Lesson 68: Asian Breads, Soups, & Condiments

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

When I think of "fresh baked bread", I definitely don't think of Asian cuisine. When I saw bread on today's Asian menu I was a bit skeptical, yet curious to try out a new baking technique. As soon as I reviewed the recipes, I realized we would not be using an oven for the "baking".

It made sense that in China they would use a quicker technique to cook the bread, such as pan-frying or deep-frying. Like stir-frying, these techniques take less time so that it is more plausible to feed the large population.

We made 2 types of dough today. The first dough consisted of Chapati flour (a very fine whole wheat flour), cake flour, salt, ghee, and water. We rolled the dough out into small, flat circles, sprinkled on some salt and Nigella seed, then seared them on a griddle to cook the Chapati. We used the tiniest rolling pins to roll out the small pieces of dough. I felt like I was baking a cake to pop into my Easy Bake Oven or just forming some pretend food with play-doh. Then I have to remind myself that I am now a professional and I must not get side-tracked into thinking this is all fun and games ;)

We also fried some of the dough circles to form Poori. The poori puffed up in the oil to form a light, airy, flaky bread:

When I took a cooking class in Italy with my sister we made something similar to this except with pizza dough. When we fried the dough "disks" it puffed up just like the Poori. We topped the fried dough with marina, parmesan, and basil. This was quite possibly the best thing I ever ate. I believe I'll have to make it sometime soon.. my mouth is watering thinking about it!

The other dough we made was a Chinese Scallion Bread. This dough was very simple and was made with flour, baking powder, salt, and water. The dough was coated with toasted sesame oil and scallions before it was strategically rolled up and pan-fried. The result was a flaky, layered, sesame-flavored bread:

While our dough was resting, everybody in the class kept busy making different soups and chutneys (because we needed something to dip our bread in!!). I made a miso soup, which was very simple. It started out with a Dashi broth infused with Kombu and Bonito flakes. What are bonito flakes you ask? They're made from Tuna and smell like fish food... not very pleasant! However, once the broth was mixed with miso and some tofu and scallions were added in, it was a delicious Asian soup.

I also made a spicy tomato chutney with tomato concasse, ginger, garlic, jalepenos, spicy Thai peppers, and a spice blend (fennel seed, mustard seed, cumin).

The presentation for our dishes was not as important today, so I didn't take a lot of pictures. We were messily dipping the different breads in all of the chutneys and soup (that were served right from the pot).

The other dishes we made today included Indian Dal Soup, Chinese Hot & Sour Soup, Thai Chicken & Coconut Soup, Chinese Corn Soup, Tamarind Chutney, Coconut Chutney, Mint & Cilantro Chutney, Mango Chutney, and (the only soup I got a picture of) Thai Hot and Sour Soup with Prawns:


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