Gobhi Panch Phoron: Indian and Bangladeshi Spiced Cauliflower

 

This is an ideal light yet abundantly flavorful vegetarian dish to consider when putting together summer meals for family and friends. Traditionally Gobhi Panch Phoron is usually served with yellow rice, a dal, and some pickled vegetables, but this dish also pairs beautifully with a selection of summery western style vegetables, grains, and salads.

A trip to your local spice purveyor may be required, but otherwise the preparation for this dish is a breeze. In no time at all there is a heady aroma of exotic sizzling seeds wafting through the kitchen and brilliant turmeric hued cauliflower florets dancing away in a hot skillet.  This is fun and lively cookery that delivers some light and spicy Indian taste bites that are sure to please!  

Panch Phoron seed mixture is the flavor base for this dish, but the seeds are also rich in vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. Cumin seeds have an earthy flavor and aid in digestion. Anise seeds are aromatic with a slight sweetness. Mustard seeds are hot and pungent. Nigella seeds have a peppery smokey flavor. Fenugreek seeds are aromatic with a slight bitterness. The combined seeds are sizzled together in hot oil that unleashes their flavors and aromas before other ingredients are added to the pan, and sauteed.

 

Make the Panch Phoron seed mixture before you start cooking.

Panch Phoron

  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds (jerra)
  • 2 tsp. anise seeds (saunf)
  • 2 tsp. mustard seeds ( sarson)
  • 2 teaspoons nigella seeds (kalongi)
  • 2 tsp. fenugreek seeds (methi)

Combine the seeds and store in a jar with a tight fitting lid.

 

Gobhi Panch Phoron    serves 4

  • 1 medium size cauliflower, separated into florets
  • 8 oz green beans (optional)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons Panch phoron
  • 3 tablespoons neutral flavored vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 inch knob fresh ginger, peeled, thinly sliced and minced
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled, and minced
  • 1-2 fresh green chilies, seeds removed, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt + more to taste
  • 1/4  to ½ teaspoon red chile flakes
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or butter
  • fresh coriander leaves for garnish

I prefer steaming the cauliflower and green beans separately, both al dente, before proceeding with the cooking for this recipe.

Select a wide skillet or a wok with a lid and set it over medium heat. Add the oil to the pan and when hot add the panch phoron seed mixture. Using a wooden spatula, give the seeds a quick stir and then promptly cover with the lid as the seeds will immediately start sizzling and then popping, the seeds rapidly bouncing off the lid. Once the popping stops remove the lid and add the onions. Lower the heat slightly and saute while stirring until the onions are wilted, about 5 minutes.

Add the ginger, garlic, and green chilies and stir while sauteing another 2 minutes. Add a teaspoon of sea salt and the red chile flakes and stir until well combined.

Add the cauliflower florets and  green beans (if using) and cook while continuously turning the vegetables for about 5 minutes. You will notice the pan drying out so it is important to keep the vegetables moving so they do not burn or stick to the bottom of the pan.

Then add the water and deglaze the pan using the wooden spatula, releasing any bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the contents of the pan are bathed with the deglazed liquid add the ghee (or butter) and fold it into the ingredients until the vegetables are evenly glazed.

Taste and add salt if needed.

Serving:      Spoon the Gobi Panch Phoron into a serving dish, garnish with coriander leaves and serve.

Grilled Chicken and Pineapple Salad withThai Basil Cashew Sauce

Grilled Chicken and Pineapple Salad with Thai Basil Cashew Sauce

 

Here in Thailand fruits are often incorporated into salads as well as to savory dishes.The sweetness of fruit combined with some saltiness, bitterness, and heat from chilies upends the whole idea of what salads are or what they might be.  And don’t limit your fruit choices to just tropical ones.  Summer and fall fruits further north will also shine with a whole new range of flavor bites from Asia.

I have used the Thai Basil Cashew sauce/dressing from my previous post for this salad. This sauce includes the pillars of traditional Thai flavors; sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and bitter. An ideal combination of flavors that  will lighten, spice up, and cool down some of your summer meals wherever you live.

 

Spicy Thai Grilled Chicken and Pineapple Salad with Basil Cashew Dressing      Serves 4

The Thai pineapples I’ve used in this recipe are considerably smaller than those you find in the west. They tend to be very sweet, tender, and much more flavorsome, and well worth seeking out in Asian markets.  They are often sold already prepared and ready for eating too!

Or, do it yourself. See video.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zM12_DHt6v4)

Prepare the Thai basil cashew sauce (see recipe here) and Thai sweet chili sauce in advance.

Ingredients:

  •  2 plump skinless boneless chicken breasts, sliced in half horizontally making 4 fillets, grilled
  • 4 small pineapples, outer skin removed, grilled
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3/4  teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup fine carrot julienne
  • 1 small Chinese cabbage, thinly sliced
  • small head radicchio (or red cabbage)
  • thinly sliced red shallot, sliced into thin rings
  • Thai basil cashew sauce
  • Thai sweet chili sauce (see recipe below) 
  • fresh basil leaves s garnish
  • fresh coriander leaves as garnish
  • ½ cup whole cashews as garnish
  • fresh lime wedges as garnish

Prepare and grill the chicken fillets and pineapples an hour before you intend to assemble the salad.

Combine the oil, lime juice, and salt in a shallow tray and stir to combine. Add the chicken fillets and turn them over several times until they are covered with the marinade and set aside for one hour.

Grilled chicken and Pineapples

Grilled chicken and Pineapples

Fire up the grill or grill pan until very hot. Place the chicken on the grill, or in the grill pan, and grill until the fillets are well marked. Then turn the fillets and grill until well marked on the other side. Then turn the fillets once again placing then at at 45 degrees to create a crisscross grilling markings on the fillets. When marked remove the fillets to a plate and set aside.

Roll the pineapples in the marinade and place them on the grill, or in the grill pan, and grill, turning as needed until they are marked on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Place carrot julienne, Chinese cabbage, sliced radicchio (or red cabbage), and sliced shallots in a medium bowl and toss to combine. The mixture will resemble what we call a slaw in the west. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the salad. 

Serving:

Slice the chicken fillets at a 45 degree angle across the  grain of the meat and set aside.

Cut through the grilled pineapples, making thin rounds, and then cut the rounds  in half, and set aside.

Spoon the Thai sweet chili sauce over the chilled  prepared salad (slaw) and toss until evenly coated.

Set out individual shallow salad plates and mound the dressed salad (slaw) in the center of each plate. Arrange slices of grilled chicken and grilled pineapple slices alternately across the top of the slaw. Garnish with a few sprigs of coriander leaves, and a fresh whole basil leaf. Top the salads with cashews and add a slice of fresh lime to each plate. Serve with a bowl of extra Thai basil cashew sauce on the table.

 

Thai Sweet Chili Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh Thai red chilies, including half of the seeds
  •   1 teaspoon finely chopped small Thai green chilies
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons sea salt + more to taste
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 3/4 cup water + more as needed

Place the red chilies , green chilies, and garlic in a small mortar and grind to a pulp.

Place the sugar, salt, vinegar, and water in a stainless sauce pan. Bring to a boil and stir until the sugar and salt has dissolved. Then add the chilies and garlic mixture  and stir to combine. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by some and the sauce has thickened somewhat.  Taste and add salt if needed. Set aside to cool before serving 


hai Basil Cashew Dressing

Thai Basil Cashew Dressing

 

The combined flavors of sweet, sour, salty, spicy, and bitter is what makes Thai food taste so fresh and irresistible, especially here in the tropics where temperatures really soar during the hot season. There is nothing more refreshing than a sweet, sour, salty and spicy Thai papaya salad (som Tam) or a pomelo salad (yam som O) (click here for recipe) to beat the heat. Thai salads inspire a whole new approach salad making in general.

That said the recipe that follows is for a dressing, or sauce if you will, that uses the five pillars of Thai flavors in an east west vinaigrette. Ideal for fresh greens salads, cold noodles, sates, or even western style “wrap” sandwiches.

 

Thai Basil Cashew Dressing/Sauce     Makes 1 cup

  • 1 cup Thai sweet basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
  • ½ cup raw cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice + more to taste as needed
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla) 
  • 2 teaspoons palm sugar (or light brown sugar)
  • 4 tablespoons light vegetable oil
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped Serrano or jalapeno chilies
  • 3 teaspoons thinly sliced red Thai chilies including seeds
  • ¼ cup fresh coriander leaves

Place the basil leaves, minced garlic, minced shallots, chopped cashews, and 4 tablespoons of lime juice in the work bowl of a food processor.

Place the fish sauce, palm sugar, and a little water in a small pan set over low heat. Heat just until the sugar is melted and then add the mixture to the other ingredients in the food processor. Pulse the processor until the ingredients are broken down, scraping down the sides of the work bowl several times until the mixture resembles a coarse paste. Then, with the processor running add the vegetable oil through the feed tube in a slow steady stream until the mixture is emulsified with an even, somewhat thick texture. Then with the processor running add the salt and the cold water in a slow steady stream through the feed tube until the texture has thinned out somewhat but still stiff.

Add the chopped green serrano or jalapeno chilies, the sliced Thai red chilies, and the coriander leaves to the work bowl. Cover, and pulse several times to just mix those ingredients into the dressing/ sauce without chopping them up.

Stop the processor and taste the sauce and add more salt and/or lime juice if needed.

Transfer the dressing/sauce to a non-reactive container and refrigerate until serving time.

opa de Lima rom the Yucatan

Sopa de Lima rom the Yucatan

This is certainly one of the Yuctan’s most unique contributions to the world of Mexican cuisine. The Mayan version of tortilla soup that includes two unique ingredients from the Yucatan peninsula, citrus limetta (limon dulce) and habanero chilies. Citron Limetta is neither a lemon nor a lime as we know them, but an aromatic mildly tart lemon lime like citrus fruit with a mild tropical aromatic sweetness native to the Yucatan. The habanero chile is considered one of the hottest chilies in the world and the Yucatan’s most important agricultural export. The flavor has a hint of fruitiness as well as a heat delivery that is unrivaled. Alas, both of these ingredients will be hard to find unless you are lucky enough to have a Central American grocer where you live.

Citrus Limetta & Habanero Chile

Citrus Limetta & Habanero Chile

But not to worry, the best substitute for citrus limetta is either using Meyer lemons or Florida Key limes. Their juice  mixed with a dash of Seville orange juice nearly replicates the flavor of citron limetta. In a pinch,  using lemons or limes with a dash of orange juice  will be just fine.

Likewise, the best substitute for the habanero chile is replacing it with 3 or 4 small red Thai thin skinned chiles.

Sopa de Lima is uniquely flavored with spices that have been used in the local cuisine dating back to the early Mayan culture. There are versions of Sopa de Lima found throughout Mexico, but once you have tasted the Yucatecan version you will appreciate the subtlety of this refreshing tropical soup that cools you down in the hot and humid climate of the Yucatan or warms you in the middle of winter further north. A visit to this lush tropical peninsula that sits between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea lulls you into slowing down and letting the Mayan cultures of the past as well as the present wash over you. Merida is a beautiful colonial town where you can easily fall into the rhythm of the local’s lifestyle and enjoy some of the most beautiful markets and delicious foods in all of Mexico.

 

Sopa de Lima     serves 4

ingredients:

  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, roasted, peeled, and chopped
  • roots of 3 cilantro stalks, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram leaves, lightly toasted
  • 8 whole peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves, lightly toasted
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 2 inch piece cinnamon bark (canella)
  • 4 allspice berries
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sea salt + more as needed
  • 10 cups water plus more if needed
  • 1 pound/450g chicken breasts (or turkey breast), skinless and boneless
  • 8oz/225g chicken livers (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons lard or vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 sweet green bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, thinly sliced into strips and halved
  • 1 habanero chile, minced (or  4 small thin skinned Thai red chillies, minced)
  • 2 vine ripe tomatoes, skinned, seeded, and diced
  • 4 citrus limetta (or alternatives as mentioned above)
  • 6 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped serrano or jalapeno chilies, including seeds
  • 2 ripe Haas avocados, sliced
  • a handful of fresh cilantro leaves

To make the broth, place onions, roasted garlic cloves, cilantro roots, marjoram, peppercorns, bay leaves, whole cloves, cinnamon bark, allspice berries, sea salt, and water in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Then add the chicken breasts (or turkey breast which is a local favorite) and lower the heat to a simmer and poach for 20 to 30 minutes. Timing will depend on the size of the breasts. As soon as the breast are tender remove them from the broth and set aside to cool. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle pull the flesh apart into pieces and set aside.

While the breasts are poaching you can cook the chicken livers. Rinse the livers and place them in a small sauce pan. Ladle in just enough broth from the stock pot to cover the livers and bring to a simmer. Cook about 8 to 10 minutes only. Using a slotted spoon transfer the livers to a bowl and set aside. Pour the broth back into the stock pot. When the livers are cool cut them into a fine dice and set aside.

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain the broth into a large bowl. Discard the solids left in the strainer and return the strained broth to a cleaned stock pot and set it back on the stove over very low heat.

To make the soffrito place the lard or vegetable oil in a  skillet placed over medium heat. When hot add the onions, garlic, bell peppers, habanero chile or (Thai chiles), and a pinch of salt. Saute for 8 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables are wilted and very soft without browning.

Meanwhile blanche the tomatoes in boiling water for 45 seconds or until the skin begins to split. Promptly remove the tomatoes and set aside to cool a couple of minutes. Then slip of the skin off and discard. Quarter the tomatoes and remove the seeds and core and discard. Finely dice the tomatoes and place them in a bowl along with juices.

Then stir the diced tomatoes into the soffrito and cook a couple more minutes. Then transfer the mixture to the broth in the stock pot and bring back to to a simmer. Continue simmering the soup for about 20 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Meanwhile juice 2 of the citrus limetta and thinly slice the 2 remaining and set aside.

In a small saucepan heat the vegetable oil for frying the tortilla strips. When the oil is hot add the strips a fry until golden, about 45 seconds. Set the fried tortilla strips on paper towels and set aside.

When you are nearly ready to serve add the pulled chicken and the chicken livers (if using) to the simmering soup and cook another couple of minutes.

Serving:

Best to serve the soup in individual bowls as pictured above. Have all of the finishing condiments ready and within reach.

Just before serving add the citrus limetta juice to the soup and stir to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Ladle portions of the hot soup into each bowl and tuck several slices of citrus limetta into the soup. Put the remaining sliced limetta in a small bowl to serve along with the soup at the table.

Place 3 slices of fresh avocado over each serving and top with tortilla strips. Scatter some  serrano or jalapeno chilies and fresh cilantro leaves over each serving and serve promptly! Serve with the remaining serrano or jalapeno chilies in a bowl on the table.

Buen provecho y feliz cinco de Mayo!

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