Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Eve Dinner Recap

This year was my husband's and my first Christmas as a married couple, so it seemed appropriate to host my family's annual Christmas Eve dinner for the first time ever. I thought it would give my mom a nice break, but my ulterior motive was a chance to try out some party food recipes that I'd been filing away for just such an occasion. Here's what I served:

Crudites with homemade tzatziki (pretty much prepared as printed on Smitten Kitchen plus mint, minus vinegar, and hands-down the best tzatziki any of us have ever tasted), Trader Joe's pastry pups *blush*. We also served some smoked salmon and Italian cheese that my mom brought over.

Cambodian beef salad
This is one of my standbys (via Nigella Lawson) and it couldn't be simpler. Just grill a steak (I do mine medium rare), then mix the pan juices with juice from two limes, two serranos (finely chopped), one shallot (thinly sliced), two tablespoons of fish sauce, one teaspoon of brown sugar, and a handful of chopped mint. Drizzle this dressing over some salad mix, with the slices of steak served on top. To turn this into a main course, just add a handful of cooked bean thread noodles. They will soak up the crazy-addictive dressing and add some heft to the salad. This salad was decimated by the end of the night.

Tiny twice-baked potatoes
...because everything tastes better when it's teensy. I had the worst time scooping out the insides of my halved Yukon Golds until I landed on the following technique: fold a paper towel into quarters and place in your left hand (to protect it from the hot potato). Grab the potato firmly with the protected hand. Using a demitasse spoon, break into the center of the potato about a centimeter from the edge and work your way around the outside, sort of scooping as you go.

Mash the centers with about a cup of sour cream, a handful of chopped chives, 5 pieces of crisp, crumbled, applewood-smoked bacon, and the leaves from a few sprigs of thyme. I also added about ¼ teaspoon of salt. Restuff the potatoes, top with Parmesan, and cook in an oven at 450 for about 15 minutes. The original recipe came from Fine Cooking. Do you like how I pretty much doubled the suggested amount of bacon?

Spaghetti squash with lemon-ginger dressing
This was kind of disappointing on two counts. I accidentally overcooked the spaghetti squash, so it wasn't quite as crunchy as I like it. And the infamous Otsu dressing that I found mentioned on about 101 food blogs wasn't tangy enough for my taste. I preferred this dish the first time I made it, with a super simple ginger/rice vinegar dressing, the details of which I naturally cannot recall right now.

Brussels sprouts and pancetta (from the Lucques cookbook)
I love the veggie dishes at all of Suzanne Goin's restaurants, so it makes sense that her recipes for veggies would pretty much rock. Heat up two tablespoons of olive oil and two tablespoons of butter in a large pan (I used my wok). Cook the cleaned brussels in the oil/butter mixture for about 4-5 minutes. Take two shallots and four cloves of garlic and blitz them in the food processor. Add this and about ½ pound of finely diced bacon or pancetta to the pan. Let the bacon get crispy. Add ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar and 1 cup of homemade chicken broth. Let reduce to about ¼ cup of liquid. Taste and add salt if necessary. This was fabulous.

Two roast ducks from Chinatown
We saved the bones for duck broth, of course.

My sister Jen provided the dessert, which was a chocolate cake and pumpkin pie from Prolific Oven.

The best part? There were hardly any leftovers, so I got to return to my regularly scheduled daily dose of soup noodles the very next day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice Soup (Tang Yuan)

Going to college was a real eye-opening experience for me. I never realized how great I had it at home, until I was introduced to dorm food. Our cafeteria served a hodgepodge of mystery meats, overcooked veggies, and inedible starches that were half a step above t.v. dinners. Even more shocking to me was how many of my fellow students seemed to be ecstatic about the offerings. I'd come from eating amazing home-cooked, multi-course meals that were both tastier and healthier. To say I found the dorm food disappointing would be a massive understatement.

So in a way, it was inevitable that I would learn how to cook. It was a necessity if one wanted to eat well on a student's budget. And even now, when I can afford to eat pretty much wherever I want, I still prefer a home-cooked meal at least 9 out of 10 times. This winter solstice soup epitomizes the best of home cooking: clean, comforting, tasty food that you just can't find in a restaurant. My mom used to make this only once a year—per Chinese tradition—on the winter solstice, and I would look forward to it all year long. This year, I finally attempted it on my own, and frankly, it may get bumped up to a regular dish, tradition be damned.

The star of the soup is the sticky rice dumplings, also know as yuan, which are kind of like really chewy gnocchi. They are usually served in sweet soups (red bean, for example) as a dessert. But I prefer this satistfying, savory version.

Winter Solstice Soup (aka Tang Yuan)
I cooked a pork bone in some existing home-made chicken broth. If you were to make this broth from scratch, you would do the following:

Bones from a chicken carcass
One or two meaty pork bones
Water to cover
3 stalks of green onion
3 slices of ginger
¼ cup of Chinese rice wine (michiu)
Salt to taste

1. Place all your bones, as well as the ginger and onions in a large stockpot. Cover with water.

2. Bring water to a boil. Then skim off any scum that appears. I highly recommend investing in a cheapy scum skimmer, a nifty gadget I learned about on Steamy Kitchen. A spoon will suffice, however.

3. After the initial skim, add the rice wine, lower the heat, and simmer for at least an hour.

4. Salt to taste. Remove the bones, ginger, and onion, reserving the pork bones for their meat.

½ daikon, peeled and cut into 3 inch chunks
8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced (I used fresh; if you use dried, you will need to rehydrate them in warm water for about 20 minutes)
3 lap cheong (Chinese sausage), sliced
Reserved pork from making the broth (removed from the bone)

Place ingredients in the broth and cook over medium heat for half an hour.

DUMPLINGS (enough for two)
1½ cups of glutinous rice flour
Roughly ½ cup warm (just under boiling) water

Place rice flour in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add your water a little bit at a time until it forms a dry dough, stirring with a chopstick. The dough should be about the consistency of play-doh and should not stick to your hands. I ended up using about just a smidge over ½ cup of very warm water. Set the dough aside to rest, covered in plastic wrap, for about half an hour.

After half an hour, pinch off a marble-sized piece of dough and roll it between your palms until it forms a ball. If you have slave labor kids, this is a perfect project for them. Place rolled dumplings on a plate, making sure they don't touch.

Boil a pot of water. Once the water is boiling, drop the dumplings in, one by one. As soon as they float (it should be about three minutes), they're done. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Place about a dozen dumplings in the bottom of a soup bowl. Spoon a few ladles of soup on top. Garnish with cilantro and fried shallots.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Choucroute Garni

I'm Chinese, and my husband is French. As I mentioned in my last post, this can lead to a subtle East/West tug-of-war during mealtimes, but more often, it leads to wonderful new discoveries. I introduced my spice-loving husband to the incendiary Szechuan hotpot, a dish he now requests with frightening regularity, and he has enlightened me about dozens of obscure cheeses, fed me my first bite of pigeon (a revelation), and given me a glimpse of French home-cooking, including this tasty dish.

Choucroute garni is a dietitian's nightmare: loaded with sodium, sausages, and a full pound of bacon. Still, on a cold winter's night, it's pretty hard to beat. The smoky meat and spicy sausages are complemented by hot mustard and sauerkraut, with bland, comforting potatoes providing a welcome respite from the assault of salty flavors. Most of the recipes I read during my research make an intimidating 8-12 servings. Here, I present a more manageable version, which feeds four very hungry eaters.

Petit Choucroute Inspired loosely by Martha Stewart

3 pounds good quality sauerkraut (I used Bubbies from the bulk bin at Rainbow Grocery)
8 baby Yukon Gold potatoes
1 small yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 pound smoked bacon (I think I would use half of this next time)
2 smoked pork chops
4-5 assorted smoked sausages (I used bratwurst, Lousiana hot link, and andouille. If using uncooked sausages, you will have to cook them before adding them in step 7 below.)
2 cups of low-sodium store-bought chicken stock
1 cup of dry white wine (I used sauvignon blanc.)

Bouquet Garni:
15 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
10 juniper berries
3 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
2 whole, peeled garlic cloves

Note: I made this in my 5½ quart Le Creuset Dutch oven, which was perfect. Any heavy-bottomed large pot with a tight-fitting lid would probably also work.

1. Rinse sauerkraut in cold water and drain well.

2. Most recipes call for goose fat or lard, but seeing as I had a pound of bacon earmarked for the pot, I cooked the bacon in about ½ tablespoon of olive oil to render the fat and then removed the bacon and set it aside. Cook onion in bacon fat until soft, about 7-8 minutes.

3. Add wine, chicken stock, and a cup of water to the pot. Stir. Add in the drained sauerkraut. Add the smoked pork chops and reserved bacon.

4. Place all the spices, etc. for the bouquet garni into a metal mesh spice ball. Put this in the pot.

5. Bring everything to the boil, then turn the heat down and cook, covered, at a strong simmer for an hour.

6. In a separate pot, boil water and cook the potatoes for about 15 minutes (depending on their size), or until they are just slightly undercooked. You will finish these off in the choucroute pot.

7. 20 minutes before serving, place potatoes and smoked sausages in the pot and heat through.

8. Serve with assorted spicy mustards and bread for sopping up the juices.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oxtail Soup Two Ways

There is a tiny tug of war that sometimes takes place between me and my husband at mealtimes. Though we're both extremely open-minded eaters, when it comes to the food we really crave, he tends to lean towards European cuisine, while I prefer Asian. Tug of war is an exaggeration; we generally have no problems agreeing on what to eat. Still, it's nice to find a versatile dish like this oxtail soup, which is easily transformed into a delicious Italian meal one night, and an equally amazing Vietnamese meal the next.

This was my first time cooking with oxtail, and I'm a huge fan of the results. A long, but mostly hands-free cooking time will turn this cheap cut into some of the most tender, succulent, moist meat you've ever eaten. I used my basic broth-making technique, but I pan-roasted the oxtail a bit first for extra flavor. This broth forms the backbone of the two simple soups I'll describe below. Ideally, you would make this the night before, to simplify the defatting process.

Oxtail Broth
5 pounds of oxtail (ask the butcher to cut it into pieces)
Water to cover
1 tablespoon of olive oil
½ cup of dry red wine
3 slices of ginger
1 yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt and pepper

1. Rinse and dry the oxtail bones. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot. Brown the bones in batches, about 5 minutes per side. Set oxtail aside.

3. Deglaze the pot with red wine. Then add the oxtail bones back in, along with any juices.

4. Cover bones completely with water. Add ginger and onion. Bring to a boil.

5. Skim off any scum that appears. Note: you should always skim scum off as soon as it appears. If the scum is allowed to remain in the broth as it cooks, it will give your soup a "dirty" flavor.

6. Turn heat to medium-low and simmer for 3-4 hours. Add water if necessary. Salt to taste, erring on the side of undersalted (you will be adding a salt component in both of the soup recipes below).

7. Discard ginger and onion. Remove the oxtail and store separately.

8. Refrigerate broth overnight. In the morning, remove the layer of congealed fat from the surface. If you are unable to make the broth ahead of time, you can remove most of the fat by skimming the surface of the broth with a spoon.

White Bean and Kale Soup (inspired by a dish at Flour + Water)

1 can of cannelini beans
1 bunch of kale
About 1 cup of peeled, diced daikon (roughly half a daikon root)
Olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 bay leaves
8 cups oxtail broth (and some of the oxtail used to make the broth)
Soy sauce

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the olive oil and cook the sliced garlic for about a minute (do not brown).

2. Add the broth to the saucepan, along with the meat from about 15 pieces of oxtail, the diced daikon, and the bay leaves.

3. Rinse the kale and and remove the stems with a sharp knife. Blanch briefly in boiling salted water.

4. Add blanched kale and drained can of white beans to the soup. Cover and continue cooking over medium-low heat until daikon is tender (about 20 minutes).

5. Remove the bay leaves, then season with soy sauce (about a tablespoon) to taste. Soy sauce will enhance the color of the broth.

6. Serve with nice, crusty bread.

This soup invites endless variations: You could add barley or short pasta, substitute diced potatoes for the daikon, or replace the kale with either escarole or spinach. 

Faux Pho for Four

2 cups of bean sprouts
Half of a white onion, sliced into very thin rings
1 bunch of Thai basil
8 cups of oxtail broth
16 pieces of cooked oxtail (from making the broth)
Fresh rice noodles (or dried pho noodles, if fresh are not available)
4 jalapenos
2 limes
Fish sauce

1. Heat broth along with oxtail pieces in a medium-sized saucepan. Add about a tablespoon of fish sauce.

2. Clean bean sprouts with a thorough rinsing. Then snap off the yucky, threadlike root ends (see picture).

3. Soak noodles (if using dry noodles), or rinse and separate fresh rice noodles. Cook according to package instructions. Dry will probably take about ten minutes in boiling water, fresh cooks in about a minute.

4. Drain noodles and place a bundle in the bottom of each soup bowl. Place a handful of bean sprouts and a couple rings of onion on top.

5. Slice jalapenos on the diagonal. Cut limes into wedges. Place on a plate along with the washed Thai basil.

6. Serve pho, allowing people to garnish their own bowls with basil, jalapeno, and lime. Add a dash of sriracha if desired. I found that the jalapeno (as long as you use a whole pepper) adds a surprising amount of heat, while still allowing the flavor of the broth to shine through.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Spicy-Sour Pork Ramen

In my attempts to convert my husband into a noodlemaniac like myself (or at least someone who will tolerate eating soup noodles several times a week), I have taken him to countless noodle shops. We’ve sampled and slurped our way through just about every variety of Asian noodle, and ramen has had the highest hit rate. My husband hearts Katana-ya, dreams about Gomaichi, and even sneaks in secret trips to Ippudo without me. Of the three, his favorite is definitely Gomaichi, with its sour-spicy sung hon men, an oddly addicting variation that neither of us has ever seen anywhere else. Since the idea of having only one source of any favorite food makes me break out in a sweat (not to mention that Gomaichi is located in Honolulu, a fair skip for a bowl of noodles), I knew I had to try and recreate the dish at home.

Sung hon men appears to be Gomaichi’s original invention, so I had to work off of some traditional tan tan men recipes and find a souring agent independently. I experimented with rice vinegar and blended ume plums before landing on limes. I wasn’t able to get the exact smoky, savory depth of Gomaichi’s broth, but this home-cooked version has a lightness that is, in its own way, just as nice. Incidentally, tan tan men is the Japanese version of the Sichuanese dan dan mian, which is another of my favorite noodle dishes (there are so many).

Tan Tan Men (an ongoing experiment, inspired by Gomaichi)

Pork Broth
2 pounds of meaty pork bones
Water to cover
3 green onions (washed)
3 slices of ginger
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 or 2 star anises
¼ cup Chinese rice wine (Michiu)
Salt to taste

1. Take 2 pounds of meaty pork bones (ask the butcher to hack them up for you) and place in a large stockpot. Fill pot with water until bones are just barely covered. Add ginger, green onions, peppercorns and star anise (you may want to place these last two in a mesh tea/spice ball for easier removal).

2. Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that appears. Add rice wine and lower heat to a simmer.

3. Simmer for at least an hour (preferably two), skimming off any scum that appears. Salt to taste.

Pork Topping
1 tablespoon of peanut or canola oil
¾ pound of lean ground pork
1 tablespoon of minced (or grated) ginger
3 serrano peppers, finely sliced
2 minced garlic cloves (or you can use a garlic press; I won’t judge you)
2 tablespoons of Chinese spicy bean paste
1 tablespoon of Chinese sesame paste
1 tablespoon of cayenne or Indian red chili powder (or less for those more sensitive to spice)
½ cup of slivered zha cai (Szechuan preserved vegetable). Rinse slivers thoroughly; they will be too salty otherwise.  
1 tablespoon roasted and ground Szechuan peppercorn (optional)

1. Heat oil in heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat.

2. Add ginger and serranos and stir until fragrant (about one minute).
3. Add garlic. Stir. Add a touch of pork broth if necessary, to loosen the mixture.

4. Add ground pork and mix well, breaking up any large pieces with a spatula.

5. Add spicy bean and sesame pastes, cayenne pepper, and Szechuan peppercorn (if using). Incorporate all seasonings well. Cook for about 2-3 minutes.

6. Add zha cai. Mix well and continue to stir until pork is cooked through. Turn heat to low and cover to keep warm.

Noodles and veggies
1. Clean any veggies you plan on adding. I like Shanghai bok choy hearts. Fresh ramen noodles are available at many Asian markets. I use noodles labeled “wonton noodles” and I always look for the freshest looking noodles available.

2. Boil a large pot of water. Cook noodles according to package instructions. Fresh ramen noodles take about two minutes, which is coincidentally how long Shanghai bok choy takes. I cook both at the same time, in the same pot. Cooking times vary depending on the vegetables/noodles being used.

1. Place noodles in the bottom of your bowl with veggies on top.

2. Place a generous scoop or two of spicy pork topping on your noodles.

3. Add two ladlefuls of pork broth.

4. Garnish with a couple sprigs of cilantro. Squeeze the juice of half a lime into the bowl (or a whole lime, if you prefer your soup very sour).

Leftovers: Pork with Preserved Vegetable Soup

Should you be lucky enough to have any leftover pork broth the next day, here's an easy noodle dish that you can make with the meat from the bones.

2 cups of homemade pork broth per person
Meat from pork bones (used to make broth)
¼ cup slivered zha cai (rinsed, so it's not too salty)
Noodles (fresh Shanghai noodles are perfect here, but feel free to substitute with any noodles you have on hand)
Vegetables (I like Shanghai bok choy hearts)

1. Cook noodles according to package instructions. You can boil your veggies in the same pot. Cooking time varies depending on the vegetables/noodles being used.

2. In a separate pot, heat the meat (removed from bone and roughly shredded) in the two cups of broth.

3. Drain noodles/veggies. Place in a bowl. Add slivered zha cai.

4. Pour hot broth/meat over.

5. Season with spicy chili oil to taste.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Thailand Recap

Thailand. What can I say? The beaches were beautiful, the people were friendly, the food was phenomenal. And what's more, it was fundamentally different from anything I've ever tasted before. I think food nerds have a tendency to seek out the new and undiscovered, and Thailand had that in spades. Even familiar dishes like pad kee mow and som tam were revelations. And the regional foods satisfied cravings I didn't even know I possessed.

Three or four of the meals that we had in Bangkok surpassed anything I've had in the United States (and S.F. and L.A. are no slouches when it comes to Thai food). Even the worst restaurants that we ate at in Bangkok rivaled the best of what we can get over here. Down south, things took a bit of a dive in quality, but we still had a couple of outstanding meals. Overall, the thing that struck me most about eating in Thailand was the incredible balance between salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and spicy. During the truly great meals (and there were many) each bite of every dish was slightly different from the last. The balance of flavors was such that the taste of a dish constantly evolved, managing to stay fresh, new, and exciting. Thomas Keller has famously said that the first bite of a dish is the best, and that by the third bite, one's enjoyment is considerably diminished. But Thai dishes done right are like experiencing the first bite over and over again — heaven for those afflicted with food ADD, like me.

My sister gave me the best advice before our trip. Though we'd heard lots of negative things about Bangkok, she encouraged us to stay for at least a few days, because the food there is the best in Thailand. Not only did we love Bangkok (interesting ethnic neighborhoods, cool shopping districts, nightlife, and cultural sights), but she was completely right about the food.  We actually rearranged our travel plans to get extra time in Bangkok at the end of our trip. I highly encourage anyone planning a trip to Thailand to not use Bangkok as a stopover, but as a destination in its own right.

Favorite things consumed would be the spicy wing bean salad at Ruen Mai in Krabi, the heavenly moist Issan bbq chicken at Khrua Rommai in Sukhumvit (Bangkok) and the incredible seafood pad kee mow at Raan Jay Fai (of NYT fame) near Chinatown (Bangkok). To ask for food Thai spicy, make sure to say "phet phet" when you order.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Porcini Pappardelle

It started with a bag of dried porcini. I was shopping at Andronico’s and it just hopped into my basket. Pancetta seemed like the next, logical step. And a quick Google search of the two ingredients led me here. Dinner was decided.

This is the kind of dish that is mostly shopping and assembly — something simple enough to toss together after a long day at work, but special enough to serve to company. Maybe it’s the Californian in me, but when I get really good ingredients, I just try and stay out of their way. I’m sure David Chang would accuse me of putting a fig on a plate.

I made one small substitution. The fresh pappardelle at A. G. Ferrari looked too good to pass up. I can never resist a wide noodle. Actually, I can’t resist most noodles, period. I think the pappardelle worked well here; it really soaked up the luscious mushroom liquid in a way that fettucine wouldn’t have. Each noodle was infused with woody, earthy porcini and coated in a shiny slick of barely-cooked egg. All that, plus bacon too? Seriously, what are you waiting for?

Porcini Pappardelle (adapted from the New York Times via Smitten Kitchen)
Serves 2

1 oz of dried porcini
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1½ oz of diced pancetta
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
½ pound fresh pappardelle
2 eggs at room temperature, beaten
Handful of parsley, chopped (Note: I used curly because that's what my corner market stocks, Italian, aka flat-leaf parsley is preferable)
Grated parmesan and crushed red pepper for serving
Salt to taste

1. Soak porcini in about a cup of warm water for half an hour. Drain through a fine strainer, making sure to reserve the soaking liquid. Dry the porcini well and cut any large pieces in half.

2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and brown the pancetta for about 2-3 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and cook for a minute longer. Add porcini and cook until heated through.

3. Cook pasta according to package instructions (about 2-3 minutes for fresh pasta). When pasta is cooked, transfer to the skillet and mix well with the other ingredients. Add reserved mushroom liquid while stirring the pasta, making sure it is well incorporated. The pappardelle will drink the liquid in, turning a subtle shade of brown. Add the chopped parsley and mix well.

4. Turn off the heat. Then, quickly, so the egg doesn't scramble, toss the beaten eggs into the pasta and mix well. I noticed that it was helpful to toss in such a way that the eggs did not make direct contact with the hot pan. To be extra safe, you could probably remove the pasta from the pan and toss everything in a large serving bowl. Serve immediately, with grated parmesan on top.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tart and Tangy Burmese Cole Slaw

As promised, here is the fantastically tasty Burmese cabbage salad recipe that I served with the Hainanese chicken. I found the recipe on this beautiful site, hsa*ba, which features dozens of Burmese recipes that I can’t wait to try out. Warning: do not view on an empty stomach!

This salad is so, so simple, and yet the combo of flavors is completely exotic and surprising. The twinned tartness of tamarind and limes in the dressing is offset by fish sauce (my favorite) and shallot and garlic-infused oil. The resulting slaw manages to be both bright and smoky at the same time. I could eat it every day.

Burmese Cole Slaw  (adapted from hsa*ba)
Serves 4-6 as a starter

1 head of savoy cabbage
2 tablespoons of tamarind liquid (I soak seedless tamarind pulp in warm water for 10 minutes. Then, because I’m too lazy to push it through a strainer as all my cookbooks recommend, I throw the whole thing into a blender. Seems to work).
2 limes
2 shallots (one for pickling and one for frying)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Tablespoon of shrimp floss (Mine was labeled "shrimp powder," but I'm pretty sure it's the same thing)
2 tablespoons of roasted, unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped or crushed
Fish sauce to taste
Small handful of mint
Small handful of cilantro

1. Shred the cabbage finely.

2. Wash, dry, and chop the mint and cilantro (I cheated and used my food processor).

3. Slice one shallot lengthwise and soak in the juice of half a lime.

4. Slice the other shallot into paper-thin rings. Slice both cloves of garlic, also paper thin.

5. Heat the olive oil in a small(ish), heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the shallots and stir for 2 or 3 minutes, until slightly brown, then add sliced garlic. Fry shallots and garlic until they turn crisp (about another minute and a half).

6. Remove shallots and garlic and set aside.

7. In a small bowl, combine shallot/garlic-infused oil, two tablespoons of tamarind liquid, juice from the remaining one and a half limes, and fish sauce to taste (I used a little over a tablespoon).

8. In a large bowl, place the shredded cabbage, chopped mint and cilantro, pickled shallots, crispy shallots and garlic, shrimp floss, and crushed peanuts.

9. Toss well with dressing just before serving.

Variations: A chopped Serrano pepper would add some welcome heat to the dressing. Some halved cherry tomatoes might be nice in this salad as well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hainanese Chicken Rice (Plus the Lazy Person's Version)

I’ve been meaning to make Hainanese chicken rice ever since I saw the foodie-licious Singapore episode of No Reservations. Then a group of us went to Fatty Crab in the West Village, where my husband pretty much inhaled his portion of chicken rice. As soon as we got back from NYC, I got to work constructing the ultimate chicken rice recipe.

To be honest, Steamy Kitchen really did most of the legwork for me. Her beautifully-photographed recipe was the backbone of my little chicken endeavor. I also tapped Epicurious for a few tips. On the side, I served a Burmese cabbage salad so amazing, it deserves its own entry.

But wait, did you know that there’s a super lazy, easy way to get chicken-flavored rice and moist, tender chicken meat? My mom taught me this little trick years ago, and other than instant ramen, it’s pretty much what I lived on in college (with steamed veggies on the side). Take your chicken pieces (dark meat works best, and you should leave the skin on) and put them in a Ziploc bag. Salt chicken generously with coarse salt (about 1 tablespoon per piece of chicken). Seal the bag and leave the chicken overnight in the fridge. Do not leave it longer than 24 hours; your chicken will become much too salty! Then just add two cups of white rice and three cups of water to your rice cooker. Rinse all the salt off the chicken pieces and lay them on top of the rice. Press cook. When your rice cooker has finished doing its thing, your chicken will be perfectly seasoned and tender and the rice will be savory and slightly sticky with all the salty juices from the chicken skin. For the deluxe version, read on.

Hainanese Chicken Rice (adapted from Steamy Kitchen)

Buy the prettiest, nicest chicken you can find: organic, free-range, and practically clucking. Trim the excess fat near the cavity opening and reserve for cooking the rice. Rub the chicken all over with coarse salt to get the grubbies off. Rinse well under cold water and pat dry. Then salt generously inside and out. Stuff the chicken with four slices of ginger and a bunch of well-cleaned green onions (I chop the root ends off for extra cleanliness, that’s up to you).

Place the chicken in a large Dutch oven or stockpot and cover with water. Gourmet suggests cooking the bird breast-side down, which I’ll try next time. And there will definitely be a next time. Cover the pot with a lid and bring water to a boil, then immediately lower the temperature and simmer for about 45 minutes (depending on the size of your chicken). You will probably need to skim the scum off the top of the broth a few times. I highly recommend getting a cheapy scum skimmer from Chinatown, but a spoon will also work.

After the chicken has been cooking for 45 minutes, prepare an ice bath for it. Use the biggest bowl or container you have, fill it about halfway with cold water and about half a bag of ice. Then lift your chicken from the pot, allowing the broth to drain back into the pot, and plunge it into the ice bath. This stops the chicken from cooking and ensures that the meat will be silky and tender. I love how all of the recipes I referenced admonish you not to discard the broth at this point. Are you crazy? You may as well tell me not to throw away gold bars. Season the broth with salt to taste. Set cooled chicken aside on a platter.

RICE (adapted from Epicurious)
Reserved chicken fat (plus vegetable oil)
3 cups of reserved broth from poaching the chicken
2 cups of jasmine rice, rinsed well
3 shallots, sliced
2 cloves of garlic minced
Salt to taste

1. Cook chicken fat in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat until fat is rendered. Discard solid pieces. You should have nearly two tablespoons of fat, but if not, add a bit of vegetable oil.

2. Cook sliced shallots in the chicken fat/vegetable oil mixture for a few minutes, until just starting to color. Add garlic and cook for about two more minutes.

3. Add rice and toast briefly (about a minute) before adding three cups of the reserved chicken broth.

4. Cover pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, then immediately turn heat to medium-low and cook for another 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow rice to rest for 10 minutes before fluffing with a fork.
    CHILI SAUCE (adapted from Epicurious)
    6 Thai birds eye chilis (preferably red for the color) or cayenne peppers
    1 shallot, peeled
    2 cloves of garlic
    2 tablespoons of ginger (about a thumb and a half)
    Juice from two limes
    2 tablespoons of sriracha (chili sauce)
    Pinch of salt

    Place ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

    2 teaspoons of soy sauce mixed with one teaspoon of sesame oil
    2 slivered green onions
    Quick-pickled cucumbers (slice cucumbers thinly, mix with one part coarse salt to three parts sugar. Let sit for 10 minutes then drain and splash with rice vinegar).


    Carve chicken. Make a little bed of rice on your plate. Place chicken on top. Drizzle chicken with a bit of the soy-sesame mixture and scatter green onions over. Lay out chili sauce and quick pickles in communal dishes for guests to serve themselves. Traditionally this is also served with a bowl of the broth as an accompaniment, but that seemed fiddly, so I decided to be greedy and keep all of the remaining broth for…

    The Best Leftovers Ever

    The next day, I had a big pot of leftover broth and a sizable portion of poached chicken meat. And when life hands me soup, I make soup noodles. Super duper easy: 1. Heat chicken meat in the broth. 2. Cook noodles/veggies in boiling water. 3. Feed face. I left out the step where you add copious amounts of chili oil because that’s just implied.

    Friday, November 13, 2009

    Momofuku's Ginger Scallion Noodles

    Here’s a fun little fact. Google may have fixed this, but the first time I looked up the listing for Momofuku using Goog411, they called it Momo F*ck You. That is just one of the hundred and one things that delight me about the Momofuku empire. Others include: the cute peach logo, the late-night hours, the Hitachino beer, oh, and I’ve heard they make noodles too.

    I just read my way through the Momofuku cookbook in two days flat. I don’t mean flipped through and stuck little post-its next to the recipes that intrigued me. I mean, cover to cover, every single word, including the instructions for at-home sous vide and the recipes for desserts. And I never make dessert. This book is, without a doubt, my new favorite cookbook. I want to make every single thing in it. And if there's a funnier, more entertaining cookbook in print, then I certainly have not come across it. A sample: "I enjoy appropriating the out-of-date and borderline-racist term Oriental whenever I get the chance. But I was one of the few Orientals working in the kitchen at the Noodle Bar, and the rest of the round-eye crew wasn't happy with the name. So we kept it under wraps. Since we're here alone together, let's call it what it is: Oriental sauce." I was on the floor. So we've got noodles and jokes. That's a pretty good start. But what really makes this book a page-turner are the fascinating origin stories that David Chang includes for each recipe. He shares the thought process and the iterations that went into every single one of these mouth-watering creations. It was like getting to peek over a great chef's shoulder while he works. So cool.

    About 30 pages into reading the book, I decided I couldn't wait a second longer to cook from it. The ginger scallion noodles were calling my name. This is a simple recipe that is filled with great ideas, and I can already see how I’m going to be making many variations of it in the months to come. Now, when David Chang makes this dish, I’m sure that angels sing, and the kitchen gods dance, and miracles happen. But strangely, my results were a little on the bland side. Still, I loved the overall combination of charred, slightly smoky cauliflower, salty bamboo and sweet, crispy cucumber. I’d just probably tweak the sauce a bit next time. I might add a tablespoon of oyster sauce and some homemade chili oil. Or, I could see mixing the sauce with a few tablespoons of warm duck broth and some fried shallots.

    Ginger Scallion Noodles  (adapted from Momofuku by David Chang)
    Essentially you are going to be making three toppings and a sauce for these noodles. Each of the toppings is super easy to make: menma, quick pickles, and pan-roasted cauliflower. Make everything in the following order:

    1. MENMA: Drain a can of bamboo shoots and place contents in a small pot. Add splashes of sesame oil and soy sauce, two chopped birds eye chilies and a pinch of salt. Cover with a lid and heat for about 20-30 minutes over a low flame. This did not come out dark and saturated with soy the way it does at the ramen shops I’ve visited. Perhaps I was too timid with my splashes. Next time, I might try pickling the bamboo.

    2. SAUCE (I halved the original recipe to make two servings): Chop one bunch of scallions. Mince ¼ cup of ginger finely. Add scallions and ginger to a medium-large mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon of light soy sauce, ½ teaspoon of sherry vinegar, and ½ teaspoon of sea salt. You can also add a couple of tablespoons of canola oil, though I’d probably skip this ingredient next time. As I mentioned, I would add either duck broth or oyster sauce at this point for more flavor. The term sauce is misleading. You’ll end up with more of a green onion paste at this point. Let sit for 15 minutes, or keep for up to two days in the fridge.

    3. QUICK PICKLES: This was a nifty trick, and one I’ll be using often. Just thinly slice up a cucumber (my favorites are Persian and Japanese) and toss with one part coarse salt to three parts sugar. Let sit for 5-10 minutes and taste. If they're too salty/sweet, rinse them off and re-season. I did these again the next night and added a splash of rice vinegar at the end. Yum!

    4. PAN-ROASTED CAULIFLOWER: Cut the cauliflower into florets. You know how to cut a cauliflower, right? (Hint: turn it upside down). Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and cook the cauliflower in the oil for about 7-8 minutes, until browned on all sides. Season with a dash of salt.

    5. ASSEMBLY: Cook noodles according to package instructions. Toss with the scallion sauce. Mound cauliflower, bamboo shoots, and cucumber pickles on top. Serve with sriracha or chili oil. I could picture furikake working here too.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2009

    Duck Noodle Soup for Dummies

    Back in the day, when I was a recent college grad who didn't know any better, I had this ridiculous instant ramen habit. Like the alcoholic who raids the medicine cabinet for cough syrup (or, in one memorable episode of Family Ties, the pantry for vanilla), I got my noodle fix whenever and however I could, no matter how cheap and dirty. It turns out I could have been making delicious duck noodles with a bit more time and about the same amount of effort. How could something this tasty be this easy to make? It defies all logic.

    Now before we continue, I should point out that I cheated to make this soup. In fact, first I cheated to make some duck red curry, and that led to this cheater's broth. I bought a roasted duck from a Chinese deli, had the guy who sold it to me hack it into pieces, then heated up the meat (sans bones) in my curry. Every single scrap that didn't go into the curry went into a pot to make the broth. Of course, making the duck curry is optional; you can always eat the duck meat with the soup, or in any other dish of your choosing. For some reason, the scum that usually forms when I'm making chicken or pork broth did not appear, making this broth truly effort-free.

    Cheater's Duck Broth
    Bones from one roasted duck
    Water to cover (approximately 7-8 cups; you can always add more later)
    3 green onions (washed)
    3 slices of ginger
    Salt to taste

    1. Place the bones, head, and all into a large pot and add the green onions and ginger. Add water until bones are just covered.

    2. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to medium-low, cover with a lid, and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour. Go read a book. Do laundry. Solve a crossword.

    3. Salt to taste. You can add water if the broth is too rich. Strain through a mesh sieve and discard the bones, skin, etc. (At this point, your broth can be frozen for up to 3 months.)

    When you are ready to eat your noodles, just boil a pot of water, add a handful of green veggies, about a minute later (depending on the veggie), add a serving of dried rice vermicelli. Cook for another minute. Drain. Place in bowl and top with hot broth. If you used up all your duck and would like some protein to go with your soup, some smoked tofu would be tasty here, or rehydrated shiitakes (just soak dried shiitake mushrooms in very warm water for about 15 minutes).

    I used baby bok choy as my veggie, and can offer the following tip. To prepare baby bok choy for soup (or stir fries) just pick off and discard any damaged leaves, trim the bottom slightly, then slice in half or in quarters, depending on how big your bok choy is. Now you can rinse the insides of the veggies. A lot of dirt can collect near the stem, so pay particular attention to that area when washing.

    Bonus Recipe: Duck Congee
    Not in the mood for noodle soup? That question doesn't really make sense to me, but okay, here's another option. Once the duck broth is made, throw in about 1½ cups of short grain rice and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes, or until rice is very soft. You may need to add more water. The consistency should be like watery oatmeal. Serve with sliced green onions and (optional) a sliced thousand year old egg.

    Foodbuzz Blogger Festival Wrapup

    I got to attend the FoodBuzz Food Blogger Festival this last weekend and it was a lot of fun! I'll keep it brief, since this probably isn't very interesting to people who weren't there, but a weekend full of free drink, food, and cooking schwag, not to mention 249 other people dedicated to seeking out yumminess? I'm not sure how you could go wrong.

    My favorite part was the Street Food Fair at the Ferry Plaza. The organizers gathered some of SF's tastiest treats in one place, and all the food/booze was free. (Did I mention Hog Island had an oyster bar there? It was like something out of a dream.) It was also great to meet so many talented and inspiring food bloggers, many of whom I've been following online. The weekend wrapped up with a tasty meal (highlights were the beef cheeks and matsuke risotto) provided by Chef Dennis Lee of Namu and served in the Greenleaf Produce warehouse. It was officially the first meal I've had in Bayview.

    Thanks to the folks at FoodBuzz for putting together such a fabulous event!

    Thursday, November 5, 2009

    Battle Beets Contest: Golden Beet and Chevre Salad with Crispy Beluga Lentils

    I love beets. One of my favorite questions to ask people is: What are your trigger ingredients? Which magic words make you perk up when you read them on a menu, and greatly increase your odds of ordering that dish? For me, the hero ingredient, the one that spawned this question in the first place, is beets. (Other contenders would be truffles, uni, heirloom tomatoes, and baby artichokes). So when I noticed that one of my favorite bloggers, Bouchon for 2, was inviting people to sing the praises of beets, I couldn't resist joining in.

    I usually cook golden beets. Partly because I think they're prettier and a little sweeter, and partly because they don't stain everything in sight blood-red. I wanted to pair the beets with some beluga lentils that I had lying around, and the rest sort of came out of that. I was originally going to have creme fraiche be the dairy component, but my cheese-loving husband requested chevre. He's not a cook, but he's a damn fine eater.

    Salad (serves 4 as a starter)
    2 golden beets
    Small wedge of chevre (about 3 ounces)
    1 ripe avocado, diced
    Arugula (one large bunch, washed, or a bag of pre-washed leaves)
    2 tablespoons chopped chives

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    2. Wash beets very well, then place each beet on its own square of aluminum foil.

    3. Drizzle beet with a bit of olive oil, then rub the oil over the entire surface of the beet. Wrap tightly in the foil. Repeat with the rest of your beets.

    4. Place foil-wrapped beets on an oven-safe pan or sheet and roast beets for about 45-50 minutes, until you can pierce to the center easily with a fork.

    5. Many people complain that peeling hot beets with their bare hands is painful. I've found that if I use a fork (or tongs) to hold the beet in place, I can sort of scrape the skin off pretty easily with a butter knife. (P.S. this technique also works with potatoes).

    6. Once beets are peeled, set aside to cool. You can store cooked beets overnight in the fridge (in fact, according to the Zuni Cafe Cookbook, Judy Rogers feels this improves their flavor). Or, if you're a bad planner like I am, slice into wedges just before assembling your salad.

    Grapefruit Cumin Vinaigrette
    I could not figure out why my orange and grapefruit vinaigrettes were not that tasty, and then I read Fields of Greens, which includes a splash of champagne vinegar in its recipe for citrus vinaigrette. I've made so many lemon and lime dressings, that it honestly never even occurred to me to add a second acid to my dressing. But now, of course, it makes perfect sense.

    ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
    Juice from half a pink grapefruit (about two tablespoons)
    ½ tablespoon champagne vinegar (this one is the bomb)
    1 tablespoon best quality olive oil
    Pinch of sea salt

    1. In a small, dry frying pan, toast the cumin seeds for a minute or two over high heat. I like to use a glass lid when I toast spices as the seeds tend to jump out of the pan when they get hot.

    2. Grind toasted cumin seeds in a spice grinder.

    3. Mix all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl with a whisk or fork

    Crispy Beluga Lentils

    Cobras and Matadors in West Hollywood has this incredible lentil dish. It's the only place I've ever eaten crispy lentils...until now. If you're like me and wish your whole batch of popcorn could be made up of those tiny little barely popped kernels you find at the bottom of the batch, then you need to try this technique for cooking lentils. I searched everywhere for the C&M recipe, but it was only when I decided to enter this contest that I came up the genius idea to search "crispy lentils" (duh). The source for this technique is The Toronto Star.

    Of course, I only realized my lentils needed to be soaked ALL DAY at around, oh, 5:30 p.m. Luckily, this is the kind of ridiculous thing I do all the time, so I know a little secret. You can actually soak the lentils in really really warm (almost boiling, really) water for about 20 minutes and all will be fine. If you really insist on doing it the long way, be my guest.

    Take your soaked lentils, drain, and dry them well. Then take about a tablespoon of olive oil and heat it up in a heavy-bottomed pan. When the oil is hot, toss your lentils in and stir for around 2-3 minutes (The Star says 5-8, but it didn't take anywhere near that long). Then salt to taste. Oh, the proportions aren't super important here. I knew I wanted to use my lentils as a garnish, so I only soaked/made ½ a cup. If I wanted to do this as a side dish, I'd fry some chopped pancetta, then toss maybe 1½ cups of pre-soaked lentils in with the pancetta, then sprinkle chopped parsley all over the top. Or maybe cook some sage in the pan instead of adding parsley at the end. Or use puy lentils. So many choices, really.

    1. Divide the vinaigrette in half.

    2. Place diced avocado in a large bowl along with three big handfuls of pre-washed arugula. Toss with half the dressing. Place a mound on the plate. Sprinkle crispy lentils over the top for crunch.

    3. Slice beet into wedges. Arrange on plate. Crumble chevre on top. Drizzle a bit of the reserved dressing over. Sprinkle chopped chives on top.

    Made it this far? What are your trigger ingredients? I want to know!

    Two Super Spicy Salsas (and One Super Easy Guacamole)

    It's funny how your ideas of what's doable vs. difficult are shaped by what you were exposed to growing up. My mom would make a hundred zhongzi every year: a two-day process that involved soaking, chopping, and cooking a million different ingredients, then laboriously wrapping intricate bamboo leaf packets and steaming them for two hours. But we ate mac and cheese from the box, and salsa came in a jar. So I always thought making salsa was some super-complicated thing. And I don't think I'm alone. I threw a taco night a couple of months ago and laid out all the fixings, and the salsa easily got the most attention. "You made these yourself?" everyone asked in awed tones. Yes, and they took about twenty minutes total to make.That's twenty minutes for all three, not apiece.

    As usual, my recipes are make-you-sweat-spicy. Still, I've fed these to over a dozen people from all different backgrounds and everyone has been able to handle the heat. Serve any or all of these with tacos, quesadillas, or just plain tortilla chips. I also like them with scrambled eggs.

    Fiery Salsa Verde
    This was inspired by the addictive salsa verde at Taqueria Cancun. I was too shy to ask for their secret, so I just kept tweaking until I landed on this. My husband and I consume it by the gallon.

    4 serranos and 3 birds eye chilis chopped roughly, including seeds (Note: this makes a super hot salsa. Beginners may want to use only 2 serranos, no birds eyes)
    Half a medium-sized avocado (or 1 small avocado)
    Cup of loosely-packed cilantro (leaves only)
    Juice of two limes
    Pinch of salt
    ¼ teaspoon of cumin

    Blend all ingredients in a mini food processor or blender.

    Smoky Hot Chipotle Salsa
    This one is from Rick Bayless, whose Frontera chipotle salsa is the only bottled salsa I've found worth eating. Of course, freshly made is even better. At first, I couldn't believe this combo of ingredients would turn into the deep, smoky red I was hoping for, but it came together beautifully in the blender. I found this version on Not Without Salt.

    3 garlic cloves, peeled
    4 medium tomatillos, husked, washed, and cut in half
    1 (7 oz.) can of chipotles in adobo sauce (Caution: very hot!)
    Pinch of salt (optional)

    1. Place a medium-sized, heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. It's best to use non-stick, as the tomatillos will ooze sticky juice when you grill them.

    2. Put the garlic and tomatillos (cut side down) on the pan for 3 to 4 minutes, until browned. Turn and brown the other sides for 3 or 4 minutes.

    3. Place ingredients in a mini food processor or blender. Add 1 can of chipotles in adobo sauce (or less, to taste). Blend.

    4. Add salt if necessary (I think it isn't). Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

    Super Simple Guacamole
    I used to make a more elaborate guacamole with cilantro and tomatoes and chilis, but it turns out this is all you really need. Simpler and tastier, you know I like the sound of that! Can you believe I left chilis out of a recipe? And my husband and I still scarf it down like avocado crack? That's when you know you have a winner.

    2 best-quality, ripe, medium avocados (or 1 large, or 3 small)
    ½ red onion, diced very finely
    Juice from 1 lime
    Pinch of sea salt

    Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl with a fork until chunky/smooth (if that makes sense). It may not look like much, but if your avocados are good, this will disappear before you know it. Dice the red onion as finely as you can. You can even soak it in the lime juice to remove some of the bite. But as long as you get the pieces pretty teensy, you should be fine just throwing it in as is.

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Vietnamese Pork Salad Bowl

    This was, in a word, amazing — a recipe I would definitely come back to time and again. Light, refreshing, but feed your face tasty. The base salad takes less than ten minutes to throw together, and would certainly be nice with any protein you have lying around the house: a rotisserie chicken, smoked tofu, even lunch meat in a pinch. If you have a little extra time though, I highly recommend both the grilled pork and the shrimp rolls. The shrimp rolls probably don't qualify as healthy, but the rest of the salad certainly does!

    I worked roughly from this recipe from Une-Deux Senses for the salad and pork, and a recipe from the supercalipornalicious book, The Food of Thailand for the shrimp. As usual, I adapted things to be less sweet and more spicy. The recipe below serves two amply.

    Salad (Adapted from Une-Deux Senses)
    1 head butter lettuce, washed and broken into bite-sized pieces
    1 english or 2 persian cucumbers, seeded and cut into matchsticks
    1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
    Handful cilantro leaves
    Handful fresh mint leaves

    DRESSING (Nuoc Mam)
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    Juice of 2 limes
    ½ cup fish sauce
    1 clove of garlic, minced or crushed
    2 teaspoons sambal oelek (chili paste)
    1 serrano pepper, finely sliced (including seeds)
    ½ carrot, julienned (optional)

    RICE NOODLES (Prepare these just before assembling the entire salad.)
    One block of rice noodles is sufficient for two people. Prepare according to package instructions. I boil my vermicelli for about 1½ to 2 minutes, then drain and rinse it in cold water.

    Pork (Adapted from Une-Deux Senses)
    ½ pound thinly sliced pork butt (available at Korean or Japanese markets, or you can freeze a piece of pork butt for about 45 minutes and slice it yourself)
    4 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
    3 tablespoons fish sauce
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    Ground black pepper

    1. Combine marinade ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Add pork slices, making sure each slice is well-coated and marinate for about an hour.

    2. Grill pork for 3 to 4 minutes in a heavy-bottomed pan until cooked through. Cover with a lid, so the pork stays warm.

    Shrimp Rolls (Adapted from The Food of Thailand)
    6 large raw shrimp or prawns, peeled and deveined, tails intact
    1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
    1 garlic clove, minced or crushed
    1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
    1 serrano, finely sliced
    1 tablespoon soy sauce
    1 teaspoon sesame oil
    3 frozen spring roll sheets, defrosted and cut in half on the diagonal
    Canola oil, for deep frying (Note: I felt it was wasteful to submerge the prawns entirely in oil, so I used half the oil required to deep fry and flipped the prawns halfway through).

    1. In a small bowl, combine garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, serrano and shrimp. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for about one hour.

    2. Mix flour and ½ cup of water in a small pot and cook over medium heat until a thick paste is formed. Remove from heat.

    3. Take triangle-shaped half-sheet of spring roll wrapper and place the shrimp in the center (see picture).

    4. Wrap shrimp in the sheet and tuck the end of the triangle over, sealing the edges with the flour paste. Repeat with the rest of the shrimp and wrappers.

    5. Heat oil (about ¼ inch deep, in a heavy-bottomed pan) over medium high heat. After about two minutes, drop a small piece of spring roll sheet into it. If it sizzles and turns golden brown, the oil is ready. Place three spring-roll-wrapped shrimp in the pan and let them sit for just under 2 minutes (until golden brown). Flip and cook for about a minute and a half on the other side. Repeat with the other three shrimp.

    6. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. These would also be great with nuoc cham or a chili dipping sauce as finger food at a party.

    1. Form a bed of vegetables (butter lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, mint & cilantro) in the bottom of a large bowl.

    2. Add a ball of cooked rice noodles on top.

    3. Drizzle nuoc cham over the noodles/salad.

    4. Mound grilled pork over the noodles. Place three shrimp rolls around the edge of the bowl. Drizzle a bit more nuoc cham over the top. Then, as Nigella says: Apply face to bowl.