Month: October 2019

Where to Eat and Drink in New Orleans: A Local’s Guide

Where to Eat and Drink in New Orleans: A Local’s Guide

Whether you’re looking for standbys (roast beef po’ boys and frosty snowballs) or surprises (great Eastern European cuisine—really!), these are the 10 spots in New Orleans you won’t want to miss, according to a local. Read More Source link

Khao Piak Sen (Lao Chicken-Noodle Soup) Recipe

Khao Piak Sen (Lao Chicken-Noodle Soup) Recipe

[Photographs: Liz Clayman] Inspired by the recipe of Chef Seng Lengrath of Washington D.C.’s Thip Khao, this Lao noodle soup is loaded with layers of flavor. Multiple aromatics go into the rich chicken broth, including onion, ginger, lemongrass, lime leaves, and cilantro. The handmade tapioca-and-rice […]

Khao Piak Sen Is Lao-Style Chicken Noodle Soup With Soul

Khao Piak Sen Is Lao-Style Chicken Noodle Soup With Soul

A bowl of Lao noodle soup khao piak sen, piled with garnishes like fresh cilantro, scallions, fried garlic, and more; additional condiments are in the background

[Photographs: Liz Clayman]

The first time I encountered khao piak sen, or Lao chicken noodle soup, was through a TV screen. Chef James Syhabout of Oakland’s Commis and San Francisco’s Hawker Fare was face-deep in a bowl as he told Anthony Bourdain about his relationship with Laos, a country he and his family fled in the 1970s. There was something so raw about the scene—Chef Syhabout slurping the soup almost hurriedly, as if he’s chasing a memory; him tipping back the bowl for its last remnants; sitting quietly for a moment after he’s done—I immediately decided I needed a bowl for myself.

After a frenzy of Googling, I managed to track down just one restaurant offering khao piak sen in New York City: Hug Esan, a northern Thai (Isan) restaurant in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Queens. The bowl there, while absolutely delicious, left me with even more questions than before. Why was the broth made from pork, not chicken? Are these the same noodles as the Vietnamese bánh canh (a similarly thick, soft noodle made of tapioca and rice flour)? Why is a Lao dish being served at a Thai restaurant? And why am I growing so obsessed with this soup?

Adding the chicken, water, salt, and soy sauce to a pot to make the broth for khao piak sen

Khao piak sen broth made with chicken and flavorings like salt and soy sauce; some recipes use pork as well.

With so many points to resolve, I put out queries for Lao experts and was serendipitously introduced to Chef Seng Lengrath of Washington D.C.’s Thip Khao. Like Chef Syhabout, she also fled Laos as a child during the Vietnam War (which raged in Laos as a “secret war”), finding refuge first in Thailand before resettling in the U.S.

Now an active champion of the Lao Food Movement, Chef Lengrath was more than willing to educate me about one of her best-selling soups. She told me that khao piak sen translates as “wet rice noodle” and is a chicken (and sometimes pork) broth–based soup filled with shredded poached chicken, translucent rice-and-tapioca noodles, and topped with a bounty of fresh herbs.

A collage showing aromatics for khao piak sen broth: charred onion in one photo, plus the pot full of chopped lemongrass, plus lime leaves and more to make the broth for khao piak sen

Aromatics like charred onion, lemongrass, and makrut lime leaves are popular options for khao piak sen.

Within a few minutes of our call, Chef Lengrath sighed with great tenderness and said, “It’s a noodle I remember really well; a noodle I just love so much.” At its core, it’s a soup about personalization. “The best part is that everyone makes it how they like to eat it,” Chef Lengrath told me. “My broth is a simple one made with ginger, others like it with lemongrass, or with galangal and [makrut] lime leaves. Some char the vegetables [like onion and garlic] or add cilantro stems. Some make it with pork neck bones instead of the whole chicken.”

While many aspects of the soup are open to interpretation, its hallmark texture—glossy and slightly viscous—remains intact across many versions. This comes from the act of cooking raw noodles directly in the broth once the chicken has been removed, letting the starch add body to the broth.

Adding a handful of the starchy noodles to a pot of simmering khao piak sen broth

Cooking the starchy noodles in the broth gives khao piak sen’s broth its hallmark viscosity.

“Some people will even put extra starch in, while others will rinse out the flour because they want a clearer broth,” Chef Lengrath explained. However the final bowl arrives, it is always served with fresh vegetables and condiments, a signature of Lao cuisine. The classics are scallion, cilantro, chili oil, fried garlic, fried shallot, lime wedges, black pepper, and white pepper, but there’s plenty of room for improvisation with fresh bean sprouts or curly twines of morning glory.

Rows and rows of khao piak sen vendors are a frequent sight in the Lao capital city of Vientiane, something Chef Lengrath remembers quite fondly. “My neighbors would make this soup early in the morning and bring it to the market. Every mall would have a khao piak sen stall.” Beyond a breakfast favorite, it’s also a popular late-night (“after parties”) snack, as well as a frequent item at important gatherings (it’s common for mourners to eat a bowl together at the end of funerals, before the body is cremated).

Khao piak sen is a dish that showcases the multiculturalism inherent in Lao history and its people. Ethnic Lao trace their ancestors to a group of people speaking a common “Tai” language who once lived in Southern China. They moved southward in a series of migrations—differing historical theories place this time period anywhere from the 8th to the 12th century CE—and settled in the area that is modern day Laos, northeastern Thailand (Isan region), and adjacent parts of Vietnam.

This makes a lot of sense given the soup’s curious commonalities with aspects of Chinese cuisine: after she learned I’m Chinese-American, Chef Lengrath excitedly told me there’s khao piak sen vendors that will serve a steaming bowl with youtiao, a long fried doughnut stick that’s common to eat alongside congee or soymilk for breakfast in certain parts of China.

As a food that encourages personalization, khao piak sen has fittingly endured as a centerpiece of the Lao diaspora. “Many Thai restaurants [in D.C. and beyond] will sneak khao piak sen on the menu, or on the secret menu—that’s how I know [the restaurant is] probably Lao-owned,” Chef Lengrath tells me with a small laugh. The relationship between Thai and Lao people is complicated, in part because of the blurring of ethnic and country lines, as those born or raised in northern Thailand but who are ethnically Lao have experienced sweeping erasure of Laotian influence—including the use of “Lao” as a descriptor, replacing it with “northern Thai” or “Isan”—at the hands of the Thai government.

After a military coup in the 1930s, the new Thai leaders led a nationalist “Thaification” campaign aimed to “unify” the country and prioritize Thai people, culture, and language over the peoples, cultures, and languages of Lao, Chinese, and Malay populations. (This was also the time pad thai was introduced as the de facto national dish.)

As a result, some of Laos’ biggest culinary contributions, such as larb (sometimes written as laap), som tam, and the plentiful pockets of sticky rice served alongside a meal, have been introduced in the US as purely regional Thai cuisine. Lao cooks offering khao piak sen in some of these restaurants, then, can be seen as a quiet form of asserting their identities—as Chef Syhabout put it, now “it’s a matter of re-educating.”

Attempting to distill khao piak sen down to just one version, when its very nature is to be colorful and varied, was a challenge in and of itself. Chef Lengrath generously sent me both her broth and noodle recipes, from which I built a foundational flavor profile. A few chickens later, I found myself craving more heft in the broth, and played around with charring some portion of the onion and ginger until I landed at what tasted like the sweet spot to me. This additional body then needed some brighter notes for balance, which fresh cilantro stems and makrut lime leaves did perfectly.

Bags of rice flour and tapioca flour; they will be used to make the slippery noodles for Lao soup khao piak sen

The noodles for khao piak sen are made with tapioca and rice flours; the exact ratio changes the final texture.

Noodle-wise, I struggled. The most common ratio for these fresh noodles is 1:1 rice flour to tapioca flour, but for those who prefer a chewier noodle, many recipes online recommend a 1:1.5 or a 1:1.3 rice-to-tapioca ratio. “Some also put salt or MSG in the base,” Chef Lengrath told me. She occasionally adds some baking soda to give the noodles a springier bite, which follows in the same line of reasoning as making a simplified ramen by adding an alkaline ingredient (note this does give the noodles a slightly yellow color).

While the ratios were difficult enough to navigate, the main issue I ran into was the actual technique for making the noodles. I used my trusty stand mixer to mix the flours and the hot water—the key term here being “hot,” as in boiling, to activate the starch—but once mixed together they became impossibly sticky to work with.

Making khao piak sen dough in a stand mixer: boiling water is added, then the sough is worked with the dough hook until it comes together

While experienced cooks can do the entire process by hand, a stand mixer makes it easier to initially incorporate the boiling water into the flours.

Naturally, the videos of Chef Lengrath making noodles seemed effortless in comparison (she often does the whole sequence by hand in a large metal bowl, undeterred by the water temperature). Eventually I landed on a method that yielded reliable results, even with my rather weak wrists and the fact that my hands can’t withstand 212°F water, adding more of each flour during the kneading step to give the final dough a pliable, but not overly wet, consistency. As for the debate over ratios, I liked the softness of the rice flour and found any formulation with more than the 1:1 ratio rather hard to chew—but that’s completely up to the cook.

Making khao piak sen noodles by hand: rolling the dough, cutting it into thick strips, piling them up on a baking sheet well tossed with flour to prevent sticking

After starting the dough in a stand mixer, it is finished by hand; the noodles are cut by hand as well.

As Chef Lengrath and I finished up our call, she told me a little anecdote about how Lao food is finally, rightfully, beginning to find its own space in the American food vernacular. “I used to always have to explain [khao piak sen] as similar to udon, or bánh canh, but now people are learning what it is, coming back and asking for it.” I could tell she was beaming on her side of the phone, and that seemed fitting. Beyond offering more than a little bit of comfort in a bowl, khao piak sen is an intimate dish that reminds us how closely food is tied to identity. Little wonder, then, that Chef Lengrath would find some reaffirmation when others discover how delicious it can be.

A bowl of Lao noodle soup khao piak sen, seen from above and piled with garnishes like fresh cilantro, scallions, fried garlic, and more

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The Food Lab Video Series: Boiling Water

The Food Lab Video Series: Boiling Water

[Video: Written by J. Kenji López-Alt; produced by Chris Mohney and Nick Perron-Siegel] Editor’s Note: Several years ago, we produced a Food Lab video series for Serious Eats. The only problem? It lived behind a paywall, and almost nobody got to see it. Now, we’re […]

Your Friday Moment of Zen

Your Friday Moment of Zen

[Illustration: Biodiversity Heritage Library] You did it! Another week down! We’re putting up a post very much like this one every Friday afternoon, to celebrate the fact that the week is done. Down with the lame Monday-through-Thursday days! Up with the not-lame Friday-through-Sunday days! We […]

A Chefs’ Guide to Eating Out in San Francisco

A Chefs’ Guide to Eating Out in San Francisco

As the birthplace of California’s farm-to-table food movement, San Francisco has long had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to good food. Yes, incredible produce continues to serve as the backbone of Californian cuisine, and, yes, iconic restaurants like Chez Panisse and Zuni Café are still around. But the restaurant scene isn’t static; it’s constantly evolving, with new chefs and new restaurants making names for themselves and garnering praise from Bay Area diners and visitors alike.

To learn more about the city’s best dining options, we spoke with four of the city’s top chefs to find out their go-to spots. They gave us their picks for late-night burritos, Sunday brunch, splurge-worthy meals, and more. Preeti Mistry, chef–owner of Juhu Beach Club; Charles Phan, chef–owner of The Slanted Door Group; Matt Accarrino, chef–owner of SPQR; and Dominique Crenn, chef–owner of Atelier Crenn and Bar Crenn, all weighed in with their favorites to help us plot out this eaters’ roadmap.

The combination of reverence for the classics, and excitement around what’s new—think exceptional beer bars, boutique hotels with Thai small plates and zero-proof cocktails, and Michelin star-worthy bar bites—means a trip to San Francisco will keep you busy, whether you’re checking in on enduring favorites, sampling the best of the new, or hoping to do a little bit of both.

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Special Sauce: Kenji on Freezing Chicken, Simone Tong on Making Mixian

Special Sauce: Kenji on Freezing Chicken, Simone Tong on Making Mixian

[Simone Tong photograph: Afra Lu. Mixian photograph: Vivian Kong] This week’s episode of Special Sauce kicks off with our new culinary Q&A segment, “Ask Kenji.” At the behest of listener Dave Shorr, Kenji lays down the law on the best way to freeze chicken. It’s […]

Overnight Chocolate-Hazelnut Breakfast Buns

Overnight Chocolate-Hazelnut Breakfast Buns

If you’ve tried our overnight cinnamon rolls, the dough for these breakfast buns will be familiar. But the experience itself will be all new, thanks to a filling of homemade Nutella, made from dark chocolate and caramelized hazelnuts, and a whipped-mascarpone frosting. Get Recipe! Source […]

These DIY-Nutella Rolls Are Our New Favorite Chocolate Delivery System

These DIY-Nutella Rolls Are Our New Favorite Chocolate Delivery System

a sheet of yeasted dough topped with homemade Nutella and roasted hazelnuts

[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

It doesn’t matter if I’m having friends over for brunch or staying with family through the holidays—my only wish is to keep things simple. I have absolutely no desire to get up early and bang around the kitchen trying to whip up a special breakfast.

What I want is to start a pot of coffee, turn on the oven, and then crash on the couch until the scent of yeasty dough pulls me back into the kitchen. I want to unveil a pan full of perfect pinwheels, I want to slather frosting on top, and I want everyone to get excited. I want to relax and have a good time.

a tray of chocolate hazelnut buns drizzled with frosting

But that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to put in some work! I love the process of baking, at least when it’s on my terms—tackled bit by bit over the course of a few days, and never requiring that I race the clock, with a houseful of hungry folks watching over my every move.

For me, making breakfast for a crowd (at my house or elsewhere) is about sharing a meal and hanging out. Which I can’t do particularly well if I’ve had to wake up hours earlier than everyone else to pull off some last-minute breakfast caper, leaving me frazzled and with a trail of dirty dishes in my wake. I like my mornings calm.

vanilla frosting melting over warm hazelnut buns

Baking is a discipline that rewards those who are patient, methodical, and willing to do a bit of planning—and such is the case with these yeast-raised breakfast buns, stuffed with a chocolate-and-caramelized-hazelnut spread (a.k.a. homemade Nutella), then slathered with whipped mascarpone spiked with vanilla.

It’s absolutely not something you can pull off on a moment’s notice, but that’s the point. It’s something you make in advance of a breakfast gathering, so that you can actually enjoy yourself when the time comes.

This recipe is based off my classic cinnamon rolls, which start with a rich but eggless dough made with thick and tangy Greek yogurt. For a complete walk-through of that recipe, covering everything from ingredients to gluten development, and including photos of every step, check out our guide to the best no-fuss cinnamon rolls.

That’s the exact same dough I’m using here. I experimented with using roasted-hazelnut oil to replace the butter, but I found its character in the dough too mild to justify the expense. Ultimately, I enjoyed this recipe best when I kept the dough simple to better showcase the real star, that homemade Nutella.

spreading homemade Nutella and roasted hazelnuts over a sheet of yeasted dough

My version contains more hazelnuts than any other ingredient, and the sugar involved is fully caramelized, taming the overall sweetness and adding complexity through those toasted notes. It’s a rather lean recipe, with the hazelnuts and chocolate serving as the primary sources of fat, so their character comes through loud and clear.

It’s worth noting that I haven’t tested this recipe with commercial Nutella, a spread made primarily out of sugar and palm oil, with just enough hazelnuts and low-fat cocoa to suggest their flavor. It’s a very different composition—different enough that I can’t say with confidence that it would work as a 1:1 replacement here. It might, but I don’t care to find out; my heart belongs to this hazelnut- and chocolate-centric version (which can be prepared weeks in advance).

rolling the Nutella buns into a log, and slicing with a strip of butcher's twine

The chocolate-hazelnut spread is twirled up with the prepared dough after its first rise, after which the dough is cut into pieces with a strip of butcher’s twine or unflavored dental floss. Garroting the dough keeps the pinwheels nice and round; the soft dough will be squished out of shape if you use a knife.

The portions are then arranged in a parchment-lined brownie pan (specifically, a nine- by 13-inch anodized-aluminum baking pan) and covered in foil for a 12- to 48-hour cold rise in the fridge. They can also be frozen much longer, then thawed overnight to be baked the same way.

Those options give me plenty of time to knock out the dough days or even weeks ahead, and the cold dough travels well (say, when I’m heading to my parents’ house for the holidays).

sliced pinwheels of chocolate hazelnut dough in a brownie pan

As with my cinnamon rolls, this recipe keeps the buns covered during most of their time in the oven, with the foil pulled off only at the end to facilitate browning and keep the dough from drying out.

chocolate hazelnut buns fresh from the oven

At some point between making the dough and baking it off, you can knock out the whipped-mascarpone frosting as well, then refrigerate it in a disposable pastry bag or zip-top bag until needed.

chocolate hazelnut buns with vanilla icing

Like the OG recipe, these buns are a fully wake-and-bake affair, keeping things simple so I can kick back and relax with the people I love most, and bask in the glow of a fancy breakfast that didn’t require any morning hustle to pull off.

interior of a chocolate hazelnut bun, showing dark layers of Nutella against the soft dough

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Everything You Should Know About Yams

Everything You Should Know About Yams

[Photographs: Shutterstock.] Chinese yams are braised, stir-fried, dried, and more. Knobbly and brown, with little, wispy, hair-like roots shooting off at random, yams aren’t the stateliest of foods. But if you get past their slightly odd appearance, you may very well fall in love. That […]