View Full Version : A tale of culinary triumph, or: Holy smokes! It worked!
06-18-2003, 09:50 PM
I've been living the bachelor-life for about four years, which means I generally eat the human equivalent of dog food: stuff that takes zero time to prepare, and will keep me alive and more-or-less healthy. Unless I've got company coming I rarely do anything in the kitchen more elaborate than making a sandwich or heating up a can of Hormel chili. I'm a pretty good cook, but I'm a recipe follower, not one of those people who can just sort of "whip something up."
My ex and I used to cook constantly; she was Malaysian and a fabulous cook, and introduced me to foods I'd never heard of. There was one dish, called something like "hunnea-mi" (pronounced sort of like huh-NEE-uh mee; I think it means "fish-balls and noodles" or something, even though it has no fish-balls in it), that I absolutely loved, but never learned to cook. I knew it had ground pork, scallions, chili paste, and noodles, but there were a lot of other spices and things in there, and I was never sure what was in it.
Well, today I was at the grocery store, getting my usual ration of sardines, Campbell's soup, and fruit, and suddenly it popped into my head to try to make hunnea-mi, which I haven't eaten in probably four or five years. I don't know where the idea came from, but I found myself thinking, "How hard can it be? I'll just mix in a bunch of spices and such that used to be in the kitchen when the ex was cooking, and if it doesn't come out right it still probably won't come out bad." Fortified with my newfound culinary optimism, I went around buying ingredients that I thought might have gone into it.
So I came home with all my new purchases, cooked it all up in a way that seemed likely to forestall trichinosis, and...
(OK, I guess you probably saw that coming from the thread title, but I wanted to get across the amazing thrill.)
I couldn't believe it; it came out exactly as I remembered it! I've never tried to recreate a recipe from memory that way, and it worked! I've had a couple of real disasters in the kitchen over the years, and this was a dizzying triumph.
And now, with my belly full, my tongue scorched, and my ego inflated, I am at peace. Well, actually I'm at work, but there are leftovers waiting for me at home.
06-18-2003, 09:56 PM
If you are what you eat, then I must be fast, cheap, and easy :D
06-18-2003, 10:06 PM
Sounds great! I love to cook, but rarely use recipes. I just vaguely follow things I've seen my folks/TV cooks do, and usually it works out pretty good.
06-18-2003, 11:22 PM
Congratulations, jackelope, you have just freed yourself from the chains of recipe slavery. There are few things quite so satisfying to a cook as duplicating a known dish just from what was remembered about it.
Try using some lemon grass next time. Hit an Asian market and look for a pouch of fish or shrimp balls. Consider using some baby bok choy or garlic chives too. Most of all, keep up the good work. Once you break free of recipes, you have the opportunity to buy whatever looks best at the market that day and go from there.
Feel free to post the recipe here and I'll be happy to review it for you.
06-19-2003, 06:21 AM
MMMMM Malaysian Food!!!
(you can try Nasi Lemak next time, I have a recipe if you want)
06-19-2003, 09:25 AM
I want the recipe for Nasi Lemak. I lurves me some Malaysian food.
Duke of Rat
06-19-2003, 09:38 AM
Congrats jackelope. That IS a triumph! I mean it sounds like a fairly complex recipe to reproduce and then to nail it is just great.
And by all means, let Zenster do a review. Anythime Zenster does a running commentary on a dinner party it just makes my mouth water.
And post those recipes, folks! Some of us live in a cultural wateland. I've never even seen a Malaysian restaurante, much less had any Malaysian food.
06-19-2003, 02:41 PM
Well, the recipe was pretty simple, actually. I browned some ground pork with a little bit of vegetable oil, a bit of soy, a healthy amount of oyster sauce, and sesame oil (actually "Hot Chili Sesame Oil"; I couldn't find plain sesame oil), then added chopped scallions and lots of Vietnamese chili paste (the bottle says something like "Tuong Ot Toi" with lots of diacritical marks; I love that stuff) and ate it with noodles.
I guess it's not the healthiest meal in the world, since it's essentially just meat and noodles with some scallions. But it's delicious.
And yes, if anyone wants to post recipes, fire away. My heady success has got me ready to try some more new recipes. irishgirl, I've had nasi biryani, and nasi lemak sounds familiar; is that maybe made with coconut milk?
06-19-2003, 04:17 PM
Jackelope, below is my recipe for won tons. You may wish to try making some pork meatballs using the filling mixture. To work the normally wooden lemon grass that I suggested into your recipe, please consider coarsely chopping some of the (peeled) large end of the shoots and using it to perfume a large tin of chicken stock. Add a few coins of ginger and some roasted sesame oil. You may also wish to investigate getting some powdered galangal at your local Asian food market. This is one of the signature spices used in Malay cooking. I'm not fond of it but is it a classic ingredient.
Use the scented chicken broth to cook off some rice stick noodles. Avoid boiling them for very long. If you catch them while they're still al dente, you'll be able to fry them in a little vegetable oil and get a delightful crispy noodle effect. To quickly stop them from cooking once they are right at the chewy state, drain the noodles and then rinse them in cold running water for one minute. You'll need to reheat the noodles by frying them or adding them back into the stock (for soup) once everything is assembled.
I'll also suggest that you look for those fish or shrimp balls (it's easy to tell the shrimp balls, they're so very tiny [grin]). They'll make a fantastic tasting and quite healthy addition to your dish. After your noodles are cooked off and have been removed from the broth, add the seafood balls and either make soup, or just bring them back into the pork and noodles once they're warmed up (they are usually pre-cooked). Toss in some whole peeled prawns (or regular shrimp), snow peas, drained canned straw mushrooms, drained canned water chestnuts, or (for a real octane boost) some sliced Jalapeño pepper with the seeds and ribs removed.
Be sure to hold off from adding any of the sauces or spices you are using until the very last few minutes of cooking. Prolonged heating of these ingredients boils off their delicate spice notes and tends to leave them a bit flat. However, this does not apply to spices that must be mixed in ahead of time (like the five spice powder in the won tons). The perfumed chicken stock mentioned above is your friend. Make a batch and save it for routine use with all sorts of dishes.
For those who are interested, here is a nasi lemak (http://www.norlia.com/recipe_nasi_lemak_english.htm) recipe. I can't testify to how authentic it is, but it sure looks good! YUM!
Here's the won ton recipe:
Preparation time: 30 Minutes
Serves: 4-8 People
1 Package won ton wrappers
6-8 Water chestnuts
1-2 Cloves of garlic
½ Lb Ground Pork
¼ Lb Cooked and peeled shrimp
2 Tbs Soy sauce
1-2 Tbs Grated ginger
1-2 Tbs Xao Xing* or Sherry
½ Tsp Sugar
¼ Cup diced celery
¼ Cup diced green pepper
¼ Tsp Ground white pepper
¼ Tsp Five spice powder
¼ Tsp Roasted sesame oil
* Rice Wine
Mince the green pepper and celery finely. Parboil them in a small amount of water until near tender. Grind the shrimp into a fine paste in a mortar and pestle. In a large bowl combine the pork and ground shrimp add the crushed garlic, fine chopped scallions, minced water chestnut, grated ginger, sugar and all other spices and liquids. In a separate bowl beat an egg until creamy. Mix it with the meat and blend thoroughly. Allow the mixture to marry for one hour.
To make the won tons line a few plates with wax paper. On a cutting board place one of the square papers on the diagonal in front of you so that it forms a diamond shape. Place a small teaspoonful of the meat mix on the lower half of the wrapper. Dip your finger into a small bowl of water and run your fingertip around the upper two edges to moisten them. Fold up the skin into a triangle and press the edges together to seal the wonton. Grasp the two pointed outer corners and pull them together while rolling the main body of the filling away from you. This will give you the standard restaurant won ton shape
An alternate is to place the meat into the center of the paper and merely squash the edges together in a sort of sacatini like pouch. Wet your fingers and crimp all of the edges together. Place the won tons onto the wax paper and make sure that they do not touch each other. Keep the won tons covered with a moistened towel so that they do not dry out.
Cook the wanton in a fast boiling clear broth. Do not allow them to over cook as they will disintegrate. Once they begin to float upon the surface they will be close to done. Once the dough is past al dente the cooking they are ready. These same won tons may be deep fried to a golden brown. They freeze well and can go from the freezer to the cook pot with ease.
Note: For wonton soup use the traditional ingredients of water chestnuts, scallions, snow peas, mushrooms, shrimp and a good strong chicken broth. Some coins of ginger will add a nice perfume.
Deep fried wonton may be served with a good chili sauce for western palates. For a more authentic flavor use a dipping mixture composed of dark soy sauce with several drops of roasted sesame chile oil. Chopped garlic, scallions, ginger and a dash of sugar are optional.
06-19-2003, 04:45 PM
Wow, you can tell what an old recipe of mine that was. "Wanton," how embarassing!
Here is a link to more Malay recipes (http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Market/7773/malaysia.html). jackelope, let me know if you see the one you remember in there.
06-19-2003, 04:54 PM
Congratulations! I love to recreate recipes from restaurants. My specialty is sauces, using just my tastebuds, I can guess what the ingredients are. The fact that you did it after 5 years is truly amazing.
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