Wednesday, March 28, 2007
The flavors of Southeast Asia are explosive: big sweet, sour, salt, bitter and heat. Yet the collection is more restrained than its individual components would lead you to think. That sugary note is not just a saccharine lick but thickened by the use of palm sugar. The iconic pucker of a lemon or a lime is diffused by the aromatic assault of lemon grass and kefir lime leaves. Salt helps round up this herd of tastes on your tongue and acts wrangler keeping everything in place. All I can say about bitter is that it is cultural, and for those of us who did not meet a bitter melon until late in life we just have to slowly warm up to it. Finally, heat that fiery end to a bite that at times seems never to fade fast enough is really our reaction to pain receptors being stimulated at the back of throat. We have all been in relationships that were wrong, and yet we suffered through – chilies while, for me, are a great tasting spot for us is a relationship that you just have to grin and bear it. Though if a dish is too intense don’t go the water or beer. Have something dairy based – it will help extinguish the fire.
Spicy Roasted Chicken - yields 4 servings
1/3 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 medium onion - roughly chopped
5 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
4 star anise - ground
1 teaspoon ground clove
1 to 2 hot chili peppers
1 can coconut milk
3 pound chicken pieces
In a blender add the soy sauce, lemon juice, onion, garlic and fish sauce and process until very smooth. Then add in the black pepper, mustard seeds, mace, star anise, sambal, and coconut milk and process to combine well. Pour the mixture over the chicken pieces and let it marinate 30 minutes to overnight in the refrigerator.
Roast the chicken in a 375 degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Or alternatively, grill the chicken pieces over a very hot grill for 20 minutes turning the pieces frequently.
Asian Inspired Sauce - yields approx. 1 cup
1 shallot – peeled and sliced very thinly
2 red small Thai chilies – sliced very thinly
1/4-cup Thai fish sauce
1/4-cup rice wine vinegar
1/4-cup fresh limejuice
1-inch piece ginger – peeled and sliced very fine julienne
1-tablespoon palm or light brown sugar
In a bowl mix all the ingredients together, and let it sit for 1 hour to a day (in the refrigerator) to allow the flavors to combine together.
Mango Salad - yields 6 servings
3 mangoes - under-ripe
2 red Asian chilies - finely diced
2 teaspoon salt
1 small red onion
1/8 cup chopped mint leaves
Peel the mangoes, and then carefully remove the flesh from the pit. It is easiest to remove two large segments from either side of the pit. Mangoes have a huge pit that can be about half of the fruit. The pit becomes the cook’s treat.
Slice the mango flesh into thin strips and arrange them on a platter just slightly overlapping them. Distribute the salt and chilies over the mangoes. Slice the red onion into very thin julienne and sprinkle over the mangoes. Juice the lime over the fruit and let sit 1 hour before serving. Sprinkle with mint just prior to serving.