Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Trick or Treat, Heat or Sweet: Halloween Stuffed Pumpkin Duo | 萬聖「南」式生死戀

Fall is finally here! My favorite season of the year brings cooler evenings, an end to ravaging typhoons, yellowing leaves, spiced apple cider, and loads and loads of pumpkins. Around the world this autumn staple pops up in menus from pastas, baked goods, your morning coffee and, soon, to all things Halloween. I realize all these years I haven't done much for Halloween, but that is all going to change!

My first ever hand-carved mini Jack-O'-Lanterns! Feed them a candle and watch as they come alive!

Several weeks ago KitchenAid Hong Kong got in touch with me regarding an exciting opportunity to collaborate in an upcoming campaign #CapturingTaste. They are to partner up with SONY and host a series of food photography and styling workshops, featuring creations by a talented team of local chefs handpicked by KitchenAid. Before I knew it, I've reached for an imaginary paper bag in case of hyperventilation upon receiving this extraordinary invitation. The event is slated to debut on October 30; and my assigned theme is Halloween - perfectly in time for the spooky celebration!

Flanked by a star-studded lineup of half a dozen accomplished chefs, entrepreneurs and cooking school founders, I couldn't help but feel intimidated. We were each assigned a theme and tasked to design and prepare one dish at the KitchenAid live kitchen to be the centerpiece of a professional photo shoot. Imagination is one's own limit, granted that healthful eating and sustainability is taken into account and that artificial food coloring is avoided at all cost. Sounds right up my alley!
In the weeks following, as fireworks began to set off in my brain, I delineated several routes I could take to bring Halloween to life. Do I want to go gory, gross, and scary? Nah. Spooky but cute? Maybe. Color themed with a touch of fall and fusion? Yes! Having seen crates upon crates of colorful, adorable (some adorably deformed and resembling a witch's wart-covered nose) pumpkins and squash in markets in Europe and the U.S., already I was certain that these would play a pivotal role in the presentation of my dish. All I needed was to inject creativity and a splash of orange and black.

While orange colors are rather easy to come by in the plant kingdom, black may not be as prevalent. Drawing inspirations from international cuisines and ingredients, I scoured my mind for all things naturally black in nature. Squid ink, charcoal powder, olives... and bam! Thai black glutinous rice came up in a conversation with a friend. My eyes lit up, sending sparkles throughout my brain. That is it. I am going to create a Halloween mini stuffed pumpkin duo drawing influences from Thai and other cuisines.

Black sticky rice and pumpkin are both traditional dessert ingredients ubiquitous across Thailand. I decided to steam rather than simmer the glutinous rice for a firmer and less runny consistency, and drizzle in a salty sweet coconut sauce exactly like what you'll find on sticky rice with mango desserts everywhere in Thailand. A knot of pandan leaf and just a tad of Thai palm sugar is added to the rice before steaming to infuse a hint of sweetness and that unmistakable, comforting fragrant note. Feel free to substitute the more delicate Thai palm sugar with gula melaka - the smokier, toffee-edged version of palm sugar, or brown sugar if neither is available.

Watch my mini "tutorial" on carving your own mini Jack-O'-Lanterns!

To counter the sweet treat, I made hummus - yes, I know, a little out of the blue it seems - but this is not your ordinary hummus, but a velvety smooth orange-hued pumpkin hummus with a Thai twist and unanticipated heat. A Thai red curry pumpkin hummus that you just can't stop dipping into. You can use canned pure pumpkin here, but why not make from scratch when it's so easy? Just chop, steam, and peel and in it goes into the processor. Makes a wonderful Halloween party snack, and both recipes are entirely gluten-free and vegan-friendly too! Now this is what I call a Halloween trick or treat!

Mini pumpkins and squashes

1. Cut about a quarter to a third of the pumpkins to make a lid. Scoop out all the seeds and pulp and save for other use.

Black Sticky Rice Pudding with Pumpkin
3/4 cup Thai black glutinous rice
1/4 cup white glutinous rice
1 pandan leaf
2 teaspoons Thai palm sugar, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
Boiling water

Diced Pumpkin:
120 g butternut squash

Coconut Sauce:
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/2 tablespoon white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Black Sticky Rice Pudding:
1. Combine the rice, wash and soak in water for at least 3 hours up to overnight. Drain and rinse, and place into a heatproof dish. Tie the pandan leaf into a knot and nestle into the glutinous rice. Scatter chopped palm sugar on top of the rice.

2. Add some boiling water to the dish, leaving a top layer or rice exposed. Steam for 25 minutes or until the rice is cooked but still retains a chewy and slightly crunchy texture.

3. Discard pandan leaf and stir in salt and three-quarters of the coconut sauce. Set aside and allow the rice to absorb the coconut sauce. If making ahead of time, do not mix in the coconut sauce until ready to eat. Scoop into prepared mini pumpkins, drizzle some more coconut sauce, and scatter diced pumpkin over the rice.

Diced Pumpkin:
Dice pumpkin into small cubes. Steam for 4 minutes, remove and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Coconut Sauce:
Warm coconut cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir in sugar and salt until dissolved.

Thai Red Curry Pumpkin Hummus
1 can (425 g) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
420 g butternut squash
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 1/2 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (adjust to taste)
1/4 cup coconut milk

Garnish (optional):
Paprika | Bird's eye chili, chopped | Cilantro, chopped

1. Rinse, scrape out all the seeds and pulp, and cut butternut squash into large chunks. Steam for 8-10 minutes until softened and easily pierced with a fork. Remove skin once cooled enough to handle.

2. Place chickpeas, cooked pumpkin, garlic, grated ginger, tahini, curry paste, and coconut milk in a food processor, blend, and check taste and consistency. Add more coconut milk if necessary to loosen. To increase heat, blend in half a bird's eye chili. Puree until smooth. Scoop into prepared mini pumpkins, and top with garnish.

【 萬聖「南」式生死戀 】

泰國黑糯米           3/4 杯
泰國白糯米           1/4 杯
斑蘭葉                    1 片
泰國棕櫚糖            2 茶匙
幼鹽                         1/4 茶匙
滾水                         適量

南瓜                         120 克

椰漿                         115 毫升
砂糖                         1/2 湯匙
幼鹽                         1/4 茶匙

1. 黑糯米和白糯米洗淨,用清水浸三小時或過夜。 
2. 南瓜切小粒, 隔水蒸四分鐘後撈起浸冰水。撈起備用。
3. 斑蘭葉打個小結,連同隔了水的糯米放在蒸盆內。棕櫚糖撒在面。注入滾水(隔水蒸 25-30 分鐘。
4. 椰漿用慢火煮開,加入鹽和糖,拌勻備用。
5. 糯米蒸好後把斑蘭葉拔出。拌入幼鹽和部分椰汁,靜置數分鐘,讓糯米吸收掉椰汁。
6. 食用前再淋上剩餘椰汁和撒上南瓜粒,即成!

罐裝鷹嘴豆              425 克
南瓜                           420 克
蒜頭                            3 瓣
薑蓉                            1 茶匙
純芝麻醬                   2 湯匙
泰國紅咖哩               1 1/2 湯匙
椰汁                            60 毫升

裝飾用:紅椒粉 | 指天椒(切粒)| 芫荽(切粒)

1. 南瓜去籽洗淨後切段,隔水蒸 8-10 分鐘至軟身。待涼後去皮。
2. 將所有材料放入攪拌器,高速攪打一分鐘後試味。如喜歡較辛辣的可加入半條指天椒。將混合物攪打至呈細緻泥狀。撒上裝飾,即成!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Bossam: Korean Boiled Pork Belly Wraps | 韓式水煮五花腩生菜包

Most of us would have tried Bossam (보쌈) at a restaurant before, a popular traditional Korean dish consisting of sliced pork belly that is cooked in a seasoned broth and eaten wrapped in leaves along with a variety of condiments. "Ssam" means wrap, and "Bo-ssam" means "wrapped" or "packaged." One theory has it that the word "bossam" evolved from the combination of two letters, 복 bok and 쌈 ssam, where bok means good fortune and together it would mean to wrap good luck in leaves. Now who doesn't like the sound of that?

The centerpiece of Bossam is of course pork belly, a succulent cut of pork that is layered with tender meat, fat, and rind that gives a toothsome chew. The pork is usually simmered for an hour or more in a seasoned broth. Here I am using a Fissler Vitavit® Comfort pressure cooker (2.5L) that not only significantly cuts down on cooking time, but also produces meat that is tantalizingly juicy and infused with remarkable flavor. Although this recipe is specially designed for the pressure cooker, it can also be made without one only with adjustments in cooking duration.

The ingredients used in the seasoned broth are pantry staples in any Korean kitchen: doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste), onions, garlic, ginger, etc. One rather unusual addition is instant coffee - a secret ingredient used among many Korean households in making bossam that is hardly a secret anymore. The coffee helps eliminate the sometimes undesirable porky odor; at the same time, it magically enhances the flavor of the pork without actually tasting a trace of coffee. My recipe here involves a good amount of ingredients - all of which combines to give an intense flavor enough for the pork belly to stand on its own even without any condiments. The aroma of all the spices and ingredients is absolutely sensational - and smells distinctly Korean - so don't forget to take a moment to take a whiff before putting on the lid!

Now, straight out of the cooking broth the pork belly will look somewhat drab - flavorful to say the least, but looking rather plain and nothing out of the ordinary. Boiled meat is what it is; that is what you'll usually be served in a restaurant. But if you are like me, you're gonna want to take the bossam to the next level by taking just one simple extra step. Give the pork belly a quick sear on the pan, and you will get this magnificent golden brown that not only kicks the flavor up a notch but also makes the pork belly that much sexier.

Bossam is typically accompanied with a whole host of condiments and sides. For the wrap itself, it is common to use different lettuces, aromatic perilla leaves (a.k.a. wild sesame leaves), as well as pickled or brined cabbage. Napa cabbage is soaked in salt water for anywhere between thirty minutes up to several hours to soften the leaves while preserving a sweet, tender crunch. Some typical sides and toppings include spicy oyster radish kimchi, fresh kimchi, saewoojeot-jang (salted shrimp sauce), ssamjang (Korean spicy dip for wraps and meats), sliced chilies, and raw or toasted garlic slivers. Incorporate as much as you wish, or keep it simple!

For my recipe for homemade kimchi, please click:
Traditional Korean Napa Cabbage Kimchi (Bae-Chu Kimchi)
For my recipe for kimchi fried rice, please click:
Kimchi Fried Rice (Kimchi Bokkeumbap)

That said, the ssamjang is indispensable when making any ssam. It is what gives that punch and "pow" to any grilled meats or lettuce wraps. It can be easily be store-bought, yet just as easily homemade with your own seasonings ('coz who needs another thing to take up precious space in my refrigerator?). The recipe is included below! So, are you ready to get cooking? In no time I promise you will find yourself yet another favorite go-to for potluck parties!

What you'll need...
700 g (1.5 lb) fresh pork belly, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, quartered
1 inch ginger, sliced thinly
7 plump garlic cloves
2 white parts of leeks
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons doenjang
2 tablespoon rice wine or sake
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon instant coffee
4 cups (1 L) water

Cabbage wraps:
1 small napa cabbage
1/4 cup coarse salt
3 cups warm water

1 1/2 tablespoons doenjang
1 tablespoon gochujang
3 garlic cloves, minced
Toasted sesame oil
Spring onion, chopped
Sesame seeds, toasted

1. Prepare the cabbage: dissolve coarse salt in warm water, quarter the cabbage lengthwise and submerge in the salt water. Let soak, flipping every now and then, ensuring that the leaves are completely submerged, 30 minutes up to 2 hours. Rinse and drain well.

2. Combine all broth ingredients in pressure cooker and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Add pork belly and return to a boil, observing the maximum capacity level and removing excess liquids if necessary. Then, on medium-high heat, fasten the pressure cooker lid and set the cooking display with traffic light function on level II. Reduce heat to low and set timer for 10 minutes once the green ring becomes visible.

3. When time is up, set the cooker aside to cool until fully depressurized. Unfasten the lid and remove pork belly from the broth. For enhanced flavor and color, continue with this step; otherwise, skip to the next step. Let pork belly rest and drain for several minutes. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and quickly sear the pork belly on both sides until golden brown.

4. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Prepare ssamjang by mixing all the ingredients and season to taste. Slice pork belly to desired thickness and arrange on a platter and serve warm with ssamjang, cabbage, various lettuces, perilla leaves, sliced garlic and chilies. Enjoy!!

Note: If using a regular large pot, bring broth ingredients to a boil and add pork belly. Return to a boil then cover pot with a lid and simmer on medium heat for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on size of pork belly.

【 韓式水煮五花腩生菜包 】

新鮮五花腩                       700 克
洋蔥                                   1 隻,開四
                                       1 寸,切片
蒜                                       7 瓣
大蔥(白色部分)             2 根
月桂葉                                2 片
韓國大醬                            1 1/2 湯匙
清酒                                   2 湯匙
紅糖                                   1 湯匙
黑椒原粒                            1 茶匙
即溶咖啡                            1 茶匙
                                        1 公升

旺菜                                    1 小棵
粗鹽                                    50 克
溫水                                    710 毫升

韓國大醬                            1 1/2 湯匙
韓國辣醬                            1 湯匙
蒜蓉                                    3 瓣
麻油                                    適量
蔥花                                    適量
芝麻                                    適量

1. 把粗鹽加入溫水拌勻。旺菜開四,放入鹽水醃最少半小時至兩小時,期間偶然把旺菜翻動。醃好後瀝乾水份備用。醃好的旺菜會軟中帶爽、輕微鹹中帶甜。

2.  把所有燉煮材料放入高速煲,用大火煮滾後放入五花腩。待水滾後蓋上高速鍋蓋,調校至 2 速,用中火煲至見綠環後轉慢火,計時 10 分鐘後熄火。

3. 待指示燈降至原位後小心排放剩餘蒸氣然後開蓋。想更加色香味俱全的話,可以繼續此步驟;否則可跳往下一步。把五花腩拿出來靜置數分鐘。燒熱易潔鍋,用猛火將五花腩兩邊快速煎香至金黃色。

4.  把五花腩靜置 10 分鐘。把沾醬材料拌勻再依個人喜好作調味。將五花腩切片上碟,配以韓國沾肉醬、旺菜、生菜、紫蘇葉、蒜片和辣椒即成!

備註: 不用壓力煲,可依傳統做法 — 只要把所有燉煮材料和五花腩用大火煮滾後收中慢火,蓋上煲子,視乎五花腩大小煮 45 - 60 分鐘。

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