Where would we be without flavor?
It’s all about flavor. Today we are going to concern ourselves with Asian flavors.
In considering Asian flavors we have many starting points, Chinese and Japanese will be the two largest cuisines along with Vietnamese, Thai or Cambodian. We could even think about Mongolian.
How many of you have ever had a Mongolian Fire Pot dinner? I was fortunate enough to partake of this international culinary delight in the middle of February up in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area of Northern Minnesota. We were in Yurts, round canvas tents usually with a wood floor. It was cold outside, definitely below zero, and we had to go down to the lake and chop a hole in the ice to get water. The closest thing to a Mongolian Fire Pot Dinner, (aka Chinese Hot Pot), would be hot oil fondue.
One of the truly amazing delights about this meal were the sauces. Like fondue, all of the meats and vegetables were cut into bite sized pieces. To cook the food there is a circular trough, (filled with chicken or vegetable broth), about 3 to 4 inches deep that sits about half way up a 14 inch inverted cone. Hot coals from the fire are placed in the bottom of the inverted cone and this heats up the broth to a simmer. Each lucky diner places some meat and/or vegetable into the broth to cook, (poach).
Besides the plated raw foods the table will be host to at least a dozen different sauces. From hot to mild, from heavy dark concoctions to light and fruity. The whole experience is an absolute treat and the sauces are the proverbial icing on the cake. Electric versions of the hot pot are available for home use. Though it may lack some of the ambience of the wilderness, but should contain all of the flavor.
I am a firm believer in making your own sauces and this column has published many sauce recipes. Stores want to sell you bottled sauces that were made at the food factory, but you cannot bottle the great flavors that are achievable in making your own. Here’s a recipe for Teriyaki Sauce. This can be used as a sauce, a marinade or a glaze. As always, be sure to use the best quality ingredients you can get, you are worth it.
1/2 cup lower sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup sweet rice wine, (Mirin)
3 Tbl brown sugar
3 Tbl white sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 Tbl corn starch
1 Tbl water
Combine all sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes.
To thicken, combine water and cornstarch, whisk into simmering sauce, should thicken within a minute. Remove from heat to cool.
Optional ingredients: wasabi, toasted sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, molasses, sherry, crushed red pepper flakes or honey.
Make your own signature sauce, enjoy!