Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pad Thai and Mango Smoothie



We've been having a streak of good weather in Vancouver lately. Blue sky, light breeze, 20-ish temperature; all the complains of gloomy cold wet weather in early summer were gone. On days like these, it is very hard to keep working in the office. All you think about is to get through the week as quickly as possible so as to enjoy the weekends outdoor. This is also not the good time to sit in front of the computer retouching pictures and composing blog posts.  Yes, I admit that I'm a little slow in updating my post.  But, in times when I'm not blogging, in between working and golfing, I'm still actively seeking inspiration for photography, trying out new recipes and thinking about what to eat and what to post.

Just when I was being a bit too laid back, the folks at  food52 did a nice writeup on this blog.  That is a big encouragement to me. I hope I can keep up my work and continue to put up posts with food that I love and pictures that are interesting to look at, not just once. (That is my goal!) 

Back to food. Does hot summer and spicy hot food go together?  Yes, it does.  Especially when it is accompanied with a refreshing cold fruity drinks. Pad thai is probably the most popular Thai dish other than Thai curry. I love the sweetness, sourness and spiciness, all come together to form a complex yet balanced flavor. Don't be scare by the long list of ingredients.  It does take a while (around 40mins including time spent on roasting peanuts) to prep all the ingredients. But once you have all the prep work done, the actual cooking time takes about 10mins only. As for the drink, mango is sweet and aromatic, with a hint of banana and milk, this drink needs no sugar if all the fruit are ripe. And,  it takes just a few seconds to whip up.

Recipe: Pad Thai
Adapted from  Cook's Illustrated Magazine, August 2002
Ingredients:
2       Tbsp tamarind paste*
3/4    cup boiling water
3       Tbsp fish sauce
1       Tbsp rice vinegar
3       Tbsp sugar
4       Tbsp canola oil
8       oz. dried rice sticks, about 1/8" wide*
2        large eggs
1/4     tsp salt
12      oz. medium (31/35) shrimps, peeled and deveined
3        garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press
1        medium shallots, minced (about 3 Tbsp)
1        red Thai chili pepper*, minced
2        Tbsp dried shrimp, chopped fine (optional)
6        Tbsp chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
3        cups bean sprout
3        medium scallions, green parts only, sliced thin on sharp bias
1/4     cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (optional)

Directions:  
  • Making sauce:
    1. Rehydrate tamarind paste by soaking it in 3/4 cup boiling water for about 10 mins.  Strain it through a strainer, pushing the pulp fibers to squeeze out the juice.  
    2. Mix fish sauce, rice vinegar, sugar and 2 Tbsp oil with the tamarind extract. Set it aside.   
  • Preparing rice noodle and eggs:  
    1. Soak the rice sticks in hot tap water (not boiling) for 20mins, until they are softened and limp but not fully tendered. Drain and set aside
    2. Beat eggs with 1/8 tsp salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  •  Stir-fry:
    1. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a 12" skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking, about 2 mins. Add shrimps and sprinkle 1/8 tsp salt on the shrimps.  Cook, toss occasionally, until shrimps turned pink and opaque with brown edges, about 2 to 3 mins. Remove the shrimps and set aside.
    2. Add 1 Tbsp oil to skillet. Add garlic, shallot and chili pepper. Cook over medium heat, stir continuously, until fragrant, about 1 min, add eggs to skillet and stir vigorously with wooden spoon until scrambled and barely moist, about 20 sec. Add noodles, dried shrimps, toss with tong or 2 wooden spoons to combine. Pour fish sauce mixture over noodles, increase heat to high, and continue to toss all the ingredients with the sauce. 
    3. Add 1/4 cup peanuts, bean sprouts, all but 1/4 cup scallions, and cooked shrimps over noodles. Continue to cook and toss, until noodles are tender. , about 2 mins.
    4. Dish out the noodles. Sprinkle remaining peanuts, scallions and cilantro on top.  Serve immediately. 



    *Kitchen notes: 
    • The tamarind paste I bought came in a plastic package and was marked "Product of Thailand". You can buy it in most Asian stores.  If you cannot find tamarind paste, you can substitute it with 1/3 cup lime juice according to Cook's Illustrated although I never tried this before.  The tamarind gives the dish a distinct sour flavor that I think is hard to replace with any substitution.
    • The rice stick I used was also came from Thailand. They came in S, M, and L size. I use M most of the time, but this time I used L which is about 1/4" wide. 
    • In the original recipe, 3/4 tsp of cayenne pepper is used in place of the thai chili pepper. You can add the cayenne to the fish sauce mixture if using.  

    Recipe:  Mango Smoothie


    Ingredients:
     2      ripe mango
    1/2    ripe banana
    Some milk (2%)

    Directions:
    Coarsely chopped mango and banana.  Add milk. Process with a regular or hand held blender until smooth. Adjust consistency with amount of milk.  You can start with 1 cup milk first and add more if you want the drink to be less thick. 



    Monday, July 5, 2010

    Japanese Sweet Bread


     

    Lately, I have been making lots of bread. Making bread is a satisfying experience. Unlike desserts, bread is an essential part of the meal that you do not feel guilty for eating too much of it.  And the smell of fresh bread is wonderful. I did not have much experience with yeast bread before. I usually just followed the recipes in Best Recipes closely and they never failed me. This time, however, I was curious to try out the Japanese bread making recipes that have been very popular among the Chinese food bloggers. 
      

    The bread that I grew up with, made by Chinese bakery, is soft and fluffy, without a thick crust. The dough is lightly sweet. And they remain soft and fluffy for a few days.  There are different fillings that you can put inside. To balance the sweet flavor, the fillings are usually savory.  Like, bbq pork, hot dog, curry chicken and ham and cheese. The red bean paste is one of the more popular sweet fillings.



    After reading this post on Christine's recipe, I could not wait to try it out. But the recipe is originally written for bread machine. I kept searching and found a similar recipe adapted for electronic mixer on Corner's Cafe.  After three trials, I finally got the bread that I thought was just as good as in Chinese bakery.  The following is my adaptation of the recipe.

    Recipe:  Japanese Sweet Bread
    Adapted from Corner's Cafe

    Ingredients:

    For Water-Roux Paste ("Tang Zhong")
    25g         bread flour
    125ml     water

    For Bread Dough
    375g       bread flour
    100g       plain flour
    32g         milk powder*
    75g         granulated sugar*
    3/4 tsp    salt
    1            package of instant dry yeast (2 1/4tsp)
    1            egg, lightly beaten
    150ml     lukewarm water (around 95F to 105f)
    40g         butter, cubed  

    For Egg Wash - 1 egg plus a bit of water

    Directions:
    1. Making Water Roux: Mix flour with water in a small saucepan.  Cook over low to medium heat, stir continuously, for 2 to 3 mins, until the mixture reaches 65c.  At this stage, the mixture should form a paste and when you use the wooden spoon to scratch across the bottom, you can see the bottom of the pan.  Remove from heat and place a saran wrap right on the surface of the paste. Let it cool to room temperature before using. Or you can keep it in the fridge in an airtight container for a day or two. Do not use it when it turns grey.  That means it has gone bad. (Water roux is the secret that makes the Japanese bread soft and fluffy)
    2. Making the dough: 
      1. Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment. Sift bread flour, plain flour, milk powder, suger and salt to the mixing bowl.  Add in yeast and mix well.  Add in water roux and beaten egg.  Turn on the mixer at slow speed and slowly add lukewarm water until the dough form into a nice ball of dough. 
      2. Continue to knead the dough at speed 4 to 5 (Kitchen Aid) for 5 minutes until the dough is somewhat smooth and not sticky.  Add in butter, continue to knead at speed 4 to 5 for another 6 to 8 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Take the dough out and knead it by hand a few times and then form the dough into a ball.  Clean up the mixing bowl and grease it lightly. Put the dough ball back in the mixing ball. Cover the bowl with saran wrap.Put the dough in a draft free places.And let the dough rise to double in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hour depends on the temperature and humidity at the time.
      3. After the first rise, punch down and take out the dough. Knead it a few times and divide the dough into equal size.  I usually weight each portion to make sure they are of the same size. For the plain sweet bread, each dough ball is approximately 60g.  Shape the dough into balls and put them in a slightly greased baking pan. Cover with saran wrap and let it rise the second time in a draft free place, until the doughs are double in size, about 1 hour.
      4. Preheat oven to 350F.  Brush the surface of the bread with egg-wash. Bake the bread for 15-20mins or until golden brown. 
      5. If you like a shiny surface, brush the bake bread with a thin layer of butter.

    1.After kneading the dough, form the dough into a ball and let it rise in the greased mixing bowl.
    2.  To test if the dough has risen enough on the first proof, poke the dough with your finger,
    if the dough does not spring back, then it is ready.
    3. Shape the dough into equal size balls


    Making bread with filling:  After the first proof, divide the dough into equal portion and shape the dough into balls. Let the dough rest for 10 mins.  Using a rolling pin or use your finger, form the dough into a flat round shape. Put the prepared fillings* inside the dough and wrap the dough around it to form a ball. To shape the dough into flower shape, flatten the dough ball with the palm of your hand. Make 5 cuts around the dough. Place the shaped dough on a baking pan lined with parchment paper/silpat. Cover with saran wrap and let it rise for second time.  Bake the bread as in basic bread recipe.

    4. Let the dough rise for the second time until double in size. Then the dough is ready to bake
    5. To make bread with filling, put the filling inside the dough.
    6. Shape the dough, let it rise for second time and then bake it in the oven.

    Kitchen notes:  
    • I have reduced the amount of milk powder to adjust to my taste. 
    • You may not need all the 150ml of water to make the dough form into a ball.  It depends on the weather of the day.  
    • The ideal temperature for proofing bread is around 85F. In order to have fluffy bread, you have to make sure that the dough rise enough. Otherwise, the bread will come out dense and tough. (This is from my own experience!)  To make sure that the condition is right for proofing, I turned on the oven to 200F and when the temperature is ready, I turned off the oven.  Open the oven door and let the oven cool down for 10 to 15  mins.  Then, put a cup of boiling water in the oven with the dough to ensure the humidity is maintained inside the oven.  Close the oven door and let the dough rise.
    • You can buy pre-made red bean paste in Chinese or Japanese grocery store.
      
    Post update (July 9, 2010):


    I just realized that after so many bread kneading I had done lately, my beloved Kitchen Aid was acting up on me.  Fortunately, it was not a big problem.  N helped me to hammer the pin down and it was fine. I was a bit disappointed with it but N reminded me that when I bought this model a few years ago, I did not expect to do that much bread making. Otherwise I should have got the more heavy duty one.  From now on, I may have to hand knead my bread!

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