Category Archives: Asian
After a long string of unrelated career choices in my early youth, including a detective (ages 8-10), a freelance spy/mercenary who resembled the comic book hero Punisher (ages 10-11), a professional baseball player/owner of baseball card store (age 11), a writer of paranormal fiction (age 12), I finally decided on horticulture (ages 13-18). I was obsessed with plants. I filled my dad’s house with so many potted plants that the windows would fog up. I couldn’t eat a fruit without planting its seeds, or enjoy an avocado without removing the pit and placing it in a glass of water to entice its roots to grow. Our kitchen looked like a mad science laboratory and windowsills became expensive real estate.
Looking back, it was a little eccentric that I spent several minutes each day breathing on each houseplant, to give them more air; or that I flipped yearningly through plant books while my friends were reading Batman comics or Playboys. I knew the Latin name for every potted plant and became irritatingly pedantic when visiting friends, if I came across a neglected or ill specimen. Nitrogen deficiency, I would say; or don’t give this guy a south facing window – shade is preferable; or, your fern needs watering (with a condemning scowl). I didn’t get invited out much.
During my last year of high school I was given a shiitake log by someone who knew of my love of growing things. These logs are pretty remarkable if you’ve never seen one before. It is a small log that has been coated, I’m guessing, by spores from this delicious fungi. After a few weeks sitting in a cool damp place, mushrooms begin to grow on and off for several months. I hadn’t really been a huge lover of fungi until then, but there is something wonderfully meaty and exotic with shiitake. Ranging anywhere from $4 to $8 a pound, I don’t often buy these expensive ingredients; although they are always a welcome treat in my kitchen, especially in this ginger-shiitake glaze paired with salmon which I know you’ll love.
Leave a comment | tags: ginger, healthy, Salmon, shiitake, shiitake glaze, shiitake log | posted in Asian, Fish and Meat
I first tasted this dish – known as Khao Niaow Ma Muang – in Kanchanaburi, a city in Thailand notable for its Bridge on the river Kwai, otherwise known as the Death Railway. Despite its murky past, where during World War II the Japanese forced Allied prisoners to build a railway from Thailand to Burma, the city is now very quaint: scenic river views, internet cafes, outdoor night markets and elephants that will pose for food or money.
It is most likely in Kanchanaburi that Sonia contracted Dengue Fever, though she wouldn’t know about it until a few days later once we had already left town. The mosquitos there were kamikaze-crazy and they marauded through the humid streets in thick swarms with an electric, infuriating hum. Oblivious to the impending “break bone fever” that was to come, Sonia and I both dined at a restaurant that resembled a tiki jungle hut, where our guidebook recommended mango and sticky rice for dessert. Before then, I had never conceived of rice being eaten with mangos – and certainly not as a dessert. I haven’t tasted it again in a restaurant since returning home, though looking through photos of the trip recently a Pavlovian response ensued, which left me salivating and craving the sweet and salty sticky rice with a side of cool, freshly sliced mango. Enjoy!
2 Comments | tags: coconut milk, glutinous rice, kanchanaburi, mango, mango and sticky rice, sticky rice, thailand | posted in Asian, Desserts, Thai, Vegetarian
Last night my friend Janelle requested a soup recipe so that she could have something hearty to eat during her long hospital shiftwork this week. I’m not envious of nurses for many reasons, particularly because they have to handle needles, catheters and are exposed to dangerously high levels of Jello. My poor stomach couldn’t handle the ever-changing meal schedule, week to week, of rotating shift workers. Even with the time change of one hour a few weeks ago, my stomach was left gurgling in confused exasperation for much too long.
During my cleanse a few weeks ago I made this delicious lentil soup twice within a matter of days. Lentil soup is one of my favourites – I love its consistency, colour and wonderful earthy flavours. I also feel very self-righteous when eating something as nutritionally rich as lentils. This is a spicier version of a basic lentil recipe, which gives a slight tingle to the esophagus on the way down. Not in a reach-for-the-pepto-bismal kind of way, but rather like the sensation of eating chicken tandoori; the subtle heat has an addictive quality and the curry powder nicely complements the lentils. You may want to double the batch to be safe, as it will go quickly.
2 Comments | tags: curried lentil soup, curry, Indian, lentil soup, recipe, Soup, vegetarian | posted in Asian, Indian, Soups and Salads, Vegetarian
I spent this weekend on Saltspring Island visiting my folks and playing with their new Suffolk lambs that were born last week. Lambs are very docile within the first few weeks, letting themselves be picked up and cuddled; but they’re voraciously hungry, nibbling on clothing, shoelaces, an extended finger, or the dog’s tail. Thankfully, my mom’s sheep are for wool only, not for serving with mint sauce. She would just as soon make a stew from her Golden Doodle than send her sheep down the Green Mile.
My sister has been sick for a few days, so my mom proposed a cooking marathon on Sunday to prepare some healthy food to bring over. Cooking there is always a pleasure, except when baking is involved; my mom’s Aga stove, with its many compartments of varying temperatures, perplexes me and thwarts any attempt to adhere to standard cooking times. She has an immense, well-lit kitchen with ample counter space and breath-taking ocean views. Every few hours a ferry will trod past, weaving in and out of the Gulf Islands, or a pair of eagles will careen in the wind as they eye up waterfowl.
Aga stove: each compartment is a different temperature which I still can't figure out
This healthy and tasty meal has loose ties to a recipe my mom found in the Flat Belly Diet book that’s she’s been carrying around like a holy text. She’s been on a fitness kick for the past few months and has been very proud of the results. The epitome of modest, when someone comes to visit she’ll say something like “Feel my arms,” as she flexes her biceps and scowls. “The beach is that way.”
We’ve added the yogourt here, for a healthier alternative to coconut milk, and the pineapple gives the dish a surprisingly sweet taste that compliments the heat of the curry. Enjoy!
8 Comments | tags: curry, healthy, Indian chickpea curry, indian food, pineapple, recipe, vegetarian, yogourt | posted in Asian, Indian, Side Dishes, Vegetarian
I’ve been begging my friend Luke for a few months now to let me post some of his recipes. Although you might never guess it by hearing him talk excitedly about hockey or speaking in his gruff manner, Luke is one of the biggest foodies I know and the embodiment of the word “gourmet”. He cooks like a master chef and takes great pride in his kitchen, his ingredients and in the thoughtful presentation of his dishes. He is also one of the few people I know who makes an effort to properly pair his food with wines and he always asks for the freshest catch when selecting his fish, unlike normal people who normally don’t think twice.
When he phoned me up yesterday night to try some of his chicken curry dish that he had been sweating over for the afternoon, I knew better than to decline. He is a wonderful chef when it comes to regular meals, but with Indian food he has a remarkable skill. I’ll hand things off to Luke to share this flavourful, exotic recipe.
I’m not a chef by any means, but I do like to eat well, which to me means healthy, seasonal food cooked fresh — therefore I cook. I am also tired of eating out at restaurants and suffering the consequences, both financial and gastro-intestinal.
After a recent trip to India, and in light of our recent cold weather, I find myself craving hearty, healthy dishes that instantly warm me and maybe even make me sweat a little. This particular recipe stems from a past relationship with a woman of Indian descent who, after my persistent begging and pleading, explained the general guidelines and instructions — because no such “recipe” exists — to create the flavours that never quite resemble her mom’s wonderful and traditional Saturday night meal. That being said, it is a close rendition that I am proud to make and I believe the taste exceeds that of any “authentic” Indian restaurant in my little city.
5 Comments | tags: cumin, curry, curry chicken, garam masala, india, indian cuisine | posted in Asian, Chicken, Indian
Gung Hay Fat Choy – Happy Chinese New Year everyone!
Although a great excuse to head down to your city’s Chinatown for some Dim Sum, Chinese New Year is also a celebration of the beginning of spring after a long dreary winter, and a time to get together with family and friends and then complain about the weather. Children are taught to be on their best behaviour, particularly on the first day of the new year, as they are told that what happens that first day, whether in action or in thought, will decide the course of the year. This is a nice and refreshing change from the typical North American tradition, where January 1st usually begins with a hangover and two Aspirin.
The great thing about the Chinese New Year is that it doesn’t carry with it the same burden or pressure for self improvement, with lists of resolutions and tiresome commitments. This means no new gym memberships. No vices to break. No need to stop swearing while I drive, to cease biting my nails, or to refrain from drinking directly from the milk carton. Already this is a holiday that I’m warming up to.
To celebrate the Year of the Rabbit, I cooked and ate my first rabbit ever. I also went snowboarding for the first time and stayed mostly on the bunny slopes, though admittedly the connection with the Chinese zodiac is a bit of a stretch. In attempt to recognize the tradition at home, I decided to create my own fortune, by inserting prophetic pearls of wisdom inside homemade fortune cookies that looked close enough to the ones brought out on the bill tray at Don Mees. To carry on the tradition that was always used in my family, don’t forget to use the words “in bed” after reading your fortune aloud.
May the Year of the Rabbit bring you good fortune, happiness…and no gym memberships.
2 Comments | tags: asian, chinese new year, chinese zodiac, cookie, dessert, Fortune cookies, new year | posted in Asian, Desserts
I don’t know what it’s like where you come from, but here in Victoria, British Columbia we have seen some strange health trends over the past few years (Vancouverites, I know you’ll agree): a cult-like obsession with yoga and form-fitting Lululemon pants, a substantial market of people who are willing to pay over $6 for a small loaf of organic bread containing enough seeds to keep the local bird population thriving through the winter…and then there is Sushimania, where the health-conscious pay through the nose for rice, seaweed and fish that the chef was too lazy to cook. Although I do enjoy things Japanese – the food, the tea ceremonies, the culture – and have voraciously read the novel Shogun, I have a difficult time paying such a hefty bill for something so inexpensive to make at home. I do that with coffee already and feel guilty enough.
A Japanese friend of mine showed me how to make very basic tuna sushi rolls which take under 30 minutes to prepare and only cost about $5 for enough rolls to plump up a roomful of hungry Victorians. There are many different ways to prepare Sushi, but this is one of the simplest rolls I’ve found, so it’s a good entry-level dish before attempting the preparation of eel, puffer fish or fish roe that pop in your mouth and set off the gag reflex.
Although sushi is relatively cheap to make, you’ll have to invest in a few inexpensive tools and ingredients that should last you a while: Continue reading
Leave a comment | tags: japanese, nori, recipe, Rice, seaweed, soy sauce, sushi, tuna | posted in Appetizers, Asian, Fish and Meat, Side Dishes
This green curry dish is the most popular Thai meal after Phad Thai – but watch out, it’s spicy!
I first learned to make it at the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School during my stay in Thailand, where it became my inaugural meal using coconut milk. Before this I had never really given it a chance. My earliest memory of a coconut (cue the flashback harp music) is from a trip to Florida when I was really young, where my dad broke open a coconut that had washed up on the beach and handed my brother and I pieces to examine and nibble on. I remember the clear liquid on the inside tasting foul and then subsequently I was turned off everything ‘coconut’ for a few decades, however undeserved.
I’ve since learned that coconut milk isn’t actually the liquid inside of a coconut, as I had been led to believe; and many years after my Florida trip I realized that the liquid deserved another chance. After all, I had the same initial reaction to coffee and alcohol and look where I am now. During our stay in a rural Thai village, on a particularly sweltering day, our host father poked holes in a coconut he picked from his yard and handed us straws for drinking. Parched from the heat, I found this makeshift umbrella drink refreshing and vowed thereafter to conquer all of my other childhood food aversions.
Actual coconut milk, if ever the question is asked on Jeopardy, is made by squeezing the grated flesh of a coconut with a bit of hot water. The resulting rich, creamy liquid looks much like cow’s milk…and it is a vital ingredient in the making of most curry dishes, including this one. Continue reading
1 Comment | tags: chicken, green curry, Soup | posted in Asian, Chicken, Soups and Salads, Thai
Our favourite Isan (North East Thailand) meal, which we have occasionally made since returning home from our travels there, is minced chicken salad, or Laap Gai. Like other typical Isan cuisine, it is spicy and rich in flavour. Traditionally it is made with ground, roasted sticky rice in it, though I usually skip this step for simplicity without noticing the difference. I enjoy eating this dish, as the Thai people do, with handfuls of sticky rice, or wrapped in lettuce leaves like a wrap.
Follow this link to read about my experiences in Thailand
1 1/2 cups chicken breast or turkey breast, minced or ground. Ground chicken is usually available at grocery stores.
4 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tbsp fish sauce – yes, it smells vile, but it’s an integral ingredient in Thai dishes
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp chilli powder
2 tbsp finely chopped red onion (optional)
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped (optional)
1 green onion, chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, chopped
1. Place the ground chicken, shallots, red onion, fish sauce, lime juice and chilli powder into a medium bowl and mix together.
2. Heat a wok and on medium heat and cook the chicken mixture for about 6 minutes until the chicken is cooked. During the last minute, add the mint, cilantro and green onion.
3. Serve with sticky or glutinous rice or in lettuce leaves, similar to lettuce wraps.
2 Comments | posted in Appetizers, Asian, Chicken, Side Dishes, Soups and Salads, Thai
There are a lot of great peanut-satay products that one can buy, normally found somewhere in the asian food section of the grocery store. But I find it just as easy to make my own with an ingredient that is found in almost every cupboard – peanut butter.
1 pound skinless boneless chicken, either cubed or sliced into 1 inch x 3 inch pieces
1/3 cup peanut butter, store bought or home-made
1/4 cup boiling water
1 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp curry powder or paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
Red Chilli flakes, depending on taste (or 1 finely chopped chilli pepper if you are brave)
1 tbsp plain white yogourt or milk
1/2 tsp salt
1. Cut chicken into pieces, as above. Mix remaining ingredients in medium bowl – the hot water will melt the peanut butter into a creamy liquid consistency.
2. Set oven to broil.
3. Immerse the chicken into the peanut butter mixture to cover each piece well and then line the coated chicken in an oiled pan or cookie sheet. Reserve 1/4 cup of the mixture for a second coating later on.
4. Broil the chicken for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and brush chicken with remaining mixture, then cook for another 5 minutes. Serve on a bed of jasmine or basmati rice. Sprinkle with chilli flakes if desired.
1 Comment | tags: chicken, satay | posted in Appetizers, Asian, Chicken, Thai
I worked and travelled in Thailand for one summer and ended up staying in Chiang Mai for 3 days in the desperate search to see an elephant. The 3 days then turned into 2 weeks, as I lost track of time. I never did get to meet an elephant in that particular city except for one sad, wizened elephant who accompanied its master through a seedy district of town as a novelty for tourists. Although my exposure to these ancient pachyderms was a letdown, the rest of the city had plenty to offer.
I could spend countless posts praising or describing this incredible country, but will instead just focus on the couple of days when I signed up for Thai cooking classes at the renowned Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School, run by Thailand’s answer to Emeril: Chef Sompon. Classes would typically begin after lunch and last until dinner time and would include the preparation of 5 or 6 traditional dishes. Even though meals were spaced out, I would still skip breakfast each day just to make room for the feast that would follow. The Thai fish cakes were one of the meals made on the second day of my class and it was probably one of the only seafood dishes I recall eating during my stay. I know you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. Continue reading
2 Comments | tags: Fish, Fish cakes, Thai | posted in Appetizers, Asian, Fish and Meat, Side Dishes, Thai
If you’ve never tasted Phad Thai – or Thai Noodles – before, then you’re life has been missing something vital and imperative. It is the quintessential Thai meal, if ever there was one; like bangers and mash to the British, sushi and sashimi to the Japanese, or Swedish meatballs to Ikea shoppers. Although the best place to sample this dish is fresh from a Bangkok street vendor in Thailand itself, probably for the equivalent of 50 cents, your local Thai restaurant will undoubtedly carry this dish too, though likely for 20 times the price. Better yet, dust off your kitchen wok, hunt down some fish sauce and other easy to find ingredients and try your hand at this very simple meal. For a bit of extra burn of the esophagus and for a more authentic Thai feel, try adding the peppers. Continue reading
Leave a comment | tags: fish sauce, noodles, pad thai, phad thai, recipes, stir frying, thai food, thailand | posted in Asian, Pasta, Thai, Vegetarian
If you’re like me, you have to order a serving of rice with sesame steak sauce every time you visit your local Japanese restaurant – there is something highly addictive about it. A friend of mine passed along this recipe, which I think tastes pretty close to the real thing.
1/3 cup raw sesame seeds
1 tsp dijon mustard mixed with 1 tsp dry mustard; mix with a little water to make a paste
2/3 cup light soy sauce
2/3 cup light oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1. Toast raw sesame seeds in a dry heavy saucepan on medium heat. Raise the saucepan in quick intervals off and on the heat, shifting and moving the seeds until they are a uniform light brown. Stay vigilant with this…the seeds can burn easily if left in one position too long.
2. Put seeds and remaining ingredients – except mayonnaise – in blender and blend until smooth, about three minutes.
3. Add mayonnaise and blend additional minute
Leave a comment | tags: japanese, Steak sauce | posted in Appetizers, Asian