Friday, April 22, 2011

Bhutan

Background: Bhutan has had a lot of changes and foreign influence over time, as both Britain and India have controlled their foreign affairs while they tried to control their internal ones.  They are transitioning away from a traditional monarchy.  If I am understanding the CIA Factbook correctly.
Location: Southern Asia, between China and India
Area: Less than 40,000 sq km, 136th in the world
          About half the size of Indiana
Name: Translates as Land of the Thunder Dragon, which refers to the violent storms from the Himalayas
Geography: Controls several key Himalayan passes
Population: Over 700,000; 164th in the world (consistent with the first modern census, not the government reported figures)
Median age: 24.2 years
Capital: Thimphu
Diplomacy: The US and Bhutan have no formal diplomatic relations
National Anthem: Translated, the title means "The Thunder Dragon Kingdom"
Labor: 4% unemployment rate, 35th in the world
           Severe shortage of skilled labor
Happiness!: Business Week rated them the happiest country in Asia in 2006

Source: CIA World FactbookWikipedia

For Bhutan, it was very apparent that their national dish was emadatse, a combination of cheese and hot peppers.  The problem was finding the "right" one.  I understand that recipes have variations.  How many different ways are there to make pasta sauce?  However, some of these even varied in their base.  One called for monterey jack cheese where another said feta.  One said 12 chilies where another said four.  Which one do I choose?

After consulting with Kevin, this was the recipe that made the cut.  It felt more authentic than the others, possibly because it didn't say that it was "Americanized."

But seeing as that wasn't a full meal, I needed an entree as well.  The goal was (1) see it in multiple places so I can reasonably find it authentic and (2) hopefully try something new.  That led me to Pork Fing.  Bean threads!

At the Commissary, the person at the meat counter recommended a picnic roast when I said I needed pork shoulder.  They scoffed when I couldn't give them any more details.  Other than that part, the initial instructions were pretty simple.  I am starting to like my food processor more and more.  It was very good with the onions and the tomatoes.
Now I have just a little bit of this left and I don't know what to do with it.
A lot of butter tends to be a good sign of things to come.
And then there was a lot of simmering.  I also had to get the bean threads ready.  It was very similar to working with rice noodles.  You don't want to put them directly into a rolling boil, so you take the pan off of the heat before you put them in.  Then they only have to sit for a short amount of time.
I didn't realize at first that bean threads and cellophane noodles were the same thing.
It reminds me of a hay stack.
Then they get all gloopy.
And sticky.
The instructions told me to cut them into 6 inch strings, but that wasn't going to happen.  It was a big, tangled mess.  Instead, I used my hands and just tore them so they were a more reasonable length.  Otherwise it would have been a lot of frustrating effort for much the same result.

It was a nice day outside, so Kevin was enjoying the sun while the cats occasionally took time out from their mischief to look out the window.
Shhhh, I'm hiding.
We had recently gone plant shopping with Maura, so now we are on our way to some fresh herbs!
Even some flowers as well.
Supercat, sprawled in the sun.
And then it was time for the emadatse and all of the peppers.  At this point, I hadn't had your offer yet, Sadie.  Otherwise I may have driven to Michigan to get some gloves.  As it was, I didn't have any.
The peppers for both recipes...and this is even without the jalapenos.
The recipe tells you to remove the seeds under running water.  However, this proved pretty disastrous for me.  The water meant that all of the spice went into the air and I kept going into coughing fits.  Whenever Kevin would walk through the kitchen, he would get taken aback.  I eventually stopped that plan.  I still rinsed them afterward, but after they had been de-seeded.  By hand.

I can't remember what type of chilies we got.  The Commissary didn't label them very well, so maybe I never knew...
That is a LOT of peppers.
I decided to try Sylvie's advice for peeling tomatoes.  However, 5-10 seconds didn't seem to be enough for these.  The first one didn't work very well, and the second one was in for so long it started getting mushy.  Sigh.  Why do you dislike me so, tomatoes?  It was still better than doing it all by hand!
Cross-hatch.
This is the one that was left in for quite a while.  Ignore the mess in the background.  There was a lot of chopping going on.
Next is the ever present "stir it all together" step.  One of my favorites.
The chilies didn't really lose their vibrant green color.  I'm not sure if this was because I didn't cook them long enough, or it was the wrong type of chili, or something else.

Kevin doesn't like feta (weirdo), so blue it was.  I also recruited him to help chop some cilantro.
Mmmmm...cheese...
All mixed together.  I didn't expect it to turn yellow.
By this time all of the ingredients were in the pork, too.  All that is left is to set the table and chow down.


FYI, we also had some rice to go with the cheese dish.

Holy crap, was that cheese spicy.  I couldn't eat more than three or four bites.  Tiny bites.  With a lot of rice.  Kevin really liked it though.  He also couldn't eat a ton of it, but he has taken some for leftovers.  We still have a lot left too.

I think I could like it if there were fewer chilies.  In fact, I could almost guarantee it.  Halve the number of chilies, make sure there is plenty of rice...it was actually almost like a queso.  Mmmmm queso.

The pork was pretty bland and boring.  The chilies in there didn't seem to do much.  I think some spices could have really helped.  As it was, it certainly was not the talk of the meal.

Did I get a similar result from the peppers as last time?  No.  Much, much worse.

I was really good about not rubbing my eyes.  However, my fingers started burning constantly.  At one point I used my knuckle to rub my eye.  Knuckle.  I did not de-seed the peppers with my knuckle.  Grumble grumble.  I spent the rest of the movie we were watching with a cold pack on my face.  I had a hard time sleeping that nice because my fingers hurt.  Taking out my contacts was incredibly painful.

The next day, my fingers still burned.  I couldn't put in my contacts, so I wore glasses to work.  It still hurt the day after that, but I made myself put my contacts on.  It was awful.

All of this is to say buy gloves when you are cutting chilies.  It is not worth it otherwise.

Heed my warning!

Next time: Bolivia

3 comments:

  1. I know what to send for your Birthday!

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  2. Those look like serrano peppers methinks.

    I use chilies on an almost daily basis, so I've had the burning hands thing happen on several occasions (I'm not a fan of using gloves myself), but I've never had the burning last for that long. A couple of things you can try when it happens: dip your hands in yogurt (I use greek yogurt) and let it sit on your skin for a bit(I'm serious) or rub them with apple cider vinegar (also serious)...both things have worked to lessen the burn (at least for me). And be careful about taking a shower or washing your hands, especially with warm/hot water, because that just makes it worse (and last longer it seems).
    Also, for the tomatoes, I usually leave them in the boiling water for about 30-40 seconds. I also remove the core first, as it's easier to see what's happening (the skin at the edges will start to curl up a little). I don't know if that helps at all.

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