Salsa Macha

Salsa Macha

If you read about original Salsa Macha, you’ll see that there is a reason for its name. Salsa Macha comes from Veracruz region that features extremely hot chile peppers comapeños available only locally. It’s a truly fiery condiment. When this salsa is made in other regions of Mexico, comapeños are replaced with other hot peppers (e.g., arbol). I admired this condiment not so much for its heat, but for the bold and intense flavors. To adjust it for my palate, I combine my favorite dry and fresh red chile peppers, which are fruity and smokey, but pretty mild.

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Salsa de Pina y Mango | Fresh Pineapple and Mango Salsa

Pineapple and Mango Salsa

This salsa is one of my favorite. I like seafood, and it’s perfect with many seafood dishes as a side. It’s beautiful! Bright, sunny colors of fresh tropical fruit. It tastes like vacation in Hawaii, if, of course, you come across excellent ripe golden pineapples and Ataulfo mango. This salsa is easy to make — all its ingredients are raw, but you have to know smart ways to cut, slice, and dice pineapple and mango to enjoy the process of making it. When you do, you can make this salsa quickly and impress your guests with a presentation.

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Lamb Kabobs: Making Shashlik in Texas

Lamb Cabobs | Shashlyks

How authentic is this shashlyk? Well, let’s see. Instead of traditional mangal, I use shichirin and instead of grapevine — binchotan charcoals from Japan. While true Georgian shashlik is made of non-aged lamb, I choose conditioned lamb from New Zeland. Finally, the marinade is based on local herbs, vegetables, and spices. I couldn’t even find a good substitute for young Georgian wine and decided to use sake for its cleaner taste.

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Red Pozole

Pozole

Toppings are my favorite part of this soup. I think they are what makes this traditional Mexican soup exceptional from the taste and texture point of view as well as its serving and eating experience. I like how some recipe authors refer to pozole as a “soup-salad,” because so many raw ingredients are added to a hot bowl of soup right before eating it.

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Tortilla Soup

Tortilla Soup

Tortilla soup is one of the most popular Mexican soups. Google it, and you can easily get tons of “classic” recipes and even more variations. The base is always the same — dry red chili peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, tortilla chips, cilantro, and lime. In some recipes tortilla chips are used to thicken the soup, in other, they are the topping. In central Mexico, this soup flavor is defined by pungent and tangy thin fleshed pasilla, in Michoacan region it’s a fruity and mild ancho, in Puebla a smokey chipotle takes the place. There are also a variety of additional toppings from cooked meat and poultry to avocado, cheese, and cream. Every local chef or home cook features the best regional ingredients in this soup. I often joke comparing tortilla soup in Mexican cuisine to borsch in Ukrainian.

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Cachucha Peppers Stuffed with Green Mexican Chorizo

Cachucha Peppers Stuffed with Green  Chorizo

To compare cachucha peppers to other green chili peppers I know, I’d say they are close to Spanish padron or Japanese shishito peppers in terms of texture. They are not meaty and slightly crunchy when cooked. To my taste, cachucha peppers are very flavorful and complex with clean and fresh grassy note. There is no heat in them at all. Thus their other name is sweet chili, Ají dulce, though there is no sweetness in them at all, at least when they are green.

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Galician Pie Made in Texas

Empanada Gallega

Empanada Gallega is popular all over Spain and around the world, it is one of the most known Spanish dishes.

The dough is made of wheat flour, fat (lard or oil), and water. The base for the filling is sofrito — onions and peppers — plus seafood or meat. Empanada Gallega is served freshly cooked or cold, sliced into portions, as an appetizer or tapas. The most common versions of this pie are made with canned tuna, scallops, and chopped pork sausage. My absolute favorite are scallops.

Empanadas Gallega can be large or small, round or square; they can be shaped as a large crescent and named empanadillas. As it often happens with famous dishes, there are many recipes of this pie. Mine is based on the original recipe in Spanish from recetaempanadagallega.com, which is featured as one of the best recipes of this pie. It uses a very interesting cooking method to prepare vegetable filling — peppers and onions are poached in oil, strained, and the same flavored oil is used for making pie dough. Which is genius!

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Aam Kasundi | Green Mango, Green Chiles, and Mustard Sauce

Aam Kasundi, Mustard and Green Mango Sauce

I’ve been always curious about differences and similarities of neighboring countries cuisines. Differences are interesting in particular. I also know how dangerous it is to make any assumptions after just a peek inside an unknown cuisine. Yet, I dare to say the use of mustard stands out for me in traditional Bangladeshi cuisine more than anything else. Shorsher tel (mustard oil) is one of the primary cooking mediums. Mustard pastes are often an essential part of food preparation. Mustard seeds are part of Bangladeshi 5-spice mix panch phoron (equal parts of whole seeds: fenugreek, nigella, cumin, black mustard, fennel), and most of dishes are started with tempering it in mustard oil or ghee. One of the most popular dishes in Bangladesh is Shorshe Ilish, Hilsa fish in mustard sauce. All that mustard affair got me thinking. Are those of us, who are not mustard fans, missing something?

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Baked Rice with Pineapple — Khao Ob Sapparod

Thai Pineapple Baked Rice with Seafood

This recipe is part of the Taste of Thai cooking classes (BLOCK 1: Sense of Cuisine. Introduction to Thai flavors, curry pastes, nam phrik kaeng). Pineapple rice is simple to make either for 2-3 people, or for a big crowd. It can be plated or beautifully served in halved pineapple boats. It’s a good way to use cooked long grain rice leftovers, as well as cooked lean meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables. Personally, I cook all the ingredients for this dish form scratch. There are recipes that use only fish sauce and white pepper for seasoning. They are good for those who can’t tolerate any heat. I prefer variations with Thai green, red, and yellow curry pastes, adding more or less of them depending to my guests requests for the level of heat. I tried many ways to cook and serve this dish — all of them are delicious!

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My Hawaii: Poke-tini

Poke/Poketini

Poke-tini is a popular appetizer in eclectic/modern Polynesian/Japanese restaurants. It’s a salad made of fresh raw fish (mostly ahi tuna) cut into 1/4″ cubes and mixed with diced onion, and seaweed. It is usually seasoned with soy sauce, fresh ginger, vinegar (rice, black rice, or balsamic) or lime/key lime juice, and sesame oil. Sometimes avocado and sesame seeds are added. It is served cold in martini glasses. Tiny peaces of perfectly seasoned fish will melt in your mouth!

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