fish sauce

Adventures With Fish Sauce

by Anne Maxfield on February 26, 2018

Accidental Locavore Fish Sauce Do you use fish sauce?

If you think about what goes into it, you might never use it, but you’d be missing out on an important ingredient in a lot of Thai and Vietnamese dishes to name a few. It’s that umami flavor you get that you can never quite figure out.

It’s made from fish, left out in the hot tropical sun to ferment—sounds yummy right? FYI, it smells pretty much like it tastes, so you don’t want to be inhaling a lot of it. Just sprinkle on whatever you’re making and enjoy (it’s surprisingly good on Brussels sprouts).

There are lots of different types, Red Boat being one of my favorites, but it’s hard to find in this area, so I ordered it from Amazon. No big deal.

Except…

I got a notice in my post office box that there was a package and some damage. Since it was before the holidays, I was terrified that my cousin’s box of incredible homemade jams had broken.

But this was worse.

Much worse.

Suddenly all the really terrific ladies at the post office, were not looking happy.

And I was beginning to feel like Public Enemy #1.

One of them, went to get my “damaged” package. Coming back, she was trying to hold it as far from her face as she could. As she approached, I immediately understood why. This package was wet and dripping into a plastic bag. And it stank!

Really stank. Like fish left out in a tropical sun.

Oops. My fish sauce. Oh s**t.

Somehow, somewhere, someone thought the best way to ship a glass bottle of fish sauce was to put it in a cardboard Priority Mail envelope and (literally) toss it in the mail.

I gathered up my courage, (and the future of all my mail) apologized profusely and asked if I could refuse the package.  I also promised never to order any more fish sauce by mail, so she reluctantly took it to the back room—as far from patrons as possible and said it would go back.

They said it took most of the day to get the stink out of their office once the package had been sent back. I went on Amazon and complained and got my money back, but the damage was done.

I’ve promised June and Pattie no more stinky stuff by mail and we’re back to being friends again.

Oh, and the bottle of Red Boat? I bought it at Kalustyan’s and took it home on the train.

 

 

 

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Cambodian Pineapple Salad

by Anne Maxfield on April 13, 2017

Accidental Locavore Pineapple Salad IngredientsWho knew I’d fall in love with a pineapple salad?

Last week I conned my bestie into taking a Cambodian cooking class with me at Brooklyn Kitchen.

The Accidental Locavore did it mostly because I had no clue what Cambodian cooking was all about.

Had never eaten it.

Or cooked it.

It’s like its neighbors Vietnam, Thai, Laos, and uses the five tastes that are essential to that part of the world – sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami.

One of our favorite dishes was this pineapple salad. It makes a big bowl of salad, depending on the size of your pineapple.

Cambodian Pineapple Salad

Salad:

  • 1 medium pineapple, peeled, cored and cut into 1” chunks
  • 1 carrot, julienned
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and julienned
  • ¼ cup mint leaves, sliced thin
  • ½ bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped (include stems)
  • ¼ cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 2 scallions, sliced thin

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Zest and juice of 1 lime and 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Thai or serrano chile, thinly sliced
  • 1/2” piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • ¼ cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 teaspoon sambal sauce (or Sriracha)

Place all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.

To make the dressing, put all the ingredients in a small container with a (tight) lid. Shake to combine. Taste and adjust the lemon, fish sauce and chile to taste.

Pour over the salad, toss, serve and enjoy!

My verdict:

I guess it’s time to change (or open my mind) about sweet ingredients with savory ones. This pineapple salad is a perfect example. It’s not something I would normally make, but it was my favorite dish of the class! The dressing would be good on all kinds of things, like chicken, fish or shrimp.

As a matter of fact, everyone at my table thought the whole thing would make a wonderful ceviche!

You can add or remove almost any ingredient. I’d add basil, especially Thai Holy Basil if I came across some. The salad we had in class had red and green peppers, I’m not a huge fan, so left them out of my version. Mango could easily replace the pineapple–you get the idea. Have fun!

I made it and brought it to a Slow Food Hudson Valley meeting and everyone loved it, guess this is a keeper.

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Chinese Broccoli: What Is it?

by Anne Maxfield on July 21, 2016

Accidental Locavore Chinese BroccoliHave you ever had Chinese broccoli?

Me neither.

Also known as gai lan, it was one of the choices at my CSA recently and feeling brave, the Accidental Locavore tried it. It looks like just the leaves of broccoli, but bigger, with a little bud in the center.

Since it was Chinese, something Asian seemed to be appropriate.

Because I was trying to get Frank to like it, a recipe from the NY Times with anchovies seemed like it might work and conveniently this serves 2:Accidental Locavore Cooking Chinese Broccoli

  • 1 pound Chinese broccoli, rinsed and trimmed
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • ½ teaspoon minced garlic
  • 8 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons Vietnamese fish sauce (more or less to taste)

Split the large stalks of broccoli in half lengthwise. Add the oil to a large sauté pan on high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the garlic and anchovies and cook, pressing on the anchovies with a wooden spoon until they dissolve and the garlic lightly browns.

Add the Chinese broccoli and toss in the sauce to coat. Pour in the rice wine and let it reduce for 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and fish sauce, bring to a boil, cover and steam until almost tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Uncover and cook at a lively simmer until the broccoli is tender and the sauce has evaporated slightly. Serve and enjoy!

Accidental Locavore Chinese Broccoli With ChickenMy verdict: This would have been really good if the Chinese broccoli had been cooked through. What was weird was that it didn’t seem to matter what size the stalks were, some of them were perfectly cooked and others were way too crunchy. Even time in the microwave for the leftovers, didn’t seem to make a difference. Odd.

However, the parts that were cooked until tender were delicious (and yes, Frank liked the cooked parts, too). I’ve been using Red Boat fish sauce which happens to be Vietnamese, but I’m sure Thai fish sauce would work just fine. Go easy with the fish sauce and taste before you add all of it in. Broccoli rabe and regular broccoli would work also. For more acid, I did add another splash of  rice wine vinegar. Serve it like I did with some jasmine rice and grilled chicken thighs.

So, if you see Chinese broccoli, grab it and try this and let me know what you think.

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Thai Fried Rice

by Anne Maxfield on July 23, 2015

Accidental Locavore Thai Fried Rice (2)The beauty of fried rice is that it’s great for all those small bits of leftovers you have cluttering the fridge. The Accidental Locavore had a bunch of stuff that needed to be put to good use and it was lunchtime…. Make sure everything is prepped and ready to go, this comes together really quickly! Generously serves 1:

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup meat (thinly sliced pork, chicken, shrimp, etc)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or run through a press
  • 1 extra large or jumbo egg, well beaten
  • 1-2 cups cooked rice, preferably Thai jasmine rice
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1 good squirt Sriracha (or more to taste)
  • 2 scallions, chopped

Garnishes

  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Lime wedges
  • Thai basil
  • Mint, chopped
  • Cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Soy sauce

Accidental Locavore Making Thai Fried RiceGather all your ingredients near the stove. Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, until a drop of water evaporates on contact. Add the oil to coat the bottom of the pan. If you need to cook any of the meat, add that now and stir-fry until just cooked, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden, about 30 seconds. Pour in the beaten egg and cook until scrambled. Add the rice, pressing it against the pan and then stir-frying it for about 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce, Sriracha and scallions and toss until well-mixed, about 30 seconds. Taste and add more fish sauce or Sriracha as needed. Serve with your choice of garnishes and enjoy!

My verdict: Since my favorite Thai fried rice is about 3000 miles away (in Rancho Mirage, CA), this is a fine substitute! This is really just to get you started–feel free to add whatever is taking up room in your fridge. The day I made it for lunch, we had half a wonderful Thai sausage from Jacuterie, roast pork and a rotisserie chicken, so they all went in along with some broccoli, and a mushroom or two. Any vegetables can be tossed in, just be sure to add them early if they need to be cooked. I love cilantro, mint and Thai basil on top, a squirt of lime and maybe a dash of soy sauce. And don’t let the wok scare you; if it’s well seasoned it’s super easy to clean! What would go in your fried rice?

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