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In the Kitchen: Some Asian favorites your family will love
Asian food

As all of you probably know, when it comes to ethnic cuisines, I am a huge fan of all things Asian. I could easily eat Asian food every day. I love all of it. Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, and of course my favorite, Japanese. 

I love that regular grocery stores have gotten so much better about stocking Asian ingredients — although if you want the authentic stuff for much better prices, I would encourage you to seek out an Asian grocery store. They are fun to explore — even when you are not quite sure what some of the ingredients are.

As far as eating Asian food in restaurants, you know what I always say: When you cook things yourself, you can control the quality of the ingredients. You know you are using quality oil, and you can control the amount of salt, sugar and other things.

In addition, you can tailor the dishes to your particular taste — love cilantro? Load it up! Watching your salt intake? Use low sodium soy sauce, or substitute coconut aminos. Like things spicy? Add jalapenos and sriracha for a kick. Don’t be intimidated to try new recipes you have only ever eaten at restaurants or gotten as take-out. 

Cooking Asian dishes is the same as cooking any other ethnic cuisine, you just have to get used to using ingredients you may not be used to. For example, fish sauce doesn’t sound very good and it certainly doesn’t smell appealing. However, when used in Vietnamese dishes, it adds a certain umami flavor that simply has no substitute. I promise it won’t make the dish taste fishy. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and have a bit of a nutty flavor — they are delicious and are worth seeking out.

 A few things to keep in mind when cooking Asian dishes. Always, always use fresh ginger and garlic. Same thing when it comes to citrus — there is just no substitute for freshly squeezed lime, lemon or oranges.

Here are some of my latest favorite Asian recipes — feel free to change them up to accommodate your palate. Let me know what Asian dishes you love to cook.

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Traditionally made with dried wood ear mushrooms (that are soaked in hot water to soften), unless you shop at an Asian grocery store (or order online), they can be tricky to find. Thinly-sliced fresh shitake caps (stems discarded) make a fine substitute.

 

Hot and sour soup

1/2 cup thinly-sliced fresh shitake caps (or reconstituted dried wood ear mushrooms)

2 tablespoons avocado oil

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1/2 cup green onions, sliced

8 ounces boneless pork chop, cut into matchsticks

4 cups chicken broth

8 ounces soft tofu, cut into small cubes

1 teaspoon honey or sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/2 cup rice vinegar (more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon sriracha

2 eggs, beaten

 Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, garlic, ginger, green onions and pork, cooking three to four minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add tofu, honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, pepper, sesame oil and sriracha. Simmer a few more minutes. Drizzle in the beaten eggs, stirring gently. Ladle into four bowls.

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I remember when the Asian eatery at mall food courts used to offer samples of sticky chicken bites. Of course those were deep fried, but oh how I loved them. These sticky chicken bites mimic their fried cousin, but they are pan sautéed and then finished in the oven. Yum!


Sticky chicken bites

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

2 tablespoon brown sugar

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite sized cubes

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup cornstarch

1 tablespoon avocado oil

2 tablespoons roasted sesame seeds

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl, whisk together honey, ketchup, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and brown sugar. Place chicken in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Add cornstarch and stir to coat the chicken. Shake off excess. Heat oil over medium-heat and sear chicken bites until a crust forms. Toss the chicken with the sauce and then place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve with rice.

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Sticky shredded pork

1/4 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup dry sherry

1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

3 pounds pork shoulder

 

Whisk together hoisin, soy sauce, honey, dry sherry and Chinese five-spice powder. Place pork in a plastic zipper bag — you might have to cut the pork in half to make it fit. Pour marinade over and massage it to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 24 to 48 hours. When ready to cook, remove from refrigerator for 30 minutes before cooking. Reserve marinade for basting. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place pork on rimmed baking sheet and roast for five hours. Now baste pork every 10 minutes for another hour. Let pork rest for 20 minutes and then shred. Serve in lettuce cups or with rice.

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This all-purpose Asian vinaigrette is one of my favorites. It goes perfectly with grilled shrimp and grilled chicken, and is divine over plain rice. It keeps a few days in the refrigerator.

 

Asian vinaigrette

2 tablespoons garlic, minced

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons avocado oil

1/4 teaspoon sesame oil

1 ½ tablespoon honey or sugar

Pinch pepper

 

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake.