I am not sure that I could pick a favourite type of cultural food, I love so many, each for their own distinct flavours, spices, and ingredients. But if I had to pick a top three I think they would be Asian, Indian and Italian with Mexican right up there too. That really is so hard to say though because, hello, French pastries, Greek souvlakis, Spanish tapas, Filipino empanadas, it is endless, seriously there is just so much amazing food in this world, rich in history, culture and traditions. The perfect way to form the tortellini, to fold the croissant, to knead the dough, to whip the cream and cut the steak have been perfected and worked on by incredibly talented chefs through the years, from all over the world; now we are just spoiled with too many "bests " and too many "this way", which in my mind isn't such a bad thing to be spoiled in, although it can be slightly overwhelming at times to determine what the heck the actual "best".
My tips, try a few styles, techniques and recipes, do a few tweaks and additions and subtractions until you find what your own version of "best" is. What may work for someone else may not work for you, what may taste good to someone else may not taste good to you, a little strong on the ginger or not enough garlic, the palate is completely individual and determining what yours may be only comes with testing and tasting and like I said tweaking!
Right now I am particularly into the Asian side of cuisines, our house is consistently being filled with the lingering aromas of freshly grated ginger and garlic, sesame oil, lemon grass, and lime leaves. I don’t know how they begin but I start on these cravings of one cultural food and they can last for weeks, I am not complaining though they are a great way for me to practice and create magical combinations and recipes for you.
One of my favourite restaurants in Victoria is Rebar; they have this way of combining western and eastern cultures in food in the most perfect of forms. They are healthy and extremely delicious and they also have a cookbook, which I am particularly fond of seeing as I hate getting out of my pj's. One of my most made recipes from it is their veggie Kung Pao, it has that authentic, sometimes hard to make at home Kung Pao taste and is absolutely divine.
I have tweaked the recipe just a little, not much because it was pretty perfect on its own and I know this will become a staple in your weekly or monthly meal rotation like it is ours.
Ssesame ginger chicken kung pao
1 inch of fresh, minced ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ hoisin sauce
2 tbsp of dry cherry
1 tbsp of sesame oil
1 tbsp of honey
1 tbsp of sambal oelek
½ tsp pepper
½ cup of water
1 tbsp of cornstarch
veggies & noodles
2 chicken breasts
1 package of fresh Shanghai noodles
3 tbsp of sesame
1 yellow onion
1 bunch broccoli (cut into florets)
handful of snow peas
half of one red pepper
I large carrot (thinly sliced)
3 heads of baby bok choy
1 bunch of gai lan
1 cup of chopped red cabbage
4 tbsp of fresh chopped cilantro
1-2 mini red spicy thai pepper (or more if you want it extra spicy)
more fresh cilantro
In a small sauce pan, add all of the sauce ingredients except the cornstarch and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, mix the cornstarch with an equal amount of water (1 tbsp) and whisk into the sauce, simmer for another 10 minutes (or until slightly thick). Remove the star anise and set aside or you can keep the sauce in the fridge for several days.
Put a large pot of water onto boil (for the noodles, unless you bought precooked ones).
Slice the chicken into thin strips and chop the onion. In a large wok on medium heat add 2-3 tbsp of sesame oil and toss the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly translucent and browned, then add the chicken and cook for 10-15 minutes until browned.
While the chicken is cooking you can chop and slice all of the other veggies, except the snow peas (those can go in whole). Cut the butt ends from the bok choy and cut the larger leaves and stems in half lengthwise, trim the ends of the gai lan and cut into smaller pieces.
Thinly slice the carrots and red pepper and break the broccoli off into smaller bite size florets and cut in half lengthwise if too big. Chop the cabbage into bite size pieces.
Before cooking the veggies, add the noodles to your boiling water and strain when cooked Al dente.
Once the chicken is cooked, add in the red pepper and carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes, then add in the cabbage and broccoli, cook for another 3-4 minutes, then add the rest of the veggies (snow peas, bok choy and gai lan) & 1 cup of sauce, mix thoroughly, cover and let cook until the veggies are tender but still crisp.
Once cooked, remove the lid and add in the chopped cilantro, stir. Serve hot over noodles and garnish with more fresh cilantro, bean sprouts and roasted peanuts.