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Category Archives: Seasoning

Serendipity, Meet Sweet Potato!

First, let me apologize for the poor quality pictures – my poor little Pentax E60 is apparently going KAPLOOEY! Hopefully I can eventually replace it and have some better pictures, but for now, this is the best I can do.

So these were kind of a serendipitous discovery. I was actually aiming to make some sweet potato fries, but it turns out that the grater attachment on my Super Salad Shooter makes teensy little pieces instead of big long beautiful thin strands.

Who’da thunk!

Nevertheless, adopt, adapt, and improve (motto of the round table). (Monty Python has GREATLY expanded my classical education!)

So instead of a deep fried treat, I ended up with these and I have to say they are MUCH yummier than you would think. Or at least they’re yummier than *I* thought they would be. Straight out of the oven, they are crunchy, a little bit sweet in a yammy-kind of way (using yam incorrectly as a synonym for “sweet potato”), and just a hint of salt. You CAN add a bit of salt to these if you want to – it’s in the recipe – but I really don’t think it’s necessary. It doesn’t really stick well anyway.

They’re also way WAY better for you than the deep fried version I was originally headed for.

You want thin shreds – for this purpose it doesn’t matter so much how LONG they are as long as they’re thin. A medium grater will do the trick, you could use a grater blade in a food processor (or the Salad Shooter as I did), or you could get a Kiwi Pro Slicer/Peeler which makes long, thin, lovely strands – also suitable, by the way, for thin sweet potato fries or garnish for an Asian style noodle dish.

Sprinkle these on salads or noodles as a garnish for added color, a change of pace, flavor-wise, and a bit of crunch. Or eat them as-is as a surprisingly delicious snack!

Crunchy Sweet Potato Sprinkles

By Kitchen Barbarian

Published 06/20/2012

Crunchy Sweet Potato Sprinkles

Crunchy sweet potato sprinkles make a delicious topping for stir-fry noodles or salads. They’re also good as a crunchy snack!

There is 438 g of potassium in an average size (about 4.5 to 5 oz) sweet potato. Ounce for ounce, a sweet potato has 50% more potassium than the most often recommended source of potassium, the banana.

You will need:

  • A cookie sheet or jelly roll pan
  • Grater, food processor, or hand-held shredder
  • Foil or Teflon pan liner


  • Sweet potato, one medium, about 4.5 to 5 oz


  1. Peel and shred the sweet potato. I used my Super Salad Shooter, or you could use a regular box grater, food processor, or a Kiwi Pro Slicer/Peeler
  2. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil – the nonstick sort will work best – or use a Teflon parchment sheet such as Pan Pal or Super Parchment
  3. Spread the sweet potato shreds evenly across the pan
  4. Bake in a very low oven – 150F – for 2 to 3 hours, stirring around occasionally, until the shreds have turned dry and crunchy.
  5. Let cool, then store in an airtight container. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt if desired.
  6. Will keep for at least two weeks or more – but they probably won’t last that long!


  • Calories: 112
  • Total carbs: 26.2 grams
  • Dietary fiber: 3.9 grams
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fat: 0
  • Sodium: 72 grams

Tags: Vegetarian, sweet potato, salad, noodles, topping, garnish, snack, low calorie, potassium


Kecap Manis – Indonesian stir fry sauce

As I was just whining the other day, when you have a wide culinary interest in the region of Asia (NO!  It is NOT the same as being indecisive!) sometimes it can be hard to keep all those different sauces and ingredients in stock.

Fortunately, it is often possible to make your own.  Well, at least sometimes.

Even then sometimes I don’t have some sauce or ingredient that’s part of the recipe.  In this case – I was out of both lemongrass and Tamari (actually I don’t keep tamari sauce around, so I pretty much NEVER have it).

Oh well.  I’m a barbarian – I’ll get close enough.


  • 3/4 c palm sugar, jaggery, or brown sugar
  • 3 T water
  • 1 c tamari (I used soy sauce)
  • 1 T minced galangal (from a jar – if using fresh, just slice it thinly)
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 T minced lemon grass, bulb only.  I use this stuff —> More Info
  • 2 star anise


  1. dissolve the sugar in the water over a medium heat.
  2. add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer
  3. simmer over a med low heat for about 10 mins – until it begins to thicken
  4. remove from heat and store in the fridge in a glass jar.

Kecap manis will keep virtually forever.  But you won’t have to worry about that – this is a great base for a stir fry noodle dish.  Obviously you need to add something spicy as well, but this is a good start.  It won’t be around for long!

Last time I made this I had to use brown sugar – I had just bought some jaggery but when I opened it up, it was MOLDY!  EWWW!  Tossed it!  So sad!


The Gourmet Garden lemongrass is OK, but the only other thing I’ve tried from them is, well, pretty inferior if not downright nasty.  I’m talking to you, Gourmet Gardens cilantro-in-a-tube!  Get thee back to the netherworlds!

Actually the ginger and garlic are probably OK as well, but kind of pricey when it’s so easy to get good garlic and ginger paste at any Asian, and many “regular ‘merican”, grocery.  Given my experience with the cilantro, I don’t think I’d be willing to give the basil a chance.  YMMV.

Learning Moment of the Day

A psychologist, an engineer, and a mathematician are in a bar having a convivial drink.  While the three are well into demonstrating an exponential curve as a function of alcohol intake, the psychologist proposes a psychological demonstration, in which the engineer and the mathematician agree to participate.  Pointing a particularly pulchritudinous member of the opposite sex on the other side of the room out to each of his subjects, the psychologist proposes, “I will ring a bell at 1 minute intervals.  At the sound of the bell, you may each advance 1/2 of the distance towards the object of your desire.  Are you ready to begin?”

The mathematician immediately throws hands in the air and cries, “No way!  It’s a mug’s game!  I’m not wasting my time with this – if I can only advance 1/2 of the distance at each interval, I will NEVER get there!”

The psychologist busily makes some notes and turns to the engineer, who, as it turns out, has already hopped off the bar stool and is clearly ready to go, saying, “That’s alright, I’ll get CLOSE ENOUGH!”

More Tofu Marinade

This is an update for Tofu – Getting it Right

This is a Sake marinade for tofu that I think was even better than the first.

Sake Marinade for Tofu

Makes enough for 1/2 block of firm or extra firm tofu:

1/4 c soy sauce
1/4 c sake
2 T Fish sauce
2 T rice vinegar
2 T Ginger paste
1 T Garlic, finely minced
1 to 2 T Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
2 T cilantro, stems and leaves, bruised and coarsely chopped

NOTE the removal of the fish sauce. It was a typo. Makes the marinade way too salty.

Mix well and pour over tofu prepared as in Tofu – Getting it Right. Let marinate at least 30 minutes, but preferably at least 6 to 8 hours. Overnight is even better. Refrigerate if marinating for longer than 30 minutes.

Use the tofu in a stir-fry, as for Thai Style Stir Fry, or substitute tofu for chicken in Thai Ginger Chicken

Basic South Indian Curry

Nothing creates as much confusion and misunderstanding in Indian cooking as the use of the term “curry”. Even dictionaries frequently define this incorrectly when applying it to culinary practices.

First, let me clarify for those who don’t know, there is no such spice as “curry”. Curry powder is a masala, or spice mix, which could contain any of several spices. Typical curry powder contains turmeric, cumin, coriander, fenugreek, and ground red chili. Other ingredients may include cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, asafoetida, cardamom, black pepper, or mace. There is no one true curry powder, it’s just one of many types of masalas used in Indian cooking and varies from one cook to another, let alone from one region to another. Cheap pre-packaged curry mixes frequently include a large amount of turmeric, giving it the yellow color that many Westerners have come to believe is typical of curry. In India, at least, there really is no “typical” curry powder.

However, such has been the popularity of “curry powder” in the west that “curry powder” has become common inside India as well. Many cooks in India now rely on this as a staple of their cupboard, but there is still wide variation in the actual makeup of the mixture, so that each cook has a particular formulation or brand that they swear by which may bear little resemblance to someone else’s favorite.

I actually don’t have a lot of dishes that call for curry powder. I have more dishes that call for a different masala blend, garam masala. This, too, does not have a single formulation, but could be formulated in many different blends. It can still be a useful shortcut.

More typically, Indian cooks use individual ground and whole spices in characteristic ways. I’m most familiar with South Indian style of cooking, so I’m going to give you a basic “curry” recipe today.

This is a basic technique for making a vegetable curry.

We will be quick frying spices in hot oil, and some of these spices will burn quite rapidly, so you need to prepare all ingredients in advance.

Gather the following in small bowls (my bachelor son has been known to use a roommate’s shot glasses) so they are ready to use immediately:

1 tsp urad dahl
1 tsp chana dahl

1 T whole cumin seed

1 T black mustard seed

1 1/2 tsp crushed red chili pepper
(HOT chilis, not American style chili powder)
10-12 fresh neem or “curry” leaves
If you absolutely can’t get hold of fresh, you may use dried, but it’s not nearly as good.

Group 5:
1 T garam masala
1 tsp turmeric (optional)

Group 6:
1 to 2 onions, chopped
1 T minced ginger or ginger paste
2 tsp minced garlic OR 2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 minced green chilis (OPTIONAL, only if you want it HOT)

VEGETABLES – add salt to taste with your choice of veggies

For the vegetables you could use 2 or 3 cups of the veggies of your choice, such as:

Potatoes and cauliflower
Carrots, tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, yellow squash
Eggplant, tomatoes, green peppers
Eggplant, tomatoes, carrots
Cabbage and potatoes

or just use your imagination. Just have them ready to go before you start frying the spices.

Now for the spice fry:

Heat 2 or 3 T of oil in a good quality heavy frying pan. The pan needs to be large enough to accommodate your veggies.

Turn heat to fairly high. Add GROUP 1 when it’s hot, but not all the way heated up.

When the dahls start to turn color, immediately add GROUP 2, the cumin seed.

When the cumin seed starts to brown, IMMEDIATELY add GROUP 3, the mustard seed.

If the oil is hot enough, the mustard seed will start to pop within just a second or two. If they don’t start popping in 10 or 15 seconds, turn the heat up just until they do. Immediately add GROUP 4, the crushed red pepper and fresh curry leaves.

The crushed red pepper will burn VERY quickly, so LOSE NO TIME, as soon as it starts to cook add GROUP 5, the ground spices.

Stir well and quickly add GROUP 6, the onions, garlic, and ginger. Turn the heat down to kind of medium and add your veggies according to how much time they need to cook – longest time required first. Stir well to coat. You may add a bit of water, cover, and cook on a lower heat to cook the veggies through. Not too much water though as this is usually intended to be a dryish curry, but cook it to YOUR taste. If you want a bit of sauce, just add a bit of water, but this isn’t intended to be saucy.

Feel free to experiment with this. For example, fresh (but not dried) curry leaves can go in earlier, say with GROUP 3 or even GROUP 2. The dried curry leaves will tend to burn fairly quickly, but you could get away with a bit more with the fresh as far as length of cooking time. Change the amount of garam masala, or substitute or add a good curry powder (I would leave the turmeric out if you use curry powder).

Easy Garam Masala

A masala is a mixture of spices. Garam Masala is a frequently used mix which varies a lot from one cook to the next, let alone from one region to another. I’ve occasionally seen Garam Masala referred to as “curry powder” but it is a different mix. Curry powder as we in the west think of it is not actually a traditional Indian masala mix, but similar mixes have become popular in India because of their popularity in the West. “Curry powder” constituents vary widely depending on the manufacturer. Many cheap blends use a lot of turmeric, giving curry powder the yellow color we of the west have come to associate with “curry”. Garam Masala, however, is a different masala altogether.

Garam Masala is best made from whole spices which are lightly roasted in a dry frying pan and then ground. I use a coffee grinder which is used for nothing other than grinding spices. You can usually find one for around $20. However, if you don’t have access to the whole spices or a grinder, this recipe using ground spices is a fairly good substitute. Ground spices quickly lose their flavor and aroma, but if your spices are not too old this is a fairly good substitute.

Easy Garam Masala

1 T ground cumin
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
1 ½ tsp ground cardamom
1 ½ tsp ground pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg

Blend all ingredients well. Store in a tight container.

Here is a recipe for Garam Masala from whole spices. It’s from one of Julie Sahni’s cookbooks – I forget which one.

Whole Spice Garam Masala

2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons cardamom seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 (3-inch) stick cinnamon, broken up
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg


Put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon, and cloves in a dry heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Toast the spices, stirring occasionally, until they turn several shades darker and give off a sweet smoky aroma, about 10 minutes. Do not raise the heat to quicken the process, or the spices will brown prematurely, leaving the insides undercooked. Cool completely.

Working in batches if necessary, transfer the mixture to a spice mill or coffee grinder and grind to a powder. Stir in the nutmeg.

Use immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.