Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wonton Soup

This recipe is amazing! It's the best wonton soup I've ever eaten - better than even the best Chinese restaurant. The greatest part is, it's even easier to make than I would have imagined.

Wonton Soup
Makes approximately 80-90 wontons

12 ounces of ground pork
4 ounces raw shelled shrimp, chopped into small pieces
2-3 ounces bamboo shoots chopped very small
6 scallions, chopped into thin rounds
1 egg yolk
1 egg white, lightly beaten
6-8 leaves lettuce or blanched chinese cabbage
1 1/2 quarts of chicken stock
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp thin soy sauce
1 tsp thick soy sauce
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp Shaohsing wine or medium-dry sherry
1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp water
2 teaspoons sesame oil

In a large bowl, mix the shrimp and pork with the cornstarch, sugar, soy sauces, pepper and wine. Then stir in the water one tablespoon at a time. Next it's time to take out some aggression. Take the entire meat mixture, pick it up, and throw it back into the bowl. Repeat this about 100 times.

Next, add the bamboo shoots and the white parts of the scallions to the meat mixture and marinate for about 30 minutes. Then blend in the sesame oil. Right before wrapping the mixture in the wontons, add the egg yolk to the mixture.

Now comes the fun part! I used Nasoya wonton wrappers and they worked well. It would have better if they were cut into perfect squares, but they were certainly sufficient for the task.

Its really easy to fold a wonton! First, put about a tsp of the mixture onto the middle of the square.

Second, use a brush and paint two edges of the wrapper and fold the noodle in half to form a triangle. Press the edges gently together.

Finally, put a little egg white on one tip, and fold the two tips together, joining them with the egg white you put on.

Here are a bunch of beautiful wontons, all waiting to be cooked! In one pan, gently heat the stock, and in another pan, heat water to a boil. When the water comes to a boil, place about 20 wontons in the pan. It will only take about 3 minutes to cook the wontons. When they are done, they float. Remove them carefully and place them in the stock. Repeat until all of the wontons are cooked.

Serve by garnishing with some finely shredded lettuce and scallions on top.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Chicken Burrito Bowl

I was craving Chipotle, but alas, there is no Chipotle within easy reach of where I live. So, I decided to scour the fridge to see if I could come up with something that would be similar. Turns out that I had no lettuce which really wasn't vital, but I also had no tortillas! Well, that didn't stop me. I still made the filling for the burrito, making what Chipotle calls a "burrito bol". It turned out pretty well, and I particularly enjoyed the marinade I made for the chicken.

Chicken Burrito Bowl
Serves 3 people for dinner

Ingredients For the Rice
1 cup of basmati rice
2 cups of water
Juice of one lime
1 tbsp of canola oil
1/2 tsp of salt
Handful of cilantro, finely chopped

Ingredients for the Pico de Gallo
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
1 jalepeno, finely chopped
1 large handful of cilantro, finely chopped
Salt to taste

Ingredients for the Chicken
2 chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp cayenne powder
1/4 of a red onion
6 garlic cloves
1 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp salt

Other Optional Ingredients
Black beans
Sour Cream
Tabasco/other hot sauces

This recipe is very simple, especially with the help of a Cuisinart. Take all the ingredients for the chicken, except the chicken itself and blend them together in the Cuisinart. Spread the mixture over both sides of the chicken and marinade for at least one hour. When it comes time to cook the chicken, grill it on a hot grill, or in a fry pan (add a dash of oil to a fry pan so that the chicken doesn't stick) for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Cut the chicken into slices and serve hot.

For the salsa, simply combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. For the rice, I used a rice cooker, so that just involved putting everything, aside from the cilantro, into the cooker and hitting the "cook" button. Just before serving, I carefully stirred in the cilantro, without crushing the rice.

I mixed in some low sodium black beans, cheese, and red and green tabasco sauces with my rice, salsa and chicken. This is a great dish for guests because everyone can customize their bowl. Now I can make delicious burritos at home and not pine over the lack of Chipotle in my area!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Fruits of the Kuiseb Delta, Namibia

During my recent travels to Namibia, I went on a Historical Dune Tour with Fanie Du Preez, who owns Kuiseb Delta Adventures. As many of you know I am fairly well traveled, but I can honestly say that going with Fanie was one of the most incredible experiences I have ever had. Fanie is passionate about the delta and did a great job showing us everything. I had never been on a quad bike before, and Fanie was very patient and helpful in instructing me (at one point though he did mention that I was doing better than Angelina Jolie!). I highly highly recommend a trip to Namibia, and in particular going with Fanie to see the wonders of the Kuiseb Delta. His website is

The reason why I am writing about my dune tour on my food blog is because Fanie showed us, among many other amazing things, two plants that are native to the Kuiseb Delta and I thought it would be interesting to share what I learned. The below information is supplied courtesy of Fanie. The first plant I will talk about is called the !nara (said with a clicking noise at the beginning) and the second, is the sirub.

(A !nara fruit with a baby chameleon sitting on top.) See photo above.

The !nara (Acanthosicyos horridus) is a type of cucumber. It is a life giving plant to almost every species in the Kuiseb delta. The plant and fruit are eaten by humans, insects, gazelles, antelopes, jackal, brown hyena, rodents, birds and lizards.

The taste of the fruit is unfamiliar to all humans, except the Topnaar people who live in the delta. The fruit is in season from mid December until May. It contains a lot of water, protein, iron, and vitamins B, C and D. The raw seeds of the fruit contain up to 57% polyunsaturated oil. The fruit is ripe when it reaches 5 inches in diameter and tastes neither bitter nor sweet. The larger the fruit the sweeter it tastes. Female plants can bear many fruits every year.

(The branches of the !nara. They are edible but very bitter tasting.) See photo above.

The !nara needs lots of water, but do not like getting wet from fog and rain. The whole delta has a fresh water aquifer underneath it and therefore there is very shallow water available. The Kuiseb delta is approximately 400 square km and is full of !nara. In winter there is more fog, and a black fungi forms on the stems and will quickly kill parts of the plant.

(The dried seeds of the !nara, ready to be exported.) See photo above.

The Topnaar people of the Kuiseb delta have woven their whole existence around this one fruit. When the fruit is almost ripe, they harvest it and bury it underneath the sand for three hot days. The hot sand hastens the ripening process. Then they cook the !nara’s in large pots for three hours, stirring all the time. Once cooked, the mixture is put through a sieve to separate the porridge from the seeds. The seeds are then dried in the sun and exported to Germany and Cape Town, South Africa. In Germany the nutty like seeds are used in confectionary and in Cape Town they are called butter pits and eaten like peanuts. The rest of the pot which is dried, rolled and eaten in between seasons is called Topnaar chocolate. I got to taste it and it was very similar to a fruit leather from Trader Joes. In season the Topnaar’s eat the raw !nara’s. They use the dried roots to make medicine against arthritis and diabetes, and they also smoke them.

(A sirub plant.) See photo above.

The second fruit we saw, and actually got to eat because it was ripe, was the sirub. The sirub (capparis hereroensis) fruits are eaten by the Topnaars, animals, rodents, birds, canivores and insects, while the leaves are eaten by the gazelle, oryx and ostriches. The roots are poisonous and used by the Topnaars as poison. The fruit tastes like banana, gooseberry, and elderflower.

(An open sirub fruit. The yellow flesh, not the seeds, is eaten.) See photo above.

Both desert fruits are creepers and grow very quickly. They are the only plants who can survive the fast moving dunes of the delta. They grow up and over the slip faces of the moving dunes. The roots of both these plants are full of capillaries to enable them to carry the water up the high dunes. The roots are usually about 3 inches thick, but can be larger.