more hot stuff: bonus recipe!

For those of you who’d like some homemade kimchee to go with Linda Sue Park’s recipe for bee-bim bop, here’s my mom’s recipe for cucumber kimchee. I always look forward to having some when I visit my family in Hawai’i. Thanks, Margaret — you’re the best Korean cook!

KOREAN CUCUMBER KIMCHEE

 

4-5 cucumbers (preferably Japanese cucumbers, which are smaller and crunchier)
about 1/4 cup kosher salt or Hawaiian sea salt/coarse
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
15 stalks chives, cut into 1/8″ lengths (do not chop)
1 T chili garlic sauce (can be found in Asian markets)
1 T ground Korean red pepper (dried)
sugar

1. Wash unpeeled cucumbers. Cut off ends and cut into 3/4″ bite-size quarter chunks.

2. Place in bowl and spread sea salt lightly. Toss and stir to distribute salt. Allow to sit about 1/2 hour. Rinse cucumbers in cold water and taste. If too salty, rinse cucumbers again in cold water. Drain in colander.

3. In mixing bowl, combine red pepper, dash of sugar, chili garlic sauce, garlic, ginger and chives. Add cucumbers and mix. Refrigerate. Ready to eat same day or several days later.

 

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hot stuff: linda sue park!

Call out the fire department!

We’re serving up some hot stuff for the last course in our Asian Pacific Heritage Month potluck, courtesy of 2002 Newbery Award winner, Linda Sue Park!

Her newest book, Keeping Score (Clarion, 2008), is a warm, captivating, insightful, and sometimes heart-wrenching historical novel set in the 50’s, featuring 9-year-old Maggie Fortini, baseball lover to the core.

No, you don’t have to like or even know much about baseball to love this book. A few paragraphs in, and you’ll find yourself rooting for Maggie-o, as her dad calls her (after his favorite Yankees’ player, Joe DiMaggio). Like everyone else in the neighborhood (except her father and newfound friend, Jim, a firefighter like her dad), Maggie is a huge Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Her loyalty and perseverance are unwavering, as is her fierce determination to make things right. She is heartbroken when her team loses again and again, despite everything she’s done to “help” them, like praying really hard and keeping score for every game.

Jim’s the one who taught Maggie to keep score, and their special bond adds another dramatic layer to the story, since Jim is drafted, sent to Korea, and then stops writing to Maggie after awhile. This prompts her to learn more about the war, but it doesn’t allay her disappointment or uncertainty — a lot to cope with, especially for a girl who takes everything to heart, and ultimately feels responsible for things beyond her control. What happened to Jim in Korea? Can she help make him better? Will the Dodgers ever win the World Series? Much as she wants that, she’d be willing to let the Giants win if it would help Jim.

Keeping Score is superbly crafted, another example of Linda Sue’s masterful storytelling. I don’t think I’ve ever read a finer portrayal of what it really means to be a true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool fan. Maggie-o is as pure as they come. And I learned some new things about baseball, the Korean War, and hope. 

Today, Linda Sue is sharing her recipe for Korean bee-bim bop (rice topped with vegetables and meat). It is included in her picture book, Bee-Bim Bop (Clarion, 2005), which is a delightful read aloud written in verse, about a child helping her mother make the dish.

Linda Sue: “There are as many versions of bee-bim bop as there are families who cook it. This recipe is one that we make at home . . . Mung bean sprouts, sesame seeds, kochee-chang, and kimchee are available at many large supermarkets as well as Asian grocery stores.”

BEE-BIM BOP
(serves 4)



2 cups white rice

Marinade

2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 green onions (scallions)
5 T soy sauce
2 T sugar
2 T vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame seeds, roasted (optional)
1 T sesame oil (optional)
1/8 tsp black pepper

Meat

1 lb. tender, lean beef (such as sirloin tip)

Vegetables

2 carrots
2 pkgs. frozen spinach, defrosted, or 1 lb. fresh spinach, washed
1 lb mung bean sprouts

Other ingredients

4 eggs
salt and pepper
vegetable oil for frying

1. Cook rice with 4 cups water, either in a rice cooker or pot. If using a pot, let the water boil, then lower the heat, cover and let simmer for 20-30 minutes until the rice is tender and all of the water has been absorbed.

2. Mince the garlic and chop the green onions. Mix all the marinade ingredients in a big bowl.

3. Slice the beef across the grain into very, very thin slices. Put the beef into the bowl with the marinade. Stir well with a big spoon. Wash your hands. Then stick your hands into the bowl, grab handfuls of beef, and squish all of it around for 2-3 minutes (to make it tender). Set beef aside.

4. Beat the eggs with a fork until the whites and yolks are completely mixed together.

5. Coat a nonstick frying pan with 1 tsp. of vegetable oil and heat on medium for about a minute. Pour about 1/4 of the egg, and rotate the pan quickly so the egg spreads out in a thin layer on the bottom. After a minute, flip the egg using a wide spatula, and cook another minute. Cook the rest of the egg this way until you have about 4 thin pancakes.

6. When the pancakes are cool enough to handle, stack them on top of each other and roll the stack tightly. Cut the roll into 1/4-inch slices. Toss the slices in a medium size bowl, then set aside.

7. Julienne the carrots and fry them in about 1 T of vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok over a high flame until tender. Set aside.

8. If you are using frozen spinach, thaw, then squeeze some of the water out of it. If you are using fresh spinach, cook in a pot of boiling water for about 2 minutes, drain, let cool for a few minutes, then squeeze some water out. Stir fry thawed or precooked spinach in 1 T of vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes until tender. Empty the spinach into a bowl, season with salt and pepper, then set aside.

9. Pour 1 cup water into a large saucepan, add 1/4 tsp salt, bring to a boil. Add bean sprouts, cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain the sprouts and empty them into a bowl.

10. Cook the beef with marinade in a large frying pan over high heat, about 2-3 minutes.

To serve:

Put the rice, bowl of egg strips and vegetables, and the pan of meat where everyone can reach them. Each person puts a pile of rice in the middle of a soup bowl or plate and some meat and vegetables on top. Top with egg ribbons. If you like spicy food, add some ko-chee-chang (hot pepper paste). Now mix everything together. Serve with kimchee* on the side if you wish.

(Adapted from the printed recipe found in the book, which contains directions for a child to help an adult.)

For more about Linda Sue and her books, visit her website and blog.

On Keeping Score:

New interview and review at papertigers.org.

Original essay by Linda Sue at Powells Books.

Book excerpt at Amazon.com.

**for some yummy kimchee, click here!

something sweet from cynthia chin-lee

I see you’re back again, with that hungry look on your face.

After wontons, Chinese chicken salad, bay scallops with lemon sauce, and masoor dalCynthia Chin-Lee has brought something sweet for our Asian Pacific American Heritage Month potluck!

 One of the “Best 100 American Children’s Books of the Century” (Ruminator Review)

You may have noticed that I love soup — and cookies — and the alphabet. Cynthia Chin-Lee may just be the author of my dreams. Four out of her fivepicture books feature the alphabet. These are not baby portions, but ones that offer more substantial servings for sophisticated readers 9 and up, such as A is for Asia (Orchard,1997), A is for the Americas (Orchard, 1999), Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World (Charlesbridge, 2005), and Akira to Zoltan: Twenty-Six Men Who Changed the World (Charlesbridge, 2006).

In Amelia to Zora and Akira to Zoltan, we meet 26 courageous visionaries in each book, some well known and others not so well known, from many different professions, such as scientists, political leaders, writers, architects, doctors and performing artists, who have made a difference in the 20th century. I like the diversity of cultures and ethnicities represented, and the fact that the profiles are alphabetized according to the first names of the honorees, giving them a familiarity that will appeal to children.

Each page features an enticing profile that will whet the appetite for further study, an inspiring quote, and a brilliant mixed media collage (whimsical, literally cutting edge, and very very cool), created from elements appropriate to each subject by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy. Especially appealing are the childhood anecdotes included in each juicy capsule. Akira to Zoltan focuses on peacemakers such as Gandhi, Langston Hughes, Octavio Paz, and Nelson Mandela. Some of the strong, imaginative, and innovative women include Kristi Yamaguchi, Yoshika Uchida, Grace Hopper, and Dolores Huerta.

This is one alphabet that is sure to inspire and delight. And thanks to Cynthia, we have something delish to munch on while enjoying her books. In 1993, Polychrome Publishing brought out Cynthia’s first picture book, Almond Cookies and Dragon Well Tea, illustrated by You Shan Tang. In this story, Erica visits Nancy, her Chinese American friend, for the first time. Erica is a little shy and apprehensive about what Nancy’s home will be like, but as soon as Nancy’s grandmother serves homemade almond cookies and special tea, Erica warms right up! 

Maybe you’d like to serve these cookies to your guests, if there are any left after you’ve tasted them! Mmmmm almond extract!

GRANDMA WONG’S ALMOND COOKIES
(makes about 48 cookies)

2-3/4 cups flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup shortening (lard, margarine, butter, or Crisco)
1 egg
whole almonds, sliced
red and yellow food coloring

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda and salt together. Add shortening, egg, almond extract and food coloring into mixture. Color should be orange-yellow. Mix into a smooth dough.

3. Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Set about 2 inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Flatten ball with palm of hand and place an almond slice in center of each cookie.

4. Bake for 15-18 minutes.

Visit Cynthia’s website, or read a fab interview at papertigers.org!

presidential potluck with mitali perkins

Friends, can you smell that positively divine aroma of fresh ginger, turmeric, cumin, chilies, and mustard emanating from your computer screen? 

 

Thanks to First Daughter Sameera “Sparrow” Righton and her creator, Mitali Perkins, we can enjoy some authentic Indian food at our Asian Pacific American Heritage Month potluck today!

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to don my salwar kameez and bhangra around the kitchen. I just read the first two books in Mitali’s First Daughter series, First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover, and First Daughter: White House Rules (Dutton, 2007, 2008). Loved them.

I admit I didn’t know quite what to expect. I had enjoyed The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen and Monsoon Summer. Positively adored Rickshaw Girl, which, as you probably know, has received loads of well deserved accolades, the latest of which is the 2008 Jane Addams Honor Award.

In 16-year-old Sparrow, I found a highly intelligent, compassionate, resourceful humanitarian, who just happens to be the President’s adopted daughter. In Extreme American Makeover, we see how Sparrow’s strong sense of self prevails, despite a physical makeover and attempts to “Americanize” the Pakistani heritage out of her while her dad is running for office.

Once her dad wins the election, they move into the White House, where things get even more interesting. In the second book, we see just how many of the White House “rules” Sparrow adheres to, as she interacts with her cousin Miranda, plays Cupid for her mom’s personal assistant, hangs with her SARSA friends at the Revolutionary Cafe, longs for her soulmate, Bobby, deepens her friendship with not-so-privileged Mariam, and of course, continues to blog. Despite the restrictions of a high profile lifestyle, somehow Sparrow manages to stay true to herself and positively affect those around her.

And how about those oatmeal scotchies! We first tasted them in Extreme American Makeover, but in White House Rules, these frosted wonders take on a life of their own. After the Swedish Ambassador raves about them, they become a staple at White House teas, enabling Miranda to earn some needed funds. Never underestimate the value of farm fresh milk! All I know is, I MUST make those cookies. Good thing Mitali has linked to some scotchies recipes here.

Speaking of recipes, Mitali has brought a childhood favorite today. She says, “We used to eat this almost every day when I was growing up. I LOVED it as a kid, mixed with steaming basmati rice and a side of hot mango pickle, and still do!”

So go ahead, whip this up. You know you want to. And while it’s simmering, peek into the White House to see what Sparrow is up to. I want her there come November.

BENGAL RED LENTILS (MASOOR DAL)

 

1-1/2 cups red lentils
3-1/2 cups water
6 sliced serrano chilies
1/4 tsp turmeric
1-1/2 tsp salt
4 T vegetable oil
1 cup minced onions
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 T grated fresh ginger
1 T panch phanon mix (equal proportions of whole cumin, fenugreek, anise, mustard, and Indian black onion seeds mixed and sold as one spice; you’ll need to get this at an Indian store and it’s called “five spice mix”)
4 dried small red chilies (depending on how spicy you want it)
3 cloves crushed garlic

1. Rinse lentils well, add water, serrano chilies, turmeric and salt. Bring carefully to boil and cook over low to medium heat, partially covered, for 25 minutes. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Adjust salt.

2. While lentils are cooking, cook onions in a frying pan in two tablespoons of oil until they are golden brown (approximately 10 minutes), stirring constantly. Add tomatoes and ginger and continue cooking until the tomatoes turn into a delicious and fragrant mush (approximately 8 minutes). Stir constantly so that tomato mixture doesn’t stick. Turn heat to low if necessary.

3. Scrape out the tomato mixture into the lentils and stir it in. Let lentils sit while you make the spiced oil.

4. Do a quick rinse of the frying pan, without soap, and dry thoroughly. Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil and heat over medium high heat. When oil is hot add panch phanon mix and heat until the seeds begin to pop, about 15 seconds. Add red chilies and fry for another 15 seconds, until they turn a little darker. Turn off heat and add the crushed garlic and let sizzle for about 30 seconds. Stir this mixture into the lentil/tomato mixture and serve with rice. Adjust salt.

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the perfect blend from lensey namioka

It’s time for the second course in our Asian Pacific American Heritage Month potluck!

Last week, Lisa Yee tempted us with her won ton appetizers, but she wouldn’t share Colin Firth. This has left me hungrier than ever. How about you?

I’ve been a Lensey Namioka fan since the early 90’s, when I read the first book in her Yang family series for middle grade readers, Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear (Yearling,1994). I found the story of 9-year-old Yingtao, the only one of four siblings who is not musically inclined, warm and captivating, and it provided something relatively rare in books featuring Asian characters back then — humor. 

I was ecstatic when Lensey followed up with three more books spotlighting Yingtao’s sisters, Yingmei and Yinglang, and his older brother, Yingwu. Each sibling, with his/her respective personal, social, and cultural challenges, is lovingly depicted in Lensey’s engaging and refreshingly simple prose.

Lensey’s most recent book is a young adult novel called Mismatch (Delacorte, 2006), which I devoured over the weekend. Fifteen-year-old Sue Hua, a Chinese American girl whose family moves from culturally diverse Seattle to a mostly white suburb, falls for Andy Suzuki, who plays violin in the school orchestra. They are seen as an ideal couple since they are both Asian, but this is just one of many misconceptions that are examined and dispelled in the course of the novel.

 

Sue’s grandmother has painful memories of the Japanese occupation of China during WWII. Andy’s father harbors resentment over ill treatment he received on a visit to Beijing. What I found especially enlightening about this story is that it moves beyond familial disapproval of Sue and Andy’s relationship, to questions of personal identity and reverse prejudice. When Sue and Andy go to Japan on a school orchestra trip, questions of ethnicity are deepened as they interact with their host families.  

Lensey herself was born in Beijing, and could not speak English when her family moved to the U.S. at age nine, so she knows well the problems of cultural assimilation. She attended Radcliffe and UC Berkeley, and majored in mathematics, but decided she liked writing better. After marrying Isaac Namioka, a fellow mathematician, she visited Japan and became interested in the culture (she has written a series of samurai adventure mysteries set in 16th century Japan).

Mismatch beautifully weaves together Lensey’s wisdom and understanding of both Japanese and Chinese mores. The intercultural and intergenerational dynamics make for a fascinating and often surprising read.

I was nervous emailing Lensey, since I’ve admired her for so long, but discovered she is the generous, unassuming person I hoped she would be. She was busy packing for a trip to Europe, but took the time to send a favorite childhood recipe. She says, “The amounts of the ingredients are all approximate, since my mother didn’t have a recipe, and I just learned from watching her make the dish.”

I made this Sunday night, and found it to be easy, light, healthy and delish. Since tastes differ, I advise adding the soy sauce gradually until desired saltiness is achieved.

CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD

 

2 cups cooked chicken meat (can be boiled or microwaved), torn into shreds, about 1/4-inch thick
1/4 cup (or less) soy sauce
3 T sesame oil
2 stalks scallions, cut into slivers about 1 inch long
slivers of celery and cucumber, 1 inch long (optional)

Mix together all ingredients and serve cold.

 

For more about Lensey and her books, visit her website. There is also a nice feature about her at papertigers.org.