Saturday, May 31, 2008

Jungle Curry of Fish and Vegetables with Fried Shallots

Jungle Curry is a type of curry made mostly in Northern Thailand, its main difference between most other Thai curries, is that it does not have coconut milk in it. It also usually contains krachai, giving it a delicious spicy flavour. You can use any combination of vegetables in it, though it's better to use more substantial ones, ie. ones that will retain their shape with cooking. We used the Southeast Asian Chicken Broth that we made earlier for this curry, it turned out well, and also gave it a good flavour. This is quite an unusual and interesting, flavourful curry, that could be adapted to use meats such as pork or chicken.

Jungle Curry of Fish and Vegetables with Fried Shallots
adapted from a recipe from Thai Food by David Thompson
1 whole small red snapper, cleaned
1 cups chopped mixed vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, orange pumpkin, Thai eggplant)
1 Tbsp Red Curry Paste
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 cup stock
1 Tbsp fish sauce
4 small "fingers" krachai, sliced thin
2 Tbsp shredded pak chii farang (long-leaf coriander)
fried shallots, for garnish

Dust the fish with flour, shaking off the excess. Pan-fry the whole fish in about 1 tablespoon of oil, about 10 minutes, until crispy and cooked through. Set aside. Remove flesh from fish bones and flake.

Add red curry paste and minced garlic and fry over a high heat with 1 tablespoon oil until fragrant enough to produce a sneeze. Add stock and krachai and, when boiling, the chopped mixed vegetables. Simmer until just cooked, about 2 minutes. Add flaked fish and fish sauce; bring to heat again. Finish with shallots and pak chii farang.

Basic Southeast Asian Chicken Broth

Every recipe for chicken broth is fairly similar, I thought this one was interesting, as it has a Southeast Asian taste and kick to it. Instead of celery and/or carrots and/or leeks, we add shallots and ginger and whole coriander, we replace black peppercorns with the spicier Sichuan peppercorns. This comes from the excellent culture-based travelogue/cookbook called Hot Sour Salty Sweet, a look at Southeast Asian food and culture, that of Thailand, Laos, southern China - Yunnan, and Vietnam. Well worth the read, I'm enjoying making some of the recipes.

Basic Southeast Asian Chicken Broth
From Hot Sour Salty Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
1 whole chicken or 3 to 4 pounds chicken necks and wings (or 1 chicken carcass)
water to cover
4 cloves garlic, peeled
2 to 3 shallots, halved, or 2 scallions trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths (optional)
about 10 black peppercorns or Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
3 thick slices ginger (optional)
2 whole coriander plants, including roots, well washed (optional)
salt and/or Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce to taste

Rinse the chicken well. Place in a large heavy pot and add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, skimming off and discarding any foam that comes to the surface. Add all the remaining ingredients except the salt and/or fish sauce, stir well to wet them, and simmer, half-covered, for about 40 minutes. (If you are using a chicken carcass, simmer the broth for about 2 hours.)

Place a sieve over a large bowl, pour the broth through it, and set aside meat for another purpose; discard the remaining solids. Let the broth cool completely, then pour it into one or more containers. Cover and refrigerate. After several hours, a layer of fat will have solidified on the surface; skim it off and set aside for another purpose if desired. You can use the broth immediately, or refrigerate it for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. You can season it after skimming off the fat or instead wait, as we do, and season with salt and/or fish sauce just before you use it.

If using the stock to make a clear broth, warm it slightly, then strain through a colander lined with a double layer of cheesecloth before proceeding with the recipe.

Makes 6 to 9 cups broth.

Speciale Italia Peperonciono

I've tried a few chocolates now with hot pepper or chili as its underlying flavour, including ones from Lindt, Slitti from Tuscany, and a Sicilian Aztec version, they've been fairly tasty, except not so much the Lindt one, this one comes from a company that has made several chocolate bars that I've enjoyed, Speciale Italia. This one, unlike some of the other ones, has a more subtle spiciness to it, a little more than mild-spicy, but still enough to complement the good chocolate. The cacao content is at 58%, and the ingredient listing is not as good as some of their other products, but still better than a lot of chocolate out there, cocoa paste, icing sugar (with 3% cornflour) (icing sugar!), cocoa butter, chili pepper powder (0.35%), soy lecithin (as an emulsifier) and aromas (likely vanilla/vanillin).

How does it taste? Fairly good, though not as good as some of their other offerings. I would eat this product again.

Carassauga Food Impressions

We attended Carassauga last weekend, the yearly exhibition of the multiculture present in the Mississauga area. Lots of food at each of the pavilions, some highlights for me, food-wise, are the menudo pork stew and the adobo chicken at the Philippine pavilion, along with the Halo-halo drink enjoyed by my beautiful Bride; the sesame bagel at the Turkey pavilion; the hazelnut gelato along with the lemon gelato at the Italian pavilion; seeing sorrel or bissap for sale in the African pavilion (very expensive!); the green coconut at the Jamaica pavilion; the pork or chicken tacos at the Latin America pavilion; really a lot of good food to sample, all at fairly expensive prices.

Spicy-Sour Thai Chicken Coconut Soup (Tom kha gai)

This is an excellent Thai sour and spicy soup, one I've enjoyed many times at one of my favourite Viet-Thai restaurants. Add more chilies if you like it spicy. The cabbage gives it a little sweetness when cooked.

Spicy-Sour Thai Chicken Coconut Soup
100 gms chicken breast
100 ml water
150 ml coconut milk
1 inch galangal, sliced
2 lemon grass, sliced
5-6 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
1 Sprig Coriander
2-3 bird's eye chili, crushed
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp fish sauce
5 cherry tomatoes
3/4 cup sliced Chinese cabbage

Put the water in pan and bring to the boil. When water is boiling, add the galangal, lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and salt. Add the chicken, fish sauce, lemon juice and coconut milk and simmer for 5 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked. Add chilies, cherry tomatoes, cabbage and coriander and simmer for a further 1 minute to let the flavours spread through the soup.

Morning Glory Curry

My beautiful Bride found this recipe in a book entitled Vegetarian Thai Recipes. Morning glory, also called Water Spinach or Ong Choy, is a long green vegetable that grows easily in waterways. It can be found in most Asian supermarkets, and is delicious stir-fried; there are many recipes from most Southeast Asian countries. The whole kaffir lime in this recipe is an unusual ingredient, mostly its zest and sometimes its juice is used. This is a delicious curry, served over fragrant Thai jasmine rice.

Morning Glory Curry
2 Tbsp oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 Tbsp red curry paste
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup oyster mushrooms, chopped
fried tofu, sliced
3 kaffir lime leaves, coarsely chopped
1 small kaffir lime, cut in half
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp tamarind water (mix tamarind paste with water)
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 cup morning glory, cut into 1 inch pieces

Heat the oil and fry garlic until golden brown. Stir in the red curry paste and immediately add the coconut milk, stirring well. Add remaining ingredients except for the last two. Stirring constantly, bring to boil. Add vegetable broth and return to boil. Add morning glory, cook until wilted, only 1-2 minutes. Serve with jasmine rice.

Kaffir Lime

The leaf of the Kaffir lime plant is more well-known, used in Thai and Indonesian cooking, but you can also use the fruit. The kaffir lime, native to Indonesia and Malaysia, is similar in size (slightly smaller) and colour to what we all know as limes, but has a bumpy skin. The zest can be used in cooking, making sure to avoid the very bitter white pith. As well, the juice of the lime can be used in cooking. It can also be used whole, in curries.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Isan Chicken Noodle Sauce

This sauce contains krachai, also called wild ginger, which, combined with the red curry paste, gives it a wonderful spicy flavour. It is one of the best Asian noodle sauces that I have eaten, spicy and flavourful. This recipe comes from Isan, a province in the North East of Thailand. Asian noodle dishes are done differently than Western versions, you cook the noodles and place them on a plate, along with other vegetables (we used blanched long beans, cucumbers, and shredded Chinese cabbage); each person then takes a little bit of warm, sometimes cold, noodles and some vegetables, and pours the heated sauce over all this. Quite a good introduction to this interesting root.

Isan Chicken Noodle Sauce
250 gms thin rice noodle
500 gms Chicken Leg, Thigh or Breast with Skin
4 garlic cloves, whole
2 medium onions
10 gms Chopped Krachai
4 Kaffir Lime Leaves
2 Tbsp Fish Sauce, divided
1 Tbsp red curry paste
1 tsp sugar
1 spring onion, diced
500 ml Water
500 ml Coconut Milk

Prepare the noodles according to package directions.

Boil the water together with the fish sauce, whole garlic cloves, onions cut into halves, and krachai.

Once it's boiling, add the chicken pieces and cook for 30 minutes.

When the chicken is done, remove the chicken from the sauce and set aside. When the meat is cool, shred the meat using a fork and discard the bones.

Remove the garlic, onion and krachai from the stock and pound them with the red curry paste. Add this back to the sauce.

Add the pulped tamarind paste and shredded chicken back into the sauce.

Add the coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce, kaffir leaves and spring onion, and boil for 10 more minutes.


Krachai, sometimes called Wild Ginger, and know also as Finger Root, because the rhizome root resembles long fingers. It gives dishes an interesting spicy flavour. It is best to use this fresh, but you can find krachai frozen, also in bottles sliced and picked in some good Chinese supermarkets.

Biofix Aronia Tea

This caffeine-free herbal tea from the Polish company BioFix has as its main flavour and ingredient the berry found mostly in Europe called Aronia, that is both astringent and not sweet, it's also high in antioxidants and Vitamin C. It also contains apples and black currants, both popular fruit tea ingredients.

Pompador Rosehip & Hisbiscus Flowers Tea

Here is my favourite herbal tea of all my many varieties, made by the German company Pompadour. I could drink this every day! Its ingredients are simple, just rosehips and hibiscus flowers. As I have found out, the flavour that I like, comes from the hibiscus rather than the rosehip, imparting too a wonderful deep red colour to the steeped tea.

Bibica Creamy Durian Cream Biscuits

These cookies from Vietnam taste very much like durian, and are not overly sweet, nor is the durian overwhelming. We found them in a local Chinese supermarket.

I suspect that they are just as "good" as North American cookies, and the durian within is artificial, though I doubt that this kind of cookie, a creme sandwich, would do well with real fruit.

President's Choice 60% Whole Wheat Fig Fruit Bars

These are the whole wheat version of President's Choice fig bars, their similar-to "Fig Newton" product. They are fairly good tasting, I like figs. They are part of PC's Blue Menu, and thus are Fat Free, with zero Trans Fats and no Hydrogenated Oils, though I would like it if there was less sugar.

Fresh Tomato and Herb Bruschetta

This is a very quick recipe to assemble and finish. We did it quick, too, having no french bread on hand, we instead used some multigrain slices of bread. We also used coriander instead of the Italian parsley, both because we had it on hand, and also because we like the flavour of it. Italian parsley works great as well. Quick and tasty as an appetizer.

Fresh Tomato and Herb Bruschetta
1 French loaf, or several slices of bread
4 large tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 Tbsp dried basil (or a handful of torn fresh basil leaves)
200 g shredded Mozarella
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh Italian parsley or coriander, finely chopped

Slice French loaf in half lengthwise. Place on a large baking sheet, cut surface up. Sprinkle tomatoes evenly on bread. Sprinkle with dried herbs and cheese. Combine garlic and olive oil; drizzle evenly over top. Bake at 400F for 10-15 minutes on top rack, until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Cut into medium slices. Sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

Eggplant Masala

This Indian dish is one that I got from an authentic Singaporean recipe book, Singapore has an eclectic array of food choices and recipes from various parts of Asia, including India. This is fairly easy to make, though you must watch it carefully, so as not to overcook, and thus burn, the eggplant and spices. Quite tasty served with rice.

Eggplant Masala
From Authentic Recipes from Singapore by David Wong and Djoko Wibisono
3 Tbsp oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 slender Asian eggplants (500 g total), halved and cut into lengths
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp tamarind pulp mashed in 4 Tbsp water, squeezed and strained to obtain juice

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat and cook the mustard seeds until they pop, about 1 minute. Add the cumin seeds and gently stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the onion and the garlic, stir-fry until light golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggplants, chili powder, coriander, turmeric and salt, stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the tamarind juice, reduce the heat and simmer until the eggplants are tender, about 7 minutes.

Sweet and Sour Tamarind

These sweetened spiced treats from Thailand are made from tamarind pods, the fruit and seeds together. They are quite good tasting.

These are the plain ones, with sugar and a bit of salt.

These have a little chili spice added.

Gaia Dark Chocolate Drops

This organic chocolate product from the California chocolatier The San Francisco Chocolate Factory is also Fair Trade certified, meaning the growers of the cacao receive a better price when selling their cacao beans. This is a Dark chocolate, though there is no indication of the cacao content; I would suspect that the cacao content is above the minimum 50% that allows it to be called Dark. The ingredient listing is good, all ingredients are organic, sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin (as an emulsifier) and vanilla.

How do they taste? Fairly good, a little sweet, likely as the main ingredient is sugar, but smooth and melts well in the mouth. The chocolate comes in small drops and cost about $5.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Durian Custard Bun

We bought this at this Chinese bakery on Hurontario in Mississauga, I believe they actually used durian to make it (likely frozen durian), rather than durian flavouring. Tastes good.

Small Bananas

These small bananas, native to South-East Asia, in Thailand and also Vietnam, are sweet and much smaller than the better liked variety of bananas that you can find in all supermarkets. They are also much more expensive, maybe 4-5 times. They are used to make steamed banana desserts in Thailand. As you can see, I'm in the wait-till-it's-black camp, I don't like them green. In all, despite their price, I think that they taste way better than their bigger brother.

Van Dyk's Wild Blueberry Juice

Of course I had to try this wild blueberry product from Van Dyk, I waited for it to come on sale, under $10, normally it's closer to $13. The blueberries come from Nova Scotia, and the product contains no sweeteners, preservatives or additives. It tastes great, and I've enjoyed it as part of my morning meal, using it as a sweetener instead of honey, but you can drink it on its own, or add it to other drink mixes.

Easy Singapore Laksa Noodles

We made this as our contribution for Easter dinner, it was enjoyed by all who sampled it. The Spice packages make it easier to create this dish, there are many different ones for different dishes from different countries. We also added fish balls when we made them, you can cut them in half and add them at the end, just to warm them up. Often, you can use half rice vermicelli and egg noodles, if you like and have them at hand.

Easy Singapore Laksa Noodles
From Asian Home Gourmet
1 packet Singapore Laksa SpicePaste
250 g bone-in chicken thighs, or prawns
2 cups water
1-1/2 cups thick coconut milk, or 50 g coconut cream powder mixed with 1-1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
125 g rice vermicelli or egg noodles
1 package puffed tofu, cut into half
100 g beansprouts
cilantro, chopped, for garnish

Cook noodles according to package directions.

Add chicken to boiling water; cover and cook for 20 minutes. Save stock. Debone, shred meat and set aside. If using prawns, cook until they turn pink, about 5 minutes.

Heat oil in saucepan. Add SpicePaste and stir-fry until fragrant. Add coconut cream and stock to the paste; stir well and bring to the boil. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.

Serve piping hot over noodles. Garnish with beansprouts, puffed tofu and shredded chicken or prawns. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Reese Limited Edition Hazelnut Creme Candy

Having read about this recently on several blogs, and that it is available only in Canada, I set about to find this new candy bar from Reese, makers of the Peanut Butter Cup, which I used to enjoy as a child, not so much anymore. That is contains hazelnuts rather than peanut butter is a good thing, though it is a hazelnut creme, rather than hazelnut paste or praline (which sparks an idea for a new treat I can make), I think that Reese could have done much better. How does it taste? Much more sweet than I'd like, but definitely hazelnut-y. Not bad, also expensive (perhaps I'm out of touch, but $1.25 for this smaller version, 30 g vs 47 g, of its big brother Reese Peanut Butter)!

M&M's Mint Crisps

Mars often ties a new version of its M&M's product, this year they have created a version of their Crispy M&M's adding the flavour of mint, and colouring it shades of green; they paired it with the opening of the new, and presumably last, Indiana Jones movie. Too, these contain dark chocolate, albeit very little, this is mostly about the crispy interior, the sweet mint coating, surrounded by the hard shell. They're not bad, a little too sweet for my tastes, but very minty.

Couscous with Mint and Tomato

Couscous is popular in Middle-Eastern dishes, it is essentially semolina wheat prepared into granules, and cooks simply by adding it to boiling water and letting sit for 5 minutes. You can then add almost any combination of herbs and vegetables to make a salad. It's great and easy to make, for a picnic or a quick lunch.

Couscous with Mint and Tomato
Adapted from a recipe by Laura Calder
1-1/2 cups couscous
juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh mint
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 onion, minced
Salt and pepper

Prepare the couscous as per package directions. Fluff the couscous into a large wide dish. Drizzle the lemon juice and olive oil over the fluffed couscous. Stir through the herbs, tomatoes and onion. Season well with salt and pepper.

Chinese Cadbuy Choclairs

These candies were left in the lunch room, they are the Chinese version of the Choclairs made by Cadbury, very similar, a semi-hard candy, with a liquid caramel centre surprise (much like the Caramilk bar, I would say).

Morinaga Venezuela Bitter

I found these dark chocolate squares from the Japanese company Morinaga, it contains cacao made from beans from Venezuela. I have found Venezuelan cacao beans to be very tasty, and this is no exception. The packaging is in Japanese, so either it has 56% cacao content, or 50% cacao content. Oddly enough, I found this in a Chinese store, in the mostly Chinese mall, Pacific Mall, in Markham.

How does it taste? The chocolate is smooth and not too bitter, despite its name, a very good example of good Venezuelan cacao.

Pork Curry with Pea-sized Eggplants

Having found the pea-sized eggplants that this dish calls for, we decided to make this really simple to make and good tasting fairly authentic Thai dish. You can use an already prepared Red Curry Paste, or make your own. You can also use a Green Curry paste, or even a Yellow one, each one will give a different flavour, but Red is the most common. I prefer my pork to be a little browned, I think that it would serve well, though I have been told that "it is not made that way". Sometime, I will do it that way, just to see what it tastes like.

Pork Curry with Pea-Sized Eggplants
From Authentic Recipes from Thailand by Sven Krauss
1/2 cup coconut cream
1 Tbsp Red Curry Paste (or Green, or Yellow)
350 g pork tenderloin, cut into bite-sized slices
1/3 cup pea-sized eggplants (optional)
1-1/2 cups thin coconut milk
1-1/2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
5 kaffir lime leaves, halved
1 fresh red chili, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Thai basil leaves

Bring the coconut cream to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Add the Red Curry Paste, pork, eggplant and coconut milk. Stir well and simmer over low heat until done, about 15 minutes.

Add the fish sauce, sugar, kaffir lime leaves and chili. Stir and heat through, then remove from heat and garnish with basil.

Little Green Globes

I had seen these for sale in various Chinese supermarkets, but didn't know what they were. I thought that they might be a herb or spice of some kind, something to add to an Asian Spice Paste. Now I found out, and you might guess that the answer came from my beautiful Thai Bride, that they are Thai pea-sized eggplants, similar to the more well-known and easier to find Thai eggplants, and native to South-East Asia. Normally bitter eaten raw, I think most eggplants have that nature, better when cooked, they pair well with, and enhance curries, cooling spicy dishes. Why did I find out now what they were? I came across several more authentic South-East Asian recipes, some Thai ones, in fact, that have this as an ingredient, and I wanted to try them out. The recipes are for pork or roast duck, not for chicken, and it will work to substitute beef. They can also be added to chili or shrimp pastes.

And now that I have tried them, I found them to be a little bitter, and similar to eating a tomato, when you crunch down on one, the seeds and juice burst out on to your tongue, filling it with its interesting and slightly bitter flavour.