Long Noodles For Long Days

In January it’s so nice
While slipping on the sliding ice
To slurp hot chicken with long rice
Slurping once, slurping twice
Slurping chicken with long rice

Perhaps that’s not quite how the original children’s book begins, but it’s close enough. Closely linked in my mind to the earliest days of childhood, sitting in my Papa Sam’s lap as he read to me from the colorful pages, the lilting cadence of that simple poetry instantly takes me back. Memories of pillow forts and story time, footie pajamas and a bed full of stuffed animals bubble up like a pot simmering on the back burner. It’s fitting that this particular tale is all about comfort food, since that’s the hunger it satisfies in my soul.

Of course, the real story is about soup, but there’s room for more than one home cooked source of solace. Chicken long rice is basically the brothless equivalent.

What is chicken long rice?

First introduced to me by a friend living on Oahu, chicken long rice features thin vermicelli noodles interwoven with shredded chicken cooked in a savory broth spiked with ginger. It’s a cozy dish that satisfies all those wintry cravings, but also brilliantly light and easy to eat in the heat of summer.

The name itself is a bit of a misnomer; while rice noodles are acceptable, it’s most commonly made with mung bean threads (AKA cellophane noodles, glass noodles, or saifun) which are resilient, chewy, and great for soaking in all of that flavorful liquid.

Adapted from Chinese cuisine, it’s now a Hawaiian staple that turns up at luaus, potlucks, and everyday dinners across the island state.

What makes this the best recipe for chicken long rice?

I’m so glad you asked! Naturally, it’s plant-based like everything else I make, putting it firmly within the grasp of hungry vegans and vegetarians at last. Additionally, the starch-based noodles open up the possibility of catering to gluten-free eaters; just use wheat-free tamari instead of soy sauce, and double-check that your meatless chicken follows suit, too.

Do yourself a favor: Bookmark this page right now. Just like in the children’s story, there’s no bad time for a bowlful of comfort. You’re going to want this one for the months ahead.

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Unholy

Fresh herbs wait for no one, which is a pressing issue when you’re prone to over-purchasing. Some can be preserved beautifully through drying or freezing, but others perish through the process. There’s a reason why dried basil and dill taste nothing like their original glory, aromatic and herbaceous, reduced down to straw-like hay at best. That’s why a treasure like Thai basil must be cherished immediately, given the opportunity.

What is Thai holy basil?

Distinct from Italian basil, Thai holy basil is more pungent and peppery, sharp and bright, unlike anything else on the market. Despite the misleading name, it’s in fact an entirely different plant, with no relation to other types of common basil. While you could substitute one for the other, you might as well use cilantro instead, since the taste would end up being equally disparate.

What’s the best way to use Thai basil?

Pad Krapao, AKA basil stir fry, is an ideal way to clean the excess fresh herb out of your fridge. It takes almost no prep, comes together in 10 minutes or less, and has an invigorating if not downright addictive flavor. The most common variety you’ll find is Pad Krapao Gai, made with ground chicken, but the beauty of this concept is its versatility. American restaurants tend to favor whole cuts, but you could easily use any protein you prefer.

What are some ideal protein substitutions?

Naturally, my chicken is plant-based. If you’re craving something lighter, heartier, or simply different, you have plenty of choices:

Want to veg out?

I like to keep this prep fast and streamlined, focusing on just one featured vegetable for the sake of simplicity. Go ahead and add a full rainbow to bulk up the meal, especially if you have a frozen stir fry vegetable blend you can effortlessly toss right in. My favorite vegetable additions or substitutions include:

  • Bell pepper strips
  • Snow seas or snap peas
  • Shredded carrots
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Baby corn
  • Sliced zucchini

If you should be so lucky to have access to fresh Thai holy basil, don’t let a single leaf go to waste. There will be no such thing as “too much” when you have this easy, crowd-pleasing recipe in your repertoire.

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Fusion Wok Star

We interrupt your regularly scheduled holiday programming for a tropical breath of fresh air.

Let’s be honest: Who hasn’t dreamed of escaping from this so-called winter wonderland in search of greener pastures? Feeling the warm sunshine beat down on bare skin, palm trees gently swaying in the wind, can instantly undo weeks of built up stress. Since jumping on an airplane isn’t an option for most of us, I have the next best thing: Mango-Pineapple Fried Rice.

Purely fusion cuisine that exists in no authentic culinary tradition, there are elements of many southeast cultures mashed up into one hot bowl of whole grains.

  • Chinese sweet and sour sauce comes through from the combination of tangy pineapple and salty soy sauce.
  • Thai inspiration is found in juicy bites of mango, in sharp contrast to hot fresh chilies.
  • Indonesian elements like coconut oil and peanuts add body, depth, and richness.

The secret to creating such a harmonious yet complex balance of disparate flavors is to start with salsa.

Yes, you heard me right! Sam’s Fresh Mango Pineapple Salsa is a perfect companion to chips and guacamole, of course, but also a brilliant meal starter. Instead of shopping and chopping each individual component, this intensely flavorful base is ready to go right away. You can purchase Sam’s Fresh Salsa at ShopRite, Acme, and Safeway. If they are not in your local store, ask them to carry Sam’s Fresh Salsa products!

It’s easy to make the best fried rice with a few quick tips:

  • Most American or Americanized recipes use long grain white rice for stir fries. There’s nothing wrong with this, and you’re welcome to substitute your favorite, but I prefer medium or short grain, such as arborio or sushi rice. I find it stays chewier without drying out, and forms very satisfying little clumps that are easy to pick up with chopsticks.
  • Ideally, cook the rice a day or a few hours in advance to make sure it’s completely cool, if not downright cold. You want the starch to congeal a bit, which is what browns so nicely on the outside when you saute it.
  • Use very, very high heat. The cooking process is very fast since you just want to sear the rice that’s already fully cooked and otherwise ready to eat.

Wish me luck, because this fiery little entree is my entry Sam’s Fresh Salsa Blogger Recipe Challenge! Contest aside, I can already tell you this recipe is a real winner.

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Stick with Kati Rolls

Kati rolls are a special sort of food that exists beyond spoken language. It needs no translation, even if this is the first time you’ve heard such a word. One glance and all the mysteries are revealed. The kati roll is fluent in delicious, which is the most compelling form of communication on everyone’s lips.

What are kati rolls?

Soft flatbread, lightly crisped on the outside, wraps around an aromatic and highly spiced filling; the epitome of indispensable street food. Kati rolls are strikingly similar to fajitas in construction or open-ended burritos when finished. Originally, skewer-roasted kebabs were at the heart of it all, beginning life not unlike our modern day hot dog. Thus, the name comes from the Bengali word kathi, which means “stick,” in reference to the bamboo sticks used for cooking the protein. The bread is merely the vehicle, but simultaneously an essential part of the whole build.

The most “complicated” part of making kathi rolls to preparing the chapati (AKA roti.) I say this in quotes because it’s an incredibly simple flatbread made from minimal, common pantry staples that’s well within everyone’s grasp.

Even if you struggle with bread baking, this is a great way to ease into the art, since there’s no yeast involved and you truly can’t over-knead it. Gently charred by pan-frying on the stove top , you don’t need to preheat your oven, either. The biggest struggle can be carving out the time on a busy weeknight, to which I say: Don’t sweat the details.

Traditionally, the flatbread of choice for making kati rolls has been paratha. Infused with buttery, flaky layers throughout, that particular unleavened dough does take a bit more finesse. I’d rather save such intensive labor and overall decadence for a stand-alone snack, ideally with a side of chutney or curry sauce for dipping.

What are good alternatives to homemade chapati?

While all flatbread are not created equal, you can absolutely make mouthwatering kathi rolls using a wide range of ready-made solutions with great success. For best results, brush them with oil and lightly griddle them on both sides before rolling to make them more flexible. A few options include:

It’s what’s on the inside that counts

Beef, lamb, and goat kebabs no longer need apply for this starring role. In fact, the most popular fillings are now largely vegetarian. Typically focused on cubes of fresh paneer that are masala-marinated and tossed with sauteed peppers, it’s a simple, adaptable combination that never gets old. Step up that umami quotient with Sugimoto shiitake for an even better experience.

Koshin shiitake mushrooms are perfectly suited for this application, bearing wide, long caps that are ideal for slicing into meaty strips. Instantly boost the overall flavor profile while incorporating a more satisfying, toothsome bite with that one effortless addition.

Are kati rolls healthy?

Keeping it vegan, cheese is out and tofu is in. Swapping the two lowers the fat, increases the protein, and removes cholesterol entirely. Factor in those high-fiber veggies and you’ve got a real superfood snack on hand!

Kati rolls are the ultimate meal prep hack

Designed to be eaten on the go, kati rolls are ideal for make-ahead meals, packed lunches, and traveling snacks. After assembling the rolls, wrap them individually in foil and freeze for up to 6 months. Whenever you’re ready to eat, either simply let them thaw out and enjoy at room temperature, or stick them in a toaster over or air fryer for a few minutes until warm and crispy. Keep chutney or hot sauce separate to apply as desired.

You don’t even need a recipe to make a kati roll. It could be made completely from leftovers, restaurant takeout, or prepared foods from the grocery store. Kati rolls are whatever you want them to be, whether they’re made 100% from scratch or with zero cooking involved. The only way you can go wrong is if you don’t start rolling in the first place.

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Top 10 Vegan Thanksgiving Entrees

Since the beginning of time, vegans around the world have faced the same three questions from otherwise well-meaning friends:

  1. Where do you get your protein?
  2. Don’t plants have feelings too?
  3. What can you eat for Thanksgiving?

That’s a lot to unpack, not due to the complexity of the topics, but the fact such uncertainties still exist in our day and age. For all those still wondering, let me give you the abridged version:

  1. Plants.
  2. No.
  3. Plenty.

Of course there’s much more to it than that. Thanksgiving, a keystone holiday deeply entrenched in tradition, deserves deeper thought. Even an omnivorous feast takes weeks of preparation, so why shouldn’t a meatless one command the same careful planning? Now is the time to gather your recipe inspiration and believe me, I have a real veritable cornucopia of options to share.

Sides are simple so let’s focus in on the main event. Vegan Thanksgiving entrees tend to stump even seasoned pros, so there’s no shame in seeking help. Before you buy a frozen roast from the grocery store, consider the full spectrum of possibilities that are vegetable-focused, protein rich, and infused with all the freshest flavors of the season. It doesn’t have to be a big production to be worthy of a celebration. Having any homemade plant-based main dish on the table is a reason to be thankful.

Top 10 Vegan Thanksgiving Entrees

Think it's hard to eat vegan on Thanksgiving? Think again! Here are the best meatless mains for Thanksgiving dinner to feed a hungry crowd or a small, intimate gathering.

Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Modern meat processing does a marvelous job of making flesh, fat, and gristle look like anything other than that. From ground sinew and muscle we get exquisitely smooth deli slices or hot dog links, completely divorced from their corporeal beings. As plant-based meats evolve to compete with conventional options, I think the next big step is to outpace them entirely. It’s time to embrace whole body butchery.

“Meathead” might be an insult, but “meat foot” is about to become a compliment of the highest order. The concept of feetloaf isn’t new, just not well understood. While it may have begun as a play on words, the flavors here are no joke. Let’s take a swing at this beast and break it all down.

What exactly is feetloaf?

First, you need to start with pasture-raised, hormone-free, organic, free-range humans. Next, you need to make sure they’re slaughtered humanely at a USDA-approved facility…

In truth though, feetloaf can be made from any meatloaf recipe you like. Standard yields will only make enough material for a single foot, or baby feet, so either double the quantities or plan the sculpting accordingly.

You’ll want to remove the natural toenails, which are pretty tough and sharp. Sliced cipollini onions make excellent replacements, adding flavor and covering any unsightly toe stumps at once.

Alternate vegetables to use for a “bone” instead of daikon:

Did you know that the tibia is is the most commonly fractured long bone in the body? If your human doesn’t have a suitable bone for the loaf, there are plenty of easy replacements. I prefer daikon for it’s mildly peppery bite and tender texture. Other great options include:

  • Parsnip
  • Whole hearts of palm
  • White carrots
  • Leeks (white parts only)
  • Peeled potatoes

What sides are best to serve with feetloaf?

Expect any side dish to be largely overlooked when you have such a grand show-stopper on the table. That said, it’s good to keep the supporting players simple and unfussy. My go-tos are:

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Steamed broccoli or peas
  • Leafy green salad

Those who have been raised eating only innocuous nuggets might have a hard time coming around to feetloaf. Some may even find it shocking or unsettling if not prepared for the meal. Rest assured that this is the only way towards a truly sustainable food system. No matter any initial backlash, this meal is absolutely the best way to get your foot in the door.

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