April 14th, 2010
I think it’s clear by now that I’m an intrepid home cook with an appetite for foods from all over the globe. Yet, I can’t get my head around Asian cooking. Such a bummer since I love—I mean, really love—Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese (especially Szechuan!) food.
After a trip through Southeast Asia years ago, I took a few Thai cooking classes and became obsessed with Australian, Michelin-starred Thai food chef David Thompson. I was inspired to make Thai curry pastes from scratch, by hand in a mortar and pestle. But those were the days before small children, and the association stuck. All these years later, I still have it in my head that making Asian food well takes more time than I have.
What about quick fried rice? Stir fries? Fresh spring rolls? And a ton of other quick and easy home cooked Asian dishes, you ask? I don’t know what to say. I’ve been convinced that if it’s easy, the flavors aren’t authentic. And what is authentic Asian cooking anyway? There’s SO MUCH variation. See… there I go, again. Getting overwhelmed! This is why I never just jumped in. Until last week.
I first picked up bok choy at my local farmer’s market thinking I’d make my 10-Minute Quick Sauteed Bok Choy to go with grilled fish. But, when it came time to cook the bok choy, I had fresh shrimp, not fish, on hand. A stir fry was the obvious choice. Yes! A proper stir fry. I. Could. Do. It!
Before I got down to cooking, I decided to take a quick look at Steamy Kitchen, a fab food blog by awe-inspiring television chef, food columnist, author AND (hungry!) mama, Jaden Hair. She has a great bok choy recipe that made me feel good about mine, but was even easier. It’s great, and as simple as simple gets.
After cooking the bok choy and shrimp, I decided to make use of the hot wok by quickly stir frying some leftover white rice. I had planned on taking a look at the Ginger Fried Rice recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten that everyone’s been talking about, but I’d used up all of my extra time on Steamy Kitchen. I needed to get cooking. And, anyway, it was time to work on developing my instinct for Asian flavors. So, I winged it. And, guess what. Success!
Check out the bok choy and shrimp recipe below. As for the fried rice, well, I really was winging it. And the wok was hot. I had to move F-A-S-T! I didn’t capture an exact recipe, so I’ll just have to make it (and more Asian food!) again. In the meantime, I give approximate directions below. If you, too, are ready to start trusting your Asian cooking instinct, give it a shot, tasting along the way.
Bok Choy & Shrimp
Slightly adapted from Steamy Kitchen
(can be served to kids 12+ mos)*
1 1/2 lbs baby bok choy, cleaned and trimmed
1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
1 lb small shrimp, cleaned & deveined
3 Tbsp vegetable, chicken or shrimp broth
salt to taste
1/2 tsp sesame oil
roasted sesame seeds, optional (for garnish)
1. Pour cooking oil into a cold wok or frying pan. Add garlic and ginger. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until ginger and garlic begin to gently sizzle. Once they become fragrant and turn light golden brown, add bok choy. Toss very well to coat each leaf with the garlicky, gingery oil for 15 seconds.
2. Add shrimp. Toss another 15 seconds before adding broth. Immediately cover and let cook for 1 minute. Season with salt and drizzle a bit of sesame oil on top. Garnish with roasted sesame seeds.
*Note: Because shrimp is highly allergenic, some recommend waiting until 12 months to introduce. Others suggest even longer (3+ years). That said, food introduction recommendations are changing, as mounting evidence suggests there is little benefit in delaying even allergenic foods for children with no personal or family history of food allergies. Read more about my age categories to learn more and speak to your pediatrician about what’s right for your child.
Gingery Quick Fried Rice
approximate recipe—see post for details!
(can be served to children 8+ mos)
(approx) 1 tsp sesame oil
(approx) 1 tsp grated ginger
1 1/2-2 c left over rice
2 scallions, chopped
1. My wok was already hot (over medium-high heat) and had some cooking liquid left over from the bok choy and shrimp. To that, add sesame oil and ginger. Stirring constantly, cook for about 15 seconds before adding rice.
2. Toss rice, breaking up clumps and coating the grains well. Cook until warmed through, about 2-3 minutes. Push rice to the side and, on the empty side, crack the egg, immediately mixing to a scramble. Once the egg is cooked through, but still soft, toss together the egg and rice.
3. Turn off heat. Season with soy sauce to taste. Toss in chopped scallion. Serve.
Note: This would be great with some frozen peas mixed in, too!