“You’re going to make ramen?” she said. The expression on her face made it impossible to hide her surprise.
“I’m going to try,” I said with a laugh, both at her genuine surprise and at the idea that I might actually be successful.
I was looking for kelp granules in a local Asian grocery and this kind woman stocking the shelves was trying to help me locate them. We never found them, but I left the market feeling the confidence that often results from a challenge.
Yes, I would make ramen.
I did make ramen.
I might even go back at some point and tell her about it.
These Dan Dan Noodles are simple to make and full of flavor! It’s one of the many great recipes in the newest Chinese cookbook in my collection!
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve resolved to cook more Asian-inspired foods. Southeast Asian, Chinese, Japanese – you name it and I’ve wanted to explore the methods, spices and recipes much more.
I repeatedly fall short of that goal, but every now and then something comes along that helps me out. I get back on track and we have a week or so filled with noodles, fried rice and five spice powder.
Soon, we’ll be frantically running out to the supermarket to get overlooked ingredients. Soon, we’ll forget what it’s like to shop during the holidays and find ourselves elbowing our way to a check-out line. Soon, we’ll be waiting in line at the post office (something we swore we’d never do again) to get gifts mailed before the last possible hour.
Soon, no matter how hard we try to stay in control, things are going to get crazy.
I love the holiday season, crazy or not. So I say bring it on! As long as I have some lights sparkling in the living room and cookies in the oven at some point throughout the season, I’ll take it.
I can’t get enough of foods in bowls.
There is something about having several tasty ingredients in one container that is drizzled with a sauce or dressing and topped with condiments that creates my idea of a perfect meal.
The combinations are endless, but I find that I’m most often drawn to those that don’t make complete sense. The more random the ingredients, the more I want to eat them.
Take this creation, for example. A chickpea seems like an odd thing to combine with Korean chili powder and cucumbers, but somehow it works.
These tender, steamed Japanese yams are flavored with curry powder and a twist of lime. They make a great side dish or snack!
I’ve been intrigued by the world of potatoes and yams for some time. I think it probably started when we traveled to Ireland. Visiting the food markets there opened me up to the reality that there were more varieties than the red skinned and russet I was familiar with.
Then my potato passion moved to my own garden when I was growing red and white skinned potatoes. The excitement reached epic proportions the year I grew Adirondack Blue potatoes (what many people refer to as purple potatoes) and harvested 15 pounds from the garden!
I’m not growing my own potatoes right now, but the adventures have not ceased. They continue with cuisines and cultures that I have to admit took me completely by surprise. I’m not sure I ever expected to find so many Asian varieties of potatoes. They are of the sweet potato and yam family, and they are all over my favorite farmers market in Oakland. Purple, white, orange, yellow — it is seriously a rainbow of taters out there.
This recipe combines aromatic lemongrass with spicy chili paste to create a flavorful marinade for grilled chicken. It’s perfect for kicking off the start of grilling season!
It wasn’t until we began exploring the BBQ meats of Korean, Thai and Hawaiian cuisines that we discovered the deliciousness of the chicken thigh. Prior to that, our meals were most often made up of chicken breasts and the occasional full roasted bird.
To be honest, the chicken breast alone leaves a lot to be desired. When it is not cooked with the rest of the bird, it’s often dry and tasteless. At least that was my experience. Even the best marinades and fillings rolled up inside couldn’t seem to make it any better.
This spicy noodle bowl is topped with turkey sausage, mustard greens and garlic. It’s vibrant flavors pair well with the 2014 Cultivar Rose that I received as part of the Cultivar Wine Bloggers!
Growing up, like most people who come from the middle portion of the U.S., comfort food was defined by things like mashed potatoes, pot pies and biscuits and gravy. Heavy, nap-inducing and delicious.
Fortunately, travel has introduced me to a few more things that define comfort food for others around the world. Feijoada in Brazil, fish and chips and pastries in Europe, but nothing can compare to noodle dishes in Southeast Asia. They have redefined comfort food for me.
From the Vietnamese bread and fillings to tangy pickled vegetables, you can create your own restaurant-style sandwich at home with the help of The Banh Mi Handbook and this Hanoi Grilled Chicken.
I read about the Vietnamese Banh Mi long before I ever had the opportunity to take my first bite. I knew about the soft, but crusty bread, the numerous meat fillings, pickled veggies, hot peppers and the finishing touch of cilantro.
Often when you know this much about a food before you try it, you set yourself up for disappointment. Not so with this sandwich. I had built up in my head what the combination of those flavors would be, and it was better than I anticipated.
I’m not picky about my banh mi. I like the classic version I can grab for $3.50 when passing through Oakland’s Chinatown just as much as I like the fancy version for $10 filled with local, pastured lemongrass chicken that I get at food trucks.
There is an art to it though, don’t you think? It’s not something that I had considered making at home because, while it seems easy, man is it hard to get those flavors right.
This recipe for carrot and cucumber pickles remains one of my very favorites. If you like pickled veggies as much as I do, this cookbook needs some space on your shelf!
The first time we traveled to Southeast Asia, I completely missed a very important thing about the cuisine.
It’s all about the condiments.
I saw the little bowls of peppers, relishes, chutneys and sauces on our table and I tried one here and there, but it wasn’t until we returned and I researched recipes further that I realized I should have been much more adventurous! Now, I can make a complete meal out of the condiments alone. Sweet, spicy, tangy, pickled, fermented – you name it and I want it.
I’ve become that annoying person at the dinner table who asks a million question of the server. What is that? How is it made? What’s in it? I’ll take any little piece of information I can grab to help me find a recipe so I can make it at home later, or at least attempt to. I always feel a little intimidated because it never seems to turn out just right. But that’s probably because I haven’t really had a reliable resource for recipes. Until now.
I was at the farmers market last Saturday browsing the leafy greens when I heard the vendor answer a shopper’s question with, “They’re mustard greens.”
I immediately thought back to the first time I had mustard greens, which wasn’t all that long ago. I was out to dinner with a good friend at a new favorite spot for Chinese food back in Kentucky. She ordered the pork and mustard greens.
I was pleasantly surprised by their bitter spiciness and I’ve wanted to recreate that dish ever since. After overhearing that conversation at the market, I knew that I should finally go for it.
This is a super simple dish that is full of flavor. You can pair it with rice or use a different meat or tofu, but I think pastured pork with the spicy greens by itself is the way to go. The only problem is that I didn’t make nearly enough. Next time I will double it so there are plenty of leftovers!
Minced Pork with Garlic and Mustard Greens
Makes: 2 to 3 servings
½ tbsp. olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped onion
½ lb. ground pastured pork
4 to 5 cups sliced mustard greens (about 1 large bunch)
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. dark sesame oil
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 1 minute.
Add the pork and cook for 5 to 7 minutes breaking it up with a spatula, until it is browned and cooked through. Drain any excess grease if necessary.
Add the mustard greens and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until they begin to wilt. Add the ginger and cook 1 more minute.
Stir in the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil and crushed red pepper. Serve warm.
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