Asian Mash-Up: Indian Influenced Char Siu Pork with Baby Bok Choy

Indian Char siew

The piece de la resistance of the Spicebox Supperclub’s Asian Mash-Up was a brilliant fusion of Chinese and Indian flavors in Chef Nalin’s Indian Influenced Char Siu Pork.  Most of you have probably seen char siew hanging in the window of a Cantonese barbecue shop– bright red glistening planks of pork.  It’s a common starter at Chinese banquets and also often served, handily, in Chinese barbecue pork buns.

Wikipedia had this to say about char siu:

“Char siu” literally means “fork burn/roast” (char being fork (both noun and verb) and siu being burn/roast) after the traditional cooking method for the dish: long strips of seasoned boneless pork are skewered with long forks and placed in a covered oven or over a fire[citation needed].

In ancient times, wild boar and other available meats were used to make char siu. However, in modern times, the meat is typically a shoulder cut of domestic pork, seasoned with a mixture of honey, five-spice powder, hóngfǔrǔ (red fermented bean curd), lao chou (dark soy sauce, 老抽), hoisin sauce (海鮮醬), red food colouring (not a traditional ingredient but very common in today’s preparations and is optional) and sherry or rice wine (optional). These seasonings turn the exterior layer of the meat dark red, similar to the “smoke ring” of American barbecues. Maltose may be used to give char siu its characteristic shiny glaze.

Chef Nalin’s version added a few Indian spices: aamchoor (green mango powder), anardana (dried pomegranate seeds powder), cumin and garam masala, which added a wonderful depth to the otherwise sometimes cloying sweetness of the char siu.  He also omitted the red food coloring, which made his version perhaps less recognizable, but more appetizing (and less toxic!).  The Chef paired his expertly roasted char siu with a classic and light side, stir-fired baby bok choy, enlivened in true Spicebox Supperclub style with some heat.  It was delicious, or as one would say in Cantonese, 好食 hóusihk!

BBQ Pork Recipe (Char Siu/Char Siew/蜜汁叉烧) Indian Style

(Adapted from Rasa Malaysia)

Ingredients

1 lb pork roast (cut into pieces ½” thick), trim excess fat

3 clove garlic (finely chopped)

1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil

Char Siu Sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine

3 dashes white pepper powder

1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon aamchoor

1 teaspoon anardana powder

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon garam masala

Method

Add all ingredients in the char siu sauce in a sauce pan, heat it up and stir-well until all blended and become slightly thickened and sticky. (It will yield 1/2 cup char siu sauce.) Transfer out and let cool.

Marinate the pork butt pieces with 2/3 of the char siu sauce and the chopped garlic overnight. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil into the remaining char siu sauce. Keep in the fridge.

The next day, heat the oven to 375 degree F and roast the char siu for 15 minutes (shake off the excess char siu sauce before roasting). Slice the char siu into bite-size pieces, drizzle the remaining char siu sauce over and serve immediately with steamed white rice.

Need approximately 35 minutes with more sauce glazed at 20 minutes.

Wok Seared Baby Bok Choy with Chili Oil and Garlic

Spicy red chili oil delivers its pure bold flavor to a quick stir-fry of baby bok choy. Accented by nutty sesame seeds, assertive garlic and spicy red pepper flakes, this side dish perks up a midwinter meal.

Ingredients

1 Tbs. sesame seeds

4 heads baby bok choy, about 1 lb. total

1 1/2 Tbs. canola oil

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Sea salt, to taste

1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 tsp. Asian chili oil

Directions

In a dry small fry pan over medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until golden brown and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool.

Cut off the tough base from each head of bok choy. Separate the heads into individual stalks by snapping the stalks away from their cores.

In a wok or a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the canola oil. When it is hot and shimmering in the pan, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, tossing and stirring constantly, until fragrant but not browned, 20 to 30 seconds. Add the bok choy and a pinch of salt and cook, tossing and stirring, until the bok choy just begins to wilt, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the broth and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bok choy is just tender and the broth evaporates, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chili oil, stir well to coat the bok choy and remove from the heat.

Stir in the sesame seeds, transfer the bok choy to a warmed serving bowl and serve immediately. Serves 4.

These recipes were part of the Asian Mash-Up menu, presented by Chef Nalin.

This is the final post from our inaugural meal.  Thank you for coming by!  Check back in a few weeks, when we have our next supperclub with new hosts, a new theme, new recipes and some new adventures!

Asian Mash-Up: Lychee-Plum Soju Sorbet

lychee

This fruity sorbet was served as a palate cleanser before the main course.  The soju, or Korean distilled grain alcohol, used to spike this was difficult to detect.  Chef Nalin later revealed its potency:

For the lychee-plum ‘sorbet’, it couldn’t be easier. Fragrant, soft, fruits do well with this treatment. I peeled some plums (both yellow and red), diced them, and then cut up some lychee. I froze the fruit pieces and then when it was time, blended them along with fridge-cold Korean soju (about 2:1 ratio of fruit to soju). For a previous dinner, I cut up some peeled grapes, froze those and blended them with white wine, which was also nice. This time, I wanted to use soju because I haven’t used it before, and I fit with the theme. Also, its 20% ABV(!), which may have contributed to the general merriment around that time of the evening.

The soju, which turned this from a palate cleaner into a boozy interlude, was also a Proustian madeleine for the chef, for whom it recalled the ill-fitting powder-blue suit jacket he was forced to wear in an elegant, “jackets required” restaurant at the tender and vulnerable age of 16.

A formative or traumatizing experience– you decide.

This was part of the Spicebox Supperclub’s Asian Mash-Up menu.

Asian Mash-Up: Kimchi Sesame Noodles

soba

The Spicebox Supperclub normally reveals its recipes on Tuesdays, but this is a perfect dish for Meatless Mondays, hence our early appearance.

Last week, we enjoyed a fusion of Japanese and Indian flavors with a delicious salmon course.  The salmon course was followed by a spicy chaser– these Kimchi Sesame Noodles.  Notice the zippy chutney in the corner of the photo– we all decided it went well with everything and kept it on hand for the courses that followed.  Chef Nalin told us that his family had a grand time trying out a variety of noodles for this dish– ramen, somen, udon and others.  They all lend a different texture and flavor to this dish, so you can really use any noodle you prefer.

Kimchi Sesame Noodles

Recipe by Chef Nalin

Ingredients

1/2 pound dried somen or udon (Japanese wheat noodles)

1 1/2 cups kimchi, chopped

1 tablespoon kimchi juice from the jar, or more to taste

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

Salt, optional and to taste

2 scallions, thinly sliced

Procedures

Bring a pot of water to boil and boil the noodles according to package directions, 7 minutes in my case. Drain the cooked noodles and run under cold water until cool.

In the meantime, chop the kimchi and combine it in a bowl with the sugar, vinegar, and kimchi juice. Add the cooked noodles and the sesame oil, and toss to combine.

Season to taste with salt (kimchi is already quite salty) and top with scallions.

This is part of the Asian Mash-Up menu, presented by Chef Nalin.

For another kimchi dish you might enjoy, try SpiceboxTravels’ Kimchi Fried Rice.  What are some other ways you enjoy kimchi?  What is your favorite Asian noodle?

At this point in the dinner, the Spicebox Supperclub has already visited the flavors of Singapore, India, Japan and now, Korea.  Check back next week to see where our palates will go next!

Asian Mash-Up: Miso-Ginger Salmon with Sumeshi and Sweet Soy Glaze, served with Indian Mint-Cilantro Chutney

salmon

This is where the mash-up really began.  We started with the Singapore Sling, the iconic cocktail of multicultural Singapore, followed with traditional South Indian street food, and had miso soup made in the classical Japanese tradition last week.  This week’s post highlights the first course to combine these different cultures, with a Japanese miso-glazed salmon served along with an Indian condiment.  It may not sound like an obvious combination, but like many unexpected pairings, the sum is greater than its parts.

The traditional Japanese recipes were all from Serious Eats.  As part of the mash-up, we enjoyed it with an Indian mint and cilantro chutney; not just any chutney, but Chef Nalin’s family recipe, which he was so kind (after some prodding) to share with the Spicebox Supperclub and our readers.

Miso-Ginger Salmon

Ingredients

1/4 cup white miso

1/4 cup mirin

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons minced green onions

1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger

2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

4 salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Procedures

In a small bowl, whisk together the first 7 ingredients until smooth. In a small baking dish, cover the salmon fillets with the marinade and turn a few times to coat. Cover and marinate for 30 minutes, turning occasionally.

Remove the fillets from the marinade and season with salt and pepper. Preheat a grill (or broiler). If using a grill, grill the salmon skin-side down until the skin is golden and crisp, about 3-4 minutes, then turn over and grill an additional 3-4 minutes. If using a broiler, broil skin-side down without flipping, until the salmon is cooked through and well-caramelized on the top, 4-5 minutes. Serve with rice.

Note: Use 1/2” thick salmon fillets; raise from bottom of pan to prevent fish from getting soggy.

Sumeshi – vinegared sushi rice

(posted by J. Kenji López-Alt, July 13, 2010 at 9:00 AM, Serious Eats)

Make sure that the rice vinegar you are using is not labeled “seasoned” rice vinegar, which already has sugar added to it. I like my rice relatively highly seasoned, but the sugar and vinegar levels can be adjusted to taste.

Ingredients

3 cups short grain sushi rice

3 1/3 cups water

1 piece of konbu, about 4 by 3 inches (see note)

3/4 cup rice vinegar (see note)

1/2 cup sugar

3 teaspoons kosher salt

Procedures

Place rice in fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water, gently agitating with hands until liquid runs clear. Add rinsed rice and water to rice cooker and cook. Alternatively, place in a heavy-bottomed 2 quart saucepot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, turn heat to lowest setting, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

Meanwhile, combine konbu, vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar and salt are dissolved.

Transfer rice to a 13-inch by 9-inch nonreactive casserole dish (like a pyrex) and spread gently into an even layer using a rice paddle. Aim a fan set to low directly at rice and keep it running during the rest of this step. Carefully sprinkle 3/4 of vinegar mixture over rice by drizzling it over the back of the rice paddle. Combine the rice and vinegar by gently folding it in with a cutting motion, being careful not to bruise or crush any rice grains. Taste rice and, if desired, add more of vinegar mixture. Continue fanning rice and folding until rice stops steaming and grains have achieved a slightly glossy texture that just sticks together when you squeeze them. Keep sushi rice at room temperature covered in a clean damp dish towel, or plastic wrap pressed directly against its surface.

Sweet Soy Glaze

Ingredients

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 cup sake

1 cup sugar

1-inch knob ginger, roughly sliced

2 garlic cloves, roughly sliced

2 scallions, roughly chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Procedures

Combine the soy sauce, sake, sugar, ginger, garlic, and scallions in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook until sauce is syrupy and reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 20 minutes. Strain and discard solids. Reserve sauce.

Mint-Cilantro Chutney, Chef Nalin’s family recipe

The ‘green chutney’ is a ubiquitous one in Indian food. The classic type is the ‘pudina’ or mint chutney variant. Its a blended mixture of herb (mint), onion, lemon, garlic, ginger, and green chili if spiciness is desired. The spices that give it the flavor are cumin, aamchoor, salt, and sugar. The details are as follows:
Even though mint is in the name, if one only uses mint, it seems overpowering. So, most people use cilantro along with mint to balance the flavors. I used one bunch mint and two bunches of cilantro. Its a little tedious, but I only use the leaves since the stems tends to make it little too fibrous for my taste. If possible, use the smaller mint leaves since the large ones have veins that are tough. One can make it only with cilantro which is quite nice. I use the juice of one whole lemon, along with half an onion. More lemon is fine, just makes it more ‘citrusy’. Thumb-sized piece of ginger, but best to grate and discard the fibrous parts. Some sweetness should balance the tart flavors. One can use a little brown sugar, but I noticed that Sukhi’s at the Farmer’s Market use apple in their commercial type they sell and I’ve started using about 1/2 an apple. Adds a mild degree of sweetness, and contributes to the consistency.
For spices, you need some salt, usually to taste. The cumin is important. I use smoked cumin (1/2 tsp) which is more intense. (Take cumin seeds and brown them on a cast iron skillet or nonstick pan. Shake frequently. The cumin should be browned but not too dark. Then grind to fine powder.) The aamchoor adds a undertone of tangy flavor. ‘Aam’ is mango, and the spice is actually ground mango stones. Obviously add to taste; I use about a teaspoon. One can also add other spices such as garam masala, or chaat masala (pre-mixed spice combinations that add complexity) to taste. I think I used a dash of each. For ‘heat’, add green chilies, or red chili flakes. Most people would add some but it isn’t essential. I didn’t use any for our dinner.
So, toss everything in a blender and off you go. You’ll need to add some water as well to get things going. Don’t add too much water, or overblend it, it’ll shouldn’t get too watery; it should have some body. If you let it sit overnight, it’ll taste better. It keeps pretty well because the lemon makes it a little acidic.

This is part of the Asian Mash-Up menu, presented by Chef Nalin.

What other unexpected cuisines have you combined? What worked well? What didn’t work well?

Asian Mash-Up: Miso Soup

miso

This is a classic miso soup.  It’s based on dashi, the Japanese broth made of kombu (kelp) and bonito (fish flakes), which brings the flavors of the sea to the umami flavor of the miso.  I had to admit to Chef Nalin that while we have miso soup often in our household, I have never gone through the trouble of making dashi, mixing my miso paste with water instead.  Nor do I take the trouble to strain it.

Chef Nalin does things the right way.

Miso Soup

(from Serious Eats)

Ingredients

1 1/2 quarts water

1/2 ounce kombu (approximate 4- by 6-inch piece, see note above)

1/2 ounce grated bonito flakes (about 3 cups, see note above)

6 tablespoons white or red miso paste, or a mix

8 ounces firm silken tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (optional)

1/2 ounce dried wakame seaweed (1/4 cup, optional)

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced if necessary (such as honshimeji, namako, or shiitake, optional)

A handful of small live cockles (optional)

4 whole scallions, thinly sliced (optional)

Procedures

Combine water, kombu, and bonito flakes in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a bare simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool for 5 minutes, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Discard solids.

Return broth to a medium saucepan and set over low heat to keep warm, but not boiling. Place a fine mesh strainer in the broth and add the miso paste to the strainer. Use the back of a spoon to press the paste through the strainer into the broth, Discard and large grains that don’t pass through.

Add tofu, wakame, mushrooms, and cockles (if using), and allow to cook without boiling until ingredients are warm and wakame has re-hydrated, about five minutes. Garnish with scallions (if using) and serve immediately.

This is part of the Asian Mash-Up menu, presented by Chef Nalin.

Asian Mash-Up: Pani Puri

pani puri

Our Asian Mash-Up feast began with humble appearing Pani Puri.  Pani Puri are an example of South Indian chaat, street food snacks.  The puri are the fried dough puffs, and pani means water.  The waters are spiced chutneys, in this case, a tomato water and a tamarind based water (these are in the clear Solo containers).  Pani puri are eaten by poking a hole into the top of the puri, and filling in with desired amounts of the fillings (counterclockwise from top), followed by pouring on the pani:

sev, red onion, spiced potatoes, cilantro

Each bite yields a delicate crunch and a burst of flavor.

All recipes are from Chef Nalin, unless otherwise noted.

Mango-Tomato Chaat

Finely cut mango halves into small cubes

Finely cut heirloom tomatoes into small cubes

Small amount of finely diced red onion

Chaat masala, chili powder, aamchoor, cumin, coriander, salt

Let drain, and then refrigerate

Pani Puri Chaat

Potatoes – 1-2 medium sized ones

Green chilli – 1 finely chopped (optional)

Red chilli powder – 1 tsp

Cumin/jeera powder – 1 tsp

Chaat masala – a pinch (use more)

Salt

Sev

Onion – 1 finely chopped

Coriander leaves – as needed (finely chopped)

Preparation

Pressure cook potatoes, peel the skin and mash it well. Add finely chopped green chillies, red chilli powder, cumin powder, chaat masala, salt needed and mix well.

Variant 1: Pani

From www.padhuskitchen.com

Ice cold water – 3 cups

Green chutney – 3 tbsp

Sweet chutney (dates tamarind chutney) – 2 tbsp

Chilli powder – 1 tsp

Chaat masala powder- 1 1/2 tsp

Roasted Cumin/jeera powder -1 tsp (dry roast cumins seeds and powder it)

Variant 2: from Shinku (Nalin’s cousin):

Cut 1 green mango. Boil it in water with a green chili if you want spicy.

In the blender, put  20-30 leaves of mint, 1/2 a bunch of fresh cilantro, cumin, black salt, regular salt, and some of the green mango mixture. Grind well. Add remaining green mango mixture and grind everything. Add tamarind chutney. It is ready made and available at Indian stores. Add water, salt, lemon juice, amchoor as needed.

Tamarind Chutney (aka Imli Chutney)

2 tbsp tamarind concentrate

2 cups water

1/2 cup jaggery or sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp red chili powder

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1. Boil 2 cups water in pot. Add in the tamarind paste and mix well so that no lumps form.

2. Add the jaggery next and reduce heat to medium.

3. When mixture has reduced to about half a cup, add the ground cumin powder, salt and red chili powder. Keep stirring the chutney. When the chutney nicely coats the spatula, then you know it is ready. Remove from flame.

Essence of Tomatoes

(from Running With Tweezers)

5 pounds large cherry or small roma vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 stick celery , finely chopped

1 small cucumber, peeled and finely chopped

1 small shallot , finely chopped

half of a fennel bulb, finely chopped

1 small garlic clove , finely chopped

2 sprigs thyme , roughly chopped

handful basil leaves, roughly chopped

Procedures

In a food processor, pulse the tomato mix in batches until roughly chopped, add salt, cover and marinate overnight

Place three layers of cheesecloth (or a new kitchen cloth) over a large bowl and pour the mix into the cloth. Tie up with string and hang in a cold place for several hours over the bowl to collect the tomato essence. Taste and correct the seasoning, if necessary, then cool in the fridge. Add smoked cumin.

This is part of the Asian Mash-Up menu, presented by Chef Nalin.

Asian Mash-Up: The Original Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling

220px-Singapore_Sling

image via Wikipedia

We started the party with the perfect cocktail for our “Asian Mash-Up” theme: the Singapore Sling.  This drink was created in the storied Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, long a favorite of British Colonials in the era of Somerset Maugham.  None of us had had one before, though one of us had made an attempt (see below).

Thanks to the internet, we found a recipe that involved many liqueurs, but ended up tropical, fruity and bright, without excess sweetness.

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And now for the story, from Spicebox Travels:

The story behind this is the tale my husband has heard thousands of times over the last almost twenty years, the one during the telling of which he actually will cover up his ears, even in the company of people we might want to impress, or at least not scare away. I refrained from sharing it in the company of the new Spicebox Supperclub, lest it dampen the mood.

In 1991, I was a student (i.e. poor) from a liberal university (i.e. a little bohemian), and it was hot (definitely no stockings for me, regardless of the dress code). I had been living as a study abroad student in Singapore for at least four months at this point, and while I was no longer dripping sweat constantly, I could not wear the sweaters and tights that the local girls could, as if they were in merry old England. There was a lot of excitement surrounding the grand re-opening of the famed Raffles Hotel, which had undergone its first major renovation in the years prior to my arrival. This is the place that invented the Singapore Sling and the former hangout of Somerset Maugham, in the days that tigers might have still been found roaming the streets of this former jungle. It was the archetype of British colonial architecture and society. As such, “she” was considered a venerable institution, to be respected.

So I combed my hair, which went crazy wild in that humidity, put on a neat outfit of a top and shorts, and excitedly walked inside, where I saw lots of other tourists milling about, in similar or even more casual attire. I gazed at the beautifully restored woodwork, and made my way back towards the famed Long Bar to have a taste of the Singapore Sling, at its birthplace. But I didn’t quite make it there. I was stopped by a uniformed employee, who gently directed me outside. “No shorts are allowed. This is an expensive hotel.”

“Pardon me?” I asked. “What about all those other people?” I gestured to the scruffy long-haired Australians in their board shorts and flip-flops, lounging casually and having a raucous good time.

“They are guests here.”

I was embarrassed, but wondered what made me look like someone who could not possibly be a guest at “an expensive hotel.” It wasn’t my clothing that made me stand out. In fact, I suspected that my welcome was because I didn’t stand out– I looked like a “local.”

I discussed the incident back in the hostel’s canteen (dorm cafeteria) with my local friends. They immediately and unanimously concluded that it was the customary discrimination against locals, while pandering to Western (appearing) tourists. They shrugged it off, it was such a commonplance occurrence to them. But I was enraged, on my own behalf but also theirs.

I wrote my first ever letter to the editor to The Straits Times, the local/National newspaper (it’s a very small country), in which I implied that the hotel had race-based double standards. I kept the clippings from my letter, which I think still emanates heat almost thirty years later. In it, I concluded, “It reminded me of what the glorious Raffles must have been like in colonial times– attentive Asian staff catering to every caprice of their esteemed Western guests. Perhaps the newly renovated Raffles hotel should also update her thinking.”

Like a harbinger of blog posts gone viral, this letter generated a month of responses. A few sadly sympathized that there were post-colonial attitudes, but the vast majority threw insults at me, someone they had never met or seen. I was called “scruffy and sloppy.” The best insult was “Raffles hotel is no place for… scruffy or unkempt visitors. For these people, there are lots of coffee houses, beer lounges, karaoke joints and perhaps even hawker centres.” The Sunday Times had a full editorial dedicated to the subject of… Me. And the major tabloid did an investigative report where they sent two journalists, separately, to re-enact my actions. One was Caucasian, one was a local Singaporean Chinese. They were both dressed in bike shorts (I would never!), and each went in the lobby, as I had done. In the end, both were thrown out, though the Chinese one by a good ten minutes earlier. The conclusion was that there was no discrimination. Yes, these were my fifteen minutes of infamy.

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So, decades later, I was overjoyed to finally have a chance to enjoy a Singapore Sling, in the comfort of the Spicebox Supperclub.  And now you can, too.  No dress code.

Cheers!

The Original Raffles Hotel Singapore Sling

Recipe from chinese.food.com

Ingredients

1 1/2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce cherry heering
1/4 ounce Cointreau liqueur
1/4 ounce benedictine
4 ounces pineapple juice
1/2 ounce lime juice
1/3 ounce grenadine
1 dash Angostura bitters

Method

1.  Shake with ice.

2.  Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass

3.  Garnish with pineapple and a Maraschino cherry

Thanks for coming by! To see the rest of the Asian Mash-Up menu, read here.  Check back next week for another recipe from the menu.