Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Bangladeshi Chicken and Potato Curry

Whelp, my year started with a Bangladeshi meal, so I'd say I'm a fan of 2018 thus far. This meal comes from the Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook: Artisinal Baking from Around the World, one of the newest arrivals to my cookbook library. It was through this episode of the A Couple Cooks podcast that I first learned of Hot Bread Kitchen, a bakery and training program in NYC that employs and trains immigrant and minority women to succeed in the professional food business. Through the program, these women gain marketable, employable skills and experience, in addition to training in English, kitchen math, and science. Everything on their menu comes from the home countries of the employees and graduates of Hot Bread Kitchen.

This cookbook features many of the breads of Hot Bread Kitchen, as well as things to eat or drink with said breads. Most recipes include a story behind the dish or the culture from which it comes, and sprinkled throughout the cookbook are spotlights of several Hot Bread Kitchen women. And these recipes come from all over the world, so in the span of a few pages you go from Ethiopia to Iran to India to Italy--and that's just in the leavened flatbreads chapter!

Hailing from the kitchen of a woman named Lutfunnessa, who taught political science in Bangladesh before moving to New York in the 90s, this curry recipe lands in the first chapter of the book, so it caught my attention early. Even after reading most of the rest of the book, when I thought about what I wanted to make first from the HBK Cookbook, my mind kept drifting back to the Bangladeshi curry and Bangladeshi flatbread (whole wheat chapatis). Besides, the paragraph at the top of the recipe says it's "perfect on a cold night"--and since it seems the entire U.S. is frozen right now, this curry was the perfect way to ring in the new year.

I served mine with the aforementioned whole wheat chapatis, which are also included in the cookbook, but you can definitely serve it with rice instead. The recipe is written with beef instead of chicken but, with the blessing of the paragraph at the top of the recipe, I used chicken thighs instead. This is a fairly simple dish to make, but it does require some time to simmer.

Bangladeshi Chicken and Potato Curry
Adapted slightly from Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook (p. 38)
Yield: 3 servings

3 Tbsp. canola oil
1 to 1-1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 small yellow onion (or half of 1 large), diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/8 tsp. cayenne (1/4 tsp. for more heat)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1-1/2 cups water
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed (approx 1-inch cubes)
Handful of cilantro, chopped
Cooked basmati rice or whole wheat chapatis (flatbread), for serving

In a medium to large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper, then add to the pot. Cook until the chicken is browned, stirring occasionally. Remove chicken to a plate.

Turn your burner down to medium and add the onion, garlic, ginger, and cayenne to the pot. If needed, add a splash of water to loosen any browned bits left behind by the chicken--there's great flavor there! Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the onions are softened and starting to brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in a bit more salt while the onions cook. Add the remaining spices--cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom--and stir for just a minute, to release the spices' fragrance.

Pour the water into the pot and add the chicken back in. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about an hour. Check it every so often to give it a stir and add more water if it's getting dry (I checked every 20 minutes and never needed more water).

Now add the potatoes to the pot and keep on simmering (covered) for 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes are nice and tender. Mine were very soft after 30 minutes. Again, stir every so often, and add water if needed. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Sprinkle with cilantro, and serve with rice or chapatis.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Global Eats: A Year in Review

world map
Photo credit: “World Map – Abstract Acrylic.” Photo by Nicolas Raymond. Painting by Lara Mukahirn. Some rights reserved. Retrieved here.

About a year ago, I challenged myself to spend 2017 exploring more cultures through food. It's been a fun and scrumptious year! I've enjoyed the challenge of seeking out new recipes, techniques, ingredients, and flavor combinations from all over the world. Also, aiming for one country each month was just about perfect--it was doable and consistent.

And because bloggers are supposed to do end-of-year round-ups, here's a rundown of the foods I've gotten to experience this year, as well as some new ingredients and equipment that have found new homes in my kitchen.

Looking ahead to 2018, I plan to keep experimenting with different international cuisines! Near the top of my list: Bangladesh and Poland.

January: Peru

Menu and write-up are here
Peruvian Beef Kebabs (Anticuchos with Roasted Yellow Pepper Sauce)
Potatoes with Huancaina Sauce (Papa a la Huancaina)
Sarsa Salad
Crema Volteada

February: Tunisia

Menu and write-up are here
Chicken Kebabs with Currant and Olive Relish
Slata Mechouia (Grilled Salad)
Orange Almond Cake

March: Hungary (and kinda Romania)

Hungarian Tomato-Pepper Stew (Lesco) - and we served it over polenta, because apparently polenta is a common breakfast element in Romania.

April: Vietnam

Vietnamese Shrimp Noodle Bowl (Bun Tom Xao) - fresh, crunchy, and bursting with flavor.

May: Finland and Dutch West Indies

Finnish Pulla Bread with Apricots and Pistachios - one of the most beautiful things I've ever made. I was so proud of these glisteningly bronzed braids!
Dutch West Indian Chicken Kebabs (Boka Dushi) with Dutch West Indian Peanut Sauce - with most dishes, I have a pretty good idea of how they're going to taste. This one, however, combined so many ingredients that I wouldn't have thought to combine, that I truly didn't know what to expect from the finished dish. Happily, it turned out to be one of my favorite dishes this year. We served it with a side of sauteed plantains.


My job is crazy-busy every June, so I didn't officially try any new countries. But the Tunisian menu got an encore performance, and I vaguely remember trying a new Thai dish.

July: Madagascar and Ethiopia

Malagasy Chicken with Ginger (Akoho Sy Sakamalao) - another favorite this year, largely because it surprised me with how good the finished dish was despite the fairly simple ingredients and preparation technique.
Ethiopian Cucumber-Mango Salad


For the life of me, I can't remember what country (if any) I cooked in August. But I did try preserved lemons for the first time, and those are used a lot in north African and Mediterranean dishes.

September: Myanmar

Burmese Ginger Salad (Gin Thoke) - this salad had so much going on. It was strong on the ginger and lemon, crunchy from the cabbage, and filling thanks to the chickpeas and lentils.
Also some Pineappleade which is kinda generically Southeast Asian.
Also an encore of the Malagasy chicken.

October: Somalia

Somali Beef Stew with Spiced Rice (Bariis Maraq) - making this meal included mixing up a classic Somali spice blend, called xawaash, which was a key player in both the stew and the spiced rice. If you make this, do yourself a favor and don't skip the bananas. They seemed to me like an odd topping, but my favorite bites were ones that included banana. As a fun side note, this dish was part of a global food spread that my house church did in celebration of World Food Day.

November: Germany

Obatzter (Camembert cheese spread)
Bavarian Soft Pretzels

December: Spain

Rustic Spanish Bread (Pan Rustico) - simple and good. In light of the holidays, birthday, and being knocked out with a cold for a few days, something simple was all I could manage this month.

New Ingredients and Equipment

  • Aji amarillo - yellow pepper paste from Peru
  • Almond meal - sure, it's widely used here in the States, but Tunisia inspired me to use it for the first time
  • Hungarian wax peppers - mild spice level, and they were readily available at Walmart
  • Kitchen scale - this inexpensive but reliable scale is suuuuuper helpful with recipes with measurements written in grams and ounces rather than cups and teaspoons ... which happens often when using recipes that didn't originate in the U.S.
  • Orange blossom water - basically the elixer of the gods
  • Pistachios - though I never cared for them before, I used (and enjoyed!) them quite a bit this year
  • Pomegranate molasses - made my own; used in this Pomegranate Molasses Chicken
  • Preserved lemons - when my current jar runs out, I want to try making my own
  • Spice grinder - this year my eyes (and taste buds) were opened to the wonderful world of grinding one's own spices right before tossing them into a dish. Grinding whole cloves, peppercorns, and cumin seeds will give you much more punch than measuring out pre-ground spices. I use my Magic Bullet which I've had for awhile, and I've heard that a coffee grinder or a mortar and pestle work quite well.
  • Sumac - ground spice used a lot in Middle Eastern foods; bought at Cordell's; I'd eaten it before but hadn't cooked with it
  • Xawaash - Somalian spice blend featuring cinnamon, coriander, cumin, black pepper, cardamom, cloves, and turmeric; recipe is included in the Somali stew recipe above.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Pear and Apple Galette with Cinnamon Whipped Cream

There's something therapeutic about rolling pastry dough, creating something beautiful and comforting, and sharing it with people you love. 

Pear and Apple Galette with Cinnamon Whipped Cream
Yield: 6-8 servings

1/3 cup oat flour (see notes)
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
14 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter (that's 2 Tbsp. shy of 2 sticks)
1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water

2 large apples (I used Granny Smith)
3 medium pears (I used Bosc)
Juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 tsp. turbinado sugar or granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Whipped cream
2 cups (1 pint) heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Make the crust: Add flours, salt, and sugar to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a couple of times. Then cut the butter into cubes and add to the food processor bowl. Pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour in about 1/3 cup of ice water while pulsing, adding up to 1/2 cup if necessary. You're looking for a loose dough that's moist enough to hold together but not so wet that it turns sticky. Turn dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare filling: Wash your apples and pears. Cut pears in half and remove the core and that little fiber running from the stem to the core. Slice into 1/4-inch slices. You can nibble on the outermost slices--they don't work as well in the galette arrangement, and you'll have plenty of fruit. Slice your apples into 1/4-inch slices to match. I put my sliced pears and sliced apples into two separate bowls, which helped when it came time to arrange the fruit on the crust, but you don't necessarily have to do it that way.

Squeeze your lemon over your cut apples and pears. In a small bowl (like a cereal bowl), combine brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, and ginger. Sprinkle this mixture over the apples and pears, and toss them gently but well. Hang onto the cereal bowl; you'll use it later.

Assemble the galette: Remove chilled dough from the fridge, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll until the dough is about 1/8 inch thick, maybe a little thinner. You're aiming for basically round, but this is not an exact science. Mine was more oval-shaped, and about 12 inches in diameter in the shorter direction. Be sure to fully pick up the dough a few times while rolling, to keep it from sticking to your counter.

Line a baking sheet or pizza pan with parchment paper, and transfer your dough onto it. Turn on the oven to 425. Arrange sliced pears and apples in an overlapping pattern, leaving a 1- to 2-inch border around the edge. I alternated the pears and apples so each slice of galette so each slice of galette would have a good balance of both fruits. I wound up with about half a pear and half an apple left, which made a lovely snack while the galette baked.

Fold the edges of the crust in over the edge of the fruit. Again, this is not an exact science and isn't intended to look meticulous. Rustic is the goal! Get your remaining 2 Tbsp. butter and cut it into little cubes. Dot them over the surface of the fruit. Now, remember that cereal bowl from earlier? In it mix your 3/4 Tbsp. turbinado sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, then sprinkle that over the whole galette.

Bake at 425 for 45-50 minutes, rotating the pan about halfway through to ensure even cooking. You want the fruit to be tender and the crust to be nice and toasty.

While the galette is baking, put a medium mixing bowl and your beaters into the freezer to chill, do some quick kitchen cleaning, and munch on any leftover fruit pieces.

Make the whipped cream: Into your chilled bowl pour the heavy whipping cream. Beat for about a minute on high speed, until it's kinda foamy and just starting to thicken. Gradually add the sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Continue beating on high speed until stiff peaks form. Chill until ready to serve.

Serve the galette warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Use a sharp knife to cut it into wedges, and dollop each serving with whipped cream.

  • Instead of buying oat flour, you can easily make it yourself. Just add a heaping 1/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats to a small food processor, and give it a whirl.
  • Crust adapted from The Faux Martha, filling and method from The Kitchn, and cinnamon whipped cream from Genius Kitchen.
  • As written, I had far more whipped cream than was necessary. You could probably halve the whipped cream measurements and be perfectly fine. 
  • If you're lucky enough to have leftover galette, it actually warms nicely in the microwave. About 60 seconds for one serving was perfect for me. 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Ethiopian Cucumber-Mango Salad

In my last post you may recall that I had a little soapbox moment about lumping all African countries together instead of recognizing them as very distinct countries and cultures.

Well, apparently I have now accidentally lumped two African countries and cuisines into a single menu, despite my best intentions. As it turns out, the ambiguous "East African" salad that wouldn't commit to a specific country but inspired me to cook up some Malagasy food, is actually Ethiopian. While typing up the recipe, I did a quick search to see if Cooking Light had an online version of the Cucumber-Mango Salad recipe. They do. And the online version very clearly identifies it as Ethiopian. So there you go.

Ethiopia and Madagascar, I acknowledge your distinctness, honor you as two different countries, and appreciate your foods.

Ethiopia's Cucumber-Mango Salad was a win. The longer ingredient list made for all sorts of flavors and textures pinging around in my mouth. The cinnamon, cumin, and clove hint at Indian curry flavors, while the tomato, mango, and cilantro are reminiscent of Latin salsa. The cucumber and red onion add crunch, and the lime juice wakes everything up and ties it all together. Mine turned out a little mushier than the cookbook photo suggested, but the taste was stellar. If you're mush-averse, I'd suggest using firm tomatoes or leaving them raw.

Ethiopian Cucumber-Mango Salad
From Cooking Light's Global Kitchen cookbook
Yield: 6 servings

1 cucumber, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1-1/2 cups finely chopped red onion
1/2 tsp. salt

A drizzle of peanut oil (I used canola)
1 lb. tomato, chopped and seeded (ideally drained, too)
3 Tbsp. chopped peanuts (dry-roasted, preferably unsalted)
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped*
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne
Dash of ground cinnamon
Dash of ground cloves

1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 mangoes, peeled and diced (about 1-3/4 cups)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced

Toss the cucumber and red onion with the salt, and set in a colander to drain for at least 20 minutes.**

Heat a medium to large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, followed by the tomatoespeanutsjalapenoscoriandercumincayennecinnamon, and cloves. Saute for just a few minutes, until the tomato is tender and warmed through (about 5 minutes tops). Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium to large bowl gently toss together the cucumber mixture, tomato mixture, garlicmangocilantro, and lime juice.

*If you can find red jalapenos, then do one red and one green. I used just one jalapeno, and the salad was very mild. Could have easily tossed in another and been totally fine.
**The recipe said to include the garlic at this stage, but I was afraid it would just fall through the holes in my colander. So I set it aside in a separate tiny dish with a sprinkle of salt.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Malagasy Chicken with Ginger (Akoho sy Sakamalao)

Note to self: onions that are simmered in a luscious amount of coconut oil until they're so soft they melt in your mouth ... are not photogenic. More important note to self: they're terrific for eating.

While flipping through reading like a novel the Global Kitchen cookbook, an East African Cucumber-Mango Salad recipe caught my eye but also presented a dilemma. You see, it reeeeally bothers me when people treat the entire African continent as a single country, culture, or people group. It's just wrong. So I was miffed that the recipe was associated with the broader region of East Africa rather than a specific country ... to the point that I almost wrote off the recipe on principle. But it sounded so yummy and summery! So I struck a compromise with myself: I'd find a main dish recipe from a specific country in East Africa, and make this ambiguous Cucumber-Mango Salad as a side dish.

The winner of that internet search was Akoho sy Sakamalao--literally "chicken and ginger"--a dish hailing from Madagascar. To be honest, the recipe sounded good but not amazing. The ingredient list is simple, the cooking technique un-fussy. But my first bite revealed the dish to be far greater than the sum of its parts. There's some kind of magic happening with the ginger-lemon-garlic rub, the caramelizing onions and bell peppers, the nutty coconut oil, and the bed of simple rice soaking up all those flavors.

All in all, a wonderful meal! The Akoho sy Sakamalao recipe is below, and the Cucumber-Mango Salad recipe is here. Thanks, Madagascar!

Malagasy Chicken with Ginger (Akoho sy Sakamalao)
Adapted from Global Table Adventure
Yield: 4 servings

3 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, grated
Zest from 1 lemon
4 chicken thighs (I used boneless, skinless, without the drumsticks attached)*
1/3 cup coconut oil**
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cooked white rice, for serving

Combine the garlic, ginger, and lemon zest, and rub it all over the chicken. Cover (or put into a plastic zip bag) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Overnight or all day would be perfectly fine.

In a large skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium heat. Brown the chicken until it's a lovely golden color on both sides. When you add the chicken to the pan, your oil will probably go crazy. I recommend putting a lid on the skillet, but tilt it to let steam out, and pull the skillet off the burner to let the oil calm down a bit any time you need to mess with the food inside.

When the chicken is beautiful, take it out of the pan, and season it with salt and pepper. Add the bell pepper and onion to the pan, and saute until softened. Add the chicken back to the pan, lower the heat, and put a lid on (not tilted this time). Let it simmer for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is super tender. I gave the skillet a good shake/slide/jiggle every so often to keep things from sticking.

Cook your rice while the chicken and veggies are simmering.

Nibble a bit and add more salt and pepper if needed. To serve, spoon a good portion of rice onto your plate. Top with onion/bell pepper mixture and a chicken thigh. Scoop some of the sauce over the whole thing--the sugar from the onions and lemon will have caramelized nicely, and all that glorious flavor will be packed into your coconut oil sauce.

*The recipe on Global Table Adventure uses bone-in thigh quarters (leg and thigh both). I decided to go for just thighs in order to have smaller portions and less meat, and at the store I went into auto-pilot and got boneless skinless, though bone-in probably would have been more flavorful.

**I couldn't quite bring myself to eat an entire 1/3 cup of coconut oil by myself, so I ended up scooping it only sparingly over my plate ... which meant that a lot of that glorious caramelized flavor was wasted. If I make this again, I'd probably scale back to 3-4 Tbsp. coconut oil instead of a full 1/3 cup.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Finnish Pulla Bread with Apricots and Pistachios

Have you had the pleasure of watching The Great British Baking Show (a.k.a., Bake-Off)? If you like baked goods and you like seeing a more positive side of humanity, I absolutely recommend it. Unlike U.S. American food competition shows, the contestants and judges are actually genuinely nice to each other, and they genuinely seem to care more about having fun with their creative outlet than with winning.

Well, several months ago I watched all the seasons of Bake-Off that Netflix would allow, and though I was thoroughly wowed by every episode, I found myself most inspired by the enriched breads, as these bakers kept creating succulent doughs studded with fruit and spices and shaped into intricate braids and knots that shimmered with sticky sweet glazes. This past weekend I finally went for it!

Based on the numerous pulla recipes I read during the last 48 hours, pulla is a traditional Finnish bread. It's a yeasty cousin to brioche and challah; flavored with cardamom; generally shaped into a braid, a wreath, or buns; and traditionally served with coffee. Some recipes included fruit or nuts, while others were more basic. So I wound up making a more plain, traditional loaf and a more jazzed up loaf.

Finnish Pulla Bread with Apricots and Pistachios
Yield: 2 loaves/braids*
Source: I referenced many recipes but mostly followed the ingredients from Around the World in 80 Bakes and the process from All Recipes

6 Tbsp. butter, melted, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups milk (at least 2%; I used part 2%, part half-and-half)
4-1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (or 2 packets, 7 g each)
2 tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. sugar (1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp.)
3/4 to 1 tsp. ground cardamom**
700 g all-purpose flour (for me this ended up being about 4-2/3 cups)

Zest of 2 oranges
16 dried apricots, finely diced
40 g pistachios, finely chopped

1 egg

Melt the butter and allow it to cool to room temperature. Warm the milk to 110 degrees.*** Go ahead and measure out your flour into a smallish bowl. You'll add it in increments, so it's easy to measure once and then eyeball it throughout the different steps in the recipe.

To a large bowl add the milk, yeast, salt, sugar, cardamom, and about 1 cup of flour--enough to make a runny batter. Beat the batter until it's really nice and smooth. (For me, this was a couple of minutes on medium speed with my little handheld five-speed mixer.)

Add some more flour (1-2 cups) and continue beating until it's again smooth and elastic. If you're using a hand mixer like mine, aim for more like 1 to 1-1/2 cups flour. I added close to 2 cups, and it made the dough too thick--it just kept climbing up the beaters!--so I had to switch to beating by hand.

Now add the melted butter. Beat the dough some more, until the butter is fully incorporated and the dough looks smooth and glossy. Add the rest of the flour and keep on mixing until it's fully incorporated. If you have a good quality stand mixer, rejoice! If you don't, you'll get a good arm workout!

Now, lightly flour a clean countertop, and turn the dough out onto it. Invert your mixing bowl over the dough, and let the dough (and your arms) rest for 15 minutes. When those 15 minutes are up, knead the dough for a good 10-15 minutes, until it's nice and smooth.****

Remember your mixing bowl? Spritz it with a bit of cooking spray, put your ball of dough inside, turn the dough so all of it gets lightly coated with oil, and cover the bowl with a damp, clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, undrafty place until it's doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch down the dough. If jazzing up your bread, add your orange zest, apricots, and pistachios now. Knead them into the dough. Let it rest for another 5-10 minutes (on the counter is fine, covered with that damp kitchen towel you used earlier).

Divide your dough into 6 portions, as equal as you can get them. Roll each portion into a long rope, about an inch in diameter.

Gather up 3 ropes, and pinch them together on one end. Gently braid the 3 ropes together, and when you get to the end, pinch those ends together as well. Tuck both ends (top and bottom) under the braid, so you have a nice, tidy-looking loaf braid. Repeat this process with the other 3 ropes to make your second loaf braid.

Place braids on a greased baking sheet. Spray the tops with oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400. Beat an egg really well, until it's super smooth. Remove the plastic wrap from the loaf braids and very gently brush some beaten egg over the loaves. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan half-way through the baking time, until the loaves are browned, glistening, and look like they should be in a bakery display case!

*Initially I planned to make just one braid, but one recipe I read made an excellent point: if you're going to go to the trouble of making a homemade yeast bread--including all the kneading and rise time, you might as well make two or more loaves and have plenty to share. Your friends and coworkers will thank you.

**I saw widely varying cardamom measurements and settled on 3/4 tsp. When I nibbled some dough (I'm weird like that) the cardamom flavor was pretty subtle. So I added another 1/8 tsp. or so to the loaf I made with apricots, and kneaded it in along with the apricots, pistachios, and orange zest. That was still a nice amount of cardamom without feeling overwhelming.

***Some recipes I read said to scald the milk by bringing it to a near boil on the stove and then letting it cool to 110 degrees. I simply warmed mine in the microwave until it felt warm but not uncomfortably hot.

****I was expecting mine to reach a super smooth, satiny texture like I get with cinnamon roll dough ... but my pulla dough never got to that stage, even after 15 minutes. It was smooth, but the dough felt denser and heavier than I'm used to. I don't know if it's supposed to be that way, or if it got thrown off by some combination of my technique, the temperature and humidity of my kitchen, the flour measurement in the recipe I followed, or the general mood of the bread gods that day.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Vietnamese Shrimp Noodle Bowl (Bun Tom Xao)

The first time I remember having Vietnamese food, it was at a pho restaurant in Los Angeles. My family got pho on my brother's recommendation, but I ended up ordering some other dish. Though I don't recall the name of the dish, I remember that it smelled gross but tasted pretty good. The gross-but-good culprit? Fish sauce. It truly does smell terrible. But when you mix it with something sweet, something acidic, and something spicy, it somehow transforms into this tasty thing that leaves you wanting more.

This dish comes from the Global Kitchen cookbook. And I'm happy to report that I could find all the ingredients locally. I've found fish sauce, rice vermicelli, and serrano peppers at both HEB and the north Walmart. If you don't see rice vinegar with other vinegars, look in the international and/or Asian section of your grocery store.

Bun Tom Xao (Vietnamese Shrimp Noodle Bowl)
Slightly adapted from Cooking Light, as seen in Global Kitchen cookbook
Yield: 4 servings

1/2 cup warm water
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1-2 serrano chiles, thinly sliced

3 cups sliced cucumber (about 1 large cucumber)
4 cups green leaf lettuce, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup torn fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup torn fresh basil or Thai basil leaves

5 oz. rice vermicelli noodles
1/2 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped (toasted if desired)
1/3 cup sliced green onions (1/4" slices) (about 2 green onions)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. dark brown sugar (I used light brown)
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp black pepper (or white pepper if you have it)
1 lb. shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed (thawed if frozen)
Canola oil

In a two-cup measuring cup or small bowl, combine warm water and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add lime juice, rice vinegar, fish sauce, and serranos. It's going to smell seriously funky, so cover it with plastic wrap to keep that funk at bay, and set aside while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Peel cucumber if it's bitter. Cut into quarters lengthwise, then slice thinly. Toss with the lettuce, cilantro, mint, and basil.

Cook the rice vermicelli according to package directions. Rinse very well in cold water, and set aside to drain well. These noodles are super starchy, so if they're sitting for very long, give them another good rinse if they start to get sticky.

While the noodles are cooking, toast your peanuts, if desired, and allow them to cool before chopping. Slice your green onions and chop your garlic.

Combine cornstarch, brown sugar, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to coat well. If you have a wok, now is its time to shine. Otherwise, a large skillet will do quite nicely. Heat your wok/skillet over high heat, and add a swirl of canola oil. Add the shrimp to the pan, and cook until they start to develop a nice sear. When they're almost done, add the green onion and garlic, and stir-fry for about 30 seconds to 1 minute more. Remove from heat.

To serve, put a generous portion of the lettuce mixture in the bottom of each bowl. Top with noodles, shrimp, and chopped peanuts, and about 1/4 cup of the fish sauce-lime mixture.


  • I've also made this with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into small, thin slices about the size of medium shrimp. And I actually liked it better with the chicken. If you use chicken, prepare and cook it the same way; you'll just need to cook it a bit longer than the shrimp.
  • When I made this for just myself, I used only 1 serrano chile. When I made it with a friend I put 1 serrano in the sauce and sliced the other for an optional addition at table.