January, 2008

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Review: Honga's Lotus Petal
Jan 12th, 2008



I love Asian food, especially Southeast Asian and Asian fusion dishes. But I own very few Asian cookbooks, really just a smattering of Thai, and I rarely pick one up from the library just to flip through. I don't know if it's the lists of ingredients that would necessitate a trip to a special store to procure, or the way the recipes all seem the same after a while (at least to my Western palate), but it's rare for me to find an Asian cookbook that I want to stay up late reading.

Honga's Lotus Petal: Pan Asian Cuisine, by Honga Im Hopgood is one of those rare finds. The photographs are beautiful, the narrative is entertaining & informative, and the recipes are inventive & diverse. It probably also helps that the recipes incorporate influences from multiple countries (including the US) rather than focusing on the cuisine of one valley in Southern Laos. Plus the author has a kickass name.

Honga's Lotus Petal is apparently a restaurant in Telluride. I've never heard of it, but I would definitely look it up were I ever to find myself skiing in Colorado. I see the location's influence in the book's focus on healthy, seasonal, organic ingredients.

I don't think I got more than a few pages in before finding the first recipe I wanted to try, a version of cream of tomato soup that substitutes coconut milk for the cream and adds a Thai flair with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. The local grocery that usually stocks lemongrass was mysteriously out, but I had some lime leaves in the freezer. I just bumped up the amount of lime leaves and never really missed the lemongrass. I think you could successfully make this recipe as long as you have at least one of those two ingredients (and some fish sauce of course, you can't do anything without fish sauce!).

I ate my soup for dinner with these Cilantro Noodles from Donna Hay, and enjoyed some even more the next day for lunch. The soup has a subtle, creamy, savory taste. I'll make it again and I look forward to trying many more recipes from Honga's Lotus Petal.


Tomato Coconut Soup

2 tbsp cooking oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 shallots, sliced
1 tbsp minced ginger
2 tbsp sake or white wine
28 ounces canned whole peeled tomatoes
14 ounces canned coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 kaffir lime leaf
1/2 stalk lemongrass
2 tbsp B-Love's Hot Masala
1 tbsp honey


Heat the oil in a stockpot over high heat.

Add the onion, shallots and ginger.

Stir frequently, until the onions are sweating and translucent.

Add the sake, stirring quickly to deglaze.

Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, fish sauce, lime leaf, lemongrass, Hot Masala, and honey.

Simmer for two hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove the lime leaf and lemongrass. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Serve hot.

-Honga Im Hopgood, Honga's Lotus Petal
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Oat Knots
Jan 1st, 2008



These rolls are a category winner in the most recent Cooking Light reader recipe contest. These contests are such pieces of Americana - you must incorporate a sponsor ingredient into your recipe. Ten ways to cook with Kr@ft Mir@cle Whip! But the sponsors for the Cooking Light contest are fairly innocuous (soy sauce, rolled oats, and canned tomatoes are a few examples) and the resulting recipes look pretty good.

And these Oatmeal Knots also taste pretty good! Actually they taste really good. They are made with whole grains and very little butter, but they don't taste heavy or spongy. The seeds on the outside provide a nice nutty crunch, and the insides are light, fluffy, and slightly sweet.

The recipe is a standard yeast bread recipe, with one step that I haven't seen before. To melt the honey and butter together with the oats you heat the water for the recipe to boiling and pour it over them. The dough was really wet and sticky for me, I had to add more than the additional 1/2 cup of flour mentioned to get it to stop sticking to my hands (and the counter, and the bowl, and anything else that wandered by). But it didn't seem to adversely affect the resulting texture.

Fashioning the knots was pretty easy, a lot like playing with Play-do, but mine spread out and didn't look a whole lot like knots after baking. It might work just as well to roll them into balls and bake together in a pan like rolls. I love the soft places where rolls merge together during baking and you have to pull them apart before eating. Yumm...


Oatmeal Knots
makes 24

1 cup regular oats
1/2 cup honey
2 tbsp butter
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 cups boiling water
1 package dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
3 cups whole wheat flour (about 14 1/4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces), divided
Cooking spray
1 tsp water
1 large egg
1 tbsp regular oats
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds


Combine the oats, honey, butter, and salt and pour the bowling water over the mixture. Stir until the butter melts and everything is combined. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile add 1/3 cup warm water to the yeast in a small bowl and let sit for five minutes. After five minutes add the flaxseed meal and then pour the yeast and flaxseed mixture into the oat mixture and stir.

Gradually add the whole wheat flour and one cup of the all-purpose flour to the mixture, stirring to incorporate. When all the flour is mixed in turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and add as much of the remaining 1/2 cup flour (one tbsp at a time) as you need to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. It will still be a fairly sticky dough.

Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes) and form the dough into a ball. Place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat the top. Cover the bowl and place in a warm spot for about an hour to allow the dough to double in size. When the dough has risen gently punch it down and return it to the lightly floured surface.

Cut the dough into two halves. Working with one half at a time, cut each half into twelve equal pieces. Prepare two oiled cookie sheets. Form each small piece into an 8-inch rope (by rubbing between your hands like making a playdough snake) and tie the rope into a knot. Place each knot on a cookie sheet. When all 24 knots have been created, cover the cookie sheets with oiled plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot for about 30 minutes and allow to rise until doubled in size.

While the oat knots are rising preheat the oven to 400. When the knots are ready beat the egg and 1 tsp water in a small bowl and brush over the tops of the knots. Then sprinkle with the oats, poppy, and sesame seeds.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 minutes or until golden.

-Melissa Hinrichs, Cooking Light Jan/Feb 2008
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