Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chinese-style Braised Pork Belly Sushi

Sushi? Yum...
Braised pork belly? Drool...
Put the two together? Hell yeah!
I'd like to think that this was an original idea of mine but I'm sure someone out there has already beaten me to it. Anyway, this is how I imagined what food would look like when you fuse Chinese with Japanese cuisine. The melt-in-your-mouth pork belly that's braised using a traditional soy-based Chinese recipe (dong po pork), combined with the simple elegance of the sushi roll creates an interesting meld of flavors and textures.

Sushi is one of those things that look deceivingly challenging to prepare but is actually really easy and quick. It's one of my favorite things to make at home when I want something light and healthy. I actually prefer to make it myself because I dont normally eat raw fish and I usually make the Korean version - kimbap - using kimchi, eggs, avocado and imitation crab meat as the filling (I don't really know what the difference is between Korean kimbap and Japanese sushi - I just prefer to call mine kimbap because kimchi is a distinctly Korean ingredient). All you need is a sushi mat, a few sheets of nori, sushi-grade rice, rice wine vinegar and your choice of filling and you're good to go. If you've never made sushi/kimbap before, here's a good instructional video from Maangchi: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/kimbap.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Spicy Skate Wrapped in Grilled Banana Leaves (Ikan Panggang)

Just take one bite of this fish and you will experience an explosion of exotic flavors and spices that will transport you to the tropical beaches of Malaysia. You can almost picture yourself sitting under the cool shade of a coconut tree as the ocean breeze gently blows grains of sand on your face...(ok, maybe a little over dramatic)

In Malaysia, this dish is usually prepared with skate, but you can also use any sort of fish that flakes easily like red snapper or tilapia. Skate is actually a cousin of the sting ray and may not be readily available in local supermarkets due to overfishing. It was my first time cooking with skate, and I was surprised at how well it goes with the spices and how soft and tasty it is. The fish is first smothered with sambal, a spicy Malaysian/Indonesian condiment which is a fragrant blend of almost a dozen ingredients including shallots, garlic, lemongrass, red chilies and belacan - a funky-smelling salty paste made of fermented shrimp that's commonly used as a cooking ingredient in Southeast Asia. The fish is then wrapped in banana leaves and placed on the barbecue until the leaves are charred. The grilled banana leaves impart an additional layer of flavor and perfumes the fish as it steams with the sambal inside the leaves.