Thursday, July 30, 2009

We Want Food - South East Asian Persuasian

Inspired by all of the South East Asian food that I've been munching on in the Bay Area, I decided to bring some of those flavors to South Carolina to share with my mom.

One of Daniel's and my favorite foods to overindulge on are the fresh spring rolls that we get from Sunflower, so I decided to have a go at making my own, using a recipe from Epicurious. Recipe and pictures below:

Summer Rolls with Baked Tofu and Sweet-and Savory Dipping Sauce
(adapted from Epicurious/Gourmet)

  • 2 ounces dried bean thread noodles (cellophane noodles)
  • 1 small carrot, cut into thin matchsticks (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 Kirby cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into thin matchsticks (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 small fresh jalapeño, cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 teaspoon fresh lime juice, divided
  • 16 rice-paper rounds (also called galettes de riz; about 8 inches in diameter) plus additional in case some tear
  • 4 romaine leaves, each torn into 4 pieces
  • 10 ounces packaged baked tofu, cut into 3- by 1/3-inch sticks (I used quickly sauteed shitake mushrooms instead)
  • 1 cup fresh bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup each of torn basil, mint, and cilantro leaves (11/2 cups total) (didn't have mint, so just stuck with the other two)
  • 1/3 cup hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chunky peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons water

1) Soak noodles in a medium bowl of boiling-hot water 10 minutes.

2) Meanwhile, blanch carrot in boiling water until softened, about 45 seconds. Drain. Rinse under cold water to stop cooking.

3) Transfer carrots to a small bowl along with cucumber, jalapeño, vinegar, sugar, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Let stand 5 minutes. Reserve 2 tablespoons liquid and drain pickled vegetables. (I did the jalapenos separately because my mom's having issues with spice, and it still worked fine, so it's easy to adjust for people with varying heat interests.)

4) Drain noodles and rinse under cold water, then drain and pat dry. Toss noodles with remaining 3/4 teaspoon lime juice and snip with kitchen shears 5 or 6 times.

5) Fill a shallow pan or pie plate with warm water. Soak 2 rice-paper rounds until they begin to soften, about 30 seconds, then let excess water drip off and stack soaked rounds on a work surface so that they overlap by all but 1 inch on either side.

6) Put 2 pieces of romaine on bottom third of round. Top with one eighth of noodles (about 2 tablespoons), tofu (4 sticks), bean sprouts (about 2 tablespoons), herbs (3 tablespoons), and pickled vegetables (3 tablespoons).

7) Roll up tightly around filling, folding in sides. Make 7 more rolls in same manner.

8) Stir together hoisin sauce, peanut butter, water, and reserved 2 tablespoons pickling liquid. Serve rolls with dipping sauce.

They were delicious. Not as beautiful as the ones at Sunflower, but I'll get there someday (yeah right).


For our main course, because we're in South Carolina, home of all things porcine, I went for a Mark Bittman recipe for Vietnamese style pork chops. I really think this would work equally well with boneless skinless chicken thighs or a thin cut of beef.

Here's the deal:

The Minimalist's Vietnamese Pork
Time: 30 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon nam pla (fish sauce), or to taste, or soy sauce (I used about 2 T of both)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork chops or country-style ribs
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • Chopped Thai basil or cilantro for garnish (optional).


1. Whisk lemongrass, garlic, honey and nam pla in large bowl. Add lime juice and pepper. Place pork in the bowl, turning to coat; let stand while you preheat grill or broiler.

2. Grill or broil pork, spooning marinade over as it cooks, until nicely done, about 10 minutes. Turn only once so that each side browns nicely.

3. Serve with remaining lime and, if you like, the herb garnish.

This was absolutely spectacular. One of those dishes that when I eat it, I can't believe I had a hand in it. The quick caramelization provided by the honey, and the fantastic combination of flavors with the umami of the fish sauce and the tang of the lemongrass and lime juice was sensational. And if you don't believe me or my mom (which isn't nice, frankly), you should believe this guy-

I gave him a tiny piece of fat cut off of one of the chops after it had marinated and cooked. He liked it so much, he went looking for seconds...

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