A Fully Stocked Cupboard: Notes on Night Market Menu

I believe that a cupboard is not fully stocked until you have half of an Asian grocery store in there. Maybe three-quarters. Including random packages that you pulled off the shelves because you were carried away in the moment and they looked exotic. Last winter my husband and I went on a shopping trip to Montreal based on the pantry lists in the cookbooks PokPok and Single Grain of Rice and acquired 64 different spices / condiments and I don’t regret it. We did (technically, he did) a resupply run to Phat Thai in Burlington for this past week’s Night Markets menu. Some items I would never be without: 

  • Szechuan Peppercorns
  • Chili-Bean Paste
  • Dark Soy Sauce
  • Kecap Manis – Indonesian sweet soy sauce
  • Dried Shrimp  
  • Tianjin Preserved Vegetable – It sounds stronger than it is. It adds a salty-umami-y flavor to dishes.
  • Gochujang Sauce – Chili paste somewhere just above ketchup and Sriracha on the scale of red sauces that make everything better. 
  • Sticky Rice
  • Glutinous Rice Flour 

Okay, that intro should have warned you that most of the recipes from the last week of “Night Markets” at Hel’s Kitchen require special ingredients. . . on the plus side, said ingredients are available in Burlington. If you worry about buying ingredients for one dish and then never using them again, I suggest also keeping onhand Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop – this book contains Chinese recipes that are very simple if you the ingredients, and the ingredients lists are short and the condiments last a long time. You can throw dinner together on a weeknight and be quite pleased at a flavorful meal with little work (um, and if you want no work and no random ingredients, I obviously suggest takeout from Hel’s Kitchen). The Ma Po Tofu recipe last week was based on the one in this book. 

A few recipes from last week that I recommend trying out at home:

 

Brussels Sprouts

The surprise bestseller of the week, these came from Kettle Song farm. Here is how I prepared them. I was making these in much larger batches than you would at home so the exact volume measurements are missing – but it doesn’t need to be precise:

Heat an oven to 475-degrees. Trim the sprouts and cut them in half lengthwise (leave particularly small ones uncut). In a large bowl, toss sprouts with enough olive oil to coat and a generous pinch of black pepper. Don’t add salt because you’re about to add a soy sauce that’s salty. Dump sprouts onto a rimmed baking sheets and spread them out to one layer. Drizzle with a generous amount of Kecap Manis, stir to be sure they’re evenly coated. Cover the baking sheet with tinfoil and bake for 10 minutes. Take the foil off, stir again, back for another 10 – 15 minutes until the outsides of the sprouts are browned and crispy. 

Korean Chicken Wings

A simple recipe for super-crispy chicken wings without any frying. Not that I’m afraid to fry, but this is much MUCH easier. The wings provide the texture and the dipping sauce provides the flavor. You could add some of the gochujang paste mentioned at the top of the post to the dipping sauce if you want a thicker, stronger sauce. This recipe appears in Maximum Flavor by Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot. These authors run a food blog called Ideas in Food that is similar to columns like The Food Lab in Serious Eats: science meets cuisine for the home cook. The wings recipe is reprinted in Serious Eats at this link. Also, this recipe does not have any special ingredients.

Dan Dan Noodles

Dan Dan Noodles appear in the Lucky Rice cookbook that served as an original inspiration for the theme this week, and that was the source of my recipe. They also appear in Mimi Sheraton’s 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die as a Night Market staple. Here’s how Sheraton describes them:

“One of the many xiao chi (little eats) sold at outdoor food stalls, dan dan man are bowls of wheat noodles and minced preserved vegetable flavored with an incendiary blend of chile oil, Sichuan peppercorns, dark and light soy sauces, rice and black vinegars, and fragrant, dark sesame paste. It’s a challenging kind of heat, and one that can also be addictive – you don’t know if you can manage another bite, but it’s so achingly delicious you can’t stop.”

I toned down the heat for the takeout menu, which I usually do since it’s easier to add heat than to take it away. And since my judgment of what constitutes too spicy is not to be trusted. The Lucky Rice recipe isn’t online as far as I can tell, but this one from Bon Appetit is close to their’s. I did use specialty noodles, and if I were to choose a more readily available substitute I’d go with whole wheat linguine (because it tastes good, not because it tastes the same as the Chinese wheat noodles). 

Red Bean Paste Cookies

I got into bean paste cookies a decade ago when I was helping organize a local Localvores Group (remember those? It was before eating local food was A Thing, we were drawing attention to local options through food challenges to eat only food produced within a 100 mile radius). I wanted a dessert made with 100% local ingredients that wasn’t a version of winter squash custard or maple pudding (although both sound delicious now). We had fewer local ingredient options back then in the old days of the early 2000s. I came up with local black beans, pureed into a paste with maple syrup and a pinch of cloves, and wrapped in a pastry dough made from butter and whole wheat pastry flour.

Without local ingredient restrictions we still don’t have to stray far from the simple starting recipe to get these cookies – just put a dollop of red bean paste in a square of all butter pie dough (here’s a recipe), fold it over, and bake at 400-degrees until golden brown, about 15 minutes. If you don’t have red bean paste, here’s a recipe. They say not to use adzuki beans, and I respect that, but truth be told, I’ve used adzuki beans in the past and it’s been fine. 

Want other thoughts on similar recipes? Here’s a series of Chinese banquet menus I shared the last time I did a shopping trip to stock ingredients: “Chinese Banquet” from Discovering Flavor

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