01
Dec
13

Mom’s Gravy and the Start of a new Journey

IMG_4417

Perfect Thanksgiving combo: Stuffing and Gravy.

Today, I start a new chapter in my life.  I begin a 6 month trip that has been 10 years in the making.  Since graduating from college, I have always told myself that my back-up plan in life would be to pick up everything, get on a plane, and move to Taiwan.  If I didn’t get into grad school, I would pack all my things; if I didn’t get the job I wanted, I would find some stinky tofu; if I didn’t have the right house, I would work on the family pig farm.  But the thing is, I always found a reason to not use my back-up option.  I never admitted to myself that the back-up option was actually the dream that I wanted to have come true.  I always came up with excuses to convince myself that I wasn’t going to be able to make the trip. That I would fail. That I didn’t have enough money. That I would ruin something good that was happening in NYC, DC, or Oregon.

I’ve decided though, enough with the excuses.  I had to make a decision, and that decision was to have everything else be a back-up, and to just buy a ticket and go.  So, thanks to the people who reminded that I was turning 30, the visa requirements in Taiwan,  the understanding and support of my family, friends, and colleagues, and a drunken night, I will embark on a six-month personal adventure to discover food, family, and myself.  I’m scared shitless.

I don’t have many goals for this trip; I’ve been trying to convince myself to not worry about that.  It’s a challenge

Passport?  Check.  Vaccines? Check.

Passport? Check. Vaccines? Check.

that I want to try to succeed at.  Goals are not necessary for me right now.  I’m about to take a journey and I want to be as spontaneous as I can, without feeling overwhelmed.  So, as I write this, I am preparing for the first leg of my trip.  I’ll have limited internet access, but will post as often as I can, but I’ll be starting in South America.  I’ll be going up  to a lost city of the Incas, hanging out with pink dolphins, and checking out some blue footed boobys. But first, a trip home to have Thanksgiving dinner with my family.  This is the first time having Thanksgiving with my family in four years and it’s a great way to start a journey of a new chapter.  A return to something so familiar and so delicious: my Dad’s sticky rice and my Mom’s mushroom gravy.

 

~stuff

1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup (10.5 oz)

½ c turkey fat from drippings (or any animal fat)

1 c cremini or button mushrooms, sliced

½ c  scallions, minced

~steps

combine soup, fat, and mushrooms in a medium saucepan over medium high heat

stir until combined and heated through (about ten minutes)

turn heat on low and stir in scallions and cook for about two minutes

remove from heat and serve, especially over my dad’s stuffing

-serves 6 or 7-

 

17
Oct
13

Water Spinach Stem with Black Bean Pork Sauce

seasoned by pork...

seasoned by pork…

“Our friend is a pescetarian. She only eats seafood, so no chicken, beef, or pork. Especially pork.”

“Ok, so the daikon and ginger soup is ok?”

“No, there are pork bones in it.”

“So, if I take the bones out, then it will be ok? It’s just flavoring.”

I’ve just spent the last twenty minutes trying to explain to my relatives what it means to be pescetarian and the restrictions involved.

“Forget it, yes pork flavoring is ok, but I think tonight is the night I show them the night market instead of dinner at home.”

My parents grew up in a very traditional setting when it comes to food. Both of my parents grew up in the Southern region of Taiwan and both come from large families. In order to have fully flavorful and affordable meals at the table, both my grandmothers utilized meat to season vegetable dishes to ensure all 7 and 8 kids where happy. And to do this, they would buy pork and stretch it over a few dishes. It made sense to have pork as a flavoring agent; unlike chicken, pork has more fat and marbleization to flavor the vegetables. Beef would be too gamey and would compete against the other flavors, as well as being expensive and a waste of a work animal.

So, it’s no wonder why everything I ate growing up had some sort of portion of the pig in it: belly, foot, ear, loin, etc. It’s been sliced, ground, chopped, and cured.

This dish is one of those two-out-of-one-ingredients-money-saver-frugal dishes . It utilizes the stems of the water spinach. If you’re not familiar with water spinach, it’s also known as “morning glory” and “Chinese water spinach”. If you want to make this vegetarian, you can use extra firm tofu. If you can’t find water spinach, I might skip this dish. It’s hard to find a substitute for the water spinach, and you’d be missing the whole point. It’s not for the pork. That’s just seasoning.

~stuff

1 tbs vegetable oil

½ lb ground pork

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbs. fermented black beans, rehydrated (can use jarred sauce)

1 tbs. soy sauce

1 tbs. Chinese rice wine

2 c water spinach stems, minced

~steps

heat oil on high heat in a large saucepan or wok

brown ground pork in oil until the meat is no longer pink

add garlic, black bean, soy sauce, and rice wine to pork and sautee until fragrant, about 2 min.

add stems and stir until cooked through

season to taste and serve with rice

-serves 4-

26
Feb
13

Roasted Garlic Bread

...garlicky...

…garlicky…

When I was young, I thought that everything I learned about food – the techniques, the ingredients, the flavors, and the rules of eating – was tied to Asian culture, in particular the Taiwanese culture. I feel like it’s a common issue facing young second generation children growing up in the US. Well, I’m at least going to believe that to make me feel less awkward about my lack of awareness as a kid.

I recall one lunch specifically in the third grade: I spied a couple of my non-Taiwanese friends placing napkins over their laps. I was quick to let them know of their error in doing something that I had, up until that point in time, assumed was exclusively a Taiwanese custom. They looked at me confused, but I persisted to try to educate them. As a seven-year-old, I felt that it was my duty to be a cultural soldier of all traditions sacred to Taiwan, in order to ensure that customs like placing napkins on laps, eating chicken feet, and drinking hot tea during a meal were kept in all of their authenticity. I later realized (albeit way too late in my development) how wrong I actually was.

Garlic powder was also one of those things that I believed to be deeply rooted in Taiwanese culinary history – I imagined a Taiwanese grandmother, rich with culinary stories and secrets tucked within the wrinkles of her face, experimenting with garlic in her kitchen and accidentally stumbling upon a new creation. Alas, I could only wish that garlic powder had such a romantic history.

My parents often used garlic powder in their cooking: My dad’s turkey recipe called for a healthy slathering and my mom always used it in a marinade with soy sauce, sugar, cornstarch, and sesame oil for her stir fries. It’s no wonder why I thought garlic powder was an Asian ingredient. Especially because I thought that the ingredients that filled our refrigerator, pantry, and spice closets only contained items that were native to my parents. It took me until I was a young teenager to come to find out otherwise.

It was when my mom used garlic powder for cooking non-Taiwanese cuisine that my mind was blown! She used it to make garlic bread that was unlike the bread that I had at Olive Garden, which in my mind I thought was authentic as it gets. So, by that standard, my Mom had just created an Italian dish with Asian influences. I thought my mom was a genius, a trailblazer in fusion cooking, and a creative culinary matchmaker. It was all happening in front of me and I was honored to be present as history was taking place. Or, so I thought.

Eventually, my knowledge of ingredients and their origins grew as I began to do my own research through recipes, blogs, and online resources. I do miss my mom’s garlic bread, though. She would take a loaf of French bread and, without cutting all the way though, slice it into half inch sections. Next, a paste of garlic powder and salted margarine was spread onto each slit, then wrapped and baked. Eventually, what you get is a deliciously garlicky, butter-soaked slice of bread. What isn’t there to like?

In terms of the history of garlic powder. It’s shrouded in mystery, but until someone tells me the history (and if you know it, please share in the comments below), I’m going to believe that the Taiwanese grandmother discovered it. Enjoy.

Note on the recipe: I updated the recipe to add roasted garlic to give a subtle sweetness to the spread. I also added parsley to give it the green color that you see in garlic powder with dried parsley. This is mainly an homage to the recipe that my Mom used to do. You don’t need to put it in if you don’t like the flavor profile. I like it because it looks like the garlic powder my parents have at home.

~stuff

1 head of garlic

1 tsp olive oil

1 loaf crusty bread, Italian or French, halved lengthwise

1 stick of butter, about ½ cup softened

1 tbs. parsley, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp salt

 

~steps

preheat oven to 400°f

slice head of garlic in half exposing cloves and place on roasting pan

drizzle olive oil over garlic and roast for 25 to 30 min, until garlic is soft.

Remove roasted cloves from the garlic paper once the garlic is cool enough to touch and set aside

mix in another bowl the butter, parsley, minced garlic, and salt

blend garlic into butter mixture until well mixed

spread mixture onto cut side of the bread

wrap bread, cut side together, in foil and set aside for at least an hour

bake bread in 325°f oven for 10 minutes in foil and then remove from foil and brown the cut side for the last 2 minutes. Or until mixture has melted well into the bread and the top is toasted. Keep in foil if you want softer bread.

-serves 8-

16
Jan
13

Day 14: Taiwanese Braised Pork Belly with Pickled Vegetables

Yes, I will always eat pork belly.

Yes, I will always eat pork belly.

There are certain ingredients that I will always equate to Taiwanese food.  They are ingredients that make up dishes that bring me back to my childhood and remind me of a time when I was innocent, eager, and always ready for culinary adventures.  And that’s one of the main reasons that i started this blog, to share with you the moments when I fell in love with certain dishes.  These ingredients are sticky rice, preserved vegetables, the Taiwanese braising combination, and pork belly (or any gelatinous dish).  The moment any of these things touch my mouth or the smell of them cooking fills the air, I’m reminded of when I was younger when I was full of energy, excitement, and culinary adventure.
I had to get some help when purchasing the ingredients for this dish though.  Also, it’s gone through a few different attempts before I finally figured out the right recipe for it.  The key item in this dish is not the pork belly.  Although, the pork belly is the star in my books with it’s beautiful unctuous texture and rich flavor.  Before I salivate all over my keyboard, let’s get back to the point: the key ingredient to this dish is Mei Gan Cai.  It is preserved mustard greens that are made by drying, salting, squeezing, steaming, and fermenting the greens and stalks.  The long process gives the pickled vegetables a delicious earthy flavor with a subtle sweetness to round out the salty flavor that comes from it.  You can usually find this at larger Chinese supermarkets.  But make sure you bring a picture of the product or the characters when you go shopping.  It will help, I promise.
Here are the things I learned while working on this dish:
1) bring a friend who can read Chinese to the market with you.  I thought I would be able to go by sight when picking out the vegetables for this dish, but I’ve actually never bought it in it’s raw form before.  Luckily, I had a friend with me who reads Chinese so she was able to pick it out for me.
2) wash the vegetables and soak them multiple times before you cook it.  The first time I cooked this dish, I treated the pickled vegetables like the dried turnips or zha cai and just washed it once.  That with the soy sauce in the liquid made it unbearably salty.  The second time I made it, I washed the vegetables four or five times and then soaked it in hot water for around 45 minutes to release the salt from the vegetables.  With a final rinse before cooking, you will finally be set to cook the dish.
3) cut the pork belly into 1 inch cubes if you are in a hurry.  And when I mean hurry, I mean like you need to have dinner ready in 3 or 4 hours from start of braise time as opposed to 6 to 8 hours for a whole piece of bork belly.
4) don’t be afraid of sugar in this dish.  If you think about it, your putting in soy sauce, preserved vegetables, and rice wine which all contain a high amount of salt.  Of course you are going to need a lot of sugar to help balance that out.
~stuff
2 lb pork belly, sliced in 1 in chunks if you want
1 tsp oil, canola, vegetable, or peanut
2 c mei gan cai, rinsed, soaked, and chopped
5 slice of ginger
2 medium scallion, minced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 c soy sauce
3/4 c sugar
1/2 c rice wine
1 c water
~steps
sear pork belly in a large pot or dutch oven on high with oil
add preserved vegetable, ginger, scallion, and garlic and stir until fragrant
pour the rest of the ingredients in the pot and stir
braise on low heat until pork belly is completely tender, about 4 hours
-serves 4-
12
Jan
13

Day 10: Taiwanese Stewed Ground Pork with Pickles (Lo Ba)

Taiwanese Stewed Ground Pork

Taiwanese Stewed Ground Pork

This post does get graphic. I want to warn you.

My dad comes from a family of farmers in southern Taiwan. He used to live in a small farming township called “Yanpu” that only has about 25,000 people in it. The rest of his family still live there and continue to manage the farm that my grandparents started decades ago. One of the amazing values that my parents wanted to instill in my brother and me is the importance of family and knowing where you come from. To do this, we would travel to Taiwan every winter holiday and visit all the relatives from Northern to Southern Taiwan. This wasn’t a very easy feat, and I commend my parent’s planning skills, because they both come from a family of 7 children. But the great thing is it allowed me to really experience the country that I miss now.

The farm that my grandfather started was mostly sugarcane. However, when the market was getting rough for sugarcane, he saved all his money and slowly turned it into a pig farm. It began to gradually expand; and eventually my grandfather owned two different farms with hundreds of pigs on each. All my uncles and cousins worked on the farm and I commend them for the hard work to help build my grandfathers legacy to what it is today. I haven’t visited the farm in years, but I will always have memories of the farm and the pigs, as they are a very important part of my life. Here are the ways they are important to me.

  • I was born in the year of the pig
  • I like pork belly
  • I like pork ears
  • I like pork tails
  • I like pork loin and chops
  • I like pork neck bones
  • I like pork hocks/feet
  • I love ground pork

Now, I’m going to be honest with you, I’m surprised that I’m not more of a vegetarian because of all the jokes that my relatives played on me. I was one of the youngest of all the cousins in our family so it would make sense to pick on me. Let’s see if I can recount them all for you without going into shock or seeking out professional help after this post. Some events may have been exaggerated, but I’m running off the memory of a scared little boy who can never unlearn what he saw. To give context, all of this probably happened between 7 to 10 years of age.

Memory #1

“Hey Dad, where are we goin’?”

“We’re going to go visit your uncle at the farm first. He said that we should go see him before we get to the house”

“Ok, cool”

At the farm, the pigs are all separated by age, and I notice we are going to my favorite part of the grounds, which is the piglet section. Because, who doesn’t love a baby pig? As we get closer, I begin to hear loud screams, which is not anything different from what I remember in the past, because pigs scream out of excitement for food or company. We get closer to my uncles and I notice he has an iodine stained apron and a facemask on. In one hand is a shiny object and in another hand is a liquid bottle with what I now know as iodine. I don’t really think much of it, until I see all my 8 year old and 10 year old cousins chasing after little pigs, picking them up, and bringing them to him. At first, I wanted to join them in chasing the pigs but then I realize what is happening.

I am witnessing a mass neutering of the piglets.

Memory #2

My brother is walking around the grounds of the farm. He pulls me over and tells me to look into a red bucket that is by the front gate.

“Sure, I’ll go look at the red bucket.”

My older brother couldn’t possibly want try to scare me. I notice a small bucket on the floor and slowly creep up to it. Suddenly my instincts kick in and I fear my brother is playing a trick on me. I step closer and I don’t see anything moving, so I ease my anxiety a little and look in. I scream louder then a piglet getting neutered or birthing pig and run away. My brother had led me to a bucket of still born pigs.

Memory #3

My uncle asks if I want to go see piglets.

“Yes! Of course! I love piglets!”

“Ok go down this aisle to the very end, your other uncle is there now.”

“Dad will you go with me?

We walk down to the end of the aisle. I hear loud screaming, but clearly I did not learn from previous experiences that screaming should be my warning sign. We get to my other uncle who is hunched over on the floor. I asked my dad what he was doing and he said that the pig was giving birth.

“I get to see a BABY pig?! Amazing!”

We get closer and I noticed why my uncle was hunched, his hand was up to his elbow inside a pig. There was a problem with the birth and he had to help it along. Before I had a chance to even react, out came the babies.

“Um, Dad? So they don’t come out furry and cute when they are born?”

My uncle asks if I want to touch the slime and blood covered babies.

“…no…”

My dad still continues to tell me stories about growing up in a small town that had less people then my college campus and what it was like growing up in a poor farming family. I treasure each one of them, and hope to be able to share them with you in many future posts to come. I’m proud of my dad. He was the first person in his family to graduate college, the first in the town to go to grad school and complete it, and the first one to move to the states. I took for granted the road he took for us and through some reflections I’ve had in the past couple of year, am grateful for the sacrifices he made for my brother and I. Because, if it where not for him and his ambitions, I would probably not have had the creativity or drive to create this blog and instead, would be neutering pigs.

~stuff

1½ ground pork

1 tsp oil

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 c scallion, minced

¼ c soy sauce

1 c soy sauce pickles (you can get this in any Chinese market), sliced

5 tbs pickling liquid

1½ c water

½ c Chinese rice wine

~steps

brown pork in a large saucepan or pot with oil on high heat

add scallion and garlic and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute

turn heat on medium high heat and add the rest of the ingredients

simmer on medium for at least 30 minutes

serve with rice.

-serves 6-

11
Jan
13

Day 9: Garlic Chive and Bean Sprout Stir-Fry

Please accept this stir fry as my apology.

Please accept this stir fry as my apology.

Hi friends,

 

I’m going to apologize to you all for today’s post.  There is no funny story, no memory from the past, or some interesting research that I have done.  Instead it is a recipe, that my Mom did teach me, and a letter of apology.

 

When I started this journey to blog three years ago, it was solely for the purpose to document recipes that I would want to revisit in the future.  Stories, anecdotes, and essays where more of an afterthought when it came to posting on brb…eating and wasn’t a priority of mine.  However, a few years have gone by and I realized that I found joy in sharing the stories with everyone about my memories, experiences, and connection that I have with food.

 

I did a food blog marathon a few years ago as a challenge to myself to continue writing and follow through on projects.  I, like many people, start things with excitement, joy, and determination to finish but soon fall into the comforting embrace of laziness and procrastination.  So, in 2010, I challenged myself and completed my first 30 posts in 30 days marathon.  I was excited to accomplish something as challenging as a marathon.  However, in all honesty, I was not proud of the posts.  They felt rushed, forced, and shallow at times because my focus was on the recipe and not on the story.
This time around, with a slightly improved writing style, I’ve set out to do a marathon that I am proud of.  Instead of focusing on the food, I would focus on the story and find out what dish that inspires from it.  From that I have been able to share spills in ice water, the history of Chinese restaurants, and my mom and dad trying to force me into a life of crime.  But, today, I’ve hit a block.  The first time I did a marathon, posts took an average of 3 hours to create, cook, and write.  Now, I work 8 to 9 hour days and in addition spend 4 to 5 hours developing and creating the recipe, photographing the completed dish, and then writing the post to share with everyone.  At the end of the day, doing this on a daily basis is rough and something I didn’t plan.  But, I’m not letting it deter me from completing.

 

Since I made the rules for this blogging marathon, I feel like it will be ok to add one more rule.  I’m here by stating that it’s ok for me to not have a “traditional brb…eating” post once during the marathon process.  This will give me a chance to recharge, reboot, and be re-invigorated to continue on in the rest of the marathon.  So, I’m using that rule today as I share with you a recipe that my mom made when I was young.  It’s a stir-fry recipe so it’s quick, easy, and fresh.   It is the perfect post on a day where I am suffering from a loss of words.

 

I also now understand, why some of the bloggers that I admire write on a weekly basis.  And the ones that write more than once a week, I admire you even more.

 

~slu

 

~stuff

1 tsp oil

3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 c garlic chives, one inch pieces

2 c mung bean sprouts

1 tbs rice wine

1 tsp salt

 

~steps

heat  oil in a wok or pan on high heat until it begins to shimmer

stir fry  garlic until it begins to change color

add chives and bean sprouts and stir for a few minutes

season with rice wine and salt and stir

serve as a side

 

-serves 3-

10
Jan
13

Day 8: Tomato Egg Drop Soup

Tomato Egg Drop (Flower) Soup

Tomato Egg Drop (Flower) Soup

As you know from a previous post, one of the most common dishes that I made when I was young was a noodle soup that my parents taught me. It was a dish that I commonly made after school and would involve whatever vegetables I can find, canned chicken stock, and scrambled egg. Well, it was supposed to be egg drop, but I was having trouble with creating the desired texture. Instead I was getting an omellette floating on the top of my soup.

For .01% of people who have never had a soup from any Chinese resteraunt, Egg Drop or Egg Flower soups are soups that have scrambled egg in it. The egg is done in a technique that creates a light feathery texture to the scrambled eggs allowing it to keep the broth light and fresh. Also, by doing the egg drop method, you’re ensuring that each scoop of the soup with have a subtle egg flavor rather than a big bite of egg.

If I sound a little too enthusiastic about the egg flower method, I am. I think it’s a brilliant cooking technique that has stood the test of time and it’s also one of the first cooking techniques that I learned. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to master this technique when I was only 13 years old. There is a sense of accomplishment that one feels when they finally get thin ribbons of egg in the soup.

When I was young, I was having a problem with my egg drop technique. I finally asked my dad to teach me how to make the egg drop soup and he said the secret was to turn the heat off completely and using one chopstick to stir. By having the heat off, your ensuring that the eggs don’t cook too quickly. The same theory is being used when you cook scrambled egg on a lower heat, because high heat would just turn it to rubber. By stirring with one chopstick slowly, the broth will be agitated just enough to move the egg around, but not too quickly to break up the eggs. The goal is to create a slow flowing movement to build ribbons instead of agitating the egg to break down the protein. If there is too much agitation, you risk turning the soup cloudy.

Now, the first time you do this, it might not be perfect. But, after a few times, I promise you will be just as good as your neighborhood Chinese take out.

~stuff

4 c chicken broth

2 c water

3 tsp salt

3 medium tomatos, sliced into wedges

1/4 c scallion, minced

4 eggs, beaten

~steps

combine first four ingredients and turn heat on high

simmer soup for 20 minutes, until the tomato begins to break down

turn off heat and slowly pour egg into soup while stirring the soup

add scallions and serve

-serves 4-

07
Jan
13

Day 5: Anchovy and Chicken Fried Rice

Anchovy and Chicken Fried Rice

Anchovy and Chicken Fried Rice

When I was in college, none of my apartments where within walking distance to any grocery stores, so I ended up eating out a lot or relying on the generosity of my friends with cars.  Although a significant amount of the week was spent on dining out, there where times that I, being a mature and responsible college student, would stay home to study.  All right, let’s be honest, I was just trying to recover from the hang over.  Regardless of the reason for me staying home, I had to find creative ways to make sure that I had food to cook.

Chicken

I usually had a whole roasted chicken in my fridge that I would get from the supermarket whenever I had access to a car. The chicken was a great discovery because I realized that:

1. I didn’t have to cook a whole chicken

2. I could enjoy it as is, but also turn it into a sandwich, soup, pasta, or stir fry

3. That I can pretend that I cooked a whole chicken when I was making dinner for friends

4. If I am hung-over, roasted chicken taste like the sweet ambrosia from the Gods.

Rice

 

Rice was easy.  On campus, we were lucky enough to have a Panda Express.  Well, lucky for me, but not for my clothing size.    There where times that I would order Panda Express for lunch on a daily basis for months on end.  It was even better when, as the Co-Director of the Asian Pacific Student Union, I was munching on a bowl of fake, exploitative Chinese food in our offices and trying to promote the Asian American experience on campus.  But, their “Orange Chicken” was delicious.  Especially paired with the “Green Beans in Black Bean Sauce”.  Plus, you can order a small container of white rice to go. Which was necessary to have at home.

Eggs

Next to campus we had a café that would serve Mexican style breakfast.  Did you know that there is this beautiful dish that involves tortilla chips, cheese, red sauce, chicken, and eggs?  It’s essentially a nacho dish and no one would judge you for eating it for breakfast, because it had an egg on it.   This is where I learned the beauty of “Chiliaquiles”.  The best part of this place was that they where so close to my apartment that I could call and order chilaquiles and a side of scrambled eggs, hobble over in my sunglasses and hung- over state to pick it up, and then enjoy them back at home to “study”.  Plus, why wouldn’t you want to eat something like tortilla chips smothered in enchilada sauce and chicken?

Anchovies/Salted Fish

Anchovies where always the trickiest to find and is not a common ingredient that is just lying around campus.  However, one night when I was ordering a pizza for delivery, it occurred to me.  Can I order anchovies to go?  The answer is “yes”!  During the early 2000’s, online pizza ordering was becoming a normal thing, and I realized that I could order a pizza with a side of anchovies without dealing with the person over the phone and the awkward request for anchovies on the side.  However, once the delivery person came, I had to figure out a way to play it off like the anchovies where a $1.50 joke on a friend and that I would never order a side of anchovies normally.  I must have used that excuse a dozen times.  I could picture the pizza place as the order came in.

“Here comes that anchovy order for Scott again.”

“Man, Scott is really boring, playing the same joke on his friend over and over again.”

“Maybe he just likes anchovies?”

“Nah, then he would just buy his own jar of anchovies.”

“True”

Now that I think of it.  After this whole treasure hunt, I could have just purchased the anchovies, rice, and eggs at the store while I was picking up the whole roasted chicken.  But, you know, this is much more fun.  It made me feel like one of my ancestors from yore.  I felt like I was participating in the annual hunt for mini salted and oil packed fish and pre-roasted whole chicken and their young: scrambled eggs, while gathering cooked rice along the brambles of my cave.  Call me a modern day cave man.

This dish is based on one of my favorite Chinese restaurant dishes: Salted Fish and Chicken Fried Rice.  It’s a beautiful blend of salty, nutty, fishy, and chicken flavors.  Ok, the last description was more of a noun, but the chicken is more of a flavor aspect to the dish then a main component but you can add more chicken if you want.

Check out the “Fried Rice 101” post for more information on fried rice.

~stuff

3 medium eggs, scrambled (if already cooked, then that’s cool)

2 tbs oil

8 anchovies fillets

1/2 cup roasted chicken, shredded

1 medium shallot sliced

¼ cup scallions, minced

3 cups leftover rice, separated

1 tbs soy sauce

2 tsp black pepper

~steps

cook eggs in 1 tbs oil on high, remove and set aside when cooked through

sautee shallots, anchovies, chicken, and scallions in the rest of the oil in a wok or deep pan on high heat

add rice and toss until fully coated and heated completely through, 3 to 4 minutes

pour the soy sauce and pepper to the rice and stir until fully mixed

-serves 6-

06
Jan
13

Day 4: Pork and Daikon Soup with Soy Paste Dipping Sauce

Pork Broth Soup with Daikon.

Pork Broth Soup with Daikon.

As a kid, I’ve always been in to intense flavors.  One of the many great things about growing up in a first generation family in Southern California is the access to different flavors, cuisines, and ingredients.  When visiting Westminster, I would love the tart fishy flavors of Nuoc Cham, or when eating dim sum in Roland Heights, the bitter, earthy quality of gizzards, liver, and kidney would stick in my mind for the rest of the day.  So, naturally when I first tasted Taiwanese Soy Paste, I would be drawn to the sweet and salty quality of the sauce.

At home, there was one dish that we would use this sauce for dipping.  It was a soup that was made with the neck bones of pork and with the addition of bitter melon, daikon, or winter melon.  It was an easy soup to prepare and the flavor was clean and light and warmed the body.  The broth is magical because it is only a few ingredients and takes an hour to cook, but tastes like a complex broth that’s been boiling for a whole day.  The best part of the soup is always the pork bones.  It takes a little effort, but the neck bones have some meat that has to be dug out.  Once you get to it, it’s tender and earthy flavor will make it all worth the work.

I, of course, would always fish for the largest piece at the beginning of the meal so no one claim rights to it.  I’d set it aside in my soup bowl while I continued to eat my rice, other braised meats, fish, vegetables; whatever was required for my parents to be satisfied that I had eaten a balanced meal.  Then, when it was time to enjoy the pork, I would spoon some soup over the meat to reheat it and then go grab a small dish of soy paste.

My mom would always watch how much I poured into my dipping dish, because I always seemed to “accidentally” pour twice the amount that a person should consume.  Once I got it back to the table, with sheer excitement, I would start picking pieces of pork off the neck bones and cover them in this sweet salty sauce.  These bones have some nooks and crannies to them, but I discovered what the chimps had known for so long; that a long stick is a great tool.  I took my one chopstick and began picking at the crevices to get out all the tender meat.  Sometimes, if I planned it right, I would run out of the sauce and have to go back for seconds.  This is how I was able to cheat my Mom’s system.

I remember one time, when I was young; I was so excited to be able to get more of the soy paste that I wasn’t really in the right state of mind.  It’s like when I was scooping mayonnaise into my mouth or drinking coleslaw juice.  I had a moment of weakness.  I noticed that some of the paste was dribbling down the side, I could have just wiped it with a napkin, but that would be wasteful.  What if I use a piece of my pork?  Wait, it’s too far.  I know! I’ll lick it.  So I slowly moved the bottle to my mouth, and with a quick lick, it was clean.  (I realize that the last two options make me sound unsanitary.  I was)

“Did you just put your mouth to the bottle?”   Damn, my brother caught me.

“No.  That’s gross!”  I stomped back to the dinner table, upset that my brother thought I would do something so disrespectful and offensive.  But, I did.  And it was worth it.  I got more of the soy paste.

Later that night, Mom threw away the bottle of soy paste.

Taiwanese “Soy Paste” or “Sweet Soy Sauce” is a thicker more viscous soy sauce that contains sugar, rice and potato starch in addition to the soy sauce. Because it’s a blend, it has much less sodium than regular soy sauce, but not that much more. The brand that I like to use is “Kimlan”. You can commonly use it in stir fries, but when going through the streets of Taiwan, you will more likely see it mixed with cilantro and crushed peanuts and used as a dipping sauce for various dishes.  It’s really good, in that combination, over Taiwanese Tamales.

Some notes on the soup.  In order to get a really clear broth, my mom would do a quick initial boil of the bones to release all the protein and scum and then re-boil it with the vegetables.  If you don’t mind swampy broth, you can skip that step.

~stuff

2 lb pork neck bones

1 large daikon, peeled and sliced into 1 inch pieces

4 cups of water

salt to taste

cilantro, optional

~step

for clear broth (skip the next two steps if you don’t mind a clear broth)

rinse bones and place in a large pot and cover with cold water and turn on high heat

drain water once it has come to a boil

add all 4 cups of water, until covering the bones, in a large pot and boil on high heat

simmer the stock for 45 minutes after the water comes to a boil

add the daikon and simmer until fork tender, about 15 minutes

season the broth with salt and thrown in some cilantro for the last five minutes of cooking.

-serves 6-

 

05
Jan
13

Day 3 of 30: Taiwanese Long Squash Soup

Chinese Long Squash Soup

Taiwanese Long Squash Soup

“Are we trespassing?”

I was home visiting my parents in California and they had asked me to join them in running a quick errand to pick up some stuff for dinner that night.  I was about to start my journey to the freeway to get us to the Chinese Supermarket, before my Mom told me to make a quick right.  She proceeded to give me directions to go deeper into the suburban neighborhood that we lived in.  Eventually she led me to the driveway of a standard California ranch house that looked similar to everyone else we knew.

My fellow offenders.

My fellow offenders.

I assumed we were just stopping over to say hello to a family friend, but my parents proceed to exit out of the car and walk toward the side of the house, open the gate, and walk into their yard.

“No, we are only trespassing if you’re not wanted.” My mom says with affirmation. “Besides, they’re not home”

“But what if they are home?” I still feel uneasy about the whole situation.  I get a vivid image of me getting arrested with my parents by the police and having to tell my brother, our lawyer, that we weren’t trespassing because we were wanted. I get anxious.

My dad chimes in.  “Then we say hello.”

We walk into the yard and I am amazed.  One of my parent’s friends had turned his yard into an amazing mini-farm full of Taiwanese vegetables and fruits.  They had surrounded their pool with trees saturated with guava, wax apple, and persimmon fruit.  All along the grass: Chinese watercress, bok choy, Taiwanese greens, and chayote had grown bright green leaves in the warm California sun. It was a magical place where birds where singing and butterflies where fluttering.  The sun had a big smiley face and clouds where dancing in the sky.  My parents had pulled the “freshest Taiwanese produce you will ever have outside of the Island” card to get me to stay in California; and it was a shady card to pull.

“Ok, I’m going to get the stuff on the floor, can you cut off the squash?  It’s too high for me to reach.”  My Mom brings me back to

Make sure you have a tall kid in your crew to reach the goods on the top.

Make sure you have a tall kid in your crew to reach the goods on the top.

reality.

So on top of trespassing, we are adding stealing to my rap sheet?  Well, it can’t be any worse then it already is.  Plus, she distracted me with the right vegetable: The “Long Squash”.

It’s a pale gourd that imparts a fabulous broth that is slightly sweet. The finished broth is almost all the liquid and juice that comes from the squash and mixed with the salty dried shrimp; it’s an amazing winter dish that warms the soul and eases all anxiety of any felony you decide to do with your family. You can get it at most Asian markets.  If you can’t find “Long Squash”, you can use “Chinese Okra” or “Fuzzy Squash”.  But it if you can’t find “Long Squash”, you probably can’t find the other two.  Sorry, maybe you can grow it in your backyard?  I’ll come trespass and steal some.

~stuff

1 tbs canola, vegetable, or peanut oil

1 large clove garlic, sliced

1 tbs. dried shrimp (can substitute with 2 anchovy fillets)

2 large “Long Squash”, sliced (about 4 cups)

1/4 c. broth or water

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground white pepper

~steps

sauté garlic and shrimp in oil in dutch oven on high heat until shrimp is tan in color and garlic turns a nutty brown

add squash, liquid, and seasoning and stir

simmer on medium heat until squash breaks down and turns into a soup, about 15 minutes

-serves 4-




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