Monday, February 25, 2013

Pan Asian Dinner

I have a couple of dear friends that have been very enthusiastically supporting my decision to go pro as a cook. Back in September I had the opportunity to cook for them, and they wanted to have me cook for them again this spring.

Since I did Middle Eastern last time, I wanted to go in a different direction. I decided to go Asian. There is so much variety to Asian cuisines. I ended up going Pan-Asian, with a Vietnamese style appetizer, Chinese inspired main dish, and a combination Thai/Chinese dessert.

For the appetizer, I made Vietnamese style spring rolls. These are great, as they are not fried, and are all about fresh greens. There were two dipping sauces to go with the rolls. One was hoisin with peanuts, and the other was a complex combination of fish sauce, lime, garlic, and sweet chili sauce. I think these were a great appetizer. The wrappers were rice paper, and in them I put shrimp, rice vermicelli, butter lettuce, mint, and basil. I worked from this recipe at

For the main dish, I made a beef stir fry with carrots, crimini mushrooms, and red, yellow, and orange peppers. My stir fry sauce is not traditional, as far as I know. I make a sauce of date vinegar and sweet soy sauce, with a little ginger and black pepper. I use a little corn starch to help the sauce thicken.

Somehow rice got left off my packing list, and my friends didn't have rice, either. I ended up using some Israeli couscous. It worked just fine. Not surprising, as it was created as a rice substitute.

For dessert, I really wanted to make something special. I wanted to have lots of contrasts; taste, texture, and temperature. I made a cold Thai jelly, with layers of coconut and coffee flavors. The jelly is based on this recipe. The jellies use agar agar as the jelling agent. Agar agar is a derivative of red seaweed.

To contrast, I made a Chinese eight treasures rice pudding, served warm. It consists of glutinous rice, coated with a mix of chestnuts, almonds walnuts, dried pineapple, dried papaya, and dried mango There is a thin layer of sweet red bean paste in the middle. I adapted this recipe for my pudding. The original called for lard. I substituted vegetable shortening, which worked just fine.

To tie everything together, I made a mango - lime sauce.As it turned out, the dessert is vegan.

I don't think the photo does it justice. I think it came out really pretty. I was really proud of the whole thing.


Vietnamese Spring Rolls

6 6.25 inch rice wrappers
6 large cooked shrimp, halved lengthwise
2 oz. rice vermicelli
2 Tbsp. chiffonade of basil
2 Tbsp. chiffonade of mint
1/2 cup chopped butter lettuce

Dipping Sauces
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 Tbsp. finely chopped peanuts

1 Tbsp. fish sauce
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp. sweet chili sauce
2 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. minced garlic

Whisk together hoisin sauce and peanuts. Set aside. Whisk together fish sauce, lime juice, chili sauce, sugar, water, and garlic. Set aside.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add rice noodles, turn down to a simmer. Cook until al dente, then drain and rinse.

To construct a roll, dip a wrapper in a bowl of warm water for about 1 second. Place a small bundle of vermicelli in the center of the wrapper. Place two halves of shrimp on top of noodles. Sprinkle liberally with mint and basil. Add shredded lettuce. Fold ends of wrapper in. Fold one side of wrapper over top of shrimp, then roll tightly over other side.

Serve with dipping sauces.

Beef, Mushroom, and Peppers Stir Fry

1 lb. London broil, sliced thin
1 1/2 cups diagonally sliced carrots
1 1/2 cups mixed pepper strips
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
1/4 cup date vinegar
1/4 cup sweet soy sauce
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2Tbsp. sesame oil

In a bowl, whisk together vinegar, soy, ginger, pepper, and cornstarch. Set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add oil, swirl to coat. Add beef strips, stirring constantly. Cook until about 3/4 the way to medium rare. Remove beef. Add carrots. Cook, stirring rapidly, for about two minutes. Add peppers. Cook, stirring constantly, for another two minutes. Add mushrooms and return beef to pan. Cook until mushrooms are done. Add sauce, stirring to coat all other ingredients. Once sauce starts to thicken, remove from heat. Serve over rice or noodles.

Layered Coconut and Coffee Jellies

Coffee Jelly
1 Tbsp. instant espresso
2 Tbsp. warm water
2 Tbsp. agar agar powder
3 cups water
7 oz by wt.  sugar

Coconut Jelly
1 Tbsp. agar agar powder
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups coconut cream
2 oz by wt. sugar
1 tsp. salt

To make coffee jelly
In a small bowl, dissolve espresso powder in warm water. Set aside.

Place water and agar agar powder in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Heat until agar agar completely dissolves. Add sugar, cook until dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in coffee. Transfer to a metal bowl in a hot water bath to keep liquid while working.

To make coconut jelly
In a small saucepan over medium low heat, dissolve agar agar powder in water. Add coconut cream, sugar, and salt, cook until sugar is dissolved. Transfer to a metal bowl in a hot water bath to keep liquid while working.

To make jellies
Into silicon cupcake molds, place 2 tablespoons of coconut liquid in eight molds, and 2 tablespoons of coffee liquid into eight molds. Let cool and harden, about 5 minutes.

Alternate coffee and coconut layers, allowing to firm up after each new layer. Molds should hold about 6 tablespoons (3 layers).

Refrigerate until needed, unmold to serve.

Eight Treasures Pudding

8 oz by wt. glutinous rice
1 oz by wt. vegetable shortening
1 oz by wt. sugar
2 Tbsp. finely diced chestnuts
2 Tbsp. finely diced blanched almonds
2 Tbsp. finely diced walnuts
2 Tbsp. finely diced dried papaya
2 Tbsp. finely diced dried mango
2 Tbsp. finely diced dried pineapple
1/3 cup sweet red bean paste

In a small bowl, mix together fruits and nuts. Set aside.

Under running water, rinse rice. Place in a small saucepan, and add twice the volume of water. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook for twelve minutes. Rice will absorb the water, and become thick and sticky. Remove from heat, stir in 1/2 oz. shortening and sugar.

Take six ramekins. Using remaining shortening, apply a thick layer of shortening to the insides of the ramekins. Press fruit and nut mixture into the shortening, making sure inner surface is covered. Shake out any excess fruit and nut mixture.

Fill each ramekin half full with rice. Spread a thin layer of bean paste on top. If bean paste is too thick to spread easily, heat in microwave ten to twenty seconds.

Finish filling each ramekin. Cover ramekins with aluminum foil. Refrigerate until ready to steam.

To steam, place a couple of inches of water in the bottom of a steamer. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. place rack containing ramekins into steamer, cover. Let steam for thirty minutes.

Remove from steamer. Remove foil. Loosen puddings by running a butter knife or small spatula around inside of ramekin. Turn upside down onto plate to unmold.

Mango - Lime Sauce

1 ripe mango, peeled, seeded, and diced
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. sugar
pinch kosher salt

In a small saucepan over medium heat, simmer diced mango and water until mango is tender. Using an immersion blender, puree mango. Stir in spices, sugar, and salt.  Cook until sugar is dissolved.

Happy Eating!

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful meal you prepared for us! We felt so privileged to have you as our chef. Everything came out perfectly! Thedessert with its perfect blend of flavors and textures was really something special. We're looking forward to having you prepare another meal for us sometime soon!