Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey Leftover Congee Recipe

Wait! Before you throw out that turkey carcass from the Thanksgiving massacre, there's something delicious and detoxifying that you can use. Annually, my mom would take the leftover bones from the roasted turkey and make a Chinese style congee for the morning after Thanksgiving. It's clean, healthy, and best of all, it doesn't weigh you down like the dinner from the night before.


Since this was the first Thanksgiving I spent away from my family, I had to deal with the turkey leftovers myself. I called my mom, and got a cryptic and rather sparse answer for making turkey congee. That said, I will try to elucidate it as much as possible, but the truth is, there are so many varying factors that need to be considered. Plus the recipe is hard to mess up, and easy to tweak to your preferences.

It all starts with Thanksgiving dinner. In my family, there are always turkey leftovers. Carve out most of the turkey meat leaving the bones and whatever meat is stuck and not worth pulling off. You can either freeze the entire turkey and make the stock in the near future, but our family always makes the congee for the morning after. Put the turkey bones into the biggest pot you can find. This year, the turkey actually protruded out of the pot, but it's no big deal. If you can, fill the pot up with water to the level of the turkey. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 1-3 hours depending on the size of your bird body.

I simmered my turkey stock uncovered out of necessity, but I don't think you need a lid anyway. Eventually, the connective tissue broke down and I was able to break up the bones enough for the entire body to go into the stock. I don't give a specific cooking time because it really comes down to taste. You know you're ready when the turkey umami permeates the stock. Don't salt the stock yet though.

Put a few cups of rice into another pot. I used two cups this year which made 2-3 servings. Ladle the stock into the rice pot and bring to a simmer. Making congee is much easier than making rice; when in doubt, just add more water. Just keep in mind what the ultimate consistency should be like, and just cook the rice until it reaches that certain al dente. Chinese congee can range in the degree of viscosity. Just add more stock as the rice soaks up the liquid. I also picked through the bones for bits of meat with a big pair of chopsticks. At this point, everything was falling off the bones. The turkey was finished, completely unrecognizable.

As the rice finishes, you can decide to add more stock if you'd like. But this is the point where you add salt to taste. Spoon the congee into bowl and serve your grateful family. Usually we garnish we some white pepper and eat it simply. After all, this is a detox from Thanksgiving dinner. But this year, my congee was a little Japanese inspired and we garnished with an umeboshi pickled plum, shichimi seven spices and nori sheets of seaweed. Sesame is also an option, but congee is a blank canvas. Add whatever you'd like.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Destination Thailand #3: The Best Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai with Permpoon Nabnian

I'll wrap up my series on Southeast Asia with my experience at The Best Thai Cookery School in Chiang Mai with "the man" Permpoon Nabnian. When I first read the pamphlet promoting the cooking school, I was hooked right away. The colorful fonts and the self-aggrandizing were too delicious to pass up. Permpoon (Perm for short) had over 20 years of experience with family restaurants, teaching Thai cooking, and a culinary degree. He definitely knows what he's doing, and he'll teach you everything he can along with a litany of jokes so bad they'll still make you chuckle. Not everyone will be fortunate enough to experience something like this,but there’s a list of online colleges offering cooking programs that can teach you to cook well.


Perm carving a simple flower out of a mango peel

Perm handles everything personally, including picking you up from your hostel in the back of his pick-up. During class, he would sometimes taking calls on his cell phone fielding questions about the school. The class started with a local market tour in which he explained some basic Thai ingredients and also gave some useful produce advice. His opinion on eggs--buy the smaller ones because they come from younger hens.

Perm demonstrating green curry in bulk

Different types of rice available

After learning everything you ever wanted to know about holy basil, we all loaded back onto his pick-up (which is actually more comfortable than it sounds) and drove across town to his home. He converted the backyard into a large open-air cooking school with about a dozen individual work stations. This was a hands-on class experience.

Each person had their own high-powered burner, chopping block, apron, and other utensils

The class proceeded through a series of courses. As a group, we prepared several communal dishes, including spring rolls, mango with coconut sticky rice, tom yam soup and young papaya salad.

Little balls of rice mixed with coconut cream, balancing on my knife

Eating the rice balls with the papaya salad helped temper the heat from the chilies

We then each individually chose one of three dishes to make for each course. For the stir-fry course, I made chicken with cashew nuts. For the curry course, I went with massaman curry, a curry with a plethora of ingredients but primarily flavored with coconut milk and tamarind. Although we didn't make curry paste from scratch, the list of the several dozen ingredients for each type of curry paste was mind-boggling. Lastly, my noodles course was drunken noodles as my friends had each picked pad thai and pad see ew already. According to Perm, "pad" just means fried, making "pad thai" fried Thai people...again, another one of his bad jokes.

Drunken noodles with Thai eggplant

After assembling our feast, we gathered in the front yard where Perm's nephew had set the table and presented a collection of Thai fruits (most of them can be found on my entry of Southeast Asian fruit).

To see me fail by dropping my chicken outside of the wok, check out the accompanying video.

Here's the recipe for Sweet Sticky Rice with Mango (kha neow mamuang). It can be served as a snack, but best as a dessert.

Ingredients (serves 8)
3 ripe mangoes (try to get the small yellow ones, not the big green ones)
5 cups sticky rice, soaked in water at least 4 hours
1 cup coconut cream (if you only have coconut milk, let it sit until it separates and skim off the top)
3/4 cup white sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tbls sesame seeds
10 pandamus leaves or 1 tbls vanilla extract

1/2 cup coconut milk
2 pandamus leaves or 1/4 tsp vanilla extract(optional)
2 tbls sugar
1/2 tsp salt

1. Place the pandamus leaves in a steamer and sticky rice and steam until rice is cooked.
2. Mix the coconut cream, sugar, and salt together and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, remove the rice from the steamer and cool it on a tray for one minute.
4. Add the rice to the coconut cream mixture, combine thoroughly, and remove from heat. Leave to rest for 10 minutes minimum, but preferably 2 hours.
5. Combine the sauce ingredients together and boil for 2 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved.
6. When ready to serve, divide the rice into 8 portions.
7. Peel and slice the mango and arrange on the rice.
8. Sprinkle sesame seeds and serve

If you're interested in superstar Permpoon's class, you can contact him at or by his phone number 089-7552632.