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Cooking with "Cradle of Flavor"

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#1 crouching tyler

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Posted 01 June 2007 - 04:06 PM

Oh dear. It looks like I am actually going to have to cook my way through Cradle of Flavor. :blink: I hadn't really expected people to be so supportive of the idea.

Kutsu started a topic about Cooking an Entire Cookbook. That is where I admitted to considering cooking my way through Cradle of Flavor, by James Oseland. I would like to point out that several people seemed to think it was a good idea, and expressed a desire to participate (hi C. Sapidus, and chrisamirault). So, now I guess I an not only going to starting cooking, but I might as well document my efforts as I go, uhm, I mean hopefully we'll document our efforts as we go.

The idea of cooking my way though something like Cradle of Flavor appeals to my inner student. It is an opportunity to follow a knowledgeable instructor through a topic of which I am essentially untutored - without having to devise my own curriculum along the way. It will be all the better if the course turns into a group project.

The extent of my exposure to the food of this region (Indonesia, Malaysia, & Singapore) is 2 weeks on vacation in Indonesia (with two, 20 hours layovers in Singapore), a couple attempts at making Nasi Goreng, and the occasional visit to one of the few Indonesian restaurants in Seattle.

In addition to learning to cook Indonesian/Malaysian/Singaporean, I should probably figure how to take un-awful photographs of my culinary attempts. And learn how to turn a mention of Cradle of Flavor into one of the those nifty flamingo links ( anyone ? ?).

So, from here I'll go browse, pick out a recipe or two and get started. I can't imagine I am going to precede in an orderly fashion, and am certainly not going to commit to cooking every night until I am through. One of the things I learned in my short time in Indonesia, is that rushing is not necessarily conducive to happiness.
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#2 Smithy

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Posted 01 June 2007 - 05:28 PM

Oh dear. It looks like I am actually going to have to cook my way through Cradle of Flavor.  :blink: I hadn't really expected people to be so supportive of the idea.

Kutsu started a topic about Cooking an Entire Cookbook. That is where I admitted to considering cooking my way through Cradle of Flavor, by James Oseland. I would like to point out that several people seemed to think it was a good idea, and expressed a desire to participate (hi C. Sapidus, and chrisamirault). So, now I guess I an not only going to starting cooking, but I might as well document my efforts as I go, uhm, I mean hopefully we'll document our efforts as we go.

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Good on you for starting the project! You know, if this takes off, there may be another topic series on cooking through cookbooks, akin to the eGullet Cookoff thread. You may even become the first thread tsar.

In addition to learning to cook Indonesian/Malaysian/Singaporean, I should ...learn how to turn a mention of Cradle of Flavor into one of the those nifty flamingo links ( anyone ? ?).

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Look up above at your post, and you'll see that the Amazing Amazon did it for you...and, what's even more amazing, got it right. (That's not intended as a slam. I've just been amused at some of the inferences the 'bot seems to make. I still like the idea.)

...One of the things I learned in my short time in Indonesia, is that rushing is not necessarily conducive to happiness.

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I just wanted to repeat that line. It's worthy of being someone's .sig.

ETA: there was a flamingo-pink link pointing to Cradle of Flavor, and now it's gone, in the time it took me to post this. Wha' happened? Anyone?

Edited by Smithy, 01 June 2007 - 05:29 PM.

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#3 James Oseland

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Posted 01 June 2007 - 05:52 PM

Wow--what an honor. Let me know if you need any tips along the way. You're in Seattle? I can think of a few places for you to shop (but you may already have that part figured out). Anyway, selamat jalan (happy journey)!

#4 C. sapidus

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Posted 01 June 2007 - 06:14 PM

Crouching Tyler: Good on you for starting this. Can I cheat by digging up the meals that I have already made from the book?

James Oseland: Greetings, and thanks for joining! Not to gush or anything (OK, maybe a little), but I have been absolutely delighted with Cradle of Flavor. I have never been within several thousand miles of SE Asia, but your background material and clear, detailed instructions have both inspired and guided me through many delicious dinners.

#5 crouching tyler

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Posted 01 June 2007 - 06:23 PM

Wow--what an honor. ...

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Likewise, and terima kasih (thank you). I would love to hear shopping suggestions. So far, I am familiar with Uwajimaya and Viet Wah (source of the below, which I have a feeling might be getting some use in the near future - biceps of steel, here I come!)

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#6 crouching tyler

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Posted 01 June 2007 - 06:28 PM

Crouching Tyler: Good on you for starting this. Can I cheat by digging up the meals that I have already made from the book?


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Dear C. -

Most definitely - cheat to your heart's content. I wouldn't even presume to call it cheating - the boundaries of time have no meaning here - it is the internet, right?

By all means, share all your experience (and your lovely photos, too!)

-Robin
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#7 Fat Guy

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Posted 01 June 2007 - 07:29 PM

As a side note, for those of you who haven't heard the eG Radio interview with James Oseland and Pete Wells, there's a tiny bit of discussion of the book. The interview mostly focuses on food media in general, however.
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#8 kutsu

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Posted 01 June 2007 - 11:45 PM

I for one wish you good luck and I cant wait to read the thread!

#9 Chris Amirault

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Posted 02 June 2007 - 04:50 AM

I've already made both the chicken and beef satays, and I have five pounds of chicken thighs in the fridge for something this weekend. (If you want a simple trick for satay-skewering, click here.) I agree with Oseland's comment that the kecap manis and lime sauces are better for bringing out the flavor of the satays than gloppy peanut sauces that hide it.

I've also made the lemongrass-scented coconut rice a few times, and we really like it. The nasi goreng (Javanese fried rice) is also great, too.

Not sure what's next, but: yep, I'm in.

ETA: Actually, I think I do know what's next: the grilled coconut chicken with lemon basil. I'm very interested in this simmer, marinade, grill method, which I've never seen anywhere else before. I've been finding good water spinach around here the last few weeks, so I'll probably also follow the menu advice and make the pickles and greens as sides.
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#10 C. sapidus

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Posted 02 June 2007 - 06:31 AM

In reverse chronological order, here is what we have made from Cradle of Flavor. I have included a picture (where available) and a link to a description from the Dinner! thread. Looking back over the links, these have been some of our favorite meals. Since I have no basis for comparison, constructive criticism is very much welcomed!

Spiced braised Nyonya pork (seh bak); Javanese cucumber and carrot pickle (acar timun); and Nyonya sambal (sambal belacan)
http://forums.egulle...dpost&p=1416542
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Indonesian spice-braised tuna (ikan bumbu rujak)
http://forums.egulle...dpost&p=1384550
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Malaysian pan-seared fish fillets (chuan-chuan). Obviously, this is a favorite for weeknights.
http://forums.egulle...dpost&p=1354966
http://forums.egulle...dpost&p=1350854
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Malaysian pan-seared fish fillets (chuan-chuan); fried potatoes with chile-shallot sambal (kentang balado); and stir-fried baby bok choy with garlic and chiles (tumis sayar).
http://forums.egulle...dpost&p=1332866
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Dinner party (mostly not pictured): chicken rendang with cinnamon and star anise (rendang ayam); Padang fish curry (gulai ikan masin); braised lemongrass long beans (kacang panjang belacan). Unfortunately, I only got pictures of the leftovers.
http://forums.egulle...dpost&p=1331704
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Shrimp sambal (sambal udang), lemongrass-scented coconut rice (nasi uduk)
http://forums.egulle...dpost&p=1277182
Posted Image

Nasi goreng
http://forums.egulle...dpost&p=1301458
http://forums.egulle...dpost&p=1279964
Posted Image

Indonesian beef sate (sate sapi); Malaysian chicken sate (sate ayam); and sweet soy/lime/chile sauce (sos kecap rawit). No pictures, unfortunately.
http://forums.egulle...dpost&p=1268461

Whew. Next!

#11 James Oseland

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Posted 02 June 2007 - 07:08 AM

The food looks phenomenal! If only I could come over to enjoy!

I've been giving thought to Asian-ingredient shopping in Seattle. Yes, Uajimaya is terrific. But I also love the small, mostly Cambodian-run shops along Rainier Avenue. The last time I was in town, I drove south, toward Renton, and stopped in about five great, friendly shops. I was able to find loads of frozen turmeric, fresh galangal, Thai chiles, etc.

I can't wait for what comes next.

#12 Sony

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Posted 03 June 2007 - 09:29 AM

I picked this book up at the library before I even knew about this thread. This is a gorgeous book, both the writing and the visuals!

I have yet to find the Asian markets in my (relatively) new home town, but once I do, I already have several recipes tabbed as "must-try". I'm hoping that the Asian food selection in my area is good enough so that procuring ingredients is not too much hassle. If it isn't, this book will probably end up in my personal collection.

#13 Adam Balic

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Posted 03 June 2007 - 03:35 PM

James - lovely book and wonderful to see the cooking from this region of the world being popularized.

A quick question if I may. I have managed to produce some turmeric plants from rhizomes bought at a local SE-asian grocer. Specifically I want to use the leaves in cooking rendang, however, do you know of any other dishes that the leaves are used in?

#14 James Oseland

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Posted 03 June 2007 - 07:46 PM

A quick question if I may. I have managed to produce some turmeric plants from rhizomes bought at a local SE-asian grocer. Specifically I want to use the leaves in cooking rendang, however, do you know of any other dishes that the leaves are used in?

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A great question! Virtually every coconut milk-based curry in the book--from Padang fish curry to fern curry with shrimp--will get a lovely, subtle boost of earthy flavor from a tied up turmeric leaf (or two). Additionally, the young, not-so-sinewy leaves are sometimes used, very finely shredded, in salad dishes, such as nasi kerabu or nasi ulam (herbal rice salad). Ah, what a beautiful, pure ingredient--and an example of how Southeast Asian cooks find depth of flavor in so many surprising places.

#15 Adam Balic

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Posted 03 June 2007 - 08:03 PM

Thank you very much for that. It took a few months of trial and errot, but from the look of the plants that I have growing, it looks like I will have a lot of turmeric in the near future. A pity I can't gow my own Cekuh or Salam leaves though.

#16 Fat Guy

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 01:57 PM

I sort of fell out of the Cradle of Flavor today, starting with the best of intentions and ending with an unresolved international incident.

I decided I was going to cook my favorite dish from my trip to Singapore: Hainanese chicken rice. But there was no recipe to be found in the Cradle. I wasn’t up to the task of making black pepper crabs (or chili crabs, another Singapore favorite for which there wasn’t room in the Cradle) at 8am, so I decided to look for a really . . . easy . . . dish.

I found a promising dish in “telur mata sapi bumbu,” fried eggs with garlic, shallots, chiles and ginger. I took out an egg from the refrigerator in order to let it come up to room temperature (this is an essential step in fried-egg cookery if you want your eggs to come out nicely). The recipe calls for three eggs but I only wanted one. I then thinly sliced a garlic clove, all the while wishing I had the appropriate Microplane product.

The recipe calls for frying three eggs in a little peanut oil in a 12” skillet, one at a time. That struck me as inefficient: a 12” skillet should be able to accommodate three eggs at once no problem, indeed most people I know don’t even have a 12” skillet, their collections max out at 10” because that’s what fits comfortably on a standard burner on a 30” range if you’re also cooking anything else on that range. But I wasn’t going to break out the 12” skillet to cook one egg anyway. It just didn’t seem ethical. So I used a 7” skillet. This is me cooking an egg, in corn oil because I didn’t have any peanut oil:

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My plan had been that, while the egg was cooking for about two minutes I’d cut up a shallot, a chile and some ginger. This is the problem you face if you don’t do your mise en place. Not only was it impossible for me to cut up all that stuff in the time it takes to fry an egg, but also it turned out I didn’t have any shallots, I didn’t have a chile and I didn’t have any fresh ginger.

The following minute was as tense as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Ten Days that Shook the World all compressed into the 60 seconds that shook East 93rd Street. I first considered the option of abandoning my egg. After all, an egg only costs like 10 cents, though maybe this one cost 30 cents on account of being Sauder Organic. And this is New York City, where there are three Korean-owned markets within one block of my home (two within half a block) where I could acquire all the missing ingredients easily. But if you live in the northeastern United States you know what the weather was like, and the Depression-era mentality of my grandparents was haunting me on the issue of throwing out an egg. So, I improvised.

Shallots: that wasn’t going to happen, however I did have some dehydrated onion powder around. Maybe a shake of that.

Sliced red or green chile: I first thought about cutting up a dried chile, but that seemed a bit much for one egg. So I went with some crushed red pepper flakes, and a squirt of Sriracha red pepper sauce.

Ginger: none of that around either, but is there ginger in Chinese five spice powder? I don’t know. There wasn’t time to Google it. So I just figured I’d add some of that.

Then I thought about other Asian-inflected ingredients that might work, since the Cradle was already rocking so much that the breaking of the bough was imminent. So I also added a little sesame oil, and a dash of black vinegar. The recipe recommends some rice wine vinegar, which I actually had, so I put that in too.

By this time my egg was finished and my oil, as recommended, cooling a bit:

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Also by this time, a small crowd had gathered in the rain outside my window. This group of about two dozen Indonesians and Malaysians was holding placards like “The Cradle Will Fall,” and “Roundeye Go Home,” the latter of which seemed strange because I was at home. I also received a fax from Singapore sentencing me to caning and one from Malaysia sentencing me to death.

Before the organizers could get an injunction in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, I proceeded to sautee my remaining ingredients:

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I then poured the sauce/condiment over the egg, ate it (it was surprisingly tasty) and went back to sleep.

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#17 Chris Amirault

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 05:35 PM

Dinner yesterday included stir-fried water spinach with garlic and chiles:

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The fantastic Javanese cucumber and carrot pickles:

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And the grilled coconut chicken with lemon basil (Ayam Panggang Sulawesi). Since this was the first time I'd braised before grilling I thought I'd document it. Three substitutions: a few peanuts instead of candenuts (can't find 'em here), Thai basil for lemon basil (required a bit more lime juice later), and ground dried turmeric for the fresh.

Here's the set-up for the flavoring paste prior to hitting the pan:

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I can never get those damned lemon grass knots to look purty. I sautéed the paste for a while then tossed in the basil, lime leaves, and lemon grass:

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Switched to a bigger pot, added the coconut milk, simmered for a while, adjusted the seasoning (more salt and I added some roasted red chile pepper), and then added the chicken thighs:

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The chicken thighs just at done:

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One of the great things about about chicken thighs is that they take a tight shape as they braise, and the skin wraps right around them -- perfect for grilling. Here they are, a bit blurry, after the grilling and with some extra reduced sauce on them:

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We squirted a bit of extra lime and sprinkled a bit of extra salt over each thigh, and then enjoyed them with the pickles, greens, and new crop jasmine rice.

The braise-then-grill method is pretty ingenious, particularly with such a rich braising liquid. The thighs soak up a ton of flavor and then the smoky char plays off of that really well. I have no clue about authenticity and realize the lemon basil would have helped, but the dish seemed to benefit from a bit of brightening (the lime), which made me wonder how it'd work with some fresh galangal.
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#18 Adam Balic

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Posted 04 June 2007 - 05:49 PM

Nice looking chicken. This dish and technique is pure genius. If you are having a outdoor party it is perfect as you can braise the chicken the night before (which only improves the dish as the surface of the chicken skin dries out which is just right for getting crispy skin) and reduce down the sauce. Grill the next day and look like a cooking god, what could be better.

In response to moving back to Australia last year, I really got into Indonesian cooking (Balinese in particular). I have to say that I think that if is one of the worlds great regional cuisines and the "Cradle of Flavor" is a wonderful introduction to this region. I love Thai cooking, but sometimes it seems that SE-Asia = Thai cuisine when you look at the cookbooks on offer. Malay, Laos, Nonya and Indonesian cuisines deserve to be equally recognised.

#19 crouching tyler

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 01:57 PM

All the above food photos (okay, most of the above food photos) are making me impatient and hungry- everything looks like it is bursting with flavor - and not just one sort of flavor - but flavor across the spectrum, as well as color and texture. This is not boring food, by any stretch of the imagination. That may be why I like it so much.

I had planned to head out today on a serious food shopping trip to stock the larder with some of the basic ingredients I'll need. People don't really use the word "larder" any more, do they? Perhaps because it includes the somewhat unpopular word 'lard' ? But I like the word "larder" better than "pantry" (nevermind that fact that my kitchen actually has neither a larder nor a pantry - but instead a rather paltry assortment of cupboards).

Anyway, it is rainy and another project has arisen, so I am going to delay my shopping until tomorrow. But, I thought I would show you my list.

Some things I already have, some things I have but am uncertain of exactly how long they have been lurking in the back of the fridge, and some things I probably won't need right away, but I think it will be fun to go hunting for (I love the mystery and intrigue of the soy sauce aisle at Uwajimaya). So, I made a nice long grocery/research list based on the wonderfully detailed ingredients chapter in Cradle of Flavor.... (henceforth CoF). I included some of the author's recommendations on specific brands, and also some of the various names by which things might be identified.

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Making the list was probably a useful exercise in and of itself. It sort of sets the palette, if you'll forgive the pun.

I might try to track down some plants for some of the herbs. I already have lemon grass, and garlic in my garden - but I know I'll need more lemon grass, and I think lemon basil would be another easy addition. I am not sure which other of these tropical herbs will tolerate the mild Seattle summer. I wish I had planted shallots this year.
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#20 snowangel

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 03:18 PM

Due to the fact that I bought lemon basil, I did something today I have only done once before in my life -- ordered a cookbook sight unseen -- Cradle of Flavor.

And, thanks Robin for showing us your shopping list. Looks like I have fairly easy access to just about everything!
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#21 Fat Guy

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 03:18 PM

All the above food photos (okay, most of the above food photos)

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Hey!

Just for that, I have a suggestion for you: why don't you make (and occasionally post an updated version of) a list of all the recipes in the book, so you can mark off who has made what and what's left to be made?
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#22 djyee100

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 05:34 PM

I am not sure which other of these tropical herbs will tolerate the mild Seattle summer.


Is that "curry leaves" on your list? If you (or others) grow this plant, ask for murraya koenigil or curry leaf tree, not to be confused with curry plant (as my local nursery did with my initial order).

http://www.plantofth...g/week129.shtml

http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Curry_Tree

I acquired a couple small curry leaf trees 4 years ago, in a fit of intense Indian cooking. The trees like sandy soil and hot (90+ degree) weather. If I remember correctly, their native habitat is coastal rainforest in southern India. They have to be brought indoors during the winter where I live.

When I bought the trees, I had fantasies of picking abundant fresh curry leaves. But the trees have turned out to be very slow growing. I manage to pick a stem or two of curry leaves every season. Most of the time I just get into my car and drive to the Indian grocery store. :laugh:

#23 sanrensho

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 06:00 PM

When I bought the trees, I had fantasies of picking abundant fresh curry leaves. But the trees have turned out to be very slow growing. I manage to pick a stem or two of curry leaves every season. Most of the time I just get into my car and drive to the Indian grocery store.  :laugh:

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I wonder if this is a common experience with curry leaf trees? I've been thinking about picking one up (if I can find one), but it sounds like it might not be worth it...
Baker of "impaired" cakes...

#24 crouching tyler

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 06:13 PM

I am not sure which other of these tropical herbs will tolerate the mild Seattle summer.


Is that "curry leaves" on your list? If you (or others) grow this plant, ask for murraya koenigil or curry leaf tree, not to be confused with curry plant (as my local nursery did with my initial order).

http://www.plantofth...g/week129.shtml

http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Curry_Tree

I acquired a couple small curry leaf trees 4 years ago, in a fit of intense Indian cooking. The trees like sandy soil and hot (90+ degree) weather. If I remember correctly, their native habitat is coastal rainforest in southern India. They have to be brought indoors during the winter where I live.

When I bought the trees, I had fantasies of picking abundant fresh curry leaves. But the trees have turned out to be very slow growing. I manage to pick a stem or two of curry leaves every season. Most of the time I just get into my car and drive to the Indian grocery store. :laugh:

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Curry leaves are on my list (nice work on deciphering my scrawl, by the way). I have a few of the curry plants (which are not culinary, but ornamental - and smell intensely of curry when you touch the foliage). I can't imagine that a curry leaf tree would like the Seattle climate very much, but it wouldn't hurt to try one in a pot. I did have some grow lights set up in the basement (for tomato seedlings, people), but I might wait a bit before I start trying to grow my own indoor tropical herb garden.
Robin Tyler McWaters

#25 Smithy

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 08:07 PM

Hmm. I've been planning to be simply an admirer, a cheering-on-er, so to speak. But it looks like I may be in the Seattle environs this Saturday, and...oh, dear...that shopping list looks really terrific.

Tomato plants, indeed, Crouching Tyler.

Actually, I should direct my question more to Snowangel, who lives considerably closer: are you saying most of those ingredients could be found in The Cities?

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"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown


#26 C. sapidus

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Posted 05 June 2007 - 08:55 PM

Chris Amirault: Great pictorial – Ayam Panggang Sulawesi was already on my list, but it just moved up a few notches. How long did it take, start to finish?

ETA:

If only I could come over to enjoy!

Thank you very much, James. You are absolutely welcome to drop by for dinner next time you are in the neighborhood. :biggrin:

Edited by C. sapidus, 06 June 2007 - 04:51 AM.


#27 Pan

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 03:18 AM

Chris, I'm sure the Ayam Panggang was good, but next time, try macadamia nuts; they're a good substitute for candlenuts.

#28 Adam Balic

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 03:42 AM

I'm surprised that candlenuts aren't on sale locally, as I was able to buy them vacuum packed even in Edinburgh (cheaper then macadamia nuts too). They should be cooked before consumption (roasted for example) as they are thought to be mildly toxic.

#29 anzu

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 07:14 AM

I'm confused by the references to curry leaves here. People seem to be equating curry leaves with daun salam, or have I totally misunderstood what people are saying?

Anyway, just in case anyone is equating the two, they are different, and have different tastes.

Daun salam is Eugenia polyantha, curry leaves is Murraya koenigii.

More on daun salam in the inimitable Gernot Katzer here.

Changing the subject, I thought I was done with cookbook purchases for a while, but this thread has changed my mind. Mouthwatering photos!

#30 Chris Amirault

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Posted 06 June 2007 - 07:45 AM

Chris Amirault: Great pictorial – Ayam Panggang Sulawesi  was already on my list, but it just moved up a few notches. How long did it take, start to finish?

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Thanks. It took about two hours, start to finish, which included all of the other dishes and prepping the grill.

I should note that we had about three cups of extra sauce left over to boot, which we're eating with rice and pickles as a quick lunch this week.

Chris, I'm sure the Ayam Panggang was good, but next time, try macadamia nuts; they're a good substitute for candlenuts.

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Yeah, that's what I was planning to do per James's recommendations, but I couldn't find macadamia nuts in a small enough portion size. I'll keep snooping around for candlenuts at other stores -- I have my fingers crossed for one in particular.
Chris Amirault
camirault@eGstaff.org
eG Ethics Signatory
Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts





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