We Made it to the “C’s!” – Cambodia!!

world_cuisine_machine_cambodiaOk, so we are a couple weeks behind schedule. A journey is prone to setbacks. Especially when Cambodia is the first of the C countries. I have to admit I was a bit intimidated by this one. So much hoisin and chile garlic. I rolled up my mental sleeves and got to shopping.

This country took me to 4 different markets. 1. 99 Ranch in Kearny Mesa where I found the most enjoyable Vietnamese sandwich after my favorite shop K’s burned down this month. There I bought rice paper and a variety of sauces. 2. North Park Market, who does not offer the rice noodle, but the egg noodle. Which led me to 3. Sin Lee Wholesale where I found the freshest and most inexpensive bunches of mint and basil, as well as packs and packs of every make and manner of rice noodles. Also picked up sweetened condensed milk for a little iced Vietnamese coffee to get me through this culinary adventure. 4. Sprouts – for when I was at Sin Lee and traveled into the meat area I was about to pass out, and could not bring myself to select and purchase shrimp without someone holding my hand. As my buddy for the evening arrived, we went to one last market together and grabbed the shrimp. After all, tofu seemed so boring.

On that note – I made shrimp! This is the first time I’ve ever peeled sea bugs, and I did it all by myself!

What we made:

Cambodian Summer Rolls that take 3 hours the first time. A watched pot never boils. Mistake 1: don’t use a stock pot to boil water – it’s just not necessary. Mistake 2: don’t blow an industrial strength fan straight at the burner. It lessens the effect of a hot flame. Mistake 3: cover said pot.

Rolls:

6 cups water

1 pound medium shrimp

6 ounces uncooked rice noodles

12 (8-inch) round sheets rice paper

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

3 cups shredded red leaf lettuce

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil

1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint

Dipping sauce:

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger

1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic

1 garlic clove, minced

To prepare rolls, bring 6 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the shrimp to pan; cook 3 minutes or until done. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Peel shrimp; chill.

Place noodles in a large bowl; cover with boiling water. Let stand for 8 minutes; drain.

Add cold water to a large, shallow dish to a depth of 1 inch. Place 1 rice paper sheet in water. Let stand 2 minutes or until soft. Place rice paper sheet on a flat surface.

Spread 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce in the center of sheet; top with 3 shrimp, 1/4 cup lettuce, about 2 1/2 tablespoons noodles, 1 teaspoon basil, and 1 teaspoon mint. Fold sides of sheet over filling, roll up jelly-roll fashion, and gently press seam to seal. Place roll, seam side down, on a serving platter; cover to keep from drying. Repeat procedure with remaining rice paper, hoisin sauce, shrimp, shredded lettuce, noodles, basil, and mint.

To prepare dipping sauce, combine soy sauce and remaining ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.

. . .

Tips: Use a large plate as the flat surface for rolling, as a wooden cutting board sticks and tears the rice paper – leading towards disaster. Also, any leftover noodles, sauce, red leaf, and herbs make an excellent stir fry the next day.

This truly was one of the best learning experiences because it opened up a whole new arena of kitchen adventure in the hot summer days to come.

Cambodia: Snuggled up to Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam. Gorgeous temples and landscape. Sadly, one of the world’s poorest countries, and still home to unexploded land mines from the Cambodian civil war. Current tensions between Cambodia and neighboring Thailand. Why can’t we all just get along?

Above photo: one roll shown because we were starving and ate them as we went.

Burundi Adventures

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Burundi – smallish country in the middle of Africa.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this site. Made a dish for Burundi and got a little sick off of it. It was a red bean and banana onion masterpiece. I simply followed an authentic Burundi recipe, and the assortment did not mix well for me.

However, I did make an amazing comeback with dessert. It was absolutely amazing, and I’m about to share the recipe with you right now.

Burundi Date and Banana Pudding

  1. Preheat oven to 350º. With electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, then flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix well.
  2. Transfer half the mixture to a baking dish (it will be sticky, so you’ll have to mold it into the dish with your fingers). Then put bananas and dates on top. Cover the mixture with the remaining dough (this will be tricky given the consistency of the dough, but just do your best).
  3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top turns a golden brown. Meanwhile, mix the sugar and cinnamon together.
  4. Remove from the oven and brush with melted butter, then sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Serve warm.

I took a little bit of this into my belly, and gave the rest to 3 of my neighbors. They were all singing praises.

For sure try this at home. : )

Burma

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This country was really hard to do. The food enticed me, with influence from Thai, Indian, and Chinese. But the longstanding severe human rights abuse and the devastation of the Rohingya people stranded at sea really made it rough to rev up an appetite. I cried a bit for this county. And waited until I felt a little better. And then made chicken stir fry with fish sauce. The end.

Burkina Faso – Riz Gras and Peace on Earth

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After a belting of a rain storm in Southern California, I took this country on solo. It was just too hot and sticky to make anything on Sunday night, so later in the week I made Riz Gras, the national dish of Burkina Faso. Translated to “fatty rice,” I opted to tone up this dish with veggies and bypass any meat. The result was a bit of a creole, and it tasted so great that I ate the whole thing meal after meal.

Here’s what I did:

I took 3 carrots, a handful of crimini mushrooms, one lean zucchini, a quarter of an onion, a few ripe romas, and diced them up to a similar size and shape each. Then, starting with the onion, followed by the carrot, squash, mushroom, and tomato, I tossed in a large skillet with middle eastern olive oil and stirred until everything looked soft and glassy, but not soggy. Then, I added a small can of tomato paste, and a small can of tomato sauce. These were the only things I had to buy for the meal. Everything else I had at home. I let my nose guide me on seasoning, with a generous dash of creole seasoning and garlic powder, followed by s&p to taste. Also, a cube or two of veggie stock dissolved into the mix, as well as the rice water, which boiled alongside. Just as the timer rang for the rice to be stirred, I added it into the veggie sauce, and let the whole thing simmer for 5-10 minutes on low.

The result was fantastic. And, as mentioned, I did eat the whole thing meal after meal, which led me to the gym and a bit of a green detox diet the following days. The rice really does stick.

Was sad to see a travel advisory for the northern half of this country, warning people not to visit due to it’s proximity with the border of Mali, the presence of violent protests, and an underlying threat of terrorism. Why can’t we all just get along? I read somewhere recently that everyone realizes the futility and nonsense of war, but each of us carries little hates and jealousies. “We expect the nations to live in peace, when we, as individuals cannot.” Therefore, my lasting dessert from this country is to rid myself completely of one nasty intolerance I feel toward one individual. This is going to take some work, but I’m up to the challenge. At least then I will know that I am free. And I’ll know that I’ve done my part to bring about peace on Earth.

 

And Hitherto We Had Been Without Balls Quite Like These

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Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 9.42.53 PMIt has the world’s largest IMAX 3D cinema, and a third of the country is forested. Bulgaria is ballsy. So my best music buddy and I got to work on a classic Bulgarian recipe of pork and beef meatballs. In truth, we wanted to make something quick, simple and meaty.

I won’t bore you with the details. I actually can’t tell you how the meatballs came to be since I don’t handle meat. But from a glance over the shoulder while dancing in my kitchen I spotted some diced onion, parsley, chopped garlic, and an egg squishing between the fingers of my meat-loving friend. I’m sure some cumin, garlic and chile powder, salt and pepper made it into the mix before the little devils got rolled up and dusted with flour.

On my chopping block were the same ingredients plus celery leaves and mealy tomatoes. These things became sauce. With the help of tomato paste. And disconnected sentences. And Willie licking my toes.

We pulled apart the bread, and toasted to another great night at my place, and tried not to eavesdrop on the neighbor’s conversation.

Highlight of the night: the look on my friend’s face when I told him what bully sticks are. Priceless. Also enjoyed watching him dance. ; )