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Asian

The Streets of Asia Fish Curry

The Streets of Asia Fish Curry

There is something about fish curry that is reminiscent of grassroots cuisine. Hailing from a coastal city in South of India, fish was not only common but the most affordable 'meat' as well. Even though it was a teeming metropolis, that even 15 years ago, exported much of its best catch from the sea, there was abundance enough to share with the domestic consumers.

Even today, fish sellers walk the streets in the city with the morning catch. Sometimes, walking through lesser affluent areas in the evening, you can see fish languishing on wooden boards, not iced, yet looking remarkably sprightly- the benefit of not being processed through multiple temperature zones. Flash freezing is a good compromise but nothing beats simply fresh. Tropical waters are indeed blessed with a variety that can only be dreamt about sitting in the North East with its Arctic currants. I haven't been to a fish market in India in 12 years but one day I hope to go back to those markets and take photos. Who knows? It may not be the same anymore and just be a glass and steel structure but somehow I doubt it. Fishing is too much of an economic activity for the poor to be that.

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There is Nothing Wrong

Asian Takeout

I just want to get something off my chest.

I love food. Specifically, good food. By that I mean, food that is good for me, and tasty and really scrumptious. As most of us in the food writing world know and truly believe, they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, if A then B follows automatically. Which is to say, what you put in is what you get out.

Well, we all knew this. That is one of the reasons we, as a clan, cook or bake possibly a lot more than the average world citizen. The best way to ensure quality is well to make it yourself and we do that, passionately. I will easily wager that any of the food bloggers I know cook as well, if not better than, some of the best chefs in the world. If you could get one, their tables are the best reservations you can possibly ever make for a meal.

Thai Green Curry with salad

A lot of times I am asked two things -

1. Wow, where do you find the time?

2. How do you stay slim with all that cooking and baking?

The second bit is something that has been and is addressed in various forms. Really, its portion control. Giulia shared

this article

, in her latest

post

, which, captures the gist perfectly.

- Don't eat everything on your plate, at restaurants. Or, as is practiced in most homes, serve yourself what you will eat and not more, and, eat all of it.

- Don't eat what does not taste good. This does require an understanding of what does and does not taste good but we will assume that, for the sake of argument, and go with your current palate.

- Always keep room for leftovers and next day's lunch or dinner. This helps point 1.

- Exercise and be conscious of the balance between energy input and expense. This comes in handy especially when you visit your or a friend's house and the mom would get affronted if you don't clean everything in the bowl and ask for more. Well, in that case, just work out a little more that day and next, or, possibly, the week.

Thai Green Curry with salad takeout

Now, the first question is what I want to address today...

I caveat it with a cliche "Where there is will.." and all that stuff. The reality is that the intuitive ease of cooking does not happen overnight. Much like any other skill, it comes with interest and practice. Again, the former aids the latter. So, well, I find cooking easy now because I have a fair few years of experience in it. It was not quick when I started but I love food and I stuck to it.

But, that does not mean I like cooking everyday. I don't and falling for the rather common excuse, I don't always have the desire, time or energy to cook on some days. I may have the best cut of awesomest pasture raised meat and the crispest farm produce in my pantry. I still don't want to look at them, much less make them into something I know can be mouth wateringly delicious. There are days, I wish someone would just cook for me because I would prefer that over ordering in. Nevertheless, the gist is I want food to appear magically and I want none of the work.

Sometimes, it is not fatigue, it is spontaneity. When you are with friends, it may be easier to eat out and simply focus on the experience of enjoying the company rather than step away from that bubble to cook, especially, when you have not planned for it.

Thai Green Curry with salad leftover

And, I say,

it is OK!

It is ok to have down days. It is ok to not want to cook everyday. It is ok to order in some days. It is ok to be a couch potato some times. It is ok to put your feet up.

It is

OK to take a photograph of a take out container

and of leftover food from a night of ordering in. It is ok to put that up on a food blog dedicated to homemade goodness and recipes sharing space with an incredibly yummy

cecina sandwich

.

Just remember to expend a little more energy the next day! :)

Pickled Pork Belly Steamed Buns

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Some weekends back, I had an epic baking session. I need to revisit that again. In the meantime, I promised a stream of recipes from that foodgasmic 48 hours. I have shared some already, of the Croissants and decadent Chocolate & Chestnut Pavlova.

Now, it time for some bread, but not baked.. Steamed. Chinese variety. With an Indian twist. Something like the Vindaloo but not quite.

Chinense-buns-collage


My fascination with steamed buns stems from my days living in Tokyo. The variety of fillings and flavors and the very convenience of them was thrilling to me. Yet, it has taken me so long to relive it at home.

When I finally decided to make them, I was struck with the sudden dilemma of which Asian inspiration to align with - the Japanese or Chinese. Finally, this mantou post swung the pendulum well in the "C" favor.

DSC_0208-1


So, I adapted the mantou recipe and filled it with the tangy, sour, sweet pickled pork belly, twisted each bag bag into a gift parcel and steamed it to a perfect lunch!

Street Food Asia - Tang Yuan re-defined by Xiaolu

We are travelling further East today on the Street Food Series. I am especially thrilled to present this to you today because for one, it is by one of most talented people I have met and two, this dish is a beautiful fusion of two ancient cultures....

I have been reading Xiaolu's gorgeous blog, 6 Bittersweets, for a while now. Her beautiful styling and thoughtful recipes are always mesmerising. And, she is a student! How she finds time to do so much and balance a hectic student's life, I have no idea but I admire her even more for it!

She recently started a mini-business catering sweet bites to the DC area! I think it's super cool and awesome and wish her much success with it. Check out
all the great stuff that she can make for you!! DC isn't so far from me, so I do hope to meet her sometime...

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Black Sesame Sweet Rice Dumplings


Just as starting a food blog 2 years ago introduced me to friends around the globe, joining Twitter this year has enriched my life with even more incredibly talented, caring, and equally food-obsessed pals. Asha was one of the first among these new friends. Early on she reached out to me, impressing me with her warm and cheerful spirit, exciting recipes, and wonderful photography. When she then invited me to contribute to the celebration of her 3-year blog anniversary, of course I said yes right away!

Although the theme was Street Food, Asha was even kind enough to let me share a Chinese dessert that is traditionally a soup, but which I made more "street-savvy" by borrowing an idea from our Japanese neighbors. Thank you for the warm reception, Asha and all of you! Cheers to 3 wonderful years of Fork Spoon Knife and many many more to come!


Black Sesame Sweet Rice Dumplings -making


When Asha asked that I share a dessert reflecting my Chinese heritage, I immediately knew what I wanted to make: black sesame tang yuan, or sweet rice dumplings. Tang yuan (literally meaning "soup [with] round balls" is a treat that has great significance in Chinese culture as well as to me personally.

These dumplings are traditionally served during the winter solstice celebration, Chinese New Year, and even weddings. Usually eaten with one's family, the round shape of these dumplings are supposed to symbolize unity and harmony. As for me, I find tang yuan not only fun to eat but also love the rush of childhood memories that come with each chewy bite.

Tang yuan traditionally consists of filled or unfilled chewy sticky rice balls (similar to mochi) that are served in a sweet soup. Common fillings include sweet peanut paste, red bean paste, Chinese rock sugar, and black sesame paste. Diversity also exists among the sweet liquids in which the dumplings are served. These range from red bean soup to ginger syrup, black sesame porridge to sweet rice wine egg drop soup. With so many options to pick from, and that's not even counting new flavors you could make up, tang yuan never gets boring!


Black Sesame Sweet Rice Dumplings -inside


To add yet another option to the list, I've taken the yuan ("round balls") out of the tang "soup." Inspired by the Japanese street food, dango, I've put my favorite black sesame-filled tang yuan on skewers, grilled them, and glazed them in a fragrant ginger pandan osmanthus flower syrup. After all, isn't everything more fun to eat on a stick? Whether you prefer the soup or skewer option (I've included directions for both), I promise you're in for a real treat!



Black Sesame Sweet Rice Dumplings (芝蔴汤圆): Chinese Traditional or Japanese Dango-Style
Adapted from Rasa Malaysia and The Anime Blog
Makes 24 to 30 dumplings

XIAOLU'S NOTES: If not making Dango-style skewers, you should just use 12 oz. sticky rice flour and no plain rice flour, as is traditional for the Chinese dumplings. Osmanthus flowers can be found in Asian stores and fine tea shops. Don't overfill the dumplings or they will likely break open when cooking. The ginger syrup is optional if making the Chinese-style dumpling soup. If you don't want to make the syrup, simply serve the dumplings with a little of the water they are boiled in.

10 oz. glutinous rice (sticky rice) flour
2 oz. plain rice flour
270 ml hot water (1 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp water)
4 Tbsp black sesame seeds
4 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
8 to 10 wooden skewers, if making dango

Ginger Syrup (姜茶)
7 cups water [3 cups if making dango skewers]
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 oz. ginger (skin peeled and then lightly pounded with the flat side of a knife)
1 1/2 tsp dried osmanthus flowers (optional)
2 pandan leaves, tied into a knot (optional)




Lightly toast the black sesame seeds over medium fire until you smell the aroma of the black sesame seeds. Please take note that the sesame seeds will start popping when they are heated, so use your lid to cover. Don’t burn the black sesame seeds; transfer them out and let cool as soon as they smell aromatic.

Use a mini food processor or mortar and pestle to grind the black sesame seeds until they become fine. Transfer the ground black sesame into a wok, add sugar and butter and stir well to form a thick paste. If they are too dry, add more butter. Dish out and let cool in the fridge. (This will make the filling easier.)

In a big bowl, mix the rice flours with water until it forms a smooth paste and no longer sticks to your hands. Divide it equally into 24 to 30 balls (depends how you like the size, the bigger the size, the easier it is to do the filling). Flatten each ball in your palm, and then use a pair of chopsticks to pick up some black sesame paste and lay it in the middle of the flatten ball. Fold the edge to seal the dumpling. Lightly roll it into a ball shape using both palms, very gently and delicately. Set aside. [See this video for a visual of the wrapping process].

Prepare the ginger syrup by boiling the water. Add the ginger and screwpine/pandan leaves (optional) into the water and boil for 10-15 minutes with medium heat. Add sugar and sweet osmanthus and boil for another 5 minutes. Lower heat to simmer and reduce to about 4 cups of water. [Reduce to about 1 cup of syrup if making skewers.] Add more sugar to taste if you like. Strain syrup through a sieve to remove the ginger and pandan. Keep warm until needed.

Heat up another pot of boiling water. Drop the dumplings into the hot boiling water. As soon as they float to the top, use a slotted spoon to remove them to a bowl.

If serving these in the traditional Chinese style, divide dumplings among small bowls and pour in the ginger syrup. Serve immediately

If serving these in the Japanese style on skewers, cool the dumplings and then put them into the wooden skewers. (3-4 dumplings each stick.) Grill the skewered dumplings on a grill or a grill pan [I just used a frying pan], turning several times, until nice burn marks form over them. Place skewers on a wide plate and pour ginger syrup over them while still warm. Enjoy right away or at room temperature.

Light and Sexy for Valentine's Day - Red Curry Beef Lettuce Wraps

Boston Lettuce

So, what is everyone doing today? Something special? A candle night dinner? A weekend getaway? Sweet and simple home cooked? An elaborate evening of aphrodisiac....?

Or perhaps, you are completing ignoring all the hype around you and treating it as just another day?

There has always been much debate on such celebrated days and the world has been largely split into two distinct camps - the romanticists and the realists... The former believing that one should go all out and express the "love" so much more on this day and the later arguing that the former's beguiled beliefs have led to inflation, especially of flowers!

REd Curry Beef lettuce wraps

As to me, a usually a white and black person, I tend to choose the grey path for V-Day. I can't bring myself to fault anything that furthers the spread of warm, fuzzy feelings. Even when I know that such susceptibility only lines corporate coffers even more. Ah well! Everything is so commercialised these days... what's another?!

I know there needn't be one special occasion to show love and one shouldn't restrict oneself to this day alone. I believe in celebrating love everyday, but just a little more today! :D Besides, it needn't always be expensive to do just that. A relatively simple home cooked meal can do just that. I really think that it is the effort and thought that count and not the price tag on the execution.

So... go be with your special person(s). Take the time.. tell them how they much they mean to you and how happy they make you by just being part of your life... how thankful you are for the innumerable times they have extended an helping hand, given a you a much needed hug or just made you smile when the world looked blue..

Lettuce Wrap Ingredients

As for me.. I am so glad to have a loving family who have encouraged me to reach higher, supported me through my downs and just been there even when I didn't know I needed them. I am blessed to have in my own family people to look up to for guidance, strength of character, sound advice and just unconditional TLC. THANK YOU and I LOVE YOU, even if I don't say it often enough.

To my friends... Thank you for enriching my life with your love, warmth and conversation. No weekend is complete without spending time with atleast some of you. As much as I was in oblivion to some of you, only a couple of years back, I can't, and don't dare to, imagine, how I could have survived then. To those who have stayed friends through so many years, thank you so much for sticking with me.

And, finally, especially on this medium.. Thanks so much for pushing me on with your support, comments, thoughts and patronage. There are many here that regularly read my blog and comment on every post. I cannot express in words how much you have helped me over the last three years. This blog was born out of desolation but has blossomed into my Happy Place because of all of you.. Thank You!

HUGS, LOVE and LAUGHTER to everyone.. :)))

REd Curry Beef lettuce wraps1

I leave you with a simple appetizer recipe that is quick, easy and fun at the table. Plus the garlic, ginger and spice will set just the right tone for the evening ;-)



Red Curry Beef Lettuce Wraps
(for 2)

1 head young Boston Lettuce, carefully peeled
1/2 lb ground beef/lamb
2 T red curry paste
1 small onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced ginger
1 tomato, diced
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
1 scallion, julienned on bias
salt to taste

Saute the onions, ginger and garlic until soft. Add the red curry and saute for 2 minutes. Add the beef and cook uncovered until the meat is done.

To assemble, serve some of the spiced meat in a lettuce leaf. Let the other person, add the garnishes of choice.

MADE A RECIPE FROM THE BLOG?

Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK