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If beets grew abundantly in SE Asia...?

...what would the Thais, Vietnamese, and other populations of the region do with them?

Okay, I know this is sort of a weird question, but I've got beets in the garden and want to do a SE Asian-themed dinner sometime soon. So...anyone want to take a stab at this one? I'm guessing the Thais especially would take the sweetness element in the beets in interesting directions, with their tendency to brilliantly balance out salty, sour, sweet, and umami.

Jul 21, 2013
lyagushka in Home Cooking

Thai goodies wrapped in banana leaf

While in Thailand I sampled a variety of banana leaf-wrapped dumpling like things. I would like to try my hand at making them at home, but I'm at a loss to find info on some of these via google. I can find the sticky rice and banana ones, and some for pork or chicken versions. But I'm hoping to prepare the rice and black bean one that I had for some vegetarian friends. It might help if I knew the name of this one. Anyone know it?

Actually, I'd gratefully take any pointers towards an online resource that deals with Thai banana leaf packages in any comprehensive or systematic way. I'd like to know what the range of possibilities are in Thailand, so as to spark my own experimentation.

Jul 20, 2013
lyagushka in Home Cooking

What cookbooks have you bought lately, or are you lusting after? July, 2013 edition (through July 31, 2013)

I got Andrea Nguyen's Asian Dumplings, and now I'm cogitating on a dumpling party sometime next month. Which will mean I need to practice in the next few weeks. This books is EXCELLENT. I don't buy many cookbooks, but would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone who thinks they might ever make a dumpling in their own home.

Checked out of the library: Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison, and Gordon Ramsay's Home Cooking. So far both of these are worth a skim through, but neither one seems worth sinking my own money into.

Jul 20, 2013
lyagushka in Home Cooking

Wheat starch and Asian dumplings?

I want to make some garlic chive dumplings and have been comparing recipes found online. Recipes vary and so I have a couple of questions for anyone with experience making these delicious morsels.

First of all, wheat starch - I assume this is not just a quaint translation of flour, but a separate product not commonly used in western cooking. I'm willing to track this down at an Asian market, if need be. But just in case I'm wrong and this IS the same thing as wheat flour, or if a substitution of wheat flour would make no difference to the recipe, please enlighten me.

Secondly, I see some recipes that call for a mixture of wheat starch and other flours, including tapioca or sweet rice. I'm hoping to produce the kind of dumplings with almost perfectly transparent wrappers - the kind that show the bright green filling very clearly. If anyone can tell me which dough ingredients will produce this effect, I'd be ever so grateful. And if you can also tell me whether it's possible to crisp up such a wrapper by frying (after steaming or not), that would be awesome. A soft, translucent dumpling skin that's lightly browned on top and bottom is pretty much my Platonic ideal of a dumpling.

If you've got any other pointers on this sort of dumpling, I'm all ears, and thank you in advance.

Apr 20, 2013
lyagushka in Home Cooking

Oyster mushrooms for people who aren't crazy about mushrooms?

We were gifted with a large quantity of oyster mushrooms today. I'm decidedly lukewarm towards mushrooms and never cook them myself. But I don't want these to go to waste and my husband does enjoy mushrooms generally. Any suggestions for ways to incorporate these into a meal, without making them the centerpiece? If I don't feel like I'm sitting down to a plate full of mushrooms, I could probably sneak them past my own food prejudices.

Also, do oyster mushrooms dry well? I have a dehydrator and can deal with some of them that way if it's worthwhile.

Apr 03, 2013
lyagushka in Vegetarian & Vegan

Bad coconut milk?

Probably the coconut milk got curdled. Apparently this can happen at very high temperatures. A flawed batch during processing? It would still be fine to consume, just odd looking.

Mar 22, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

Thai "oli" salad?

Thank you! I'll try searching for that name.

Mar 22, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

Strange Pairings that Taste Uncommonly Good

Hebrew National hotdogs wrapped in a flour tortilla with avocado and honey mustard. Actually, most honey mustard is too sweet for my taste, so I use a good grainy mustard and just a tiny dab of light honey. I started wrapping my dogs in tortillas because we always have them around and hot dog buns invariably disappoint.

Alternative pairing for the HebeeNats: garlic cream sauce. Weird, and definitely not kosher, but oh, so good!

Mar 21, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

Thai "oli" salad?

I'm just back from a trip to Thailand. One of the standout dishes was a sort of salad of mixed chopped up ingredients, fairly dry, that we spooned into betelnut leaves, rolled up and ate with our fingers. Ingredients included young lemongrass shoots finely sliced up, dried bits of fish, lime juice, perhaps toasted coconut, and other things I couldn't identify. It was delicious in all the ways good Thai food can so often be: sour, faintly sweet, pungent, crunchy, citrusy, both amazingly complex and deeply harmonized. When I asked what the dish was called I was given the term "oli salad." The first word sounded exactly like the English word "holy" without the H, as far as I could ascertain. This was nothing like a standard green papaya or mango som tam salad.

Anyone know anything more about this dish? I'm finding nothing via google.

Mar 21, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

What food find still haunts you - that you had once and haven't found since?

Some hot-smoked salmon in western Scotland. I found out the smoking material was broken up retired whisky barrels. The tiny little store selling it controlled the entire production, catching their own fish, smoking it, packaging and selling direct to the public and a very few local restaurants. Very small scale. The stuff was so good I ate it like candy. Could. Not. Stop. Eating. It. It was difficult even to believe how delicious my mouth was telling me it was. Undoubtedly this was the best fish I've ever eaten in my life.

Mar 21, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

What food find still haunts you - that you had once and haven't found since?

The boar was probably in Norcia, which specializes in cinghiale, as you probably know. My heart weeps for your confiscated boar salame. If I hadn't been back to Umbria for the boar so many times, I'd definitely have to write it up as part of this thread. Paired with the thick and chewy strangozzi pasta of the region, it's just about heaven on earth.

Mar 21, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

Name of this dish from Northern Thailand?

I'm just back from Thailand myself and have to agree that this is one of the most memorable dishes. I could pretty much eat it all day long. I wasn't able to get to northern Thailand, but found a restaurant in Bangkok that specialized in traditional dishes from various parts of the country. Their khao soi was delicious, and topped with a few tiny cubes of fresh pineapple as well as raw red onion. I would LOVE to reproduce the dish and really wish I'd found time for a cooking class while in Thailand.

I agree khao soi is similar to laksa noodles. I don't think I've ever seen khao soi on a menu in the US, and laksa only at one restaurant in SF. I'm going to beg my local Thai restaurant to put this on their menu, though I don't think I'll get much traction there. The long term plan is actually to make friends with the owners. Maybe if I succeed they'll at least teach me how to make khao soi.

Mar 21, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

Any memories of "poor people food" from your childhood that you still crave?

Believe it or not...wienerschnitzel. My dad was out of work for a year or two when I was about 10 years old. Back then veal was really cheap, so our family ate it more often than any other proper meat. My mom had spent some time in Germany and learned to make wienerschnitzel over there. I remember listening to her pound out the cutlets very thin with a meat tenderizing hammer, and getting all excited for dinnertime. I was pretty much the pickiest eater EVER as a child. (I mean, it's surprising I didn't come down with rickets or something similar.) But I loved meat, and wienerschnitzel was right up there near the top of a very small heap of favorite dishes. Hot dog sandwiches kept us fed too. I'm sure if I'd been less picky I'd have memories of a wider "poor food" repertoire.

Mar 20, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

i know you're not supposed to ________, but i do it any way.

...wash cast iron skillets with soap, but I do it anyway.

Mar 17, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics
2

Thickener in Thai iced tea?

Just in case anyone's still interested...It's powdered coffeemate. While I'm not hugely thrilled to find that the tea I like so much in Thailand includes a totally synthetic ingredient, at least now I know. I confirmed by simply pointing to the containers of powdered stuff on street vendor stalls (after they'd made my tea) and asking a few of them, "Coffeemate?" They all said yes. The stuff shows up everywhere in individual serving packets, so I guess it's not all that surprising.

Mar 17, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

Thickener in Thai iced tea?

I don't know. I can't even be sure that the powder IS a thickener, although it seems to me that the Thai tea I'm getting here, and even the stuff back home is subtly thickened. Nothing dramatic of course, just not normal tea consistency. I used to think it was just the condensed milk adding body, but now I'm not so sure.

Mar 09, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

Thickener in Thai iced tea?

Well, whatever it is is added to the tea when it's very hot, well over 170F. So agar agar should thicken at that point if that's what it is.

Mar 09, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

Thickener in Thai iced tea?

It's possible. Is tapioca powder stark white? Have you ever seen it in a *very* finely textured powder? Also, is it used much in Thailand? Agar agar is definitely used all over Asia. I don't know about tapioca...thus my questions.

Mar 09, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics

Thickener in Thai iced tea?

I'm in Thailand at the moment, enjoying all the fabulous food and ordering from street stalls whenever the stall looks popular. I've been watching the cooking whenever I can. I've seen something added to Thai iced tea that I believe is a thickening agent.

Here's what happens - the vendor adds some tea leaves to a tea sock in a metal container, adds hot water and steeps it briefly. The sock is removed and the tea poured into a big plastic cup. Two powders are then added. One is clearly white sugar, the other powder is also stark white, very finely powdered, and not caked up at all, despite the tropical heat and humidity. These are swirled around with the hot tea briefly, to dissolve, and then the liquid is poured over a big glass or paper cup of ice. After that the condensed milk goes in.

I've seen agar-agar sold in the markets here, but I don't know for sure that that's what the second powder is. I can pretty much rule out powdered milk since it's not truly white and would likely cake up in the humidity. I can't rule out coffee mate or any number of other substances. Though the coffeemate would likely be kept in its original packaging. The powder I'm seeing has been removed from whatever packaging it was originally in and put in a glass jar. This sort of supports my theory that it's agar-agar, since that is sold in plastic bags that would spill the stuff all over if it were being used by a street vendor.

My Thai is nowhere near good enough to tackle asking about this ingredient. Nor would I expect the vendor's English to be up to translating that one. I've no objections to the thickener, by the way. In fact I like it and would like to know how to reproduce it at home.

Any ideas?

Mar 09, 2013
lyagushka in General Topics