Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Who dosen't like Chinese food?

Or any "Asian" food in general?  Even if most of what we get here in the USA is made to appeal more to American tastes...  its still my favorite genre of foods.
However,  i don't get to have it often.  My hubby prefers Italian and Tex-Mex style foods much more... and that is much more than i do. 
I have noticed over time that i am getting really tired of tomato/pasta/cheese meals. I have been searching for new recipes in the last few weeks, but so many of these 'quick and easy meals' start right out with tomatoes.  Now, don't get me wrong...  i adore a fresh tomato and a good sauce is hard to beat, but tomato based meals 5 nights a week is getting hard to swallow.  Another point of discontent is the vegetables.  Most of my non-tomato meals are slow-roasted, soups, stews, or boiled dinners.  This means soft vegetables.  I'm hurting for some fresh crunch, bright flavors and unique taste.
So i decided to turn to the alternative.
The only sticking point is that much of the special flavors in Asian foods comes from unique ingredients.  Not having much of an Asian population here can make this difficult.  I can find things like panko bread crumbs, soy sauce, pre-made teriyaki sauce and dried shiitake mushrooms,  but not much else.
Last year i found an online company called Asian Food Grocer.  I was looking for unique candies for my oldest daughter.  She loves Kit-Kats and AFG sells sweet potato flavored Kit-Kats among other unusual flavors of them. So i made a small order and was pleased with the service.
My oldest has lately been intrigued by Japanese foods and culture, feuled by anime and those Kit-Kats, so this Christmas i ordered her some Japanese soda pop, more unique candies and their biggest package of nori (both of my kids eat nori by the sheet). It was an absolute hit. Considering that both orders went so well, i decided to go all out and really fill my pantry with more authentic ingredients.
I researched recipes and noted all the non-American seasoning- oils, pastes, sauces/condiments.  It was a lot of fun to learn about them and how they are used.
I found a few helpful recipe sites:

Soon, armed with special ingredients i should be able to change up our daily meals with new flavors from subtle Japanese to more indulgent Chinese.
 I wonder if we might even lose some weight?

Now on to gardening....

Asian vegetables.

Some are not too uncommon around here (though slightly different they are usable).  Green onions, various cabbages, eggplant, cucumbers, carrots, kale, snow peas, gourds, radishes, turnips, squashes, pumpkins and more.
All of this i can grow at least part of the year.
This means i may be changing my garden plans...again.  What a surprise!
I shouldn't have to change much,  just reconsider some varieties.  Maybe instead of globe onions, bunching onions might be good- and easier.  Instead of regular cabbage, maybe napa cabbages. Not sure how easy it is to grow daikon... but maybe worth a try- or research at least. .
I'm looking into trying winter melon too...  but it looks like they are huge plants.  Remember my birdhouse gourd experience?
  Maybe i can try something in my parents' garden. 
I read that winter melons taste similar to summer squash and zucchini, so it may not be worth bothering with.
But the bunching onions sound easy enough.
Green beans are used a lot and i have good luck with those.
Broccoli is fairly common and i planned that anyway.
There are some interesting sweet peppers i'd like to try... i think i'll pass on the hot ones.
I'm not sure about eggplant.  I had terrible luck the last two summers with Slim Jim and didn't have much better luck with Raveena which is a 70 day-  both Asian long types.  If i can find a cooler-cropping, earlier type and start them early i might try it.  Big round eggplant isn't cheap up here so a good crop would be worth the effort.

 Anyway, that's what i'm thinking.  I'll have some time to experiment with grocery store veggies over the winter and see how it goes.