Faiai Eleni is a savory coconut fish stew that we first enjoyed when we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii, at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Laie. We participated in an AirBnB experience called "Prepare Polynesian food in a Fire Pit" and although sadly I don't see it offered on AirBnB any more, I'm sure there are other ways to participate in it on the island or as part of the Cultural Center's offerings! It was a very special experience and I am glad we were able to try authentic Polynesian cuisine.
We learned all about how the Samoans would cook using the different parts of the coconut tree, how to weave a basket, how to prepare chicken for the fire pit, making taro leaves with coconut cream (palusami), preparing breadfruit, and more! We then enjoyed a meal together afterwards with what we made. This dish was an immediate favorite of ours and I immediately asked our host how to make it since it wasn't one of the dishes we made together as a group (it was prepared already and appeared alongside the rest of the food we made).
Faiai Eleni is a coconut cream fish stew that is baked and typically uses mackerel, onion, taro leaves or spinach, and cooked in coconut cream and some mayo. It is so creamy and delicious and goes so well with rice!
This dish is great for a quick weekday meal or when you're looking for a comforting dish to eat with rice. It comes together relatively quickly, and for the most part you are throwing everything together into one pot. Once all the ingredients are cooked and well incorporated in your pan, you can either serve as is, or you can place into an oven safe casserole dish and bake for about 25 minutes. This allows the flavors to truly marry in the oven! The process of baking is similar to how the dish would normally be cooked in an earth oven under hot volcanic stones called an umu.
It's not a "pretty" dish per se, but it is certainly delicious! Plus, it includes plenty of veggies with the onion and spinach, and healthy fats from the coconut milk base.
I always make enough so that my hubby can take it to lunch the next day, and he's always excited for it! You can either do plain white rice or you can flavor your rice with garlic, ginger and coconut oil to make it even more fragrant.
Coconut Tuna & Spinach Faiai Eleni
Until next time,
This is a "laterpost" (haha, instead of latergram 🤣) that I had started writing last year when the hubby and I went clamming for the first time and got a little over 2 dozen clams! Life got in the way and I completely forgot to publish it, but now that I am living in Illinois and it's hard to find "fresh" seafood, I find myself really missing the days we went crabbing and clamming in New Jersey.
It was such a fun time and also a bit of a workout--who knew raking for clams would be so tiring! My muscles were so sore the next day, but I didn't feel tired at all while digging! (Maybe that's the best kind of workout? Hahaha) We dug for clams in the shallows of New Jersey's Barnegat Bay. The water is relatively clear in the shallows and we used little gardening rakes from Home Depot. You basically rake through the sand and if you hit something, you dig it out with your hands! Sometimes it might be a rock, but if you're lucky, you get a clam! It's really a hit and miss but it's so exciting to find them, especially if you find a huge one! After the first time we went, we fell in love with clamming and went back a couple more times--and would come back with upwards of 60+ clams! They were always so sweet and fresh, and I would make dishes like stuffed clams, pasta with clams, steamed clams in wine sauce, or clam chowder with the big clams. 💗💗💗
Clamming was also a great to be away from our phones for a few hours and spend some quality time together. My family never understood why we liked to go catch our own crabs and I'm sure it's the same when it comes to clamming—they always say, "Why don't you just go buy them from the market? Less work!" But there's something that is just so satisfying and fun to be able to cook the food that you hunt for yourself. (For me, only seafood though, I could never hunt mammals in the wild like deer. To each their own I guess!) 😁
We purged the clams overnight to get rid of the sand and then enjoyed them as linguine with white wine clam sauce! Nothing like cooking your own catch! This recipe is a Japanese style recipe based on the Italian clams with white wine sauce over linguine. Of course you can always do the original Italian version, but in our house, I always like to put a little Asian spin on things 😎 Instead of white wine, I use Japanese sake and topped it with nori furikake (seaweed seasoning typically used for white rice). I found the Japanese sake to add an inherent sweetness to the dish that regular white wine doesn't provide, which also enhanced the sweet, fresh clam flavor. I also found that the clams had plenty of their own natural salty flavor (as did the bacon) and that I didn't need to add much salt if at all to the dish when cooking!
I hope that one day we can go back and go clamming and crabbing again 💗 I hope you get a chance to as well, and if not, at least enjoy this yummy clams and linguine dish 😊
JAPANESE STYLE LINGUINE WITH CLAMS
Makes 2 servings
Until next time,
If you love noodles and pasta as much as I do, be sure to check out some of my other favorite noodle recipes, like:
Air Fryer Beef Chow Mein
Dan Dan Noodles
Lobster Garlic Noodles
Braised Beef Noodle Soup
Korean Jap Chae Noodles
Shrimp Cheung Fun
So I haven't posted in foreverrrrrr to this blog because a LOT has happened in the past year, other than the COVID19 pandemic, of course. Earlier this year we moved to Illinois because my hubby got a new job and everything changed after that. We quit our jobs, he started his new job, we sold our house in New Jersey, bought a new house in Illinois and moved over here within the span of a couple months. Looking back on it now, I don't even know how we managed such a feat, but it certainly helped that his new company paid for all of the expenses and moving company. It's crazy how much stuff we'd accumulated over the short span of a few years, and so I got rid of a TON of stuff and still managed to move with a giant truckload! We've been living in Illinois since May now, and I have just started to get back into the groove of things, in terms of doing things that I wanted to do, for myself.
Since moving out here, we realized our town does not have many good Asian food options, and we did try some of the offerings around, though none of it memorable. I craved all the things we usually had easy access to in NJ and NYC, and being out here all alone really made me miss real, authentic foods from my culture. If we wanted anything remotely good, we'd have to drive about 2 hours to Chicago to find something. There is a town about an hour from us with slightly more authentic Chinese food, but it's still just so-so. So now, I end up making a lot of the foods we crave. Within the first 2 months or so, I made hundreds and hundreds of assorted dumplings and wontons, one of our favorite foods, which brings me to today's recipe post!
Wontons (雲吞) are a favorite in our family and a type of dumpling that I have fond memories of. These dumplings are a favorite of my father's and his favorite were from a very specific no frills restaurant that he would frequent in Hong Kong that served up "Ping Pong ball sized" wontons filled to the brim with fresh shrimp mixed with a touch of pork and served in a delicious clear broth. Cheap, fast, and delicious was the name of the game when it came to food in Hong Kong--especially street food or casual food. Nowadays, we always reminisce about how delicious the ping pong ball wontons were from Hong Kong whenever we have wontons or make them at home!
Traditional wontons are dumplings that are typically filled with pork, shrimp, or a combination of both. In Hong Kong and China, wonton soup often includes 大地鱼 or bian yu, also known as dried sole or flounder that adds a real hit of umami when the wontons are submerged in it. Some dried flounder powder is sometimes added to the wonton filling as well. It's been pretty hard to find this dried flounder powder in the USA, but with some online googling, I'm sure you can find it if you truly want an authentic wonton experience. For this recipe, we don't use dried flounder powder, but it still tastes great and goes wonderfully with noodle soup or on its own.
In my recipe, we use shrimp and pork, some Chinese staple seasonings and sauces, and ginger. The trick to a shrimp-ilicious wonton is to mix a combination of chopped chunk shrimp and pounded shrimp paste with some ground pork.
With 2 pounds of shrimp, I clean and devein all of them, removing the shells, and then chop 1 pound into small chunks, and then with the remaining 1 pound of shrimp, I take the back of my knife and "pound" each individual shrimp into a paste. This results in a wonton with a "crunchy" and smooth mouthfeel from the 2 varying textured shrimp filling.
(You will see fibers pulling apart into strands). This process of mixing until the pork is "起膠" or "hei gao" in Cantonese, which means that it will have a good firm, and "bouncy" texture when cooked. When a dumpling filling does not "hei gao", it will have a loose texture that results in a bad mouth-feel when you eat it. Here's a photo of what "hei gao" looks like.
Once your filling is ready, you'll spoon some onto some thin wonton wrappers which you can find at most Asian markets, and now increasingly can be found in the refrigerated sections of non-Asian supermarkets. I usually find them where they keep their tofu selections, which is also where they keep egg roll wrappers if you need to find some! I like to fold my wontons in half, then bring the ends together to "hug" the wonton.
I love to wrap a whole bunch of wontons and dumplings in one sitting so that I can store them in the freezer. After you are done wrapping them, place each finished dumplings onto a flat pan lined with parchment paper. After they are frozen, you can throw them into a freezer gallon bag to save space in the freezer.
It's so easy to use these for a quick meal or if we don't feel like really cooking--just pop them out of the freezer and throw them in some boiling water until they float! I've also discovered that wontons and dumplings get super crispy and delicious if you spray them with oil and put them in the air fryer at 380 degrees F for about 8 minutes, then flip and fry for 2-6 more minutes until they reach your preferred doneness. Healthy and yummy with no deep frying and making a mess in the house? Yes please!
I definitely recommend eating this with the recommended spicy chili garlic dipping sauce and I hope you enjoy this wonton recipe!
SHRIMP & PORK WONTONS
1 package of wonton wrappers (50-60 wrappers)
Spicy Chili Garlic Dipping Sauce:
I hope you enjoy this recipe, it's one of our favorites!
Until next time,
Just a gal who loves to eat and cook ❤