In Southeast Asia, where I grew up, the cuisine has been influenced by many countries: China, Japan, Spain, France, America, and to some extent the Middle East and Northern Africa. So I’ve been practicing fusion cooking my whole life. My mother ran a cooking school and my family operated multiple restaurants. My recipe for shrimp on sugar-cane skewers is a perfect example of Asian fusion food. It became very popular in our restaurants and then spread all over the world. When I see it on menus in restaurants today, it makes me smile.
Asian fusion cooking is about using Mediterranean or American ingredients and, possibly, French techniques in classical Chinese, Thai, or Filipino recipes. I’m not intimidated by exotic ingredients, but I know that many of my American friends can be. For them, I try to use more familiar spices to simplify the cooking process. I also look at trends in the healthy cooking sector and add my own delicious Southeast Asian spin to the recipes that are sometimes bland.
Take quinoa, which is a very trendy ingredient right now because of its many health benefits. To me, it has almost no flavor, and because I won’t eat something just because it’s good for me, I have to find a way to cook it so that I crave it. So I did. I took that crunchy Incan grain (Roland sells it online in every color at http://rolandfood.elsstore.com/view/category/30681-quinoa/?items_page=9&page=1) and added some sautéed shrimp, onions, scallions, and orange bell peppers.
This was a nice start, but quinoa, like rice and pasta, really benefits from a sauce because it’s so naturally flavorless. Luckily, I discovered a food company called Sosu (http://sosusauces.com ) that makes incredible ketchups and sauces with an Asian twist. They’re based in San Francisco. The young owner, Lisa Murphy, experimented with ketchup until she found a really delicious recipe based on the original Chinese formula brought to Britain in the eighteenth century. She makes a spicy sriracha-laced ketchup using a Thai hot sauce. And she makes Thaichup: a tangy, lemongrass, curry-spiked ketchup. After tasting Sosu’s Thaichup, I knew right away that its Asian-fusion soul would work well with my style of cooking.
I put the whole jar of Thaichup into my sautéed shrimp with vegetables. Then I spooned the concoction over the cooked quinoa. Success! A quinoa recipe even I want to eat. If you can’t get your hands on Thaichup, try making a sauce using a purée of roasted red peppers, orange tomatoes, a pinch of curry powder, and a dollop of lemongrass.
Asian Fusion Shrimp and Quinoa
2 cups water
¼ tsp. pink Himalayan salt
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1 cup quinoa (red, or black, or white or a combination thereof)
4 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 lb. shrimp, peeled (or skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into 1-inch cubes)
½ cup chopped red onion
4 scallions, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 (8-ounce) jar Sosu Thaichup
1. Bring water, salt, and garlic to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepan with a lid.
2. Add quinoa, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
3. Sauté shrimp (or chicken cubes) in the coconut oil in shallow pan with all of the veggies over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. (If using chicken, sauté for 5 minutes.)
4. Add Thaichup sauce and cook an additional 3 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque and the veggies halfway between crisp and tender.
5. Spoon sauce over the cooked quinoa.
For dessert, I decided to make my own version of ice cream. At the Natural Products Expo held in Anaheim, CA earlier this year, many companies were coming out with ice “cream” made with coconut milk instead of dairy products. I was intrigued. It tasted wonderful and the people who tried it loved it. I knew I could develop a homemade version, but I realized that the coconut milk would need a stabilizer to give it body during the freezing process. A whipped egg white would have worked, but I decided to make this recipe completely vegan, so I used cooked white rice instead. To sweeten the ice “cream,” I used brown sugar, but you can use coconut sugar or xylitol if you prefer.
Once my ice “cream” came out of my counter-top ice cream machine, I stirred in some dark chocolate chips, since coconut and dark chocolate go so well together. Then I poured my soft ice “cream” into a granola pie crust for an extra twist. Heartland makes a wonderful granola pie crust (http://heartlandbrands.elsstore.com/view/category/9411-pie-crusts). You can also just eat the ice “cream” by itself or with hot fudge.
Coconut Milk Ice “Cream” Pie
1 (13.5-ounce) can of coconut milk (not light)
¼ cup brown sugar, tightly packed (or coconut sugar)
1 cup cooked white rice, cooled
½ cup dark chocolate chips
1 (8-inch) Heartland granola pie crust (or use graham-cracker crust)
1. Dissolve the brown sugar in ½ cup of the coconut milk.
2. Put the sweetened coconut milk and cooked white rice into a food processor or blender and process 2–3 minutes, or until a very smooth paste forms.
3. Stir the remaining coconut milk into the paste. Whisk if necessary to get a uniform mixture. Pour mixture into a home ice cream maker and process according to the machine’s directions.
4. Stir the dark chocolate chips into the soft ice “cream.” Pour into pie crust and cover with plastic wrap. Freeze until hard, 1–2 hours.