No Contest

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Thai food has become my comfort food. It’s the cuisine I crave on the regular. It’s become a big problem.

At work we had an open call “Salmon Chowder Contest” that would run on our menu at the restaurant if it was chosen to be the winner. This is the soup I made for the contest.

I decided to base my recipe off of one I made last year for my Tom Kha Gai soup. It’s not your traditional chowder, but it’s crazy delicious. Like, it’s really good. Trust me.

Forget tradition and try this! You won’t be disappointed.

Coconut Salmon Chowder
Yields 2 quarts

FOR THE CHOWDER

INGREDIENTS
2 nubs medium-sized galangal, peeled and sliced*
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, sliced thin
5 kaffir lime leaves
6 Thai bird chiles
1 Tablespoon coconut oil
1 yellow onion, julienned
2 cups Yukon potatoes, peeled and medium-diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans coconut cream
2 cups vegetable stock
1 pound salmon, skin-off, cut into medium-sized cubes
1/8 cup fish sauce
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup Thai basil, picked and minced
1 cup cilantro, picked and minced
1 lime, zested and juiced
salt and pepper, to taste
*galangal is a rhizome from the same family as ginger, used primarily in Thai, Lao and Vietnamese cooking. Find it at your local Asian supermarket.

METHOD
Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor and process to a paste. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and add the paste, stirring till fragrant; about 5 minutes. Add the onions and saute till lightly browned. Add the potatoes and garlic and stir for a minute.

Turn down the heat and add the coconut cream and stir. Stir in the fish sauce and sugar, and bring to a gentle simmer, then add the salmon and simmer for an additional 5 minutes or till salmon is cooked.

Add the cilantro, Thai basil, lime zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper. Top with a healthy drizzle of Thai basil oil. (Recipe below).

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FOR THE THAI BASIL OIL
Yields 2 cups

INGREDIENTS
2 cups Thai basil, packed
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 3/4 cups olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

METHOD
Blanch the basil leaves in boiling salted water for 20 seconds. Remove the basil and shock in an ice water bath. Add in the garlic and olive oil. Process in a food processor till fully combined.

Store in an airtight container overnight in the refrigerator. Not he next day, strain the oil through a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the leaves.

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Eat Like a Viking

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Much of the history surrounding the origin of the Danish aebleskive is shrouded in mystery—and to some, in ancient Scandinavian folklore. Legend has it that during the days of the Vikings, after the warriors returned home, hit hard in battle (many poorly wounded and hungry) mixed together flour with milk, and cooked the batter inside the hollows of their iron shields and horned helmets (which, too, were dented and broken) over an open fire.

The result: A delicious golf ball-shaped cake, golden on the outside and fluffy in the middle.

Today, aebleskiver (plural) which roughly translates to “sliced apples” are enjoyed by just about anyone in every corner of the world. Topped simply with powdered sugar, filled with delicious lingonberry jam, or dipped in a creamy lemon curd—the possibilities with these apple-shaped delights are endless. For my first solo (and best!) attempt at aebleskiver-making (I can briefly remember a short lesson on making them in culinary school), I decided to pair a simple aebleskive recipe with an of-the-moment curd. While we’re still in a weird transitional season from late-fall to winter fruits, I made a delicious pomegranate-lemon curd that pairs perfectly with this recipe.

Cooking with a special aebleskiver pan makes this recipe so much easier, but I used a mini muffin pan, and it worked out PERFECTLY.

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Aebleskiver (Danish Pancakes)

Yields 16
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats

INGREDIENTS
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 cup half and half
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT
Aebleskiver pan (found in select cooking supply stores, like Sur La Table)
or, use a mini muffin pan (which I did.)

METHOD
Whisk together the AP flour, baking powder and salt, then set aside. In a larger bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, milk and 3 tablespoons of the melted butter until just-combined. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, don’t overmix, as it should be slightly lumpy.

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In the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites till stiff peaks form,  about 5 minutes. Then fold in the whipped egg whites into the lumpy batter.

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If you have an aebleskiver pan, place the pan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter evenly to each well of the mold, and once the butter starts to bubble, add 2 heaping tablespoons of batter. Allow the aebleskiver to cook till the bottoms are golden, about 4 minutes, then flip and continue cooking till the tops are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Transfer cooked pancakes to a plate covered with foil to retain heat. Repeat steps till the rest of the pancake batter is used.

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If you DON’T have an aebleskiver pan, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place a mini muffin pan into the oven to heat up. Once your oven is up to temperature, remove the muffin pan and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter into each mold well, then add about 2 heaping Tablespoons of pancake batter into each well. Place into the oven and allow the aebleskiver to cook till the bottoms are golden, about 3 minutes. Once you see that the bottoms are golden, remove from the oven and flip each pancake onto the other side.

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Raise your oven’s temperature to 425 degrees, and once heated up, place the aebleskivers back into the oven to finish cooking for another 3-5 minutes, till golden brown. Once done, immediately transfer the cooked aebleskiver to a plate covered with foil to retain heat, and repeat the steps till the rest of the batter is used.

Garnish with Pomegranate-lemon curd. (Recipe here)

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Bao Down

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Gua Bao
is a Taiwanese street food, comprised of a steamed bun, braised meat, and other fillings. I was first introduced to these teeny-tiny bites of delight while I worked for a food truck in San Francisco. Every weekend our truck met with other food trucks at Fort Mason hosted by Off the Grid, a Bay Area-based food and music event planner of sorts, bringing together only the best local food trucks at different venues weekly throughout the Bay. Off the Grid events were super fun to work because we were always busy and we got to meet some really awesome and talented people in the food truck community. One of my favorite trucks that I became a huge fan of was Chairman Bao, food truck that specialized in gua bao. A light and fluffy steamed bun with a tender, crisp slice of pork belly, with a nicely pickled crunch of daikon. So many excellent flavors all in one bite. You can’t help but want more.

This week I put my own spin on gua bao with braised pork belly, sweet pickled papaya and spicy pickled cucumbers.

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FOR THE BUNS
Recipe slightly adapted from Food52
Yields 16

INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup water, room temperature
2 1/8 cups flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup reserved pork fat, room temperature (you can use bacon or pork belly fat)

METHOD
Set up a stand mixer with a dough hook. Place the yeast and water together and mix just to incorporate to activate the yeast. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Then add in the flour, sugar, milk powder, Kosher salt, baking powder, baking soda and fat and mix on low for about 10 minutes. After the mixing cycle, your dough should be gathered into a ball. Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled medium-sized bowl, wrapped in plastic wrap. Keep the bowl in a warm area of your kitchen and allow the dough to rest for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

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Once the dough has rested and risen, transfer it onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a sharp knife to divide the ball in 2 equal-sized pieces.

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Then divide each half into 4 equal-sized pieces, making 8.

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Roll each piece into mini logs, then cut each log in half, making 16 pieces total.

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Each piece should weigh about 25 grams each and be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Then roll each piece into a ball and place on a baking sheet. Loosely wrap the sheet tray with plastic wrap and allow to rise for a half-hour.

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After the buns have rested, use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a 4-inch-long oval. Brush each bun lightly with oil, and lay a chopstick horizontally across the center of the oval and fold it over onto itself to form a bun. Gently pull out the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and place it onto a sheet tray, allow all the rolled out buns to rest for another 45 minutes.

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Set up a steamer on top of your stove. Steam your buns in batches so the steamer isn’t overcrowded, and steam them for about 8 to 10 minutes. Quickly remove each bun and place on a sheet tray to cool.

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The steamed buns can be used immediately or kept frozen in Zip-Lock bags for up to 2 months. Reheat the frozen buns on a stove top steamer for about 3 minutes, or until soft and warmed all the way through.

FOR THE FILLING
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4-8

INGREDIENTS
1/2 pound slab skin-on pork belly
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stub ginger, peeled and minced
3 each star anise
2 each Thai chili
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup Asian rice wine
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup light soy sauce
3 cups water

METHOD
Heat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet on medium-high. Once hot, place the pork belly into the pan and allow to sear for 5 minutes (or until light golden brown) before turning the belly onto the other side. Allow to sear for another 5 minutes, flipping the belly till all sides are seared nicely.

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Remove the belly and place onto a plate. Lower the heat to medium, then add the oil, garlic, ginger, and chilis. Toss for 2 minutes. Then add the star anise and brown sugar. Stir for a minute then deglaze with the wine. Stir till the sugar is melted.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly. Return the belly to the pan and turn down the heat to low. Carefully cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil. Allow to braise for at least 1 hour. Check the belly for tenderness after 1 hour. Cook till fork tender.

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FOR THE PICKLES

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Spicy Pickled Cucumbers
Yields 1 cup

INGREDIENTS
1 large English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 Thai chili, julienned
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

METHOD
Heat the vinegar, sugar, chili, salt, pepper flake and sesame seeds in a small pan till boiling. Place the sliced cucumbers in a Mason jar or deli cup, then pour the boiling brine into the jar then cover. Allow to sit in room temperature for an hour, then keep in the refrigerator.

Sweet Pickled Papaya
Yields 2 cups

INGREDIENTS
1 small green papaya, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

METHOD
Bring the vinegar, sugar, water and salt to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the brine into a Mason jar or deli cup with the papaya. Cover tightly and allow to sit in room temperature for 1 hour. Then keep in the refrigerator.

Pickles can be used once cooled, and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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TO ASSEMBLE
16 steamed buns
braised pork belly, sliced into 16 pieces
hoisin sauce
spicy pickled cucumbers
sweet pickled papaya
1/4 cup cilantro leaves

METHOD
Place a slice of the pork belly into the bun, smear a little hoisin sauce on the pork. Put 3-6 cucumber slices and about 3 tablespoons of papaya on top of the pork. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

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Hot Noods

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I eat more ice cream in the winter than in the summer. I enjoy a good bowl of ramen or pho on a hot summer day. I bake more in the summer than in the winter.

Weird.

I don’t know what it is (maybe my body is calibrated to the opposite side of the hemisphere?), but I tend to eat atypical foods seasonally. Am I the only one here on this?

So it’s summer and it’s HOT. And this is coming from a girl who was born in LA. I LOVE the cold. While I lived in New York, most of my friends complained about the snow storms and low temps, I relished in it. So when the temps jump to above 80 degrees, I’m not too stoked.

Yet I crave hot things. And that’s not limited to the spicy-hot variety. I make this Thai-style noodle dish a lot in the summer. Instead of the standard peanut sauce, I swap it for almond butter, which is just as good. This time around I opted for a vegetarian version, but I’ve made this dish with shrimp, chicken, pork and tofu. All of which tasted excellent. Love pairing these noodles with this Thai Basil Chicken dish.

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Spicy Thai Noodles with Almond Butter Sauce
Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS
6 ounces Pad Thai noodles
4 Tablespoons almond butter
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
½ cup chicken stock, plus 1 cup if needed
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tablespoons Thai Chile Garlic Sauce
3 Tablespoons Sriracha
1 cup cilantro leaves, for garnish

METHOD
Cook the noodles according to the manufacturers’ directions.

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As the noodles are cooking, whisk together all of the ingredients in a shallow skillet or pan. Cook over medium heat until the almond butter is completely melted and the sauce is smooth. If the sauce is too thick, add in another 1/2 cup of chicken stock to thin out. Adjust spice accordingly. Turn off the heat.

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In a large bowl, place the drained noodles and mix in the almond butter sauce. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and serve immediately.

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(Bowie really liked the shrimp version I made of this recipe a few months back.)

You Can’t Have the Mango!

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Why is it that every time I hear this song by Everything But the Girl, I’m reminded of Chris Kattan’s Saturday Night Live character, Mango? Does it give you flashbacks, too?

I digress. So the whole thing with mangoes started when my parents came to visit me in Portland recently (yay!). I was so excited to host them in my new apartment. We went on a road trip and visited our family in Idaho. It was such a lovely week, I’m so glad to have spent some quality time with my family. Working in the hospitality industry, it’s hard to get the time to take long vacations and spend time with loved ones. I really want to (and will!) make an effort this year to work less and spend more quality time with the special people in my life. Promise.

Back to the point of this story: My mom brought me a bunch of mangoes (it’s her favorite fruit), her reasoning being that I “need to eat more fruit.” (She thinks I don’t eat enough fruit, which is pretty much true.) But I somehow forgot about them, and when I finally remembered that I had them (in actuality, a telephone conversation with my mom asking me if I had eaten said mangoes) I found them overripe in my fridge. I was bummed; they were too mushy to eat raw. And I’m really hesitant to eat things with weird textures. (Random fact about me: I don’t care for eggplants or bananas because of their weird mushiness.) Yet I tasted the overripe mangoes and figured they were still salvageable, so I made this delectable Mango Coffee Cake instead.

The Martha Stewart recipe I adapted it from called for a glaze, but I decided to top the cake with my Vegan Caramel Sauce that I upgraded by steeping the coconut milk with star anise for about an hour.

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This recipe is best served warm and with coffee. (Duh.) Store the cake in room temperature wrapped in plastic. Upon serving, just reheat it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. It still tastes really good even after a week.

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Mango Coffee Cake with Coconut-Star Anise Caramel
Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING AND CENTER
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

FOR THE CAKE
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for your baking pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
5 overripe mangoes, flesh scooped and mashed lightly

Vegan Caramel Sauce

METHOD
First make the streusel topping. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small to medium clumps form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the streusel center: Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. For the cake: Butter a 9-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl and mix together.

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Beat the butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed till fluffy, about a minute. Add in the egg and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream and mashed mangoes, beginning and ending with flour. Continue to beat until well combined.

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Pour half of the batter into the greased pan. Sprinkle the streusel center mixture evenly over the batter. Pour in the remaining batter, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Sprinkle the rest of the streusel topping.

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Place into the oven and bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely. Remove cake from pan, and transfer to parchment.

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Make the caramel sauce. While still warm, drizzle over cake and let the sauce drip down to the sides. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.

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