All posts filed under: Asia


Menu: Thailand

“Friends for a meal are easy to find, friends until end of life are difficult to find” (Thai Proverb) Summer is the time of easy friendships, where the only things that matter are cold drinks, fresh food, and a patch of shade. Dinnertime is less strict, and I find myself veering towards later, lighter meals. Like this one. So now all you need is to find someone to share it with (P.S. Speaking of which, I can’t decide if that Thai proverb is encouraging or discouraging, but there’s one thing I know for sure. Whoever you make this meal for will certainly be woo’d for the summer, if not for life.) The key to Thai food is balance. If you serve something hot and spicy, you must serve something sweet. Which is exactly what we did. All recipes and the meal review will be posted throughout the week. Green Papaya Salad | Som Tam [Recipe] One of the easiest Thai dishes, with an orchestra of flavor. Think spicy, lime-tastic, and salty. This is salad all grown …

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Water buffalos in Thailand. Photo by Torikai Yukihiro

About the food of Thailand

From her thick, green mountaintops in the north, all the way past her flatlands, through her river basins and glittering skyscrapers, Thailand has it all. And if you thought her landscape is stunning, you should taste the food. There’s a zing to Thai food that keeps me coming back; at first I thought it was the sour notes, formed from hefty squirts of lime juice. I do adore a good burst of lime…But over the years I’ve realized Thai food is far more complex than that. There’s a dance going on in every bite, especially in the salads, like som tam (green papaya salad  [Recipe])… sure, there’s bright bursts of lime juice, but there’s also the smack of salty fish sauce, the brutal burn of Bird’s Eye Chili peppers, something sweet (usually palm sugar) and there, somewhere in the background, a hint of bitterness. In preparation for this week’s Global Table, we ate at My Thai Kitchen in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We covered the table with several selections, most notably the beef salad, the green curry …

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Monday Meal Review: Tajikistan

It is often said that family who live in close proximity take each other for granted. But in many ways, I think it’s just as easy to take each other for granted when family is scattered around the country. We get used to a certain state of … loneliness… of missing each other. We resign ourselves to the distance, and take for granted that it can be no other way than to be apart. It got so bad, for me, that I hid behind my work and responsibilities. I didn’t take trips, not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t know how to leave. I didn’t know how to shut off the flow of work and make time. The result? Until this week, I hadn’t seen my family in over a year. Fifteen months to be exact. Some of them I hadn’t seen in more than three years. I’d resigned myself to being too far to help, too far to matter, too far to influence. When my sister announced she was throwing a graduation party …

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Yogurt Naan/Non

Any woman worth her salt is an incredible, complex specimen which takes time and love to fully understand. But even when you think you know a woman, she remains – at her core – mysterious. And so it is with today’s Tajik naan recipe. She’s made with a blend of wheat and all purpose flour, a healthy glop of yogurt, and not much else. She gets her shine for a quick milk and egg wash. The flavor is rustic, thanks to the wheat flour, and there’s a slight, yet definite tang, thanks to the yogurt. The fact that she’s cooked in a super hot vertical oven makes this bread nearly an Olympic event. Just watch these women make one of the more complex forms of this bread… for a wedding. Note the full arm “potholder” they use while slapping the bread into the oven. Did you see that? How gorgeous is that bread!?  Wow. Even after several focused, heart-felt queries into her nature, I must admit I am unable to replicate the intricate, ornate designs found on the …

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Lamb Plov with Dried Apricots & Raisins

I’m an awkward girl; I’m not up on fashion trends, my slang is two decades passe, and I’d rather drink wine at home than be surrounded by 100 people I don’t know. Dinner parties can really put me to the test, especially when I’m the hostess. I want everyone to have a good time, but I’m never entirely sure how to bring everyone together. That’s where Tajikistan can help. You know that moment, right as everyone sits down to eat? I refer to it as the calm before the storm. It’s a little bit awkward; there’s a pause while everyone gauges the mood of the room. What follows this quiet determines the success of every dinner party. In Tajikistan, where there’s a crowd, there’s Plov. Pulling up to a giant communal platter of rice brings a natural closeness.  By forcing yourself to dip hands into a communal platter breaks down any barriers and is a natural conversation starter. If your guests are unfamiliar with communal eating, the best thing to do is to give them …

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Menu: Tajikistan

This week’s theme is community and reunion. We spent the last ten days visiting my family, some of whom I haven’t seen in nearly three years. Tajik food is often enjoyed from one giant platter, so the timing was perfect. I made three giant platters of plov, and all 18 of us came together around them (The bonus? Only three dishes to wash!) Lamb Plov [Recipe] Plov is popular throughout Western Asia, and for good reason. This is rice cooked with carrots, turnips, a half ton of onion, and bits of lamb.  Bits of raisin and dried apricot add delightful sweetness. While it sounds ultra simple, plov is surprisingly flavorful and perfect for a large gathering. Yogurt Non [Recipe] Tajik folk love this highly ornate flat bread made with yogurt and some wheat flour… it makes a great dinnertime staple and would go with nearly any dish.

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Women in Tajikistan. Photo by Steve Evans.

About the food of Tajikistan

In Tajikistan, if you don’t have bread, you don’t have food. It doesn’t matter if the table is piled to the ceiling with meat, vegetables, and sweets. Bread is the purest sustenance to the Tajik people, especially nan (a thick flatbread Tajiks love to decorate with ornate markings). And why not. Bread makes all kinds of sense in this rugged, mountainous land bordered by China, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan (the country actually sits in Asia). Nan stores well because, if it dries out, the hardened discs can be hydrated with stews or the like. The bread also goes with everything, and is extremely economical, such as yogurt Naan [Recipe]. Along with the nan, a Tajik table often includes communal meals enjoyed out of a single platter. Examples include plov (or rice with root vegetables and meat  [Recipe]) or  Qurotob (a mish-mash pile of flatbread topped with cheese, fried vegetables, and onion). If the weather feels a bit nippy, locals might pull up to a steaming bowl of lagman soup (lagman are thick, homemade noodles, which we made back …

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Monday Meal Review: Taiwan

I got a really neat question in my email this week. I thought I’d take a brief departure from my normal meal review to answer it, in case you’re looking for similar ideas: Hi Sasha, I came across your website. I absolutely love it. I’ve worked in international transportation for 30 years, teach yoga, and love food too. Your website really speaks to me. I had a question: My daughter graduated high school and I’d like to give her a simple yet unique grad party with foods that her and her friends would find exciting. Do you have any ideas for a menu? Theme? Thanks for your help! Angela The irony? This week we’re in New Jersey celebrating the graduations of two nieces and one nephew… both from high school and college.  My amazing sister, Elisa, made several Global Table recipes for the party, so I’ll skip to the list of what worked. BIGGEST HIT: Cake on a rope, from the Netherlands. Food-wise, it’s fun to have interactive recipes… something to bring everyone together. Fondue …

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Taiwanese Shaved Ice Treat | Bào Bīng

I don’t use curtains in my bedroom; I don’t need them – someone would have to climb over our 8 foot fences and face our “attack cat,” Malky  in order to see inside my bedroom… and we all know that would pretty much ruin any possibility for us to be friends.  Instead, I use half shutters, which allow me to see the moon at night and the birds during the day. It’s my favorite space in my house. So peaceful. Anyway, the other morning I cracked open my eyes to discover the entire room was glowing orange; it felt like a giant hug. An absurdly bright hug. Rather like this mango. “It’s 8 am,” I thought, noticing the height of the sun in the sky, pleased that I had slept that long. I glanced over to the clock out of habit. That’s when I read the shocking truth: it was only 6:30 a.m. Friends, the dazzling array of sunlight is eager these days. I’ll be honest. I temporarily reconsidered my position on curtains. But then a …

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Menu: Taiwan

This week, while we’re visiting family in Boston and New Jersey, I’m sharing one simple celebration recipe with you… afterall, what is visiting family, if not a celebration! It’s been more than a year since I’ve seen any family on my side (where does the time go?!)… the last time was when we cooked Maldives. Since one treat doesn’t feel like nearly enough to represent an entire country, I thought I’d flash back to an old favorite from an earlier Global Table. As I mentioned on Tuesday, the Taiwanese love Sushi, which we made when we cooked Japan. I thought we’d all benefit from a reminder on how to make the rice and the rolls. Especially with temperatures already hitting the nineties, there’s nothing better than cool meals. All recipes and the meal review will be available throughout the week. Veggie Sushi with Sushi Rice [Recipe] Learn how to make a beautiful roll at home (perfect for a small, interactive dinner party) AND see pictures of Ava from a couple of years ago (awww) when …

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WuShihBi Cape seen behind the DongAo Bay, from the SuHua Highway, a scenic drive on the east coast of Taiwan. Photo by Fred Hsu,

About the food of Taiwan

Feeling overcast? You just might love Taiwan. This tropical island east of China is  a mountainous land, where you’ll find clouds and the whipping rains common with monsoons.  This week we explore the food that dots along the 13,902 square miles of this small nation. But don’t get the wrong idea; just because she’s small (about the size of Massachusetts), doesn’t mean the people are few and far between. The opposite is true, in fact. There are 1,600 people per square mile which makes Taiwan one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Personally, I’d love to climb to the top of Jade Mountain (the highest mountain in Asia), and look over the stunning (steaming?) beauty of Taiwan. Taiwanese food is a melting pot of various Chinese ethnicities, which is reflected in the food. There’s everything from hot pots (where meats and veggies are cooked at the table, then enjoyed with an array of sauces), to fried noodles and rice, and duck smoked over tea leaves. If you’re feeling a bit more Japanese, you’ll be …

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Monday Meal Review: Sri Lanka

It all started about a month ago. While watching our new Sri Lankan friend, Iyona, prepare a dozen or so platters for Ruby’s 40th birthday party, I noticed how little she measured. Anything. Nothing. Ruby seemed completely relaxed. Un-phased. (P.S. I’m pretty sure she’d pass for 22, right?!) Anyway. Back to the cooking. It was a dash of this. A heap of that. Cook it a while. Don’t forget to stir. That was the extent of her instructions. I’ve seen many people cook with similar abandon (my mom included), but I typically struggle with the desire to control the flow of the ingredients. So often, this is because I want you to be able to make these dishes at home.  I have to include exact measurements to make sure you are successful. BUT, this is not the way of the world. MOST of the world doesn’t measure. And here’s the kicker. Somehow, some way, the food comes out just as good as if they had. So,  a month later, when I cooked the meal for a few …

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