Spicy Green Mango

--Living and eating with a dash of whimsy and a sprinkling of spice--

  • I'm a budding food-tographer turned blogger who's insanely passionate about food..real food...the kind that sprouts from the earth and you have to wash it to eat it. Yes, hearty real food. I live to eat and I eat to live and am loving every bit of it! If you're here, then I suppose we share the same passion! Enjoy!


Posted by Spicy Green Mango 16 comments

Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes and apparently, from all places. For me, it came from my coma-inducing meals on the streets of Thailand where I vowed to begin challenging myself to start crafting newer recipes with some of my favorite Southeast Asian ingredients (think kaffir limes and lemongrass). I know it’s hard for you to imagine that even I, yes, Spicy Green Mango, gets into a rut when it comes to figuring out what to cook for dinner or how to break out of my humdrum routine, but alas, I am only human (albeit a human on the blogosphere).

The opportunity came about a week ago when I entered my recipe into the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program and was among 12 of the lucky featured publishers selected to showcase my creation. When I read the prized ingredients that we were to choose from, I nearly choked on the piece of chicken I had in my mouth. Oh, dear…I must learn how to control my excitement (I’m sure in due time, I’ll become more civilized in my ways).

So, friends, you’re in for a real treat b/c it’s been a while since I posted a recipe. But how could I resist when the folks of Alaska Seafood said they’d send me 10 lbs of their wild, natural and sustainable King Crab legs? So, I didn’t.




While the idea of King Crabs was already a kicker for me (and my hubby who is an avid fan of the The Deadliest Catch), it was also the fact that the the Alaskas seafood industry is a prime example for sustainability which really made me want to delve further into their business model (Forgive me, it’s the business nerd talking).

So, what exactly is sustainable seafood? In a nutshell, it’s seafood that’s managed by fisheries that adhere to environmental standards in fishing practices, therefore ensuring that there will be more fishies and other seafood for us to eat in the future. And did you know that Alaska is the only state that has a mandate written into their Constitution for sustainable seafood? Cool, eh?

And while I realize that there have been ongoing health concerns over the consumption of seafood, it may be helpful to point out that eating seafood that is sustainably harvested is probably your best bet when it comes to getting your heart and brain in tip top condition (thank you, Omega-3 fatties).

Now, onward to the salivation: Imagine sinking your chompers into succulent morsels of Alaska King Crab meat flavored with a tantalizing combination of fragrant lemongrass, kaffir limes and sweet chili marinade. And then, opening up your own steamed parcel of King crab wrapped in fresh (homegrown) banana leaves that's been cooked to perfection with an aroma that will blow you away!



Sweet Chili-Rubbed Lemongrass-Steamed Alaska King Crab in Banana Leaves
Makes about 10 mini banana leaf pouches

• 1-1.5 lbs of Alaska King Crab legs, frozen and chopped into 1” segments
• ½ of 1 lemon or lime, juiced
• ¼ lbs of baby mushrooms (shimeji, shitake or oyster will work fine)
• 1-2 tbs of fish sauce (vary according to personal taste)
• 1 tbs sweet roasted chili soy bean paste
• 1 tbs of Thai tom yum paste
• 3 sprigs of cilantro, finely chopped
• 3 kaffir limes leaves, finely chopped
• 1 lemongrass stalk, finely chopped
• 3 medium sized banana leaves, cleaned, prepped*, and cut into letter-size sheets
• 2-2.5 cups of water for steaming
• Optional:  3 Thai/Lao chili peppers, sliced

Other handy kitchen items:
• 1 sturdy meat cleaver
• 10-20 toothpicks
• 1 large steamer

Directions:
Since this is a Cook It Frozen! recipe, it’s not necessary to thaw the crab legs. In fact, it’s MUCH easier and LESS messier to chop the legs into segments when they’re frozen. Be sure to use a meat cleaver b/c the shells are tough, but they are soo worth the effort! Fill the bottom of your steamer pot with water and bring to a boil.

As you wait for the water to boil, mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, making sure to rub each of the frozen King Crab segments with the chili and tom yum paste. Next, gather a small handful of the mixture and place them in the center of a sheet of banana leaf. Now, there’s really no rhyme or reason as to how to fold the pouch, so get creative with it and remember to seal the top with a toothpick (or two). I made spicy and non-spicy versions of the dish, so I used the toothpick technique to distinguish between the two options.

Finally, steam the pouches for about 15-20 minutes and that's it! Dig in, folks!  Don't forget to brace yourself for unveilng the mini pouches--our guests had eyes wide open and forks already in hand when we opened our first banana leaf. Needless to say the 1st one was gone in less than 60 seconds! 

NOTE:  Eventhough the dish doesn’t seem to have much juice, don’t be alarmed. As the crabs steam in the banana leaves, the water from the frozen crab legs become a juicy broth that’s flavored with the herbs and spices from your rub.


* Prepping the banana leaves: I got my banana leaves from my mom’s backyard, but I understand that may not be feasible for everyone. As an alternative, you can also use parchment paper or aluminum foil to wrap the crab.


You’ll need 3 medium sized leaves. Discard the fibrous vein running through the middle of each leaf. Now, if you simply attempt to wrap the King Crabs with each leaf at this point, you’ll realize that the leaf will start to tear. To prevent the tears form occurring so that you can fold them into pouches, you’ll need to prep each leaf.

Turn on your gas stove burner to a low medium heat and using some heat resistant gloves, carefully hold each leaf about 5 inches above of the flame and gently heat the leaf. You’ll notice that as the parts of the leaf is heated, it will turn from its vibrant green to a slightly brown hue. At this point, the leaf is also somewhat softer and ready to be folded.



My dear hubby also whipped up his famous king crab stir fry recipe with the remaining 8lbs or so of crab legs and that generously  fed over 15 of us at the lunch table.  The recipe is pretty simple as well:


Stir Fried Alaska King Crab w/Thai Basil & Sweet Chili Sauce
Serves at least 15 salivating souls

• 8 lbs of Alaska King Crab legs, frozen and chopped into 2” segments
• 3-4 tbs of oyster sauce
• 3-4 tbs of fish sauce
• 3 tbs sweet roasted chili soy bean paste
• 1 tbs of Thai tom yum paste
• 1 bunch of Thai basil, leaves individually plucked
• ½ lbs of assorted variety mushrooms (I used baby oysters & shitake)
• 3 cloves of garlic, peeled & finely minced
• 1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
• 3 tbs of extra virgin olive oil

Heat the oil in a wok under medium heat and add the garlic and onions and sautee until onions are translucent.  Add the King Crab legs and the rest of the ingredients with only half of the basil.  Reserve the other half and throw it in the stir fry a few minutes before you turn off the heat.  Stir fry and cover for 10-15 minutes or just until the crabs are nice and heated through.  Remember, King Crab legs are generally pre-cooked already so you just need to heat them up. And that's it! Easy, fresh and it's definitely sure to please your guests.

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Papaya salad & fried chicken washed down with the local Chang (elephant brand) beer and some pork larb..food coma central.
As promised, I come back bearing fruits of plenty. My recent trip to Thailand was nothing short of amazing and I am so excited to write this post! 

From the moment I set foot in Thailand, I instantly knew I was home--well close enough to it, at least. Being greeted by nothing but warm, friendly smiles and the traditional "wai" quickly made me understand the country's namesake as the "Land of Smiles." Over twenty years ago, my family fled our war-ravaged country of Laos in search of hope and the promise of a better future. I was actually born in Thailand (not in the fancy hospitals), but in a refugee camp near the Thai-Lao border. And while I was raised to learn and speak the Lao language, I also happened to pick up Thai along the way all thanks to my wonderful parents who luckily believed in the importance of mastering my native tongue. And although I remember little of my time as a child there, I do know that I'll be returning back to this place.

The trip was memorable from start to finish and if I could have bottled up all the flavors and scents and placed it securely in a spice jar and brought it back with me, I would have done so in a heartbeat. But lucky for you b/c I have tons of pictures to share, so soak it all up and sit back and enjoy!


Renowned for its pristine aquamarine waters and the beautiful island of Koh Phi Phi, making it a perfect haven for hedonistic paradise, this portion of Southern Thailand definitely lives up to its name. Unfortunately, we were there during monsoon season (darn!---should have not skimmed that chapter of Lonely Planet), we were pretty much confined to the coast rather than the islands. The limited hours of sunshine would constantly tease us throughout the entire day and around 3 or 4pm, the thunder clouds would move in within the blink of an eye and pelt us with giant raindrops.

Normally, I would have been utterly disappointed, but I wasn't and I owe it all to the deliciously decadent array of Thai cuisine. And usually, I would have thought twice about ordering what is seemingly 'authentic' Thai food at a Western hotel like the Sheraton, but I really had no other choice--thank goodness!

NOTE to YOU: If you find yourself in Thailand, definitely do not scoff at the hotel dining options b/c the chefs are Thai and they serve up the most beautiful and flavorful dishes you'll ever feast on. Their attention to detail, impeccable service and authenticity of each savory morsel that I popped into my mouth was beyond words. Food-wise, it's an A++ in my book. We dined on papaya salad nearly every day of our vacation and I happily gorged myself on tamarind-flavored mojitos.





































 And then Chiang Mai:
Serene, lush landscape that beckons a closer look and more time devoted to visiting the Wat Doi Suthep (temple) & local hilltribe villages; lazily drifting down the Mae Nam Ping river on bamboo rafters; and exploring the Sunday night market for handcrafted trinkets. The bountiful rows of longan trees kept me glued to the windows along our drive to the Mae Vang elephant camp.  Boy, I was really tempted to feign a potty break just so I could pluck me some fresh longans.  But, my conscience won over my glutton tendencies (Darn you, Jiminy Cricket!)

Again, I can ramble on endlessly about how great the local street food is or how I could have packed my own personal street vendor into my carry-on bag, but I'll just entertain you with the images themselves so you can gawk and drool over your keyboards (and not mine). 



Bangkok and the Rachaburi Floating Market:

We wandered over to the popular 'back packer's district' along the infamous Khaosan Road in Bangkok for some yummy street food. Although frequented by many European tourists, the area is a must-see for those who want cheap deals on vintage-style T-shirts, made-to-order phad Thai and icy cold drinks. Personally, I couldn't get enough of the fresh fruit vendors carting spicy green mangoes, sun-ripened watermelons, pineapples, picked gooseberries and golden papayas. I love how they nestle the fruits on top of shaved ice to keep them nice and refreshing. All this for less than $1 (USD)--of course, I'd get 3 mangos at a time.

If you happen to go during the right hours, you can also find papaya salad carts that come with warm sticky rice and grilled/fried chicken wings. I think I could have sat here the entire day had it not been for the treacherous heat and humidity that permeates the entire weather system in Thailand, but you can definitely get a really nice breeze being whisked along the khlongs (canals) of the the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Get there early and you'll have plenty of time for photo ops and endless eating. I love how the fruit vendors have the cutest and most visually appealing boats with their bundles of fresh crimson rambutans, golden starfruits, green guavas, cherries, longans, mangosteens & dragonfruits.


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I know, I know..my dear readers, I've neglected you for too long.  Well, for good reason, of course!  After a much-needed vacation in (South) East Asia this past month, I've finally gotten over being jet-lagged and picked my butt out from lounging in la la land to the world of the blogosphere.  I'm back and with more goodies for you to feast your eyes on.  So, knock yourself out!

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After reading much about this historical empire of the Far East and receiving an invitation from my expat friends to visit the beloved land of over a billion people, I knew I couldn't resist.  Following a twelve hour flight from San Francisco, I was greeted with my beaming hosts who graciously took my hubby and I under their wings for the duration of our stay.  Personal tour guides who can speak the language...very important!  Thanks, guys! 

Alright, now on to the food portion.  In all honesty and b/c I really can't do much sugarcoating on my blog, I can say that on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest), the food is China is about a 5.  I know, some of you are going to wonder what the heck has gotten into me? Nothing much---just that my own personal preference and expectations were somewhat shot. 

First up: Beijing.  The food left me with much to be desired. My friends had warned me about how Northern Chinese cuisine was different from the South as well as what we are all used to eating here in the States. Little did I realize how right they would be. And this is coming from a gal with a penchant for trying new things. I think it's b/c everytime I ordered a spicy dish, the cooks would douse it with loads of cumin and fennel and the combination of the two is just overkill in my book.  Now, I'm not saying everthing was bad b/c it was not.  Anything that's grilled or put on a skewer is always fair game to me.  Additionally, the hot pot meal that we experienced was amazing from start to finish. 

However, I was appalled when I saw shop vendors lining their shelves with my Peking Duck in a bag! In a bag! Now, I know that chomping down on a Peking Duck definitely isn't the healthiest thing in the world (with all the fatty juiciness of the skin and dark meat), but at least it's fresh and tasty. I couldn't even bear to look at the ones in the bags. My hosts agreed and kindly made reservations to have our Peking duck roasted and cooked to perfection 50 minutes before we headed out for dinner. Unfortunately, the lighting was pretty dim in the restaurant so I didn't have the chance to snap a shot, but it was a great meal, nonetheless and we all washed it down with some ice, cold Yanjing beer--Beijing's finest.  Yeah, don't drink the water is what tourists are warned from doing as they travel--but definitely taste the local beer. 

While the food left me mildly satiated, the historical landscape of Beijing surpassed all of my expectations. The city is the embodiment of what China used to be before its heavily Westernized influences (such as the case in Shanghai with its towering skyscrapers and modernized structures). The architectural details found in Beijing, including the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, is symbolic of the special attention paid to balance and symmetry--beckoning true labor of love. And then, there was the Great Wall. The name pretty much sums it all up, so I won't go into detail about that. Again, color me highly impressed with the landscape of Beijing.  The city will blow you away (but just be sure you know somebody who can speak Mandarin).




In China, your bike is pretty much your livelihood.  You can transport practically anything on it (as much as you can pile on), sleep on it or like this nice lady here, sell fruits on it.  The fruits are quite fresh and I was  surprised that they grew plenty of the same kinds of fruit I'm used to eating in the States (ie: cherries, apricots, kiwis, etc), so I opted for some parrot mangoes, instead.  The color reminds me of the dewy skin of tangerines kissed with drops of grenadine.  They're a bit stringy, but so darn sweet and delish. I ended up devouring one all by myself within a mere 5 minutes. I know, I'm just horrible.


And we (alright, it was all my idea) made our hired driver pull over on the way home from our Great Wall adventures just so I could pick up some fresh apricots.  So good!



Exploring Beijing..



And some images from Shanghai...

Below, our first and finest meal in Shanghai.  Okay, so anything with mushrooms or a crab in it in Southern China will be amazing (hands down, amazing!). 


And then a trip to the Water Village where street vendors lined their stalls with plump & juicy crawfish, artfully-skewered quails and of course, chicken on sticks!

Okay, stay tuned for an upcoming post on Thailand!

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