poultry


Around this time last year, on those days when wedding planning became just a little too overwhelming, Nathan and I would throw aside our spreadsheets and daydream about our honeymoon instead. Narrowing down our options to a shortlist of destinations turned out to be surprisingly easy since it just so happened that at the top of both of our respective “Places to Travel Next” lists were Spain and southeast Asia. Clearly, we are meant for each other, no? ^_^

Deciding between the two places, however, proved much more difficult.

We consulted friends every chance we got. One of the guys at our favorite sushi spot in the city argued adamantly that we simply must go to Spain, and in particular, Barcelona. A few years ago, he had planned a trip all around Spain starting at Barcelona. Two days after arriving, he tore up his original itinerary and spent the entire vacation in Barcelona. How can we argue with that? Spain, here we come!

Until, that is, we met a couple of family friends for brunch. In the great “Where should Nathan and Angi go for honeymoon” debate of 2009, they were solidly in the opposing camp. As they described the food they ate on their trips to southeast Asia, I had to stop myself from suggesting that we abandoned our eggs benedict and waffles to find some rendang…stat!

In the end, we resorted to pure logistics. With most of my family in Hong Kong, we foresee many trips to Asia in our future and it would be quite easy to take side trips to southeast Asia then. So with that… Vamonos a España!

Just because we haven’t made it to southeast Asia in person yet doesn’t mean we cannot make our apartment smell almost like a kitchen in Indonesia. After some quality time on the internet (mostly by Nathan, who also did pretty much all the cooking for this – lucky me!), we’re armed with a bunch of rendang recipes for inspiration. Rendang originated in Indonesia but has spread to Malaysia and Singapore. It uses many of the same ingredients as a normal curry but the end result is something much drier than a curry, so that the meat is coated in a thick, super flavorful spice crust.

The idea is to make a spice paste with coconut milk, simmer the whole thing until all the water evaporates from the sauce, and let the meat fry in the leftover oil. More often than not, rendang is made with beef. But once you see this photo over on Serious Eats, I hope you will agree that we made the right choice in opting for chicken this time around.

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Khao soi.

Until recently, we thought it was something our friend Reid had made up as a cruel joke on us. He had been to Thailand years ago, you see, and he insisted that he had eaten this really amazing noodle dish there. And the dish did sound amazing – a tangle of egg noodles swimming in creamy red coconut curry with juicy pieces of chicken and garnished with fresh lime wedges, a handful of chopped shallots, and plenty of cilantro. It sounded so amazing that Nathan and I immediately made a pact to find it as soon as humanly possible.

We searched all our favorite Thai restaurants in town, but never did we see those two words paired together on the menus. Hmm, maybe it’s a secret in-the-know item? Or listed only in some untranslated Thai menu? We mustered up some courage and started asking the staff, resulting in many confused smiles accompanied by head shakes. As we began doubting the existence of Khao Soi, we started plotting some sort of revenge food joke on our dear friend.

Then one day, I opened up my RSS reader and saw that Chez Pim just had Khao Soi for dinner! Not only that, but she made Khao Soi for dinner and hey, would you like the recipe? [*insert choir of angels here*] Not being as well-versed in Thai cooking nor as hardcore as Pim, I had to make some slight (read: more wimpy) adjustments at home. But I encourage you to check out Pim’s recipe first for the more authentic version.

And it’s true, I didn’t even think to ask the interweb gods before now – silly me. One quick trip over to Wikipedia and all is explained:

“Khao Soi is a Burmese-influenced dish served in northern Laos and northern Thailand… In northern Thailand, there is a similar dish known as Thai khao soi, which is a soup-like dish made with deep-fried crispy egg noodles, pickled cabbage, shallots, lime, nam prik pao, and meat in a curry-like sauce containing coconut milk… It is popular as a street dish eaten by Thai people, though not frequently served in Western Thai restaurants.”

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You know what amazes me?

Flour.

Yup, just that – flour.

I mean, think about it. You take flour, add in just a few other ingredients, and you get everything from bread to pasta to dumplings. On top of that, you can use flour to make crunchy, crispy coating for fried chicken or really fried anything. And when a sauce is too thin, you mix up some flour with butter to make a roux and your watery sauce will turn silky in no time. Or you let the roux brown and you’re well on your way to making Louisianan goodies like gumbo and etouffé, which let me assure you, is on my must-cook list of 2010.

So when I was browsing through the latest issue of Saveur and came upon this ridiculous (as in ridiculously gorgeous) photo of chicken paprikash, with a recipe that uses flour to both make the dumplings and coat the chicken, I did not hesitate. One glance over at my bin of flour to check that I have enough at hand and off I went to shop for the other ingredients. Although the recipe calls for a whole chicken cut up into pieces, it would work just as well if you bought an equivalent amount of whatever chicken parts you like. I’m personally a dark meat person, so next time I make this, I may just buy some thighs, drumsticks, and wings.

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bucati.jpg

Coming back home from vacation is always both a bit sad (that vacation’s over) and a bit happy (to be back home). I always look forward to being able to cook in my kitchen again. Not that I don’t enjoy eating out or anything, but cooking is so relaxing that it’s hard for me to go without it for a long time. Are those the words of an addict?

Of course, the first few nights back usually mean staring into an empty fridge and a freezer with frozen chicken pieces (courtesy of Brian during his move). Luckily for us, we had our veggie box pick-up pretty soon after we got back. A quick stop to Trader Joe’s to grab some dried pasta and we were able to improvise a decent dinner. By the way, Trader Joe’s started carrying a new kind of pasta – Bucati!! For some odd reason, I really like hollow pastas.

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