Mango-Shrimp Tacos with Honey-Lime Slaw by Amy Cantu

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Sometimes, I close my eyes and try to imagine that I'm stretched out in the sand somewhere warm and tropical with waves lapping at my feet. This is when I'm usually painfully interrupted by, "MOM! Mommmmmm!" and my reverie comes to an abrupt halt. So, I shove a giant bite of Mango-Shrimp Tacos in my mouth, squeeze my eyes closed tight, and suddenly for a few more seconds that vacay is a reality. (I suspect that this island dream might also be why I love coconut so much too.) Oh yeah, and those kiddos yelling for my attention? They just want a bite too. Plump, juicy shrimp tangled together with bits of sweet mango, all heaped over a warm tortilla and topped with mildly spicy and smoky chipotle sour cream and crunchy honey-lime slaw. Excuse me, I need to close my eyes again and take another bite. See you in paradise!

Notes: I heart mangos so much! I usually try to get the smaller manila or Ataulfo mangos if possible, since they are so much sweeter, but I found that even the larger (and more common) Kent mangos work well in this recipe. I removed the seeds from all the peppers to keep this dish mild enough for my kids. (I could barely detect any heat.) Feel free to leave the seeds in or swap the jalapenos for spicier serrano peppers, if you like things spicy! The honey-lime slaw is delicious heaped over the tacos or on the side as a salad. It has enough going on to be it's own side dish without the tacos too!

Time: 40 minutes
Servings: 4-6

1 cup sour cream
1-2 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce

2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
Kosher salt
2 mangos, small-diced
1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
2 limes, juiced

Sliced avocados
Corn tortillas
Honey-Lime Slaw (recipe below)

Mince 1 or 2 chipotle peppers, removing the seeds if you don't want it spicy. Stir peppers into the sour cream and set aside.

Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add ground cumin and stir frequently for one minute or until it smells fragrant and toasty. Add shrimp, sliced garlic, and about 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, stirring and flipping the shrimp frequently, until shrimp are mostly pink and opaque (about 4-5 minutes). Add mango, jalapeno, and cilantro to the pan and continue to cook for 1 minute or until the shrimp are just cooked through. Turn off the heat and stir in lime juice. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. 

To serve, spoon mango and shrimp over warm tortillas with a couple slices of avocado and a big dollop of chipotle sour cream. Top with Honey-Lime Slaw or serve the slaw on the side. Open up wide and devour!

Recipe adapted from Martha Rose Shulman at NYT Cooking.

Honey-Lime Slaw

2 limes, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
1-2 tablespoons honey (to taste)
1/2 cup grape seed oil (or vegetable oil)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 head red cabbage, cored and sliced thin
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 jalapeno, seeded, and sliced thin
2 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)

In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, honey, oil, about 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cabbage, carrots, jalapeno, green onions, and cilantro. Drizzle dressing over the vegetables and toss well. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve heaped over Mango Shrimp Tacos or on the side.

Korean Soft Tofu Stew (Soondoobu Jjigae) by Cynthia Raub

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At a Korean table, a variety of side dishes (banchan) will clutter and cover an entire table to the corners and edges. Each diner is set with their own bowl of rice, a spoon, and chopsticks. A soup or stew is a standard for every mealtime during a Korean meal. As such, a single pot of soup is set in the middle of the table for everyone to eat from directly. Due to the long reach to the communal pot, Korean spoons have longer handles than other culture's spoons for this reason. Interesting, right? You're welcome for that tidbit of trivia knowledge. Don't ever say I never gave you anything. 

This tofu soup comes together in no time, and as I explain in the notes below, is very flexible in ingredients as well. The silken tofu's luscious and soft texture is carried through a mildly spicy soup base with small nibbles of vegetables and meat along the way. Share this pot of stew with your family or some friends, or eat the whole thing by yourself. There's no wrong way to enjoy this fragrant and bubbling mess. 

Notes: This soup can easily be made vegetarian or even vegan! You can also swap the seafood for beef or pork and it will be just as delicious. I made this version of tofu soup to accompany Korean Green Onion and Seafood Pancakes (Pa Jun) so I used the same seafood for both dishes to make it easier on myself. If you omit the animal broth and/or meat, I recommend a spoonful more of kimchi and a bigger glug of sesame oil for more flavor. This is a mild version, so feel free to add Korean red pepper flakes (gochugaru) or sliced spicy peppers to your liking. Also, I had a difficult time tracking down silken tofu - so don't be discouraged if you can't find it, either. Soft tofu is a perfectly delicious substitute for this soup.

Serves: 1 - 4
Time: 20 minutes

1/4 cup chopped seafood (I used shrimp and squid.)
3 clams
1 tablespoon grape seed oil (or any other neutral oil)
1/4 cup chopped kimchi
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup diced mushrooms
1/4 cup diced zucchini
1 cup of stock (vegetable, seafood, chicken, beef) or water
14 ounces silken tofu
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon green onion, thinly sliced
1 egg

Cut seafood into small dice and clean and sort clams. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat grape seed oil on medium high heat. Add kimchi, garlic, mushrooms, and zucchini; cook until tender and barely browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Scoop large spoonfuls of silken tofu from its package into the boiling soup base. Reduce heat to medium and bring back to a hard simmer, stirring occasionally to break up the tofu. Simmer for 3 minutes until tofu is heated through. Season with kosher salt. Add seafood and cook until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Reduce the heat to low and drizzle the soup with sesame oil and scatter green onions. Crack an egg into a small bowl and gently pour on top of the soup; the hot soup with cook the egg. Serve from your saucepan and enjoy!

Korean Green Onion and Seafood Pancakes (Pa Jun) by Cynthia Raub

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Korean people love their pancakes! Kimchi pancakes, green onion pancakes, sliced fish pancake fritters, mung bean pancakes, chive pancakes with a million jalapeños . . . the list is seemingly endless. If it's a thing, it can be pancaked. I love them all, but I especially like this one because it doesn't require any ingredients you couldn't find in a standard grocery store. I can confidently speak for myself, for you, and every other living being in the world when I say: when you are craving Korean food, it must be satisfied immediately. Mung beans, Asian chives and kimchi can often require a special trip to an Asian market. Ain't nobody got time for that! These green onion pancakes are tender, crisp and beautifully golden. The mild sweetness of the cooked and aromatic green onion is absolutely addictive. If you've never made Korean food before, this is an accessible and tremendously delicious place to start.

Notes: The green onion pancake my mom made at her restaurant was 80% green onion and that's the recipe I'm sharing with you. Some people prefer less green onion and more batter and this recipe is flexible enough for you to suit your own preferences. This is a very hands on cooking process as you can tell by the photos. I use my hands to lay the battered green onions into the pan, to distribute the raw egg, and to press the pancake to create a crunchy crust. Don't be afraid to use your hands - it will be so much easier than a multitude of utensils. To reheat the pancakes, place them in a non-stick pan on medium heat and heat through on both sides to enjoy them again. Please don't put them in the microwave; that will make everyone sad.

The dipping sauce is such a great accompaniment to the pancakes - it's worth the added few steps. The onions and jalapeño impart their flavors into the liquid and the hot liquid quickly pickles the onion and jalapeño to tone down their harshness and heat.

Yield: 3 large pancakes
Time: 40 minutes

2 large bunches green onions
4 eggs, divided
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons grape seed oil (or any other neutral oil), divided
1/2 cup chopped raw shrimp, divided
1/2 cup chopped raw squid, divided

Pancake Dipping Sauce for serving (see recipe below)

Rinse green onions and remove tops. Trim bottoms to make all of the green onions similar in length. Lay them on the cutting board and slice through the entire length of the vegetable - this will make biting through the cooked green onion easier and less stringy. Halve the green onions and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine water and one egg and whisk until foamy. In a shallow pan (I used an 8 x 13 cake pan) combine flour, cornstarch and salt. Start by pouring 1 cup of foamy water/egg mixture into dry ingredients and stir gently until roughly combined - like a standard pancake mixture, wet and dry patches are OK since you don't want to over-mix the batter! From there, add more liquid a few tablespoons at a time until the batter is thick enough to hold together and coat the green onions, but is not gloopy and sticky, nor runny.

Heat a large pan or griddle on medium high heat with 2 tablespoons of grape seed oil. Add 1/3 of the green onions to the batter and toss until fully coated. Turn the heat down and arrange batter covered green onions in the pan in a single row with no space between the green onions. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and press the green onions into the pan to create a cohesive crust. Once the batter begins to brown and the green onions are heating through, scatter 1/3 of the seafood over the top of the pancake. Beware of oil popping at this point!

Press the seafood down into the pancake. Crack an egg into a small bowl and whisk lightly. Pour the egg over the top of the pancake, making sure to cover the seafood (the egg will help to secure the seafood to the pancake). When the seafood begins to warm and 70% of the pancake is cooked through (4-6 minutes), flip the pancake over to finish cooking and brown the second side (about 2 minutes). The pancake is done when the batter throughout the green onions is throughly cooked the edges are deeply browned and crisp. Flip the pancake onto a cutting board with the seafood and egg mixture facing up. Cut into generous bite sized pieces. Repeat two more times for a total of 3 pancakes. Serve immediately with the Pancake Dipping Sauce.

Pancake Dipping Sauce

1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 white vinegar
1 jalapeño, halved
1 small onion, sliced thin

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine soy sauce, water, sugar and vinegar. Bring to a simmer until all of the sugar is dissolved. In a medium heat-proof bowl, place sliced onion and halved jalapeño. Pour the simmered soy sauce mixture over the onions and jalapeño and allow to fully cool before serving.

Tod Mun (Thai Fish Cakes) with Cucumber-Peanut Relish by Amy Cantu

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These crispy, spicy fish cake fritters are so fun to eat! They are perfectly sized for a shared appetizer or for the fingers of little children. We made them less spicy for the preschool-set, but feel free to adjust to your fiery tastebuds' delight. The long beans add a bit of extra texture to the fritters, and the cucumber relish infuses each bite with sweetness, tanginess, spiciness, and crunch!

Notes: Since the heat and saltiness of curry pastes and fish sauce can vary a lot from brand to brand, I recommend frying a little tester patty to see how it tastes and then adjusting the seasonings to your liking. Start with the smaller amounts and then ratchet up from there.

Long beans are found in Asian grocery stores, but you can substitute green beans if you can't find them. Fish paste is found at the seafood counter or frozen section of Asian grocery stores. If you can't source already prepared fish paste, you can make your own at home. Buy any firm white fish fillet - grind it up in a food processor or blender with 1-2 ice cubes until you have a fine paste.

Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4-6 as an appetizer

1 lb fish paste
¾ cup long beans, chopped into small pieces
3 tablespoons makrut lime leaves, thinly sliced
1-2 tablespoons red curry paste, to taste
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
2 teaspoons fish sauce or more to taste
Oil for frying
Cucumber Relish (see recipe below)

Make cucumber relish (see recipe below) and set aside while making the fish cakes

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Stir well until ingredients are evenly distributed.

Heat oil over medium-high heat. You will need about 3 inches of oil for frying. Drop a small amount of fish mixture into the hot oil and fry until brown to do a taste test. Different brands of curry paste and fish sauce can vary in saltiness and intensity. Adjust the seasoning to your liking - more curry paste to make it spicier and more fish sauce to make it saltier.

Set cooling rack over a paper-towel lined baking sheet, and set aside. Set a small bowl of water and fish mixture near the stove. Use the water to wet hands. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the fish mixture into your hands (roughly the size of a golf ball), and flatten into a patty (⅓-½ inch thick). Carefully drop patty into the oil, and repeat, being careful not to overcrowd the pot. Fry the patties until they are puffy and brown. Remove from oil and drain on the prepared rack.

Devour Tod Mun while still hot, topped with Cucumber Relish.

Cucumber Relish

½ lb seedless cucumber (such as English or Persian), peeled, small dice, including watery center
½ cup peanuts, crushed with a rolling pin or finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup red jalapeno, seeded, thinly sliced or 1-2 Thai bird chilies, thinly sliced (jalapeno is much less spicy)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup thinly sliced shallot (about ½ of a large shallot)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cucumbers will release a lot of liquid, which creates a sauce for the Tod Mun. Let sit for at least 10 minutes before serving. 

Salmon Cakes by Cynthia Raub

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Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 10 as an appetizer, 5 as a meal

1/2 pound salmon (cooked and cooled)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (divided)
3/4 cup small-diced red onion
1 cup small-diced celery
1/2 cup small-diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup small-diced yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers, drained and chopped
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (recommended: Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons crab boil seasoning (recommended: Old Bay)
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
Kosher salt and pepper
Lemon (optional)

Place 2 tablespoons of butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, capers, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, crab boil seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a medium saute pan over medium-low heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Flake the chilled salmon into a large bowl. Add the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. Add the vegetable mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Scoop into desired size and shape into patties. (I used a 1/4 measuring cup and made 10 good-sized patties)

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. In batches, add the salmon cakes and fry for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, until browned. Place on paper towel lined plate, sprinkle with kosher salt. Serve with lemon wedges. 

Recipe adapted from

Audy's Pineapple Fried Rice by Amy Cantu

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My dad’s fried rice is a potluck legend - it arrives onto the table and not five minutes later, it disappears. It doesn’t matter how much he makes, the Pineapple Fried Rice never makes it back home for leftovers. So, count yourself lucky that he’s finally sharing his recipe here!

Notes: Using a non-stick pan or well-seasoned wok will prevent the rice from sticking to the pan. Otherwise, expect a bit of a crust to form on the bottom of your pan, and be OK with a little soaking and elbow grease. If you don’t have a pan roomy enough for a full batch of fried rice (without worrying about rice and pineapple being flung out) fry the rice in two batches. If you overcrowd the pan, the rice will steam and will not cook properly. Not to mention, you’ll have a big mess around the stove!

My dad likes to serve his Pineapple Fried Rice in a hollowed out pineapple. Slice a whole pineapple in half lengthwise, leaving the leafy top attached to one half. Carefully use a knife to carve out slices of the pineapple to hollow out the pineapple half. You now have a festive bowl for your Pineapple Fried Rice! You will have more pineapple than is needed for the recipe - reserve the extra, chill, and serve as a refreshing dessert or snack for later.

For the rice: Day-old rice is ideal, so that it is a little dry and won’t get mushy during the frying process. About 2 cups of uncooked rice should yield 4 cups of cooked rice. If you don’t have day-old rice, spread freshly cooked rice onto a sheet pan or tray and let cool for 5 minutes before proceeding with the recipe. Don’t try to use rice that’s been cooled to room temperature in a covered bowl (there’s too much moisture), but not been refrigerated for at least 12 hours - you’ll end up with weird, goopy rice. Serious Eats recently had a good article about this. Jasmine rice is the preferred rice for Thai fried rice - it’s a fragrant, medium grain rice that will give this dish an authentic flair. You could also substitute medium grain Chinese rice or Japanese rice, but it won’t be quite the same.

Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4-5

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ onion, diced fine
1 shallot, diced fine
1-2 Thai bird’s eye chilies or serrano chilies, diced fine (optional)
2 plum tomatoes, diced with juices reserved
4 cups cooked Jasmine rice (see note above)
1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ cup red bell pepper, finely diced
1 ½ cups fresh pineapple, small dice
1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce
2 eggs
¼ cup green onions, sliced
¼ cup cilantro, including stems
⅓ cup cashews, roasted
Sliced cucumber, tomatoes, and limes for garnish (optional)

Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan or wok over high heat. (If you do not have a large saute pan or wok, divide ingredients in half and make two batches.)

Add shallot and onion to the hot pan and saute for 1 minute. Stir in the chilies and tomato with juices, until saucy and well combined. Add red bell pepper and toss to combine. Add rice and continue to stir and toss for 2 minutes. Add shrimp, continuing to stir for 1 minute.

Make a well into the center of the rice mixture, crack two eggs into the well and scramble lightly. Stir scrambled eggs into rice. Add pineapple, season with fish sauce and salt to taste. Add green onions, cilantro and cashews. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with fresh slices of cucumber and tomatoes on the side. Serve immediately.

Audy's Tom Yum Soup by Amy Cantu

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When I told my sister that we were going to feature some of our dad’s Thai home-cooking on the blog, she enthusiastically said, “Oh Dad makes the BEST tom yum soup!” I think she’s right. I’m hard-pressed to find a better one at any Thai restaurant - with generous pieces of fish, shrimp, and scallops (my favorite). The key to his soup is making sure to get the right balance of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy - you really do need to taste the soup and adjust the seasonings so that they equally satisfy all four senses. Limes vary in size, acidity and sweetness - so use your tastebuds as your guide and the listed amounts in the recipe as suggestions.

Notes: Thai soups are fragrant and spicy from all the fresh aromatic herbs and chilies. There will be large chunks of galangal, lemongrass, and lime leaves in the final soup that are not meant to be eaten, but are there to flavor the soup. You can fish them out before you serve, or do as the Thais do, and just eat around them. Lemongrass, lime leaves (a.k.a. makrut or kaffir lime leaves), and galangal can be found in the produce section of most Asian supermarkets and some well-stocked grocery stores. If you cannot find lemongrass or kaffir lime leaves, you can substitute strips of lime or lemon zest. You can also substitute ginger for the galangal. It will not have same flavor, but the soup will still taste good. Thai fish sauce or nam pla, can also be found in Asian supermarkets or in the Asian section of a well-stocked grocery store.

My dad uses scallops, salmon, and shrimp for the seafood in this soup. You can use any combination of seafood (mussels and other firm-fleshed fish work well) or substitute cut-up chicken.

Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4-5 generously

¼ cup cilantro (with stems), finely chopped
1-2 fresh Thai bird chilies or serrano chilies, finely diced
1-2 limes, juiced
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla), add more or less to taste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 quart chicken stock
2 cups water
1 inch piece of galangal, sliced into ⅛” pieces
4 makrut lime leaves
2 stalks of lemongrass, cut into 2" lengths
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1” dice
1 shallot, cut into 1” dice
½ pound white button mushrooms, sliced into ½” pieces (about 2 cups)
½ pound salmon, cut into 2” pieces
½ pound sea scallops
½ pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Combine cilantro, finely diced chilies, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar into a serving bowl and reserve. Remove outer layer of lemongrass stalk and cut stalk into 2-inch lengths. Using the butt of a kitchen knife, pound and bruise stalks all over.

Pour stock and water into a large pot, add galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and sliced lemongrass; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add onion and shallots and simmer for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and simmer for 3 more minutes. Add salmon, simmer for 1 minute. Add scallops and simmer for 1 minute. Add shrimp and simmer for 1 minute or until just pink and no longer translucent. (Seafood will continue to cook in the hot broth after removing from heat.)

Ladle into serving bowl containing chili and cilantro mixture, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust lime juice (sour), fish sauce (salty), sugar (sweet), and chilies (spicy) as needed. (The soup should taste equally sour, salty, sweet, and spicy.) Serve immediately.

Mussels with Tomato and Fennel by Amy Cantu

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Mussels with Tomato and Fennel

Notes: Rinse mussels well under cold water, scrubbing if needed.  Pull out any beards by grabbing them and pulling towards the hinge-end of the mussels. (The beards look like little hairs poking out from between the shells.) Throw out any cracked mussels or open mussels that don't close when tapped with another mussel.

Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed, and finely chopped
4 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tomato, small dice
1 teaspoon kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon table salt)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
2 pounds mussels (see note above)
3 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
1 tablespoon juice and 1 teaspoon grated zest from 1 lemon
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 baguette, sliced and lightly toasted

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion, fennel, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until vegetables begin to soften (about 5 minutes). Add tomatoes and continue to cook until all vegetables are soft but not browned, about 5 minutes more.

Increase heat to high and add wine. Bring to a boil and let reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Add mussels, stir, cover, and cook, shaking pan constantly and peeking every 30 seconds to stir. As soon as all the mussels are open, transfer mussels to a bowl using tongs. Place pan lid over bowl to keep mussels warm.

Remove from heat and whisk in heavy cream. Return mussels to pot, add parsley, lemon juice, and lemon zest, stir to combine, then transfer to a warm serving bowl. Serve immediately with crusty bread.