If you look up the recipe for slime, it usually involves a bottle of Elmer’s Glue, Borax Powder, and a few drops of food coloring for the more ambitious. The result is something between the bounciness of jelly and the elasticity of chewed gum. Gumminess, sliminess, and gooeyness are textures that give many people goose bumps and chills of sheer sensory horror. Even the words themselves seem to slip and slide around the mouth in an odd anticipation of mischief. I confess that I quite enjoy this sort of goo and ooze—if nothing else, the squirming expressions on your dining mates’ faces make for interesting mealtime entertainment. For what follows, slime-sensitive souls may need to leave the room, while goo-gourmands will hopefully be drooling.
There are plenty of delectable slime recipes to try without resorting to classroom adhesives and cleaning products. One the simplest fix is the raw egg. The purest and most humble indulgence is to crack an egg directly into a steaming bowl of rice, add a dash of deep dark soy sauce and a sprinkle of scallions (which is gooey in itself), mix vigorously. In a way, this is a 3-minute risotto cheat, as the texture is creamy and rich, while each grain of egg-gilt rice is moist but not mushy. Each bite is a mouthful ofgentle comfort, occasionally punctuated by the nip of scallions. Raw egg is also used as a sauce for shabu-shabu and sukiyaki, a quick slick of cool sweetness to help the savories go down. I am sure that by now, a few faces are twitching and itching to cite a few FDA warnings, so let us move on to lower-risk subjects.
Another classic polarizer in terms of taste and texture is the raw tomato(especially the seeds), which can make some people gag and others ooh. The former compares the seed gel to frog eggs, while the later has dubbed it tomato caviar. Spanish chef José Andrés meticulously separates this delicate gel from the rest of the tomato and uses it as garnish for everything from salads to gazpacho. The slippery burst of flavor is tart and intense, leaving one a bit torn between savoring and swallowing.
In Asian cuisines, sliminess is a much sought after property. Taro and lotus root both extrude a thin layer of mucus when cooked, sounding gross and tasting delicious as they hold the seasonings in place. There is also the delicacy from Hangzhou known as West Lake water shield, an aquatic plantthat looks much like curled tea leaves suspended in an invisible force field of slime. It is simmered in a subtly seasoned clear soup, a visual analogy to the primeval lake it came from. The mouth-feel is similar to that ofmulukhiyah, a beautiful bitter green used in Middle Eastern and African cooking. Back in the east, there is nagaimo, the long yam, a pale tuberthat can be stir-fried like lotus, or grated into pure white mucus. In Japanese cuisine, the mess is used as topping for noodles, rice, pancakes, vegetables, etc., or whipped into tuna tartar for an extra-gloppy mouthful known as maguroyamakake. To have all the above on the menu would be quite a special treat for me, but if I were to concoct the ultimate slime-fest, it would not be complete without okra.
If more people knew what okra was and tasted like, it would probably be one of the most hated foods in the world. As it is, okra keeps a low profile in the U.S., while is heavily used and well loved in African, Middle Eastern, and Southeast Asian cuisines. Though I have met plenty of young people from those regions who detest okra but feel rather guilty about it too, as if disavowing okra is a serious culinary and cultural betrayal. In the States, okra is mostly found in gumbo, as an element of African influence in Southern cooking. The slime of the okra thickens the gumbo just as it does in the Middle Eastern stew calledbamia (simply okra in Arabic), where beef or lamb is simmered in a base of onions and tomatoes. However, ever since I tasted a meatless bamia, I have preferred it that way. The spices and vegetables do a beautiful job on taste and texture without interference from the animal kingdom. If the need ever arises to cook for a slime-loving friend or a mucus-averse enemy, one can’t go wrong with a big pot of okra stew.
If you have any comments, suggestions, questions, or other tasty tidbits, contact DuanDuan at SnackBar.Kitchen@gmail.com.
4 green cardamom pods
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 small onion, minced
4 plum tomatoes, diced
½ cup pre-soaked chickpeas
½ cup fingerling potatoes, pealed and diced
2 tablespoons dried currants (or raisins)
1 tablespoon bahārāt (or cumin)
2 teaspoons pimentón
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sumac (or lemon juice), to taste
1 cup okra, quarter-inch slices
1 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
In a large pan over medium heat, add a generous glug of olive oil and whole spices. When spices are fragrant, add onion and stir to coat. Sweat onions for 10 minutes till wilted but not browned.
Add all ingredients except okra and cilantro.Add water to cover. Taste and adjust for salt, pepper, and sumac (depends on tartness of tomatoes). Cover, and let simmer for about 30 minutes, till chickpeas and potatoes are done.
The stew should not be too thick at this point, ideally akin to minestrone, so add more water if necessary. Bring back to a simmer. Stir in okra and turn off heat. Let sit for 5 minutes, stir occasionally to let the okra thicken the stew. Garnish with cilantro just before serving. If you have pomegranate seeds, sprinkle them on for a treat.