South Indian Coconut Vegetable Curry

South Indian Coconut Vegetable Curry

When we think of Indian food, the first few things that come to mind are red curries and naan bread. Little do we know that these are generally North Indian staples and there's a whole different world of cuisine in South India.

Take this fresh-looking curry for example. It hails from Karnataka, a state in the south-western region of India, and gets its appetizing green color from a chewy curry paste made with grated coconut and cilantro. It's nothing like the curries we usually get in Indian restaurants here. 

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Indian Spiced Okra with Kenyan Coconut Rice + Celebrating Diversity

Indian Spiced Okra with Kenyan Coconut Rice + Celebrating Diversity

Lately I've been making foods that I've never had before, allowing books like Shane Mitchell's Far Afield: Rare Food Encounters from Around the World to guide me in my exploration of new flavors. Whenever life stresses me out, I retreat to the kitchen. If I had to express myself succinctly without delving into the current political climate in the US, I'd say the last few months have been really disturbing.

In cooking I seek solace and I always find it, the discovery of a new ingredient or the excitement of trying a new recipe never fails to provide me with a sense of meaning in a time of confusion. Having Indian-style spiced okra with Kenyan coconut rice on the same plate makes perfect sense for me right now. And yes, they are tasty together!

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Malaysian Spicy Tomato, Anytime of the Year [Video]

Malaysian Spicy Tomato, Anytime of the Year [Video]

We know tomato as the quintessential warm-weather treat, literally bursting with flavor, minimally handled and enjoyed raw, only lightly adorned with a pinch of salt or a dash of balsamic vinegar to let its best qualities shine.

At other times of the year, especially in colder months like now, this recipe is how I like to eat semi-decent tomatoes still clinging to the heels of summer. Cooked with a rich mix of spices, it turns even subpar supermarket tomatoes into a scrumptious dish that will sustain any tomato craving all through the winter. In fact, hardier tomato varieties
that are more readily available year round like beefsteak and roma are best used to maintain a chewier texture. 

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Soba Noodle Salad with Tamari Dressing

Soba Noodle Salad with Tamari Dressing

I love tamari sauce and use it interchangeably with soy sauce, which I wrote about at length when I shared a recipe for Malaysian soy sauce stir-fried noodles. Both are excellent umami agents. I find Chinese soy sauce to be saltier and more pungent, which is great in stir-fries and marinades, and the mellower taste of tamari sauce lends itself very well in a cold salad like this Japanese-themed noodle salad. 

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Malaysian Herb Salad (Ulam) [Video]

Malaysian Herb Salad (Ulam) [Video]

When considering some of the ingredients used in preparing the Malaysian herb salad known as ulam, it's easy to understand why anyone, including myself, would be intimidated. We're talking about herbs like daun kaduk (betel leaves), bunga kantan (torch ginger bud), and daun kesum (Vietnamese coriander), just to name a few exotic ones on the list, and all of which I have never seen since moving to the US. 

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Thai Glass Noodle Salad (Yum Woon Sen) [Video]

Thai Glass Noodle Salad (Yum Woon Sen) [Video]

A Thai salad is remembered for its complex blend of flavors and textures. It's that delicate balance of tart, sweet, salty, and spicy that my Southeast Asian tongue craves often. This glass noodle salad delivers in punches, featuring crunches of toasted peanuts against a springy backdrop of mung bean threads soaked in a zesty lime sauce with a big umami kick. Oh yeah!

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Baked South Indian Fava Bean Fritters with Green Chutney

Baked South Indian Fava Bean Fritters with Green Chutney

Remarkable things happen when you work on a farm. If I made a list it would be lengthy, but I'll just name one that has impacted my eating habits the most: the discovery of new vegetables. When I started volunteering at One Acre Farm in Morgan Hill, California, last Fall, I found out I really like long beans. It helps that your farm host is a fantastic cook who makes intuitive cooking effortless. I've been going back to help on the farm on a weekly basis, and was recently introduced to fava beans. 

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Chinese Turnip Cake + A Special Anniversary Tribute

Chinese Turnip Cake + A Special Anniversary Tribute

Vermilion Roots is turning one in a few days and I wanted to make a cake to celebrate the milestone. I know what you are thinking: a cake made with turnips? Well, yes. There are a few things you should know about this cake. Firstly, it's a savory cake that goes really well with hoisin and sriracha sauce. The so-called icing on the cake are sprinkles of chopped spring onions and red chilis. It's based on a traditional Chinese dish known as "lo bak go" commonly served at dim sum restaurants and a staple in some parts of China during the Lunar New Year. 

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Malaysian Beetroot Rendang

Malaysian Beetroot Rendang

If there's one thing I miss more than eating Malaysian food, it's hearing Malaysian food being prepared. The sizzle of garlic and onion in hot oil, the clanging of a Chinese metal spatula against the wok, and that conspicuous thump of a cleaver meeting a wood chopping block. Such is the soundtrack of a typical Malaysian kitchen. Add to that brilliant bursts of flames licking the sides of woks and you have a scene from a busy "daichow" (literally "big fry" in Cantonese) restaurant, like the one my dad used to cook in.

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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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Malaysian Tomato Quinoa (Nasi Tomato)

Malaysian Tomato Quinoa (Nasi Tomato)

We're at the height of tomato season in our backyard. I feel like a proud mama watching the cherry tomato plants grow from little seedlings into the lush network of fruit-bearing machines they are now. Before this, I'd never grown anything, save for sprouting some beans on the kitchen top, but that doesn't count. Not everything we planted took off though, so we're still figuring things out around the garden as we go along. But for now, we're popping these juicy tomatoes in our mouth and admiring the faint hint of green that our thumbs are developing. 

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