When we talk about Asian foods, there is one thing that we should not omit. It is rice. Rice has always been enjoyed by Southeast and East Asian people for very long time. In some countries like Korea, people think you should eat rice to say that you had a meal. The biggest rice producing or exporting countries are mostly in Southeast and East Asia. Especially, rice in Southeast and East Asia is usually sticky and glutinous (not meaning gluten but meaning glue-like). Using stickiness of rice, many countries created and developed their own way to enjoy sticky rice. We will see through a variety of sticky rice dishes from now on and their history.
1. Chinese : Zongzi(粽子)
Among many Chinese dishes using sticky rice, zongzi has the most interesting folk tale. Traditionally eaten at Dragon Boat, it commemorates the death of Qu Yuan (屈原), a famous Chinese poet from the Warring States period. Known for his patriotism, Qu Yuan tried unsuccessfully to warn the king of the Chu Kingdom and his fellow countrymen against the expansionism of their Qin neighbors. When the Qin the Chu capital, Qu Yuan’s grief was so intense that he drowned himself in the Miluo According to legend, packets of rice were thrown into the river to prevent the fish from eating the poet’s body.
2. Korean : Chalbab (찰밥) / Dduk (떡)
As the famous saying goes, ‘Koreans cannot live one day without rice’; they literally eat rice dishes for all three meals of the day. Korean sticky rice consists of two major varieties: Chalbab, sweetened glutinous rice mixed with red beans, dried dates and chestnuts; Dduk, rice cakes that are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Day, weddings, birthdays, and other celebratory occasions.
3. Thai : Sticky rice and mango (Khao Niaow Ma Muang)
Thai people enjoy their sticky rice with mango and sour cream sauce as one of desserts. This dish is known for its versatility when it comes to preparation; it can be baked, fried, grilled, and even boiled together with many tropical fruits and other ingredients. Combined with its gooey yet al dente texture, Khao Niaow Ma Muang is truly a regional favorite.
4. Xôi is glutinous rice served with other ingredients. It has various kinds of types differentiated by the rice type, sauce type, colors and additional ingredients. For example, Xôi bắp is made with corn, sugar, fried onions, and smashed cooked mung beans, and Xôi gà is made with chicken. Vietnamese people usually eat this as desserts or simple breakfast, but some people in indigenous areas eat Xôi as a main meal.
[Philippines – Halo-halo]
By Francine, AALEAD Elementary Teacher (www.aalead.org)
During the summer months, my family and I always make this dessert called Halo-Halo. In the Philippines, halo-halo means “mix-mix”. The dessert has a variety of fruits, coconut jelly, beans, shaved ice, milk, and can be topped with mango ice cream. The drink is also flavored with ube, also known as purple yam or taro root. This is my favorite dish because it always brings me back to my childhood summers that I used to spend in the Philippines. When I was about seven or eight years old, I traveled the Philippines for the first time. My mother had left her family in the Philippines when she had married my father and did not travel to the Philippines very often. During my first visit I met my grandfather for the first time, played with many cousins, and had my very first Halo-Halo. I was at a family gathering and my grandfather wanted to take us to get ice cream after dinner. My family gatherings were always crazy. With over twelve cousins, ten aunts and uncles and grandparents we always traveled as a pack of at least twenty. My grandfather insisted on taking us out for ice cream. When we got to the ice cream shop, my aunts and uncles convinced me to get Halo-Halo. I wasn’t sure what it was, but my cousins told me it was good. Shortly after we ordered our dessert, we all sat on bar stools overlooking the street from a window and talked all night. It was a bittersweet moment because I didn’t want the night to end. I knew that in a few days I would be leaving my family behind to return to the United States without any knowledge of when I would return to the Philippines. Halo-Halo is one of my favorite Filipino desserts because it reminds me of my family back in the Philippines, and is a great way to stay cool during the hot summer months.
- Red beans
- White beans
- Coconut jelly
- Ube “Purple jam”
- 1 cup of shaved Ice
- Open fruit jar with red beans, white beans, jackfruit, and coconut jelly.
- Use a tablespoon to scoop out 3 heaping spoonfuls of fruit. Place the fruit in a glass.
- Open the jar of ube, or purple jam and, scoop one teaspoon of the purple jam into your glass.
- Take the shaved ice and pack it in your glass.
- Gently pour milk into your glass. Pour to your desire.
- Gently mix the ingredients together.
[Korea – Dduk-guk]
By Kendra Lee, AALEAD Director of Programs (www.aalead.org)
My mother and father immigrated from South Korea. They moved to Cranston, Rhode Island and actually still live there today. When they first came to the United States, almost all my relatives lived together in one house (more than ten people!) Even though that was many decades ago, we still keep many of our Korean traditions. One of my favorite traditions is celebrating New Year’s Day with my family. On New Year’s Day, our entire family gathers to pay our respects to our elders. Basically, this means that all the children bow to our parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents and wish them a Happy New Year. After bowing, the elders give the children money! (Actually, some of my younger aunts also ask for money from our older relatives, and get it too!) It used to be custom to dress in traditional Korean dress when bowing, but these days, we just dress casually. Every year, we also eat Dduk-gook. It is a soup that has rice cakes and dumplings in it, and it is the recipe I am sharing with you today. Though we always eat it on New Years, I also like to eat it on any cold winter day because it is tasty and simple to make! Below is a picture of my family on New Year’s Day.
- 6 cups beef stock
- 1/2 package of dduk (oval rice cakes)
- 16 dumplings
- 1/2 lb bulgogi (cooked)
- Salt and pepper (to taste)
- 2 green onions, chopped
- 2 sheets of seaweed (geem)
- 2 eggs
- Soak the rice cakes in cold water for about 30 minutes.
- Bring the beef stock to a boil. Add rice cakes and boil for about 8 minutes until rice cakes have softened. Then add the dumplings and boil until dumplings have cooked (approximately an additional 5 minutes).
- Though some people like to fry the egg and garnish on top, I like to stir the eggs directly in the soup right before serving. Eggs will cook in less than one minute.
- Serve the hot boiling soup in 4 large bowls. Sprinkle the Bulgogi, chopped green onions and seaweed strips on top. Add salt and pepper to taste.
This week’s dish is curry, the food of colors, spices, and nutrition. Starting from the Indian culture, curry is now a general term to embrace a wide variety of stew dishes originated from Southern and Southeastern Asian cuisines. The term “Curry” came from the Tamil word Kari meaning stew with a variety of food. In specific, curry powder is a mix of spices and herbs such as turmeric, clove and cumin. The selection of spices differs from national or regional cultural background. They are called by specific names that refer to their ingredients, spicing, and cooking methods too. General curry dishes contain curry powder and other foods such as meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, and vegetables. Indian spiced dishes were spread eastward to Thailand, Burma and China by Buddhist monks in the 7th century A.D., and then carried southwards to Indonesia, The Philippines, and elsewhere by coastal traders. From the mid-19th century, curry has also gained popularity in Great Britain, and from the mid-20th century, curries of many styles have become a favorite far from their origins, and are increasingly contributing to international fusion cuisine. Recently, curry has been proven to be one of the healthiest foods, including components preventing Alzheimer.
1. Indian Curry
It is said that highly spiced meat is originated in pre-historic times among the inhabitants of the Indus Valley Civilization. Dating back to 2600 BCE from Mohenjo-daro, archaeological evidence suggests the use of mortar and pestle to pound spices including mustard, fennel, cumin, and tamarind pods. As found in the history, curries have developed from the very ancient times of India. As a result, curries of India differ from their various regional cultures. The most well known curry is curry of Goa region, vindaloo curry whose name means a dish of lamb or chicken including potatoes. Curries from Karnataka region are typically vegetarian and with meat and fish around coastal areas. Curries from Kerala region contain shredded coconut paste or coconut milk, curry leaves, and spices.
2. Japanese Curry: Karē
Japanese curry is one of the most popular daily dishes in Japan. It is usually eaten by the form of “Karē-raisu”, which means curry and rice. Japanese curry contains curry powder, onions, carrots, potatoes, pork, chicken and it tastes less spicy than Indian and Southeast Asian curries. Japan received curries from Britain during the Meiji period. Karē ramen, which are thick noodles in curry flavored soup and Karē-pan, deep fried bread with curry in the middle are also popular. Sometimes the curry-rice is topped with breaded pork cutlet, which is called Katsu-karē. Curry was introduced to Korea by the Japanese during their occupation in the early 20th century, and is hence nearly similar with the Japanese version.
Indonesian people call curries “Kari”. The most common curry in Indonesia is “Kari ayam” which means chicken curry and “Kari Kambing” which means goat meat curry. There is also one popular curry-like dish named “Rendang” from West Sumatra. “Rendang” is often described as a kind of curry dish, although it is actually nothing like curry since it contains less liquid and richer flavor.
Curries in Thailand (or Thai curries) are usually called “Kaeng”, which means watery soup. The main ingredients of Thai curries are usually shrimp paste, chillies, onions, shallots, garlic and so on. Meat, fish or shellfish are added on top of them. One unique ingredient could be coconut milk, which is only used in the Southern part of Thailand. A number of ways to mix the ingredients make various colors and tastes of Thai curry, and spiciness of it depends on how many hot chillies are contained.
[Japan – Mochi]
By Roxanna, Parkland Middle School 8th grade, Asian American LEAD Participant (www.aalead.org)
One of my favorite foreign foods is mochi. My friend Lizzie brought green tea mochi and it was delicious. I told my mom about it, and, to my surprise, she already knew about it and had eaten it before. She even told me she had a recipe for mochi brownies. I was ecstatic… but there was one problem. My mom had forgotten where she had put it! We decided to look for it on a later day. A few days later we went to Green berries -a frozen yogurt place- and were looking at the toppings. To my surprise there were mochi toppings. Of course I got that-as well as fruit loops. Mochi is one of my favorite Asian desserts- besides pocky. I love the fact that you can get mochi different ways as a brownie, regular, or as ice cream.
- 1 lb mochiko (glutinous rice flour)
- 2 and 1/2 cups Sugar
- 1 and 12oz. can of coconut milk
- 1 and 3/4 cups water
- Few drops food coloring
- katakuriko (potato starch) (cornstarch is also a substitute or variation)
- Sift a 1lb bag of mochiko into a large bowl and add the white sugar, unsweetened coconut milk, and water and a few drops of food coloring. Mix with a balloon whisk until the mixture is lump free.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 3 8-inch circular cake pans with aluminum foil (bottom & sides); grease the foil with oil or spray.
- Divide the batter into the 3 cake pans; cover the batter with more greased foil so that the foil is touching the batter.
- Bake for 1 hour on the middle shelf of your oven. Let cool for another hour, then take off the top foil from one of the pans.
- Dust a work surface with katakuriko (potato starch) and invert the mochi onto the surface. VERY slowly and carefully peel off the other layer of foil, and be careful because it WILL try to stick.
- Cut off the crusts around the edge of the mochi, you can snack on these while you prepare the final product.12Cut the mochi into triangles or squares, and dust each one on the bottom, top and sides with katakuriko. Do this with the rest of the mochi.
[Vietnam – Bánh Xèo)
By Jason, Bancroft Elementary School 2nd Grade, Asian American LEAD Participant (www.aalead.org)
- 1 cup lard or vegetable oil
- 1/4 lb. pork shoulder
- 1/4 lb. small shrimp (peeled, deveined, and sliced in half lengthwise)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sliced yellow onions
- 1-2 medium long red chilies (sliced into rings)
- 3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
- 2 cups bean sprouts (trimmed)
- 2 cups flour rice
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 3/4 cup canned coconut milk
- 3 thinly sliced scallions
- In a large bowl, whisk together the rice flour, turmeric powder, and salt. Add water and coconut milk and whisk until mixture is smooth. Strain through sieve if lumpy. Set batter aside for 30 min.
- Heat a 10-inch non-stick sauté pan or skillet over high heat. Add 1 tbs. of the lard oil, and then add one portion of pork, shrimp, onions, scallions, and mushrooms. Stir fry pork and shrimp until both are half done, and ladle 1 cup of batter into pan. Swirl pan to coat bottom evenly.
- Add bean sprouts over half the crepe (on right side). Drizzle another 1 tbs of lard/oil around outer edge of crepe and lower heat to medium. Cover pan and cook 1 min.
- Remove cover and continue to cook until edges begin to brown. Loosen crepe from bottom of pan with a soft silicon spatula (hard spatula will break crepe).
- When bottom turns light brown and crispy, fold crepe to encase bean sprouts.
- Place pieces of cooked banh xeo inside a lettuce leaf, dip in nuoc cham (or any dipping sauce; ex. Fish sauce) and eat!