.  Add mirin and boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits, 1 minute.  Stir in miso and soy sauce, then stir in chicken, wood ear mushrooms, shiitakes, and stock mixture.  Bring to a boil, skimming off any froth.
  6. Cover pot and braise in oven until chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Just prior to serving, add vegetable of your choice and cook until tender.  Serve with brown or white rice.

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I’ve spoken of my husband’s fondness for noodles and our general enthusiasm for vegetables.  (Heck, the latter is what this journal is premised upon.)  But hot noodles in May (even in the temperate  Bay Area) don’t always whet the appetite or seem appropriate for dining on the patio.  So when I happened upon this colorful cold noodle recipe on Orangette, I began to salivate. 

The original recipe comes from The Greens Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the famed San Francisco restaurant that pioneered vegetarian cuisine.  Known for using fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices from cuisines around the world, their dishes are vibrant and savory.  And this recipe does not disappoint.  The noodles are dressed with sesame oil, soy sauce, red pepper oil, a touch of sugar, and unexpected balsamic vinegar.  Robust and savory, the silky noodles are contrasted with ribbons of refreshing snow peas, vibrant julienned carrots, and crispy clean mung bean sprouts.  A flavor and textural explosion, it is perfect for a leisurely summer dinner. 

FHE asked that I tell you he and Rice Kernel slurped up every last noodle.  And that his bowl could have used some more red pepper oil.  There, hun.

Asian-Inspired Noodle Salad with Crispy Vegetables, adapted from The Greens Cookbook, via Orangette


For the dressing and the noodles
5 Tbs toasted sesame oil
7 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
1-2 tsp salt
1 Tbs red pepper oil
8-10 scallions, thinly sliced into rounds
3 Tbs cilantro, chopped
1 lb fresh Chinese egg noodles (like Orangette, I used spaghetti; please forgive the lack of authenticity)

For the vegetable garnishes
Reserved dressing
1 cup snow peas, strings removed
½ lb mung bean sprouts
3 Tbs sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet until lightly colored
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
Cilantro leaves

Directions

  1. Begin by making the dressing.  Combine all the dressing ingredients (except the noodles, of course) in a bowl, and stir them together until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Bring a large pot of (unsalted) water to a boil, and add the noodles.  Cook until done but not overly soft (slightly before al dente); then immediately pour them into a colander to remove excess water.  Transfer the noodles to a large bowl and pour half of it over the cooked noodles, tossing to distribute the dressing evenly.  Set aside the remaining dressing.  If the noodles aren’t to be used for a while, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate to allow the flavors to develop.
  3. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the snow peas, and cook them until they are bright green, about 20-30 seconds. Remove them with tongs or a strainer, and rinse them with cool water.  Cut them into long, thin strips, and set them aside.  Next, put the sprouts into the boiling water, and allow them to cook for about 30 seconds.  Pour them into a colander, rinse them with cold water, and lay them on a layer of paper towels to dry.
  4. If the noodles have been refrigerated, allow them to come to room temperature; then toss them with reserved dressing, as well as half of the sesame seeds.  Mound them in a wide bowl or on a platter, and distribute the snow peas, mung bean sprouts, and carrots over them. Garnish with the remaining sesame seeds and a few branches of cilantro.  Once served, guests can toss the noodles and vegetables together to thoroughly mingle the textures and flavors.

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Chicken Adobo

With a dozen or so food trucks visiting our area weekly since Fall, I’ve been reminded of many great ethnic comfort foods.  Chicken adobo is one such dish.  This recipe is so simple and satisfying I’m scratching my head wondering why I never endeavored to prepare it before. 

In the Philippines, adobo is practically a national dish and every family has their own twist.  In general, the dish refers to the process of stewing marinated chicken or pork in a broth of vinegar, soy sauce, spices, and copious amounts of garlic.  Once done, the meat is removed while the liquid is simmered further to obtain a rich and thicker sauce.  Before serving, the meat is once again reunited with the thickened sauce and served over a bowl of steaming rice.  (Leftovers are excellent a a sandwich filling.)  Succulent and slightly tangy with a deep mohagany sweetness, this is comfort in a bowl for everyone at the dinner table.

Chicken Adobo

It’s recommended marinating the meat overnight but if you’re pressed for time, at least thirty minutes before cooking. 

Ingredients

2 pounds chicken, preferably dark meat (or pork pieces)
1/2 head garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1-inch piece of ginger, sliced (optional)
1/2 cup soy sauce (I used reduced-sodium)
1/2 cup white or rice wine vinegar (apple cider vinegar is a sweeter substitute if you prefer)
1/2 – 1 cup chicken broth or water
1/2 tsp paprika
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp water
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, half left whole, half cracked slightly
Salt
1 tbsp Sugar (optional – add to taste)

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, place chicken, soy sauce, vinegar, and spices.  Marinate one hour or up to overnight.
  2. In a large saute pan or wok, heat oil and cook onions for 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic (and ginger, if using) and cook another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
  3. Add the chicken to the pan.  Sear for several minutes.
  4. Then add water, soy sauce, vinegar, spices and an additional 1/2 cup broth or water.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until meat is tender.
  5. In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in the water.  Bring liquid to a boil and add cornstarch slurry.  Simmer an additional 5 minutes.  (Add sugar if desired.  If too salty, add additional broth or water.)
  6. Serve hot over rice.

Note: You can also add potatoes halfway through the cooking process.

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Sake-Steamed Chicken

Steamed chicken may not make your mouth water like the fried or roasted variety – not until you make this dish, that is.  One of the easiest dishes, sake steaming makes the chicken aromatic, flavorful, and tender.  The hardest part of the dish is waiting:  after steaming the chicken, the key is cool it to room temperature (give or take) inside the pot.  This way it will retain its succulence.  If you pull it out of the pot and cut it up immediately, you’ll end up with dry chicken.  Patience is key. 

To me, the best part of this dish is the ginger scallion sauce.  Mildly spicy and wonderfully savory and aromatic, it is delicious on rice alone.  Or noodles.  Or the chicken.  Which is finger-licking good.  Without the grease.

Sake-Steamed Chicken, adapted from Harris Salad via New York Times

Ingredients for Chicken

    1 3 1/2 pound organic chicken, rinsed and patted dry
    1 1/2 cups dry sake (any inexpensive brand will suffice)
    3 thinly sliced scallions
    2 tbsp sesame seeds, preferably black
    Kosher salt

Ingredients for Citrus Soy Dipping Sauce

    2 tbsp soy sauce
    2 tbsp orange juice
    2 tsp rice vinegar
    1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
    1 1/2 tsp mirin or sweet sherry
    1 tbsp chopped ginger root
    1 large garlic clove, minced

Ingredients for Ginger Scallion Sauce

    1 cup thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 large bunch)
    1/2 cup finely minced, peeled fresh ginger (I use a grater)
    1/8 cup oil (I use olive oil, but you can use canola, grapeseed, vegetable, etc.)
    1 tsp Kosher salt, or more to taste

Directions

  1. Place a steamer basket in the bottom of a large stockpot (I’ve used my Creuset or a wok).  Pour in equal amounts of sake and water, enough to reach the bottom of the steamer basket.  Bring to a boil.
  2. Generously salt the chicken inside and out; set breast side up in the steamer basket.  Reduce the heat to low and cover.  Steam the chicken until the juices just run clear when pierced with a knife, about 1 to 1 1/4 hours.  Turn off the heat and allow to cool for about 20 minutes within the pot.  To serve, carve and set pieces on a platter.  Spoon some of the sauce over the meat and sprinkle with scallions and sesame seeds.
  3. Citrus Sauce:  In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, orange juice, rice vinegar, lemon juice, mirin, ginger and garlic.
  4. Ginger Scallion Sauce: Heat oil in a small pan.  When warm (but not smoking), carefully place scallions and ginger.  Cook 2-3 minutes, until ginger has lost a bit of its bite and scallions are wilted.  Remove from heat and season to taste with salt.

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You’ve heard the proverbs before: “there’s so much more than meets the eye” and “life’s pleasures often lie in the simplest things.”  They collided recently in my daily life and on my dinner table. 

For the past year, a lady named Rebecca and I have been “classmates” at the Bar Method, a ballet-inspired exercise method.  Rebecca walks into class unassumingly – but always with a smile that unfurls to reveal two deep, charming dimples and always in a purple or violet top.  We’ve shared pleasantries many times but never had the opportunity (i.e. time) to “talk.”  Today, she knelt beside me before the start of class and joked that her body was in for some pain – it had been a few weeks since her last class.  We laughed about class and her recent travels and I remarked that she always brought a wonderful energy to class.  Regretfully, she said she would be leaving soon.  With a calm smile, she told me her family had moved from Singapore for the past year so that her almost 3-year-old could receive treatment at Stanford Hospital.  Her voice unwavering, she told me he had developed a malignant tumor so large, his head began tipping over from the weight.  With rounds of chemotherpy behind them and a favorable prognosis, the port that delivered the drugs to her little boy would be removed in two weeks and then they would be back to Singapore.  I was stunned.  I, too, had a little boy nearly the same age as hers.  And, yet, our journey through early motherhood differed so greatly. 

I will miss Rebecca when she moves.  Not only because of her smile and gentle presence.  But because she reminded me of simple, important lessons that her little boy learned too soon – and that my little boy has yet to – but must also – learn. 

Rebecca nourished my soul… as for the belly….

Complex, decadent flavors are exciting but, most days, I desire simple preparations that let the ingredients speak for themselves.  Truthfully, there is really nothing to add to a baked purple yam.  Dull, ragged, and unassuming on the outside, the interior reveals a tie-dye purple that only nature could create.  Wash it well and bake it until fork-tender and candy-sweet.  Once baked, the flesh becomes a deep, royal hue.  Loaded with vitamins, fiber, potassium, fiber, and antioxidants and low is saturated fat and sodium, the purple yam is one of nature’s most beautiful superfoods. 

Baked Purple Yams, found in specialty or Asian markets

Note: These yams are also delicious cubed or cut into fries, tossed with salt, pepper, agave nectar and rosemary, and baked until a crusty, carmelized crust forms around the creamy center.  They can also be mashed and baked into pies and breads.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Scrub yams well under running water.  Pat dry.  Using a fork or knife, make several incisions to allow steam to escape during the cooking process.  Wrap yam in foil.
  3. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until knife inserted in the center goes in smoothly.
  4. Serve as is.  Or enjoy with salt, pepper, butter, or agave nectar.

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