Archive for November, 2009

Baked Squash with Brown Sugar and Butter

**** Happy Thanksgiving everybody! Who’s cooking what this year? Please do share. :) I will contribute some dishes Asian-American style; roast turkey seasoned with some Asian spices, roast pork belly, and New York style cheesecake topped with fresh berries. This will be my very first Thanksgiving tackling so many dishes and I hope they turn out decent or edible. LOL ****

Who knew that something very simple can yield A-M-A-Z-I-N-G flavors! I bought a butternut squash for a Cambodian recipe I wanted to try which is Stir-Fried Pork with Butternut Squash but haven’t had a chance to make that. Since I will be spending time with my family in Stockton, CA this Thanksgiving holiday (for 4 days) I did not want my beautiful butternut squash to go bad while I am away. My light bulb moment came as I recall a recipe from the Food Network Channel by Paula Deen. Paula made Baked Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar and Butter with a splash of maple syrup. I tweak the recipe a bit. I sub the acorn squash with my butternut squash, reduce the amount of maple syrup and add about a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. My whacked gas oven end up baking it at 400 degrees for 1.5 hours! Do the toothpick/fork test about 40 minutes into baking as your oven might be of better quality than mine, hence doesn’t take as long.

I took a bite and OMG, it was SO GOOD! It was after I finish eating one half that I went back to take some pictures. πŸ˜€ The flavors reminded me of a Cambodian dessert my Mother used to make called Pumpkin Dessert (Num Lapov) αž“αŸ†αž›αŸ’αž–αŸ… made with kabocha or butternut squash with coconut flesh and milk, wrapped in banana leaves and steam. If you prefer a more sweeter version, then increase the sugar or syrup however do keep in mind that squash comes with it’s natural sweetness.

Baked Squash with Brown Sugar and Butter
(Lapov Doat Jear Muy Skaw Nung Buer) αž›αŸ’αž–αŸ…αžŠαž»αžαž‡αžΆαž˜αž½αž™αžŸαŸ’αž€αžšαž“αžΉαž„αž”αŸŠαžΊ
adapt from Recipes courtesy Paula Deen, 2007

1 (1Β½ lb) butternut squash, cut in halves lengthwise
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Meanwhile cut squash lengthwise, scoop out the seeds and remove stringy pulp.

Combine sugar, butter, syrup, cinnamon and salt.

Rub all over the cut side of squash.

Use aluminum foil to lightly cover the cut size and bake with cut side up for about 40 minutes until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Then remove aluminum foil and switch broil for an additional 5-10 minutes to get that nice brown caramelize color.

Remove an allow to rest for about 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Pickled Mustard Green Fried Rice

Do you have days where you sort of run out of things to cook? Days when you are short of a few ingredients for a dish but don’t want to drive out to the store just yet because you end up picking up non related stuff? Yup I have plenty of those days and yesterday was no exception.

I’ve been bad lately; sleeping late and waking up late as well. :( This mean skipping what nutritionist calls the most important meal of the day-breakfast. When yesterday lunch time rolled around I just popped the fridge and put together what I had which resulted in this surprisingly yummy Pickled Mustard Green Fried Rice (Bai Cha Jruk Spey) αž”αžΆαž™αž†αžΆαžšαž‡αŸ’αžšαž»αž€αŸ‹αžŸαŸ’αž–αžΈ.

I had my share of mushy fried rice days until recently. After numerous trial and error and with some research online I was able to perfect my fried rice, IMHO. πŸ˜› Here are my tested tips to homemade but restaurant style/quality fried rice.

  • Chill left-over rice in the refrigerator overnight.
    This will allow the liquid to dry up and the grains to hold it’s shape and not turn mushy when frying. The sauce and seasonings will liven it back up. The rice grains will absorb all the liquid making them flavorful in every bite.
  • Fry ingredients separately.
    This will ensure that each item you lay on the pan get their share of “wok/pan time”. You want to be able to taste each of the flavors and not crowd them. Since all the ingredients will joined again at the end, you only have to cook it to about 80%.
  • High heat is essential.
    Just be patient and allow the pan to heat up again before you start frying the next item.
  • Try not to touch!
    Sometime we are tempted to start moving thing around fearing they might burn. Spread them out and use all the pan surface. Give them a chance to cook and crisp up then go at it. If you do too much digging and poking, you will end up breaking the rice grains releasing the starch which results in a mushy and sticky fried rice.

2.5 cups cooked rice
10 lil’ smokie, cut into cube
3 eggs, lightly beaten season with a dash of salt & pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 hot red bird’s eye chili, chopped (optional)
2 stalks green onion, chopped
1 cup chopped pickled mustard greens

1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Β½ tablespoon sesame oil


Prepare seasoning and set aside.

Heat a pan til hot then toss in lil’ smokie. There is no need to add oil as the meat will draw out it’s own oil. For a nice and crunchy meat make sure to arrange them in a single layer on the pan. Do not touch it! Let it cook for about 1 minute on each side. Remove, leaving the fat behind, and set aside.

Wait a couple of seconds for the pan to heat up again and use the remainder oil in the pan to quickly fry the lightly beaten eggs. Separate them with a spatula. Remove when it’s 80% cooked. The eggs should still be a bit watery.

In the same pan add garlic, chili, ΒΎ chopped green onions and do a quick stir fry until fragrant but carefully not to burn them. Next toss in chopped pickled mustard greens and spread them out. Make a well in the middle (or move them to the side).

Add cooked rice (try to do it in a single layer so that the grains touch the bottom of the pan). Leave it alone for a couple of minutes before you start to stir them around. This will allow the rice to crisp up.

Pour seasoning all around and continue to stir fry to incorporate the flavors. You will notice that the rice grains barely stick to the pan. They are still plumped and not mushy. This is because you allow them “wok time” ( a chance to touch the bottom on the pan/wok).

Finally return the lil’ smokie and fried eggs and mix them together one more time.

Dish out to serve and sprinkle with the remainder chopped green onion. Enjoy this delicious creation of mine :). I hope that my tips were helpful to you and that you enjoyed making and eating this as much as I did.

Cambodian Sour Soup with Coconut Milk & Pineapple

Totally un-related to this post but I had just signed up with Twitter yesterday. If anybody is interested in my sudden burp, thoughts and rambling :) you can follow me.

Now, let’s get back to cooking. Here is another recipe that I adapt from The Elephant Walk Cookbook. I haven’t had this in a very long time, like more than 10 years! I think one of the reason was because I was too lazy to make my own Khmer Kroeung. :mrgreen: Thanks to my Mother I now have an endless supply of Khmer Kroeung.

This soup gives off a very fragrant aroma when cooked and very rich and flavorful. One might refer to this soup as Pineapple Curry due to the use of coconut milk. But the resulting taste is more on the sour and spicy side. The Kroeung along with the pungent pahok (pickle-fish) and shrimp paste helped balance the sweetness from the coconut milk and pineapple. Serve it up with lots of hot steamy rice. It is delicious! When the coconut milk was first combined with the Kroeung it reminded me of the broth used to ladle over Cambodian fresh noodles topped with assorted vegetables known as Num Baingjok.

Cambodian Sour Soup with Coconut Milk & Pineapple
(Somlaw Machew Ktiss Manoss) αžŸαž˜αŸ’αž›αžšαž˜αŸ’αž…αžΌαžšαžαŸ’αž‘αŸˆαž˜αŸ’αž“αžΆαžŸαŸ‹
adapt from The Elephant Walk Cookbook

1-1.5 lb pork (shoulder, butt, spare ribs), cut into fairly large chunks
1 cup coconut milk unsweetened
2 cups water
1 can (16 oz) pineapple chunks in natural juices
Β½ cup Khmer Kroeung (lemongrass paste)
1 teaspoon pahok (pickle-fish), grounded
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon tamarind soup base (powder)
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn
red chili to garnish (optional)

Heat a pot and add Β½ cup coconut milk. Stir and cook until the oil starts to separate. Add Khmer Kroeung, stir often until the flavors are release. The aroma is heavenly!

Add meat along with sugar, fish sauce, shrimp paste and pahok. Cook for 5 minute.

Add the remainder coconut milk, water and tamarind soup base (powder). Give it a quick stir to incorporate them together and bring to a boil. Cover partly and simmer on medium for about 30-45 minutes until the meats are tender.

About 15 minutes before it is done add the pineapple chunks and torn kaffir lime leaves.

Garnish with chili and serve hot with lots of steamed rice.

Stir Fry Beef with Lemongrass

If you have been following my recipes you will notice that I rarely cook with beef. It’s because I prefer to cook my beef the day of purchase or within the next day. I don’t like to freeze my beef and then defrost and cook it – it’s just not the same, IMHO. So I did my grocery shopping, a fairly small one which included some meats and herbs. Barely any vegetables because they tend to go bad faster than I can get to them.

Anyhow, I went through a couple of my cookbooks to get some ideas on what I can do different with my beef. The one that interest me was a recipe from The Elephant Walk Cookbook called Stir-Fried Beef with Lemongrass (Cha Sachko Kroeung) αž†αžΆαžšαžŸαžΆαž…αŸ‹αž‚αŸ„αž‚αŸ’αžšαžΏαž„. I technically borrowed this book from my BFF like 3-4 years ago. One of these days I’ll return it to it’s rightful owner plus a some cook dishes from this book for her to taste. :) According to the authors Longteine De Monteiro & Katherine Neustadt this dish is an Indian-Chinese hybrid. I read the recipe through and applied the concept but tweaked the flavors and measurements accordingly to my taste. As a result, I really really love the dish! I was blown away by surprise. At first I was wary of the flavor afraid it might be too nutty and that it would not pair well with my steamed rice. I was totally wrong. The lemony flavors from the Khmer Kroeung (lemongrass paste) and the spicy jalapenos really help balance out the nutty flavor.

Stir-Fried Beef with Lemongrass
(Cha Sachko Kroeung) αž†αžΆαžšαžŸαžΆαž…αŸ‹αž‚αŸ„αž‚αŸ’αžšαžΏαž„
adapt from The Elephant Walk Cookbook

Β½ cup Khmer Kroeung (lemongrass paste)
ΒΎ-1 lb beef, cut into 2 inches strips
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small onion, sliced into wedges
6 red jalapeΓ±os, quartered length-wise (substitute red bell pepper for color and a mild flavor)
4 tablespoons unsalted roasted peanuts, coarsely ground in a mortar & pestle
2 stalk green onion, cut into 2 inches & split length-wise
2 tablespoons oil for frying

Mix sliced beef with Khmer Kroeung and set aside. Use your hands to massage and work the Kroeung into the beef.

Heat oil in a pan. Depending on the size of your pan you might have to fry the beef in batches. Fry them in single layer and do not crowd them. Once you set it in the pan do not move it. Leave it there un-touch for a couple of minutes. This will ensure that you get a nice crusty brown on the beef strips. Then flip to the other side and repeat this step until all the strips are fried.

Sprinkle sugar and add fish sauce. Do a quick stir to incorporate the ingredients.

Toss in the onion, peppers and ΒΎ of the peanut. Give it another stir and cook for about 3 minutes until onions are soften.

Remove from heat and add green onion reserving a few for garnish and sprinkle with remaining peanuts just before serving.

Sweet Potato Shrimp Fritters

These Sweet Potato Shrimp Fritters (Domlong & Bongkear Jean) αžŠαŸ†αž›αžΌαž„&αž”αž„αŸ’αž‚αžΆαžšαž…αŸ€αž“ is like the Japanese famous tempura meet with the Cambodian lettuce wrap with fish sauce for dipping. The natural sweetness that the potatoes gives off topped with plump lightly battered shrimp wrapped with fresh crunchy lettuce and herbs dipped in a salty and tangy fish sauce! The flavors is “out of this world”. :mrgreen:

Only a few simple ingredients which many can be prepared well in advance like the fish sauce for dipping. I like to leave the shell on the shrimp for that nice crispy and crunchy texture but some people like to leave it out. It’s totally up to personal preference. Have all the preparation done and assemble them close to the frying pan. These are best serve hot however if you have a lot of do then it can be kept in a warm oven until it’s time to serve.

Sweet Potato Shrimp Fritters
(Domlong & Bongkear Jean) αžŠαŸ†αž›αžΌαž„&αž”αž„αŸ’αž‚αžΆαžšαž…αŸ€αž“

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into matchsticks
20 large shrimps, devein
1 box (3 oz) of tempura flour
Β½ cup of oil for frying
fresh lettuce and herbs for wrapping
prepared fish sauce for dipping

Prepare tempura batter according to the box/package. I remember adding water to the flour little by little so that you can control the consistency. Add sweet potatoes in batches so that you don’t crowd them in the batter.

Heat oil in a pan. Test with a drop of batter to see that the oil is ready. To fry use a chopstick to pick up several sweet potatoes and add them to the hot oil. Try to spread them flat so that they cook evenly.

Quickly, dip a shrimp in batter and add it on top of the frying sweet potatoes. The batter works as a glue to merge the shrimp and potatoes together. It does not take long to fry these. When one side is done carefully flip and fry the other (shrimp) side. If the oil is not high enough you can cook it at an angle by tilting the pan (be extremely careful). Once both sides are cooked remove them and allow to drain on paper towel. Repeat until all the fritters are made.

Serve these babies hot wrapped in lettuce and herbs and dip them with fish sauce.

Sweet Potatoes Ball|Doughnut

I spent my Friday evening browsing through cookbooks at the book store. Did not have a coupon with me and the cookbook that I want to get was a bit pricey. Instead I look through them and took notes (recipes LOL). I wrote down this from an Asian Snack cookbook. It look simple;consist of only a few steps, and required literally few ingredients; sweet potatoes and flour. Roll it into small balls and call it Sweet Potatoes Ball (Num Domlong Jean) αž“αž»αŸ†αžŠαŸ†αž›αžΌαž„αž…αŸ€αž“ or shape it into a doughnut/donut and call it Sweet Potatoes Doughnuts. This snack is not as sweet so you can adjust the sugar coating to your liking. Cinnamon sugar would also be a delicious. Dipped in maple syrup and it reminds me of the Pancake Puppies I usually order at Denny’s with a cup of hot coffee (right image).

I gave the recipe a try this evening. Well, the measurements that was provided did not work. The recipe called for two medium sweet potatoes. Ok, so everybody have their own definition of “medium”. Since I want to test out the recipe I cut the measurements in half. It turned out that my “one potato” is probably equivalent to their “two potatoes”. In addition, I had to use more flour than what was called for because it appears that there were a lot more moisture in mashed boiled sweet potatoes. Not sure if I over boiled it or my only potato was bigger than the original two potatoes that was called for.

Bottom line, if you want to try and make this my advice is to add the sifted flour a little at a time as you are kneading until you get a dough-like consistency and the mixture no longer sticks to your fingers. Then you know it’s ready to be pinch/form into a ball or a doughnut.

1 medium sweet potato
1 cup all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Β½ teaspoon baking soda
oil for deep frying
cinnamon and/or sugar to coat
maple syrup for dipping (optional)

Boil potato until soft. Time will depend on the size of your potato. Use a fork to check. If it goes through and out easily (no resistance) than it is done. Remove and allow to cool before peeling the skin. Mash it thoroughly with a fork or a potato masher. Discard tough fibers.

Sift the baking soda and flour then add it to the mashed sweet potato. Knead until you form a smooth dough. Again, if it sticks to your hands and fingers, add more sifted flour.

Once you knead and get to the right consistency scoop about 1 tablespoon of dough and roll it into a small ball (the size of a quail egg). Lightly dust your tablespoon with flour so that the dough doesn’t stick. Set the ball on a dusted floured tray until ready to deep fry. Repeat step until all the dough is used.

To form a doughnut shape scoop about 2 tablespoons and roll it into a ball with your palms. Then flatten it slightly. Make a hole through the center with a floured handle wooden spoon. Use your fingers to smooth the edges around the hole. Set aside on a floured tray until ready to deep fry.

Add about 1 inch of oil to a pan and heat at medium-high. Once the oil is hot (starts to smoke) reduce it to low. Deep fry your shaped dough until brown. Remove and drained on paper towel. Allow it to cool a bit before you roll it in sugar or cinnamon. This snack is best serve hot-warm. It taste great with hot tea or hot coffee.

Beef Soup|Stew with Potatoes & Carrots

This is my take on Beef Soup/Stew with Potatoes and Carrots ​(Soup Ko Domlong & Karot) αžŸαŸ’αž„αŸ„αžšαžŸαŸŠαž»αž”αž‚αŸ„αžŠαŸ†αž›αžΌαž„αž“αžΉαž„αž€αŸ‰αžΆαžšαžαŸ‹. I’m making it the Asian style with spices like coriander seeds, whole peppercorn, ginger, garlic and fish sauce. If you prefer a stew (thick) consistency, decrease the amount of water to about 8-9 cups. I prefer a soup (more liquid) consistency as it usually takes several servings before I finish the pot. During the reheating process the liquid tends to evaporate a little bit.

The rich taste of long-simmered, fork tender beef in the last hour of cooking make this soup/stew hearty and extra delicious! This soup/stew can be enjoyed as a main dish with some toasty bread or as part of a meal with steamed rice. You can even add some rice noodles and turn it into a hearty beef noodle soup. :)

Tip: Use a tea/herb mesh ball (can be purchase at Walmart for about $2), to catch all the little spices so you don’t have to dig it out later.

Beef Soup|Stew with Potatoes & Carrots
(Soup Ko Domlong & Karot) αžŸαŸ’αž„αŸ„αžšαžŸαŸŠαž»αž”αž‚αŸ„αžŠαŸ†αž›αžΌαž„αž“αžΉαž„αž€αŸ‰αžΆαžšαžαŸ‹

2 lbs beef short ribs, trim excess fat and discard if any
10 cups water
2 tablespoons oil
2 carrots, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 red potatoes, cut into big chunks
1 small onion, cut in half
1 beef bouillon cube
cilantro sprigs to garnish

Spices (add to tea/herb mesh ball)
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorn
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 inch piece ginger

2 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

Heat a heavy pan with oil and and beef. Sear each side 2-3 minutes. Transfer seared meat to a large pot and add 10 cups of water and bring it to a boil.

Add potatoes, carrots, onions and the tea/herb mesh ball (containing spices). Bring them all to a rolling boil again then cover and simmer for 2 hours or more. The longer you simmer the tender the beef gets. However if you wish to simmer for longer than 2 hours then do not add the carrots and potatoes until half way into the simmer as you don’t want the vegetables to get all soft and mushy.

About 10 minutes before serving add seasonings. To serve ladle to a bowl and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

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