Thursday, December 30, 2010

Konnyaku Braids - New Year's with a Japanese flair

Konnyaku braids are an ideal New Year's appetizer because they are easy to do ahead, good cold and fun to eat with a variety of sauces.  Last year I was in Japan during New Year's and my friend's family showed me how to make these; I introduced them to my family this year and hopefully you will like them too.

Konnyaku is usually sold in blocks and is made from the starch of a large tuber: the konnyaku imo.  Its usually pretty easy to find in Asian supermarkets, espeically this time of year.  It is high in fiber and will fill you up without any calories.  The actual braids are very easy to prepare, its up to you what you want to pair them with.

What you start with looks like this:

Then you want to cut it into 1/4 inch slices as shown.  With the tip of a sharp knife held like a pencil, draw a line down the center to make a slit in the middle of each slice.  The slit should be no more than one inch long, leaving 1/2 inch on top and bottom uncut. Pull one uncut end through the sit to form a braidlike shape, so that it looks like this:

Then you can arrange them on a plate and add your combine with your favorite dipping sauces.  Here are some I like:

Red Miso Sauce (aka neri miso)

5-6 T dark miso
2-3 T sugar
2-3 T sake
1-2 T water

Thoroughly mix minimum amounts of miso, sugar, sake, and water then stir constantly over med-high heat until it becomes the consistency of ketchup.  Adjust flavoring by adding more of any ingredients, then remove from heat. (Washoku, Elizabeth Andoh)

Tamarind Nam Prik (nam prik makham piak)

1 T tamarind paste dissolved in 1/4 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 T sugar
5 thai chilies, minced
2 T garlic, minced
2 T shallot, minced
1 tsp lime juice

Simmer tamarind water, salt, sugar, and chilies until well blended, add last three ingredients after removing from heat.  Adjust seasonings as necessary (Wall Street Journal)

Sake Sauce

1/2 cup sake
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice wine viegar
1 T sugar
1 small serrano chili, finely diced
1/4 tsp garlic, minced
1 T finely chopped green onions

Combine the first six ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Allow to cool, then add green onions. (Tom Douglas)


Monday, December 27, 2010

A Coconut, the Third Way

Apparently, you can use the fruit of the coconut to make soup. My mom made the chicken coconut soup with the left over from my earlier coconut recipe today. 

The soup is naturally sweet, and there is no other ingredient other than chicken, coconut and water, not even salt or pepper. Here is the recipe:

1.      In a pot put chicken, coconut and generous amount of water.
2.      Let the soup boil for an hour or two. No salt needed.

One Coconut, Two Ways

This is a perfect recipe for a small and delicate New Year gathering: the coconut egg custard for the appetizer and the Thai Boxer for the drink. Magnifique! 

I used an actual coconut for the recipe, which requires more work. But other inferior substitutions can be sought after.

Coconut Egg Custard

1.      Crust. Mix 1 cup of flour, half teaspoon of salt, half cup of butter chopped up in pieces. Add ¼ cup of water gradually while kneading. Set the dough in fridge and continue.
2.      Filling. Mix 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, 3 spoons full of sugar, and a dash of vanilla. Simmer 1 cup of milk and add the egg mixture slowly.
3.      Roll out the crust, cut it into moderate size squares. Then make couple square “boats” with foil and shape the crust like the picture shown (If you have a cupcake pan, use it, it’ll save your life). Pour the mixture into the “boat” and top with coconut shredding. 

4.      Bake it in a 300 F oven until the fork/toothpick/chopstick/whatever-you-ca-find comes out clean and VoilĂ ! You got your COCONUT EGG CUSTARD.

Thai Boxer

I made a virgin version of the drink, but a shot or two of gin can be added to enhance the holiday feeling.

1.      Shake a glass full of coconut juice (coconut milk can also be used) with plenty of lime juice. Add sugar if desired.
2.      Finely chop some basil leaves and/or mint leaves and mix with the coconut juice.
3.      Garnish with whatever you can find. Flower, cucumber, lime twist or popcorn, I don’t care.