What Will Be the Food Trend in 2010?

Happy New Year!

2009 was a challenging year, for our economy, as well as many of us, including our own.  So I am excited to have that year behind us.  I read somewhere that 2010 is good year in Fen Shui, so I’m excited about what the new year has to offer.

As we look forward, one thing I want to know about is the trend prediction of 2010, you guessed it, about food.

1. Eat Fresh, Eat More Vegetables!

On recent Iron Chef, First Lady Michelle Obama opened the super chef battle of Bobby Flay & Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford of the White House vs. Mario Batali, Emeril Ragasse.  The secret ingredients were vegetables from the White House garden, to inspire Americans to cook and eat more vegetables.  I heard that Mrs. Obama actually don’t cook much even before she moved to the White House, yet the First Lady herself is involved in a major TV event like this is HUGE!  I see more and more focus will be placed on eating fresh, especially vegetables, rather than prepared food as well as meat and carbohydrates.

Given the obesity rate of the US is epidemic 33% for adults and 16% for children, 2 in 3 adult Americans are considered overweight,  this is truly a welcoming trend, and will change life of many.  The key is, it needs to happen on everyone’s home, not just on TV or at the restaurants.  We as a nation, need to change our eating habits.  The challenge is to show the general public eating vegetables are not just eating these raw celery from veggie platter, or plain boiled (and possibly cooked to death) broccoli. If that’s the only thing they know, of course they won’t want to eat much vegetables.  There are many easy, more flavorful options, if they are willing to experiment.

One of the easiest and tastiest is roasted and/or grilled vegetables.  My trick is to stick a whole vegetables like eggplants and sweet potatoes (the Obamas’ favorite veggie, according to the First Lady) in toaster oven at 400F while I’m cooking something else.  Compared with an conventional oven, it doesn’t require much pre-heating, so it’s much faster, and reduces energy as well.  Then I have them ready to go in the air-tight container in the refrigerator for various dishes later in the week. 

Click here for my super easy and healthy eggplant appetizer recipe I posted this on SFGate.com site.  It takes less than 5 minutes if you already have grilled/roasted eggplants.  You’ll love it!

Stay tuned for more posts about the food trends in 2010…

What food trend do you predict in 2010?  What’s is your new year’s resolution around food?  Leave me a comment, I’m interested in hearing from you.

PS: Is “Eating Healthy” one of your new year’s resolutions?  Then join us for my free class this Saturday, January 16th in Oakland.  Hope you can make it!

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The World’s Easiest Cranberry Relish Your Family & Guest Will Love

One of the (very few) dishes my husband taught me is a Thanksgiving side-dish recipe that has been handed down from his grandma Henrietta.  She passed long before we got married, soInever had the honor of meeting her nor eating her dishes.  However, her husband – Keith’s grandpa – Park who lived till 101 told me how great of a baker Hanky (that’s what he called her) was, and excruciating details of her German cakes which he missed dearly.

This is actually a very simple cranberry relish recipe using a box of jello, yet the power of this should not be underestimated. It is very refreshing, and can double as a dessert. Both children and adults love it alike.  On top of that, it’s healthy — it has a lot of fruits such as apples, pears and oranges, in addition to cranberries, and doesn’t require cooking – I can say this is highly optimized. And it’s bright red, it’s festive and surely adds color to the table. If you have a food processor, it’s super easy.  It requires all familiar ingredients that are really cheap! Probably the most exotic and expensive ingredient is cranberries.

Whenever we make it, people always ask for the recipe and nowadays it became so famous, we get Thanksgiving invitations with the requests for this.

So I decided to post the recipe on my blog. My husband first resisted — “Nooo! It’s MY family’s secret recipe!”.  But those who eat it always ask for this recipe! And I grew up in Japan where’s there’s no traditional Thanksgiving celebration, I needed this for my readers!  So I asked “Wouldn’t it be great if your grandma’s recipe is enjoyed by more people in the world, not just by your immediate family?”

So here it is.  Kitchen Wizard is revealing another cooking secret, this one from her extended family.

Grammy Hanky’s Cranberry Relish

Ingredients:

  • 1 Small box of red jello (we like raspberry. Strawberry is a bit too sweet.)
  • 1 cup hot water (Do not add the second of batch of water, which is suggested on the box.)
  • 1 bag cranberries
  • 2 large oranges, peeled and segmented
  • 2 large apples, cored and cut in bite size pieces
  • 2 large pears (should be relatively firm), cored and cut into bite size pieces

Directions:

  1. Mix jello with hot water to dissolve. Put bit-size pieces of fruit in the food processor and pulse several times to grind roughly to about 1/4″ cubes or smaller.  Make sure the cranberries are ground up well — if they are not, it could be tart.  Depending on the size of your food processor, you may need to do it in two batches.
  2. When the jello is room temperature, add all the fruit including its juice. Mix well.  Chill in the refrigerator until set. (Because of the amount of fruit, it may not set completely.)

We love serving it with turkey in place of regular cranberry sauce or relish, or you can eat it as dessert as well, with or without whipped cream. We normally make a double batch, using the large jello box, and using 1/2 – 2/3 for the actual Thanksgiving, and save the rest for us to eat later.

Oh, this is also great when you are sick! When I had flu and pneumonia 2 months ago and didn’t want to eat, I asked my husband to make this, and I ate it everyday.

So there you have it.  Try it and leave me a comment on how you and your guests loved it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Leftover Make-over: Chowder to Doria 3: “It’s Not Only For Chowder! It’s For Seafood Doria Too!”

"It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!  It's Seafood Doria Now!"

"It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder! It's Seafood Doria Now!"

As I mentioned on Monday, as I was enjoying this creamy yumminess of “Not Bleeding Chowder!” inspired seafood chowder, I realized this smoked-fish-less version would be also good to be turned into a doria, a quintessential Japanized yoshoku (western food).

It’s basically some buttered rice in a heatproof dish with white sauce with some kind of sautéed meat or seafood with onion (chicken and shrimp are popular) and baked with lots of cheese on top.  Something I loved as a child when I was growing up in Tokyo, along with the macaroni version which we simply called them “gratin”.

Since my mom never wanted make something complicated, nor white sauce, for me they were something I’d order when we go out to eat.  To give her some slack, to make doria from scratch, it takes more than 1 hour, and you have to deal with making white sauce.  And the challenge is, there are no dorias in the restaurants in the US!

Because of that, I, too probably made it only a few times in last 20 years, which equals the number of times I ate doria, because they are nowhere to be found in the US (except for, of course, these Japanese Yoshoku restaurants in Los Angeles.  A bit too far!)

Now with my “It’s Not Only For Bleeding Chowder!”, it can be for doria too.  Very easily.  Especially if you have some of these rice balls in the freezer.  If you do, microwave it first so that butter will melt.  As I confessed in my last post, this is a super-short cut version.  I will post the proper way to make a doria on my next post.

Seafood Doria

Ingredients (2-3 servings):

Directions:

  1. Mix butter into hot rice and season well.
  2. Pour seafood chowder on top of buttered rice.  Then top with grated cheese.  Optionally, sprinkle with some panko.
  3. Bake in 400F oven until bubbly and golden brown. (If both the rice and sauce are hot, you can broil it in the oven or “Toast” setting on toaster oven until golden brown, about 7-8 min.)

Yummy doria in 1/3 of the effort and time! I love it!

The next post…  Another way to make doria, another useful trick when you already have sautéed chicken or shrimp, or white sauce. Or if you are in a mood to make this from scratch.  Also few key time-saving tips, so that even if you make this from scratch, you can still optimize and save time and effort later.

Yes… Kitchen Wizarding is all about optimizing your resources (time, money, ingredients, etc…) in the kitchen.  Maximized food with minimized effort.

So stay tuned.  You can subscribe to Secrets of Kitchen Wizard via email (best in my opinion), RSS or Facebook Networked Blogs application.  Click the link from the top right of the page, right below the red pots on the header photo.

Leftover Make-over: Chowder to Doria 2: My version of “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder” Seafood Chowder

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Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant Inspired "It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!"

So here’s the recipe for my “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!”, inspired by the Best Irish Chef 2009 Kevin Dundon’s “It’s Not a Bleeding Chowder”. (Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Walt Disney World Resort, Orlando, FL)

Ingredients (4-6 servings – Reserve half for the doria)

  • Cleaned and chopped leeks: about 1 large. Dark green part removed.
    • How to clean leeks:  Split the leek from the center lengthwise, bottom part attached, and wash off sand/dirt well with running water.
    • Save the tops for making chicken/fish/vegetable stock.
  • Diced boiling potatoes (such as Yukon Gold): 2 medium
  • Seafood (scallops & shrimps) chop them if they are large: 2/3 lbs (300g)
  • Bay leaf: 1
  • White Wine: 1/4-1/3 cup
  • Fish stock or Milk and fish bouillon (or chicken stock/bouillon): 2 1/2 cup
  • Corn:  1/2 – 2/3 cup
  • Cream: 1 1/2 cup

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle salt, pepper and white wine lightly on seafood.
  2. Clean leeks well and chop them.  Sautee in extra virgin olive oil, and light amount of salt.
  3. Add diced potatoes and sauté for a while, add seafood and white wine.
  4. Add fish stock or milk and crumbled fish bouillon and cook until hot, and seafood is heated through.  Make sure to not to boil it.
  5. Add cream and corn, and adjust the seasoning.  Serve hot.

Kitchen Wizard Tip: I highly recommend you clean and saute the entire bunch of leeks, and save the rest in a zip-loc bag for later use, either in the fridge or freezer (keep it thin, less than 1/3 inches so that you can break only the amount you need).  It’ll be very handy.  I promise!

The original version from Raglan Road has a lot more seafood, such as smoked fish, mussels, fancy prawns etc… It might have even had some shredded cabbage in it…  They had a Colcannon soup called Colpucchino that had cabbage in it… Mine is easier weeknight version.  You can also use other mild seafood on hand.  If you are planning to make doria later in the week, it’d be better not to use smoked fish.

Tomorrow on Secrets of a Kitchen Wizard…

Drum roll please… (Some people have been waiting for this post for a while!)

Leftover Make-over of this…  “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!  It’s Now Seafood Doria!”  Don’t miss it!

Leftover Make-over: Chowder to Doria 1: Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant “It’s Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!

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Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant Inspired "It's Not (Only For) Bleeding Chowder!"

One of my passions is Irish things.  Some of you may have seen my Facebook post about U2. Yes, I love them since the Edge had a mop of hair, and Bono and Larry looked like 10 years old. I also love pretty much all other kind of Irish music too, even the kind used for traditional dancing which some people find to be repetitive.  Irish music makes me feel happy and calm.  When I visited Ireland, I felt I came back home – even more than when I go back to Japan.  Probably too much baggage associated with Tokyo! I think I was Irish in my previous life.

My love of Irish things even took me to a couple of months of Irish dancing lessons. It doesn’t look like much of a work out because the only things that are moving are the dancers’ legs, but Boy, it’s a major work out!  After one jig or reel, I was huffing and puffing!  After I learned a few different pieces, my teacher decided to move the location from Ft. Mason, walking distance from our home, and in the same building as our print-making class I was taking back to back, to more of an Irish American neighborhood.  Her marketing decision resulted in the loss of one student (me) and probably a gain of many students that fit much closer to her ideal target market profile.  So our (me and my teacher’s) dream of me dancing with these curly blond wigs and these elaborate stitched outfits never came true.  Maybe it’s a good thing. Or maybe I should make my silly dream come true on one of these Halloweens.

Anyway, when we had a chance to go to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL, I insisted to my husband that we HAVE TO go to Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Downtown Disney. They have an Irish band and dancing every night! My inner Irish wanted to have some comforting Irish food and most of all, Irish music. The chef cooked for U2 and Queen (not Freddie Mercury, but Elizabeth II.)  That was good enough of a validation for me.

I was in heaven there, because not only the band excellent, they played for hours, just like in Ireland. (My husband had to drag me out because we had a very early morning flight.)  Many photos of my favorite Irish (and non-Irish) celebrities like U2, Pierce Brosnan, Thin-Lizzy, Sting, etc. adorned their walls leading to the bathroom.  Love this sense of humor! Perfect thing to look at when you are waiting for your turn to pee after many pints of Guiness!  No worries, their bath room accommodates many people, and you can even continue to listen to the fine music!!

OK. Food.  Irish food is not known as the best food in the world.  Maybe the reputation is getting better now, compared with when I was there in 95. Yet, maybe because  I’m Irish in my previous life(?), I thought most of the food was very good and satisfying, even though not fancy.

One of the dishes we chose  at the restaurant was called “It’s not the bleeding chowder!” and it was really delicious!  The inside was super dark, so I couldn’t see what was in it.  Along with the loads of seafood on top, I identified something green most likely leeks, yet since it’s an Irish restaurant, there may have been cabbage, especially since they DO have frothy colcannon (potato & cabbage) soup called Colpucchino.    They use smoked fish as a base, and bit of bacon (I think), and that gave the chowder (or “not the chowder”) an interesting twist.

It was good enough to inspire me to make similar chowder at home using smoked trout I can get from Costco.

So when I found a pack of heavy cream that was near the expiration date one rainy evening, I realized that we haven’t had the “not the Chowder” thing for a long time.  I also had some sauteed leek.  Yes, the green things I identified in the chowder.  That’d save quite a bit of time and headache.  I didn’t have all the fresh seafood, but I always have some shrimp and scallops in the freezer!  That should work!

What I didn’t realize until I tasted it was that I forgot the smoked fish.

None the less it was very tasty.

As I ate it, and tasted the difference between the usual version with smoked fish and the one without, I realized that this would be perfect to make seafood doria!

That’s right! It’s not named “It’s not bleeding chowder!” for no reason. It’ll be DORIA tomorrow!

Doria is something we Japanese love.  It’s basically buttered rice in oval baking dish, covered with white sauce with either chicken or seafood in it, and baked with cheeses on top.  It’s a perfect fall to winter dish.  It’s quintessential Japanese Yoshoku (Western Food), Japanized French/Italian influenced food.

So two days later (I prefer not to eat leftovers and their spin-offs back to back for nutritional reasons), I decided to do something unthinkable for those with conventional minds.  I wanted to experiment what I would end up with a minimum effort.  So rather than making buttered rice in a skillet, I made buttered rice by just mixing butter, salt and generous amount pepper into some microwaved hot rice from the freezer. And I poured a generous amount of chowder, topped it with grated cheese and baked it in the toaster oven until it was golden brown.

To compare, I made one with cold chowder on hot rice, another with heated chowder on hot rice.  The result?  Taste-wise, negligible.  However, if you heat the chowder first, the dish will be hot and bubbly faster. But you need to add the time to heat it first, so both end up taking about the same…

Of course, if I made a proper doria with real buttered rice, sauteed aromatics and seafood, and white sauce, bake it with cheese, and compare it with the short cut version side by side, I might have been able to tell the difference. But I was so smart! I didn’t!  So I was able to taste the quick version as it is, without anything to affect my judgment.

At the beginning, my husband couldn’t even tell how I made it. (that’s always a good thing.  You want your family to think you made it from scratch, you are just a wizard in the kitchen whipping up tasty meals like this in no time!)

And the verdict was a solid A, and I was stoked to find out that I can make doria without making white sauce.

Of course, if you have some sauteed shrimp, bite size chicken etc, you can use that leftover, make a quick white sauce and do a proper version of doria too.

Either way, something that used to take close to 1 hour and a lot of work, is now done in pretty much in no time.  Your child can even make it…

Tomorrow, I’ll post my version of “It’s not the bleeding chowder!”, followed by How to make doria from chowder, then how to make doria from sauteed leftovers.

So stay tuned…

Batch and fridge: Sautéed Mirepoix Tomato and Meat Mixture — Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage

Stuffed Cabbage

It’s getting dark, cold, and RAINY in the Bay Area.  Yes, this fall is exceptionally rainy, and it rains cats and dogs, and that’s not enough, as if all the animals are falling from the sky. And I heard that those people in Colorado, Nebraska etc. already had 6 inches on snow, in early October?  Not just global warming, the weather is strange lately.

On an evening like that, and especially when I’m recovering from sickness, one thing I crave for is stuffed cabbage.

Believe it or not (I might have said that before), 99% of Japanese housewives cook Japanese, other Asian, as well as European origin food as normal repertoire. At least the last 50 years, that has been the norm.  Japanese are known to adopt great things from other countries and improve it to make it more efficient, like cars and electronics. And maybe not as well known fact outside of Japan, but food is definitely one of them.  We Japanize it with the ingredients that are available in Japan, and make it our own.

So, when I was little, and get sick, one of the things I craved for was “Rolled Cabbage” which is stuffed cabbage. Not just at my house, but ask 100 Japanese, whether they live in Japan or elsewhere, I can guarantee majority will say “I make them once in a while.”  We even have Japanese version, which often is found in oden, Japanese pot-au-feu.

The problem with Stuffed cabbage is it takes quite a long time to make it from scratch. But through my Kitchen Wizarding Process, I found a very easy way, that only takes about half or less time, and as tasty!

Plus my version uses mirepoix as its base, and not much meat, so it’s super healthy.  If you are vegetarian, or vegan, omit meat.

To make it even healthier, you can use other kinds of grains and even more vegetables, instead of rice. If the stuffing is too loose, add a beaten egg, so that it’ll serve as a binding agent.

So here’s Kitchen Wizard’s stuffed cabbage recipe!

Stuffed Cabbage

Ingredients:

  • Sautéed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato Mixture – about 1 cup
  • Cooked rice – about 1 cup
  • Grated cheese – about 1/4 cup (optional)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • A head of cabbage
  • 1/3 –1/4 Can of tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Cream

Directions:

  1. Remove the core of the cabbage, and stuff the hole with a moist paper-towel.  Wrap it with plastic wrap, and microwave it until cooked through, turning once in the middle. (about 5 min for small head cabbage, about 1 lb.  About 8-9 min for a 2 pounder.) This will allow the leaves to come out easily.
  2. Mix cooked rice and sautéed mirepoix, meat and tomato mixture about 50/50. Add cheese if preferred. Mix and season well.  Sprinkle some salt on the cabbage. Wrap a few tablespoons of the rice mixture with the cabbage leaves tightly.  Secure the end with tooth pick or broken spaghetti.
  3. Arrange the cabbage rolls into a pan as tightly as possible, trying not to leave any space.  If there’s any space, stuff with leftover cabbage.
  4. Add broth to barely cover the cabbage rolls.  Top with chopped tomatoes, and place a lid or plate that is one size smaller than the opening, so that the rolls will not float up. Cook for about 20-30 min.  (If you are short with time, cook in microwave, in several minute increments.  Be careful not boil over the broth.)
  5. Serve immediately with cream on top.

Note: Do you have any cooked cabbage leftover?  Great!  Because it’s really handy!  You can shred it and add to miso soup, other kind of soup, mix with vinaigrette to make simple salad as a side dish, sauté lightly with salt and pepper, with tomatoes, curry powder, bacon, etc. etc.

They were so yummy, they made the last bit of my sickness go away…

Never forget, nourish your soul with good, whole food, not just body…  It’ll thank you and give back 100 times! And the best way to do that is through home-cooking.  Treat yourself with your childhood favorite from time to time!

Must Have for Colder Months! Batch and Fridge – Sautéed Mirepoix Meat and Tomato Mixture

The Meat Sauce Made with Sauteed Mirepoix Meat & Tomato Mixture and Gnocchi

The Meat Sauce Made with Sauteed Mirepoix Meat & Tomato Mixture and Gnocchi

Some of you, my early readers may remember that I posted an article about Sautéed Mirepoix and Meat Mixture back in April 09.  This is my workhorse during colder months.

As I get better, and get my appetite and cooking bug back, the first thing I thought was that “I need to start making some sautéed mirepoix and meat mixture”, because it allow me to create so many variety of dishes in a snap!  I knew that I had a busy week ahead, this was my No. 1 priority.

Since the celery I had was limited (1/2 of a heart), I decided to make only sautéed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato version.  This for me is the most versatile, and those dishes I had a cravings for all had tomatoes in it, I knew what I needed to do.

Had I had more celery, I would have made double or more batches, and kept about 1/4 as sautéed mirepoix, 1/4 as sautéed mirepoix meat mixture, and 1/2 as sautéed mirepoix meat tomato mixture.  Well, next time.

Anyway, after I made the mixture all I had to do was boil some gnocchi we had, and some nice salad, and voila, we have dinner!  And tomorrow we’d have stuffed cabbage, and then later in the week lasagna, then aushak, my favorite Afghan ravioli thing…  (OK, my version of aushak may be a bit different from authentic version, especially because my husband doesn’t eat red meat, and it’s a short-cut version.  None the less, it’s tasty, healthy and people love it!) Oh, maybe I’ll do shepherds pie…  I haven’t had one for a while…  All with virtually no effort nor time…

Ah, life is good when you cook Kitchen Wizard style…  It’s so easy and fast to create many varieties and so much fun! No wonder my husband had so much fun while I was sick.

And best of all, having a good appetite back is a godsend ! (Next to getting my health back!)

Sautéed Mirepoix, Meat and Tomato Mixture

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Onion, chopped small: 2 large
  • Carrots, chopped small: about half to equal amount of onion
  • Celery, chopped small – about half to equal amount of onion (about the same with carrots)
  • Uncooked Sausage: 1 – 1 1/4 lbs
  • Can of tomatoes, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

  1. Make sautéed mirepoix by sautéing 2:1:1 ratio of chopped onions, carrots, celery in Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
  2. Add uncooked sausage and brown.
  3. Add a can of tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Optional: Add tomato paste and anchovy paste (Additional flavor enhancers.)
  4. If this will mainly become Italian dishes, add Italian spices (basil, oregano, etc. fresh preferred), chili peppers, red wine, milk/cream or broth.

Note: If you want to make a large batch of this, and use half for Italian dishes (lasagna, Bolognese, etc.) and half for chili, after adding tomatoes, cook for a while, then split and save in the fridge. Then the one for Italian dishes add Italian spices, red wine and cream/milk.  I personally use this version for other dishes like shepherds pie and the sauce for aushak, the Afghan ravioli. Add Mexican spices and beans into the one saved for chili.

Food Rescue 911: Apple Preserve

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Do you have less than perfect apples at home?  Just like the one on the right, a bit wrinkly and looking sad that they havebeen ignored?

Give them a second chance!  There is an easy way.

My apples were actually looking even sadder than the one on the photo — probably the wrinkles were much more visible.

And here’s how they look now.  Happy, sweet and full of life, and everyone’s friend.  Who’s to know that they were once neglected and were about to be dumped. It was a very quick turn-around.

Apple preserve

Apple preserve

Apple Preserve

Ingredients:

  • Apples,  2
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar, 1/4 – 1/2 c (depending on how sweet the apples are to start with)

Directions:

  1. Core apples and cut into wedges.  Drizzle with lemon juice to prevent from oxidization and toss. Slice them thin and place them in a microwavable container.  Add sugar, toss gently and let it stand for 3-5 min.
  2. Cook on high in microwave for 5 minutes.  Toss gently and cook another 5 min. Repeat until the apples are cooked and translucent. (Should take total of 15 min or so.)  Let it cool.  Mash with wooden spoon if you like more jammy consistency.

Note: You can make this on stove top, yet it’ll take longer and you’ll have to watch and keep stirring it.

They are great on toast, top with yogurt, pancakes, crepes…  They are super easy, so try it, and leave us a comment on  what did you make with it!

Apple preserve with yogurt

Apple preserve with yogurt

Batch & Fridge: Thai/Vietnamese Dipping Sauce: Thai Chicken Salad (Laab Gai)

Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad
Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad

As promised on the last post, here’s my other favorite Laab Gai, Spicy Thai Chicken Salad.  This is also easy to make, especially if you already have the same sauce from the eggplant dish on hand, and/or toasted rice powder in a small jar.  I recommend just toast about 1/2 C of rice, so that it will last for a few times. I can guarantee this will become another of your favorite, you won’t regret it.

The first time I had it was over 15 years ago in New York at this Thai restaurant where we used to host a new graduate welcome lunch for our graduate school Thunderbird.  We didn’t order it, but the friendly owner wanted us to try it.  We all loved it.  Every time I have this dish, I think of these friends and good old days (and some other crazy stuff from the life in New York.)

The problem was,  because we didn’t order it, I didn’t know how it was actually called. I’m sure I asked the owner how its called (so that I can order again), but a Japanese girl trying to decipher Thai dish name is not the easiest.  After I moved from New York to California, I was looking for it, but it was nowhere to be found.  This is a Northeastern Thailand specialty, so if the owner or chef is not from that area, they normally don’t put it on the menu.

As for any other my food quest, I finally found it! at a Thai restaurant on someone’s table. I asked the name, and the rest is the history.  I even got the recipe, so I can easily cook it at home.

This is traditionally made with chicken, but you can also make it with other meat or seafood.

This recipe is adopted from the recipe I cut out from San Francisco Chronicle years ago.  My version will allow you to use the sauce made in advance.

Thai Chicken Salad (Laab Gai)

Ingredients – serves 3 – 4:

  • Ground chicken 1/2 lbs or chicken pulsed in food processor until coarsely chopped
  • White rice 2 TBS
  • Garlic  1 ts, grated (optional)
  • Red onion or shallots  1/4 C, thinly sliced
  • Lemon grass 1 TBS, minced
  • Lime zest, grated (optional)
  • Onion, thinly sliced, 1/2 C
  • Green or red chili  1-2, seed removed, and thinly sliced, or red pepper flakes
  • Sugar 1 -2 ts
  • Fish Sauce 1 1/2 TBS
  • Lime juice 2 TBS
  • Water or lime juice 1 TBS
  • Cabbage (white, red or napa) julienned
  • Cilantro 2-3 TBS chopped
  • Mint leaves

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice.  Taste and if you like it a little milder, add water. if you like it more sour, add lime juice.
  2. Toast rice in a small skillet until golden. Make sure to shake it consistently for even toasting. Grind it in spice mill until coarsely grinded. (I make extra and save in a small jar for the next time)
  3. Heat 1TBS vegetable oil in skillet on medium heat. Cook chili until fragrant for a few seconds. Add chicken and a little fish sauce and cook, while breaking up the chicken lumps.
  4. Turn heat off, mix in onion, lime zest, lemon grass, 1 and 2, and herbs.  Let it sit for about 15-20 min to allow flavor to blend. Serve on the bed of julienned cabbage.

Just like the Thai eggplant salad, I LOVE the flavor fireworks in my mouth — balance of sweet, sour and spicy.

As in my past post (click here if you missed it), fish sauce adds depth and flavor to many dishes, both Asian and non-Asian.  Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post for San Francisco Chronicle article how celebrity chefs are using fish sauce to add umami to their dishes, and recipes. So, if you don’t have one, get a bottle, and use it often as your favorite flavor booster.  They are available at Asian market (best selection and price) or large supermarket’s international section.

Easy, Exciting (Grilled) Eggplant Extravaganza 4: Thai Eggplant Salad (Yaam Makhuea Yow)

Thai eggplant salad

Thai eggplant salad

The last of the Easy Exciting Grilled Eggplant Extravaganza series is Thai dish.  I can go on and on with this, to share the versatility of grilled eggplants, yet just like me in Turkey (if you missed my Turkey eggplant story last week, click here), some of you may be wondering “would Mari turn this into an ‘eggplant blog’?”

No… As I said many times, I thrive on VARIETY. Even for writing.  Don’t forget, I cook things I write about and EAT them for dinner.  I’ll save other eggplants recipes for later (nice fall/winter dishes….).

In Thai restaurants, this dish is often made with dried shrimp.  But that’s not the easiest to come by for most of us, or even if you find it, could take years to finish unless you cook South-East Asian dishes all the time.  Therefore, my version is simplified with something you can use more often, and every grocery store should have, and some people like me always keep some in the freezer…  regular shrimp.

What’s exciting about this is that you can double the amount of the sauce and onions, to make Thai Chicken Salad (Laab Gai) as well.  It’s a bit like that Indian spread, you can have two Thai salads really quickly. (or one today, another next day.) Or make a large batch, keep a jar in the fridge, and use them for other Thai as well as Vietnamese dishes such as fresh spring rolls and Bun, cold Vietnamese vermicelli noodles salad.

I’ll share the Laab recipe on my next post.  Again, make sure to subscribe from the top right, so that you won’t miss it.  You have 3 options: email, RSS or Networkedblogs Facebook application.

Thai Eggplant Salad (Yaam Makhuea Yow)

Ingredients – serves 2-3:

  • Eggplants (Japanese, Chinese or Italian)  4 small to medium, grilled, and cut in bite size pieces (click here for how to make grilled eggplants)
  • Cooked shrimp  2 large (cut in 1/2” pieces) or 3-5 medium (if frozen, thawed)
  • Red onion  1/2 C, thinly sliced
  • Green or red chili  1-2, seed removed, and thinly sliced, or red pepper flakes
  • Sugar 1 -2 ts
  • Fish Sauce 1 1/2 TBS
  • Lime juice 2 TBS
  • Water or lime juice 1 TBS
  • Mint leaves or julienned ao-shiso as garnish

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar, fish sauce, lime juice.  Taste and if you like it a little milder, add water. if you like it more sour, add lime juice.
  2. Mix shrimp, eggplant, onion and the sauce.  Let it sit for about 15-20 min to allow flavor to blend. Garnish with mint leaves (or my favorite, julienned ao-shiso leaves).

Note: You can also omit shrimp and serve with hard-boiled egg wedges. Or to make it more substantial, cook 1/4 lbs ground meat (chicken, turkey or pork works best) in oil, and proceed to 2.

If you are vegetarian or vegan and cannot use fish sauce, here’s the resource for the alternative. http://www.thaigrocer.com/VegAdapt.html

I LOVE the balance of sweet, sour and spicy burst in my mouth, along with cold slippery texture of eggplants and shrimp in summer. (It’s great in any season.) As you can see, you can make this with everything you have at home (or easily accessible.)

As in my past post (click here if you missed it), fish sauce adds depth and flavor to many dishes, both Asian and non-Asian.  Be sure to click the link at the bottom of the post for San Francisco Chronicle article how celebrity chefs are using fish sauce to add umami to their dishes, and recipes. So, if you don’t have one, get a bottle, and use it often as your favorite flavor booster.  They are available at Asian market (best selection and price) or large supermarket’s international section.

Sneak Preview of the next post…  mmm….

Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad

Laab Gai, Thai Chicken Salad