The Kids Are Alright

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Holiday get-togethers can be a bit challenging for us folk who have food allergies. It is sadly true. We are the ones who come to birthday + holiday parties, weddings, showers, potlucks, sulking at the buffet table full of food that we simply cannot eat. We stand there and salivate over all the pies, pizzas, bread, cakes, cookies, cheesecakes, cheese plates, etc., that are hands off. I mean, we *can* eat them, sure, but that would mean we want to:

A) Die

B) Get rushed to the hospital 

C) Be stuck on the toilet for the next week, wishing we were dead 

D) Be stuck lying on the floor next to the toilet in the fetal position, wishing we were able to physically get onto the toilet 

It’s not fun. For us or for our loved ones who have to deal with it. I once accidentally ate a few bites of risotto at a “build your own risotto bar” at a wedding thinking that all the cheeses that were placed in separate bowls at the build-your-own bar were my signal that the actual risotto base didn’t include cheese. I was wrong. I was so deeply wrong. My body made sure to tell me how wrong I was. I was sick for a few days after that, and have avoided “build-your-own” risotto buffets ever since.

For holiday parties, and actually, any party all year round, I love making this Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe and bringing it to parties because it’s so dang delicious, moist AF, and is gluten-free, vegan AND nut-free. It’s perfect for adults and kids with food allergies.

I hope you try out this recipe, and if you do let me know how it turns  out.

xo Kelly Rae

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Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Gluten-Free, Vegan, Nut-Free

Recipe slightly adapted from Kitchen Confidante

INGREDIENTS

1 C brown rice flour

1/2 C potato starch

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup coconut sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup or agave syrup

1/4 cup vegan butter or coconut oil, at room temperature

1 flaxseed egg (1 Tablespoon flaxseed meal + 2 1/2 Tablespoons water, mixed together in a small bowl)

1/2 cup “vegan buttermilk” (coconut milk plus 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, mixed together)

3 very ripe bananas, mashed with a fork 

1/2 dairy-free chocolate chips (I’m a die-hard Enjoy Life bittersweet chocolate fan!)

METHOD 

Preheat oven to 300°F. 

Grease your loaf pan with coconut oil, olive oil or vegan butter and line the base of your pan with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment, cream together the sugar and butter. Stir in the flax egg and then the bananas, and lastly adding the vegan buttermilk. Slowly add the dry ingredients and then the chocolate chips and mix till just incorporated to avoid over mixing.

Pour batter into greased loaf pan for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your oven. If in doubt, do the toothpick test.

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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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Sir Mix-Mix A-Lot

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My first memory of devouring halo-halo (pronounced hollow-hollow, and Tagalog for “mix-mix”) was at an early age at Magic Wok, a Filipino restaurant in L.A. close to where I grew up. (The restaurant is luckily still around, but it’s now called Crispy House, I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in L.A.) The food was soooo good; the best Filipino food I’ve ever had–crispy pata (fried pork belly), Shanghai lumpiang (Chinese-style deep-fried egg rolls), chicken adobo (braised chicken in herbs, vinegar and soy sauce), pancit bihon (stir-fried rice noodles), and of course, the house special halo-halo, a shaved ice/ice cream dessert with milk, Spanish flan, and various beans. Yes, beans. As in, frijoles.

the inspo: Halo-halo at Magic Wok circa 2012

the inspo: Halo-halo at Magic Wok circa 2012

Anthony Bourdain tried it for the first time on his show, Parts Unknown, and described it as, “It makes no goddam sense at all; I like it,”  and “it’s oddly beautiful.”

The standout part of halo-halo is the bright purple scoop of ice cream gracing the top of the ice-cold glass, called ube, a naturally-hued purple yam. Yes, yam. Yes, it’s purple. And it’s delicious.

Alone the beans, milk, ice cream, flan, shaved ice, and chunks of jackfruit and various jellies, are odd, but once mix-mixed, the blend of savory, sweet, creamy, caramel and sometimes tangy work perfectly well together. It actually works.

The key to enjoying halo-halo to its fullest is doing exactly what its name asks: mix! And mix! Use a long spoon to mix all the layers of ingredients together.

I haven’t had legit halo-halo in a few years, but during a recent trip to the local Asian market, I stumbled upon a quart of Magnolia’s Ube ice cream. I quickly added it to my basket and enjoyed it at home. I wanted to recreate the halo-halo that reminds me of the ones I had at Magic Wok with my family. Here’s my take on Filipino halo-halo, with homemade ube ice cream and Spanish-style flan!

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FOR THE ICE CREAM

Ube Ice Cream
Yields about 2 quarts
Recipe slightly adapted from Rot In Rice

INGREDIENTS
16 ounces (1 package) ube, grated purple yam*
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
(*Cook’s Note: Ube/grated purple yam can be found at your local Asian market.)

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METHOD
If your ube is uncooked (as most are in the package) steam it in a double boiler for about 20-30 minutes.

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Carefully remove the cooked ube and mash it with a fork.

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In a large sauce pot, heat the sugar and milks over medium-low heat till just-summering. Add in the mashed ube and mix till completely incorporated.

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Place the mixture into a blender or stick blender and purée till smooth. Mix in the heavy cream and salt.

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Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove the grainy bits. Discard those bits. Place the ice cream base into the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

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Place the ice cream base into your ice cream maker bowl, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Enjoy!

FOR ASSEMBLING THE HALO-HALO

Halo-Halo
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
Spanish flan (recipe HERE)
Ube ice cream (recipe above)
1 can evaporated milk
4 cups crushed or shaved ice
1 jar Halo-Halo mix*
(Cook’s Note: Halo-Halo mix can be found at your local Asian market.)

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METHOD
Gather 4 sundae or chalice glasses (I used a tulip-style one). Add a scoop of the ice in each, then add a layer of the halo-halo mix.

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Layer on another scoop of ice and halo-halo mix after that till you reach about 1/3 to the rim.

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Cut the flan into quarters and place a wedge on the top of each glass with 1-2 scoops of ube ice cream. Top with enough evaporated milk to cover a 1/4 to the rim.

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General Custard

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This Spanish-style flan recipe is super easy to make. I love using this recipe to accompany this Filipino Halo-Halo dessert recipe.

Spanish Flan
Serves 4
Recipe slightly adapted from AllRecipes.com

INGREDIENTS
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1, 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup whole milk
kettle of boiling water

METHOD
Preheat your own to 350 degrees F. Place your ramekins (or whatever vessel you’ll be cooking your flans in) into the oven on a sheet tray to warm up.

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Heat a medium-sized sauce pan to medium-low, then add the sugar until it’s caramelized and brown.

While your sugar heats up, mix together the eggs and milks in a large bowl until well combined. Set aside.

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When the sugar becomes syrupy, turn off the heat and immediately pour into your warming ramekins.

(Cook’s Note: Heating the ramekins beforehand helps the caramel maintain its heat and not harden immediately.)

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Carefully pour the custard mixture into the filled ramekins. Then place the ramekins into a large, shallow ovenproof pan. Fill the pan with the boiling water about 1-inch from the base of the ramekin. Cover with foil and place into the oven for 40 minutes.

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Check for doneness, then allow to cool completely. When serving, completely trace the outside of the flan with a knife and then invert the ramekin onto a serving plate.

Call Me Miss Honey Lavender Stracciatella

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I’ve been binge-watching LogoTV’s RuPaul’s Drag Race for the past month. All seven seasons. It’s an addiction I’m very happy to admit. I love me some drag queens and especially love me some RuPaul.

(PS: How has she not aged an ounce?! Get it, mama Ru!)

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I remember watching RuPaul’s talk show (The RuPaul Show) on Vh1 in the late-90s. I was in middle school when it aired, and was so enamored by Ru. What a talent, I thought; you couldn’t keep your eyes off her. I was a fan of hers then and am an even bigger fan of her now. The Drag Race competition show is such a guilty pleasure of mine. I watch it while I’m getting dressed for work, while I’m cooking, and when I unwind after getting off from work. And while most shows lose their luster after each season, Drag Race does quite the opposite: it gains more fans and attention with every year.

When I was deciding to make a new ice cream for this week’s post I immediately turned to my mini garden I’ve been working on for the past 3 months. One of my favorite things I’m growing right now is lavender. The aroma is so soothing and delicious; I so desperately have been wanting an excuse to cook with it.

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My idea was to create a honey lavender ice cream with a twist–add some chocolate. Dark chocolate and lavender go so well together, I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity to pair these flavors for this ice cream flavor. And instead of simply adding chips, I wanted to make a stracciatella-type ice cream. The soft, mellow taste from the lavender ice cream immediately reach your taste buds, and then these quick yet small bursts of chocolate melt in your mouth and add a lasting finish. Both flavors are undeniably perfect together, much like RuPaul and Michelle Visage!

And how great of a drag queen name is Honey Lavender Stracciatella? It’s mine now!

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Honey Lavender Stracciatella Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart

INGREDIENTS
4 cups whole milk, divided
3 Tablespoons lavender buds, dried
6 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup 60% dark chocolate chips (or bar cut into chunks)

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METHOD
In a small pot, heat 2 cups of the milk till just-scalding.

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Place the lavender buds in a separate medium-sized pan (preferable shallow).

When the milk is scalding, quickly remove from the heat and pour into the shallow pan with the lavender buds. This will “shock” the lavender and immediately extract all of the essential oils you want to obtain to get the greatest amount of flavor. Turn on the heat to medium-low and whisk occasionally to avoid scorching. Add in the honey and salt. Allow flower buds to steep in the heated milk for about an hour, adjusting the heat if it gets too hot or cool.

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In a separate mixing bowl, place the egg yolks and whisk rigorously till thickened. Add in the sugar and continue to whisk to thicken.

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After the lavender/milk mixture has steeped for about an hour, strain the milk with a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the flowers. Return half of the milk into the shallow pan, turning the heat up to medium. Place about 1/4 of the strained milk slowly into the egg/sugar mixture. This is called “tempering” the eggs. You’re essentially heating up the eggs very slowly avoiding to curdling them. Whisk and slowly add in more of the lavender/milk liquid until the mixture is warmed.

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Then add the egg yolk/milk mixture into the shallow pan, incorporating it with the rest of the heated lavender/milk base. Whisk the mixture constantly, making sure not to overcook the eggs. Adjust the heat and/or remove the pan from the heat to maintain an even cooking temperature. Once the mixture has thickened to the point where the mixture coats the back of a spoon, it’s done. Immediately transfer to a shallow bowl and place on top of an ice bath to cool down.

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(Cook’s note: If you see the sides of the pan start to “cook” you’ve overcooked your eggs and must immediately remove from the heat and strain the mixture and place in an ice bath to cool down. When you overcook the mixture you’ll end up with a scrambled egg-tasting ice cream base, or even worse, scrambled eggs!)

Once the mixture has cooled down, remove from the ice bath. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator to cool down for an additional 3 hours, overnight if possible.

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Pour your ice cream base into your ice cream maker when you’re ready to churn it. Follow churning process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

When you have about 30 minutes left of churning, set up a double boiler, and place the chocolate chips into a heat-resistant bowl to melt the chocolate.

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While the ice cream is churning, slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate. The circular motion from the churning will create “shards” from the chocolate once it’s frozen. Which is exactly what “stracciatella” means in Italian:,“little shreds” or “little tears.”

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Cover and place the ice cream into the freezer and allow to firm for at least 3 hours.

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(Editor’s Note: All TV show screenshots in this story are property of World of Wonder Productions.)

Recreating: Pica Pica’s Arepas

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The Mexican Gordita.

The El Salvadorian Pupusa.

The Venezuelan and Colombian Arepa.

Each are comprised of a corn flour-batter mix, shaped into a disc, fried in oil and stuffed with various fillings.

They all sound strikingly similar, but most will argue, are quite different. (Just ask a Venezuelan how their arepas compare to that of a Colombian’s, or vise-versa, and you will get strong disagreements from each party.)

While in the past I’ve enjoyed a Gordita or two or 10, and have had quite the experience being a human pupusería, I hadn’t stumbled upon Arepas until my recent trip to San Francisco a few weeks ago. My awesome, longtime friend  and hostess Amber, took me to this amazing Venezuelan restaurant in the Mission called Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen. It is FAN (freaking!) TASTIC. I can’t even begin to describe how delicious the sweet corn, cake-like arepas, filled with hearty shredded beef pabellón, fried plantains, black bean purée and queso fresco were. I was in Arepa heaven. If such a heaven exists, I was definitely in it.

arepa inspo a streetcar named devour

The sweetness of the yellow corn viuda (Spanish for “widow” referring to an unfilled arepa) is most excellent on its own, but when paired with the various fillings, it becomes this flavor explosion in your mouth–the sweetness from the viuda and plantain, the salty from the pabellón and queso fresco and the gentle acidity from the guasacaca. Every inch of your tastebuds are satisfied, wanting more and not knowing when, (or how) to stop.

I had long (actually not quite that long, more like a week after) daydreamed of my rather virginal Arepa experience, wanting more. So I made my best attempt at recreating these delicate bellezas del cielo.

arepas 2 a streetcar named devour

Venezuelan-Style Arepas
Serves 3-6
Arepa dough recipe slightly adapted from Mommyhood’s Diary blog

FOR THE AREPAS (VIUDAS)
4 cups of water, room temperature
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
3 cups Harina P.A.N (precooked white corn meal. Look for the “P.A.N” as it’s very different from the harina used in pupusas and gorditas.)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

METHOD
In a medium-sized bowl add the water, salt and sugar. With a whisk, mix until the salt and sugar is dissolved. Slowly add in the Harina P.A.N. Using your hands, mix the dough, breaking any clumps with your fingers. Allow the dough to rest 5 minutes to thicken up.

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While you’re waiting, heat a non-stick griddle pan or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Then add the oil to the dough, working the dough with your hands for about a minute. The arepa dough should be firm but not cracking when formed. If the dough is too soft add a little more of Harina P.A.N or more water if it’s too hard.

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Form dough balls and flatten them gently into discs until they’re about 1/2-inch thick. Immediately place the discs over your preheated pan and cook the arepas for 5-7 minutes on each side or until lightly golden brown. Repeat till all dough has been used. Serve immediately with your choice of fillings.

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FOR THE AREPAS RELLENAS (Filled arepas)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, julienned
2 1/2 pounds flank or flat iron steak
1 cup (8 ounces) canned tomato sauce
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 large ripened plantain, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces on a bias
6 Arepas vuidas
3 Tablespoons butter
1/2 of small wheel Queso Fresco, crumbled
1 cup Guasacaca Salsa*

For garnish
2 small green onions, julienned (green and whites)

METHOD
Rub a generous amount of salt and pepper to both sides of your steak. Preheat a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add in the oil, and when the oil begins to slightly haze, add the steak.

Cook each side for about 3 minutes, or until lightly browned. When both sides are gently seared, using a pair of tongs, remove the steak and place onto plate to rest. Keeping the heat still on medium, add the onions  and sauté till onions are translucent. Then add the tomato sauce, stirring well. Add the oregano and season to taste with salt and pepper. Lower heat to low and allow to simmer for about 20-25 minutes to thicken.

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While your sauce is simmering, and after resting your steak for at least 15 minutes, slice your steak into even 1/4-inch slices. The steak should be at a nice rare pink.

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When your sauce has thickened up, immediately turn off the heat and throw in the sliced steak. The residual heat of the sauce will further cook the meat just a tad.

In another medium-sized non-stick pan or skillet, heat a Tablespoon of oil on medium.

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Place the sliced plantains in the skillet, cooking each side for about 3 minutes each or until nicely browned and caramelized. Immediately remove from the pan and into a paper towel-lined plate to absorb excess oil.

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Next, gather all filling ingredients together.

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When ready to assemble, split each arepa in half horizontally with a knife. Butter each side of the still-warm arepa. Fill the bottoms of each arepa with the plantains, then layer on the steak, and a heaping spoonful of guasacaca salsaqueso fresco crumbles and green onion garnish.

Serve immediately. (Knife and fork optional, but highly recommended!)

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Let’s Cross Over

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For the last leg of Liz’s journey, she finds “LOVE” in Bali. Meeting her future husband, Felipe (real name: Jose Nunes), helped change her way of thinking. She discovered that she can find balance with love and spirituality. She not only found love in the form of her soulmate, but she also found love in the friends she met (not just in Indonesia, but throughout her journey) like Ketut Liyer, Wayan Nuriasih and Tutti.

I felt that a sweet dish would be the best representation of Liz’s time in Bali. I could just imagine young Tutti making these fun and easy-to-make sweet treats with her mom.

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Gemblong (Indonesian Sweet Rice and Coconut Fritters)
Yields about 14 fritters

INGREDIENTS
2 cups sweet rice flour (I used Koda Farms Blue Star® Mochiko)
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup coconut milk, heated
1/4 cup water
2-3 cups oil, for frying
1 pint coconut-caramel sauce (recipe HERE)

METHOD
In a small saucepan, heat the coconut milk and water till almost boiling. Stir occasionally to avoid scorching. Set aside.

Place the oil in a Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat till oil is shimmering (not exactly boiling but very hot!).

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Mix together the rice flour, coconut flakes and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
Slowly add in the heated liquids, using a rubber spatula to mix it all together. Once all of the liquid has been added use your hands to finish incorporating the dough. The dough should be slightly damp, like cookie dough.

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Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup or scoop, portion out 12-14 balls of dough. Form the dough balls into about 1/2-inch thick, cylindrical patties.

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Place one of the patties into the frying oil to check for proper temperature. The patty should start frying immediately but not so much that the fritter begins to burn quickly. Adjust temperature of oil as needed. Fry the dough for about 2-3 minutes then flip, cooking for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the oil using a pair of tongs and place onto a paper towel-lined platter to cool down.

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Once cooled down (about 10 minutes), dip into the caramel sauce (recipe HERE) and shake off the excess sauce, and place onto a Silpat- or parchment paper-lined sheet tray to dry.

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Return to the full story HERE

(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Columbia Pictures.)