Tag Archives: recipes

Cooling Down With Cold Noodles

Image from World Foodie Guide

Summers in DC are particularly warm for the northeast of the US, but this year has been hotter than usual. People have been trying to find ways to stay cool, from taking a break to go to the beach, pool, or cool down with an icy drink.

Image via The Christian Home Keeper

Noodles are a common standard in most East Asian cuisine, and the summer season brings about a variety of noodle dishes that can be served cold. Cold noodles are common in countries such as Japan and Korea, and there are a number of dishes that are easy to prepare and refreshing on a hot sultry evening.

Soumen

Soumen noodles

Image from Food Librarian

Soumen are thin white noodles made from wheat flour. They resemble udon noodles in consistency and texture, but resemble angel hair pasta in size. They are usually served with a dipping sauce made from a fish based soup stock, garnished with spring onions, ground ginger, and daikon. It is common to eat soumen with tempura, deep fried battered vegetables and seafood.

Hiyashi Chuuka

Image from Japan Centre

Much like Ramen, Hiyashi Chuuka is a Japanese take on a dish made with chinese-style egg noodles. In this dish, the noodles are marinated in a cold sauce and served in a shallow plate, with a variety of toppings on them, The toppings vary depending on who makes the dish, but most of the time include thinly sliced vegetables like cucumber and carrots, thinly sliced pork, and hard boiled egg.

Zaru Soba

Image from Globetrotter Diaries

Soba is probably of the most well-known types of Japanese noodle, along with udon, that can be served either hot or cold, depending on the season. The noodles are made from buckwheat flour, which gives them their unique consistency and aroma. Zaru soba are soba noodles served cold, on a bamboo-slat tray from which the noodles get their name. They are usually topped with  shredded nori seaweed, eaten with a dipping sauce similar to soumen.

Naengmyeon

Image from Dolsot Bibimbap

Korea has their own variant of cold noodles as well, known as Naengmyeon. It resembles soba in consitency and color, but is served simmered in an icy broth with some toppings such as cucumbers and korean pear. Depending on the regional taste, it can also be served spicy and seasame oil is usually added to taste.

The great thing about cold noodles is that preparation time is usually minimal, and very easy. They keep fairly well, too, but are of course best eaten fresh. Most asian supermarkets or grocery stores that sell asian products carry a variety of the noodles and their sauces.

Cold noodle dishes are easily customisable and easily prepared. So if you’re feeling a little fatigued from the relentless heat this season, try cooling down with some noodles!


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Mango Float

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Image by Nathalie Mariano

Contrary to what we may have been taught growing up, we don’t always have to work so hard to achieve great results. In some instances, the easy way pays off.

Case in point: Mango Float, a Filipino icebox dessert that’s made of layers of sliced mangoes, sweetened cream, and graham crackers. You don’t need to be an expert. You don’t have to cook or bake. You don’t even need a recipe. And yet success is practically guaranteed!

In the past couple of decades mango float has become the go-to dessert in Filipino homes. It is served in casual and intimate family meals as well as in fiestas that are attended by everybody and his neighbor. The snottier gastronomes may scoff at its simplicity, but they are not immune to its charms. Mango float is a universal crowd pleaser. The fact that it is incredibly uncomplicated and amazingly assembles in a flash (though it does require some freezer time) makes it all the more delightful.

My sister made mango float today, and I was there to document it. It still surprises us how easy it is to make.

Fresh mangoes. Image by Nathalie Mariano.

Mango Float

Four ingredients:
mangoes
ready made whipping cream
condensed milk
graham crackers

Step 1: Cut the mangoes into slices. Wedges work too.

Step 2: Make the sweetened cream. Start by mixing ¾ cup of condensed milk with 1 cup of all-purpose cream. Taste the mixture and adjust by adding more cream or more condensed milk.

Step 3: Build the mango float by layering graham crackers at the bottom of a glass dish, then pouring some cream to cover it, and then arranging the sliced mangoes on top of that. Repeat this process until you achieve the desired height. You can make as many or as few layers as you want, depending on your supply of ingredients and the size of your dish.

Image by Nathalie Mariano

Image by Nathalie Mariano

Step 4: Make it look nice by covering the top layer with crushed grahams or sliced mangoes or a pattern using both.

Image by Nathalie Mariano

Step 5: Pop in the freezer for at least couple of hours. Slice and serve.

There you have it, your basic mango float. Eventually you’ll develop your own style of making and presenting it, and even introduce your own twist to it. Can’t find any fresh mangoes? Experiment with canned peaches. I hear berries are good too!

Check out how these folks have made their mango floats!

Image via Keiko Kafe

Image vie The Condo Chef

Image via Favorite Filipino Foods

Image via San Pablo

Image via Rocel's Garden


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Splendor in the (Lemon)grass

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

If you read my post about yuzu, you know that I am a little obsessed with citrus and am always looking for new ingredients that boast this flavour profile. Chefs in Southeast Asia often turn to lemongrass to add a lemony aroma and taste to their dishes and I have been eager to follow their lead.

Lemongrass Plant; Photo: Aidan Brooks: Trainee Chef

I usually buy lemongrass pre-minced in a tube at the grocery store but, as the name suggests, it is actually a species of grass. The plant is very attractive and although it is a tropical, adventurous North American gardeners can grow it if they treat it like an annual or bring it indoors before the frost.

sliced lemongrass

Lemongrass Stalks; Photo: hardlikearmor via Food 52

I would love to have this rustling in the breeze on my rooftop patio, filling the air with its slightly flowery scent and, more importantly, I would love to have a constant supply of fresh stalks to use in my summer cooking!

lemongrass dish

Stuffed Lemongrass; Photo: Gourmet

The advantage of whole stalks is that they can be used as decorative skewers for appetizers like grilled shrimp or chicken: they are sturdy enough to survive a few minutes on the grill and impart a lovely flavour into the food.

Spicy Tangy Tom Yum Goong

Tom Yum Soup; Photo: About.com Thai Food

Lemongrass is especially common in Thai food; the fresh-tasting herb helps to balance out the chili heat of many meals. Traditionally it is used more in savory dishes like Lemongrass Chicken or Tom Yum Soup. Although less well-known, it is also used in other Asia cuisines.

Pan-Fried Tofu with Spicy Lemongrass Sauce; Photo: My Recipes

I am trying to eat less meat so I can’t wait to try the Vietnamese dish Tofu Nuong Xa (Pan-Fried Tofu with Spicy Lemongrass Sauce). In Cooking Light’s version, the sauce is almost like a savory jam that blends sweet, salty, and spicy flavours to wake up the bland tofu.

Lemongrass Frozen Yogurt with Basil; Photo: The Guardian

Lately Eastern and Western chefs have been experimenting with lemongrass in sweet dishes. I have never been one to turn down dessert and I think I would love the herbalicious tang of The Guardian’s Lemongrass Frozen Yogurt with Basil as a not-too-sweet ending to a summer meal.

Lemongrass Panna Cotta with Spicy Orange Caramel; Photo: 59 Kilos

If you can’t be bothered to pull out the ice cream maker, panna cotta is light custard that is a breeze to prepare. And 59 Kilos’ Lemongrass Panna Cotta with Spicy Orange Caramel manages to bring that traditional Asian spicy-sweet dichotomy to a thoroughly modern dessert.

Lemongrass Iced Tea; Photo: Matu Hotohori

Living in the South, I drink gallons and gallons of iced tea in the summer. Replacing the typical lemon garnish with lemongrass would make for a pleasant, if subtle, variation.

Vodka infused withe lemongrass

Lemongrass Infused Vodka; Photo kennethalan via Dresses and Appetizers

For those looking for libations that pack a little more of a punch, try infusing vodka with lemongrass stalks. It will not only serve as the base of a refreshing cocktail but it will also make a lovely decoration on your windowsill as it steeps.

If you are looking to add a little citrusy kick to your summer cooking, I encourage you to experiment with lemongrass!


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Wonderful Watermelon

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

A few weeks ago my nephew competed in a watermelon-eating contest. When I heard about this, I was extremely jealous. After all who doesn’t love pigging out on this cool treat when it is blistering hot outside?

Heart-shaped watermelon pieces

Image via Laura Chamorro on Pinterest

For years I never considered doing anything with watermelon beyond slicing it up, slurping the juice, and spitting out the seeds. But the behemoth fruit can be a little overwhelming for small households like mine and I found myself getting bored just eating it plain.

Watermelon and Feta appetizer

Photo: Thoughtful India

While cruising in the Caribbean a few years ago, I was served a refreshing salad of watermelon and feta, dressed simply with some olive oil and shredded mint. The creamy, salty cheese brought out the sweetness of the fruit and the mint brightened the flavours of the other ingredients. This has become a go-to recipe in my house when it is too hot to cook; I simply add some mixed greens to make it more suitable as a main dish.

Rubik's cube made of watermelon, feta, and kiwi

Photo: Savvy Housekeeping

For parties, I sometimes cube the feta and melon and serve it on small skewers as an appetizer. If you have the patience and want to go all out, you could replicate this Rubik’s Cube design by adding some kiwi.

Stackable, cube-shaped watermelons

Photo: OMG Information

That is way too fussy for me, though it might be easier if I could get my hands on one of the square-shaped melons that have become popular in Japan. But at 80 dollars a pop, I think I’ll pass!

Photo: Dr. Oz

Gazpacho is another favourite summer recipe of mine. Watermelon makes a great substitution for the tomato but because it doesn’t have the same acidity, it helps to add a little red wine or champagne vinegar to the puréed fruit. I start with a recipe from Epicurious and add whatever leftover vegetables I have laying around and sometimes even other fruits, like diced mango. Just remember to adjust the jalapeño and other seasonings to compensate for the extra ingredients.

Food Blogga's Watermelon Relish

Photo: Food Blogga

Watermelon pairs well with both savory herbs and piquant spices, so I can’t wait to try Food Blogga’s recipe for grilled steak tacos with watermelon salsa. The recipe reminds me a little of my gazpacho but adds crunchy jicama and creamy avocado, southwestern flavours that will complement both the grilled meat and the sweet fruit.

Photo: Drinks for Drinkers

Watermelon is also a refreshing addition to summer cocktails. It is easy to make watermelon “juice” by seeding the fruit and liquefying it in a blender with a few cups of water. Mix this with a little gin or vodka and you have a wonderful adult summer sipper but Drinks for Drinkers has some more complex recipes that are worth the extra effort.

Watermelon jello shots on lime slices with black sesame seed garnish

Photo: Cait Hates Cake

The blogosphere seems to love the combination of watermelon and alcohol and many of the dessert recipes I have found are anything but child-friendly. I especially love these jello shots which use limes and black sesame seeds to replicate little watermelons. Cait Hates Cakes used strawberry jello but if you want to stay true to theme, you can hunt down watermelon flavour.

Photo: I Love Olive Oil

I Love Olive Oil found themselves with the same watermelon surplus that I often do and decided “when life hands you melons… add tequila.” Who can argue with that logic? I can’t wait to try their tequila lime popsicles.

Photo: A Sweet Pea Chef

You could omit the alcohol in the above recipes for the kids, or you could make them a batch of this luscious looking watermelon sorbet.

Watermelon pickles

Photo: The Bitten Word

I am often so busy enjoying the watermelon flesh that I forget about the rind but it makes a wonderful treat when pickled. If you take the time to prepare this sweet and sour snack, the only thing you will have leftover are the seeds, which I guess you could try to plant in order to keep you well supplied in watermelons next summer.

Fruity Self-Portrait by Christina Otero

Photo: Christina Otero’s Self-Portrait via Demilked


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Bamboo Shoots

It’s Foodie Tuesday!

Ready to cook bamboo shoots. Image via Lands of Wisdom.

Bamboo is one super plant. Its beauty, strength, and grace is the stuff of romantic legends and constantly depicted in different forms of Asian art. It is actually a species of grass, one that grows tall and abundantly, and really, really fast, so fast that you can actually watch it grow, as fast as 3 feet in 24 hours! It is inexpensive and hardly needs any help at all to flourish, and is such a valuable and sustainable resource.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Freshly harvested bamboo shoots. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Bamboo is used extensively all throughout Asia and other parts of the world where it grows not only as an extremely versatile construction material, but also as a food source. Bamboo shoots are found in a lot of different dishes from different Asian countries. They have an earthy fragrance, a mildly bitter taste, and a slight crunchy bite that adds a delightful texture to dishes. I would normally see it sold sliced or shredded and par-broiled, but they’re also available canned.

It is a humble ingredient, usually playing a supporting role or bit part in countless curries, spring rolls, broths, and stir-fries, and top-billed in but a few salads and soups. I grew up eating it in a simple peasant-style vegetable dish that my Mom liked to make —  dinengdeng (a. k. a. throw-a-bunch-of-vegetables-in-a-pot) which is flavored with ginger, a piece of fried fish, and a few splashes of fish sauce or salted anchovies. It’s my favorite way to enjoy bamboo shoots, but I also love it in Chinese-style stir-fries.

Dinengdeng vegetable dish. Image from Adobong Blog.


Cashew Chicken Stir-Fry includes snow peas and bamboo shoots. Image and recipe via The Letter 4.

A couple of weeks ago, I was having a late supper at a friend’s home, and I found bamboo shoots incorporated in the traditional Filipino nilagang baka (slow-cooked beef in broth), which is essentially chunks of beef left on the stove to boil until fork tender, then adding some potatoes and/or leafy vegetables in the end. It is very unusual to find bamboo shoots in this dish, but its addition made for a novel and flavorful variation.

A couple of recipes I’d like to try is this beautiful Bamboo Shoot Salad, and, someday when I’m in the mood to put in the work, these potstickers from Steamy Kitchen.

Bamboo shoot salad

Bamboo Shoot Salad. Image and recipe from Gourmet Fury.

Pan Fried Shrimp and Pork Potstickers by Steamy Kitchen


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