Menu 25: Sesame Shrimp Toast, Sweet and Sour Chicken and Thai Noodle Stir Fry

This week we have moved to an Asian inspired menu.  Just look at the options: 

  • Sesame Shrimp Toasts - page 50
  • Sweet and Sour Chicken - page 303
  • Thai Noodle Stir-Fry - page 200

Where should I even start?  Maybe by telling you that you really don’t need very complicated ingredients for these, most if not all can be found in your local supermarket.

The recipes, like any Asian dishes are pretty straightforward and fast to put together.  Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you away.  Pre-prepping everything ahead of time and having everything at your fingertips means that all of these come together pretty fast.  If you look at the cook time all are done in less than 20 minutes.

The sesame shrimp toast can usually be found in a dim sum restaurant, I call it the tapas of Asian cusine, because they bite-sized triangles of bread topped with a shrimp paste and then deep fried until golden brown and crunchy. The dish originated in Guangzhou (Canton) in China nearly a hundred years ago, although there are those who claim it is a hybrid of a traditional Chinese shrimp recipe and bread introduced by foreign travelers. Whatever the origin, shrimp toast is now a dish that can be found throughout Asia.

There are many different versions, but my own favorite is that served at dim sum restaurant here in Tampa, where the shrimp paste-covered bread is dipped in sesame seeds before frying. This gives the end result a fantastic crunch and works perfectly with a hot, sharp dipping sauce made with chilies, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. 

The book does not give you a recipe for the dipping sauce and I did not search for one either, since I have this one, which is the perfect pairing.  Make the dipping sauce AHEAD of making the shrimp toast.

Dipping sauce Option

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2-tablespoon ponzu (or lemon juice)
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • 2 green chilies (de-seeded and finely minced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (finely minced)
  • 1-inch fresh ginger (peeled and sliced into thin shreds) 

(Note: Prepare the sauce in advance of the shrimp toast) Mix all the ingredients in a serving bowl and chill for at least an hour to allow the flavors to combine.

When it comes to Chinese recipes, there are a few very popular–and basic–cooking methods, and one of it is definitely sweet and sour.  Sweet and sour chicken is a simple recipe that is friendly to most people regardless of your national origin and religion. The key to a great sweet and sour chicken is that you don’t want your chicken to soak and swim in the sweet and sour sauce like what most Chinese restaurants do. The sauce should lightly coat the fried chicken cubes so they don’t turn soggy. Another secret is the use of baking soda in the frying batter, which does a great job in giving the battered fried chicken an extra crunch.   The books call for baking powder, replace it with baking soda instead.

If you don’t want to go the sweet and sour way, the other option is the Thai Noodle Stir Fry. This easy Thai fried rice noodle dish starts with very thin noodles also known as Chinese vermicelli, bean threads, bean thread noodles, crystal noodles, or glass noodles.  They are a type of transparent Asian noodle made from starch (such as mung bean starch, yam, potato starch, cassava or canna starch), and water.

They are generally sold in dried form, boiled to reconstitute, and then used in soups, stir fried dishes, or spring rolls. They are called “cellophane noodles” or “glass noodles” because of their appearance when cooked, resembling cellophane, a clear material or a translucent light gray or brownish-gray color.   This dish is known in any Thai restaurant as Pad Woon Sen, because in Thailand the glass noodles are called woon sen.

The best part of both of these dishes is that you don’t have to use the chicken as your protein.  It can be replace with seafood (Shrimp) or other types of meats – pork, beef.  You can even omit it all together and use tofu or more vegetables to turn them into healthy vegetarian dishes.

So, who is going to surprise me this week?