Sesame oil (Recipe: squash and chicken soup)
Sometimes you feel like a nut.
Sometimes you don't.
Sometimes you feel like a seed, which is just a nut without its hard shell.
Sometimes you feel like a seed that's been crushed and smooshed and toasted and pressed until the oil inside it dribbles out.
That's when you know how sesame oil feels.
There are two types of sesame oil: light (made by pressing raw seeds), and dark (made from hulled sesame seeds that have been toasted prior to pressing). Available in the Asian food aisle in most supermarkets, this dark (toasted) sesame oil is the one to use, as the flavor of the other is, well, nonexistent.
Sesame oil isn't often used as a cooking oil, though it does have a high smoke point of 450°F (compared to extra-virgin olive oil). This oil can take the heat, but its intense nuttiness and somewhat musky flavor makes it better suited to use as a seasoning towards the middle or end of cooking, in dishes like sesame-orange chicken, cold Chinese noodles or sesame noodles, swordfish with amandine lemongrass sauce, sesame edamame salad and firecracker shrimp.
I'm partial to the Maruhon brand, which I can find at several local Asian markets for less than $3.00 per bottle. Kadoya is another good brand. A little goes a long way, and, once opened, a bottle will keep at room temperature for up to a year.
Squash and chicken soup
A dish from the pantry, with the last of the winter's stash of butternut squash. You can substitute ground pork for the chicken, for a more authentically Chinese soup. Serves 3-4.
1/4 lb ground dark meat chicken
1/4 lb shrimp, peeled, deveined, and minced
1 tsp cornstarch or arrowroot
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp vegetable oil
2-3 chicken bouillon cubes OR 4 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken stock
1 butternut squash
Salt, sugar, black pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste
Marinate chicken and shrimp together, with cornstarch, sesame oil, salt, sugar and vegetable oil in a small bowl. In a large pot, bring 4 cups of water to a boil; add bouillon cubes and stir to dissolve, OR bring chicken stock to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high.
Peel the squash and cut into 1-1/2 inch cubes. Add squash to the broth, and cook until tender. Form the chicken-shrimp mixture into small meatballs, and add them to the stock (a more rustic method is to stir the unmolded mixture directly into the soup). Cook 5 minutes more; season to taste with salt, sugar and lots of pepper. Serve hot.
Also in The Perfect Pantry:
Salmon fried rice
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Yes, I'm definitely feeling seedy today.
I like it as salad oil (all or part) for Asian=themed salads with bean sprouts or Napa cabbage or something like that.
Great recipe!I love sesame oil--and that reminds me, I'm all out...
I love sesame oil. Haven't tried either of these brands, will look for them.
Lydia, glad you posted about sesame oil. I do have in my pantry and it's great infgredient for finishing off a dish...love the taste and aroma.
I couldn't get by without it. It adds such a powerful and distinct flavor that can really bring an entire dish together. And the recipe sounds delicious!
I like your intro, "Sometimes you feel like a seed that's been crushed and smooshed and toasted and pressed until the oil inside it dribbles out..." I'm not sure I've ever felt that way ;)
("Where's the grocery list?" she asked, scrambling for a piece of paper, "S-e-s-a-m-e oil...") This I will have to try as those firecracker shrimp sound awfully appealing.
Oh, I love a rich sesame oil drizzled on Asian soups and stir fries.
I can't do without sesame oil in my pantry. There are a few dishes I know that starts from scratch using sesame oil as the cooking oil. Sesame oil chicken is one of them - and it is one of those dishes that some Chinese believe preggies should eat after they "pop".
Mae, Aimee, Kalyn: I really do think sesame oil is essential -- there's nothing else in the pantry that gives the same flavor.
Peter, Mike: Sesame is one of my favorite "finishing" oils, too. A splash at the end of a stir fry adds wonderful flavor to the dish.
Hillary, I definitely have days when I feel smooshed and pressed!!
Sandie, sesame oil is one of the fundamental ingredients in Chinese cooking, but it's also a great flavoring for pasta. Definitely add some to your pantry.
Susan, same here.
Tigerfish, I'd forgotten about sesame chicken. But when I make it, I still use peanut oil as the main cooking oil, with some sesame mixed in. I really do find the sesame oil too strong-flavored for cooking. As for the other, about sesame chicken being good for new mothers, I like the idea of that!
I feel seedy--and I feel like a nut, because I ran out of sesame seed oil and haven't bought a new bottle! I want to try the type you buy.
Lydia, when I think of you and sesame oil, I think of your fantastic peanut sauce recipe. Has it ever appeared here on the blog? I have a terrible habit of misplacing it. The other day I had to call my cousin because I know she cleverly keeps it on her fridge!
Sher, my favorite brand (Maruhon) is sold in Asian grocery stores. The jar has a red cap, so it's easy to find on the shelf.
Lucia, I have posted the recipe -- one of my favorites, too -- and thanks to the search box at the top of this page, here it is:
I followed the link to your peanut sauce (thank you!), then realized I was eating my peanut butter on cracker as I read. Reminded me of the time when I made peanut butter at home (before I burned out the blender motor) -- first I spun sesame seeds to a powder, then added the peanuts. Now I have a fancy nut butter grinder and don't use it (only makes a small amount at once)...but there it is, the sesame-peanut connection.
I love sesame oil! And walnut oil which tastes very similar and (of course) is easier for me to get here.
Sesame oil does seem to lift up some dishes. I have a confession: when I am really short for time, I heat up a can of corn soup and add a dash of sesame oil and chopped up green onion. It tastes as good as the sweet corn soup at the fancy chinese restaurant!
Have a nice weekend and thanks for your comment on my blog,
Susan, I'm giggling, remembering the one and only time I tried to make peanut butter at home (also unsuccessful!).
Katie, the only time I've used walnut oil is when I got some as a gift. Is it made the same way (toasted) as sesame oil?
Nora, I love the sound of your quick soup.
Most of the time, we're always feeling like nuts!
Thanks for the lesson on the light one. I've seen it and assumed that it would be lighter on the flavor, thus never buying it. We always prefer the darker one too.
Thanks for the link on the amadine lemongrass sauce. I'm really interested in that one.
I agree with you about the high smoking point, so people in my home country, as you said, add it at the end. Until I moved to Singapore, a lady came and cooked in kitchen, she geneously pour sesame oil in wok in beginning... for stir-frying. Big bottle (like 1 liter) size is readily available at store, mmm... could it also come with (like olive oil) "extra virgin" grade and the regular grade :) :)
I really love sesame oil, it has such an intense flavour like u said. It's considered "heaty" and is used heavily for cooking "confinement dishes" (food for women who has just given birth).
I *love* Sesame Oil! It's great in almost everything. Stir fries, Broccoli and Chicken, Shrimp & Broccoli, Ramen Noodles! Love it. =)