Chinese-style Braised Eggplant with fresh Basil

servingBraised eggplant is one of my favorite Chinese dishes. Our favorite restaurant, King Yen in Berkeley, serves it fragrant with fresh basil. I picked up long Asian eggplants, fresh basil and green onions (scallions) from the farmer’s market. I added red bell peppers for color and Shiitake mushrooms for their wonderful texture and unami flavor. You can use fresh Shiitakes  or soak dried ones in warm water for a more toothsome feel. I’ve also made this successfully with large common (button) mushrooms.

I added a chicken breast for more protein. If you have leftover roasted breast you can chop it in bite sized pieces and add it in with the basil.

Vegetarians and vegans can omit the chicken (or swap it for tofu) and use vegetable broth.

I only add a teaspoon of Sriracha because I can’t handle much heat, but feel free to amp it up, adding it at the end to taste.

I got inspiration for my sauce from Martin Yan’s recipe http://www.yancancook.com/recipes/Spicy-Spicy/selected.php?CHOICE=eggplant_w_garlic_sauce

If you don’t have a wok, you can use a Dutch oven. This is even better the next day, when the basil has a chance to permeate the dish.

Be sure to do all the chopping and sauces prep before you start to cook so you’re not all stressed out while you’re cooking!

Serves 4

ingredients

Ingredients

2 Tb canola oil for frying

1 Chicken breast, about 3/4 pound

1 pound Asian eggplants (long skinny ones)

5 large Shiitake mushrooms or common mushrooms

1 medium or 2 small red or yellow bell peppers

2″ piece of fresh ginger to make 1 Tb grated ginger

5- 6 large cloves of garlic to make 1 Tb grated garlic

2 green onions (scallions). You can mince a slice of regular yellw onion to make 2 Tb if you don’t have green onions.

1/2 bunch fresh Thai or regular basil to make 1 1/2 cups basil leaves

1 can water chestnuts

Sauce:

3/4 cup chicken broth (I use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup )

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons sesame oil

2 teaspoons hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (add more for more heat)

Thickener:

4 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon) water

2 teaspoons cornstarch

Prep:

shitakeIf using dried mushrooms, soak in warm water for 30 minutes, then rinse

Remove stems from shiitake mushrooms and chop into bite-sized pieces. If using common mushrooms, trim woody ends from stems, then quarter or cut in sixths.

ginger n garlicPeel and grate ginger to make 1 Tablespoon

Peel and grate garlic to make 1 Tablespoon

Chop eggplant at angles into uneven bite-sized pieces. This will prevent it from sticking to the pan.

Slice red peppers into strips

Slice green onions crosswise, Sliver the green parts and reserve for garnish.

Rinse and chop water chestnuts

Chop chicken breast into bite-sized pieces

Pull leaves off of basil stems to make 1 cup of leaves

Mix sauce ingredients together in a bowl

Directions:

stir frying before sauce addedHeat wok and add oil. Stir-fry chicken a few minutes to sear it, then toss with onions and red bell peppers. Add chopped vegetables and water chestnuts and stir-fry a few minutes over high heat.

Mix in ginger, garlic, and sauce with metal spatula to incorporate browned bits of chicken. Heat to simmering, then lower heat and cover wok. Simmer for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure that vegetables are submerged.

cooking with basilStir in the basil leaves and continue simmering covered for another 3 minutes until eggplant is thoroughly cooked and tender.

Stir in the thickener and bring sauce to a boil until it thickens

Serve over brown rice or on its own. Garnish with a few basil leaves and green onions.

ingredients in sun

Sticky Rice with Mango

sticky rice n mango in dish
This is one of my family’s favorite desserts. It’s actually quite easy to make.Making the sticky rice is the most time-consuming part. You can also just purchase 2 cups of sticky rice from a Lao or Thai restaurant and go from there!
Serves 5
1 cup sticky rice (glutinous rice)
10.5 oz can coconut water (with pulp is nice).
13.6 oz can coconut milk
1/4 cup sugar to taste
A few shakes salt
¼ cup shredded unsweetened coconut                                                                                                                                             2 Manila mangoes

Isn't this a pretty package!

Isn’t this a pretty package!

Rice: You can get sweet glutinous rice from Asian grocery stores. (Despite the name, it does not have gluten.) Rinse the rice several times, soaking in water for a few minutes, then draining in fine mesh sieve. Soak it in water for 7 hours or overnight. You can soak it in coconut water if you want a bit more coconut flavor.

My friend Jenny Chan uses a traditional Lao rice steamer basket to make her sticky rice. Since I don’t have one, I used my rice cooker.  Cook the mixture in a steamer basket in a rice cooker until done. If the steamer’s holes are too big for the rice, place a piece of cheesecloth over them first.

Coconut Milk: Heat 1 can coconut milk (lite coconut milk is basically watered down regular milk and has less calories; regular is much richer). If it has separated and you can’t shake it together in the can, you can either whisk it well or put it in the blender first. Stir in sugar, salt, shredded coconut, and then two cups cooked rice. Cook a few minutes until thick and pudding-like.
Manila mangoes

Peel mangoes with a vegetable peeler. I think that Manila mangoes are sweeter and easier to use. Cut into pieces.
Scoop rice mixture in serving dish and cover with mango slices.

This is best served warm. If you leave leftovers in the fridge, it will harden. It will still be good, but you can heat it in some sweetened coconut milk if you like a softer dessert.

Tom Kha Gai ต้มข่าไก่ Thai Coconut Soup with Mushrooms

soup

This creamy coconut milk soup, fragrant with lime, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, cilantro and galangal, pungent fish sauce and a bit of chili heat, is one of my favorite Thai foods.
I am fortunate to live within shopping distance of Monterey Market and several Asian markets that carry the authentic ingredients. If you can’t find galangal you can substitute its relative, ginger.

Serves 3 large bowlfuls

ingredients

Ingredients:

4 cups chicken broth (I use Roz’s Jewish Chicken Soup)
2 inches galangal, sliced thin
2 stalks of lemongrass
6 kaffir lime leaves, torn
1 Thai bird chili (bright red), finely julienned, seeds removed (unless you want more heat)
½ teaspoon salt (to taste)

2 cups white mushrooms, sliced

1 scallion, sliced

1 tomato

2 Tb fish sauce (I use Red Boat)
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup cilantro leaves

14-oz can of coconut milk
½ raw chicken breast, thinly sliced, OR sliced leftover roasted chicken breast

Bring broth to a boil. Dip tomato in the boiling broth for a minute, and then cool.

While broth is heating, trim ends from galangal and slice thinly.

lemongrass         smashing lemongrasss

Remove a couple of inches from the root end of the lemongrass and the dry outer leaves. Slice the main stalk diagonally into 3 inch pieces, then smash the lemongrass with the blunt side of the knife. Smash the galangal slices with a mortar and pestle, molcajete, or other heavy object to release their fragrance. Add these to the boiling stock along with torn kaffir lime leaves,  julienned chili, and salt. Simmer for 30 minutes. You can make this part ahead of time and refrigerate.

Strain the broth into a bowl or another pot and discard the lemongrass, galangal. kaffir lime leaves and chili pods. Heat the strained broth again.

Peel the skin off the cooled tomato, then slice tomato thickly and stir into the broth along with the mushrooms and white parts of the scallions. Next, add the raw chicken (if using) and boil for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, stir in coconut milk and heat for 5 minutes. When meat is thoroughly cooked, stir in lime juice and fish sauce. If using cooked chicken, add it at this time.  Pour soup into bowls and garnish with cilantro and sliced green parts of scallion.

Chicken and Bell Peppers with Black Bean Garlic Sauce

???????????????????????????????I made this dish for Chinese New Year. The red and green bell peppers made it so pretty.  I used Lee Kum Kee brand black bean garlic sauce which is made from soy sauce, fermented black beans, garlic, water, sugar and salt. It gave a recipe on the jar for this dish, which I dressed up with scallions and Serrano chili.

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1 Tb canola oil

3 half-breasts chicken (1 ½ breasts)

1 large red bell pepper

1 large red green bell pepper

1 Serrano chili pepper

½ bunch scallions (green onions)

3 Tb black bean garlic sauce

½ tsp sugar

soy sauce to taste

Mince chicken into bite-sized pieces. Remove seeds and ribs from peppers. Slice bells julienne-style into thin pieces, and then slice into 1inch lengths. Mince Serrano finely. Discard roots from scallions, and then slice into small pieces.

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Heat oil in a wok or large heavy frying pan. Add chicken, peppers, garlic sauce and sugar. Stir constantly for five minutes. Add scallions and cook for 3 – 4 minutes, until chicken is thoroughly cooked. Add soy sauce to taste. Serve over brown jasmine rice.

Teriyaki Barbecued Chicken and Salmon

teriyaki chickenI made my own teriyaki sauce after noticing that the bottled sauce generally has sugar or corn syrup as the #1 ingredient. This simple to make sauce has a little bit of brown sugar, but gets its flavor from the ginger, garlic and Mirin cooking sake (SAH- kay).

ingredientsCombine in a small saucepan:

1 cup soy sauce

1 1/2 cups Mirin

2 Tb brown sugar

4 cloves garlic, smashed in a molcajete or  mortar and pestle, and chopped

2 inch piece of ginger, sliced

1/4 tsp ginger powder

Heat to boiling, then simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool, then strain into a container.

For chicken teriyaki:

chicken teriyaki over rice6 boneless, skinless breasts.

Cut off excess fat. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels. Place in on a large plate. Pour canola oil over breasts and spread it over both sides with your hands. Place breasts on hot grill and cook for approximately 10 minutes on each side until done. Brush teriyaki sauce on one side of chicken and put that side down on the grill. Reduce flame to low. Cook for 5 minutes. Brush other side of chicken with teriyaki, flip chicken to that side, and cook on low for another 5 minutes. Plate the chicken and pour a bit more sauce over it.

 

salmon teriyakiSalmon Teriyaki

Use 3 salmon steaks or 1 1/2 lb  filet:

Marinade salmon in 1 cup Mirin for 15 minutes

Place on hot grill. Cook for 2-4 minutes, depending on thickness of salmon piece. Turn to other side and cook for another 2-4 minutes. Brush teriyaki sauce on one side of salmon, turn down flame, and cook for one minute, repeating for the other side.

Plate, then pour a bit more sauce over salmon.

Summer Rolls Gỏi Cuốn

DSC00905

Now that summer is officially here and we finally had a nice hot summer’s day, it’s time to make Summer Rolls. They are sometimes called Spring Rolls, although the Spring Rolls are often fried. Summer rolls are made with fresh, raw vegetables, with or without boiled shrimp. Gỏi Cuốn translates literally as salad rolls, which is pretty much what they are: a shrimp salad in a roll. I’ve always loved these for their burst of flavor from the fresh herbs inside heightened by the sweet spiciness of Hoisin (WHO-zjen) sauce and sweet chili sauce.

Cindy with shrimp rollMany thanks to chefs Cindy Hay (pictured above), Wyn Ha and Jenny Inpraseuth; my Southeast Asian colleagues who cheerfully and patiently taught me to make these.

Ingredients:

Asian ingredients are available at most Asian markets and Berkeley Bowl

You can make these Vegetarian/ Vegan with just the salad ingredients (skip the shrimp and just use Hoisin Sauce with a bit of lime juice and peanuts).

Shrimp:

About 2 1/2 cups of medium shrimp. If you buy shrimp in their shells, they make a lovely broth.

3 cups water

1 slice of fresh ginger

3 cloves garlic

1 tsp salt

Hoisin dipping Sauce

Cindy told me that the sauce needs to have sweet, sour and salty flavors:

1 cup bottled Hoisin sauce (tương ăn phở)

1 Tb chopped peanuts

juice from 1/2 lime

Wrap:

1 package rice paper rounds

I shallow bowl or pie pan with warm water

Filling:

You can vary the salad ingredients, but always include mint and basil leaves and rice noodles.

Rice vermicelli noodles (rice sticks)  size medium Jiang Xi Bún Giang Tây.

1 large peeled carrot (or about 8 peeled baby carrots)

3 Persian cucumbers (no need to peel)

1/4 jicama

1 red bell pepper

½ cup cilantro leaves

½ cup mint leaves

¼ cup Thai basil (you can substitute regular basil if you can’t find the more aromatic Thai basil)

4- 6 green leaf leaves lettuce. Use the upper part of the leaves.

1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed and cut in half

chunks of 1 avocado

You can make the shrimp and Hoisin dipping sauce ahead of time.

Defrost shrimp in a colander under cold running water for 7 minutes. While shrimp is defrosting, fill a medium pot with 3 cups water and add 1 tsp of salt, ginger and garlic, and bring to a boil. Bring shrimp to boil over high heat, then boil for 3 minutes. Drain shrimp into a salad spinner or over a sieve into a bowl, reserving cooking liquid. Pour the liquid back into the pot. Cool shrimp until you are able to handle them. Peel the shrimp and cut in half lengthwise. Return the shells into the reserved liquid. Boil the shrimp shells, garlic and ginger uncovered for 10 minutes until reduced. Pour over a sieve and set aside to cool.

Making the Hoisin dipping sauce:

DSC00591Combine ¼ cup reserved shrimp broth with Hoisin sauce. Top with crushed peanuts.

Prepare the noodles:

Boil 12 cups water in a a saucepan. Break off about 4 oz  rice vermicelli noodles, also called rice sticks – Jiang Xi Bún Giang Tây (about 1/4 of a 14 oz package). Be sure they are size medium, not the very thin vermicelli.

rice sticks bun giang tay

Cook the noodles for 6 -8 minutes in boiling water, stirring occasionally.

DSC00596Cool them by rinsing them in a sieve under cold water for one minute. Stir and separate the noodles with a fork or chopstick so that they don’t clump up. Let them drain over a bowl.

Salad Filling:

DSC00894Cut the vegetables very thin and small, especially hard veggies like carrots and jicama.

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I use a special Asian vegetable shaver to shave thin slices of carrots, cucumber and jicama. Halve the bean sprouts so they don’t poke through the rice paper. Tear herbs into small leaves.

Assembly:

Summer rolls are not too hard to make, but the trick is in rolling the sticky rice paper. It comes in a hard, almost plastic-like wafer.

3 ladies rice paperI couldn’t believe it was the same thing as the soft wrapper. Magically it transforms when dipped in warm water. It softens and becomes thinner and pliable. If you dip it flat, it wants to curl up.

The trick is to hold it by the edges and rotate it through the water, then give it a quick dip in the water to wet the middle.  The whole process should take about 5 seconds. If it stays too long in the water it will become too thin and tear easily, and stick to itself.

dipping rice paper

Place the rice paper on a dry plate. It will soften within seconds.

DSC00601Put a lettuce leaf and a tablespoon of noodles first to add a cushion for the vegetables.

DSC00625Then add a few vegetables, and a few mint, basil and cilantro leaves. Avoid over-stuffing the roll. I got excited by all the wonderful ingredients and wanted to add it all in as much as possible. My rolls became bulky and torn. Moderation in all things I remind myself.

rollingRoll wrapper halfway, and then fold left and right sides over the filling. Lay 3 shrimp halves, cut side down, with several cilantro and mint leaves along the edge of the cylinder.  Finish rolling up the summer roll.

shirmp on roll

Dip your summer roll in Hoisin Sauce or sweet chili sauce.

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Curry Chicken on grill or in clay pot


Here’s a recipe that will curry your favor in both warm weather barbecuing and clay pot oven cooking in the coming cool season. Serve with steamed basmati rice and Chana Dall (yellow Lentils), Punjabi-style Potatoes and Cauliflower, and Indian breads.

I made this chicken on skewers to barbecue today. I cut up boneless breasts in 1” cubes and marinated it for several hours. I’ve also made this with either a cut up chicken or breasts, scoring the meat in several places to allow the marinade to penetrate.

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Makes enough marinade for 6 breasts

1 cup plain yogurt (I use nonfat Middle Eastern Karoun yogurt)
1/3 cup lemon juice (2 large lemons)
2 Tb (tablespoon) olive oil
2 Tb melted butter or ghee
1 onion, chopped
2 Tb freshly minced or grated garlic
½ Tb freshly grated ginger OR ½ tsp ginger powder
3 Tb curry powder (or more to taste)
1 Tb garam masala seasoning (optional)
2 Tb cumin (comino) powder
2 tsp sea salt (to taste)
several grinds of black pepper.
2 tsp hot oil (to taste)
6 breasts or chicken pieces
1/4 cup cream for baked chicken
3 cups fresh spinach for baked chicken

Mix all ingredients well. Add cream if baking the chicken. It will make a smooth sauce. Otherwise the yogurt separates when cooked.  Adjust seasonings to taste. Add either cubed chicken or pieces and marinate for 2 – 4 hours.

Remember if using the clay pot, to soak it first for 1/2 hour and put in a cold oven, then turn on the oven to 350′. (You can also make the chicken in a ceramic casserole.) Cook chicken in the marinade for about 1 hour. Stir washed spinach leaves in the marinade for the last 10 minutes. Serve chicken, spinach and sauce over  basmati brown rice.

If using wooden skewers soak them first for at least ½ an hour. This is supposed to stop them from burning, but to tell you the truth, they burn anyway! Thread cubed chicken on skewers with some onion between them. Grill on medium high heat until done, about 15 -20 minutes for skewers, longer for pieces.

Serve cooked chicken garnished with fresh cilantro.

served with eggplant and bbq chicken