Archive for the 'Fish/Seafood' Category

09
Jan
14

Squid and Celery Stir Fry

IMG_6229

Squid and Celery Stir Fry

You might be able to tell from my Facebook pages that I’m in Taiwan at the moment.  I’m here to take part in a mandarin program at a college in Taipei. I don’t start the “learning Chinese” part until March so I’m trying to do as much traveling and food experiences that I can while I still have free time.

The more and more I discover Taiwan, I’m starting to realize there is so much more to this place then just an island I visit for two weeks out of the year to say hello to relative. It’s an island full of festivals celebrated for years, history that is rich in color, taste, and emotions, and food that is equally rich as its history and traditions.  But what strikes me most are how people are proud of their land here. I’m not saying they are patriotic in the US Sense where flags are waved, bbq is eaten, and conservative pundits tell us what America is all about . But, instead it’s people who are proud of the dishes that they eat or the fruit that they raise. It’s the farmer who had been raising pigs for 40 years and has already passed on the torch after suffering numerous strokes.  It’s the story of why they chose this profession and why their children choose to continue it.  It’s through this realization that I’ve come to understand what I want my blog to be in the next couple of months.  I want to share the narrative of the individual (the vendor, farmer, home cook) and the narrative of the storyteller (me) as I figure out what it means to be Taiwanese at 30 and just realizing what the island has to offer.

So through out the next couple of the weeks, I’ll have posts dedicated to the people I meet on my journey.  But for now, a dish that sums up the cooking style of Taiwan:

One of the things that I’ve always know about Taiwanese cooking but never really paid attention to is that the flavors and methods are simple. It’s the thing I love about the cuisine: ingredients need to be fresh and there shouldn’t be anything to mask the flavors or why buy them at all.  No bullshit.

This dish is no bullshit. Squid, celery, chili pepper. My cousin’s wife made this for me the second day I was in Taipei. I hiked a trail with my cousin at 5 am, waited in line for breakfast (people like to wait in line for food here), bought a squid from a seafood vendor (who thought I was 22 years old so I paid for the squid out of gratitude), and this dish was cooked within two hours and in my belly soon after.

No bullshit. Fresh seafood, no time lingering in a fridge or thawed and then refrozen, and nothing needed to mask any stale tastes. I think I’m going to like Taiwan.

~stuff

1 tbs vegetable or coconut oil

2 c Chinese Celery, sliced into on inch pieces *if you can’t find Chinese celery, use regular celery…just cut it thin

1 or 2 chili peppers, seeds removed and sliced

1 medium whole squid, cleaned and sliced

salt to taste
~steps
heat oil in a saute pan on high heat until screaming hot

sauté celery and chili together until celery is slightly tender, about 3 min

add squid and toss until cooked through, about 2-3 min

season with salt to taste.

-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-

31
Jul
12

Lettuce Roll and Remembering Some Friends

Luscious Lettuce Rolls

I’ve inherited a lot of great traits from my parents: my extroverted nature, my creativity, my ability to talk for hours, and my love for Japanese food. Clearly order of importance does not apply to the list (or does it?). If any of my readers follow me on social media, they would see my intrusive love affair of Asian food through twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Thank goodness that Internet wasn’t developed later in my adolescence because if I had Instagram during my cognac years, you’d all be annoyed/angry out of hunger and poor picture quality (I was a horrible photographer at a young age…just ask my dad about a trip to Grand Canyon and the last time we saw our family camera).  A place that you would have seen a lot of pictures from is our favorite sushi spot: Koi-San.

 

Koi-San is this amazing Japanese restaurant tucked in a standard suburban strip mall in Orange County.  A no-frills restaurant that served quality Japanese food that followed the tradition of simplicity, freshness, and traditional ways.  It was, although I was not aware at 8 years old, satisfying to know that this was my first endeavor into Japanese food.  In a time when the beginning of the trend of big box Japanese/Asian fusions were created with Buddha statues dangling from the ceiling, fire coming from cocktails, and a sweet teriyaki sauce being added to everything in the menu, Koi-San sought to focus on the important thing: the simplest of flavors of the ocean in a casual setting.  All of this was run by a husband and wife duo: Sam and Yoko.  Sam, the trained sushi chef, worked the back of house and Yoko was in charge of the front of house.  Although, upon entering the restaurant you would think that it was just an Aunt and Uncle inviting you to their home.

 

I credit my love for Japanese food because of Koi-San.  When I was young, I would be so excited to sit at the sushi bar (a privilege that I thought only “grown-ups” where allowed to take part in).  There where pictures and autographs of “B” and “C” list celebrities [Is Jose Feliciano still an "B" Lister?] on the wall, pictures of vacations that the couple have taken were plastered in sections of the restaurant, and in the background you could hear the soundtrack of a classic Japanese opera playing a hauntingly friendly melody.  During the holiday season, it wasn’t a rare sight to see Christmas cards from customers adorned with family portraits hanging from the ceiling.  This is how we knew that Sam and Yoko had not just created a restaurant that served guests, but created relationships that became family.

 

Sam and Yoko are unfortunately not with us anymore.  Yoko passed away a few years ago and on a recent trip home, my Dad informed me that Sam had passed away unexpectedly a few months ago.  I’ll miss them.  Not just for the food, but for the qualities that they embodied: Yoko, with her child like laugh and her attempt to always sneak candy to me at the end of every meal.  It was fun to watch her think of a strategy so that my parents, or other children in the restaurant, didn’t catch her passing on sugar to me.  This continued well into my teenage years (although she still did it with the same mischief).  Then there was Sam, who was stern and commanded attention.  He had a razor like focus when it came to creating his dishes.  Ensuring that the fish that he picked that same morning would be enjoyed for its freshness and flavor.

 

I still remember my first time ordering sushi without my parents’ assistance.  I ordered, until I could handle raw fish and spicy mustard, a California roll without wasabi and a lettuce roll.  The California roll was standard, but the lettuce roll was Sam’s invention.  It was simply iceberg lettuce, sushi rice, and some secret sauce that he made in house.  I really loved this dish.  It was so simple in flavor yet complex at the same time.  The crunch of the lettuce would blend with the creamy-ness of the sauce and tenderness of the shrimp.  Beyond the blend of textures, you could taste the sweetness of the shrimp marry with the tang of the vinegar in the rice.  It was fresh, light, simple and everything that reminds me of summers in Southern California.   Sam and Yoko were a great pair. Although I never told them, they were instrumental in my appreciation of Japanese food and the hours, training and respect that a true sushi chef puts into their food.

 

~stuff

 

1/4 lb large uncooked shrimps (about 6-8)

6-8 bamboo skewers

2 cups cooked short grain/sushi rice

3 tbs rice vinegar

2 tbs sugar

1+ tsp salt

1/2 c mayonnaise (of course)

2 tsp ketchup

1 tsp poppy seeds

1 head of iceberg lettuce

 

~steps

 

Simmer water in a large pot

 

Skewer each shrimp with bamboo sticks lengthwise to prevent the shrimp from curling while cooking

 

Lightly cook the shrimp in hot water until just cooked through.

 

Chill and set aside

 

Mix cooked rice with 2 tbs vinegar, 2 tbs sugar, and 1 tsp salt and let cool to room temperature

 

Blend mayonnaise, ketchup, rest of the vinegar, poppy seed, and salt to taste. Set aside until the rest of the ingredients are ready.

 

Remove large clean lettuce leaves and place a ball of rice in the middle of the leaf.

 

Top the ball of rice with a tbs of sauce and shrimp.

 

Wrap the both sides in and te bottom of the roll up to prevent the filling to come out (like a burrito)

 

-serves 6-

 

12
Jul
12

[Video Post] Mussels in Chinese Sausage and Fennel Broth

Summer at it’s best. Well one of it’s best.

I’ve been working on getting my YouTube channel [ brbeatingdotcom ]up and running lately.  It’s been a lot of fun getting to learn how to film, edit, and other things.

Here is my most recent posting on my channel.  It’s a delicious and quick mussel dish that I may have based off of a mussel dish that is served at a work establishment that I may or may not work at. May.

If you don’t have or can’t find the Chinese Sausage, you can substitute chorizo.

Serve with crusty toasty bread and you have a great lunch, dinner, or app to share.  Here is the video:

Enjoy!

~stuff

1 tbs vegetable oil

1 c Chinese Sausage, sliced

1 medium shallots, sliced

1 c fennel, sliced

1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomato, crushed by hand (see video)

1/4 c rice wine

2 tbs chicken stock or water

1.5 to 2 lb mussels, cleaned

Salt and Pepper to taste

~steps

begin oil and place sausage in a cold dutch/oven pot and start on medium high to render the fat

add fennel and shallots and stir until shallots begin to caramelize

pour rest of ingredients, except mussels, into the dutch oven/pot and let simmer for a few minutes

place mussels in dutch oven/pot and stir

cover pot and cook the mussels until all are open (about ten minutes)

-serves 4-

05
Jun
12

Mien Salsa – The Condiment of All Condiments

The condiment of all condiments

My roommate, although she won’t admit it, is a great cook. She understands the complexity of Southeast Asian flavors and the discovery of mixing tart, tang, sweet, and spicy. She makes curry, soups, sauces, and egg rolls with such focus and tenacity that if doesn’t taste good to her, she won’t feel it is complete and will refuse to let me try it. She also doesn’t like to waste a thing, even though she learned how to cook from her mother which translates to: cooking to feed an army of boys but for only the two of us. If there are extras and she doesn’t deem it fit to give to others, she’ll spend the next couple of days trying to eat it herself to prevent wasting the food. Yep, she’s one of my favorite home cooks out there and she can run across campus in a pair of stilettos like no other.

Now, all the credit can’t be given to her. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting her mom who cooked us a fabulous Christmas meal years ago. It involved hundreds of egg rolls, chicken, vegetarian stir fry (It had ground pork. But, according to her dad, that doesn’t count as meat because it’s seasoning), some noodles, and an amazing little spicy dipping sauce. The sauce was a salsa verde of sorts but South East Asian in style. We’ve now lovingly call it Mien Salsa in our household.

I’ve talked about the history of the Lu Mien community before, but never in-depth. Originally they where a tribe of indigenous people who lived in the southern mountains of China. Once political disputes over land heightened to violence, the Lu Mien (also known as Yao People), were forced into Laotian and Thai territories. About a century later, US forces made its way into a war in Laos and convinced the tribe elders to help them fight alongside them. Once Americans pulled out of the country in 1975, the Laotian government began persecuting and exiling this small minority, eventually sending them out of their land again and forcing them to the western side of the US. [Thank you Wikipedia for making me sound smart.]

It’s interesting to see how centuries of war and displacement changes the flavors and dishes of a certain community. I sometimes imagine a fantastic and romantic story of how a family who grew up eating foods in the high landlocked mountains would eventually be forced to a land rich in spice, heat, and flavors. I would imagine the first time that a child tasted the prick of heat from their first pepper after it was tirelessly beaten by a stone mortar and pestle. Or create a memory of when a mother, after months of traveling and escaping battles and wars, gets her first pungent whiff of fermenting fish sauce and the man, who after years of fighting to protect his land, house, and loved ones, will reunite with his family to see a bucket of fried chicken, cole slaw, mashed potatoes, egg rolls, rice, and this Mien salsa. And it was because of this salsa that the father, with a tear rolling down his cheek, felt that it was all worth it and at home. I’ve been watching way to many overly dramatic family coming of age stories on Netflix. I need some help…

I would classify this sauce as more of a chimmichurri or salsa verde than what most Americans think of when they hear “salsa”. It’s full of heat, tang, aroma, and citrus. It is a crisp refreshing sauce with an earthy and full flavor from the crunch and spice of the dried chili peppers and complexity of the fish sauce. The lime juice helps bring out the citrus of the cilantro and the tartness of the fruit helps mellow out the pungent fish sauce. And the chili adds a great earthy flavor to the whole sauce. And add lots of chili pepper because my roommate says, “it should punch you in the mouth.”.

A note on the recipe: the measurements are a rough estimates and, like many of our mother’s cooking, not meant to be followed exactly. This condiment, which is great with spring rolls, grilled meats, and steamed fish, is more of a personal preference with the ingredients. I know when I make it, I tend to add some agave syrup or honey to add a bit of sweetness to it. My roommate’s version is more of a red sauce with it mostly being dried chilies and a sprinkle of bright green cilantro leaves. Any way you do it, be prepared to have your mouth punched.

~stuff

1 bunch of cilantro, minced

3 whole dried chili pepper, toasted

1 lime, zest and juice

1 tbs fish sauce

1 tsp agave syrup or honey (optional)

~steps

place cilantro and chili peppers in a mortar and pestle and combine the ingredients [if you don't have a mortar and pestle you can break up the chili peppers by hand and place in a bowl]

mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and adjust to taste

set aside the sauce for at least 1 hour

16
Apr
12

Shrimp Salad

Shrimp Salad

The reason for my addiction

I’m about to admit something that I used to do which was pretty gross. I want to give a little preface first before I tell you. But be warned, either you will be nauseous or proud when you read it. But first the Joyce-ian digression.

Most of my food/technique discovery comes from having access to a full fridge (well, full of Japanese and Taiwanese goods) and a kitchen to myself after school. I mastered the egg drop technique, how to quickly chop scallions, melting cheese in the microwave [sort of], and making pancake from scratch. I also had the opportunity to try playing with ingridients. I figured out that fermented back beans don’t taste good in Kraft Mac and Cheese, rice vinegar is awesome when used in pan frying dumpling wrappers, and stir fried iceberg lettuce with garlic salt isn’t half bad. The best thing about having access to a fridge after school with no one around is exactly that, I got to do things that I would have been judged for by family members based on standards of ethics and health.

So, the thing that I have feared to admit is that I used to eat mayonnaise out of the jar. Gasp!

Mayonnaise is not a popular ingredient in Taiwan. It arrived in Asia through Japan by the military. Eventually it found its way through other Asian regions and now is an important part of a young Taiwanese boy’s discovery of a highly coloric condiment. I still remember how the habit started. Whenever we went to a Chinese seafood restaurant, we would sometimes get boiled abolone. As part of the dish, a small serving of mayonnaise would be provided as dip. I would always limit myself at the table. Well, my mom would always limit me. I later discovered that shrimp could also be dipped in this pillow-y and rich goodness. So, if shrimp was ever cooked at home, I would take out the jar of mayonnaise, which I convinced my parents was necessary to have in an American house hold, and put about a tablespoon of it on the shrimp (yes singular) and enjoy every moment of the fatty, smooth, emulsion. It was when I was spooning the stuff out of the jar and having a little taste after school that I knew I hit rock bottom. I was a ten year old junkie and my drug was mayonnaise.

I’m proud to say that I have quit cold turkey, and I no longer spoon any fatty substance in my mouth in large quantities. I do however keep some mayonnaise in my fridge in case of relapse and as a reminder of my junkie days. I now prefer the japanese version much better than the classic American styles. Instead of white vinegar as the main acid, rice or cider vinegar is used to add a slight sweetness. My favorite brand is Kewpie because it is mostly egg yolk which gives it a creamier texture and the vinegar is a blend of cider and malt which provides a subtle sweet flavor. It goes great with the natural sweetness of shrimp. Especially in this dish.

I love this salad. It allows me to cheat on my “no eating mayonnaise out of jar” rule. It also is a great blend with the tartness of the lemon juice, spice of the chili, and creaminess of the star of the dish: mayonnaise. You can use this base for any other salad (crab, scallop, chicken, tuna) but shrimp and mayonnaise is a combination that will always trigger great memories of my childhood. You can do this with day old shrimp. What I like to do sometimes is double the amount of shrimp I need to make sure I have enough for a salad the next day. So, I bought two pounds. Ok, maybe my problem is not just mayonnaise but also shrimp. Although, I think we established that already.

Whew, I’m glad I got that off my chest. I can now move on with my next 90 posts without fear that my dirty secret would come out. Enjoy.

~stuff

1 lb shrimp, cooked, shelled & cut into pieces
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium lemon, zest and 1/2 of the juice
1 tsp togorashi, more if you want it spicy
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I prefer Japanese style)
1 small shallot, minced
salt and pepper to taste

~steps
combine all ingredients in a bowl
serve in a toasted roll as a sandwich or over a bed of lettuce for a primal option

-serves 4-

28
Aug
11

Pan Seared Skate

-pan roasted skate with soy glaze-

Hurricane Irene hit New York City early Sunday morning.  To prepare, my roommate and housemates cleaned out the trash outside, weighed down our broken grill, moved all electrical things from the windows, and put up towels in areas we knew would leak.  My roommate and I were put in charge of buying the necessary items in case we lost power, gas, or water.  This was the best idea ever.

My roommate and I went to the local Chinese supermarket and came back with the most important things.  We came back with:

this is what my survival kit looks like

Haw Flakes, chocolate wafer sticks, sour cream and onion Pringles, dried pork, dried fish, dried beef, chili sauce, preserved bamboo, preserved vegetables, honey mustard pretzels, shrimp chips, rice crackers, sunflower seed, pig ear, chicken feet, salted duck, beef tendon, and a six pack of beer.  Red Cross, if you are hiring, my roommate and I are available for consulting.

In addition to all of this amazing first aid food stuff, I did also get some things from work because the restaurant had to shut down for the weekend.  This meant that the wonderful people in pastry gave me some equally wonderful zucchini muffins and the chefs gave me some awesome uncooked skate that wouldn’t survive the weekend.  I downed the muffins on my way home, but I pretended that there was no electricity so it didn’t feel premature to dive into them.  The skate however, was a conundrum.  I wasn’t really sure how I would prepare it. I’m not very familiar with skate mainly because the “Seafood Watch” list tells me not to buy it.  So, it’s exciting that I got my hands on skate.  This is especially because it comes from a vendor that I can trust and know gets seafood from fisherman that are sustainable and progressive.

I ended up cooking it in a method that is very common with how my mom cooks fish fillets.  It’s simple and uses aromatics and ingredients that every Asian person should have at home.  All you need to do is pan fry the fish and then quickly create a sauce in the same pan.  Because the skate wings are so thin, you can make this dish in less than ten minutes.  If you don’t have access to sustainable skate, and if you don’t know then don’t get it, you can use some scallops.  The flavor profile is almost exactly the same.  Texture won’t be like fish, but it’s more about the flavor in this dish.

In case you where wondering, our building wasn’t damaged too much by the hurricane.  We had a little water in our basement and the second floor did not have power for the day, but we where lucky.  Now, make some scallops (or skate) and enjoy.

~stuff

2 lbs of skate wing, 4 fillets

salt and black pepper

2 tbs vegetable oil

¼ cup of ginger, julienne

2 medium scallions, sliced in 1 inch pieces

3 medium cloves of garlic, smashed

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tbs Chinese rice wine

1½ tbs sugar

~steps

sprinkle salt and pepper on skate

 

heat oil in a non-stick skillet on high until scorching hot

 

panfry skate on one side for 3-4 minutes until lightly brown and flip to finish cooking, for about another 2 minutes

 

remove cooked skate and return the pan to the heat

 

add garlic, ginger, and scallion to pan and stir fry until fragrant

 

mix the soy sauce, wine, and sugar in another bowl and add to the hot pan

 

stir until sauce is slightly reduced, 1 minute

 

pour sauce over fillet and serve

-serves 4-




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