Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sizzling Rice Soup at Home

I first had sizzling rice soup when I followed my heart out to the Bay Area, CA the summer after my freshman year of college in the early 90's. On a sunny summer afternoon I was treated to a wonderful lunch at a great Chinese restaurant, and was served my first bowl of steaming sizzling rice soup. The strong memory of the rice crackling & sizzling when it hit the hot soup, and the texture of the chewy rice with the flavorful broth, lingers still. I'd eaten quite a bit of Chinese food in my life, but this soup didn't seem to have made it to the east coast in the early 90's, at least not anywhere I had been. I loved it, and 20 years later (wow!!) that is just about all I remember of the whole meal.

I have seen sizzling rice soup on a few east coast menus, but it's still not common east coast restaurant fare. A year or so ago, while in one of the many good asian markets, I am very thankful exist in New Haven, I saw this package of "instant sizzling rice", I snatched it up, brought it home, and it sat in my cabinet for over a year. Since funds have been low recently, I have needed to cook my way through every random ingredient and dry bean in my cabinet, so eventually I got to these.

It had not occurred to me until I googled sizzling rice soup just before starting dinner, that the rice needs to be deep fried before being added to the soup. I may not have bought it if I had known, but I had it, and a bit of oil too, so why not. They cook up in about 15 seconds, and the oil needs to be seriously hot, about 450 degrees, so the rice doesn't absorb much oil.

Sizzling rice cakes originated as the dry crispy rice stuck on the bottom of a cooking pot. Many rice-loving cultures have a name or dish for this crispy delicious rice. In Dominican communities it is called Conc√≥n, another fabulous culinary creation. 

For this soup I just made a simple clear broth soup with some turkey stock that was in the freezer from Thanksgiving. I added some slices of ginger, a little soy sauce, kale, tofu and some sweet potato. I sprinkled some delicious sambar curry powder on the crispy rice before adding it to the soup. Totally not traditional sizzling rice soup, but it was good and fun. 

Do you have any good winter soups that you love? Or Chinese New Year treats you want to share?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Favorite Food Spots 2011 - instalment #1 - Saray Turkish Restaurant

Ok, I know I'm a little late for the look back on food in 2011, but as I scanned through my food photos from this year, there were a few great food spots I visited but never got the chance to share, so better late than never!

The menu at Saray is large. There is a great selection of cold appetizers (see photo above) which are on dsplay in the front case, such as baby eggplants stuffed with onion and garlic, red pepper and eggplant salad, hummus, and much more. The cold appetizer plate is great accompaniment to any meal (or a main course for vegetarians), although sadly, they no longer make one of my favorite spreads: muhamarah, a mix of walnuts, red pepper, pomegranate molasses and olive oil. The grill and bread oven at this large family friendly spot are always busy. Every meal is accompanied by their delicious hot, freshly made bread. Saray has a number of vegetarian dishes, and a few grilled fish items, but the most of the menu is packed with beef and lamb dishes: kebabs, ground meat, and shwarma style marinated/roasted and then sliced meat. I have found the ground meat and doner(shwarma) to be more flavorful than the cubed kebabs. While I don't generally eat meat that is not sustainably raised, I sometimes make exception for lamb, which I imagine (but do not know) is not as likely to be raised on feedlots as beef.

My favorite, and probably the most unhealthy dish on the menu is the Yogurtlu Doner Kebab - sauteed slices of marinated lamb and beef over hot buttered pieces of fresh bread topped with thick cool yogurt. 

Most of the main courses are served with the same simple side dishes of seasoned rice, grilled tomato and pepper, but the various spreads from the appetizer selection add more flavor, and as a whole it's a nice meal.
The tea and spiced Turkish coffee are always nice, and there is a large selection of Turkish desserts with many baklavah style sweets, and a wonderful light custard with burnt sugar resembling flan called Kazandibi. Saray is a fun restaurant suitable for small or large groups, a romantic meal, or a dinner with kids. The menu is large, the food is good, and I think they have live music on weekends. The restaurant is located at 770 Campbell Ave in West Haven, just off I-95, so any of you passing through the area, shouldn't hesitate to make a quick detour. 

Coming up:
Bharat Bazar - Indian Market - Orange, CT
Smorgasburg - Food "flea market" adventures - Brooklyn, NY