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Wombat Meatball Soup

1 Apr

If you want an exotic addition for a special dinner, give wombat meat a try.  It’s delicious.  Don’t know what a wombat is?  Go here to see wombats.  Cute, aren’t they?  Feisty too, making them difficult to catch.  So if you actually find a grocery that carries wombat meat and if you get blown away by the price, you’ll know why.  It wasn’t easy getting that wombat.

How should wombat meat be cooked?  Good question.  Try one of my favorite recipes.

Vegetable and Meat Ball Soup

Vegetable and Meatball Soup

2 quarts vegetable or meat broth
1 quart water
1 lb ground meat, formed into 1 inch balls
5 small potatoes, cut in quarters
2 large carrots, sliced in chunks
1 package frozen peas (optional)
1 onion, rough chopped

2 tbs chopped parsley (optional)
olive oil, vegetable oil, or butter for sautéing
salt and pepper, to season 

 In a large stockpot over medium heat, sauté and soften onions with oil or butter.  Add the water and broth.  Bring the mixture to a quick boil  then allow to simmer.  Add the meatballs.  Let the meatballs cook for 5 minutes then add the vegetables.  Allow to cook until vegetables are tender but not soft.  Season the soup with salt and pepper.  Garnish with chopped parsley.

Smile and serve.

For the meatballs, you can use beef, pork, or turkey.  Or wombat meat, if you really want to.

Happy April Fools’ Day!

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Beef Pho

24 Jan

While Spain was busy colonizing the Philippine Islands from the 16th until the late 19th century, France was doing the same to Vietnam beginning in the 17th century.  European occupation brought along some cultural imposition, which is obvious in the cuisines of the occupied nations.  Many Filipino foods are Spanish “inspired” and in Vietnamese cuisine, the influence of its occupier is obvious as well: bánh mì uses baguette and cháo phở is similar to the French’s pot-au-feu.

There are many noodle houses serving only pho, definitely in California, and the more diverse parts of Washington State.  To my amusement, when I first moved to Washington State in 2005, people were talking about pho as if it were the “it” dish and something exotic, which it is to many non-Asian folks and even to some Asians not having yet been introduced to Vietnamese cuisine.

Having lived in San Jose, California where demographics show that it has the largest Vietnamese population; out of the 945,942 people reported in the 2010 US Census, 10.4% of which are Vietnamese and 2.03 x 10^-6 are family friends as they are my sisters’ BFFs, and due to Claire and Kat’s longtime friendships with Quynhnhu and Linda, respectively, Vietnamese culture has been nicely incorporated into my family’s own.

When I was a junior in high school and my youngest sister, Kat, was a senior in junior high (word play intended), she asked me to make a noodle dish called bun (pronounced būn, not buhn).  When she spent time with her friend Linda, bun was what Linda’s family served her for a meal and Kat wanted a repeat, and for the life of me, I didn’t know how to make bun.  So we set out recreating bun with Kat recalling the ingredients and flavors she remembered.  Bun and pho are both noodle soup dishes but they’re not the same in terms of the noodles used and the flavors; bun contains more spice whereas it’s optional with pho.

Now with my own household, Asian noodle soups play a primary part in our meals, especially when it’s cold, damp, and gray, as it often is in our part of the Pacific Northwest.  Although The Hubby would say that I don’t need the weather to be cold to have noodle soups.  Though it’s nice to have cold weather as an excuse.

Pho-Vietnamese noodle soup (800x450)

Pho

Beef broth
(Broth: beef bones, ginger, onions, fish sauce, salt, sugar, and cloves)
1 package of Banh pho noodles (wide rice stick noodles)
1/2 lb Beef tenderloin (sliced thinly, after cooked)
1 lb Bean sprouts
1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup Green onions, cut into thin rings
Thai basil
2 large or 4 small Jalapeño peppers, cut into rings (optional)
Chili sauce (optional)
1 lime, cut into wedges 

Prepare the broth using a large stockpot and the listed ingredients with 5 quarts of water.  Bring the broth to a boil for about ten minutes then allow to simmer.  Remove the bones and any surface foam and fat.  Add the beef round in the simmering broth for 15 minutes.  Remove the tenderloin and allow to rest before slicing thinly.  Skim off any fat from the broth and make sure broth is clear before serving.  Leave the broth in low heat to keep warm.  Prepare the noodles according to directions on the package.  Place the cooked noodles in large bowls and on top, add the sliced tenderloin and bean sprouts.  Ladle the hot broth the beef and bean sprouts.  Garnish with cilantro, Thai basil, green onions, and Jalapeño peppers, with lime and chili sauce on the side.

Smile and serve.

Numerous pho recipes are available online and for those unfamiliar with Vietnamese foods, check out as many pho recipes as you like so you can find the recipe that fits your diet best.  Pho can also be made with chicken and vegetables, hence if you’re not a red meat eater, replace the beef with chicken or tofu.  Enjoy!

*Pho photo courtesy of The Hubby and his sturdy Nokia Lumia 920.

Happy Food Day!

24 Oct

It’s Food Day 2012 and my contribution is a simple soup recipe.  Last year, I celebrated Food Day with Steamed Butternut Squash.  I just can’t part with autumn’s star vegetable: squash, so it’s going to steal the show again this year.

Butternut Squash Soup

1 small butternut squash, cubed
1/4 lb salted pork or bacon, thinly sliced
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 cups water or vegetable broth
Salt to taste

In a heated stockpot, add the sliced pork.  Heat until the pork slices are crisp, then remove.  Sauté onions in leftover drippings.  When onions are softened, add the cubed butternut squash.  Mix everything then add the broth or water.  Let simmer until squash is soft then turn off the heat.  If pureeing the soup in a blender, make sure to allow the mixture to cool first.  Otherwise, use a handheld blender, or smash the softened squash with a potato masher.

Test the soup if it needs additional salt.  If using salted pork or bacon, remember that they’re already salty on their own so you only need to add a pinch of salt to taste.

Serve with a smile and a bit of cream (or crispy bacon pieces!).

FoodDay.org is giving away free Food Day Recipe Cards and a free Food Day Cookbook.  Celebrate Food Day everyday by “eating real”.

Koka Singapore Noodles

29 Feb

It’s grey.  It’s cold.  It’s raining.  What a great day for noodles.  Though, for me, any day is a good day for noodles.  And today is extra special because it’s a Leap Day.  Any event that happens once every x years (with “x” being 2 or more) is special… so special that beginning in the 18th century, women were encouraged to propose to that special someone.  But that’s another story.

Being that today is an uncommon day, it’s a good day to have uncommon noodles too like the Koka Singapore Noodles which we discovered in Uwajimaya-Bellevue this past weekend.  I was looking for a substitute to my usual Sapporo Ichiban noodles when the 4-pk package of Koka noodles caught my attention.  The ingredients listed are not bad at all, considering that other instant ramen noodles I’ve tried before have ingredients that consist of various chemical flavorings.  I prefer my noodle soups made from scratch, but there are days when instant makes an okay alternative.

Koka Instant “Non-Fried” Noodles Curry Flavour ingredients: (Noodles) wheat flour, tapioca starch, salt; (Seasoning mix) salt, sugar, spices, non-dairy creamer, yeast extract, curry powder, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, disodium 5’ribonucleotide, paprika, oil; (Garnishes) dehydrated vegetables: cabbage, carrot, peas

The ingredients list wasn’t clear in what “spices” were added but as it is curry flavor after all, this could mean any number of spices.  However, I can suppose that there possibly could be turmeric because of the color of the seasoning.  We’ve had curry flavor noodles before but this one was particularly light and oddly refreshing.  I wouldn’t associate curry with “refreshing” but this one is mild, simple, and quite good.

Koka Instant “Non-Fried” Noodles Laksa Singapura Flavour ingredients: (Noodles) wheat flour, tapioca starch, salt; (Seasoning mix) coconut powder, sugar, canola oi, salt spices, flavour (contains fish, crustaceans, trace of milk) hydrolyzed vegetable protein, yeast extract, disodium 5’ribonucleotide, chili flakes, malic acid, paprika, oil, chili oil

The Laksa Singapura flavor is particularly creamy and very different compared to my normal instant ramen noodles, all thanks to the coconut powder and the seasonings.  The flavor reminds me of a coconut-based seafood soup my Mom has made in the past.  The smell and taste were so familiar that my senses were fooled into thinking that there’s fish in the dish somewhere.  I slurped my way through this bowl of yumminess in about five minutes… it was not a pretty sight.

I’ve eaten enough noodles today to make anyone on a protein-centered diet cringe, or anyone on any sort of a diet for that matter.  I love, love, love noodles but I’m so glad that Leap Days come only once every four years because I won’t be celebrating my noodle love like this anytime soon.  Methinks having two bowls of noodles in less than half an hour is too much.

Slow Food $5 Challenge

10 Sep

I discovered Slow Food during summer of 2007 while working on a dissertation examining food and culture.  I have been following the organization’s social concerns ever since, and ten days ago, I pledged to take Slow Food’s $5 Challenge to help raise awareness that healthy and affordable meals are within reach for all.

As stated by Gordon Jenkins of Slow Food USA, “Real value meals – meals that reflect our values – should be affordable and available to everyone.”  A jaded critic might see Slow Food’s premise as another hipster movement, much like the promotion of local and organic foods wherein it became a status symbol to dine like a locavore and eat organic produce.

The point is that people who can afford to buy what’s best for them and for their family without breaking the bank will do so, and that is the point of the challenge… to prove that good meals made with healthy ingredients are affordable.  Chef Kurt Michael Friese showed that one can create a healthy meal for less than what is worth to buy from a fast food chain, by disproving a claim made by KFC that one cannot “create a family meal for less than $10.”  It would behoove me to echo the concern of sociologists that for a single working parent time is critical and that is how fast food places trump over good quality meals.

For my contribution to the challenge, I thought of meals that I used to cook as a college student.  If I couldn’t cook a dish in less than 15 minutes then I didn’t bother.  No wonder pasta and noodles made frequent appearances for lunch and dinner.  College students everywhere would be able to name a favorite ramen noodle brand with Top Ramen, I bet, making top of the list.  Why?  Because it’s quick to make and quick to satisfy.  So as a nod to my college days, here’s a healthier and slower version of the noodle soup dishes I used to devour (and still do).  Noodle soups are versatile and the cook should always feel free to substitute.

Duck and Gai Choy Vegetable Noodle Soup

 Duck, roasted and chopped into bite size pieces
Gai choy (mustard greens), shredded
Saimin noodles, 1lb
Green onion, chopped
Fish ball
Water, 4qt
Salt and pepper to taste (soy sauce, optional)

Cook noodles according to packaging instructions and set aside.  Boil salted water and add the greens to parboil, then set aside.  In the same stock of water, cook the fish ball.  When the fish balls are floating, add the roasted duck pieces.  Lower the heat and add the greens.  Season to taste.  Turn off the heat then add the green onions.  Smile and serve.

The ingredients were bought from Uwajimaya-Bellevue and the prices are as follows: Saimin-$3.18, Gai choy-$2.35, Fish ball-$2.99, Green onions-$1.00, Duck 1/2, $9.99.  The total came out to $20.42 because the duck is taxed since it was bought in the food court.  Given the amount cooked, the Hubby and I estimated that there was enough noodle soup to satisfy six people, putting the meal at $3.40 per person.

The $5 Slow Food Challenge asks that the meal must cost $5 or less per person.  I am pleased to have taken and met the challenge; it was an edifying experience, to say the least.