Thai Green Curry Coconut Mussels [Cooking Demo]

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So yesterday I was invited to do a cooking demonstration on the main stage at the 626 Night Market and I am excited to announce that it was a great success! I was nervous as this was my first demo experience (I soon learned that it was a first for 626 Night Market as well!), and I would be following a cooking-on-camera veteran Marina Chung of The Taste. I knew I would only have a 30-minute time slot, but I was feeling ambitious and really wanted to show off a dish that could be done from start to finish. I racked my brain for ideas when it hit me — steamed mussels.

Thai Green Curry Coconut Steamed Mussels

Thai Green Curry Coconut Steamed Mussels

We have done moules marinieres at home many times, even making a 5-pound batch for a party with our dear friends Brian and Patricia, both of whom play major roles on the 626 Night Market planning team and were influential in getting me this gig. This time, though, I wanted to do a special twist with a Thai green curry based broth; the first time I ate a similar dish, it was a red curry broth at Waterloo & City and the flavor combination really stuck with me. It also perfectly fit our blog’s mission of finding easy ways to replicate gourmet food at home. I knew I would be able to execute the dish in the amount of time given and most importantly, I was confident that it looked and tasted good enough that my audience would (hopefully) be inspired to make it at home too!

They even made this cool graphic for marketing my demo segment!

They even made this cool graphic for marketing my demo segment!

I am so happy to share the recipe with our readers. Unfortunately I do not have step-by-step photos, but somewhere out there exists film footage of my demo. When I have access to it, I’ll update this post with a link so you can watch the clip at home and follow along. Scroll down to read the recipe or click here to download the PDF file that was handed out at the event. I also thought I’d share what I learned about doing cooking demonstrations – they are super fun but I feel they also require a good amount of planning and organization in order to be done well.

The Set-up (I practiced once at home first)

The Set-up (I practiced once at home first)

ingredients:

2 pounds live mussels, cleaned and carefully stored

2 stalks fresh lemongrass

1-inch piece of galangal, sliced (optional)

2-3 kaffir lime leaves

1.5 tablespoons thai green curry paste

14 fluid ounces coconut milk OR 7 fluid ounces coconut cream plus 1/2 cup of water or chicken broth

1 tablespoon fish sauce

3 tablespoons thai basil, cut into ribbons (chiffonade)

1 fresno chili, sliced OR 1 thai chili, crushed (optional)

loaf of crusty bread for serving (french baguette works well)

 

directions:

clean the mussels, scrubbing off debris and removing the beards. discard any that are chipped, cracked, or remain open despite gentle tapping (it’s called a percussion test!).

dice only the lower, golden-colored portion of the lemongrass stalk. discard the green stems or save for later use (they’re great for soups!).

in a hot skillet, briefly sauté the lemongrass, galangal, and curry paste until aromatic. add the coconut milk (or coconut cream + water) and kaffir lime leaves and bring to a simmer.

turn the heat to high and add the mussels, double-checking to discard any that may be unsafe to consume. cover with a tight-fitting lid and let the mussels steam. within five to seven minutes, all of the mussels should have opened.

with a slotted spoon, transfer the mussels to a serving bowl.

add two tablespoons of thai basil to the broth along with the chili, if using. taste and adjust for saltiness by adding fish sauce (you may not need the full tablespoon, depending on the brininess of the mussels). if the broth is too watery, reduce the liquid by simmering for a few more minutes.

ladle over the mussels and sprinkle with the remaining thai basil for garnish. serve with a loaf of crusty bread for soaking up the broth.

bon appetit!

Voila!

Voila!

I learned so much about doing a cooking demo, both in researching before the event and from the feedback I received after the event. Here are a few tips that I hope will come in handy if you ever have the opportunity to show off your cooking prowess and love for food:

1. Research your ingredients: I looked up every single item on my ingredients list to see if there were any fun facts I could provide the audience. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about and to anticipate potential questions, so I researched topics like possible recipe substitutions (galangal vs. ginger, coconut milk vs. coconut cream), health benefits of any ingredients, proper handling and techniques, the best ways to describe certain methods (like de-bearding mussels). I was told later that the audience found it helpful that I took the time to describe each item and make “exotic” ingredients seem less daunting.

2. Plan your time: I did a run-through of preparing the recipe from start to finish in my own home first, especially since I would be using a portable burner and wanted to ensure the equipment would cooperate. This also gave me the opportunity to adjust my game plan so that I would fill in any “blank” time between waiting for things to heat or cook. For example, the instructions above mention cleaning the mussels first before starting the broth, but since I knew I would have to wait for the cream to come to a simmer, I started that first and used the wait time to talk about the mussels. I also had to make sure I added in some time for mishaps or answering questions and, in my case, subtract some time in case I speak too quickly (as often happens when I give presentations… it’s the nerves!).

3. Speak with personality: Speaking of speaking, before my demo I spent a lot of time on YouTube watching videos of live cooking demos. I ran the gamut from my favorite cooking personalities (Martin Yan still has GREAT showmanship long after his Yan Can Cook days!) to small-town county fairs, and I tried to glean some do’s and don’ts based on my preferences. The main thing I noticed is that cooking and talking simultaneously is not as easy as it looks! Also, I enjoyed most when the presenter sounded like they were talking to a crowd of peers. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to imagine the friends (but more on that below).

4. Make checklists: I was working with the bare minimum for my demo — tables, a 6-outlet surge protector with extension cord, and a headset/microphone. That’s it. I had to check and double-check my lists as I was packing my non-perishables: cutting board, towels, water, portable burner, skillet & lid, knives, spoons, prep bowls, decorative props… then I had to make sure my list for last-minute ingredients was up to snuff as well! I’m the type to get that odd feeling that I forgot to pack something so lists galore work best for me.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: When the guys in the kitchen spot me (or anyone really) carrying something too heavy or bulky to be comfortable, they always say “Don’t be a hero!” I had to ask for some help getting my supplies to and from the stage, and that is A-OK. Also, I did not end up doing this because of the nature of the venue and stage setup, but you can invite audience members to come up and assist with the prep! It helps get them more engaged in the process, especially if you are able to provide samples at the end.

Family Photo

Family Photo

And last but certainly not least, I wanted to say thank you to 626 Night Market and to all of my friends and family who came out to support me in doing my first cooking demo! I wish I had been able to take a photo from where I was standing up on stage, but when I looked down to the audience, I saw so many familiar faces sitting in the crowd and it made my heart melt. I already knew some people would be there; my best friend Calvin and his girlfriend Pollyanna were visiting from out of town and we had caravaned to the event together, our friends Lilia and Wilson had just met up with us at Popping Fish Balls, and Brian even sneaked away from his event duties to watch. Of course, my dear Martin was grinning from ear to ear to finally see the results after enduring my recipe tweaking, the hot hot heat, the traffic, and my constant asking of “what if this happens?” “what if I forget something?” “what if I curse in front of all those people?”. I am so thankful for his endless support, acting as my guinea pig, offering suggestions, carrying my equipment, patiently waiting as I got checked in and set up with the sound people, and just quelling my anxiety in general. AND as you can see in the photo above, my parents came out to the event as well! I was so excited since many of the ingredients were grown in their own backyard, and it meant so much for them to see me in my natural element. And then I saw even more friends had come out to surprise me — Grace and Andrew, Curtis, Edmund, Vicky and Will… before I knew it, I had my very own entourage there to cheer me on, laugh at my lame jokes, ask questions during Q&A when there was awkward silence (“Why IS a dead mussel a bad mussel?”), and sample my dish at the end. I felt so loved.

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things, and you can bet that a first-time cooking demo is the perfect entry! Though I am not new to cooking mussels, it was my first time cooking in front of a large audience. Large being defined as more people than would fit in my living room while I cook in the comfort of my own kitchen. ;)

This month is hosted by Lindsey at Sneaks and Sweets.

Cheers!

Food Pic Friday: Churro Borough

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Move aside, food trucks, this is the era of the pop-up. We had heard of these mythical churro ice cream sandwiches, even saw pictures of these elusive treats on social media, but the existence of this epic duo had yet to be confirmed. Until one day, we saw a Facebook post that announced the time and date for the release of a round of tickets to The Churro Borough Pop-Up. “Tickets” are free but, as they represent one of only 300 available slots, were extremely limited. I sat in front of my computer at 9:50am, F5-ing my browser window over and over until the “Buy Tickets” button finally appeared. It was like trying to buy concert tickets back in high school. They sold out in four minutes but Martin and I each snagged a pair of tickets. We were so excited.

Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches: Spanish Latte x 2, Horchata, Vanilla Custard.

Churro Ice Cream Sandwiches: Spanish Latte x 2, Horchata, Vanilla Custard.

That Sunday afternoon, we arrived at the Mexicali Taco & Co. storefront on the outskirts of Chinatown. There was already a long line forming, each person eager to spend $4 a pop on these desserts. We took his parents with us to celebrate his mom’s birthday, and they could not believe that so many young people put in that much effort for this exclusive sweet. When our turn finally came, we each only got one since we had dinner plans shortly after. Mine? Horchata. It tasted like Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal in the best way possible, though the churro itself could have been crispier.

If you want to get one of your own, follow Churro Borough on Facebook for their latest pop-up updates. I don’t know if I would go through all that trouble again, but if they ever purchased a truck or brick & mortar storefront, I would be happy to stop by for a $4 churro ice cream sandwich; this is LA’s new gourmet cupcake and I hope it sticks around for a long time.

IN EXCITING NEWS, tickets for the next pop-up go on sale in just ONE HOUR. Here is their update from their Facebook page:

Come join us this SUNDAY, August 10th at Mexicali Taco & Co!

*** Tickets go on sale at 10am on Friday, August 8th! ***

Sunday, August 10th 2-5pm
702 N. Figueroa Street
Downtown Los Angeles

Purchase (FREE) tickets for this pop-up – Limit 2 per customer. Only 250 tickets available!

Each admission ticket will allow up to 2 sandwiches per customer. $4 per sandwich.

CASH ONLY (ATMs available on-site)

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/churro-borough-summer-pop-up-series-v5-tickets-12565201857

Food Pic Friday: Hash House A Go Go

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Andy's Sage Fried Chicken and Waffles

Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken and Waffles

Waking up in Sin City? Nothing will cure that debauchery-induced hangover better than the outrageous offerings and massive portions at Hash House A Go Go situated in the newly renovated center-strip hotel The Quad (formerly Imperial Palace).

Pictured here: Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken & Waffles | Two sage fried chicken breasts with hardwood smoked bacon waffle tower, hot maple reduction and fried leeks.

The chicken and waffles is a must-have and any menu item that has the word “tower” in it is no joke. The presentation is absolutely ostentatious — at the base is a stack of waffles that have strips of bacon cooked INTO the centers (like someone laid the porcine crack onto the waffle iron itself before sealing it shut), then two large chicken breasts with a beautifully crunchy coating, all topped with a pile of crispy fried leeks and stabbed through the heart with a giant steak knife and perhaps the longest sprig of rosemary I had ever seen (…aside from that one year in college when I bought a mini rosemary bush that had been trimmed to look like a Christmas tree).

Luckily, the taste lived up to the hype of the many positive reviews, the glorious plating, and the grand procession as it is gingerly carried to your table. I will admit though, the excess bested me and I was not able to finish it on my own (it’s definitely meant for sharing!). The sweet maple reduction combined with the fatty greasiness of fried chicken skin contributed to the diminishing return, despite the blissful first bite. At just under $20, go ahead and splurge on this breakfast that is sure to soak up all that alcohol and keep you feeling satiated all day long.

Viva Las Vegas!

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Check out Hash House A Go Go: hashhouseagogo.com

The Quad Resort & Casino
3535 Las Vegas Blvd S
Las Vegas, NV 89109

See their Yelp reviews here!

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our-growing-edge-badgeThis post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things, and this month’s theme is dining out: eating at new restaurants, trying new dishes, or exploring new cuisines! We’ve been to Vegas many a time, but this was our first visit to the famed Hash House A Go Go… and you can bet we’ll be squeezing it in to our future itineraries, if only to satisfy my chicken & waffle cravings!

This month is hosted by Ash at Organic Ash over in Auckland, New Zealand.

Cheers!

DineLA – Chaya Brasserie (Summer 2014)

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14-LAT-SaveTheDate-Instagram

With each passing season, dineLA manages to make its Restaurant “Week” longer and longer. This summer, hundreds of restaurants across Los Angeles are participating in the 14-day event (July 14-27) featuring prix fixe menus that showcase their best offerings. dineLA feels quite a bit different for me this year, working among the chaos on the other side, but on our shared day off, we just had to participate as diners! To celebrate Martin’s mom’s birthday on our double-date, we selected Chaya Brasserie, just off the main hustle and bustle of Beverly Hills.

Chaya Beverly Hills is a tiny hole-in-the-wall with a gorgeously decorated interior that includes (real!) bamboo plants reaching to the sky. A print of Van Gogh’s portrait hangs on the wall opposite a series of large framed mirrors, opening up the small space and making it seem much less claustrophobic than it would have otherwise been. The white tablecloth-clad tables and attentive but friendly service let us know we were in for a special treat. For just $45, Chaya offers a three course dinner and a wine pairing for an additional $20. Martin opted for it and we shared the 3-ounce tasting pours (a white cotes du rhone for the first course, a red blend for the second, and a sweet riesling for dessert).

Table Bread

Table Bread

Even the table bread was a delicious start — freshly warmed, the crunch of rustic bread with a warm fluffy center, slathered with softened butter. I always appreciate places that take the time to warm their bread, so Chaya was already getting brownie points from me.

Coconut Chili Soft-Shell Crab | Summer Squash, Cilantro.

Coconut Chili Soft-Shell Crab | Summer Squash, Cilantro.

Appetizer (M): Coconut Chili Soft-Shell Crab | Summer Squash, Cilantro. As food lovers we are well aware that it is currently soft shell crab season! I could not believe that Chaya had it on their dineLA menu, and Martin snatched it up, though I made him promise to share. Dipped in a tempura batter, deep fried, and served over a bed of zucchini and yellow squash, the soft shell crab was absolutely succulent with its sweet meat and an oh-so-edible shell.

Tricolor Sashimi Carpaccio | Tuna, Salmon, Tai Snapper, Ooba Pesto, Yuzu Jelly.

Tricolor Sashimi Carpaccio | Tuna, Salmon, Tai Snapper, Ooba Pesto, Yuzu Jelly.

Appetizer (A): Tricolor Sashimi Carpaccio | Tuna, Salmon, Tai Snapper, Ooba Pesto, Yuzu Jelly. I’ll be honest, I think twice about ordering the same menu item as someone else when dining out in a group. Though it was inevitable with a party of four and three menu options from which to choose, I noticed that no one was getting the sashimi. I’m so glad I did because I love yuzukosho and its presence in the ooba (shiso) pesto totally made the dish, aside from the sexy plating of course. Crunchy watermelon radishes, tart yuzu jelly, and an assortment of microgreens were excellent garnishes to the fresh raw fish.

Spicy Lobster Risotto | Edamame, Grilled Corn, Asparagus.

Spicy Lobster Risotto | Edamame, Grilled Corn, Asparagus.

Main Course (M): Spicy Lobster Risotto | Edamame, Grilled Corn, Asparagus. Martin immediately gravitated to this dish and I could see why — the risotto was perfectly cooked (not too dry, not too runny, with al dente rice) and the plating was a show stopper with a massive lobster claw adorning the center of the plate. Don’t worry though — it’s already peeled and ready to extract for easy eating! I stole a bite or two and though I would not call it “spicy” it was full of spices and had a bit of a kick.

Steak & Frites | Prime Hangar Steak, Wasabi Chimichurri.

Steak & Frites | Prime Hangar Steak, Wasabi Chimichurri.

Main Course (A): Steak & Frites | Prime Hangar Steak, Wasabi Chimichurri. We just celebrated Bastille Day with homemade steak frites last week, but spotting it on the menu, I wanted to try that wasabi chimichurri. The steak arrived just the right temperature (rare as requested), tender, and absolutely flavorful. The frites were crispy and a generous portion, plenty to share with my snacking companions.

Strawberry Mochi | Coconut Sorbet.

Strawberry Mochi | Coconut Sorbet.

Dessert (M): Strawberry Mochi | Coconut Sorbet. It was Martin’s turn to be “different” and he opted for the strawberry mochi. Sticky rice flour wrapped around a whole strawberry, it would be more accurate described as daifuku. The coconut sorbet on the side was refreshing and reminiscent of the milk and pulp straight from a young coconut. Despite the “girly” plating (as he put it), Martin really enjoyed this dessert, especially the flakes of strawberry-flavored white chocolate which reminded him of his favorite Pocky.

Flourless Chocolate Cake | Caramelized Banana Gelato, Hazelnuts.

Flourless Chocolate Cake | Caramelized Banana Gelato, Hazelnuts.

Dessert (A & M’s Mom): Flourless Chocolate Cake | Caramelized Banana Gelato, Hazelnuts. The presentation was stunning, and the first thing I did was grab one of the bits of hazelnut brittle. So good! The cake itself was rich with a thin layer of ganache (?) holding it together. I particularly enjoyed the ice cream as I am a big fan of the chocolate-banana combination. A great way to end the meal!

Sticky Toffee Pudding | Bourbon Ice Cream.

Sticky Toffee Pudding | Bourbon Ice Cream.

Dessert (M’s Dad): Sticky Toffee Pudding | Bourbon Ice Cream. I was glad he ordered this as I wanted to see how Chaya’s interpretation of this British classic holds up. The sticky toffee pudding here (as our server had warned us) is more like a dense banana bread and is drizzled with a light bourbon sauce. I liked that it wasn’t too sweet or heavy but it was not quite what I think of when I think of sticky toffee pudding. Not a bad thing, just different.

There is still a week left of dineLA, so if you’re looking for a great deal and a beautiful venue for date night, consider Chaya Brasserie!

We also have plenty of write-ups for previous dineLA restaurant weeks, though the menu may vary:

- Piccolo Venice (Venice)

- Catch American Seafood (Santa Monica)

- Blue Stove (Santa Monica)

- Stefan’s at LA Farm (Santa Monica)

So get out there and enjoy the many awesome restaurants in our City of Angels!

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Check out Chaya Brasserie: thechaya.com/beverlyhills

8741 Alden Drive
Los AngelesCA 90048

See their Yelp reviews here!

DineLA Summer 2014 – $$$ ($45/person) dinner

Parking: $6.50 for valet.

Westside Tavern – West Los Angeles

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When Martin and I go out, more often than not, food is the main event. We don’t plan to go anywhere afterward; we simply enjoy our dinner and each other’s company. If we have the luxury and opportunity, a tasting menu consisting of a dozen courses would be our idea of date night. But sometimes, you’re in the mood for the oldie but goodie – dinner and a movie. That’s where Westside Tavern comes in.

Foreground: Sazerac Old Overholt Rye Whiskey | Simple Syrup | Bitters | Absinthe Mist (Background: Iced Green Tea)

Foreground: Sazerac Old Overholt Rye Whiskey | Simple Syrup | Bitters | Absinthe Mist (Background: Iced Green Tea)

Situated in the heart of the Westside Pavilion, a few short miles down Westwood Boulevard from our alma mater, Westside Tavern is built to accommodate the patrons of the adjoining Landmark Theater. The service is quick, friendly, and efficient, and the food comes out with plenty of time to spare even if you’re trying to squeeze in a three-course meal before a show (guilty as charged). With my recent career trajectory, and given the personal recommendations I had received, we decided to see Chef (GREAT movie, by the way). To whet our appetites for the food-themed movie, we decided to indulge.

Appetizer: Jar of Chicken Liver Mousse - Green Apple Chutney | Grilled Sourdough

Appetizer: Jar of Chicken Liver Mousse – Green Apple Chutney | Grilled Sourdough

Appetizer: Jar of Chicken Liver Mousse – Green Apple Chutney | Grilled Sourdough

It’s no secret on this blog that we love all things charcuterie, so when a place offers chicken liver mousse, you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll be ordering it. The adorable glass jar of paté was topped with a wine-red gelée (I couldn’t identify the flavor as it was vaguely sweet but overpowered by the liver). I really enjoyed the crisp and tart chutney; when I had read the description on the menu, I expected a more jam-like cooked chutney but was pleasantly surprised by this fresh pickled salad of sorts. The grilled sourdough was delicious and unique “paté carrier” in lieu of regular old toast. I am incredibly biased with regard to the paté itself, however, and while it was good, it just did not live up to the hype of the many positive reviews I had read (see Yelp and other forums). The primary thing for me was the color; I could not get past the gray hue of oxidized livers.

Entree: Butter Poached Lobster Roll on Brioche

Entree: Butter Poached Lobster Roll on Brioche

Entree: Butter Poached Lobster Roll on Brioche

When we went to New England last spring, I learned that there were two competing camps of lobster rolls: Connecticut-style (tossed in hot, drawn butter) and Maine-style (served cold in a mayo-based salad). I am in food-love with the hot, buttery CT-style and jumped at the chance to have one here, despite the $19 price tag. A crispy, toasted, split-top brioche roll packed to the brim with succulent knuckle and claw meat… I was in cholesterol heaven! They say money can’t buy happiness, but Westside Tavern managed to name a price. $19. All things considered, not a bad deal for buttery bliss.

(Martin had the Wagyu Beef French Dip – Smoked Onion Vinaigrette | Horseradish Cream | Thyme Jus | French Roll. He dug in too quickly for me to snap a photo but seemed quite happy with his hot, meaty sandwich swimming in hearty jus.)

Dessert: Warm Sticky Toffee Cake - Mascarpone Cream

Dessert: Warm Sticky Toffee Cake – Mascarpone Cream

Dessert: Warm Sticky Toffee Cake – Mascarpone Cream

There’s ALWAYS room for dessert, and when at a pub with “tavern” in the name, you just can’t pass up the sticky toffee pudding! It has been said by others and I will say it again here: the sticky toffee cake at Westside Tavern is HUGE. Like “bring all of your friends and share” huge. The cake was warm and spongy, the toffee sauce sweet and syrupy, and the quenelle of mascarpone cream was the perfect light and airy touch. We regretted not being able to finish it all then and there.

So as I mentioned earlier, our server was great at timing our courses so that we could eat without feeling rushed but still get our meal served in time to run upstairs and catch the movie. We allotted an hour and a half before our scheduled movie time and it worked out perfectly (the less ambitious could probably plan for an hour flat). Overall, it was certainly the best dinner-and-a-movie experience that I can recall!

And speaking of movies, if you haven’t seen Jon Favreau’s Chef yet, I highly recommend checking it out. The kitchen humor especially is hilarious and hilariously accurate, while still being an enjoyable and relatable movie to viewers in and out of the industry alike. And for those who have seen it, I leave you with two words: hush puppies.

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Check out Westside Tavern: westsidetavernla.com

10850 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

See their Yelp reviews here!

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