When you think about Asian Cuisine, what are the things that come to mind? Beef Teriyaki, Crispy Tangerine Chicken, normally dishes made with a specific sauce. While attending a conference on Asian Sauces at the Culinary Institute of America on November 11, 2009 presented by Chef Danhi reminded me that Teriyaki, Soy Sauce and Hoisin are not the only ones out there. Chef Danhi has been all over Asia discovering the sauces that make up a cuisine, the sauces the grandmothers make at home. Starting with the explanation of the how-to process of Soy Sauce, Chef Danhi takes us on a culinary adventure like no other. He is an amazing storyteller, illustrating flavors, developing stories and above all capturing the audience with his words. His story is of photojournalism that leads him to meet the love of his life, his wife. At the same time of meeting this love consequently he meets his culinary love, Southeast Asia. He tells of walking down the streets and up dark alleys, finding the old lady that has been cooking squatted down for the last decade; of the amazing smells that slapped him in the face as he walked past street stalls; the colors invading his sight were uncontrollable to him.
The Asian Sauces guided tour was an awakening of the senses and started with a snack of Roasted Peanuts with chili and lemongrass flavors swirling around on your tongue. Commencing with the soy sauces and how they are brewed the traditional method. They both had a rich soy flavor which would ideally marinate meats. Moving on to one of my favorites, Plum sauce made from preserved Chinese plums, ginger and chili. It is normally used as a dipping sauce for roast duck and other roasted meats, but Chef proposed trying it over vanilla ice cream. Marvelous! Following the plum sauce was the Oyster Sauce, a unique recipe made from the founder of Lee Kum Kee products in 1888. Tradition says it was a mistake, as with all wonderful culinary discoveries that an oyster soup reduced to a syrupy sauce and this sauce was invented! Oyster sauce is a basic Chinese sauce, used in cooking and also marinating. After these sauces were explored, the trip kept moving on with Hoisin Sauce which can be best described as a spicy-sweet sauce made from selected spices and ground soybeans; Black Bean Garlic Sauce, mostly fermented black beans and garlic; Chili Garlic Sauce, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce and one that graces the tables of our Farq Hall, Sriracha Chili Sauce.
At the end of this culinary travel, Chef Danhi exhorts foodies everywhere to Question Everything! Ask, wonder, and be curious. A cuisine is not just the flavors but the geography, etiquette, ethnic diversity, history and population. Experiment Everything.
Notes: If you can’t find Thai coffee, use any coffee bean you like but make sure it’s a dark roast. Also, to keep your iced coffee chilled but not diluted, make coffee ice cubes! Brew extra coffee, chill, and freeze into ice cubes. And last but not least, make your own condensed milk! Thanks to Tuttle for sending me a copy of this book, and you should go out and get a copy for yourself as well!