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Cooking From the Heart

by: Sami and yang, Sheng Scripter

Minneapolis MN: University of Minnesota Press 2009, $29.95, Hardbound
ISBN: 978-0-8166-5326-3

Reviewed by: Jacqueline M. Newman
Winter Volume: 2009 Issue: 16(4) page(s): 23 and 24

Subtitled: The Hmong Kitchen in America, try the more than one hundred recipes and enjoy this volume about this ethnic minority population. Read, taste, and experience their immigrant food experiences.

Many of the recipes, passed down from mother to daughter, are gems. Find out about them, their kitchens, meals, medicine, and major life-cycle events. Begin with their everyday rice, sticky rice, purple rice, pounded rice, rice rolls and rice cakes, and their porridge and corn pancakes. Move on to their vegetables and herbs and read about and make their boiled and steamed vegetables, stuffed ones, hot and cold ones, and their pickles, sauces, and condiments.

Then try the chicken soups and other poultry dishes, as well as those of pork, beef and water buffalo, fish and game, and their beverages and desserts. Almost every recipe is titled in English and Hmong, and starts with a paragraph or more about cultural use and cooking information.

We love the Coconut Lemon Chicken Soup made with chayote squash, the Cabbage with Pork Sausage, and both versions of Cracked Crab. And though Beef Stew with Banana Blossoms and Eggplants might be made with water buffalo in China or Laos, the recipe for this dish made with beef including its tendon, is one my husband adores. He will love the fried pork rinds, too. This recipe makes twelve servings, and making a party when preparing it is a great idea, keeping it and eating it on many consecutive days, is a party in and of itself.
Beef Stew with Banana Blossoms and Eggplant
3 cups sticky rice, soaked for two or more hours in four quarts of warm water
4 pounds beef or buffalo, leg meat with tendons
4 teaspoons salt
2 stalks lemon grass, cut into three-inch sections
2 or three eggplants, sliced
12 Thai eggplants, sliced
2 ounces dried black fungus, soaked, then rinsed and chopped, and soaked for half an hour
2 pounds green beans, stems removed
2 banana blossoms, separate the petals and discarding the tough outer ones
1 bunch scallions, root ends removed, and cut into two-inch pieces
1 bunch fresh dill, coarsely chopped
1 bunch fresh coriander, coarsely chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves (also called saw-leaf herb), coarsely chopped
1 bunch Thai basil, coarsely chopped
1 and 1/2 ounces fried pork rinds
1. Blend soaked rice and water until completely pureed, then set aside.
2. Use half the salt, and sprinkle over the meat, then broil it in a 450 degree F oven for fifteen to twenty minutes, remove from the oven and allow to cool.
3. Cut the meat into one-quarter-inch pieces and set aside.
4. Bring four quarts of water to the boil, add the lemon grass, and simmer for one hour, then discard the lemon grass pieces.
5. Toss the sliced eggplants with the half-teaspoon salt and two cups of water, and set aside.
6. Add meat, drained black fungus, and all the chopped greens and the green beans, and the salt. Stir, then simmer for until the green beans are cooked. When they are, add pureed rice and stir.
7. Pour into a soup tureen or individual bowls, add pork rinds, and serve.

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