Pacific Rim Cooking
What happens when East and West, North and South all converge in the kitchen? Pacific Rim cooking! Truly a cuisine of medleys, Pacific Rim cooking combines Pacific Island foods, Asian cooking techniques, California freshness, and a host of other cultural and culinary influences. You'll find everything from seafood tacos and shitake mushroom quesadillas to Japanese potstickers and seared fish with peanut coconut sauce.
Pacific Rim cooking has been described as "ingredient driven," meaning that Pacific Rim cooks use a recipe's main ingredients -- most often a wonderfully fresh food -- as the focus of each dish. Also called "Asian fusion," "Euro-Pacific," or "regional Hawaiian" cuisine, it's a way of cooking that enhances a great diversity of beautiful fresh foods with healthful cooking methods, like grilling, wok stir frying, and steaming.
Essential Spices for Pacific Rim Cooking
The ingredients that drive the recipes include exotic, tropical fruits (including fruit salsas), fresh vegetables (like arugula, avocadoes, red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers), just-caught seafood, sesame seeds, nuts, and flavorful, often-tangy sauces. Herbs and spices are crucial to Pacific Rim seasoning, but they're used to gently enhance the main ingredients, not disguise or overpower them.
Annatto Seed: These little, brick-colored seeds provide a rich color and mild but distinct flavor to a variety of Pacific Rim dishes, especially sauces and grain and seafood recipes. They're usually cooked in oil, and then the fragrant, colorful oil is used for cooking.
Basil: A native of Southeast Asia, basil's warm, minty, peppery flavor is used to season dressings and sauces, soups, meats, beans, vegetables and grains in Pacific Rim cuisine. Many varieties of basil are grown; Asian basil has a purplish hue. Basil combines well with many other seasonings and with citrus fruits.
Cardamom: Another native of Southeast Asia, cardamom's warm, sweet taste and exotic floral aroma are often enjoyed in rice dishes and desserts and with meats and vegetables. Pacific Rim cooks prefer the green cardamom pod, which is more aromatic than white. The seeds are sometimes removed from the pods and powdered before adding to recipes, especially in meat and vegetable dishes. Cardamom is also a main ingredient in the blend Garam Masala.
more essential spices for Pacific Rim cooking...
If you enjoy Pacific Rim cooking, you'll want to stock up on Chili Powder Blend (choose from a regular blend, Extra Spicy Blend, Fiesta Blend, and Traditional Blend), Chili Seasoning Mix, Chinese Five Spice Powder, Curry Powders (choose from regular blend, Lemon Curry and Muchi Curry), Fajita Seasoning, Garam Masala, Garlic 'N Herb Seasoning, Garlic Pepper, Garlic Salt, Lemon Pepper, Peppermill Gourmet Blend, Taco Seasoning, and Veggie Pepper.
Garlic gadgets, grinders and graters, mills and shakers, mortars and pestles, salad spinner and colanders.
Agar Agar: Derived from a sea vegetable, agar agar sets at room temperature and is valued for its gelling ability. It is unflavored and needs only be dissolved in water, heated, and cooled. It can be used in equal amounts to replace unflavored gelatin in any recipe.
Dried mushrooms: Chopped button mushrooms and shitake mushrooms are available in convenient, dried form, so you can always have them on hand. To reconstitute, simply soak them in water for an hour or two. Or simply add directly to a long-cooking soup or stew.
Dried Tomato Flakes: Reconstitute for rich tomato flavor in casseroles, sauces, soups and stews, pasta dishes -- anyplace you want tomato flavor. Soak in water for an hour before using, or add directly to a long-cooking soup, stew, or sauce.
Sesame seeds: These delicate, nutty seeds are folded into breads and batters, sprinkled on vegetables, or in stir fries, and ground with sea salt -- or with thyme and sumac -- to make a table condiments. Roasting them brings out their flavor.
Wasabi: Wasabi comes from the root of an Asian horseradish plant. Make the authentic, fiery Asian condiment in minutes by stirring 1 teaspoon of powder with 2 teaspoons of warm water until it becomes a thick paste. Let stand 10 minutes, then serve with sushi, sashimi, or noodles.