milwaukee: hmong corn bread (ncuav pob kws) at sister’s cafe
I must confess that I love that sticky chewy glutinous texture that is a part of so many Asian snacks and desserts. I totally understand that this is cultural and that some people just don’t get the appeal of the mouth feel, but I love it. I seek it out and when I see snacks that may have that texture, I am compelled to buy them. So back at Phongsavan (Milwaukee’s Asian Market where I ate laab kom) in the Sister’s Cafe (haus diej kua txiv laaj sab kawg), I found a table top of ‘breads’ calling for me. Mixed in with other buns and snacks were three rice based snacks:
- rice cake (ncuav phom)
- corn” bread” (ncuav pob kws)
- glutinous rice cake (ncuav nplej)
Ncuav (pounded sticky rice) is similar to a Japanese style mochi and so each of these snacks had some resemblance to a whole host of other Asian rice snacks. My favorite by far was the Hmong corn pancake (ncuav pob kws). While the texture was like countless other pounded rice snacks, the corn flavor was something rarely found elsewhere.
There is actually a recipe for”Rice and Corn Pancakes” in Sami Scripter and Sheng Yang‘s Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America. Corn is a less common staple across Asia, but as Scripter and Yang report in their cookbook, if rice was inadequate, corn (which was primarily used to feed livestock) would be used to supplement. Traditionally, these cakes were made completely of corn, but given how much moisture is in American corn, rice flour is often added to stiffen the batter. Corn is blended, mixed with a bit of sugar, water and rice flour to make the consistency of a thick pancake batter, then fried on a skillet. The result is a bright yellow pancake flecked with corn skins which is slightly sweet and filled with the taste of corn.