Garlic Thai Fried Rice

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If I told you this simple, humble plate of only five ingredients is one of the best fried rice dishes I’ve ever had, would you believe me?

I served this alongside grilled chicken but the rice stole the show. With only garlic, green onions, and fish sauce as seasonings, this dish is an umami bomb. The secret lies in duck fat instead of the standard peanut oil. You can buy jarred duck fat at some specialty grocers and it’s worth seeking out as it imparts a subtle meatiness and heft to an otherwise simple dish. It’s not traditional, but I had some in the fridge and wanted to add an extra layer of flavor to the rice. Chicken schmaltz will do just fine as well.

Garlic Thai fried rice

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons duck fat
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups cold cooked jasmine rice
2 or 3 green onions, trimmed, slivered lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch lengths
3 teaspoons fish sauce

1. Heat a wok over high heat and add the duck fat. Add the garlic and stir-fry until slightly golden, about 20 seconds. Add the rice, breaking it up as you toss it. With a spatula, keep moving the rice around the wok, cooking for about 2 minutes. Add the green onions and fish sauce and stir-fry for another minute. Serve warm.

Chicken Soup with Sticky Rice

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‘Tis the season for rainy days, for heavy coats, for wanting nothing more than to curl up with a bowl of warm soup and binge-watch Game of Thrones. Winter is coming, y’all.

My favorite thing about this time of year is cold-weather cooking; namely, soups! Especially this one: an easy-to-make but complex-tasting chicken soup redolent with Vietnamese flavors of fish sauce, cilantro, and chiles. Make sure you add enough chicken broth: as the soup cools and settles, the sticky rice will thicken the soup.

Vietnamese sticky rice and chicken soup

Ingredients:

3 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 5-inch piece dried kombu
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled, crushed
4 star anise pods
1 2-inch cinnamon stick
3 cloves
6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup glutinous (sticky) rice
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup thinly sliced white onion

1. Bring chicken, kombu, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, stock, and 2 cups water to a simmer in a large pot over moderate heat. Reduce heat to a low simmer and cook until chicken is tender. Transfer chicken to a plate.

2. Strain broth through a fine-mesh sieve into another pot; discard solids. Return broth to large pot and add rice, fish sauce, and sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook until rice is very tender, about minutes. Shred chicken and return to pot; season soup with more fish sauce if needed.

3. Divide soup among bowls and garnish with green onions, jalapeno, cilantro, and white onion.

Bee Hoon Soup

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Let’s get this out of the way: this recipe isn’t authentic bee hoon soup. It’s more like bee hoon soup for people who live in the Bay Area and can’t properly source ingredients to recreate what they ate in Singapore (aka myself).

Typically, bee hoon soup is redolent with fish heads (or fish balls or fish slices) and rice vermicelli. The broth and other ingredients may vary but there is always a healthy topping of fried shallots sitting a atop a flavorful broth. For my version, I used roe-filled fish balls not because they’re authentic but because they are delicious. Instead of adding pork to the stock, I substituted with chicken. It’s not quite the same bee hoon soup that I ate at Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, but whatever unique touches you add to this soup, the result is still comfort in a bowl.

Bee hoon soup

Ingredients:

12 ounces dried rice vermicelli, soaked to soften
1/2 pound bean sprouts, washed and drained
1 small bunch choy sum or spinach, blanched, drained, and cut into 2-inch lengths
7 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
24 fish balls
1 or 2 fried fish cakes, sliced
salt
2 green onions, thinly sliced
crisp-fried shallots, to garnish
thinly sliced red chili and soy sauce, to garnish

1. Put the rice vermicelli in a saucepan of boiling water and simmer until al dente. Drain and divide the cooked vermicelli among 6 soup bowls. Add the bean sprouts and cooked vegetables to each portion and set aside.

2. Bring the chicken stock to a boil, add the fish balls, lower heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, then add the fish cake and simmer for another 2 minutes, until cooked through. Add salt to taste.

3. Put some of the soup, fish balls, and fish cakes in each bowl, then sprinkle with green onions and crisp-fried shallots. Serve hot with sauce bowls of sliced red chili in light soy sauce, if desired.

Wok-Seared Noodles with Crab

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You know how in university, going to bed at four in the morning was no big deal and dinner was routinely “fancy” ramen at midnight? And by fancy, I mean instant ramen with an egg and a handful of vegetables thrown in. And it was delicious. Oh yes, it was what junk food dreams are made of.

This dish of lime and chili-flecked noodles and crab is the grown up version of that midnight college ramen. The instant noodles are still there, only the additions are more haute. Make sure to seek out the crab paste. It’s what makes these noodles so cravingly special.

Spicy wok-fried noodles with crab

Ingredients:

Three packages ramen, seasoning packets reserved for another use
1/4 cup vegetable oil plus two tablespoons
1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Thai-style crab paste
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce, Thai chile paste, or sambal oelek
3/4 pound shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 pound lump crabmeat
1/3 cup chopped mint
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest plus 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
salt

1. In a large saucepan of boiling water, cook the ramen for 3 minutes, until al dente. Drain well and set aside.

2. In a wok, heat 1/4 cup of the oil until smoking. Add the ginger, garlic, crab paste, chili garlic sauce, and mushrooms and cook over high heat, stirring, until the garlic is golden, about 3 minutes. Add the ramen and toss to coat. Spread the noodles in an even layer over the bottom and halfway up the side of the wok and drizzle with the remaining two tablespoons oil. Cook over high heat, undisturbed, until the edges start to crisp, about 
2 minutes. Toss the noodles, then spread them out again and cook until the edges start to crisp, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, crabmeat, mint, lime zest and lime juice, season with salt and toss again. Transfer to plates and serve.

Green Onion Pancakes

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This might be the first bread I learned to make. I was practically a baby Yogurtsoda, obsessed with PBS’ roster of cooking shows in the 1990s. Martin Yan’s Yan Can Cook was one of my favorites and these chewy green onion pancakes looked like an irresistible snack, so I learned how to cook them.

Rolling out the dough for this unleavened bread takes a bit of getting used to but once you get the hang of it, the rest is easy. The accompanying dipping sauce isn’t authentic, but it adds a deliciously savory layer of flavor to the final dish.

Green onion pancakes

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup cooking oil plus additional for pan-frying
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 cup plus 2 teaspoons chopped green onions
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

1. Place flour in a bowl. Add water, stirring with a fork, until dough holds together. On a lightly floured board, knead dough until smooth and satiny, about 5 minutes. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

2. Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, 2 teaspoons green onions, garlic, and chili garlic sauce in a bowl and set aside.

3. On a lightly floured board, roll dough into a cylinder, then cut into 12 portions. To make each pancake, roll a portion of dough to make an 8-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick; keep remaining dough covered to prevent drying. Brush with cooking oil. Sprinkle sesame oil, green onions, salt, and pepper on top. Roll dough into a cylinder and coil dough into a round patty; tuck end of dough underneath. Roll again to make an 8-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick.

4. Place a 10-inch frying pan over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil, swirling to coat sides. Add a pancake and cook until golden brown on each side, about 4 minutes total. Remove and drain on paper towels. Add more oil as needed and repeat with remaining pancakes.

5. Cut pancakes into wedges and serve with dipping sauce on the side.