I love going to the basement food court at Eslite Bookstore in Taipei. The food court rotates various vendors from around the country showcasing their latest bounty. Taiwan has come a long way with its food products especially in the organic segment. I found this delightful artisanal soy sauce that should be enjoyed as a dipping sauce and not as a marinate or seasoning in cooking. It is made with 100% natural ingredients and free of chemical additives. Please go to www.mitdub.com. Mixed with shredded ginger and sesame seed oil it makes a great dipping sauce for steamed Santa Barbara spot prawns. I use it to create the glaze for my Hainan Chicken. To be honest I do not know what handcrafted means in the world of soy sauce. I guess for marketing purposes all the handcrafters of the world with their oak barrels will show up on a label.
I would call yuzu the king of citrus fruits. There is no substitute for yuzu’s bright floral distinctive flavor. Not even Lady Meyer of the lemon clan comes close. The juice yield from one fruit is so little and fresh yuzu is prohibitively expensive. I went to a Japanese specialty wholesaler and paid $50 for this bottle of 100% natural yuzu juice. A little goes a very long way so use sparingly and guard it close. Great in making a simple salad dressing or drizzle over seared salmon sashimi. Makes for smashing cocktails especially gimlets.
“Kecap Manis” translated from Indonesian to English literally means sweet sauce. It can be described as a hybrid between soy sauce and molasses. Ingredients include palm sugar, black soy bean, salt, water and spices. It does not contain wheat and is thus gluten free. This sauce is a BBQ hero but due to its high sugar content needs to be used sparingly to prevent burns over the grill. Kecap manis can be found in most Chinese and Southeast Asian grocery stores such as Ranch 99 Market, ShunFat SuperStore, Hong Kong Supermarket in Los Angeles. Bango and Wayang Brands are my favorites. I do not care much for the more widely seen ABC brand as it has a bitter aftertaste.
This is the tangy garlic ginger chili sauce that made Hainan Chicken Rice the super rockstar dish that it is today. Fortunately it does not need to stay monogamous and pairs well with grilled pork and beef too.
- 8 red jalapeno peppers, de-seeded
- 1 small thumb of peeled ginger
- 2 – 3 gloves of garlic
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp of calamansi lime juice (if unavailable use regular limes)
- 2 Tbsp of sugarcane vinegar (if unavailable use white vinegar)
- 1 tps sesame seed oil
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until completely smooth. Add some chicken stock or water to thin out the sauce if too thick.
- Taste and adjust accordingly.
If Singaporeans had to choose a national dish the title could easily go to Hainanese Chicken Rice. But it looks like any poached chicken topped over rice?! What makes this dish distinctively Singaporean lies in the flavoring of the rice and its accompanying chili and ginger sauce. Cooked in a delicious chicken broth flavored with ahem chicken fat, stir fried ginger, garlic, shallots and screwpine leaves, the rice alone stands out as a star. I substituted quinoa for rice because it has a lower glycemic index. Quinoa also cooks fast and absorbs the wonderful flavors of the chicken broth just as nicely. I can imagine Singaporeans crying in horror at my suggestion but give it a shot and let me know what you think.
- 1 whole chicken (preferably organic/air-chilled)
- 2 Tbsp of kosher salt
- 1 tsp of chinese cooking wine
- 5 thick slices of ginger
- 8 stalks of scallions
- 2 stalks of lemongrass, bruised.
- Exfoliate chicken with kosher salt to clean skin and remove any gunk from its cavity. Rinse thoroughly.
- Rub the chicken cavity with 1 tsp of chinese cooking wine
- Stuff chicken cavity with ginger, scallions and lemongrass
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season boiling water with 2 Tbsp of kosher salt. The water must taste salty.
- Immerse chicken into pot of boiling water with breast side down. Water temperature will decrease immediately.
- Keep flame on high until water re-boils with chicken. Boil for about about 3-5 mins. Flip chicken over to breast side up. Cover the pot with its lid and TURN OFF FLAME.
- Let chicken sit in pot for 30 mins.
- Remove chicken from the pot and plunge it immediately into an ice bath to halt the cooking process.
- Once the chicken has cooled down, remove from ice bath and discard all the ingredients from its cavity.
- Pat dry and let it rest.
- Debone and slice when ready to serve. Reserve the chicken bones and stock.
- Optional – Mix 2 tsp of soy sauce and 1 tsp of sesame oil with 2 Tbsp of chicken stock. Spoon glaze over the sliced chicken and garnish with cilantro.
- Serve with Quinoa, Cilantro Ginger Sauce and Chili Sauce
I have tried various brands of organic chicken and love Mary’s chicken from Whole Foods. Because it is air-chilled, water is not absorbed and the chicken retains its natural flavor and firmness. I have seen recipes where you bring the chicken to a boil starting with cold water or boil the chicken for 10-20 minutes then bring it down to a simmer. These are all attempts at meeting the key challenge which is, how to thoroughly cook the chicken breast while keeping it super juicy and tender. It is very important to have enough water in the pot to keep the water temperature constant. There must be enough water/heat to swirl around the chicken. This is the cheap Chinese version of “sous-vide” minus all the contraptions. This recipe is very technique driven. Unfortunately you will most likely undercook or overcook the chicken the first time. You will get better as you practice more.
I created this sauce as the herbier sister to the ginger sauce, a must-have companion in eating Hainanese chicken. View it as a pesto or chimichurri but with an Asian twist. It is versatile and pairs well with roasted chicken, grilled beef and steamed fish. What a great way to use up leftover herbs!
- A handful of cilantro (use the amount that it is sold in)
- 10 scallions (use both white and green parts)
- Thumbs of peeled ginger
- 2-3 gloves of garlic
- 1 Tbsp of fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp of Japanese “tsuyu”, a seasoning soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp of sesame oil
- 1 tsp of brown sugar
- Remove roots from the cilantro and scallions.
- Rough chop cilantro, scallions, ginger and place all ingredients into food processor. Pulse 10-12 times to finely chop the herbs. Do not create a paste.
- Transfer herbs into a glass bowl.
- Heat one cup of canola oil in pot till smoking.
- Add fish sauce, Japanese tsuyu, sesame oil, brown sugar to the herbs.
- Slowly pour the searing hot canola oil over the herbs. Mix as you pour. The mixture must sizzle as the hot oil hits the herbs.
To develop the key flavor in this sauce it is important to sear the herbs with the hot oil. It also helps tone down the sharpness of the ginger. Do not use olive oil due to its low smoking point. “Tsuyu” is a Japanese seasoning soy sauce and often used diluted to form a soup base for udon, soba or soy noodles. If neither fish sauce nor soy sauce is available just use salt and it will taste delicious too. Play around with the herbs to develop your favorite ratio or add jalapeno for spice.
My copy of Ina’s latest cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, arrived today. I admit I have all her cookbooks thus the first name basis. Her recipes are delicious but her lifestyle even more so. I love the kitchen, herb garden, gay posse and absentee husband. Browsing through the cookbook I came upon the recipe, Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola. It is a fancier termed Penne Alla Vodka. I like these types of pasta recipes because it tastes great on its own and also serves as a good base to hide leftovers.
And leftovers I have. They have to be used up before my trip to Asia. I have some fresh chicken sausages from Whole Foods, limp looking Italian parsley, dried shell pasta, can of San Marzano whole tomatoes, 3/4 jar of Trader Joe’s organic basil pasta sauce, two somewhat dried up onions and sprouted garlic. Before you give up on me I do have a beautiful block of parmesan reggiano bought from Epicure Imports in LA. With REAL parmesan reggiano I can rescue any pasta dish. Pecorino romano is cheaper and works wonders too.
I executed Ina’s recipe except in the final steps I added to the braised tomato sauce sauteed chicken sausage deglazed with a bit of Trader Joe’s organic chicken broth. The Italian parsley added some brightness and balanced out the heavy cream. I am sure the fresh oregano makes the sauce more herby but this version was great too. The shell pasta was perfect as it scooped up globs of sauce and I like my pasta saucy.