Archive for the 'Asian' Category

Chicken Teriyaki

Chicken Teriyaki

Upon arriving home from work today, there was a pair of chicken quarters starring at me from the refrigerator accusingly.  My original plan was to grill the chicken but, despite the very obvious heralds of Spring, my plan was thwarted by the appearance of rain.  While sitting on an endless conference call at work today, I contemplated my predicament.  And, from some recess of my brain, came the idea of chicken teriyaki.

My experience with cooking Japanese food is basically non-existent.  To me, Japanese food is intimidating.  It is not only rooted in alien and unfamiliar techniques, it is also known for its simplicity and attention to detail.  It is not only outside my comfort zone, it also has the reputation, to me at least, of being exacting and requiring skill to pull off correctly.

Despite my preconceived fears, this is a very simple recipe.  The hardest part is probably the shopping but sake and mirin are commonplace anymore.  While the ingredients are fairly simple, the outcome is definitely more than the sum of its parts.  But it’s also self-evident that the quality of the ingredients is paramount.  Good chicken, pasture raised, preferably from a small farmer or farmer’s market (as mine was) will elevate this dish from the pedestrian to the sublime. And, while I’m no expert on Japanese food, that is the exact impression I’ve always gathered from it.

Chicken Teriyaki
Adapted from The Best Recipes in the World

4 bone-in chicken quarters
2 tbsp water
1/3 cup sake
1/3 cup mirin
2 tbsp sugar
1/3 cup soy sauce

  1. Pre-heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken, and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning as needed, until the chicken is mostly cooked (to an internal temperature of approximately 150°F).
  2. Remove the chicken from the skillet.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium.  Deglaze the pan with the water.  Add the sake, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce.
  4. When the sauce begins to bubble, return the chicken to the skillet.  Cook, turning the chicken in the skillet, until the sauce becomes almost a glaze and the chicken is well coated.
  5. Serve immediately with sticky rice.

Serves 4.

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Beef with Cumin

Beef with Cumin

My mother-in-law was getting concerned that we weren’t eating because there was a gap in my posting here.  But we’ve mainly been eating either things that were already posted (roast chicken , smoked chicken, pork chops, or corn pasta) or we’ve been eating things that it seems a bit silly to post (steak frites, quick pastas). But every once in-a-while I make something that is both good and
worth posting.

We’ve been enjoying the bounty of the local farmer’s markets too much over the past summer and early fall.  The quality of the ingredients is so high that it seems like sacrilege to do anything more than just prepare the ingredients, whether meat or vegetable, as simply as possible.  However, there are only so many roast chickens and steaks one can eat before they feel they need a little elaboration on the topic.

Which brings me to Beef with Cumin.  I had seen reference to it online and, the pictures combined with the recipe intrigued me. In fact, it made me purchase flank steak especially to make it. However, flank steak is attractive enough to me that the first half of it went towards the aforementioned steak frites.

I was, however, determined to actually make the Beef with Cumin.  And make it I did.  Too many Sin0-American recipes are focused on hiding the flavor of the underlying ingredient, where meat, in particular, is interchangeable based on the dietary preferences of the diner  (Sweet-and-Sour Chicken is a prime example).  This is not one of those recipes.  Beef is the predominant flavor.  The cumin, the ginger, and the garlic all seek to complement the flavor of the beef.  It is beef with cumin, not cumin with beef.

Ingredients for Beef with Cumin

Beef with Cumin
Adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province

12 oz. flank steak
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 fresh red chilies, seeds removed and diced
2-4 tsp dried red chili pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
salt
2 spring onions, green part only, sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
1 cup peanut oil

Marinade:
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp water

  1. Slice the beef across the grain into thin, bite-sized strips.  Add the marinade ingredients and mix well.  Allow to marinade for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the peanut oil in a wok to 275°F.
  3. Fry the beef in the peanut oil, stirring regularly, for one minute.  Remove the beef from the oil and drain well.
  4. Pour off all but 3 tbsp of oil from the wok.
  5. Over high heat, stir fry the ginger, garlic, fresh chilies, dried red chili pepper, and cumin for 1 minute.  Return the beef to the wok, reheat the beef, and then remove from the heat.
  6. Drain off any excess oil from the beef.
  7. Stir in the spring onions and sesame oil.
  8. Serve with steamed rice.

Serves 2-3.

Zuo Zong Tang Ji (General Tso’s Chicken, Taiwan Version)

Zuo Zong Tang Ji (General Tso's Chicken, Taiwan Version)

One of the very first posts I made to this blog was a version of General Tso’s Chicken.  That version was from Changsha in Hunan province and is fairly close to the version served in America (and, strangely, rarely in Hunan province).  Now, well over a year later, I tried my hand at the Taiwanese version (and succeeded in not gassing myself out of the kitchen this time).

Apparently, this is closer to the original General Tso’s Chicken which was developed in the 1950’s in Taiwan by a Hunanese chef, Peng Chang-Kuei.  He’s also responsible for the other style of General Tso’s Chicken, which is hot and sweetand was developed in New York City.  This version is hot and sour, without the sweetness of the more American version.  Despite the fact that this was not developed in Hunan itself, this version is more Hunanese as it doesn’t have the sweetness.

Of course, the unspoken issue is which is the more authentic version.  I do appreciate authenticity in cooking but I don’t think it matters in this case.  The supposed canonical example of Hunanese cuisine isn’t Hunanese at all.  I don’t think there can even be an authentic version of this dish.

Frying Chili Peppers for General Tso's Chicken

So if authenticity doesn’t matter, which is better?  It’s really hard to say (not the least because of the time delay between the two).  I remember liking the Changsha version a lot despite the high spiciness.  The Taiwanese version is much more challenging to my taste buds.  I’m simply not particularly used to food that is hot and sour.  Angela enjoyed the Taiwanese version a lot; she was already asking when I could make it again.

So my advice is simple.  Make both this version and the Changsha version and see which you like better.  Or realize that they’re different enough that you can enjoy both.

Frying chicken for General Tso's Chicken

Zuo Zong Tang Ji (General Tso’s Chicken, Taiwan Version)
Adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province

4 boneless, skinless chicken, thighs
6-10 oz. dried red chilies
2 tsp finely diced ginger
2 tsp finely diced garlic
2 tsp sesame oil
peanut oil for frying

Marinade:
2 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 egg yolk
2 tsp potato flour or corn starch
2 tsp peanut oil

Sauce:
1 tbsp tomato paste mixed with 1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp potato flour or corn starch
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp clear rice vinegar
3 tbsp chicken stock

  1. Cut the chicken thighs into similiarly sized, bite size pieces.
  2. For the marinade, combine the soy sauces and egg yolk with the chicken and mix well.  Then stir in the potato flour.  Finally, stir in the potato flour or corn starch.  Set aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
  3. Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Cut the chilies into 3/4″ pieces and discard the seeds.
  5. Heat enough oil to deep fry the chicken in a wok until it reaches 350ºF.  Add the chicken and deep fry until the chicken becomes crisp and golden.  Remove the chicken and drain on paper towels.  Pour the oil from the wok into a heat proof container.
  6. Return the wok over high heat and add 2-3 tbsp of the peanut oil.  Add the dried chilies and stir fry until they start to turn brown.
  7. Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry for several seconds.
  8. Add the sauce and stir regularly until it thickens.
  9. Return the chicken to the sauce and stir to coat the pieces in the sauce.  Remove from the heat.
  10. Stir in the sesame oil.
  11. Serve immediately over white rice.

Serves 4.

Sate Ayam (Chicken Satay)

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I didn’t intend to buy Cradle of Flavor but our public library was having a small book sale and there it was. I had seen it referenced but didn’t really know anything about it. But, for a dollar, how could I go wrong?

Saying I didn’t know anything about it is a bit of understatement. I didn’t (and really don’t) know anything about the food of Malaysia, Singapore, or Indonesia. I knew that it would share some similarities with other Asian cuisines but that was about it. I’d never even eaten it in a restaurant. But, hey, it was a dollar.

Whenever I look at Asian cuisine, I immediately get intimidated because I’m not familiar with so many of the ingredients. I know what ginger is but what exactly is lemongrass? (It’s a grass with a vague lemon flavor) Not to mention galangal? (It’s similar to ginger). I should mention that I hadn’t thought of looking at Wikipedia until now to get an idea of what they look like.

I decided to start with a dish that I had at least heard a passing reference to: chicken satay. Again, this is a dish I’ve never eaten (nor are any of the dishes in this cookbook). It seemed pretty straightforward: make a marinade, put the chicken in the marinade, skewer the chicken, and broil the chicken. The only part that was complicated was tracking down the appropriate ingredients.

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Lucky for us, there are any of a number of Asian grocery stores (either Chinese, Vietnamese, or Cambodian) around us. I was able to find both lemongrass and galangal there in the produce department. I used the galangal because I could find it. I did have to travel to Wild Oats Whole Foods for the coriander seeds as I had forgotten to get them elsewhere and they have bulk spices (and it only cost me $0.08).

The rest of the recipe is beyond easy. Outside of finding the ingredients, the only slightly difficult part is deboning the chicken and, if you were smart (e.g. not me), you’d buy boneless chicken thighs and be done with it.

The flavor is quite a bit different than what I’m used to. In many ways, it’s the complete opposite of food being made up of simple quality ingredients. The flavor is very complex from a rather long list of seasonings. But, in many ways, it was the fact that it was so different from what I normally eat that it was good. I liked it but Angela did not. Take that as you will.

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Sate Ayam (Chicken Satay)
Adapted from Cradle of Flavor

For the Marinade:
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 stalk fresh lemongrass
2 shallots
2 cloves of garlic
1 piece of fresh galangal, 1/2 inch long, peeled and thinly sliced (optional)
1 piece of fresh ginger, 1 inch long, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
2 tbsp palm sugar or dark brown sugar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp kosher salt

For the Satay:
1 1/2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs
1 stalk fresh lemongrass
2 tbsp vegetable oil

  1. Put the coriander seeds and fennel seeds in a small food processor. Pulse until the seeds are ground into a powder, about 2 minutes.
  2. Cut the bottom and top off the lemongrass, leaving a piece about 5 inches long. Remove the tough outer layers of lemongrass. The lemongrass should be pale white-and-lilac in color. Cut the lemongrass thinly.
  3. Add the remaining marinade ingredients to the food processor. Pulse until the marinade forms a paste. Put the marinade in a bowl large enough to fit the chicken.
  4. Remove the skin from the chicken and debone. Cut the chicken into thin, bite-sized pieces. Add the chicken to the marinade and mix until the marinade coats the chicken. Allow to marinate at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Preheat the broiler for at least 10 minutes. Cut the top and bottom off the remaining lemongrass stalk. Bruise the thick end of the stalk with the back of a knife until the end becomes brush-like. Place the brush end of the lemongrass in a small bowl containing the oil.
  6. Place the chicken on the middle of the skewers, about 2 to 4 pieces per skewer. Place the skewers on a foil lined baking tray.
  7. Using the lemongrass brush, baste the chicken skewers with oil. Broil the chicken skewers for 5 to 7 minutes 3 inches from the broiling element. Turn over the skewers, baste with oil, and broil for another 5 to 7 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool for 1 minute and then serve immediately.

Serves 2.