salad Tag

Virtually fat-free and crazy addictive, Som Tam Thai salad, with Granny Smith Apple

 

SOM TAM COMES IN MANY SHAPES AND STYLES… ALL OF WHICH WILL EVENTUALLY COMPEL THEIR SUBJECTS TO SUCCUMB TO INEVITABLE ADDICTION

The other day as I watched again, sneering, yet another TV documentary made in the frantic, nation-wide hunt for the next revolutionary diet that is going to save America from drowning in its own fat — the Atkins, the keto, the 5:2, the Paleo, the HCG, the Zone, the Jenny fucking Craig, you name it — I reached down to my bag of kettle-cooked Texas BBQ potato chips with a grin before I glanced at the clock in wrenching gasps.  Holy mother of god it’s past 9 o’clock?! the feeding window has closed on my 16:8 intermittent fasting diet!

We all do it.  We all do it.  Twitching and turning in an endless cycle of struggles in order to stay in the balance between emotional sanity and the general shape of a socially acceptable humanoid.  So much deliciousness, so little fat cell allowance.  It’s almost as integral a part of the First World Problems as knowing how not to lose it when asking “What do you mean there’s no wi-fi?” at a beachside cafe on a Caribbean island.  I get it.

Having said that, I have to admit my general confusion at America’s difficulty in meeting such task, the final switch from consuming overly processed foods to fresh produce or simply just freshly prepared foods.  I feel this way because I think deep down, I know the answer to this question.  Deep down, I know how to save us all.

America just has to eat as good as A Third World country.

Look, I think we have grown so privileged, so involved with exhausting the last possible way to pair caviar with fried wagyu steaks or stuffing lobsters into a pig that we have, perhaps irreversibly, forgotten how to make poor foods taste good.  Not poor foods as in fast foods, but cooking with cheaper ingredients such as vegetables that is a major part of the diet in less privileged countries where meats are considered a luxury, where eating vegetables is not a choice, but a necessity, and as a result, where they taste really, really, really good, because they have to.

Take Thailand for example, where they have taken a virtually fat-free salad to the brim of an art form — som tam, or better known as Thai green papaya salad.  Som tam comes in many shapes and styles, depending on the region, ranging from mild and friendly to deeply funky and challenging to the foreign tongue, all of which will eventually compel their subjects to succumb to inevitable addiction.  Consider som tam Thai, the focus of our current interest, as the gateway drug.

Without the use of deeply fermented crabs or fishes like its other peers, som tam Thai is as friendly to the untrained tongues as it is delicious.  A mixture of ruptured chilis and garlics, bruised tomatoes and green beans with thinly shredded green papaya, and an acutely savory, sweet and tangy dressing, all pounded under the gentle urgency of a wooden mallet, ushering them onto the way to becoming something greater than the sum of its parts.  Perhaps its greatest wisdom is standing against the western practice of keeping the vegetables as un-wilted and perky as humanly possible in a salad, knowing that the partial breaching of their exterior defenses allows the exchange and absorbance of flavors to deepen.  Practically fat-free but incredibly robust, a celebration between a spectrum of textures, a push for the limit of human sensory, burning, salty, sweet, crunchy, sour, som tam Thai has boldly gone where no American vegetables have gone before.  The only thing standing in our way is perhaps that its main ingredient, green papaya, is somewhat of a tropical monopoly.  But please rejoice in knowing that it works just as beautifully with Granny Smith apples that are more abundant to us than we know what to do with.

So people, put down your kale salad and eat this one.  Feel alive again.  And maybe once in awhile, go get some fried chicken.  Just not a whole bucket.  You see.  It’s not that complicated.

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POMELO AND THAI HERBS SALAD

 

THE EXPERIENCE IS BETWEEN EATING A SALAD AND DRINKING A COLD GLASS OF GATORADE

I don’t eat salads.

I think that’s quite self-evident on this blog.  But even a non-salader like me feels a tinge of excitements as pomelo season approaches, the citrus giant with enormous and voluptuous pulps that burst with sweet, floral and faintly bitter juices resembling a lemony grapefruit.  For the record, I’m not a fan of grapefruit, which is why I’m not particularly excited about pomelo’s potential as a stand-alone fruit course.  But what gets my buzz going is its potential to be a fantastic savory treat.

Pomelo is rarely too sweet, and it carries an uniquely floral and bitter note that blends wonderfully with other more robust or rich-tasting ingredients that seek a refreshing medium.  Take herbs salad for example, flavorfully too sharp and aggressive most of the times to be a dish on its own, but together with pomelo, it becomes a juicy and rounded symphony tapping on all the right notes in a cascading, orchestrated tempo.  First thing that hits the senses is the pungent saltiness of the fish sauce and shallots anointed with olive oil, which escalates along the individually distinctive sharp bites from the assorted fresh herbs, too sharp, almost, if it isn’t immediately awash with sweet and quenching juices with the rupture of each pomelo pulps.  The experience is a marriage between eating a salad and drinking a cold glass of gatorade.

A refreshing and guilt-free lunch on an overheated autumn day, but I know that it cries to be an equal partner alongside heavy and rich pre-winter dishes like roast pork belly or braised short ribs.  And next year, you’ll be counting the days for its arrival.

 
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CHARRED CAULIFLOWER W/ GARLICS, TABASCO VINEGAR

During the CNY holidays, Chinese people go home.

And I mean, everybody, goes home.

Good people, bad people, people including the government who, day in and day out, guard its Chinese great firewall that Censors all freedom of communication to the outside world.  Yeah, those fuckers.  They go home, too.  Hey, even bad people need vacation.  Now, logic may have you think that it’s a good thing.  Censors gone, Facebook in.  Right?  Fuck no.  To understand it further, just imagine this:  The relationship between the Chinese government and its internet as sort of like… a psychopathically suspicious husband (the government) and his virgin wife (internet).  A wife who, on a typical day, is neatly brainwashed and filled with husband-worshipping propagandist fantasies.  The husband loves his stupid wife and likes to do kinky stuff to her behind closed doors, but at the same time, he also knows that she is unstably horny at any given hours, and wants to screw the free-thinking hot neighbours at every chances she gets.  So what happens when a jealous husband needs to leave home for awhile?  Letting his pure propagandist internet get raped by the terrors of free wills and information?  Of course not.

So what does he do?  Two words, chastity belt.

THE SINGLE LIGHT AND JOY IN MY DAILY SUFFERING FROM THE PAST 10 DAYS OF CYBER SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

For the past 10 days, all means to access blocked websites (guess what? that includes wordpress, too!) on my computer was completely taken down by the government.  And today, for the first time in an internet-eternity, I am finally getting a flickering signal and am able to log on to my blog.  I don’t know how long this “window” is going to be, so let me talk fast.

I want to share with you, a recipe from one of the most beautiful cookbooks out there, the single joy and light of my daily suffering for the past however-many days of cyber solitary confinement. The charred cauliflower with garlic and vinegar, from Gjenlina.

This dish is said to be one of the most highly requested dish from this celebrated restaurant in California. I have no doubt that in many customers’ hearts, the recipe is a shot of perfection as it is, but I still made quite a few changes. Not to “better” it, but to personalise it in a way that mirrors closer to my own style. Instead of using pre-made garlic confits, I quick-brined some garlics in fish sauce which softened and flavoured the cloves, then I fried them in olive oil until golden browned, sweet and tender. I then use the garlic-frying oil and reserved fish sauce to roast the cauliflower. Gjelina’s recipe instructed to brown the florets in skillet first then finish cooking in the oven, but I don’t have a skillet large enough to brown the florets properly, so instead, I just charred them 2″ below the broiler and it did the job pretty well. Then finally, instead of red wine vinegar, I used a mixture of tabasco sauce and white wine vinegar to get that sharp chili flavour and extra kicks. It was a healthy feast of robust and lively flavours, spicy and salty, acidic and sweet all at one crunchy and caramelised bite.

There’s not that many vegetable dishes that make me say unholy things like “I didn’t miss the meat at all“, but I think this recipe pulled the unthinkable.

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*Believe it or not, after I found out that the recipe was missing, it took me 20+ tries to get it back online….. fuck.

CHARRED CAULIFLOWER W/ GARLICS, TABASCO VINEGAR

Serving Size: 2

Inspired/adapted generously from GJELINA cookbook

Ingredients

  • 5 cloves garlics
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4~6 small dried chili
  • 1/3 cup (68 grams) olive oil
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp tabasco sauce
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • sea salt and chili flakes to season

Instructions

  1. Lightly smash the garlics to peel the skin, then brine in fish sauce for 20 min. Meanwhile, clean and cut the cauliflowers into small florets, trimming the tough fibres/skins off of the stems, then scatter evenly on a sheet-pan. Preheat the broil on high.
  2. Remove the garlics from the fish sauce (reserve the fish sauce), then transfer into a small pot with dried chili and olive oil. Cook over low heat for 7~9 min, until the garlics are golden browned and soft. Remove the garlics and chili, set aside. Pour the garlic-oil over the caulifowers, along with reserved fish sauce, black pepper and white pepper, then toss to evenly coat every florets. Place the baking-sheet about 2" under the broiler, and char until the first sides are deeply caramelised. Turn the cauliflowers over, then broil until the other sides are charred as well, and that the cauliflowers are soft. Re-season with sea salt if needed.
  3. Transfer the cauliflowers, along with all the oil and juices into a large skillet. Add the reserved fried garlic, chili, white wine vinegar, tabasco sauce and chopped parsley. Cook over meidum-high heat, tossing to combine, until everything is heated through. Sprinkle with chili flakes and serve.
http://ladyandpups.com/2016/02/17/charred-cauliflower-w-garlics-tabasco-vinegar/

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THAI SPICY BRINY COCKLE SALAD

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AS HAPPY AS A CLAM

It’s veterinarian-day for me again, how about you?  Whatever your day’s like, appetize it with this spicy, herby, briny and juicy cockle salad (you heard right), from one of Fatty Crab’s and Fatty Cue’s Zak Pelaccio.  It tastes like the ocean with an attitude, certainly one of my favourite, and most interesting and delicious treatment of shellfish yet.  And I promise it will kick-open your palette, get you ready for whatever that’s on your plate.  Wish you a day as happy as a clam.

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Serves:  4 as appetizer

Adapted from Zak Pelaccio’s Eat With Your Hands

I like to use an assortment of cockles and clams for this dish.  In this case, tiny cockles for their meats plus larger/prettier clams for their shells.  You can choose whatever variety you like.  The original recipe does not include the kaffir lime leaf, but I added it because I think it gave the dish a sharper edge.  Use if you have it available (they freeze really well in the freezer).


THAI SPICY BRINY COCKLE SALAD

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs assortment of cockles and clams
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup rice wine or white wine
  • 2 ~ 3 small red Thai chili
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lime leaf (if available), with the stem removed
  • 3 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp light brown sugar
  • 4 small Asian shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. Bring 2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 cup of rice wine (or white wine if you prefer) to a boil. Add the clams and cover the lid. Cook for 2 min, then remove the lid and start picking out clams as they open (clams open at different speed so this way, you can avoid over-cooking them). Once all the clams have opened, continue to simmer the liquid until it's reduced to 1/4 cup.
  2. Meanwhile, remove the clams from the shells (you should have about 1 cup of clam-meats). Keeping a few shells that are bigger and prettier.
  3. In a stone-mortar, mash the red chili, the garlics and lime leaf until paste-like. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, light brown sugar, finely sliced Asian shallots, chopped mint leaves, chopped cilantro and the clam-meats. Mix to combine.
  4. Scatter the preserved shells over the serving platter, then spoon the clams to fill the shells. Pour the reduced clam-juice over. Serve with extra lime.
http://ladyandpups.com/2014/10/26/thai-spicy-briny-cockle-salad/
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FIRE-CRUSHED CUCUMBER SALAD

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THIS IS A CONVICT YOU’LL WANT TO FORGIVE, AND EMBRACE

I don’t mean to sound self-absorbed and overly theatrical if I mustn’t, but officers, I have a stalker.

Please, listen to me before you dismiss my report after I tell you that, yes, it’s a cucumber salad.  Harmless and gentle it may sound, but believe me when I say that this fella, is spicy… hard-core, and possibly painful.  And it has been disturbingly obsessed with me since… oh~ officers, at least a couple months!  I can’t provide the exact records of its past appearances because, you know, that’s the creepy thing about stalker-recipes.  Their shadowless movement between the blink of an eye, tailed with the constant awareness that it’s always there…  I know I saw it smiling at me between the flips of webpages somewhere during my cyber-surfing, multiple times, or was that through my swiping finger over the stacks of e-magazines?  And I could swear, officers, that it winked at me from the dinner-menu of at least two, or several restaurants that I’ve been to lately, plain-naked and sending me its very explicit intention.

It wants me, to eat it.  Oh my, you see?  I have to put it to rest.

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THAI HERBS AND PORK SALAD

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I’m determined to get a life during this Labour Day long weekend so let me quickly leave you with this.  Best.  Damn.  “Salad”.  You’ll.  Ever.  Have.  Period.  Period.

HOW COULD IT BE?  OH WAIT, IT’S THE PORK.

It’s a recipe I developed for Food52’s column “Half Way to Dinner“, and initially I didn’t write any measurements down because I wasn’t sure how open you guys would be towards a “ground pork salad”.  But it turned out, a few request for it came in and so I made it again the other night… and again… and again…

I was incandescently happy being lost in a sea of gushing green that I got confused for a moment.  How could be?  What’s happened to me?  The flavour between a few thinly sliced shallots, splashes of fish sauce and lime juice is practically addictive no matter what you mix it with, but still… am I a “salad” person now?  Oh wait… there’s the ground pork… lots of it.  Actually.  Well forget what I said then.

Best.  Damn.  “Meat salad”.  Ever.  Period.

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TORCHED SALMON IN GREEN JUICE SAUCE

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“REVELATIONAL… INGENIOUS… DO YOU JUICE?”

Last week I discovered something revelational… ingenious… a recipe that isn’t just a recipe, but an idea.  A method with infinite possibilities.  The final product tasted so extravagantly delicious, the word “healthy” didn’t even come within a mile in association, and I was simply going to pitch it to you as the best and easiest damn salmon dish you’ll ever encounter.  Little did I know that I almost regrettably left out the single greatest marketing value it may possess, until last night, I ran into this question:

Do you juice?

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summer and couscous in istanbul

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I’m never much of a person of faith and spirituality.  Evidently since Jason and I started slowly leaving our footprints around the world, we left an obvious trail seeking gastronomic truth instead of spiritual babble, pinning destinations on the map not for the yearning to hear the echoes bouncing off the cold marbles of St. Peter’s, but to sink our teeth into the godliness of a cool, fresh Roman burrata.  Not to hear the chanting of monks on ancient scriptures, but for the serene noise coming from the skin of a Balinese roasted pig cracking in between teeth.  The antiquated pagoda from a time bygone can wait, my Vietnamese bún chả in the now is getting cold.

We go with our guts.

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