Kelp Larb

Spiced, minced meat salad, larb, is quintessentially Thai. Years ago, while I was gradually encountering world cuisines in graduate school (ahh, no pun intended), I was struck by larb. Not the red curry, …, nor the masaman, the mainstays of many a Thai menu in the USA. Some food historians/chefs say that the Portuguese brought curry from India to Thailand. But I think the India southeast Asia trades go way back– to the first millennium. In any case, back to larb. It has no signs of any overt Indian influence, but it impressed this Indian enough to make it one of my mainstays of minced meat (in the ranks of keema, seekh/shami kebabs, burger).

Kelp is a seaweed, but not a plant. Considered a superfood, this algae is being sustainably and regeneratively ocean-farmed. Kelp tops the guilt-free list! An intrinsic part of Japanese cooking, kelp is not a complete stranger to the food world.

I bring these two wonders together. I resort to Akua‘s kelp burger “meat” for this equally appealing, delicious larb. Enjoy!


A chop-stir spatula (optional), thick-bottomed pan.


  • 1 lb kelp-burger “meat”
  • 1 tbsp chili infused EVOO
  • 1 tsp dried mint
  • Larb sauce: 1/4 cup lime juice + 1 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc nam) + 1 tbsp honey/brown sugar
  • Garnish:
    • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro leaves + 2 tbsp fresh mint (if not using dried mint)
    • 2 scallions fine chopped + 2 shallots thinly sliced
    • 1 tbsp rice powder (toast rice grains and grind, don’t substitute with rice flour)


Heat the EVOO on medium in a thick-bottomed pan. Add the kelp burger meat and the dried mint, and chop-stir for five minutes or so until the “meat” is browned and has a coarse breadcrumb texture. Turn off the heat. Immediately, add the larb sauce and mix well. Then add all the garnish ingredients.


  1. The larb recipe is inspired by the chefs of
  2. The larb recipe works well with real meat as well- minced turkey, chicken or lamb.
  3. I use the the chop-stir, bought from a specialty store– but you could use just a wooden spatula. Usually, I am not a fan of hyper-specialized tools, but with this one I must make an exception.
  4. Serve with lettuce or radicchio leaves.

Mala Turkey: Similar recipe as above.
1. In a large wok, dry roast veggies – julienned turnip, daikon, and, sliced Napa cabbage and hydrated and sliced dried mushrooms.
2. Prepare the ground turkey using the chop-stir in a saute pan.
3. Mix the veggies, turkey and 2-3 tbsp Mala sauce.

Maitake Pot Roast

Delicately pleated, gigantic (rivaling a large cauliflower in size) maitake mushroom is certain to catch your attention. It had to be split in half –alas– to fit into the greengrocer’s brown paper bag. A simple overnight marinade, whole-cooked and voilà!! Enjoy.


Large kerai/wok with lid.


  • 1 lb Maitake mushroom
  • Marinade overnight in ziplock bag: 3 tbsp EVOO + 2 tbsp Sriracha sauce + 3 tbsp garlic-miso spice (optional) + dash of salt


The ziplock bag helps in getting the marinade all into the mushroom which absorbs the marinade line a sponge. Heat a wok to medium-high, place the maitake mushroom delicately and cover the wok. Let brown for 5 min. Flip over and brown other sides for 5 min. When it starts to ooze liquid, turn heat-down to slow-medium and let steam till all the liquid dries up.

Slice and serve.


  1. Of course, you can pull apart the maitake into smaller parts (the stems are delicious too). But cooking it whole is an interesting treatment. I am not a big fan of whole cooked cauliflower, but the whole maitake blew my mind!
  2. Note that since the marinade has oil, it does not need more oil and it also browns neatly.
  3. The miso-garlic spice was again from the farmer’s market, but you could used any other spice mix of your choice– or none at all. The less the distraction with spices, the more you appreciate the fungus!

Sourdough Rye-only Bread

I was introduced to this amazing Finnish Rye bread, Hapanleipä, by my good friend, Niina. Ever since I was exposed to this, I yearned to try my hands at it. After several failed attempts– it finally came together by using a “proofer” for the starter. I gleefully write this blog as I chomp on the fully homemade ruis bread. Just a word of caution: the process takes more than a week; yet, the only ingredient is rye. This also no doubt appeals to the minimalist in you. Enjoy!!


Scale, processor with dough blade, parchment paper, silicone spatula, Proofer.


  • approx 1 kg Rye flour (for the sour culture, sponge and bread)
  • salt, water


Rye sour culture (7 days). Start with 30 gm rye flour + 30 ml water at 105 F and proof at 86 F in airtight jar overnight.
Repeat the following for the next six days (or more days):
Take 30 gm of culture the previous day (discard the remainder) + 30 gm rye flour + 30 ml water at 105 F and proof at 86 F overnight.

Rye sponge (proof covered overnight at 86 F):  55gm  rye flour + 140 gm lukewarm (105 F) water + 5 gm rye sour culture.

Rye bread dough (proofed for 3 hours at 86 F) : approx 200 gm rye sponge + 450 gm rye flour + 330 gm lukewarm (105 F) water + 1 tsp salt.
Make the dough in processor with bread blade. The dough is very very sticky, but not to be alarmed. It is resilient enough. Divide the dough into two, place them on parchment; flatten roughly and proof at 86F for 3 hrs.

After proofing the dough is a little easier to handle. Using the silicone spatula (you may have to dip it in cold water) shape the tow disks; make a hole in the center, use that dough in the remainder of the disk. Dock (or make holes) with a wooden chopstick. Place the two disks (each about 6 inches in diameter) along with the parchment on a baking tray.

Bake at 425 F for 25 mins. Cool on tray. Rest the bread for 2-3 days to bring out the deep flavor.


  1. The recipe was adapted from The Rye Baker: Classic Breads from Europe and America, by Stanley Ginsberg.
  2. The proofer is Brod & Taylor’s Folding Proofer.
  3. Perhaps a stand mixer is more appropriate to make the dough. But I don’t have one –nor do I plan to have one— I use the processor with the dough blade instead. I think I got a “starch attack” with the blade speed, but the dough was tamed by the time it proofed for 3 hours.
  4. Note that the very first step of making the sour culture consumes a lot of flour. Also, you discard a large portion of the culture everyday as you feed it with fresh rye flour. I worked out various algorithms in my mind, like doubling the feed every day instead of discarding- but if you know your arithmetic, you will realize the volume explodes in seven days (not to speak of the the culture’s natural increase in volume) 🙂 .
  5. I placed the two disks on a “dhokla” two tiered rack, lined with parchment and placed the rack in the proofer (for 3 hrs).
  6. In the pictures below, the rye sour culture is in the lidded jar and the sponge in the open-face bowl (that was covered while proofing)

Rye Maitake Strata in Eggplant Sauce

The impulsive purchases from a local Farmer’s Market is transformed to a delectable Savory Bread Pudding, inspired by the Italian Strata. The depth of flavor is from the Rye Batard from the local baker; umami from maitake (hen of the woods) and morel mushrooms from a CSA farmer; je ne sais quoi from baba ganoush (eggplant sauce) from a Mediterranean stand. Simple to slap together with a few more pantry ingredients. Enjoy!


Blender; Loaf pan, parchment paper.


  • Building Block Layers:
    • 1 maitake mushroom (sliced into 4 steak pieces, 1.5 cm thick, browned on each side on a dry pan for at least 2 minutes)
    • 8 slices of rye batard, each about 3/4 inch thick
  • Flavor base: maitake mushroom crumbs + 4 morel mushrooms diced + 1 quarter onion diced (dry roasted on thick bottom pan, deglazed with a little dry white wine from your cellar)
  • Liquid: 1 cup baba ganoush + 2 cups milk + 3 eggs + 1/4 cup chili EVOO
  • Spices: 2 tsps harissa powder + garlic salt to taste


Add all ingredients, except building block layers, in the blender and liquify until smooth.

In a sealable (tupperware box) lay the bread and maitake steaks in alternate layers. Pour the liquid over the layers to cover. Seal the box and let soak overnight or for about 4 hours. Turn the box around for the liquid to penetrate evenly on all siders. Or, soak until all the liquid is absorbed.

Unload onto a parchment paper and transfer with the parchment onto a loaf pan (or any other baking dish of your choice). Bake at 350 F for 1 hr, or until done and lightly browned on top.

Let cool for 10-15 mins. Slice (or spoon).


  1. The traditional strata uses stale bread and the sauce is usually cheese and eggs to hold it all together. This is very delicious too. I wanted to experiment with alternatives here and it turned out to be a hit!
  2. The one above is a quick one with fresh Baba ganoush from the Farmer’s Market, but you can make your own eggplant sauce. Eggplants are not be frowned on- recall their French elevation, aubergine caviar!
  3. The baking time may depend on the kind of baking dish you use– if you use a large bottom baking pan, it will take a shorter time, so keep an eye on it. The compact loaf pan that I used, takes a slightly longer time.
  4. The parchment paper is both a convenient way of moving the content from the soaking pan to the loaf pan and also helps brown and unmould.

Ramps Rasam

This year Mother’s Day coincided with a sniffles bout (for me). Celebrating seasonal ramps, I cobbled this together to recreate the Southern Indian thin soup- rasam. It turned out as delicious and as cold-busting as the original. Enjoy!




  • 1 bunch ramps: thinly slice and separated the bottoms from the leaves
  • Sputtering base:
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • whole spices: 1 tsp whole mustard+2-3 stalks curry leaves+ 2 red chillies + 1/2 tsp whole black pepper (optional)
  • Ground spices: 1 tsp rasam powder (or sambar powder) + a dash of heeng
  • Flavorings: 1 tbsp tamarind paste (+ optional: 2 cubes of sugar)
  • Veggies: 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups water (or, more as per taste)
  • salt to taste
  • Garnish: coriander leaves


On medium heat, place the sputter base ingredients till mustard seeds begin to pop. Reduce heat to minimum and add ground spices (so that they dont burn). After a minute or so, add the bottoms of the ramps and let saute for a minute. Then add the tomatoes, turn up the heat to medium and cover and let soften in its own juice (3 mins or so). Add the flavorings and water and salt to taste. Cover. As it comes to a slow simmer, add the sliced tops of the ramp. Cover and turn off heat.

Serve hot, with garnish.


  1. The use of sambar powder in rasam may shock the purists. But, I have used this in a pinch, and, it has served me well.
  2. Feel free to add other veggies of your choice. Just remember that this is not meant to be a thick soup- so do retain its thin consistency.
  3. Instead of heeng– you could use 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced. Mix it in with the sliced ramp bottoms and follow the above steps.
  4. Lacinato Kale Rasam: Kale instead of ramps. Separate the stalks from the leafy parts. Chop the stalks very fine. Stack and roll the leaves, then chiffonade into thin slivers.

Fermented Rice: Pakhala Salad to Amazake Kheer

March 20 of every year celebrates Pakhala, an unpretentious, fermented rice staple from Eastern India. Fermentation is quite the rage and being home-bound during the pandemic I dove headlong into it– kefir, kombucha, yogurt and the likes. These need starters, so necessitate some discipline to get into a rhythmic cycle (to maintain the microbe/SCOBY robustness).

Pakhala and amazake need no such swaddling! Just mix cooked rice with water and let stand overnight to ferment. Brown rice was used for the main course and Japanese koji rice for the dessert. Absolutely delicious. Enjoy!

Pakhala: Mix plenty of water with leftover cooked rice and let ferment overnight (at approx 110 F). Shown here with side dishes- crushed peanut chutney, crushed flaxseed tortilla chips chutney and snow peas salad (see below).

Amazake: I recently discovered this through “Japanese Superfoods” by Yoshiko Takeuchi. Amazake uses koji rice which is preprocessed rice, i.e., steamed and already inoculated with the starter. Koji rice can be purchased– like any other variety of rice grain– from Japanese grocery stores (or over the internet). Then the fermentation process at home is identical to that of pakahla (at an even warmer temperature of approx 140 F). Amazake turns out to be surprisingly sweet. This is usually served as a drink, but here I serve it as a thin pudding or kheer (see below).


  1. Pakhala day in India coincides with Winter/Spring here– really not the hottest of times. Nevertheless. An electric fermenter that lets you control the temperature is a good doodad to add to your bag of toys.
  2. Pakhala can be served in two ways. The traditional way is to include some of the fermenting liquid with the rice grains and a little salt to taste and the side dishes, actually on the side.
    Or, as a Rice Salad. Drain the fermenting liquid and mix the side dishes with the rice. Top with diced red onions and serve immediately to retain the crispness of the three side dishes. I owe this salad version to my culturally diverse tasters!
    • Crushed peanut chutney: Coarsely crush 1 cup peanuts with 1 pod of garlic, 1 green chilli and salt to taste. Then mix in 2 tbsp of finely diced onion.
    • Crushed Flaxseed Tortilla Chips chutney: Coarsely crush 1 cup broken chips with salt to taste. Then mix in 2 tbsp of finely diced onion.
    • Snow peas salad: Dethread the snow peas. All this salad takes is some knife skill. Finely julienne. C’est tout.
  3. Amazake kheer: Mix 1/2 cup amazake (rice grains and liquid) with 1/2 cup milk (nut, soy or dairy) and a drop of vanilla (or a dash of cardamom), to tease your palate.
    Shown below are: koji rice, amazake and the amazake-kheer.

Shown below are pakhala and the side dishes: