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crouching tyler

Cooking with "Cradle of Flavor"

380 posts in this topic

Several days ago, Bruce asked "What's next?".....

I meant to reply but got sucked into the Tres Leches cake project vortex. I have since come down from the sugar high, having learned a good bit, and having successfully made cajeta (goat milk caramel). I must say, I am happy to return the realm of the savory, where I am much more comfortable. I do love sweet things, but baking is not my strong suit.

So, since I had leftover Lemongrass Scented Coconut Rice, I thought I would make some fish to go with it for a quick dinner on Thursday evening. Initially, I wasn't planning on making something from CoF but, after a quick browse I realized the Pan-Seared Tamarind Tuna (Tuna Goreng) was something I could make with the ingredients I already had on hand, plus some Tuna.

Tuna isn't my favorite fish - It is probably not even in my top 5 (which off the top of my head is probably: grouper, halibut, sea bass*, snapper, salmon ? ). I really like tuna in sushi, but cooked - 's okay. So, I haven't ever cooked tuna. And even though my trusty fish guy warned me not to overcook it, I did. I did a little better with the second batch in the pan, but it was still overdone.

Tamarind Tuna - Tuna Goreng

Lemongrass Coconut Rice - Nasi Uduik

Lemongrass & Shallot Sambal - Sambal Serai

Javanese Cucumber & Carrot Pickle - Acar Timun

gallery_17822_1159_875745.jpg

But, here's the thing - I could tell, that if the tuna hadn't been overcooked, it would have been quite tasty. So, I think I have my first candidate for the list of dishes that I will have to cook a second time ( and get it right) before I can actually check it off the list.

My other revelation concerns the effect of lime juice on shallots. My embarrassing admission for the day is that I really despise raw onions. I just can't help it. I am not being overly dramatic when I say that raw onion makes me gag. I am not a picky eater and have quite a resilient digestive system, but raw onions are my kryptonite. However, the shallots in both the pickle and the sambal were no problem at all - after their 10 minute bath in lime juice or vinegar. In fact, I am getting very accustomed to having a little bit of the cucumber and carrot pickle with whatever else I am eating (i.e., turkey sandwich). This is a condiment that might become part of the regular rotation, I think.

It reminds me of the shallot and scotch bonnet pickle that was a constant feature of my parents' dinners. My mother had a jar of that pickle that was constantly being topped off until it reached some critical point when it had be to restarted ( I am not sure whether it lost its kick, or got too hot). Of course, being the stubborn child that I was, I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole then. Now, I am starting to think it would be a fabulous compliment to roasted chicken.

* I love sea bass - but I don't buy it anymore, because of the over-fishing issue. Okay, maybe once a year. But, that is it. I promise.

edit to fix an error, or two.


Edited by crouching tyler (log)

Robin Tyler McWaters

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Last night's menu:

Beef Satay - Sate Sapi

Lemongrass- Scented Coconut Rice - Nasi Uduk

Javanese Cucumber & Carrot Pickle - Acar Timun

Sweet Soy Sauce & Lime Dipping Sauce - Sos Kecap Rawit

So, it looked a little underwhelming on the table after my two hours of puttering in the kitchen.

Looks like a delicious dinner to me, and things always go slower the first time. The satay looks particularly tasty - it looks like you got a nice crust without overcooking the insides.

In the future, I would probably add a vegetable side just to keep things balanced nutritionally.

Raw veggies are great for this. If you want to stick with the book, try stir-fried Asian greens with garlic and chiles (tumis sayur) - quick, delicious, and adaptable to whatever greens look good at the store.

I had planned to fry up some shallots to top the rice with, but ran out of time, and frankly frying is not my favorite task.

Asian markets often have fried shallots in big plastic jars. We usually keep some on hand. So, what's next?

I found the fried shallots at Uwajimaya - Thanks for the tip. I found two plastic jars of them - one labeled Fried Red Onion, and one labeled Fried Shallot. The contents looked identical. Do you think Red Onion is just another way of saying Shallot in this case?


Robin Tyler McWaters

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Bruce: You said:
Tonight we made beef satay (sate sapi) with crisp jicama and pineapple salad (rojak). roasted shrimp paste, tamarind, chiles, shallots, garlic, palm sugar, and kecap manis in the sauce

I want to know if you roasted/toasted/whatever the shrimp paste IN the HOUSE!

I did that once in the house, and I don't think I will attempt it again. I have a side burner on the BBQ, so THAT'S where I'll be roasting the shrimp paste. better wait until the weekend when the neighbors go to their cabin. :wink::laugh:

Hmmm. This makes me worry a bit. We have a small house and no exhaust fan in our kitchen (and no plans to put one in any time soon). I may have to expand my outdoor cooking options, or limit my shrimp paste exploits to when I plan on using the grill.


Robin Tyler McWaters

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But, here's the thing - I could tell, that if the tuna hadn't been overcooked, it would have been quite tasty.

Robin: Your meal looks delicious, and tuna is tricky – it continues to cook after you remove the heat. I overcooked my first batch of tuna goreng, too.

I found two plastic jars of them - one labeled Fried Red Onion, and one labeled Fried Shallot. The contents looked identical. Do you think Red Onion is just another way of saying Shallot in this case?

I think that “red onion” and shallot is the same thing, but I can’t remember where I got that information.

Bruce, what kind of rig did you use for grilling the sate?

Susan: We have a Weber gas grill with heavy stainless steel grates, and usually preheat on high for 20 minutes or so. If possible, I try to flip the sate onto an unused part of the grill to get a good char on both sides. Looking forward to seeing what you make!

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My other revelation concerns the effect of lime juice on shallots. My embarrassing admission for the day is that I really despise raw onions.  I just can't help it. I am not being overly dramatic when I say that raw onion makes me gag. I am not a picky eater and have quite a resilient digestive system, but raw onions are my kryptonite. However, the shallots in both the pickle and the sambal were no problem at all - after their 10 minute bath in lime juice or vinegar. In fact, I am getting very accustomed to having a little bit of the cucumber and carrot pickle with whatever else I am eating (i.e., turkey sandwich). This is a condiment that might become part of the regular rotation, I think.

I agree: the transformation of the shallots is wonderful, and this is a great recipe for these very simple but excellent pickles.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I found two plastic jars of them - one labeled Fried Red Onion, and one labeled Fried Shallot. The contents looked identical. Do you think Red Onion is just another way of saying Shallot in this case?

I think that “red onion” and shallot is the same thing, but I can’t remember where I got that information.[...]

Shallots are called "bawang merah" in Malay, which translates literally as "red onion." Garlic is "bawang putih" ("white onion"), and onions are "bawang besar" ("big onion").

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Again, what terrific-looking food.

I sense some dried-shrimp-paste anxiety out there. Let me see if I can dispel some of it.

Though it's often vilified (especially in the West, but even sometimes in Southeast Asia), dried shrimp paste (belacan or trassi) is a harmless--and utterly essential--ingredient. A little dab of the substance rounds out dishes in the most wonderful way, giving them a subtle body and depth that they wouldn't otherwise have. Countless Indonesian/Malaysian/Singaporean foods just aren't the same without it--especially in its toasted state, which gives it a sophistication that it doesn't have when raw.

Happily, a little goes a very long way--and it keeps seemingly forever. I find that a sole block of dried shrimp paste will last me a good eight months to a year. I store it wrapped in Saran Wrap, inside a Tupperware container, toward the back of the fridge (where it's colder).

When I want to use it--the book says all this but I feel it bears repeating--I slice off the required portion (usually no more than a teaspoon or two), wrap it in foil, smash it down with the palm of my hand (to increase its surface area), then place it over a high flame. Depending on a bunch of environmental conditions, the packet will start to relief a whiff of smoke after about 30 seconds to a minute (sometimes longer). Flip the packet (I use two forks, or sometimes just one fork, but tongs will do, too), and repeat with the other side. Allow it to cool for a few seconds before unwrapping it and using it in the dish. (A market that I shop at regularly in Queens sells small pre-toasted packets of dried shrimp paste, eliminating the need for toasting it!)

The amount of smoke (and smell) released into the room by this process is minimal at best--and whatever smell is released will likely soon be overwhelmed by the other fragrances coming from your cooking (the lemongrass, the lime leaves, the cinnamon, etc.). I live in a small Brooklyn apartment, and tested all the recipes in "Cradle of Flavor" innumerable times in its humble kitchen, and never had and complaints from guests or neighbors about dried shrimp paste--nor was there ever any lingering smell (even in the dead of winter).

Fear not! Dried shrimp paste is a great ingredient! It just takes a little getting used to.

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I agree that belacan is an excellent ingredient, but it is possible to overuse it, and like any other strong ingredient, it tastes awful when overused. My landlady, who cooked for my family when I was living in Terengganu in the mid 70s, veritably flooded stuff in belacan. Don't do that. :biggrin:

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Hi all --

Just finished off my first attempt at sate sapi for dinner tonight... I didn't get quite enough char on it... It was cooked just right for me in the middle -- still a little pink -- but I think next time since it cooks so quickly I will leave it on the same side for almost the whole grilling, just flipping it for 30 seconds at the end. That way it will get a really good char on one side but not overcook...

I must say, it was good, but to me, somehow just didn't really quite pop... I think more char would help, and perhaps using kecap manis would give it that sweetness that I think was missing -- I only had regular soy for the soy / lime / chile dipping sauce...

I did have it with one of my favorite sides though -- broken rice. Jasmine rice that has been broken into little pieces -- feels sooo good in the mouth!

Emily

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Mr. Oseland:

Thnaks for your suggestion of toasting belacan in foil. I will definitely try that.

I love Chinese shrimp paste ( ham ha) and salted fish (ham yu) steamed with pork, so I am quite used to strong aromas. It's the neighbors. :wink:


Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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I must say, it was good, but to me, somehow just didn't really quite pop... I think more char would help, and perhaps using kecap manis would give it that sweetness that I think was missing -- I only had regular soy for the soy / lime / chile dipping sauce...

I agree about the char -- and I really agree about the kecap manis, which is to soy sauce what good maple syrup is to white corn syrup: another beast entirely.


Chris Amirault

camirault@eGstaff.org

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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Hey Chris -- Thanks for letting me know -- I didn't realize kecap manis was such a different animal -- I think I thought it was just like soy sauce with sugar added. I will be sure to pick some up the next time I'm at the asian market here!

Emily

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Agreed- kecap manis is like a good marriage between molasses and good soy- thick, rich and tasty

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Agreed- kecap manis is like a good marriage between molasses and good soy- thick, rich and tasty

I have something called "molasses soy" in my pantry. Same thing?


Margo Thompson

Allentown, PA

You're my little potato, you're my little potato,

You're my little potato, they dug you up!

You come from underground!

-Malcolm Dalglish

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Tonight, I go fearlessly into the realm of the toasted shrimp paste!

I am making Chicken Curry Noodle Soup, Kuala Lumpur Style - Kare Laksa, hopefully with some Javanese Sambal - Sambal Bajak or Sambal Ulek.

I am not quite sure I have the right sort of noodles but I am not going to worry about it. I'll post some photos later and see if any of you can tell me what is what on the noodle front.

I did most of my shopping at HT Market - a relatively new Asian/Latin/American grocery store. Odd place. Huge, with a wide selection of prepared foods. However, the produce section was hit or miss (drat- I just remembered that I forgot to buy garlic). The iffy produce may be a result of low turnover, though. The place was strangely empty of shoppers. Admittedly, it was the middle of the afternoon. Food was cheap cheap cheap though.

My shopping habits are sort of bi-polar with this project. I usually shop at a spendy, organic-leaning, "natural market"/coop (PCC, for the local readers) with weekly trips to a independent poultry/seafood market (University Seafood and Poultry). In the summer, we get a weekly box of fruits and vegetables from Helsing Junction Farm. And then I go toddling off to wander around Asian groceries, where the word "organic" is pretty much absent, and nobody is telling me what state and/or country my produce originates from. But for now, I am not going to worry about it. I am just starting this little endeavor - and once I get a better grip on what the ingredients are maybe I'll be able to be more strategic in my shopping.


Robin Tyler McWaters

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Chicken Curry Noodle Soup, Kuala Lumpur Style - Kare Laksa

So, I think I am going to invest in a small food processor for spices. I sneezed about 63 times today while my cuisinart blew spice mix out of small cracks and all over the kitchen. So, I finished grinding the spices for the seasoning paste in a mortal and pestle, and then returned things to the cuisinart for turning it into smooth paste.

Here's the ground spices:

gallery_17822_1159_4348.jpg

The paste (which is spices + shallots, toasted shrimp paste, and water):

gallery_17822_1159_377475.jpg

The chicken, hanging out in the paste. I cut the lemongrass too short, so my lemongrass knot is disheveled:

gallery_17822_1159_578559.jpg

The finished dish:

gallery_17822_1159_1193916.jpg

So, I have made a resolution. I resolve to make the sambal (or whichever condiment I am intending to make) First. So, that I don't repeat the experience of this evening, when the main dish is almost ready, and I am getting hungrier, and just want to sit down and eat instead of delaying the gratification to toast more shrimp paste, chop more shallots etc....

The real resolution should be to really do better planning and chop everything all at once, portioning items for various dishes I go. But, for now, I resolve to make the condiment first. Probably a good idea anyway, so the condiment can hang out, and have its flavors marry or mellow or sharpen or whatever it chooses to do while it is resting and I am off cleavering chicken at the other counter in the kitchen ( I love to cleaver things - so satisfying, and just a little bit exciting).

So, forgive the tangent - the point of the story is I got hungry and didn't make sambal. Next time.

So - help me with the noodles. The noodles were the weak point of this dish. The broth tasted great - nice little kick at the back of the throat. The chicken was tender and flavorful. I should have gotten the tofu more golden, but as I have alluded, I am wimp when it comes to frying. The lime was a really nice touch on the finished dish.

I might have let the simmer get a little too vigorous at one point - the broth looked sort of broken (can a broth break?) towards the end of the cooking. Sometimes, I need to quit trying to do too many things at once, particularly while trying to learn a new recipe (seems obvious, doesn't it?).

The noodles were a bit undercooked, and just sort of hum drum.

I used the below. I shopped at a new market, and their noodle section was decidedly slim.

gallery_17822_1159_266335.jpg

Later, I picked up these noodles at PCC (organic - oh la la) just for research purposes. I haven't cooked with them yet, but I 'll give them a try next.

gallery_17822_1159_410835.jpg

Oh - the toasted dried shrimp paste - the aroma was completely overpowered by the lovely chicken curry smell that followed closely thereafter.


Robin Tyler McWaters

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Oh, almost forgot my favorite photo of the evening.

Weighing shallots:

gallery_17822_1159_922852.jpg


Robin Tyler McWaters

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Oooh Robin -- while the food looks great, that scale has me seriously green with envy! Love it!

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Robin: Your kare laksa looks beautiful. I have not made many Asian noodle dishes, so I am very interested to hear noodle recommendations.

So, I think I am going to invest in a small food processor for spices. I sneezed about 63 times today . . .

The mortar does a nice job of grinding small amounts of spices. We use the coffee grinder for larger amounts, but that involves grinding rice twice – first to clean out the coffee, and second to clean out the spices. We should probably get a second coffee grinder and dedicate it to spice grinding, but it hasn’t been a priority.

I cut the lemongrass too short, so my lemongrass knot is disheveled . . .

I have made the same mistake repeatedly with lemongrass – I cut off the ends to fit it into the fridge, and then wish the stalk was longer when I try to tie a knot. It really doesn't matter, of course.

I resolve to make the sambal (or whichever condiment I am intending to make) First.

Good idea – many sambals do seem to improve with time.

Oh - the toasted dried shrimp paste - the aroma was completely overpowered by the lovely chicken curry smell that followed closely thereafter.

I’m glad that the shrimp paste aroma was not a problem for you. It doesn't bother me – I have developed a Pavlovian association between the smell of toasting shrimp paste and the delicious scents and tastes that follow.

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We use the coffee grinder for larger amounts, but that involves grinding rice twice – first to clean out the coffee, and second to clean out the spices. We should probably get a second coffee grinder and dedicate it to spice grinding, but it hasn’t been a priority.

I'm surprised your coffee doesn't taste funny. Seriously. I've always used a second coffee grinder dedicated to spices. I use a cheap $20 coffee grinder (like this one http://www.amazon.com/Krups-203-42-Touch-C...1960702&sr=8-1), and it has always worked just fine. I still have to grind a tablespoon of rice in it now and then to clear out the different spices. One of those little brushes sold to clean out coffee grinders is also very handy.

If you're cooking a lot with spice pastes, you could consider a Sumeet grinder. It's basically a small blender with a super-powerful motor. If you have the kitchen space for one more gadget... http://www.sumeet.net/

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I'm surprised your coffee doesn't taste funny. . .

I have not noticed funny-tasting coffee, but I do clean out the coffee grinder pretty thoroughly between batches.

If you're cooking a lot with spice pastes, you could consider a Sumeet grinder.

We have a Preethi grinder (similar to a Sumeet). The Preethi is very effective at grinding large batches of wet curry pastes, such as those for Thai curries. It is too powerful for small batches - it immediately flings the ingredients against the side of the jar.

I have not yet used the Preethi to grind dry spices. We will need a new batch of garam masala soon, so that will be a good excuse to test the Preethi’s spice grinding jar. As I mentioned, for small batches the mortar seems pretty efficient.

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So, yesterday morning I finally read this thread. Head to the bookstore and find the book. I'm looking at it and it looks really familiar. I just turned 50 in December, the brain is turning to mush, you know how it goes. Decide to go home and look around as I could almost swear someone gave me this book for my birthday. Search high and low and back again, and buried in the center of the coffee table is this book! I felt great and stupid all at the same time. The grilled coconut chicken with lemon basil looks great, I have everything on hand except candlenuts, but this is Oregon and hazelnuts are the universal substitute, so I'm good to go. OMG, it turned out sooooo goooood. I can't wait to try another recipe.......

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Dinner Tonight:

Chicken Satay - Sate Ayam

Stir-Fried Asian Greens with Garlic and Chiles - Tumis Sayur

Sweet Soy Sauce & Lime Dipping Sauce - Sos Kecap Rawit

Javanese Cucumber & Carrot Pickle - Acar Timun

Steamed Rice - Nasi Putih

Chicken was grilled, so I got some char - also got some flames as the lemongrass-peanut oil dripped onto the coals. I thought I had burnt the chicken - Nope. Just right. Lucky me.

The greens were bok choy, with the addition of garlic scapes, because I had some in the garden that I needed to use up.

Too tired for more details. I'll chime in tomorrow with some reflections on tonight's dinner.

gallery_17822_1159_1094009.jpg

gallery_17822_1159_510569.jpg

gallery_17822_1159_455227.jpg


Robin Tyler McWaters

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I just discovered this thread. Wow that dinner looks amazing!

I have the book but haven't made anyting from it. That is about to change!!

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