Episode 46: Exploring Southeast Asia
Bun Cha – Vietnamese Pork Meatballs with Vietnamese Noodle Salad, Thai Chicken Massaman Curry, and Garlic Honey Lime Shrimp
The dead of winter in Rhode Island and Atlanta means we’re craving a little travel, even if it’s through recipes. We’re heading to southeast Asia with recipes from Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. Maybe we can’t get to any of those countries, but we sure can get a little taste.
Pork meatballs made with cilantro, green onions, fish sauce, and garlic are savory little bites on a bed of rice noodles and vegetables. We loved the fresh taste of the salad made from ingredients available any time of year. Even in the dead of winter.
Betsy baked the meatballs; Kate fried them. Both worked well- choose your preferred method.
We both halved (Kate) and doubled (Betsy) this recipe successfully.
If making the salad with rice noodles is a step too far, go with the author’s suggestion and serve the meatballs with rice and carrot sticks. A hit with the kids.
Instant Pot curries are popular for good reason- they deliver a ton of flavor without the time. Massaman Curry is deeply savory with tamarind, cinnamon, nutmeg and mace, tempered with coconut milk and cashews. The warming spices in this dish really hit the spot on a chilly evening.
Kate found Maesri brand Massaman curry paste in her local Whole Foods. Betsy wasn’t as successful. You can buy it online, if you’re interested. Good news is that it was inexpensive ($1.99). Look for a bright yellow can in the same aisle as other Thai curry pastes.
Since Betsy couldn’t find the Massaman curry, she used another Thai curry sauce. Same amount of time but she didn’t add any coconut milk at the end. Worked like a charm!
Shrimp will forever be a Fancy Food for the Midwestern Dinner Sisters. But with this recipe, it certainly isn’t complicated. Lime, honey, garlic, and cayenne are a simple sauce for sauteed shrimp. Fresh and uncomplicated weeknight meal.
Kate halved the recipe fairly easily. Note- towards the end of the cooking time she did need to add a tablespoon of water to prevent the sauce from getting dry.
Always watch your cooking time with shrimp! Before you know it shrimp can get overcooked and rubbery. Have your ingredients out ahead of time and make your life a little less stressful.
From the Smorgasbord:
We talked about cooking for a family five and cooking for a household of two.
Family tips from Betsy:
Shift the focus from food and eating and onto conversation and take the stress of mealtime.
Looking for conversation starters? Try the tip we picked up from the Happier Podcast, a 20 Questions-style quiz for the kids. Each kid gets a quick-fire round of questions. For instance, what was for lunch? What game did you play at gym? Who said something funny? Think easy, quick questions with short answers. The game has been a hit in Betsy’s family and gets everybody talking.
If all else fails, the kids have the option to make their own peanut butter and jelly. (On their own! No help from Mom or Dad to ease their way.) Nine times out of ten they stick with what’s on their plate.
Cooking for two from Kate:
Avoid way too many leftovers by halving recipes. Baked goods are usually a bad idea but lots of recipes are adaptable within reason.
Tips for halving recipes:
Halve recipes with four or fewer servings at your own risk. Things can get dicey with proportions.
Baked goods are also very tricky. Unless you have some experience baking, bring your extras into work or pop them in the freezer.
Make sure you shrink your pan or pot size along with the recipe. Spreading out ingredients over a larger surface area means faster evaporation. Sauces can over thicken, browning can occur too quickly, and things can burn.
If a sauce or soup thickens too quickly, just add that liquid back in. A splash of stock or water can save many a sauce.
Some favorite books:
Betsy read this when she had her first child and loved it. Its the story of a food critic turned author and stay-at-home dad and his time at the dinner table with his kids.
Great book for a baby shower or anyone who’s expecting.
After all that talk about halving recipes, this cookbook does have large portions but they halve really easily.
Think All-American Classic with this book: chicken-fried steak, meatloaf, and chili mac. All vetted by the ever-reliable America’s Test Kitchen. A great addition to the shelves of a beginning cook or family.