Nov 1, 2005

Easy Recipes You Must Know to Eat Well and Impress Your Friends, Part II

Sweet & Sour Asian Stew

Here’s a so-easy, so-scrumptious, always impressive Asian stew that can become a staple quickie meal for you and your lucky loved ones. Known as buta-no-kakuni in Japan, the secret to this recipe is that you need to keep a few items on hand all the time—items you might not always have in your pantry. (I do because I am a confessed foodie--I buy toasted sesame oil and mirin by the gallon!). Make sure you have fresh ginger root, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and sweet rice wine, for instance, and you can do amazing things with them.

1/3 cup Soy Sauce (shoyu) Do NOT use that pathetic watered down stuff that's advertised as "low sodium" soy sauce. What a crock! It's just soy sauce with water added—and for the same price. Buy regular soy sauce and add your own water, or simply use less soy sauce.

2/3 cup Water—more if needed

2/3 cup Mirin (if you don’t have mirin sweet rice cooking wine, you can substitute an equal amount of Sake plus a tablespoon of sugar)

2 or 3 tablespoons Rice Vinegar (Do not substitute another kind of vinegar—this must be rice vinegar! Rice vinegar is great to have around—it turns regular short-grained rice into sushi rice. It makes a lovely, light salad dressing all by itself—especially good with tomatoes and/or cucumbers. Rice vinegar RULES!)

6 slices Ginger Root (peeled or unpeeled—doesn’t really matter)

6 cloves Garlic, crushed

2 to 3 pounds of Chicken Thighs or Pork Chops. Be sure to choose meat WITH bones—meat is always more tender and juicy if cooked with bones. Boneless meat cooked in stews can become dry and stringy. Bones RULE! You could also make this dish vegetarian by using 1” cubes of Tempeh or Firm Tofu. If you opt for tempeh or tofu, add a tablespoon of sesame oil or vegetable oil.

2 or 3 cups Vegetables of your choice, cut in bite-sized pieces: Carrots, Mushrooms, Green Beans, Potatoes, etc.

Here’s the easy part: Throw everything in a sturdy pot. Let simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking. Pick out the ginger pieces and any bones, and then serve over white rice. Ladle the delightful gravy onto the rice too. Accept praise and admiration for your gourmet cooking efforts graciously, without divulging the secret that this recipe was obscenely easy to concoct.

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