Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chicken Laab

Laab reminds me of the gatherings that my family and other Hmong families used to have when I was growing up. A cow or pig would be sacrificed in the early morning at a butcher shop or farm, and then a bunch of relatives would come over and help cook the meat into many different dishes. One of those dishes was usually laab or larb, however it's spelled. The men were the ones who always made the laab. I should've paid attention growing up because I don't know how to make laab as good as I had it back then. I haven't attended any of those Hmong gatherings in a long time. I'm not a bad daughter-in-law. At least I don't think I am. LOL I'm just not the traditional type, and luckily, my husband isn't either, so we rarely go to these events unless it's in our first family. I just remember two key ingredients that the cooks used and they were lime leaves and roasted rice powder. Since I don't live in St. Paul anymore, I don't have access to the wide variety of herbs and veggies usually available in the Cities, so I didn't get any lime leaves. I used lemongrass in this recipe instead and it worked fine.

Laab is generally a healthy dish, since it is made with the leanest parts of the meat. My version is even healthier because it's made with baked chicken breasts and the rest of the ingredients are pretty low in calories as well. Growing up, we mostly had beef laab and sometimes pork laab. I always liked the white meat laab more. There are many versions of laab, but I don't like it when laab is made into a bitter dish (with some gross ingredients IMO). It's even made raw and I never eat it that way. Laab is meant to be eaten room temperature or even cold and served with greens such as lettuce and of course rice.

3 chicken breasts (about 3 cups once chopped)
1/3 cup of cilantro, finely chopped
1/3 cup of green onions, finely chopped
1/4 cup of mint leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup of lemongrass (white part only), finely chopped
1 tbsp of chopped fresh or frozen Thai chilli peppers

2 1/2 tbsp of fish sauce
2 tbsp of fresh lime juice
1 tbsp of roasted rice powder

Optional: 1/4 cup of shallots, finely chopped
Note: shallots or onions weren't typically used in Hmong laab, but since I had a bunch around I added it and it added a nice flavor

1. Bake chicken breasts in oven at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside.
2. Meanwhile, prepare (chop) fresh herbs.

3. Once chicken is cooked, slice the chicken into large chunks and put into a food processor to chop or chop chicken manually.

I actually over chopped my meat with the food processor. Generally, the meat shouldn't be as fine as this, but it still tasted good to me.

4. Add all the fresh ingredients except the chillies to the chicken. Mix well. Add the rice powder, then add the fish sauce, lime juice and chillies slowly (1 tbsp at a time or 1 tsp of the chillies at a time) to adjust to your liking. I am just listing what I used exactly and that's how I liked it. You may like yours less salty, sour, or hot. Make sure to stir everything well.

This is the rice powder I used (found at the Asian markets). You can make your own by roasting dry rice kernels in a frying pan until brown, and process it in a processor until it turns into a fine powder (or use a mortar and pestle to ground). Just make sure you don't burn the rice.

5. Put laab on a serving plate on top of some lettuce as presentation. I used red leaf lettuce because I like it, and the more color, the better for your health. Serve with an additional side of lettuce and a bowl of rice.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken

I made this for dinner tonight and it was quite good. I would rate this a 4 out of 5. Few recipes will get a 5 so 4 is still pretty good. I didn't change anything to this recipe and followed it pretty much exactly. The chicken turned out very moist and tender. It was quite lemony, garlicky and thymey. You get it...the flavors were good. It tastes similar to the rotisserie chicken that you would find at the stores, except it's all home made. I didn't make the gravy though. Once you pop this in the oven, your house will smell delicious. :) Next time, I would make this with some roasted potatoes, carrots and onions (all in the same pan with the chicken).

Recipe courtesy of Ina Garten from Food Network:

Back in the loop...

Okay, I went out with almost two weeks without a meal plan and that's not good! Ever since I started this blog, I have been planning my meals every weekend for the entire week (at least dinner anyway). It has save me a lot of money and some anxiety over what to make for dinner. I just pack the leftovers for lunch the next day and eat my usual breakfast which can be anything. I have enjoyed trying all these recipes. In fact, it's one of the things that I look forward to coming home to now. I just never know what I'm going to get today (in the recipe)...and that can be exciting.

I must say, though, that I haven't really loved any of the Asian recipes I have tried. I wonder if it's because I eat so much Asian food already, so I am just more critical. The non-Asian food recipes tastes pretty good to me. Maybe it's because I just haven't had enough non-Asian food; kind of like how when I was young I used to think Chinese buffets were the best! LOL And then I ate too much Chinese (American-Chinese e.g. Panda Express) and now I don't like it as much. I happen to not like buffets anymore. Seeing all the cooked food looks appealing, but when I actually eat it, it is not so good. Nothing beats home cooked meals.

I'm also going to start a rating system on the recipes that I try. On a scale of 1-5, 5 meaning the recipe was near perfect where it tasted spectacular (okay, great) and I didn't have to change much or anything to the recipe. One would be disappointing taste and so on. So far, I have only one recipe on my blog that I would rate a 5 and that's the Chicken Parmigiana. That was just yummy!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cake Bites

I have been sorta busy, so I haven't been able to do my usual weekly experiments and posting. I plan on posting some more recipes on Hmong food as soon as I get to make them.

I made these cake bites back in December for Christmas. I think they are too sweet for my taste, but a lot of people seem to like them. I would recommend using less frosting and see if that helps make it less sweet. I would also recommend using a higher quailty of chocolate and not the chocolate bark. These were time consuming, but I thought they turned out nice and it was fun to see that others enjoyed them. I would make these again for a fun event.

Original recipe for cake bites from bakerella.com.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cilantro Garlic Chicken Wings

Cilantro, green onions and garlic are the main herbs that I use in my cooking (when I cook Asian). Although I have been using a lot of lemongrass lately as well, thanks to my mom who supplied me a good amount of frozen lemongrass to make the Hmong boiled chicken for my post-pregnancy. I have never used lemongrass so much before until I started this blog.

But today’s subject is on my cilantro and garlic chicken wings. It’s actually more than these two ingredients, but I’d say these two ingredients add a nice touch. I first tasted these while we were visiting my brother and his family, and my SIL made it for us. My husband liked them a lot so I attempted to replicate her recipe when I got home. These are fairly easy to make and quite tasty! I plan on trying out more recipes for chicken wings as I do love them.

Serves 6-10

1 package of chicken wings (about 3.5 lbs)
2 tbsp hoisin sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp of Maggi seasoning sauce (in Asian aisle) or light soy sauce
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup of cilantro, chopped

Cut wings at joint and throw away tips. Place wings on a foil-lined baking sheet and set the oven to broil at 500 degrees. Broil wings for 20-25 minutes or until browned. Flip wings over and broil the other side of the wings for 15-20 minutes or until browned. While chicken is cooking, mince garlic and set aside. Chop cilantro and set aside.

When the wings are ready, place a large cooking pan and set it on high heat. Immediately transfer the wings from the baking sheet over to the hot pan and add the minced garlic. Stir the garlic so that it is evenly distributed among the wings. Cook about one minute or until garlic is fragrant, but not burnt.

Add all the sauces into the pan and stir immediately. The wings will start to char and this is when you will add the cilantro. Stir and cook for a few seconds just until the cilantro becomes tender. Remove the pan from heat, then transfer the wings to a serving platter and serve.

My sister made this and she and her family liked it:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Treat for Myself

I have never bought myself any expensive cooking tools until recently. Last year I bought myself an All-Clad 12-inch cooking pan for about $140 after I got fed up with the teflon coming off of those non-stick pans I had. I have always used inexpensive knives from any available discount store and I finally had it with them. I decided to treat myself to a Wusthof chef's knife as I heard good things about this brand. I really don't know anything about what to look for, but so far so good. It comes with a lifetime warranty (even though I think warranties are b.s. anyway). I just hope my new knife doesn't end up like the one I've been using right before:

Thai Crispy Fish Salad

To me this dish sort of resembles "laab" or "larb" except for a few different ingredients and that the fish is fried. It is a good-tasting salad; I just hate to deep fry, but I gave it a try anyway. I probably over chopped the fish with the food processor because when I fried it, it didn't turn out like I thought it would. The fish crumbles were a little too crumbly for me, so I made fish balls with the remainign fish, and actually liked it better that way. I would also recommend using the full tablespoon of salt as recommended. I initially thought one tablespoon of salt was too much and only used about one teaspoon, but one tablespoon is necessary as too little salt may disappear between baking and deep frying. I usually follow recipes to the core and then make changes later to my liking, but I've been afraid to do so ever since I tried this one Laotian recipe and I almost threw up from it. This dish is definitely not gross IMO, otherwise I wouldn't post it. This salad can be served with fresh green mangoes and I know it would taste really good along with the other ingredients. I didn't have any turmeric on hand, and the dressing tasted fine without it.

Serves 4


1 lemon grass stalk, white part only, roughly chopped
4 Thai chillies
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp palm sugar
1/4 tsp ground turmeric

10 oz skinless white fish fillets (traditionally catfish is used in Thai, but I used Tilapia this time)
1 tbsp sea salt
peanut oil, for deep frying
3 tomatoes or large cherry tomatoes, each cut into 4 or 6 wedges
2 Asian shallots
1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
16-24 mint leaves, chopped
2 tbsp roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

1. To make dressing, use a pestle and mortar or food processor to pound or blend the lemon grass, chillies and garlic to a paste. Transfer to a bowl and add the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar and turmeric. Stir until the sugar dissolves.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pat dry the fish fillets, then toss them in the sea salt. Place them on a rack in a baking tray and bake for 20 minutes. Remove, allow to cool, then transfer to a food processor and chop until the fish resembles large breadcrumbs (or fluff fish with a fork).

3. Half fill a wok with oil and heat over high heat. Drop a small piece of fish into the oil. If it sizzles immediately, the fish is ready. Drop a large handful of the chopped fish into the hot oil. The fish will puff up and turn crisp. Cook for 30 seconds and carefully stir a little. Cook for another 30 seconds until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat to cook all the fish.

4. Put the tomatoes, shallots, red onion, cilantro, mint and peanuts in a bowl with about half of the dressing. Transfer the salad to a serving plate. Break the fish into smaller pieces if you wish and place on the salad. To ensure that the fish stays crispy, pour the remaining dressing over the salad just before serving.

I had some left over fish crumbs, so I turned them into fish balls simply by deep frying them until crispy.