Sunday, March 17, 2013


It’s St. Patrick’s Day today, and as usual in Indiana we barely stepped across the above-freezing line. Last year, however, it was 79 degrees.  I miss last year.  Especially since my sinuses can’t keep up with the yo-yo temperatures of spring in the Midwest. So, this meal was the perfect comfort food for such a bleh day.
This is my St. Patrick's Day knife. So that way I won't get pinched while I'm cooking. Now, accidentally slicing my thumb is a completely different story. 
 I basically cooked two entrees. The first entrée is called loc lac.  It starts out with marinating beef (I used stew beef) in oil, black pepper, minced garlic, sugar and salt. I let it marinate for about 45 minutes. Then it’s cooked down in a skillet (or wok) with oil, sugar, garlic, and pepper and soy sauce. It actually called for mushroom soy sauce, but I couldn’t find it. I sautéed it until the meat was well-done. The recipe called for it to still be medium rare to medium, but I’m sorry, I have to have my meat cooked through. It’s served on a bed of lettuce leaves (I cheated – I used a bag salad mix). There’s a lime dipping sauce that goes with it: a peppery concoction of salt, sugar, lime juice, water, black pepper and minced garlic. This was so good; it was good without the dipping sauce, and better with it.

The beef was good by itself. I was tempted to add it to the soup as well. You know, combining all my favorites in one bowl. 
 The second part of the meal was kuyteav, a noodle soup that I thought reminded me of Vietnamese pho soup. I amended this recipe here and there and left some things out, like the chilies; for instance, I didn’t make my own broth. I used a store-bought chicken broth, and put in some sugar and salt, and although the recipe didn’t call for it, I boiled some lemongrass in with the broth. Lemongrass is really good for cough, colds, and sore throats (which I need!) as well as many other health benefits.  It’s native to Southeast Asia and is used in a lot of their cooking. It wasn’t overpowering and added a nice mild flavor to the broth.  The soup itself is made by putting noodles in the bowl (I found these ready-made Thai noodles which worked quite nicely), then I added about a tablespoon of kraut (my substitution for “preserved cabbage”), some bean sprouts, some pork (it called for both ground pork and pork loin; I just used boiled pork loin cut into thin strips), and sautéed shrimp and garlic. I then topped it with sprigs of fresh cilantro and chopped scallions. It was so good – it was like the perfect comfort food.

I'm hoping the doctor will order more of this for me. 
 I found a recipe for a type of fried breadstick called chaquay.  I think I read that this recipe actually was from the Chinese. For the first time, I had a bread that really didn’t turn out well. It called for wheat flour and included some baking soda, salt, a little yeast, some water and sugar and mix it up to form a dough. It was really sticky and elastic-y, and even after letting it sit for 30 minutes, I still had to add a ton of flour to it to make it anywhere close to being able to work with it. I tried rolling it out, but it still wouldn’t stop being so sticky. In my effort to have some sort of bread with my meal, I decided to just cut out strips and fry them anyway. Because it was so sticky, they were as far from a uniformed looking breadstick as it could get. My chaquay turned out looking more like severely arthritic fingers. But they tasted good dipped in the soup, which is what they were recommended to go with.

Arthritic fingers. Oh, wait, no sorry, that's my bread. 
 I actually made a dessert this time. But only because the recipe seemed simple. I took a can of coconut milk and add some sugar and let it boil until it starts to become thicker. Then I added four bananas that were broken up into bite-size pieces into the coconut milk. I let it cook down for about another five minutes or so until the coconut milk was creamy. (Of course, I added a little bit more sugar as well.) It’s best eaten when completely chilled, as we found out.

Exactly what I needed for the end of the day. 
 I think this meal was about healing and getting better. And I started thinking again about the healing power that food has. Not only on a medicinal level, using food for its restoring and regenerative properties instead of medicine. This idea is utilized as part of the basic principles behind Ayurvedic medicine. But it also means the idea of comfort food, something my husband and I have had many discussions about. Everyone has a certain list of foods they want to have when they want to feel better when they’re sick or feel better when they’re feeling down. Soups are always at the top of my list as comfort foods. And anything with rich, thick sauces. And cheese. And chocolate.  Just not necessarily altogether.  So, this meal, in essence, was perfect for today. My husband gave the meal two thumbs up, and told me we HAD to do this one again. If the weather continues as it does, I’m sure I will.

The final product... It's a winner! 

Up next: Cameroon

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