Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches

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Jellybeans
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2004/02/22 16:01:10 (permalink)

Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches

To my great delight, when I went away to visit a friend in Worcestershire this weekend, we went shopping and stumbled across a great shop that sold all sorts of spices, herbs, nuts, trail mixes and hard-to-get (in England) cereals like polenta, red rice etc.

I picked up the following:

1. Blue poppyseeds--a very VERY unusual and pretty slate blue
2. Dried kaffir lime leaves--fresh ones are hard to get
3. Sichuan peppercorns--they are still legal in the UK, Grampy
4. Cayenne pepper--sold at exhorbitant prices for small quantities in the supermarkets but got a decent quantity for a decent price in this shop.

It's a small, independent business with a wonderful selection of stuff for the adventurous and discerning kitchen fanatic I spent a very happy half an hour wandering around looking at everything (and amusing my friend by my keen interest that extended to picking up packets of stuff to scrutinise, read the labels and (according to him but I didn't realise I did it) give it a little squeeze.

Have you picked up any little bits and bobs for your cooking recently that you're especially pleased with?
#1

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    lleechef
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 16:19:11 (permalink)
    Chipotles in adobo for a ridiculously low price in Desert Hot Springs.......Hearts of palm, hot cherry peppers....a lot of stuff in SoCal is really inexpensive. We have a wonderful Chinese market here in Anchorage where I can find EVERYTHING I need! Ok, Jellybeans, here's a ? for you: What is this thing in cans that is simply labled as: "Gluten"?? I need to know before buying (or burying) it.
    #2
    redtressed
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 16:49:30 (permalink)
    There are a few herbs and spices I use as staples that prolly most don't. My ex-husband used to complain he wasn't eating anything he couldn't pronounce.

    Mhlokia(I've seen various spellings on this)-Mhlokia is of the marshmallow root family. It is used in Egypt and those areas primarily with chicken dishes, although I use it in roast beef dishes , quite a bit. I can't begin to tell you the aroma it puts off through the house. It's reminiscent of fenugreek, but not that strong, it has overtones of mint but not the mentholity(nice word I made up , huh?)of mint. Oregano and Basil and rosemary overtones, it's an all-inclusive herb. Everyone who's walked into my house whilst it is included in a concoction of mine just melts. I swear it has both calming and aphrodesiacal properties too. I first bought it from a small herbal and spice shop in NYC on a senior high school field trip many moons ago, in the late 70's.(The normal kids bought "I Love NY" heart t shirts, I blew my money on spices....weird child) It was exhorbiantly expensive there, but I loved it instantly. I now buy it at my International Grocery buddy's place for about 2.59 for a quart sized ziplock bag. If you ever come across it, try it in a potpourri pot......mmmmmmmmm.

    Asafoetida-also known as devil's dung, food of the gods( kind of a spread there in terms) It is often substituted in the middle east and Indian nations for onions and garlic. It's scent is not so pleasing, but it does a wonderful enhancement of lamb and meat dishes. It's at it's best when it's used in fried dishes, the resin of the spice is more satisfactorily released. It's also a good spice to add to sauteed mushrooms. It's purported properties are as an excellent tonic for flatulence,bronchitis and hysteria. (I think I'll send clothier and i-95 some for giggles and see if it works)


    Sorrel-yup that shamrock looking stuff that grows in your backyard, along with delicious dandelion greens. It's tartness makes it a great addition to salads and to some soups.


    I think I might just belong in a murky woods somewhere, have a wart on my nose and dispense potions.


    #3
    Jellybeans
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 16:57:38 (permalink)
    Gluten--the stuff that Chinese mock meats are made of. We call it "Meen Kahn". We season it in all different ways to approximate the flavours of the different types of meats we are trying to copy. Accprding to Amy Beh (the Delia Smith/Martha Stewart of Malaysian cooking):

    "Meen Kahn means flour veins and these veins are all that is left after the dough is washed free of residual flour. By itself, it is tasteless but when cooked as part of other dishes, it takes on the flavour of the other ingredients by absorbing the sauce through its porous skin. Making Meen Kahn is simple. One kilogramme of flour should yield about 500g depending on how long you knead the flour. The more you knead the less you waste. But when you knead, do not use full-force strength otherwise the gluten will be destroyed."

    Here's the recipe for gluten if you want to make it yourself, courtesy of Beh:

    Gluten

    1 kg strong white flour
    1 Tbsp salt
    2 and 3/4 to 3 cups water combined with a few drops of alkaline water (available in bottles at a good Asia/Chinese grocer. The alkaline water is to make the gluten crunchy and fresh).

    Sift flour into a grease-free basin. Sprinkle in salt to mix. Add enough water and mix in gradually until a stiff dough is formed (do not press the dough too hard). Knead for about 20 to 25 minutes until the dough turns smooth. The more you knead, the more 'veiny' the dough and the less flour is wasted. Cover the dough with a damp cloth for 30 minutes.

    Fill a basin with water and wash the dough by kneading and pressing it until it is spongy. Repeat the washings for about 3 to 4 times until water is no longer milky.

    As you wash it may break into pieces. Feel for lumps of flour and remove these. When the water that runs through is clear and transparent and the texture of the dough is rubbery, that is the gluten you want (you should be able to stretch this lump-like bubblegum. In fact, it looks like bubble gum too).

    Soak the bouncy and spongy gluten in clean water for an hour or until the surface is smooth. The gluten can be turned into whatever dish that is desired.

    And here is one way of using/preparing this gluten (also courtesy of Beh):

    Mock Char Siu (Mock Chinese red-barbecued pork)

    500gm raw Meen Kahn
    Enough oil for deep-frying

    Marinade (A)

    2 star anise
    3 cloves
    1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns (since it's illegal in the States, I guess you'll have to omit it)
    1/2 piece fermented red beancurd (nam yee)
    1 Tbsp light soy sauce
    3 Tbsp sugar
    1 tsp MSG
    1/4 tsp Chinese 5-spice powder
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp pepper
    1 tsp thick soy sauce

    350 ml water
    3 Tbsp oil

    Seasoning (B)

    2 Tbsp light soy sauce
    1 Tbsp maltose (mak nga tong)
    1 Tbsp sugar
    1/4 tsp red colouring

    Pull the raw Meen Kahn into a cylindrical shape or into strips to resemble pork fillet. Twist and plait the strips and tie a knot to secure.

    Boil the plaited strips of Meen Kahn in hot water to cook for 20-25 mintues over a medium heat. Remove with a slotted spoon and soak in a basin of cold water. Untie the knot and drain well, then deep-fry in hot oil until almost golden in colour. Remove and leave aside.

    Heat 2 Tbsp oil and fry the star anise, cloves and Szechuan peppercorns for 5-10 seconds. Discard the star anise, cloves and peppercorns, leaving the oil in the wok. Add the rest of the marinade (A) and add in water. Put in the cooked gluten strips and simmer over a gentle heat for an hour or til the gravy turns thick.

    Heat a non-stick pan with the 3 Tbsp of oil. Add in the marinated and cooked gluten strips. Stir in seasoning (B) and cook over a low heat until fragrant and dry.

    Cut into thin slices like char siu and serve with scalded won ton noodles or plain white ric and veggies. Can also be used as stuffing for vegan char siu pao (barbecued pork buns).

    I'm guessing that the gluten you see in the Chinese grocer's is already cooked and flavoured. When in doubt, check the ingredients list and ask the proprietor. Hope this helps.
    #4
    lleechef
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 17:15:49 (permalink)
    Thanks Jellybeans. I'll try it!
    #5
    Rhodes
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 18:06:56 (permalink)
    Jellybeans, do you have a particular Amy Beh book you might recommend??
    #6
    TJ Jackson
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 21:32:25 (permalink)
    I guess the dill weed my wife and I favor in a number of dishes isn't exotic enough to qualify in this regard?
    #7
    Poverty Pete
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 22:15:54 (permalink)
    Redtressed,
    Does sorrel-yup taste like rhubarb? I had totally forgotten this, but when I was a little boy, I used to eat this clover-looking weed that tasted like rhubarb.
    #8
    UncleVic
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 22:30:13 (permalink)
    Ok Jellybeans... I gave up on Rhubarb Leaves... Why are Szechuan peppercorns illegal in the states?
    #9
    Grampy
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 22:38:51 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by UncleVic

    Ok Jellybeans... I gave up on Rhubarb Leaves... Why are Szechuan peppercorns illegal in the states?


    There is a canker on the fresh peppercorns that does not affect anything but citrus fruit plants. Hence, they have been banned so as not to contaminate the fruit plants in this country -- or so they say.
    #10
    redtressed
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 23:06:57 (permalink)
    quote:
    Poverty Pete Posted - 02/22/2004 : 22:15:54
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Redtressed,
    Does sorrel-yup taste like rhubarb? I had totally forgotten this, but when I was a little boy, I used to eat this clover-looking weed that tasted like rhubarb


    Yup, you've got it , Poverty Pete...it's VERY reminiscent of the taste of rhubarb. Tart, sweet, salty, yet delicate. It's a taste I developed from the education my Buh(maternal grandfather) gave me. Another that he did was savoring the nectar of honeysuckles whose vines covered their house.We'd gather a bunch of blossoms and sit on the porch of my Cousin Leontyne's Country store, and I'd suck the nectar out , while the old men delved in other pleasures and used the brass spitoon and gossiped.
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    UncleVic
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 23:08:24 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Grampy

    quote:
    Originally posted by UncleVic

    Ok Jellybeans... I gave up on Rhubarb Leaves... Why are Szechuan peppercorns illegal in the states?


    There is a canker on the fresh peppercorns that does not affect anything but citrus fruit plants. Hence, they have been banned so as not to contaminate the fruit plants in this country -- or so they say.


    Thanks Grampy! Nice learning something new everyday!
    #12
    Grampy
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/22 23:23:33 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by UncleVic

    quote:
    Originally posted by Grampy

    quote:
    Originally posted by UncleVic

    Ok Jellybeans... I gave up on Rhubarb Leaves... Why are Szechuan peppercorns illegal in the states?


    There is a canker on the fresh peppercorns that does not affect anything but citrus fruit plants. Hence, they have been banned so as not to contaminate the fruit plants in this country -- or so they say.


    Thanks Grampy! Nice learning something new everyday!


    My pleasure. By the way, if they were in the country before the ban, they are okay. Otherwise, try to ask for prickly ash. It's like, "Joe sent me." The roasted peppercorns, ground, are still available.
    #13
    Jellybeans
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 04:00:37 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Rhodes

    Jellybeans, do you have a particular Amy Beh book you might recommend??


    Hi Rhodes! To date Amy Beh has only had two cookbook collections out:

    At Home with Amy Beh

    and

    At Home with Amy Beh 2

    I think that you might be able to order it off Amazon although I have never seen it around. Otherwise, your best bet is to write to:

    Star Publications (M) Berhad (10894-D)
    Menara Star
    15 Jalan 16/11
    Section 16
    46350 Petaling Jaya
    Malaysia

    I think they only publish regionally so you might have to directly order it from them. In the first book, she gives recipes for many of our hawker fare (that's our term for our roadfood and literally, it is roadfood with a hawker selling a particular dish out of a basic mobile store they set up at the side of the road along with a few tables and stools. This isn't so prevalent anymore as lots of hawkers are now required to sell in food courts where you can get up to 100 specialties--one per hawker). In the second book she gives lots of recipes that are more Southeast Asian fusion or for traditional celebrations and vegans.

    Hope this helps!
    #14
    RubyRose
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 08:10:11 (permalink)
    I don't know what it's called but I buy red pepper paste at the Turkish market. It looks just like tomato paste and comes in a big jar. The flavor is similar to good quality paprika. I use it it marinades, beef stew, salad dressings and lots of other things.

    Although not exotic, I love the flavor of chopped celery leaves added to tossed salads. I was surprised that some people threw them out.
    #15
    Willly
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 08:16:22 (permalink)
    RubyRose -- I think you're talking about Harissa. I mix it with some real maple syrup and brush it on pork chops just as they are finishing grilling. Yum!
    #16
    Jellybeans
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 08:22:42 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by RubyRose

    I don't know what it's called but I buy red pepper paste at the Turkish market. It looks just like tomato paste and comes in a big jar. The flavor is similar to good quality paprika. I use it it marinades, beef stew, salad dressings and lots of other things.

    Although not exotic, I love the flavor of chopped celery leaves added to tossed salads. I was surprised that some people threw them out.


    I think the paste is harissa, yup. Although, is it hot? Harissa is supposed to be super spicy hot!

    Yeah, celery leaves in salads RULE! It adds a nice kick to a nice green salad!
    #17
    chicagostyledog
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 08:59:40 (permalink)
    Because of their intoxicating aroma and unique taste, my vote goes for truffles. Two years ago, while in the Italian Alps, I ordered a pasta dish garnished with truffles. Only two words can describe the taste: none better.
    #18
    Art Deco
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 10:06:27 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by redtressed

    quote:
    Poverty Pete Posted - 02/22/2004 : 22:15:54
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Redtressed,
    Does sorrel-yup taste like rhubarb? I had totally forgotten this, but when I was a little boy, I used to eat this clover-looking weed that tasted like rhubarb


    Yup, you've got it , Poverty Pete...it's VERY reminiscent of the taste of rhubarb. Tart, sweet, salty, yet delicate. It's a taste I developed from the education my Buh(maternal grandfather) gave me. Another that he did was savoring the nectar of honeysuckles whose vines covered their house.We'd gather a bunch of blossoms and sit on the porch of my Cousin Leontyne's Country store, and I'd suck the nectar out , while the old men delved in other pleasures and used the brass spitoon and gossiped.


    I love the taste of honeysuckle nectar. Used to do that all the time as a kid, and am still known to occasionally taste the honeysuckle today. As to the sorrel, ate that all the time as a kid also, though I prefer the flavor of that tiny banana-shaped fruit that grows on the sorrel to the taste of the leaves themselves...
    #19
    RubyRose
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 11:09:58 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Jellybeans

    quote:
    Originally posted by RubyRose

    I don't know what it's called but I buy red pepper paste at the Turkish market. It looks just like tomato paste and comes in a big jar. The flavor is similar to good quality paprika. I use it it marinades, beef stew, salad dressings and lots of other things.

    Although not exotic, I love the flavor of chopped celery leaves added to tossed salads. I was surprised that some people threw them out.


    I think the paste is harissa, yup. Although, is it hot? Harissa is supposed to be super spicy hot!

    Yeah, celery leaves in salads RULE! It adds a nice kick to a nice green salad!


    I don't think it's harissa because it isn't very hot - more like the flavor of those jarred roasted red peppers you find in Italian markets but a little spicier.
    #20
    Jellybeans
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 11:51:08 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by RubyRose

    quote:
    Originally posted by Jellybeans

    quote:
    Originally posted by RubyRose

    I don't know what it's called but I buy red pepper paste at the Turkish market. It looks just like tomato paste and comes in a big jar. The flavor is similar to good quality paprika. I use it it marinades, beef stew, salad dressings and lots of other things.

    Although not exotic, I love the flavor of chopped celery leaves added to tossed salads. I was surprised that some people threw them out.


    I think the paste is harissa, yup. Although, is it hot? Harissa is supposed to be super spicy hot!

    Yeah, celery leaves in salads RULE! It adds a nice kick to a nice green salad!


    I don't think it's harissa because it isn't very hot - more like the flavor of those jarred roasted red peppers you find in Italian markets but a little spicier.


    Hmm... what does it say on the jar? Any indication of its native name? It sounds great and there are a lot of Middle Eastern grocers near me so if you let me know what it is (or the brand) then I'll pop by to get myself a jar
    #21
    lleechef
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 11:53:23 (permalink)
    Harissa is hot pepper paste made in North Africa, like Morocco and Algeria. It's an essential ingredient in couscous (lamb stew). Ruby Rose, just exactly what are you getting at that Turkish market? Sounds interesting.
    #22
    redtressed
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 12:23:08 (permalink)
    quote:
    pogophiles
    Cheeseburger



    332 Posts
    Posted - 02/23/2004 : 10:06:27
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    quote:
    Originally posted by redtressed


    quote:
    Poverty Pete Posted - 02/22/2004 : 22:15:54
    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Redtressed,
    Does sorrel-yup taste like rhubarb? I had totally forgotten this, but when I was a little boy, I used to eat this clover-looking weed that tasted like rhubarb


    Yup, you've got it , Poverty Pete...it's VERY reminiscent of the taste of rhubarb. Tart, sweet, salty, yet delicate. It's a taste I developed from the education my Buh(maternal grandfather) gave me. Another that he did was savoring the nectar of honeysuckles whose vines covered their house.We'd gather a bunch of blossoms and sit on the porch of my Cousin Leontyne's Country store, and I'd suck the nectar out , while the old men delved in other pleasures and used the brass spitoon and gossiped.



    I love the taste of honeysuckle nectar. Used to do that all the time as a kid, and am still known to occasionally taste the honeysuckle today. As to the sorrel, ate that all the time as a kid also, though I prefer the flavor of that tiny banana-shaped fruit that grows on the sorrel to the taste of the leaves themselves...


    Hmmmmmmm......pogophiles are you one of my cousins Mark. Matthew or David that I used to skinny dip in the Hughes River that ran through the center of the property, with? And did we used to put fireworks in the groundhog holes together?..They all still live in the greater Nashville area........hmmmmmmmmmm hmmmmmmm hmmmmmmmm
    #23
    RubyRose
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 12:27:39 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by lleechef

    Harissa is hot pepper paste made in North Africa, like Morocco and Algeria. It's an essential ingredient in couscous (lamb stew). Ruby Rose, just exactly what are you getting at that Turkish market? Sounds interesting.


    I searched around and I'm sure it's the sweet pepper sauce on this page:

    http://www.cafeanatolia.com/generic131.html

    The brand I get is different (I'm at work & it's at home) but it has the same peppers pictured and is the same shape jar.
    #24
    Art Deco
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 12:35:39 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by redtressed

    Hmmmmmmm......pogophiles are you one of my cousins Mark. Matthew or David that I used to skinny dip in the Hughes River that ran through the center of the property, with? And did we used to put fireworks in the groundhog holes together?..They all still live in the greater Nashville area........hmmmmmmmmmm hmmmmmmm hmmmmmmmm


    Gosh, it's been a very long time and my memory really isn't what it used to be. I'm thinking that we would have to re-create the scene for any such long-submerged memories to rise to the surface. Not sure about fireworks in groundhog holes, but I definitely remember dropping smokebombs into both rat and frog holes to attempt to smoke those guys out. Never worked with either although we were able to eventually dig the frogs out...and you have never seen kids scatter as fast as we did when those hoppers finally came bulleting out of that hole either...
    #25
    redtressed
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 12:53:13 (permalink)
    lol.........we never harmed a hair on the head of a groundhog, but they would get mighty fractious and pop out their heads and chatter angrily at us.

    We'll have to work on the re-enactment of the skinny dipping in the Hughes. The Hughes is about the size of a small creek, with it's fishing capabilities being pretty much limited to small bluegills, sunfish and minnows. It was a really neat place to find indian arrowheads though. ( I had a terrible crush on Mark and annoyed the hell out of him following him around like a groupie. He was in the 7 - 8 age range and I was about 4 at the time. I ruined his chances with Robin Byrd who was an older woman at 9.)
    #26
    Art Deco
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 12:58:34 (permalink)
    redtressed -- Ever smoke rabbit tobacco? You get extra points if the rolling paper used to be part of a grocery sack...
    #27
    Rhodes
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 13:02:52 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Jellybeans

    quote:
    Originally posted by Rhodes

    Jellybeans, do you have a particular Amy Beh book you might recommend??


    Hi Rhodes! To date Amy Beh has only had two cookbook collections out:

    At Home with Amy Beh

    and

    At Home with Amy Beh 2

    I think that you might be able to order it off Amazon although I have never seen it around. Otherwise, your best bet is to write to:

    Star Publications (M) Berhad (10894-D)
    Menara Star
    15 Jalan 16/11
    Section 16
    46350 Petaling Jaya
    Malaysia

    I think they only publish regionally so you might have to directly order it from them. In the first book, she gives recipes for many of our hawker fare (that's our term for our roadfood and literally, it is roadfood with a hawker selling a particular dish out of a basic mobile store they set up at the side of the road along with a few tables and stools. This isn't so prevalent anymore as lots of hawkers are now required to sell in food courts where you can get up to 100 specialties--one per hawker). In the second book she gives lots of recipes that are more Southeast Asian fusion or for traditional celebrations and vegans.

    Hope this helps!


    Thanks jb! I'll check it out and report back - I love Malaysian food!
    #28
    redtressed
    Double Chili Cheeseburger
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 13:04:18 (permalink)
    oh you betcha I sure did, with both paper bags AND catalpa and grape leaves, as well as sneaking off with corncob pipes and my nana's blackberry cordials, which tasted the same as grape pop. I was a bizarre female child.
    #29
    Art Deco
    Double Cheeseburger
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    RE: Unusual Ingredients and Little Exotic Touches 2004/02/23 13:12:18 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by redtressed

    oh you betcha I sure did, with both paper bags AND catalpa and grape leaves, as well as sneaking off with corncob pipes and my nana's blackberry cordials, which tasted the same as grape pop. I was a bizarre female child.


    Sound normal to me...
    #30
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