Hop on for a trot through some fun reading below:
Horse Power Helps this Farm Grow
It’s CSA Sign-Up Time at Live Power Farm
In this year of the horse, we want to celebrate the work of Stephen and Gloria Decater at their Live Power Community Farm in Mendocino County. Under the tutelage of organic farming pioneer Alan Chadwick, the Decaturs founded the farm in 1973 and grew it into the 40-acre, solar electric- and horse-powered, diversified, certified-biodynamic farm it is today. In addition to tending an intensive vegetable garden, an orchard, and a glasshouse and cold frames for propagation, the Decaturs grow their own forage crops for their draft horses, dairy and beef cows, feeder pigs, sheep, and laying hens. The farm provides learning opportunities for school groups, often hosting kids from East Bay schools. Their CSA (community-supported agriculture) program serves customers in the East Bay as well. Apprenticeships at the farm offer opportunities for aspiring farmers, notably those who would like to fulfill a dream of working with horses. Livepower.org
Longevity Noodles, Prosperity Dumplings,
and Evil-Spirit-Chasing Firecrackers
Celebrating Chinese New Year at Shan Dong Restaurant
By Charlotte Peale
Pyramids of golden yellow pomelos and fragrant tangerines begin to appear in shops together with bunches of brown-stemmed fuzzy pussy willows and sticky candies in glittering wrappers. I know it must be Chinese New Year.
To honor the holiday on a cold and windy afternoon, Mother and I walk along Tenth Street in Oakland’s Chinatown through piles of red paper shreds left over from firecracker wars. At Shan Dong Restaurant, we’re warmly welcomed into the low-ceilinged room and seated among many other diners dressed in festive reds, laughing and happy to be together with their families, enjoying a special celebratory outing.
Our bright yellow tabletop is quickly covered with heaping dishes: delicious chow mein made with thick and chewy hand-cut noodles; salty, dry green beans cooked in many spices; doughy-skinned steamed vegetable dumplings, yuanbao, with spicy vinegar sauce for dipping; a small cup of hot and sour soup. I see that other groups have ordered platters of bright green sautéed pea shoots. Since every dish, word, color, and detail seem to have special significance for Chinese New Year, I find myself wondering if we didn’t forsake some bit of luck by foregoing the shoots.
All of the nearby bakeries are shuttered. I imagine the owners squirreled inside, baking mounds of almond cookies, sesame seed balls, and egg custard tarts. But maybe they’re just relaxing at home for the holiday. In search of dessert, we head across town to the always-reliable Sheng Kee Bakery at the bustling Pacific East Mall in Richmond where Mother buys a shiny red box full of niangao, a sweet, sticky rice cake. The helpful clerk recommends that we try rolling the cake in shredded coconut or coating a slice in a flour and egg batter and quickly frying for a special crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside treat. Gongxifacai!
Cooking Up the New Year
By Kristina Sepetys
Whether you’re galloping into the Year of the Horse or celebrating other Asian cultures, these colorful cookery books will inspire and instruct.
Chinese Feasts and Festivals: A Cookbook
by S.C. Moey (Tuttle Publishing, 2014)
Charming drawings and detailed narrative explain the Chinese holidays and festivals like New Year, Dragon Boat Festival, Hungry Ghost Festival, Mooncake Festival, and the Winter Solstice Festival. Specialty foods to accompany the celebrations include recipes for dishes like Spicy Sichuan Lamb, Braised Longevity Noodles, Lotus Seed Mooncakes, and Sweet Red Bean Pancakes.
Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura,
and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond
by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat (Ten Speed Press, 2013).
Recipes, good storytelling, and vibrant location photography are combined to explore Japan’s long history of home-style, comfort food fare. Find recipes for well-known dishes, such as ramen, soba, udon, and tempura, together with the more obscure, like Wafu Pasta (spaghetti with toppings like miso meat sauce), Tatsuta-age (fried chicken marinated in garlic and ginger), and many other satisfying treats.
Ivan Ramen: Love, Obsession, and Recipes from
Tokyo’s Most Unlikely Noodle Joint
by Ivan Orkin (Ten Speed Press, 2013).
Equal parts memoir and cookbook, Ivan Orkin, “a middle-aged Jewish guy from Long Island,” tells the story of his ascent from a wayward youth to a star of the Tokyo restaurant scene. He shares more than 40 recipes, including his signature Shio Ramen. The book offers a rare glimpse inside the cultish world of ramen making in Japan.
The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook
by Patricia Tanumihardja (Sasquatch Books, 2009).
If this gorgeous cookbook fulfills the author’s quest for extended family, we are all the beneficiaries! The warm-hearted profiles of ten seasoned cooks add a rich personal history to the recipes. Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Laotian, Korean, and Filipino cuisines are covered, as well as the inevitable mingling that happens through family migration around the globe. I love the recipes for their use of “real” flavoring ingredients instead of the typical bottled sauces. Prefacing the recipes are an invitation to cook intuitively, a chapter called “The Asian Pantry,” and a clear explanation of Asian cooking techniques, setting the mood for a joyful adventure in cooking. (This review was written by Helen Krayenhoff for the Spring 2010 issue of Edible East Bay, where you’ll find lots of great recipes for celebrating the Year of the Horse.)
Pok Pok: Food and Stories from the Streets,
Homes, and Roadside Restaurants of Thailand
by Andy Ricker with JJ Goode (Ten Speed Press, 2013).
Andy Ricker spent decades traveling through Thailand and wanted to bring some of the dishes he experienced to the United States. In 2005 he opened Pok Pok in Portland, naming his first restaurant for the sound a wooden pestle makes as it strikes a clay mortar. (He followed with six other restaurants.) His cookbook serves up stories from his travels, together with 70 of his favorite recipes like Khao Soi Kai (Northern Thai curry noodle soup with chicken), Som Tam Thai (Central Thai-style papaya salad), and Pok Pok’s much-loved Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings.
Phat Si Ew
(Stir-fried rice noodles with pork, Chinese broccoli, and soy sauce)
Reprinted with permission from Pok Pok by Andy Ricker with J.J. Goode, copyright © 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc. Photography credit: Austin Bush © 2013
Serves 1 as a one-plate meal (to make more, double or quadruple the ingredients, but cook each batch separately)
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 small clove garlic, lightly crushed into small pieces in a mortar
Scant 4 ounces boneless pork loin or lean shoulder, thinly sliced against the grain into bite-size (approximately 1/8-inch-thick) strips
1/2 teaspoon Thai fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
6 ounces fresh wide (about 1 1/2-inch), flat rice noodles (see note below)
1 tablespoon Thai thin soy sauce
1 teaspoon Thai black soy sauce
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
Small pinch ground white pepper
1 tablespoon naam man (fried shallots; see note below)
Naam man hom daeng (fried-shallot oil; see note below)
1 large egg, at room temperature
2-3 peeled garlic cloves, halved lengthwise and lightly crushed into small pieces in a mortar (about 1 tablespoon)
2 ounces baby Chinese broccoli, stems trimmed to 1 or 2 inches and clusters separated, or regular Chinese broccoli, leaves
coarsely chopped and stems thinly sliced
Phrik Naam Plaa (fish sauce-soaked chiles, see note below)
Phrik Naam Som (vinegar-soaked chiles, see note below)
Phrik Phon Khua (toasted chile powder, see note below)
COOK THE PORK
Heat a wok over very high heat, add the oil, and swirl it in the wok to coat the sides. When it begins to smoke lightly, add the garlic, take the wok off the heat, and let the garlic sizzle, stirring often, until it’s fragrant but not colored, about 15 seconds.
Put the wok back on the heat, add the pork, and stir well. Then add the fish sauce and sugar and stir-fry (constantly stirring, scooping, and flipping the ingredients) until the pork is just cooked through, about 1 minute.
Transfer the pork to a bowl. (You can cover and refrigerate it for up to 2 days.)
PREPARE THE NOODLES
Carefully separate the noodles. Unless you’ve found freshly made noodles, either microwave them briefly or briefly dunk them in boiling water (for a few seconds) just until they’re pliable enough to separate without crumbling. Drain them well before proceeding.
STIR-FRY AND SERVE THE DISH
Combine the thin and black soy sauces, sugar, and pepper in a small bowl and stir well.
Wipe out the wok, if necessary, then heat it over very high heat, add the shallot oil, and swirl it in the wok to coat the sides. When the oil begins to smoke lightly, crack in the egg. It should spit and sizzle violently and the whites should bubble and puff. Cook without messing with it until the egg turns light golden brown at the edges, about 30 seconds. Flip the egg (it’s fine if the yolk breaks), push it to one side of the wok (up the wall of the wok is fine).
Add the noodles and cook for 15 seconds or so, prodding and stirring them lightly them so they spread out a bit and don’t clump together. Add the garlic and cook for 15 seconds or so, stirring to mix and to break up the noodles and egg slightly. Add the Chinese broccoli and stir-fry (constantly stirring, scooping, and flipping the ingredients) until the leaves just begin to wilt, about 15 seconds.
Add the pork, then the soy sauce mixture (add a splash of water, if necessary, to make sure nothing’s left behind in the bowl), and stir-fry, letting the egg break up as you do, until the pork is heated through and the noodles have had a chance to absorb the liquids, about 1 minute. Transfer it to a plate and season to taste with the fish sauce, sugar, vinegar-soaked chiles, and chile powder.
- ON WIDE RICE NOODLES: Sen yai (Thai) or chow fun (Cantonese) can be found in the refrigerated section of Chinese and Southeast Asian markets (Ranch 99 has a very large selection). Or purchase rice noodle sheets and slice them yourself.
- ON NAAM MAN: We have not included Andy Rucker’s complex instructions for making the fried shallots (naam man) and fried shallot oil (naam man hom daeng) called for in this recipe. You might simply fry up some shallots (or garlic) and use both the crispy bits and the oil you fried them in. Please note as well that krathiem (fried garlic oil) is given in the recipe as an alternate for the shallot oil.
- ON PHRIK NAAM PLAA: The fish sauce-soaked chiles are made by combining 1/2 cup Thai fish sauce with about 14 fresh Thai chiles, preferably green and thinly sliced.
- ON PHRIK NAAM SOM: The vinegar-soaked chiles are made by combining 1/2 cup white vinegar with about 3 thinly sliced Serrano chiles.
- ON PHRIK PHON KHUA: The toasted chile powder can be made using 1 ounce stemmed dried Mexican puya chiles (about 15), available from Latin American grocers. Toast over low heat until they’re thoroughly dry and very dark, coaxing out a deep, tobacco-like flavor that has a bitter edge, but stopping before the pleasant bitterness turns acrid. Let the chiles cool. Pound in a mortar to a coarse powder that’s only slightly finer than store-bought red pepper flakes. Or grind them in a spice grinder.