Author Archives: MIEW Foods LLC

Reasons to give Thanks: Yuzu-rubbed smoked turkey

As the Holiday Season kicks off so does Citrus Season. Fortunately, we can enjoy both the wonderful American tradition of stuffing our faces AND newly minted traditions of adding Yuzu to seemingly everything we can in order to see how many different ways we can dine cross-culturally. Thanksgiving brought us the Yuzu Rubbed Smoked Turkey.

I’ve had many people ask me “How do you use Yuzu?” and I keep responding, a bit shocked, “How CAN’T you use Yuzu?”
I have had suggestions from the basic:
–  Yuzu in soda water
To the more adult:
–  Yuzu Gin and Tonic
To the self-care:
–  Yuzu in bath water

24hr Yuzu marinaded turkey

Yuzu rubbed turkey after 24 hours of “marinating”

I personally use it in all forms of cooking and marinating. This time, it was my turkey for Thanksgiving that got the Yuzu treatment. I have standard dry rubs that include salt, rosemary, thyme, chili powder and a few other goodies. To this, I add pulverized, dried Yuzu peel and let it marinate overnight.

It’s no secret that I love my smoker and this was the first time I was able to use it on a turkey. It took just over 3 hours to smoke the 12lb bird and as you can see it came out looking amazing. One thing I continue to learn about Yuzu is its ability to continue to give off its amazing flavor and aroma long after the initial cooking process.

Enough words, on with the pictures of the final product!

Smoked Yuzu Turkey

Smoked heritage turkey with Yuzu dry rub

Smoked Yuzu Rubbed Turkey

Yuzu rubbed smoked turkey from the back – snip along the spine with cooking shears for quicker, more even exposure to heat and smoke.

Yuzu crusted beef brisket

A few days ago, I was craving beef brisket, so I visited a local restaurant with a variety of “southern” dishes on the menu. I was looking forward to something BBQ-ish, and I was hoping this would hit the spot. Instead, it motivated me to visit the butcher for a 5lb brisket and set to work on making a superior product.

I am often underwhelmed by restaurants. There are very few that have a great blend of creativity, simplicity and value, so my feelings aren’t new when I had this dish. What disappointed me was the complete lack of flavor. The texture was excellent, but I suspect they purchased the meat, cooked, from their food service provider and tried to ‘marinate’ it in their own spices before serving. What the chef (or cook) didn’t take into account is that meat cannot be coerced into a new flavor profile after it has been cooked. You have 1 shot to do it right, and they blew it for me.

Because we import Yuzu products we tend to get a lot of Yuzu related ingredients to test before selling. For this recipe I used dried Yuzu peel I have kept in my freezer.

Recipe: Yuzu-Crusted Beef Brisket

Ingredients:
5lbs beef brisket
1 T dried Yuzu peel (pulverized)
2 T salt
1 t pepper
1 t cumin
1 t garlic powder

Process:
This brisket will be cooked in a 2 stage process; first the smoker, then the slow cooker. I use charcoal and black cherry wood in the smoker because I find it adds great flavor without overpowering the meat.

I combined the dry ingredients into a rub to coat the brisket and let it rest overnight (6 hours, minimum). The pieces of Yuzu will begin to rehydrate and stick to the brisket.

Yuzu beef brisket

Beef brisket & Yuzu peel dry rub, awaiting the smoker

After 1 hour in the smoker, the meat immediately goes into the slow cooker for 18 hours on low/simmer to cook in its own juices.

Smoked Yuzu peel beef brisket

Out of the smoker, into the slow cooker

It’s easiest to separate the meat from the remaining fat while the brisket is still fairly hot. Burned finger tips are likely, so be cautious, but the effort is well worth it.

I wasn’t at all disappointed by this encounter with beef brisket.

Shredded Yuzu Brisket

Shredded beef brisket. Totally worth burned finger tips.

Citrus Cranberry Sauce Recipe

Cranberry evokes memories of Thanksgiving and holiday meals, but this little berry offers a burst of fresh fruit flavor well into the winter when we in Washington tend to forget there are types of produce other than apples, potatoes and citrus (courtesy of the Southern US).

I’ll admit that cranberry was always Juice or Sauce (cylindrical, with the rings from the can), but when I discovered how quick and simple it was to make my own with this cranberry sauce recipe, I never looked back.

Yuzu citron

Yuzu citron

My newest twist on the ever-evolving Cranberry Clementine Sauce resulted from a recent visit to Kochi, Japan, and our introduction to Yuzu Citrus. Yuzu is a citrus variety that’s both a mix of other citrus, yet like nothing else you’ve tasted, mixing the brightness of Meyer Lemon, the richness of blood orange and the mild tartness of grapefruit.

The complexity of Yuzu turns this simple dish into a real treat – the aroma is almost spicy and the citrus brightens without taking over. Clementines and pecans add additional texture, but are optional if you prefer a smoother sauce to a chunkier relish.

Yuzu Cranberry Sauce

Yuzu Cranberry Sauce

Citrus Cranberry Sauce

12 oz. fresh cranberries, rinsed
¾ C water
1 T Yuzu juice (100% juice)
1 T dried Yuzu peel, soaked in water, finely chopped
1 t dried Japanese ginger, soaked in water, finely chopped
1 C honey
Pinch Salt
3-4 clementines, peeled & cut into 3-4 pieces per segment
¾ C pecan halves, roughly chopped

In 3-quart saucepan with lid, bring cranberries, water, Yuzu peel, and ginger to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Variations:
Sweetener – instead of 1 C honey, substitute 1 C sugar or 1/2 C sugar & 1/2 C honey
Yuzu – Satsuma or clementine juice, zest

Meeting you at Foodportunity 2014

It was great to meet so many of you at Foodportunity. We love food as much as you do and it was our pleasure to introduce you to some of our favorites from Singapore and Japan.

We’re offering a pre-order discount for single and bulk orders placed through August 15, 2014. Please use the Contact form or the email address on the business card from the show.

Foodportunity 2014 - MIEW Foods products from Singapore and Japan

Chris showcases MIEW Foods specialties from Singapore and Japan

Made in Singapore

These sauces are traditionally used to season Sri Lankan crab, however contain absolutely NO SEAFOOD or meat products, so are completely vegetarian and can be used in a variety of dishes.

Chili Crab Sauce – 8oz jar
Manufactured on the small island of Singapore and thought to have been created in 1956, the Chili Crab sauce is used in a variety of seafood dishes for its sweet and savory properties.
*Contains NO SEAFOOD or meat products* * No preservatives, No artificial ingredients

Pepper Crab Sauce – 8oz jar
Manufactured on the small island of Singapore and thought to have been created in 1959 the Pepper Crab sauce is used in marinating meat and seafood as well as vegetables. The peppery aroma blossoms when cooked, but can be consumed as delivered.
*Contains NO SEAFOOD or meat products* * No preservatives, No artificial ingredients

Made in Japan

These mid-season citrus will make you think twice about relying on a squeeze of lemon on a dish or a wedge of lime in a beverage. Both are complex and aromatic, with just a half-ounce turning your seltzer water into a quenching experience.

Yuzu Citron – 300ml
Yuzu is a complex citrus found in southern Japan. It has an extremely strong aroma and can used in all forms of cooking, cocktails and marinades. The flavor is compared to Meyer lemon, blood orange and white grapefruit all in one small package.
* *Harvested and bottled at Okabayshi Farm, Kochi, Japan ** 100% Yuzu juice

Buntan Citron – 300ml
Buntan, or Tosa-Buntan, is similar to pomelo in size and flesh color. Buntan is harvested later in the season than Yuzu and is used in cocktails and marinades. A unique property of Buntan is that it gets sweeter as it ages in the unopened bottle.
* *Harvested and bottled at Okabayshi Farm Kochi Japan ** 100% Buntan juice

 

July 28th, 2014 Tasting Menu

Yuzu Citron Cream Cheese
–   Cream cheese, yogurt, Yuzu Citron, organic cane sugar simple syrup
Pepper Crab Sauce Cream Cheese
–   Cream cheese, yogurt, Pepper Crab Sauce
Chili Crab Sauce Beef Jerky
–   Beef eye of round, Chili Crab Sauce, molasses, salt

Yoohoo, Yuzu Citrus! Tasting sunshine in winter

Yuzu Citrus, also known by the more Westernized name of Yuzu Citron, is as synonymous with Japan’s Kochi Prefecture as oranges are with Florida or California, but this unique citrus is largely unknown in the US market. Heard of Ponzu? This citrus-soy sauce is one of the common ways that Yuzu is incorporated into Japanese cuisine.

Describing Yuzu has proved challenging because “like a lemony orange, but not exactly” doesn’t quite capture the complexity of the aroma and flavor. The best descriptions I’ve seen say that it’s a blend of all the best parts of Meyer lemon, blood orange and grapefruit.

We believe that Yuzu can have as great an impact on the US market as blood oranges or mangos. It, along with Buntan (another specialty citrus closer to a grapefruit, but not exactly), are able to add a depth of flavor that can create an awe-inspiring meal that will leave your guests wondering what the secret ingredient is.

Uses

  • Ponzu, salad dressings
  • Honey tea (nearly marmalade)
  • Beverages (10% juice, 50% juice) – better than lemonade!
  • Pure juice (100% juice) – add to seltzer or uzeki, with bonito
  • Desserts (Yuzu cakes or tarts)

One of my favorite ways to use it is as a substitute for lemon juice to brighten up braised kale, or in homemade cranberry sauce. I’m still experimenting with cocktails 😉

Flank steak over braised kale

Flank steak over braised kale

Cranberry sauce with Yuzu

Cranberry sauce with Yuzu

Mumbai dreaming

Menu Mumbai

The picture you see here is a typical Mumbai restaurant menu. I visited restaurants like this the Monday after Diwali in one of the most posh neighborhoods in Mumbai, Pali Hill. This is an extremely safe and residential neighborhood, one where I saw many women jogging in the morning and hoping on and off the bus at all times of day and early evening. Take in this photo, examine all the details. Remember that as a westerner no matter where you go it’s not a good idea to drink non-bottled water or eat from the street vendors. How would you shower and brush your teeth? Hell even my friends from India don’t drink the water and occasionally get put in the hospital for eating bad street food. One person I spoke with remarked “it’s just something that happens now and again in this part of the world”, this was after spending a week in the hospital.

Now consider this, during the week I was in Mumbai I didn’t get sick once, I ate all Indian food with the exception of 1 meal (will blog on this later) and I loved every minute of it. I am just going to come out and say it, the reason why Indian food outside of India has a hard time replicating the authentic flavors is 2 fold: Dairy and spice tolerance. Yogurt, cheese and milk are all from Indian cows that produce unique flavored dairy products. The cheese in my saag paneer was exceptional, the lassi’s were strong and the yogurt had a hint of sour cream. I am a loyal convert to the “India is the best place for vegetarians”. It is truly an awesome place for foodies and once you’ve eaten there you will long for those dishes in your hometown Indian buffet.
Menu Mumbai 1

Meet the Longan fruit

Longan

Longan

Many of you in warmer parts of the world will know the Longan Fruit very well. It’s often compared to Lychee in terms of tree size, texture and willingness to grow a-plenty. In fact, most home green thumbs, given the choice, will grow Lychee 9 times out of 10.

Here in Asia, both are grown but there is nearly a 2x difference in price between Lychee and Longan — which is always a consideration no matter how much you love your exotic fruits. Think of it in the context of price the price difference between a pint of Raspberries and Strawberries. Similar to the difference in price, you also get differences in taste and edibility.

I will say from the start that Lychee is sweeter, larger and juicer than Longan, but both are packed with Vitamin C and Antioxidants. If you have a chance to only have one of these two fruits fresh, by all means enjoy Lychee to the fullest. However, if you have the chance to frequent a very well-stocked Asian wet market and find the little old lady that remembers your face, ask her for her freshest Longan on your third or fourth trip back.

Longan seedIn a wet market you will get them attached to a branch and have to pull them off yourself once you get home. Many people will try to use their fingers to break through the thin but tough skin but I say poppycock to that! Wash the bunch very very well, soaking and rubbing the fruit under water. As you pull each fruit off the stick they are attached to, use your teeth to puncture and peel the skin. After you expose the white flesh underneath go ahead and remove the entire seed and flesh, eating around the seed and throwing the skin away; don’t bite too hard because you aren’t going to pierce that seed without breaking a tooth. 🙂

What is most important here, and with so many foods, is eating what’s fresh and in-season. Longan fruit is a great travel companion and, compared to Lychee, it won’t dribble down your chin during that elephant trek in the forests of Thailand. That should keep you happy, the flies away and that elephant trunk out of your face!

Pull up a chair and join @MIEWFoodsLLC at the table on Twitter.

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Part of an occasional series of Guest Posts by friends of MIEW who love food just as much as we do. We hope you enjoy. [Chewy Ginger Cookie Recipe included].

Ginger is … someone with red hair, but more importantly a spice. This humble rhizome lends a hot, fragrant zing to foods and beverages from across the world. In fact, that it’s used in cuisines from the Caribbean to China to India to Europe to the US speaks to its diversity in both sweet and savory foods.

Gingerbread House at HomeGrowing up, my favorite part of the winter holiday season was seeing elaborately decorated gingerbread houses. At the time, gingerbread was “too spicy” for me, so my appreciation was purely visual and architectural.

From a cityscape in New Orleans to a “girls’ night” in my friend’s kitchen, and beyond, professional pastry chefs and home bakers create some pretty impressive structures with this snappy cookie.

These days, I’m delighted by the brightness that ginger adds to a box of biryani rice. I love the way it lends itself so well to the spice, and spiciness, of Indian dishes.

Gingerbread Houses New Orleans 

Looking for something refreshing to sip, or something to soothe an upset tummy? Ginger ale or ginger tea. I like the Gingen Instant Ginger Tea‘s warmth and fragrance, but now I’m tempted to serve it over ice with a splash of seltzer water for my own, custom ginger ale.

The first time I started to appreciate the complexity of this knotty tuber was when I tasted my Aunty Ruth’s Ginger Cookie Recipe – chewy, spicy, sweet. These days, I look for excuses to spend time in the kitchen baking them so I can enjoy them myself, but more importantly, share the glorious gingery-goodness with others.

Let us know about your favorite way to use Ginger at @MIEWFoodsLLC

Cheers,
-bridget

Aunty Ruth's Ginger Cookies

Aunty Ruth’s Ginger Cookies

Ingredients
2 C Flour
¾ tsp Baking soda
¼ tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Ground ginger (dry)
½ tsp Ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp Ground cloves
½ C Butter, softened
½ C Turbinado sugar
1 Egg
4 Tbsp Dark corn syrup
⅓ – ½C Turbinado sugar (for rolling cookies in before baking)

Instructions
1 Preheat oven: 350°
2 Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
3 Cream sugar and butter in large bowl with mixer at medium speed until well blended; beat in egg and corn syrup until smooth (will ribbon off of beater or spatula). Mix with dry ingredients until well-blended and smooth.
4 Let dough rest 1-2 hours, or overnight, in the refrigerator.
5 Form 1-inch balls of dough and roll them in the additional sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart on sheet with parchment/silicone baking sheet; gently press thumb into top of each to flatten very slightly (optional).
6 Bake 9-11 minutes at 350°, until just golden around the edges; center will be puffy. Let rest for 5 minutes, then cool fully on wire rack.
Makes 2 dozen. Recipe can be doubled.

Variations/Substitutions
– 1 egg: 2 tsp Baking Powder, 2 tsp water, 1 Tbsp Oil (light olive, canola, veg) & cut salt by half
– Dark Corn Syrup: 1-to-1 up to full amount for light/medium molasses, depending on preference
– Ginger: ¼ tsp dry ginger powder = 1 Tbsp fresh ginger paste; increases spicy “bite”

Foodportunity: Forging friendships through food

Foodportunity (n.) – An opportunity in food means the possibility to fluently speak the native language – food – no matter where you are in the world.

My foodportunity started from humble beginnings to grow into the business of finding the most authentic tastes to share with my newfound global family of adventurers.

We, as a collection of individuals, are constantly exploring and creating our own fusion cuisines, and along the way, gaining cultural lessons without even realizing it.

My first real foodportunity was a semester abroad in Turkey during university. This was my first experience out of the country and it proved to be not only a time of cultural exchange, but of food exchange as well. Eating fresh figs, spiced lamb, and Turkish yogurt became a joy because it was it was both new and different, but the real joy was dining in local restaurants and the homes of my host friends and their families. To this day, one of my most memorable experiences was a casual dinner with some local families and other American students. The 15 of us melded traditional American grilling techniques with traditional Turkish seasonings and spices. As the sun set over the Bosphorus River, these simple cooking traditions forged lifetime friendships.

Much less far-flung, the next big foodportunity started when I moved to Seattle. One word: Salmon (and a second: Halibut). I can say, with certainty, that the Pacific Northwest has access to some of the best fish and seafood in the world. Sadly, I arrived at the peak of Copper River Salmon season. I say “sadly” because when that’s the first salmon you’re introduced to here, the rest of the year feels like a bit of a let-down; truth be told, I do love Yukon River Salmon, as well. As a new arrival, I went to different salmon tasting events and met people who had been doing this for more than 20 years. In Seattle, as elsewhere, new friends are never hard to find when great food is plentiful.

These days, I am living in both Singapore and Seattle. In my time spent in Singapore, I’ve had the foodportunity to travel to Osaka for ramen, Thailand for curries and India for Punjabi and Tamil food.  In all of these experiences (also including Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia), what I’ve seen can best be described as deeply shared food cultures – The ability to eat local, but create new fusion dishes that take elements from all over the world to cook up rich experiences and new friends for life.

Seattle, south to Portland and north to Vancouver, creates a Pacific corridor of amazing, fresh, local ingredients that hunger for an international twist. Oregon has truffles, strawberries and blueberries. Washington has crab, geoduck, oysters and apples. Vancouver has halibut, salmon and clams, not to mention the countless bakeries, smokehouses and miles and miles of farmland.

The Pacific Northwest is the perfect place to find, or create, new fusion dishes that will take the world by storm. MIEW’s Foodportunity is just beginning, but our success will be determined by how much we can honor the food cultures we are bringing together.

Eat well,
Chris

What’s your Foodportunity? We share ours on Twitter @MiewFoodsLLC

This post is both a view into the inspiration behind MIEW and an entry in Keren Brown’s Foodportunity 2013 contest to describe “what does an opportunity in food look like to you?” Join us to talk (& taste) food at Foodportunity on Oct. 28 >> Details here

Food on Wheels: Dishcrawl Seattle’s #BetaTasting

Part of an occasional series of Guest Posts by friends of MIEW who love food just as much as we do. We hope you enjoy.

If there were such a thing as dim-sum for mobile food, the Dishcrawl Beta Tasting is a pretty good model. The weather delivered a perfect afternoon for half a dozen food trucks to gather in the U District and serve up small-plates of food ranging from a traditional taco truck to a converted camper serving slow-cooked meats.

I was spoiled at my previous office with 1-4 different food trucks rolling up daily for lunch options, so there was no way I wanted to miss the opportunity for this culinary splurge.

Here are some highlights of how I spent my handful of food tickets at the attending food trucks:

Flair TacoFlair Tacos: carnitas taco
Can’t go wrong with slow-roasted pork. Radish slices and diced onions were the perfect accent of crunch. To be quite honest, part of me wanted to skip every other truck and just keep eating tacos; I am glad I branched out, though.

Quack Dog
Quack Dogs: Hot Link, Seattle style
I’ve lived in Seattle for 15 years and never knew that a thick schmear of cream cheese on the bun is called Seattle-style. Brilliantly, the cream cheese both brightens and cools the spicy of the hot link. Not knowing about this condiment option is both a tragic, and wonderful, oversight, because I could easily make backyard bbqs a lot higher in calories.

Braizen Sandwich
Braizen Sandwich Co: pork belly
I’m a relative newcomer to pork belly (Tokyo boosted my interest), so these open-faced sliders piqued my interest immediately. These guys are all about New American, adding a really creative flair to a traditional combination of roast pork and apples.

Funguyz Food TrolleyFunGuyz Food Trolley: Treignets
When offered the option of beignets stuffed with Nutella and marshmallow, I don’t see a way to not say yes. These little deep fried triangles did not disappoint. By this time, I’d already eaten so much that the tacone (taco shell + waffle cone) with red curry chicken and veggie slaw wasn’t an option, so I’m saving that for the next time I see this trolley dishing up interesting eats.

 

And my favorite part of this pop-up food court on wheels? There was no heading back to the office to get to work, just a delightful Sunday afternoon to enjoy.

What are your favorite food trucks and food carts? Have you found any cities that truly embrace the mobile food culture? Drop us a message on Twitter at @MIEWFoodsLLC. That reminds me, I need to check the Seattle schedule because I could really go for some poutine.

Until next time,
-bridget

Durian: The King of Fruit

Durian VarietiesI will come right out and say it: Durian is one of the most misunderstood fruits in western culture. It has the reputation for smelling so bad that most liken it to the odor of rotten flesh. It’s banned on subways, airlines and in shopping malls and, believe me, once you smell it you will never forget it. Having said all that, you might wonder why anyone would eat it. The truth is, the Durian-haters are about half-right. We spent 2 hours at a Durian festival in Singapore to give you the eyes-wide-open western point of view on the “king of fruit”.

First of all, there are well over 200 different types of Durian. Think of the word Durian as you would think of the word apple; how many different types of apple are sold in your local farmers’ market or grocery store? The basic structure is the same across all of them, but there are visual, aromatic and taste differences between varieties.

Durian - seed sizesThe Durian that everyone knows to be the smelliest is called “XO” (think of cognac). It has the harshest strongest taste to go along with the aroma, and it’s one to love if you don’t like super sweet fruits. Along with XO, we tasted “Golden Phoenix”, D-series and the most expensive, “Mao Shan Wang”. Each of them had a different taste profile, as well as different seeds. The Mao Shan Wang had seeds the size of peach pits while the Golden Phoenix had seeds reminiscent of candy corn.

The texture of all of these are similar: extremely slimy and custard-like. If you have an issue with food texture (uni, anyone?), you may have a challenge with this fruit. The sweetness is similar to that of a heavy cream custard and it’s often used to create desserts and sweets such as candy/taffy, ice cream and even dessert wine.

Durian Festival SingaporeThere were about 300 people at the festival and you could certainly smell the fruit as you approached the venue. After a few minutes, we settled into our groups and the nervousness goes away —  you are among people who love this stuff not only for the oddity of it, but for the family traditions they have grown up with where Durian was a central feature. Because Durian is best eaten within a day of being ripe enough to fall from the tree, it doesn’t travel well outside of Malaysia and Singapore. If you ever get a chance, I highly recommend coming to SE Asia on a food trip and having the locals introduce you to their favorite Durian “uncle” (Durian stall owner). Bon Appétit

Have you found Durian treats around the US or ever tasted it while in SE Asia? Tell us about it on Twitter at @MIEWfoodsLLC

Keeping, and Ignoring, Local Food Customs

Japanese customs - Local Food CustomsKnow your local food customs, and when appropriate, disregard them when you travel.

This is a simple post about simply knowing how to travel and dine across the world. From eating with your hands in India to never drinking your ramen broth in Japan, you should always know the local food customs when ever you travel.

The good news is there are many different places for you to learn about these different customs. In the past you would break out the old encyclopedia volume, find your chosen country and go from there. Now we have travel shows, food shows and even news shows that will tell you everything you need to know. You can even search on YouTube or find your favorite food recommendation website to see what locals, or other travelers, recommend.

Ramen - Tokyo Thick NoodlesGiven the type of business MIEW Foods strives to be, you can understand how important it is for us to know exactly where locals eat and how they enjoy their cuisine. Through this research, we are then able to see why one dish is considered more authentic than another, or why a specific dish may be seen as fusion to locals, but traditional to foreigners.

Now that you know where to learn all the local food customs, know when to be a Tourist. Have you ever had perfect Ramen? The noodles were just right, the veggies were grilled and the broth was rich and spicy? You certainly don’t want to let the rest of that 1100 Yen meal go to waste. It’s time to throw the rules out the window and drink that broth! If you have great Indian food and want to have biryani rice instead of white rice with your meal, go for it. When you have a meal that you know is impressive, do everything you can to make the most of it. Chopsticks on Fruit - breaking local food customsThe locals won’t mind, and you will surely have an exceptional experience.

Know the rules but even more important; know when to break the rules — all in the name of loving great food, of course.

What’s the local food custom that you follow or break most often? Let us know @MIEWfoodsLLC

Sushi: Small bites, big flavors

Sushi wholeI want to share a brief note about sushi. Of course I love sushi and sashimi, and you should too. Forget the rolls – it’s all about the pure fresh fish, and, on occasion great rice, wasabi and soy sauce. But even without those other compliments, the best sushi is the freshest, no matter where you are. I have had sushi in Japan and it was amazing, specifically the tuna. But, to my surprise, I’ve had better crab and salmon sushi on the west coast of the US. To eat good sushi is to eat fresh sushi.

A seafood market is only as fresh as how ever long your fish has been hanging out at said market (alive or dead). It is always Sushi piecebest to eat what’s local to wherever you are, but if that’s not possible, find a sushi place you know and trust (which is good advice even if the fish market is close). The places where they know your name and face will always trump the new, hip, trendy place that is trying to get you in, feed you and get you on your way. Also, farm-raised fish, while wonderfully sustainable, is almost always fattier in a bad way (fatty tuna is also more expensive than lean tuna).

How to eat sushi and sashimi: I’ve heard tips and recommendations on everything from “eat your raw fish plain or you will offend the chef” to mixing wasabi with soy sauce to only eating with your hands. With so many rules, the best ones to follow are what is comfortable for you, while being aware and respectful of the customs in the restaurant. Sushi PlatterIn Japan, they tend to place the wasabi between your fish and rice so be sure to pay attention prior to adding more. There are also many different spice levels of wasabi from very mild to very very strong. In Japan, I found the wasabi to be milder, but taste much more like radish, while in the US, the wasabi is much more about the spiciness (radish? radish, who?).

No matter how you eat it, be sure to try something new each time you go out. There may be an item that seems gross on paper or in the picture, but may taste fabulous when in season (uni anyone?).

My stand-by is the Crunchy Roll, but I pick a new piece each time, just for fun. What’s your favorite? Let us know on Twitter at @MIEWfoodsLLC

Passion fruit

Passion FruitWith a name like “Passion Fruit” you would think of some fabled fruit that is picked from lush green trees in a glorious oasis overlooking oceans or mountains, or both. The truth of it is that most passion fruits look like big tree seeds with soft gooey centers. The outer skin is a bit rough and fairly thick.

Because of this, it’s tough to know when passion fruits are ripe just from the look or touch. There are also varieties that have no wrinkles at all,  perfectly round and red with the smoothness of a baseball but the squish of a tennis ball.

Once you cut through the thick skin you will be greeted by lots of juice from membranes that surround the crunchy, black seeds; the seeds don’t have much flavor but are edible. I suggest eating them, if only to make it less messy than trying to eat around them. They are a bit smaller than, and not as thick as, watermelon seeds.

passion fruitIn US markets, the purple, wrinkly passion fruit is usually the only one available. In Asia I’ve seen 3 different versions:  purple, yellow and red. The purple tends to be the sweetest while the yellow has the most tang (acidity).

A final interesting note is that, per Wikipedia, the purple passion fruit is found to contain traces of cyanogenic glycosides, a derivative of the cyanide family. Passion indeed!

Vegetarian Gelatin dessert

Vegetarian dessertThis seems like a strange concept: Vegetarian gelatin. The secret is that it’s made from plants, not from gelatin*. We do see this dessert popping up across the US, but it’s been quite common in Southeast Asia for a while. For religions reasons, a significant portion of the population in this region needs food to be Halal certified. This creates an opportunity to experiment with different foods that taste great while also meeting the dietary constraints of those observing religious practices.

So what does it taste like? If the name brand stuff offered flavors like lychee or pineapple, this tastes just as good, but with 1/3 less sugar. The lychee was recently taste-tested on some American children at a picnic and several asked for more. Halal jelly is quick setting and can be ready to eat in as little as 45 minutes at room temperature. Personally, I like mine ice cold, so in about 2 hours, you are ready to rock and roll.

A quick note on the lower of sugar content: It’s actually a refreshing change from the name brand stuff in the US. Once you remove overpowering taste of sweet, you get to really enjoy the flavors of lychee, pineapple, etc. It makes for a light snack when you mix in a bit of your favorite fruits as well. We at MIEW will continue to find not only great foods, but great snacks to bring to the US market. Hopefully you will enjoy them as much as we do.

*But you called it “gelatin” … While there are Halal gelatins, most of the dessert jelly is made with a food additive called vegetable gum, or carrageenan, that acts as a thickening agent. You’ll also find this ingredient in items ranging from salad dressing to soy milk to ice cream to toothpaste.

Have you had any non-traditional gelatins? Tell us about it at @MIEWfoodsLLC

Eat your greens: Saag Paneer vs. Palak Paneer

Palak PaneerHaving eaten and enjoyed Indian food in the US for many years there were a couple things I learned: it’s a great way to eat vegetarian and they have this amazing bread called naan. What took me a few years, and now international experience, to realize is how limited the food selection is in US Indian restaurants. We’ve already talked about the variety of breads, so this is a good opportunity to discuss Saag Paneer.

Simply put Saag is any form of pureed greens turned into the base of an Indian curry; in the US, the base is typically spinach because it’s commonly available. In India, the spinach-based Paneer dish is called Palak (spinach in Hindi) and is generally a bit more soup-like as opposed to the thicker, more stew-like Saag Paneer. Outside the US, Saag Paneer is generally made with mustard greens, which also lends very well to American taste buds. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Can anyone say kale paneer?!?

Does any of this matter? Not in the least. This is a friendly reminder of how some traditional dishes have evolved in the mainstream of American restaurants, ethnic or otherwise. But what this should do is open your eyes to the possibilities in making Indian cuisine in your own kitchen.

We had a great time playing with spinach, carrot tops (the greens) and kale for pesto, so it was just a matter of time until we pivoted from a more familiar Italian dish to one of our favorite Indian dishes. If kale, mustard, or turnip greens are in season, go to town creating your own Saag Paneer dish. Find the basic, simple Saag Paneer recipe here and experiment like crazy. That’s what the joy of cooking (and eating) is all about!

Do you have your own twist on Saag Paneer? The best part of cooking is sharing, so don’t be shy — give us a tweet at @MIEWfoodsLLC

“Ethnic food” is “Local food”

Cambodian Wet MarketEthnic food saved my life. Well, not exactly, but hear me out. Traveling across the world you come across different versions of foods you get at home. Some are familiar comforts — multi-national fast-food brands, for example — while others are authentic — like dim sum in Hong Kong.

In any case, we often look to the familiar in an uncertain environment. We spend time among those who may look like us at a resort or out on an excursion. We try a little slice of the New while making sure we can still stay in touch with the Familiar. Because, Ethnic Food is Local Food somewhere.

In many places, jumping into truly local cuisine may be unsafe or unsanitary for the western tummy, there ARE opportunities to break down cultural barriers and make friends in the process. As we at MIEW travel for both business and pleasure, there are a few rules we try to adhere to that we’d like to share:

1. When in traveling in a new place, seek out supermarkets (grocery stores) and open-air markets (you can find the foods that locals eat)
2. When you find a place a good place, especially at an open air market, make repeat visits to the same vendor/stall
3. Always wash fresh foods. Always. It’s easier to make sure whole/uncut produce is clean.
4. The freshest markets will have insects from their field of origin, but never fear, a bathtub (drown the bugs) or fridge (freeze the bugs) is only a hotel room away

Each of these tips will allow you to discover something new about your chosen destination, allow you to build a relationship with a local vendor and help you to connect to a culture even if you don’t speak the language.

Fruit Stall Thai Wet MarketIn Thailand and Cambodia, I spent every morning visiting the wet markets shopping the same stall for the freshest fruits. The little old lady always smiled and winked when I stopped at her produce stall — we had a pleasant fairly non-verbal conversation. Even without knowing the language, and her limited English, she provided me with the ripest fruits to eat that day. We bonded over food, and that’s really the moral of this story. There’s nothing better than being in an unknown place and knowing a stranger is looking out for you, wanting to show you the best their country has to offer.

Share your “local” food story with @MIEWfoodsLLC on Twitter; we’d love to hear it.

Pro tip: When you do visit a stall at the wet market, be sure to ask for the mango (or whatever) that’s ready to eat today, if that’s when you’re going to eat it. Often the produce that’s placed in the front will take a day or so to completely ripen. There’s nothing quite as amazing as dragonfruit or mango that hits the peak of readiness at just the moment you eat it. 🙂

Discovering Thai Curry

We shared the recipe for green curry, and even how Thai curry paste is made, but now it’s time to discuss the subtle differences in green, red and Panang curries, both in Asia and in the US. As noted in a few other posts, the two most notable differences in ingredients between the locations are the use of coconut cream versus milk and the level of heat.

Even outside of Thailand (but still in Asia), these curries have a kick. The bird’s eye chilies pack a punch and most chefs aren’t afraid to use them. The spicy spectrum ranges from green, most spicy in its original, to Panang in the middle, with red being the least spicy. Most of the sweetness in the dish comes from the coconut cream and how it interacts to bring out the other spices in the pastes.

What makes green curry green isn’t so much the bird’s eye chilies, though they are green, as much as it’s the volume of coriander (aka cilantro) and/or basil used. I’m personally not a fan of coriander (horrible accident in college involving a bowl of soup and a death wish), so when I make green curry at home, I just about overdo it with the basil.

The red and Panang curries are the absent those leafy greens, so you get a very lemongrass-forward flavor in a red sauce; while both have a reddish hue, Panang is slightly more brownish-red. Although westerners tend to think of “red” as being spicy, the green, spicier bird’s eye chilies aren’t included in either of these curries. Also, Panang curry tends to be served with just meat and/or tofu while red and green tend to have vegetables in the mix.

The overall joys of Thai curry tend to be the mix of sweet, salty and spicy. You will find this across most Thai dishes short of desserts, which tend to be mango related. No matter which option you prefer make sure you read the label for the ingredients and prepare for a bit of heat; if all else fails, head to the best restaurant in town!

Color nerd moment:
Green curry? Think Pantone 5777 C
Panang curry? Think Pantone 174 C
Red curry? Think Pantone 485 C

Visit @MIEWfoodsLLC on Twitter and tell us: What’s your color?

Pad Thai recipe

Home made Pad ThaiHave you ever wanted Pad Thai at home? Here’s an easy Pad Thai recipe so you can make it from scratch.

Far and away the most popular Thai dish outside of Thailand, Pad Thai requires fewer ingredients but a wok with a round bottom is the preferred pan.

 

Serves 2

2 Tbsp palm sugar
2 Tbsp white sugar
4 Tbsp fish sauce (Soy sauce)
4 Tbsp chili sauce
4 Tbsp tamarind juice
3 Tbsp water

3 Tbsp veg oil
1 Tbsp sliced shallots
2 Tbsp firm tofu
1 Cup peeled prawns (chicken, beef, etc)

7oz dried rice noodles soaked and strained
2 medium eggs
1/2 Cup chives cut to 1 inch
1/2 Cup bean sprouts (leave for garnish or stir-fry in wok, your choice)
2 Tbsp roasted peanuts crushed
2 lime wedges for garnish
1 tsp chili powder garnish

Combine the first group of ingredients in the sauce pan and simmer until white sugar dissolves and set to the side
Combine second group of ingredients in the wok and turn up to medium heat until fragrant (you can add your sprouts if you like)
Combine noodles and immediately add your pad thai sauce stirring frequently to make sure the noodles don’t stick
Move this entire mixture to one wall of the wok lower heat and add a bit of oil and crack your two eggs. *wait for the whites of the egg to cook slightly then scramble the yoke*
Add in your chives and flip eggs until cooked
Combine the entire mixture in the wok then plate
Add sprouts and garnish
Enjoy

This is as simple a pad thai recipe as you can find. There are a few ingredients that I left out because they have too much of an effect on the taste of the pad thai sauce. The big ones are ketchup and dried shrimp. Both of these are optional but depending on what brand of each of these they can vastly overpower the tamarind flavor of the meal. You will notice that there’s not a call for birds eye chilies. The chili sauce above can be either sweet and spicy or just spicy. This can allow for further experimentation. Finally the rice noodles can be found at any store and you should experiment with the length of time to soak them and the width of noodle. This is a cuisine that very much is about tweaking to taste and making it your own.

Dragonfruit

Dragonfruit To continue the theme of favorite fruits, I would like talk a little about Pitaya, or dragonfruit. This fruit only blooms at night and has a fiery red outer skin* and either a white or beet-red inner flesh that’s the edible part. While I did find these in the US, in Eatily, NYC and a few Asian markets, they are very rare and not inexpensive (about $7USD each). Here in Asia, similar sized dragonfruits are 5 for $3SGD. Another good example of supply and demand, I guess.

Aside from the interior color, there isn’t much of a difference in flavor among dragonfruits from Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia. They range in size from baseball to softball and are all very easy to peel. The best way to describe the flavor is like a mellow kiwi. At its best, it’s mildly sweet and at its worst, it’s closer to the sweetness of the inner rind of a watermelon (that is to say, blandly sweet).

One of the most interesting things about dragonfruit is that while you don’t see it in many US stores, they’ve been a part of the Native American diet for centuries. It has grown in popularity across Asia and, as I said, can be found in some Asian markets in the US, but I would honestly say it’s a totally American fruit that just never reached the popularity of its other native fruit relatives.

Dragonfruit fleshIf you get the chance, please try them —  they are in season from late June through October in the Northern Hemisphere. A note of caution: the red-flesh dragonfruit will stain everything it comes in contact with, so keep that in mind as you sit down to enjoy.

* I am reading up on a type of dragonfruit that has yellow skin, but I have yet to come across it. The search continues …

Persimmons

PersimmonsOf all the new fruit I have been able to try in Asia, sometimes the most enjoyable things are familiar but now grown outside of the US. An example of this is persimmons; mainly grown in California and South America, I have now been able to try them from Israel and Australia and I can say that the US has a few lessons to learn from our international friends.

Persimmons are available in Asia year around while in the US you mainly find them in the winter. In the US, there are a 2 main types of persimmons sold around the holidays, Hachiya and Jiro; in Asia the Jiro is sold year around and the Hachiya is seasonal. Sweetness in US persimmons has been been hit or miss for me while Asian ones tend to peak with less sweetness, but more consistent flavor. Speaking of flavor, the Jiros tend to have a very mellow flavor almost like a crunchy, almost-ripe nectarine while the Hachiya tend to be very sweet and juicy, like a very ripe plum.

Until I moved to Asia, I always found the skin of persimmons sold in the US to be very thick and bitter. I would peel or quarter them and eat them like I would eat orange slices.  In Asia, I tend to eat them as I would an apple, considering most have very few seeds it’s easy to finish them off cleanly.

At MIEW Foods, we are constantly trying new foods and weighing whether it’s worth bringing them to the US market. While we do focus mainly on packaged goods, we are always on the look out for fresh fruits and vegetables that are unique or desirable. While there’s no doubt that the persimmons are different, we don’t believe there is a strong market for persimmons year around. But we would be happy to be proven wrong and know just where to get the best product for all the persimmon lovers out there.

Fried Chicken Around the World

Fried Chicken WingsOne of the most well loved foods across the world is the chicken. They are easy to keep, easy to feed, produce eggs to eat or can be the singular source of food once cooked whole. As you look at the different regions of the world, and their enjoyment of chicken, you see some universal recipes with subtle ingredient differences. These differences can almost always be attributed to the local spices available. These spices can range from different types of salt to different types of flour. In our globalized world, we have access to just about any spice imaginable and this is where the experimentation comes into play.

Fried chicken is eaten everywhere. From road side stands to global franchises to “hawker” centers across the world. Indian, Malay, Korean, Japanese and others all have different styles of preparing fried chicken. The oils used are different (ghee for example in Indian cooking). The spices used are different. Even the parts of the chicken most desirable are different (in Southeast Asia, people shy away from the breast meat because it lacks flavor). All of these differences make for an intensely local spin on a global food.

fried chicken and riceIn many parts of India and Asia, spicy seasonings are the norm in all cooking so you tend to get a spicy piece of chicken with white rice on the side. In the US, you even have regional spin on chicken with your southern-fried or your buttermilk. You can literally eat your way around the world and never change the core ingredient of your meal! We at MIEW Foods support eating locally and sustainability, but we also encourage adventure. The next time you go to that favorite ethnic restaurant, try their take on fried chicken. Whether it’s wings as an appetizer or a 1/2 chicken as a meal, it’s sure to inspire you to dream up inventive ways to prepare your next bird.

Do you have a favorite twist on fried chicken? Tell us on Twitter @MIEWfoodsLLC

Indian Recipes

For a lot of people, the most rewarding part of a meal is the time spent in the kitchen or around the grill creating it. Restaurant chefs love to know patrons appreciate their cooking and home chefs will always find groups of people congregating around the food prep area. Which ever category you fit in, you are the type of person that understands the journey is just as rewarding as plating the meal.

I want to introduce (or, reintroduce) all of you to a website that I have used, and have on good authority, as an excellent resource for Indian recipes: SanjeevKapoor.com

SanjeevKapoor.comSanjeevKapoor is a great resource for meat eaters and vegetarians alike. The recipes are authentic, the selection is abundant and you will always find something new to try. Browse through by ingredient to see how to make your favorite dish, and to mix and match with old American standards. Lentils, spinach and okra are all ingredients used in both American and Indian cooking.

We at MIEW not only use the time spent in India to select our manufacturers, but we also cross-reference recipes with product contents to make sure we are bringing you the most authentic experience possible. If you don’t believe us, go ahead and grab the recipe to see for yourself!

Indian Flat Breads: Naan & Paratha

“I like Indian food” is a phase a lot of us hear more and more lately across the US. That’s because Indian food, along with Thai food, is one of the fastest growing ethnic restaurant categories across the US and Canada. With an influx of new and different foods, we are all trying new menus and finding new favorites, but are we giving our New Food Experience the respect it deserves?

ParathaWhat we love about Indian food is the variety. India, like China, is home to more than 1 Billion people. To say “I love Indian food” is like saying “I love western food” (There are western restaurants throughout Asia that serve everything from spaghetti with meatballs to burgers and fries). At MIEW Foods, we want to source the best foods from across Asia and provide a little bit of background on the regions-of-origin in the process.

Naan vs. Paratha

Naan is typically seen as a north Indian flat bread made by placing dough on the walls of a Tandoor (a cylindrical clay oven) and allowing it to cook. It is literally stuck to the inside of the wall and then peeled away when done. Once pulled out of the Tandoor, it is drizzled with butter/ghee. It’s common to find it in your neighborhood Indian restaurant and is typically used as a “scoop” for your meal.

Paratha (one of many spellings) is an unleavened dough that is placed on a large flat cooking surface similar to a diner grill top (a Tava). Here’s where it gets interesting: You can stuff paratha with everything from aloo (potato) to garlic to egg, or any combination of ingredients. It’s flaky, buttery, and is a meal on its own when stuffed. Paratha isn’t harder to cook than naan, it’s just much heavier/more dense. As Americans are used to having bread served along side the meal, more like an appetizer, you won’t see paratha being offered as often as naan. Interesting fact about paratha: in Trinidadian cuisine, it is just as much of a staple as it is in southern India, where it’s called parotta. Food shared through Colonialism has been adapted and passed down through generations.

Naan & paratha represent just a fraction of the difference among Indian cuisine. What’s more important than knowing the difference is visiting these restaurants to try something new and unique.

If you have a favorite local restaurant, or one you are looking to try, go in and let the owner or chef know that you want to try a few things, but you’re not sure if you will like them. Most restaurants will allow you to sample some of the menu if they know you want to explore new to you dishes, and not just there to eat your favorite butter chicken each time.

Tell us about your favorite on Twitter @MIEWFoodsLLC

Green Papaya Salad

Simple dishes providing simple pleasures are sometimes the best way to start a meal. The Thai green papaya salad is one of those appetizers that is very easy to make and can provide a wonderful start to a meal whether it be Asian, or otherwise.

fresh papaya saladThe Thai dining experience follows a set of texture and flavor rules that span the entire meal. Texture: both soft and crunchy. Flavor: Sweet, sour and spicy. The Green Papaya is actually very crunchy, like thick shredded carrot; in fact, carrot has been known to be a substitute if papaya isn’t available.

The recipe below is what I made in Thailand. This dish can be modified to your personal tastes, but this recipe is made in the Thai tradition — extremely spicy. If you don’t like spicy food, you can skip the chili or sub a low-spice pepper like an Anaheim or Colorado. If you absolutely love spicy food, but aren’t Thai, I would recommend you start with half the chili content shown below and add more as you see fit. If you want to build this into a main side to any entree, add in some cold rice noodles and your chosen cold protein.

Thai Green Papaya Salad
Som Tam
Serves 2-4

With large mortar & pestle, pound into coarse paste:
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
6 bird’s eye chilies (start with 1-3)
2 Tbsp dried shrimp (optional, adds saltiness)

Add & gently mash together:
1/2 Cup cherry tomatoes, halved (sub larger tomato in quarters)
1/2 Cup raw long beans, cut to 1″ pieces (sub green beans)

Gently muddle in:
1 Tbsp palm sugar
1 Tbsp fish sauce (sub soy sauce)
Juice of 1/2 lime (~2 Tbsp)

Toss to coat, then aggressively mix until well combined:
1/4 Cup carrot, shredded
3 Cups green papaya, shredded (sub carrots)

Serve, sprinkled with:
2 Tbsp roasted peanuts, chopped (optional)

Homemade Som Tam - Papaya SaladThere you have a simple dish that you can find on any menu through out Southeast Asia. It’s easy to make at home and provides a refreshing dish to go along with Sunday BBQs across America.

Mix and match regional ingredients to make the recipe your own – try apples, cucumber, broccoli stalks or celery.

Have you tried to make Papaya Salad at home? Tell us about it on Twitter @MIEWfoodsLLC

Mangosteen

perfect mangosteen IndonesiaThe Queen of Fruits. That’s the unofficial official name for purple mangosteen. It’s a fruit that gets very little international fanfare but I am sure you’ve all heard of the King, Durian. As you can see from the photo, the mangosteen is very purple on the outside (it will stain) and white segments on the inside that are edible. Those white, fleshy segments are very fragile and contain lots of juice. The larger segments contain a seed that, depending on ripeness of the fruit, can be eaten. Think of the seeds the way you would think of the pit in a cherry — it has a lot of flesh attached to it. The flavor is very sweet, light and refreshing compared to other tropical fruits in the region. The growing season is just about in sync with the durian, and the quality of the fruit fluctuates wildly if you are not in the native country that it’s grown. The best mangosteens I’ve had have been while I was in both Thailand and Indonesia.

Ripe mangosteen Indonesia While they are a lot of fun to eat, they are even more fun to open. The way I gauge ripeness is by gently squeezing the body to see if it’s soft. Harder mangosteens tend to be either over-ripe, which means the seeds have collected all the nutrients and dried out the flesh, or they are under-ripe and just crumble in your hands (and making you a purple mess). Sizes range from plum size to small peach, and this is a case where bigger is almost always better.

I doubt we will see many mangosteens in western markets. Wikipedia does a great job of explaining why: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purple_mangosteen#Marketing. In addition to the difficulties mentioned, the natural environment for which a lot of these fruits are grown lend themselves to insects camping out all the way to your kitchen counter. What I have learned to do is to wrap them up tight and put them in the fridge overnight to easily kill bugs I can’t see when picking the fruits at the markets. If you want all-natural, don’t be surprised if you pick up a few travelers along the way.

Have you tried them fresh or freeze-dried, even? Let us know! @MIEWfoodsLLC

Thai Green Curry recipe

With this post I am going to cut right to the chase – Making Thai Green Curry from scratch was one of the best experiences I could have as someone in the gourmet food import business. If you are passionate about food, you should know how to make it (or at least try). The recipe below is from a Thai cooking school I attended while on holiday.
Pad Thai and Green Curry
This recipe is the benchmark by which I judge all curry. Once you’ve made it, you will easily be able to recognize the most authentic products in your favorite restaurants. We at MIEW take our experiences into account when choosing which products to carry.
Have you tried to make Green Curry at home?
From scratch or opening a jar of simmer sauce, let us know @MIEWfoodsLLC! Next time: we complete the meal with Pad Thai.

Green Curry Paste
Serves 5
Large mortar and pestle
homemade fresh green curry paste10 roasted black peppercorns
1 T roasted coriander seed
1 T roasted cumin seed
15 bird’s eye chilies (traditional Thai; for “American” super spicy, start with 6-9)
1 T galangal finely chopped
2 T lemongrass finely chopped
2 t coriander root finely chopped
1/2 t kaffir lime peel, chopped
pinch salt
1 T garlic chopped
3 T shallots chopped
1 t shrimp paste (vegetarian/vegan: substitute with about 1/8 t salt)
5-6 Thai basil leaves (optional, but highly recommended)

Combine all ingredients in a large mortar and use a similarly sized pestle to pound all of it into submission. And when I say pound, I mean that it needs to turn into a paste with nothing left but a ball of green goodness. It should take you about 15 minutes to get it to this stage.

You’ll know your paste is ready when it sticks together in a ball, similar to a dry dough. Now, you’re ready for the wok.

Thai Green Curry
Serves 5
In wok or large pot, heat:
1T vegetable oil
Simmering Green CurryAdd:
Green Curry Paste
1-1/3 C coconut CREAM (cream is the traditional, but coconut milk can be used)
1 C chicken stock/veggie stock
2/3 C chicken (sub cubed tofu)
Combine thoroughly, stirring often, until chicken is cooked fully
After chicken is cooked, add:
2 Thai eggplants, chopped or whole (smaller than common US eggplant)
1/2 C pea eggplant (similar to the size of garbanzo beans)

While eggplant is still is somewhat firms body/crunch to it, add remaining ingredients:
2 Kaffir lime leaves (as garnish, eat at your own peril)
1 T fish sauce (sub soy sauce or tamari)
1 T palm sugar (white sugar will work)
1 red chili, julienned
1/4 C Thai sweet basil

Golden Kiwis

ripe golden kiwiThe bitter-sweetness of living on a small island like Singapore is that a lot of your food has to be imported. For those of us looking for the local feel, that tends to include food from Malaysia and Indonesia because those places are a 45-minute drive or ferry ride away. What this allows me to do is take a step back from my love of all things in Southeast Asi,a and enjoy foods from places like South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. One of my favorite new foods is the Golden Kiwi.

I had my first golden kiwi sighting about a year ago, in July, and thought it was some kind of hybrid fruit. Being from the US, I had on many occasions had green kiwis and briefly tried kiwi berries, but never had I experienced golden kiwis. After trying one I can say that they are everything I love about the green ones, but very different at the same time. They are lighter in flavor, softer in texture and sweeter than their green cousins. They are also about 30% more expensive than green kiwis and are almost always sold out in stores. I believe these are sparsely available throughout the US, but if you have the opportunity, I would highly recommend picking up a few and seeing what you think. The low acidity is ideal if you love to binge on kiwis but hate the raw feeling in your mouth afterward.

Now it’s time for me to find the elusive “red” kiwi.

Asian Pineapples

Can't be eaten..I triedThere are many similar fruits and vegetables across the world. Things like mangos, pineapples, carrots and strawberries can be found all over and for the most part have similar shapes and sizes. You may be thinking, “of course they are all similar shapes and sizes”. To that I say you are only focused on 1/2 the story. Take pineapples for example. Notice that most Hawaiian pineapples are very large and once ripe they are slightly yellow skinned and the core must be removed before being eaten. These hearty pineapples find their way into stores across America whole or de-cored. You can even find little wedges on the rim of your favorite beverage at your favorite bar or restaurant.

I want to share with you some subtle differences in pineapples found in southeast Asia. First of all they are much much smaller. You can even buy pineapples that are no bigger than the palm of your hand. The ones you can eat (more on this later) are much more yellow, almost lemon skinned when ripe. The best part? They are ultra sweet, less acidic and the core is edible with almost as much flavor as the flesh! In this case, as with a lot of fruit, bigger isn’t always better. What we have found is that fruit that is smaller tends to pack a more intense ‘root’ flavor. Meaning, pineapples are intensely pineapple flavored (the snozberries taste like snozberries!).

Having said all this you can’t go eating every exotic fruit you come across. I will make a durian post later but the red pineapple shown here is strictly for decoration purposes. I know this for a fact because I tried to eat it. What did it taste like? You see the leafy bits hanging off the bottom? The flesh tasted like you would expect leaves to taste. I had to try it for the good of humanity, c’est la vie.

Non-alcoholic aperitif/digestif

An aperitif (literal translation “to open”) can refer to a drink or a food. Typically it’s dry to the taste to help open the taste-buds in preparation the upcoming meal.  Digestif is typically consumed after a meal, to assist…digestion! Aside from the French language what both of these have in common are that they are short courses and strong on the senses. Bearing in mind that “strong” doesn’t have to mean unappetizing, what these are designed to do is to provide your body with cleansing qualities. Being lovers of all things food related MIEW is always on the look out for products or ingredients that will give consumers new experiences with old traditions.

We submit the ginger root as a wonderful alternative to an aperitif or digestif for those restaurants looking to offer a non-alcoholic non-sweet hot drink to their menu. There are many brands here in Asia but as always our focus is on products that are as local and authentic as possible. We find that some of the best Ginger drinks are from Thailand and many different Thai brands offer “standard” and “strong” options.

What does it taste like? Ginger is a spice, similar to nutmeg, cinnamon or cloves that are very common in dessert dishes but not all that common in every day American food. It’s a strong intense flavor when added to hot water but it’s not a lingering flavor. It will be bubbles in your nose or a tickle in your throat but just as quickly as it arrives its gone. It is a perfect way to literally cleanse your tasting pallet to prepare for your feast or (as science my be suggesting) aid in digestion after a satisfying meal with friends and family. Think of it as chicken soup for the tummy.

*note: There are a lot of different versions of ginger “tea” or ginger powder. These contain a lot of other ingredients besides ginger (mainly sugar). It has taken us a while to find the best product that offers 100% ginger with the strength, flavor and water solubility that we deem up to our standards. Look for it very soon on our product page.

Indian vegetarian experience

Home made lunch MumbaiThis picture shows a plate of food made in the Mumbai business office for employees. The men and women that make this come in everyday around 9am to prepare and cook for about 60 people. The reason for this is that in Mumbai, depending on where you office is, it’s extremely difficult to pop out for lunch and be back within a reasonable time. It is far cheaper for the company to bring in a cooking staff than to lose precious work hours.

What you also see is a fully vegetarian meal. In India many people are vegetarian so meat is served during lunch only 2x a week. What you see is Potato, starch, rice, lentils, yogurt, onions and lots and lots of spices. If you were to imagine the best Indian restaurant in the US you might (I stress the might part) get close to the level of food you can have in India on a casual daily basis.Of course the workers in Mumbai told me how “just ok” this food was but to my western taste buds it was on another level.

Why is the food different? There are many things that could explain this but my personal opinion is that if American had access to food this good they would probably only eat it once in a blue moon. Not because of the lack of desire for Indian food (Indian restaurants are on the rise around the country) but because of the amount of spices mixed in the food. In Indian restaurants outside of the US it’s normal to pick spices out of your food as you eat it. Whole cloves, whole peppercorns, bay leaves, star anise and various other shrubbery that if you bit into them you would get a seriously rude awakening (I know, I’ve done it) are all foreign concepts to the american diner. Because of the desire to just “close our eyes and eat” we tend to miss out on the depth of flavor offered particularly in Indian cuisine. Our challenge as an importer is to find the best compromise between how Americans want to have their dining experience and the most authentic manufacturers of Indian spices and ingredients.

Pepper crab

Pepper Crab

This ain’t your typical Dungeness crab. This beautiful crustacean is Chili Crab, sometimes known as Pepper Crab.

Singapore is known for Chili crab and it is exactly what it sounds like. Take your typical Asian chili sauce, thicken it up mostly with ketchup and you have this sweet/slightly spicy tangy sauce that is ladled over an entire cooked crab. Different restaurants have their spin on the chili sauce some a bit sweeter, others a bit spicier. The crab itself is a Sri Lankan very thick shelled and at times hairy and piping hot as it gets set on the table. The chili “soup” is to be sopped up with crab meat and fried bread.

It may be lesser known outside of Singapore, but there is also a Pepper Crab. This pepper sauce is based on ground black pepper and is less sweet and more almost smoky. I LOVE black pepper crab. In fact, I am on the hunt for the perfect black pepper sauce to import to the US. The traditional pepper beef and chicken that is so often found in American Chinese restaurants doesn’t have the depth of flavor I’ve found in Singapore. You can put this sauce on everything from meat, seafood and tofu and despite the base ingredients it doesn’t have to be spicy to have that peppery taste. If you enjoy the smell of fresh ground pepper or any variant (lemon pepper anyone) you will adore this.

Have a favorite Pepper Crab sauce? We’d love to hear about it! Tell us at @MIEWfoodsLLC

Spice differences

What we at MIEW foods have learned is that not all spices are created equal. In one country something like chili powder can be very mild and somewhat smoky. In other countries it can be as fiery hot as fresh jalapenos. We made the unfortunate discovery while trying to make a western dish with eastern ingredients.   It would have been a welcome surprise if we didn’t almost ruin the whole meal because it was too hot!

In SE Asia and India the trends we have seen is that spicy food is very much acceptable. It is very true that Thai food in Thailand, on average, is much spicier than US Thai food. While there are certainly restaurants that will make Pad Thai or Curry as spicy as you want it can at times come across as artificial, never really blending with the food but heat for heats sake.

As an aside I love spicy food, but I hate heat for the sake of heat. Meaning I have tried to eat authentic Thai spicy in Thailand but I would never eat food that makes you sign a waiver or forces you to eat X number in 5 mins to get your Polaroid on a wall.

I want to talk more about spices in future posts but I wanted to introduce some background on our future product offering. We want to import and distribute authentic spices but we also have to be honest about how these spices we will carry may be different than what you would be familiar with from your current distributor and maybe even your local Asian food store.

Thai Mango

Prior to moving to SE Asia I thought the “champagne” mango’s in the US were the best I’d ever eaten. They were small but full of flavor and had relatively small pits compared to the normal mango’s I would pick up in the stores. The conventional mango was mainly green with a little bit of a red tint as it was getting rip while the champagne or Ataulfo as they were sometimes called were this bright yellow.

Once in Thailand I got to go to my first wet market and discovered I didn’t know jack about fruit. Thai honey mango’s were literally as sweet as any candy I ever tasted. While shopping at the wet market for spices and fruit I didn’t speak Thai and the “auntie” spoke broken english (I can’t complain her english was 100x better than my Thai) but she was able to pick out for me the freshest, ready to eat mango’s every time and it was 1kg for ~$4USD.

Even in Singapore the prices may be literally twice as much as the Thailand markets but they are still the sweetest Mango’s I’ve eaten. From a business perspective I would love to import and distribute these in the US but my biggest fear is the distance to travel and the immediacy they would need to be eaten. I hope that in the future restaurants will demand this of us so that every fresh, ripe mango I can import would be eaten within that first week of delivery. Until then I would challenge anyone to a friendly tasty mango contest; I will put Thai honey mango’s up against any other country’s offering and let my stomach determine the winner.

Introduction to MIEW

This will be our first post in what will hopefully be a long line of thoughts shared by both employees of MIEW and those that work with us and/or those that just plain love food. In traveling and living all over the world there are a few things that have been made crystal clear.

1. Food unites the world
2. 99% of the time an authentic experience will be remembered and shared for generations

As a child I had parents and grand parents that loved to cook and loved to eat. I remember family members traveling to New Orleans and bringing back Andouille sausage and having it for the time. Growing what I now identify as ‘birds eye’ chili’s in their front yard (yes the green ones) was a part of life.

In traveling around the world every culture has their own subtle (and not so subtle) go-to spices and recipes. While we may not be able to taste all of them we will sure try. In seeking out these spices and recipes the hope is to find the most authentic ones that we have had made for us or better yet we have made ourselves in our travels. We want to bring that experience to you and in term have you, the expert chef, bring those experiences to your customers.