Green Curry with Rice Noodles and Mussels

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This coconut curry is the kind of dish that tastes too good to be healthy. Brimming with greens and herbs, this meal in a bowl comes together in about half an hour. I love everything about this dish: the vibrant green, the creamy coconut, the salty mussels. Oh, and rice noodles. Gimme all the noodles.

Green coconut curry with mussels

Ingredients:

1 serrano chile, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and sliced
2 lemongrass stalks, bottom third only, tough outer layers removed, sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 cups cilantro leaves with tender stems
3 cups basil leaves, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons coconut oil
4 pounds mussels, scrubbed
8 ounces rice stick noodles
1/2 lime
Salt

1. Puree chile, ginger, lemongrass, garlic, fish sauce, brown sugar, and 3 cups water in a blender until smooth. Transfer curry to a bowl. Reserve blender (no need to clean).

2. Puree coconut milk, cilantro, 3 cups basil, and 1/4 cup cold water in blender until smooth; set herb puree aside.

3. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high. Add mussels, cover, and cook until mussels open, about 7 minutes. Uncover and transfer opened mussels to a bowl, reserving cooking liquid in saucepan. If any mussels are still closed, cover and cook a few minutes longer, then add to bowl with others; discard any mussels that don’t open.

4. Add curry base to saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

5. In the meantime, cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water.

6. Pour any accumulated mussel-cooking liquid into curry mixture and stir in herb puree; bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat and add reserved mussels and squeeze in juice from lime. Taste and season with salt if needed. Serve warm in bowls and garnish with reserved basil leaves.

Vietnamese-Style Braised and Caramelized Catfish

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This is the way so many great meals in my life have been enjoyed: sitting in the street, eating something out of a bowl that I’m not exactly sure what it is, scooters going by. – the late, great Anthony Bourdain

When I went to Vietnam in 2011 I was besieged in the best of ways by the colors, flavors, smells, and sounds that permeated every street and alleyway. To this day, my favorite memories from this trip are of me and my sister enjoying a casual street-side meal: a slow-slung stool, a pair of plastic chopsticks, and mouthwatering meal after meal in a bowl.

One of the best things I ate in Hanoi was the fish: always soaking up that Vietnamese balance of hot, sour, salty, and sweet. This recipe takes me back to those memories — at home, the scene is not quite the same, but the meal is still delicious.

Try to use a heavy cast-iron skillet for this dish, and source the freshest fish you can find. Serve with plenty of warm rice to soak up the juices.

Vietnamese Braised and Caramelized Catfish

Ingredients:

1 pound catfish fillets
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
1/3 cup warm water
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass
3 green onions, trimmed, smashed flat with the side of a cleaver, sliced lengthwise into 3 pieces
1 tablespoon fried garlic or fried shallots

1. Place the fish on a plate, sprinkle both sides with the pepper, and set aside. In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water, then stir in the fish sauce, and set aside.

2. Place a heavy medium skillet over high heat. When it is hot, add the oil. Toss in the lemongrass, then place the fillets in the hot oil and sear for 1 minute, then turn over a repeat. Add the liquid ingredients. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and add the green onions. Cook for 10 minutes, uncovered, turning the fish over after 5 minutes. As the liquid cooks down, lower the heat little by little, enough to prevent the sauce from burning. It will reduce gradually to a texture similar to a heavy syrup.

3. Serve hot, topped with the fried garlic or fried shallots.

Sri Lankan Crab Curry

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year: Dungeness crab season in the Bay Area. And during the holidays, we eat Dungeness crab. Crab cakes. Crab with butter. Singaporean chili crab. Roasted crab. And now, Jaffna-style crab curry. This stuff is so good it’ll have you licking your fingers and crying tears of joy from the endorphin rush. It burns, my friend. It burns so good. There’s a reason why this is Anthony Bourdain’s favorite Sri Lankan dish.

In my version, I substituted spinach for murungu leaves. I know, I know. A poor substitute, but I couldn’t find a single South Asian grocery in the East Bay that carries murungu leaves. And I’ve of course used Dungeness crab instead of blue swimmer crabs which are native to Sri Lanka. It ain’t pretty and it’s messy, but who cares? This is what crustacean dreams are made of.

Happy holidays, y’all.

Sri Lankan crab curry

Ingredients:

2 large cooked Dungeness crabs, cleaned
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt to taste
1 tablespoon raw basmati rice
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 tablespoons shredded coconut
5 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 tomato, chopped
1 bunch spinach or murungu leaves
1 cup water
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons tamarind paste, soaked in 1/3 cup warm water and pressed through a sieve, solids discarded

1. Split crabs down the middle and crack legs. Toss with turmeric powder, cayenne pepper, and salt. Set aside.

2. Toast rice, peppercorns, and cumin seeds in a small saucepan and set aside. Toast coconut in saucepan until slightly browned. Grind spices and coconut with garlic and set aside.

3. Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Saute onions, curry leaves, tomato, and spinach. Add crabs and 1/2 cup of the water. Cover and steam over high heat for 5 minutes.

4. Add the rice mixture, remaining water, and coconut milk to the saucepan. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes. Add strained tamarind liquid to pot and simmer for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and serve warm.

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.

Tuna Poke on Nori Crakers

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Listen, I love my poke bowls like any good millennial should, but sometimes I want to mix it up. Sometimes I want poke straight out of the mixing bowl sans rice. And sometimes, I like to get fancy and serve poke on crispy, briny seaweed.

Adapted from a recipe by Liholiho Yacht Club’s Ravi Kapur, this is one of my favorite appetizers to make. It’s a showstopper and delicious to boot. The crackers are a little bit time consuming but the method is easy. Just make sure you assemble the final dish at the last minute so the crackers don’t get soggy.

Tuna poke on nori crackers

Ingredients:

Canola oil, for frying
3/4 cup cornstarch
Four 8-inch-square nori sheets, cut into quarters
salt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
12 ounces sushi-grade tuna cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 teaspoons minced green onion
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 teaspoons seeded and minced jalapeno
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1. Make the nori crackers: in a large frying pan, heat 1 inch of oil to medium-high. Set a rack over a baking sheet and line with paper towels.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the cornstarch with 1/2 cup of water until smooth. Dredge the nori in the cornstarch mixture, letting the excess drip off. Slowly drop the nori into the hot oil and fry for 2 minutes. Flip and fry for 
2 minutes longer, until crisp. Transfer to the rack, season with salt and let cool.

3. Make the spicy mayonnaise: In a small bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, 1/4 teaspoon soy sauce, and chili garlic sauce until smooth. Set aside.

4. Make the poke: In a large bowl, fold the tuna, green onion, ginger, jalapeno, remaining soy sauce, and sesame oil together; season with salt.

5. Place the poke onto the nori crackers and dollop with some of the spicy mayo. Serve immediately.