Month: November 2011

Ava-eats-Laos

Monday Meal Review: Laos

THE SCENE: Getting it right “Sometimes when I eat Asian food I get sad,” Keith says. He’s leaning on the counter. This is new. Keith is not one for drama.  I look at him, searching his face, wondering what past trauma has chosen to bubble up. I am bewildered. “Why?” “Because it reminds me of how long I waited to try it.” He stares at the cabinets, seeming to look through them. “Most of my life,” he quietly adds. I pause, staring at him, contemplating his handsome 41 year-old face. Is this possible? More than three decades without Asian food? “Didn’t you have egg rolls? Chinese buffets? Something…” “No, they were cabbagy. And no, not really.” I can’t help but feel a glimmer of pride, thinking back to moments earlier, when Ava, Keith and I sipped and slurped on our Foe – Laos’ epic “build your own” soup. Keith had happily lapped up his bowl of rice noodles, raw beef doused in boiling broth and loaded up with plenty of herbs. It doesn’t get more …

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Golden Coconut Dream

I have a problem. Mangoes. I ate an entire crate of mangoes when I was pregnant with Ava. Ten mangoes in less than a week. Or was it twenty? Mangoes are so outrageously good right now. I can barely stop eating them long enough to let them soften up on the counter.  I have trouble sharing. Thankfully Laos has a dessert that showcases this crazy fruit in a fun and simple way. Remember that sticky, sticky rice? The staple of Laos? That’s your ticket. Let’s whip up a heaping bowl of warm coconut rice pudding topped with soft, sweet mango. I’m already dancing a Golden Coconut Dream. Ingredients: 4 cups cooked sticky rice (2 cups uncooked) 1 15 oz can light coconut milk 1/4 cup brown sugar, or more to taste milk for thinning, as desired 1-2 small, ripe mangoes, cubed Method: On a sweet sort of day, with just the right sort of bite in the air, when your mangoes are perfectly – tenderly – soft, cook your way to a lovely dream. Simply add the …

Planting Rice in Laos. Photo by Ondřej Žváček.

Sticky rice | Khao Neow

I used to think rice was a boring, safe choice, back before this Adventure. Then there was Persian Sour Cherry Rice. I died. Rice cooked in banana leaf tubes, called Longton. Lovely. Rainbow Rice. I smile on the inside and outside. Kushary – mixed with noodles, spaghetti and lentils. What? Coca Cola Rice. Who? Bottom line – rice is epic the world around. We’ve done a half ton of cool rice dishes on this Adventure. It goes on and on, and on, and on – no need to ever be bored with rice again. Which brings us to today’s recipe from Laos – sticky, sticky rice, a.k.a. glutinous rice. Another win. Another smile for your face. Sticky rice is a staple in Laos. The good little grains pinch together into little balls, perfect for dipping into sauces like jeow. Another finger food for the win. Traditionally one would use a special basket to steam the rice, but I found a bamboo steamer lined with cheesecloth works very well. Makes 4 cups Ingredients: 2 cups glutinous rice (also …

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Laotian Salsa | Jeow

It took me a few tries to figure out what Jeow means. Turns out Jeow is a lot of things, but mainly any sort of dipping sauce, typically made with char-grilled veggies. Sometimes spicy. Sometimes not. Always delicious. It could be vegetarian or it could be made with crushed beetles.  Or anything in between. I’ll skip to the chase: my version is beetle free. Phew. And it’s also really easy. Recipe for a Simple Jeow 3 tomatoes 3 Thai bird chilies 1 head garlic pinch of cilantro And, if you’re not vegan, add several shakes of fish sauce. Method: Roast tomatoes, chilies, and garlic over a campfire, on a grill, in a comal  (flat pan available at Latino markets) over medium heat or in the oven until blackened and soft. Be sure to continually turn the garlic so it cooks evenly. Peel and puree  with cilantro, fish sauce and salt. That’s it! Enjoy… 12345 Votes: 0 Rating: 0 You: Rate this recipe! Turns out Jeow is a lot of things, but mainly any sort of …

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Lao Rice Noodle Soup | Foe

It’s time we take back the expression “Have it your way” from that mega corporate burger joint and put it back where it belongs – into our homes, onto our own homemade-with-love meals. Take this soup from Laos, for example. Traditionally served for breakfast, but great any time of day, Foe is a celebration of individuality, creativity and having it exactly how you want it – without chemicals, junk and gunk. Foe is a rice noodle soup from Laos, typically made with beef, pork or chicken. In Laos you might find funny organs floating in your soup and other delectables, but the real star is the bouquet of herbs, sauces, and spices which each person adds to taste, making each person’s soup bowl totally unique. Today we serve the simplest version of all – thinly sliced raw beef which cooks under the heat of the boiling broth and then topped how you’d like it. Inspired to try this soup because of the words in “Big soup, Big Love.” Serves 4 Ingredients: For the broth: 2 quarts beef broth …

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Menu: Laos

Considering I knew nothing about Laos prior to this Adventure, there was quite a bit of excitement this week. The more I read about the food the more butterflies I got. Delicious. Warming. Fresh. But when I shut the books the butterflies kept coming. I thought perhaps it was because we’ve had two earthquakes in 2 days. Or because during the second earthquake we had a tornado warning. And then I realized it is because Keith is going to be a grandfather any.minute.now. And by extension, me too – in a stepmotherly sort of way. Oh goodness. And the world keeps on turning. Or is it… as the world turns… What sounds good to you?* Jeow [Recipe] Laos’ answer to salsa. Spicy, roasted, and fingerlicking good. Instead of corn chips, however, enjoy Jeow with a happy handful of sticky, sticky rice. Sticky, Sticky Rice [Recipe] Glutinous rice is the staple of Laos. This short-grained rice is soaked overnight then steamed in a wicker basket or bamboo steamer. Because the grains stick together, the rice is typically pressed …

Child with water buffalo. Photo by Paulrudd.

About the food of Laos: Finding the Holy Grail

Sometimes I feel like a knight in shining armor, valiantly seeking to uncover the holy grail of food from each country we visit on this Adventure. A Knight of the Global Table, if you will. Well. Not two minutes into my quest to learn all about Laos I randomly ran across this popular breakfast item: baguette drizzled with sweetened condensed milk. What? How? Why? Well, the fact is it’s true and I love it! Here’s why: while not necessarily the holy grail of Laos, this unusual treat tells us two very real truths about food in Laos. First, simplicity rules all. Second, influence from her days as a French colony remains strong. For those of you shaking your heads, let me expand our discussion. I’ll be the first to admit that breakfast in Laos is much, much more than this odd treat. Perhaps the holy grail is Foe  [Recipe], or Lao rice noodle soup made with beef, chicken, or pork. The real fun is personalizing your bowl with loads of fresh herbs – anything from mint …

Ava-eats-Kyrygyzstan

Monday Meal Review: Kyrgyzstan

THE SCENE: Plain words, big love. The room is quiet. I scoop another bite of Oromo into my mouth. As I chew, I think about how perfectly surprised I am to find myself loving the combination of lamb and soft sweet potatoes. I start to say something about it, but instead catch myself looking at my husband who is happily and ever so quietly eating his meal. I wonder if he likes it. “My family is a family of gushers,” I begin, forgetting about the flavor for a moment.  “When a meal is presented everyone ooh’s and ahh’s. Adults trample like children at a fair simply to peer inside a casserole, or to oggle a roast with excitement. Some even applaud.” Keith laughs. “It’s good, Sash.” The truth is Keith is reserved – of another culture entirely. Whether presented with epic homemade ravioli, a crazy spiral of oromo, or a store bought peanut butter cup, his response is always the same. It’s good. He says the words with love and sincerity. Still, when the words come I find myself straining my ears, …

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Minty Garlicky Yogurt Sauce

Minty Garlicky Yogurt is an oddball recipe. An oxymoron. Personally I love loads of garlic. I don’t mind dragon breath. I don’t mind scaring away the cat. So, I suppose Minty Garlicky yogurt sauce is good for people with garlic regret. As you eat it, the garlic infuses your breath but then – woops – the mint comes along for the ride, sweetening things up in the background. Of course, you’ll probably still need to brush your teeth after eating this dip. You’ll find similar recipes all over north Africa, central Asia and beyond. The nomadic peoples of Kyrgyzstan have no shortage of dairy, thanks to their herding lifestyle. To keep things interesting they blend yogurt with either mint or cilantro and plenty of fresh garlic. The secret is to let this mixture sit overnight or the garlic will be much too harsh. And a fun fact I ran across in my reading – nomads dig holes in the cool earth for refrigeration: The nomads always set up their yurts near streams, brooks, rivers and lakes …

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Hot Honey Lemon with Vodka

It’s that time of year. Coughing. Sniffling. Sneezing. Right about now we all need a hug. And a big blast of disinfectant. Oh, and let’s face it, something pretty. This lemony, sweet, cinnamony, vodka-tastic drink – popular all over central Asia and eastern Europe – takes care of it all. I especially love that the honey makes drinking it a huge bear hug (and would please grown-up Winnie the Pooh, I’m sure). The vodka is totally optional (Ava loved her booze-free version) but it does help scrub the body of germs. And, overall, it’s better than a trip to the pharmacy. Unless, of course, you go to a Kyrgyz one. Any excuse to travel… Makes 1 quart Ingredients: 1/2 cup honey (agave for vegans) 4 cups water 1 lemon, zested and sliced 1-2 cinnamon sticks Vodka, to taste You might also like to add fresh ginger or other spices… this can be done to taste. Method: Tonight, celebrate the end of long week with the region’s answer to the ever-popular mulled wine. Even my honey …

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Kyrgyz stuffed & rolled pasta | Oromo

Truth: anything coiled up is infinitely better than the same item not coiled. Think cinnamon rolls… princess Leia’s hair… really flexible kitty cats napping… and now, as never seen in my kitchen before Global Table Adventure, Oromo. This Kyrgyz dish of rolled and coiled pasta filled with various stuffings is pure genius. Unlike Italian stuffed pastas, no cheese is used as binder. Instead the filling is commonly meat and veggies (such as sweet potatoes or pumpkin). While it remains a decidedly simple recipe, some southern regions of Kyrgyzstan are said to add herbs to their fillings. Still, however you slice it, Oromo is also more comforting than cinnamon rolls, princess Leia and kitty cats combined. True story. Notes: before you get started on this little journey you’ll need a steamer, preferably metal but bamboo will do just fine. Recipe inspired by National Cuisines of Kyrgyzstan, where the recipe is said to be shaped like a swiss roll which is then bent back on itself into a circle. This recipe is my interpretation of these directions. Ingredients: …

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Menu: Kyrgyzstan

Welcome to November. Are you cold? Hot? Indifferent? For some inexplicable reason, November 1st in Tulsa, Oklahoma was 78F and just breezy enough to tickle a few golden, orange, and garnet leaves off the trees. As I walked Ava home from little school that same afternoon I decided that, yes, in fact, 78 and breezy is exactly the perfect temperature. I would make it my “every day” weather if I could. Just right for a t-shirt and jeans. Flip flops if one is feeling sassy. Yes, it was perfect for the first day in November, and even more so on October 31st which was downright balmy. About this time during our walk I remembered our Kyrgyz menu and laughed. Don’t get me wrong – you’ll love it if you, like my mother, live in the middle of snow storms, icy wind, and frostbitten fingers (a.k.a. Boston). For those of us still in the middle of the longest-summer-in-history, my apologies. As a consolation prize, please feel free to serve the drink over ice. It’s just as good. …