I’ve been craving Asian food lately, really, really badly. Maybe it has to do with the fact that it’s the ideal summer food, but I suspect it has more to do with my longing to go travelling somewhere far, far away. I’m currently crafting an intinerary in my head, taking me to places like Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Bali and Singapore. So far it’s only in my head, but hopefully in January, it will materialize and I will be able to blog from all these places.
But for now, I’m stuck in London. So for the past weeks I’ve been seeking out Asian food in London, from lovely Pad Thai at Busaba Eathai to heavenly sushi and tempura at Dotori, from Vietnamese noodle soup at Kim’s in Camden to some chewy Chinese dumplings at Yum Cha.
Then the other day, the lovely Mowie of Mowielicious and Bruce of Cunningeye came round for dinner, and I just couldn’t make up my mind as to what to make. I mean, what do you cook for a food blogging superstar like Mowie?! Not that he’s fussy or a food diva – not at all – he’s the most lovely guest ever (and so is Bruce!). But still.. you want to serve them something super nice! So I decided not to decide and instead make a tapas-style Asian menu. It was super hot that day, so I wanted to make food that didn’t require ages in the oven or on the stove, just some simple and fresh asian-flavoured food.
The menu ended up being a refreshing Bamboo Shoot salad, some crispy coconut and sweetcorn wan-tans, Thai chicken skewers marinaded in a coconut sauce and lovely Vietnamese Salad Rolls with a peanut dip.
It did take some time to prepare it all, but if you are well organized and make most of the stuff ahead, it’s really a fuss-free dinner party – except for the frying of the wan-tans! The wok regularly spewed some boiling oil on my bare arms, resulting in my shouting out all kinds of multi-lingual swear-words and Mowie and Bruce covering their ears and bursting into giggles. All in all, a wonderful evening!
More photos after the jump.
Crispy Coconut Wan-Tans
Makes about 20
20 Wan-Tan sheets (look in the frozen section of your Asian store)
2 spring onions
1 small can of sweetcorn (150g)
75g coconut cream
3 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp yellow or green curry paste (or curry powder if you don’t have any curry paste at hand)
1 tbsp flour dissolved in 2 tbsp water
about 300ml vegetable oil for frying
Sweet Thai chili sauce
Let the Wan-Tan sheets thoroughly defrost.
Meanwhile, grate the carrot and chop the spring onions. Drain the sweetcorn and rinse with water.
In a bowl, mix the coconut cream with the curry paste and soy sauce until well combined. Add the sweetcorn, carrot and spring onions and mix so that everything is covered in the paste.
Fill each wan-tan sheet with a teaspoon of the sweetcorn mix. Dip a pastry brush into the flour/water mix and brush the wan-tan edges with it. Fold the edges together so that the wan-tan resembles a little parcel.
Heat the oil in a wok or a deep pan. You know it’s hot enough when you dip a wooden spoon in and bubbles form around the edges. Deep-fry the wan-tans in batches of 5, for about 4 minutes each or until golden brown. Serve with sweet Thai chili sauce.
Bamboo Shoot Salad
for 6 people as a side dish
300g canned bamboo shoots (cut into thin slices if you can find it)
300g green beans
1 garlic clove
10 tbsp of vegetable stock
4 tbsp lemon juice
4 tsp light soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 red chili
3 tsp sesame seeds
1 handful of mint leaves
2 spring onions
3 tbsp fried shallots (you get those in Asian stores)
Cook the green beans until they’re cooked through but still crunchy (al dente), set aside.
If your bamboo shoots don’t come pre-cut, cut them into spaghetti-like thin slices, set aside.
Dry-fry the sesame seeds in a pan until they turn golden. Set aside.
Chop the shallots, chili and garlic, fry in a tablespoon of vegetable oil until transluscent. Then crush them into a paste with a pestle and mortar or with a hand blender.
Heat the stock in a saucepan and add the shallot mix to it. Add lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar and stir well. Add the bamboo shoots and stir them in the juices. Set aside and let it cool down (it can still be lukewarm when serving).
Assemble the salad: place the bamboo shoots in the middle of a plate. Arrange the beans around. Sprinkle the whole salad with sesame seeds, mint, spring onions and shallots and serve.
Vietnamese Salad Rolls
6 round vietnamese rice paper sheets
18 cooked prawns
60g iceberg lettuce
60g soy sprouts
18 mint leaves
1 tbsp sesame oil
For the peanut dipping sauce
2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
3 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp grated ginger (I used some from a jar)
1 tbsp lemon juice
Prepare the fillings:
Cook the vermicelli in boiling water for about 2 minutes or until they’re al dente. Make sure not to overcook them since they tend to turn into a mushy bunch very quickly. Drain and let them cool down.
Fry the soy sprouts in a frying pan with sesame oil until they’re transluscent but still crunchy. Leave to cool and set aside.
Finely chop the iceberg lettuce. Select 18 nice mint leaves, wash them and set aside.
Make the dipping sauce:
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until evenly mixed. Set aside in the fridge.
Now assemble the salad rolls, one at a time:
Fill a big bowl with hot water (don’t use boiling water, since you’ll have to stick your hands in it). Take one rice paper sheet and submerge it in the water. Use your hand to stir it around so that it collapses. You’ll notice that the sheet very quickly changes from a hard plastic-like consistency to a loose supple one. Take the sheet out once it’s supple enough to fold and it’s translucent. Transfer it onto a clean surface, being careful not to tear it, and fold it all out, so it’s sort of round again.
Place three mint leave onto the middle, and top each leaf with a prawn.
Put some of the soy sprouts on top of the prawns, then some of the vermicelli, and top it off with some lettuce.
Tuck in the two sides of the rice paper on your right and left. Then roll it up into a parcel.
Put a wet piece of kitchen roll on the bottom of a container (or on a plate), and put the Vietnamese salad roll on it. Cover it with another piece of wet kitchen roll. This ensures that the salad roll stays fresh and damp until you have all of them finished and that it doesn’t stick to the plate.
Thai Chicken Skewers (Moo Ping)
makes about 12
450g deboned chicken thighs
2 garlic cloves, chopped
4 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
110ml coconut cream
110ml vegetable oil
1/2 tsp dried chili flakes
1 handful mint leaves
For the dipping sauce:
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp fresh chopped chili
1 tbsp sugar
Cut the chicken thigh fillets lengthways into two.
Combine all the skewer ingredients (except for the chicken) in a bowl until they are well mixed. Add the chicken and cover it in the marinade. Cover with cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
Meanwhile prepare the dipping sauce. Mix all the ingredients, cover with cling film and chill until needed.
Once the chicken is ready, skewer each chicken piece onto a wooden skewer. Heat up the grill of your oven and place the skewers underneath. Cook the skewers for about 5 minutes on each side, until the chicken turns golden.