Since making the breakfast baozi the other day I have discovered the wonderful umami flavor of katsuo nori furikake. The sauce is hardly complicated. First I made a roux then whisked in a cup and a half of warm milk. I added about two tablespoons furikake and two teaspoons of soy sauce, a bit of salt and several twists of cracked pepper. To the sauce I added the cooked linguine with blanched sugar snap peas, stir-fried carrots and sweet pepper, and some shredded cooked chicken. That’s it. My take on carbonara sauce!
This is Chef Ware’s take on that quintessential southern breakfast, biscuits and gravy. Instead of biscuits, she uses baozi or filled buns, a Chinese dimsum staple. The complex flavor of the baozi filling is due to the combination of fennel, black vinegar, garlic, and honey. Baozi is usually eaten out of hand as a snack or as a meal on the go, but Chef Ware ladles gravy on these buns and tops them with fried egg, southern style. The gravy is full of flavor, tangy and interesting with a hint of the sea, thanks to the nori or seaweed, an ingredient in the katsuo nori furikake. Furikake adds just the right kind of savory or umami taste that is as hard to describe as it is unmistakable.
I made my bao both small and large. Andy prefers the 4-inch bao to the 3 inch so this recipe reflects that. I also doubled the bao dough. The first batch I made I forgot the oil. But it made very little difference to the taste or texture. The buns are done when they look cream colored. They may feel solid and heavy but do not be alarmed. They are soft inside and when you bite into one, yielding to the teeth, chewy like fresh bread and delicious.
Johanna Ware’s Breakfast Bao
12 to 14 buns
20 minutes, plus proofing time
28 minutes, plus proofing time
2/3 cup warm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 1/4 cups bread flour, plus more for if needed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the water, yeast and sugar until the yeast dissolves. Let the mixture sit until the yeast starts to get foamy and bloom, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the oil and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, sift the bread flour, salt and baking soda together. Add the yeast mixture to the dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula. If the dough feels sticky, add 1 additional tablespoon of flour at a time until it is less sticky.
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel and let the dough rest until it has doubled in size, 1. to 2 hours. Fold the dough over on itself to flatten it.
4. Portion the dough into balls that are 3 inches in diameter and let rest for 5 minutes. Flatten each ball into a disk 4 inches in diameter.
5. Fill the buns with the filling (see recipe below) and wrap by gathering the edge and twisting slightly. Put each bao on a parchment lined baking tray. Cover with a damp kitchen towel to keep the bao from drying out.
6. Fill a wok or skillet with 1 to 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Line a steam basket with a circle of parchment paper. Place the buns 1 to 2 inches away from one another, as they will expand as they cook.
7. Working in 2 batches, steam the buns. Place 5-6 buns in the prepared steam basket and steam until the buns have expanded, 7 to 9 minutes. Serve warm.
12 to 14 buns
30 minutes, plus cooling time
50 minutes, plus cooling time
For the Bao:
Bao dough (recipe above)
1 pound ground pork
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2/3 cup honey (or 3/4 cup maple syrup)
2 tablespoons black vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon water
For the gravy:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon shaoxing wine or sherry
1 1/4 cups milk, warmed
1/3 cup chicken stock, preferably home made
2 tablespoons Katsuo Nori Furikake (or 1 1/2 teaspoons togarishi)
2 teaspoons soy sauce (reduce if using canned chicken stock)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 medium scallions, leaves of Chinese celery, and cilantro, chopped
1. Make the bao dough as directed in the recipe above.
2. Make the filling. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown the pork while using a wooden spoon to break it into small clumps, 7 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium low, then add the garlic, fennel seeds, honey or maple syrup, black vinegar, soy sauce and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water together to make a slurry. Bring the pork to a simmer and pour in the slurry. Once the sauce has thickened, after about 2 to 3 minutes, remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely, or chill and skim off the congealed fat.
4. Make the bao as directed in the recipe above.
5. Meanwhile, make the gravy: In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter begin to foam, whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the shaoxing wine or sherry then whisk in the warm milk slowly until the gravy has thickened slightly, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, furikake (togarashi) and soy sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and keep warm.
8. To serve, place the steamed bao on a plate and ladle the gravy over the bao. Top with the fried eggs and scallion mix.
Actually this is Mamma Mia’s in Salaya but the place owes a lot to Paolo’s personality. He’s a great host. For a month, Andy and I noshed on the Antipasto Italiano but today we decided to move on. We ordered the Mamma Mia Salad with Italian Dressing, Salmon Spaghetti, and Mushroom Risotto–with our usual glass of house red.
This dish is made in 2 steps; the rice is cooked in a rice cooker and the chicken is steamed by wrapping each breast in foil then baking the packets in the oven. The original recipe from The Photo Cookbook-Quick and Easy directs steaming packets of chicken over the rice as it cooks. This is tricky, since both rice and chicken cook at different rates depending on the temperature. I thought it would be easier to do them separately. My solution worked, for the chicken and the rice came together wonderfully, with delicate undertones of coconut and herbs. The original recipe called for just a butter-cilantro stuffing. Though I love cilantro, by itself, the taste can be monotonous. The Chinese know this, and often combine it with other herbs such as Chinese celery (kunchai in Thai) and onion. The result is a more complex flavor, however, it lacks that extra bite and tang. The Thai solution is to put in chiles, and I agree with this approach. You want the flavor of chile without burning off your taste buds.
2 cups (8 oz each) Basmati rice
1 250ml coconut cream
3 cups chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
Rinse the rice, if directed to do so. Then put all ingredients in a rice cooker pot, press the button and forget it!
Cook’s Note: If desired, dress up the rice with fried garlic and minced scallion.
Steamed Chicken Breasts with Herb Butter
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 fresh Thai chile, seeded and chopped (if more heat is desired, leave in the seeds)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped Chinese celery stems (reserve leaves to garnish a soup otherwise discard, they are bitter)
3 tablespoons onion, minced
8 boneless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
8×12 inch square pieces of aluminum foil
Preheat the oven 350˚F/185˚C
To stuff the chicken breasts, slit each chicken breast from the thickest part almost to the end of the thinnest part. The pocket should be about 2 1/2 inches deep at the thickest part. Pat dry with paper towels and set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix together the butter, chile, cilantro, Chinese celery, and onion. Stuff each chicken breast with a generous spoonful of the herb mixture. Sprinkle top and bottom of the breast all over with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place the stuffed chicken breast in the center of a piece of aluminum foil, bring to edges together and fold to seal. Fold and seal each end. Place on a baking tray and repeat with the other chicken breasts.
Place the baking tray in the oven. Do four at a time or at the most, six. Bake about 15-18 minutes. Pierce the thickest part of one chicken packet with an instant read thermometer. The chicken should reach an internal temperature of 165˚F. If not, bake an additional 3-5 minutes.
Spoon cooked coconut basmati rice on a plate and place one cooked chicken breast on top; pour reserved juices from the packet on top. Serve with Pickled Vegetables, which as I said, I forgot.
1 medium carrot
1 medium cucumber
1/4 cup rice vinegar
4 tablespoons simple syrup
Shred all the vegetables. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and simple syrup. Pour vinegar mixture over the top of the vegetables and toss to combine.
I found this recipe for grilled chicken legs on Skinnytaste and thought it was easy to adapt. The basic ingredients are soy sauce and vinegar in equal proportions, but you can dress up this marinade any way you like. I’ve made it twice and each time I used what I had on hand. The first time I substituted mirin, a Japanese cooking wine, for the vinegar. The second time I made it I used ordinary white vinegar. I added chopped garlic instead of garlic powder and I found it ramped up the garlic flavor deliciously.
Asian Style Grilled Chicken Legs
prep time: 12-18 hours
cooking time: 20-25 minutes
8 skinless chicken legs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup vinegar or mirin
5 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1/4 cup sweet chicken chili sauce, available at Asian groceries
1-2 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon honey
To de-skin the chicken legs, grasp both ends with paper towels and simply pull down the skin. It’s a bit like taking off skinny jeans! Put the skinless legs in a glass bowl fitted with a lid. You can use a zipper lock bag but it’s more environmentally friendly to use the glass bowl.
If you wish season the legs with ground ginger and black pepper. It occurs to me that instead of ginger and black pepper, you can also use a light sprinkling of seasoning salt, my mother’s favorite chicken seasoning. But the chicken will still be flavorful without any seasoning. The secret is in the simple marinade.
In a small bowl, combine equal parts soy sauce and vinegar or mirin. Add the garlic. Pour over the chicken legs and cover. Shake the bowl back and forth to distribute the marinade. Refrigerate at least 12 hours.
Grill the chicken legs. I used my electric skillet on 180˚C with a teaspoon of rice bran oil brushed on the bottom. Turn the chicken legs every five minutes for a total of 20 minutes. At the end of grilling, if desired, brush with the glaze. Done!
We woke up this morning to discover one of the neighbors looking in through the window. It’s been pretty quiet in the condo complex because of the switch over in the school year at the university from June to March to August to June. This means that this year’s summer holiday is 5 months long. Not many uni students are back yet of course, and at the high school, we are just beginning our two month summer break. The students seemed quite bewildered, some of them, at suddenly having nothing to do after exams last Tuesday were over. Since some of their friends came back for ROTC on Wednesday afternoon, they decided to show solidarity and showed up at school for old times’ sake. I suppose this curious visitor was doing the same thing, wondering where everybody had gone. What should he do now that his time is his own?
With grades in, I’ve been cooking with the electric pan. The lid can open out and double the cooking surface, so I have both a skillet and a griddle. Cooking on the balcony is somewhat challenging because there is no electrical outlet so I have to run an extra long extension cord outside. Plus, there is just a little two-foot square space right next to the sink. If I angle the pan just so I can open it out. Last night for supper I made grilled chicken thighs, but I had made them in Bangkok. We ate them with a mango-avocado salsa. If it seems that we are eating more avocado it is because we found them for Baht 20 apiece at the Suan Luang market yesterday. We bought 6 and the vendor added 1 more for goodwill. I hope she will be there next weekend. I love avocado.
Because I love to eat, I really should exercise more. To respect one’s body is to exercise, and then to eat good food that is fresh and homemade. Today, we rode our bikes around Phuttamonthon, the Buddhist park, and then we each swam 500 meters in the Sirimongkol Pool. We decided to eat in rather than eat out. For lunch today I prepared lightly sauteed pangasius fillets which we ate wrapped inside warm flour tortillas topped with corn-guava-avocado salsa and Greek-style yogurt. It’s so good to be cooking again!
Fish Tacos with Corn-Guava-Avocado Salsa
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes (in a double electric pan heated to 180˚C)
2 white fish fillets (e.g. tilapia)
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon rice bran oil
4 flour tortillas
Pat dry the fillets then sprinkle one side with salt and pepper. Lightly sauté in a little oil until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Meanwhile, warm the tortillas. Keep warm until ready to serve. Cut the fillets into large chunks just before eating.
1 ear of fresh corn, niblets removed from the cob
1 small Thai guava, peeled, seeded, and chopped (can substitute jicama or mun kaew)
1 medium avocado, peeled, pit removed, and chopped
8 grape tomatoes, chopped
1 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 of a large onion, thinly sliced
the juice of 3 small limes
salt to taste
1 tablespoon minced scallion for garnish
1-2 chopped fresh Thai chilies, optional
Lightly cook the corn in the microwave for 4 minutes, drain the niblets and cool them. In a medium bowl, put the niblets, the guava, avocado, tomatoes, cilantro and onion. Squeeze the lime juice all over. Add salt to taste. Garnish with scallion and chilies, if using, and spoon over fish chunks on top of a warm tortilla. Put a generous dollop of yogurt on top and eat–leave out that steaming side-dish of guilt and enjoy. It’s low in carbs and calories.
I adapted this recipe from Misty’s vegetarian lasagna recipe adding the zucchini and bell pepper and using fresh Thai vegetables instead of the frozen Western spinach. By fortunate happenstance, Tops supermarket had fresh lasagna sheets. I split the recipe into two 9-inch square dishes, otherwise use one 9×13 inch dish.
Lasagna with Thai Spinach and Chinese Chives
Prep time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 35 minutes
2 large eggs
2 cups home-made ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon pesto Genovese
2 small zucchini, peeled and sliced into quarter inch rounds
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
2 cups skim milk
1 bunch fresh spinach or Pak Khom (about 6 cups), coarsely chopped, tender leaves & stems
1 bunch Chinese chives (no flowers), leaves only, chopped into 1-inch lengths
1 medium carrot, grated
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
8 fresh lasagna noodle sheets, trimmed to fit
2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used Edam)
1 cup marinara sauce (I used diced tomatoes processed fine and seasoned with 1 teaspoon pesto)
Heat oven to 350˚F or 175˚C.
Beat the eggs lightly in a medium bowl. Fold in ricotta cheese and pesto.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, pepper, onion, and garlic. Sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and pepper. Add the milk. Cook until thickened and bubbly, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in the spinach, carrot, chives, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, and salt.
Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish or two 9 inch baking dishes. Layer the zucchini rounds on the bottom. Slice some to fit.
Make layers in this way: spinach mixture; noodles, ricotta, mozzarella, and cheddar cheeses; noodles. End with noodles.
Spread the marinara sauce on top to cover the noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.