Ying’s Best One-Dish Meals : A Review And A Spicy Sesame Pad Thai
I am an ardent fan of one-dish meals, most especially when I’m doing the cooking which is most of the time! One-dish meals means less preparation work, cooking in pot and so no worries about side dishes and far less work later in terms of clearing and washing up. When they’re cooked at home, one-dish meals are usually also a great way of serving up healthy, comforting and satisfying meals even to children who fuss over their food.
Show me someone who doesn’t like cooking one-dish meals and I’ll show someone who is glutton for punishment (assuming this person doesn’t routinely deal with a hungry, impatient family, never ending daily chores and has a retinue of help in the kitchen and around the house!)
So I was quite interested when the cover of one of the books Sellers Publishing sent me for reviewing read Ying’s Best One-Dish Meals – Quick Healthy Recipes for the Entire Family. A slim hardbound book with beautiful photographs, Ying has compiled over 50 healthy one-dish meals that are easily put together easily without much effort. Her book is all about cooking healthy, filling and tasty meals for the family, with a twist on the usual fare without spending loads of time and effort in the kitchen, or resorting to processed foods.
Ying’s Chinese heritage and her extensive travels have influenced her cooking. This shows in her recipes which are a fusion of Asian and Western ingredients and techniques, and the dishes make for interesting flavour combinations. Her recipes in this book are categorised for easy use into chapters that are appropriately titled as Meals in a Wok, Meals in a Pot, Meals in A Hurry, Global Inspiration and Desserts in a Flash!
Some examples of the recipes you can find in the book are Happy Family Stir-Fried Rice; Pan-fried Tofu Salad with Green Tea and Honey Dressing; Spicy Sesame Pad Thai; Pasta with Spinach, Pine Nuts and Olives; Spicy Edamame Bean Stew; Cous-cous with Pine Nuts, Cranberries and Grapefruit; Orange Quinoa and Sweet Potato Salad; Chocolate and Mango with Toasted Almonds and Green Tea Ice-cream.
She also includes information and tips on saving time by planning ahead, planning meals, getting organised and stocking up the pantry. There’s also a useful table on cooking different types of grain.
Though the recipes I have listed are vegetarian, about 3/4 the recipes are non-vegetarian but can be adapted quite well if you’re vegetarian like me. I found the recipes concise, well presented, very doable, as most of the ingredients are easily available or can be substituted at a pinch. Ying also provides nutritional and serving information for each recipe. You can see some of the recipes in her book here
About Ying Chang Compestine:
Ying is an award-winning author, former food editor with Martha Stewart's Body + Soul magazine, and a regular contributor to Cooking Light, Eating Well, Self, and Men's Health. She has also authored many children's books, cookbooks, and novels and is the spokesperson for Nestle Maggi and Celestial Seasonings.
I chose to try out Ying’s Spicy Sesame Pad Thai. Pad Thai is supposed to have originated in Bangkok for busy office workers who had very short breaks from work and needed nutritious and delicious food which was cooked up very quickly.
Pad Thai translates as “Thai style frying” and is a stir-fried rice noodle dish usually with roasted peanuts, sprouts, tofu, garlic chives/ green onions, egg, meat, etc., and a sauce which is a perfect balance of salty, spicy, tang and sweet. It is usually served with slices of lemon and other table accompaniments like soy sauce (or fish sauce), red chilli powder/ flakes, sugar, green chillies in vinegar, etc.
This Pad Thai is very simple and uses sesame seeds instead of peanuts. This recipe doesn’t seemt o have a “sweet” component to the sauce and I’m not sure if that was a conscious omission. She doesn’t add sprouts to her Pad Thai (perhaps because a lot of homes outside South East Asia wouldn’t have them on hand) or tofu. I chose to add tofu to my Pad Thai.
The sauce can be made ahead and that makes this dish very easy to cook and you can use any kind of noodles, not just rice noodles. Though a little different from the usual peanut variation of the Pad Thai, we found the sesame flavoured version lighter and just as good.
Spicy Sesame Pad Thai
(From Ying’s Best One-Dish Meals)
For the spicy sesame sauce:
- To prepare the sauce, heat oil over medium heat
- Add garlic and green chillies and sauté for 1 minute
- Add tahini, soy milk, lemon juice and palm sugar
- Cook, stirring constantly until the sauce is hot and the tahini has melted, 1-2 minutes
- Remove from heat and let cool
- Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet
- Drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking. Set aside
- Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat
- Add the bell peppers and green onions and stir-fry for 30 seconds
- Stir in the noodles and sesame sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
- Transfer to serving dish. Garnish with sesame seeds
To save time on a week day, make the sauce in advance. It will last up to a week when refrigerated in a sealed container. This sauce also goes well with other types of noodles.
My notes (see the recipe above):
*I made my own tahini. You can make your own by soaking 1 cup of white sesame seeds in water for about 15 minutes (This reduces the bitterness). Drain the water and then toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat. Do not brown. Cool the seeds and then coarsely powder in a mixer/ blender. Grind/ Blend further to a smooth paste adding about 1/4 cup of oil, bit by bit. Bottle and refrigerate for upto 3 weeks.
**As far as I know, the sauce for Pad Thai should be a balance of salt, sweet, tang and spicy. There didn’t seem to be a “sweet” ingredient in the list so I used palm sugar. You may use brown sugar or honey for the hint of sweet.
***I use cup measurements, and to my mind 8 ounces of flat noodles (I used Thai rice sticks) should be about 2 to 2 1/2 cups (U.S. measurements)
****I used spring onion greens. As mentioned earlier I also added cubed tofu to my Pad Thai.
*__I preferred to use red chilli flakes to pepper.