Prep 20 mins Eat 20 mins
To lighten up our meals after the holidays, our mission at this cooking class was to learn how to use some fresh authentic Asian ingredients that we purchased at the Asian Superstore. While we all eat Asian food at restaurants, seeing the raw ingredients and working with them was a new adventure.
After eating them in Little Saigon, we were all interested to make the Vietnamese Spring Rolls ourselves. With rice paper wrappers in hand, the team of Karen, Georgia and Ina assembled their ingredients before beginning the production line of rolling up the spring rolls. Georgia got to work on the sauce made of sake, orange juice and sweet chile sauce.
We had small shrimp, avocado, cellophane noodles (or bean threads), carrot, cucumber, bean sprout, Chinese chives and mint leaves to roll inside our rice paper wrappers. The team made it look really easy and the Spring rolls were fresh and delicious, especially when dipped in the sweet tangy sauce. We all agreed that once you got the hang of it, you could make these spring rolls with many possible ingredients, including fried wontons which would add a nice crunch.
One of my favorite dishes was the fresh Red Snapper we bought at the Asian Superstore…so fresh that the fish looked like it swam right into the store. The team of Lucy and Mike sailed through the task of making up the red curry sauce and prepping the bed of cabbage and carrots for the presentation. Since the fish was still on the bone, serving it up is a little tricky to separate the meat from the bone, but after awhile we had this well under control.
The sister team of Susan and Pam mastered the Pad Thai noodles – a staple in every Thai household. Using Thai ingredients like tamarind paste, palm sugar, Thai fish sauce and rice stick noodles, they put this dish together without delay. Since we were serving a large crowd, we used a paella pan to give us a larger surface area in which to cook the ingredients quickly.
Our young cooks Hannah and Emily were busy playing with shredding the green papaya in the Cuisinart for the green papaya salad and laughing a lot. They had been busy making us up Thai Iced Tea with freshly brewed Thai tea, evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, sugar and lots of ice, which was very refreshing.
We were amazed to see that the center of the green papaya was hollow when you cut it open – it is definitely very different from the sweet red papaya from Hawaii. The girls were hesitant to add more than one chile into our large salad fearing for the worst, but I learned that if you are going to eat the Green Papaya Salad, you have to commit to a little heat – that’s what makes it tasty. The green papaya takes on the flavors in the dressing: the fish sauce, lime, tamarind, palm sugar and the heat from the chile. In a restaurant I have to order it mild, because it is always way too spicy otherwise. Top it with peanuts – lots of peanuts and fresh chopped herbs like mint or thai basil.
To finish our light Asian meal, the team of Tracy and Marie made us some Mango Sticky Rice. This was absolutely delicious particularly with the simple coconut sauce that added sweetness without feeling like you robbed the calorie bank. The sticky rice is made with a sweet rice or “glutinous rice”. It is still gluten free, but the difference between sweet rice and savory rice is it’s sticky properties that make it perfect for this dessert. Adding in the coconut sauce makes the dish into a custardy delight.
I was thrilled with the results of our Asian Cooking Class. Everyone did such an amazing job preparing the dishes and we accomplished our goal of eating light without scrimping on taste.
Green Papaya Salad
This recipe is adapted from the Southeast Asian Flavors Cookbook by Robert Danhi.
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 to 4 Thai bird chiles, stems removed
- 2 Tbs tamarind paste
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 4 Tbs fish sauce
- 3 Tbs palm sugar or brown sugar
- 4 cups green papaya (about one medium papaya)
- 1 cup long beans (cut in 2″ lengths) or other green beans
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup peanuts, roughly chopped
- 1/2 head leaf lettuce
- 1 Tbs thai basil and mint for garnish
1. Make dressing: In mini-food processor, combine, garlic and chilies together and spin to rough chop. Add tamarind, lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar. Process until all ingredients are combined.
2. Peel and cut open green papaya. Shred the papaya in a food processor. Place into a large wooden bowl. Add in beans, tomatoes and pound the ingredients with a mallet to release flavors.
3. Toss salad with dressing and half the peanuts. Serve on a bed of leaf lettuce, Top with more peanuts and garnish with thai basil and mint.
Makes 4-6 servings.