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Cookbook of the Month June 2013: BURMA Fish & Seafood, Chicken, Beef & Pork

We've chosen BURMA: RIVERS OF FLAVOR for June.

This is the reporting thread for the following three chapters:

Fish & Seafood, p131
Chicken, p155
Beef & Pork, p177

Please remember that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

As always, have fun, and I look forward to hearing your reports.

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  1. Easy Grilled Chicken, p. 163

    I had to pinch myself, because this recipe sure felt like I was cooking from Planet Barbecue. The name sums it up nicely: it's chicken, it's grilled, it's easy. But of course there is more to it than that.

    The recipe calls for chicken breasts or legs, chopped into small pieces. It refers you to page 157 for clarification on what that means. What it means, according to page 157, is the chicken is chopped to 10 pieces per pound. So a drumstick is chopped in half, a thigh into three pieces, a breast half into 4 pieces, and so on. This is all assuming you have pieces on the bone.

    Well, I had boneless thighs, so I divided each thigh into three pieces, and that was that. The resulting pieces were larger than bite size, big enough to grill easily without worrying about them falling through the grate.

    The chicken gets marinated in a mix of salt, turmeric, red chile powder (or cayenne), minced garlic, minced ginger, and fish sauce. The recipe says to marinate for 30 minutes, but for my own timing reasons I let it go about 2 hours.

    Then you grill it. My grilling time was much shorter than stated in the recipe, partly because I was grilling boneless pieces, and partly because my grill was pretty hot. I did the chicken on a mini Green Egg, over lump charcoal, which imparted a nice smokiness on top of the flavorful seasoning from the marinade. This was an easy and tasty recipe for the grill which was reminiscent, as noted earlier, of something out of Planet Barbecue. Absolutely a keeper.

    Served with the okra-shallot stir fry on p. 102, white rice, and the tart-sweet chile-garlic sauce from p. 36.

    18 Replies
    1. re: MelMM

      Very interesting MelMM. I was drawn to this as well but I was a little reticent about the hacking of chicken. Primarily for two reasons, I am not experienced with a cleaver and I don't want to damage my cutting board or me, and also I love the flavour of bone in chicken meat but I always find it challenging to eat politely.

      Do you think there was a huge difference in flavour to for your boneless prep?

      1. re: delys77

        I love bone-in meat too, and generally do not shy away from butchering tasks. But in this case, I think most of the flavor is coming from the marinade, so I really think the boneless substitution is fine here, and much easier to eat.

        I think this could also be done with even smaller pieces on skewers for a great pass-around party dish or appetizer.

      2. re: MelMM

        This is perfect for me, Mel. I felt like Delys about hacking through bones, etc. I didn't even think about using boneless, though, and as far as I can tell most if not all the chicken recipes call for 15 pieces of chopped bone-in chicken.

        1. re: Gio

          I've been looking at those recipes that call for cutting a 2-1/2 to 3 lb chicken into 15 pieces and I'm not buying it. I have a good, heavy cleaver and I'm not the least uneasy about using it. But the idea of cutting the leg of a 2-1/2 lb chicken into 3 pieces just seems silly to me. I plan to ignore that instruction. In fact, if you read the caption on page 163 for the Easy Grilled Chicken, she says "The chicken has been left in larger pieces here, rather that being cut small." Looks good to me.

          1. re: JoanN

            Very small pieces might make sense if being eaten with chopsticks, but as far as I've understood from the book the Burmese only use chopsticks with noodles.

            1. re: JoanN

              Originally I thought this book was going to be more intimidating than it's turning put to be. I've been rethinking the recipes I intend to cook and feel as you do about the tiny pieces of meat. This opens up many more recipes that are appealing, what Delys says about chopsticks notwithstanding. That's what I'll consider from now on. Small enough for chopsticks.

              1. re: JoanN

                What I do in cases like this is make a few slashes in the piece of chicken through to the bone, but not cutting through. It gives more surface area without having to hack through the bones.

            2. re: MelMM

              Easy Grilled Chicken, p. 163

              Made this pretty much just as MelMM did, using boneless thighs (8) cut to 3-4 pieces, marinating around 2 hours. We just loved this recipe. It was very fast to put together and packed full of great flavour. I really like fish sauce in a marinade, as it seems to add an extra depth of briny savouriness to the meat. There was just enough spice in the chicken to give a touch of lingering heat on the palate as well as give a light orange colour to the pieces. While the chicken was good enough to eat alone, it was complemented nicely with the tart-sweet chile garlic sauce. Served with sticky rice and a cabbage dish. We were all longing for more meat by the time it was gone, so maybe next time I'll make extra.

              Every time I grill chicken I wonder why I don't do it more often; it's so easy! This one's going into the summer rotation.

              1. re: Allegra_K

                I love your photo, that is exactly how I think this dish should look!

                1. re: L.Nightshade

                  Thank you, and I'm glad your first "Burma" meal worked out so well for you!

              2. re: MelMM

                Easy Grilled Chicken, p. 163

                I couldn't resist this one either; had me at "easy" and "grilled." Because I had unevenly matched chicken pieces, a package of drumettes and another of thighs, I did hack away at the thighs with my cleaver. While this made for more uniformly sized pieces and easier grill timing, the hacked pieces were quite visibly *hacked*: I definitely lack cleaver skills. I probably won't be engaging in this scary practice again.

                As has already been described, said pieces get rubbed with easy-peasy marinade and grilled. I managed to overgrill them a tad (should have listened to DH on this one, but had to be my bossy self). Still, we both loved this--I w/the Tart-Sweet Chile-Garlic Sauce, DH without. His verdict: the chicken is so flavorful on its own that it needs no sauce. True, but I thought the sauce enhanced it.

                A definite repeater--but next time I'll either use boneless chicken or just grill the larger pieces.

                1. re: MelMM

                  Easy Grilled Chicken p. 123

                  Recipe for those without the book : http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012...

                  Another quick after work meal.We made ours with bone-in skin on chicken thighs. We only marinated the chicken for 30 minutes.

                  Although the chicken was quite tasty, it wasn't a stand out for us.

                  1. re: MelMM

                    Easy Grilled Chicken, page 163.
                    This dish is well-described above, so I won't repeat that information. We used boneless breasts (actually, the plan was to use breasts and thighs, but two packages of breasts were purchased by mistake). They were cut into long pieces, too big to fall through the grill. I served the chicken with the tart sweet chile garlic sauce. The chicken was on the grill a tad too long (not overdone, but not perfectly moist), as I underestimated the timing for another dish. But was still delicious. I agree that it probably doesn't "need" the sauce, but it's a lovely addition. Besides, I'll use any excuse to eat that sauce!

                    1. re: MelMM

                      Easy Grilled Chicken, p. 163

                      We made this dish with boneless skinless thighs, which made for a quick and tasty meal. This one is great for a weeknight. The marinade comes together in a flash and the recommended marination time is short, yet the flavor still packs a punch. I agree with Allegra that the fish sauce really makes a difference. Would I have preferred bone-in thighs with crispy skin? Yes, but it would have taken longer. Would I have liked to have some tart-sweet chili garlic sauce on hand to enhance the flavor? Yes. But the plain grilled thighs were still quite good on their own. I served the chicken with Andy Ricker's coconut rice (a favorite) and the charred (grilled in my case) broccoli with garlic, chile and fish sauce from Radically Simple.

                      1. re: Westminstress

                        Gosh, I'd forgotten how perfect "Burma" was for summertime cooking. Thanks for the prompt to pull this off the shelf, Westminstress.

                        1. re: Westminstress

                          I echo what Nomad has said. I'm going to have another look too. Thanks WM!

                          1. re: Gio

                            No prob! The shrimp and cucumber salad is also due for a repeat at my house....

                      2. Chicken in Tart Garlic Sauce, p.162

                        I made this tonight, using 1/2 lb. boneless thighs, and 1/2 lb. boneless breasts, cut into small pieces (probably a bit bigger than 1/2 inch as stated in the recipe). I do have a mortar & pestle and was therefore able to mash the garlic and ginger to a paste, but chopping and mashing them on a cutting board holding your knife at an angle can accomplish almost the same thing. I'm thinking this might be a step worth doing, as the resulting sauce is probably that much more flavorful than if the garlic & ginger are simply minced.

                        Speaking of the sauce...after preparing that lovely garlic/ginger mixture, I would advise adding a bit less water to your pot/wok after sauteeing the chicken. Or, alternatively, increase the amount of both the garlic and ginger by another 50%. The sauce was delicious, but I thought the full cup of water probably diluted it a bit too much. I didn't think I would be able to find "green cayenne chiles" and purchase serrano chiles as a substitute, but coincidentally found the cayennes (labeled "finger chiles") at an Indian market when buying chickpea flour. I only used 2 but should not have been so timid - we only felt a very slight bit of heat.

                        To finish, lime juice added a slight amount of tartness, but not as much as the title of the recipe suggests; again, using less water would more than likely allow the lime flavor to come through. I served this with Basmati rice, and even with my problems with the sauce (which is easy enough to fiddle with), thought the final result was quite delicious.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: lesliej

                          That looks wonderful! It's on my list...

                          1. re: Gio

                            Thanks, Gio - I got to thinking about the above discussion on cutting-up chicken pieces, and even though this recipe worked beautifully with boneless chicken, using the "drumettes" and "flat" pieces of chicken wings may be a nice alternative. They would need to cook a little longer (as she mentions) but not too long, and might would work well as "finger food". Because the sauce/broth probably wouldn't permeate pieces with skin as deeply as boneless pieces, refrigerating the finished dish overnight then reheating would probably compensate for this. Spending a few extra minutes searing to put a little color on the skin might be nice, too.

                          2. re: lesliej

                            We made this last night. My husband liked it and pronounced it "very good" but I found it pretty spicy. I too used serranos, just two and they were seeded and deveined. When I make it again I may try it with a jalapeno. I liked the flavors. I served it with couscous and a tomato an mozzarella salad it helped to temper the heat.

                            1. re: lesliej

                              Chicken in Tart Garlic Sauce, p.162

                              Despite its bland look--it and the accompanying napa cabbage stir fry made for one monochromatic plate--we liked this chicken, with its gingery punch and chile kick, quite a lot.

                              Not much to add to lesliej's report: I used bs chicken thighs, cut into pieces, the garlic-ginger-salt paste, three fresh thai bird chiles, seeded. Based on lesliej's recommendation, I decreased the water for the sauce to a scant 2/3 c, and reduced the sauce a bit before finishing with lime juice and cilantro.

                              Another quick and easy recipe that delivers big flavor from a short list of ingredients and minimal effort.

                              1. re: lesliej

                                I made this tonight and reduced the amount of water to a scant half cup and the sauce was perfect--tangy and a bit thickened. I used 4 cayenne chiles, split as recommended and it was spicy. About a half cup of cilantro mixed in brightened the colour. I'll be making this again.

                                1. re: lesliej

                                  Chicken in Tart Garlic Sauce, p.162

                                  This was a huge hit even with a slight misstep. I used boneless skinless thighs, cut into one inch pieces. I forgot to pound the garlic and ginger together. I only minced them. But, it didn't matter.

                                  It was a bit bland looking so I chopped up cilantro give it a bit of color.

                                  1. re: lesliej

                                    I liked this recipe as is. I didn't really measure anything, though I did use exactly one pound of chicken thighs and one cup of water. I thought the thin sauce was full of flavor and the highlight of the dish--delicious spooned over rice. It would be fine to use less water, but I would suggest using more garlic, ginger, lime, and salt instead, because like I said, the sauce is the best part, and also because the extra water helps ensure even cooking of the chicken. I don't think the goal here is to make a reduced sauce that clings to the chicken. And if you feel there's too much water at the very end, you can always drain it off.

                                    I have a very high spice tolerance. That said, I used five unseeded bird chiles and didn't find the dish the least bit spicy.

                                    1. re: lesliej

                                      Chicken in Tart Garlic Sauce

                                      Made this almost a week ago, but just getting around to posting. Much has already been covered above, but I was using bone-in thighs (removed the skin, cut most of the meat into 2" chunks, then chopped the thigh bone in half). Also, I used half the oil, but browned/crisped one of my reserved skins in the oil, removed it, proceeded as written. Between the added flavor/depth from the bones, and the added richness from the skin, the sauce, using a scant cup of water, seemed just about right for body to us. The overall flavors were OK, but maybe not our favorite Shan Chicken curry.

                                    2. Shrimp Curry, p. 136

                                      Another very easy dish here. Heat up some oil, toss in some turmeric, then some shallots and garlic. Stir-fry that for a bit, then add some tomatoes. That cooks down for a while, then you add water and fish sauce. Shrimp goes in, and simmers until pink, and green chiles and salt are added. Cilantro is sprinkled on top (I went heavy on it and stirred it in).

                                      This didn't seem very curry-like to me, but it was a good dish. Also very, very easy, and made with ingredients I already had on hand. Nice quick weeknight supper along with some rice and fried zucchini (from p. 125).

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: MelMM

                                        Shrimp Curry, p. 136

                                        We had this for dinner tonight--very quickly assembled, as MelMM has noted. (I started out trying to pound the shallots and garlic in my mortar and pestle, as Duguid suggests, but gave up quickly and just tossed the minced bits into the peanut oil.) I too was heavy-handed with the cilantro and thought the flavors were improved by it.

                                        We liked this fine, but tomato-forward seafood dishes will never be my favorite, even when brightened by cilantro and a squirt of lime. Not a failure by any means--we'll certainly finish the leftovers--but I guess I prefer shrimp curries with coconut milk or cream to mute the tomatoes.

                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                          Yeah, those tomatoes kinda threw me off when I first read the recipe. And I'm with you on the coconut milk. Your pic sure looks good, though.

                                        2. re: MelMM

                                          Shrimp Curry, Pg. 136

                                          We had this for dinner last night and Loved it. No, it didn't taste like Indian curry, it tasted like Burmese curry. Very easy to prep and cook as Mel and NW said. I increased the garlic, turmeric, and cilantro by just about 1/4. Deceased the water by 1/4 and used ground cayenne for the chili powder. The tomatoes were Maine "backyard beauties", organic/hydroponic... full of luscious flavor which added to the deliciousness of the sauce which we sopped up with warm naan.

                                          Served with the Smoky Napa Stir-Fry on page 115 as Ms Duguid suggests. This will be a repeat for us and I think chunks of firm white fish would do well here too.

                                          1. re: Gio

                                            Couldn't agree with you more on the fish idea. When the tomatoes are good, Burmese fish curry with tomatoes is a really nice dish, and super easy and healthy too.

                                            1. re: qianning

                                              Okay. I'll rethink the tomatoes. And wait until the good ones are at the farmers' market. Getting a late start here, but keeping a "to try" list and it keeps getting longer and longer.

                                            2. re: Gio

                                              Having a good laugh re-reading my post about the "deceased" water. Of course that's supposed to be "decreased". Thank you Spellchecker!!

                                            3. re: MelMM

                                              Shrimp Curry - p. 136

                                              We ended up making this with canned tomatoes, because the fresh ones available around here are still pretty depressing at this time of year. I think that may be the reason why the sauce part of this curry mostly just tasted of... canned tomatoes. Somehow I didn't manage to get the balance of flavours right. I know I will want to try this recipe again later in the summer, when I have fresh tomatoes and good garlic.

                                              On the plus side, I was extremely fortunate to score some fresh, live spot prawns at a very reasonable price, and used them in this dish. The prawns were outstanding, so it was by no means a disappointing meal!

                                              1. re: geekmom

                                                Oh Geekmom, where did you get the well priced spot prawns.

                                                1. re: delys77

                                                  From Skipper Otto's CSF - they had a pickup on Wednesday. Not sure if their spot prawn fisherman, Stewart, will get another chance to bring any in before the season closes.

                                                  1. re: geekmom

                                                    Interesting, I've looked into the CSF before but I was worried it would be a bit salmon heavy. Glad to hear they are adding new products.

                                            4. Katchin Pounded Beef with Herbs, p. 178

                                              Even though the "pounding" technique was somewhat problematic for me, the finished dish of deeply- flavored minced beef was delicious.

                                              I used a 1 1/4 lb. chuck-eye steak, trimmed as much surrounding fat as possible, and braised the 1" pieces in Sichuan-peppered water. There may have been too much water in the skillet, or perhaps I simmered the meat at a lower boiling point, but this process took closer to 45 minutes (which was fine because the meat needs to be tender). Then I quickly seared the cubed meat in a wok. I made the herb paste while the meat was simmering. The ginger, garlic, toasted peppercorns and coriander were easy to pulverize in my smallish mortar & pestle, but I should have separately ground the dried red chiles and peppercorns to a powder in my coffee grinder as she suggests because I COULD NOT break down the chiles into the paste...I ended up using my kitchen scissors to "mince" the chiles into the paste, making the pieces as small as I could.

                                              I ended up "shredding" the pieces of beef with two forks because I couldn't seem to successfully break it down any other way - even using the "alternative" method of pressing/pounding with a mallet. But, the end result was tasty and spicy. The two red chiles give plenty of heat (I felt sweat on my brow this time!), and the Sichuan peppers were interesting to work with (not overpowering at all - they provide a nice, fragrant mildly peppery taste). My only adjustment might have been to cut back on the salt - should have started with 1 teaspoon then added more to taste.

                                              I can see where this would be nice "served with drinks" as Ms. Duguid mentions, or as part of a selection of small plates, as it is intensely flavored (and with just 1 lb. of beef the yield is not huge). I just served it alongside rice, with her Succulent Grapefruit Salad.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: lesliej

                                                Just had a "why didn't I think of that!" moment while reading the reviews of the Lemongrass-Ginger Sliders... Allegra mentioned how using a food processor would have broken down the various ingredients faster than the mortar & pestle, and realized the processor was what I should have used to mince the beef. The spice paste could be worked into it afterwards, or processed with the meat.

                                                1. re: lesliej

                                                  I just got around to making this dish - it sure is different. I love it for its intense flavours but some may find it too strong. I used a food processor on the meat as suggested above and I think that is an excellent solutiuon. It was a bit of an adventuire finding the Sichuan pepper and the Vietnamese coriander, they are both out there but were not labelled with these terms (in Chinatown Toronto) so I had to go on visual memory from web image searches. My dish ended up with very strong Sichuan pepper taste (and slight mouth-numbing, but nowhere near as much as from the one piece I ate directly to see what it would do), and quite salty, although I am not sure if it really is all that salty or if the Sichuan pepper in part makes it seem that way. The Vietnamese coriander is unique, but I think a substitution of normal cilantro would not be a problem for those who have no access to the former.

                                                  1. re: maple99

                                                    I am happy to see that you tried this recipe and now that I've read your review I have concluded that I need to seek out a better source for Sichuan peppercorns - I found mine at Whole Foods ("Frontier" brand) but they are actually not that strong or flavorful (I think the heat in my finished dish came primarily from the chiles I used). Maybe I'll try Penzey's as I see them listed in their catalog. Glad the processor worked out for you - that is the way I will go the next time I make this.

                                                    1. re: lesliej

                                                      FWIW, I've been using the Sichuan peppercorns from Penzey's since the early days of cooking from Fuchsia Dunlop's books. To my palate they have just the right amount of the ma la/numbing effect component people look for in such a spice.

                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                        Terrific - thanks! I will definitely add them to my next order!

                                              2. Lemongrass-Ginger Sliders p.192

                                                Recipe here: http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipe/164...

                                                This seemingly simple recipe was the main dish for an all-Burmese dinner, and though it was good, there are some things I would do differently for next time.

                                                There are several different options for meat types and cuts to use in this recipe, from hand-chopped beef chuck/pork shoulder to ground pork or chuck. In my province of residence, I have never seen a cut of beef labelled "chuck", ever. (Any ideas what this would alternatively be called?) So I used a regular fatty ground beef. The beef is mixed with turmeric and set aside while the flavouring paste is made.
                                                For the paste, minced lemongrass, garlic, shallots (mincing a 1/2 c shallots is pretty time consuming!), and ginger are pounded in a mortar or a food processor. I used the mortar, and made each ingredient to a paste in order of most fibrous before adding the next one. A small amount of chilled rice, chile powder, and chopped tomatoes also add their flavours to the blend. This paste takes quite some time to break down with the mortar and pestle and if I had known how much it made I would have opted to use a food processor. The paste is blended with the meat, formed in to 1" balls and flattened to thick patties, then fried in oil until they form a nice crust. I elected to toss them on the grill and it worked just as well.

                                                I find that anytime a recipe I make has "lemongrass" in its title, I expect the finished product to be filled with the delicate scent of the herb, and am always let down. Same thing here; it needed more lemongrass flavour. I would double for next time. Also I was not a big fan of the beef and think that pork would have been better suited to these flavours, or at least a blend of pork and beef.

                                                I made the mistake of calling these "burgers" to the family, and when the tiny meat patties were presented sans buns and pickles there was much disappointed grumbling and other protests from the hungry lot. After they got over it, the patties were well received by the dining companions. I, however, was underwhelmed, and kept spooning the fiery tart-sweet chile garlic sauce over the meat in an attempt to boost the flavours. I'd like to try this again with those adjustments and see how it turns out.

                                                12 Replies
                                                1. re: Allegra_K

                                                  Besides the well written post Allegra, those little patties look perfectly shaped. Good job!

                                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                                    Beef chuck is I believe called braising steak in my corner of the world (England).

                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                      Lemongrass-Ginger Sliders p.192

                                                      I made these last night. Allegra has described the process, so just a few notes from me. I went a bit heavy on all the seasonings. I used my molcajete to make the paste, and it worked well. If you only have a small mortar and pestle, you might want to use a food processor. I used local grass-fed ground beef for the meat. I grilled them over hardwood lump charcoal on a mini Green Egg, instead of pan frying.

                                                      We really liked these. The rice in the paste was just enough to make the patties very tender. Perhaps because I had a heavy hand with chile powder, I found them well-seasoned with a pleasant, but not overwhelming heat. I would make these again.

                                                      Allegra, chuck is from the shoulder. You might check at the meat counter of your market and see if they have one of those diagrams that shows where each cut comes from and see what they are calling it where you are. A lot of butchers, even in supermarkets, have these diagrams.

                                                      1. re: MelMM

                                                        Glad you liked them!

                                                        Thanks for the info on the beef; it looks like chuck might be the same as blade. I'd like to try this recipe now with the hand-chopped proper cut and see if I would enjoy it more.

                                                      2. re: Allegra_K

                                                        Lemongrass-Ginger Sliders p.192

                                                        I decided to make a half-recipe for a lunch for DH and me. I used 1/2 Lb of ground pork. (For the red-meat averse, these could probably be made successfully with ground turkey or chicken.)

                                                        Remembering that Allegra was underwhelmed by underspiced patties, I upped the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass proportions by 50%. Otherwise, I followed the recipe except that I used Korean chile powder (of which I wouldn't have minded a bit more in the mix). I had planned to grill them but discovered we were out of fuel for the gas grill so fried them in hot oil in a cast iron skillet.

                                                        We ate these in butter lettuce "cups," with cucumber batons, sliced radish, and cilantro and drizzled with the tart-sweet chile-garlic sauce. Diet-friendly, low-carb, healthful--we felt downright virtuous upon finishing.

                                                        Wow, were these delicious. They remind me of one of my favorite apps--grilled meatballs on lemongrass skewers--served at a local restaurant.

                                                        Great summer fare: I'll be doing these again and again, next time on the grill.

                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                          Cool idea, serving them in lettuce leaves. I do believe I will steal it for the next time I make these little gems.

                                                        2. re: Allegra_K

                                                          Lemongrass-ginger sliders - p192

                                                          Just a quick note to add our experience. Mr Geek made these for dinner last night -- meatball shaped, not flattened patties -- and used a package of lean ground grassfed beef rather than chopping the meat by hand. The ginger and lemongrass flavours came through very well and the addition of rice to hold everything together was unusual and interesting (though ours were delicate and needed careful handling not to fall apart in the pan). We all thoroughly enjoyed this dish. I did find myself thinking the meatballs could benefit from a sauce and have been mulling this over; perhaps as I continue to cook from this book I'll come up with an idea.

                                                          Will definitely make again.

                                                          By the way, for those puzzling over the different names for cuts of meat such as chuck - just wanted to make sure you all know that there's a page on wikipedia for every cut of meat imaginable. I have found this extremely helpful since I live in Canada and the books I cook from seem to mostly be Australian or British. The page tells you what part of the animal the particular cut of meat comes from, the characteristics of the meat and what it's called in other parts of the world. For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_steak

                                                          (There is also this fascinating page which shows how the beef is cut in different countries around the world http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cut_of_beef)

                                                          1. re: geekmom

                                                            Super informative, thanks Geekmom. I am often perplexed by the names of certain cuts (ie. flap steak). This will be a very helpful resource.

                                                          2. re: Allegra_K

                                                            I also made these the other day and they were a big hit. It's a recipe I'll certainly be making again. I used store bought ground beef. I hadn't realised until I went to make them that I'd bought extra lean ground beef, but surprisingly the finish product wasn't dry.

                                                            To make the paste, I grated the ginger and the onion. I used an immersion blender to make it all into a paste. I liked the idea of using rice as a binder. I had used rice as a binder before, but never blended it down like this recipe.

                                                            During cooking I fried in my cast iron skillet. I also used a lot less oil, and I'm glad I did. 1/4C of oil seems a lot when likely a couple tbsp's would do.

                                                            I also agree, they needed more lemongrass. The flavour was lost beneath the ginger.

                                                            1. re: Allegra_K

                                                              I made these sliders with all pork last night, and they were just wonderful! I much preferred the delicate, sweeter flavour of the pork with these seasonings. I will definitely be making it this way again. We had this with sweet-tart chile garlic sauce, shallot-oil new potatoes, chinese kale salad w/cracklings, and cabbage-shallot refresher. It was a memorable match.

                                                              An aside: every single time I make a Burmese dish or meal, the dining companions let out a few grumbles and sighs upon hearing the menu. That is, until it is time to eat--then I hear nothing but praise and contented chewing as dinner is inhaled. These flavours are always so exciting and comforting at the same time that they are irresistible!

                                                              1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                That sounds like a wonderful meal, Allegra. My family tends to do the same -- grumbles then eats it all up!

                                                            2. saucy spiced meat and potatoes, p.181

                                                              I have had this book since Christmas but have been slow to get started. For some reason I am a bit intimidated by making all the pantry staples, although I can see that each on its own is pretty simple. Really I think I am scared of the dried shrimp. So I have started with recipes that do not require a lot of pre-work.

                                                              For this dish you fry some shallot and ginger, saute then simmer cubed potato, then add some ground beef with spices and some chopped tomatoes. I was moderately pleased with the result, which actually rather resembled a messy shepherd's pie, in that you have potatoes and spiced ground meat with some meaty sauce. The spicing from the turmeric, cumin, and coriander was underwhelming. I did not use the red chile powder from page 28 as requested, because I am lazy and because my eaters are not that into spicy, so I used a little guajillo chile powder and put Tabasco on my own serving later. The only issue I had with execution was that cooking the shallots in hot oil (medium heat) lead to rapid browning of the shallots, which was not the goal (translucent). Then after that, the potatoes (added before the water for a few minutes) did not brown at all as requested. So one heat was too hot for step one and then not hot enough for step2. Not sure it really mattered in the end, however. I served this with some grocery-store naan bread for convenience and child interest, and it was good to mop up some extra sauce. ND suggests serving with rice, which I'm sure would be good, although I personally have a bit of an aversion to putting potato on rice.

                                                              As mentioned in the recipe, this dish is more towards the Indian side of things than the Thai side. My picky kid eaters ate it, so overall, a moderate success that I would make again. An easy place to start without the pantry staples, but not really a recipe that to me seems like Burmese food as I am used to it from restaurants.

                                                              4 Replies
                                                              1. re: maple99

                                                                Saucy spiced meat and potatoes (mushrooms) - p 181

                                                                In the preamble to the recipe, ND mentions that she sometimes adds mushrooms to the dish. I took this a step further & subbed them in for the potatoes, since I didn't have any! This had the advantage of speeding up the cooking time, since I didn't have to wait for the potatoes to cook through. We liked the chewiness of the mushrooms (I used large ones, and sliced them thickly) and actually wondered if we would have liked the dish at all if it had contained potatoes instead.

                                                                I have frequently felt like I am not getting the balance of spices and flavourings quite right when I cook from this book, and this was another one of those cases. This was a pleasant, subtly spiced preparation for ground beef, but there wasn't anything especially "wow" about the recipe. If I never ate it again, I wouldn't be sad, but it was tasty enough. We served over basmati rice and with a side dish of the smoky cabbage stir-fry from p. 115.

                                                                1. re: geekmom

                                                                  I need to mention that my husband & our house guest ate the leftovers of this dish for lunch and said the flavours were terrific & more developed the second day.

                                                                2. re: maple99

                                                                  saucy spiced meat and potatoes, p.181

                                                                  I really liked this. It was pure comfort food. I made some slight changes (upping the aromatics and spices). Also, instead of potatoes, I used half a large turnip.

                                                                  There was a lot of this leftover. Since the flavor profile wasn't that different then the warming beef curry with tomato, I added some to that dish, along with the smoky napa cabbage and rice noodles.

                                                                  1. re: maple99

                                                                    Saucy Spiced Meat and Potatoes Pg. 181

                                                                    This dish along with some simple steamed rice was dinner for us yesterday. I had originally planned some veggie sides, but after a very challenging day at work I decided to just go with the single dish.

                                                                    I'm a bit torn on this one. Based on the other reviews I upped the spice by about half and went a bit lighter on the water. Overall I thought the flavours were nice and homey but a bit low key and perhaps too simple. As Geekmom says, the flavours had matured a bit when I tried it for lunch today, but it still wasn't hitting it out of the park for me.

                                                                    To be honest though, I found the dish quite unattractive. I'm not usually that fussy about appearances but the meat is essentially simmered in a bit of water, which results in a mealy grey looking mass interspersed with a bit of red and white from the tomatoes and the potatoes. I would likely saute my meat in a separate pan next time so that it has more colour and flavour before adding it to the water and potato mixture. I might also double the amount of shallots that went in at the beginning as I found the 1/4 cup called for didn't do much for the recipe.

                                                                    Overall a bit of a disappointment.

                                                                  2. Pork Strips with Star Anise Pg. 188

                                                                    As the recipe header notes, there are definite Chinese influences on this dish. So much so that my half Cantonese partner asked me if we had ever had this dish in the past.

                                                                    Essentially it is a simmered saucy stew of pork strips with tonnes of garlic, some ginger, fermented soy bean, soy, fish sauce, palm sugar water, and some star anise. There is a brief saute before an equally brief simmering.

                                                                    Overall I think this dish has good bones but I would make a few modifications for our taste. I would likely sear the meat in smaller batches, as her instructions suggest cooking over medium heat till just coloured. The result was ok but would have been better with some caramelization pre simmering. She suggests 2 star anise but I went with 3 and still wanted more flavour so I might even up it to 4. Lastly, she has you add a full cup of water and simmer for partially covered. For me this was going to look too watery so I cut back on the water and simmered uncovered and still ended up with plenty of sauce, which is definitely the star here. The salty sauce has a hint of smoke and sweetness from the palm sugar water, and that nice hit of star anise. I think if the meat was caramelized we would have a real winner on our hands.

                                                                    I also increased the recipe by about 50% and I would say that would feed a hungry family of 4 with another side or two plus rice.

                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                    1. re: delys77

                                                                      Pork Strips with Star Anise, Pg. 188

                                                                      For a tasty, quick meal this dish couldn't have been better once you get over the fact that the pork strips are supposed to be really tiny: 1 inch X 1/2 inch X 1/4inch. And frankly we just couldn't see doing that. I had a long thin pork tenderloin so sliced thin rounds crosswise. That sufficed for us. I followed the directions but substituted brown miso for the soybeans and used brown sugar instead of palm sugar. Also, I too reduced the amount of water. The sauce was just as Delys said, salty, smoky, slightly sweet and anisey. Secondary dishes were stir-fried sugar snap peas, and a salad of red leaf lettuce and tomatoes with a Thai dressing from Raising the Salad bar.

                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                        Glad it worked out for you Gio. I think the brown sugar is likely a pretty good substitute. I made the palm sugar water and just tossed the rest of it yesterday while cleaning the fridge. If I were to repeat this one I would definitely use the brown sugar or try and make a very very small portion of the palm sugar water as it doesn't seem to be used in many recipes.

                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                          Pork Strips with Star Anise, p. 188

                                                                          Made this for dinner last night with the same modifications as Gio. Used 1/2 cup water (instead of 1 cup) and thought it was super watery so after the pork was done I took it out and reduced the sauce further. The pork was a little dry and tough but I think that had to do with my pork, not the recipe. The sauce was tasty enough but I don't love the thin watery texture of these Burmese curry sauces. Wondering if anybody ever tries to thicken them up a bit? Would chickpea flour, toasted chickpea flour, or dried shrimp powder help? Appealing to the Burmese cooking experts for advice on this point (Calling QN and Mr. QN....)

                                                                          1. re: Westminstress

                                                                            FWIW, Mr QN's usual approaches to get a "thicker" Burmese curry are:
                                                                            a) Add more onion/shallots (whizzed fine in the fp) at the very beginning, and cook it down slowly, often as long as 45min-1hr. Obviously this doesn't apply to onion-less curries like this one.
                                                                            b) Do what you did, remove the meat and reduce the sauce.

                                                                            I can't think of any Burmese curries that have thickener added. Although many of the noodle soups (Mohingha, Khaut Swe & etc) do add toasted rice flour or toasted chickpea flour to the stock as a thickener.

                                                                            And remember, for most Burmese a little curry is eaten with a lot of rice....

                                                                            1. re: qianning

                                                                              Thanks ... I like to put the sauce over rice myself and think a thicker texture enables this.

                                                                              1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                Can see your point, and hope I wasn't snide in my earlier reply. Food's texture is such a cultural and personal thing, almost as much as taste sometimes, yes? Generally Burmese curries are meant to be a bit "thin" and then literally mashed into steamed rice on the plate. But if you are finding you like the flavors but not the texture, by all means, adjust to your likening.

                                                                                1. re: qianning

                                                                                  Oh, I didn't think you were snide at all. I've been struggling with how to respond to your point in a way that doesn't sound overly privileged or dismissive.... I can very much understand how, in a place like Burma where food is scarce for many, a thin sauce could have a real benefit in that it can stretch farther and flavor more rice. I'm not really in that same position, living in the U.S. where food is not scarce, and so I like to enjoy more sauce with my rice and thankfully I can afford to do that.

                                                                                  It's also interesting to know that the the sauce is traditionally mashed into the rice. If grains of rice are broken by mashing, they would release starch and particles and that might thicken the sauce a bit as well.

                                                                      2. Fish Laap
                                                                        I followed the directions subbing Yellow bean sauce for soy disk. Takes some time but each step is easy enough, except for the pounding of the fish bone which I failed to crip enough. All in all a pleasant enough dish which others might like more.

                                                                        1. Chicken Aloo, p.170

                                                                          I was drawn to this recipe based on the beautiful photograph, but have to say the flavors of the finished dish were pretty lackluster. Even though my quantities of shallots, tomatoes, lemongrass & miso paste were on the generous side, the flavors that ultimately stood out were the garnishes of cilantro and scallion greens.

                                                                          On the plus side, I used chicken drumettes, which did turn out to be a nifty substitute for chopped chicken pieces as they cook fast, and look attractive.

                                                                          1. Village Boys’ Chicken (page 156)

                                                                            After Gio’s comment ( http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9039... ) about the flavorings in her variation of this dish, this went right to the top of recipes marked to try.

                                                                            I cut up a whole 3-1/4 pound chicken; not into pieces quite as small as she suggests, but small enough (18 pieces, by the way). The chicken pieces are marinated in salt, turmeric, black pepper, and a bit of oil for 10 minutes. I marinated for probably half an hour while I finished prep and had a preprandial cocktail.

                                                                            The cooking instructions are essentially the same as for Chicken in Tart Garlic Sauce except that before adding the ginger/garlic paste, you cook 1/2 cup of minced shallots until translucent and after the first simmer you add cubed chayote and simmer for 10 minutes longer. I used four dried tian jin chiles, which soaking in water did nothing to soften. I just chopped them up, seeds and all, and thought it just the right amount of heat for me.

                                                                            I can see why there have been issues with the amount of water called for in these braises. In this recipe, she calls for 2 cups of water, about half an inch deep. In my wok, half an inch was barely more than half a cup of water. Obviously, in a large, flat-bottomed skillet you’d need considerably more. Even with only half a cup, it seemed as though there was more sauce than necessary, and it was very thin (see photo of chicken in wok). When the chicken and chayote were cooked, I added about one tablespoon of the optional fish sauce, removed the chicken and chayote from the wok, boiled down the sauce until the water was almost completely evaporated, and poured the remaining sauce over the chicken in the serving dish.

                                                                            I liked the chicken. I loved the sauce. At the last minute I decided to serve this over leftover white rice and I’m so glad I did. I kept pushing the chicken aside to gobble up every last bit of chayote and sauce-soaked rice. If I were to make this again, I’d go with cubed skinless, boneless thighs. The chicken skin is flabby and has to be removed anyway and I doubt the bones add all that much more flavor.

                                                                            7 Replies
                                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                                              So... the sauce turns out to be the star in this recipe! Thank you for the report, Joan. I notice a nice shiny cleaver in the middle photo. Now, that's what I'm interested in. I've been doing a half-hearted search for one but haven't chosen it yet. Is it scary to use? Not that I'm a wimp in the kitchen or anything. I'm interested in anything you might tell about it.

                                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                                I had inherited a cleaver from a friend years ago, but used it mostly for chopping since it wasn't sturdy enough to cut through bones. Eventually, I discovered it was more of a Chinese chef's knife than a heavy-duty cleaver. Except for buying skinless, boneless chicken thighs at Costco, I nearly always break down my own chickens. Finally decided it was time to get a heavy duty cleaver. Buttertart turned me onto Kiwi knives, which she buys in Chinatown. While I was in the store, I asked if he had a cleaver that would cut through chicken bones, and this is what he handed me. I don't think it's a Kiwi brand knife, though. The only words on it in English are "Stainless Steel Knife--Made in China." I tried to take a picture of it in case someone could translate the Chinese, but the blade is so shiny, all it did was reflect my camera, and me behind it (LOL!). Don't recall exactly what it cost, but I think it was less than $30. I love it. You do have to swing it like a hammer to cut through leg bones, for instance. But it really does the trick. I don't always manage to get the cut exactly where I want it, but my aim is getting better. And not at all scary (if you keep your other hand behind your back).

                                                                                If you don't have a good source up your way, I'd be happy to buy one for you and mail it.

                                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                                  I am completely impressed by your cleaver skills! Brave woman.

                                                                                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                    I assure you, it's not that big a deal. Just don't try to hold onto the food when you're chopping it.

                                                                                  2. re: JoanN

                                                                                    Thanks very much for your kind offer, Joan. Every now and then I think I do want a cleaver but then common sense returns and I stop thinking about it. We're doing pretty well with boneless chicken pieces and de-jointed leg quarters. I always broke down whole chickens and still do sometimes now with my heavy and quite large Wustoff, but everything is easier when the butcher does it for me...

                                                                                    1. re: Gio

                                                                                      Di niente. You know where to find me if you change your mind.

                                                                                2. re: JoanN

                                                                                  Village Boys Chicken, p. 156

                                                                                  I made this last night but didn't love it. I made a few alterations which probably negatively affected flavor. I didn't pound the ginger and garlic to a paste (no time for that) and I used whole legs and thighs, albeit small ones. I used about a cup of water and even that was too much. The sauce is quite thin, and my personal preference is for a thicker texture in a curry. Also totally agree with Joan that boneless thighs chopped into pieces are the way to go here. This dish wasn't bad or anything, but it is not a repeater for us.

                                                                                3. Aromatic Chicken from the Shan Hills, Pg.167

                                                                                  This was a full flavored chicken dish that we liked very much. The depth of flavor here comes from large amounts of garlic and ginger, spiced up with a couple of dried red chilies, onion, turmeric, lots of lemongrass, tomatoes, cilantro, and lime leaves for which I substituted lime zest and juice. All that produced a bit of sauce and juicy tender pieces of chicken.

                                                                                  I used the full 3 pounds of chicken but instead of bone-in used skinless boneless thighs and breasts. These were sliced into bite size pieces. After prepping everything and setting up the mise en place the cooking steps flow along quickly and easily. G used a wok and seared the chicken in 2 batches then stir-fried everything else in turn.

                                                                                  This could very well be a weeknight dish if the vegetable portion is prepped in advance. The only thing that was disconcerting to me was the 1 inch bits of smashed lemongrass I occasionally bit into. Other than that I really liked this and would recommend it. The second dish was the Intense Greens Salad on page 44 as suggested in the header notes. Delicious meal ... There's enough chicken left for another meal and it will be used for a chicken salad I think along with another recipe from the Shan Hills.

                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                                                    I'm pleased to read that this one's a winner....I've had this dish on my list for the last few days, but various reasons keep delaying the plans....hope to get to it soon now!

                                                                                    1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                      To help you along the way, Allegra, my husband kept saying, "Excellent!. This is excellent". So it's a winner in our house anyway.

                                                                                    2. re: Gio

                                                                                      Glad to hear you enjoyed this one Gio; this is one of my favorite dishes from this book, so happy to hear it plays well with a wider audience. FWIW, I don't usually cut the lemongrass into short pieces, instead I smash it with the side of a cleaver and then tie each stalk (6"?) into a knot, you get the flavor that way, but don't have to so much worry about stray bits of lemongrass.

                                                                                      1. re: qianning

                                                                                        Thanks Qianning! You know, I've done that smash & tie with lemongrass in the past but that direction was part of the recipe. Last night I didn't even think about it and simply followed ND's direction. Next time for sure...

                                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                                          So true isn't is, I've so often followed directions in recipe when I knew darn well there was a better method....but then again, sometimes my hunch is wrong....but in this case at least, I'm sure it will work.

                                                                                        2. re: qianning

                                                                                          Thanks from me, too. I'd forgotten about the smash and tie technique and was also a annoyed about having to fish out bits of lemongrass from Village Boys' Chicken. Writing it in the book so I don't forget again.

                                                                                        3. re: Gio

                                                                                          Aromatic Chicken from the Shan Hills Pg. 167

                                                                                          Thanks to Gio for the lovely summary above. I proceeded much as she did except that I did finally try my hand at butchering the bone in chicken into small pieces.

                                                                                          I hauled out an older chopping block that I use as a back up since it has a few marks on it already so I wasn't worried. I let loose with my cleaver and was surprised by how well it went. Took a bit of time to do so I am not sure I would try my hand at it again, but I did find that the bones made for succulent and juicy chicken and a deeper flavour in the sauce.

                                                                                          I also had some kaffir lime leaves, but not quite as much as was called for so I added a squirt of lime juice like Gio. Overall I found the lime leaves added a very nice note but I might leave them whole next time and remove along with the knotted lemon grass as I found the leaves didn't quite cook down.

                                                                                          That said this was a beautiful dish with a lovely sauce which was extremely flavourful from the huge amount of garlic and ginger. I might add a bit more chile next time as my two dried chilies only contributed a little heat and I think a touch more would be nice. Served with steamed rice and a vegetable side this makes a lovely meal that resonates South East Asian cuisine with a well balanced flavour profile.

                                                                                          PS the picture didn't turn out super well as I was rushing to get dinner on the table.

                                                                                        4. Egg Noodles with Pork in Coconut Sauce, p. 248

                                                                                          This was a nice, hearty dish with contrasting textures of freshly cooked and crispy fried noodles in a creamy, spicy sauce.

                                                                                          Since the broth was an optional ingredient, I didn't make it (or use any broth, but I can appreciate how warm sips between bites could enhance the experience of the dish). Instead of pork shoulder, I cut pork tenderloin into pieces, and had them sit in the turmeric and fish sauce while preparing the shallots, garlic and chiles (because the meat doesn't have a long cooking time I thought tenderloin would work at least as well as shoulder, which I believe it did). I pounded the shallots as best I could in the mortar (a generous 1/4 cup), but processed the garlic (again, a generous tablespoon - probably closer to 2) and chiles in my mini processor. As an aside, I'm not sure if soaking the chiles was necessary...and, if you want a bit more heat don't be afraid to use three - the coconut milk rounds out and softens the spices (salt is definitely needed here, in fact, if you don't want to add more fish sauce).

                                                                                          The spices, pork and broth come together quickly on the stove, making this another fairly easy dish if you have made your toasted chickpea flour, shallot oil, and the various accompaniments ahead of time (although using vegetable oil to toss with the cooked egg noodles would be fine as the finished dish has so many flavors going on). Since I didn't have shrimp paste, I used an extra dash of fish sauce to coat the pork, and set out my shrimp powder as another "accompaniment". The chile-oil (I used store-bought) is a nice compromise for those who want to drizzle on more heat if you are hesitant to saute an additional red chile with the pork.

                                                                                          The recipe says it serves six, but those would be fairly small servings. My husband & I had it for dinner (just the two of us) and he took the leftovers to work with him today.

                                                                                          So, my advice is to be generous with all the spices as they are mellowed out quite nicely with the coconut milk, and try to offer all of the accompaniments - when you happen to get a taste "with everything" it's well worth it.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: lesliej

                                                                                            Thanks for your description and lovely, bright, photo of this dish. Very helpful and also very inviting. One more on my list. Will I ever make it though the list?

                                                                                            1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                                              Thank you! I love using coconut milk. And, after reading geekmom's recent review of Saucy spiced meat and potatoes I have to agree that as far as spices go, "more is usually better" when it comes to many of the recipes in the book (this one included).

                                                                                          2. Fluffy Lemongrass Fish Pg. 138

                                                                                            This was on the menu for last night and we quite liked it. While we enjoy fish, both my partner and I are the type of people who are quite picky about it and often object to dishes perceived as "fishy". This dish definitely didn't fall into that category as the results are aromatic from the seasoning paste with only a hint of the aroma of the sea.

                                                                                            We used halibut steaks which are poached in a bit of water with salt and turmeric, then removed from the poaching liquid, deboned, and flaked.

                                                                                            Meanwhile I pounded my shallots, lemon grass, ginger, and garlic in a mortar and pestle which when it is ready goes into about 1/4 cup of peanut oil in the wok with a pinch of turmeric. Once this is cooked through you simply add the flaked fish and warm through, finishing with a bit of fish sauce. Before plating stir in some lime and fried shallots and serve.

                                                                                            The result is a lovely little fish dish that is very reminiscent of dishes I've eaten while travelling in South East Asia. The lime definitely brings it together, and the paste of shallots and company gives the fish a huge punch of flavour. I would suggest adding a bit of coarse salt when grinding so as to help break down the other ingredients, and also this will help season the dish which I found needed a good hit of salt when it was plated. I would also up the lemongrass a bit, but this is relative since I love lemon grass.

                                                                                            Overall I would definitely say this is easy, flavourful, and healthful, defininitely a keeper!

                                                                                            Ps. served with rice and green bean salad with roasted peanuts.

                                                                                            17 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: delys77

                                                                                              Just lovely. Everything about it. And now high on my to-try list.

                                                                                              1. re: delys77

                                                                                                Hi delys, I was planning to make this dish before the end of the month - your review & photo have definitely moved it up to the front of the line!! One question...when pounding the lemongrass, how much did it "break down"? My only experience with fresh lemongrass was when making the Chicken Aloo (which also could have used more - I found out I loved it, too!), but I'm just wondering how small the pieces were after you minced & pounded them (or is the point simply to infuse the shallots, ginger & garlic with the lemon flavor?). Again, it looks and sounds simply delicious.

                                                                                                1. re: lesliej

                                                                                                  Hi Leslie

                                                                                                  Good question, I love lemon grass, but I'm very sensitive to grit in my food so I'm usually super careful with it. For me what works best is to peel off a bit more of the coarse outer layer than I think is necessary until I'm positive I've reached the tender centre of the stalk.

                                                                                                  I usually mince as finely as possible and then I mash the hell out of it with a very large stone mortar and pestle I bought in Indonesia. It was a hassle to backpack with a rock in my pack but whenever I need to use a mortar and pestle I'm glad I have it as it does a fabulous job. I've attached a picture as I have seen a few similar mortars here in North America.

                                                                                                  1. re: delys77

                                                                                                    That's certainly a beautiful mortar & pestle...worth the sacrifice of carrying it in your backpack, I'd say! I will eventually have to get a larger one for my kitchen - I think I get more satisfaction out of pulverizing certain ingredients by hand than using a food processor (and easier clean-up!). Thanks for the tip regarding the lemongrass; I was able to find fresh stalks in my Asian grocery but now that I have a better understanding of the herb I will make sure I peel away more of the outer layers for this recipe.

                                                                                                    1. re: lesliej

                                                                                                      Leslie, just wanted to tell you of another method of dealing with lemongrass stalks as Qianning reminds us upthread. It's quite simple involving smashing the stalk a bit then tying the stalk in a loose knot. Sounds difficult but is really easy after the stalk has been softened...


                                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                                        Thank you - I appreciate these tips & techniques as I now plan to use lemongrass more often in my cooking... I can imagine using it when poaching fish, making sauces, soups, etc.

                                                                                                    2. re: delys77

                                                                                                      That mortar and pestle is gorgeous! (Your kitchen counters and cabinets look beautiful too.) It's wonderful to have something that lovely, and with a history, that really does the job right.

                                                                                                      1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                                                        Thanks LN, it is definitely my favourite room in the house.

                                                                                                  2. re: delys77

                                                                                                    Fluffy Lemongrass Fish, p.138

                                                                                                    This dish is as tasty as delys describes, and a really wonderful way to prepare fish - we really enjoyed it! For two servings, I used a 12-oz. halibut filet, but didn't reduce the amount of seasoning ingredients (shallot, ginger, garlic, lemongrass). In fact, along with using (very finely minced) lemongrass in the flavoring paste, I tossed a piece of lemongrass which I had smashed & tied in with the poaching liquid...thanks to Gio, qianning & other posters who described this technique. Speaking of technique, delys suggestion to add coarse salt to your mortar & pestle when pounding the shallots, etc, was a brilliant idea - I used about 1/2 teaspoon.

                                                                                                    My only other suggestion would be that if using a filet, as I did, be very careful with the initial poaching (even under-cooking the fish a bit) to avoid having it fall apart too much when stirring it into the aromatics (the larger pieces, as seen in delys photo, are more attractive than small flakes!). I served it with rice as well.

                                                                                                    1. re: lesliej

                                                                                                      Leslie's I'm glad you enjoyed it. The lemongrass in the poaching liquid sounds like an excellent idea.

                                                                                                    2. re: delys77

                                                                                                      Fluffy Lemongrass Fish, Page 138.

                                                                                                      Don't have much to add to the description delys posted above. I used steelhead trout, which I had my doubts about, but it worked out just fine. I tried the method of pounding out the lemongrass (with a ball peen hammer, no less) and tying it into knots. I used three stalks instead of two. Everything else, just as written. Lovely, easy, quick dish. I'm happy to be finding so many flavorful dishes I can throw together after work.

                                                                                                        1. re: delys77

                                                                                                          Thank you delys!
                                                                                                          The next day I mixed the leftover fish with the leftover smoky napa cabbage, and ate it cold like a salad. Very nice!

                                                                                                          1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                                                            Hm that would be very interesting. Glad to hear it worked well

                                                                                                      1. re: delys77

                                                                                                        Fluffy Lemongrass Fish, p. 138

                                                                                                        I made this over the weekend as part of a Burmese dinner. I used 1.5 pounds blackfish fillets and underpoached them a bit at first, which was a good idea as they cooked more a bit later. Used my mini-processor to break down the aromatics. They didn't turn into a paste, just a fine mince, but they cooked down in the pan so that turned out to be fine. Concur as well that it needed a bit more salt than as written. Adding my accolades to others - this was a tasty and easy dish, which everyone enjoyed. Served with coconut rice and a snap pea-tomato salad.

                                                                                                        1. re: delys77

                                                                                                          Fluffy Lemongrass Fish (page 138)

                                                                                                          I was waiting for my farmers market fishmonger to have halibut, as he often does, but for some reason he hasn't lately so I went ahead and tried this with frozen Mahi-Mahi from Costco. Big mistake. The flavors were marvelous, but the fish was unbelievably chewy. Not sure what that was about, since I've used this fish often in many different preparations with great success.

                                                                                                          Anyway, the potential of this dish was clear and I'll definitely be trying it again when I can find fresh halibut. I served it with Lima Beans [Edamame] with Galangal, which were terrific and which I reported on here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9039...

                                                                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                            Found a lovely, large fillet of wild Pacific halibut at Costco and grabbed it specifically to make this dish again. Like night and day. I knew I loved the flavor, but this time the fish, too, was simply marvelous. Lesson learned. At least with this recipe, use the fish recommended.

                                                                                                        2. Fish balls and fish cakes (I apologize, not sure on the page number as I'm working from an online source)

                                                                                                          I opted to go the fish cake route with this recipe, as I wasn't making the coconut sauce noodles. As a fish cake on their own I didn't find the finished product particularly appetizing.

                                                                                                          The dish was simple to make, it involved little prep but created some irritating clean-up (I used a blender as I don't own a food processor, which was where the irritating clean up came in). They also smelled wonderful once all the fish and the aromatics were pulsed together. I portioned them into 1 tbsp sized balls and gently patted into small cakes. I ended up with 17 cakes from a double batch, which the recipe says you should get out of a single batch.

                                                                                                          My real issues with this recipe were the cooking method for the fish cakes. Shallow frying them left them a little greasy, even after ample draining. I enjoyed my first few bites, but with each one the cooking oil tasted more apparent than the last until I decided I no longer wanted to put them in my mouth. They also didn't look all that pretty.

                                                                                                          Although I will not make these again as a fish cake, I think I would make them into the fish balls to be poached and served with the coconut sauce noodles as suggested. The beautiful aromatic qualities of this dish are enough to stop me from loosing hope for it yet!

                                                                                                          1. Warming Beef Curry with Tomato (pg. 184)

                                                                                                            Another comforting dish out of this book. The recipe calls for 1 lb of stew beef, cut into one inch pieces. Marinate (from 30 minutes to 2 hours) the pieces with salt, turmeric, tomato, ginger, shallots, chile powder and oil.

                                                                                                            Anyway, you stir fry the beef and add 4 cups of water. Simmer for 2 hours until the beef is tender. I also added in half a leftover turnip and sliced mushrooms to the recipe.

                                                                                                            For whatever reason, I used the recommended amounts. Next time, I would increase the spices and salt. I would also use a bit more beef. Also, I would use a lot less water then called for. The 4 cups diluted the spices.

                                                                                                            The beef was tender and had a nice flavor. The broth could have used a bit more flavor. And, there was way too much of it for the amount of meat (and turnip and mushrooms). But I doctored up the leftovers with other dishes leftover from the past few days. I just threw the leftovers into the pot and added either rice noodles or just rice. The various leftovers that went in included smoky napa cabbage, simmered cabbage, shan style, saucy spiced meat and potatoes and tumeric eggs.

                                                                                                            This stew was a good base for a bunch of other dishes.

                                                                                                            1. Kachin Chicken Curry, page 159.

                                                                                                              Another winner, and, for me, a much quicker dish than the recipe implies. I used boneless chicken breast, as that is what I had on hand, each cut into three pieces. The recipe is online here if you don't have the book:

                                                                                                              The chicken starts out with a rub in a paste of garlic, ginger, salt, chiles, coriander, and turmeric. It sits in the paste "while you organize your cooking method." I cooked the chicken on a plate in a bamboo steamer over a wok. The recipe calls for steaming until it's cooked through, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. That is with small pieces of chicken, but on the bone. Ours was done in about 15 minutes. Perfectly done and succulent! The recipe calls for topping it with scallion greens or chopped cilantro. I had garlic greens, and used those together with the cilantro. Delicious. Plus, quick and easy, at least with the chicken breasts that I used.

                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                                                                Oh that's wonderful! I have the recipes on my list for next Wednesday so your report is very timely for me, LN. Thank you!

                                                                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                  I'll be interested to hear how your timing works out!

                                                                                                                  1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                                                                    I'll be using boneless chicken breasts as well... so we'll see. I intend to steam the chicken on large lettuce leaves, set into a large steamer basket with no center post. My daughter absconded with my bamboo basket otherwise I would use that. (she "shops" the house when she visits, LOL)

                                                                                                                2. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                                                                  A friend made this for me when the book first came out and we couldn't get over how delicious it was. I need to make this, and soon!

                                                                                                                  1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                                                                    Kachin Chicken Curry, p.159

                                                                                                                    The steaming method of cooking this dish intrigued me as much as anything, and my experience was the same as LN's; the pound or so of boneless chicken breasts I used were done in 15 minutes! I placed an 8" soup/cereal bowl inside my stockpot's shallow metal steamer basket, although I'm interested to hear how Gio's dish turns out using lettuce leaves; eliminating the bowl would provide the area needed to steam additional chicken pieces. I agree - this was another delicious recipe!

                                                                                                                    1. re: L.Nightshade

                                                                                                                      Kachin Chicken Curry, Pg. 159

                                                                                                                      Here I am with 4 large thumbs up for the chicken curry. We had to push it up to Thursday because of a gift of fish on Wednesday. Also, because we got started late, 2 hours late, we quickly mixed the paste ingredients together in the MFP, cut up chicken breasts, mixed it all together, dumped it onto a pie plate, then set that into a steamer basket sans lettuce leaves. The chicken was done after 15 minutes. Garnished with minced cilantro. In the meantime I quickly prepped 2 bok choys and G wokked them a la the Smoky Napa Cabbage recipe. Delicious meal all around...

                                                                                                                    2. Poached Fish Salad with Shallots and Herbs, Pg. 71

                                                                                                                      Each recipe just keeps getting better and better, thankfully. This salad was delicious! Not only is it delicious but there are several options for fish and cooking methods. Having a choice between trout, haddock, tilapia, salmon, sea bass I chose tilapia because that's what G brought home.

                                                                                                                      The fillet is poached in very little water for a short time then set aside to cool. When ready to serve place fish into a serving bowl and flake into bite size pieces. A dressing of sliced shallots, lime juice, fried shallots, shallot oil, a little salt, chopped green chili, and cilantro is poured over the fish. That's it!

                                                                                                                      Wonderful flavor from the fried shallots and oil, and the chopped chili I used was a long thin green one with just the right amount of heat. The secondary dishes were stir-fried beet greens using the Chinese kale recipe on page 54 as a template, and Fried Rice with Shallots on page 226. Really great dinner I've used up my fried shallots so must make more of them ASAP.

                                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                        Poached Fish Salad with Shallots and Herbs, Pg. 71

                                                                                                                        Revisited this recipe last night in the middle of a horrid heat wave. We wanted something quick and easy with a short cook time and this was perfect. This time I use a thick large salmon fillet enough for two. Instead of serving the fish on its own as per the recipe I used leftover cold Japanese noodle salad with blanched zucchini as a base then placed the salmon atop.

                                                                                                                        The verdict: scrumptious. The salmon was perfectly cooked... tender and juicy, the timing is just right here, and went very well with the noodles. The flavors of each enhanced the other. I've learned that I absolutely love this kind of poached fish.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                                                                          Thanks! This one is on my heat wave list as well.

                                                                                                                      2. Minced Chicken with Galangal and Tomato, p. 166

                                                                                                                        Never having tasted galangal, I was curious to try this dish, but I found I didn't care for its pungent flavor. After doing some research I found out I used the "lengkuas" variety which posesses a sharp "pine" aroma & taste. There is a second variety as well, "krachaai", which is supposed to have characteristics of pepper and ginger, but since ND describes galangal in the glossary as having an "earthy resinous flavor" I was pretty confident I was using the one she was referring to. Regardless, it was a bit too overwhelming (to me). I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, so if you enjoy galangal the only thing I would suggest is possibly cutting the chicken into strips and browning them with the oil and seasonings before adding the tomatoes - this would make for a more attractive finished dish served over rice.

                                                                                                                        1. Sweet-tart pork belly stew p. 189

                                                                                                                          Another fairly quick and easy recipe from this book. This one makes a beautiful yellow stew.

                                                                                                                          To make, sliced pork belly is simmered in water with turmeric, salt, and lemongrass. She calls for smashing the lemongrass into 1" lengths, but as recommended by others, I knotted the lemongrass so it was easier to pull out. It's also a lot of water for a relatively small amount of pork, so I cut back on that a bit. For the pork, she doesn't mention that it should be skinless, but the notes below discuss making cracklings, so I assumed it shouldn't be left on.

                                                                                                                          After the pork is cooked, shallots and garlic cloves are added and it boils for another 15 minutes. I was shocked by the amount of garlic called for, but it wasn't overwhelming in the final dish. The shallots I had were huge, so I sliced into coarse chunks rather than halving or quartering. A souring agent is then added and it boils for 10 more minutes before cilantro is stirred in. She gives a choice between hibiscus buds, lime juice, or green tomatoes and mentions that tamarind could also be used to sour it. I went with lime juice.

                                                                                                                          The pork was nicely cooked and the dish wasn't too fatty for us. The turmeric made it very yellow. It had a nice depth of flavor with the lemongrass, lime juice, garlic, and shallots. I served with the Broccoli Rabe with Pork Cracklings recipe discussed immediately below.

                                                                                                                          1. Now that I've gotten rid of some cookbooks I may allow myself to buy one, and this is high on my wish list so I'm jumping into this thread.