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Archive for the ‘eastern’ Category

Why pay so much when you can make your own meang kam?

In appetiser, eastern, Thai on January 11, 2015 at 7:26 pm

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Have you ever gone to a Thai restaurant and ate that leaf-wrapped thing? That appetiser is called meang kam and that leaf is daun kadok, a common wild plant that can be planted in your garden. You can find it at some wet markets – look for stalls that sell kampung vegetables – but nothing beats a ready supply from your garden.

The daun that grows in a pot in my condo garden.

The daun kadok that grows in a pot in my condo garden.

Even though I am familiar with meang kam which my mother used to sometimes make at home, my first encounter with the plant was during a nature walk in Langkawi. I asked the guide if I could uproot it and take it home to plant. Later on, I found the plant growing out from under the hoardings of a construction site near my home and uprooted some too. I have also spotted the leaves growing under some shrubs near the sheltered bus stop across the road from Bangsar Shopping Centre.

Keep your eyes peeled for this plant. When I served this at a gathering at my home recently, a few friends noted that they have seen this plant in their garden but did not know the leaves could be eaten. My mother also uses the daun kadok to line the bowl when steaming otak-otak.

I’ve also discovered that the taste of daun kadok goes well with burger patties and fried onions marinated in fish sauce or Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce – I use the daun kadok in place of lettuce and tomato when I make a burger at home. Other ways to use it is to cut into thin shreds and fry with canned sardines or add to fried rice.

For a few years there were just a few leaves but since last year my plant has really flourished, probably helped by the almost daily rainfall. It grows well in damp and shady areas. When I go on my long holidays, I would often return home to shriveled leaves. My daun kadok is planted in pots placed in the front yard of my condo. It would often creep away to seek water from the pond next to my yard. When it looks like it is about to go on an adventure of its own, I would bring it back and twirl it round and round in the pots.

Making meang kam is a matter of assembly. But first, you need to make the sauce. I got the recipe from my mother and it’s agak-agak, so I can’t give you exact measurements. Melt some dark brown sugar (not the light-coloured granulated brown sugar) with some tamarind water over a slow fire. Adjust between adding water or brown sugar until the sauce has the thick consistency of honey.

The five ingredients that go into the wrap are as follows:
Grated coconut – panfry
Lime – cut into little pieces
Ginger – cut into little pieces
Peanuts – panfry, remove skin
Dried prawns – give them a short soak in hot water to clean, then panfry

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To assemble the meang kam, first put a dollop of sauce onto the leaf. Then put a little of the other ingredients. Wrap and eat. The good thing about having your own plant is you can go out and pluck them as needed, which I did numerous times when I made meang kam for my friends. Once you get the hang of making this simple appetiser, you’ll never want to pay a huge sum for just a few leaves that leaves you wanting more.

Hunting list: daun kadok

Shopping list: dark brown sugar, dried tamarind, dried prawns, peanuts, lime, ginger

Can I do it?: It’s easier than assembling IKEA furniture

Tip: As indicated, sauce first, then ingredients – this helps the ingredients ‘stick’ together.

Credit: Mummy

Fresh Spring Rolls

In appetiser, eastern, salad, vege, vietnamese on October 21, 2012 at 4:16 pm

When it comes to traditional food, I’d say, stick to the tradition! Why mess with a good thing?

When truffle mooncakes appeared at the office, everyone made a beeline for them. I too was curious. I took a bite and… I can’t even describe the taste. No one could. It was very strange and AWFUL. So bad you’d want to spit it out. Sometimes, simplicity is really the best policy. All this fusion thing for the sake of being different is not working.

Which is why I like Bobby Chinn’s take on the Vietnamese spring rolls. I’m not sure if this is the original traditional version, but I’ve tried a few (including one with mango – didn’t work) and this is the best so far.

There are lots of vege in this, and it is surprisingly filling. Great for a simple meal if you’ve been pigging out. If cows can survive on greens (and they have four stomaches), so can you.

It’s easy to make. Just a matter of assembly. Except for the rice vermicelli and prawns, everything else is raw.  I favour steaming the prawns over boiling to retain the nutrients. Be careful not to overcook or you’ll get a rubbery texture.

Shopping list: rice papers, rice vermicelli, lettuce, mint, coriander, chive; for the fish sauce dip: rice vinegar, sugar, bird’s-eye chilli, garlic, lime, fish sauce

Hardware: salad spinner and a very large plate to soak the rice papers flat (you can also use a cake pan or baking tray)

Can I do it?: Of course. Assembly is easier than putting together IKEA furniture. But you do need a delicate touch not to tear the soft rice paper.

Credit: Vietnamese Cooking by Bobby Chinn. Full recipe here.

Tip 1: For the leaves, buy just enough a day or two before you make the rolls. Leaves don’t keep well. Wrap in newspapers if you need to store them in the fridge. Don’t leave them in plastic wrappers as condensation will ruin them. Use a salad spinner to get rid of excess water after washing.

Tip 2: Consume immediately. If you need to prepare these beforehand, place a damp muslin cloth (kitchen rolls will do too) over them to keep the rice paper from hardening.


 


Chicken or Fish?

In chicken, eastern, fish, soup, vietnamese on January 12, 2011 at 1:25 am

Sweet-and-Sour Fish Soup - part of my lunch at work! Oops! I forgot to take a picture of the Chicken Noodle Soup. I'm sure you can imagine what soup looks like.

I’ve been cooking a lot of Western soups, where the method is boil and blend. Getting a hold of Bobby Chinn’s Vietnamese Cooking brought me back to my Eastern roots.

Eastern soups are always clear and light, sometimes sour or salty, which you’d rarely find with the Western kind. They also need a lot more ingredients, which can be a hassle.

This time around, I tried the Sweet-and-Sour Fish Soup and Chicken Noodle Soup. Cooking it back to back over two weekends gave me a sense of Vietnamese cooking. Two words – fish sauce. This ingredient is to Vietnamese cooking what oyster sauce is to Chinese. Remember Wok With Yan? “If Yan can cook, so can you!!” He used oyster sauce and Chinese rice wine for almost everything.

Now I have a use for the fish sauce I bought. I’ve only used it once as a marinade for a chicken and onion dish (friend’s mum’s recipe – yummilicious!). Fish sauce is essentially anchovy extract, salt and sugar. Friend’s mum recommends the Squid brand.

Sweet-and-Sour Fish Soup

This is a hearty soup and it packs a pleasant surprise with the addition of okra/lady’s fingers (first time I used it in a soup). For the fish stock, I used the cubed kind. Bobby’s fish stock uses fish bones, celery, leek, onion, parsley, garlic and bay leaves, so you can add these in if you have them lying around.

This recipe calls for barramundi fillets, but I suppose any fish will do. I can’t tell my fishes apart (except for the obvious one like pomfret, eel, catfish and yellow tail), so I just asked my regular fishmonger for ‘fish good for soup’.

The soup also contains pineapple and tomatoes. If you put in a lot, the soup can be a meal on its own.

Shopping list: barramundi fillet, pineapple (ask the seller which type is suitable for soups), okra, red chilli, tomatoes, celery leaves, beansprouts, mint leaves, coriander leaves

From the pantry: tamarind (for tamarind water), sugar

Can I do it?: Easy enough but tedious on cutting up the pineapple.

Credit: Vietnamese Cooking by Bobby Chinn

Tip: If you made too much tamarind juice, freeze in an ice cube tray. Keep the cubes in a Ziploc bag for future use. For the bean sprouts, buy just enough a day or two before your cooking day. They don’t keep well and turn brown and icky easily. Wrap in newspapers! Don’t leave them in the plastic bag because condensation will ruin it fast.


Chicken Noodle Soup

Compared to the fish soup, there doesn’t seem to be a lot going on in this. Besides the shreds of chicken meat, star anise and cinnamon stick, you don’t see much of anything else apart from the garnishing. It’s meant to be enjoyed with noodles, but I prefer it on its own.

The surprise in this is the charred ginger and shallots, which give the soup an interesting layer of taste. If I’m a wine snob, I would write this like a wine review.

For the stock, I used Knorr Chicken Stock (in powder form, for professional use) because making stock from scratch takes too much time. Again, if you have these stock ingredients at hand, just add them to the soup: parsley, garlic, peppercorns, onions, carrots, celery and leek.

And here’s something I learned from Chef James Thong of the Loaf. Chefs don’t waste. If you have any stalks from herbs, don’t throw them away. Save them in Ziploc bags and store in the freezer. I also keep the stalks of leafy vegetables, which I don’t eat anyway. When you’re making stock or any soup, just add the stalks in. Good for extra flavour and additional nutrients.

Of the two soups, I prefer the fish one. The fish sauce, pineapple and tamarind gives it a nice twang.

Shopping list: chicken breast, ginger, and for the garnishing: spring onion, coriander, Thai basil, cili padi, lime

From the pantry: chicken stock (cube, powder, liquid, whatever you fancy), shallots, star anise, cinnamon stick, fish sauce, sugar, rice noodles, black pepper

Can I do it?: Easy lah, soup mah…

Credit: Vietnamese Cooking by Bobby Chinn


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