Nothing says happy fourth of July like this Asian paella. My Asian Cilantro Coconut Cream Paella is a mix mash of so many cultures and flavors. Coconut milk in paella, are you nuts, the Spanish may ask? But here I am whisking up a delicious porky paella in the middle of a cattle ranch in Montana.
This Fourth of July holiday celebration was so different for our wanderlust-traveling family as we celebrated Independence Day in Toronto Canada with a bunch of southern India expats. I did however pick up a stars and stripes cowboy hat at a Walmart in Duluth Minnesota, because come on, what is more American than that?
Writing this blog eight weeks into our nationwide road trip the cooler temps and rugged green mountain peaks of Montana seem worlds away. I’m typing in our 35-foot motorhome, hiding behind dark curtains in the late afternoon, as the air conditioning system does its best and the puppy farts at random. 103 degrees, sixty percent humidity and puppy farts? This is why I drink. I miss this Rocky Mountain state we traveled through in early summertime 2023; cattle ranches, hiking trails under the pines and not sweating while I attempt to escape from the big red ball of hate (Some people call it the sun), just about now. Oh and actually being able to cook, well anything. It’s too hot to even heat a tortilla on the stove inside the motorhome. Lord knows it’s too bloody hot to set up the table and travel barbeque outside to grill up one of those bison ribeyes we picked up on a cattle ranch outside of Billings Montana over a month ago now.
I usually adore this nomade travel lifestyle, the RV way of life, traversing across America. Until we made our way to the south in the summertime. Good God, how does anyone live here? Nashville and Memphis were interesting for some country music good times scenic stuff but I’m ready to not sweat anytime I walk outside to let the puppy pee. Take the puppy for a pee break at midnight? Why yes, I am still sweating. What the actual fuck, Tennessee?
But on the way to Canada first, we had to travel through Montana for half a week. There may have been stops at the best little cat cafe in all of Montana. Okay, it may be the only cat cafe in Montana. Because after more than a week on the backroads of America, I’m a little lonely for some cat love and yes, I had to pay to have cats love me. But I’m not ashamed of that fact!
One way or the other, the Bozeman cat cafe was a great little morning detour before we were back on the crisscrossing highways of the great Midwest. Well, we did have to stop for sushi in Bozeman Montana because even though it was the middle of Montana it might be the only sushi we find before we reach Toronto. The sushi at Hachi Japanese did not disappoint. The Wasabi Aoili Tater Tots were incredible. (And I’m so making my own version soon with crispy fried potatoes)
Bozeman, Montana was just a quick stop in this college town before we rolled through the heart of the midwest in our 34-foot motorhome away from home. We have been all about Harvest Host stays on this vacation and man have we stayed at some great ones! We camped in a farmer’s field outside of Billings Montana and watched a massive thunderstorm building as dinnertime began and happy hour ended. In the summertime here in the heartland, it really does not get dark until 10 p.m. at night and by that time that night was falling, we were scrambling to bring everything inside and batten down the hatches as lightning was crashing around us and the rain began to pelt our camp. Is there anything better than a summertime rainstorm?
The next morning we were headed out early, across North Dakota and carrying on to Minnesota where we discovered the worst highways we have ever experienced in our lives! Seriously why are the roads so terrible here? Yes, they get massive snowfalls but so do other states up north. Minnesota, fix your damn roads if you want the A-Team to come back and visit again! We did have a gorgeous overnight stay here at Jaye Cook State Park, but this was where we met the first humidity of our vacation and also the mosquitos became very hungry. But aside from that, our campsite was just a five-minute walk from the suspension bridge over the mighty Missouri River. The pup and I spent a very muggy afternoon swimming on the edge of the swirling waters.
All of these adventures and yes, sweating in crazy humidity the likes this southern California girl has never seen, had me hungry for some Asian-style Paella. Luckily this paella is a pretty easy dinner while camping if you purchase the pre-made carnitas from Trader Joe’s ahead of time. Traveling in our 34-foot motorhome I don’t have a crockpot with me so I do a fast version with storebought carnitas. But back at home two thousand miles away, in scenic Big Bear Lake California, this would all be going into my crock pot. I had to pack all the fancy Asian ingredients for this dish like mirin, coconut milk and star anise. Girl, you are not going to find spices like star anise at the Walmart grocery in Duluth Minnesota!
Cilantro Coconut Rice
3/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 a white onion
1 clove garlic
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon
2 cups white rice
1 can of coconut milk
1 cup water
In a food processor grind the cilantro, onions, garlic and chicken bouillon with the water. In a saucepan boil and stir for a good ten minutes until the onions are cooked. At the same time, boil the rice in one and a half cups water, stirring and don’t let it burn as the rice soaks up the water. Add the coconut rice to the cilantro base. When the rice is starting to absorb most of the water liquid, mix in the cilantro coconut base. Turn down the heat to low and continue to cook until your rice is the correct consistency.
Porky Five-Spice Pork
3 teaspoons mirin
5 teaspoons honey or 2 teaspoons monk fruit
2 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
5 teaspoons soy sauce
3 teaspoons chili oil
2 bay leave
1 cup water
1 pound pork butt
Combine all the marinade ingredients in your crockpot. Mix well, add your pork butt and add just enough water to be covering the meat. Simmer on low for five hours. Remove the pork butt from the marinade. Let it sit for thirty minutes then shred it. Return it to the marinade and let it soak in the sauce on simmer for at least another thirty minutes, uncovered.
When you are ready to serve, spoon the pork over the coconut rice. Garnish with edamame, pickled red onions, sliced cucumbers, fresh mint and candied Gochujang nuts.
For garnishing your porky paella
pickled red onions
Fresh mint, chopped