Thai Red Curry Noodles (Khao Soi)–A Dish to Feed a Crowd

khao soi_two

My mum loved to throw parties—big ones, small ones, medium ones–and there was always one constant: good food, and lots of it.

Cooking for company often meant days of prep and a kitchen bustling with activity morning till evening. Ma would grind spice pastes for dishes like beef rendang or pork satay. She’d braise turmeric-spiced chicken for hours on the stovetop ahead of the next step–deep-frying them the day of the party (yes, the chicken was cooked twice!). And I, as soon as I could fold neat corners, was roped in to roll lumpia (fried spring rolls) by the dozens. Ma never skimped when it came to entertaining family and friends.

We also had friends over on an ad-hoc basis; neighbors, schoolmates, church friends, etc. came by our house weekly. On these occasions, Ma would make an all-in-one noodle meal. Prep was quick and easy and everyone could serve themselves. Her noodle repertoire ran along these lines: bakmi (egg noodles topped with pork and mushrooms), soto daging (noodles with beef and lemongrass soup), and Indonesian laksa (rice vermicelli noodles doused in a coconut-chicken-turmeric soup).

I recently discovered a Thai noodle dish similar to Ma’s laksa and immediately fell in love with it. With the help of store-bought red curry paste, khao soi is fairly easy to make for dinner guests and tongue-tingly delicious! Because each noodle bowl is customizable, even kids can enjoy it (just start with a mild curry paste). And no one would guess it only takes 30 minutes to prepare.

This is my kind of entertaining.

~~~

Thai Red Curry Noodles (Khao Soi)

khao soi_solo

Khao soi is a popular Northern Thai dish with cousins in Burma (ohn-no-kauk-swe) and Singapore (laksa). A tangle of fried noodles and a squeeze of lime liven up the party, creating a tasty mélange of sweet, sour, salty flavors and lovely contrasting textures. If you’re serving a larger crowd, this recipe is easily doubled or tripled. You can also choose to lay out all the ingredients on the table and let your guests serve themselves.

Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings, depending on appetites

Red Curry Gravy
2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots or 1/2 small red onion, chopped
4 tablespoons red curry paste (I recommend Mae Ploy or Thai Kitchen brands)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 cups coconut milk, divided
2 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar

To serve
12 ounces dried or 2 pounds fresh egg noodles (Chinese or Italian are fine)
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
2 cups store-bought fried noodles (like La Choy brand)
1/2 small red or white onion, sliced thinly
Chopped cilantro
Chopped green onions
2 limes, cut into wedges
Soy sauce
Crushed chili flakes

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed pot until it shimmers. Add the garlic and shallots and stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the red curry paste and turmeric and stir and cook until the paste turns a few shades darker and fills your kitchen with a pungent aroma, 2 to 3 minutes. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn.

Slowly pour in 1 cup coconut milk, stirring to blend, and cook until the sauce bubbles. Let it bubble gently over medium-high heat, stirring often, until a layer of red oil separates from the sauce and rises to the surface, about 3 minutes. Stir in the second cup of coconut milk and repeat the process of waiting for the oil to separate.

Pour in the stock and bring the sauce to a gentle boil over medium-high heat before reducing the heat to a simmer. Add the soy sauce and sugar and taste. The curry should taste a bit too salty (it will balance out when ladled over the noodles) and a tad sweet, with some heat to it. Add more soy sauce if necessary (this will depend on how salty your stock is). Keep the curry warm over low heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Stir the noodles as they cook to loosen them and prevent sticking. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.

To serve, divide the noodles and chicken into 4 to 6 individual bowls. Ladle about 3/4 cup of curry over each bowl. Garnish with fried noodles, onions, cilantro, and green onions as desired. Serve with the lime wedges, and extra soy sauce and chili flakes in little dishes.

~~~

Today’s post is part of the monthly Let’s Lunch Twitter blogger potluck and we’re featuring food that’s shared with family and friends in honor of fellow Let’s Luncher Lisa Goldberg’s book Monday Morning Cooking Club (HarperCollins; Reprint edition, September 17, 2013) which just launched its U.S. edition.

MMCC

For more Let’s Lunch posts, follow #LetsLunch on Twitter or visit my fellow bloggers below: 

Lisa’s No Ordinary Meatloaf at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Anne Marie’s Almond Cheesecake Sammy Bites at Sandwich Surprise

Betty Anne’s Sisig Rice, Spicy Pork Belly and Garlic Rice at Asian in America Mag

Eleanor’s Surf and Turf at Wokstar

Grace’s Zha Jiang Mien at HapaMama

Jill’s Homemade Corned Beef at Eating My Words

Linda’s Vegan Pumpkin Pie at Spicebox Travels

Lucy’s Sweet Potatoes with Cane Syrup at A Cook and Her Books

In the Kitchen With Mum and Popo

In this installment, Audrey Low contributes a little snippet that reflects on the kitchen chores she had as a child, plus a whimisical look at an old wives’ tale . Of Malaysian-Chinese descent, Audrey is an anthropologist living in Australia. Her blog: papayatreelimited.blogspot.com combines her love of Asian art, food, travel, and writing, blending her personal journey with people’s stories and her research.

If you would like to guest blog about cooking with a special woman in your life, please email me at pat@ediblewords.com.

In the Kitchen with Mum and Popo
By Audrey Low

Audrey and mum

Audrey and her mum, Judy Low, at graduation

Choy keok, a Hakka hot and sour soup, is a dish my mother learned to cook when she was a child from her nyonya grand-aunt. Imagining my mother as a child reminded me of learning to cook with her.

My mum cooks in silence; it’s like meditation for her. I remember my dad urging me to go into the kitchen to learn how to cook, but she would never say anything except, perhaps, the occasional instructions to get some ingredients: “Take the blunt knife and cut some serai (lemongrass) from the garden,” or “Pluck some curry leaves/fresh limes/chilies.” Mostly, I learned through observation.

There were many chores for kids around the kitchen. I, like Pat, had the interminable chore of breaking the ends off every single bean sprout. I too could never understand why it was necessary, and no amount of reasoning could get me out of that chore.

Pounding chili in the heavy stone mortar and pestle was another favorite job to give kids. And when I was doing the task, I would inevitably get a speck of chili in my eye. My grandmother’s solution was to pour cold water on my feet. Admittedly, it’s a far more elegant method than simultaneously hopping around in agony, rubbing one eye and splashing water on my face, which I did repeatedly.

However, after trying her way a couple of times unsuccessfully, I gave it up. But I’m pretty sure my grandmother still swears by the method to this very day.

Mum’s Choy Keok

Photo and recipe courtesy of Audrey Low

For this soup, mustard cabbage is not interchangeable with other leafy greens — it’s the only vegetable that will not fall apart in this robust soup. You can buy roast pork from a Chinese restaurant or deli or make it yourself with this recipe. Please visit Papaya Tree Limited for more stories and photos!

Makes: 8 to 10 servings
Time: 20 minutes plus simmering time

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
20 slices assam keping or assam gelugor (sometimes mistakenly called dried tamarind), or 3 heaping tablespoons tamarind paste
8 cloves garlic, smashed
5 dried whole chilies
3 fresh red Thai chilies, sliced
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 to 2 pounds roast pork (or any other roast meat like duck and chicken)
2 (12 ounce) bunches mustard cabbage (gai choy), cut into thirds
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

In a big stock pot, heat the oil over medium heat until it starts to shimmer. Add the assam keping, dried and fresh chilies (add more to taste, if desired), ginger, and garlic and stir until fragrant.

Add the roast pork and mustard cabbage. Add the sugar, salt and enough water to cover the ingredients. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 1 hour, or until the mustard cabbage is soft. Serve with rice.

As grandma always says, please share!

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Washing Rice/part deux

In response to my previous post, Marisha asked, “What is the effect of washing rice (besides cleaning it from dust)?” and “Do you know something about it from Japanese tradition?”

I have posed this question to several people from different ethnic backgrounds and it turns out that every answer is almost identical. In developing countries and in times past, rice was adulterated and contained dust, talc, bugs and other impurities that the act of washing removed. This habit has somehow stayed with us even in modern times and even though the FDA ensures that the rice we buy in the U.S. is perfectly safe to consume without repeated washing.

As it so happens, I was reading Linda Furiya’s latest book How to Cook a Dragon: Living, Loving, and Eating in China (Seal Press, January 1, 2009). It’s a candidly told food memoir detailing her years living abroad as an expat in China, punctuated with food and cooking of course,  as well as a tale of self-discovery. In one chapter, she vividly describes the soothing experience of watching her mom wash rice.

So to answer Marisha’s second question, I asked Linda if she remembers any Japanese rice traditions when she was growing up. Linda told me that her mom grew up in pre-World War II Japan eating brown rice, which was associated with poverty. Not surprisingly, Linda didn’t eat brown rice growing up and had her first taste in her 20’s.

Both her parents always washed their rice before cooking it. “I remember my dad took pride in washing the rice and having the water in the bowl run clear before my mom!” she says with a laugh.

Here is an excerpt from Linda’s book available from Amazon.com.

howtocookadragon_web

Mom decided to make ochazuke (rice soaked with tea) for supper for the two of us. It was one of my favorite childhood comfort foods-homey, simple, and uniquely Japanese. She used to make it at times like these, evenings when Dad took Keven and Alvin to a baseball game, or after my older brothers moved out and my mom and I were often alone at dinnertime.

I watched silently as she rinsed the rice. I took comfort in the familiarity of her movements, as I had watched her go through this ritual hundreds of times before. She swirled the rice with her hand in a whirlpool motion, producing a pleasant swish sound as the grains hit the rice cooker’s metal bowl. I could have gone off somewhere in the house and done something else, but there was an unsettled feeling between us that I hoped we could resolve.

As she set up the rice cooker, Mom asked me to get the tall canister of green tea from the cabinet. I saw containers there that I hadn’t seen in years. There were Howard Johnson and Holiday Inn plastic ice buckets holding open sacks of confectioner’s sugar, brown sugar, and gravy flour. In the drawers were ashtrays used to store rubber bands and twist ties. As survivors of the Depression, and having experienced great loss in their lives, my parents kept and recycled everything. My mother always surprised me by wearing my old clothes that I had long forgotten, including the sweater she’d had on when I arrived for this visit.

We had some time before the rice would be done, so we went into the living room with our cups of hot tea. Usually Mom turned on the television to watch CNN, but she didn’t reach for the remote control. Instead she pulled a package of osembe (rice crackers) from the bottom shelf of her china cabinet. Each golden-brown disk, shiny with a soy sauce glaze, was individually wrapped to retain its freshness. The crackers were mouthwatering and crunchy, delicious with the green tea. We munched in silence.

Excerpted from How To Cook a Dragon: Living, Loving, and Eating in China, by Linda Furiya. Excerpted by arrangement with Seal Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright (c) (2009)

Linda’s Recipe for Ochazuke

ochazuke1

Ochazuke means “tea and pickles,” but as long as you include the bonito flakes, rice crackers, nori, and pickles, you’ll create the essential seasoning base. The Japanese tea is a key ingredient, not an option. Linda prefers hoji-cha or genmaicha. If you want to make more of a meal, you can add cooked egg, scrambled with a drop or two of soy sauce and mirin (seasoned rice wine).

Time: 15 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

4 cups cooked rice (fresh or leftover)
6 cups hot green tea
1/4 cup bonito flakes
1/2 cup arare (rice cracker pellets) or crumbled rice crackers
1/2 cup nori (cut into 2 x 1/4-inch strips or purchased preshredded)
4 pickled plums
1/4 cup chopped takuen (pickled daikon)
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds
2 cups bean sprouts
Wasabi to taste
Leftover salmon (cut into small bits) or beef (sliced thin)

Divide the cooked rice among 4 bowls. Arrange the assortment of toppings in individual bowls. Create your own flavors by adding the toppings and seasonings to your liking. Pour hot tea over rice and toppings, enough to cover the rice. Allow the rice and tea to sit for about a minute so that the flavors will meld (and will warm up the rice if it has been refrigerated).

Pat’s notes:

I used furikake, a Japanese condiment typically comprising sesame seeds, seaweed, sugar, salt. Look for a brand that doesn’t contain monosodium glutamate.

furikake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As grandma always says, please share!

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Tom Kha Goong Made with Sustainable Shrimp

Penaeus line drawing.jpg

Image courtesy of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Researching and writing The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook has given me an appreciation for traditional and authentic recipes and eating the way our grandparents’ generation ate. It’s been a perfect complement to my other passion–sustainable foods.

Many of us shop at the neighborhood farmers market (or even work at one; I just got a job as a manager at the Pacific Grove Certified Farmers’ Market but more on that later) for fresh, seasonal produce and to support sustainable agriculture and small family farmers. But have you ever given sustainable seafood a thought?

I have to admit that I’ve only become more in tune with this important issue in the last two or three years. But since moving to the Monterey Peninsula and living so close to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the nation’s leaders in ocean conservation, it has risen to top of mind. Their Seafood Watch Program encourages us as consumers to play a role in protecting the health of the oceans to:

  • Ensure a bounty of seafood for this and future generations.
  • Support environmentally responsible fishing and fish farming.
  • Increase the demand for ocean friendly seafood.
  • Give species that are in peril a break so that they may recover

So what is sustainable seafood? According to the Aquarium, “Sustainable seafood is from sources, either fished or farmed, that can maintain or increase production into the long-term without jeopardizing the affected ecosystems.”

To help you guide you in your sustainable seafood decisions, you can download a regional pocket seafood guide here. Both Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and the Blue Ocean Institute have also produced sustainable sushi lists. Yes, that sake, toro and–woe is me–unagi served at American sushi restaurants aren’t sustainable. (Read more about this issue in a post I wrote for National Geographic Traveler’s Intelligent Travel .) Another tool is the Green Guide’s nifty fish finder. Just plug in the name of a fish and learn how ocean-friendly it actually is.

To celebrate National Seafood Month, fellow food-blogger Jacqueline over at the Leather District Gourmet launched Teach a Man to Fish 2008, a blog event to create awareness about sustainable seafood.

I’ve chosen to focus on shrimp. Over the last decade, shrimp has become American’s favorite seafood but with a high cost to the environment. According to this article in the San Francisco Chronicle , “some 85 percent of shrimp eaten in the United States comes from China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Taiwan, Ecuador, Mexico and other Asian and Latin American countries, as well as Australia… Yet most guides to sustainable seafood consumption advise against buying imported shrimp because the way these are farmed or caught is generally destructive to the environment.”

As cheap as they are, I’ve had to slap my hands many times to stop them from picking up that pack of tiger shrimp from Thailand at the market. Along the coast of Thailand, as well as numerous other tropical nations, mangrove forests once sheltered wild fish and shrimp which the locals caught to feed their families. Mangroves also filter water and protect the coast against storm waves. However, with increasing demand from Europe, Japan and America, many mangrove forests have been cut down and replaced with shrimp farms. After a few years, waste products build up in the farm ponds and the farmers have to move on. The end result: no shrimp farms and no mangrove forest.

So, farmed shrimp from Thailand is a big no-no. According to the Seafood Watch guide, pink shrimp from Oregon (the tiny shrimp used for shrimp cocktail or salads) is a best choice (green), U.S. and Canadian farmed/wild shrimp and U.S. and British Columbia spot prawns are good alternatives (gold), but imported farmed or wild shrimp should be avoided (red!!). Click here for the details.

I have to tell ya, shopping for sustainable shrimp isn’t an easy task. I made a trip to Trader Joe’s the other day and found that their frozen farm-raised shrimp is imported from various sources: Bangladesh, India, Mexico, Thailand, and Vietnam. At Safeway, the frozen shrimp hailed from China and Thailand. The shrimp in the refrigerated section wasn’t even labeled!

Ack! Where was I to find shrimp that I could buy without treading on my conscience? At Nob Hill Foods it turned out. Here, I found wild white shrimp from the U.S. at $12.99/pound–ouch!–as well as Canadian farmed shrimp ($8.99/pound) and Thai tiger shrimp ($4.99/pound). I bought a pound of Canadian shrimp. I made a mental note to explore local fishmongers next time. I live right next to Monterey Bay for goodness sake!

At home, I transformed my shrimp into tom kha goong, using a recipe from Nicky and Jill Sriprayul who own Thai Bistro II in Pacific Grove, CA (if you visit the Monterey Peninsula, dine here for some yummy Thai food!). As I sipped the fragrant soup, I relaxed knowing I was doing good by my taste buds, my conscience and the environment. 

I’m a practical person. I realize that not everyone is fortunate enough to live in a locale where sustainable shrimp (or sustainable edible anything for that matter) is readily available or affordable. It’s easy to follow this mantra if we don’t have to go too much out of our way. But if it’s beyond our means or pocketbooks, we can do one of two things–abstain or go easy. Abstaining is a little drastic. If you’re not prepared to go full-throttle then I believe that everything in moderation is a good thing (yes, that means no more all-you-can-eat shrimp buffets!). You’ll still be making a difference, albeit with baby steps.

Thai Hot and Sour Soup with Shrimp and Coconut Milk (Tom Kha Goong)

tom_kha_goong by you.

Like all home-cooked dishes, tom kha comes in many guises. Remember tom ka kai? The Sriprayuls’ version is spicier and has a little more kick. Substitute the shrimp with chicken (perhaps chopped-up chicken wings as Nicky likes) or a mixed seafood medley. For tom yum, omit the coconut milk entirely.

Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 4 servings

3 tablespoons fish sauce
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet chili paste
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 cups shrimp, chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
5 thin slices fresh galangal
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, using white parts only, chopped into 2-inch pieces
2 fresh kaffir lime leaves, crumpled
8 mint leaves, hand torn
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup sliced button mushrooms
1/2 cup straw mushrooms
1/3 cup red onions cut into thin slices
12 medium shrimp, peeled, deveined with tails intact
2 tablespoons chopped green onions
1/4 cup loosely-packed cilantro sprigs
1 teaspoon finely chopped Thai red chilies (optional)

Mix the first 4 ingredients in a small bowl to form a chili sauce.

In a large pot, bring stock and coconut milk to boil over medium heat. Add galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 4 to 5 minutes for spices to infuse broth.

Stir in chili sauce, mint leaves tomatoes, mushrooms, and red onions. Bring to boil and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in shrimp and cook until pink, about 1 minute. Do not overcook!

Fish out herbs and ladle soup into a serving bowl. Garnish with green onions, cilantro, and chilies, if desired.

Vietnam’s Other Noodle Dish

three bowls of bun rieu_small by you.

Phở may be Vietnam’s most famous noodle export but ask many a Vietnamese and they’ll tell you that bún riêu cua, a tangy crab- and tomato-based noodle soup, is the dish that evokes grandma’s homecooking.

Ironically, my first taste of bún riêu cua was at a restaurant in Seattle. I was having lunch with my friend Carol and as we perused the menu together she expressed surprise to find it on the menu. “It’s Vietnamese comfort food for me,” she said, explaining that the dish was a staple at home when she was growing up. Her mom would make a huge pot of it in the morning and they’d have it for lunch and dinner!

I smiled as I slapped the menu shut. My mind was made up.

In no time, a big steaming bowl arrived: The reddish broth was thick and tomatoey and chock full of crab bits. I tore up mint and Thai basil leaves and scattered the strips all over, then squirted some lime juice. As I slurped up the rice noodles, I was as happy as a clam. 

Being the nosy food writer I am, I asked Carol if her mom would show me how to cook the dish.

A couple of Sundays later, I was at Carol’s mom, Thanh Nguyen’s, watching her go through the motions.

When we finally sat down to eat and I sipped the soup, I knew it couldn’t get any better than this. My second experience far exceeded the former. On that rainy spring afternoon, a bowl of bún riêu cua was all the comfort I needed.

Vietnamese Crab Noodle Soup (Bún Riêu Cua)

bowl of bun rieu_small by you.

In Vietnam, mud crabs (a type of soft-shell crab) are often caught in rice paddy fields for this dish. To extract the crab “juice” essential to this dish, their top shells are removed and pounded with some salt. Water is then added, and the resulting liquid strained through a sieve. Thanh Nguyen proposes a more modern method–whirling the crabs in a blender and then straining. You can find frozen soft shell crabs at the Asian market, or use Dungeness or blue crab meat instead.

Time: 1 hour
Makes: 6 to 8 servings

10 cups water
1 1/2 pounds pork spare ribs, cut into individual 1-inch pieces (available at Asian butchers)
1 cup dried shrimp, rinsed and ground to a coarse powder in a food processor
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon ground paprika
4 tomatoes, each cut into 4 wedges then halved crosswise (3 red and one green for crispness)
1/2 pound (1 whole) soft-shell crab, or lump crab meat
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
4 eggs
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 cup (half a 7-ounce bottle) shrimp paste in soybean oil (see notes below)
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
1 pound thin round rice noodles (bún) or rice vermicelli, cooked according to package directions

Garnish:
2 cups (6 ounces) fresh mung bean sprouts
1 cup shredded cabbage or lettuce
1 cup cilantro sprigs
1 cup Vietnamese balm leaves (kinh gioi)
1 cup spearmint leaves
1 jalapeño, cut into rings
Chopped green onions
3 limes, cut into wedges

In a large stockpot, bring the water to a rolling boil over high heat with the pork ribs and dried shrimp. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 2 hours, or until the meat is tender.

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add the garlic and fry until fragrant, about 15 to 30 seconds. Add the paprika and stir for another 10 seconds. Turn off the heat and add everything to the stockpot.

In the same skillet, stir and cook the tomatoes in the remaining oil over medium heat for 1 minute and add to the stockpot.

  blending

In a blender, blend the crab, shells and all, with 1 1/2 cups water for about 15 to 20 seconds until the shells are crushed and the meat is pureed. Strain the juice and add to the stockpot. Add 1 more cup of water to the blender and pulse 2 to 3 times to absorb any remaining flavor. Strain and pour the liquid into the stockpot. Discard the shells and meat. (If using only crab meat, you can add the meat to the soup if desired but be sure to pick out any cartilage.)

crab waste

Throw out the crab remnants

Mix the tamarind paste with 1/2 cup of warm water and add to the stock.

mixing

In a medium bowl, mix the eggs and ground pork with chopsticks or a fork until well combined. Stir in the shrimp paste and mix well. Slowly add the egg and pork mixture to the soup. Do not stir, allowing the meat to cook in clusters for about 8 to 10 minutes.

clusters

Sprinkle with fish sauce and salt and stir gently so that the meat clusters remain intact.

preparing bun rieu_small

Divide the cooked rice noodles among individual bowls. Garnish as desired. Pour 2 cups of hot soup over each bowl of noodles, including one or two pork ribs and some pork clusters.

Pat’s notes:
Shrimp paste in soybean oil is a bottled sauce comprising shrimp, garlic, white pepper, soybean oil, and fish sauce. A staple of Southern Thailand, it can be added to fried rice, noodles, stir-fried vegetables, and seafood dishes. Store up to 6 months refrigerated once opened. Thanh Nguyen uses Pantainorasingh brand available at http://www.importfood.com.

Vietnamese balm (kinh gioi) has a concentrated fragrance and flavor akin to that of lemon balm. The slender serrated leaves have a lavender center. Sold in small plastic bags, they will keep for 3 or 4 days in the refrigerator.

Grandma Miyoshi’s Dango jiru

Every time Lisa Nakamura makes dango jiru, she is transported back to her late grandmother’s kitchen in Kapoho, Hawaii. Dango refers to dumplings and most recipes call for dumplings made with mochi (sweet rice flour). Grandma Miyoshi’s version is extra special–and very Hawaiian; not only does it use all-purpose flour for noodles, it has spam in it! The soup is meant to be jam-packed (“I guess we pretty much ate it as it was cooking, so there never seemed to be the ‘crowding’ issue,” says Lisa), so add more water if you prefer.

Time: 1 hour
Makes: 4 to 6 servings

1 cup cold water
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 (12-oz) can Spam, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced into crescents
1 large head of mustard cabbage, trimmed and cut into thirds
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into thin coins (about 1 cup)
1 bunch mizuna
1 bunch watercress, stems trimmed and cut into half
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Chinese hot mustard paste for dipping (or mix mustard powder with water)
2 stalks green onions, chopped into ‘O’s for garnish

In a large bowl, combine water and 2 cups flour to form a dough as soft as your earlobe (yes, those are Lisa’s grandmother’s instructions). Add remaining flour 1 tablespoon at a time until dough no longer sticks to your hands as you mix it.

Take dough out of the bowl and knead it on a well-floured surface for about 5 minutes, or until texture is smooth. Set dough on a floured surface, cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.

While dough is resting, make the soup.

In a large 6-quart pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil over high heat. Add spam, onions and carrots and bring soup to a boil again. Simmer soup, covered, over medium-low heat for 30 minutes.

Throw in vegetables and cook until they are just tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add salt, soy sauce and sugar.

On a well-floured surface, roll out dough into a 12×12-inch square, and about 1/8-inch thick. Cut dough into strips about 1-inch wide. Pull gently on the noodle to thin it out. (If you prefer you can cut it in half too).

Raise heat to medium-high. Place each noodle into the bubbling soup, careful not to bunch it up. Repeat until all the dough has been used. Cook the noodles until “al dente,” bearing in mind that all-purpose flour will have a softer texture than regular pasta. About 6 to 8 minutes.

Ladle soup and noodles into big bowls and scatter green onions over. Serve steaming hot with Chinese mustard and extra soy sauce in dipping dishes.

See what one of my recipe testers says about this recipe at  http://1tess.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/dango-jiru-recipe-test-2/

Aromatherapy in a Bowl

Thank you thank you thank you to everyone who has responded to my plea for recipe testers! That being said, please be patient with me–I have this horrendous cold that I can’t seem to shake off. Concentrating with a fuzzy brain hasn’t been easy the last few days so I’m busy playing catch up. I did find some relief though … in a comforting bowl of Cambodian herb-scented chicken soup.

Both my hubby, hungry_hobbit, and I have been under the weather–he with bronchitis–so I decided to make this aromatic soup I learned from Phiroum (remember her from the boning chicken episode?). This Southeast Asian version has all the healing qualities of mama’s chicken noodle soup and I guarantee it’ll chase the blues away on a chilly winter day!

Cambodian Herb-Scented Chicken Soup (S’ngao Chruok Moan)

Just about every ingredient from sawtooth herb to lemongrass gives this refreshing soup its sprightly flavor and delightful fragrance. If you prefer, you can use boneless chicken meat but the bones give the stock better flavor. I also advise against using breast meat as it gets dry after boiling. Try tilapia or salmon fillets instead of chicken.

Time: 40 minutes
Makes: 4 to 6 servings

6 cups water
1 tablespoon rice
4 bone-in chicken thighs (about 1-1/2 pounds)
2 sawtooth herb leaves
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 1/8-inch slice galangal
1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed, smashed and cut into fourths on the diagonal*
8 oz mushrooms, quartered (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
4 kaffir lime leaves**

Garnish:
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/4 cup minced sawtooth herbs
1/4 cup green onions, cut into ‘O’s
1/4 cup minced Thai basil
2 limes, cut into wedges

In a 4-quart pot, bring water and rice to a boil over high heat. Add chicken, sawtooth herbs, spring onion, galangal and lemongrass. Bring to a boil again then simmer, covered, over medium heat for 15 minutes.

Take out chicken, discard bones and cut meat into bite-size pieces. Return chicken to pot and add mushrooms. Add fish sauce, salt, and kaffir lime leaves. Simmer another 3 to 4 minutes. Soup is ready when mushrooms are done.

Fish out the large herbs and ladle soup into individual bowls. Garnish with herbs and lime and serve with dipping sauce (below).

Note:
*Smashing lemongrass releases its flavor. Instead of a cleaver, use a meat tenderizer to smash it.
**Crumple kaffir lime leaves in your hand just before adding to the soup to release its essential oils and flavor.
Dipping sauce (Tik Chror Louk)

Juice from 1/2 large lime (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon water
4 teaspoons fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
2 Thai chili peppers, chopped into rounds
1 garlic clove, minced
4 Thai basil leaves, minced

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and stir well.