Category Archives: Asian
I can’t believe I’ve done it.
I’ve spent the past 35 years in search of the perfect recipe for cold peanut/sesame noodle salad. I’ve tried recipes from restaurants, cookbooks, friends, enemies, the Internet…you name it, I’ve tried it. I’ve experimented with numerous methods and techniques, different types of noodles, flavor combinations native to different nationalities–Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Burmese. I’ve tried different levels of spice and heat. I’ve experimented with the participants in cooking classes I’ve taught.
And each time there seemed to be some element of the recipe missing. I always thought: good, but not just perfect.
I think I’ve done it.
Recognizing, of course, that each of you has your own version of what’s perfect in this classic–it’s one of those recipes that you use to gauge how good an Asian restaurant is. This is one of mine.
I started my quest with my long-time friend Vicki (are you still with me, Vicki Corey? I bow in your general direction), who shared with me the basic concept of “threes.” Three tablespoons of this, that, and the other, three teaspoons of this and that. And this recipe, which I still have and which is reproduced way back in the early pages of this blog (here’s the link: https://jeffskitchen.net/?s=Vicki%27s, or search on Vicki’s Noodles), has served me extremely well. No matter where or which recipe I tried I kept coming back to this one as being as close to perfect as I had found. It even once won me a “Philly’s Best” award when I was making it for a small gourmet shop in Ardmore, PA, a place known for good food.
It’s (in my view) just the right amount of spicy/hot for everyone, but if you like it spicier/hotter, add more chili oil or some Sriracha to suit yourself. In this version of the recipe I’ll recommend specific ingredient brands, most of which are available at your local Asian grocery store.
Also, when you read my recommendation for the noodles to use, you’ll holler, “WHAT??? THAT’S NOT ASIAN!” Okay, I know that. But what are you expecting? Authentic or perfect? I’ll opt for perfect.
Try it. You’ll like it. Guaranteed!
Spicy Sesame Peanut-Noodle Salad
1 box (13.25 oz) rotini or fusilli whole wheat noodles, cooked al dente’
3 Tablespoons premium light (or dark, if you dare) soy sauce
3 Tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
2 Tablespoons toasted dark sesame seed oil
2 teaspoons sesame chili oil
3 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoons Crazy Richard’s crunchy peanut butter
1/3 cup chopped red cabbage
1 medium carrot, shredded fine
1/3 cup chopped green onion, divided
1/3 cup chopped peanuts, divided
½ cup FRESH(!) bean sprouts
- Whisk the next seven ingredients (soy sauce through peanut butter) until they are completely blended.
- Cook the noodles per package, 1 minute LESS than the recommended al dente’ time; drain 5-10 minutes, but DO NOT RINSE.
- Place the noodles in a large bowl, add the sauce and toss to coat all the noodles well.
- Add the cabbage, carrot, ¼ cup green onion, ¼ cup peanuts, and bean sprouts and toss again to coat all the ingredients. If you wish a more Thai flavor, add ¼ cup shredded fresh Thai basil or chopped cilantro.
- If you wish to add a protein—slices of grilled chicken, steak, shrimp, or tofu, do it now.
- Allow to stand until the salad reaches room temperature.
Garnish with the remaining peanuts and green onion and serve at room temperature or refrigerate for later, but allow to return to room temperature for serving (garnish when serving).
And by the way, if you’re truly interested in an authentic Sesame Noodle salad or if you’re allergic to nuts, replace the peanut butter with tahini. And for an authentic noodle, you can use either 8 ounces medium rice noodles, or Soba or Udon noodles.
It’s become a thing in our house, like, I suppose, some of yours.
It’s something Ellen has instituted here, and it happens most of the time (except when it doesn’t). The kids often object, but not all that strenuously unless I produce something with bulgur or faro or some other grain that they perceive tastes like packing peanuts.
So we’re constantly challenged to come up with vegetarian offerings that are packed with nutritional value and interesting genealogy and, oh yes, flavor.
Such is the case with this tasty and fragrant Indian-influenced soup adapted from a recipe taken from the pages of Vegetarian Times. It’s loaded with flavor—it will perfume your whole house as it cooks—and protein and fiber, and will gain props all round as you serve it up with an interesting hunk of artisan bread or pita wedges or toasted naan, or a scoop of brown rice on the side.
Try this one. It’s simple to make and memorable, too.
By the way, if you’ve avoided getting an immersion blender, this is the perfect excuse to get one, or ask Santa to deliver one to you this holiday season.
Red Lentil Soup with Curry and Coconut Milk
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups cold water.
2 cups sweet onions, chopped
1 cup red lentils
3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
1 14-ounce unsweetened (light if possible) coconut milk
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon finely round white pepper
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, roughly minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly minced
1 tablespoon Indian (or try Jamaican) curry
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add water, lentils, carrots, coconut milk, salt, pepper, and the bay leaf. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small non-stick skillet, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, curry, and cilantro. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 2-3 minutes, then add to the soup. Remove the bay leaf.
Puree the soup, either in the food processor or blender in batches, or in the pot with an immersion blender, until velvety smooth. Taste and add a bit more salt and pepper if necessary.
Serve hot with fresh sautéed vegetables, brown rice, and/or a nice fresh bread.
Summer season. Grilling. Don’t want to heat up the kitchen any more than is necessary. So, when company is coming to town and dinner for ten is in order, and half of the guests don’t eat meat (but will eat fish), what’s the imperative?
Why grilled salmon, of course!
Have you ever grilled a big piece of salmon on a cedar plank? No? You haven’t lived. Juicy, smoky, crispy, full of flavor, and just rocking with Omega 3s (I just point that out because at my age I have to be careful just what I put in my body (LOL).
The reality is, I don’t much like fish, any fish. Can’t say why; I never did like seafood beyond shellfish, but over the years I have learned to like salmon enough to find recipes that I can make and like. Like my friend Jim Coleman’s Mustard-crusted salmon with shallots and white wine. And wild salmon gently poached in white wine, pickling spices and black pepper with dill-yogurt sauce.
And now, after experimenting with recipes and techniques, I’ve finally come up with a version of Seattle’s famous cedar-planked grilled salmon that I can say is worthy of my posting here (thanks, of course, to Cooks’ Illustrated, which, if you’ve read this space, know is my bible of cooking technique).
Cedar-plank grilled salmon on the barbecue. I think it has changed my mind about fish. This is the best piece of fish I’ve ever eaten, and I’m happy to report that I actually made it myself. It’s slightly Asian in its feel, and it goes incredibly well with quick-sauteed spinach and garlic and a Thai version of my legendary (according to me) cold sesame noodle salad.
So here is my latest adaptation of a published recipe, from Cooks Illustrated to my kitchen to yours.
Cedar-Plank Grilled Salmon
1 2½-foot x 6-inch unfinished cedar plank (courtesy of Lowe’s Home Improvement)
2 cups white wine
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1½ tablespoons rice vinegar (buy from an Asian market, not the grocery store)
1 tablespoon dark toasted sesame seed oil (also from the Asian market)
½ teaspoon hot chili oil
1/3 cup light soy sauce
¼ cup chopped chives
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (from the root)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2½ – 3-pound salmon fillet (one piece, head end is best–I got mine at Costco)
- Soak the cedar plank for at least an hour in room-temperature water and 2 cups white wine. Fully submerge the plank in the water; weight down if necessary.
- Mix together the vinegar, oils, soy sauce, chives, ginger, and garlic in a 1-gallon zipper-close bag. Roll the salmon fillet small enough to fit into the bag. Zip the bag, turn it over a few times to mix and coat the salmon, and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, up to but no more than an hour.
- Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat. Place the plank on the grates. The plank is ready when it starts to smoke.
- Place the salmon fillet in the plank and discard the bag and marinade. Close the cover and grill for 20-25 minutes, until the fish is done (when you can flake it with a fork).
- Remove the salmon from the grill, cover loosely with foil for 5 minutes, then cut into serving-size portions and serve immediately.
You can make an extra half-batch of the marinade, set aside, and serve in small dipping bowls with the salmon. It is loaded with flavor.
If you want the Thai version of the Sesame Noodles, search on this site for that recipe, then add 1/2 tablespoon fish sauce to the sauce recipe, and julienne broccoli stems, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (Thai basil is best), and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro to the noodles before adding the sauce. It’s a nice change of pace, and will win raves.
I don’t know if it’s fair to call this “Ellen’s Favorite Soup,” because there are an awful lot of soups that she likes. But let’s just say this, and let the evidence stand for itself: She made a batch of this soup a few weeks ago, and I had a second bowl for dinner, leaving none for leftovers the following day. She was really steamed. She doesn’t get steamed very often, and even when she does, she rarely shows it. But leaving her no Thai chicken soup? I certainly won’t let THAT happen again.
So what is this liquid gold that gets her gussie all bundled up in a batch? The ingredient list alone is enough to make a foodie swoon: red curry paste, peanut butter, coconut milk, fresh ginger, brown sugar, fish sauce. Wow! My taste buds are shifting into overdrive even as I type this. It’s a darn good thing that there’s a batch on the kitchen counter as we speak. Smells fabulous. Mix those ingredients together with the rest of the list, and you have a dish made for the Gods.
Well, the gods of Thailand, anyway.
And to boot, because it’s a slow-cooker thing, the whole pot can be thrown together in just minutes, you can leave the house for the day, and come home to the dancing fragrance of this wonderful batch of creaminess filling the kitchen with the aromas of Southeast Asia.
That’s a good thing.
So here’s the scoop on this scoopable:
Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken Soup
2 tablespoons red curry paste
2 12-ounce cans coconut milk
2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1 ½” pieces
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into ¼” slices
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 heaping tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
Cilantro for garnish
Chopped peanuts for garnish
2 cups cooked white rice
- Mix the curry paste, coconut milk, chicken stock, fish sauce, brown sugar, and peanut butter in a 4-6-quart slow-cooker bowl. Place the chicken breast, onion, red bell pepper in the crock, cover and cook for 4 hours on high or seven hours on low.
- Add the peas and cook for ½ hour longer. Stir in the lime juice, serve in heavy bowls garnished with freshly chopped cilantro and peanuts and a bowl of white rice. The rice can be added to the soup at the table. Or not.
I wrote once in my column about Ellen’s little tin box. It’s magical. Chock full of recipes from so many years of collecting. She got the box at Hershey Chocolate World when she was in high school (not really that long ago), and in the ensuing years collected recipes from magazines and newspapers and various other sources, including many of her mother’s recipes, which she wrote down on 3×5 cards. It features recipes like “porcupine meatballs,” and “shake-and-bake chicken,” and “Mrs. Fuller’s soup,” and “Chowning Tavern’s Brunswick stew,” and corn pudding, and…and…and…on and on and on. As I said, it’s magic! Many of the recipes have become part of our current dinner rotation, and I fell in love with her over the meat loaf recipe (romantic, huh?). The meat loaf is so good that I have abandoned my mother’s recipe and my own recipe, and even the Epicure Market’s recipe, because the one in the tin box is perfect.
That said, I’m going to give you a simple one, a favorite around here, one that gets requested over and over again, and now that I’ve discovered the Char-Broil infrared grill, it’s a 10-minute breeze and a serious winner. I tend to want my beef done simply–salt and pepper and a little garlic and butter–but this one, a large steak grilled and sliced to serve, just wants a wonderful marinade. This one is it. Simple and elegant, tasty and memorable. If you crave a beef supper with a little zing, try this one. Serve it with a simple cold salad and some oven roasted sweet-potato fries. Fantastic!
Grilled Teriyaki Flank Steak (or London Broil)
2- to 3-pound flank steak or London Broil
1/2 cup Teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
1 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons freshly ground ginger
Combine all the ingredients in a pan large and deep enough to allow the steak to lie flat and to hold the marinade and the steak.
Deeply pierce both sides of the steak with a fork, at 1-inch intervals. Place the steak in the marinade, allow to rest for 1/2 hour, then turn. Turn the steak every hour, marinating for at least four hours, but no more than eight.
Prepare a charcoal grill, allowing the charcoal to turn white, and resting under half the cooking grate; or preheat one burner of a gas grill for 10 minutes.
Allow the steak to come to room temperature before grilling. Place the steak directly over the hot coals or the burner for five minutes, turn and repeat on the other side. Then move the steak off the direct heat and continue cooking another five to seven minutes for medium-rare steak–or minutes longer if you prefer your steak more done–until the steak reaches 140 degrees internal temperature measured with an instant-read thermometer. Remove the steak from the grill, tent loosely with aluminum foil, and allow to rest 10-15 minutes before slicing.
Slice the steak across the grain and serve with small bowls of Teriyaki sauce for dipping.
Perfect Oven-roasted Sweet Potato Fries
1-2 large sweet potatoes
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Cut the ends off the potatoes, then slice them into 1/2-inch slices. Turn the potatoes to stack the slices, then slice them into 1/2-inch slices again, to make half-inch by half-inch potato sticks. Place them in a mixing bowl, add the salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil and toss to coat well.
Lay the fries in a single layer on foil-lined baking sheets (use more than one baking sheet if necessary. Don’t stack the potato fries.
Bake for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, turn over, and bake for 10 – 15 minutes more. They are done when they begin to brown and crisp. Serve with the steak, and a dipping sauce of your choice or ketchup or ranch dressing.
I was in the Asian market today picking up fresh sprouts for a batch of pad Thai I plan to make for supper tonight, and another customer in the store asked the clerk if anyone in the market had a recipe for lo mein. When no one in the market could give her an idea of how to go about it, I offered to help her out. Not my favorite dish, although I do love a good plate of vegetarian lo Mein, here is a simple recipe for the noodle dish for beginners. There are certainly other, more complex recipes, and had I time (today is “Free Rita’s Day” here in Lancaster), I’d produce a recipe with much more complex flavor, but most neighborhood restaurants don’t go for complex, they go for fast and tasty. Here is one I got from a neighborhood restaurant in Alexandria, VA, when I lived in the Rosemont neighborhood. If you don’t know Rosemont, you haven’t lived. This is a wonderful, simple dish made with vegetables. It can be augmented with chicken, Chinese roast pork, shrimp, or tofu, and will taste even better.
This recipe comes from Grace Young’s The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen: Classic Family Recipes for Celebration and Healing. In the book, Grace says: “Vegetable Lo Mein is one the easiest dishes for a beginner to make. The mastery comes in correctly slicing the vegetables and not overcooking the noodles. You will find a variety of fresh egg noodles in the refrigerator section of most Chinese food markets. The best noodles for lo mein are about 1/4 inch thick, and come either uncooked or precooked. Either noodle can be used and will require one to three minutes of boiling, follow package directions.”
1-pound package Chinese narrow, flat egg noodles (resembling linguine)
6 dried Shitake mushrooms
1 small can Chinese straw mushrooms
1 medium onion, halved and sliced in half-moon rings 1/4-inch thick
2 stalks celery, one-inch slices, sliced diagonally
1 broccoli crown, florets separated
6 Napa cabbage leaves
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
1 cup julienne carrots
2 scallions, finely shredded
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
Optional: 1 chicken breast, trimmed of fat, cut in half lengthwise then sliced crossways into small strips; or 24 31- to 36-count (medium) shrimp, peeled and deveined; or 1/2 pound extra-firm tofu, pressed dry, marinated 1/2 hour in 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon rice-wine vinegar, and 1 teaspoon sesame-seed oil; or 1/2 pound Asian-roasted BBQ pork, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
In a medium bowl, soak the Shitake mushrooms in 1/4 cup cold water for 30 minutes, or until softened. Drain and squeeze dry, reserving soaking liquid. Cut off and discard stems and thinly slice the caps.
Wash the cabbage leaves in several changes of cold water and allow to thoroughly drain in a colander until dry to touch. Trim 1/4 inch from the stem end of the cabbage leaves and discard. Stack 2 to 3 cabbage leaves at a time and crosswise into 1/4-inch-wide shreds.
In a 4-quart saucepan, bring about 2 quarts of water to a boil over high heat. Add noodles , return to a rolling boil, and boil 2 to 3 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain the noodles thoroughly. Transfer to a medium bowl, add sesame oil and 1 tablespoon soy sauce, and mix well. Set aside.
Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch flat skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add 1 tablespoon peanut oil and ginger, and stir-fry 20 seconds. Add the onions, celery, carrots, scallions, and mushrooms, and stir-fry 1 minute, or until vegetables are just limp. Transfer vegetables to a plate.
Add 1/4 cup water and broccoli; cover and steam 3 minutes, then drain and place on the plate with the other vegetables.
[Add protein ingredients here if you choose–see note*]
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and cabbage, and stir-fry 1 minute, or until cabbage begins to wilt. And the cooked carrot mixture, noodles, and reserved mushroom soaking liquid, and stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes, or until noodles are heated through. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce and oyster sauce and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
* Note: If you choose to add protein ingredients such as chicken, shrimp, tofu, or pork, stir-fry them until just barely done after stir-frying the vegetables but before the cabbage. Set aside on a warm plate. Then resume the recipe with with the cabbage and continue until hot and well mixed. If you add protein ingredients, double the oyster sauce and increase the soy sauce by 1 tablespoon.
Please permit me to introduce you to Andrea Nguyen.
Andrea is the maven of an incredible website that is full of the culture and recipes of Viet Nam, www.vietworldkitchen.com. It is there that I found two recipes that are to become staples of my kitchen, Chicken Pho and beef Pho, the rich and tasty dinner soups that are central to the culture of Viet Nam, and have found their way into the lore of American cuisine by way of the many immigrants from South Viet Nam who have found their way to America. Local to us here in Lancaster is the incredible Rice & Noodles restaurant in Manheim Township, an addition to our culinary life that is among the most welcome I have seen in my years in Central Pennsylvania. Vy and her family moved here after the disastrous hurricane Katrina decimated their home and business in New Orleans, and they are a most pleasurable addition to our wonderfully diverse life here in Lancaster County. Vy’s Pho soups are a joy to behold, and while I love dropping in to grab a potful and bringing it home, I wanted to find a way to make it myself.
Enter Andrea Nguyen.
She has produced a fabulous collection of her own family recipes into an incredible cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, which I have purchased as a NookBook and downloaded onto my Nook and my kitchen computer, my beautiful HP Touchsmart PC, which has become the most invaluable kitchen accessory I own (and which my better half–who was skeptical when I insisted that it had to be in our remodeled kitchen–now considers it vital to the welfare of our family).
But I digress…
Andrea Nguyen has enlightened me to the ways of Vietnamese Pho, and I am now a changed man. The stock used to make this legendary meal is the stuff of magical qualities, and I think that I will forever keep frozen containers of it, ready to use whenever the mood comes upon me–just add noodles and protein!
Here I will introduce you to the magic of two varieties of Pho, Ga (chicken) and Bo (beef), which hopefully transform your life as they have mine.
For the broth:
2 medium yellow onions (about 1 pound total)
4-inch piece ginger (about 4 ounces)
5-6 pounds beef soup bones, marrow and knuckle bones (get them at Central Market if you can’t find them at the grocery store)
5 star anise (40 star points total)
6 whole cloves
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 pound piece of beef chuck, rump, brisket or cross rib roast, cut into 2-by-4-inch pieces (weight after trimming)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 ounce (1-inch chunk) yellow rock sugar (duong phen; get this at the Asian market on Liberty Street or the one near McCaskey High School)
For the bowls:
1 1/2-2 pounds small (1/8-inch wide) dried or fresh banh pho noodles
1/2 pound raw eye of round, sirloin, London broil or tri-tip steak, thinly sliced across the grain (1/16 inch thick; freeze for 15 minutes to make it easier to slice)
1 medium yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, left to soak for 30 minutes in a bowl of cold water
3 or 4 scallions, green part only, cut into thin rings
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Ground black pepper
Optional garnishes arranged on a plate and placed at the table:
Sprigs of spearmint and Asian/Thai basil
Leaves of thorny cilantro (ngo gai–also available at most good Asian markets)
Bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)
Red hot chiles (such as Thai bird or dragon), thinly sliced
Prepare the Pho broth:
Char onion and ginger. Use an open flame on grill or gas stove. Place onions and ginger on cooking grate and let skin burn. (If using stove, turn on exhaust fan and open a window.) After about 15 minutes, they will soften and become sweetly fragrant. Use tongs to occasionally rotate them and to grab and discard any flyaway onion skin. You do not have to blacken entire surface, just enough to slightly cook onion and ginger.
Let cool. Under warm water, remove charred onion skin; trim and discard blackened parts of root or stem ends. If ginger skin is puckered and blistered, smash ginger with flat side of knife to loosen flesh from skin. Otherwise, use sharp paring knife to remove skin, running ginger under warm water to wash off blackened bits. Set aside.
Parboil bones. Place bones in stockpot (minimum 12-quart capacity) and cover with cold water. Over high heat, bring to boil. Boil vigorously 2 to 3 minutes to allow impurities to be released. Dump bones and water into sink and rinse bones with warm water. Quickly scrub stockpot to remove any residue. Return bones to pot.
Simmer broth. Add 6 quarts water to pot, bring to boil over high heat, then lower flame to gently simmer. Use ladle to skim any scum that rises to surface. Add remaining broth ingredients and cook, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Boneless meat should be slightly chewy but not tough. When it is cooked to your liking, remove it and place in bowl of cold water for 10 minutes; this prevents the meat from drying up and turning dark as it cools. Drain the meat; cool, then refrigerate. Allow broth to continue cooking; in total, the broth should simmer 3 hours.
Strain the broth through fine strainer. If desired, remove any bits of gelatinous tendon from bones to add to your pho bowl. Store tendon with cooked beef. Discard solids.
Skim as much fat from top of the broth as you like. (Cool it and refrigerate it overnight to make this task easier; reheat before continuing.) Taste and adjust flavor with additional salt, fish sauce and yellow rock sugar. The broth should taste slightly too strong because the noodles and other ingredients are not salted. (If you’ve gone too far, add water to dilute.) Makes about 4 quarts.
Assemble pho bowls:
The key is to be organized and have everything ready to go. Thinly slice cooked meat. For best results, make sure it’s cold.
Heat the broth and ready the noodles. Reheat the broth over medium flame as you’re assembling bowls. If you’re using dried noodles, cover with hot tap water and soak 15-20 minutes, until softened and opaque white. Drain in colander. For fresh rice noodles, just untangle and briefly rinse in a colander with cold water.
Blanch noodles. Fill 3- or 4-quart saucepan with water and bring to boil. For each bowl, use long-handle strainer to blanch a portion of noodles. As soon as noodles have collapsed and lost their stiffness (10-20 seconds), pull strainer from water, letting water drain back into saucepan. Empty noodles into bowls. Noodles should occupy 1/4 to 1/3 of bowl. I prefer fewer noodles, because I want more broth! Then blanch bean sprouts for 30 seconds in same saucepan. They should slightly wilt but retain some crunch. Drain and add to the garnish plate.
Add other ingredients. Place slices of cooked meat, raw meat and tendon (if using) atop noodles. (If your cooked meat is not at room temperature, blanch slices for few seconds in hot water from above.) Garnish with onion, scallion and chopped cilantro. Finish with black pepper.
Ladle in broth and serve. Bring broth to rolling boil. Check seasoning. Ladle broth into each bowl, distributing hot liquid evenly so as to cook raw beef and warm other ingredients. Serve your Pho with with the garnish plate.
Note: Yellow rock sugar (a.k.a. lump sugar) is sold in one-pound boxes at Chinese and Southeast Asian markets. Break up large chunks with hammer.
Variations: If you want to replicate the splendorous options available at Pho shops, head to the butcher counter at a Vietnamese or Chinese market. There you’ll find white cords of gan(beef tendon) and thin pieces of nam (outside flank, not flank steak). While tendon requires no preparation prior to cooking, nam should be rolled and tied with string for easy handling. Simmer it and the beef tendon in the cooking broth for two hours, or until chewy-tender.
You can also make Pho with beef meatballs (bo vien), which you can purchase in Asian markets in the refrigerator case; they are already precooked. Slice each one in half and drop into broth to heat through. When you’re ready to serve, ladle them out with the broth to top each bowl.
2 yellow onions, about 1 pound total, unpeeled
Chubby 4-inch section fresh ginger, unpeeled
1 chicken, 4 pounds, excess fat and tail removed
3 pounds chicken backs, necks, or other bony chicken parts
5 quarts water
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1-inch chunk yellow rock sugar (about 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted in a dry skillet for about 1 minute until fragrant
4 whole cloves
1 small or 1/2 large bunch cilantro (bound stems about 1 inch in diameter)
1 1/2–2 pounds small flat rice noodles, dried or fresh
Cooked chicken, at room temperature
1 yellow onion, sliced paper-thin, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes and drained
3 or 4 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, leafy tops only
3 cups bean sprouts (about 1/2 pound)
10 to 12 sprigs mint, 10 to 12 sprigs Thai basil
12 to 15 fresh cilantro leaves
2 or 3 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
2 or 3 limes, cut into wedges
Make the pho broth
1. Place the onions and ginger directly on the cooking grate of a medium-hot charcoal or gas grill (as pictured, to the right) or a gas stove with a medium flame, or on a medium-hot burner of an electric stove. Let the skin burn (if you’re working indoors, turn on the exhaust fan and open a window), using tongs to rotate onion and ginger occasionally and to grab and discard any flyaway onion skin.
After 15 minutes, the onions and ginger will have softened slightly and become sweetly fragrant. There may even be some bubbling. You do not have to blacken the entire surface. When amply charred, remove from the heat and let cool.
2. Rinse the cooled onions under warm running water, rubbing off the charred skin. Trim off and discard the blackened root and stem ends. Use a vegetable peeler, paring knife, or the edge of a teaspoon to remove the ginger skin. Hold it under warm water to wash off any blackened bits. Halve the ginger lengthwise and bruise lightly with the broad side of a cleaver or chef’s knife. Set the onions and ginger aside.
3. Rinse the chicken under cool water. Detach each wing by bending it back and cutting it off at the shoulder joint. Add the wings and neck, and set the wingless chicken aside.
4. Remove and discard any loose pieces of fat from the chicken parts. With a large chef’s knife or heavy cleaver designed for chopping bones, chop the bones to break them partway or all the way through, making the cuts at 1- to 2-inch intervals, depending on the size of the part. This exposes the marrow, which enriches the broth.
5. To achieve a clear broth, you must first parboil and rinse the chicken parts. Put them in a stockpot (about 12-quart capacity) and add cold water just to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes to release the impurities. Dump the chicken parts and water into the sink (make sure it is clean), and then rinse the parts with water to wash off any clinging residue. Quickly scrub the stockpot clean and return the chicken parts to the pot. Put the chicken into the pot, breast side up.
6. Add water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Skim off any scum that rises to the top. Add the onions, ginger, salt, fish sauce, rock sugar, coriander seeds, cloves, and cilantro and cook, uncovered, for 25 minutes, adjusting the heat if needed to maintain a gentle simmer.
At this point, the chicken is cooked; its flesh should feel firm yet still yield a bit to the touch. With a pair of tongs, transfer the chicken to a large bowl. Flush with cold water and drain well, then it set aside for 15 to 20 minutes until it is cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, keep the broth at a steady simmer.
7. When chicken can be handled, use a knife to remove each breast half and the whole legs (thigh and drumstick). Don’t cut these pieces further, or they’ll lose their succulence. Set aside on a plate to cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before assembling the bowls.
8. Return the leftover carcass to the stockpot and adjust the heat to simmer the broth gently for another 1 1/2 hours. Avoid a hard boil, or the broth will turn cloudy.
9. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve (or a coarse-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth) positioned over a pot. Discard the solids. Use a ladle to skim as much fat from the top of the broth as you like. (To make this task easier, you can cool the broth, refrigerate overnight, lift off the solidified fat, and then reheat before continuing.) Taste and adjust the flavor with additional salt, fish sauce, and rock sugar. There should be about 4 quarts of broth. At this point, you can freeze the broth.
Assemble the pho bowls
10. If using dried noodles, cover them with hot tap water and let soak for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are pliable and opaque. Drain in a colander. If using fresh rice noodles, untangle them, place in a colander, and rinse briefly under cold running water.
11. Cut the cooked chicken into slices about 1/4 inch thick, cutting the meat off the bone as necessary. If you don’t want to eat the skin, discard it first. Set the chicken aside. Ready the yellow onion, scallions, cilantro, and pepper for adding to the bowls. Arrange the garnishes on a plate and put on the table.
12. To ensure good timing, bring the broth to a simmer over medium heat as you are assembling the bowls. (For an extra treat, drop in any unused white scallion sections and let them poach in the broth. Add the poached white scallion sections (called hành chần) to a few lucky bowls when ladling out the broth.) At the same time, fill a large pot with water and bring to a rolling boil.
For each bowl, place a portion of the noodles on a vertical-handle strainer (or mesh sieve) and dunk the noodles in the boiling water. As soon as they have collapsed and lost their stiffness (10 to 20 seconds), pull the strainer from the water, letting the water drain back into the pot. Empty the noodles into a bowl. If you like, once you have finished blanching the noodles, you can blanch the bean sprouts for 30 seconds. They should wilt slightly but retain some crunch. Drain and add to the garnishes.
13. Top each bowl of noodles with chicken, arranging the slices flat. Place a mound of yellow onion in the center and then sprinkle scallion and cilantro on top. Finish with a sprinkle of pepper.
14. Raise the heat and bring the broth to a rolling boil. Do a final tasting and make any last-minute flavor adjustments. Ladle about 2 cups broth into each bowl, distributing the hot liquid evenly to warm all the ingredients. Serve immediately with the garnishes.
I can’t say enough about how simple and delicious this recipe is. And fun, too. Made this last week and put it in the freezer, to be taken out on a night when all hell has broken loose and we needed something quick. Suffice it to say, it was a hit, not only for the rich flavor, but for the fun of eating the supper on one plate, like a wrap. The recipe calls for ground chicken, but you could use ground turkey or pieces of chicken thigh or breast, or almost any poultry you find on sale–we always find good inexpensive ground turkey at our local Giant market, and this dish can be made up in minutes. You need to try it out, and serve the result wrapped in green-leaf lettuce leaves like a wrap. It’s a hoot.
- 4 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 lb ground chicken
- 1 red bell pepper, veins removed, cut in thin julienne strips
- 1/2 cup Thai basil leaves, packed
- 4-7 minced Thai chili peppers
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1 teaspoon toasted dark sesame seed oil
- green-leaf lettuce leaves, washed, dried, split in half down the center stem and stem removed
Mince garlic and chili pepper together. Clean and pick the basil leaves from their stems. It may appear like a lot of leaves, but the leaves will shrink when cooked and this dish’s flavor comes from the leaves.
Fry the garlic and chili peppers in oil over high heat. When garlic starts to turn brown, add the ground chicken. Stir constantly. The juice will start to come out. Keep stirring until all the juice is gone, 2-3 minutes. Add the bell pepper strips and stir fry two minutes. Add the fish sauce, then the basil leaves. Quickly turn it over a few times to mix the basil leaves with the meat and wilt them slightly. Remove from the heat, add the sesame oil and toss to mix. Serve with cleaned green leaf lettuce leaves to wrap, or with hot steamed rice.
12 ounces dried rice noodles
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breast
halves, sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup coarsely ground peanuts
2 cups bean sprouts
1/2 cup chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon paprika, or to taste
1 lime, cut into wedges
|1.||Place rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with several inches of room temperature water; let soak for 30 to 60 minutes. Drain.|
|2.||Whisk sugar, vinegar, fish sauce, and tamarind paste in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, remove from heat.|
|3.||Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook and stir until chicken is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat.|
|4.||Heat 1 tablespoon oil and minced garlic in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Stir in eggs; scramble until eggs are nearly cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add cooked chicken breast slices and rice noodles; stir to combine.|
|5.||Stir in tamarind mixture, 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, and salt; cook until noodles are tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in peanuts; cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes. Garnish with bean sprouts, chives, paprika, and lime wedges.|
We’ve been driving all day to the beach in Virginia. It’s hot down here — 100 degrees some places on the mainland, and a relatively cool 92 degrees out at the beach. It’s too hot to spend a lot of time slaving over a hot stove, and besides, kids are chomping for some beachy takeout.
Because most of the takeout here consists of deep-fried seafoods, I figure we need to find another alternative on our first day at the beach.
“Chinese!” says one. “Yeah,” hollers the other. “Chinese!”
“At the beach?” I ask. “Really?”
I’m sort of relieved to discover that there is only one Chinese takeout place in this quiet little beach village, and we’ve learned that it isn’t particularly good.
But wait! I have another idea: How about if I whip up something yummy out of what we find here in town?
The idea is met with some skepticism.
Undaunted, I head out to the seafood market down the street from our little rental cottage to see what I can find, and what luck! Big, beautiful sea scallops, the size of ping-pong balls, which were brought in on a boat that day. Both kids really like scallops, which we often broil or sauté with browned butter, lemon juice and garlic.
But the kids wanted Chinese, so I think I’ll give them what they want. I pick up a couple of Asian ingredients from the local market, a piece of fresh ginger and some scallions and voila! It’s a tasty, sweet and spicy Chinese takeout dish, General Tso’s scallops, made with fresh, locally caught sea scallops and some locally grown broccoli.
Sea scallops are a tasty, different kind of seafood, and if you haven’t tried them, I highly recommend you do so. Mr. Bill’s Fresh Seafood on Harrisburg Pike carries some of the nicest, freshest sea scallops around, and the proprietor, Tim Glatfelter, or a member of the staff there will gladly provide you with some terrific tips and advice on cooking them in various delicious ways.
You can also make this dish with shrimp, chicken or beef, but you need to try it.
GENERAL TSO’S SCALLOPS
1 pound sea scallops, washed, drained and dried
1/2 cup rice wine, separated into two 1/4-cup measures
4 teaspoons oyster sauce
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon Chinese chili-garlic sauce
4 teaspoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon peeled fresh ginger, finely grated
2 scallions, chopped
2 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
Combine scallops, 2 tablespoons rice wine, 2 teaspoons oyster sauce and 3 teaspoons cornstarch in a medium mixing bowl; toss to coat. Combine vinegar, sugar, chili-garlic sauce and remaining rice wine from the first 1/4-cup measure, oyster sauce and cornstarch in a separate bowl.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium heat until smoking. Add half of the scallops and cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side; transfer to a warm plate. Add 1 teaspoon of oil to the skillet and repeat with remaining scallops.
Wipe the skillet with paper towels and return to heat. Add remaining oil and the ginger and scallions and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the second 1/4 cup of wine and the broccoli florets to the skillet; reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the cooked scallops and the ingredients from the second bowl back to the skillet and stir-fry, cooking and stirring constantly until the sauce thickens and the scallops are cooked through, about 2 minutes.
Serve immediately beside a 1/2 cup of white steamed rice.
And if you want to spice it up a bit, add two or three Asian dried red chilies just before you add the ginger and the scallions, and stir-fry them until they turn black, then proceed as directed.