Tag Archives: Cooking

Want to see what I’ve been eating lately?

I track my food at Daily Plate on Livestrong. Yeah I realize Livestrong is sort of a giant facepalm now, but I’ve been a member for quite some time and they have a huge bank of food items, so tracking food is super easy. Don’t worry, I don’t pay them, AND I use AdBlock (haha, take that!). Anyway, I’ve noticed that when you eat really clean, it’s actually pretty hard to eat ENOUGH calories, especially after you take exercise into account. We went out a couple of times in the past few days, which was a little refreshing, as we hadn’t gone out for food since all of this happened. Having intense food restrictions kind of puts a damper on going out to eat if you have to ask people what’s in everything. Fortunately for me, Asian food is mostly gluten and dairy-free, and also happens to be tasty and pretty much what I eat at home anyway. I try to plug in what I think I ate and figure that there are probably 100-200 more calories in oil/fats on top of that.

I’d prefer to embed my diary but I haven’t figured out how to do that or whether it’s possible, so click on this link if you are really that interested in what I’m putting in my face these days: food food food

My cooking crowning achievement this week has been making my own creamy, dairy-free salad dressing. If you think it sounds tasty, you may be required to go to an Asian grocery store, but I’m sure you can handle it.

Spicy Coconut Milk Salad Dressing

1 can of coconut milk (I use Chaokoh)
1 TBSP fish sauce (I use Tiparos. If you can’t find Tiparos, fish sauce should only have fish, salt, and sugar, so look at the ingredients list before you settle on a brand)
1.5 TBSP sesame oil (I use Kadoya, but as long as your sesame oil is pure any brand will do)
2 TBSP sriracha (The one, the only)
Juice of one lemon

Shake your can of coconut milk before you open it. I recommend you move the coconut milk to a different vessel to mix lest you waste precious, precious milk on your countertop. Mix with a fork or a whisk. It’s kind of watery, but does the trick. A serving would be probably around 1/8 cup. Pour the rest into a mason jar and put it in the fridge. If it’s too fishy or too spicy you could always reduce either the fish sauce or the sriracha. Conversely, if it’s not fishy or spicy enough, just get more liberal with the squeezy bottle! If anyone paying attention has any (dairy and gluten-free) ways to thicken this up, I’m all ears.

A note on fish sauce…

The last recipe I posted included 2 tablespoons of fish sauce. Those of you who don’t cook Asian food very often are probably wondering just what the hell fish sauce is, exactly.

I’ll let Wikipedia give you the gritty details on fish sauce:

Fish sauce is a condiment that is derived from fish that have been allowed to ferment. It is an essential ingredient in many curries and sauces. Fish sauce is a staple ingredient in Filipino, Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, and Cambodian cuisine and is used in other Southeast Asian countries. In addition to being added to dishes during the cooking process, fish sauce can also be used in mixed form as a dipping condiment, and it is done in many different ways by each country mentioned for fish, shrimp, pork, and chicken. In parts of southern China, it is used as an ingredient for soups and casseroles.

Some fish sauces (extracts) are made from raw fish, others from dried fish; some from only a single species, others from whatever is dredged up in the net, including some shellfish; some from whole fish, others from only the blood or viscera. Some fish sauces contain only fish and salt, others add a variety of herbs and spices. Fish sauce that has been only briefly fermented has a pronounced fishy taste, while extended fermentation reduces this and gives the product a nuttier, cheesier flavor.

Pic courtsey of Amazon

Image courtesy of Amazon

Right now some of you are probably saying, “Fermented fish? What? That sounds disgusting and I would never eat that!” Or perhaps you’re a vegetarian and you’re saying, “But I don’t eat fish!” Sorry guys, but the Thai put it in a lot of their dishes, so chances are you’ve had fish sauce if you’ve gone out for Thai food before.

Fish sauce is basically the Thai cooking equivalent of soy sauce. Soy sauce doesn’t get used much, if at all, in Thai cooking. If you go out for Thai food and notice your meal has a tart, salty flavor, that’s the fish sauce. Your pineapple fried rice is salty, but it’s not brown like “regular” fried rice usually is, right? Again, fish sauce.

Just thought I’d share that with everyone. :)

How to: Cook with a bamboo steamer

Steam. Hot, painful, useful. We’ve been using a $15 rice cooker to do most of our steaming up til now. The rice cooker is nice, but the little steamer rack can get crowded at times, and it’s difficult to steam more than one item at a time. Enter: The Bamboo Steamer, or Mushiki in Japanese. You can pick these up at Asian grocery stores, and sometimes your local hippy store/co-op. If you’re at a Target or some other store and you see one, don’t pay more than $15 for it. Just order online if you’re having trouble finding one.

The bamboo steamer is basically a stacking bamboo rack that funnels steam up and out. Mine came with two racks, but because of the way they are shaped, you can buy more and stack more on top. You can also feel a bit greener, because you’ll use less electricity and less water, not to mention the fact that bamboo is one of the Earth’s most sustainable wood resources!

When you’re steaming multiple items, you will want to put things that need the most cooking near the bottom, and things that need the least amount of cooking on the top. So, meats on the bottom, tough veggies like asparagus in the middle, easily cooked veggies like broccoli closer to the top or on the top, and anything that might need a bit of warming on the very top (if you’re not doing veggies). Invest in some parchment paper and/or banana leaves to line the steamer racks and keep them clean. Banana leaves have the benefit of being aromatic themselves, imparting a bit of flavor into the food they are wrapped around.

I'm just a steamer, sitting in this pan

I'm just a steamer, sitting in this pan

Take the plastic off of your new steamer and wash with warm water and gentle dish soap. Place the steamer in a shallow pan or wok, or on the top of a pot, and fill with water until it’s just under the bottom steaming rack (you may need to replenish if you do a couple rounds of steaming).  

Prep your food and turn on the burner 5-10 minutes before you’ll be putting the food in the steamer. Load everything in the proper order and put the lid on. After your water comes to a boil, fish will take approximately 15 minutes to finish cooking, chicken about 20-25 minutes. If you’re steaming a vegetable like broccoli, you may want to check on it after 5 or 10 minutes just because some vegetables deteriorate in color/shape/taste rather quickly if they are overcooked.

Take your food out of the steamer and eat! Don’t forget our first steam lesson: it’s painful! Use a spatula or oven gloves to take food out of the steamer. If you’ve used parchment paper or banana leaves, your bamboo steamer should be clean. Give it a quick rinse and lay the pieces out to dry. You are done! I would recommend leaving the steamer out to dry for about 24 hours before storing it.

A recipe for steamed curried fish follows the jump…

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Keep it simple, stupid

If you’ve been paying attention, I’m sure you’ve noticed that one of my hobbies is learning different cooking styles. I love Thai food so it’s been one of my obsessions for a while. The quintessential Thai dish is of course Pad Thai, but I tend to avoid making it because all the recipes I’ve tried to use make it way too flippin’ complicated. Over the weekend I watched the video displayed below. Obviously, Pad Thai is very simple… One might even say it’s easy! I should, perhaps, stop buying American-written cookbooks.

You don’t really need audio to watch this unless you’re really interested in hearing the cooking noises. This woman is cooking pad thai on a boat in the Amphawa Floating Market.

EDIT: god damn it, I swear I tested it in IE and the damn thing didn’t autoplay, but I go to my webpage and it’s playing (in Firefox, the smart browser? wtf). So here’s a link:  http://www.annz0r.net/padthaid.wmv

Video is courtesy of Thai Street Food, but I’ve hosted the video for convenience/not being a bandwidth leech. Click here for a direct link to the video directory. There are several other equally interesting videos on the website, not to mention a ton of other content. I encourage you to surf on over!

World Travels from Suburbia

Many of you who have spoken to me more than a few times know that I have a certain obsession interest in traveling the globe. Like most people, we really don’t have the funds or the free time to do this. I’ve been nursing a dream of backpacking south/southeast Asia for several years now. I’m lucky enough to have 3 weeks vacation, but 3 weeks is certainly not enough time to backpack through one country, let alone an entire region. We’d probably have to save up several thousand dollars and take an unpaid leave from our jobs (or quit). There’s always that lottery fantasy…

The relatively recent purchase of a house has put travel on the back burner. Fortunately, putting off a dream doesn’t mean forgetting about it. I’m exploring destinations by learning how to cook in the regional style. My close friend April gave me a starter wok kit several years ago. I’ve always been interested in stir-frying and Pan-Asian food, but April basically created a monster.

One of the greatest things about living in Chicago city proper was the sheer diversity: I could hop on the bus or the train and be at a Korean grocery in 15 minutes. Since moving to the suburbs, there has been a distinct lack of Asian cooking in our household, and I’ve been on a mission to rectify the situation.  This past weekend we located the Indian/Pakistani groceries in our area. I stocked up on some hard to find spices, Shan masala packs, and a few assorted frozen goodies.  For those of you in south suburban Chicagoland, click through to read about the markets…

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