Shiitake Mushroom and Potato Miso Stew + the Umami Factor

Shiitake Mushroom and Potato Miso Stew + the Umami Factor

You may have heard of something being described as having the "fifth taste" known as umami. You may even have tasted it before knowing there was a name for it. And, as I've just discovered, an online information center dedicated to it. Words often associated with this flavor are deep, savory, complex, meaty and pungent, and although I may not be able to string the perfect sentence to describe it, my Southeast Asian tongue knows it well and wants it. I know of two ingredients that can help me achieve the umami in my cooking: miso paste and dried shiitake mushrooms. They join the list of key ingredients in my Asian Kitchen Project series that let me cook with a twist of Asian flavor no matter where I am in the world.

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Coconut Oil Jasmine Rice

Coconut Oil Jasmine Rice

Rice, oh, rice. You're a life saver. When I was a poor student living on my own, rice was an easy and cheap source of sustenance. When I was sick with IBS, I relied on rice porridge to get me through, sometimes for weeks in a row. A typical meal in many Southeast Asian cultures consists of a selection of flavorful communal dishes served with plain white rice. Rice is an Asian staple, so it should come as no surprise that it is on the list of this month's Asian Kitchen Project series, in which I share key ingredients that let me cook with a twist of Asian flavor no matter where I am in the world. And hopefully for you too. 

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"Economy" Soy Sauce Stir-Fried Noodles + Chili Soy Sauce Dip

"Economy" Soy Sauce Stir-Fried Noodles + Chili Soy Sauce Dip

If I had to pick only one Asian ingredient to have in my kitchen, it would be soy sauce. I'll tell you why. To me, it's as important as salt, and acts like salt in cooking and as a condiment, but with an unmistakable punch of flavor that comes from fermented soybeans. As part of the March Asian Kitchen Project series, I've been sharing key ingredients I'm stocking my new kitchen pantry with that let me cook with a twist of Asian flavor no matter where I am in the world. I've previously written about using dried jujubesgoji berries and Chinese Five Spice in some of my favorite Eastern-Western fusion recipes, but soy sauce was absolutely the first thing I had to get when I moved from Southeast Asia to the US. 

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Vegan Five Spice Molasses Cookies

Vegan Five Spice Molasses Cookies

What do you make when you've just moved into a new place? Cookies, of course. What kind of cookies? Hold on, the better question is: What aroma do you want to fill the house with? Something spicy, I said. And earthy. Something that smells, no, feels like home. So on a particularly cold winter day, we fired up the oven for the first time and christened the house with the heady aroma of Chinese Five Spice. 

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Asian Kitchen + Jujube Tea with Cacao Nibs

Asian Kitchen + Jujube Tea with Cacao Nibs

I'm happy to report we're settling in nicely at our new place, but the work is not done. My project for March (can you believe March is right around the corner?!) is the kitchen. I asked myself what are the essential ingredients and tools for cooking with a twist of Asian flavor no matter where I am in the world. And I made a list of key items, which I am excited to write about in the coming weeks. 

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