Everything is fusion right now. I half expect to find fried chicken, sun-dried tomatoes, and sauerkraut wrapped in nori and served with curry dipping sauce at my local deli the next time I visit. Now, I'm not saying that some fusion isn't absolutely brilliant -- tuna carpaccio, anyone?-- but often times it is a little, um, overboard.
That being said, I'm as guilty as the next person in my own kitchen. Take tonight's dinner -- including left over spices from the Larb (Thai), a chunk of pork sirloin, soba noodles (Japanese), fish sauce (Vietnamese), pickled ginger (Korean), eggplant (Italian), and sweet onion (Texas).
This mix of ingredients aren't traditional and neither is my cooking technique, but I think I managed to create something worth eating -- even if it is the dreaded F-word. However, the warning still stands: cook bravely, but fuse lightly. Good luck!
Asian Fusion Stir Fry, with Soba Noodles - serves 4-5
--1 lb of pork sirloin, cut into cubes
--1/2 cup of marinade (pickled ginger with some of its juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, rooster sauce, rice vinegar, soybean paste*, and garlic combined in whatever ratio is most appealing to you)
--pot of boiling, lightly salted water
--10 oz package of soba noodles (I used TJ's whole wheat, organic)
--2 tablespoons of soy sauce
--splash of sesame oil
--splash of rice wine vinegar
--1/2 sweet onion, roughly chopped
--2 cloves garlic, chopped
--1/2 1b eggplant, cut into thick matchsticks. (I used tiny eggplants that did not need prepping. However, if you use big eggplants, slice them and salt both sides to allow the bitter juices to be drawn out -- should take 20 or so minutes. Then wipe clean and cut.)
--2 stalks of lemongrass, cut into 2 inch pieces
-- 2 cups of baby bok choy, chopped into big pieces
--1 cup of chinese cabbage, chopped into big pieces
--1/3 cup loosely packed, finely diced herbs (cilantro, basil, mint, or kaffir lime leaves -- don't use all of these, pick two at most)
1) Place the cubed pork into the marinade about an hour before you plan to start cooking, stir occasionally during that hour.
2) When you are ready to get started, put the pot of water on to boil. By the time you need it, it will be boiling.
3) Heat a large wok on high for about 90 seconds and then add the soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar.
4) Add the garlic, onions, lemongrass, and eggplant to the wok. Stir until the vegetables barely begin to brown (probably 2-3 minutes at most).
5) Add the cubed pork with its marinade to the wok. Stir until the meat is mostly cooked through (3-5 minutes, make sure the meat is not pink).
6) While the meat is cooking, drop the soba noodles into the boiling water (they are supposed to cook for about 5 minutes)
7) Add the bok choy and the cabbage to the wok. Stir for a minute.
8) Turn off the heat. Put the chopped herbs into the wok, stir to distribute the herbs throughout the dish. If your wok has liquid in the bottom of it, either pour it off and save it to use in another dish or leave it in the bottom to garnish this stir fry)
Put approximately 2 oz. of soba noodles in the bottom a large bowl. Top with a portion of the stir fry. Pour a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid over the top (optional).
Eat, preferably with chopsticks . The herbs should be fragrant, the cabbage and bok choy crunchy, the pork tender, the broth a little spicy, and the noodles toothsome. I recommend avoiding the lemongrass pieces, they were cut into long lengths for just this reason.
Note: The leftover stir fry (with noodles included) made wonderful soup the next day. I just added the stirfry to a pot with a dash of chicken broth and a 1/2 can of light coconut milk. Delish.
* Soybean paste is a new and wonderful discovery for me. D and I found this bottle during a 3 hour shopping spree in a giant Vietnamese market a few months ago. The funny thing is, we always (incorrectly) refer to it as "Lucky Boy," and we always (incorrectly) repeat its claim, every time we use it, that "it makes good food better."
And, its instruction, is in fact, to "add a few drops to all dishes to improve instantly the flavor of good foods."
Even though we get the name and the claim wrong consistently, we still love this stuff. And, whatever you call it, it is a delicious and complex addition to Asian soups, stir fries, and salad dressings. If you see a bottle, pick one up and give it a try.
Pictures of the process:
Pork marinating -- with all of the ingredients of the marinade (except the Healthy Boy) in the background. From left: pickled ginger, fish sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and rooster sauce.
Lightly browned onions, eggplants, and lemongrass.