If you’re a camper, you’re familiar with lightweight freeze-dried or dehydrated foods available in camping and outdoor stores and supermarkets. But another excellent source for dried, lightweight, and nonperishable supplies is the Oriental grocery store. Whether the store specializes in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Southeast Asian foods, you’ll find many ingredients that can add exotic variety to camp menus–often at very reasonable cost.
These foods can be incorporated in Western-style dishes, or you can emphasize their ethnic qualities. Suggestions for both approaches follow. Because the taste of some ingredients (and mixes) may be new to you, we recommend you try them at home first to determine your preferences. Also, you’ll want to evaluate the portions to make sure they’ll satisfy appetites in camp.
Most of the dry foods require rehydrations, so you’ll need to select campsites with a good source of water.
Here we outline some foods to try; on the following pages, we use many of these foods in seven recipes to prepare in camp. Soups and crackers
Most obvious of the ready-to-use Oriental foods suitable for camp meals are soup mixes, particularly Japanese ones packaged in individual servings. Just add hot water as the package directs. Some soups are hearty enough to be the base of a light meal (read the labels to decide). Choices include many flavors of noodle soups, as well as miso and clear soups.
In addition to a wide array of rice crackers, you can expect to find lightweight crisp shrimp or taro chips (pack in rigid containers to carry). Meat and fish
Most shoppers are surprised by the many different flavors of seasoned pork and beef jerky (such as hot or spicy) found in Asian markets; they’re often sold in 4- to 8-ounce packages and represent good value. Eat as is, or add to dishes.
Another discovery from China is shredded fried seasoned pork. Fluffy in texture, it has a rich, meaty flavor and is good for snacking or addint to hot dishes.
Dried shrimp, clams, and mussels may put you off with their pungent odor, but reconstituted by soaking, they can have a mild and pleasant flavor and fragrance. Vegetables and fruits
Less exotic, very useful vegetables include dry-fried onions or shallots, dried shallots, or dehydrated garlic slices; you can use all ot them in cooking or to sprinkle on as seasoning.
Bright green dry Japanese fried peas, sold with the rice crackers, are best for munching; they also go well with soups.
Fermented (or salted) black beans are packaged dry and are interesting as a seasoning for everyday dishes.
Dried shiitake mushrooms and curly white fungus travel well. Both need to be soaked to soften. Use as you would other rehydrated mushrooms.
Dried nori seaweed, slivered, is a nutritious topping for cooked rice seasoned with soy sauce or for sushi rice.
Candied ginger, coconut, and melon, as well as dried mango, can be used for seasoning or snacking. Dried mango is a delicious alternative to dried apricots and is comparably priced. Starches
Dry pastas and noodles are popular in Asian cuisines; wheat varieties can be used interchangeably with conventional pastas. Chinese noodles may be curly, flat, in fancy shapes, or very thin–like the quick-cooking fine noodles used with meatballs (page 177). Japanese favor thin somen and thick udon (wheat noodles), and soba (buckwheat noodles).
Transparent noodles (called bean threads or long rice) and various rice noodles (mai-fun, rice sticks, or rice vermicelli) provide a change of texture from wheat pasta and also cook quickly. Seasoning mixes
Handy plastic pouches with individual servings of soy sauce contain about 1 tablespoon of sauce, and are convenient. Among the many kinds of dry seasoning mixes, you will find flavors designed for sushi rice, stir-fry dishes, teriyaki, and sweet-and-sour dishes. They’re packed in airtight envelopes. Curry in a paste-cake form, sold in packets or boxes, is another seasoning that comes in a variety of flavors. If the seasoning is suggested for use with rice, you can adapt it for use with packaged precooked rice–or try with other grains or starches such as bulgus or noodles.
East-West camp dishes
In these seven main dishes for camping, you make use of at least 16 items found in Asian grocery stores.
Pack each meal separately along with written instructions to use in camp. Each dish can be cooked on a small portable camp above.
Cooking times are estimates; the type of stove, weather conditions, and altitude cause variations. Rice with Chinese Pork and Mangoes
In a small plastic bag, combine 1 cup each packaged precooked rice and Chinese-style shredded fried pork, 2 tablespoons chopped dried mango, and 1 tablespoon dried shallots, dried onions, or dry-fried onions or shallots; seal bag.
In another small plastic bag, seal 2 tablespoons each Japanese-style fried peas and salted peanuts, and 2 slices dried mango.
Put in a large plastic bag with 4 individual pouches (1 tablespoon each) soy sauce (or pour 1/4 cup soy sauce into a small plastic bottle; close tightly). Add the following instructions; seal big bag.
Instructions: In a 1-1/2- to 2-quart pan, bring 1-1/2 cups water to a boil, covered. Add rice mixture and soy sauce. Cover and set aside until rice absorbs water, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir and top with peas, peanuts, and mango slices. Serves 2. Mushrooms with Bean Threads
Put 4 small (1-1/2-in. size) dried shiitake mushrooms and 2 tablespoons dried white fungus in a small plastic bag and seal.
In a small plastic bottle, combine 3 tablespoons each soy sauce and dry sherry, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 teaspoon minced candied ginger (or use 1 envelope, about 1-1/2 oz., teriyake sauce mix or Korean barbecue sauce mix); close botthel tightly.
Place containers in a large plastic bag with 1 package (about 1/2 oz.) freeze-dried green beans, 2 packages (about 1-3/4 oz. each) Chinese-style beef or pork jerky (any flavor will do), and the following instructions; seal.
Instructions; Carefully open bean package and almost fill with boiling water. Fold top of package to keep beans submerged; prop upright and set aside.
Add water to shiitake and fungus in bag and shake gently to rinse; drain. Place mushrooms in a 1-1/2- to 2-quart pan and add about 2 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil; set aside until water is cool enough to touch, about 15 minutes. Work mushrooms gently with your hands to release any soil, then lift from water. Cut and discard stems from shiitake.
Carefully pour mushroom liquid into another container, handling gently so any grit stays in the bottom of the pan; discard grit. Rinse pan. Combine in pan the mushroom liquid and enough water to make 2-3/4 cups. Add mushrooms, fungus, and bean threads.
Tear jerky into fine shreds; add to pan along with seasoned soy sauce (or packaged seasoning mix). Cover and return to boil; simmer, stirring often, until bean threads are tender to bite, 5 to 10 minutes (you may need to add more water if mixture becomes dry). Drain green beans and stir into bean-thread mixture. Serves 2. Pasta with Tomato and Meatballs
In a small plastic bag, combine 1 tablespoon dry-fried onions or dry-fried shallots, 2 teaspoons dehydrated garlic slices, and 1/2 teaspoon dry mint leaves (or take 3 tablespoons–part of a 1-oz. envelope–Oriental tomato sauce mix). Seal bag.
In a second small plastic bag, seal 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese.
In a large plastic bag, put the small bags along with 1 package (about 1/2 oz.) freeze-dried green beans, about 4 ounces (1/3 of a 12-oz. box) very thin wheat noodles (Chinese- or Japanese-style vermicelli), 2 packages (about 1-1/2 oz. each) freeze-dried cooked meatballs, 1 individual pouch (1 tablespoon) soy sauce, 1 tube (about 5 oz.) tomato paste, and the following instructions. Seal bag.
Instructions: Carefully open bean package and almost fill with boiling water. Fold top of package to keep beans submerged; prop upright and set aside.
In a 2-quart pan, bring 2 cups water, covered, to a boil. Stir in noodles; boil until tender to bite, 1/2 to 1 minute. Drain; cover with cold water and set aside.
In a 1-1/2- to 2-quart pan, combine 1-1/2 cups water, meatballs, 1/3 cup of the tomato paste, onion and garlic mix (if using Oriental sauce mix, reduce tomato paste to 2 tablespoons and omit onion and garlic mix and soy sauce).
Cover and bring to a boil; simmer until meatballs are tender and moist to bite, 5 to 10 minutes. Drain beans and noodles and mix into tomato sauce; heat through, in the same pan; add 1 tablespoon salad oil; cook and stir until spices smell lightly toasted, about 1 minute.
Add 1 cup water to pan; cover and bring to a boil. (If using cake curry mix, break up the cake and stir into water.) Add contents of rice package, soy sauce, add shellfish. Cover; bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand until rice absorbs liquid, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir, then top with sliced coconut and ginger. Serves 2. Scalloped Potatoes with Fermented Black Beans
In a small plastic bag, seal 1-1/2 teaspoons fermented (salted) salted beans.
Empty potatoes from 1 box (about 5 oz.) dehydrated scalloped potatoes into a second plastic bag; add 1 cup Chinese-style shredded fried pork and seal.
In a large plastic bag, put small bags, potato seasoning mix envelope, and the following instructions; seal.
Instructions: Pour water to cover beans into bag; shake; drain; repeat.
In a 1- to 2-quart pan, blend potato seasoning mix with 2-1/2 cups water; add beans, potatoes, and pork. Cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender when pierced, about 30 minutes (you may need to add more water if mixture becomes dry). Stir as needed to prevent scorching. Serves 2. Sushi Salad
In a small plastic bag, put 1/2 cup dried shrimp (or 2 packages, about 1-1/2 oz. each, Chinese-style beef or pork jerky; any flavor will do); seal.
In a second small plastic bag, seal 3/4 cup (half of a 2-1/2-oz. package) freeze-dried mixed peas and carrots.
In a third small plastic bag, seal 1 cup packaged precooked rice.
With scissors, cut a sheet of toasted nori seaweed (about 4 by 7 in.) in fine shreds. Put nori in a fourth small bag; seal.
In a larger plastic bag, combine the 4 small bags, 1 package (abut 1-3/4 oz.) sushi seasoning mix, and the following instructions; Seal bag.
Instructions: If using shrimp, combine 1 cup water and shrimp in a 2- to 3-cup pan. Cover and bring to boiling. Simmer until softened, 10 minutes; drain. Cover with cold water and knead gently with your hands to release any grit. Lift out shrimp, draining, and set aside.
In the same pan, bring to boiling enough water to cover peas and carrots; then add peas and carrots, cover, and let stand.
In a 1-1/2- to 2-quart pan, bring 3/4 cup water to boiling, covered. Stir in rice and sushi seasoning; cover and set aside until rice absorbs water, 2 to 10 minutes.
Uncover rice and stir often to cool. Drain vegetables and mix into rice with shrimp (or accompany with jerky). Top with nori. Serves 2.
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