The Highlife for Lowlifes Guide to Cooking: Khao Poon

The Highlife for Lowlifes Guide to Cooking: Khao Poon

Herb Garden 101:

With summer here it’s the perfect moment to start an indoor or outdoor herb garden. I keep an indoor herb garden year round and an outdoor herb & vegetable garden in the growing season (In Rochester it’s roughly June-October) and both are invaluable to me for sourcing cooking ingredients, especially the indoor herbs. Plus I feel going through the exercise of growing some of your own food/cooking ingredients is an important, self-reliant and subversive action to take. On a big or small level it really is a worthwhile life experience and skill to have.

Via Photobucket

Buying fresh and dried herbs can be expensive but growing your own is surprisingly cheap. All you need are some seeds or sprouted plants from a Home/garden store, the Rochester Public Market or even Wegmans, some basic potting soil, some pots with drain holes in the bottom and evaporation trays, a nice big window and regular access to tap water. That’s it.

I have had the best luck indoors with Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Sage, Basil (Thai and Italian), Chives and curly leaf Parsley. Outdoors in pots I would recommend the same as well as any lettuce mix, baby spinach, mini Thai peppers and cherry tomatoes. Feel free to experiment, seed packets and pot are cheap, your only limitation is the available space in your windows or outside your home. As long as you can remember to water them at least once a week, they really take care of themselves.

During the summer I actually produce more herbs than I can use so I often dry them out in a simple mesh bag hanging in a dark dry place (my pantry) and once they are dried out transfer the herbs to little jars. My home-grown dried herbs always seem to pack more flavor than store bought because they dry naturally and slowly and retain more of the natural oils the plants contain having not been subjected to forced rapid dehydration in a factory somewhere.

Go play in the dirt, it’s fun.

Khao Poon (Kao-phoon)

This is an exotic, colorful, spicy and creamy dish from south eastern Asia that is perfect for summer and sure to impress. There are MANY different variations regionally of Khao Poon and there are also as many permutations of the ingredients that go into it. My version is I am sure very basic and you should feel free to take this model and add to it. It is kind of a soup and simultaneously kind of a salad. A perplexing unique blend of flavors and textures sure to confuse and delight… plus it is fun to say “Khao Poon”.

You will need:

Chicken stock

1 can of coconut milk

Red Curry Paste (I like Maesri brand)

Lime juice

Lemon Grass

Asian “blue” ginger (fresh is best but powdered will do)

Shallots

Garlic

Sugar

Oil (Coconut, Mustard or Vegetable)

Fish Sauce (I like Golden Boy Brand)

Thin Rice Vermicelli (Note* plain white rice can be substituted)

Chicken breast meat (light)

Chicken Thigh meat (dark)

Ground Pork (optional)

Garnish options:

Greens such as Spinach, lettuce or napa cabbage

Shredded carrots

Bean sprouts

Chopped cilantro, mint, lime leaves or Thai Basil

*Note any (or all) of these can be used

To start:

Finely chop the shallots and garlic, set aside. Very finely grate the ginger and lemon grass, set aside. Finely chop the chicken, set aside. Boil and drain the rice vermicelli then shock with cold water, set aside. Take care not to overcook the vermicelli.

Cooking:

In a large pot heat a small amount of oil on a medium-high heat, add in the shallots and garlic then sauté until they start to color. Add in the red curry paste (to taste, the more added the spicier the final dish will be), the grated ginger, lemon grass and 2-4 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling add in the chopped chicken (and optional ground pork) and boil until the meat is thoroughly cooked. Add in a splash of lime juice, fish sauce, and a teaspoon of sugar. Taste test the broth, it should be very spicy and slightly salty at this point. Fine tune by adding a dash of salt and or more red curry paste.

Finally add in the coconut milk, the more you put in the creamier and milder the final dish will be. Bring to a low boil.

Serve:

Place the cooked rice vermicelli in the bottom of serving bowls and garish around the edges with the greens. Ladle in the soup over the top of the noodles, then garnish the top of the dish with the carrots/sprouts/herbs and serve.

*A note on leftovers: If you have leftovers or intend to eat this dish over a few days it is important to keep the cooked noodles, raw garnishes and soup broth separate until right before you are planning to heat/eat.

Between Now and Then sharpen your blades and chew the fat:

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About:

J.Nevadomski (also known as Juda) is an accomplished musician and artist from Rochester. He has recorded with musicians from all over the world for his project “The Fragile Path” (which he heads and produces) and is a veteran artist who’s paintings have been featured in galleries, newspapers and exhibitions throughout the Rochester area. In 2012 he was the “artist guest of honor” at RocCon: Rochester’s Anime, Sci-Fi and comic book convention. He lives in the NOTA area of Rochester, keeps a yearly urban vegetable garden and regularly cooks and hosts dinner parties for friends and colleagues.

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