Whenever I cook for friends and family I’m always asked about the ingredients I use and where to get them. And since visiting an Asian market alone can be a little overwhelming for some, I decided to put a short introduction together for buying my most common ingredients online. If you’d like to see some recipes first, here are a few on Asianliving.me.
Let’s start with a few well-known online shops in North America:
Amazon.com’s grocery section is loaded with Asian food options. If you have Amazon prime you obviously won’t have to worry about the cost of shipping. It’s probably worth visiting Amazon first to see if you can find what you are looking for. For those in select areas, you can try Amazon Fresh which is just like Peapod or FreshDirect.
Asian Food Grocer is a trustworthy shop that provides much of what you expect to find in a standard Asian market. Here are a few products that I commonly use in my cooking:
Lee Kum Kee’s Hoisin Sauce is something I use for a sweet, seafood flavor.
Actually, just about everything in the Asian Food Grocer’s “Quick and Easy Asian Cooking” section is delicious and, as the title implies, very easy to use.
Marukai’s eStore is a Japanese food shop online which serves North America. Some of my recipes have ingredients that you can find at their shop. Check out their amazing variety of fish options for at-home sushi making!
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a detailed study earlier this year about the Attribution of Foodborne Illness in the United States between 1998-2008. As mentioned by Modern Farmer in a recent article, a majority of the cases reported were due to uncooked greens and under-cooked meat products. Although beef and poultry can be cooked longer for a piece of mind, the consumption of raw vegetables is a greater challenge.
It’s common knowledge in the US that eating raw vegetables is “healthier” than eating them cooked- it’s also much more convenient this way… The downside is that we are more susceptible to pathogens carried on leafy greens. This is probably why my Asian friends prefer to ordering dishes that contain veges that have been skinned just prior to cooking, like potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, etc. Anything that looks the same straight off the farm (like lettuce, spinach, bok choy, etc) are less likely to be cleaned properly in the restaurant kitchen.
Different countries have their own traditional ways of prepping salad. In countries like China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand the hygiene of its preparation is often questioned. In most cases copious amounts of garlic, peppers, lemon, ginger or other ingredients might be used in order to help naturally kill whatever is catching a ride on the leaves. Here are some samples of “salad” according to Asian tastes.
After getting to the real Southern China (Guangdong, not Shanghai) in 2006, I never became too fond the local pension for homemade soup. I knew it was a great excuse for parents to invite their kids home for a weekend visit and I knew there were loads of health benefits too. But I personally never preferred to eat soup as a meal, except as a free side to Chinese fast food. It was only recently that I discovered how easy it was to make and enjoy. Now it has finally found its place among the other great discoveries here on AL.ME
Maybe I avoided it because it was so Cantonese and I missed the Mandarin world a little. Making soup (煲汤) and Morning Tea (早茶) are very Cantonese and have slowly found their place among my all-time favorite Chinese weekend activities. Now, or when I’m ready to move on, they will join me as I explore the rest of China (and the USA).
The other day I had a hankering for chang fen; pronounced “Chong Fun” in newspaper-phonetics. It’s not the cleanest option for eats in the neighborhood, but it tastes awesome. Getting good chang fen in China is like getting good pizza in America – the most dilapidated pizza dive is usually the best.
Basically, chang fen is made of rice flour that starts out quite runny- kind of like very runny pancake mix. It gets spooned into a steam tray and spread around as you can see in the photos below. Eggs, meat, chives, etc. are tossed on randomly and then the tray gets put in the steamer. After a couple minutes the tray gets pulled out the the contents get scrapped out. I chose extra egg because I don’t trust the meat in these places… Continue reading Chang Fen ~ Rice Crepes with Filling
Ah, it’s Summer time again! Sun, beach, and beer time has come; and nothing excites me more than beer-infused, Asian recipes! First, I love duck, although it is a bit fatty, and can’t wait to start making this tasty dish back home for my family. A friend of mine in Zhuhai suggested it while she was home for a holiday. So, this new recipe of Chinese deliciousness is based loosely on her Guangxi family recipe – so here it goes without further delay!
Any discussion about Italian food in China is bound to curtail into how pasta originated in China over 4,000 years ago[*]. I would say the Chinese have perfected the noodle over years of trial ‘n error, mostly due to their choice of seasonings. (My favorite Chinese noodles to this day are from the north and are pulled thick just prior to being tossed in a savory broth or pan-fried with seafood.)
Another Mid-Autumn Festival and National Day week have come and gone here in China! This time is important here for two reasons: first, to celebrate the moon at its fullest; and second, to commemorate the founding of “New China” in 1949. Last year was the 60th anniversary, which is thought of as an important age for growth and maturity in a person.
But a romantic evening under a full moon is incomplete without one thing: homemade Dumplings! Last week a colleague invited me to his family’s house to make dumplings from scratch. (Actually, we bought the little dough wrappings… but everything else was really fresh!) I suggest buying dumpling wrappings from your local Asian food store or major grocer chain. Here are “Wonton Wrappers” available on Amazon.
Before we get started, I should mention that dumplings are generally a once or twice a month thing in Chinese households; similar to our pizza or pasta nights I remember from growing up. In this case, it is a great way to bring the family together for a bonding session. 10 per person should be enough. On this most recent occasion, we added a pan-fried fish and a tarot-root soup to make it a full meal for 5.
1~ PREP filling: Fresh meat is crucial to good dumplings. I prefer pork, but you can use anything you want! Grind up about 1 pound (.5kg) and put in a bowl. In the picture we added corn, but I wouldn’t suggest it.
2~ Spice the meat how you prefer, but we used a few splashes of soy sauce, some sugar, and turmeric. It’s better to go light on the seasoning at this point.
3~ Shred celery and carrots. Mix thoroughly with the meat you have prepped. Feel free to use clean hands to mash it all together. (Great task for a kid with some self-control!) Continue reading DIY Holiday Dumplings
Day two of my visit home and I decided to cook up something unexpected! Big, white, fluffy cauliflower! Woo hoo! First of all, my father looked at the huge serving of cauliflower I had prepared and was anything but ecstatic. …great… Ben’s cooking dull, taste-less, rabbit food… I knew this meal could be a tough pill to swallow, so I had to take out the big guns!
To clarify, my father is a meat-lover. Most dads are. Steak, hamburger, chicken, or pork should fill the air at most meal times. A major dish at lunch consisting of rabbit food was a little disappointing to say the least. So, I thought… if I could transform the flavor of this vege into something mouth-watering and meaty, what would it taste like?
One type of cooking that has always worried me is “steamed” anything! I know white rice is steamed, but how do I actually steam food without another special machine. If you are like me, read about using your rice cooker as a steamer for dishes first, then come back and follow these easy steps.
PREP: Finely mince 2-3 cloves of garlic and put them aside. Keep bottles of sesame oil, vinegar, and soy sauce handy. Salt too. (See image below) Also, use a steamer or your rice cooker.
1~ Slice up the eggplant in half, then into 1/2″ thick strips-lengthwise. This can be altered as you do the recipe more often and develop a preference.
2~ With your cooker/steamer warmed up, place the raw, sliced eggplant strips into the steaming tray. Let them steam for 5-10 minutes.
3~ Pull tray out of steamer carefully… let the tray sit on a cooling rack or kitchen counter. Sprinkle salt over them. After a minute, start pulling the eggplant into strings with chop sticks or a fork. You’ll notice that water is pulled out of the eggplant by the salt.
4~ After draining the water out, you’ll see the resulting mushy stuff that is in the image below. Let it cool for about 5 minutes before adding about a tablespoon of vinegar, a teaspoon of sesame oil, a splash of soy sauce, and the minced garlic. Mix completely.
* This dish is best served cool. You should be able to taste the fragrant sesame with a twang of vinegar.