Archive for the ‘ dinner/supper ’ Category

Fish Amok

On Monday I decided to attend a Cambodian cooking class. This is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time… since December 2009, actually, when a friend first suggested it. The class took place at a property owned by the restaurant Frizz on Street 240.

We kicked off the day at 9am for a quick tour of common Cambodian cooking ingredients at one of the better vegetable markets in town, Kandal market. It’s a place that I’ve been to a number of times, so it wasn’t really that exciting for me, but the class is geared toward tourists and not… locals, so I didn’t complain.

Our class was lead by a young guy named Heng (or was it Keng?) who had actually gone through the horeca training program at Friends International. He was a pretty vibrant guy who spoke English relatively well, and knew a fair bit about the culinary history of Cambodia.

After our market tour with Heng, we headed back to our kitchen, an open-air facility on the second floor of a building behind the restaurant. The first thing on the menu was Cambodian spring rolls (chaio yor).

Now, I’ve been particularly curious about Cambodian spring rolls, because I asked our former maid to make some for us when I first arrived in Cambodia this summer, and she weaseled her way out of it twice, claiming that they were very difficult to make. By the end of this class however, I determined that the maid was definitely not made a former maid in error. Cambodian spring rolls are super easy.

Basically, it involves two cups of grated taro root (coco yam) and 2 cups of grated carrot. The most involved step is taking the starch out of the taro, which is easily done by sprinkling about a tablespoon of salt onto the yam and gently squeezing and working the yam for about 3-5 minutes until the moisture is drawn out of the yam.

Next, we spiced the spring roll filling with some sugar and ground black pepper and about a tablespoon of ground peanut.

The next step was to roll the spring rolls… very straightforward, we just used a beaten egg to seal the rolls, and took care to make them as tight as possible, so as to keep them from soaking up too much oil when they are fried.

After that, we fried the spring rolls in about 3 cups of cooking oil inside of a wok, until they were golden brown.

As for the dipping sauce, it’s just a variation of nuoc cham, with the very same ingredients, so see my previous entry for details.

The next thing on the menu was the fish amok. While there is a great overlap between Cambodian, Thai and Vietnamese food, fish amok is one of those dishes that is very, very Cambodian. It’s a quick favourite among visitors and expats alike, because of the sweet taste of the coconut milk and cream in the amok.

Oddly enough, the recipe featured in the cookbook we were given is different from the recipe we used in the class, so I’m going off the top of my head for some of the quantities. In any case, here goes:

Kroeung (herb paste)

-10 dried red chilies (the non spicy, larger variety) soaked, drained and chopped into a paste.

-4 cloves garlic

-3 tbsp of galangal (cut small) … if you can’t find galangal, use ginger root

– 8 thinly sliced lemongrass stalks (outer leaves and lower part of bulb removed–chop starting at the bulb end, and chop about one-third of the length of the stalks, and discard the rest)

-zest of 1/3 kaffir lime

-1 tsp salt

-2 tbsp of chopped fresh turmeric

-1  to 3 sliced bird’s eye chilies, depending on how much heat you want

-1 small shallot

Directions:

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor (or mortar) and blend to a thick paste.

Amok – Serves 4

-kroeung

–3 tbsp fish sauce

-3 tbsp kaffir lime leaves

-3 chili peppers

-500g snakehead fish (trei ros), or any meaty white fish…

-2 cups coconut milk

-3/4 cup coconut cream

-1 egg, beaten

-8 banana leaves (might be smart to buy extras, especially the first time)

Making the banana cup:

First, clean the leaves with a wet cloth, then dip them into boiling water so they are soft and do not crack when being shaped.

Cut the leaves into circles about 25cm in diameter and place two together, with the shiny sides facing outward.

Make a square in the middle of the circle, this will be the bottom of the cup.

Then, put a thumb on one right angle of the square and pull up two sides, tucking the fold, and pinning together with a tiny bamboo stick, toothpick, or stapler.

Repeat this four times, so that the cup has five equally spaced folds.

The rest of the amok:

Slice the fish thinly and set aside. Stir the kroeung into 1 cup of coconut milk. When it has dissolved, add the egg, fish sauce and sliced fish. Then add the remaining coconut milk and mix well.

Divide the mixture evenly among the four banana leaf cups and steam for 15-20 minutes, then put the coconut cream on top, as well as the kaffir leaves (thinly sliced) and thinly sliced sweet chili pepper for garnish. Steam further until the mixture is solid, but still moist.

Serve with rice, and enjoy!!



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bún thịt nướng chả giò

Today’s entry is devoted to one of my favourite Asian dishes, and certainly my favourite Vietnamese dish, bún thịt nướng chả giò—cold vermicelli noodles served with grilled marinated pork, spring rolls, julienned carrots and cucumber, shredded lettuce, and of course nuoc cham!

I’ve been making this dish for a few years now, ever since I first tried it in university. I think what makes it really delicious is the use of lemongrass to marinate the pork. When you have fresh ingredients, this dish can really shine!

I use this recipe as my base, although I often omit the mint and cilantro, and add in lemonrass. As I said, before, the key to this recipe is the lemongrass. I usually chop up my pork (I used pork chop last time, with the fat trimmed), add in the shallots, garlic, oil, fish sauce and lime juice as the recipe says. Then I grate about 6 or 7 inner stalks of lemongrass. This ratio usually works for a half pound of meat, but if you are following the recipe’s quantities, make sure to double the lemongrass. If you don’t have access to fresh lemongrass, dried powdered lemongrass will do as a substitute. I usually omit the salt because the fish sauce we use (Thai) has a lot of salt in it already, and I tend to marinate my pork for at least 2-3 hours, so the flavour really sinks in without any extra sodium.

Next, I tackle the nuoc cham–fish sauce-based dipping sauce. The recipe on the site works well for me. I usually add extra garlic, and don’t bother with the carrots, although sometimes I will chop up some green onions for garnish. This time around, I didn’t have any chili peppers, so I used bird’s eye chilis… tiny chilis that really pack a much stronger punch. The longer the chilis sit in the sauce, the hotter the sauce gets, so after about 10 minutes, I strained the nuoc cham and put it in the fridge.

While that’s sitting in the fridge, I julienne/chop all my veggies, crush my peanut, and chop up some green onions for garnish. Pretty straightforward.

After a few hours in the fridge, or 30 minutes on the countertop if you’re in a hurry, cook the pork. The easiest way to do it is in a wok, although it takes a bit of time to dry out the pork just right. If you have access to a grill, especially a charcoal one, grill your pork on there for a nice smoky flavour.

Until recently, that was the extent of the dish for me when I cooked it at home, but this time around I decided to go one step further and add the cha gio — spring rolls.

I didn’t really follow a recipe for making spring rolls… nor did I write down the quantities of what I put in. Basically I made something similar to this, except that I used king oyster mushrooms instead of shiitake (less flavourful, but that’s what I had in the fridge), pork chop instead of ground pork, and vermicelli noodles instead of bean sprouts. I also didn’t bother with the coriander or fresh basil, but you can definitely adapt the spring rolls to your own tastes.

I cooked all my ingredients in a wok, having already softened my vermicelli noodles with boiling water. After they cooled, I wrapped them in spring roll paper, which you can find at many grocery stores. I find my spring rolls cook better if I let them chill for a bit in the freezer, so I put them in the freezer for about 30 minutes before frying.

Next, assembly! Soften your vermicelli noodles with boiling water, drain, and then place it on a plate, add your carrot, cucumber and lettuce on top, followed by the meat. Next, garnish with green onion rounds and peanut. Chop op your spring rolls and serve them on the noodles and spoon a couple tablespoons of nuoc cham onto your dish. You’ve reached the finish line! If you like, add some hoisin sauce to your dish for a bit of sweetness.

Enjoy!!

Chicken Saté

To even out the spread, we included a couple chicken dishes in our menu. One dish that is pretty popular in The Netherlands is saté, and it’s pretty common fare at Indonesian restaurants and street food stalls. I’ve made different variations of ‘chicken-on-a-stick’ in the past, but this was my first time making it southeast Asian style. I decided to branch out of my usual Martha Stewart/Jamie Oliver recipe niche and went with a popular recipe on foodnetwork.com.

I didn’t have any coconut milk, nor did I have any low-sodium soy sauce or chicken stock, so I didn’t use them in my marinade. The chicken fortunately was not very salty, despite the fact that I ended up with more salt than called for. I marinated the chicken for about 3 days, not on purpose but because we didn’t end up serving it at the party because we had so much food!

As for the dipping sauce, we just bought some packaged peanut sauce to make our lives a little easier. To spice it up, we just threw in a few chili pepper rounds as we heated up the sauce.

Quiche.

The first time I made a quiche, I failed miserably. I had made a batch of mini pies in Korea, and had one pie shell left over, so I cracked an egg, threw in a few veggies and stuffed it in the oven. No milk/cream, no pre-baking the shell. It was a mess! The thing ballooned out of the pie shell and ended up looking like a prop out of a sci-fi movie. It still tasted alright, despite the dryness.

Fortunately, I decided to try again. This time around, I used a recipe that comes from Let’s Break Bread Together, the cookbook put together by the United Church of Canada.

I used the same pie dough from my previous entry on pies, making sure to pre-bake the shell for 8 minutes before I added in the egg and other ingredients. For some reason, the dough shrank a bit after the 8 minutes, so I ended up having to patch it. Next time I roll out the dough for quiche, I’ll make sure to take shrinkage into account.

Again, I don’t have the recipe book with me, but I think it goes something like this for the filling:

-1/4 cup green onion

-1 cup cooked shrimp, drained

-1/2 cup mozzarella cheese (I used jong belegen)

-1/8tsp black pepper

-3 eggs

-2 cups cream

-1/4 tsp salt

-1 tbsp dried tarragon

After the  shell has been pre-baked, spread the green onion and shrimp and cheese evenly on the pie dish. Beat the eggs, mix in the cream and add the tarragon and salt into the mixture, and then pour over the ingredients in the pie dish. Bake at 200°C for 30-40 minutes.

If the shell starts to dry out, wrap foil around the edges so that it doesn’t burn.

*          *           *

The quiche was an incredible success at dinner on Friday evening, and it disappeared pretty quickly once it hit the table. This prompted my decision to make two quiches the next day instead of just one. I made the shrimp quiche again, and I tried out a spinach quiche recipe from allrecipes.com, as I needed something for the vegetarians.

That recipe was not without its flaws–the original ingredient yield is enough for two quiches… thanks to the comments, I decided to halve the amount of ingredients from the get-go, and then for my cream/egg mixture, I just used the same one as I did in the shrimp quiche.

Despite all my adjustments, the quiche ended up having a lot of moisture–another common complaint about the recipe. It took me an extra 30 minutes with my quiche tented and on convection for it to dry out. If I make this is again, I might dry out my mushrooms beforehand or use slightly less cream, as it’s kind of hard to really get all the moisture out of spinach. Nevertheless, the quiche was a hit and by the time I got a chance to take a break from the kitchen, the quiche was gone…. marking the first time I’ve served something to others without trying it myself.

Conclusion: If you’re having a party or a brunch, quiche is a pretty cheap and easy way to fill people up. It’s a very versatile dish that can easily be adapted to suit a range of tastes and dietary requirements. People really love quiche! I will certainly be making quiche again in the future.

For now, I am off to Berlin! Going to finally try some curry wurst. I’ll see you all on Saturday.

Grocery store samples…

I love samples at the grocery store. Not just because they provide sustenance when I am broke/feeling cheap. Now I love them because they are a great source of ideas for new meals. Sampling food at a grocery store gave me courage to try cooking tofu on my own, eat smelly cheese, and find new ways to cook fish.

This next recipe is one that I got from Sligro, a cash-and-carry store here in Holland. They go all out with their samples, they have tables, wine, some decent plastic cutlery, and they always provide you with the recipe… so here it is, Madras Curry. It’s translated from Dutch, so bear with me….

Madras Curry

Ingredients:

375 grams shrimp

1 tsp Madras curry powder

1 kilo basmati rice

500 grams chopped bell peppers

1 bunch of spring onion

0.5 liter coconut milk (I suggest using the sweetened kind)

1 clove of garlic

1 knob of butter

Directions:

1. Thaw the shrimp and pat dry.

2. Melt the butter in a wok on medium heat.

3. Toss the bell peppers and the shrimp in the wok.

4. Mince the clove of garlic and add it to the wok.

5.  Sprinkle the teaspoon of curry into the wok.

6. Combine all the ingredients in the wok and continue cooking.

7. Add the coconut milk to the wok.

8. Cook the rice.

9. Serve the rice topped with the Madras curry sauce.

Enjoy!

Indian Feast…

A few times a year, I like to make a good Indian meal. I find having a good Indian food experience in a restaurant is very expensive. It can easily set you back €200 for four people, without dessert, and without drinks. So I’ve resorted to making the food myself.

I cooked Indian food every couple months  while I was in Korea, although on a much smaller scale. I would make my own naan, but as far as the tandoori chicken or the butter chicken went, I would buy a spice pack. Thank you, Asian Kitchen!

Needless to say, a good home-made Indian meal has been a long time coming at my house, so here it is!

I started off by making my own garam masala. We didn’t have any in the house, and I couldn’t find any in Wassenaar. Fortunately for me, I had all the ingredients needed to make it. What a fluke!

Next, I made my own paneer, or cheese, for my veggie dish, palak paneer, which is basically spinach cooked in a cream and tomato sauce. The hardest part of making the paneer was tracking down cheesecloth. At one point, I decided I was going to use my sister’s (unworn) pantyhose, but then I managed to find some cheese cloth at the kitchen store in our little town. It set me back 6 euros, which I’m sure is way more than you’d pay in Canada, but I didn’t mind too much because it’s reusable and can be washed at a really high temperature.

Most recipes say to use homogenized milk, or milk with a fat content of at least 3.25%. I decided to use volle melk, which is as close as you can get to that in Holland. I googled and found that volle melk is in that same ballpark when it comes to fat content, but my experience making the milk taught me a little different. From 2 litres of volle melk, my yield was just shy of 150g worth of cheese. For anyone who plans to make their own paneer in Holland, you might be wise to use more milk than most recipes call for.

I didn’t take a picture of the paneer, but here it is in the palak paneer:

Next, I made the butter chicken…. Rather than suffering in an effort to make tandoori masala, I just added in a little more garam masala and then threw in the ingredients that were missing. The butter chicken turned out great–my only gaffe was to use a bit of ghee in an effort to sweeten the butter chicken. I ended up with an odd kind of sweet taste that was too strong, so I balanced that out with some more fenugreek, which kind of has a bitter taste.

I added a 1/4 cup of cashews to the recipe, just because it’s something I’ve seen being done in Indian restaurants, and a few other recipes recommended it. I also threw in a bit of madras curry to make the sauce a bit more flavourful. That may well be a faux pas in authentic cooking, but I found that it improved the dish quite a bit.

Most of the butter chicken I’ve tried in restaurants has been on the sweet side, so I also added in some white sugar until it tasted about right. It’s no Bombay Choupati, but I do what I can. The only thing I would do next time to improve on my dish is make it spicier… and not put ghee in it.

Next, the naan. Thanks to my sister for making and rolling out the bread. Pretty straightforward. Since I don’t have a tandoori oven, we use a bbq for the airiest results. About an hour before grilling the naan, I crushed a few cloves of garlic and put it in about a 1/4 cup of ghee. I later brushed this mixture on both sides of the naan as it grilled. It tasted just like in the restaurant!

Since we didn’t have enough yeast in the house to make a triple batch of naan (we love the stuff A LOT), I decided to add saffron rice to our menu. Thanks to my mom for cooking the rice. If you do plan to use this recipe, heed the advice and use chicken broth instead of water, it’ll make all the difference in flavour. Next time, I intend to add cashews and raisins to it for a stronger flavour.

Last but not least, the drinks! Mango lassis. There are probably some great mango lassi recipes out there, but we didn’t use any. Just some full fat yogurt, a couple cans of mangoes, some caradamom, sugar and some mango juice.

Making Indian food is always a half-day trial, but it certainly is worth it in the end. Good food facilitates good conversation 🙂

Puff Puff

Enough with the oibo chop, it’s time to mix things up a bit.

This is one of my favourite Cameroonian (ok, West African) meals. Puff puff is quite simple to make, it just requires some time to cook.

Before I continue, let me give credit where it is due, and add that the puff puff was cooked by my cousin. I’m learning to cook African food, but alas, the process has not been photogenic. I’m much better at eating it.

Puff Puff

Ingredients:

14g of instant yeast

4 cups flour

2 cups warm water (45°C so you don’t kill the yeast)

-1 tsp salt

-1 cup white sugar

-enough cooking oil (canola, sunflower seed, etc.) to deep fry

Directions:

In a large bowl or pot (not sure what size it is, but we use our lobster-boiling pot), dissolve the yeast in the hot water. Add in the salt, and then the sugar. Next, add the flour a cup at a time, making sure to mix it in evenly without overworking the dough.

When all the ingredients are combined, cover your pot or your bowl and place it somewhere warm, like next to a stove, by a heater, or next to a window that receives direct sunlight.

The next part is tricky to time, but basically you have to let the dough rise until it doubles in volume. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours, depending on the size of your batch, and the temperature of the room.

When the dough has doubled, get ready to fry!

In a second pot, add the oil until it is reaches a level of at least 6 cm. Heat the oil on low to medium heat. When you think the oil is hot enough, drop a bit of the batter into the pot. If it sinks, you need to wait a bit more, if it floats, you’re ready to fry.

While you are waiting for the oil to heat up, take a colander and line it with paper towel. Set aside nearby.

Next, use a tablespoon or a small serving spoon to spoon your batter, and another spoon to help you drop the batter into the pot. Alternatively, if you’re hardcore, you can form the balls with your hands and drop them into the pot. A good size for puff puff is about the size of a Timbit.  Be careful, when you drop them in, hot oil burns like hell–but I don’t need to tell you that!

Fry the balls until they turn a golden brown colour on one side, then turn them over and continue frying until the other side reaches the same level of brownness.

Using a pasta scoop (or some other utensil with slits), scoop the balls out of the oil and into the colander… then repeat this process until all your puff puff is cooked!

Puff Puff goes well with kidney beans and tomato sauce, but they are sweet enough that you can eat them on their own. Sometimes served with granulated or powdered sugar, they are often a staple at children’s birthdays or other gatherings. They don’t taste as good when they’re not fresh, so keep that in mind when you are planning your quantities.

Eet ze!