Monday, October 6, 2014

Lemongrass Beef and Vermicelli Salad

This is a great light dinner on hot summer evenings. Like Thai cuisine, there is that "tastes like healthy" feel to this dish. For a nice smoky flavor, the steak is grilled, allowed to rest 5 minutes, and then sliced. Each prepare bowl of noodles and vegetables is topped with a nice bunch of hot steak.

1 Tablespoon Tamari
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
2 Stalks fresh lemongrass, inner ribs of fat end only
1 1/4 Pound ribeye steak
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 Pound fresh rice stick noodles (Vermicelli)
1 Cup peeled, cored cucumber, sliced into sticks
Greens from 4 scallions, sliced lengthwise, and cut to two inches long
½ Cup Mung bean sprouts
2 Cups shredded lettuce
1/4 Cup fresh chopped cilantro
2 Tablespoons of roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 Thai Bird red chile, shredded
6 small carrot, Sliced into sticks
Wash for cooked sliced steak.
1 Tablespoon Marin
1 Teaspoon black soy
1 Teaspoon black vinegar
1 Teaspoon seasoned rice wine vinegar
Garnish with springs of cilantro and lime slices.

Thinly slice lower 6 inches of lemongrass stalks, discarding remainder of stalks. Cut off but end, slice stalks lengthwise, discard outer tough “bark layers”. Crosswise slice lemon grass into fine slices.  Chop in food processor, the Bird red chile, lemongrass and garlic. Pound pulp until the woody bits have been reduced to pulp. Add Tamari and sesame seed oil and lime juice. Marinate steak, covered with wrap, put in refrigerator overnight.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in fresh rice stick noodles. Stir briefly, cooking briefly for just ten seconds. Immediately drain vermicelli in a colander, and flush thoroughly with cold water to arrest cooking. Drain well. Toss noodles in a bowl with 6 tablespoons of Vietnamese Fish Sauce [Nuoc Cham].

Separate noodles to serving bowls. Top each bowl with scallions, cucumber slices, shredded lettuce, mung beans, springs of cilantro, carrot sticks.

Allow meat to warm for an hour. Preheat grill to high. Grill steak to medium rare, 3 minutes per side. Remove to rest 5 minutes on cutting board then slice very thin across grain with a very sharp knife. Sprinkle streak with Marin, black soy, black vinegar and seasoned rice wine vinegar. Toss several times. Correct seasoning adding black pepper to taste.

Serve with Vietnamese Fish Sauce [Nuoc Cham]

Monday, September 29, 2014

Vietnamese Fish Sauce [Nuoc Cham]

Versions of this Thai and Vietnamese popular dipping sauce are a balance of sweet, tart, salty and spicy. Variations are as many as the homes that prepare it. There is no absolute recipe. Ginger might compliment garlic and sweetness is balanced with acidity from limes and or vinegar. Fish sauce provides the saltiness. Before you taste straight fish sauce and decide, its use might be better suited to cat food, understand that Worcestershire sauce, one of the world’s best selling condiment derives its unique flavor from anchovies. Fish sauce has a strong flavor. Add it last, a little at a time, tasting as you go.

1/2 Cup sugar dissolved in a cup hot water
1/4 Cup good fish sauce or less (Tiparos is a popular choice)
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
Juice from one or more limes (include some pulp if you like)
3 cloves of minced garlic
1-2 Teaspoons crushed red pepper (see note 1)
Chopped cilantro
¼ cup finely shredded carrot
Few sprigs of cilantro
Lime slices

This sauce is great for Thai or Vietnamese spring rolls.


1. Crushed red pepper flakes are mildly hot (4 on a scale of ten), Thai peppers are a lot hotter but are more often used for this sauce.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sonoran Enchiladas Chatas(Flat Enchiladas)

San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Corn Tortillas are just corn, water, sea salt, and lime so one wonders why different brands are so different from each other. Freshness has to be a major factor. I find smelling the package is a good tell. If the aroma smells wonderful, it will taste wonderful. If making any dish where the tortilla figures prominently like enchiladas or tacos, getting a perfect result must start with a perfect tortilla. I bought masa and a metal press with the thought that I would make my own. Fortunately, I discovered a “Mercado” that makes them daily for sale.

Flat enchiladas are very popular in Sonoran Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico where they are also called enchiladas montadasor (mounted) and may be topped with one or more fried egg.  In this recipe, there is A great sauce will make a great enchiladas but it can be made a day, week, or months ahead of time and kept frozen until needed.
no frying, so these enchiladas are quicker and have fewer calories than the conventional rolled variety. Since these are cooked on their own plate, there are no pans to cleanup. This recipe works very well in the microwave but may be cooked in a 450 F oven until bubbly hot. (Use a potholder to grab the plate.)

4 Tablespoons Enchiladas Sauce II, warmed (see below)
3 White corn tortillas
2 tablespoons chopped Vidalia onions, sauted in butter until clear
4 Tablespoons white melting cheese such as Queso Fresco
Chopped iceberg lettuce with tomatoes slices, tossed in a vinaigrette
Chopped green onions
Chopped cilantro
Fried eggs if desired.

Assemble enchilada: Place 1 tablespoon of enchilada sauce on a microwave/oven safe plate and top with a tortilla. Spoon over tablespoon of enchilada sauce. Sprinkle with cheese, sauted onions and add next tortilla, add more sauce and cheese. Top with last tortilla, follow by another tablespoon of enchilada sauce then cheese. Microwave 3 minutes on high. (Alternately, prepare several servings and bake in 450 F oven until cheese well melted. ) Let rest 1 minute, then garnish plate with lettuce, tomatoes, and scallions, chopped cilantro, and optionally, fried eggs.

Garnish plate with lettuce, tomatoes, and scallions, chopped cilantro, and optionally, fried eggs.

Enchiladas Sauce II (Chile Colorado)
To control the amount of heat, use more mild New Mexico powder than other varieties. To make a hotter variety, mix both hot and mild New Mexico chilie powder. This recipe makes for a sweeter result than starting with whole dried peppers and is faster to prepare.
1 Teaspoon Ancho powder
1 Teaspoon Aji Amarillo powder
1 Teaspoon Guajillo powder
1 Teaspoon Mulato powder
1 Teaspoon Morita powder or use Chipotle
2 Tablespoons of mild New Mexico ground chile pow­der
2 Cups homemade rich chicken stock
2 Cloves minced garlic
4 Tablespoons rendered pork fat (Manteca rendered from good pork fat)
3 Tablespoons white all-purpose flour
Pinch Mexican oregano
¼ Cup creamor or more as needed
Pinch or two of sugar as required - see text

Make a roux by blending the pork fat and flour and cook it on low until it is a pale brown color. Remove from heat. Whisk in chili powders and oregano over very low heat, add chicken stock, and garlic. Simmer for 1 hours adding water or more chicken stock as needed. Taste the sauce for hotness, and if not spicy enough, add more ground HOT chili powder. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Correct salt and add sugar and cream as required. The amount of sugar should NOT be per­ceptible and is used to just take any bitter edge off. Salt will also help moderate the biter undertones. The cream or milk serves to mellow the sauce.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Jasmine Rice of Thailand (Thai Hom Mali)

Jasmine rice is Thailand’s top exported rice. While China, by its sheer size, is the world’s largest producer of rice; Thailand has led the world as the largest rice exporter since the 1960′s, owing much to jasmine rice. With continued Thai government support, stringent quality control, all rice destined for export passes the government stamp of approval. The active involvement of the government in the promotion of Thai rice abroad has placed jasmine rice in the spotlight on the world stage. Among discerning Asians in many countries, jasmine rice is considered the best-tasting rice in the world. Archeological evidence supports that in northeastern Thailand rice cultivation dates back at least 5,400 years The Golden Phoenix2 label consistently markets top-grade jasmine rice from the premium northeast region. Besides where the rice is grown, the fragrance, texture and flavor can differ depending on the age of the rice. Jasmine rice is softest and most fragrant when newly harvested.

The rice is naturally fragrant with an aroma similar to that of “pandan” leaves. When the native jasmine rice was first isolated in 1950 it immediately became the accepted standard of best tasting rice.

In my mind, a fresh bowl of steamed perfectly cooked jasmine rice has the essence of perfection. I may cook a pot and top a rice serving with a spicy chili sauce having garlic and ginger.

This cooking method is the least fastidious, and never burns the bottom of the rice. The problem with cooking rice on the stove top is that, as the rice absorbs all the water in the last throws of cooking, the single source of heat cannot be properly spread away from the bottom of the pan without the water. The bottom becomes too hot, and the rice in contact with the bottom of the pan then burns. The stove top formula was 5 minutes on high, 5 minutes on low, five minutes off which meant you had to be diligent about the timing. This method, however, is non critical. A little extra time will not reduce the rice to mush as long as the water content is on the lien side. This recipe may be scaled as required.
2+ Cups of premium jasmine rice (+ means heaping 2 cups)
3 ½ Cups of water
Bring water to a full boil using an oven safe pot. Add rice without stirring, cover with a tight fitting lid. Heat to a boil. When boiling, place covered pot in preheated 350 F oven for 40 minutes. Remove lid, allowing steam to escape. Wait 5 minutes to serve.



1.        Pandan Leaf (Screwpine Leaf) The leaf is used in curries of Sri Lanka and in Malaysian, Balinese, and Thai cooking. It is commonly used as a flavoring and coloring in Malaysian and Singaporean
cooking, especially in Malay dishes. The screw-pine or pandan leaves are tied in a knot and placed in soups or stews that are being cooked. The leaf is also bruised or raked with the tines of a fork to release its aroma, pounded to release its aromatic juice, or even boiled to obtain its flavor. Pandan leaves are used as wrappers in Southeast Asian cooking to provide a distinct flavor to the foods. They are wrapped around chicken, pork, glutinous rice, fish, and desserts before grilling, roasting, barbecuing, or steaming. Pandan leaves also enhance the flavor of seasoned rices, puddings, beverages, and curries.

2.        Chia Meng Group has started exporting rice to Hong Kong since 1955 under the brand name of “Golden Phoenix”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pad Thai

Pad Thai is THE signature dish of Thai cuisine. There are different pad Thai recipes for every cook in Thailand. This recipe is from the my friends at the Thai Gardens in Milpitas California. This recipe is chili and tamarind rice stick noodles with chicken, shrimp and fried tofu, Thai style.

When my friends of the Thai Gardens first started out, they had a postage sized shop on the corner in a large shopping center. Mom and dad took turns cooking. Rory Babb introduced me to Thai. He had lived in country for four years while serving in the Air Force. He ordered for us in Thai and we always got exceptional friendly service. When he ordered for me he would say “Pad Thai pet pet mac, mac” and the dish would arrive fragrant and incredible spicy. It was hotter, in fact, than anything I had ever eaten but was so delicious I finished every bite. Fifteen minutes later, the heat has dissipated completely. They did not speak English and when they saw me show up alone, they would say “pet pet mac, mac” smile and ask me where Rory was. Achieving the American dream, their success lead to the launch of a full scale restaurant, then two restaurants. By now, I was welcome in the kitchen, where their Americanized son would translate ingredients into English. I find now, when I need to make this for guests, the easiest place to get the ingredients is from the restuarant directly. The one exception is tamarind paste which I always have on hand in 4 inch bricks cakes. Their original recipe used a Thai tamarind drink concentrate.

If this is the first time you make Pad Thai, read the whole recipe first. There is nothing hard about it but there are many steps and quite a significant amount of preparation work.  Start the noodles right away. Put the mung bean sprouts on ice water. This recipe is the work of seven years of work but never the less, you can play with it, joining the ranks of the 14,885,784 Pad Thai chefs.

Garnish (Per Person)
(I prepare all the plates ½ hour ahead, cover with wrap, place in cool spot in kitchen.)

1/2 cup mung bean sprouts per person, soak in ice water, pat dry
1/2 cup finely julienne Napa Cabbage per person
2-4 Slices of cucumber, per person
2-3 tablespoons finely chopped roasted peanuts3 
2 Wedges of lime
1 Orange slice

Serve with Ajad Thai Cucumber Garnish (See recipe)


Banh pho1 - Medium Thai Rice Noodles

If using dried “Rice stick noodles” soak noodles in a pot of warm water until are just firm, about 30-40 minutes. To hasten the process, pour in boiling water to raise the temperature to about the temperature of a hot bath (100 F). Taste the noodles periodically and remove to a strainer when they are still al dente, completely limp but not mushy. Use Chantaboon Rice Stick Noodle1, Size: M, 14 ounce pack   (3~4 persons) or the equivalent


1/4 cup bean sprouts
Topping 2 green onions, julienned
3-4 ounces of diced Chicken Thigh meat per person (some chopped fine, some course)
6~8 peeled tiger prawns per person
1 clove crushed garlic per person
1/3- 1/2 cup firm tofu diced (cut in 1/8 by 1/8 thick pieces) 
1 tablespoons rice wine or Marin4
1 dash of fish sauce (1/2 teaspoon)
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons Paprika
1 level tablespoons MSG
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons liquid Thai tamarind fruit concentrate (see Tamarind Sauce)
Crushed red pepper flakes to taste. (Use 1 teaspoon to start. I use 2 tablespoons in mine.)
Chopped cilantro
1 tablespoons of sugar (some places use orange honey)
Peanut Oil 
Salt - as required

Advanced Preparation:
Take a large brick of extra firm fried tofu. Cut away exterior surfaces and discard. Cut it into 1/8 layers and cut into stripes 1/4 wide and cross cut 1/4 inch long. Preheat frying pan with three tablespoons of peanut or canola oil. Bring oil to high heat, fry tofu until firm and it has taken on some color. (7-12 minutes) Set to drain on paper towels. Prepare medium wide (1/16th~3/32nds inch) rice noodles - May be done hours ahead and refrigerated. (The noodles will take on the flavor of whatever they are cook with the hence rice noodle is superior for this purpose). There are so many ingredients, it may be a good idea to load up cups or small dishes with the: sugar, garlic, rice wine, tamarind sauce, red pepper, salt, fish sauce, paprika, MSG. (Take inventory against the recipe.) I have found that I inadvertently have left one or more ingredients out until I started doing this in a more methodical way.

In a very very hot wok, add peanut oil, and when it smokes, quickly cook the chicken. Repeat the process until all meat is cooked. Set aside. This step may be done ahead

Individual Preparation of Each Plate

Individually prepare each portion. In a very very hot wok, add peanut oil, and when it smokes, quickly cook the shrimp, garlic, and add in the chicken. Then add paprika, msg, tamarind sauce, crushed red pepper, sugar or some honey for sweetness. Add fried tofu. Add garlic, rice wine and a few handfuls of noodles. Add in green onions and bean sprouts. Quickly heat. Add chopped cilantro toss and turn out on a plate, top noodles with a pile of chopped peanuts, accompanied noodles with bean sprouts, very fine julienned Napa cabbage, and sliced cucumbers garnish. Serve with lime wedges and a few slices of orange.

The bright red coloring of this dish derives from the ample amount of paprika. The choice of this sweet paprika is one without a lot of flavor of its own less it over power the plate due to the quantity in which it is used.


1.        Tamarind Sauce- is a critical ingredient in many Thai foods, and will be found in many steak sauces including mine. If using a package of tamarind paste, combine with hot orange juice and blend with a spoon. Sieve the sauce to remove any hard or stringy bits.  When fully ripe, the shells are brittle and easily broken. The pulp dehydrates to a sticky paste enclosed by a few coarse stands of fiber. The pods may contain from 1 to 12 large, flat, glossy brown seeds embedded in the brown edible pulp. If using fresh pods, shell pods like a peanut, pull off fiber stems along fruited seed pods and place in orange juice over a slow simmer to soften. When softened, cool, then rub paste off seeds, Discard seeds. Sieve and blend until smooth. Alternatively, you can scrape seeds with fingernail to remove raisin colored paste. Combine with orange juice, If making a large batch, and storing is desired, use lime juice and orange juice. Sieve the sauce to remove and hard parts. Store the sauce in refrigerator until ready to use.

Tamarind: The 3 - 8 inch long, brown, irregularly curved pods are  abundant along the new branches. As the pods mature, they thicken and the pulp turns a reddish-brown. The pulp dehydrates to a sticky paste threaded by a few coarse stands of fiber. The pods contains numerous glossy brown seeds embedded in the brown edible pulp that remain viable for months and will germinate in a week after planting. The pulp has a pleasing sweet/sour flavor and is high in both acid and sugar. It is also rich in vitamin B and high in calcium. There are wide differences in fruit size and flavor in varietal trees. Indian types have longer pods with 6 - 12 seeds, while the West Indian types have shorter pods containing only 3 - 6 seeds. Most tamarinds in the Americas are of the shorter type. The premium tamarind is graded “AA” and sold in a box as the pods’ brittle casings are easily broken.

Origin and Distribution

Native to tropical Africa, the tree grows wild throughout the Sudan and was so long ago introduced into and adopted in India that it has often been reported as indigenous there also, and it was apparently from this Asiatic country that it reached the Persians and the Arabs who called it "tamar hindi" (Indian date, from the date-like appearance of the dried pulp), giving rise to both its common and generic names. Unfortunately, the specific name, "indica", also perpetuates the illusion of Indian origin. The fruit was well known to the ancient Egyptians and to the Greeks in the 4th Century B.C.

The tree has long been naturalized in the East Indies and the islands of the Pacific. One of the first tamarind trees in Hawaii was planted in 1797. The tamarind was certainly introduced into tropical America, Bermuda, the Bahamas, and the West Indies much earlier. In all tropical and near-tropical areas, including South Florida, it is grown as a shade and fruit tree, along roadsides and in dooryards and parks. Mexico has over 10,000 acres of tamarinds, mostly in the states of Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Oaxaca and Veracruz.  In the lower Motagua Valley of Guatemala, there are so many large tamarind trees in one area that it is called "El Tamarindal". There are commercial plantings in Belize and other Central American countries and in northern Brazil. In India there are extensive tamarind orchards. The pulp is marketed in northern Malaya and to some extent wherever the tree is found even if there are no plantations. The Thai make the fruit into a beverage concentrate.

  1. Import foods, on line, shows a picture of  the Bahn Pho package in case you get lost in the sea of noodles your oriental market shelves. See
  2. Fish sauce is the single, most important flavoring ingredient in Thai cooking and is available in premium and standard editions - see for premium varieties. The common brand for this is the Tiparos brand. All of these contain a bit of sugar and salt and are made from anchovies.
  3. Unless you chopped the roasted peanut by hand with a knife, you may get them too fine. I use both 1/3rd salted and 2/3rds unsalted peanuts, place them in a plastic zip lock bag and roll over them slowly with a wooden rolling pin. I then sieve the results. The fine powder falls through the sieve and is discarded.
  4. Marin is Japanese sweet cooking wine. Since it is effective in masking the smell of fish, mirin is often used for cooking seafood. The highest quality mirin, referred to as 'Ajino-haha' in Japan is made from rice. Well-known Japanese brands for mirin are Takara and Mitsukan, and the Aji-Mirin is also marketed by Kikkoman and is found on most supermarket shelves.

Ajad Thai Cucumber Garnish

Ajad Thai cucumber garnish is often served with Pad Thai and each guest should have their own serving.

1/3 cup cold water
1/3 cup white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
Salt to taste
1 peeled English cucumber, raked lengthwise with a fork, cored, then sliced thinly
4 shallots or red onion sliced
3-4 Thai Green and Red chili peppers, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fish sauce

Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt to taste. The water should be sweet and a little sour and just salty enough to balance the sweet sour. Soak cucumber and onions in a small bowl and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, in a small soy-sauce bowl, add fish sauce and a little water. Add sliced Thai Green and Red chili peppers per person. Place bowl on a slightly larger plate garnished with sweet and sour onions and cucumber slices drained.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Favorite Chilies

 See this link for sauce that uses assorted chilies.

Ancho peppers (1000 - 2000 Scoville)

Ancho peppers are the dried version of Poblano. Their flavor is somewhat sweet and somewhat raisin-like, with medium heat.

Mulato (2500 - 3000 Scoville)

Poblano peppers left to ripen to a rich brown color before being dried produce the Mulato. Mulato have complex notes of coffee, chocolate, and licorice with undertones of cherry and tobacco.

Guajillo Chile (2,500 and 4,000 Scoville)

In Mexico, this chile is almost as popular as the Ancho as far a use. It has a tangy, pleasantly sharp taste with hints of berry and pine.

Puya Chile (Scoville 5,000 to 8,000)

The Puya chile is a type of chile, which resembles the Guajillo chile, but it is found in a smaller and it has a more intense and hotter taste, with a fruity flavor. The Puya chile is used for pizza toppings, pasta fillings, with various meat dishes, especially pork or lamb. The name 'Puya' was derived from the Mapuche Indian (Chile) word meaning "point".

Chipotle Chile (2,500 - 8,000 Scoville)

Chipotle chilies originated in Mexico as a way to preserve jalapeno peppers. These flavorful chilies are slowly smoked over a natural wood fire until they are infused with an incredible smoky flavor and are completely dried. The come in two varieties: the first is made from green immature chilies and the second from red ripe (Morita) which are the hotter.

Arbor Peppers (Scoville 15,000 and 30,000)

The Chile de ├írbol (Spanish for tree chili) is a small and potent Mexican chili pepper also known as bird's beak chile and rat's tail chile. This pepper is on par with Cayenne pepper.