Seafood of the Week – Shrimp

October 15, 2013 at 9:17 AM | Posted in seafood, Seafood of the Week, shrimp | Leave a comment
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Palaemon serratus, a caridean shrimp

Palaemon serratus, a caridean shrimp

 

The term shrimp is used to refer to some decapod crustaceans, although the exact animals covered can vary. Used broadly, it may cover any of the groups with elongated bodies and a primarily swimming mode of locomotion – chiefly Caridea and Dendrobranchiata. In some fields, however, the term is used more narrowly, and may be restricted to Caridea, to smaller species of either group, or to only the marine species. Under the broader definition, shrimp may be synonymous with prawn, covering stalk-eyed swimming crustaceans with long narrow muscular tails (abdomens), long whiskers (antennae) and slender legs. They swim forwards by paddling with swimmerets on the underside of their abdomens. Crabs and lobsters have strong walking legs, whereas shrimp have thin fragile legs which they use primarily for perching.
Shrimp are widespread and abundant. They can be found feeding near the seafloor on most coasts and estuaries, as well as in rivers and lakes. To escape predators, some species flip off the seafloor and dive into the sediment.[2] They usually live from one to seven years. Shrimp are often solitary, though they can form large schools during the spawning season. There are thousands of species, and usually there is a species adapted to any particular habitat. Any small crustacean which resembles a shrimp tends to be called one.
They play important roles in the food chain and are important food sources for larger animals from fish to whales. The muscular tails of shrimp can be delicious to eat, and they are widely caught and farmed for human consumption. Commercial shrimp species support an industry worth 50 billion dollars a year, and in 2010 the total commercial production of shrimp was nearly 7 million tons. Shrimp farming took off during the 1980s, particularly in China, and by 2007 the harvest from shrimp farms exceeded the capture of wild shrimp. There are significant issues with excessive bycatch when shrimp are captured in the wild, and with pollution damage done to estuaries when they are used to support shrimp farming. Many shrimp species are small as the term shrimp suggests, about 2 cm (0.79 in) long, but some shrimp exceed 25 cm (9.8 in). Larger shrimp are more likely to be targeted commercially, and are often referred to as prawns, particularly in Britain.

 

 
Shrimp are swimming crustaceans with long narrow muscular abdomens and long antennae. Unlike crabs and lobsters, shrimp have well developed pleopods (swimmerets) and slender walking legs; they are more adapted for swimming than walking. Historically, it was the distinction between walking and swimming that formed the primary taxonomic division into the former suborders Natantia and Reptantia. Members of the Natantia (shrimp in the broader sense) were adapted for swimming while the Reptantia (crabs, lobsters, etc.) were adapted for crawling or walking. Some other groups also have common names that include the word “shrimp”; any small swimming crustacean resembling a shrimp tends to be called one.

 

Shrimp and prawn
From Raymond Bauer in Remarkable Shrimps:
* Shrimp is characteristically used to refer to those crustaceans with long antennae, slender legs, and a laterally compressed, muscular abdomen that is highly adapted for both forward swimming and a backward (retrograde) escape response.
* Prawn is often used as a synonym of shrimp for penaeoidean and caridean shrimp, especially those of large size.
From the English Oxford Dictionaries:
* Shrimp: a small free-swimming crustacean with an elongated body, typically marine and frequently of commercial importance as food.
* Prawn: a marine crustacean which resembles a large shrimp.

 

 

Double-rigged shrimp trawler with one net up and the other being brought aboard

Double-rigged shrimp trawler with one net up and the other being brought aboard

Commercial techniques for catching wild shrimp include otter trawls, seines and shrimp baiting. A system of nets is used when trawling. Baited traps are common in parts of the Pacific Northwest.
Shrimp trawling can result in very high incidental catch rates of non-target species. In 1997, the FAO found discard rates up to 20 pounds for every pound of shrimp. The world average was 5.7 pounds for every pound of shrimp. Trawl nets in general, and shrimp trawls in particular, have been identified as sources of mortality for species of finfish and cetaceans. Bycatch is often discarded dead or dying by the time it is returned to the sea, and may alter the ecological balance in discarded regions. Worldwide, shrimp trawl fisheries generate about 2% of the world’s catch of fish in weight, but result in more than one third of the global bycatch total.
The most extensively fished species are the akiami paste shrimp, the northern prawn, the southern rough shrimp, and the giant tiger prawn. Together these four species account for nearly half of the total wild capture. In recent years, the global capture of wild shrimp has been overtaken by the harvest from farmed shrimp.

 

 
A shrimp farm is an aquaculture business for the cultivation of marine shrimp or prawns for human consumption. Commercial shrimp farming began in the 1970s, and production grew steeply, particularly to match the market demands of the United States, Japan and Western Europe. The total global production of farmed shrimp reached more than 1.6 million tonnes in 2003, representing a value of nearly 9 billion U.S. dollars. About 75% of farmed shrimp are produced in Asia, in particular in China, Thailand and in the Philippines. The other 25% are produced mainly in Latin America, where Brazil is the largest producer. The largest exporting nation is Thailand.

 

 

Shrimp tail ready for eating

Shrimp tail ready for eating

Shrimp are marketed and commercialized with several issues in mind. Most shrimp are sold frozen and marketed based on their categorization of presentation, grading, colour, and uniformity. Shrimp have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of mercury. Usually shrimp is sold whole, though sometimes only the meat of shrimp is marketed.
As with other seafood, shrimp is high in calcium, iodine and protein but low in food energy. A shrimp-based meal is also a significant source of cholesterol, from 122 mg to 251 mg per 100 g of shrimp, depending on the method of preparation. Shrimp consumption, however, is considered healthy for the circulatory system because the lack of significant levels of saturated fat in shrimp means that the high cholesterol content in shrimp actually improves the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol and lowers triglycerides.
Shrimp and other shellfish are among the most common food allergens. They are not kosher and thus are forbidden in Jewish cuisine. Shrimp are halal according to some madhāhib, and therefore permissible to most, but not all, Muslims.

 

 

Village Harvest Brown Jasmine Rice

August 22, 2013 at 9:42 AM | Posted in rice | Leave a comment
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For dinner later today I’m going to prepare Village Harvest Brown Jasmine Rice. First time I’ll be preparing or ever having Jasmine Rice. Here’s a little background on it.

 
Village Harvest Brown Jasmine RiceVillage Harvest Brown Jasmine Rice

Keeping the bran intact and removing only the hull (the outermost layer of grain), brown rice maintains beneficial nutrients lost with further processing, which means more health benefits with every delicious bite. Grown in the heart of Thailand, Village Harvest’s Brown Jasmine Rice has the slightly sweet flavor of traditional jasmine and the benefits of brown rice in every kernel. These soft, moist, long grains are ideal for a variety of cuisines, but essential for preparing authentic Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes.

 

 

ingredients
1 Cup Village Harvest Organic Brown Jasmine Rice, rinsed in cold water
2 1/2 Cups Water or Broth
instructions
In a quart pan, combine rice with 2 1/2 cups of water or stock and bring to a boil.

Cover tightly and simmer at low heat for 35 minutes.
Remove from heat. Fluff with fork. Makes about 3 cups of cooked rice.
Number of servings (yield): 4

 
http://www.villageharvestrice.com/our-rice-and-grains/authentic-imported-grains/brown-jasmine-rice/

Fish of the Week – Catfish

March 27, 2013 at 11:26 AM | Posted in fish | 1 Comment
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Catfishes (order Siluriformes) are a diverse group of ray-finned fish. Named for their prominent barbels, which resemble a cat’s

The channel catfish has four pairs of barbels

The channel catfish has four pairs of barbels

whiskers, catfish range in size and behavior from the heaviest and longest, the Mekong giant catfish from Southeast Asia and the second longest, the wels catfish of Eurasia, to detritivores (species that eat dead material on the bottom), and even to a tiny parasitic species commonly called the candiru, Vandellia cirrhosa. There are armour-plated types and also naked types, neither having scales. Despite their name, not all catfish have prominent barbels; members of the Siluriformes order are defined by features of the skull and swimbladder. Catfish are of considerable commercial importance; many of the larger species are farmed or fished for food. Many of the smaller species, particularly the genus Corydoras, are important in the aquarium hobby. Catfish are nocturnal.

 

Extant catfish species live inland or in coastal waters of every continent except Antarctica. Catfish have inhabited all continents at one time or another. Catfish are most diverse in tropical South America, Africa, and Asia. More than half of all catfish species live in the Americas. They are the only ostariophysans that have entered freshwater habitats in Madagascar, Australia, and New Guinea.
They are found in freshwater environments, though most inhabit shallow, running water. Representatives of at least eight families are hypogean (live underground) with three families that are also troglobitic (inhabiting caves). One such species is Phreatobius cisternarum, known to live underground in phreatic habitats. Numerous species from the families Ariidae and Plotosidae, and a few species from among the Aspredinidae and Bagridae, are found in salt water.
In the United States, catfish species may be known by a variety of slang names, just as mud cat, polliwogs, or chuckleheads. These nicknames are not standardized, so one area may call a Bullhead catfish by the nickname chucklehead, while in another state or region, that nickname refers to the Blue catfish.

 

Most catfish are bottom feeders. In general, they are negatively buoyant, which means that they will usually sink rather than float due to a reduced gas bladder and a heavy, bony head.[6] Catfish have a variety of body shapes, though most have a cylindrical body with a flattened ventrum to allow for benthic feeding.
A flattened head allows for digging through the substrate as well as perhaps serving as a hydrofoil. Most have a mouth that can expand to a large size and contains no incisiform teeth; catfish generally feed through suction or gulping rather than biting and cutting prey. However, some families, notably Loricariidae and Astroblepidae, have a suckermouth that allows them to fasten themselves to objects in fast-moving water. Catfish also have a maxilla reduced to a support for barbels; this means that they are unable to protrude their mouths as other fish such as carp.
Catfish may have up to four pairs of barbels: nasal, maxillary (on each side of mouth), and two pairs of chin barbels, even though pairs of barbels may be absent depending on the species. Catfish also have chemoreceptors across their entire bodies, which means they “taste” anything they touch and “smell” any chemicals in the water. “In catfish, gustation plays a primary role in the orientation and location of food”. Because their barbels and chemoreception are more important in detecting food, the eyes on catfish are generally small. Like other ostariophysans, they are characterized by the presence of a Weberian apparatus. Their well-developed Weberian apparatus and reduced gas bladder allow for improved hearing as well as sound production.
Catfish have no scales; their bodies are often naked. In some species, the mucus-covered skin is used in cutaneous respiration, where the fish breathes through its skin. In some catfish, the skin is covered in bony plates called scutes; some form of body armor appears in various ways within the order. In loricarioids and in the Asian genus Sisor, the armor is primarily made up of one or more rows of free dermal plates. Similar plates are found in large specimens of Lithodoras. These plates may be supported by vertebral processes, as in scoloplacids and in Sisor, but the processes never fuse to the plates or form any external armor. By contrast, in the subfamily Doumeinae (family Amphiliidae) and in hoplomyzontines (Aspredinidae), the armor is formed solely by expanded vertebral processes that form plates. Finally, the lateral armor of doradids, Sisor, and hoplomyzontines consists of hypertrophied lateral line ossicles with dorsal and ventral lamina.

All catfish, except members of Malapteruridae (electric catfish), possess a strong, hollow, bonified leading spine-like ray on their dorsal and pectoral fins. As a defense, these spines may be locked into place so that they stick outwards, which can inflict severe wounds. In several species catfish can use these fin rays to deliver a stinging protein if the fish is irritated. This venom is produced by glandular cells in the epidermal tissue covering the spines. In members of the family Plotosidae, and of the genus Heteropneustes, this protein is so strong it may hospitalize humans, those unfortunate enough to receive a sting; in Plotosus lineatus, the stings may result in death.
Juvenile catfish, like most fish, have relatively large heads, eyes and posterior median fins in comparison to larger, more mature individuals. These juveniles can be readily placed in their families, particularly those with highly derived fin or body shapes; in some cases identification of the genus is possible. As far as known for most catfish, features that are often characteristic of species such as mouth and fin positions, fin shapes, and barbel lengths show little difference between juveniles and adults. For many species, pigmentation pattern is also similar in juveniles and adults. Thus, juvenile catfishes generally resemble and develop smoothly into their adult form without distinct juvenile specializations. Exceptions to this are the ariid catfishes, where the young retain yolk sacs late into juvenile stages, and many pimelodids, which may have elongated barbels and fin filaments or coloration patterns.
Sexual dimorphism is reported in about half of all families of catfish. The modification of the anal fin into an intromittent organ (in internal fertilizers) as well as accessory structures of the reproductive apparatus (in both internal and external fertilizers) have been described in species belonging to 11 different families.

 

Catfish have one of the greatest ranges in size within a single order of bony fish. Many catfish have a maximum length of under 12 cm. Some of the smallest species of Aspredinidae and Trichomycteridae reach sexual maturity at only 1 centimetre (0.39 in).
The wels catfish, Silurus glanis, is the only native catfish species of Europe, besides the much smaller related Aristotle’s catfish found in Greece. Mythology and literature record wels catfish of astounding proportions, yet to be proven scientifically. The average size of the species is about 1.2–1.6 m (3.9–5.2 ft), and fish more than 2 metres (6.6 ft) are very rare. The largest specimens on record measure more than 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) in length and sometimes exceeded 100 kilograms (220 lb).
The largest Ictalurus furcatus, caught in the Missouri River on July 20, 2010, weighed 130 pounds (59 kg). The largest flathead catfish, Pylodictis olivaris, ever caught was in Independence, Kansas, weighing 123 lb 9 oz (56.0 kg). In July 2009, a catfish weighing 193 pounds was caught in the River Ebro, Spain, by an 11-year old British schoolgirl. However, these records pale in comparison to a giant Mekong catfish caught in northern Thailand on May 1, 2005 and reported to the press almost 2 months later that weighed 293 kilograms (650 lb). This is the largest giant Mekong catfish caught since Thai officials started keeping records in 1981. The giant Mekong catfish are not well studied since they live in developing countries and it is quite possible that they can grow even larger.

 

In many catfish, the humeral process is a bony process extending backward from the pectoral girdle immediately above the base of the pectoral fin. It lies beneath the skin where its outline may be determined by dissecting the skin or probing with a needle.
The retina of catfish are composed of single cones and large rods. Many catfish have a tapetum lucidum which may help enhance photon capture and increase low-light sensitivity. Double cones, though present in most teleosts, are absent from catfish.
The anatomical organization of the testis in catfish is variable among the families of catfish, but the majority of them present fringed testis: Ictaluridae, Claridae, Auchenipteridae, Doradidae, Pimelodidae, and Pseudopimelodidae. In the testes of some species of Siluriformes, organs and structures such as a spermatogenic cranial region and a secretory caudal region are observed, in addition to the presence of seminal vesicles in the caudal region. The total number of fringes and their length are different in the caudal and cranial portions between species. Fringes of the caudal region may present tubules, in which the lumen is filled by secretion and spermatozoa. Spermatocysts are formed from cytoplasmic extensions of Sertoli cells; the release of spermatozoa is allowed by breaking of the cyst walls.
The occurrence of seminal vesicles, in spite of their interspecific variability in size, gross morphology and function, has not been related to the mode of fertilization. They are typically paired, multi-chambered, and connected with the sperm duct, and have been reported to play a glandular and a storage function. Seminal vesicle secretion may include steroids and steroid glucuronides, with hormonal and pheromonal functions, but it appears to be primarily constituted of mucoproteins, acid mucopolysaccharides, and phospholipids.
Fish ovaries may be of two types: gymnovarian or cystovarian. In the first type, the oocytes are released directly into the coelomic cavity and then eliminated. In the second type, the oocytes are conveyed to the exterior through the oviduct. Many catfish are cystovarian in type, including Pseudoplatystoma corruscans, P. fasciatum, Lophiosilurus alexandri, and Loricaria lentiginosa.

 

Catfish have widely been caught and farmed for food for hundreds of years in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. Judgments as

Tuscaloosa Catfish served with corn bread and rice

Tuscaloosa Catfish served with corn bread and rice

to the quality and flavor vary, with some food critics considering catfish as being excellent food, while others dismiss them as watery and lacking in flavor. In Central Europe, catfish were often viewed as a delicacy to be enjoyed on feast days and holidays. Migrants from Europe and Africa to the United States brought along this tradition, and in the Southern United States, catfish is an extremely popular food. The most commonly eaten species in the United States are the channel catfish and the blue catfish, both of which are common in the wild and increasingly widely farmed. Farm-raised catfish became such a staple of the diet of the United States that on June 25, 1987, President Ronald Reagan established National Catfish Day to recognize “the value of farm-raised catfish.”
Catfish is eaten in a variety of ways. In Europe it is often cooked in similar ways to carp, but in the United States it is popularly crumbed with cornmeal and fried.
In Indonesia, catfish is usually served grilled in street stalls called warung and eaten with vegetables and soy sauce; the dish is called pecel lele. Catfish can also be eaten with chili sambal as lele penyet (minced catfish). (Lele is the Indonesian word for catfish.)
In Malaysia catfish, called “ikan keli”, is fried with spices or grilled and eaten with tamarind and Thai chillies gravy and also is often eaten with steamed rice.
In Bangladesh and the Indian states of Odisha, West Bengal and Assam catfish (locally known as Magur) is eaten as a favored delicacy during the monsoons. Catfish, locally known as thedu or etta in Malayalam, is very famous in the Indian state Kerala. In the inland ponds in Kerala, 2 varieties of catfish is abundant- Muzhi and Kari while “Etta” is a basically a salt water fish. The smaller, slender Kari is notorious for its ability to sting, and Muzhi is much bigger and easy to catch, especially during Monsoon when this seems to literally walk where very little water is present from the rain water. All the catfish are eaten as curry and their extra-large eggs, especially that of Etta, is fried and is a delicacy. It is also believed that catfish meat helps in blood purification. Catfish curry is consumed in these parts to promote faster recovery to patients suffering from fever or other ailments.
In Hungary catfish is often cooked in paprika sauce (Harcsapaprikás) typical of Hungarian cuisine. It is traditionally served with pasta smothered with curd cheese (túrós csusza).
Catfish is high in Vitamin D. Farm-raised catfish contains low levels of omega-3 fatty acids and a much higher proportion of omega-6 fatty acids.
Vietnamese catfish cannot be legally marketed as catfish in the United States, and is subsequently referred to as swai or basa Only fish of the family Ictaluridae may be marketed as catfish in the United States.
As catfish lack scales, they are judged not to be kosher and may not be eaten by observant Jews, some Christians who follow the Torah’s food restrictions, and observant Muslims of various schools.

 

Catfish are easy to farm in warm climates, leading to inexpensive and safe food at local grocers. About 60% of U.S. farm-raised catfish are grown within a 65-mile (100-km) radius of Belzoni, Mississippi. Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) supports a $450 million/yr aquaculture industry.
Catfish raised in inland tanks or channels are considered safe for the environment, since their waste and disease should be contained and not spread to the wild.
In Asia, many catfish species are important as food. Several walking catfish (Clariidae) and shark catfish (Pangasiidae) species are heavily cultured in Africa and Asia. Exports of one particular shark catfish species from Vietnam, Pangasius bocourti, has met with pressures from the U.S. catfish industry. In 2003, The United States Congress passed a law preventing the imported fish from being labeled as catfish. As a result, the Vietnamese exporters of this fish now label their products sold in the U.S. as “basa fish.” Trader Joe’s has labeled frozen fillets of Vietnamese Pangasius hypophthalmus as “striper.”
There is a large and growing ornamental fish trade, with hundreds of species of catfish, such as Corydoras and armored suckermouth catfish (often called plecos), being a popular component of many aquaria. Other catfish commonly found in the aquarium trade are banjo catfish, talking catfish, and long-whiskered catfish.

 

Representatives of the genus Ictalurus have been introduced into European waters in the hope of obtaining a sporting and food resource. However, the European stock of American catfishes has not achieved the dimensions of these fish in their native waters, and have only increased the ecological pressure on native European fauna. Walking catfish have also been introduced in the freshwaters of Florida, with the voracious catfish becoming a major alien pest there. Flathead catfish, Pylodictis olivaris, is also a North American pest on Atlantic slope drainages. Pterygoplichthys species, released by aquarium fishkeepers, have also established feral populations in many warm waters around the world.

 

While the vast majority of catfish are harmless to humans, a few species are known to present some risk. Perhaps the most notorious of these is the candiru, due to the way it is reputed to parasitize the urethra, though there is only one documented case of a candiru attack on a human.
Since 2007, the Goonch catfish has also gained attention following a series of fatal underwater attacks which have been alleged by biologist Jeremy Wade to have been from unusually large goonch.
The Wels catfish has also been reputed to kill humans (especially young children), and while there are no documented cases of fatalities, larger specimens are known to cause serious injuries in rare instances. In addition, other species are reputed to be dangerous to humans as well, but with less definitive evidence.
Many catfish species have “stings” (actually non-venomous in most cases) embedded behind their fins; thus precautions must be taken when handling them.

‘Extreme Chef’ launches second season August 16 on Food Network

July 12, 2012 at 9:12 AM | Posted in Food | Leave a comment
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Extreme Chef’ launches second season August 16 on Food Network
Seven chefs, extreme locations? What we have here is a new season of ‘Extreme Chef’ debuting August 16 on Food Network.

The series, launching its second season on cable 58, takes seven fearless chefs out of the kitchen and sends them to locations that include the deserts of California and the jungles of Thailand for a competition that will test all of their skills – physical, mental and culinary.

For example, challenges include pulling needles from a cactus pad and using them to create a dish, creating a meal in one hour while on a floating dock while rescuing their ingredients from a capsized fishing boat.

In each episode, the chefs will be judged by a rotating panel of guest judges and the bottom two chefs will face off in a showdown challenge to determine which goes home.

At the season finale, one chef will be declared the most Extreme and take home a $50,000 grand prize.

Special guest judges include Simon Majumdar (‘Next Iron Chef‘ judge and food journalist), Ben Sargent (host of Cooking Channel‘s ‘Hook, Line & Dinner’), and Troy Johnson (host of ‘Crave’ and a food critic and journalist).
The contestants are: Scott Brandolini (Mass.), Susanne Dillingham (N.C.), Terry French (N.J.), Lance Knowling (N.J.), Viet Pham (Utah), Isadora Sarto (Vt.) and, Tiffany Ward (Hawaii).

In the premiere episode, the chefs are dropped into Salton City, Calif., by helicopter and have to scavenge for ingredients and tools in an abandoned wasteland.

They have ’60 minutes to raid a deserted tent village for on-perishable ingredients, build their own cooking stations, and use items like steel wool, batteries and tumbleweed to start a fire. Two chefs will be sent into the Final Showdown where they must create the perfect bite – only one will survive the apocalypse and advance to the next location,’ according to Food Network.

The series will air at 9 p.m. p.m. Thursdays.

National Dish of the Week – Vietnam

November 3, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Posted in baking, Food, soup | 3 Comments
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Vietnamese cuisine is a style of cooking derived from Vietnam. Fish sauce, soy sauce, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and

Bánh mì

vegetables are commonly used. Vietnamese recipes utilize a diverse range of herbs, including lemongrass, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander

and Thai basil leaves. Traditional Vietnamese cooking is greatly admired for freshness of the ingredients and for the healthy eating style.

The most common meats used in Vietnamese cuisine are fish, chicken, pork, beef, and various kinds of seafood. The Vietnamese also have a strong vegetarian tradition influenced by Buddhist values.

The mainstream culinary traditions in all three regions of Vietnam share some fundamental features:

Freshness of food: Most meats are only briefly cooked to preserve their original textures and colors. Vegetables are rarely cooked; if they are, they are boiled or only briefly stir-fried.
Presence of herbs and vegetables: Herbs and vegetables are used abundantly in Vietnamese cuisines. Vietnamese dishes are incomplete without herbs and vegetables.
Broths or soup-based dishes are characteristic of all three regions
Presentation: The condiments that accompany Vietnamese meals are usually colorful and arranged in eye-pleasing manners.

While sharing some key features, Vietnamese culinary tradition differs from region to region.

In Northern Vietnam, colder climate limits the production and availability of spices. As a result, the foods here are often less spicy than those in other regions. Black pepper is used in place of chiles as the most popular ingredient to produce spice flavor. In general, Northern Vietnamese cuisine is not bold in any particular flavor – sweet, salty, spicy, bitter, or sour. Most Northern Vietnamese foods feature light and balanced flavors that result from subtle combinations of many different flavoring ingredients. The use of meats such as pork, beef, and chicken were relatively limited in the past. Freshwater fish, crustaceans, and mollusks – such as prawns, shrimps, crabs, oysters, mussels – are widely used. Many notable dishes of Northern Vietnam are crab-centered (e.g., bún riêu). Fish sauce, soy sauce, prawn sauce, and lime are among the main flavoring ingredients. Being the cradle of Vietnamese civilization, Northern Vietnam produces many signature dishes of Vietnam, such as phở, bún riêu, bánh cuốn, which were carried to Central and Southern Vietnam through the road of Vietnamese migration.

The abundance of spices produced by Central Vietnam’s mountainous terrain makes this region’s cuisine notable for its spicy food,

Bánh cuốn Thanh Tri

which sets it apart from the two other regions of Vietnam where foods are mostly non-spicy. Once the capital of the last dynasty of Vietnam, Hue’s culinary tradition features highly decorative and colorful food, reflecting the influence of ancient Vietnamese royal cuisine. The region’s cuisine is also notable for its sophisticated meals constituted by many complex dishes served at small portions. Chili peppers and shrimp sauces are among the frequently used ingredients. Some Vietnamese signature dishes produced at this region are bún bò Huế and bánh xèo.

The warm weather and fertile soil of Southern Vietnam create an ideal condition for growing a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, and livestock. As a result, foods in Southern Vietnam are often vibrant and flavorful with liberal uses of garlic, shallots, and fresh herbs. Sugar is added to food more than in the other regions. The preference for sweetness in Southern Vietnam can also be seen through the widespread use of coconut milk in Southern Vietnamese cuisine. Vast shorelines make seafood a natural staple for people in this region. Southern Vietnam has also been the region where influences from foreign cuisines (Chinese, Indian, French, Thai etc.) are most prominent.

As distinct as Vietnamese cuisine is, it has been influenced by several sources.

Once a province of China for over a thousand years, Vietnam shares many of its characteristics with China. In culinary traditions, Chinese introduced to Vietnam many dishes like hoành thánh (wonton), há cảo (dumpling), hủ tiếu (ka tieu), mì (wheat noodles), bò bía (Popiah), bánh quẩy (youtiao), bánh bao (baozi), cơm chiên Dương Châu (Yangzhou-fried rice), mì xào (chow mein)…Vietnamese adopted these foods and added their own styles and flavors to the foods. Ethnic minorities in the mountainous region near China-Vietnam border also adopted some foods from China. Ethnic Tày and Nùng in Lạng Sơn province adopted “thịt lợn quay” (roasted pork) and “khau nhục” (braised pork belly) from China.

The French introduced to Vietnam baguettes, which were then combined with Vietnamese stuffing to become a popular fast food in Vietnam called bánh mì and known overseas as “Vietnamese sandwich“. The French also brought to Vietnam onions, potatoes, tarragon, asparagus, and coffee… Onions are called “hành tây” (literally “Western onion”), asparagus as “măng tây” (literally “Western shoots) and potatoes are called “khoai tây” (literally “Western yam”) in Vietnamese, which reflect their origin before arriving to Vietnam.

From India by way of possibly the annexed Indianized kingdom Champa in central Vietnam or the Khmer Krom, Vietnamese adopted curry.Though not common in the North, cà ri is a quite popular dish in central and southern Vietnam. The most common form is the chicken curry and to a much less common dish is the goat curry. The chicken curry is an indispensable dish in many social gathering events such as weddings, funerals and the yearly death anniversary of a loved one. In Vietnam, the curry is eaten either with the French baguettes or with steamed rice. The round rice noodles (rice vermicelli) are sometimes eaten with the curry.

From the Khmer, Vietnamese adopted mắm bồ hóc (prahok). Mắm bồ hóc is used as a central ingredient of a Vietnamese rice noodle soup called “bún nước lèo” – a Vietnamese dish influenced by Khmer.

From Thailand, Vietnamese adopted xôi xoài (mango sticky rice) and lẩu Thái (Thai hotpot) – a very popular party food in Vietnam, especially in Saigon.

A typical meal for the average Vietnamese family would include:

Individual bowls of steamed white rice
Fish/seafood, meat (grilled, boiled, steamed, stewed or stir-fried with vegetables)
Stir-fried, raw, and pickled, steamed, or fresh vegetables
Canh (a clear broth with vegetables and often meat or seafood) or other Vietnamese-style soup
Prepared fish sauce and/or soy sauce for dipping, to which garlic, pepper, chili, ginger or lime juice are sometimes added according to taste
Small dish of relishes, such as salted eggplant, pickled white cabbage, pickled papaya, pickled garlic or pickled bean sprouts

All dishes apart from the individual bowls of rice are communal and to be shared.

Feast (Vietnamese: cỗ) is a significant event for families or a villages, usually 4 or 6 people for each table (5 people is unacceptable). Feast is prepared for weddings, funerals or in festivals, including wish-for-longevity ceremony. In a feast, ordinary foods are not

Canh chua, sour soup

served but boiled rice is still used. The well-known feast is the feast of 49 quan họ villages with cỗ năm tầng.

Vietnamese feast has two courses: main course (món mặn. Literally: salty dish) and dessert (món ngọt. Literally: sweet dish). All dishes, except for individual bowls of rice, are enjoyed collectively. All main course dishes are served simultaneously rather than subsequently. The most major dish of the main course is place in the centers of the tables, usually big pots of soup or hotpot.

Attendants are arranged into several groups according to their social status, genders, ages, their degree of acquantaince and their eating habits and preferences. It is a custom that female guests will bring some food and help the hosts to prepare the feast.

A basic feast (Vietnamese: cỗ một tầng) consists of ten dishes: five dishes in bowls (năm bát): bóng, miến (cellophane noodles), măng (bamboo shoot), mọc (meat ball), chim or gà tần (bird or chicken stew dishes) and five dishes in plates (năm đĩa): giò (Vietnamese sausage), chả, gà or vịt luộc (boiled chicken or duck), nộm (Vietnamese salad) and xào (stir-frying dishes). This kind of feast is original and is organized in the Northern Vietnam. Other variances are held in Central and Southern Vietnam.

Four dishes are indispensable in the feast of Tết are giò (Vietnamese sausage), nem (spring roll), ninh (stew dishes) and mọc (meat ball). In this time, the feast for offering ancestors includes: sticky rice, boiled chicken, Vietnamese rice wine, and other preferred foods by ancestors in the past.

Gifts are given before guests leave the feast.

National Dish of the Week – Thailand

October 7, 2011 at 2:35 PM | Posted in baking, Food, grilling | 9 Comments
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Thai cuisine places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. Thai cuisine is known for being spicy.

Kaeng phet pet yang roast duck in red curry

Balance, detail and variety are important to Thai cooking. Thai food is known for its balance of the four fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: sour, sweet, salty, and (optional) bitter. In addition, many Thai dishes are also quite hot (spicy).

Although popularly considered a single cuisine, Thai cuisine is more accurately described as four regional cuisines corresponding to the four main regions of the country: Northern, Northeastern (or Isan), Central, and Southern, each cuisine sharing similar foods or foods derived from those of neighboring countries and regions: Burma to the northwest, the Chinese province of Yunnan and Laos to the north, Vietnam and Cambodia to the east and Malaysia to the south of Thailand. In addition to these four regional cuisines, there is also the Thai Royal Cuisine which can trace its history back to the cosmopolitan palace cuisine of the Ayutthaya kingdom (1351–1767 CE). Its refinement, cooking techniques and use of ingredients were of great influence to the cuisine of the Central Thai plains.

Thai cuisine and the culinary traditions and cuisines of Thailand’s neighbors have mutually influenced one another over the course of many centuries. Regional variations tend to correlate to neighboring states (often sharing the same cultural background and ethnicity on both sides of the border) as well as climate and geography. Southern curries tend to contain coconut milk and fresh turmeric, while northeastern dishes often include lime juice. The cuisine of Northeastern (or Isan) Thailand is similar to southern Lao cuisine whereas northern Thai cuisine shares many dishes with northern Lao cuisine and the cuisine of Shan state in Burma. Many popular dishes eaten in Thailand were originally Chinese dishes which were introduced to Thailand mainly by the Teochew people who make up the majority of the Thai Chinese. Such dishes include chok (rice porridge), kuai-tiao rat na (fried rice-noodles) and khao kha mu (stewed pork with rice). The Chinese also introduced the use of a wok for cooking, the technique of deep-frying and stir-frying dishes, and noodles, oyster sauce and soybean products.

Thai meals typically consist of either a single dish or it will be rice (khao in Thai) with many complementary dishes served concurrently and shared by all. It is customary to serve more dishes than there are guests at a table.

Thai food was traditionally eaten with the right hand but it is now generally eaten with a fork and a spoon; this was introduced as part of Westernization during the reign of King Mongkut, Rama IV. It was his brother, Vice-king Pinklao, who, after watching demonstration of Western dining etiquette by American missionary Dr. D. B. Bradley, chose only the Western-style fork and spoon from the whole set of table silverware to use at his own dining table. The fork, held in the left hand, is used to push food into the spoon. The spoon is then brought to the mouth. A traditional ceramic spoon is sometimes used for soups. Knives are not generally used at the table. Chopsticks are used primarily for eating noodle soups, but not otherwise used.

Thai market

It is common practice for Thais and hill tribe peoples in north and northeast Thailand to use sticky rice as an edible implement by shaping it into small, and sometimes flattened, balls by hand which are then dipped into side dishes and eaten. Thai-Muslims frequently eat meals with only their right hands.

Thai food is often served with a variety of sauces (nam chim) and condiments. These may include phrik nam pla/nam pla phrik (consisting of fish sauce, lime juice, chopped chilies and garlic), dried chili flakes, sweet chili sauce, sliced chili peppers in rice vinegar, sriracha sauce, or a spicy chili sauce or paste called nam phrik. In most Thai restaurants, diners can find a selection of Thai condiments, often including sugar or MSG, available on the dining table in small containers with tiny spoons. With certain dishes, such as khao kha mu (pork trotter stewed in soy sauce and served with rice), whole Thai peppers and raw garlic are served in addition. Cucumber is sometimes eaten to cool the mouth after particularly spicy dishes. They often also feature as a garnish, especially with one-dish meals. The plain rice, sticky rice or the khanom chin (Thai rice noodles) served alongside a spicy curry or stir-fry, tends to counteract the spiciness.

A Thai family meal will normally consist of rice with several dishes which form a harmonious contrast of ingredients and preparation methods. The dishes are all served at the same time. A meal at a restaurant for four people could, for instance, consist of fish in dry red curry (chuchi pla), a spicy green papaya salad with dried prawns, tomatoes, yardlong beans and peanuts (som tam thai), deep fried stuffed chicken wings (pik kai sot sai thot), a salad of grilled beef, shallots and celery or mint (yam nuea yang), spicy stir fried century eggs with crispy basil (khai yiao ma phat kraphao krop), and a non-spicy vegetable soup with tofu and seaweed (tom chuet taohu kap sarai) to temper it all.

Thailand has about the same surface area as Spain and a length of approximately 1650 kilometers or 1025 miles (Italy, in comparison, is about 1250 kilometers or 775 miles long), with foothills of the Himalayas in the north, a high plateau in the northeast, a verdant river basin in the centre and tropical rainforests and islands in the south. And with over 40 distinct ethnic groups with each their own culture and even more languages, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Thai cuisine, as a whole, is extremely varied and features many different ingredients and ways of preparing food. Thai food is known for its enthusiastic use of fresh (rather than dried) herbs and spices. Common herbs include cilantro, lemon grass, Thai basils and mint. Some other common flavors in Thai food come from ginger, galangal, tamarind, turmeric, garlic, soy beans, shallots, white and black peppercorn, kaffir lime and, of course, chilies.

Culinary tours of Thailand have gained popularity in recent years. Alongside other forms of tourism in Thailand, food tours have carved a niche for themselves. Many companies offer culinary and cooking tours of Thailand and many tourists visiting Thailand attend cooking courses offered by hotels, guesthouses and cooking schools.

Pad Thai – Thailand

October 7, 2011 at 2:31 PM | Posted in Food, noodle | 4 Comments
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Pad Thai or Phat Thai is a dish of stir-fried rice noodles with eggs, fish sauce, tamarind juice, red chilli pepper, plus

Pad Thai in Bangkok

any combination of bean sprouts, shrimp, chicken, or tofu, garnished with crushed peanuts, coriander and lime, the juice of which can be added along with

Thai condiments. It is usually served with spring onions and pieces of raw banana flower.

The dish had been known in ancient Siam in various forms for centuries. The variant of noodle is thought to have been brought to the ancient Thai capital of Ayuthaya by Vietnamese traders. However, it was first made popular as a national dish by Luang Phibunsongkhram when he was prime minister during the 1930s and 1940s, partly as an element of his campaign for Thai nationalism and centralization, and partly for a campaign to reduce rice consumption in Thailand. The Thai economy at this time was heavily dependent on rice exports; Phibunsongkhram hoped to increase the amount available for export by launching a campaign to educate the poor in the production of rice noodles, as well as in the preparation of these noodles with other ingredients to sell in small cafes and from street carts. Nowadays Pad Thai has become a widespread staple food and is one of Thailand’s national dishes.

Pad Thai Noodles with Shrimp

Ingredients:

8 oz. Thai rice noodles (linguini width), or enough for 2 people
1-2 cups raw or cooked shrimp, shells removed
1 shallot (OR 1/4 cup purple onion), finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 fresh red chilies (or as much as you like!), finely sliced
1 egg
2 cups bean sprouts
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper (OR substitute black pepper)
3 green onions, sliced finely
1/2 cup fresh coriander/cilantro
1/4 cup dry roasted peanuts, ground or chopped
2-3 Tbsp. oil for stir-frying (coconut, peanut, corn, sunflower, or canola are all good)
3 Tbsp. chicken stock
wedges of lime for serving
PAD THAI SAUCE:
3/4 Tbsp. tamarind paste (available at Asian/Indian food stores)
1/4 cup hot water
2+1/2 Tbsp. fish sauce (available in tall bottles at Asian food stores)
1-3 tsp. chili sauce (to taste), OR 1/2 to 1 tsp. dried crushed chili
3 Tbsp. palm sugar OR brown sugar

Preparation:

Bring a large pot of water to boil, then remove from heat. Dunk in the rice noodles. Soak the noodles until soft enough to eat, but still firm and a little “crunchy”. Drain and rinse the noodles thoroughly with cold water. Set aside. Tip:Avoid over-softening the noodles at this point, as they will be fried later, and you want them to turn out chewy, not soggy.
In a small bowl or cup, dissolve the tamarind paste in the hot water. Then add the other Pad Thai Sauce ingredients (fish sauce, chili, and brown sugar). Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Add as much or as little chili sauce as you prefer, but don’t skimp on the sugar – it is needed to balance out the sourness of the tamarind. Set aside.
Warm a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp. oil and swirl around, then add the shallots, garlic, and chili. Stir-fry 1 minute.
Add the shrimp plus 2-3 Tbsp. chicken stock. Stir-fry 2-3 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and plump. (If using cooked shrimp, only stir-fry 1 minute.)
Push ingredients aside, making room in the center of your wok/pan. Add another 1 Tbsp. oil, then crack in the egg. Stir-fry to scramble (30 seconds to 1 minute).
Add the drained noodles and drizzle over the pad thai sauce. Use 2 utensils and a gentle “tossing” motion to combine everything together (like tossing a salad). Keep the heat between medium and medium-high – you want your pan hot enough to cook the noodles, but not so hot that the noodles burns. Stir-fry 4-5 minutes.
Add the bean sprouts and continue stir-frying 1 more minute, or until noodles are chewy-delicious and a little bit sticky.
Remove from heat and taste-test, adding more fish sauce until desired taste is achieved (I usually add another 1-2 Tbsp).
Sprinkle over the white pepper, onion, coriander, and peanuts, and garnish with lime wedges (these should be squeezed over before eating). Toss one more time and serve. Thai chili sauce can also be served on the side if desired. ENJOY!
http://thaifood.about.com/od/oodlesofnoodles/r/padthaishrimp2.htm

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