Posts Tagged ‘Spices’
Once upon a time, a very long time ago, I used to sell toothpaste in China. We were introducing the Colgate Red into China and I was tasked with the “smaller” markets — those cities with less than 5 million population. On our launch into Chongqing, I remember walking the slopes of the city (it’s as hilly as San Francisco), supposedly to check out the toothpaste market, but I was mesmerized by the spice markets. Mounds and mounds of chili and peppers — bright red, dark red, fiery red everywhere. The air was even spicy! Then we came across this street peddler who was dishing out Liang Fen. Using a hand grater, he “grated” noodles out of a basin of rice jello, and ladled on a red spicy sauce on top. That was totally ingenious the way he made the noodles.
Liang Fen is a great starter dish and my favorite Sichuan dish. Slippery, cool and slightly springy, it’s the canvas for the fiery and numbing sauce. Sichuan or more commonly misspelt Szechuan cuisine is distinctly unique for its use of hot, numbing spices and lots of fresh vegetables as the province is the vegetable bowl for China. The Sichuan peppercorn is really a prickly ash, not at all related to regular black pepper. It has a floral and woody aroma, but its most outstanding feature is how it gives a numbing feeling to your mouth. One may wonder why in the world would you want that feeling in your food, I find it hard to explain or describe but it does give a nice kick, and an addictive one indeed. Once banned from the United States, you can now easily find the spice even in your local Wholefoods, or at least local to the Bay Area, thanks to a fusion foods fad a couple of years ago pushing the spice to a ranking in the top 10 must try for the year by Bon Appetit or one of those magazines.
Chef’s tip: Mung bean starch has good nutritional value. You can easily find it at Korean grocery stores. To cook it, make sure you stir continuously till it become translucent, otherwise, it will still be raw. I prefer to use the Sichuan peppercorn oil, too. It gives the same effect without the coarseness of the peppercorn. You can omit the tahini for a cleaner tasting sauce.
4 cups + 2 tablespoons water
¾ cup mung bean starch*
3 tablespoons tahini + 3 tablespoons water (more if tahini is thick)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground toasted Sichuan peppercorn, or Sichuan peppercorn oil
1 teaspoon ginger juice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Asian chili oil
½ tablespoon sesame oil
1 stalk green onions, green parts only, julienned into 1 inch strips
1 teaspoon Asian chili oil
½ teaspoon sesame oil
Preparing the noodle
- Mix starch with 1 ½ cups of water till starch is fully dissolved. Mix in remaining water.
- Bring to boil, stirring constantly till the mixture thickens. It’s easiest to stir from the center out. Stir until the mixture is clear and translucent. About 4 minutes total.
- Immediately pour mixture into a wet, glass or ceramic dish, about 9X12 inch, making a thin 3/8 inch layer.
- Leave to cool for 45 minutes in the fridge or 2 hours at room temperature.
- When set, cut noodles 6 X ½ X ¼ inch strips
Preparing the sauce
- Mix together the sauce ingredients in a bowl.
- Pour sauce over the noodles and toss to coat. Finish with a little chili oil and sesame oil. Garnish with green onions.
Note: To make your own chili oil, use the recipe below:
Chili oil with chili flakes
½ cup of dried chili flakes
2 cups of peanut oil
- Put chili flakes in a glass preserving jar (or pyrex)
- Heat the oil until smoking hot
- Allow to cool 5 mins
- Pour into the jar
* Can be found in Asian storesTweet
The origins of Flavor Explosions. I re-created this recipe based on the memory of smell (oui, Rémy!) of the aroma in my late grandmother’s house as she roasted curry powder. My grandmother roasted curry powder in a wok 1-yard in diameter, over a charcoal stove, and had all of us – her grandkids – tightly packed the spice mix into recycled glass ketchup bottles which she then sells. Unfortunately, none of us documented her recipe so I created this concoction based on what I remembered from those hot afternoons in Malaysia 30+ years ago! And dedicate it to the memory of my grandmother.
Malaysian curry powder reflects the blend of South Indian, Sri Lankan and Peranakan flavors.
Chef’s tip: Store in a air-tight glass jar in a cool place for up to six months.
6 Tablespoons whole coriander
2 Tablespoons whole cumin
2 Tablespoons whole fennel
3 Tablespoons whole fenugreek
2 Tablespoons whole black pepper
1 3-inch stick cinnamon
2 Tablespoons rice
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 teaspoon cayenne
5 whole dried red peppers, stems and seeds removed
1 star anise
5 tablespoon ground tumeric
1. Over medium heat, dry-fry all whole spices (everything but the tumeric) in a wok or a skillet for about 5 minutes or until fragrant. Stir/ toss constantly to make sure the spices don’t burn.
2. Let cool slightly, transfer to a spice grinder and grind until it becomes a fine powder.
3. Mix in tumeric and bottle the curry powder.
Makes: 1 cup.
On the Silk Road path, the Uyghur cuisine in north western China uses a lot of spices and features goat and lamb dominantly. It’s not what one would typically think of as Chinese foods. The Uyghurs also serve most of their dishes with a chewy flatbread that reminds me of bagel just holeless.
This Xinjiang Lamb Mini Pita Pockets dish takes its inspiration from the flatbread and the grilled leg of lamb that you find in many Xinjiang restaurants.
I think Marco Polo would approve.
Chef’s tip: If you are buying whole lamb loins, freeze it for 20 minutes before cutting. It will help you make really thin slices.
½ lb of lamb loin (or pre-sliced shabu-shabu lamb)
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried mint
1½ teaspoons ground fennel
1 teaspoons Hungarian paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne/chile powder, less depending on preference, optional
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup watercress, daikon sprouts or any peppery micro greens
4 mini pitas
Preparing the lamb:
1. Slice the lamb as thin as possible (alternatively buy the pre-sliced shabu-shabu lamb meat).
2. Mix all the dried spices, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
3. Marinate lamb with the garlic and spices, for at least 20 minutes, preferably overnight.
4. Cooking the lamb: Add ½ tablespoon of oil in wok or a cast iron pan over high heat till very hot, almost smoking. Sear the marinated meat in 2 batches, about 3 minutes or until meat is nicely brown and caramelized. Repeat with more oil for remaining meat.
Assembling the pockets:
5. Cut pitas into 2. Stuff pita with 2 tablespoons of spiced lamb and some micro greens.
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