Archive for the ‘ Asian ’ Category

PHRIK KHING CURRY PASTE

Every once in a while I’ll spend a Sunday afternoon making some Thai curry paste. Like I mentioned in my recipe for panang curry paste, a quick trip to the Asian market for a few hard to find ingredients and about an hour in the kitchen with your mortar and pestle will set you up for a good month of authentic Thai cooking at home.

As far as I’m concerned, this stuff is money in the bank.  It keeps for a  up to a month in the fridge and is perfect for pulling together a bona fide Thai meal in minutes.  Stir-fry the paste, some meat and a few handfuls of seasonal vegetables in your favorite wok, add in some stock, palm sugar, fish sauce and Thai basil, throw it all on top of some sticky rice and you’ll be set up for some truly delicious eating.

Unlike a red, green or yellow curry, phrik khing is considered a “dry-style” curry, free of any coconut milk.  Instead, the paste is fried in oil and moistened with a bit of stock to create a sauce that clings to the protein and veggies.  The resulting dish can be characterized as smooth and a bit peppery with fragrant notes of galangal and lemongrass throughout.

So, next time you’re looking for something to cook on a lazy Sunday afternoon, consider making some homemade curry paste and look forward to reaping the rich culinary dividends of delicious Thai meals in the weeks that follow.

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BANH MI SANDWICH

If you haven’t tried Vietnamese banh mi by now, you’ve been missing out on a truly remarkable sandwich. At once exotic, but at the same time decidedly familiar, these guys are unlike anything in the American lunchtime lineup.  No cheese or mustard here, just the perfect marriage of sour, salty and savory Vietnamese flavors on a sweet, light-as-air, French baguette all harmoniously coming together in one killer snack.

Topped with crunchy pickled carrots and daikon, cool sliced cucumber, aromatic cilantro and spicy chilies, a good banh mi is a melange of flavors and textures. Not unlike a BLT, banh mi are salty, crunchy and juicy with a nice counterpoint of warm meats. Packed with savory roast pork or my version with grilled five-spice chicken shown above, the real beauty of this sandwich is its variety of delicious proteins.  From grilled lemongrass beef or sardine, to the deli combo loaded with roast pork, mortadella and paté there are plenty of options out there to satisfy any hankering. Here in San Francisco, Saigon Sandwich on Larkin Street is home to some of the finest banh mi around.  At $3.50 apiece, I defy you to find a better quality, more filling sandwich for cheaper anywhere in the city.  This is the Asian sandwich.

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HONEY WALNUT SHRIMP

I saved this unabashedley Chinese-American dish for the final post in my week of Chinese take-out meals at home because, well . . . it’s pretty damn sweet, like sweet enough to be a dessert. But don’t fear, the savory addition of prawns, mayonnaise and a nice sprinkling of salt make it worthy of your dinner plate.

It only dawned on me when I was making it that this particular dish may not be everyone’s favorite — certainly not in the same way chow mein tends to be. The inclusion of sweetened condensed milk and mayo might sound a bit off-putting, but if you’ve ever enjoyed fried calamari or shrimp dipped in a pleasantly sweet, thick sauce, then you’ll understand the appeal. When the crispy prawns and crunchy walnuts are tossed in the sweet, creamy sauce it creates a succulent combination of textures and flavors — a perfect compliment to salty pot stickers and broccoli beef.

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BROCCOLI BEEF

My girlfriend (and her entire family) is nuts for broccoli beef.  In fact, she’s down with almost all of the classic Chinese-American dishes — chow mein, wonton soup, cashew chicken, etc.  When I told her I was planning on pulling together a few recipes for Chinese New Year to post on the blog, she insisted that this dish had to be on the menu.  As she put it, “this is the type of Chinese food that everybody loves.”  As hard as it is to admit, I too am fairly partial to a good take-out box of broccoli beef every once in a while.  Sure, I have a few Chinese friends that scoff at the very notion of this dish as a truly “authentic” Chinese dish, but the fact of the matter is, this is good, simple comfort food at its best.

Making good broccoli beef at home is way easier than most people think.  In fact, with a few Asian ingredients that all home chefs should have in their pantry and about a pound of good flank steak, the average home cook can have an outstanding dish on their table in less than a half hour.  Simply follow the principles of good stir-frying technique and you are pretty much guaranteed solid results.  Make this dish. After you see how easy it is to put together you might just reconsider paying $9-$10 for it at a restaurant the next time you get that craving.

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POT STICKERS

I absolutely loved eating pot stickers growing up.  In fact, no night of Chinese take-out was complete without them in my house.  And what’s not to like about them?  Crispy on one side, tender on the other and bursting with a flavorful, juicy pork and shrimp filling.  Yup, give me a bowl of soy or some sweet and sour dipping sauce and I was good.  Then…I went away to college and simply lost all interest in these delicious dumplings.

You see, there is a brand of frozen pot stickers on the market that seems to be stocked in every grocery store on the planet. It’s highly likey that you might have eaten them yourself at one point in time.  And why wouldn’t you have?  They aren’t half bad when you prepare them correctly.  But it was the constant consumption of these store-bought wonders by my roommates that really put me off them for a while.  Do you know what it’s like to come home from a long day of classes to a house steamed up with the funky stench of industrialized cabbage wontons?  Not good! Sure they were good the first couple of times, but after a while it’s just not the same as the genuine, handmade article.

So, smack-dab in the heart of Chinese New Year, I present to you a killer recipe from this month’s Fine Cooking Magazine for authentic, pork and shrimp jiao zi.  Simple enough to assemble and sheer gold sitting in your freezer, this recipe has single-handedly renewed my interest in these classic Chinese dumplings.  Loaded with a myriad of traditional Chinese ingredients like ginger, rice wine, napa cabbage, scallions and sesame oil, these pot stickers are leagues above your average supermarket variety and far better than the restaurant versions I’ve had in recent years. Serve them with the accompanying recipe for scallion-soy dipping sauce and you have a knockout appetizer.

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