• Posted by Su-Mei Yu on May 13th, 2009, 5:55 PM

    The monsoon rain started to fall in a great crescendo. A couple of elderly friends and I had barely settled down to lunch when the dark sky burst open with heavy rain, followed by crashing thunder and flashes of lighting. Within minutes, the glass panes of the dining room facing the walkway at the Suan Dusit Rajabhat University in Bangkok, where my friends taught culinary arts, were sheeted with streams of water.

    Among several dishes my friends’ students had prepared for us was a plate of steamed bundles of sadow, bitter buds and leaves of the neem tree. These deep verdant buds began to sprout as soon as the rain arrived, covering the top of their massive trees like green umbrellas. “It is as if Mother Nature sensed we need extra bitter greens to protect us from unpredictable weather.” One of my friends said, as the other chimed in with an ancient and familiar Thai proverb, kom bpen ya, wan bpen roam—“bitterness is medicine, sweet is wind.” We nodded together in agreement. To us, this proverb is one of many exemplifying our people’s philosophy of health and well-being. That is, we are one with Mother Nature and our food is medicine. Read on… »

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  • Posted by Marie Doezema on January 27th, 2009, 10:04 PM

    Funky, gooey, snotty, even gym sock-y—all are words that have been aimed at natto, Japan’s favorite fermented phenomenon. Love it or hate it, there’s no question that natto, a type of fermented soybeans, provokes strong responses. Devotees swear by its vitamin-packed sliminess, skeptics don’t even want to be in the same room with the stuff.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I admit that I am firmly and wholeheartedly in the former category. I can happily eat natto every day. I can spend alarmingly long chunks of time dreaming up new natto concoctions. Natto with apples? Natto with nuts? Natto pizza?

    I first encountered natto at a restaurant in the U.S. It was added to a sushi roll, and it lent an unusual taste—kind of smoky, a bit cheesy. Nutty but soft. Definitely slimy. When I moved to Japan, I found natto everywhere. Made from soybeans that are boiled then fermented by adding the bacterium natto bacillus, natto is fast and convenient. Available at almost any grocery store or convenience store, it comes ready to eat. Eat it straight from the container, or dump it on top of rice for an easy meal. Read on… »

  • Posted by Jacquie Bellon on July 13th, 2008, 3:31 PM

    The Sichuan–Tibet highway, a sporadically paved two-lane road, winds through forests of birch and willow trees turning gold, spruce, pines, and mountainsides of no fewer than 190 species of rhododendrons. The highway then descends rather abruptly into a lush sub-tropical zone dense with ferns, bamboo, and an evergreen canopy. It skirts rushing boulder-strewn rivers with unending, raging class-five rapids, spanned with occasional prayer-flag-bedecked, flimsy wire-and-plank bridges. The road then ribbons over 18,000-foot passes festooned with prayer flags after crossing through wet meadows full of impossibly blue gentians. It is also boulder-strewn, dusty, and occasionally commandeered by languidly browsing yaks, heavily laden buses and trucks, and groups or solitary pilgrims prostrating their way to Lhasa. Read on… »

  • Posted by Eric Tucker on May 26th, 2008, 2:02 PM
    Look for pot sticker wrappers in Asian markets as well as many supermarkets. Chanterelles can hold their own with the garlic chives and chile oil. Chinese black vinegar is also available at Asian markets or here from Ming Tsai’s website. Read on… »

 
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