Friday, October 3, 2008

Aromatic Asian Herbs

The next time you grab a handful of herbs from your herb garden, rather than focus on traditional favourites – oregano, basil, rosemary, parsely – try being a little more adventurous and innovative.

Asian herbs are aromatic, pungent, refreshing and interesting. They can be substituted for many of our traditional herbs in such recipes as pesto, gremolata, herb butters, salad dressings, salsas, soups, marinades, scented vinegars and oils, flavoured teas and liqueurs. Countless recipes from different cuisines can be adapted to create unusual and appetizing global flavours.

In Thailand, herbs such as lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil, and cilantro are used in abundance. Chinese cuisine tends to use more spices than herbs. However a pungent herb that is often used to embellish soups, fish dishes, dipping sauces, and stirfries is Chinese parsley, also called cilantro. With its earthy flavour, cilantro is one of the most popular herbs worldwide. Chinese chives are also a popular herb in this cuisine and are used freshly snipped over wok recipes, egg and fish dishes, salads, and sauces - they have a stronger, spicier taste than N.American chives. Some of the most commonly herbs in Japanese cuisine include shiso, chrysanthemum leaves, mitsuba, kaiware, and sansho. Mint and curry leaves are used extensively in Southern Indian cooking. Sprigs of heavily scented curry leaves are adding during the cooking of curry and then removed before serving. Fragrant mint leaves are used in many Indian chutneys, yogurt dishes and desserts.

(a classic condiment for Osso Bucco)
2 ½ tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2 ½ tsp grated lemon zest
1 tsp finely chopped garlic

Thai Gremolata
(use on grilled fish or steak)
fresh finely chopped cilantro leaves
lime zest
finely grated garlic

Japanese Gremolata
(use on grilled fish or steak)
fresh finely chopped shiso leaves
uso zest (Japanese citrus)
finely grated ginger and garlic

There are no rules with these garnishes.
Season and experiment according to taste and mood!

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