Tom yam kung or tom yam goong (ต้มยำกุ้ง) is a spicy Southeast Asian soup traditionally prepared with prawns, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, fish sauce, and crushed chili peppers. It’s sweet, spicy, sour, savory…so many flavors!
This is an almost Tom Yam Kung soup because I couldn’t find fresh galangal which is not surprising since I live in Minnesota now. Even though they look similar but taste very different, ginger can be substituted for galangal when necessary.
“After centuries of perfecting the ritual of ‘civilized dining’, there is a furious back pedaling, a wilding, even among the chefs who employ the most cutting-edge techniques. At the same time, the traditional foods of poverty are being recast as elite. It is the height of sophistication to tear the meat from an animal’s bones with your teeth and bare hands.”—From Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear. After reading Slate’s book review today, I finally bought the book.
One time when I was really, really sick, Chefmade me a big batch of french onion soup with a splash of scotch. It was really boozy — maybe that was the reason why I felt so much better after eating it.
This recipe is kind of close to that soup. It’s not as smoky, but it’s just as awesome.
"Science-minded chefs have gone so far as to suggest that seemingly incongruous ingredients—chocolate and blue cheese, for example—will taste great together as long as they have enough flavor compounds in common. Scientists recently put this hypothesis to the test by creating a flavor map, a variant of which we have reproduced here. Lines connect foods that have components in common; thick lines mean many components are shared."
I’ve been playing with this flavor map for a few weeks. A few days ago, I clicked on beer to see what the commonality was.
I am not sure where to start with Minneapolis restaurant Travail. This restaurant was trendy and popular, and I’m certain it will be just as trendy and popular when it re-opens. I’ve been there, and it’s definitely an interesting concept for the Minneapolis food scene. Recently, the Travail team launched a pop-up restaurant called Umami. Since Umami is closing soon, I feel okay about writing this post. For now. It might get really hot and uncomfortable in here…
Umami came out with dim sum concept which made me uncomfortable. Why? I don’t know the intention or the purpose behind it so it screamed cultural appropriation to me. Because they think dim sum is the next hipster food trend? Because white folks rolling $5 soy sauce marinated chicken wings in carts is just a cool thing to do? And are they claiming expertise on an “exotic” culture? Do they feel entitled or necessary to “elevate” a foreign custom rather than cultural exchange or participation? Do they understand the history and customs associated with dim sum? Most importantly, is Umami’s idea of dim sum considered fusion cuisine (i.e. cultural exchange) or cultural appropriation? I have more questions than answers because cultural appropriation is such a complex and delicate subject. You’re talking about culture, history, ethnicity, food justice, race…and everything in-between. This article from Soleil Ho in Bitch Magazine resonated with me a lot:
“American chefs like to talk fancy talk about ‘elevating’ or ‘refining’ third-world cuisines, a rhetoric that brings to mind the mission civilisatrice that Europe took on to justify violent takeovers of those same cuisines’ countries of origin. In their publicity materials, Spice Market uses explicitly objectifying language to describe the culture they’re appropriating: “A timeless paean to Southeast Asian sensuality, Spice Market titillates Manhattan’s Meatpacking District with Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s piquant elevations of the region’s street cuisine.” The positioning of Western aesthetics as superior, or higher, than all the rest is, at its bottom line, an expression of the idea that no culture has value unless it has been “improved” by the Western Midas touch. If a dish hasn’t been eaten or reimagined by a white person, does it really exist? Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, often claims that to know a culture, you must eat their food.”
“These items speak to the Westerner as cultural connoisseur and authority, a theme that has shone like a brilliant Angolan diamond in the imperialist imagination ever since Marco Polo first rushed back to Europe to show off the crazy Chinese “ice cream” that he discovered on his travels. I don’t doubt that these guys love bulgogi and soba and want more people to enjoy them, but that kind of appreciation certainly doesn’t seem to have advanced their understanding of the Asian American experience beyond damaging and objectifying generalities.
Their commonality is their insistence on appreciating a culture that exists mostly in their heads; they share a nostalgia for someone else’s life.”
I also love Eddie Huang's opinions on cultural appropriation:
“If someone’s going to profit off this culture, it should be the people who brought it.You’re really taking somebody else’s art form, bastardizing it and putting it in a form for others to consume. Most people in the food industry are just too basic to understand that, because they’re so obsessed with the taste.”
"I would never want to be the person to tell white people. ‘You can’t cook this.’ It’s not about, ‘You’re white and you can’t cook it.’ It’s about power. There’s very few things that someone from Thailand can bring to America and get people to pay top dollar for. Food is one of them. And when somebody else does it instead, it’s like, ‘There goes our opportunity.’”
So I have to ask you this, at what point does food cross into the line of cultural appropriation?
"What’s wrong with a Turducken? Why am I so worked up? No reason. I’ve always wanted to be murdered and stuffed with two other birds. It’s the American dream. And to cap it off with a name like ‘Turducken,’ you guys thought of everything. Hey, I’ve got an idea! How about next year we stuff you inside a silverback gorilla and jam a rhesus monkey down your throat? We’ll call it a ‘Gormankey.’
I know you love piling animals into heaps of meat and laughing about it while you gorge your fat faces. It’s in your nature. But you need to ask yourself, for the sake of humanity, ‘Is it worth it?’
A traditional Thanksgiving menu consists of mashed potatoes, turkey, gravy, and all that jazz, but is there a must-have dish that’s pretty unique to your family? In my family, my mom always makes sticky rice.
While I’m slaving away in my parents’ kitchen chopping up fresh bread for stuffin’, here are My Favorite Thanksgiving Foods:
[Garlicky] Mashed potatoes
Roasted vegetables side dishes (this year, I’m making brussels sprouts with cranberries and bacon)
Green bean casserole
*Canned cranberry jelly is banned from my table. BANNED.
As I am writing this, it is Monday, 11:30pm CST. I’m slightly overwhelmed but I’m also really excited at the same time because I’m cooking Thanksgiving this year. I’m already pressuring myself to make this The Most Awesome And Delicious Thanksgiving Ever.
I’ll show you what I made later this week! If you celebrate [American] Thanksgiving, are you cooking this year? Where are you eating?!
A few weeks ago, Chef ordered these delicious savory waffles with pumpkin, millet, and gruyère at Birchwood Cafe. It had an apple shallot compote and lardons on it. Months before that, we published a savory waffle recipe for work on Tasteseekers Kitchen. Since savory waffles are all over the place, it’s surprising that I have not written a savory waffle post. I love caprese salads so I wanted to see if I could put it in a waffle.
Because it’s a caprese salad in a waffle, there are tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil in it. I was debating whether or not I should put the fresh tomatoes in it because I was worried about the moisture from the tomato. Soggy waffles are not delicious. I was also thinking about using tomato paste to make it a fun red color but I decided that I would test this idea another time — spaghetti waffles? hot dog waffles? burger waffles? I don’t know. In the end, I decided to keep the fresh tomatoes in the recipe. If you chopped the tomato fine enough, it won’t affect the texture. The fresh tomatoes are more for aesthetics so I made the tomato jam from Tasteseekers to go with it. I also added a poached egg on top because I love eggs [a lot].
Don’t be surprised if I change this recipe in a couple of months. I really want to make a red waffle so it might evolve into a tomato waffle with mozzarella and fresh basil on top.
“Sometimes I’m not introduced [in stories] as Delphine Zampetti but just as ‘the wife of’ Aizpitarte…That doesn’t help things evolve. And that never happens the other way around.”—Delphine Zampetti (Chez Aline in Paris) on female chefs and media coverage (via)
Sometimes a classic baked chicken can be a bit boring. That’s why you HAVE to jazz it up with something that is not plain old salt and black pepper. Recently, I’ve been spicing up classic dishes with a touch of ras el hanout.
Instead of finishing this dish with a garden salad or a simple rice pilaf, you can turn this into a quick and satisfying meal with a side of roasted vegetables and quinoa or this grilled vegetable farro salad.
I like bulgur a lot and I really wanted to experiment with the different uses for it. I thought a bulgur crusted pumpkin dessert would be tasty so I made this:
The only issue I had with this was that I wanted something crunchy and harder to contrast the pumpkin fillings’ texture and the bulgur didn’t do it for me. I know for a fact that a shortbread crust is delicious with the filling. Consider this a recipe-in-progress.
I wish I had a cool back story about pomegranates and how these waffles came about but no. Pomegranates are a heated subject in the Wang household because we can’t agree on the proper way to eat it fresh. Secondly, I cannot eat this stuff like a proper adult — I look like a two year old with red finger paint. I like it baked, cooked, juiced, or boozed up so I don’t have to think about it.
You guys. This has really been bugging me. Brussels sprouts is often incorrectly spelled as Brussel sprouts but the more I think about it, it makes sense: I’ve never heard anyone enunciate the “s” in Brussels and everything gets mashed with “sprouts”. Kind of like French when an article precedes a noun that starts with a vowel. How do you pronounce brussels sprouts?
“The industry isn’t conducive to keeping women in the kitchen. For all the reasons that it’s hard, this isn’t an industry that’s figured out how to get mothers back into the kitchen. The hours are hard, and there are no benefits, like insurance and 401(k)s. It’s not a long term industry.”—Chef Amanda Cohen on women in the restaurant industry. Also related: Yesterday, Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott asks why we ignore lady chefs.
Someone wrote “15 Reasons NOT to Date a Bartender" as a response to an eHarmony article on why you should. You know what? No one has written "15 Reasons NOT to Date a Chef". So here is "15 Reasons Not to Date a Chef" (mostly copied from the original article with bolded changes):
You will not see them. When you do they will look like they are a) hungover and b) exhausted. This is because they are a) hungover and b) exhausted.
Whenever you visit a restaurant together, no matter how stunning you look, their first glance will always be at the pass. If the restaurant has poor cooks and expeditors, they will be depressed and listless for the rest of your evening.
Unless you are willing to learn something about cooking, they will resent you.
[I’ve got nothing for this one.]
Other women (or men) will not hit on them because they will always smell like meat and sweat.
On a sunny day, when you wish to frolic in the park, they will be hidden in a sweaty pit of duvet moaning in pain at the sunshine creeping through the window like the vampires of old.
Face facts, your mother is not going to be pleased.
Every vacation you take together…wait, what vacation?
You will have at least a few conversations a week about how crazy some of the food requests are. Then you will eat out and you will be terrified to make special changes to your orders because you don’t want to make the chef angry. [Most chefs can be very accommodating to vegans and vegetarians though!]
In fashion, both on shift and off, they will lean toward wearing more porter/dishwasher jackets than chef coats because chef coats are a bitch to clean and laundry isn’t done often enough.
Their natural musk will be the faintly perceptible smell of pork.
Years of inbuilt cynicism from dealing with the general public means they will believe in no faith, creed or deity but will fly into an uncontrolled state of rapture at the mention of the name of [insert name of a Food Network personality.]
Their sexual performance will be limited by a bad back caused by years of picking up heavy objects with poor lifting technique. [I can’t address this one. My mother-in-law may be reading this.]
Your chances of getting on the property ladder are slim, as the pay is so bad it will take you approximately 1,253 years to get a down-payment together.
They will judge all your friends harshly when they order a house salad.
No, dude! It’s a savory muffin stuffed with white cheddar, bacon, and a [mostly] soft-boiled egg.
On a business trip to San Francisco, we were able to talk to the owner of Craftsman and Wolves, the source of inspiration for this recipe post and the creators of That Crazy Egg Muffin Thing (“The Rebel Within”). One of the interesting things I learned was that the heat from the muffin doesn’t affect the soft-boiled egg all that much. I’ve been dying to replicate it so I did!
Despite our love of food, it can be quite difficult to keep track of American food politics even though these decisions affect food culture (yep: law does shape culture), food businesses, and the economy. Two years after the Food Safety Modernization Act was signed, it appears that they are almost done with the proposed rules (that the public can comment on until November 15) but it’s still worrisome for anyone in the business of food. While the law was largely needed thanks to all those salmonella outbreaks and the grey areas of FDA jurisdiction, it’s still causing a lot of concern and we’re just days away from the 15th. From Mother Jones’s Tom Philpott:
"1) The local, organic carrots in your kid’s school lunch program. Many farm-to-school programs are facilitated by what the US Department of Agriculture calls food hubs—operations that gather produce from small farmers and sell it, usually to buyers like schools, restaurants, and retailers. The USDA actively promotes them as “strong and sound infrastructure support to producers across the country which will also help build a stronger regional food system.” The USDA lists more then 100 active food hubs nationwide.
The new rules imperil food hubs in two ways. The first is through the farms that supply them. The new law’s less-than-$500,000 exemption applies only to farms that sell at least half of their produce directly to consumers. But a growing number of small farms earn a significant amount of their income selling to third-party local enterprises like food hubs and food co-ops—and if revenue from those sources exceeds half of total revenue, these farms would lose their exemption and become subject to costly requirements. NSAC points to the FDA’s own economic analysis (see page 28) showing that more than 30,000 “small” and “very small” farms would be subject to regulation. The cost of compliance for these farms, NSAC shows, will be 4 percent to 6 percent of total gross sales—enough to knock out half or more of a small operation’s profits, and turn an operation that’s scraping by into one that fails.
Then there’s the problem that the FDA’s proposed rules have not settled upon a definition of “very small business.” If such a definition isn’t spelled out, NSAC warns, operations like food hubs could be “regulated well beyond their risk and with compliance costs too high for them to stay in business.”
A couple years ago, my friend Victor and I used to live stupidly close to each other in Murray Hill so we would sometimes call each other up to cause trouble. By trouble, I mean eating. One night we had huge craving for spaghetti and meatballs but we couldn’t find any good recommendations for Italian-American places. Not the places in Little Italy(Torrisi and Parm weren’t open then!) and definitely not the Olive Garden in Times Square.
Between a spoiled chef’s girlfriend and a culinary school graduate, we were food snobs who were too lazy to make the trek to Arthur Avenue. We finally remembered this Italian restaurant that was not too far from us that we were very curious about; we had walked by it enough times to notice that no one ever went in…or out. We had wondered if it was, well, a little mob-ish but we were so desperate and hungry. We stuck to each other side-by-side like glue and went in. Like a mob movie, the only person in there was an older gentleman in a booth, speaking loudly in a heavy Italian accent before he started angry-whispering to his lady companion when we walked in. Stereotypes aside, things only got worse from there: we walked out of there with $25 less in each of our pockets for sub par spaghetti and meatballs. Lesson learned: I’m going to make it myself from now on.
This version of spaghetti and meatballs has one interesting twist to it: there is bulgur, a cereal often used in tabbouleh, in the meatballs.
"A new study shows that stress eaters tend to eat more when stressed, but actually eat less after a positive experience, while ‘skippers’ — those who don’t eat during stressful moments — tend to consume more after a positive experience.”
I’m definitely not a stress eater. I’m a “skipper.” In college, I had so many expectations and goals for myself that I dropped down to US size 00 jeans because of all the stress and grad school anxiety. That’s terribly unhealthy for my height and build. When Chef and I started dating, I gained 15 pounds and one dress size. It’s definitely difficult to unlearn emotional eating habits and patterns but I find that my habit of eating a big breakfast every morning balances out the periods where I forget to eat lunch or dinner when I’m stressed or anxious. My weight will always fluctuates because of my job and my lifestyle and it’s something that I’ve just started to make peace with.