chicken

Chinese Spicy Peanut Chicken

Gong Bao Ji Ding (Also known as Sichuan Chicken, Szechwan Chicken, Kung Pao, or Kung Po)

As Lily Perilla, from Guilin, China, (Guang Xi Province) and her friend, Peng Qiao, from Chong Qiang, China, (Sichuan Province) taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine. 

Note: The layers of different kinds of spice make this dish really fun to eat. You have an overall warming feeling from the Sichuan peppercorns, zippy slices of ginger, and the fried dried chili peppers, all working their magic. People love the texture of the dish, studded with crunchy fried peanuts. Find the Chinese cooking wine, rice vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns, dried peppers, red-skinned peanuts, and Chinese chili-bean paste at an Asian market or online. Pictures of the ingredients she used are above.
Cooking time: 1 hour active plus marinating time (2-12 hours)
Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 cups short or medium grain white rice

For marinating:

  • 2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 Tbsp Chinese white rice wine, called Mishiu
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For stir frying:

  • 1 cup + 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1 cup red-skinned peanuts
  • 2 Tbsp whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/4 cup 2-inch long dried red chili peppers, broken and deseeded
  • 1/2 inch ginger, peeled and sliced into thin cross sections
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Chinese or Taiwanese chili-bean paste 
  • marinated chicken (see above)
  • 1/2 green pepper, cut into 1/2-inch squares
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1-inch segments

For finishing sauce:

  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 3 tsp Chinese white rice wine, called Mishiu
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp corn starch
  • 5 tsp Chinese black vinegar (for gluten free, substitute cider or balsamic vinegar)
  • 5 tsp soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce if desired)

Equipment

  • rice cooker or medium pot with lid
  • small pot
  • large wok or skillet at least 12 inches in diameter
  • cutting board
  • chef knife
  • small strainer basket (for submerging Sichuan pepper corns in oil in wok then removing them)
  • slotted metal spoon
  • paper towels
  • strainer or plate
  • medium bowl
  • small bowl

Instructions

1. Prep the chicken. Slice chicken into 1/2-inch cubes and mix in 2 Tbps Chinese cooking wine (Mishiu). Then mix in the rest of the marinating ingredients: 1/4 cup corn starch, 1 egg white, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, and 1/2 tsp salt. Wash the counter and utensils that touched the raw chicken. Let the chicken marinate 2-12 hours if you can.

2. Prep the rice. Rinse the rice in a strainer so that the water runs clear. Cook rice in a rice cooker or medium pot with 4 cups water. Bring water and rice to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cook with the lid on for twenty minutes. 

3. Prep the stir-fry ingredients. Peel and roughly chop the garlic; wash and slice the scallions into 1 inch segments; halve the dried chilis (shake out and discard the seeds or leave 1 tsp of the seeds in if you like really spicy food); peel and slice the ginger into thin cross sections. 

4. Prep the finishing sauce. In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the finishing sauce.

5. Fry the peanuts. Fill a small pot with 1 cup oil and turn heat on high to get it shimmering. While oil is heating, line a strainer or plate with paper towels and keep it near the stove. When the oil is shimmering, add the red skinned peanuts and turn the heat to medium. Stir the peanuts so they fry evenly in the oil. Do not take your eyes off them - they can quite quickly transition from golden to burned. When the peanuts are golden, turn off the heat. Remove the peanuts from the oil with a slotted spoon, placing them on the paper-towel-lined strainer or plate to dry. Pour some of the oil into a jar for some other use, keeping about 1/2 cup in the pot. 

6. Prepare to stir fry. Put the Sichuan peppercorns in a small strainer basket near the stove. Bring the garlic, ginger, chili peppers, ginger-garlic paste, marinated chicken, green pepper, scallions, and finishing sauce next to the stove.

7. Flavor the stir-fry oil with Sichuan peppercorns. Heat the oil in the pot until shimmers and then turn the heat to medium low. Dip the strainer filled with pepper corns under the oil. Let the peppercorns sizzle and flavor the oil for as long as you can without letting them burn, about a couple minutes. Remove and discard the peppercorns.

8. Perform the stir fry in the correct sequence. Transfer the Sichuan pepper-flavored oil into a wok or skillet. Turn the heat to high. Once the pan and oil are hot, add the dried chili peppers, tossing in the oil until they turn a shade darker in color, about 20 seconds. Once they do, with about ten seconds between each item, stirring constantly, add the following: ginger slices, garlic, chili-black-bean paste, and then the marinated chicken. Keep stirring and cooking the chicken until all the pieces are cooked through (opaque through the middle of each piece). Once chicken is cooked, add the chopped green peppers, scallions, and fried peanuts, stirring for two minutes. 

9. Add the finishing sauce. Add the finishing sauce and continue heating and stirring until it thickens. Serve with white rice.

 

 

Guatemalan Chicken and Vegetable Soup

As E., from a village near Uspantan, Guatemala, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine. Photo by Lindsay Sterling. 

Note: My Guatemalan friends ate this soup with thick, fresh homemade tortillas and a spicy tomato mash. 
Makes: 8-10
Cooking time: 1-2 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 large whole free range chicken, cut into 2-3inch, bone-in pieces
  • enough water to cover the chicken by 3-4 inches
  • 3 Tbsp salt
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 chayote squash, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered + 2 whole tomatoes
  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 3" segments
  • 4 culantro leaves (he called it samate) or small handful cilantro leaves, rough chopped
  • small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • small bunch of fresh parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chicken bouillon + 1 Tbsp as desired
  • 2 fresh hot chili peppers of your choice
  • 1 lime
  • 16-20 thick, handmade tortillas (substitute corn bread or bread)

Instructions

1. If you are handmaking the tortillas, start by making the dough first. Once it's resting, then get the soup started.

2. In a large pot cover the chicken pieces with water by 3-4 inches, add salt, 2 Tbsp chicken bouillon and boil until chicken is cooked (opaque throughout). While that's cooking, if you are making your tortillas from scratch, this would be a good time to make them.

3. Once the chicken is cooked, then add potatoes, squash, carrots, and the 2 quartered tomatoes to the soup pot.

4. While those are cooking, in a separate pot boil the two whole tomatoes and 2 whole fresh chili peppers until the chili peppers are soft. Peel skin off tomatoes and roughly chop chili peppers and then mash the tomatoes and peppers together in a mortal and pestle. 

5. When vegetables in the soup are tender, add all the chopped herbs (culantro/cilantro, mint, and parsley). Taste. If you think it needs it, add 1 Tbsp bouillon to enhance flavor. Serve bowls of soup with a basket of warm, thick tortillas, a bowl of lime wedges, and a bowl of the chili-tomato mash for guests to add to add spice their soup as desired.

Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Pho

As Hieu Nguyen from Dalat, Vietnam, taught Lindsay Sterling, in Falmouth, ME July 2013

Note: Hieu gets the fresh herbs, bean sprouts, fresh ginger, fish sauce, spices, chilis, limes, rice noodles, packets of pre-mixed pho seasonings, and even Pho serving dishes (super large bowls) at Veranda Asian Market in Portland, Maine, 695 Forest Avenue, Portland, ME, 207-874-8001, (open daily 9am-9pm). Look for an Asian market near you and go - it's a great experience. 

Makes: 8 servings
Cooking Time: 3-4 hours, with a lot of inactive time

Ingredients

 For the marinade:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2" ginger
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce (he prefers Viet Huong brand)

For the broth:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2" ginger (okay to leave skin on)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 2-4 Tbsp fish sauce (he prefers Viet Huong brand)
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (3" inches each)
  • 10 whole cardamon pods
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 6 whole star anise
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/3rds
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled
  • 16 oz. chicken broth

For the soup:

  • 24 oz. rice noodles (1/4" wide)
  • 1 bag (about 4 cups) fresh mung bean sprouts*
  • 1 bunch Thai basil
  • 1 bunch culantro
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 6-12 red Thai chilis
  • 1 lime
  • 4 scallions
  • Hoisin sauce (if you are gluten free, please check the label or avoid)
  • Sriracha sauce

Equipment:

  • stainless steal spice ball (for infusing herbs in broth) or cheese cloth and string*
  • sharp boning knife
  • large cutting board
  • 2 medium bowls
  • 1 large soup pot or stock pot
  • small handheld mesh strainer and small bowl
  • large colander for noodles
  • 8 larger-than-normal, pho-style bowls with base plates*
  • 8 large, flat-bottomed spoons*
  • 8 pairs chopsticks*

Instructions

1. Marinate the meat.

Rough chop garlic and 2" of the ginger. Put in a medium bowl. Take skin off whole chicken using a boning knife. Carve meat off the bones (breasts, legs, thighs and back muscles), trimming all fat off as you see it, and place meat in the bowl with the ginger and garlic, and the bones in a stock pot. Mix 1/2 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 Tbsp salt, and 1 Tbsp fish sauce into chicken meat with hands. Wash hands. Discard all chicken fat and skin. Wash cutting board and anything that touched the raw chicken. Cover chicken and let marinate.

2. Make the stock.

Place bones in a large soup pot or stock pot.  Cover chicken bones with cold water by 2-3 inches and turn on medium. Add 16 oz. chicken stock, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 Tbsp salt, and 4 Tbsp fish sauce. Enclose black pepper, cumin, clove, cardamom, star anise and cinnamon in a cheese cloth or a stainless steel spice ball. Roast whole onion and ginger over bare stove flame until ginger skin is black and onion is steaming and put both broth. Once broth begins to steam, turn heat to low. Don't let the broth boil or simmer at all. Once the broth has been steaming for about 20 minutes, swipe a handheld mesh strainer through the top three inches of broth, removing particulate matter and any oil. Discard the contents of the strainer and run it upside down under water as necessary to clean. The goal in the end is to have a clear broth, which is achieved by getting rid of floating particles and oil, and never boiling the broth. Repeat this process about every ten minutes over the course of an hour and a half to achieve clear broth. If you have oil on the top, skim off with large flat spoon.

3. Prep the fresh toppings.

Wash the bean sprouts, all the fresh herbs, lime and chilis. Dry with paper towels and place each on separate plates. Slice the lime into 8 wedges and then slice the wedges across into half wedges so you have 16 pieces.

4. Cook the chicken.

After the stock has been cooking for about an hour and a half, remove the ginger, onion, carrot, spices and bones. Slowly submerge the marinating chicken into the hot broth. Cook for 13 minutes, remove chicken and place in a clean bowl to drain and cool. Send the hand held strainer through the broth 4 or 5 times to get the ginger and garlic chunks out. Slice the chicken into 1/4 inch slices and put on serving plate(s).

5. Make the noodles. 

Bring a full large pot of water to a boil (for cooking rice noodles). Add rice noodles to boiling water and cook for 8 minutes. Strain and run cold water over them so they don't stick together as much when they're cool.

6. Assemble the bowls. First put rice noodles in the bowl, then 4-5 pieces of chicken, sprinkle on sliced scallions. Ladle on broth so the noodles and chicken are surrounded. Pick leaves off Thai basil and cilantro leaves from stems. Add about 4 of each to each bowl. Break culantro leaf into 1 inch long pieces, and add to soup. Add a mountain of bean sprouts on top. Squeeze lime over top. Serve with fresh whole Thai chili on the side.

7. Finish each bowl at the table. Diners squirt generous squiggles of Sriracha and Hoisin sauces on top of his or her bowl of pho. Before eating, toss the contents of the bowl with the chopsticks in one hand and flat-bottomed spoon in the other as you would a salad. Use chopsticks to help load up the flat-bottomed spoon, and go ahead and slurp the contents of the spoon and juice into your mouth. Take a nibble of the Thai chili (one of the hotter chilis in the world). When all you have is broth left, it's okay to lift your bowl to your mouth to sip the rest.

Albanian/Greek Chicken Pie

Kotopita

As Bill Dilios, from Politsani, Albania (formerly part of Greece), taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, ME.

Serves: 10 for dinner, 20 as an appetizer or side
Cooking Time: 2 hours plus thawing overnight

Ingredients

  • 1 box phyllo dough
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 large yellow or sweet onions, medium dice
  • 1 stick butter, cut into 1/2" chunks + 1 stick butter
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" cubs
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 boullion cube, 1 tsp boullion paste, or 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs

Equipment

  • cutting board
  • chef knife
  • mixing spoon
  • large soup pot 
  • large mixing bowl
  • medium bowl
  • pastry brush
  • Bill's special kotopita pan [link to store]:
  • or 3 pie plates
  • or 2 9x12, 2-inch deep baking dishes 

Instructions

1. Thaw phyllo dough. The day before you want to make kotopita, transfer the phyllo dough box from the freezer to the fridge to thaw it. Then an hour before you want to start cooking, take the phyllo box out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature on the counter. If you forget to take the phyllo out of the freezer the night before, you can thaw it on the counter in 2-3 hours. 

2. Make the filling. Saute onions with 2 Tbsp oil and 1 stick butter (cut into chunks) until onions are soft, 5-10 minutes. Cut the chicken pieces into 1/2 inch cubes and add to the onions. Wash all surfaces that raw chicken touched.  When chicken is half-cooked (opaque on the outside but still translucent in the center), add rice and saute for 2 minutes without browning anything. Add chicken stock so that the rice is just floating in liquid, about 3 cups. Add crushed bouillon cube, bouillon paste, or salt as desired and incorporate. Saute, stirring frequently, until the liquid disappears and you have a thick mass of chicken and rice with no runny liquid. Remove from stove and let cool. Mix in three eggs.

3. Preheat oven to 395. 

4. Assemble the pie. See how he did it in this video. You melt a stick of butter in cereal bowl and get a pastry brush out. Bill made one awesome, giant pie in a what looked like an extra-large, deep-dish pizza pan. Alternatively you can use three pie dishes or 2 9x12 baking dishes. Brush the bottom and sides of the baking dish with olive oil. Layer whole phyllo sheets over the bottom of baking dish, overlapping the edges of the pan by roughly 2 inches. (No folding, cutting or fussing!). 

Now be like Jackson Pollock with the butter brush dripping melted butter on the phyllo. You don't need to brush the butter around - just drip enough butter so that it looks like it's starting to rain on a sidewalk. Make another layer of phyllo overlapping the edges again. Drizzle butter again. Layer phyllo again. Drizzle butter again. When you have about five layers of phyllo, make a layer of chicken filling about 1/2" inch deep. Cover with two more layers of phyllo/butter drips. Add another layer of filling about 1/2" deep. Do five more layers of phyllo. Fold all the draped edges of phyllo on top of the pie. Brush butter over the dry edges of phyllo, folding them down onto the pie. 

If you are using multiple pies, when you complete one pie, just follow the same process and make another one in another dish. 

5. Bake for about 40 minutes, turning the temp down to 385 after ten minutes. When the entire pie is golden brown, remove from oven and let the pie cool for 10-20 minutes. 

Bill Dilios teaches how to cook his favorite dish from Politsani, Albania.

6. Serve. A cool trick for cutting the pie: place a large cutting board (one that is bigger than the pie itself) over the top of the pie. Holding the pan and the cutting board together, flip them over so that the pan ends up upside down on top of the cutting board. Now just lift the pan off the pie. Use a serrated bread knife to pie into squares or wedges, depending on what look you want.

Once pie is cool, store leftover pie in tinfoil in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in a 350 degree oven or toaster oven.

 

 

Iraqi Chicken and Rice

As Mona Galee, from Iraq taught Lindsay Sterling, in Westbrook, Maine, July 2011

Serves: 6-8

Cooking Time: 2 hours

Note: Mona served the chicken and rice as part of a full feast, including dolmas, fresh salad, watermelon cubes, tomato-chili flake soup and lemon-mint savory yogurt drink. I'll add links to those recipes once I post them. I have tended to make just the chicken and rice part often. I find myself using country-style bone-in pieces of chicken instead of a whole chicken to make serving easier.

Ingredients

For the chicken:

  • 1 whole chicken, washed and split down the breast bone
  • 3 cloves garlic, rough chopped
  • 1/4 onion, medium dice
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp Madras curry powder
  • generous sprinkle turmeric
  • 1 dried Persian lime, also called  loomi* 
  • 1 4-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp lemon pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 1-2 cups water

For the rice:

  • 2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 cup Short Vermicelli egg noodles (omit for gluten-free version)
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1/2 tsp of the bar timon spice mixture**
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 cup reserved seasoned chicken broth
  • 3 cups water

*loomis, also known as noomi basra and limoo amani, are small persian limes that have been soaked in salt water and then baked in the sun. They are hard, light in weight (like a whiffle ball) and range from tan to black in color. You use one whole in this recipe. It also comes ground into flakes. It imparts a tangy, lime flavor. Tasted alone, dried lime is similar to the sourness of a Sourpatch Kid candy but without the sugar coating. In Portland, ME, you can get these at Al Sindabad Market, 710 Forest Avenue. 

For the bar timon pice mixture:

  • 2 1/4 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 full handfuls green cardamom pods
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp black pepper

For the Raisin and onion topping:

  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 onion, medium dice
  • 3 shakes cinnamon
  • 1 shake turmeric
  • 2 shakes salt

Equipment

  • chef knife
  • cutting board
  • 2 soup pots with lids
  • large frying pan
  • strainer and pan for underneath it or a cooling rack nextled in a pan that can catch liquid
  • small frying pan
  • large platter or cookie sheet 
  • large serving platter for rice and chicken
  • tongs
  • cereal bowl

Instructions

1. Get the chicken started. Split whole chicken down the breast bone to open up the cavity. Rinse splayed chicken with cold water. Put the whole bird in a large soup pot with lid on medium high (she used a special pot she called a gidduh, but my soup pot worked fine). Add to the pot, 1/4 cup oil, and onto the chicken: 1/4 chopped yellow onion, 1 tsp madras curry powder, generous sprinkle of turmeric, 1 toasted lime, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 Tbsp lemon pepper, 2 Tbsp Kosher salt, and 6 green cardamom pods. Let chicken cook with oil in spices with lid on for ten minutes, then add water until it’s 1 inch below the top of the chicken. Cook covered until chicken is cooked through (about 40 minutes).

2. Do some prep work while chicken is cooking, make the spice mixture for the rice, called bar timon. Blend in spice grinder: 1/4 cup cardamom pods, 2 1/4 tsp cloves, 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon, 1 Tbsp cumin, and 1/2 Tbsp black pepper. Cover rice with water and strain three times so the water stops turning cloudy. Let it drip dry in the strainer for 20 minutes. In a small dish, cover the golden raisins with water to plump.

3. Get the rice started. Once the chicken has cooked through in the broth, remove the chicken from the broth and put it on rack nestled in a shallow pan to drip dry. Put 2 Tbsp vegetable oil back in the bottom of the emptied pot on medium high. Once hot, add vermicelli noodles if using and toast until they turn reddish brown. Add the rice, 1/2 tsp of the bar timon spice mixture (store what’s left for when you make this again), 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 1 tsp salt, stir and let the rice soak in the oils for a couple minutes, stirring. Then add 1 cup of the reserved seasoned chicken broth and enough water (about 3 cups) so that the rice is covered by 1/2 inch of liquid. Cook on high. Once the water has disappeared from the rice (ten minutes), then put the lid on tightly (she put a plastic bag over the opening to seal in moisture but I don't like cooking with plastic so I left this off). Turn to low heat for another ten minutes.

4. Shallow-fry the chicken. When the rest of the meal is almost finished, shallow-fry the chicken which has drained and drip-dried. She used a wok with oil 1/4 inch deep on medium-high heat. I've used a large iron skillet with oil 1/4 inch deep. Wear long sleeves because any drips from the chicken will pop and splatter in the hot oil. Make sure the oil is hot but not smoking before you put the chicken in. When the chicken turns golden on one side, flip it so that both sides become nicely colored. The combination of soft, boiled chicken with fried exterior pieces is divine.

5. Final touches. Make the onion and raisin topping. Drain water out of raisins. In a the smallest sauté pan you have, saute 1/4 onion (medium dice) in a little oil. Once soft, add raisins, three shakes of cinnamon, one shake turmeric, and two shakes salt. When all this soft and hot and the turmeric has colored the oil yellow, turn the heat off. Make a plateau of rice on a serving platter. Put the whole fried chicken (or chicken pieces, if they’ve fallen apart) on the top in the center of rice. Sprinkle raisins and onions in a ring around the chicken.

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Ghanaian Peanut Soup

Ebenezer's All-Powerful Peanut Soup

As Ebenezer Akakpo, from Ada, Ghana, taught Lindsay Sterling in Yarmouth, ME, April 2011. Photos by Stacey Cramp.

Serves: 8
Active time: 2.5 hours
Note: This soup stores wonderfully in the freezer. Great to have on hand. Natives eat this soup with fou fou. It would also be good with instant polenta or bread.

Ingredients

  • 5 habanero peppers
  • 31 peeled garlic cloves (about 2 1/2 heads!)
  • 1 red onion, cut into big wedges
  • handful fresh basil leaves
  • 4 inches peeled ginger root, cut into chunks
  • 9 beef bouillion cubes (he used Maggi brand, common in Africa)
  • any smoked product (he used pork hocks, but said he'd also use fish)
  • 2 lb chicken pieces, bone-in
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1/4 c tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened peanut butter
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 pack mushrooms, cut in half

Instructions

1. Throw peppers, garlic, onion, basil, and ginger into a blender and fill the blender a couple inches from the top with water. Blend. Strain liquid puree into a large soup pot. Put strained mash back into blender, refill with water, blend and strain into soup pot again. Do this one more time so you have a big soup pot 3/4 full with flavored, strained water. You can squeeze out the strained mash for every drip of flavor goodness with your hands. Don't bother washing the blender, you'll use it again for the soup later.

2. Add bouillon, smoked pork or fish, and chicken.

3. Mark an x in the bottom of the three tomatoes, cover with water in a small pot, and boil for a couple minutes until the skins loosen. Remove from water, peel off skins, blend in the blender, and add to soup pot along with tomato paste.

4. Now blend in the blender: peanut butter, yellow onion, and water to fill the blender half-way. Pour mixture into a small pot on medium. Cook stirring for about 20 minutes until a spoon swiped on the bottom leaves a trail in the bottom of the pot and if you look closely the oils begin to separate. Add the peanut mixture the soup, along with mushrooms.

5. When mushrooms (and chicken of course!) are cooked, soup's done!

 

 

Cambodian Lettuce Wraps

Banh Xeo  

As Sopheap Im from Battam Bong, Cambodia, taught Lindsay Sterling in South Portland, ME.

Cooking time: 1.5 hours
Serves: 6-8 people
Notes: This is finger food that guests assemble out of fixings at the table. Each person wraps fresh herbs, cucumber and pieces of stuffed dinner crepe inside a lettuce leaf, and then dips each bite in a sweet-sour-spicy sauce.

A handful of items for this dish are best found at an Asian market. The mung bean sprouts are freshest there. They should be creamy white, firm, and crisp. If you can't find good ones, just skip them. You'll also find frozen grated unsweetened coconut, fresh herbs (Thai basil, mint), coconut milk, and fish sauce.

Ingredients

Dipping sauce:

  • 2 small shallots, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 red Thai chili peppers 
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • juice of 2 large limes
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 cup roasted peanuts

Wrap fixings:

  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 bunch fresh basil (Thai basil preferred, available at Asian markets)
  • 1-2 heads lettuce - iceberg, butter, or other head lettuce with hand-sized leaves
  • 1-2 cucumbers

Stuffing for the crepes:

  • 8 oz. fresh or frozen grated unsweetened coconut
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ¾ tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 small red onion, sliced in half moon shapes
  • ½ pound fresh mung bean sprouts

Crepe batter:

  • 1 package Banh Xeo flour mix from the Asian market (for gluten-free version substitute the mix for 3 cups rice flour, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, and 1/4 tsp salt)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • about 1 cup water
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil

Instructions

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Make the dipping sauce. Mix all the sauce ingredients together, except the peanuts. Pulse peanuts in food processor to make crumbles (or chop with knife or roll over them with rolling pin). Reserve and add to dipping sauce right before eating. 

3. Prepare fixings for the lettuce wraps. Wash mint and basil and pick the leaves off the stems. Washed and quarter iceberg lettuce or separate leaves from head lettuce. Use a zester to make ridges in the skin of the cucumbers. Slice diagonally. Wash mung bean sprouts. 

4. Prepare stuffing for the crepes. Spread grated coconut evenly on a sheet pan. and roast in the oven until slightly dry and golden. Chop chicken into small pieces. In large saute pan or wok, heat vegetable oil. Once hot, add salt, pepper, and sugar. When those begin to turn light brown, add chicken and garlic. When chicken is well cooked, mix in roasted coconut, and onion, and cook until onions are soft. Wash the cutting board, knife, and anything else that touched the raw chicken. Keep the cooked chicken mixture and bean sprouts in separate bowls near the stove.

5. Make the crepes. Mix the crepe batter ingredients except the oil. Coconut milk consistency varies greatly by brand so add just enough water to your batter so that your batter is loose enough to make crepes in the pan. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet or flattop griddle on medium high and wipe vegetable oil over its surface. Once the pan is hot, ladle slightly less than ½ cup batter onto it and spread batter into a thin circle and cover with lid if you wish for faster cooking.

6. Stuff the crepes. When the rawness of the crepe batter disappears. put ½ cup chicken mixture in center of crepe, and ½ cup fresh bean sprouts on top of that. Let heat 1-2 minutes. When edges of crepe get dry and crispy, fold crepe in half over the filling, and place the whole thing on a sheet pan or large serving platter. Make 14 more stuffed crepes, putting pieces of tinfoil between each so they don’t stick and are easy to transport to plates.

7. Set the table. Put the dipping sauce, wrap fixin's, and stuffed crepes on on the table:

8. Wrap delicious things into lettuce leaf -- dip in sauce -- and eat! Each person at the table assembles his or her own lettuce wraps. You fill a lettuce leaf with a ripped off section of crepe and stuffing, a cucumber, and leaves of mint and basil. Then you roll them into the lettuce, dip the lettuce wrap in the sauce, and eat.