Tag Archives: asian
It’s Foodie Tuesday!
As the weather gets cooler, don’t we crave more the warmth of hot hearty soups? Let’s venture into exotic territory with these Asian classics. One thing these have in common is that they pack a punch in terms of flavor. They’re not the soothing, comfortable types — they’re passionate and intense, fragrant and fiery, rich and spicy. They make quite a food trip.
Another thing they have in common is that they’re very complicated to make, if you’re making them from scratch, because they either involve a lot of ingredients or a whole lot of steps. The good news is you can buy packets that can give you the real thing with very little time and effort.
It’s a classic Thai soup with fierce hot and sour flavors that make me perspire just thinking about it. It’s smells heavenly — with a light freshness from kaffir lime leaves and cilantro, and the heady earthiness from the shitakes and whatever protein, usually seafood, that is in it.
This one’s a well-loved staple in Singapore and Malaysia. There are many different variations on this noodle soup, but my favorite is the coconut milk based curry laksa. The soup itself is rich, thick, and creamy. It’s spicy and has a riot of flavors from different spices in it. There’s also a salty and seafood-y base flavor from prawns. Here’s a recipe if you want to make it from scratch, or get it from a Prima Taste box.
Sinigang is basically a sour soup, and its variations are derived from the different sources of the sour component. My favorite is the tamarind-based soup, and though we had a tamarind tree in our backyard, I never saw my mom make sinigang old school — by cooking the tamarind to a pulp and straining the liquid through as sieve. The soup mixes are really quite excellent, and I grew up with this one made by Knorr, and available at the Filipino Store. But if you want to make it from scratch, here’s a recipe. You can also try this sinigang from the Kitchn. The soup is made with either prawns, milkfish, pork, or beef, and a selection of vegetables — string beans, water spinach, radish, chilies, and taro.
Bak Kut Teh
It is basically a slow cooked pork bone soup. Literally, its name means, “meat bone tea”. There’s no tea in it though, but it is flavored with numerous spices such as cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and fennel — all wrapped in muslin that stays in the pot for the entire cooking process, and fished out just before serving. The tricky part in this is gathering the correct blend of spices, so using a store-bought ready-made bak kut teh spice bag is definitely a good way to go, and you can get it from Prima Taste. But if you want to conquer this particular mountain, here’s an excellent recipe for making it from scratch.
It’s Foodie Tuesday!
What’s your comfort food? I’m a total carb addict, so noodles are what I often turn to in order to soothe my soul. I usually whip up some pasta with tomato sauce or maybe gooey mac n’ cheese when I’m at home but when I crave something like pho or yakisoba, I head out to a restaurant.
I don’t know why I am hesitant to make these dishes; most large grocery stores stock both a wide variety of Asian noodles and the necessary condiments to recreate them at home. It’s not like I have to make the noodles by hand, which really is an art:
Video: Chef Danny Yip Makes Noodles
My favourite noodles are soba, thin strands of pasta made with buckwheat flour. Despite the delicate texture, they have a hearty taste and texture. Unfortunately, Japanese restaurants in North America rarely offer many soba dishes; one might find a cold salad of noodles tossed with vegetables or a hot soup of noodles in broth but that’s about it.
As much as I love the nutty flavour of soba, sometimes I miss the toothsome texture of a thicker noodle. This is when I turn to udon, another Japanese noodle. In addition to its larger size, udon is made with regular wheat flour and therefore has a much more neutral flavour profile. Like soba noodles, udon are traditionally served both cold and hot, and often in a broth. When I start to come down with a cold, I crave miso soup instead of chicken noodle. I will have to try New Asian Cuisine’s recipe for Udon Miso Noodle Soup the next time I start to feel poorly.
In China, rice noodles are more common and these have spread to several other parts of Asia. One dish that I have heard about from foodie traveler friends is Char Kway Teow (“Stir-fried Ricecake Strips”), which is popular in the night markets of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore.
Flat rice noodles are stir-fried with sausage, seafood, and egg; I think this would be the perfect street-snack after having a few drinks. Since we don’t have night markets in Louisville, I will have to try to make it at home. The Chinese sausage might be a challenge but MasterChef Australia contestant Poh Ling Yeow has a recipe that is otherwise fairly easy to put together in the home kitchen.
Rice noodles are also the star in Vietnamese pho, a soup made with either beef or chicken. The broth is fragrant with spices (including cinnamon, cardamom, star anise, and cloves) and brightened with fresh cilantro and mint. When you need a sensory pick-me-up, this dish is the one try. Steamy Kitchen’s recipe isn’t the easiest but I bet it produces a fantastic pho.
My other go-to comfort food? Chocolate. I’m not sure that I am ready to mix my two faves but if you are braver than I am, you can try Seattle Chocolate’s Ramen Noodle Bar, a mix of uncooked ramen and dark chocolate or the even bolder Savory Ramen, with onion, garlic, and soy sauce added to the mix.
Image: Simply Reem
This winter, when the going gets tough, this girl will be going for the noodles. Who’s with me?
How can you follow George Takei (which I do) and not know about Allegiance – A New Musical? What makes it even more exciting is that it also stars Telly Leung, who is one of my fave Warblers on the TV musical Glee, and Lea Salonga of whom I have been a fan for as long as I can remember.
Lea Salonga is a Filipino singer and actor who started her career in showbusiness when she was a little girl, recording hit songs, appearing in television shows, commercials, movies, and stage musicals in the Philippines, all the while doing really well in school and getting into the pre-med program in the best university in the country. She had it all, and did it all. She was my idol. I wanted to be her, especially when she got to perform and hobnob with Ricky Martin back when he was still a gangly member of the Puerto Rican boy band Menudo (swoon!). And this was before she achieved phenomenal success in West End and Broadway, getting all those roles and awards, and providing voice for Disney princesses.
Lea’s voice is a finely honed instrument that makes such a beautiful, sweet, and clear sound. And she uses it how she wills; she can load it with whatever emotion or character the role demands.
So anyway, there I was, watching her perform a song from Allegiance on YouTube, when I saw all those other related videos. Before I knew it, I got sucked into a full-blown Lea Salonga retrospective. It reminded me why I was such a big fan, and still am. It was such an awesome trip, that I’m doing it again, and taking you, dear readers, with me.
Lea as Kei Kimura in Allegiance
First up, the video that got the ball rolling. Here are Lea and Telly performing “Gaman”, a song from Allegiance — A New Musical.
Lea as a Little Girl
This was one’s a classic, and one of her earliest recordings.
Lea as Kim in Miss Saigon
Here’s a video that follows her journey from her audition to snippets from the rehearsals. She was only seventeen when she auditioned. She went on to play the lead role, and won the Laurence Olivier award, and eventually a Tony when Miss Saigon came to Broadway.
Lea as Fantine in Les Miserables
Notice that she was holding a Les Mis playbill during her Miss Saigon audition? It is amazing how it foreshadowed that she would get to play Fantine in the musical, and Eponine too.
Lea as a Disney Princess
Lea provided the singing voice of my favorite Disney Princess, Mulan. She also sang Princess Jasmine’s songs in Aladdin.
Lea as Bride
I just had to throw this in here. I normally find it really corny when people sing some sappy love song during their own weddings. But this is Lea Salonga after all.
Asian food is as diverse as the cultures across the continent. Each country and its regions have its own style and method of food preparation, that have a significant impact on the type of cuisine and the flavors in each dish.
Integral to the whole food preparation process are the utensils used in preparation, which can vary as much as the regional tastes of each country. While most traditional Asian cookware have contemporary, modernized counterparts, sometimes the traditional materials add a sense of authenticity to the flavors and overall gastronomic experience.
Chopsticks are most commonly seen as eating utensils, but in most asian countries they are one of the fundamental kitchen tools, that serve multiple functions. They can act in the same capacity as tongs, whisks or beaters, and ladles. Cooking chopsticks are usually longer than the regular dining kind, and made of a durable wood such as bamboo.
Mikiya Kobayashi’s Ukihashi might be dining chopsticks, but have a slight angle at the tips so that the end that touches the food never touches the surface it rests on. This slight modification makes the traditional rests unnecessary.
While these commonly seen tools originate from China, they are used throughout Asia for steaming food. Bamboo steamers differ from modern synthetic material steamers because they absorb excess moisture and prevent condensation from touching the food – which is why dimsum dumplings look perfect every time! They were also traditionally used for space and time saving reasons – by stacking the steamers you can cook several types of food at once over the same heat source.
This take on the steamer, designed by Office for Product Design for JIA Inc, rethinks and streamlines the steamer’s stacking capabilities, combining it with stoneware components so you can cook and steam at the same time.
Clay Pots / Palayok
The Palayok is the Philippine incarnation of the clay pot. In Filipino cuisine today it is mostly used for serving traditional dishes, but it was originally used to cook food over a fire. The pots are still widely made today and are a Philippine cultural icon. The pots are used mainly to cook soups or stew-like dishes over a charcoal fire stove. They can also be used to cook rice.
Speaking of rice, rice cookers have now become a typical household appliance, but are usually associated with asian cooking since rice is the main staple in most asian countries. Rice cookers these days however have gotten more sophisticated and are almost like mini-computers.
You can program certain types with a timer to start cooking at a certain time of day, and most have functions that allow you to chose between regular rice, or rice porridge (congee). Some come with a steamer add on that converts the cooker into a steamer, and some can even make bread.
Most of these tools and appliances have made their way into the mainstream kitchen, and have proven to be useful and effective tools that transcend cultural origins. Whether you’re cooking asian food or simply adapting a method, these tools will surely enhance your kitchen experience!
Feng Shui is about paying attention to how objects, people and the world interact with one another, and striving to achieve balance in our surroundings so they can help us achieve our goals. Every room in your home can benefit from Feng Shui, especially the kitchen. Here are a few of the key principles for Feng Shui decorating and how they can be applied in the kitchen to attract health and prosperity.
In no other room can the disruption of flow be felt as strongly as in the kitchen. In Feng Shui you should try to avoid putting fire and water too close to one another, so the sink should not be next to the stove. A wet island can be a good workaround for this rule. If you don’t have a kitchen remodel on the horizon, small changes like moving appliances and furniture can also be beneficial.
Colour and Light
Plenty of natural light is of course ideal, but even if you don’t have large windows or skylights light can be created using the right fixtures, and by reflecting existing light with brightly coloured walls. Choose a colour that also reflects what you want the room to accomplish; green for feasting, yellow for social gatherings, blue for eating less and weight-loss.
The kitchen can be a room of chaos with frequent activity taking place and many people coming and going, but it can also be a place of tranquility. By keeping surfaces clean and clear and reducing clutter to a minimum a feeling of calm can be achieved. Knives are especially harmful to the Feng Shui of the room so make sure to store those out of sight, along with garbage, compost and reclycling receptacles.
Rounded shapes such as pots and pans, round containers and plant pots can provide good feng shui in a room full of angular shaped appliances, cupboards and countertops. The kitchen table can also be round to offset the angularity in the rest of the room.
A clean and clutter free kitchen can be uplifting, but don’t forget to add a few objects that please your senses as well. A bowl of apples, an herb garden in the window, or hanging plants have positive life force energy that can be excellent for Feng Shui in the kitchen.
Here’s hoping your kitchen brings you health, prosperity and happiness.
Happy Friday Everyone!