Wednesday, July 28, 2004

speaking of ice cream...

i made an incredible lemon ice cream at work the other day. i admit, i've never eaten lemon ice cream before (chocolate is usually my first choice), but the description was intriguing. from cindy mushet's Desserts: Mediterranean Flavors, California Style, "the ice cream equivalent of a tall, tingly glass of lemonade on the hottest day of the summer, this is the most refreshing dessert i know of." mmm, how could i resist?

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Double-Lemon Ice Cream
from Desserts: Mediterranean Flavors, California Style
by Cindy Mushet

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp (8 oz.) sugar
Zest of 3 lemons, in strips
5 large egg yolks
3/4 cup (6 oz.) freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice

In a medium pot, heat cream, half-and-half, sugar, and lemon zest slowly until barely boiling, stirring occasionally so the sugar dissolves. Turn off heat, cover pot, and let steep for 30-40 minutes.

In a medium bowl, lightly whisk the egg yolks just to blend. Re-heat the cream mixture until just boiling, then slowly pour about half into the egg yolks, whisking the yolks constantly so they don't scramble. Now whisk the yolk mixture
into the remaining cream mixture. Switch to a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula. Cook mixture over med-low heat, stirring constantly, until the the custard thickens and coats the back of the spoon (about 170 degrees F). Do not boil. Immediately pour mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl. Stir to cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Add the lemon juice to the custard right before freezing in an ice cream machine.

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one thing i would change next time would be to add a pinch or so of salt to the custard, probably after it was cooked, but still warm. one of my old pastry chefs taught me that. it really enhances the flavor of a custard (and many other things), and gives it a longer finish (food speak for makes the flavor last longer in your mouth).

now all this ice cream talk has made me again want to buy a new ice cream machine. maybe someone out there can help me. i only want to spend a few hundred dollars. i want a machine that has its own compressor, and is relatively compact. i don't need to crank out a lot of ice cream. i just want something that will give me super-smooth ice cream. i haven't done a whole lot of research yet. just checked out the selection at sur la table and williams sonoma. there are so many brands out there: musso, de longhi, simac, and i noticed that cuisinart has come out with a new one at williams sonoma. so does anyone have any recommendations? do these mid-priced machines make superior ice cream to the $50 krups and cuisinart? any help would be appreciated.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

ice cream sandwiches

we went to my brother's new house for dinner on saturday, and i, being the baker of the family, brought dessert. a few days earlier, i'd read an article in the food section of my newspaper about ice cream. the pictures alone of the ice cream and ice cream sandwiches inspired me to make my own. i remembered a recipe from marcel desaulniers' death by chocolate that i'd tried in culinary school. i think i was too stressed out at the time to remember what it tasted like, but the flavor combination really appealed to me.

frosty caramel "tin-roof" ice cream sandwiches consist of caramel-peanut ice cream, topped with fudge sauce, and sandwiched between two thin, soft, chocolate cookies. i stuck with the concept, but aside from the cookie, i used recipes from other sources. the cookie is pretty good. lots of flavor. a bit of sour cream gives it some depth. it's definitely a stand-alone cookie, evidence being that the extas quickly disappeared.

next i made nancy silverton's amazing caramel ice cream because it's, well, amazing. so smooth and creamy. it helped that i brought my ice cream base to work, and used the ice cream freezer there. my cheap little krups ice cream freezer is ok, but it cannot compete with a commercial batch freezer. it doesn't agitate the base enough to be rid of the ice crystals that form, thus producing an ice cream that isn't super smooth.

in lieu of the fudge, i used some leftover chocolate glaze i had sitting in the fridge. oh, and the last component, the peanuts that should've been mixed into the ice cream, i just chopped and sprinkled over the glaze. let me tell you, this combination of flavors and textures is unbelievable. but i'm very partial to chocolate, caramel and peanuts. the crunchy nuts, the smooth ice cream, the glaze that turns chewy from the cold. yum.

but alas, i have no picture for you. and do you want to know why? it's because stupid me should've frozen the ice cream the day before so it could get sufficiently hard so as not to collapse into a melted heap upon being scooped onto the cookie. i totally underestimated chilling time. i think i spun the ice cream at about 1pm. it sat in the freezer at work til 3pm. the transfer time from work freezer to home freezer was 7 minutes (i live very close to work). there it sat until 6pm. the drive to my brother's house took 20 minutes (this definitely didn't help). i assembled the sandwiches at my brother's house before dinner, stuck them on a plate and shoved them into the freezer in hopes that they would set quickly. but it was a drippy mess. the ice cream was still soft-serve consistency. needless to say, the sandwiches were eaten with spoons on a plate, and i had to clean my brother's freezer. so this is a lesson learned, kiddies. always freeze your ice cream at least the day before you need it. i sure hope i remember this for next time.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

corn and chanterelle chowder


corn and chanterelle chowder Posted by Hello

i don't often do anything with corn aside from roasting it, boiling it, or steaming it, then twisting off each kernel and eating them one by one. but since my aunt asked me if i had a good corn chowder recipe, and since i can get some really good corn at the farmers' market, i felt inspired to take a stab at it. in all honesty i had planned to make it last thursday after buying the corn, but i've been either too busy or too lazy to make it until last night. it's recommended, however, that you eat corn shortly after it's picked, otherwise the sugars are converted to starch, thus making the corn less pleasant to eat. i had this in mind all week, but still couldn't get my ass in gear.

anyway, i found this interesting recipe in deborah madison's local flavors. deborah madison is the founding chef of san francisco's greens restaurant. she's also the author of many cookbooks, including one of my favorites, vegetarian cooking for everyone, a massive tome of recipes, tips, and information.

i won't lie to you. the corn and chanterelle chowder recipe requires a fair bit of work. you must make the stock first, then add the rest of the vegetables. and you can't really cheat with the stock, like i sometimes (always) do in other recipes with store-bought veggie broth.

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Corn and Chanterelle Chowder
from Local Flavors
by Deborah Madison

the vegetables
4 large ears of corn, shucked
2 long leeks or 2 cups chopped
2 German Buterball or other yellow waxy potatoes, scrubbed
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. chopped thyme
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
2 or more cups chanterelles, cleaned and sliced about 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup cream
2 Tbsp. each chopped parsley and snipped chives

the stock
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 bushy thyme sprigs
handful parsley stems
1 bay leaf
1 quart milk, whole or 2 percent

Slice corn kernels off the cob, cutting roughly two thirds of the way into the kernels. Use the back of the knife to press out the scrapings. Break the cobs into 3 pieces and set aside for the stock.

Cut off the root ends of the leeks. Rinse and add to the cobs. Cut the leaves off and coarsely chop a cup of them. Wash and add to cobs. Cut the remaining white parts into quarters lengthwise and chop. Set aside.

Peel the potatoes and dice into small cubes. Add the skins to the cobs.

Make the stock: Melt the butter in a large pot. Add all the veggie trimmings (cobs and all), the onion, celery, herbs, and a teaspoon of salt. Stir frequently so it doesn't brown. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, then add the milk. Slowly bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to very low. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks. Strain the stock, and wash out your pot.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in your clean soup pot. Add the leeks, potatoes and half the thyme. Add one cup of water and a 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, then add the corn.

Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a wide skillet. When the butter foams, add the mushrooms and saute over high heat, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add them and any juices to the soup pot, then add the stock. Bring slowly to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream and the remaining herbs. Salt and pepper to taste.

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ok, so i made a few changes when i made the chowder. first of all, i didn't exactly use chanterelles. i couldn't find any good ones, and even if i had, i wouldn't have been able to afford them. i substituted oyster mushrooms, and they were delicious. i also decided to add an extra ear of corn. it could only make the chowder better, right? well, i think i'll stick to the original 4 ears next time because that extra ear made the chowder a tad too sweet. the first bowl was great, but by the second, it was too much. hmm, what else? oh yeah, i've never heard of german butterballs before. oh, and by the time the chowder was finished, i couldn't be bothered to chop up more herbs, so the chives, parsley, and extra thyme never made it into my pot. the chowder was lovely, nonetheless. it was perfect with a couple slices of lightly toasted acme italian batard.

btw, does anyone know how to cut kernels off a corncob without having the kernels fly every which way and spray my glasses? it's a good thing my dog kurn and my cat dexy love corn. no clean-up for me! i hope mr. dexygus (the veterinarian) doesn't read this.


dexy enjoying an appetizer Posted by Hello

Saturday, July 17, 2004

blueberry cornmeal cakes


blueberry cornmeal cake Posted by Hello 

 
blueberries aren't exactly my favorite berry.  i find them pretty insipid usually, and there isn't much texture.  i really prefer blackberries or boysenberries.  but somtimes i do enjoy them in certain sweets.  several years ago (i know, that's really sad.  so long ago) i had an amazing blueberry tart at restaurant lulu in san francisco.  it was juicy, sweet, and was baked in a cornmeal crust which actually was the star.  (as an aside, i haven't been too impressed with lulu lately).
 
blueberry muffins aren't my favorite either, but i recently found one in claudia fleming's cookbook the last course:  the desserts of gramercy tavern, which is a beautiful and tempting book, by the way.  this blueberry cornmeal cake is not your standard blueberry muffin.  it's more like a financier, but bigger and with more texture.  it's got a crispy, chewy golden top, and an incredibly moist interior, fragrant with browned butter and orange zest.   almond flour and cornmeal give it a nice toothsome texture.  because the batter is on the sweet side, you'll want to choose blueberries that have some tartness.
 
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Blueberry Cornmeal Cakes
adapted from The Last Course
by Claudia Fleming
 
8 oz. unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. cake flour
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coarse yellow cornmeal
1 cup egg whites (about 8)
Grated zest of 1/2 an orange
1 cup blueberries
 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a medium pot, melt the butter and cook until it browns.  It will smell wonderfully nutty.  Make sure to occasionally scrape the bottom of the pan with a heatproof spatula so the milk solids don't stick and burn.  Take off heat and set aside so it doesn't continue to cook.
 
Sift the confectioners' sugar and cake flour into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add the almond flour and cornmeal.  Stir to combine.  With the whisk attachment, on lowest speed, add the egg whites and zest.  Once the dry ingredients are moistened, increase the speed to medium-low.  If it looks like there are lumps of flour or sugar, you can briefly increase the speed to smooth out the mixture.  Once smooth, add the butter, including all the brown bits, on medium-low speed.  Increase the speed to medium and whip until smooth.  Fold in the berries.  The batter can be used immediately or can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.  Scoop the batter into 12 standard muffin tins lined with paper cups.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until the cakes are golden brown around the edges.
 
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Wednesday, July 14, 2004

waffle wednesday

this is such a cliche, but how many of us have waffle irons that sit dejectedly in the cabinet, only to see the light of day maybe what, once a year? this is almost the case for us, though it's more like twice a year, and actually twice already just this month!

i know, regular people don't make waffles from scratch on a wednesday, but mr. dexygus and i have not-so normal schedules, and it so happens that today was the beginning of our "weekend."


sleek and shiny waffle iron Posted by Hello

meet our waffle iron. it's 4 years old. like most waffle irons, i think, it was a wedding gift. it's a villaware belgian waffle maker from williams-sonoma. it's really a great little machine. non-stick, makes a little feeble beep when it's ready for batter, and again when the waffles are ready. my only complaint so far is that it heats unevenly; the center of the iron is hotter than the rest.

my favorite recipe so far is very plain jane, but sometimes simple is good. it's the raised waffle from marion cunningham's the breakfast book. it's crispy on the outside, and moist and delicate on the inside. it's got a wonderful yeasty flavor. the bulk of the batter is mixed the night before, so you must plan ahead, but it's worth it.


golden crisp waffles Posted by Hello


syrup-soaked waffle Posted by Hello

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Raised Waffles
The Breakfast Book
by Marion Cunningham

1/2 cup warm water
1 package dry yeast
2 cups milk, warmed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Put warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes.

Add the milk, butter, salt, sugar, and flour, and beat until smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit overnight at room temperature.

The next morning while waiting for your waffle iron to heat up, beat in the eggs and add the baking soda. Stir until well mixed. The batter will be very thin. Use batter now, or store in the fridge for several days.
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i love taking off the plastic wrap in the morning. the smell of the yeasty batter is amazing. and all the bubbles look so alive and happy.

warmed maple syrup is standard here, but sometimes i like to slather some nutella on my waffles. they freeze beautifully too, so you can pop them in the toaster like eggo's, only they're better. by the way, i actually do like eggo's especially the buttermilk ones. the next time i make these waffles i think i'll substitute some whole wheat flour for the a-p, just to give it a fiber boost. have to stay regular, you know. though really, i don't have any problems in that area.

Monday, July 12, 2004

indian food, again


baked yellow croaker Posted by Hello

well obviously, i'm not over my indian food phase. and why should i be? it's so delicious. i've tried 2 veggies now, and 3 main courses, all fish. i never realized that fish was such a big part of indian cuisine.

last night i baked some yellow croaker, recipe courtesy of mongo jones. wonderfully tangy and spicy. the fish itself was a little over-cooked (my fault), and was a little old (mr. dexygus's fault. i'm not sure the poor man knows how to pick fish. well, i'm not a pro either, but i know to avoid the cloudy eyes. at least it didn't smell fishy.) but even with all that against us, the fish was still yummy.

i served it with bengali-style green beans from madhur jaffrey's world vegetarian. this dish is definitely a keeper. aromatic and savory. addictive.


bengali-style green beans Posted by Hello

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Bengali-Style Green Beans

2 Tbsp. whole brown or yellow mustard seeds
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
3/4 lb. green beans, cut into 1-inch long pieces
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 fresh hot green chile, cut into long slivers (do not remove the seeds)

Grind mustard seeds to a fine powder. Empty into a small bowl. Add 3/4 cup water and soak for 20 to 30 minutes. don't stir.

Put oil in a frying pan on med-hi heat. Add the onion and saute on medium heat until soft and begins to color. Add the beans, salt, cilantro and chile. Stir for a minute. Carefully pour the watery mustard water over the green beans, making sure to leave the thick paste behind (this is a little tricky. some mustard will inevitably make its way into the pan.) Mix well. Bring beans to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. simmer gently for 20 minutes or so, until the beans are cooked and most of the liquid is gone.

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i served the fish and green beans over steamed brown and white rice. i have not provided a picture of the plated meal because i really didn't want visual evidence that we each ate a 1.5 pound fish. anyways, leftovers tonight.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

himawari ramen

last week i had dinner at tombo, a handmade udon place i like to frequent. very good, as usual. but on the way there, i noticed a new ramen joint just a few doors down. always up for ramen, i returned with mr. dexygus and my cousin lauren just a few days later for lunch. himawari is surprisingly cute for a japanese place. it definitely looks like it was designed by a young woman. green and grey walls, sunflowers, green and/or white tablecloths, napkins and placemats. in fact, there were only women working while we were there: the chef and the server/hostess.

i guess we were all just craving ramen because we inexplicably just ordered ramen without even considering appetizers. i went with the shio butter corn ramen. i had never heard of shio before, but according to the menu, it is a broth made with japanese sea salt. by the way, the online menu doesn't seem to be complete. it's missing, among other things, a crab omelet ramen that was incredibly tempting, and that i will most likely order the next time i'm there. my shio butter corn ramen was delicious. the broth was the star, flavorful and complex, addictively so. the noodles were good, but could have been chewier. my lunchmates enjoyed the spicy tan-tan men, and the miso ramen. we're definitely going back. they have good-sized portions, and service was friendly. i wish i had more to say about it, but as i ate only one thing, and it was a quick lunch, there isn't much ammo. i don't really want to go on and on about the broth. oh, i should mention that my broth had floating bits of pork fat in it (bad bad pseudo-vegetarian me), and it was good. have i mentioned that i'm destined to once again eat meat before i die? it'll happen someday. just a matter of time and lack of willpower.

anyway, i'm not really a ramen aficionado, but i do like it. my current favorite is ryowa. their noodles are wonderful, though the broth isn't as good as himawari's. i've been to the much-lauded santa just once, and it wasn't very memorable. i'll give it another chance though, but i'll probably go to himawari's first.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Ben and Jerry's Binge


new york super fudge chunk Posted by Hello

When I was in college my roommates and I would each habitually polish off an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream while watching the Indiana Jones trilogy, or listening to Depeche Mode or The Smiths. Laura's favorite was Cherry Garcia. Vic's was New York Super Fudge Chunk. Mine wavered between Mint Chocolate Cookie and Chocolate Fudge Brownie until the day they invented Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (sadly now resting in the flavor graveyard). In the years since, I seem to have traded in these chunky, candied and cookied confections for more "refined" and "sophisticated" flavors. Remember when Dulce de Leche was all the rage? I do. It was my go-to flavor for everything. Actually, I'd plan my desserts around this ice cream. Apple Pie, brownies, almond cake, etc. But like all things I love too much and too often, I got sick of it. I think I actually stayed away from ice cream altogether for awhile.

A few months ago I noticed that my local Trader Joe's was carrying a limited selection of Ben and Jerry's. I felt that it was time to reacquaint myself with an old friend. Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia or NY Super Fudge Chunk? Seeing how fruit in ice cream is WRONG, I chose the latter. And I chose well. Yum. The chocolate ice cream itself is very good. I could actually do without the white and dark chocolate chunks (too sweet), but I adore the fudge covered almonds. I really wish there were more of those...

I like to eat my ice cream semi-soft which means I leave it at room temperature for awhile. I've heard of people microwaving it but that scares me a little. I don't want to misjudge the time and end up having to drink it. One drawback of eating it soft is that it allows you to take bigger bites, and eventually, eat way more ice cream than you would if it were hard. It is a necessary evil, however, since I like it how I like it, and wouldn't eat it any other way. It's a good thing I can't pack it away like I used to. I only managed to eat half the carton.

So what's your flavor? And how do you like to eat it?

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Chocolate Sparkle Cookies

You might be saying to yourself, "Hrmpf, for a baker, dexygus sure doesn't bake much." And I would say, "No, that's not true. I just don't bake anything new and exciting and suitable for the blog." Between baking at work, and baking for my illegitimate business, I find it difficult to try new recipes for the sake of it. I usually bake when I'm craving something, and then I go for a tried and true. But in all honesty, I haven't been baking much at home.

But this week I made some Chocolate Sparkle Cookies. My nieces and nephew were going to spend the night at our house AND I was craving chocolate, so I decided to make this cookie. But first, let me give you some background and a picture.


chocolate sparkle cookies Posted by Hello

Several months ago I caught a piece on the food network about a patisserie/cafe in Canada called Sen5es Bakery. They claimed to make the best cookie in the world, the Chocolate Sparkle Cookie, created by their pastry chef, Thomas Haas. It's a moist, flourless chocolate cookie that "sparkles" because of the granulated sugar that it's rolled in. Best cookie in the world? I was intrigued. The quest was on. On their website, I found that I could mail order some. Yay! I wouldn't have to travel to another country to get my chocolate fix. That was easy. But it was to the tune of $30/dozen! Or something outrageous like that. And I can't remember if shipping was included or not. Um yeah, that wasn't going to happen. So the next quest was to find the recipe. Searching...searching. It led me to eGullet. (That, btw, was my introduction to the wonderful site.) I found an article about the famous cookie, and a link to an LA Times blurb which featured the recipe! I printed out the recipe and returned to eGullet to see of there was anything else to see. And it's a good thing I did. I found that Thomas Haas had updated his recipe. You can find it here.

So I made the cookies. Are they the best cookies in the world? Well, no, not to me. But they ARE pretty damned good. Good enough that I made them again this past week, and will probably make them again in the future. I'm actually going to have one right now. My favorite chocolate cookie is Pierre Herme's Korova Cookie, but that's another post.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Shrimp and Tofu in Chile-Lemongrass Sauce


 Posted by Hello

For some reason, we've been eating a lot of spicy food lately. It actually started with this dish, adapted from Fine Cooking's July, 2004 issue. Then came Mongo Jones' captivating blog on egullet which introduced me to the delights of Indian cuisine. Well, i finally got around to making this dish again. The original recipe does not include tofu. I added it this time for several reasons. 1) I really like tofu. 2) To make the dish more substantial (we eat a lot). 3) To help cut the heat. So yeah, this dish is pretty spicy, but it's also pretty sweet. I really love the combination. I do find, however, that I need to drink milk (well, lactaid actually) while I'm eating this. And my stomach does suffer a little bit afterwards, almost like the chiles are eating away at my stomach lining. But don't let this stop you from trying this dish!

Shrimp and Tofu in Chile-Lemongrass Sauce

For the rempah:
6 small dried red Thai chiles
1 sun-dried tomato
3 stalks fresh lemongrass
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh ginger
1 heaping Tbsp. sliced almonds
6 large shallots, coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. fish sauce
2 fresh red jalapenos, or fresh thai chiles,
seeded and sliced

For the Tofu:
14-16 oz. firm tofu
oil
kosher salt

For the Shrimp:
1/3 cup veg oil
1 lb. large shrimp, deveined
1 medium onion, sliced
2 small tomatoes, cored and cut into small wedges
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

Rempah: Cut all the dried chiles into small pieces with scissors. Shake out most of the seeds. Place chiles and sun-dried tomato in a small pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 3 minutes until the chiles are pliable. With a slotted spoon, lift out the chiles and place in a blender. Reserve the water.

Trim the root and top section from the lemongrass, leaving a 5- to 6-inch section of bottom stem. Remove tough outer layers until you reach the tender white core. Smash with knife to flatten slightly. Slice cross-wise into very thin pieces.

Add the lemongrass, ginger, almonds, shallots, garlic, fish sauce, fresh chiles, and 3 tablespoons reserved water to the blender, and puree til smooth. You may need to add some more chile-water to facilitate blending.

Tofu: Slice tofu into smallish pieces, about 2"x1" and 1/2" thick. Heat some oil on medium-high in a large non-stick pan. When hot, add tofu. Sprinkle with about 1 tsp. kosher salt. When lightly browned, flip all the pieces over, and sprinkle with another teaspoon of salt. Remove to a plate when lightly browned.

Shrimp and Rempah: In the same pan, heat the 1/3 cup oil on medium. When hot, scrape the rempah into the pan. Fry gently, and stir continuously with a wooden spoon until oil and rempah are emulsified, about 1 minute. Continue frying and stirring until the mixture darken and thickens to a porridge consistency, 5 minutes or so.

Increase heat to medium high and add the onions. Stir-fry for about 5 minutes, then add the shrimp. Stir-fry til the shrimp are just about done. Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, and lime juice. Stir and cook until just combined and the tomatoes are heated through.

Serve over rice. Makes 4-6 servings.