Summer Foodie Cravings – Big Food Obsessions of the Season 0

It's time for your UV shades and SPF because summer has officially arrived!

Perhaps it's the rising temperature state-side that's reminding us of our glorious days back in the tropics, when blazing heat doesn't deter us from savoring (or more precisely, slurping) a beautiful bowl of bold, spicy, pungent, flavor-packed laksa, nor would the busy stalls situated inches from passing cars prevent us from forking our favorite nasi lemak.

[caption id="attachment_617" align="aligncenter" width="482"] Nasi lemak (coconut rice) over banana leaf via TimeoutKL[/caption]

While we generally are pretty food obsessed year round; this summer in particular we have a number of unwavering foodie cravings that's much missed from our pseudo-paleo diet. Why is it that the summertime just makes food taste a little bit better? This year the warm weather has driven us lusting over the marvelous flavors, bold ingredients and aromatic spices from Southeast Asia cuisine - that’s making quite an international impact - we thought we’d share some of our three favorite tastes, products and aromas from the best culinary of the region!

Laksa (spicy noodle soup)

To all who haven't tried laksa, know this. Life is not worth living if you haven't eaten a nice bowl of laksa. This is the type of food that cravings are made of. We are so very happy to see the rise of laksa in western hemisphere - checkout famed Malaysian mobile street food Azalina’s of San Francisco. Like ramen, different kind of soup base makes different laksa noodles.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="299"] Penang assam laksa via Rasamalaysia[/caption]

Assam laksa, aka Penang laksa, is a huge foodie obsession - particularly in the vibrant northern Malaysian city of Penang as well as KL.

The assam laksa is a pungent, fish-based  soup generally made with poached flaked mackerel and tamarind (assam) to give it a bright, sour, tangy flavor. It’s simply spicy heaven giving off strong aromas of Southeast Asian power ingredients like lemongrass, galangal (in the ginger family) and chili, served with mint, onion, rice noodles and sometimes pineapple. Even Tony likes it!

Johor laksa  very similar to assam, except unlike the others it calls for wheat-based noodles and it contains coconut milk, kerisik (like a coconut butter), dried prawns, lemongrass, galangal and placed on the side, our personal favorite, sambal belacan (shrimp and chilli pepper paste). Yes, please, can we have another?

[caption id="attachment_624" align="alignright" width="341"]Curry Laksa Malaysian style curry laksa[/caption]

Here's an image of curry laksaa hearty coconut-based curry - with bean sprouts and slices of fish cake and either shrimp or chicken.

In Indonesia, Bogor laksa of Bogor, Java, consists of a thick creamy, beautiful yellow-colored soup that is filled with coconut milk, garlic and shallots, kemiri (candlenuts), turmeric, coriander and lemongrass that's simmered to core, often overnight, for maximum flavor oomph. Packed with rice noodles, ketupat (rice cake), bean sprouts, basil, shredded chicken and prawn and a boiled egg. It's served with the addictive sambal cuka on the side (grinded chilli in vinegar) and sometimes tempeh.



Tender, juicy chunks of beef or chicken, painstakingly skewered by hands over bamboo sticks, and slow grilled over charcoal are the best. Smoky from slow caramelizing of brown sugar, shallots, cumin, chili, garlic and chili with burnt edges...

[caption id="attachment_640" align="aligncenter" width="425"]smoky satay over charcoal smoky satay over charcoal[/caption]

Who doesn’t love meat on a stick?

Most cuisines make some form of this food as a popular cultural dish, but satay – which is popular throughout Southeast Asian (mostly in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei) actually originated in Indonesia. In 2011, CNN Go listed it as number 14 in World’s 50 most delicious foods and we totally agree. While satay varies depending on the country and region, made with different proteins and dipping sauces, most versions have turmeric in the marinade to give it that characteristic yellow hue. Whether we’re chomping on pork, chicken, beef, fish, seafood or even snake meat and dipping it into a spicy peanut sauce, a pineapple based sauce, soy sauce or even a cucumber salad relish, we can’t seem to get enough satay.

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="300"]mg_7241 Satay on a stick[/caption]


9 Top Gluten-Free Snack Ideas: Our picks for the best healthy snack recipes 0

It’s quite the challenge to find healthy snacks that are low calorie, protein packed and still can satisfy that hunger craving. Imagine tossing in an additional gluten-free label onto the criteria, and you might think you are stuck with an impossible snack task. But all you gluten-wheat-free eaters fear not! Whether you suffer from celiac disease, have a pesky wheat allergy, are sensitive to gluten, or just simply feel like you need to temporarily break up with a wheat-based diet, here are nine of the best gluten-free easy snack recipes from some of our favorite food blogs.

9. White On Rice Couple's Spring Rolls

There's something about a spring roll that just screams ultimate freshness. It's one of those healthy low carb snacks where you can fill it with a Marry Poppin's purse of flavor combinations -- you can go the Southeast Asian route with a traditional Vietnamese style roll, or maybe a Caesar salad direction, and possibly even down a bacon, lettuce, tomato, turkey path. Todd Porter and Diane Cu, the remarkably talented photog-foodie duo at White On Rice Couple, are all about this delectable gluten-free snack. They even posted a very handy tutorial on how to fold those delicately hard to handle rice paper wrappers. We filled our version with fresh salmon, avocado, cucumber, cabbage, carrot, lettuce and served it with a spicy Sriracha mayo.

8. 101 Cookbook’s Pomegranate Yogurt Bowl

Quinoa puffs, pomegranate and Greek yogurt all rolled up in one? Yes please! Heidi Swanson aka the culinary genius over at the food porn mecca food blog 101 Cookbooks makes this all-natural gluten-free treat. A low cal super food that’s also a great snack for kids, think creamy Greek yogurt topped with tangy pomegranate, a sweet honey drizzle and crunchy quinoa puffs – really the perfect bite of popping flavors and textures.

7. Smitten Kitchen's Creamy Hummus

A favorite dip amongst the wheat allergy world, hummus is an awesome healthy snack that's packed with protein. While there are plenty of variations like coriander, roasted red pepper and sun-dried tomatoes, Deb Perelman from Smitten Kitchen makes a simply flawless smooth Tahini version. Serve it with a medley of raw vegetables or some gluten-free crackers and you have yourself quite the wheat-free snack!

6. Steamy Kitchen’s Crispy Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Four ingredients, forty minute cooking time and an insane amount of snack lovin’ spice, we absolutely HEART Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen’s fast, fresh and simple take on roasted chickpeas. It’s one of those guilt-free snacks where you can easily get down and dirty with an entire batch in one sitting. Chickpeas, olive oil, salt and seasoning, we are mildly obsessed with this crunchy, all natural snack.

5. Simply Recipes' Perfect Guacamole

A Mexican food favorite, there's something special about a massive bowl of homemade guacamole. Elise Bauer from Simply Recipes makes a pretty immaculate version by combining ripe avocados, salt and lime juice with some cilantro, chiles, onion and tomato for that extra umph. Serve it with corn tortilla chips and you won't miss any of your favorite wheat-iful snacks.

4. The Picky Eater’s Garlic Parmesan Kale Chips

All hail the kale! Kale chips might have been a mega (slightly annoying) food trend during 2011, but there’s a reason behind all the Team Kale madness. They’re crispy. They’re addictive. They’re oh-so-delicious. An extremely nutrient-packed leafy green, this superstar vegetable might just be one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. We are kinda obsessed with this Garlic Parmesan Kale Chip recipe from Anjali Shah over at The Picky Eater. Crunchy, salty, flavorful and ready in under 20 minutes – it really the perfect healthy low cal snack.

3. Rasamalaysia’s Curried Popcorn

Popcorn has been a long friend of wheat-free snack lovers, but these days it’s pretty necessary to add that extra punch to kick it up a few gourmet notches. If you are a fan of Asian street food, or even just any type of Asian food really, Rasamalaysia  should still be your go-to food blog. Author Bee Yinn Lo gives us her creative Indian-influenced version of popcorn by adding a simple blend of curry spices.

2. Elana’s Pantry’s Rosemary Crackers

We all get those glutinous wheat-filled cravings, even when on wheat-free diet. Luckily Wweat-free crackers are much easier to make than you may think. Elana Amsterdam, of Elana’s Pantry, is the queen of gluten free eating, and the goddess of almond flour. In her cookbook “The Gluten-Free Almond Flour” cookbook she highlights a wonderful recipe for rosemary crackers that call for almond flour, sea salt, rosemary, olive oil and an egg. Yup, it’s that easy. She also shares nine more gluten-free cracker recipes, with wheat-free flavors like sesame, almond grain and even her take on wheat thins. We like to mix it up a bit by experimenting with a whole myriad of toppings and flavors.

1. Lil’ Red Dot Kitchen’s Bak Kwa Lettuce Wraps

Okay, so I guess we are a lil’ bit biased about our Bak Kwa lettuce wraps – but they are just too delicious not to include in our list of best gluten-free snack recipes! Our new spicy Chipotle Beef Bak Kwa (that only has 60 calories per serving!), these lettuce wraps are a super easy, low cal and
all-natural snack. You can really fill up your lettuce wrap with a load of fillings. We added bean sprouts, red pepper, carrot and our own strips of freshly grilled bak kwa, and served it with a soy ginger and spicy chili sauce. Healthy, crunchy, meaty, sweet, savory -- it hits the tastes buds in all those important parts!

The Low Down on Bak Kwa: A Quick Lesson About THE Snack of 2013 0

Obviously here at Little Red Dot Kitchen we are major Bak Kwa fanatics – snacking on this Southeast Asian protein-packed meat snack until there is no more left to snack on. But while our Bak Kwa has just recently made its delicious debut in the United States, this trending low-sodium, high protein, wheat-free/gluten-free charcuterie has quite a rich (and tasty) Asian history with its addictive street food roots in Singapore, Malaysia, Macau and Taiwan - versions that's unique to their own regions.

First things first: what the F@#$% is Bak Kwa?! Spelled bak kwa, bakkwa, bah kwa and bak kua – despite how your friends may say it, the proper pronunciation is “/buck-ku-ah/” Let’s say it together now, this time channeling Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman: “BUCK – KU – AH.” Very good.

While some like to call it long yok, others rou gan and many just Malaysian/Singaporean/Asian style barbecued snack, but no matter how you like to say it, there’s one thing that all us enthusiasts can agree upon: we’ve gone LOCO for Bak Kwa!

Directly translating to mean ‘barbecued dried meat’ in the Hokkien dialect, the sweet, savory and smoky charcuterie originated with the Fujian people way back in the day -- dating as far back as the 16th century. Back in that time meat was quite the hot deluxe commodity, where every last ounce was saved for consumption. So what happens when there are meaty leftovers with a short shelf-life in the need for some immediate preservation to be saved for later? Thinly slice those bad boys up, smother a flavorful marinade and grill  -- all so it lasts long time.

Used as a way for meat preservation, Bak Kwa became part of regular snacking in Singapore and Malaysia, where it exploded onto the food scene (who doesn't love bacon?). While traditionally made from pork that had been marinated in sweet and savory sauces, it was dried on racks at about 130°F (optional, and there about), then barbecue-d and served in small thin squares. Overtime this favorite snack has transformed and matured in variety, with a wide selection of flavors, sizes, shapes, spice levels and even different proteins like beef, bacon, chicken and turkey Bak Kwa charcuterie.

Considered a delicacy in a time when a form of refrigeration was a luxury, Bak Kwa was saved for special occasions, especially the Chinese New Year where it was customary to celebrate by popping open a bag of Little Red Dot Kitchen’s very own recipe... well, maybe not our exact recipe, but it was pretty close.

THE meat snack trending 2013
Over the years, the demand for Bak Kwa grew, especially around the holiday times, where it became a popular holiday gift in Malaysia and Singapore. Today, it’s commonly given as a porky present between relatives, acquaintances and coworkers, while tourists are also known to be massive consumers of Bak Kwa where it has become an almost obligatory food souvenir.

With an immense amount of flavor in every meat-iful bite, this unique street food snack in Singapore and Malaysia has not only began to explode onto the culinary scene worldwide, but it's also known to cause a severe addiction for those who are snack and bacon lovers!