Somen Noodle Soup in Miso Broth with Seafood, Tofu, and Chives

Somen Noodle Soup in Miso Broth with Seafood, Tofu, and Chives
Last month, I started to use miso paste in my cooking and since then I can’t stop making miso soup! A few of my vegan friends also use miso paste as a new favorite ingredient in their salad dressings and for marinating vegetables and mushrooms for grilling.

This miso soup is slightly different from the one I made a month ago. I realized that miso paste is flavorful enough that there was no need for additional vegetables like celery and carrots. I just added soy sauce and enhanced the herbal flavor with some finely chopped chives, which have a delicious garlic-and-onion flavor. Chives is more flavorful than scallions, so use them sparingly.

I used seafood from a mixed seafood bag that I bought from Trader Joe’s — it has scallops, shrimp, and squid. The tofu was a good addition because of its soothing texture and it also goes well with the flavor of fermented beans. Even better, the seafood and tofu take about the same time to cook!

As I wrote in my earlier post, I used Cold Mountain red miso paste. I added about one tablespoon of miso paste per one cup of water. Since desired saltiness varies from person to person, I would suggest adding just a little miso paste and soy sauce at first, and adding to that as necessary. Additionally, feel free to try the soup with other vegetables and ingredients such as mushrooms, spinach, seaweed, sprouts, rice noodles, clear noodles, and scallions. 

I chose somen noodles because they’re so easy to cook. I didn’t have to soak them in water and they takes less time than pasta or rice noodles. Somen is usually used in noodle salads, but it brings a delicate touch to soup as well. Tip: don’t boil the somen noodles in the same pot as the soup broth because it will form a murky white color and starchy taste.

Keep in mind that this dish is a two-step process that should take you no more than 15 minutes. Make sure you set up the two pots of water at the same time, one for cooking the somen noodles and another for the soup broth. 

Makes 1 serving, takes 15 minutes
Ingredients:
~3 oz. somen noodles, cooked and drained 
~9 cups water 
~4 tablespoon red miso paste~ 2x2 inches of tofu, cut into small pieces 
~1 cup mixed seafood; defrosted and cleaned 
~2 tablespoon soy sauce 
~1/2 tablespoon chives, chopped finely 
~1/4 tablespoon dried crushed chili peppers 
~1 head bok choy, cleaned and cut into small pieces

Start by setting up two pots of water on the stove, one for cooking the somen noodles with about 5 cups of water and another with four cups of water for soup broth

In the pot for the noodles, add a pinch of salt and put the lid on to speed the boiling process. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, add the noodles, and bring them to a low simmer immediately. *Always cook somen (and soba) noodles over low heat after you bring the water to a boil. Somen are best when  cooked  slowly for a tenderly firm texture. If you cook the somen noodle in boiling water throughout in the same way you prepare pasta, your somen will be overcooked, sticky, and starchy.* Stir the noodle constantly, making sure that they do not stick together or to the bottom of the pot. After the noodles are cooked (about 6 minutes) pour cool water into the pot, then drain and set aside in a nice serving bowl. 

Start the broth while waiting for the noodles to cook. Bring water to a boil and dissolve the miso paste and soy sauce. Add the tofu and seafood; then add bok choy. Taste and see if you need to add more miso paste or soy sauce. I found that just the soy sauce and miso paste did the job for me. Once everything is cooked, pour the broth on the somen noodles. Sprinkle some dried crushed chili peppers, and chives. Enjoy!

Spicy and Sweet Pineapple Fried Rice with Zucchini, Cashew Nuts, Raisins, and a Sprinkle of Cinnamon.


Spicy and Sweet Pineapple Fried Rice with Zucchini, Cashew Nuts, Raisins, and a Sprinkle of Cinnamon.  
 
This fried rice is a perfect blend of fruity, savory, and spicy flavor. Toasted cashew nuts bring about crunchy and creamy texture; almond or pine nuts would be a perfect substitute. Choose your favorite dry fruit; I like using raisin and cranberry for their tangy flavor. Although this is a vegan recipe, don’t hesitate to add your favorite meat or seafood.

People have different preferences when it comes to pineapple. I prefer using a very ripe pineapple for this fried rice because it has more juice that would be absorbed by the rice and the texture is more chewable. This recipe makes 6 servings and takes about 1 hour to  prepare and make.

Ingredients:
~4 cups cooked jasmine rice ~2 tablespoons vegetable oil ~3 bird eye chili, crushed  ~4 garlic cloves, crushed ~1 fresh pineapple, cut into small pieces (if you want, keep second half of the shell for decoration) ~2 stalks scallions, finely chopped ~1 zucchini, thinly sliced ~⅓ teaspoon cinnamon ~¼ cup dried cranberry ~⅓ cup roasted cashew nut ~¼ cup raisin  ~½  teaspoon cumin or curry powder ~3 tablespoons light or soy sauce ~3 tablespoons mushroom sauce  ~1 teaspoon sugar ~salt, for taste
(my fried rice under the golden sunset, so beautiful!)

Instructions:
Combine cumin, soy sauce, mushroom sauce, sugar, and salt in a small bowl and mix well. Heat oil in a wok and fry garlic and chili in medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add zucchini, dry fruits, cashew nuts, and pineapple, then add about 2 tablespoons of the seasonings, stir for about another 2 minutes (add meat before all these if you prefer). Adjust the stove to high heat, add the rice and stir it until well mixed. Make sure there are no clump. Add scallions  and sprinkle some cinnamon all over then cook until everything is hot, about 3 minutes.If you choose to serve with pineapple shell, make sure not to peel it! Cut it in half first and save at least a half of the shell. Carve the pineapple out of the shell carefully. To clean, rub the entire shell with your hand under running water. Use a spoon to scoop and scrape out any remaining fruit meat off the shell. Allow it to dry by placing the open side downward. You can also broil the shell for about 10 to 15 minutes to make it dryer and it would create a fruity burnt aroma. To save time, this step should be done right before making fried rice.

Serve it with a smile!

"Geng Hang Lea," a Baby Pork Ribs Curry with Homemade Curry Paste. A dish commonly serve in Chaing Mai, Thailand.

Geng Hang Lea,  a Baby Pork Ribs Curry. A dish commonly serve in Chiang Mai, Thailand 

I’m a nomad. I don’t own a cookbook. A good friend gave me an “Asian” cookbook for my twentieth birthday, and I read through it in one night, sucked out as much knowledge as I could and then gave the book away (to a friend who would take good care of it).  For the past few years, I have relied on friends and libraries for cookbooks. It makes sense for my life right now, and keeps me on my toes - always learning new recipes and tweaking old ones.

That said, I found a(nother) great Thai cookbook by David Thompson called Thai Foodduring my last library visit. I skipped most of his introduction and turned right to the recipes I have been eager to learn. One of them is this Geng Hang Lea. I also want to try out his recipes for pickled dishes, Chinese chive cakes, and bitter melon soup. The recipe here is revised and adapted from Thompson’s. Geng Hang Lea is a very popular dish in the north of Thailand, especially Chaing Mai. I lived in Chiang Mai for about five years but never learned how to make this dish so I was very excited to finally try this recipe out!

Thompson calls for pork belly and pork ribs, but my local butcher shop only had pork ribs. I also reduced the portion of many ingredients he calls for, as I often only cook for a few of my friends. My recipe makes 6 servings.

This dish takes a lot of time because we’re making two curry pastes from scratch and there’s about two hours of cooking time on top of that. But don’t be discouraged! Its summer and if you love to cook, picking out a few new dishes to make when you have more time is rewarding! Everyone in my house love this dish and we couldn’t even bring ourselves to throw out the leftover sauce!

         PREPARATION: 30 MINUTES         COOKING TIME: 1/5-2 HOURS

Curry Ingredients:

~1 lb pork ribs ~2 tablespoon vegetable oil ~2 shallots, chopped ~1/2 cup ginger, shredded ~1/2 cup roasted peanuts (optional) ~3 tablespoon palm sugar, dissolved in hot water ~4 tablespoon fish sauce ~4 tablespoon tamarind concentrate ~1 cup stock or water

Curry Paste:

~10 dried chile de arbol or Thai chili, soaked and seeded ~1 tablespoon galangai, chopped ~6 tablespoon red shallot, chopped ~6 tablespoon garlic, chopped ~6 tablespoon lemongrass, chopped ~2 tablespoon ginger, chopped ~2 tablespoon cumin seeds, roasted and ground ~1 tablespoon coriander seeds, roasted and ground ~3 star anise, roasted and ground ~1 teaspoon cinnamon powder, roasted ~5 cloves, roasted and ground ~2 cardamom pods, roasted and seeds ground ~1 tablespoon red or yellow turmeric powder

Garlic and Ginger Paste:

~4 garlic cloves, peeled ~1/2 teaspoon salt ~4 tablespoon ginger, peeled

Make the curry paste first, and then make the garlic and ginger paste. Preferably using a pestle and mortar, grind all the ingredients together until they produce a nice aroma and pasty texture (as in the picture). To reduce labor and time, a food processor would give you a good paste but it does not bring out the same fragrance because the blades basically only “cut” the herbs. Sometimes, I like to do the “initial” grinding with a food processor and then use my mortar and pestle to “mush” out the flavor.

Cut the pork into smaller pieces between each bone. I had the butcher cut the ribs into three vertical pieces (see the picture below) and then I cut them into small bite size pieces at home. Cold-blanch the pork ribs twice. According to Thompson, the longer the pork takes to reach boiling temperature, the more oiliness and pungency will be cleaned off (and I found this really worked!)

In a large skillet, heat the oil and fry the garlic and ginger paste until golden. Add the curry paste and pork and let it simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, ginger, shallots, peanuts, palm sugar, and a cup of water or stock. Do not add a lot of water! This curry is saucy but not soupy like green or red curry. Stir until all ingredients are mixed well. Let it simmer for about one to two hours and stir occasionally.


Serve with white rice, brown rice, sticky rice, or basmali rice. Have some fresh or steamed vegetables as a side dish. I suggest fresh slices of cucumber, lettuces, snap peas, bell peppers,cabbages, steamed string beans, and steamed eggplant. The paste is strong and flavorful, you can use the vegetables to balance the flavor. The flavor of this dish improve overnight! 

Content: All literary works and photos (even if they don’t have my signature) are my original works otherwise stated. They cannot be reproduce in part or in whole unless prior consent from me, or mention of the sourceThank you!

Miso Soup with Udon Noodle and Tofu

Miso Soup with Udon Noodle and Tofu

I made this soup yesterday for breakfast. I just arrived home in Berkeley, CA to visit friends and family, and there are two vegetarians in the house right now, so the fridge is full of vegetables and “vegetarian ingredients.” This miso soup is simpler than I thought it would be - that is, once I had the right kind of miso paste in hand. I used Cold Mountain red miso paste, which has the right kind of strong, savory and salty flavors I needed for this soup. I don’t know what makes this miso paste “red” or what the differences are between red and the other “colors.” To me, it seems like how some Thai curries are named by their colors, but Thai red and green curry taste very similar, while the Thai yellow curry is just something else.

This soup was quick and easy to make, and was a great light breakfast. It would also make a great appetizer or snack. I used one cup of water for each tablespoon of miso paste. I also added about half a tablespoon of dark soy sauce to each cup of water. I added some celery, scallions, and baby carrots based on what I found in the fridge. You can also add baby corns, spinach, peas, bok choy, mushrooms, or sprouts for a more balanced meal.  Poached eggs or thin slices of ham would be a great substitute for tofu or red meat.

Makes 1 Serving

Takes 10 Minutes


Ingredients:

1 (3.5oz) package pre-made Udon noodles

2 cups water

2 tablespoons red miso paste

1/3 cup tofu, diced

1 stalk scallions, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, diced

4 baby carrots, diced

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

a small pinch of (coarse sea) salt, if needed

a pinch of pepper flakes

Instructions:

In a small pot, combine water, celery, baby carrot, and a very small pinch of salt and bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer; then dissolve the miso paste for about 1 minute. Add the Udon noodle and tofu. Bring them to boil one more time; the Udon noodle should be softened and the tofu should be fully cooked by this time — take an extra minute if you need to. Turn off the heat immediately after it boils. Pour the soup into a bowl. Add the remaining seasonings including scallions, soy sauce, and pepper flakes. Taste and fix the flavor to your liking.  

Cooking for Fun: Walk on Your Dinner: Homemade Udon Noodle

Stir-Fry Asparagus and Ground Beef in Spicy Basil Sauce

Ingredients:

-1/2 lb ground beef

-1 bunch asparagus or about 3 cups, chopped into 1” pieces or julienned

-1 cup basil leaves 

-2 tablespoon bird eyes chili, jalapeños, or serraño, chopped finely

-2 tablespoon or about 5 large garlic cloves, chopped finely

-1/2 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

-2 tablespoon mushroom sauce or oyster sauce

-1 tablespoon light or dark soy sauce

-1 tablespoon fish sauce

-1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (optional) 

Instruction:

1) In a small bowl, mix soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce, and sugar together to be ready for the stir-fry. 

2) Heat the oil in medium heat in a wok or a skillet. Test the temperature of the oil by adding a tiny bit of garlic; the oil is ready when the garlic sizzles. Add the rest of the garlic and hot peppers and stir until fragrant.

3) Immediately add the beef before the garlic and the chili burn. Turn the heat to high. Add the sauces you previously mixed into the beef, it should take about 3 minutes until the beef is cooked.

4) Add the asparagus, stir-fry until it cooks, but keep it crispy.  Add the basil at the end and cook it lightly until wilted. Serve it on top of some warm jasmine rice or brown rice. 

Content: All literary works and photos (even if they don’t have my signature) are my original works otherwise stated. They cannot be reproduce in part or in whole unless prior consent from me, or mention of the sourceThank you!

Writing for Wesleyan Argus

Sorry for slacking off! School recently started and I have a senior project to finish by the end of February. I am still cooking everyday and have been taking a lot of photos. I just need to start writing out the recipe. 

This semester, I joined my university’s newspaper, The Wesleyan Argus. My goal is to share recipes I cook in my apartment with the rest of campus. The first article was published last week. It is another version of the soba salad that I made last month. Check it out: Lalita’s Kitchen: Soba Salad. (Search “Lalita’s Kitchen” if the link doesn’t take you there) The pictures didn’t make it to the print. I would love to share them here.

Quick Lunch: Bok Choy & Sesame Chicken over Spaghetti Noodles.

Having afternoon classes means that I have time to  cook my own lunch! This is one of the dishes I have made.

This dish took about 20 minutes. I marinated the chicken with hoisin sauce, salt, sesame oil, garlic, green onions, and a little bit of sesame seed. Hoisin sauce and sesame oil have such strong flavors that you don’t need to marinate them for a long time. I only allowed five minutes this time. The flavors will mostly stay coated on the surface, which is satisfying for this quick lunch.  While letting the chicken marinate, I started to boil some water for the spaghetti noodles and bok choy. I immersed the bok choy in the hot water quickly then start cooking the noodles. I pan fried the chicken on a non-stick pan with a little bit of canola oil.

Mango Tree in the Process...

I have never blogged before.  Before this blog got started, my friend from Berkeley, Veronica helped me plan out the blog and taught me different blogging tools. That night I also cooked a wonderful dinner for us, my sister, and her buddy. I made broiled stuffed green Anaheim peppers with marinated ground chicken, Haw Mok shrimps, fried quail eggs, and (heavenly) sweet beef jerky (pictures go from left to right).

The stuffed chili dish took me a long time to make (about 30 minutes). I should have kept the Anaheim chili whole and then stuffed the chicken instead of cutting it in small chucks. I used ground chicken thigh because it gives stronger flavor and it has more moisture so that the chicken doesn’t dry out after grilling. I marinated the chicken with minced fresh cilantro, garlic, salt, and pepper.

For fried quail egg, much like most stir fry dishes in Thailand and China, I prefer to use high heat to get the bottom of the eggs golden and crispy quickly while the yoke uncooked. Before dinning, I lightly tossed some salt and pepper on top for flavor. Soy sauce would also give a nice taste.

The sweet beef jerky is best to prepare over night. I got the recipe from my favorite online Thai cooking website at thaitable.com, and I also found a another similar recipe at Chow!

In Thailand, you steam Haw Mok in banana leaf by making a little basket container for the dish. I find aluminum foil or metal baking pans to be a perfect substitute although it won’t give the same fragrance to the food. This time I used the recipe from The Original Thai Cookbook by Jennifer Brennan. I highly recommend this cookbook to anyone out there who is hungry for a real home cooked Thai meal. In this book, the author includes dishes that most Thai families would make at home and most of the time you cannot find them in the Thai restaurants here.

 After all the dishes were prepared, the kitchen was a mess. Veronica made an artistic move to capture some of the wonderful chaos.

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