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May 20, 2008

Hoisin sauce (Recipe: grilled tofu with soba noodles) {vegetarian}


Authentic Asian cooking requires a pantry-load of smelly ingredients.

Fish sauce (also called nuoc mam or nam pla).

Fermented black beans.

Shrimp paste (also known as belacan or blachan, which always makes me think of blecchhh, the sound you make when you're trying to expel a bug that flew into your mouth, which seems totally appropriate when describing the taste of shrimp paste).

Smelly, one and all, but absolutely necessary to achieve the real taste of real Asian food.

And then there's hoisin sauce.

Blissfully not smelly. Not at all.

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April 17, 2008

Montreal steak seasoning (Recipe: grilled tofu wraps) {vegetarian}


Sometimes I spend hours researching an ingredient in my pantry, reading about food history or science or legend or nutrition.

Montreal steak seasoning should have been easier.

Tehhhhhhhhhd, what's Montreal steak seasoning?

That should have done it, one holler up the stairs, from my desk to the desk of my Montreal-born husband.


Maybe he didn't hear me.

Montreal steak seasoningggggg? I tried again.

Never heard of it.

So much for shortcuts.

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March 29, 2007

Roasted unsalted peanuts (Recipe: tofu with peanut sauce) {vegetarian}


Whew. I almost forgot: March is National Peanut Month.

If it weren't for George Washington Carver, we wouldn't have a peanut month; in fact, we probably wouldn't have a peanut industry in the United States.

Peanuts originated in South America, where Spanish and Portuguese explorers discovered these legumes and brought them on trade voyages to Africa. With favorable climate conditions, peanuts grew well in Africa and became important in many local cuisines, and so they came back across the ocean to North America with the slave trade.

In the 19th century, Dr. Carver, an agricultural chemist, suggested that farmers in the South plant peanuts to replace their cotton fields that were destroyed by the boll weevil infestation following the Civil War. He invented more than 300 uses for peanuts, including peanut butter, cooking oil, margarine, peanut sausage and peanut punch, as well as linoleum, laxatives, scalp pomade and vanishing cream.

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March 27, 2007

Mirin (Recipe: teriyaki tofu wraps) {vegetarian}


It sounds like The Queen, though its origins are not particularly royal.

Mirin (get it?), Japanese sweet cooking wine, dates back more than 400 years. Made by combining and fermenting steamed mochigome (a glutinous rice), komekoji (rice yeast), and shochu (Japanese liquor), mirin is clear and light gold in color, and a bit syrupy.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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