Sunday, 28 July 2013

A Creation of the Pan-Asian Persuasion

Riso allo Sesamo al Vapore in Foglie di Shiso, Gamberi, Funghi "Enoki" & Asparagi Thailandese
Shiso-Steamed Sesame Rice, Shrimp, Enoki Mushrooms & Thai Asparagus

This evenings supper was a lot easier to make as you may think from the looks of things- but the result is every bit as tasty as it looks! The rice was prepared with sesame, sesame oil and a layer of shiso leaves to add texture and flavor as well as keeping in the moisture as it cooked, the shrimp simply steamed along with it and the asparagus and mushrooms took but a few minutes to stir-fry. No big deal! But at the same time... so delicious and so lovely once served up that it all of a sudden becomes a big deal! Or didn't you think "wow!" when you saw the pictures?

One of the most important aspects of cooking is presentation. I hate food that looks too fussy in its presentation, but at the same time, with a little thought, you can enhance your foods appetite appeal immensely by setting it out nicely for your guests... especially with such a simple dish as this one!

I began by boiling rice in the usual way, with twice the amount water as rice. After 10 minutes or so, the rice was obviously not yet ready, but most of the water had been absorbed. At this point, I added some toasted sesame seeds, a little sesame oil and a dash of fish sauce. 

Next thing that needed to be prepared was the shrimp. To make these wonderfully delicious, I finely chopped some galangal, which is a root, similar to ginger, but with a milder and much more citrusy flavor, a little garlic and a little onion. I added the shrimp, a little sesame oil again, a little light soy and a pinch of 5-Spice powder, stirred these together and then spooned the coated shrimp on top of the rice. 

The last step was to cover the rice with shiso leaves... I had bought a packet of them at the market the day before and had only used a couple of them so far... so I thought I may as well get creative with them and put them to some use! With a layer of leaves on top, to which I gave a few drops of sesame oil too and a light dusting of sugar, I popped this into a hot oven, around 350°F, for the next 10-15 minutes to finish steaming whilst I prepared the asparagus and mushrooms...

I prepared the mushrooms and the asparagus separately from one another- and indeed the mushrooms I also fried in very small batches. I cut off the woody root end of the mushrooms and then plucked the delicate stems apart in sections about as thick as my thump. I dropped them onto a very hot, dry pan and watched them shrivel and write about a little in the heat- they almost looked like they were alive! Once I had flipped them over one time, I then added a little oil to the pan, just a very small amount, but these few drops were enough to quickly brown the mushrooms off without them becoming too soft and mushy- which is what will happen if you put too many in the pan at once or add too much oil... it takes a little more time and patience- but it is worth it! I seasoned them simply with a little sea salt, finely ground Szechuan pepper and a tiny pinch of 5-Spice.

The asparagus went into a hot pan with a little crushed garlic and a splash of oil. I stir-fried them at a high heat for 1-2 minutes and then added a splash of water, a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of sugar. As soon as the water had evaporated away, the asparagus was finished... and I was ready to plate-up my meal!

I set out the mushrooms first around the outer edge of my dish, then added the rice, which I scooped out of the baking tray and turned upside-down, so that crispy shiso leaves were at the bottom and the moist rice on top. I then laid out the juicy shrimp and arranged the asparagus in-between. Easy! I added a sprinkle of toasted chili flakes for a bit of extra heat and a light drizzle of hoisin for some extra seasoning... and that was it! A little bit Thai, a little Japanese and a little Chinese... all interpreted in a simple new way by a British-born Sicilian! Give it a go and see what you think! You may well be surprised!

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