Singaporean-Style Chicken Congee

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Congee, jook, bubur, porridge — whatever you call it, it’s the ultimate comfort food in a bowl, and an endlessly adaptable one at that. Topped with fried shallots, drizzled with sweet and salty soy sauce, served alongside Chinese doughnuts or a soft-boiled egg — the possibilities are endless.

Whenever I travel to Asia, I eat a lot of congee, especially for breakfast. One of my favorite ways to prepare congee is Singaporean-style. This version uses sticky rice as well as short-grain rice for a creamier version, but you can use simply regular short-grain rice for equally delicious results.

Singapore-style chicken congee

Ingredients:

1/2 cup short-grain rice
1/2 cup glutinous white rice
4 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound boneless chicken, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoons Chinese rice wine
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons shredded ginger
2 teaspoons crisp-fried shallots
1 green onion, thinly sliced
Pepper

1. Wash both types of rice, drain, and place in a large saucepan. Add the water and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer with the saucepan partially covered for about 1 hour, until the rice is very thick and soft, stirring from time to time to keep the rice from sticking. (If the congee is looking too thick, add some water or stock to thin it out.)

2. When the rice has been cooking for 30 minutes, put the chicken in a bowl, sprinkle with cornstarch and toss to coat. Add the soy sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, sugar, and ginger. Mix and set aside.

3. When the rice is porridge-like, add the chicken and its marinade. Stir well and simmer until the chicken is cooked, 7-10 minutes.

4. Transfer the porridge to serving bowls and top with the crisp-fried shallots, green onion, and pepper to taste. Serve accompanied with more soy sauce for adding to taste.

Apple and Peanut Butter Puff Pastry Tart

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It’s apple season in California and one can only eat (or juice) so many apples plain. What to do? Make dessert out of them, obvs. Here we have peanut butter, puff pastry, and of course, apples. How can you go wrong?

The whole thing comes together in just a few minutes, making this recipe easy enough even for a baking novice like me. It’s all the glory of the west coast’s seasonal produce wrapped up in a buttery, flaky, sweet-and-salty crust. (Sorry, juicer.)

Apple and peanut butter puff pastry tart

1 sheet frozen puff pasty, thawed
Flour, for dusting
6 to 8 tablespoons peanut butter
1 pound apples (about 2 large), peeled, cored, sliced into ½-inch wedges (use any kind but a tart variety, like Granny Smith)
1/4 cup chopped salted, roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
Sugar, for sprinkling
1 egg

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Roll out puff pastry on a floured surface into a long rectangle. Cut in half crosswise (halves should be almost square). Transfer to a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet; prick puff pastry with a fork in several places. Using a small spatula, spread 3 to 4 tablespoons peanut butter in the center of each half to make a 5-inch round. Pile up apples in the center of each puff pastry and top with peanuts. Dot fruit with butter and sprinkle with sugar.

2. Beat egg and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl, then brush pastry with egg wash and fold up edges around apples, leaving the center open. Press along the folded edges to lightly seal. Brush outside of pastry with egg wash and sprinkle with more sugar. Let chill in freezer 10 minutes.

3. Bake tarts until pastry is golden, 15–20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° and continue to bake until pastry is golden brown and apples are softened, 20–25 minutes.

Smashed Cucumber Salad with Hot Vinegar

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Cue the global warming think pieces because I can’t remember a summer this consistently hot in my lifetime. It’s only August and I’m sweltering. I’ve been countering the heat with lots of seasonal like watermelon, tomatoes, and of course, cucumbers.

This Southeast Asian-inspired salad is one of my new favorite cucumber salads. Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe, it takes only minutes to prepare. The crunchy peanuts and tangy vinaigrette add a flavorful punch to this cooling side dish.

Smashed cucumber salad with hot vinegar

Ingredients:

5 Persian cucumbers
Salt
1 serrano chile, sliced
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup roasted peanuts, for garnish

1. Gently smash cucumbers with a rolling pin just to break open. Tear into irregular 2-inch pieces and place in a medium bowl; season lightly with salt. Let sit at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, whisk chile, garlic, vinegar, fish sauce, and sugar in another bowl.

3. Drain cucumbers, discarding any liquid they have released. Add to bowl with dressing and toss several times to coat. Top with peanuts and serve.

Korean Cucumber Salad

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This dish is one of my favorite banchans to eat. You know, the glorious array of little side dishes that come to your table when you go out for Korean food? Everyone has their favorite banchan. Mine are fish cake, cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi, and this ubiquitous cucumber salad.

It’s easy to make at home and it’s perfect on a hot summer day as a cooling side. Make this salad ahead of time and chill it in the fridge for later. I even eat it alone as a snack. Pass the banchan, please.

Korean cucumber banchan

Ingredients:

3 Persian cucumbers (or 1 English cucumber)
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 green onion, sliced
1/4 cup onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

1. Cut the cucumber lengthwise in half. Cut diagonally into thin slices.

2. Put the cucumbers in a medium bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and mix well. Transfer to a serving dish and serve room temperature or chilled.

Mango Sticky Rice

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Confession time: I ate a lot of mango sticky rice in Thailand a couple of years ago. I mean, a lot. We’d check out a new restaurant in Bangkok or a little hole-in-the-wall in Chiang Mai and you’d think I’d want to try out something new, something different. I mean, we steered savory in general: simmered tofu in fermented soybeans, grilled fish with chili-lime dipping sauce, curried crab — but we always returned to mango sticky rice. I know it isn’t a revelation, but man oh man is it refreshing. There’s nothing on earth like a fragrant Thai mango in season. It’s like custardy perfume, in the best way imaginable.

Back in my kitchen at home, I’ve learned to recreate my favorite Thai snack, and it couldn’t be easier. The only caveat is that mangoes in the U.S. are a distant cry from anything I ever tasted in Thailand. Bay Areans: where is your favorite place to source mangoes? Drop me a line.

Mango sticky rice

Ingredients:

1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tablespoon salt
4 cups warm cooked sticky rice
2 mangoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise

1. In a small saucepan, bring the coconut milk, sugar, and salt to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

2. In a large bowl, pour 3/4 of the warm coconut mixture over the warm rice and stir with a large spoon until incorporated. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving, then plate alongside sliced mangoes. Drizzle with the remaining 1/4 of the coconut mixture and serve.