Mongolian Beef

This is probably the easiest Chinese stir-fry dish to make and it might be my favorite, if I had to pick a favorite.  There’s something about the simple marriage of tender sliced beef and green onions that excites me.  Soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic is the only extra flavor you need to make this a spectacular dish. 

I like to top the dish with chili garlic paste (Sambal Oelek) and cilantro.  Just a little dab of chili garlic paste brightens the flavor and, if you are anything like me, you might even add a big dollop of Sambal Oelek. 

This is the sort of dish that I can taste, just by imagining it.  Rich, beefy lusciousness that is so satisfying!

Ingredients:

3 Tbs cooking oil

1 1/2 Tbs ginger, minced

4 or 5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 lb flank steak, or any other lean cut of beef

1/3 cup cornstarch

2 green onions , sliced

Chili garlic paste, as much as you like 🙂

¼ cup cilantro

Directions:

Slice the beef into thin pieces, no more than a quarter inch thick, and toss with cornstarch.  Set aside.

I’ve made hundreds of stir-fry beef dishes and I’ve made them many different ways.  If I just tossed the beef strips in the wok without powdering them in starch first, the beef juices would cook out and sit at the bottom of the wok.  The meat would steam in the juices, instead of frying, which would cause the beef to become tough and I would eventually have to add cornstarch or flour to the meat juices to thicken the sauce.  Dusting the beef prior to stir-frying helps tenderize the beef as it cooks and the juice that runs out is absorbed by the cornstarch, which means that the meat, itself acts as a thickener for the sauce that is added later.  Trust me on this. 

Slice and chop the ginger and chop the garlic.   Set aside.

Cut the roots off of the green onions and cut the onions into 2” pieces.  Separate the white parts from the green stems.  The white pieces will be used at the beginning of the stir-fry and the green parts will be added near the end of the stir-fry.

Heat oil in a wok at low-medium heat. Add the chopped ginger and garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add the white parts of the green onion and stir for two minutes. 

Remove the onion, ginger and garlic and reserve.

One at a time, add soy sauce, water and brown sugar to the wok and boil for about 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove the sauce to a bowl and set aside.

Place a tablespoon of oil in the wok and heat over medium-high heat.  Add the beef and stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Cook to medium rare.  Over-cooking the beef will make the meat tough and dry. 

Return the sauce to the wok and turn the heat to high.  Stir-fry for about 30 seconds, just to coat the meat.  Add both parts of the green onions, ginger and garlic and stir-fry for another minute.

Add some steamed jasmine rice to individual serving bowls.

Add the beef and onions to the bowls. 

Top with cilantro and Sambal Oelek. 

This is as good as it gets!

Sticky Wings and Crispy Rice

This was a fun thing to work on while ‘Zooming’ with distant family members.  If I counted correctly, we had 10 people on the Zoom call, along with cameos from our various pets. 

Chicken wings are easy to make, especially if they are baked in the oven. You can use any type of sauce imaginable for the wings, which makes wings an exciting go-to recipe for a weekend afternoon.

This time, I went for an Asian flair. 

Ingredients:

2.5 lbs chicken wings (about 20 drummets and mid-joints)

1 Tbs cooking oil

2 Tbs sliced ginger

6 garlic cloves, mashed

2 cups broccoli, chopped

1 white onion

3 small carrots

3 jalapeños, seeds removed

¼ cup cooking oil

2 cups cooked rice (day-old rice is best)

Asian sauce (Ingredients shown below)

Ingredients for the sauce:

1/3 cup ketchup

1/3 cup apricot preserves

3 Tbs soy sauce

2 Tbs Sriracha sauce

2 Tbs Hoisin sauce

1 ½ tsp oyster sauce

½ tsp fish sauce

Directions:

Rinse the chicken wings in cold, clean water.  Allow the wings to air dry for about 20 minutes.  Pat them dry with a paper towel and place them on a parchment paper covered backing tray.  Bake at 400° for 30 minutes and then turn them over to brown on the other side.  Turn the oven down to 350° and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the skin on the wings have crisped.

While the wings are baking, prepare the sauce. Mix all of the sauce ingredients together in a bowl. Pour into a sauce pan and simmer for about 10 minutes at low heat. Whisk the sauce while it cooks. Return the sauce to the bowl and set aside.

Cut the vegetables.  I went for long and slender pieces this time so that meant julienne cuts on the onion and jalapeño and match stick cuts for the carrots.  Set the vegetables aside.

Take the cooked rice and add it to a mixing bowl.  Add about ¼ cup cooking oil and thoroughly mix the rice by hand.  All of the grains of rice should glisten when mixed properly. 

Add the rice to a large skillet.  Do not add oil.  Spread the rice out evenly over the bottom of the skillet and cook at low/medium heat for 4 to 5 minutes.  Do not stir! 

Turn the rice over after about 5 minutes and crisp the other side.  The rice should turn light brown.  Turn the heat off after 4 or 5 minutes.  Keep the rice on the stove top while the vegetables are cooked.

In a wok, add 1 Tbs cooking oil and the ginger and garlic.  Simmer at low heat for about a minute.  Remove the ginger and garlic, (before the garlic browns).  Set the ginger and garlic aside.

Add the broccoli pieces to the wok.  Set heat to low and stir-fry briefly.

Cover the broccoli with a lid, or aluminum foil.  Steam the broccoli for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove the broccoli to a bowl and cover.

Add the carrots to the wok and turn the heat up to medium.  Stir fry for a few minutes and then add the onion and jalapeño.  Chop some of the cooked ginger and garlic and add it the wok.  I added about 2 tablespoons of ginger and garlic. Add the broccoli and stir briefly.

Pull the wings from the oven and add them to a large mixing bowl.  Pour the Asian sauce over the wings and toss to coat.  Add the wings to a serving platter.

Arrange the crispy rice and stir-fried vegetables on another platter. 

Serve with plenty of napkins.  The wings are going to very sticky!

Orange Glazed Lemon Chicken

You know this is going to be good…there’s so many adjectives in the name!

Some recipes produce shy and gentle things and others, like this one, are boisterous and bold.  I wanted something that was full of citrus flavors and exotic spices and this definitely fit the bill.  This chicken dish is nothing short of a runaway flavor train!  I intended on marinating the chicken for a few hours but plans changed and it marinated for about 30 hours.  The result was bright, very tangy, lemony chicken.  The thick orange glaze had a distinctly Asian taste which complemented the citrus flavor in the chicken.  The only thing shy and gentle about this dish was the white rice!

For the marinade:

1 ½ lbs chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces

2 lemons (quartered)

1 orange (quartered)

2 Tbs sliced ginger

½ onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, chopped

¼ cup olive oil

For the Glaze:

1 cup orange juice (or juice of 3-4 oranges)

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

¼ cup soy sauce

1 Tbs Sriracha sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 Tbs fresh ginger, grated

4 cloves garlic, smashed

Orange zest, about ¼ cup

1 tsp black peppercorns

3 star anise

1 cinnamon stick, split and broken

2 Tbs cornstarch

For the stir-fry:

1 cup cooking oil

1 ½ lbs marinated chicken, cut into 1” pieces

¼ cup cornstarch

1 Tbs cooking oil

½ yellow bell pepper, chopped

½ orange bell pepper, chopped

3 Tbs toasted sesame seeds

1 green onion, chopped

¼ cup cilantro

Directions:

Prepare the marinade by cutting the lemons, orange and onion.  Slice the ginger.  Peeling the ginger is optional, since the ginger will only be used in the marinade. 

In a large plastic storage bag, add all of the marinade ingredients, including the chicken.  Squeeze the juice from the lemons and orange pieces as you toss them into the bag.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.

To prepare the glaze, add all of the ingredients for the glaze, except the cornstarch to a sauce pan.  Turn heat to low/medium stir to combine.  Simmer and stir occasionally for 20 minutes. 

Strain the solids from the sauce and return the sauce to the wok.

Remove a few tablespoons of the sauce and add to a small bowl. Add the cornstarch to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the cornstarch mixture back to the sauce and whisk to incorporate. Simmer for another 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens to a sticky glaze. Remove the glaze to a bowl and keep warm.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.  Add the chicken to a mixing bowl.  Cover with 1/4 cup cornstarch.  Mix thoroughly, to coat the chicken.  Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before frying in a wok.

Add a cup of cooking oil to a wok and set the heat to high.  Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and fry the chicken, stirring only occasionally, until the chicken is cooked and golden brown.  Remove the chicken to a warm place. 

Remove all but about 1 tablespoon of oil from the wok.  Add the chopped bell pepper and stir for a few minutes. 

Return the chicken to the wok and stir again.

Add the prepared glaze and stir. Finally, add the green onion and stir briefly.

Turn out to a serving bowl and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro.

Serve with warm jasmine rice.

Coconut Chicken Curry with Pesto Sauce and Spicy Shrimp Noodles

I have to admit, I sometimes feel like Marco Polo when I visit an international food market.  I imagine that I am a gallant adventurer, in search of spices and treasures from distant lands.  There are so many strange and wonderful things to see, most of which I know little or nothing about.  Fortunately, I almost always find a friendly proprietor that is happy to answer my questions and will guide me through the store, politely pointing out interesting things. 

“Tell me about ghee,” I might ask.  “Is it like clarified butter?”  And then I might ask about the several different varieties of rice on a shelf and ask what properties they have that make them appropriate for some dishes but not suitable for others.  Invariably, during my visit, I will reach a point where I run out of intelligent questions or the proprietor will begin to fidget and will look for a way to carry on with whatever they were doing before I captivated so much of their time. 

It’s usually around that moment that I feel a sudden desire to return to my homeland, to share my stories and show my new treasures.  I gather a few exotic wonders and pack them away in my sack, bid a fond farewell to my congenial friend, clasp my cloak about my neck and prepare for the arduous journey back home. 

Ok, it’s really just a fifteen minute drive through a light drizzle that dampens the city streets but I like to believe that I am hoisting the sails of my sea bound schooner and that I am preparing to batten down the hatches, at a moment’s notice, in case the stormy seas start to surge.

I know the trade routes like the back of my hand and, in due time, I return to the happy harbor of my home.  And that’s when the fun really begins…

Coconut Chicken Curry with Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

1 ½ tsp salt

1 Japanese eggplant

1 Tbs olive oil

5 garlic cloves

1 lb chicken tenders (tendons removed)

¼ cup basil pesto sauce

juice of 3 limes

juice of 1 lemon

1 ½ Tbs fresh ginger, sliced

1 Thai chili, sliced lengthwise

1 ½ Tbs chili powder

1 carrot

1 Roma tomato, chopped

2 cups chicken broth

2 tsp Garam Masala

13.5 oz Thai coconut milk

3 green onions

Directions:

Using a sharp kitchen knife, remove the white tendon that runs down the length of the chicken tender.

Cut the chicken into 1” pieces and place them in a bowl.

Add the pesto sauce, lime and lemon juice, sliced ginger, Thai chili and chili powder to the bowl and mix by hand.  Marinate in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Cut the eggplant into 1” pieces and add them to a mixing bowl.  Mince one clove of garlic and add it to the bowl, along with a tablespoon of olive oil. 

Spread the eggplant out on a parchment lined baking tray and roast in the oven at 400° for 20 minutes, or until the eggplant has browned a little. Remove and set aside in a bowl.

In a large skillet, sauté the onion and the remaining garlic for one minute, over low heat. 

Add the marinated chicken and turn the heat up to medium.  Stir the chicken while it cooks. 

Once the chicken has firmed and turned white, add the sliced jalapeños and carrots.  Stir frequently.

When the carrots begin to soften, add the chicken broth and deglaze the pan.

Add the Garam Masala, ginger, lime and lemon zest, lime and lemon juice.  Simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the tomato and eggplant and stir.

Cover the skillet and simmer at low heat for 15 minutes. 

At this point, I tasted the broth and determined that the jalapeños were spicier than I had expected.  I removed them and used them as a side dish, for anyone that wanted a little extra heat.

Add the coconut milk and mix with a spatula.  Simmer uncovered for another 5 minutes.

Remove to a serving bowl and keep warm until serving time. Serve in bowls, over basmati rice.

Spicy Shrimp Noodles

Ingredients:

1 lb shrimp (I used frozen shrimp, in the shell, de-veined)

2 Tbs basil pesto sauce

1 Tbs chili powder

2 Tbs fresh ginger, minced

1 lime

1 Tbs cooking oil

12 Thai chiles

5 cloves of garlic, chopped

¼ cup Asian stir fry sauce (I used General Tso sauce, but any kind will do)

1 Tbs Hoisin sauce

1 ½ Tbs oyster sauce

1 Tbs soy sauce

1 Tbs Vietnamese fish sauce

1 tsp Sriracha (or more, if you want it to be spicier!)

½ lb Vietnamese rice sticks

Directions:

Put the shrimp in a large bowl.  Add just enough water to cover the shrimp.  Add the pesto sauce, chili powder and minced ginger.  Quarter the lime and squeeze the juice over the bowl.  Add the rest of the lime to the bowl.   Marinate for at least 30 minutes.  Since I started with frozen shrimp, I marinated for one hour.

The rice sticks will need to soak in warm water for about 30 minutes, to soften.  Vietnamese rice sticks tend to be very long so I broke them in half before soaking. 

Heat a wok at high heat.  Add the cooking oil and the chilies.  Sear the chilies for about one minute, or until the outer skins begin to blister.  Remove the chiles and set aside.  I put them in a small dish to serve at the table. 

Add the whole, unpeeled shrimp to the wok and stir-fry for one to two minutes.  Remove the shrimp and allow them to cool before removing the shells and tails. 

Set the shrimp aside and return the shells and tails to the wok. Stir the shells over high heat for about one minute, to extract their juices. Remove the shells and tails and discard.

Add the garlic to the wok and stir for about 30 seconds. 

Add the Asian sauce, Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, fish sauce and Sriracha.  Turn the heat to low and stir to mix.

Drain the rice sticks in a colander and add the rice sticks to the wok.  Stir to coat the rice sticks.  Return the shrimp and mix briefly.  Turn out to a serving bowl.

Make-Your-Own-Dinner-Night (Yay!)

Every now and then the planets align (or maybe they un-align, I don’t know,) and we declare that it’s “make  your own dinner” night.  Everyone in my family is capable of fending for themselves so nobody goes hungry. 

I stopped off at the grocery store this evening, after work, and was amazed to see that they had practically sold out of lettuce.  I saw Rosemarie’s Butter Lettuce Chicken Wraps recipe earlier today and planned on making that tonight but, the last few heads of lettuce in the produce area were so pathetic and wilted that I was forced to change plans. 

I was a little heart-broken but I recovered quickly.  I brought out the wok and got busy.  The whole thing took about one hour.  If I was on my A-game, it might have only taken 45 minutes.  This recipe could serve up to four but I ate two portions!  The rest is sitting in the fridge, ready for me to take to work tomorrow, for lunch.

Sorry, no pictures this time.  I was hungry and I didn’t think that this was going to be worthy of posting.  I was so wrong.  This dish exemplifies everything I love about southeastern Asian cuisine.  It’s a conglomeration of several cuisines…Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese…

Ingredients:

4 chicken thighs

1/3 cup peanut butter

2 Tbs soy sauce

1 ½ Tbs Hoisin sauce

1 tsp Sriracha sauce

3 Tbs sambal garlic chili sauce

3 Tbs cornstarch

½ tsp sesame oil

1 ½ Tbs vegetable oil

2 Tbs fresh ginger, thinly sliced and rough chopped

½ onion, julienne sliced

½ bell pepper, sliced in ¼” strips

1 jalapeño, sliced in rings

½ cup peanuts

1 cup Vietnamese glass noodles (very thin rice noodles)

Directions:

Remove the skin from the chicken thighs and debone.  Cut the chicken into tiny pieces.

Add the chicken to a large bowl.

Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, Sriracha sauce, Hoisin sauce, sambal chili garlic sauce and cornstarch to the bowl.  Mix well and set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.

Boil 4 cups of water in a pot.  Add the glass noodles and stir.  Turn the heat off and wait for the noodles to become soft.  Strain the noodles and shock with cold water.  Set the noodles aside.

Heat a wok at medium/high heat.  Add the sesame oil and vegetable oil.  Add the ginger, onion, bell pepper and jalapeño.  Stir fry a few minutes until the onions and peppers soften.  Remove everything to a bowl.

Add the marinated chicken to the wok.  Stir-fry at high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.  Add a splash of soy sauce to deglaze and stir for another minute.

Add the peanuts and glass noodles.  Turn the heat off and stir to coat everything with the sauce.

Turn out to a serving bowl. 

Top with a little more sambal garlic sauce, (optional).  Serve warm and enjoy the peace and quiet!

Seared Tuna Steaks

Tuna is best served rare or medium rare because overcooked tuna become flaky and dry.  If you want canned tuna, buy a can of tuna. If you want tasty tuna, sear it.

Ingredients:

For the sauce:

     2 Tbs soy sauce

     1 tsp rice wine vinegar

     ¼ tsp Maggi Sesoning

     Juice of ½ lemon

3 frozen tuna steaks (1” thick, 5 ounces each)

1 Tbs olive oil

1 green onion

2 tsp wasabi paste

5 small oranges (mini Mandarin)

Directions:

Thaw the tuna in the refrigerator overnight.

Mix the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Slice the oranges and cut the the slices in half. Arrange the oranges on a serving platter place some small dollops of wasabi paste in the corners of the platter.  Set the platter aside.

Chop the green onions and set aside.

Heat a large stainless steel skillet on the stove at very high heat

Brush the tuna with olive oil.

Gently lay the tuna onto the very hot skillet.  Brush the other side of the tuna steaks with olive oil.

Turn the tuna over after 60 seconds.  Sear for another 45 seconds.

The internal temperature of the tuna should reach about 120° after searing.   The tuna should be white on the outside after searing and bright red in the center.

Top with green onions and serve with stir-fried rice and steamed vegetables.

Impromptu Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve turned out to be a rollicking good time with family, food and holiday movies.  The evening  menu showcased some impromptu stir-fry dishes and the holiday movie marathon ended with a classic… “The Star Wars Holiday Special”.  For the uninitiated, the Star Wars Holiday Special aired on TV in 1978 and was subsequently banished by George Lucas.  It starred all of the favorite Star Wars characters like, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Art Carney, Harvey Korman and Beatrice Arthur.  Yes, Art Carney, Harvey Korman and Bea Arthur!  It’s a must-see!

The idea behind Thai cuisine for Christmas Eve came from a small jar of Thai Green Curry that has been sitting in my refrigerator for quite some time and I wanted to finish it off.  I searched my pantry and refrigerator for items that would be suitable for stir-fry.  Much of the afternoon was spent prepping vegetables, roasting garlic, soaking the noodles and watching holiday classics.  

Thai Green Curry Chicken

Ingredients:

1 lb chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces

2 Tbs Thai green curry paste (3 Tbs for extra spicy)

1 Tbs oil

2 garlic cloves (fresh)

1 head of garlic (roasted)

2 Tbs fresh ginger, sliced thin

¼ yellow onion, julienne sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1 ½ cups coconut milk

2 Tbs fish sauce

1 Tbs dried basil and 1 tsp dried parsley  (substitution for fresh Thai basil)

1 lime

Zest of lime

1 can of water chestnuts (8 ounces, drained and sliced)

1 roasted red bell pepper, sliced

1 green onion, diced greens and chopped white roots

¼ cup cilantro leaves

Directions:

Mix the cut chicken breast with the Thai curry paste.  Refrigerate until needed.

In a bowl, combine the chicken stock with ½ cup coconut milk.  Add the fish sauce, basil, parsley and the juice of half of a lime.  Set aside.

In a wok, add a tablespoon of cooking oil. Warm a tablespoon of sliced ginger and one garlic clove.

Add 1 cup of coconut milk to the wok and turn the heat up to medium/hot. 

Add the roasted garlic and stir the coconut milk as it thickens. 

Add the chicken stock mixture and simmer at low/medium heat .  Add the sliced water chestnuts, green onion roots and sliced jalapeño.  Simmer for a few minutes and removed to a bowl. 

Wipe the wok clean and add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and turn the heat to high.  Add a some garlic and ginger. Add the serrano chile and sear the chile in the oil.  Remove the chile and reserve.

Add the marinated chicken to the wok and stir at high heat.  Return the serrano chile to the wok, along with a garlic clove and 1 tablespoon of sliced ginger.  Stir the chicken for a few minutes and remove the serrano. 

Continue stirring the chicken until the chicken is cooked and browned. 

Add the coconut milk/chicken stock mixture to the wok. Stir to incorporate and turn out to an oven proof bowl. Keep in a warm oven until ready to eat.  When you are ready to eat, add a tablespoon of lime juice and top with cilantro, roasted red pepper and fresh lime wedges.

Serve in bowls, over jasmine rice.

Chicken with Peppers and Pineapple

Ingredients:

1 1/2 lbs. chicken breast, cut into 1” pieces

1 cup flour

¾ cup cornstarch

1 Tbs oil

1 Tbs fresh ginger, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, smashed

1 serrano chile

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 orange bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 small yellow onion, julienne sliced

2 jalapeños, seeded and sliced into rings

2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into ½” pieces

1 Mandarin orange

Zest of an orange

2 Tbs garlic chile sauce (Sambal Oelek)

2 cups vegetable oil

¼ cup cilantro

¼ cup green onion, chopped

Directions:

In a large bowl, add mix the flour with the cornstarch.  Add the chicken pieces and stir to coat.  Set aside.

Add one tablespoon cooking oil to a wok.  Simmer the ginger and garlic at low heat for minute and then remove the ginger and garlic. 

Add the serrano and cook at high heat for 30 seconds.  Remove and discard the serrano (or save for another time).

Add the chopped bell peppers, sliced onion, sliced jalapeño.  Turn the heat to high and stir-fry for a few minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic back to the wok and continue to stir until the peppers have softened to your liking.  (Don’t overcook…mushy stir-fry vegetables make a disappointing stir-fry).

In a small bowl, add the cut pineapple.  Add the juice and zest of the orange.

Add the pineapple to the wok and stir a few times to incorporate the flavors.  Turn out to a bowl.  Add the sambal oelek.  Keep the bowl in a warm place.

Add a little flour to the bowl containing the chicken that has been coated in flour and cornstarch.  Toss the chicken to prevent the chicken pieces from sticking together.

Wipe the wok clean.   Add 2 cups of cooking oil to the wok and turn the heat to high.   Add the chicken to the wok, a few pieces at a time.  Stir the chicken occasionally.  Remove the chicken to a paper towel lined platter when it turns golden brown and crispy.

Carefully pour the frying oil in an appropriate container to cool.

Wipe the wok clean and return it to the stove top.  Add the vegetables and chicken back to the hot wok and stir a few times.  Turn out to a serving bowl.  Top with cilantro and green onions.

Shrimp with Rice Noodles

Ingredients:

16 ounces rice vermicelli noodles (rice stick)

1 lb raw shrimp, deveined with tails and shells removed

1 Tbs olive oil

½ tsp sesame oil

1 Tbs ginger, thinly sliced

1/4 yellow onion, julienne sliced

1 Tbs Hoisin sauce

2 tsp oyster sauce

1 Tbs fish sauce

2 green onions

Directions:

Crack the dried noodles in half and add them to a large pot.  Add enough water to the cover the noodles by at least two inches. 

Heat the water to a boil.  Swish the noodles around in the pot as they boil.  Sample the noodles while they cook.  They should become al dente, just like properly cooked spaghetti noodles.  Once the noodles have cooked, strain out the water and rinse the noodles with cold water to stop the heating process.  Add the noodles back to the pot and cover with cold water.  Reserve until needed.

Add olive oil and sesame oil to a hot wok.  Add the ginger and stir for a minute.  Discard the ginger.

Add the shrimp to the hot wok and stir-fry for a few minutes.  Add the onion and stir. The shrimp will cook quickly. 

Add the Hoisin sauce, oyster sauce and fish sauce and stir to mix. 

Strain the noodles and add them to the wok.  Stir to coat the noodles and turn everything out to a serving bowl. 

Add the root pieces of the onion to the wok and sear. 

Top the dish with chopped green onion tips and seared green onion roots.

Thai Trifecta

Dessert suggestion:  Sliced bananas, dusted with cinnamon and chocolate sauce and whipped cream topping.

Dust with cinnamon, drizzle chocolate syrup and top with whipped cream

Chicken Curry

I enjoy making a delicious curry dish every now and then but I have to admit, curry vexes me.  I’m the sort of guy that likes to know the subtle intricacies of the ingredients that I use but I have to admit, my understanding of curry is shamefully shallow.  Fortunately, my lack of understanding doesn’t prevent me from cooking with curry.  I’d like to make my own curry blends someday but, for now I will keep relying on my tried and true prepared blends.

Many years ago I received a boxed set of six curry spices from a friend.  Each container held 2 ounces of various spices.  There was Chaat Masala, Tandoori Masala, Garam Masala, Tea Masala and two that were simply labeled Hot Curry and Mild Curry.  I have used a little of each of them over the years and I still have those containers in my cupboard, tucked away in a far corner.  They have held up remarkably well over the years.  Some spices lose their potency and aroma over time but these seem to have incredible staying power!  I only use a teaspoon or two when I make a curry. 

This is a variation of a turkey curry that I bravely made several Thanksgivings ago, while visiting relatives.

Ingredients:

1 tsp hot curry

1 tsp mild curry

1 tsp turmeric

2 Tbs olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced

1 ½ Tbs fresh ginger, minced

1 1/2 lbs chicken breasts, cut into 1 ½ inch pieces

½ cup chicken broth

1 ripe tomato, chopped

A pinch of salt

1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp water (thickening slurry)

1/3 cup coconut milk

2 Tbs chopped cilantro

1 green onion, chopped

Directions:

Mix the spices in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a wok over medium-high heat.

Add the garlic and ginger, sauté for about 30 seconds.

Add the onion and sauté until they almost turn golden brown, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add the curry spices.  Sauté another 30 seconds and then remove everything from the wok and keep handy.

Add the chicken to the wok.

Stir-fry the chicken until the chicken turns white and firm, about 5 minutes.

Once the chicken has cooked, add the cooked onion and garlic and stir. 

Add the chicken broth and tomato and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Add a pinch of salt.  Stir and taste.  Add more salt, if you like.  Stir in the cornstarch and water slurry, to thicken sauce slightly.  Simmer for a few more minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk and turn out to a serving bowl.   Serve warm with cilantro and green onions over basmati rice.

Asian Spring Rolls

I intended to use ground chicken for the spring rolls but all I could find at the store was ground turkey so, here we go.  I suppose this could be an opening act for a Thanksgiving dinner or maybe an appetizer served during a football game.  It’s also a good way to use leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. 

Make sure to use spring roll wrappers, not egg roll wrappers. Spring roll wrappers are more dense and they are thinner than egg roll wrappers.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs soy sauce

1 green onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, smashed

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp cornstarch

1 lb ground turkey

2 Tbs cooking oil divided

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1-2 stalks green onion, chopped

1/2 head of cabbage, about 8 ounces, shredded

2 carrots julienne cut

2 Tbs oyster sauce

50 frozen spring roll wrappers, defrosted

2 cups cooking oil

Cornstarch Slurry:

    1 Tbs cornstarch

    1/4 cup water

Dipping sauce:

1/2 tsp sesame oil

3 Tbs soy sauce

1 tsp Hoisin sauce

1 tsp Garlic Chili Paste

Instructions:

Prepare the Filling:

In a large bowl, combine the soy sauce, green onion, garlic, vinegar, pepper and cornstarch.  Add the ground turkey and mix well.  Marinate for at least 10 minutes.

Chop, mince and grate the various stir-fry vegetables. 

Heat a wok over high heat.  When hot, add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil. Add the turkey and stir-fry until browned.  Remove the browned turkey and set aside in a bowl.

Turn the heat down to medium.  Add a tablespoon of cooking oil.   Add the green onion, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds.  Add the carrots and cabbage.  Stir well and turn the heat up to medium-high.   Stir fry the vegetables for 2 minutes, or until the carrots have softened.  

Return the cooked turkey back to the wok and stir.  Add the oyster sauce and toss to coat. Turn the mixture out to a strainer and let liquids drain.   Wet ingredients don’t make good spring rolls!

Wrapping Spring Rolls:

Make a cornstarch slurry with cornstarch and water.  Open the spring roll wrapper package, peel the wrappers apart from each other and cover them with a moistened paper towel. 

Lay a wrapper on a clean surface.  Position the wrapper with a corner facing toward you .  Add about 1 tablespoon of filling to the bottom point of the wrapper.  Fold the left and right sides in toward the middle (the wrapper should look like an envelope). Starting from the bottom of the wrapper, roll upward and apply pressure with your fingers to prevent air pockets.  Dip a finger in the cornstarch slurry and paint the top corner of the wrapper.  Finish wrapping and secure the wrap by gently pressing along the seam.  Stage finished spring rolls on parchment paper, or wax paper and keep them covered with a damp paper towel.

Frying Spring Rolls

Add about 2 cups of oil to a wok and turn the heat to high.  The depth of the oil should be about 2 inches.  Once the oil is hot, carefully slide spring rolls into the oil, one at a time.  I fried about 8 spring rolls at a time, to avoid overcrowding. 

Turn the egg rolls over while the fry.  When they are golden brown and crispy, remove to a paper towel lined plate and keep warm.

Mix the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.

Arrange the spring rolls on a serving platter and place the dipping sauce in the middle of the platter.

Cambodian Rice Noodle Stir-Fry

Sometimes I conceive a meal by following my instincts, rather than following a recipe.  It makes me feel like I am creating something brand new.

On this particular weeknight, I allowed my taste buds to tell me what I wanted to make and my mind followed.  I knew I wanted to include shrimp, because I’ve been craving shrimp.  I knew I wanted to use Cambodian rice noodles, because I have had some in my pantry for a few months.  From that launching point, my mind quickly assembled the rest of the items that would bring the dish together.  Pork, vegetables, sesame oil, peanuts, fish sauce, garlic, green onions and so on. 

I resisted the urge to look up recipes on the internet.  I’m not saying that looking up recipes on the internet is cheating but I sometimes find that internet searches just affirm what I already know.  Once a person has made several stir-fry dishes, the process becomes instinctive and intuitive.  Deciding what to include in a stir-fry is only limited by the imagination of the cook.  My imagination and creativity runs deep and I have learned not to think about “success” or “failure”, when cooking.  Maybe that’s because I have become more comfortable in the kitchen over the years, or maybe it’s because I pretend to be fearless when I am creating something.  It could be a little of both. 

I approach stir-frying like I approach painting, in an abstract style. 

When I paint an abstract painting I usually follow this thought process:

What is my state of mind?  How do I want to convey my thoughts and emotions?

That leads to, what colors would be best to get my point across?  What sort of shapes do I see?  What will be the focus of the painting, or will there be a main focus?  Etcetera.  The thinking process goes on as long as I need it to and then my hands start working quickly.

Mix the paint on the pallet.  Lay out my brushes.  Act quickly.  Act without thinking.  Let the creative part of my mind dictate my actions but allow the reasonable part of my mind to make critical decisions. 

Is the finished work a masterpiece?  That’s not for me to decide.  The real question I ask is, “does this satisfy me?”

The same goes with cooking, especially stir-fry cooking. 

How am I feeling today?  What kind of meal would complete this day in a meaningful way?

I decide what flavors I want to use.  I decide what meats, vegetables and starches will achieve what I want to convey my thoughts.  I decide how I want the finished dish to look, when it is presented.   

Is the finished work a masterpiece?  That’s not for me to decide.  The real question I ask is, “does this satisfy me?”

Anyone who eats a meal or sees a painting leaves with their own memories, thoughts and feelings.  The intention of the cook or the painter is irrelevant.  I don’t know why that makes me so happy, but it does!

Ingredients:

1 garlic clove, smashed

7 roots of green onion

1 Tbs sesame oil

1 lb lean pork, shaved thin

12 medium sized shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1 tsp sesame oil

5 oz thin Cambodian rice noodles

For the marinade:

¼ cup dark soy sauce

¼ soy sauce

¼ cup Vietnamese chili garlic paste (Sambal Olek works nicely, too)

¼ cup Vietnamese fish sauce (smells funky, tastes great)

For the stir-fry:

2 carrots

7 green onions (just the greens)

¼ head of cabbage, sliced thin

2 Tbs ginger, sliced very thin

2 jalapeños, sliced

1 lime, quartered

For the peanut sauce:

¼ cup soy sauce

1 ½ Tbs Hoisin sauce

1 Tbs peanut butter

1 Tbs brown sugar

½ cup roasted peanuts, crushed

Directions:

Prepare the vegetables:

Slice the garlic, ginger, cabbage, carrots, and jalapeños and green onions.  Arrange separately on a large plate until needed.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the wok and add the roots of the green onion roots and garlic.  Simmer at low heat.  Turn off heat after 1 minute.   Continue to allow the onion and garlic to flavor the oil.

Prepare the marinade:

Combine dark soy sauce, soy sauce, chili garlic paste and fish sauce in a bowl.

Prepare the pork and shrimp.

Remove the fatty edges of the pork and reserve. 

Use the pork fat to flavor the oil

Slice the pork thinly and store in a bowl. 

Peel and de-vein the shrimp.  Store in the bowl that contains the pork.

Add the marinade to the pork and shrimp.  Store in the refrigerator until needed.

Add pork fat to the wok.  Turn up heat and cook while stirring.  Remove the onions, garlic and pork fat after they char (just a few minutes).  Discard the garlic, onions and pork.  Leave the flavored oil in the wok.

Prepare the peanut sauce:

Add one tablespoon of peanut butter…not in photo.

Crush the peanuts with the broad side of a knife.

Combine soy sauce, Hoisin sauce, peanut butter, brown sugar and crushed roasted peanuts in a bowl.  Transfer to a hot skillet and stir to combine for a minute. Set aside cooked sauce.

Quarter the lime and reserve until serving time.

Prepare the noodles:

Prepare the rice noodles, according to the instructions on the package.  In this case, I soaked the rice noodles in cold water for about 5 minutes until they became soft, but not mushy.  Strain out the water and set the noodles aside, until needed.

Time to stir-fry!

All of the prep work is essential.  Make sure to have everything prepped before you crank up the wok.  Seriously…there’s nothing worse than going full force into stir frying and realizing that you have forgotten to cut some vegetable or meat or realizing that you haven’t prepared a sauce.  Take a moment to review all of the items that you are going to include in the stir-fry and make sure that they are ready to go!  Take the marinated meat out of refrigerator and keep it close, on hand.  Keep some oil near the wok.  Make sure to have your serving plate ready to receive the finished food. 

Now, go!

Add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to the wok.  Cook the shrimp and pork at high heat.  Stir constantly until the shrimp and pork are cooked.  This should only take a minute, or so.  Remove to a bowl and store in a warm place.

Add a tablespoon of oil to the hot wok and add the sliced ginger and a little bit of green onion.  Stir for a moment and then add the carrots and jalapeños.  Stir for a minute, to allow the carrots to soften. 

Add the cabbage and stir constantly.  Once the cabbage has wilted and softened a little, remove all of the vegetables to a large bowl.  Don’t remove the liquid from the wok. 

Add the noodles and stir constantly.  Once the noodles have absorbed some of the liquid in the wok, add the peanut sauce.  Stir to incorporate. 

Return the vegetables and shrimp and pork to the wok.  Stir with the noodles and turn out to a large serving platter.  Top with green diced green onion and lime slices.

Spritz with fresh lime and serve.