Rasmus is 30 years old and live in Malmö with his partner Josefin and their four months daughter Selma. That saturday, we met with a couple of friends in their apartment on the 10th floor of a futuristic eco-friendly building with a panoramic view on the city. The apartment has a large balcony with wide gardening areas. Half of the balcony is more of a veranda and is used as a greenhouse. In the summer, this place is like a jungle. Tomato plants heavy with fruits growing all the way to the roof, thick kale palms, different kinds of basil, mint, thyme, grapevines slowly covering all the roof surface, colorful chili fruits... Rasmus likes trees. He is kind and caring. Rasmus likes to experiment with food and plants. He is vegetarian and like spending time in the kitchen. Rasmus paints. He enjoys making things with his hands. He is currently learning bee keeping. Rasmus is enthusiastic and probably the most curious human being i know. He seems to always be involved in some kind of learning process and has so much knowledge to share.
Earlier this year, he has been traveling to China and Vietnam. The dish he cooked for us that day was inspired by this trip. Most ingredients were bought at the closest asiatic store and the flavors were unusual and delicious. The dish built on an homemade lemongrass salt that infuses the other components with a subtle citrus-herb taste. If you don’t feel like starting from scratch, you could also use store-bought lemongrass salt (found in asiatic stores). We drank chinese tea in tiny clay cups and mixed some trippy drinks with lime juice, carbonated water and a few drops of Agustura bitter. We listened to vietnamese folk music and talked about local punk venues, future travel plans and debated on the best pizza in town. Enough talking, on to the recipe !
1 - Preheat oven to 150 C°.
2 - Press lemongrass stalks with the flat side of a knife. Make two cuts lenghwise and chop finely half
of the stalk starting from the bottom (white part). Discard the rest or save to make tea or infuse a
stew. The white part is more tender while the green part is a bit fibery.
3 - Place chopped lemongrass in a shallow oven proof dish. Add the equivalent amount of flaky sea salt
(50/50) and stir gently. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for about 40 minutes. The mixture
should be slightly golden and smell fragrant. If not, return to the oven for an extra 5 minutes.
While the lemongrass salt is in the oven, you can go ahead and cook the rice (see recipe below).
4 - When done, remove from the oven and transfer the content of the dish to a mortar.
Grind with a pestle until finely ground. Voilà !
The lemongrass can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.
4 LEMONGRASS STALKS
FLAKY SEA SALT
1 - Place the rice in a medium pot. Fill up with water, stir with your fingers and strain in a colander. Return rice to the pot and repeat the rinsing process four to five times or until the water is clear.
This is an important step to get rid of some starch and end up with a fluffy rice.
2 - Return the rinsed rice to the pot. Add water and a pinch of each sea salt, black pepper and turmeric. Cover pot with a lid and bring to a boil on hgh heat.
Reduce heat to low, keep the lid on and cook for 20 minutes. When done, turn off the heat and let the rice rest in the covered pot.
While the rice is cooking, let’s prepare the tofu and vegetables (recipe below).
BLACK THAI JASMINE RICE
6 DL / 460 G / 2,5 CUPS BLACK JASMINE RICE
9 DL / 3,75 CUPS WATER
SEA SALT, BLACK PEPPER AND TURMERIC
VIETNAMESE VEGETABLE WOK
7 GREEN ONIONS
6 PAK CHOI
4 RED CHILLI PEPPERS (MILD)
3 HANDFULS OF MUNG BEAN SPROUTS
2 GARLIC CLOVES
A HANDFUL OF DRIED MUSHROOMS
A PINCH OF DRIED CHILI FLAKES
RAPESEED OIL (OR OTHER NEUTRAL OIL)
500 G FIRM FRIED TOFU (OR REGULAR FIRM TOFU)
JUICE OF 1/2 LIME
8 TBSP FISH SAUCE (OR VEGAN VERSION)
3 TBSP JAPANESE SOY SAUCE
FRESH CILANTRO, CHOPPED
PREPARE TOFU AND VEGETABLES
1 - Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and cover with warm water (see note below).
2- Chop green onions in medium pieces (2-3 cm wide). Reserve in a large bowl. Chop chili peppers finely, discarding seeds. Add to the bowl
with chopped green onions. Peel garlic cloves and chop in thin slices lengthwise. Add to the bowl. Add chili flakes and combine.
Tear apart pak choi leaves and reserve.
3 - Cut tofu into big cubes (3 cm). Place in a deep plate. Add lemon juice, fish sauce and soy sauce. Carefully combine with your hands.
TIME TO WOK
1 - Place two wide pans on the stove. If you have a wok pan, go ahead and use it for the vegetables.
Add a generous splash of oil in each pan so it almost covers the bottom. Warm up the oil on medium-high heat.
2 - To the first pan, add the vegetable mix (green onions, chili, garlic) and two handful of mung bean sprout. Stir.
Then add the tofu and his marinade to the second pan. Stir. If you have one, cover the pan with a splatter screen.
3 - Drain mushrooms and add them to the vegetables pan along with some black pepper and a pinch of salt. Keep stiring, adding
a bit of oil if it looks dry. Add pak choi leaves. Add the last handful of mung bean sprouts and keep stirring.
4 - Now add a few pinches of lemongrass salt to each pan. Taste and add salt or pepper to your liking.
Keep stiring regularly in the two pans for about five more minutes. Be careful to not overcook the vegetables. They should have vibrant
colors and keep some of their crunchy texure. Tofu is done when it has a golden color.
Serve warm with black rice, chopped fresh cilantro, lime wedges, soya sauce and extra lemongrass salt.
- Rasmus used some thin yellow dried mushrooms he found in Vietnam. Any kind would work here.
You could cut them in thin slices once rehydrated if they are too big.
- Wok works best when all the vegetables are dry. That way they will get crunchy and keep some texture. If you want to rinse vegetables
before choping them, make sure to dry them thoroughly in a clean towel before moving on with the recipe.
- By adding the mung bean sprouts at two different moments of the cooking process they will have different textures and give some depth
and interesting crunch to the dish.