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Posts tagged ‘butterfly pea flowers’

Color Me Bad: Would You Rather Edition

Would you rather…

#GikLive, designed to let you create your own rules #vinoazul #bluewine #blauwewijn #blauerwein

A photo posted by Gïk Live! Vino Azul (@giklive) on

drink blue wine?

Or blue lattes? (They’re also doing green matcha and black charcoal buns, if that sways you.)

Awesome summer drinks. #witchmojito #thaigreenmilktea #desserts #sugarclub #foodienyc

A photo posted by @colorrainy on

Jk. Neither. Butterfly pea Witch Mojitos 4eva!

Color Me Bad: USA, USA, USA!

Rambutans. Butterfly pea flowers. Langsat fruit. #rerun

A photo posted by Leela Punyaratabandhu (@shesimmers) on

It never would’ve occurred to me to use my favorite Southeast Asian flower that’s a source of blue food dye in a patriotic American dessert. Genius.

It did occur to me that my favorite Southeast Asian flower that’s a source of blue food dye would start mainstreaming through cocktails. (Wild Hibiscus Flower Company’s, b’Lure, an extract marketed specifically for cocktails, appeared at the Fancy Food Show last year.) . The Times is on it.

It’s a strange sensation to be irrationally possessive of a thing that no one is scrambling to really own. I have this with places and times like late-‘90s Ridgewood and pre-Portlandia Portland, also particular chain restaurants, Sizzler especially, Bonefish Grill too (no one’s fighting me for that one). Ok, so I have a thing for butterfly pea flowers.

blue rice

Achieving those brilliant hues isn’t as easy as it looks, though. My first attempt at dyeing rice for nasi ulam, a Malaysian salad that doesn’t traditionally use blue rice but whatever, resulted in a gray-ish periwinkle batch of grains.

pea flowers soaking


The ratio was off. I was winging it. I used a generous handful of dried petals in 1.5 cups of warm water. Next time I’ll use more.

nasi ulam

Like I said, nasi ulam isn’t supposed to be blue anyway. If you want to make one (there’s this), it’s really just an herbed rice salad, which is pretty summery and less gross than pasta salad, and you can use any herbs you’d like because you’re probably not going to find the ones you need in the US anyway. Have at it though, if you have access wild betel leaves, daun kesum/laksa leaves (I’ve seen this in NJ but not NYC), turmeric leaves, and torch bud ginger. At the minimum, I recommend the mint, cilantro, Thai basil trinity. It also includes slivered lime leaves, lemongrass rounds, shallots, and shredded coconut and dried shrimp (pounded afterward) both toasted for deeper flavor and makes it start tasting Malaysian. The belacan, shrimp paste that can really overpower an apartment, ensures that, though not every recipe calls for it and I didn’t use it not because of the small but because I’m lazy. It’s seasoned with salt and sugar. I eat it with Auria’s sambal because I eat that with everything already.

Ok, happy birthday, America!






Color Me Bad: More Blue Rice

Literal charcoal black ice cream was potentially my favorite eye-grabber of last week (no, I don’t post this weekly—just mentally). Also, I was wondering how Mic was going to handle its new food coverage, you know, food coverage for millennials as opposed to all that other food coverage for the coveted old people demographic, and now I know.

But in the end, blue food will always win out. There is some serious butterfly pea flower power being harnessed at Koptiam, so powerful I watched a food video for once. I’m not likely to make it to the LES any time soon for breakfast, so the real question is why isn’t there any blue pulut inti in Queens (that I’m aware of)? Don’t steal my idea, but I think cute and colorful Nyona kuih are ripe for artisanal appropriation, especially since Malaysian food hasn’t really broken-out in a big way in NYC (R.I.P. Pasar Malam) and might seem fresh.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Elmhurst Thai Two-Fer

paet rio trio

Paet Rio To date, I’ve only ordered delivery (and still can’t figure out if the 8 is part of its name or not) and usually rely on Kitchen 79 and Arunee because they are in my neighborhood officially despite not being any closer than this part of Elmhurst. In-person is just right, though, small like the best Queens Thai restaurants of yore but with that modern rough wood, exposed-brick-and-ductwork style that signals a younger person is probably involved somehow. The collection of salads and appetizers were right on, from the duck with cashews, pineapple and matchsticks of green apple to the puffy fish maw and crispy anchovy to the grilled sausage and never-had-before crispy greens-stuffed pancake, more bubbly like a fried spring roll wrapper than crepe. Only the steamed mussels (not my idea but trying to prove I’m not a food boss!) were kind of bland and lackluster. Unlike many of the latest wave of Elmhurst Thai that are more narrowly focused (khao mun gai, sweet things on toast, noodle soups, over-rice dishes), Paet Rio is a little more general purpose. 

sugar club roti

Sugar Club Despite having been for sweets like the banana roti (above) before, I’m pretty sure I’ve never mentioned this cafe/shop that has blossomed into a fun grocery source. They may not have everything (like plain old dried shrimp paste, oddly) but what they do stock isn’t completely duplicating what you’d find in the the Thai section of the typical NYC Pan-Asian-but-mostly-Chinese supermarket. That’s to say toiletries and packaged goods like Lay’s in flavors like namtok hotpot (meatball blood soup, more or less) but also a lot of prepared food that is sometimes sold bazaar-style from set-up tables on weekends, and my personal favorite, nam priks galore stacked in the fridge. I’m always warned when trying to buy them, and if they only knew that some like the pork-catfish I picked up on Sunday is already almost gone today (Tuesday). On the other hand, a wet, deeply funky shrimp paste I bought months ago to sub for the dried stuff, went in my freezer barely touched. If there should be any warning, it’s that sauces involving catfish are filled with deadly little bones that will stab your tonsils no matter how carefully you chew. 

cottage cheeses nam prik

This particular chile paste has a real dirty-hot quality while still retaining a candied flavor, and I want to eat it with everything (in my poorly stocked kitchen) which means old carrots, leftover pita chips from Easter, and on cottage cheese. Tonight I’ll toss it with some gai lan and some pork strips a.k.a. moo dad, also picked up at Sugar Club.

butterfly pea flower

But really, I’m burying the lede because they also sell what look like packets of potpourri but are dried butterfly pea flowers, source of my natural blue dye obsession. I’m going to have to do something good with these.

Related, when did Chao Thai Too close? That, plus the shuttering of Plant Love House and supposedly Zabb Elee too, at least in its current form (though the only mention I’ve seen of this is in a print Jackson Heights gardening newsletter my neighbor gave me). What’s going on, local Thai?

Shovel Time: Langbaan

fourshovelI wouldn’t have expected one of my favorite, ok, maybe my total favorite, meal in Portland to be tough-reservation Thai, served just a few nights a week, across the street from the bar I used to frequent two decades ago with the boyfriend who was the age I will be in five months. Why not four shovels? That gif could use some airtime. 

langbaan grid

Langbaan is a pop-up of sorts, a side piece of PaaDee, with a theme that changes monthly. January, my month, was Central Thailand, which could’ve been boring potentially since that’s region most Thai restaurants in the US draw from. I’ve only been to Central Thailand, yet knowing myself I’m still going to say it’s my favorite, leaning sweet and rich with great balanced heat. It’s not like Langbaan was going to put out chopsticks and bowls of overly coconutty green curry with the option to substitute tofu. (If it were my show, I’d be a dick and make pad thai, a really awesome pad thai, but that would be more of an NYC move not Portland. Pad Thai is notably absent from PaaDee’s menu, as well.)

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Am I Blue


When life gives you lemons, you’re supposed to make lemonade, which is kind of stupid if you ask me. If I’m feeling blue, I look at blue food. It’s kind of the same concept, right? Instead of dwelling on life’s little annoyances, I culled nasi kerabu’s greatest visual hits.

I’ve never seen nasi kerabu (Malaysian herbed rice) in person, but I’m in love with the idea of dyeing rice colors even though I’m not sure that I understand the logic behind it. I just don’t think blue rice would fly with the typical American consumer, which is one more reason why I have to give props to Malay Peninsula cuisine. These are not people who are afraid of rainbow hues–just look at the pans of agar-agar that masak-masak (yes, double words are another regional trademark) photographed at a Ramadan bazaar. The blue rice above, came from another such bazaar.  All we get at street fairs in NYC are grilled Italian sausages and mozzarepas.


Actually, I think a lot of modern cooks use food coloring rather than the traditional bunga telang/pea flower to achieve this look. (I know a lot of the intense purples in Filipino ube-based snacks aren’t naturally derived. Wow, this Pillsbury ube hotcake mix is one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen.) And not all nasi kerabu is even blue; most recipes I see don’t call for tinting at all.

When researching a trip to Malaysia in 2005, I relied a bit on Lonely Planet World Food Malaysia and Singapore (which I now know was photographed by the always on trend Chubby Hubby) and kept coming back to a photo of Kelantanese woman placing bean sprouts on top of a plate of blue rice. It reminded me of a childhood impulse to keep returning to engrossing illustrations in picture encyclopedias. Unfortunately, my ‘80s Childcraft set is in storage across country (or at least I hope it still is—it freaks me out to think that I still have at least ten boxes somewhere in Portland with records, books, kitchenware and possibly a few clothing items which are probably so ‘90s that I could now re-wear them and be in fashion. Er, I might’ve gotten rid of the Childcraft books now that I think about it) so I can’t look up the exact photo I’m thinking of.


I’m fairly certain it was the “Look and Learn” volume on science that contained an image of a tableau of food that was supposed to be unappetizing because the colors were all wrong. I think there was a green orange, black cookies, white butter, a pitcher of milk that wasn’t white, and a few more items. There had to have been something atypically blue but I can’t say for sure. I thought the food looked cool rather than disgusting. Childcraft is the reason I know about anything I know today and why my knowledge level is that of a nine year old.


I have a few recipes for nasi kerabu in cookbooks, though in print and on the internet there are many more for nasi ulam, which is kind of the same thing; they’re both herbed rice salads but nasi kerabu is the one that’s usually blue. So many of the dishes in my cookbooks that sound unusual and worth tackling are next to impossible because we just don’t have access to the same ingredients. For this dish you need bunga kantan, daun kesom, cekur leaves, kaduk leaves, turmeric leaves and more depending on the version. I have basil, mint and frozen pandan and kaffir lime leaves covered but that’s it.


When and if I get back to Malaysia (I had originally planned on Langkawi and elsewhere for vacation 2008, and am still trying to figure out how China became the destination instead, not that I’m complaining about going to China) I’ll have to seek this dish out.

More on nasi kerabu from Cyber Kuali

Photos from:
Cheat Eat

kleinmatt66 via Flickr
Felix KL via Flickr
hazlini5555 via Flickr