A food blog exploring the culinary wonders of Asia

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Nepalese Peanut Salad (Badam Sandheko)

Nepalese Peanut Salad (Badam Sandheko)

I immediately fell in love with this simple salad after encountering it at a rooftop bar in Pokhara.  It pairs exceedingly well with beer, which is why it is often featured on bar menus throughout Nepal.  This salad is spicy, mouth tingling, sour, crunchy, and is a…

Stir-fried Fenugreek Leaves

Stir-fried Fenugreek Leaves

Nepal was totally transformational for me.  I could go on and on about my experience there, but one of the most surprising revelations was the food.  All I had heard from friends who had visited or trekked there was that the food was monotonous and…

Dali Grilled Eggplant with Chili bean sauce

Dali Grilled Eggplant with Chili bean sauce

One of the first impressions I had of Dali in Yunnan Province was the freshness and variety of vegetables and produce.  Local restaurants competed for customers with colorful displays of all of the seasonal produce on offer.  Some establishments would have up to 20 varieties of mushrooms, others would focus on green vegetables and herbs, and so on.  This variety extended into the street food.  Perhaps the best meal I had was at a small sidewalk cafe that cooked everything over a charcoal grill.  This dish is my own interpretation.  I was trying to capture the smoky silkiness of the grilled eggplant they had to offer.

 

Recipe for Dali Grilled Eggplant with Chili Bean Sauce

3-4 small eggplants or Japanese eggplants ( You can also use large Italian eggplant, though they tend to be a bit more bitter)

1 cup raw peanuts

1-2 Tbsp cooking oil

2-3 Tbsp Sichuan Chili Bean paste

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

soy sauce

1. Prick the eggplants with a fork or skewer to allow steam to escape as they cook. Grill whole  eggplant on medium heat.  I like to use a charcoal grill with the lid closed.  Grill until the skins turn a mahogany brown.  The skin should start wrinkling.  The aim here is for the inside of the eggplant to be fully cooked and soft.

2. While eggplant is grilling, heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over medium high heat.  Once hot, add the raw peanuts and lightly toast.   Be sure to keep a close eye on the nuts as they easily burn, adjusting the heat as necessary.  I usually agitate the pan to insure the nuts move and are evenly browned. Once they start emitting a toasted aroma, remove them from heat.  At this point, I usually remove them from the pan to stop them from browning further.

3. Remove the eggplant from the grill and split them down the center.  Smear each half with chili bean paste to taste.  Check to see how salty your paste is.  If necessary, drizzle a little bit of soy over the top.

4.  Top the eggplants with cilantro, green onions, and peanuts and serve while still hot.

It couldn’t be simpler!

Coconut Glazed Ube Donuts

Coconut Glazed Ube Donuts

Since it is National Donut Day, I figure it would be fitting to post my recipe for coconut glazed ube donuts.  I’m always looking for dessert ideas inspired by Asian ingredients and this one seemed to be a no-brainer.  When I was in the Philippines,…

Xinjiang-style Lamb Skewers

Xinjiang-style Lamb Skewers

While studying chemical engineering as an exchange student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, I would often look to the music collection at the campus library as a respite to the heat and frenetic pace of Hong Kong.  It was through this…

Shoyu Koji with Cucumbers

Shoyu Koji with Cucumbers

This isn’t really much of a recipe, but I think it deserves mention anyway.  Everytime I have this dish, it takes me back to the hot muggy summers in Kesennuma when all of the hotels opened up roof-top beer gardens and served simple grilled dishes and beer.  These beer gardens would be denoted by bright red lanterns, but before even approaching, the first signs of the beer garden would be the laughter and music streaming down.  My favorite beer garden would serve chilled spears of cucumber with miso and vinegar or occasionally a small dish of Shoyu Koji.  This in my mind is the perfect match to a frosty mug of beer.

Although these cucumbers are great with miso and vinegar, the miso can be a bit salty.  If you do decide to go that route, buy a good quality organic miso. I prefer the red or brown miso (Sendai style) which tend to be a bit more robust than the yellow or white misos that you will occasionally see.  Add just a few drops of rice vinegar to thin out the miso and add some acidity.

Although it can be difficult to find, Shoyu koji, the pre-cursor of soy sauce, is a bit sweeter and is my favorite.  Shoyu koji is actually a mix of fire roasted grains, soy beans, salt, spring water, and koji culture which is the starter for kicking off the fermentation of soy sauce.  Look for it in the refrigerated section of your local Asian market.  It is often hidden between tubs of miso and Japanese pickled vegetables (tsukemono).

 

Yunnan Pineapple Salad

Yunnan Pineapple Salad

Although Yunnan, a Southwestern province of China that borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam, does not have a cuisine that is very well known outside of China, it is becoming increasingly popular in Beijing and Shanghai, and it is only a matter of time before the…

Poached Asian Pears

Poached Asian Pears

  When I entertain, I’m always looking for a simple dessert to finish the meal.  Though meals in Asia do not typically include a dessert course, I think fruit makes the perfect choice.  Whether it is perfectly ripe tangerines that are sliced into wedges, fried…

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (Niu Rou Mian)

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (Niu Rou Mian)

 

I was thumbing through some old copies of Saveur Magazine recently and found their recipe for Taiwanese beef noodle soup (牛肉面)and thought I should experiment a bit in the kitchen.  As a student in Taiwan, I would often stop by the small street vendors at the night markets to pick up a steaming bowl of chewy egg noodles in spicy broth.  I always knew how to find the best vendor by following the slurping noises from happy patrons.

It seems like every Asian country in the region has their own version of this dish, but even within Taiwan it is possible to find many different types of beef noodles with each cook putting their own personal stamp on the dish.  Some cooks will braise the beef in soy sauce and make (hong shao niu rou mian) or red braised beef noodles, but my favorite version involves stir frying the beef with chili bean paste before serving with the soup.  Although the dish is thought to have originated with Muslim Hui Chinese, it has become one of Taiwan’s national dishes.

This version is my own adaptation of Saveur’s recipe.

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Serves 6

4 lbs. bone-in beef shank portions

1/4 cup Chinese rice wine (I use Shaoxing wine) or sherry

2 tbsp. black peppercorns

10 cloves of garlic, crushed

8 plum tomatoes, quartered

6 whole star anise

3 yellow onions, quartered

2 dried red chiles de arbol, or other fragrant red chiles

4″ piece of ginger

3 tbsp. Chinese black vinegar

12 baby bok choy

1 lb. Chinese egg noodles

Pickled mustard to garnish

3 tbsp Chinese chili bean paste (look for paste that has broadbeans)

thick black soy sauce to season

cilantro to garnish

  1. Put the beef in a pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then remove the meat and rinse out the pot and start over with clean water to cover.  This will help to remove any impurities and insures a clean, clear tasting broth.
  2. Add wine, peppercorns, garlic, tomatoes, star anise, onions, chiles, and ginger and bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 2 hours.
  3. Remove meat from broth and shred.  Strain remaining broth, removing solids.  You may also want to skim the surface of the broth of excess fat.
  4. Add vinegar, and season with soy sauce.  You may also want to season with pepper if necessary.
  5. Bring fresh pot of water to a boil and add bok choy to briefly par-boil.  This should only take a few minutes.  Then add noodles and cook until softened.  Cooking time will vary depending upon the thickness of your noodles.  Place a portion of noodles in each bowl and top with bok choy.
  6. While noodles are cooking, briefly stir fry meat in skillet or  with chili bean paste until fragrant.
  7. Top each bowl with a portion of shredded meat.  Garnish with pickled mustard and cilantro if desired.
Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew)

Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Stew)

I was fortunate enough this past Thanksgiving to receive a container of homemade cabbage and radish kimchi from one of my mom’s friends in Atlanta.  Although this meant making the 11 hour drive back to DC with a bucket of kimchi in the back seat,…