EatinAsian chronicles : Young Coconuts

Writen by EatinAsian creator Kimlai Yingling
Published in Huffington Post Food

Going to Asian markets with my mom was always an interesting and fun learning experience. There were so many colorful, out of the ordinary things that I was unfamiliar with. Plus my mom was my personal Vietnamese/English translator, which was my gateway to communicating with Asian store employees. The only difference now with our Asian market excursions is that instead of her physically being with me in the store, I usually have her on the phone ready to go, to talk to the cashier or one of the store associates. I don’t speak their language and they don’t speak mine and frankly the pictures never quite depict what’s actually inside the package. And charades doesn’t always cut it.

I have really vivid memories of my mom and I unpacking groceries from the Asian market. It was just as exciting unloading all these exquisite groceries as it was picking them out in the store. One of the more fun fruits I remember (because I got to drink it and eat it) was the coconut. Coconuts meant I got to squat down on the kitchen floor for mother daughter time as she disassembled it with a really big knife without a drop of juice falling out. I always thought she intuitively had really good knife skills. I mean, most ninjas I saw on TV were generally Asian.

It’s a little hard to break through the top of a young coconut unless you have a heavy-duty hunk of steel aka butcher knife. My mom would lay out a bunch of newspaper on the kitchen floor, grab the over sized butcher knife and give it a few whacks using every muscle in her little arms about 2-3 inches from the top. You want to make sure to chop off just enough that you can get a spoon inside once the coconut water is gone, because you will want to scrape out the coconut flesh. The first time I chopped my own I created a small slit. It was perfect for a scrunched up straw but I couldn’t get a spoon in there. I decided to try and chop the coconut in half but the outer layer can be a bit deceiving. It’s harder than a rock! After a few whacks and not really cutting through the shell I noticed the blade on my butcher knife was taking a bit of a beating. A tip I don’t need now but wish I had thought of years ago was to mark the area with a sharpie to use as a guide for the knife.

There is nothing more refreshing than drinking cold coconut water straight out of a young coconut. As I got older I started realizing that because of all the health benefits it is considered a health tonic, better at hydrating your body than sports drinks and fruit juices because of all the electrolytes. The flesh of a young coconut is soft and chewy with a mild flavor plus you can usually get up to a cup and a half of delicious coconut water out of each fruit.

The coconut shells also make a great presentation and as one of my EatinAsian readers suggested…”WOW, it sure would be good with rum.” Yes…the shells can be used multiple times in a sitting, so feel free to get creative. Load it up and pack it with a straw, spoon and colorful drink umbrella.

TIP: When selecting a coconut for the water make sure to get a YOUNG coconut (pictured above) not a mature coconut, which is dark brown in color and generally found in Western markets. The mature coconuts have a furry harsh outer layer and not as much coconut water.






A Taste of Malaysia with Chef Christina Arokiasamy

Do you know what Malaysian cuisine is? According to The National Restaurant Association, Malaysian cuisine is one of the top 3 trending flavors for 2014. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Malaysian dish so I was super excited to get the invite for the Malaysian tasting by Chef Christina Arokiasamy, the first ever Malaysian Food Ambassador to the U.S.

It was an educational night as well as a delicious exploration for my palate. The point of the evening was to showcase the ingredients that make up Malaysian cuisine. It’s a culmination of Chinese, Indian, Indonesian & Thai spices.
It was an opportunity to see up close how simple the dishes are to make with the spices available now in the U.S. because of The Malaysian External Trade Development Corporations new baby called the Malaysia Kitchen USA program. Many of the spices are new to the U.S. but will be available in over 400 national stores such as Whole Foods and Cost Plus World Market. The program caters to the needs of the time-savvy home cook with easy preparation methods. The sauces and spices have already been pre packaged, without compromising flavors and nutrition so all you have to do is add the meat, or the shrimp.

I was not prepared for the amount of food that was on its way out of the kitchen. We started the night off with starters, then lunch items, then dinner items and then desserts. As Chef Christina says, “At breakfast we talk about what we are going to eat for lunch, at lunch we talk about what we are going to eat for dinner. Our life revolves around food.”

“The curiosity behind Malaysian ingredients remains untapped in the U.S. market” says Arokiasamy. “By introducing our Malaysian food and beverage products that are all-natural, value-driven, easy-to-make, and authentic in taste, American families can access and enjoy flavorful, healthy choices from packet to plate in the convenience of their own homes.”

For more information on the Malaysian Kitchen USA Program and to bring a taste of Malaysia into your home CLICK HERE

Kabobs resized

Chicken & Beef Satay with Peanut Sauce Skewered chicken and beef that featured the pre packaged satay sauce.

Mango Salad with mint resized

Mango “Kerabu” This was a delicious and very light mango salad with mint leaves.

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Chef Christina Aroklasamy, the first ever Malaysian Food Ambassador to the U.S. 

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Spice Table resized

Pineapple Fried Rice by Chef Katie Chin

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Recipe created by Chef Katie Chen
“Everyday Thai Cooking”

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1 whole pineapple

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon salt, divided

Pinch of ground white pepper

2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil, divided

1 garlic clove, minced

1 small shallot, finely sliced

1 fresh hot red or green chili, preferably Thai (deseeded if you prefer less heat), finely sliced

3 cups (450 g) cooked and chilled Thai jasmine rice

2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 cup (150 g) cubed cooked chicken breast

1 cup (150 g) cubed cooked shrimp

½ cup (73 g) fresh or thawed frozen peas

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) plus more for garnish

4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

  1. Cut the pineapple in half lengthwise and cut the fruit from the middle, leaving shell halves intact. Cut out the eyes and core. Set the shell halves aside. Dice the fruit. Dry the diced pineapple with paper towels and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and the pinch of pepper.
  3. Heat ½ of the oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook eggs, stirring, until set but still moist. Transfer eggs to a plate. Wash and thoroughly dry the wok or skillet.
  4. Heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, shallots and chili and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, chicken, shrimp, peas, and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes. Add the reserved eggs, pineapple, fresh coriander leaves, and mint; stir-fry for 30 seconds.
  5. Scoop the fried rice into the pineapple shells and garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Serve immediately.

 COOK’S NOTE: If you dice the pineapple ahead of time, rinse the pineapple shells with boiling water and dry with paper towels before serving.

***If you would like to try more delicious recipes from Chef Katie Chin’s latest cookbook “Everyday Thai Cooking” please CLICK HERE ***

Q&A with Ayara Thai

Written by: Kimlai Yingling
Creator of EatinAsian
Huffington Post Contributor

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Ayara Thai takes great pride in using all local and fresh ingredients. Even though it takes a bit more time to prepare I can definitely vouch that the extra time pays off in the flavors of their cuisine. I sat down with Vanda (whose parents opened Ayara in 2004) for some food talk, family style dining and to hear about their latest sauce venture that has brought them National attention.

We both agreed that we are more curious when it comes to food than our parents, we’re more creative with ingredients and we continue to expand the definition of what food is and means to our generation.

EA: Why do you think our generation is more willing to cross the lines with our parent’s recipes?
VANDA: We are a generation that tries to eat healthier and we are more curious about ethnic food and the types of ingredients we use. Our generation is more traveled, more curious about food and we’ve tasted flavors of different countries.

EA: So you graduated from Yale and worked for the UN for four years. Why did you come back and take over the family restaurant?
VANDA: I decided to come back to Los Angeles and work with the family business because I realized I could use my degree, be creative and take the restaurant to another level. We have created 7 authentic sauces that have the same flavor profiles that you would get if you were in Thailand. They are bottled at the restaurant every week. Being at the restaurant also allows me to get involved with the local community.

EA: How long is the shelf life of a bottle of sauce?
VANDA: Each sauce has a shelf life of 3 months because they are preservative free and contain all fresh ingredients. Our peanut sauce was just nominated for a Sofi Award by the Specialty Food Association and we were mentioned in this month’s issue of Womens Health.

EA: How does the sauce bottling process work at Ayara Thai?
VANDA: We bottle 7 different sauces each week. We set it up like a production line. We boil the jars, put the labels on, fill them up, etc.,

EA: Why don’t you have the sauces mass produced?
VANDA: Having sauces created at a warehouse takes time because it’s hard to scale up and get the recipe to match the quality of the recipe we make in the restaurant.

EA: I noticed no one is using chopsticks in the restaurant. Do you offer them to the guests?
VANDA: Thai people do not use chopsticks unless we are eating soup. The utensils of choice are a spoon and fork, with the spoon being used by your dominant hand and the fork in the other. The fork is considered a weapon and you should never put a weapon in your mouth, which makes it not ideal to use as the main utensil. The spoon is friendly so the fork is used to scoop into the spoon and the spoon is the main utensil. The spoon is also used to cut.

The interview was absolutely fascinating and the food was extremely flavorful. I was happy to have such a delicious selection of food and the opportunity to try all of the sauces as well as Vanda’s favorite family dish, the Baked River Prawns.

CLICK HERE to check out the Ayara Thai site.


Fresh spring rolls with the award winning peanut sauce


Thai-Tini. Thai tea with Soju…YUMMY.

Green papaya salad


Curry Fish Cakes with the cucumber sauce


Vegetarian Pad Thai


Family favorite Baked River Prawns


Mango and sticky rice

Asian Craft brews are gettin on the boat…Look out U.S.

Writen by Josh Schaffer

For the most part, when we think of beers from Asia, the majority of beer drinkers tend to view them as light on color, flavor and alcohol. Whether it’s Hite from Korea, Sapporo from Japan, TsingTao from China or Singha from Thailand, the perception remains the same — they don’t get much love in the craft brew lover’s eyes.

But history tends to repeat itself, and Asia, as always, is catching up quickly. Hong Kong, mainland China, South Korea, and in particular, Japan, all have a burgeoning craft beer scene. In my recent trip to the Philippines I came across a Gastropub in Manila that would give any of those we know here a run for their money. Ω
For Japan, the change came about in 1994 when tax laws were reformed that allowed smaller brewers to emerge from under the dominance of Sapporo, Kirin, Asahi and Suntory. And twenty years later, again it’s Japan who is leading the scene by bringing their craft beers to the States. That’s not to say if you look hard enough you won’t find others, but a handful have emerged to make it out beyond the local specialty store and to your local pub. Ω
Two of the biggest craft brewers you can find from Japan are Echigo and Hitachino. Echigo makes a few beers, including a Red Ale and Stout, the latter of which I am particularly fond (the bottle design is pretty bad ass too). While the red ale does a great job balancing bitter and sweet, the stout is all malt, and drinks very smooth.
Hitachino is probably the most familiar to anyone who spends a fair amount of time at a bar. They’re most popular beer is the Hitachino Nest White Ale, brewed in the style of your typical Belgian ale with notes of citrus and spice. But again, as someone who tends to prefer darker, if you can find it, give their Sweet Stout a try. It’s a milk stout (all alcohol needs sugars and this one just happens to use lactose. Trust me, you won’t taste milk) that is both sweet, smooth and full bodied. They also make a Hefeweizen, Red Rice Ale and Espresso Stout. Ω
Another Japanese beer I’ve come across a couple times is Yona Yona Ale from Yo-Ho Brewing. And while I haven’t had the chance to try their other selections, I found this Pale Ale very refreshing as a daily drinker.Ω
If you are looking for a place to try any of these, especially in Los Angeles, your best bet would be to look for any restaurant with the word “Izakaya” in it. It’s basically a Japanese pub. For those on the Westside I recommend Sasaya on Santa Monica, Honda-Ya in Little Tokyo and The Little Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya in Sherman Oaks.Ω
I’d also like to give a small shout out to Red Horse Beer. It’s brewed by San Miguel, and is marketed as a “macho” beer in the Philippines. It’s essentially the Steel Reserve of Asian beer (8% ABV), and while it won’t blow anyone away, it definitely made my trip to Asia that much more enjoyable. I don’t even know if you can find it here, but if you see it, give it a shot.Ω
With the craft brew scene just starting to take off in Asia, I can only guess that it won’t be long before we start seeing a tsunami of new Asian beers on shelves here and I for one, can’t wait.

Travels of Little Rice Grass by Anupa Roy

About the Book
Long, long ago, there was a little grass. Born in the marshes along a river, the wild grass began to travel with early humans. It crossed rivers and mountains and visited many lands. It grew wherever humans lived and had many adventures. It is loved by all – it is RICE!

About the author
ANUPA ROY is an Asian in love with her rice and tea. When she is not reading or being a mother and wife, she writes on — what else — rice and tea! And about people like the San Bushmen and Eskimos whom she envies.

The rest of the time she spends traveling and pottering around libraries, getting information for other serious stuff she writes, like architecture and history.

Published by Ethos Books this is a perfect picture book for children and adults as well. CLICK HERE to purchase.

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