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Top chefs discovered some Asian vegetables several years ago. But despite a mushrooming interest both in vegetables and in Asian flavors, there is still very little information available to help home cooks identify, choose, store, and--most importantly--cook these delicious and nutritious foods.
Rosa Lo San Ross, a New York-based cooking teacher and caterer who grew up in Hong King and Macao, guides us through Asian markets with Beyond Bok Choy: A Cook's Guide to Asian Vegetables. Drawing on her tours of Chinatown for western chefs, her experiences with her students, and her childhood memories of meal and markets in Hong Kong and Macao, she de-mystifies a mystifying subject and opens a new world to the home cook. Her explanatory text, combined with Martin Jacob's elegant photographs, will help everyone identify and buy these unfamiliar vegetables. Her 70 recipes--some classic Chinese, some original fusion recipes--will send adventurous cooks first to an Asian market and then into the kitchen. For those cooks who are also gardeners, there are cultivationtips and a list of sources for Asian vegetable seeds.
Yields 36 dumplings
I love these delicious dumplings, which are a new variation on the delicate har kow shrimp dumplings that are basic dim sum cuisine. In this recipe, I use scallops instead of the more ordinary shrimp version you find in restaurants. Leftover dumplings can be frozen after they are cooked and reheated without defrosting.
2 cups green garlic chives (gau choy), about 6 ounces
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch, mixed with 2 tablespoons cold water
1 package wonton skins
36 bay scallops
Napa cabbage leaves to line bamboo steamer
Cut the garlic chives into 1/4-inch pieces. In a small skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the chives and saute until wilted, about 30 seconds. Add the soy sauce, pepper, sesame oil, and cornstarch mixture. Cook until thickened, stirring often, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and cool.
Use a pair of scissors or a round biscuit cutter to cut the wonton skins into 2 1/2-inch circles.
Place 1 teaspoon chive mixture in the center of each circle and press 1 scallop into mixture. Moisten edges with water, pleat half the circle, press edges together, and seal to form a crescent-shaped dumpling. Alternatively, pleat around in a circle and press edges together to form a beggar's purse. Repeat to form 36 dumplings.
Line a 9- or 10-inch bamboo steamer basket with cabbage leaves and place in a wok or deep-sided skillet filled with enough water to touch the bottom of the basket. Cover and steam 3 to 5 minutes to wilt thecabbage leaves slightly. Arrange the dumplings on the leaves and steam until translucent, 5 to 8 minutes. Serve warm with a soy sauce and vinegar dip and hot chili sauce.
Yields 4 main-course or 6 side-dish servings
Shiso flavors rice beautifully, and as risotto is one of my favorite dishes, I find this combination to be very tasty. A sprinkling of Parmesan cheese works very well. The rice can be served by itself, with fresh peas or sugar snaps folded in at the last five minutes. Lobster, scallops, or shrimp stirred in will turn it into an exotic seafood risotto.
2 tablespoons butter, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons (optional) to fold in at the end
1 cup minced onion
5 shiso leaves (zi su), coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
4 1/2 to 5 cups unsalted or low-sodium chicken stock, kept at a simmer
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a heavy saucepan, over medium heat, melt the 2 tablespoons butter, add the onion, and saute until wilted, about 5 minutes. Add the shiso and stir once or twice, then add the rice and stir until well coated with the butter.
One or two ladlefuls at a time, add the simmering broth, turning the rice constantly with a wooden spoon. When the broth is absorbed, repeat a little at a time, until each grain of rice is cooked completely through, but not falling apart. A good risotto should have a creamy consistency. The process takes 25 to 30 minutes.
Fold in the extra butter, if desired, and serve at once.
Green Papaya Pancakes
Yields about 36 3-inch pancakes
This recipe was suggested to me by my student Melody Santos, who is from the Philippines. I think these pancakes are delicious, and they make a great appetizer for cocktails. Serve them with a dipping sauce of thin soy sauce mixed with some lemon juice or rice vinegar.
1 green papaya (muk qwa), about 2 pounds
8 ounces medium shrimp
FOR THE BATTER:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs, beaten
2 scallions, green and white parts minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Peel and cut the papaya in half. Using a spoon, scoop out all the seeds. Shred the papaya with a coarse grater or food processor. There should be about 5 cups packed.
Peel and devein the shrimp and coarsely chop by hand. Set aside.
Make the batter. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Add the beaten eggs and 1/2 cup cold water and whisk to a smooth batter. Fold in the scallions, papaya shred, and shrimp. Mix to blend well.
Heat a large, heavy skillet and pour in just enough oil to coat the bottom. Pour in 2 tablespoons of the papaya mix to form a pancake about 3 inches round. Cook 1 to 2 minutes over medium heat, then turn and cook an additional minute or until the pancake is lightly browned. Transfer pancake to a paper-towel lined plate and keep warm. Continue adding oil as needed until all the batter is used up, stirring the batter every now and then to keep it well blended. The pancakes may be reheated in a low oven. Serve hot.
Excerpted from Beyond Bok Choy. Copyright (c) 1996 by Rosa Lo San Ross. Reprinted with permission by Artisan.
1. Leafy Greens
2. Gourds, Melons & Squashes
3. Roots, Rhizomes, Corms & Tubers
4. Sprouts, Shoots, Peas & Beans