Black Sesame Soba Noodles

soba

Soba, made from buckwheat flour, is prettily packed in bundles about 8 to a package. Note that many sobas are also made with wheat flour so it isn’t a gluten-free food.  Juwari, the finest–and usually most expensive–soba is made entirely of buckwheat, but please please read the labels especially if you are allergic or intolerant to wheat!

Black Sesame Soba Noodles

{Adapted from 101cookbooks.com}

black sesame noodles3

This is turning out to be my go-to recipe for a simple summer lunch. It’s done in 15 minutes, even less if you make the sesame paste ahead and refrigerate. Top the noodles with whatever you have on hand—poached chicken, pan-fried tofu, pickles, your options are only limited to what you have in your fridge!

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes

1/2 cup toasted black sesame seeds
2-1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1-1/2 teaspoon mirin or dry sherry
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch of chili pepper flakes or cayenne
12 ounces soba (3 bundles)
1 small cucumber, shredded
1 small carrot, shredded

Grind the sesame seeds with a mortar and pestle, or in a small food processor, until it resembles coarse black sand.

Stir in the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, sugar, and chili flakes and mix until a smooth paste forms. Taste and adjust accordingly.

Cook the soba according to package directions, reserving 1/3 cup of the cooking water. Rinse the noodles with cold water and drain.

Thin the sesame paste with the cooking water and toss with the noodles. Garnish with cucumber and carrot and slurp up! This dish is tasty eaten at room temperature or chilled first.

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Munchie Mania: Sausage Rolls

When I was a little girl, I was quite the snacker (who am I kidding, I’m still a snacker!). Although potato chips and Planters Cheez Curls were readily available, I went for more “local” snack items like Chickadees and Twisties, or perhaps chili-coated tapioca crisps.

As a tween, I realized I required heftier munchies to sustain me throughout the day and that’s when I turned to curry puffs, fried fishballs on a stick, and my all-time favorite, sausage rolls.

one missing

Sausage rolls may sound like a strange snack to grow up eating in Singapore but it’s no doubt a colonial legacy. In fact, when we lived in England for a couple of years, sausage rolls and Devon cream teas were both staples in my diet, much to the detriment of my waistline. Sausage rolls used to be sold at just about every school canteen and roadside snack bar. Sadly, on a recent trip to Singapore I couldn’t spot them anywhere.

A few years ago, I picked up the “Singapore Heritage Food” cookbook and was excited to find a recipe for sausage rolls in there. However, the resulting product was not up to par with my taste memory—or perhaps nostalgia just made it murky.

Thankfully, my mother came to my rescue. Mum is good like that. Since we’ve moved to the U.S., she’s managed to recreate just about every childhood favorite (I’m talking about dishes that we used to go out to eat) from mee siam to chili crab. And every dish has been just as tasty, or even tastier.

One day, after I lamented about the disappointing sausage roll recipe, she decided to experiment and came up with a winner. Unlike the many sausage roll recipes I’ve seen, she uses nutmeg (it’s an Indonesian-Dutch thing) and lots of sugar to satisfy our Javanese taste buds I assume. Plus, she cuts them into smaller two-bite pieces so one is less likely to overindulge, a sensible precaution since it’s hard to stop at one. You have been warned, they are mighty greasy!

I don’t recall what my childhood sausage rolls taste like anymore. Nor does it matter as Mum’s version makes my family and I very happy–perfect for whenever we have an attack of the munchies. Amazing how fickle those taste buds can be!

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Mum’s Sausage Rolls

close up

Pork and puff pastry—I can’t imagine a more sublime marriage. My mum uses the Pepperidge Farm brand of frozen puff pastry but for some reason puff pastry isn’t always stocked at the neighborhood grocery store. I ended up buying Dufour brand at Whole Foods and that set me back a pretty penny–$10 for 14 ounces! Granted it’s made with real butter but still … That’s definitely an incentive to make my own puff pastry next time. If you have a good recipe let me know.

Makes: 20 pieces
Time: 20 minutes, plus cooking time

2 slices white or whole wheat bread, torn into small pieces
1/3 cup (2 percent or whole) milk
1 pound ground pork or chicken
3 to 4 teaspoons sugar (my family likes it sweet so add less if you prefer)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon white or black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I use freshly grated, and feel free to substitute with a different spice, say sage)
1 (14 to 17 ounce) package puff pastry, thawed completely
Flour, for dusting
1 egg, lightly beaten, and diluted with a tablespoon or two water
Black or white sesame seeds for sprinkling, optional

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.

Soak the bread in the milk. Combine the ground pork with the sugar, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a medium bowl.

Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and unfold the puff pastry, rolling out if necessary. Cut into half to form two rectangles measuring 8 x 24-inches.

Add the soaked bread to the pork mixture and mix with your hands.

Divide the pork mixture into half and shape a mound of meat (like a mountain range) along the horizontal of each puff pastry rectangle, leaving an inch or so on either side.

meat on dough

Brush the long edges of each rectangle with the egg, then fold the sides up and pinch together to seal.

wrapping dough

Turn the rolls over so that the seams are on the bottom. Brush generously with the egg, then sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Cut crosswise into 1-1/2 inch pieces.

sprinkle sesame seeds

Arrange the rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.

cut into pieces

Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for 10 more minutes, or until golden brown. (If using a different brand, adjust temperature and time according to package directions.) Remove to a cooling rack and leave to rest for a few minutes but devour while still warm!

Note: You can freeze the sausage rolls to keep them fresh for a later date. Just reheat them in an oven at 325 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes or in a toaster oven. I find this a good strategy as gobbling too many too quickly (and you will!) may be hazardous for your health.

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This post is part of the monthly Let’s Lunch Twitter blogger potluck. This  month we pay tribute to “The Marijuana Chronicles,” an anthology that  features Cheryl Tan’s short story. For more Let’s Lunch “Munchies” posts, follow #LetsLunch on Twitter or visit my fellow bloggers below:

Annabelle‘s Scallion Pancakes at Glass of Fancy

Anne Marie‘s Pepper-Stuffed Tater Tot, Fried Pickle, Cheese Whiz and Garlic Bread Burger at Sandwich Surprise

Cheryl‘s Spam Fries with Key Lime Mayo at A Tiger in the Kitchen

Emma‘s Homemade Pizza Rolls at Dreaming of Pots and Pans

Grace‘s Fry Sauce, with an Asian Twist at HapaMama

Linda‘s Sam Sifton’s Trinidadian Chinese Five Spice Chicken at Spice Box Travels

Lisa‘s No-Time-To-Wait Nachos at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Vivian‘s Spam Bacon & Kim Chi Sandwich at Vivian Pei

Black Sesame Ice Cream and a Cookbook Giveaway

Black sesame seeds have a toasty, nuttier flavor than white sesame seeds and is a favorite flavor in Asian desserts.
Black sesame seeds have a toastier, nuttier flavor than white sesame seeds and is a favorite in Asian desserts.

Have you ever been struck by an incessant food craving that just won’t go away? (No, this has nothing to do with pregnancy.) It’s kinda like an earworm (click here for more info about this wonderful new word I just learned about on NPR), a song that lodges in your head and plays over and over again.

Most often, it’s a childhood snack or comfort food you crave–mom’s mac and cheese, Twinkies (RIP), or cherry-flavored jello. And it’s always, always, always, annoying because you simply can’t shake it off until you actually indulge it.

In my case, I’ve been fantasizing about glutinous rice balls in sugar syrup (also known as tang yuan,汤圆) for the last week or so. You know, those chewy white balls made from glutinous (or sweet rice) flour, the ones that burst open with one bite, releasing a lavalike flow of sweet black sesame paste?

So when Diana Kuan (who writes the marvelous blog appetiteforchina.com) invited me to participate in her Chinese New Year potluck to celebrate her new book The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, one recipe was calling, siren-like, out to me.

I’ve seen black sesame ice cream on menus before but I’ve never tried it, let alone attempted to make it. However, Diana’s recipe is so simple that my mind was made up before you could say “black sesame.” I whipped up the ice cream base in barely 10 minutes and the ice cream machine did the rest of the work.

The four hours the ice cream had to sit in the freezer to set seemed like a toe-tapping eternity. As soon as the timer went off, I scooped some out, sat down with a bowl of cool, nutty black sesame ice cream and ate my craving away spoonful by luscious spoonful.

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If you’d like to win a copy of The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, please leave a comment below telling me where and/or in what dish you’ve tried black sesame seeds (and even if you haven’t, leave a comment anyway)! I’ll select a winner at random on March 8th.

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Black Sesame Ice Cream

Adapted from The Chinese Takeout Cookbook by Diana Kuan

ice cream scoop2Diana uses a light Philadelphia-style eggless base for this delicious dessert infused with a hint of vanilla and the more dramatic nutty fragrance and flavor of black sesame, which is almost akin to dark chocolate or French roast coffee. I lightened it up a little and used half-and-half instead of heavy cream for a fluffier gelato-like texture. If you can actually resist gorging, the ice cream stores well in the freezer for up to a week.

Makes: 1 quart
Time: 10 minutes, active

2 cups half-and-half, or heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/∕8 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup black sesame seeds

Special equipment:
Spice grinder
Ice cream maker

Combine 1 cup of the heavy cream, the sugar, and salt in a large bowl and whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Stir in the remaining 1 cup heavy cream, the milk, and vanilla extract. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour. (If you are in a hurry, skip this step).

Grind the sesame seeds in a clean spice grinder for about 5 seconds until they turn into a coarse powder. Don’t grind for too long as the seeds will turn into a paste.

Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and slowly pour in the ground black sesame. Churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezersafe container and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.

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Now for some disclaimers: I received a copy of this book as thanks for writing a blurb for the back cover. And in participating in this potluck, I’ll be given a copy of The Chinese Takeout Cookboook to share with one lucky reader as well as be entered in a giveaway. However, I am endorsing this book because it has awesome, easy recipes that I know you, my reader, will enjoy.