The journey is the destination is the search for fine food
BY MARK BLY
As The Flying Chef, and the captain of a 747, I get to see and eat things that some people only dream about. I am very lucky.
I am often asked what my favorite part of the world is. My first response is usually, “Home.”
Followed by the next question: “No, really, where is your favorite place?”
So here is the long answer.
My favorite part of the world is Asia. My love of these vibrant and diverse cultures began in 1989 at the age of 25, where as a young airline first officer I began a contract flying for Malaysia Airlines based in Kula Lumpur, Malaysia. This was where my worlds collided. My love of flying and passion for cooking were joined by being in the right place at the right time, and by meeting the executive chef of the Kula Lumpur Hilton. This wonderful man took me under his wing. For the next 10 years, I learned the way of Asian cuisine and the art of the kitchen.
From formal dining to the midnight glow of a hawker stand in the street, I dig it all, probably more so the latter.
Malaysia is a country of many cultures; Malay, Chinese and Indian cultures dominate the food scene. Sprinkle in some good old-fashioned British colony and you have a selection of tasty treats that is second to none.
There are many more countries in the region that have influenced me. Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, mainland China, South Korea and Japan are just a few. It is amazing to me that through all these countries that some of my favorite dishes are intertwined. Take, for example, the dumpling, as it is called in China and Taiwan. In Japan it is called gyoza. Roughly the same, but with regional differences, this delectable morsel is tasty wherever you find it.
The eggroll, and/or spring roll, are again, roughly the same idea with regional differences in taste and available ingredients.
I love Asian food for its simplicity. With a few basic ingredients and what you have left over in your fridge you can create a veritable feast of many small dishes to satisfy the palate.
As this column goes to press I will be in Hong Kong eating crispy pork belly and duck. I told you I was lucky!
This month I offer you three of my favorite Asian recipes: prawns Malaysia, a spicy dish of delicious prawns still at the top of my list; and two dishes with an Alaskan twist, smoked salmon egg rolls and caribou gyoza.
If you can’t make it to one of these countries on your own, you can at least duplicate from home the flavors of Asia with these go-to recipes.
Looking for more Alaska Asian fusion? You can find it in my latest cookbook,
“The Alaska Distillery Cookbook,” by The Flying Chef, available online at, www.theflyingchef.com.
12-11 count shrimp or better
¼ cup showsing rice cooking wine
2 tablespoons chili garlic paste
3 tablespoons black bean sauce
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon white pepper
Brown sugar to taste
1. De-vein and rinse shrimp.
2. In a large nonreactive bowl mix wine, chili garlic paste, black bean sauce and white pepper. Add brown sugar to taste.
3. Place shrimp in bowl with mixture and coat.
4. Heat oil in a heavy pan over high heat. Just as oil starts to smoke, place shrimp in pan. Be careful: At this point you are going to get a lot of splatter.
5. Cook on high heat for about 3 minutes a side or until done. Keep a close eye on it because you can turn your shrimp into rubber in a hurry.
6. Once cooked, deglaze pan with juice from half the lime.
7. Plate up your dish and garnish with remaining lime and cilantro.
8. Have plenty of napkins on hand. This is messy finger food.
Alaskan Caribou Gyoza
½ pound ground caribou
¼ cup Thai Basil leaves, chopped
½ head of cabbage
2 slices ginger root,
1 green onion
2 water chestnuts
A pinch of salt
½ teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
5 tablespoons peanut oil
½ cup of water
2 oz. Agave nectar
1 pkg of wonton wrappers Sauce:
1 tablespoon chili paste
2 oz. Agave nectar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice
The best gyoza, or Chinese dumplings, that I have tasted have been In Taipei and Hong Kong. I like to find a street vendor making these and then pull up a seat on a plastic stool and grab a Tsingtao beer. A little chili sauce and you are good to go. Since I cannot figure out which location has the best product I guess I will have to keep trying them and figure it out. I am up to the task.
This interpolation is an East meets Northwest because I use a Chinese recipe and Alaska ingredients: Caribou. Although I use Alaska caribou in my recipe, pork or beef works just as well.
1. Brown caribou in a skillet over medium high heat. Stir in basil leaves until wilted.
2. In a large bowl, mix the caribou, cabbage, green onion, ginger, Honey vodka, chestnuts salt, sugar, and sesame oil. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours, preferable overnight.
3. When ready to prepare, lay several wonton wrappers out on a clean surface. Have a small bowl of water help to help seal the wrappers.
4. Place tablespoon of your chilled caribou mixture on to the center of the wonton wrappers. Dip your index finger in to the bowl of water and moisten the entire edge of each wrapper. Fold the edges on them selves and seal by pressing down with a fork. For a more unique look, seal the edges by pinching the edges of the wrappers.
5. In a large, deep skillet heat three tablespoons of peanut oil over medium high heat. Place your pot stickers on the hot oil, seam edges up. Heat for just under a minute and pour water in to skillet. Gently boil for approximately eight minutes until oil and water begin to sizzle then add remaining oil. When bottoms begin to brown, remove from pan.
6. Prepare sauce by mixing all ingredients and adjusting to taste.
7. Dip and enjoy.