Posts tagged ‘sukiyaki’

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lao sukiyaki

Chilly winter nights and a fridge full of winter greens and I knew I’d be making sukiyaki for dinner soon. It’s my cold season Asian comfort food. Japanese have sukiyaki and nabe, Chinese have their hotpots and Thai and Laotions have our very own version of sukiyaki too, whatever the origins they all involve veggies, some kind of protein and clear noodles too in a hot simmering broth.

I had a bunch of organic savoy napa cabbage, red mustard frill, rainbow chard and spinach in my CSA box this week, so many greens and I immediately thought of this dish I grew up eating. Watercress is also a good one. Wash them up and cut them into a little larger than bite size pieces. Also did the same with a bit of green onion. Set everything aside. Then devein your shrimp and clean and cut your squid pieces, I had tiny lobster tails around too so I used those as well, pretty much any kind of thinly sliced protein or seafood works. Lay on a plate and set aside. Prepare the clear noodles, if using dry mung bean noodles, let them soak in warm water for at least 15min, if using kelp noodles or yam noodles, just right out of the bag is fine.

In a crock pot bring some vegetable/light chicken broth or dashi to a boil, add a splash of coconut water, season to taste with sea salt or fish sauce. Turn down to simmer and toss in the veggies and seafood (protein) and clear noodles. You could also poach an egg into the broth too and when everything is cooked, scoop it up from the broth and place in a large bowl, top your bowl off with a few ladles of the steaming broth too. Add a squeeze of fresh lime juice, 2-3 heaping spoons of the sukiyaki sauce and chili flakes to taste. Be sure to have a bowl of the sauce on the side as you will want to dip your veggies and seafood in the sauce so that every bite is really flavorful.

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The Lao version sukiyaki I grew up eating is hands down my favorite version. The sauce we mix into the steaming hot broth is sweet and fragrant with cooked down shallots and minced garlic. It’s made from Chinese fermented tofu in some kind of red sauce, we call it “tofu yee,” it’s the key ingredient to our sukiyaki sauce, that combined with some ground roasted peanuts creates a very different flavor from anything you’ve ever tasted

My friend, Nick shared his recipe for a Lao sukiyaki sauce that I love.

1. In a sauce pan heat some coconut oil on medium to low heat, add 4 sliced shallots, a head of garlic minced, 1/2 c of sugar, til light golden brown.

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2. Add the tofu from 1 bottle of tofu yee (I prefer to quickly rinse the red sauce off of the pieces of tofu). Then add a few spoonfuls of tamarind pulp and ground roasted peanuts to the oil and a handful of white sesame seeds and mix everything together, stirring on low heat until the sauce incorporates smoothly and thickens a bit, about 20min. Add some soy sauce to taste. Let the sauce cool down and then spoon the sauce into glass jars with a tight lid, don’t fill completely to the top as you will be freezing the sauce. This recipe will make more sauce than you’ll need in one sitting, there’ll be enough to last you awhile so freeze what you don’t use right away, it keeps for many, many months.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Vientiane, Laos

Home James! Yes, I made it back from so far away. Air travel period, especially to the other side of the world with this giant metal tube carrying hundreds of passengers and all our luggage, pretty much “a chair in the sky” and how amazing it is these things can fly, for real? no joke.

I’ll miss the long hot lazy days along the Mekong River

and temple bells ringing at 6am, our household’s early morning temple runs and the community shares offerings with the monks daily

Seeing family is always nice, so many kindred spirits and history from way back and my agenda for 2 weeks? nothing pressing. Breakfast every morning with my dear aunt and uncle

Our favorite breakfast, Vietnamese rice crepes with freshly baked baguettes and coconut water from the coconuts in the front yard.

and my dad in charge of drinks, skillfully pulling down each coconut for us

my favorite part’s the center, the creamy and soft flesh of fresh young coconuts is very tasty.

I managed to eat every amazing dish and fresh fruit in season too, sweet mangosteens and rambutans

and jackfruit from my uncle Koe and aunt Li’s yard

fetching for mangos too in front of Cafe Yen Yen, our favorite neighborhood spot and cheremoyas (apple custard)

A short trip to the heart of the city

and this fancy hotel will pick you up in their old British taxi cab if you please

fresh produce everywhere

and fresh rice noodles too

for all those amazing rice noodle soups; a Lao take on nose to tail rice noodle soup is a favorite and with Vietnam as a neighbor, classic pho is a staple too.

and a twist on everyone’s favorite, green papaya salad but this one’s more like “the kitchen sink salad.” Done up exactly the same way as green papaya salad just without the papaya and instead you name it? noodles, macaroni, cabbage, squid, etc. spicy and savory with fresh lime, it all works even the new dude in town gives it a thumbs up, Vientiane’s latest and greatest statue of a highly respected general from way back.

Shabu shabu Lao style (sukiyaki/seen joum) is always good, cooking seafood or thinly sliced sirloin along with all sorts of fresh green leafy vegetables in a steaming broth with a dash of fresh coconut water and onions with all kinds of amazing dips (jaeow) is hard to refuse. And grilling shrimp or fish or thinly sliced steak, etc. (dahd seen) and then wrapping it all up in lettuce and fresh herbs with dips always satisfies too.

And bakers mastering their craft over there as well, freshly baked baguettes for pate sandwiches (more famously known as banh mi) and light and fluffy, creamy birthday cakes

Of course some Beer Lao with every meal, hands down my favorite beer in the world, made with fresh spring water and it goes down smooth. It’s kinda hard to find outside of Laos, I’ve been told though Belgium’s Stella Artoise beer comes close.

I was also a frequent diner at the neighborhood duck restaurant owned by our friend, Tak. Equipped with a bag of charcoal and a spray bottle of water well-seasoned ducks are grilled all day, every day over a carefully monitored flame and temperature. One of my favorite meals is larb duck, a traditional Lao minced duck salad tossed with fresh herbs and spices, a squeeze of fresh lime and a steaming hot bowl of simple duck broth soup with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and cherry tomatoes, eaten with sticky rice, it’s so good.

Traditional body massages were a part of our daily drill too

and some quality time spent with my cousins at our local neighborhood sauna. This old photo of the 2 sisters when they were kids captures them perfectly, always long chats and laughter for days

while we steamed away in the wet sauna heavily scented with fresh kaffir limes, so refreshing while we scrubbed our bodies with a paste made of tamarind and water, nature’s own exfolliant, easy. Headed home afterwards and the oldest of the two sisters makes the best bamboo shoots and mushroom soup (gaeng nor mai) in town, let’s call it a day!