Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Trip to Southeast Asia

I've been looking at cooking classes for the past 6 months and trying to figure out what type of class I want to take. One of the classes I was considering taught recipes and techniques from a cookbook called Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. I wasn't quite sure what it was going to be about and I decided to think about it before signing up. After a few days I completely forgot about it as I got busy with other things.

When I was at the library looking for a good book to read on my holiday travels, I came across a copy of Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet! I checked it out and started reading. What a wonderful cookbook - stories about Southeast Asia, its people, and the food. I have already read through the book two or three times! Sadly the cooking class is sold out, so I started teaching myself the recipes. One of the first recipes to catch my attention was the Silky Coconut-Pumpkin Soup. The recipe is from Thailand and Laos. I've had a red kuri squash sitting on the counter for a while, and decided this would be a good substitution for the pumpkin. The soup was as advertised, silky-smooth and delicious. It was wonderful as lunch the next day.

As a side dish I tried something that I've eaten a lot but never tried to make at home - Vietnamese Fresh Rolls with peanut sauce. For a healthy, vegetarian version I cooked up some tofu and filled them with a pickled cabbage and carrot slaw. I made vermicelli (rice noodles) to add in, but the rice paper wrappers weren't big enough to fit everything in (actually, I forgot until I got to the last roll....).

This was delicious and would make a great party dish after I work on my rice paper rolling skills. The soup is going to be repated often too!

Silky Coconut-Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet
Makes 4 servings

Printable Recipe

3 Shallots, unpeeled
1 red kuri squash, approximately 1.25 pounds unpeeled
1 can light coconut milk (approximately 2 cups)
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (the recipe called for coriander)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
1 scallion, cut into thin rings

In a small non-stick skillet over high medium-high heat, dry-roast the shallots, turning occaisionally, until blackened and soft
Peel the the shallots, cut in half lengthwise, and set aside
Peel the squash and remove seeds and guts
Cut into 1/2 inch cubes
Place the coconut milk, broth, squash cubes, shallots and cilantro in a large pot and bring to a boil
Reduce to low, add salt, and simmer for 12-15 minutes until the squash is tender
Stir in the fish sauce and cook for 2-3 more minutes
With an immersion blender (or food processor), blend the soup until it is a smooth consistency
Ladle into individual bowls, garnish with scallions and freshly ground pepper

Vietnamese Fresh Rolls
Makes 5 rolls, with a little extra slaw and tofu
1/2 block of extra firm tofu (make sure it is well-drained)
1/4 of a head of green cabbage, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1 scallion, chopped
Rice wine vinegar ( a few good splashes)
Sesame oil (one small dash)
5 Mint leaves
Rice paper wrappers

Note: You'll need to assemble all your ingredients before you work with the rice paper wrappers

Reheat a the same non-stick skillet (from the shallots) over medium heat
Cut the tofu into 1/4 inch sticks
Add to the skillet and cook about a minute or so on each side, until just golden brown
Set aside until assembly

Mix chopped cabbage, carrot, cilantro, and scallion in a bowl. Pour on a few splashes of rice wine vingar (enough to coat everything), one drop of sesame oil and sprinkle with salt
Mix well and set aside until assembly

Set up your assembly line for ingredients - Slaw, tofu, and mint leaves

Microwave a large bowl of water to soften the rice paper wrappers
Take 1 wrapper, dip into the water to soften, and then place on a plate
Put the mint leaf in the middle
Top with 2-3 sticks of tofu
Top with the slaw
Roll the rice paper wrapper like a burrito, tuck in two sides, then roll to close
Repeat for each wrapper

Total prep time (prep the rolls while the soup is cooking): 25-30 minutes, depending on how fast you can peel a squash
Total cook time: 20 minutes
Small non-stick skillet, sharp knife and cutting board, ladle, soup pot, microwaveable bowl, serving dishes and utensils

Serve with your favorite peanut sauce. I made some quick sauce, but it isn't worth reporting on. I'll have to work on a good recipe to share.

Serve with the soup and enjoy! This made for a great lunch the next day. We had the noodles topped with tofu, slaw and the peanut sauce.


  1. This was yummy. When are we having it again?

  2. Your fresh rolls look great. I'm intimidated to make them at home! BTW I've taken a class at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts before and it was really good.

  3. I've always wanted to try making fresh rolls - I think it would make a fun lunch to bring to work! You've reminded me that I need to get to this one!

    The soup looks yummy too - Your pictures are great!

  4. When you are ready to try this as a party dish, we're definitely in. These look awesome!

  5. I tried these recipes the other night with an easy peanut sauce recipe I found online (posted by Chauger at http://www.chow.com/recipes/10658) which is basically just equal parts peanut butter, hoison sauce, and water with a little Shirachi added in for kick (heated in the microwave for 20 sec to make it easier to stir). It all came out great, but I am very bad at multi-tasking. It took me an hour and 45 minutes to get it all done and I used prepeeled, precubed squash and preshredded carrots. Don't know if I'll be doing this again any time soon.


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