Saturday, March 31, 2012

Baked Curry Puffs

Having made the fried version of these Malaysian curry puffs last month, I wondered how they would be baked rather than fried.  As I pointed out in the previous post on the fried curry puffs, the dough is the same as that used for flaky char siu pastries, which are baked.  I knew these could also be baked therefore, but I didn't know if they would retain the distinctive look of the spiral pastry that the fried version has. Unfortunately, the answer is no.  Although you can still discern the spiral pattern if you look carefully, it is much less pronounced than in the fried version.  The fried curry puffs are also more delicate than the baked version, with an incredible flakiness.  On the other hand, these may be slightly better for you (or not quite as bad for you), and you can bake the whole shebang at once, rather than hassling with heating up the oil to just the right temperature and frying several at a time.
If you are looking to impress for a special occasion, I'd definitely recommend the fried version.  If you want a delectable bite without too much work, try the baked puffs. 

Baked Curry Puffs

Flaky Pastry Dough

Water Dough
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting when rolling out
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBS vegetable shortening or lard
approximately 1/3 cup ice water

Combine flour with sugar. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles bread crumbs. Stir in ice water until the dough is moistened and just holds together when pressed. This may require a little more or a little less than 1/4 cup. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead just until the dough holds together as a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and then form the dough into a circular disk. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Short Dough
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup vegetable shortening or lard

Cut the shortening into the flour unit mixture resembles coarse meal. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and then shape the dough into a ball. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

After both doughs have been refrigerated at least an hour, unwrap the the water dough and place it on a lightly floured surface. Unwrap the short dough and center it on top of the water dough. Fold the sides of the water dough over the short dough, with the edges overlapping slightly. Press the overlapping edges and both ends to seal in the short dough completely. Form into a rectangle and roll out to approximately 12 x 8 inches. Like folding a letter,  fold the dough in thirds.  Roll out again to a 12 x 8 inch rectangle and fold in thirds again.  Now roll out to a 12-inch square.  Tightly roll the square to form a cylinder with a diameter of about 1 1/2 inches.  Slice into 12 equal rounds.

Chicken Curry Filling

1 potato, peeled and cut into small dice
1 onion, peeled and cut into small dice
12 oz boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chopped into small pieces
2 TBS Madras curry powder mixed with a little water to form a paste
salt, to taste
2--4 TBS coconut milk
2 TBS oil

In a bowl, stir the curry paste into the chicken, mixing well to distribute the curry paste evenly.

Heat a frying pan over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot,  fry the potato until browned on all sides.  Add onions and cook until softened.  Stir in the chicken and enough coconut milk to keep the curry moist but not wet and cook until the chicken is done, not more than five minutes.  Allow the curry to cool before filling the puffs.

Assembling the Curry Puffs

Press each round of dough flat, then roll them into circles with at least a 3 1/2-inch diameter.  Fill the circles with a generous tablespoon or so of filling, fold in half, and crimp the edges closed.  Place the filled pastries on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with egg wash.  Bake in a preheated 375º F oven for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack at least 5 minutes before eating.  May be served warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fried Fish Tacos with Young Papaya Slaw

Baja style fish tacos are one of my favorites.  They are not something I normally make as I don't really enjoy frying food all that much.  Especially when cooking for two, frying is something I prefer to leave to the professionals.  As I mentioned in my mini crab taco post, I did, however, agree to take part in the Alaskan sea food promotion and do some posts on fish tacos, so when there was a break in the spring rains and I could fry the fish outdoors, I got to work.  I managed to get my hands on some fresh Alaskan cod fillets, had some Anchor steam beer on hand that made a wonderfully crisp and light batter, put a Mexican slant on a Vietnamese papaya salad,  and I must say, these were some of the best fish tacos I've ever had.  Even better, I discovered the fried fish could be refrigerated/frozen and reheated in the oven and was still as good as you get at most restaurants.

Normally, fish tacos from Ensenada are served with shredded cabbage.  I thought goi du du--Vietnamese papaya salad--would be a good substitute, light and crisp with a sweet, tart dressing of nuoc cham.  I added thinly sliced red onions and used cilantro rather than rau ram, which is traditionally used in the salad.  The assembled taco, with slices of fried fish and avocado along with the papaya salad and a drizzle of mayo mixed with Lingham's Hot Sauce (a sweet chili sauce from Malaysia) was delicious.  This is a dish that will certainly be in my summer rotation.

Fish Tacos with Young Papaya Slaw

Alaskan cod fillets, sliced into pieces four to six inches long and several inches wide
1 12 oz bottle Anchor steam beer (although I'm sure another beer would be fine), chilled
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
oil for frying

2 cups thinly julienned young papaya
1/2 red onion, peeled and thinly julienned
1/3 cup thinly julienned carrot
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
nuoc cham

1/3 cup mayonnaise
2+ TBS (to taste) Lingham's Hot Sauce

flour or corn tortillas

In a large bowl, whisk the beer into the flour, baking powder and salt.  The batter will be fairly thick, similar to pancake batter. 

Pour oil to the depth of several inches in a wok or some other vessel for frying.  Heat the oil to 360º F.  Try to maintain this temperature while frying the fish.

Dip the pieces of fish into the batter.  Carefully lower the battered pieces into the hot oil and fry for several minutes until golden brown.  Remove and drain on paper towels.  (Fried pieces may be cooled and frozen on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Reheat in 375º F oven for eight minutes.  Although not as good as when freshly fried, these were still remarkably good.  The fish used in the photos was reheated in this manner.)

To make the papaya slaw, mix together the papaya, onion, carrot and cilantro and dress with the nuoc cham.

Assemble the tacos by slicing the fried fish into pieces that fit nicely in the tortilla.  Add the papaya slaw and slices of avocado.  Drizzle the spicy mayonnaise mixture on top.  Enjoy with margaritas or beer.

As previously mentioned, I have received some gift cards to buy fish and tacos in exchange for doing some posts on fish tacos. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Sambal Udang Kentang--Shrimp and Potato Sambal

Sambal udang kentang is another typical Indonesian sambal that might be one of several dishes to be served with rice. This is a particularly mild sambal, as one member in our current household has a low tolerance for spicy food despite growing up in Indonesia, but it could be enlivened with some additional chilies. It may seem surprising that potatoes would be featured in an Indonesian dish, but in fact, potatoes are quite popular in the archipelago, especially in Java and Sumatra, and are included in numerous dishes.

I used larger shrimp than the dish really calls for, simply because they were on sale and I had them on hand.  I actually think medium large (36--40 per pound) or even smaller are better in a sambal.  Whichever size you use, you want to adjust the cooking time so as not to overcook the shrimp.  I served this with sambal goreng printil  and steamed rice for an easy dinner.

Sambal Udang Kentang (adapted from The Indonesian Kitchen)
printable recipe

1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 shallots, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 TBS minced chili, or sambal oelek if fresh chili isn't available
salt, to taste
1/2 cup tomatoes, cut into 1/2 pieces
1/4 cup peanut oil

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Fry the potatoes until softened and cooked through.  You don't want to brown them.  Remove the potatoes from the oil and set aside.  You can do this ahead of time and reserve the potatoes until you are ready to finish the dish and serve it.

Fry the shallots, garlic, chili, and salt in the oil until softened and fragrant.  Add the shrimp and fry briefly, being careful not to overcook the shrimp.  Stir in the tomatoes and potatoes and fry for two minutes more until heated through and covered with the spices.  I prefer to serve and eat this hot, but it may also be eaten at room temperature (as it usually is in Indonesia).

Friday, March 9, 2012

Sambal Goreng Printil


Sambal goreng printil is a nice dish to include when you are serving a variety of Indonesian dishes for a dinner, or to serve on its own with rice.  It can be made spicy or mild, a dish that can be adapted easily to different tastes.  In Indonesia it would include petai--a bean that resembles the fava bean, and is infamous for its effects when eaten--instead of snow peas, but finding petai in the United States is problematic.  The snow peas add a nice splash of color and your acquaintances won't be wondering if something has crawled inside you and died.

This is a relatively quick dish to prepare, taking about twenty minutes to make.  Once the meatballs are formed, it requires little more than ten minutes to cook the dish.  Slicing the shallots, garlic, and chilies instead of grinding them to a paste, as would normally be done in Indonesia, saves some time and provides a slightly different texture when eating this sambal.

Sambal Goreng Printil

1 pound ground beef
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1--2 red chilies, seeded and thinly sliced (or add sambal oelek to taste)
2 salam leaves
2 quarter-size slices of laos
1/2 tsp petis (shrimp paste)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp sugar
1--2 TBS tamarind water
2 cups snow peas, washed and trimmed
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (or 2 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded and diced)
4 TBS oil, divided

Mix the ground beef with the salt.  Form into marble-sized meatballs.  Heat a wok or frying pan over medium high heat.  Add three tablespoons of the oil.  When oil is hot, brown the meatballs quickly; the interiors should still be rare.  Drain and set aside.

Pour off the fat from browning the meatballs.  Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and fry the shallots, garlic, and chilies until softened, about two minutes.  Add the salam leaves, laos, petis, coconut milk, sugar, and tamarind water together with the browned meatballs.  Cook for about five minutes, stirring to coat the meatballs with the liquid. 

Add the snow peas and tomatoes.  Cook another 3 to five minutes, stirring constantly just until snow peas are cooked.  Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mini Alaskan Crab Tacos

A more correct title for this post might be Vietnamese crab salad mini tacos, for that is essentially what these are.  The filling is slightly adapted from goi buoi--Vietnamese pomelo and crab salad--with some avocado crema, red cabbage and sliced red onions.  The shells are fried sui gow skins, an idea I got from Andrea Nguyen, who writes that she borrowed it from Trader Vic's.  Check out her recipe for duck tacos, which includes a helpful video on frying the shells.  This is the sort of appetizer that looks elegant and tastes delicious, but can be prepared ahead of time and assembled at the last minute.  An even simpler presentation would be not to fold the skins and serve these as mini crab tostadas. However, since I'm submitting this in conjunction with a promotion of Alaskan fish tacos, I went with the taco version.

While I tend to focus more on Southeast Asian food, when the folks behind the Alaska fish taco promotion asked if I would be interested in doing some related posts, I agreed.  I don't know why they contacted me.  Perhaps it's because I submitted a pepes ikan taco recipe for the contest they had last year.  Maybe they've done their research and know there's a photo of me holding a 12 pound Coho salmon that I caught on the Tsiu River in Alaska in the original Rumah Makan Murni in Cepu, Central Java.  In any case, I like fish tacos and would love to go back to Alaska to do some fishing, so I agreed.  I should point out that the folks behind the promotion also gave me some gift cards to buy some Alaskan fish and fish tacos in exchange for me doing some posts.

 Mini Crab Tacos with Avocado Crema

Crab Pomelo Salad
1 cup cooked Alaskan crab meat
1 carrot, grated
1 pomelo, peeled, segmented, and crumbled (I wouldn't recommend substituting grapefruit. Although pomelo and grapefruit are similar, the taste is different enough that I don't think this would work with grapefruit.)
2 TBS minced rau ram (daun laksa) or mint (optional)
2 TBS minced cilantro

thinly sliced red onion
thinly sliced red cabbage
Nuoc Cham
juice of 1 lime
2 TBS water
2 TBS fish sauce
2 TBS sugar
1 to 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 red chili, seeded and finely minced (or a splash of sriracha)

Avocado Crema
1 ripe avocado
juice from half a lime
2 TBS Mexican crema (can substitute sour cream)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
2 TBS cilantro, minced
salt, to taste

Pot sticker or sui gow skins
oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine the  crab, carrot, pomelo, rau ram, and cilantro.  Make the nuoc cham by mixing together the ingredients in a jar and shaking well to dissolve the sugar.  Dress the salad lightly with several tablespoons of the nuoc cham.

Remove the flesh from the avocado.  Mash it up with the lime juice, crema, garlic, and cilantro.  Add salt to taste.

Fry the sui gow skins in hot oil about 1/3 inch deep.  Use tongs to hold the shells open while frying.  You need to keep them open enough so you can put the filling in.  The shells will remain crisp for at least one day if kept in an air tight container.  Andrea Nguyen has a helpful video showing how to fry the skins

When you have fried all the shells, you can assemble the tacos.  Rinse the sliced red onion in cold water.  Place some cabbage (if using) in each shell.  Then spoon in some of the crab salad.  Add a little avocado crema and top with several slices of the red onion.