Sunday, August 28, 2016

MICRONESIA: THE FOOD (with update!)

It was an interesting past week. I finally made it out of training and onto the floor with my new team at work. I’m for reals now. And I’m getting my son signed up for Boy Scouts, so maybe he’ll learn more than how to play video games. And we’re finally getting some work done on the other house, so hopefully we’ll be moved in next year sometime. I’ll finally get my red house I’ve always wanted. Just like the Jimi Hendrix song. So, it’s definitely been an interesting couple of weeks with some wild weather to go with it! 

Mmm... Who knew beer and soy sauce went together so well?
But the 90-degree weather with torrential downpours only gets me into the mood for cooking food from Micronesia (written as I keep one eye to the sky as it gets darker and the thunder rumbles). Today, I started out with Micronesian chicken. I made my marinade first: one 12 oz can of beer (I went with Taxman Brewery’s Gold Standard), 4 oz of soy sauce, some chopped onion, and some minced garlic. Then I took my chicken breasts, butterflied them, and squeezed lemon over each side before putting them into the marinade for at least three hours. The directions recommended grilling them, but it was too stormy today. So, I sautéed them in a skillet, spooning some marinade over each side before flipping them. I kept the lid on, which helped keep the chicken very tender. This, my friends, was so super awesome. You can definitely tell the beer flavoring (the Gold Standard turned out to be very good for this marinade), and the tenderness made it easy to eat. This is definitely a recipe to repeat. 

Although not a sorbet, who doesn't love a good banana smoothie?

Then I made Pohnpeian Karat Banana Sorbet. I don’t know what a karat banana is exactly (it’s probably something I’d have a hard time finding here anyway), but I do have plenty of “plain old regular” bananas. (And I finally bought a blender just so I could make this!) I expanded the recipe from one serving to four servings. I put in four bananas, ½ c of simple syrup, ¾ c of coconut milk, 2 tsp of cinnamon, and some crushed ice. I blended this altogether and put it in the freezer for an hour or so. I took it out and blended it for another 30 seconds. I thought this was supposed to be the consistency of ice cream, but I think I needed to keep it in the freezer a lot longer than an hour, especially since I quadrupled my recipe. It was more like a slightly frozen smoothie. Still good, though. It was a hit with everyone. I may try this again and keep it in the freezer longer to see what it tastes like as an actual sorbet. 

This little dude was waiting for some siu pao.

And finally, the dish that counted as my bread: siu pao. First of all, I didn’t read the recipe all the way through, so it forced me to have to improvise a bit. I started with making the dough: I mixed together 6 c of flour, ¾ c of sugar, 3 packets of yeast (that I forgot to proof in 1 c of warm water), followed by 5 eggs. I stirred it all together, but it just wasn’t coming together (hmm, could it be that 1 c of water I was missing?). I ended up adding about 6 oz of coconut milk to it and several Tbsp of olive oil to help bind it all together. I finally got it to form a ball, and I covered it to rest for an hour. While it was resting, I hardboiled three eggs and sliced each into eighths when they were cool. In a skillet, I sautéed some minced garlic and diced onions together before adding in my diced pork. After it had browned a bit, I added in some soy sauce, a little water, sugar, and black pepper, stirring to coat all of the pork. Then I took some of the dough, formed a ball and flattened it out to about a 4” circle, put some of the pork inside along with some of the sliced egg. I wrapped it all around and pinched it shut. Now came the hard part: steaming them. I don’t own a double boiler yet, so I had to improvise (again). I had a pot of boiling water, but my original idea of using a mesh basket worked great until part of the plastic evidently couldn’t handle the heat and melted a little. (Why must things be so difficult??) So, I used a metal colander instead, and it did the job. But it took about a half hour to steam them. However, they were really good, even though I made them a little on the large side – it was far more dumpling than filling. I liked them, and I think overall, everyone else did too. I especially liked the flavor of the pork and egg together. 

Overall, this was a really good meal. And I'm sure people will be jealous of my lunch tomorrow. (Ok, maybe.)
I pulled another recipe for some fish tapioca cakes with sweet sauce, but I was too tired to make it. I might make it this week, though, since I have all the ingredients. When I choose recipes, I often pull a whole bunch, but then narrow it down. I typically try to pick at least a bread, a main entrée, and a side dish. It doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes I pick a drink or a dessert to go along with it. And it also depends on my schedule and how realistic my expectations are at what I can accomplish in an afternoon. And then I run into issues like today: for some reason, I didn’t pick any recipe with a vegetable in it. So I pulled out a bag of steamable edamame to go with it. I guess if today had a theme, it would be “improvisation.” And that, my friends, is the story of my life. 

So, I finally made that last dish that I didn't get to: Fish Tapioca Cakes with Sweet Sauce. I definitely amended the recipe, but I thought it turned out well. The family, not so much. Here's what I did: I thawed and cooked my fish (I chose tilapia), breaking it up into a hundred pieces as it cooked. Then I mixed together the cooked fish, some green onions, a can of sweet potatoes (instead of diced pumpkin), an egg, salt, pepper, and a little lime juice. I mashed everything together with a potato masher. Then I took a 1/2 c of tapioca flour and mixed it into the bowl as well, stirring enough to make sure it got all worked in. (The recipe may not have been referring to tapioca flour and doing it this way, but that's what I had on hand.) Once everything was mixed, I sprayed some coconut oil in a hot skillet and spooned out the mixture and flattened it into patties. To make the sweet sauce, I poured some ketchup, water, sugar, lime juice, salt, garlic, and a little tapioca flour (in lieu of cornstarch) into a small bowl. I mixed it together and poured it on top of the pancakes. The sauce was supposed to be cooked down, but it was such little amounts, that I didn't think it was necessary. I liked it, and from what I gathered, everyone else did too, but they had a problem with the consistency. Oh, well. To each his own, and more for me. 

Up next: Moldova

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