Some East Asian cultures believe in the concept of “hot” and “cold” foods, certain dishes or ingredients that directly affect your chi, so it is in your best interest to always eat a balance to keep your body safe and healthy.
While I am no expert in that field, what I do know is that at this time, when we are under some sweltering heat, there are some dishes you just have to make.
Have your beef and eat it, too
While I’m always in the mood for a classic steakhouse dinner featuring a thick-cut steak, mashed potatoes and creamed spinach, sometimes the summer heat is just calling out for something lighter. I have just the thing if you love beef as much as I do. I call it my beef and vermicelli salad.
To create the dressing, you’ll need 1/4 cup water, the juice of 4 calamansi, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons of fish sauce, 1 clove of minced garlic, and 1 sili labuyo, chopped.
All you have to do is just mix all of these ingredients together and you’re done. Here’s the best part: You can double or triple the recipe and keep it in the refrigerator. The dressing will keep for two weeks.
Meanwhile, for the salad itself, you’ll need 500 grams beef rib eye or sirloin, which you can ask the butcher to slice thinly, sukiyaki-style; 2 cups vermicelli noodles, rehydrated in warm water; 1 small carrot and 1/2 small jicama, sliced into thin matchsticks, 1 small bunch each fresh basil and fresh mint, plus 1/2 cucumber, sliced thinly.
There’s not much to making this dish, actually. Just top the vermicelli with all of the vegetables and herbs, fry up the beef with some salt and pepper and place the beef on top of the salad.
Then, pour the dressing over everything, and enjoy. If you’re transporting the salad to a picnic or to the office, just pack the dressing and the beef separately and assemble when you’re about to eat.
What makes this recipe perfect for the warm summer is that a lot of the vegetables and herbs, like the cucumbers and mint, will add that refreshing and cool feeling, which is definitely welcome for the next few weeks.
Grill and chill
With summer in full swing, it’s certainly an invitation to bring out that outdoor grill. Grilling red meat might be a little too heavy for the weather, but what isn’t are my satay lettuce wraps.
For the satay, all you’ll need are 400 grams chicken breast fillets cut into cubes, 125 ml plain yoghurt, 1 tablespoon paprika plus 1 teaspoon each of chili powder and cumin.
Just mix all the ingredients together and let the chicken sit in the marinade for just 30 minutes to help keep the chicken stay juicy and flavorful while grilling. Keep a close eye, though, because any longer than half an hour and the chicken breaks down too much.
Meanwhile, you can prepare the dressing and accompaniments while waiting. You’ll need 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (I prefer the smooth kind but chunky works, too), 1 tablespoon of soy sauce plus some water to thin down the peanut butter.
The dressing is pretty much just mixing the peanut butter and soy sauce and just enough water to help form a sauce consistency. Then, you can slice 1 cucumber thinly and wash 1 head of iceberg or romaine lettuce as the accompaniments.
Once the chicken pieces are marinated and skewered, just grill them over medium heat until fully cooked, about five minutes total, and serve them with the dressing and accompaniments. Just wrap the chicken in some lettuce leaves, top with the dressing and cucumber slices, and pop it into your mouth. Once again, the vegetables will provide this dish with that refreshing and cool feeling we all could use right now.
Shake off the heat
One of my favorite memories of summer vacation as a kid was grabbing a milkshake after swimming. While I can’t recommend swimming in a public pool during the pandemic, I can recommend my slightly different version of a milkshake.
All you’ll need are two regular scoops (about 1 cup) of the Purple Oat Yoghurt Gelato from FRNK and BLK 513, 250 ml of whole milk and 2-3 pieces of sweetened jackfruit, which you can slice thinly.
The kicker is that it’s all too easy to make. Just dump all the ingredients into a blender, buzz them all for a few seconds and you’ve got a refreshing and, more importantly, cooling drink that’ll make your summer day just a little bit more tolerable.
While my simple milkshake recipe may not be as thick as the ones you get in American diners, I think the slightly thinner consistency goes better with our weather.
Also, this is just my very specific recipe. You can change up the combinations, maybe using strawberry ice cream and adding some graham crackers to make a strawberry cake milkshake or a chocolate gelato with some maraschino cherries to make a black forest milkshake. I just have to insist on whole milk. When you’re going to make a milkshake, you might as well drop the skim or 2% milk and go all-out, right?
Cool, cool, cool, cool, cool
These past few days, the heat has been quite extreme, so it’s not a stretch to say we’re in “a battle to keep our cool.” Then again, in every difficult situation, there is always a silver lining. During these times, it’s getting to cook some really great summer treats.