Friday, June 25, 2010

"Indonesian" Pulled Pork on Grilled Sticky Rice

You'll note that the Indonesian in the title is sandwiched between quotation marks.  Indonesia is the most populated Muslim country in the world, with approximately 217,000, 000 Muslims.  In as much pork is taboo for Muslims, it does not feature prominently in the cuisine.  In communities that are not Muslim, in Bali, North Sulawesi and North Sumatra for instance, pork is eaten, but I've never had pulled pork anywhere in Indonesia.  In other words, while the spices used are those used in Indonesian cooking, the recipe itself is about as Indonesian as a Taco Bell taco is Mexican.

 "Indonesian" Pulled Pork
(printable recipe)

1 bone-in pork butt, 6--8 lbs.

4 cloves of garlic, chopped, pounded to a paste in a mortar
1 TBS minced ginger, pounded to a paste with the garlic in a mortar

2 TBS ground coffee, I used a dark roast from Sulawesi
2 TBS coriander, dry roasted and ground
1 TBS black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp cumin, dry roasted and ground
3 star anise, dry roasted and ground
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves, ground
1/2 tsp ground cayenne
2 TBS brown sugar
2 TBS kosher salt

Tamarind Mop
4 TBS tamarind pulp
3/4 cup warm water
2 TBS kecap manis
1 TBS ground coriander
1 TBS ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper

If the fat cap on the pork is thick, trim it.  Score the fat diagonally in 1 inch squares, being careful not to cut into the meat.  Spread the garlic/ginger paste over the meat.  Combine the dry ingredients and rub into the meat.  Wrap the meat with plastic wrap and place in a refrigerator  overnight.  Remove the meat from the refrigerator two hours before you plan to start smoking.

Smoke the pork (or cook in an oven) at 275° F for 8 to 12 hours, until it reaches an internal temperature of 195° F.  The meat won't shred properly if it doesn't reach this temperature.  Quickly mop with the tamarind mixture every hour after the first 5 hours.  Very often the temperature plateaus--holds at one temperature and seems unable or unwilling to rise--for several hours around the 175° range.  Keep cooking until you get to 195°.  Don't worry, your butt will still be moist ;)

Remove the pork from the smoker (or oven).  You should be able to simply pull the bone from the meat.  Using two large forks, shred the meat by pulling with the forks in opposite directions.  Sauce the meat with the barbecue sauce, or allow diners to do that themselves.

Mango-Curry Barbecue Sauce

4 shallots, minced
2 TBS vegetable oil
1 cup tomato ketchup
1/4 cup of the tamarind mop
2 TBS palm sugar
1/4 cup kecap manis
1/4 tsp cloves, ground
2 TBS mango chutney
2 TBS Madras curry paste 

Heat a  saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add oil, then fry shallots until softened and translucent.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes or so.

Grilled Sticky Rice 
(adapted from Terrific Pacific Cookbook, Von Bremzen and Welchman)
1 1/2 cups sticky (sweet or glutinous) rice
2 TBS water
1 TBS rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 TBS sesame oil
2 TBS roasted sesame seeds, black or white, or combination
1 tsp peanut or vegetable oil

Rinse rice and soak for 8 hours, or overnight.  Rinse and drain rice.  Steam for 40 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl, season with salt, and cool.

Prepare the grill for grilling.

Dissolve the sugar in the water and vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat.  Add this mixture together with the sesame oil, green onions, and sesame seeds to the rice.  Use your hands to mix well.  Form the rice into 6 cakes.  Brush lightly with the peanut oil and grill until the cakes are crispy and just colored, 2 to 3 minutes on each side.

Asian Slaw

This could be made with any crisp vegetables/fruit.  Red peppers and green mangoes or tart apples would be a nice addition.  Bean sprouts could be added, as well as jicama.  I used cabbage and carrots because that is what I had.  The dressing is roughly equal parts crunchy (natural) peanut butter, rice vinegar, and vegetable oil.  Use a little more vinegar than peanut butter or oil.  Add one or two cloves of garlic, minced, one or two teaspoons of minced ginger,  sriracha,  and kecap manis to taste.

To serve, place some Asian slaw atop each rice cake.  Top with sauced pulled pork.  Enjoy.

This will probably be the last recipe posted for awhile; my wife and I are leaving for Java tomorrow to celebrate my father-in-law's 80th birthday.  Instead of cooking Indonesian food, I'll be busy consuming it, and doing my best to chronicle it all. Don't expect the sort of coverage Gastronomer provided for Saigon or continues to provide  as she eats around the world, but I'll do my best to capture some of the local color.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grilled Stuffed Chicken Wings

A common appetizer found on the menus of many Thai restaurants is stuffed chicken wings.  These are usually stuffed with a mixture of ground chicken and/or shrimp, then steamed before being deep fried.  With the right mixture and proper cooking, they're delicious. But who wants to steam and fry when it's summer?  It's time for grilling, so that's what I've done.

Although deboning the wings takes a little effort, it's worth it.  These are essentially sausages using the chicken skin as casing.  They could be served as appetizers or as the main protein for a meal.  Served with rice and a salad, they make a very satisfactory dinner.

Grilled Stuffed Chicken Wings

10 chicken wings, drummettes removed and reserved for another dish
12 oz ground pork (turkey or chicken could be substituted, I suppose)
1 small bundles of cellophane noodles (soun) soaked to soften
5 shallots, minced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 stalks of lemongrass, inner, white and pale green parts only, finely minced
1 tsp (or more) sambal ulek
2 TBS fish sauce
1 1/2 tsp sugar
ground pepper to taste

Remove the two bones in the second section of the wings by slipping a boning knife or a paring knife between the skin and where it attaches to the bone.  Scrape the flesh from the bone, being careful not to puncture the skin.  Grab the end of the bone and twist it free from its joint at the "elbow." Do the same for the other bone.

In a food processor, mix the pork and other ingredients together.  Fry a small portion and adjust seasonings to your taste.  When you've got the mixture seasoned to your liking, stuff the boneless section of the wings.  I use a pastry bag, without a tip, to do this. 

Grill the wings as you would sausage, being careful not to cook them too quickly.  I prefer to cook them over indirect heat at first, then finish them over direct heat at the end.  Serve whole, or slice and fan the slices for a more shi-shi presentation.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Stir Fried Beef with Green Chilies--Daging Tumis Cabe Hijau

We don't eat much beef in our house.  When we do eat it, it's usually an Indonesian or Southeast Asian dish.  Although I like steak, I can't remember the last time I ate anything like a rib-eye or fillet mignon.  Eating a big hunk of meat just seems excessive.  Not that I'm opposed to excess--the road to wisdom and all that--a big hunk of beef just doesn't appeal to me that much gastronomically.  In any case, when these mild chilies appear in the local farmer's market, it's time to make this dish.  It's a quick and easy dish for a weekday meal.

Daging Tumis Cabe Hijau

1 pound beef (I used boneless shortribs) sliced 1 x 1/2 x 1/4
1 tsp baking powder
3 TBS kecap manis (sweet soy sauce)

2 TBS oil
8 shallots, thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
12--16 long, thin mild green chilies like the ones pictured, sliced
3/4 cup of water
3 tomatoes, cut in eighths
salt, to taste

Marinate the beef in baking powder and kecap manis for 30 minutes.

Heat a wok or frying pan over medium high heat. Add the oil and swirl the pan to cover the bottom.  Add the shallots, garlic, and ginger and stir fry for about 1 minute, being careful not to burn.  Add the chilies and cook until just softened.  

Remove the beef from the marinade, reserving marinade.  Stir fry the beef with the shallot and chilies for about three minutes.  Add the reserved marinade and water.  Bring to a boil and cook at a brisk simmer for several minutes.  Add tomatoes and salt to taste.  As soon as tomatoes begin to soften, remove from heat and serve.

(For those who like spicier food, add sliced Thai chilies (cabe rawit) or serranos when adding the green chilies.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mango-Langostino Skewers

Trader Joe's is a chain of markets owned by a German company.  Perhaps most famous for its Two Buck Chuck--$2 bottles of wine with the Charles Shaw label--Trader Joe's has good prices on cheese, wine, and certain other foodstuffs.  And you know Germans make good stuff.

While TJ's offers some good deals and has some items you can't easily find elsewhere, I prefer to shop local.  Living in California, I'm fortunate to have access to a vast array of fresh, seasonal produce and seafood.  The local farmer's market offers pastured chickens, grass fed beef, oysters from Point Reyes, and live fish in addition to a tremendous selection of fruits and vegetables.  Still, I wondered if I could make an appealing appetizer using ingredients purchased at Trader Joe's, ingredients that would be available year-round, anywhere there is a TJ's.

This is a simple recipe that can be assembled in minutes.  Although a summery dish, using the frozen ingredients from TJ's this could just as easily be served in Manitoba in January.

Mango Langostino Skewers (printable recipe)

2 mangoes--I used 3 mango halves from a TJ's Sweet Mango Halves package (4 halves to a package for $1.99) cut in cubes about the same size as the langostino pieces
approximately 1/2 package of peeled, cooked, frozen langostino tails ($8.95)
4 inch skewers
1 package micro greens ($2.19)

2 TBS Thai sweet chili sauce
2 TBS sriracha sauce
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
2 TBS sugar
2 TBS water
1 TBS lime juice
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp minced fresh mint

Alternate pieces of mango with pieces of langostino on the skewers, allowing two pieces of each on each skewer. You should get around 14 to 18 skewers.

Mix the dressing ingredients together.  Place the micro greens on a serving platter or individual plates.  Lay skewers upon the greens.  Drizzle dressing over skewers and greens.  Enjoy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Banh Tieu and Bidong

Banh tieu is not something most people would think of when they think of Vietnamese food.  It's not sophisticated.  There are no complex sauces or elaborate accompaniments.  You'd be hard pressed to find it on the menu of any Vietnamese restaurant, and it's not something many people make at home.  Yet, I imagine for most Vietnamese, banh tieu is a treat that evokes as many memories as Proust's madeleines.  For me, banh tieu always reminds me of Pulau Bidong.

 In 1981 I was living in Sacramento, going to graduate school and teaching ESL to refugees from Southeast Asia.   As a result of the fighting between Vietnam and China, large numbers of ethnic Chinese fled  northern cities and sailed to Hong Kong.  Refugees from the south, ethnic Chinese as well as many former soldiers for the South Vietnamese army or officials in the South Vietnamese government, sailed to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.  At the same time refugees were also fleeing Cambodia and Laos.  Sacramento suddenly found itself with an exploding population of Khmer, Lao, Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese with varying levels of education and exposure to western culture.  Pockets of refugees settled among the worst areas of town and local community agencies struggled to meet their many needs.

I was working for Catholic Social Services. My supervisor at the time, a young woman about my age, happened to mention that there was a need for teachers in Bataan, at the processing center that was just being set up to help refugees who had been accepted for resettlement in the US.  She had been selected to go, but then backed out at the last minute.  She gave me some information about how to apply and I did.  There were no openings for Bataan, but there was a need for teachers in Malaysia if I were interested.  I jumped at the chance.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tofu Fried with Basil

Now, my favorite way of having tofu is probably tahu telor.  I think that dish, which is similar to a Spanish tortilla with tofu rather than potatoes and then served with bean sprouts and a tangy peanut sauce, is impossible to top when it is cooked right.  That's not to say that I don't like stuffed tofu, or salt and pepper tofu, or ma po tofu, or countless other ways you can prepare tofu.  However, I don't generally like dishes in which tofu's role is an ersatz meat.  Spaghetti and tofu ragu would be better without the tofu; tofu is simply a distraction from the other ingredients rather than a complement.

Chicken fried with basil is a dish you'll find at every Thai restaurant outside of Thailand.  Gai paht kra prao, pad thai, and gai yang seem to be the holy trinity of dishes on Thai menus.  It's a dish that comes together quickly and is a flavor powerhouse.  Although I don't generally favor the substitution of tofu for meat, there are dishes where it works.  This is one.  That's because what really makes this dish is the combination of garlic, peppers and basil in a salty-sweet sauce.  It works with chicken, pork, shrimp, or tofu.  The tofu is not the star of the dish, but it doesn't detract from it.

Friday, June 4, 2010

How to Make Tofu

I like to make things from scratch.  Jam, krupuk, sambal, and tempe are some of the things I have attempted.  It's not so much that I think everything homemade is better than what you can buy in the store; I don't.  It's also not because I am worried about artificial flavors, preservatives,  or other chemical additives.  If one thing doesn't kill you, something else will, so I don't worry excessively about what I consume.  I make things from scratch because I like the challenge, and the learning process.  After I have successfully made something that I had hitherto only bought in a store, I have a much greater appreciation for it.  I think the process teaches me to be more discerning in appreciating what are the subtle differences between a good product and a great one.

Making tofu is simple, but complicated, time consuming, but quick.  It requires several different pots, a blender, several pieces of good quality cheesecloth, a form for pressing the tofu, and several spoons.  It requires hours of inactive time, but only minutes of active involvement.  The final product is tofu that is as good or better than the best you can find in any market, but it is still, in the end, only tofu. While I'll  continue to make it on an irregular basis, I won't stop buying tofu from my local tofu shop.