A peace offering–Caramelized chicken with lemongrass and chilies

“Are you alright? Haven’t seen any new posts for a while…” This earnest email popped into my email inbox a couple of days ago. The guilt that had been gnawing at me since my last post came bubbling up to the surface.

I am so sorry I disappeared without even a squeak. But I have a very legitimate excuse, several actually, really! It’s been a whirlwind of events these last two months.

First, my sister was getting married. Not only was I lady of honor (who knew there were so many responsibilities associated with the title, not to mention official skirt fluffer on the day of the wedding), I also spent several days baking 150 wedding cupcakes in three different flavors: strawberry, pandan, and chocolate in addition to entertaining overseas relatives and friends, and other miscellaneous sister-of-the-bride duties.

Second, we upped and moved from Seattle, Washington to Pacific Grove, California on the Monterey Peninsula. We now live in a little pink cottage with a gorgeous view of the bay from our deck! It’s smaller than our last place but downsizing and purging are great for one’s sanity. I’ve been pottering around my new kitchen and cooking some of the fabulous recipes I’ve gathered for my cookbook. The light-filled space is nice and open, and I was so happy to go from electric to gas, and oh, the stove is actually on an island!

And third, my manuscript was due. But the good news is, I finally handed in my manuscript last week. Woohoo! But I shan’t get too relaxed as edits will soon come round.

Anyway, enough about me.

Here’s a delicious Vietnamese chicken recipe as a piece offering.

Caramelized Chicken with Lemongrass and Chilies (Ga Xao Sa Ot Cay)

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The subtle, citrusy scent of lemongrass, the bittersweet flavor of caramel, and the heat of red chilies marry very well with chicken in this popular Vietnamese dish. Every Viet cook has his or her own recipe–this version comes from Huong Thu Nguyen. In her words, “It takes a while to make good caramel sauce without burning it,” so keep practicing! You may be tempted to use chicken breast instead of thighs as well as remove the skin. Please don’t. Thigh meat is juicier and more succulent and the skin has tons of flavor, all of which add to this delightful dish.

Time: 45 minutes

Makes: 4 servings as part of a multicourse family-style meal

4 plump stalks lemongrass

1 pound boneless chicken thighs with skin, cut into 1/2-inch chunks (about 4 to 5 thighs)
1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided (about 4 to 5 cloves)
1 large yellow onion, halved and cut into thin crescents along the grain

3 red Thai chilies, cut into rounds

2 teaspoons fish sauce, or to taste
Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

Chopped green onions for garnish

Trim the lemongrass and bruise the stems with a meat pounder or a large knife to release their aroma and oils. Cut into thin ringlets and whirl in a food processor until ground to confetti-sized flakes. Repeat with the remaining stalks. You will get about 3/4 cup (12 tablespoons).

In a medium bowl, season the chicken with salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and toss together with 3 tablespoons of lemongrass flakes. Set aside.

In a large skillet (if possible, use a pan with a light interior such as stainless steel so you can monitor changes in color), heat the oil over medium-high heat until it becomes runny and starts to shimmer. Add the sugar and stir continuously. After 1 to 2 minutes, the sugar will start to clump together then melt into syrup. After another 2 to 3 minutes, the clear syrup will thicken into a gooey caramel-brown liquid suspended in the oil. You will also smell a pleasant burnt sugar aroma. Watch the caramel closely during this process as it can burn very quickly. If the caramel starts to turn black and smell acrid, pull the skillet off the stove for a few seconds before continuing.

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Don’t let the caramel sauce get any darker than this.

Stir in the remaining lemongrass, onions, and 1 tablespoon garlic, and cook and stir until the ingredients turn golden brown and fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the chicken and raise the heat to high. Toss the chicken in the caramel sauce for about 1 1/2 minutes. If there isn’t enough sauce to evenly coat the chicken, carefully add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. If the mixture starts to sputter aggressively, pull the skillet off the stove until it ceases. Throw in the chilies and keep stirring until the chicken is no longer pink, about 2 to 3 minutes.

When the chicken is just cooked through, add the fish sauce and remaining garlic. Stir with a couple more flourishes to mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.

Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving platter. Sprinkle with black pepper to taste and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and green onions. Serve with freshly steamed rice.

Grandma says:

“Add the fish sauce in at the last minutes and it won’t stink up your kitchen or your clothes.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Quack … Quack …

I love duck! But I don’t like the changes they’ve made on the WordPress dashboard at all :(. I’ve had to re-acquaint myself with all the buttons and it’s taking me that much longer to post. That and the fact that my manuscript deadline is looming. I know I haven’t been posting as often but please be patient with me. The end is near!

Anyway, let me leave you with this very simple and very tasty Asian version of coq au vin. Well, not quite, but duck is also considered poultry, and if you think of soy sauce as wine … oh, and it’s braised in my very French Staub Dutch/French oven too! It comes from my good friend Angie’s mum, Aunty Rose, who hails from Singapore.

Teochew Braised Duck (Lo Ack)

Photo by Lara Ferroni
Photo by Lara Ferroni

As a newly-wed, Rosalind Yeo learned how to make this dish from her mother-in-law using a Chinese rice bowl as a measuring implement. The recipe is now a family favorite, often served at Chinese New Year as well as for everyday meals. While it originates in Chaozhou province, China, the addition of lemongrass and galangal is very Southeast Asian. The sweetness of the duck is contrasted sharply by the tart dipping sauce and you get a tingly sweet sour sensation in your mouth. You can also add fried tofu or hard boiled eggs 20 minutes before the duck is done. Or jazz up the meat a little with a medley of intestines, duck liver, or gizzards. Do I hear “yum?”

Time: 1 1/2 to 2 hours
Makes: 4 to 6 servings as part of a family-style meal

One 4- to 5-pound duck, rinsed, and patted dry with paper towels
1 to 2 tablespoons coarse salt
4 whole cloves
4 whole pieces star anise
2 cinnamon sticks
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed (cut off bottom root end and 4 to 5 inches at the top woody end where the green meets the yellow, peel off loose outer layer), bruised and halved
One 1-inch-thick slice galangal, smashed
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
Chili-lime dipping sauce (recipe follows)

Sprinkle salt on the duck skin and in its cavity.

In a 14-inch wok or 6-quart Dutch oven (or any vessel large enough to hold the whole duck), combine 2 cups water, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, lemongrass, galangal, sugar, peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and soy sauce. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Gently lower duck into the wok. There should be enough liquid to reach halfway up the duck. Top it up with water, if necessary. Baste the duck every 5 minutes or so for the first 20 minutes so that it colors evenly. Cover and simmer for another 40 minutes to 1 hour until duck is tender and the meat is falling off the bones. Halfway through the cooking process, flip the duck. If the sauce looks like it’s drying up, add more water.

To check for doneness, poke duck in the thigh with a chopstick. If the juices run clear, the duck is cooked. Or, use a meat thermometer to check if the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees F.

Turn off the heat and leave the duck immersed in the sauce for another hour if desired.

Cut the duck into serving pieces and serve with rice and chili-lime dipping sauce.

Chili-Lime Dipping Sauce

1 to 2 cloves garlic
1 long fresh red chili (like Holland, Fresno or cayenne), or 1 tablespoon bottled chili paste (sambal oelek)
3 tablespoons lime juice (3 key limes)

Pound the garlic and chilies in a mortar and pestle, or pulse in a small food processor, until a coarse paste forms. Add lime juice and mix well.

Chicken Biryani Three Ways

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I first met Jafar “Jeff” Siddiqui 16 years ago when I first came to the U.S. Jeff and his wife Kathy were my brother’s host parents. Every year, FIUTS, an organization at the University of Washington, plays matchmaker, pairing newly arrived foreign students with American families who are willing to host them for a week and help them transition to a new culture and country.

Just as they did with my brother, Jeff and his family graciously took me under their wing, and we’ve become lifelong friends.

My first few thanksgivings and Christmases were spent with the Siddiquis and we’d go over for other occasions, both special and casual. I devoured my first plate of roast turkey smothered with gravy and cranberry sauce at theirs, and I was introduced to Kathy’s chili and cornbread one lunchtime. And every so often Jeff would cook up dishes hailing from his native Pakistan. “This is NOT Indian cuisine!” Jeff would declare, not realizing I had spied a cookbook on the kitchen counter with the word ‘Indian’ emblazoned somewhere on its front cover. I knew better than to open my mouth so I’d stifle a giggle, roll my eyeballs, and continue eating my plate of chicken curry, dhal or whatever sumptuous spiced dish was on the table.

I’ve met the extended family from both sides–mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, cousins–and I’ve watched their kids grow up. The oldest, Heather, is now a beautiful young woman of 17 and Arman is 13 and already taller than his dad.

So when I started working on my cookbook, I naturally asked the Siddiquis if the had any recipes to share. The kids were unanimous: Amma’s Rice, the name for their grandma’s chicken biryani.

Jeff’s mother, “Munni” Khursheed Ashraf, never recorded the recipe so all her children and grandchildren were left with were fleeting taste memories on their palates.

Last summer, Jeff’s sisters Fazi (who lives in Holland) and Samia (who lives in Seattle’s eastside suburb, Bellevue) recreated it in Samia’s kitchen, with Arman supervising of course.

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Arman cooking in my kitchen 

And lucky me, I got to cook Amma’s Rice twice: once with Arman and another time with Samia. Arman came with a recipe his Aunt Fazi dictated over the phone the night before (and a veiled warning from his dad not to disgrace the family); whereas at Samia’s, we cooked based on the recipe notes she took when her sister visited.

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Clockwise from bottom left: Lou (Samia’s husband), Samia, Jeff, Arman and Lena (Samia and Lou’s daughter) 

Although both versions had almost identical ingredients, there were subtle differences. I was fascinated that the same recipe could be interpreted in different ways by siblings.

Here’s what I observed based on my cooking sessions with Arman and Samia, and Jeff’s interjections:

-Fazi likes her biryani with lots and lots of butter–her recipe uses about 2-1/2 sticks of butter!

-Samia uses ghee instead of butter and likes to add a tad more spices–more peppercorns please! Samia prefers lamb in her biryani too.

-Jeff likes to cook his rice with more water: a ratio of 1 rice to 2 water, instead of Samia’s 1 to 1-1/2. He also likes more salt!!

– Both sisters use breast meat in their recipes but Jeff swears by tender, juicy dark meat.

My conclusion? This would make for a fun, non-scientific experiment among siblings. Pick a favorite recipe you remember your grandma or mom cooking and see how each of you interprets it. Drop me a comment with your results!

Amma’s Rice

“Amma” means mother and this dish is named for “Munni” Khursheed Ashraf, the late matriarch of the Ashraf/Siddiqui family. The recipe was never written down so her grandson Arman set out to recreate the recipe with his aunts Fazi and Samia one afternoon. Generally, chicken biryani is a sumptuous Pakistani/Indian dish often reserved for special occasions such as weddings, parties, or holidays like Ramadan. Samia remembers it as her mum’s go-to dish when expecting company. The preparation is rather lengthy but all the work is definitely worth it! Basmati rice with its thin, fine grains is the ideal variety to use. If unavailable, long grain rice is the next best thing; short grains result in mushy rice.

Time: 2-1/2 hours
Makes: 6 to 8 servings

3 cups basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon ghee
2 medium onions, sliced thinly (about 4 to 5 cups)
1 head garlic, peeled and minced*
3-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced*

Whole spices:
10 to 12 black peppercorns
8 whole cloves
Seeds from 8 to 10 cardamom pods
3 (3-inch long) cinnamon sticks

Ground spices:
2 teaspoons cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

2 teaspoons (or more to taste) plus pinch salt
2 pounds boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 3 breasts)
1/2 cup yogurt, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
4-1/2 cups cold water

Raita (recipe to follow)

Wash rice in 2 to 3 changes of water. Soak until required.

Place saffron threads in a small bowl and pour in boiling water. Soak until required.

In a (6-quart) wide-mouthed pot or Dutch oven, melt 1/2 cup ghee over medium heat. Fry onions until soft and translucent, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and fry for 30 seconds. Toss in whole spices and stir well. Add ground spices and 2 teaspoons salt, and stir for another 30 to 45 seconds.

When onions have turned yellowish, add chicken and mix well to coat. Cook and stir until chicken is no longer pink, about 8 minutes.

Stir in 1/4 cup yogurt and mix well. Cook, covered, over low heat for about 30 minutes, or until water evaporates and oil starts to separate.

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Turn off heat and leave pot on stove, covered.

Drain rice well. Heat oil in a (4-quart) pot. Fry rice over medium-high heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Add 4-1/2 cups water, 1 tablespoon ghee and pinch of salt. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer, covered, over low heat for 20 minutes. When rice kernels separate, rice is done. Set aside, covered.

Uncover chicken and spread pieces evenly in pot. Smooth 1/4 cup yogurt evenly over chicken. Layer cooked rice over chicken and yogurt as evenly as possible, smoothing down any clumps.

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Drizzle saffron liquid, including threads, over rice. Cover and cook over low heat for 20 minutes.

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Spoon chicken and rice into a large bowl with a low rim and mix thoroughly. Pick out cinnamon sticks and serve with raita and (store-bought) chutney.

Optional garnish:
Soak raisins in water for 10 minutes until they’re plump, and dry with a paper towel. Fry with a little butter and scatter over rice.

Notes:
*You can mince both the garlic and ginger at the same time in a food processor.

Ghee is butter that has been slowly melted so that the milk solids and golden liquid have been separated and yields a more authentic taste. Use butter if you can’t find ghee.

Samia recommends buying free range, organic chicken breasts because they have not been injected with water like many conventional brands you find at supermarkets. And you don’t want a watery biryani.

Raita
2 cups yogurt
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
Pinch salt

In a small bowl, mix everything together with a fork until yogurt is smooth and there are no lumps.

Adobo ahoy!

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Every Filipino family has their own adobo recipe. Lucky for the rest of us with none to claim as our own, these recipes are not a fiercely guarded secret. Just ask any Pinoy cook and they’ll be more than happy to share.

This recipe comes from Olivia Dyhouse (through her sister Juana Stewart), although I did sneak in a few more cloves of garlic. But that’s how it is with adobo: you can improvise and experiment to get just the right balance of flavors–especially sour to salt–that dances to the right tune on your tongue.

Here are some variations on adobo I’ve picked up from my research:
-Some cooks add coconut milk, either right at the beginning in the pot, or at the end when the cooking is done.
-For a thicker adobo, try mashing chicken liver to add to the mixture.
-I found a soy sauce-less recipe in “More Family Favorites” a community cookbook compiled by Lakeside Christian Church in Chicago in the early 1970s. Turns out that soy sauce is a later modification thanks to Chinese influence on Filipino cuisine. Traditionalists insist that adobo be seasoned with salt. Aunty Neneng only adds about a tablespoon of soy sauce to her adobo. “Just for color,” she explains.
-This same cookbook revealed a very interesting variation: Chicken Adobo a la Monta. It calls for adding 1/2 cup pineapple cubes, 1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes and 1 tablespoon butter to the mix.
-Garlic-lovers will surely love this. Before pan-frying the chicken pieces (see recipe below), sauté more smashed garlic cloves in the oil first. Add one finely sliced medium onion and cook until soft. Set aside and add the sautéed garlic and onions to the finished dish.

Many Filipino cooks swear by Datu Puti brand vinegars–cane, palm or coconut–which are readily available at any Asian food store. Even if you can’t find it, never fear! Any distilled white vinegar and even apple cider vinegar (we all know apples and pork go super together!) work well. Or experiment with more non-traditional French sherry or Japanese rice vinegars for an adobo with your name on it.

Please drop me a comment if you have a special adobo story or recipe to share!

Chicken Adobo

You could call adobo the Philippines’ unofficial national dish, yet it’s more often eaten in homes than in restaurants. There are many types of adobo–chicken (traditionally the legs are used but you can use breast too), pork (loin, spare ribs), beef (stew beef chuck), and liver, too. The frying adds a crispy finish to the meat but you can skip this step if you are ravenous … or just lazy! Adobo keeps well and is one of those dishes that taste better the next day.

Time: 1 hr 15 minutes
Makes: 8 servings 

8 whole chicken legs (about 4 pounds), cut into drumstick and thigh sections
1-1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, crushed  
3/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons oil
2 stalks green onions, cut into “O”s for garnish (about 1/2 cup, optional)

In a large (6 quart) nonreactive pot or Dutch oven, combine all ingredients except soy sauce and oil and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Add soy sauce and stir to coat chicken evenly. Simmer, covered, another 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken to a plate, shaking off as much excess liquid as possible. Pat pieces dry with paper towels.

Raise heat to medium-high and boil sauce until reduced to about 1 cup, about 10 to 15 minutes. Let sauce cool. Remove bay leaves and skim fat from surface.

In a large (10-inch) skillet, heat oil over high heat until hot but just before smoking. Sauté chicken in 4 to 5 batches, turning pieces halfway, until browned evenly on both sides, about 5 minutes.

Transfer chicken to a rimmed platter, pour sauce over. Serve hot with sauce-drizzled rice.

Chicken larb and purple sticky rice

When I first started researching my cookbook, I decided I wanted to include as many different Asian Pacific American communities as possible. This hasn’t always been easy as there are some communities I am not very well connected with. Case in point: the Laotian community. Fortunately, a contact put me in touch with a Lao gentleman who is a community leader and a deacon at Our Lady of Mount Virgin Catholic Church in Seattle’s Central District where the local Lao community gathers for mass every Sunday. I showed up one Sunday morning and he introduced me to two ladies who agreed to show me how to make some of their traditional dishes. They belonged to two distinct Lao hill tribes–Yi Thao was Hmong and Keo Choulapha was Khmu.

When I told Yi I wanted her to show me how to cook some family recipes, she wrinkled her nose and said the food her parents ate was very bland. “Chicken boiled with vegetables, tofu, pumpkin grown in the garden boiled with water … very healthy food,” she said. It was obvious she equated healthy with tasteless. After I circumvented egg rolls (the Hmong are descendants of an ancient ethnic group that lived in China before migrating to Southeast Asia in the early 19th century, so egg rolls may not be too far off but I wanted something a little closer to typical Lao cuisine), we finally settled on chicken larb.

The following week, I met with Yi, a young mother of 4 kids ranging in age from 15 to 24. Yi is what I would call a “chili padi” (those tiny Thai bird’s eye chilies that are so spicy they could make a grown man cry), a bundle of energy packed into her petite 5-foot frame. The moment I arrived, she ushered me into her kitchen and started bustling around doing a dozen things all at once.

The first thing Yi did was pop a small skillet onto the stove and pour sticky rice grains into it. She was dry roasting the grains to make roasted rice powder, an essential ingredient in chicken larb (also spelled laap, larp or laab.) Roasted rice powder is available at Asian grocery stores but Yi prefers to make it herself since it’s so easy. Besides, the hardest part of the process was her husband’s job–pounding the toasted rice in a mortar and pestle. All she had to do is sift the powder to get the smoothest grains. Aah … the beauty of delegation.

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Larb is the unofficial national dish of Laos and is also very popular in neighboring Thailand. You’ve probably seen this Lao meat salad on the menu at Thai restaurants. Larb can be made with chicken, beef, duck, pork or even fish, and some prefer to eat the meat raw (not the poultry of course). It is usually served at room temperature with sticky rice.

Sticky rice is a staple for Lao people and is traditionally eaten out of a woven basket, with fingers. Hence to keep fingers clean and rice out of the various dishes, the dishes are not [excessively] wet or oily which explains why Yi’s larb recipe uses no oil and very lean chicken breast meat.

I have never observed the Lao way of making sticky rice but I dare venture a guess that Yi’s method was a little unorthodox. First, she boiled half a (14 oz) package of black sticky rice in a pot of water until the liquid turned a murky grayish purple. After straining the black sticky rice (and to my surprise, throwing it away), she soaked the white sticky rice in the black sticky rice “juice” for about half an hour. “Just for the color and to make pretty,” she explained. “You can mix white and black rice together but I don’t like it.” The resulting rice was dyed an attractive purplish hue.

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Then she steamed the rice in a special sticky rice steaming basket and pot set which looks like an inverted cone-shaped hat balanced on a spitoon.

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Traditionally, the basket is woven from bamboo but Yi prefers one that is made from plastic. Halfway through the steaming process (about 15 minutes), she removed the basket and in one deft movement she flipped the rice mound upside down and replaced the basket on its base to continue steaming.

In between soaking and flipping rice, Yi was also chopping herbs for the larb. In no time, she threw the larb together and dinner was ready.

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Before we started eating, Yi showed me how to mould the sticky rice into a ball and pick up some of the larb. Somehow or another, I managed to get everything into my mouth without spilling and embarrassing myself.  

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Chicken larb (Lao meat salad)

Yi usually buys lean chicken breast meat and cuts out all the fat before mincing it herself (with a cleaver!) because she finds ground chicken often too fatty. But if you don’t fancy all that work, use the leanest ground chicken breast you can find. All the herbs below are available at Asian grocery stores and each brings with it a unique flavor to the dish. But I have seen larb recipes using only cilantro, spearmint and green onions as greens, so if you can’t find them all, the dish will still taste good even if not totally authentic. To identify some of the lesser known herbs like saw leaf or rau rahm, food writer Andrea Nguyen has a great reference page on her web site: Vietworldkitchen.com.

Time: 40 minutes (mostly prep work)
Makes: 4 servings

1-1/2 pounds lean ground chicken breast
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon MSG (yes, many Asian home cooks still use it but it’s totally optional)
1/3 cup roasted rice powder (available in Asian markets or you can make your own by roasting raw rice in a dry skillet over the stove till brown. Then grind in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle)
1/2 cup cilantro stems and leaves, reserve half the leaves for garnish and chop the remaining stems and leaves finely
4 green onions, cut the green tops into “O’s and slice the bottom 2 inches thinly lengthwise for garnish
1/2 cup saw leaf herb (also called cilantro or Mexican coriander), chopped finely
1/2 cup spearmint leaves, torn into small pieces
6 kaffir limes leaves, chopped finely
1/2 cup rau rahm (also called Vietnamese coriander), chopped finely
6 bird’s eye chilies, chopped (or to taste)
2-inches unpeeled galangal, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, outer skin removed, trimmed, and minced
1 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper
2 teaspoons fish sauce
Juice of 1 large lime (about 2 tablespoons)

Heat a medium wok or skillet until it is very hot and add the chicken and stir fry without any oil. The chicken will stick to the pan at first, but its juices will come out and the meat will loosen. Add salt and MSG if using. Stir fry for about 6 to 7 minutes until chicken is no longer pink and fully cooked but not too brown. Transfer meat to a big bowl and let cool for about 5 minutes.

Add roasted rice powder, herbs and spices, crushed dried red pepper, fish sauce and lime juice. Mix well and taste. You should taste a nice balance of heat (chilies and red pepper), tartness (lime juice) and salt (fish sauce). Don’t be afraid to add more of anything to get the flavor balance just right. Garnish with reserved cilantro and green onions and serve with sticky rice.

Top 10 leftover turkey tips

Once thanksgiving has come and gone, and the food coma has dissipated (hopefully!), one is faced with the next big thing–leftovers.

Who doesn’t love turkey leftovers? I do! But having overdosed on one too many turkey sandwiches and turkey tetrazzinis, I’m looking for a turkey leftover makeover. My solution? Reincarnate the turkey in Asian-style dishes.

Just like grandmas and mothers everywhere are experts at improv in the kitchen, let your creativity run (turkey) wild. Hint: you can use leftover turkey in just about any recipe that calls for chicken bits.

Here’s my top 10.

10. Turkey stock

Place the turkey carcass in a big stockpot, cover with enough water, add some herbs and spices–I pop in a few smashed cloves of garlic, diced onions, a few ginger slices, peppercorns, and two to three stalks of green onions tied in a knot– and voila!

9. Turkey macaroni soup

One of my favorite comfort foods! Add shredded turkey, sausage slices (ballpark sausages will do) and a cup or two of frozen veggies to the stock above, and boil some elbows of macaroni . To serve, top with squares of Spam (you can fry them up first if you’d like), fried shallots and green onion ‘O’s. 

8. Turkey lumpia

Shredded or chopped turkey tastes yummy rolled into a lumpia or egg roll with all the usual accoutrements. Dip in plum sauce … mmm … turkey and plum sauce … mmm … Try this recipe from food blog Pinoy Cook.

7. (Curried) turkey salad

Ever heard of Coronation chicken? Well, neither had I before I lived in England. It’s basically precooked chicken mixed with mayonnaise, curry powder, nuts and apricots/or raisins, and served between two slices of white bread (duh, it’s a sandwich!) or on a bed of lettuce. I know it sounds funky, but it tastes really good. Have a go at a turkey version by improvising on the original recipe or trying this Allrecipes.com one.

6. Turkey with nutmegged kecap manis gravy 

This is a gravy my mum makes for Indonesian steak (basically the meat’s marinated in kecap manis or Indonesian sweet soy sauce) but I bet it tastes great with roast turkey too! 

Fry 1 finely minced shallot and two cloves of garlic, minced, in a couple of tablespoons of butter until golden brown and fragrant. Add about a quart of turkey stock (#10), 1 to 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (my mum uses tomato ketchup) and 1/4 cup kecap manis, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and add 1/4 cup milk. Stir and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or to taste), and salt and white pepper to taste. Drizzle gravy over turkey slices and rice.

5. Turkey stir-fry with vegetables

Add bite size pieces of turkey to almost cooked stir-fried veggies. Give everything a good stir and serve.

4. Turkey sticky rice casserole

Pork is usually the staple in this popular Chinese dish but why not use turkey bits instead? Throw the turkey, lap cheong (Chinese sausage), water chestnuts, shrimp and sticky rice into a rice cooker and it’ll be ready in no time! Or if you are a stickler for tradition, cook it in a claypot.  Try this recipe from Epicurious.com.

3. Turkey Tom Ka Kai

Instead of chicken, add turkey (toward the end of cooking time though) to this yummy Thai sour soup made with coconut milk, galangal, kaffir lime leaves and  lemon grass. Replace the chicken stock with turkey stock (#10) too. This recipe was given to me by Rin Nedtra, owner of Sea Siam Thai Restaurant in Miami, FL.

2. Turkey noodle soup

Here’s that indispensable turkey stock (#10) again! Boil your favorite noodles–egg, rice, or mung bean–and serve in seasoned stock. Top with turkey slices and your choice of vegetables–I recommend bok choy.

And now for my #1 way with turkey leftovers … drumroll please …

10.Turkey congee

Using the turkey stock (#10), making turkey congee is as easy as 1-2-3 and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Light and filling, it’s the perfect antidote to the previous day’s gluttony.

Combine strained stock and rice in a stockpot (about 8 cups of stock to 1 cup of uncooked rice.) Bring to a boil and stir. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until consistency of oatmeal, about 1-3/4 hours. Stir frequently during last 1/2 hour of cooking, adding water if necessary. Season with salt or soy sauce. Ladle into individual bowls and serve topped with shredded turkey, and your choice of green onion ‘O’s, chopped cilantro and chung choy (preserved turnip.) 

Drop me a comment if you have any other un-Thanksgiving leftover recipes to share!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

Of Stuffed Wings and Tight Socks–Stuffed Cambodian Chicken Wings (Moane Teum)

“It’s just like pulling off a really tight sock,” said Phiroum Svy matter-of-factly. I had never thought of it that way. Then again, I’d never tried deboning a whole chicken before. (Here’s some trivia for you: debone and bone are synonyms, go figure!)

We were in Phiroum’s Covington kitchen preparing to make a Cambodian dish called moane teum which means yoked or joined chicken. It’s so named probably because the chicken is deboned and stuffed with a ground pork mixture, hence the joining of two meats? Visions of turducken came to mind.

Anyways, Phiroum was very eager to show me how to debone the chicken, thighs, wings and all.

**Advisory warning: if you are squeamish about raw chicken, do not, I repeat, do not read on.**

With all the patience of a grade school teacher she rolled up her sleeves and took her paring knife to the chicken’s breast bone. She inserted it into one side of the breast bone and sliced down the middle.
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Then little by little, bit by bit, she separated the meat from the bone.

 

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“The trick is to keep your knife as close to the bone as possible so as not to tear the skin,” she advised. “When you find the leg joint, insert the knife just against the bone and detach as you go.” The same goes for the wing joint.
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Phiroum confessed that she hadn’t done this in a long time and professed to be out of practice. But watching her deftly scrape meat away from the bone and tug at the chicken skin, I was doubtful. Very soon all that lay on the cutting board was a limp chicken carcass soon to be stuffed.
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I don’t know how many of you out there would be adventurous enough to try this at home so I won’t go into too much detail (if you’re a die-hard, go here). Besides, the best way to learn is through hands-on experience. Ask Phiroum–she’s a self-taught deboner.

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Cambodian Stuffed Chicken Wings (Moane Teum)

Whether whole or as wings, this stuffed chicken recipe can only be described as mmm … mmm … lip-smacking delicious. I tried my hand at deboning wings and yes, it’s a lot of work but it’s worth it! It’s a popular Cambodian dish (the Thais and Vietnamese have a similar dish) but not something you’d eat or make everyday since it’s pretty labor-intensive. Even though I’ve written it up as a chicken wing recipe, you can use the stuffing for a whole deboned chicken (about 4-5 pounds) if you dare. Be warned, you’re going to have to practice your sewing skills too.

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The versatile stuffing can also be used as a filling for fried spring rolls or in a rolled pork tenderloin.

Makes: 8-10 servings

20 deboned chicken wings, wingtips included (*deboning instructions below)

2-1/2 pounds ground pork

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)

1 cup mung bean thread noodles, soaked for one hour and cut into 1/2-inch lengths (about 1/8 of 16oz package)

8 wood ear mushrooms, chopped coarsely (1/2 cup)

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons soy sauce, divided

1/2 tablespoon sweet soy sauce or oyster sauce

1-1/2 tablespoon fish sauce

In a big bowl, marinate deboned wings with 2 tablespoons soy sauce.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Your hand is your best tool.

Gently squeeze meat mixture into each wing, filling until the wing tip joint. Don’t worry about holes in the skin.

Place wings in a baking pan, top down (you want the serving side to brown and crisp during the second half of cooking). Broil on low in oven till golden brown on one side, about 20 minutes. Flip and cook for another 20 minutes. Do not use baking mode because chicken will not brown.

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Cut into slices and serve immediately.

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If you stuffed a whole chicken, this is what it should look like:

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Deboning wings

*Using a small sharp paring knife, start at the top of the drummette. Gently scrape the meat away from the bone leaving the skin intact. Pull skin and meat down as you go. At the first joint, use tip of knife to slide into joint to remove skin away from the bone first. Continue easing the flesh away from the bone. Push the skin and flesh down to expose the bones and carefully twist each bone out. Important: don’t break the bone till you get to the second joint!