Archived entries for exotic ethnic ingredients

Quick Mango Lassi

No trip to an Indian restaurant is complete without a delicious mango lassi. So, why not bring this delicious treat home? Lets!

I always think mangoes seem like such a luxury. They can be a bit expensive to buy individually and take a bit of time to process, when you have to work around the big pit. I pride myself on doing everything from scratch, but purchasing canned mango pulp from our local Lebanese market is one short cuts I always allow myself. With a can of mango pulp, a mango lassi is but 5 minutes away!

Quick Mango Lassi

  • 1 30 oz. can of Mango Pulp -or- 3 c. mango pulp
  • 1 12 oz. can of coconut milk
  • 2 c. yougurt
  • 1/2 c. milk
  • 1 Tbs honey

In a blender, mix all ingredients and blend.  This is a thick drink, so you can dilute with more milk, or ice chips if you want to chill it a bit.

Drink up and enjoy!

Questions From the Readers: Where Do You Get Your Lamb?

Since re-posting my lamb chili recipe, a lot of readers have been asking me where I get my lamb from. Well for Chicago readers, I get my lamb from Al Khayyam, the Lebanese market on Kedzie and Lawrence. I was able to get a lamb shoulder for $2.69 a lb! Of course, this includes the bones, but you can ask the butcher to grind the meat for you fresh and cut the bones up so you can use them to make soup.

Last year, I wrote a post pimping Al Khayyam, but to reiterate, I love this store! Its a great place to get exotic spices, delicious middle eastern yogurt, fresh baked pita (daily) for only $1, homemade baklava and of course, cheap lamb.

So what if you don’t live in Chicago or don’t want to go across town to this market? Here’s some tips to help you find good quality lamb in your area.

Tips for finding good quality lamb.

  • Avoid prepacked ground lamb at grocery stores. They usually sell ground lamb at most general grocery stores. However, its usually frozen, not fresh, and not of the best quality. It works for a last minute resort, but try to find something better.
  • Try to find a Middle Eastern ethnic market: ethnic markets of cultures which feature lamb as part of their regular diet is a great place to find cheap fresh lamb. If its part of the cultural diet, the market’s client base will demand good quality meat and know what they’re willing to pay, so you usually get the best quality for the least amount, and its usually very fresh because of a high demand. Middle eastern, Greek, South Eastern European and Northern African markets are a great place to check.
  • Ask your butcher to ground fresh meat from the bone: Leg of lamb is pretty common in general markets. Ask to find out if they can grind the meat fresh from a leg cut and how much they charge. It may be expensive, but its always good to ask and find out. Freshly ground meat will always be better quality then meat which has been ground and then frozen for a while.

Feel free to email me with any food related questions, and it may even be featured in an upcoming post!

3 Tips to Make Perfectly Mashed Yucca

I’ve always thought of yucca as being a very exotic thing. Not only is it not part of the average American diet but it also has some very strange textural characteristics which make it very weird. Yucca, similar to a potato, is often eaten boiled and mashed. Because it is VERY high in starch, if you give the yucca mash a good mix, it becomes very sticky and gooey. This paste can be very good for various things, but I’ve found, I often end up with this sticky paste, when all I wanted was mashed yucca.

Here are 3 quick tips for getting a good mashed yucca.

1. Peel completely. Remove the hard outer skin as well as the pinky underskin. The delicate white inside will be less fibrous then the outer layers.

2. Boil the shit out of it. Cut the yucca into disks or chunks and boil in water. I always boil potatoes until you can put a knife into it, but I’ve found, you have to boil yucca longer. It starts to break up in the water, but it will still be hard inside. Keep boiling it until it falls apart easily to the touch. This means the fiber has broken down a bit.

Potato Ricer: image courtesy of Exlibris

3. Use a potato ricer to mash the yucca. A ricer helps separate the hard fiber from the softer mash, leaving you with a perfectly fluffy pile of mashed yucca. I know you may not have a potato ricer, its sort of an unnecessary kitchen item. However, once every decade, it comes in handy, and this is one of those occasions.

Precious in Pink: Pickled Quail’s Egg in Beet Juice

Pickled eggs seem so nice and ol’ timey. I imagine some turn-of-the-century saloons where they were available at almost every bar. They’re so easy to make. Its just a matter of hard boiling and then soaking them in a brine. My brother-in-law, Jason, always has a jar of them in the fridge, and they do make a great snack; all that protein can really fill you up!

Pickled quails eggs, as garnish for the appetizer course from our Polynesian Meal.

Tiny things are always so precious. You could fit 3 or 4 quails egg inside the shell of an average chicken’s so of course, its hard not to adore them. Don’t judge them by their size though, although small, once cooked, these eggs are surprisingly tough. Their egg whites are not as soft as their larger counterparts which gives for a surprising texture when bursting into the center and finding a soft, delicate yolk. They are a bit exotic in our culture, but quite common in various Asian cuisines, so are not impossible to find pickled if not fresh in Chinese, Korean or Thai grocery stores.

So lets pull out our cauldron, and with a little of toil, toil, boil and bubble, we’ll mix together 1 part exotic, to two parts precious, a pinch of ol’ timey, and a bit of beet blood for pizzaz and we’ll concoct the perfect pickled quails eggs!

(oh come on, I don’t mean blood- its beet juice. Sheesh!)


  • 3 dozen fresh Quail eggs, or 2 cans of preserved eggs*
  • 4-5 medium sized beets, washed and quartered
  • 2 c. vinegar (white wine, cider, rice, or any mixture of these)
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • bay leaves
  • black peppercorn
  • whole cloves
  • fresh mint
  • 1 clean quart jar with lid

* I suggest getting fresh, as the canned eggs are a bit rubbery. However, the longer fresh eggs sit in a brine, the more they will become a bit rubbery as well. They are best eaten within two weeks. However if you plan to store yours for a while, it doesn’t matter if you start out with canned or fresh.

Make beet juice. We’ll add beet juice to the brine to give added flavor but most importantly a nice purple color. Clean and wash your beets. You don’t have to skin them if you don’t want just get all the yuck off. Quarter and place in a pot with water covering about 1″ above beets. Cover, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 30 minutes, until you see dark red liquid. Drain and reserve 2 c. of juice for your brine.

While beets are cooking, we’ll prepare the eggs. If you’re using canned eggs, you can skip to step 4. If using fresh eggs, we’ll need to hard boil them. Place a cloth napkin or towel at the bottom of a pot, place the fresh eggs on the cloth and fill the pot with water. Place the pot on a the stove. Cover and bring to a rolling boil. Once boiling, remove the pot from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes with pot still covered. While its sitting, prepare a bowl of ice water. Take eggs from hot water, and place into the ice water until they cool. This will make peeling them easier. Because they are so small, its easy to damage them while peeling. Peel eggs and set aside.

Create your brine. In your cualdron, I mean in a pot, mix all ingredients, including the beet blood, ahem…juice, but excluding the eye of newt. Ok, joke taken too far now! Excluding the eggs, put everying into a pot and bring to a boil. If you have a pickling spice mix, feel free to use that instead of the whole spices I listed above. Once the brine is boiling, remove from heat.

Assemble your jar of pickles. Place your eggs in your quart jar. Pour the hot brine over the eggs, whole spices and all. Fill jar with as much of the brine as possible, place lid on jar and allow to sit. Once cool, you can add in some fresh mint if you want and place in the refridgerator.

Your pickled eggs will be at full potency in about a week and will remain good indefinitely if kept chilled.

How To Roast A Leg of Goat and Be Awesome!

Goat is a bit exotic. If you want to impress people. Exotic always works. So, roast a leg of goat and you’ll be awesome. Guaranteed. That’s a Forkable promise. You can also go off about how difficult it is to make goat and how its often tough, and then when people bite into the moist juicy meat this recipe will easily provide you, everyone’s brains will explode. Maybe that should be the title of this post: How To Make Everyone’s Brains Explode with Goat. Hmmm Anyway, onto the recipe.

If at any point during this recipe you ask Why? – here’s your answer.

Roasted Leg of Goat

  • a 4-5 lb leg of goat, bone and all
  • seeds from a large mature papaya
  • 1-2 Tbs kosher salt
  • 2-3 large onions for roasting
  • -for the marinade-

  • 20 limes, juiced
  • 1 c. rum
  • 1 c. white wine
  • 2 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2-3 large beets
  • -for the dry rub

  • 2 Tbs dry ginger
  • 2 Tbs cumin
  • 1 Tbs coriander
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs sumac
  • chopped fresh mint
  • head of garlic
  • fresh ginger knuckle- 2″ or so.

  • 1) Go out and purchase a fresh leg of young goat from your butcher.

    The night before you serve:

    2) Trim the roast. The roast may be covered by a hard white surface tissue. If so, you’ll want to trim this off. I found this to be a bit difficult, but just do your best to remove as much as possible without hacking apart the roast. Put your fingers underneath the tissue and see if you can work it away from the flesh and cut it off that way. Trim off any extra fat deposits. Reserve for later.

    3) Rub smashed seeds and salt on the leg to prepare it for the marinade. Take your papaya and cut in half. Take the seeds from half the fruit and using the flat end your knife, smash them until you can see the white insides. Mix with a few tablespoons of salt and rub over your meat. Chill while you make your marinade.

    4) Assemble your marinade. Freshly squeeze your limes. Mix lime juice together with your rum, wine, olive oil and brown sugar. Place your leg roast in your roaster and pour the marinade over the leg. Wash and peel your beets, slice and place the slices in the marinade with a few slices on top of the roast.

    5) Cover the roaster with cellophane and chill overnight. Check your roast every few hours to flip over. You don’t need to get out of bed in the middle of the night. Relax. It’ll be ok, just don’t forget to flip it at least once or twice. Now, go have a drink. You need it.

    The Day You Serve:

    6) Figure out what time dinner is and schedule cooktime. Once you have dinner time scheduled, figure out the timing of your meat. It will take about 3 hours with the dry rub, 20 min. or so on the bbq and ~90 minutes in the oven. It will be fine to sit for up to an hour after removing from the oven and still be warm. You’ll want to get the dry rub on your meal about 5-6 hours before dinner time.

    7) Remove the leg from your marinade. Reserve about 4 c. of the marinade for later.

    8) Insert your lardoons. Wait, what are lardoons? Well, I can see you didn’t read my previous goat article. That’s okay. I forgive you. Lardoons are just a fancy way of referring to the fat we trimmed off earlier. Take your roast, and make a few deep incisions into the meat- an inch or so. Stuff these incisions with any trimmed fat as well as a garlic clove and a thin slice of fresh ginger each.

    9) Get your dry rub on. Mix your ingredients for the dry rub. Feel free to edit or substitute any of the seasonings on my dry rub. Its not that important, just the salt, sugar and some spice. Take the seeds from the second half of the papaya and smash them the same way you did above. Mix the seeds in with the dry ingredients. They will bind the spices together into a paste. Smear that stuff all over the meat. This is always my favorite part!! Wrap it up in cellophone and chill in the fridge.

    10) Heat up the grill. 30-45 minutes before you’re ready to start this roast off, get your grill fired up. Figure out your timing based on your grill. We have a very small smokey joe which takes forever! But you may have a fancy stainless BBQ with burners, sinks and an attached swiveling lazy boy. If so, recline back and press the fire button on your remote control.

    11) Preheat Oven. While you’re messing with the grill, have the ol’ ball and chain preheat the oven to 325. If you don’t have an ol’ ball and chain, do it yourself, dummy!

    12) Grill it! Once that fire is HOT: get that roast on there, face down first. We’re grilling it first to sear it, so only give each side about 10 minutes, more or less until the surface is blackened.

    13) Roast it! Have the roaster ready to go at the side of the grill. Fill the roaster with 2-3 large onions quartered to rest the roast on so the meat doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan while its in the oven. Once the meat is done on the BBQ, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and get that pup into the oven. Keep an eye on the thermometer. Once it gets to 130 degrees, probably after 90 minutes or so, remove from the oven.

    14) Let it rest! After it comes out of the oven, tent it by taking a sheet of aluminum foil and loosely folding it over the top of the leg roast. Let it sit for about 20 minutes. While it sits, you’ll notice it will go up to about 140 degrees, which is EXACTLY what we want. Nice- medium rare!

    15) Carve it. I wish I could give you better instructions on how to carve, but I can’t. I suck at this! I’m told the only way to learn is to practice, so I’ll just have to keep at it. Its sort of depressing to make such a beautiful food item and then hack it apart, but oh well. Here’s a guide to carving a leg of lamb which may help you. I wish you luck.

    Eat it sucka! This of course is always the easiest part. Hopefully you have some people to eat it with. Make sure you tell them how long and hard you worked on this thing. Well, I hope it wasn’t actually hard, but make them think it was. Its great when people drool all over you with compliments. Suck it up. You’ve earned it. You just made a goat! Ha!

    -PS- Don’t you dare throw that bone away! Stick it in your freezer to save for stock. There’s another long hard winter in front of you and you’ll need some broth. I guarantee it.

    Forkable Food Fixations: Papaya Seeds

    I always find myself becoming obsessed with a new food which I then shove into every recipe I make. Last winter it was toasting spices in oil, recently I’ve been putting sumac into everything from soups to on top of my bagels. While doing research for our Polynesian meal, I discovered the amazing properties of the papaya seed. And now… I’m hooked.

    “What can you use papaya seeds for“, you ask? Well, lets show you in a bulleted list. Papaya seeds:

    **Ok, well only proven on monkeys and mice, but still. Interesting.

    Crunching into a fresh seed releases a tart bitter flavor which is nice and fresh especially with the mellow sweet papaya flavor of the pulpy flesh surrounding the hard inner core. Its so good, I’ve been integrating into all my sample recipes for our Polynesian fest.

    papaya seeds used as a tenderizer on striped bass ceviche and for a leg of goat.

    I remember back when I found the slimy seeds to be an annoyance when cutting into a ripe papaya, but now, I’ve been buying the fruit just for the seeds. Now the question is what can I do with all this left over fruit??

    10 Must Have Korean Foods

    Its fun to look at exotic foods at the Korean market, but WHAT do you do with them? I have a few main staple items I go to Chicago Foods for. In addition to the cheap cans of coconut milk I mentioned in my last post, here’s my list of top 10 items you’ll often find in my shopping basket.

    1. Rice Vinegar: is my absolute favorite vinegar for its sweet tart flavor. I use it all the time in my salad dressings, as an added accent in my salsa and guacamole, or as a substitute for lemon/lime juice. I use so much of this stuff, I usually buy it in gallon bottles. When I can’t find it in a gallon I have to content myself with two large bottles (above).
    2. Miso

      Miso is a salty-sweet paste made of fermented soy beans which can be used similar to a vegetarian bullion due to its naturally intense flavors. Its definitely a fridge staple because it lasts forever, makes a quick soup broth or marinade and is a great thing to have in a pinch if you need to quickly give some added body to any dish.

    3. Frozen Dumplings:

      Although I like to make things from scratch, I also like dumplings ALL THE TIME! Found in the frozen food section are bags and bags of frozen gyoza, fluffy buns and all kinds of deliciousness. I like to buy a few bags to keep on hand to be steamed and served with rice for a quick dinner.

    4. Nori:

      Sheets of dried nori can be found in a few sizes, but I like the small rectangles (~3″ x 4″) which is sold wrapped with multiple single serving packets to keep the seaweed from getting stale. Its a tasty addition to miso soup, or great to wrap around rice for a finger food. If you’re grossed out by seaweed, you don’t know what you’re missing; nori is nutritious and delicious.

    5. Lemongrass:

      I like to think of Lemongrass as the Asian bay leaf as you don’t actually eat the stalks but boil it in your broth for flavoring. I keep some stalks in my freezer at all times to throw into my stock or broth for my favorite Asian soups.

    6. Fresh Fish

      The Chicago Foods fish counter is stacked full of fresh fish; heads still on and cheap! Buckets of clams. Shrimp for $2.99. Come on! This stuff may smell bad, but hopefully you don’t have that far to get home (although if you’re taking the blue line from the Belmont stop, the people on the train won’t like you so much).

    7. Mushrooms:

      Mushrooms can be expensive. Chicago Foods is a great place to find awesome prices on shitake and other exotic Asian mushrooms like oyster and beech difficult to find elsewhere. Because of their limited shelf life, its worth checking out their affordable selection of dried mushrooms to keep in the pantry as a quick substitution.

    8. Soju:

      Soju is like a Korean sake; its stronger then a wine but less potent and slightly sweeter then its Russian cousin. Its delicious, full of alcohol and ridiculously cheap. Good to drink; good to cook with.

    9. Sprouts:

      Chicago Foods is the only store I know of which has a year round sprouts station. $0.69 a lb. Do you know how many sprouts you get for in a lb? What I can’t figure out, is who needs 10 lbs?

      Radish sprouts adds a hot peppery kick to any salad or stir fry.

    10. Fish Sauce:

      Ever tried to recreate an Asian dish and you’re sure you’ve got all the ingredients in place but it still doesn’t taste right. You’re missing the fish sauce. This is my favorite brand and a bottle with last you for years.

    A Fun Trip To the Korean Market

    There’s nothing better for Sunday afternoon fun then a trip to my favorite Korean market, Chicago Foods.

    Its a great place to:

    get good prices on staple items like coconut milk (90 cents a can!)

    peruse exotic produce including an extensive selection in varieties of radishes and greens,

    and investigate items you’ve never seen before like dang-kwi, chun kung and a variety of other unknown dried roots and fungus.

    What are the practical uses of these?

    Do you eat it or use it to kill bugs?

    Seasoned pig “trotters”, yum!

    You can also shop for inexpensive cookware.

    My favorite brand, “Cook Help” right next to the Love Home Magic Pan.

    (While I was looking at the food, Ira was looking for funny signs)

    Sometimes stacked in with the cookware, you’ll find a reasonably priced pair of shoes.

    Here’s a slide show of all our pics if you still haven’t gotten enough.

    This Showcase of 8 Awesome Foods and a Trip to Sunny Lebanon Can Be Yours If the Price is Right

    Are you feeling extreme cabin fever from a week of below zero temps? Why not take a trip to sunny exotic Lebanon? You don’t need a passport or an airplane ticket. Just get on the brown line headed west to my favorite Lebanese market Al Khayyam, at Kedzie and Lawrence in Albany Park.

    Perhaps you feel intimidated of going into an store whose ethnic products you aren’t familiar with. Here are 8 staples of my pantry/freezer for you to try which are my main reasons to keep visiting this store!

    1. Spices: This place has an amazing selection of spices at great prices. You’ll pay less then half for twice the amount other places offer! If you need whole cumin, fennel, or anise seed, this is the place to go. You can find exotic spices such as sumac and black caraway among others (i.e. I can’t remember or never knew their names).
    2. Lamb: They sell leg of lamb here ranging between $3.50 – $4.00 per lb, half the price of larger grocery stores (if they even have it).
    3. Pomegranate syrup: Also known as pomegranate molasses, this bittersweet syrup is an ABSOLUTE STAPLE in my house. I love using it as a sweetener for savory foods. The tart flavor tempers the sweet when adding to things such as soups or sauces balancing the flavors while giving depth at the same time. I can’t live without it!
    4. Baklava: The best in the city (in my opinion)! They have a great selection of different kinds of Baklava affordably priced at $6.99 per lb.
    5. Rose water: I love the subtle taste this can bring to a dish, especially apple pie. I originally found this store. Many years ago, I asked a Palestinian friend where I could find rose water in the city. She told me I could buy a small bottle for $7 at whole foods or I could get a large bottle at Al Khayyams for only $2. The choice was clear and its been true love ever since.
    6. Labna: A mix between sour cream, yogurt and cream cheese, Labna is a delicious addition for any meal, including Kraft mac and cheese. A great tip from Katherine of, is to substitute labna for the milk, which gives a tart flavor and extra body to an otherwise limp boxed meal. If you’re going the boxed direction anyway, might as well make it interesting!
    7. Mango Puree: For around $2 a can, this is a great pantry staple. Tip: you can make a quick mango lassie for last minute guests. Just use canned puree instead of fresh mango and mix with yogurt or even milk and a pinch of sugar in a blender. Bam. Everyone loves mango lassis. If you’ve never had one, its time to try one out!
    8. Fresh Pita: Last but definitely not least, the fresh pita baked daily is almost everyone’s favorite reason for visiting here:

    “We went into Al Khayyam in pursuit of pita ($1! So cheap!). We made our way through the doors and zipped straight to the bakery section. There was an older man, working at the stove, heating up the pita. He greeted us with a polite “Hello!”, and a huge smile. “I want that!” she pointed at the pita in the oven. He gladly obliged, pulling it out and stuffing that and a few other pieces of just heated pita into our bag.” -Lauren G of Yelp

    “Here’s a tip: They make the white pita in the morning and the whole wheat in the early afternoon.” -Amanda P of yelp:

    Al Khayyam is also a great place for adventurous foodsters (I’ve decided to hip-up the over used term “foodie”) to get lost in the aisles, playing one of my favorite games “What is this and what the hell do you do with it?” While shopping I always have the constant urge to buy these products which, although, I had no idea what they are, I know I just have to try. I have no self control!

    My recent mystery food buys included a package of Carcedina, which I still have no idea what it is exactly. As it looks to be a flower petal, I assume you boil it to make a tea, but the jury is still out. I also got a container of Black Caraway which I’ve had better luck trying to research. I’m so glad I bought it because apparently the Prophet urged “Use the black caraway for, indeed, it is a remedy for all diseases except Death.” I found this compilation of thought provoking articles which beside giving me helpful info on the medicinal uses of Black Caraway, whose intro gave me a great hint at improving my range of appeal. For now on, I will address each blog post “Dear Human Beings:”.

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