Carrot-Jicama Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Plum Dipping Sauce

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Beautiful plates of food. Gorgeous posts on instagram. Delicious restaurant meals. Inspirational healthy recipes. You’re motivated; you want to cook, and you’re ready to embark on a journey into the culinary world, and then you open the fridge, and you’re missing the key ingredient.

The eggs. The cilantro. The canned tomatoes. The jalapeno. Suddenly your epicurean aspirations fall apart, and you’re back on the couch with a takeout menu in hand. I get it.

Yes, it is difficult getting started cooking. You have to have the recipe laid out; every ingredient has to be present; you have to make sure all your equipment is up to par. It might seem like missing one thing is the end of the world when you’ve got one thing in mind, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from cooking (and the TV show Chopped) is improvisation!

For example, today I was so ready to make spring rolls. I had my carrots and jicama sautéed, my vietnamese ham all fried up, sauce ready, herbs washed, and then I realized: I was out of rice paper. Duh! Luckily iceberg lettuce came to my rescue and I made lettuce wraps instead. In the future I think I’ll use this as a lazy spring roll version (as opposed to salad-ifying spring rolls) if I’m in the mood to dip.

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If you’ve never heard of vietnamese ham (or vietnamese baloney), called Cha Lua in Vietnamese, do not be put off by the name! It’s such a sad english translation. It’s basically like a huge cylindrical steamed meatball, like the kind you’d find in asian soups, but wrapped in banana leaf. It’s often available at Vietnamese sandwich shops and grocery stores. Try it in a Vietnamese sandwich first (Banh Mi Cha Lua) and once you’re hooked, you can buy the full ham to slice at home!

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Carrot-Jicama Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Plum Dipping Sauce

  • 1 jicama, julienned
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled & julienned OR 1 bag shredded carrots
  • 1 tablespoon fried shallots
  • fish sauce & pepper to taste
  • 1 roll vietnamese ham, julienned
  • 1 cup fresh mint, washed
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, washed
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup plum sauce
  • 1 tsp sriracha

Heat a bit of oil in a large skillet and add the fried shallots over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the julienned jicama, stir. Let cook down a bit, for about 2 minutes, before adding the carrots. Stir fry all together until the carrots and jicama are softened and the jicama is slightly translucent. Season the jicama-carrot mixture with pepper and fish sauce to taste. Set vegetables aside.

In the same skillet, toss julienned vietnamese ham and let brown, stirring every minute or so until the small bits are crispy. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix hoisin, plum sauce, and sriracha. Thin out a bit with some water if your plum sauce is too thick.

On a cutting board, slice the iceberg lettuce in half down the stem. Carefully remove the leaves so they do not lose shape.

Layer a leaf with jicama carrot mixture, then vietnamese ham, then the mint leaves. Continue making lettuce “rolls” until all ingredients are finished. Enjoy by dipping the rolls in the hoisin-plum sauce.

Japanese-style Steamed Fish

Sometimes its nice to just have something simple.

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Clean, crisp, light flavors are like a cleanse for the palate, and after my dad and I had three nights of heavy eating, we were really craving a simple dinner for Sunday evening.

 

With some fresh ginger from the farmers market and beautiful fillets of cod from Whole Foods, what better way to use them than with Japanese steamed fish. Seasoned with only soy sauce, mirin, and ginger, this dish steams conveniently in the oven for those of you who don’t have a nice steamer.

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Japanese-style Steamed Fish

Adapted from Allrecipes

  • 24 oz. true cod, cleaned and cut into palm-sized fillets
  • 1 inch grated fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1-2 green onions, sliced
  • Handful of sprouts for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a round or square glass baking dish, place fillets of fish in one even layer. Mix the marinade in a seperate bowl. Carefully pour over the fish. Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until fish is opaque as it will continue to cook in the hot liquid.

Garnish with fresh sprouts and serve with rice or a grain and steamed fresh vegetables for a truly simple meal. Enjoy!

Revamp the Classics: Peanut Butter & Jelly with an Asian Twist

As part of theKitchn‘s cooking cure, I’ve been trying a load of new recipes for lunch. One idea that I will definitely be adding to my regular lunch rotations is an amazing spin on an old childhood classic: Peanut butter and Jelly! 

Instead of the sweet route, this sandwich goes savory & southeast asian, with crunchy peanut butter, chili jelly, a drizzle of sriracha, and some fresh herbs on top. To lighten it up, I’ve decided to go open faced. Plus, the sandwich is SO much prettier that way!

Feel free to use any peanut butter/bread/jam you have on hand. I’ll go ahead and give you the recipe for what I used, though. Image

Open-Faced Peanut Butter + Chilli Jelly

  • 1 slice of seeded whole wheat bread (any will work, preferably not a very sweet loaf)
  • 1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter (I used Jif)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet chilli jelly or orange marmalade (I have used both and they are equally delicious)
  • 1 drizzle of sriracha
  • A handful of cilantro, mint, torn into small pieces

Layer peanut butter, then jelly/marmalade, then sriracha, then cilantro/mint. Enjoy! 

Quick Choy Sum

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A quick stir-fry to use up those old vegetables. Every weekend there’s a farmer’s market in my area. My favorite stall, by far, is run by this Chinese lady who carries so many different types of vegetables. She has okra, sweet potato, tons of herbs, pumpkins, chilis, fresh peanuts, you name it! I always try and grab a bunch of chinese greens because they’re full of fiber and vitamin C, and so simple to prepare! But, what are all these vegetables called? I found a handy chart if you ever want to refer to it:

Keep in mind, however, that these are only one of the variations of the name! There are different spellings, different languages, etc, so nothing is definitive.

So, here’s  a recipe for a quick take on what you can do with asian greens. I don’t use as much oil as the chinese restaurants do nor does my wok get as hot, but it’s delicious none the less. And   healthier, too! Who needs all that extra oil, anyway.

Pretty much any will stand in place for choy sum, and feel free to replace soy sauce with fish sauce, hoisin sauce, kung pao sauce, or whatever you’d like.
Ingredients: 

  • 1 Bunch of Choy Sum (About 4 cups), cut into 1 inch long pieces
  • 1 Stalk of Celery, thinly sliced on a bias
  • 2 green onions, sliced in rings, divided
  • 1 thinly sliced zucchini squash
  • 1 teaspoon neutral oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of cornstarch

Heat your wok on medium-high while preparing the vegetables. Drizzle the oil around your wok. Add half the green onions and the celery. Let brown for about 2 minutes. Add zucchini, stir, and let cook for 2 minutes. Then add the stems of the choy sum. Stir, cover the wok for 1 minute. Add the tops of the choy sum, cover for 1 minute.

In a seperate bowl, stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, and cornstarch. Add to the wok and mix, heat the wok to high and stir fry for 1 minute with the sauce. Garnish with the rest of the green onions and chili flakes (optional). Serve hot with rice and meat.