Kelly Kwok, founder of “Life Made Sweeter
,” has unlocked the secret to delicious restaurant-style stir fries, noodles, curries, and desserts just like those you get from your favorite Chinese, Thai, or Korean restaurants, but without the sinkful of dirty dishes and piles of pots and pans! You’ll find all your Chinese favorites like Beef and Broccoli, General Tso’s Chicken, Lemon Chickn, Kung Pao Chicken, Lo Mein along with Galbi (Korean-style short ribs), Thai curries, Bahn mi, tom yum, pho, fried rice, noodle dishes, sides and desserts.
Most of these qualify as one-pot dishes (despite the title, not all involve the slow cooker), making prep and cleanup easy. Ingredients are listed in both US and metric equivalents, and most ingredients should be readily available at your grocery store. Each recipe has a gorgeous full-color photo as well. The sauces in particular are standouts, even more so considering that relatively few ingredients are used (so no trips to the Chinese/Oriental supermarket trying to track down hard-to-find sauces and pastes).
As a vegetarian, I loved the Asian-inspired soups like the Thai pumpkin curry soup, miso soup with vegetables and soba noodles, and Chinese hot and sour soup. There is a whole chapter devoted to meatless mains, including a vegetarian mapodofu, Thai red curry vegetables, Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce, General Tso’s Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, and Thai basil tofu and vegetable rice casserole.
THAI BUTTERNUT SQUASH CURRY SOUP
YIELD: 4–5 SERVINGS
5 cups (2250 g) butternut squash (or pumpkin), peeled and cubed
1 cup (200 g) sweet potatoes, peeled, roughly cubed
1 medium onion, peeled, diced
1 tbsp (8 g) fresh ginger, peeled
3 garlic cloves, sliced
3 cups (710 ml) chicken or vegetable broth
1 (13.5-oz [400-ml]) can coconut milk
½–1 tbsp (8–16 g) red curry paste, to taste
½ tsp turmeric
1 tbsp (15 ml) fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Drizzle of coconut milk, for garnish (optional)
Pumpkin seeds, for garnish (optional)
Chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)
Sliced red chili pepper, for garnish (optional)
Place the squash, sweet potatoes, onion, ginger, garlic and broth in a 4- to 5-quart (3.8- to 4.7-L) slow cooker. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours, until the squash and sweet potatoes are soft and cooked through.
Remove the lid and stir in the coconut milk, red curry paste, turmeric and lime juice. Allow the soup to cool slightly before puréeing. Using an immersion blender, purée directly in the slow cooker or pour contents into a blender and purée until smooth. Adjust seasonings as needed with salt and pepper.
Serve warm in bowls and garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk, pumpkin seeds, cilantro and sliced red chili pepper, if desired.
I love that so many of the ingredients are readily available; nothing is more frustrating than finding a dish that looks great, but not being able to locate specialty ingredients (especially true with some Chinese and Asian cookbooks).
The addition of desserts was a nice touch as I love to use my slow cooker for desserts (I also highly recommend Michele Scicolone’s “The Mediterranean Slow Cooker” for its desserts chapter). Here you’ll find a mandarin orange cheesecake, Asian pear pudding cake, black sesame brownies, Chinese steamed sponge cake, ginger tea poached pears, Lunar New Year sweet rice cake, mango coconut tapioca pudding, matcha green tea cake, sweet green bean soup, and Thai coconut sticky rice with mango.
Here is Kelly’s recipe for Black Sesame Brownies: the ground black sesame seeds lend an almost peanut-butter-like depth.
BLACK SESAME BROWNIES
YIELD: 10 SERVINGS
1 cup (125 g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (30 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp (5 g) black sesame powder or finely ground black sesame seeds
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup (58 g) unsalted butter
½ cup (90 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (225 g) sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ cup (90 g) semi-sweet mini chocolate chips, plus more for topping, if desired
Take a long piece of aluminum foil and fold it lengthwise into a long strip. Press it along the inside perimeter of your slow cooker, creating a ring. This will prevent the edges from burning. Next, line the bottom with a piece of parchment, leaving an overhang on the sides for easier removal.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sesame powder, baking powder and salt.
Place the butter and chocolate chips in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat on high power for 30-second increments, stirring well after each, until completely smooth and melted. Whisk in the sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one by one, then add the vanilla.
Slowly stir in the flour mixture until just combined; do NOT overmix. Fold in the mini chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the lined slow cooker and smooth out using a rubber spatula. Top with additional chocolate chips if desired.
Cover the slow cooker with a double layer of paper towels then place the lid securely over the towels. This prevents any water from dripping into the cake batter.
Cook on low for 21⁄2 to 3 hours, then remove the cover and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the insert from the slow cooker and allow to cool completely. Lift the parchment paper to remove the brownies and slice into squares.
Kelly has also provided a handy guide to browning, cuts of meat, layering, sizes and brands of slow cookers, and general tips. In addition, a section on the Asian pantry includes a brief overview of staples such as black bean sauce / paste, sambal oelek, coconut milk, doenjang, dried chilis, fish sauce, spices, and other seasonings that you’ll need to create the dishes in “The Asian Slow Cooker.”
Verdict: If you love Asian cuisine but think you don’t have the time to create it at home, think again! “The Asian Slow Cooker” will have you throwing out your takeout menus in favor of easy homemade versions with far fewer additives, plus there is enough variety and range of Asian cuisines (Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Korean) to keep you happily cooking for months to come. Happy (slow) cooking!