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Cooking with "Cradle of Flavor"

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Another Cradle of Flavor meal tonight: every once in a while, various things orbit into my life, through some sort of culinary serendipity. Last Saturday, the western supermarket that I frequent for unsweetened yogurt and BSCB (they don't carry thighs) happened to be stocking fresh kaffir lime leaves. Surprised, I bought their whole supply, in the hopes that it will encourage them to order more, but with the suspicion it was a one-off stocking. Then, later this week, a trip to the Canadian Consulate in Shanghai found me at the City Market in the same building, where they had fresh galangal roots in the produce section - the first I'd seen it fresh since...longer than I care to admit. I had a bit of a conversation with a Chinese lady who wanted to know how to choose a fresh root and what to cook it with, to which I replied with a quick tutorial on the previous posts' green bean and tomato dish. We had good fun wandering over the store trying to find a can of coconut milk, as I didn't know what it was called in mandarin. Of course I bought some for myself, not knowing what I'd use it for, but figuring it was the sort of culinary ambergris that you don't just walk by on the beach of life.

I had the vague idea of perhaps making a fresh Thai curry paste this weekend, when two more separate events happened. A friend happened to have some fresh, pasture-fed Chinese beef rib that he sold me - I so rarely have fresh beef that I snapped it up without even thinking. Then, later the same night, back in the Western supermarket to pick up some wine, I noticed they had fresh lemongrass stalks. (And: no kaffir lime leaves) Huh. I threw them into the basket along with a voignier.

Then, then, over at another friend's house for dinner, he mentioned he'd ordered a half-kilo of Thai basil by mistake, thinking he was getting the sweet kind, and did I want it?

Now, Jiangsu province has a vast array of produce available for purchase at any given time, but Southeast Asian ingredients like this are not thick on the ground. It was clear the Kitchen God was trying to send me a message and that message was


and possibly some other dish to use up the basil.

This is the first time I've made a rendang, and Mr. Oseland's excellent instructions mentioned I'd want to have lots of time to get it right, so I had it on the stove at 12.30 pm. I cooked it until about 5.30 pm.

Flavour paste, pre-blend:


The mise:


About an hour into cooking:


The final plate:


I thought of going out to our garden and pulling a banana leaf off our banana plant for presentation, but decided I'd freak the neighbours out too much. Lettuce sufficed.

Yeah, it was excellent. My coconut milk never gave up much oil, though, confirming my suspicions that the Chinese coconut milk I'm using is not as rich as the Vietnamese stuff I used to get.

The basil leaves presented more of a challenge. I decided to fry them, as Jaymes suggested, and use them to top Rohati's Crisp fried Potatoes with Chili Sambal, p. 221:


Basically, the potatoes are fried like "chips", then the oil is drained and a chili-shallot sambal (in my case, red onions - no shallot love came my way this week) is sauteed and then used to coat the fried potatoes. I topped the dish with the crisp-fried thai basil, which I'd fried as I was doing the potatoes.

I'd like to say there are leftovers, but there are not.

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Great post and pictures, Erin!

I made a Thai green curry with pork and eggplant this week and really enjoyed the eggplant in that dish. Seeing your Asiah's eggplant curry will have me pulling out my Cradle book (which has been on the bookshelf wayyyy too long a period) this weekend.

eGullet always inspires me to change up my meals regularly. :wub:



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I'm never short for ideas around here wither. I couldn't believe it when all those ingredients came my way this week, though - I knew it had to be Cradle of Flavor! Which reminds me, I really should get some of his cucumber carrot pickle going with my last bit of lemongrass.

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  • 1 year later...

One problem with Cradle of Flavor is the recipes are for some reason made using Western shallots, rather than the Indonesian 'bawang merah'. The numerical quantities given are too low for the correct shallots (which are readily available in the west, at least as readily available as some of the other ingredients used at any rate - and much more aromatic and better flavoured than shallots), while the weight quantities are far too high. I suspect substituting three bawang merah for one 'shallot' in the given recipes is about right.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi y'all, long time no see...

Just wanted to mention something for newcomers to the thread: i believe there's a typo in the "Tofu & Summer Vegetables in Coconut Milk" recipe...not a big deal, but it did confuse me and affected the final dish: the ingredients list a piece of peeled galangal, bruised, etc. But then the cooking directions never tell you what to do with it as far as I can tell. It seems like you should add it with the coconut milk and water, yes? But I was almost at the end of the recipe when I noticed my poor naked piece of galangal still sitting there waiting for action. In the last step of the directions you're advised to remove it.

So there you go...


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