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Posts Tagged ‘Southeast Asia’

The Sweet is a Faintness and the Bitter is a Medicine

I often hear the old Thai saying  หวานเป็นลม ขมเป็นยา: kwan pen lom kom pen yah. This culinary wisdom literally says “the sweet is a faintness and the bitter is a medicine.” Growing up in a village in Thailand with my grandma and her friends, I acquired a taste for the bitter and exotic vegetables from their gardens and the wilderness around us.

Bitter melon or Bitter Gourd is called มะระ—Mara—in Thai. Its scientific name is Momordica charantia and it is native to Asia and Africa. It is a climbing annual plant that one can grow anytime, anywhere in Southeast Asia and South Asia regardless of the season.

Bitter Melon – Photo from my morning walk in Hoi An, Vietnam

In most Thai or Asian villages, where there is a fence or an arbor there will be a climbing plant next to it. There just needs to be a space large enough for seeds to grow.

Chinese Bitter Melon – the China phenotype is common in Thailand

Bitter melon is best eaten when it is green and young. When the fruit grows older, the taste gets more bitter. It is not common to eat the older fruit when it turns yellow-orange and the seeds become red; at this later stage the plant is mainly used for growing the seeds for future new plants.

Indian variety of bitter melon – photo from my visit to a market in Hue, Vietnam

Bitter melon is widely cooked in many ways in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, I often enjoy it in stir-fried dishes with soy sauce and with or without egg. It is also popular with mara yad sai—stuffed with pork in a soup. Fresh green or boiled bitter melon can be served in a Thai crudites platter with Thai chili dip, or it can accompany pickled cabbage in a pork-bone soup or stewed bitter melon and pork-bone soup. It can also be cooked in a curry dish as well. In Myanmar and Bangladeshi, bitter melon is often stir-fried with garlic and turmeric powder.

How to prepare bitter melon

All parts of the fruit are edible after you remove the seeds and stem. For stir-fries, thin-slice the melon as shown above. Then I often take steps to reduce some of the bitterness. There are two ways to do this: put the sliced melon in boiling water for a few minutes and then strain out the melon and discard the water. Or sprinkle some salt on the melon, mix it in well and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing them in water. You may squeeze to dry. I personally like to use this latter method before making my stir-fries as some of the bitter flavor is left behind.

Why should you eat bitter melon? For much the same reason that you eat broccoli or spinach: for their health benefits. Bitter melon is an aid to diabetes control. It lowers blood sugar and promotes healthy insulin levels; besides that it also has Vitamin C, B1 and B2. While more studies need to be done, it is time to learn about new vegetables like bitter melon or get back to eating them routinely and celebrating the sweet truth about bitter melon. Cheers to a bitter melon!

Stir-fried Bitter Melon with Egg

Stir-fried Bitter Melon with Egg

Phad Mara Kub Khai 

ผัดมะระกับไข่

Serves: 4

Cooking Time: 4 minutes

When one has acquired a taste for bitter melon, stir-fried bitter melon with egg is a delightful dish. Personally, it makes me happy like after eating bitter-sweet chocolate. A bite of sliced bitter melon contrasts with the sweet, cooked egg and the hint of salty-soy flavor,  making this three-flavor combination very memorable and it lingers on my palate. When trying this dish for the first time, don’t be afraid of the bitter that you will taste at first. Wait a little while and you will taste the sweet from the egg, then the salty from the soy sauce. Serve the stir-fried bitter melon as a side with a curry dish and warm steamed jasmine rice.

Serves: 2

3 to 5 tablespoons canola oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 eggs
1½ cups sliced bitter melon, about 1 large bitter melon
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
½ cup water or chicken broth
 
Heat a wok on high heat until it is hot. Pour in 3 tablespoons canola oil and stir in garlic. When garlic is golden, stir in one egg and stir a few times. When the egg is cooked, stir in bitter melon. Stir for 1 minute, then add another egg and stir a few times before adding soy sauce and sugar. Add water or chicken broth and let it cook 1 minute. Depending on one’s liking, the melon should be not too soft or to firm; it should still have some crunch. Serve warm with steamed jasmine rice.
 
© 2011 Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen  
I Love Thai cooking 
 Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area. Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .
 

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泼水节

Image via Wikipedia

Sanuk Mai? This is a question Thais ask each other when they share experiences of any activities you do in life.

สนุก-Sanuk means to have a good time, to enjoy or to get pleasure and joy from anything we do. Tiew hai sanuk means travel and have a good time. Tum Ngan hai snuk, is to work and to enjoy working. When making choices in our life,“Sanuk” is a factor in our decision making: some pleasure has to be combined with whatever we do.  And when life is lacking Sanuk, then let’s plan it. This week in Seattle, I am going to do something I actually planned a month ahead to “Sanuk” with friends and that is to celebrate Thai New Year’s Day, or Songkran, with friends at the Washington Buddhavanaram.

Songkran is Thai New Year’s Day. It is is a national holiday in Thailand celebrated on April 13th. It is also a New Year’s Day for Lao, Burma and Cambodia. The Thai New Year is a solar new year, and not to be confused with the Chinese New Year, which is a lunar new year. In Seattle, the Thai community celebrates the holiday on Sundays so that locals can take time off on the weekend to celebrate. Please click here to see how these countries celebrate: Cambodia, Laos, Mon-Burmese and Thai. Many westerners know this celebration in Southeast Asia as the Water Festival.

Songkran is such a special day that we can’t complete our Sanuk without sharing food. Everyone brings food to share, which is set out on the table, then a bell is rung to signal lunch time. Sticky rice is well-loved, and the most popular dish to share.

Thai Community Potluck in Washington

I decided to do Kao Mok Gai (Phuket Baryani Rice) as a main dish, and sticky rice in bamboo tubes (my version with parchment paper in the oven) for a dessert. I chose these recipes because I wanted to do something that was easy to cook in large quantities and also something that is a traditional dish and a crown pleasure. Kao Mok Gai is a special dish from Phuket for a special event. In Cambodia,sticky rice in a bamboo tube, known as Kralan, is a traditional dish to be eaten on New Year’s Day.  Here are links to recipes for these dishes that are already available on this blog: Kao Mok Gai and Kao Lam.

Phuket Chicken Baryani Rice--Kao Mok Gai Phuket

Thai Kao Lam, Sticky Rice in Bambo Tube

I hope to get some more recipe ideas at this event as well as some photos to share with you.

May I wish you a Happy Thai New Year and have a lot of Sanuk in the coming year.

สวัสดีปีใหม่ค่ะ

Pranee

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Oodles of Flavors at Chinese Noodle House

I have  finally found my place to have oodles of noodles. And I have to thank to my friend Ron who introduced me to his favorite restaurant: Hue Ky Mi Gia, a Chinese Noodle House in in the Seattle International District’s Little Saigon. My first visit with Ron was in October 2010, then we went again in November to explore more noodle dishes right after the restaurant celebrated their first anniversary. Each visit we enjoyed the personal touch of a friendly conversation with the owners. That’s how we learned that they are now planning to open a new restaurant soon in another location.

Egg Noodle Dry Style at Hue Ky Mi Gia, Chinese Noodle House

I loved my first bowl of noodles there and knew that all of their dishes would be good. After a few visits and many oodles of noodles, I am sure that noodle fans will appreciate this review. The noodle dishes at  Hue Ky Mi Gia are simply delicious and satisfying. The flavors are authentic and provide the same tastes that one could savor while traveling in Southeast Asia. The dishes are not prepared to Americans tastes, but according to Asian soup traditions, from preparing the broth to using real ingredients in each dish that truly represent the original dish. Tiu, the owner, told us that most dishes on the menu are prepared here the same way that they are made in their restaurant in Vietnam, which also operates under the same name “Hue Ky Mi Gia.” “We cook according to tradition,” Tiu says with pride. I love the fact that they use garlic chives to heighten the broth; the pungent mellow broth left behind a delicious sweet and sophisticated aroma. I love the use of fried garlic, crunchy pork rind, garlic chives and freshly sliced green onions and lettuce in the soup. The noodles come in two versions, soup style or dry style. I always end up choosing the dry style with the broth on the side.

My favorite noodle dish here is Egg Noodle Dry Style (pictured above). It reminds me so much of my hometown cookery of Mee Hang. Tiu said a family ancestor was originally from China and found a new home in Vietnam. Her family is Vietnamese but the restaurant features mainly Chinese noodle soups, recipes that have been passed on in families for generations. Perhaps now I could make a connection; Chinese descendants my hometown  also came from the same part of China. When I eat her egg noodle dry style it feels like being in Phuket. Most of all, I am thankful to her for preserving the authenticity of the dish.

Without hesitation, I recommend Hue Ky Mi Gia to you highly. I judge the noodle restaurant by the broth and the noodle quality, and the rest is all about the authenticity. The price is very reasonable and the service is warm from this family owned business.

I recommend going to the restaurant before the lunch crowd. The setting is casual, so don’t worry if occasionally there are slurping sounds accompanying the meal.

Braised Duck Egg Noodle-The Signature Dish

Appetizers: Deep Fried Tofu, Honey Walnut Prawns, Crab Wonton with Tangy Sweet & SourSauce

Soup: Crab Meat with Fish Maw Soup, $ 5.50

Egg Noodles Dry Style: BBQ Pork, Sui Kau Pork & Shrimp, Dumpling Egg Noodles, $7

Braised Duck Egg Noodles, $7

Pork Intestines Egg Noodles, $6

Steamed Rice, $1

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Hue Ky Mi Gia, Chinese Noodle House

1207 South Jackson Street, Suite #101

Seattle, WA 98144

Telephone: 206 568 1268

Pranee teaches Thai Cooking classes in the Seattle area.
Her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com .


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February 2010, Old Quarter in Hanoi

Hanoi Confetti Corn from the street of Hanoi Old Quarter

I love writing recipes from my culinary trip in my kitchen because it is like traveling through time.  And I love to travel, so when the journey ended then I was in pain with nostalgia. I missed the places I have been and the friends I have made. Then I decided to revisit the experience by recreating the food of that land. Like what I did last week with this Hanoi confetti Corn here in my kitchen.

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This year my culinary trip to Southeast Asia started in Hanoi. After the long flight from Seattle and we arrived in the middle of the day.  After checking into the hotel, we headed off to the famous old quarter of Hanoi. No time for jet-lag, and old quarter is a best to start with exciting sight and sound. I already knew which street we wanted to walk, eat and shop. No time to waste we only have two days in Hanoi.

We came across the mobile foods just before Cha Ca Street, and the aroma of scallion oil and corn that caught our attention and find the confetti corn was cooking. Three of us tried to remember the all of the ingredients: cooking oil, corn, green onion, dried small shrimps, fish sauce and sugar. We ordered one and shared it on the street, it was delicious. Every day in Vietnam, the foods we loved consisted of a few simple ingredients put together in a stunningly simple way but the use of fresh ingredients made all the difference. This was a great welcome to the next world leading culinary destination.

Hanoi Confetti Corn with Shrimp Powder

I purchased the freshest local white corn from PCC Natural Market (in Hanoi, it was glutinous corn), shrimp powder is always in my freezer ready to use, I used chives from my garden instead of green onions and the rest of ingredients were staple foods.  I know how to revisit Hanoi again until the fresh corn runs out.

From Hanoi to your kitchen! Bon Appetite.

Hanoi Confetti Corn    

Serves: 4 

3 tablespoons butter 

2 cups corn kernels cut from 3 ears yellow or white corn 

1/4 cup chopped green onion, from 2 green onions or chives 

3 teaspoons shrimp powder, plus 1 teaspoon for garnish 

1 teaspoon sugar, optional –omit when use freshest corn 

1/2 teaspoon chili powder 

1 to 2 teaspoons fish sauce

Heat the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Allow the butter to melt, add the corn and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in green onion and shrimp powder and chili powder and let it cook for 1 or 2 more minutes. When the corn loses its starch and  stir in fish sauce and serve right away.

© 2010  Pranee Khruasanit Halvorsen 
I Love Thai cooking  Pranee teaches Thai Cooking class in Seattle areas, her website is: I Love Thai cooking.com  
 

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