Thursday, December 3, 2009

Recipe: Szechuan Spiced Israeli Couscous with Infused with Dried Shiitake

~ Szechuan Spiced Israeli Couscous with Infused with Dried Shiitake ~

An Asian flavoured vegan side dish that is a perfect addition to your holiday dinner!

This recipe is an extension to a previous post:
Where a mushroom intertwines with the receptor of the fifth taste....the Dried Shiitake and the Mysterious Umami....

1 lb package Israeli couscous
1 lb Frozen edamame, defrosted and shelled
8-10 Dried whole shiitake
4 cloves garlic, smashed
2 tbs Toasted sesame seeds
2 tbs Toasted sesame seed oil
2-3 tbs Szechuan Chili Bean Paste
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorn
3-4 tbs Chinese chicken marinate sauce (this is vegan)
1 tsp sugar
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
12 Sweet roasted chestnut - optional

1. Soak the dried shiitake in ~1 cup of COLD water overnight, then squeeze out the excess liquid from the reconstituted shiitake and slice thinly.
*Do not discard the soaking liquid, as it has now been infused with the luring aroma of the shiitake, which will be used later to cook the Israeli couscous
2. In a 4-6 quart pot, heat the Toasted sesame seed oil in medium heat, then add the sliced shiitake.
3. Stir fry the shiitake till lightly golden, then add the smashed garlic and Szechuan peppercorn and toast them until golden.
4. Stir in the Israeli couscous and allow it to toast for 2 minutes, turn the heat to high then add the amount of liquid as instructed on the package (use the shiitake soaking liquid plus water). Cover and allow it to come to a rapid boil.
5. Reduce heat so the mixture returns to a simmer. Stir occasionally with spoon and cook until the Israeli couscous has absorbed all the cooking liquid and has become al-dente.
6. Mix in the defrosted shelled edamame and allow it to heat with couscous for 2 minutes.
7. Stir in the marinate sauce and chili bean paste and allow the couscous to absorb the sauce for about 1-2 minutes.
8. Remove from heat and stir in the toasted sesame seeds and sweet roasted chestnuts.
* I think the sweetness and the chewy texture from the luscious chestnuts give this side dish a special touch and an unique sensory experience!

Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Where a mushroom intertwines with the receptor of the fifth taste....the Dried Shiitake and the Mysterious Umami....

As I ponder for a savoury non-Asian side dish that is vegetarian/vegan friendly for a Thanksgiving potluck, the heavenly aroma of the dried shiitake somehow found its way from my Tupperware into my imagination. A rare find in western cuisines, the dried shiitake with a feathery weight packs a hefty umami punch that is common to savoury products such as meat and cheese; it is the perfect item that complements vegan dishes.

The shiitake is an edible mushroom native to East Asia, which is cultivated and consumed in many Asian countries, as well as being dried and exported to many countries around the world. Shiitake is native to China but have been grown in both Japan and China since prehistoric times. It has long been considered a delicacy as well as a medicinal mushroom. They have been cultivated for over 1,000 years; the first written record of shiitake cultivation can be traced to Wu Sang Guang, born during the Song Dynasty (AD 960–1127). However, some documents record the uncultivated mushroom being eaten as early as AD 199.

In China, it is called xiānggū "fragrant mushroom". Two Chinese variant names for high grades of shiitake are dōnggū "winter mushroom" and huāgū "flower mushroom", which has a flower-like cracking pattern on the mushroom's upper surface); both are produced at colder temperatures.

Shiitake are often dried and sold as preserved food in packages. These must be rehydrated by soaking in water before using. Like most Asians, I prefer the dried shiitake to fresh; the sun-drying process draws out the umami flavour from the dried mushrooms by breaking down proteins into amino acids and transforms ergosterol to vitamin D. The stems of shiitake are rarely used in Japanese and other cuisines, but they are excellent in flavouring stocks and broths.

Apart from its unique texture and the intoxicating aroma and flavour that continuously excite your sensory neurons, nutrients found in the shiitake mushroom has been suggested to possess anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. It has been shown to carry the ability to stimulate the immune system, and consists of a compound known as eritadenine that could potentially lower blood cholesterol.

With all that put into words, I hope I have erase any of your doubts to introduce this dried delicacy into your kitchen cabinet!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...