Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Moegyo Burmese Food Fair

Yesterday, I went to the 6th Annual Moegyo Burmese Food Fair at Aviation High School in Queens.  As you don't often find Burmese food in Manhattan, I was looking forward to trying a new type of cuisine.


If you'd like to learn more about Burmese cuisine, please read this.


The fair is an annual fundraiser for the Moegyo Humanitarian Foundation, which was founded in 2008 to provide relief to victims of a tropical cyclone.  From the Foundation's website,

     "Moegyo's mission is to provide humanitarian aid and to help people rebuild and improve their lives and      
     societies. Our current focus is to help orphans and disadvantaged children in poorest parts of Myanmar."

If you're interested in learning more, the Foundation's website is here.


To purchase food at the fair, you had to buy tickets ($1 per ticket) from a table set up near the entrance, and then exchange the tickets for a dish.  Dishes ran from 2 tickets (drinks), to 4 tickets (sides/salads/some mains), to 5 tickets (main dishes).

I bought 20 tickets, and here is some of the stuff that I sampled or otherwise saw.

Entrance to the Fair.  As you can see, there were a lot of people already there.

I believe this was Bhamo Meeshay - rice noodles with "a light meat sauce, brown tangy rice flour gel, soy sauce, chili oil, and garnished with crisp fried onions, and coriander [cilantro to us Westerners]".  Also had some pickled mustard greens.

I couldn't quite bring myself to try the goat intestines.  I'm claiming this was because of all the other tasty dishes I wanted to try, but in reality I wimped out.

This is Balachung, a side dish made from dried shrimp, crushed chilis, and crispy fried shallot and garlic.  Sounds like you just put some on rice and eat it, but it resembles XO sauce to me so I'd guess that you can use it for the same purposes.

This is dried tamarind leaves and dried shrimps.  The lady who sold it to me said that it has a sour and fermented flavor, and that it was a seasonal dish as tamarind leaves have to be harvested before the monsoons begin (which is soon).

They're making Falooda, a "rose flavored milk shake with tapioca pearls and other condiments".

They're making Yaykay Thote, which is a Burmese shaved ice dessert similar to the Taiwanese shaved ice that you can find in Chinatown and Flushing.

This is the salad action station/  There were two choices at this table:  Gyin Thohk, a ginger salad with crispy split peas, peanuts, cabbage, tomato, and other stuff; and Laphet Thohk, a preserved tea leaves salad with crispy split peas, sesame seed, peanuts, crispy fried garlic, cabbage, tomato, and a touch of peanut oil.  They also had an option to get your salad made with SPICY dried tea leaves, which I didn't realize until after I got my order.  Darn.

I tried the Laphet Thohk.  It tasted great, especially with some diced Thai chilis on the top and a squeeze of lime.  I think I'm going to try making this at home.

I got some Shar-Labat Yay, or "basil seed cream soda" to drink.  Despite the deep green color and the basil seeds, which looked like roe or caviar, the drink tasted like cream soda.

It was a great lunch for a great cause.  Can't wait until next year!

Monday, June 10, 2013


Here's some photos that I took last Saturday at the FIGMENT outdoor art installation on Governor's Island.  The FIGMENT display was interactive, and included a "mini-golf" course.

For the full album of my photos, please see this link.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

RAMPS! Ramps and Tilefish Crudo, Ramp Pesto, and Ramps Ice Cream

Ramps are my favorite vegetable.  I love the slightly sweet, slightly garlicky, slightly oniony bulbs.  I love the peppery garlicky leaves raw.  And I love the mellow, sweet, leeky flavor of the leaves when they're wilted.  I especially like how ramps are the first wild green vegetable that is generally available during the year - in NYC, they are in season for just a few short weeks in April and early May.

And it seems that I am not the only one.

Ramps (and some spring garlic too)

Over the past few years, I have explored new ways of using ramps in my cooking.  My standby dish has been to make Roast Chicken, Ramps, and Potatoes.  Last year, I made Pickled Ramps Momofuku-style.  The bulbs and chopped leaves were always great sauteed in an egg scramble with bacon, and the leaves always added a surprisingly large amount of body to soups and stocks, even Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup whenever I caught an early spring cold.

This year, I decided to get more creative, and used ramps in:

  • a tilefish crudo with meyer lemon;
  • a simple pesto;
  • ice cream;
  • a vichyssoise with bacon and sour cream;
  • a semmen knodel (German bread dumpling).
The first three items are covered by this post.  The next two will follow in a separate post.


Ramps and Tilefish Crudo with Meyer Lemon

I'm not sure why I thought of making this dish.  I think that I was reading the crudo recipe in my copy of Mario Batali Italian Grill and thought, why not ramps?

I found a couple of references to raw fish crudo using ramps, mostly pureed or pickled, on Google, but no recipes.  So I decided to revert to basics - a neutral white fish, salt, and citrus to go with the ramps.  I figured that the peppery flavor of raw ramp leaves would stand in for the hot peppers often used in a crudo/ceviche. I also thought that Meyer Lemon zest would accent the sweetness of the fish, and that a simple Meyer Lemon and extra virgin olive oil drizzle would be sufficient to complete the plate.  I also added some flash pickled ramps for presentation and as a vinegary contrast to the sweet, rich crudo.

I think that fluke would have been the best fish to use, but the fish stand only had fresh tilefish that day.  The fishmonger worried that tilefish would be too tough of a flesh for crudo, but when sliced thinly, it worked fine.

Here's the recipe:

1 medium tilefish fillet - about 1/3 lb.
6-8 ramp leaves, washed and sliced in half horizontally (so 12-16 pieces)
Zest of 1 Meyer Lemon
Squeeze of Meyer Lemon juice - maybe 1-2 tbsp?
1 or 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil (same amount as the Meyer Lemon juice)
Kosher or sea salt
6 pickled ramp bulbs (optional) (used white vinegar, salt, sugar, cumin, mustard seed)

Remove pin bones from fish with tweezers or fingers.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in freezer for about 30-40 minutes before using.

Get out a large plate/serving platter.  Arrange sliced half ramp leaves on plate.  Remove tilefish from freezer, and, using a very sharp knife, cut the filet into thin slices no more than 1/4 inch thick and about 2 inches long.  Place each piece of fish on a ramp leaf, and sprinkle a bit of lemon zest and a few crystals of salt on top of each piece of crudo.

Mix the Meyer Lemon juice and olive oil in a separate container and drizzle on top of the crudo pieces.



Ramp Pesto

No recipe here - just make a basic pesto, except substituting raw ramp leaves for basil leaves.  Note:  I toasted the pine nuts before adding them.  I think that walnuts or even sunflower seeds could work in the pesto if you don't have pine nuts handy.

The pesto is quite strong and packed with a peppery, garlic flavor.  It also has an amazing bright green color that reminds one of spring.

How to use it?  

I enjoyed it:
  • spread on fresh mozzarella cheese and served with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar in a replacement caprese salad;
  • as a crust for fish either sauteed in brown butter or baked in the oven (works especially well on skate);
  • as a sauce for some grilled squid marinated in lemon zest, olive oil, and dried oregano.

Be creative!


Ramps Ice Cream

I had bought a Cuisinart ice cream machine a couple of months ago using a gift card sent to me as a replacement Christmas present (thanks Dan and Sab!).  Since then, I've been trying to think of somewhat unconventional ice creams to make, hopefully using seasonal ingredients.

Well, I like savory ice creams and sorbets,,,as well as ramps...and ramps and eggs are a classic pairing...and ice cream has eggs...so maybe ramps could be used for ice cream???

Recipe (makes 1 pint):

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup buttermilk (can also use whatever other kind of milk you want - I figured buttermilk would help reduce the richness of the ramps and egg yolks)
1/3 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
20-30 ramps (bulb and white part only - save the leaves for pesto!) diced.

1) in saucepan, add 1/2 cup cream, buttermilk, salt, and sugar. Bring sweetened milk to verge of boil at medium heat and add ramp bulbs, turn off heat and steep for 15 minutes. Repeat this process once more. 

2) in small bowl, add and beat the egg yolks. 

3) in larger bowl (Bowl #2), add rest of cream, and place Bowl #2 in an ice water bath (Note: this is probably optional - you can probably add the cream to the saucepan at the beginning - keeping the extra cream in an ice water bath is intended to help stop the hot custard from continuing to cook).

4) Bring mixture in saucepan to verge of boiling again. Add some of mixture to bowl containing egg yolks, while beating the egg yolks to prevent cooking. Add a bit more and beat a bit more. Pour contents of the egg yolk bowl back into the saucepan with the remaining sweetened dairy/ramp mixture. Bring to light simmer on medium-low heat and stir for a few minutes until custard begins to thicken (passes back of the spoon test).

5) Pour custard into Bowl #2 containing the chilled cream and stir together. (This step can be omitted - see Step 3 above). 

6) Let sit in ice bath until ice cream base reaches room temperature, then put in freezer for about 1 hour, or just stick it in the freezer. 

7) Process the cooled ice cream base in your ice cream maker.  Stick completed ice cream back in freezer overnight - the flavors come together this way - it tastes better after sitting than if you eat it fresh.

How does it taste?

Like ramps!  It's actually a pretty strong flavor - I left the chopped (and now candied) ramp bulbs in as I was afraid that the ramp flavor would be weak without them (and besides, why waste the bulbs?).  If you want a lighter flavor, strain the bulbs out of the ice cream base before cooling - I think that you'll still get the flavor of the ramps infused into the custard base even without keeping the bulbs.  I note that I used about 25-30 ramp bulbs for about a pint of ice cream (as I wanted to ensure the ramp flavor got infused during the steeping process).  So if you want a mellower flavor, you could also use less ramps. 

Note:  it SMELLS like ramps, too.  This may be offputting to some people, I suppose.

The ice cream has a medium sweetness.  The buttermilk makes it a bit lighter than the ordinary super-rich egg custard-based ice cream, and also adds a slight tang.  Otherwise, it tastes and smells strongly like sauteed ramps (a bit sweet with an oniony garlicky kick).  The ramp flavor kind of melts into the cream.  Definitely a savory as opposed to sweet. 

Ramp bulbs steeping in buttermilk, cream, and sugar.

Too bad - gotta wait for next year!

Strawberry Rhubarb Ice Cream and Compote

So it's early June, which means that it's strawberry and rhubarb season here in NYC.  Having picked up some of each at the Union Square Greenmarket, I wanted to try to use them in something a little more creative than the usual pie.  Then I saw my ice cream maker sitting in the kitchen begging to be used.


I figured that my plan would be to try to create a strawberry-rhubarb mixture/preserve to add to a typical ice cream base.  I remembered the cape gooseberry/poha berry compote that I made last autumn and thought that it might be a good idea for the fruit component of the ice cream base.  But how much strawberries vs. rhubarb to use?  

Luckily, I found the following recipe online:


I also thought a little spice would make the flavors stand out a bit more, and decided on ginger.  My final recipe is below:


Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote (w/ Ginger)

1 lb rhubarb stalks - cleaned and chopped horizontally into small pieces - 1/2" or 3/4" in length
1 lb strawberries - washed, dried, and cut in half  (this should be about a pint and a half)
1/2 cup light brown sugar (cane sugar/turbinado works too)
1/2 cup water
2-3 very thin slices of ginger from the root (optional)
1 tsp of fresh vanilla (or a small amount of vanilla extract)

Combine all of the ingredients in a large sautee pan/wok over medium high heat until the mixture comes to a heavy boil.  Then, reduce heat to medium low and let the mixture simmer down until the water has been released from the fruit and evaporated and it reaches the consistency that you want.  Skim off any foam/scum that develops, or mix it back into the simmering mixture.  Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature.  Can be eaten immediately or stuck in fridge.

Note: you can also boil down in a saucepan, but this will take much longer to cook as the surface area to volume ratio is lower, and thus the water won't evaporate as quickly.  I learned this the hard way, as my compote took 40 minutes to simmer down to a decent consistency.

Ingredients loaded...


Near end of simmer.


I then took some of the cooled compote and made ice cream using the following recipe:


Strawberry-Rhubarb Ice Cream (makes approx 1 qt)

1 3/4 cups of Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote
1 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (3/4 cup of which is reserved in a mixing bowl over an ice water bath)
1/2 cup whole milk
3 egg yolks (large eggs)
1/2 cup sugar (cane or white) - Note: In order to avoid oversweetening, I probably would start with 1/4 cup, then keep adding to taste.
Dash of vanilla/extract

**Basically, the ratio of dairy to Compote to sugar is 3.5/3.5/1 - so if you want to use soy milk (or ultra soft tofu could work too, I'd imagine), I'd just follow the ratio (or you could just freeze the compote w/o any dairy - may be somewhat tart, though).**

In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup of the cream, the Compote, the milk, and the sugar over medium low heat.  Heat until just barely at a simmer.  While heating, beat the egg yolks in a small bowl.  

When dairy/Compote mixture is barely at a simmer, add the egg yolks via "tempering", by pouring some of the mixture into the egg yolks while beating them, repeating once or twice more, then pouring the egg yolk + dairy mix back into the remainder of the dairy/Compote mix.  Stir together, then let simmer slowly until custard thickens (coats back of spoon test).  

Then, pour the hot custard base into the chilled bowl holding the remaining 3/4 cup of cream.  Stir together.  Let the custard sit in the ice water bath until near room temperature, then stick in fridge to finish cooling.  Add ice cream base into ice cream machine and follow instructions.

For a fun finish, add sliced fresh strawberries to the ice cream during the last minute or two of churning.


The verdict?

The compote tasted fresh and slightly more tart than sweet, which is what I wanted.  The ginger adds a bit of a spicy surprise to the flavor.  It is great with cream cheese on a bagel, or as a cheesecake sauce.

The ice cream was very smooth and blended, and tasted almost like a berry smoothie.  Unfortunately, the ginger flavor got lost in translation, but it was still a very tasty ice cream anyway.  The ice cream remained softer than the norm, even after freezing.