Archive Page 2

27
Mar
13

Blueberry, Ginger, Pomegranate, Thyme Ice Cream Sundae

I assure you, this is not a candle.

I assure you, this is not a candle.

When I was little, I was a curious child.  I’ve definitely tasted my fair share of things that were either unsanitary, unhealthy, or toxic; playdough is salty, silly putty does not taste like the taffy it looks like, and scented markers don’t taste the way they smell.  You can blame things like my stupidity, curiosity, or simply my lack of self control; if something seemed edible, or even resembled something edible, I would put it in my mouth to see if I could learn from the experience and use it in some dish in the future. Or, at least, I would try to remember what it was so I could get my mom to cook it again.

I remember a distinct moment from my youth when I ran out of my room in a one piece footed pajamas after growing tired of my Teddy Ruxpin toy.  I had gone out to see what the rest of the world was up to (more so how I can get my brother in trouble from my antics) and  high above my head on the bar countertop was a beautiful sight.  A sight so beautiful I forgot about all the things I was going to do to my brother.  A light was beaming down with glitter over a clear parfait glass, through it the beautiful colors mirroring only a world that could be imagined by a child filled with neon trees, crystal waters, and sparkle covered animals.  A mountain on top of the glass was in perfect spiral as it fluffed up to the ceiling of our living room, topped with a perfect ruby orb of a cherry, and pierced with a bright purple straw.  I rubbed my eyes in disbelief and quickly grabbed it.

“I must have this beautiful thing to myself and no one must know it exists.” I looked around and noticed that my parents were in the backyard entertaining the guests, who I could only imagine were the messengers of such a great gift.  I turned my gaze back to the sundae.

“Quickly!  You must take a sip.  Once you put your mouth on the straw, coodie law dictates all.  And in that law if you touch it with your germs, then  you get to claim ownership.”  I grabbed the glass and to my surprise, it wasn’t cold to the touch.  It turns out that it was not ice cream.  However, because of the bright colors and the easy access to it (come to think of it, I had to grab my step stool to get to it), I thought it must be some sort of amazing Asian candy.  My mom would always come back from trips with candy in the shape of other treats.  This was just an elaborate one.  As I pursed my lips towards the straw, I began to fantasize the sugary sweetness that was about to cover my taste buds.

 

I finally leaned in to take my first sip of what I imagined was going to be strawberry flavored because of the aroma. With my first sip, an immediate sharpness hit my tongue and I run to the sink to spit everything out.  A deep red waxy liquid mixed with my saliva is sprayed all over the white porcelain as I try to get rid of whatever evil has taken over my mouth.  It had the taste of camphor, lightly braised in dish soap, with some strawberry scented markers, and a pinch of eraser shavings.

 

“What is this mad trick that these adults are trying to play on me?!”  I inspected this malicious and foul item in my hand and realized that what I thought was the stem of the cherry was in fact a wick;  I had just tasted a strawberry scented candle.  I returned the candle to the bar top as quickly as I could – I wanted to avoid any concerns that my parents would have when they realized I had eaten chemicals and I also was afraid of being humiliated if my brother saw what I had done. I then ran back to my Teddy Ruxpin and began a therapy session with him, confessing to him my new found fear of candles, strawberry scented things, and sundaes.

 

~stuff

 

16 oz pomegranate juice

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated

1/2 c orange juice,

2 tbs honey

1/2 tsp dried thyme

2 c blueberry, fresh or frozen

2 tsp butter, optional

vanilla ice cream

toasted nuts (I like almonds and walnuts)

 

~steps

 

Simmer all ingredients except for butter in saucepan on medium to high heat

 

Reduce sauce until half, about 40 minutes and turn off heat

 

Mix butter in if you want a creamier and shinier sauce

 

Serve over ice cream with a sprinkle of nuts.

 

-serves about 4-

19
Mar
13

Part 2: Kung Pao Chicken, Szechuan Style

This is part 2 of my two-part series on Kung Pao Chicken. Last week, I did a radio segment with a friend of mine at WBAI and Asian Pacific Forum. We talked about the history of Chinese Fast Food, specifically Kung Pao Chicken, its origin, and its evolution as it came to the US. I also cooked last week’s Kung Pao Chicken recipe (the Americanized version) and this one (the more authentic). Here is the recipe for that dish. I hope you enjoy it. And if you missed the radio segment, you can listen to it here.

Tongue numbing fun!  Kung Pao Chicken, the right way.

Tongue numbing fun! Kung Pao Chicken, the right way.


I’m not good at moderation when it comes to seasoning. Growing up, the dishes that existed in my life were simple: a small amount of spices and a focus on just the ingredients. The major flavoring component was garlic, scallion, and or ginger. We’d add soy sauce or rice wine, but that was it. Without the addition of spice, everything was minimal, but still delicious. But, don’t get me wrong, I love spice – I love the earthy flavors that come out with the addition of a well toasted spice, the bright flavors that come out of herbs, and the layers of flavors that come with the combination of powders and grinds.

When I began to first play around with different herbs and spices, my brother – my official taste tester – was the unlucky one who had to deal with my heavy hand. Cooking with spices was such a new concept to me; When testing out a new spice, I always wanted to add enough of that particular spice in order to really understand its flavor profile. The three main culprits that I usually over seasoned with were: cinnamon, cumin, and peppercorns.

A few years ago, I made a black bean dish that had cinnamon in it as one of the components to the spice blend. When I was researching Mexican cooking styles, I learned that cinnamon was a common spice used in savory dishes. So when I was experimenting with the recipe, I asked my brother to be a test subject. He gladly accepted the offer. After my brother’s first bite, a look of uncertainty crossed his face:

“Why do these beans taste like cinnamon?”

“Good, you can taste the secret ingredient!”

“It’s all I taste, why did you put so much of it?”

“I wanted to make sure you tasted it, why? It’s not subtle?”

“Um…no”

Ok, fine. I’m not good at moderating my use of new spices. A similar interaction happened with cumin, too. However, this time, I used way too much of it while cooking, to the point where the whole house smelled like it. Normally, I would enjoy having the aroma from various spices fill the air, but this was a little too pungent. My brother likened it to a room full of Oregon hippies jazzercising with Richard Simmons. And, I do have to admit, the house did have a special funk that only the strongest deodorant could have fixed.

Unfortunately, because of me, my brother now hates cinnamon in savory dishes and anything with cumin in it

I think I realized my problem with over spicing when Szechuan Peppercorns were finally allowed into the States. From the 1960’s to 2005, the FDA banned the import of Szechuan Peppercorns; so, when I finally got my hands on some, I was destined to pull out every flavor that I could from it. I tried to make a braised beef noodle soup dish and wanted it to have the same spiciness that I had while in Taiwan. So, why not add some of that beautifully mind (and tongue) numbing peppercorns. Now, for folks who don’t know much about this spice: the pepper has this bright citrus and earthy flavor. But, the best part is the numbing effect that happens when you eat the peppercorn. It’s a slight zing to the tongue that makes everything fun to eat. Based on the amount that you use, the zing can last anywhere from a few seconds to half a minute. Key phrasing there is “based on the amount that you use.” I, however, was super excited to have access to these beautiful things and began to throw them in by the handful. My thought process? If they aren’t spicy then I might as well put a bunch in. Oops. My brother was upset that he couldn’t taste his dish, and I couldn’t respond, because I was drooling from all the numbing.


~stuff

3 c diced chicken, I used thigh meat

4 cloves garlic, sliced or grated

4 tbs soy sauce

4 tbs rice wine

2 tbs rice flour

2 tbs oil, canola or vegetable

1//4 c raw cashews

6 dried Chinese chili peppers

2 tbs Szechuan peppercorn

1//4 c scallion, minced

~steps

toss chicken with garlic, 3 tbs soy sauce, 3 tbs of the rice wine, and the rice flour and let sit for ten minutes

heat oil in a hot wok on high heat

toast cashews, chili pepper, and peppercorns in oil until fragrant, less than a minute

add chicken with marinade and stir constantly until almost cooked through, 2 minutes

pour the rest of the soy sauce and rice wine in the wok with the scallions and toss until fully cooked through, about 4 more minutes

-serves 4-

12
Mar
13

Part 1: Kung Pao Chicken, Chinese American Style

Last week I did a radio segment for a friend of mine. We talked about the history of Chinese Restaurants, impact of immigration on food, and how Asian American food got its start. Well, I covered as much of the subject as I can within the limitations of a 17 minute segment. As a treat, I decided to make her Kung Pao Chicken the American way and then the actual Szechuan way. Here is the recipe of the first of the two part Kung Pao Chicken series that I will be doing. Next week, I’ll share the “authentic” recipe on my site. Also, if you’re curious as to what my radio voice sounds like, you can listen to the segment here.
Someone looks hungry...

Someone looks hungry…

 

“Does this mean I have to grow boobies?”

“Do you want to have viewers on your brb-eating YouTube site?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, this woman is just like you: young, attractive, likes to cook asian food, and likes to dance. Plus she has over 20,000 subscribers.”

“Yeah, but she has boobs, a low cut top, and ‘interesting’ camera angles.”

“We can get you low cut tops and I can shoot interesting angles.”

“It’s not the same.”

“And we can get you boobies.”

I was doing research for my video posts with my friend. She had agreed to help me film a few videos, teach me about basic editing and camera control, and direct me to feel more comfortable in front of the camera. She suggested we watch YouTube videos and, in the end, we found ourselves spending hours watching all sorts of Chinese cooking tutorials. My favorite vlogger was this woman who was cooking with rather large melons [think watermelons]. And, I’m not talking about the fruit.

From our YouTube research, I realized there is a select handful of dishes most commonly cooked. There appears to be a large need to know how to make things like fried rice and sweet and sour anything and egg rolls, not to mention the large number of kung pao chicken recipes. There were so many variations of the dish, and it was interesting to learn what folks’ take on a classic Chinese American dish was. Ingredients included everything from the stereotypical (water chestnuts, cabbage, and soy bean sprouts) to the exotic (pineapple chunks, soda, and ketchup. But, the recipes that really caught my attention were the “traditional” Chinese American versions. They reminded me of the trips I would take to the big box American chain restaurants, in particular, one that had an extensive cheesecake menu and was the “cool” place to go with friends before high school formal dances.

On the menu, there were always a few “exotic” dishes to give it that upscale feel, most being inspired by the Asian culture, i.e. Chinese Chicken Salad, Avocado Spring Roll, Vietnamese Shrimp Summer Roll. I remember a Kung Pao Chicken linguine on the menu that was a pretty popular selection amongst our group of friends, and I am ashamed to say, it was one of mine as well. It was a standard chicken dish smothered in brown gravy and then served over a bed of pasta. Sadly, it’s not on the menu anymore, but I’ve been able to create a dish that is similar and just as tasty.

Depending on your preference, this dish can be made without the noodles and instead served over rice. If you want to make this vegetarian and use tofu instead, remember to switch out the Chinese oyster sauce with Chinese mushroom sauce. I promise, this dish is going to taste familiar. Just like how your grandma used to make it at Panda Express.

~stuff
2 tbs vegetable oil
2 c chicken breast, cubed
2 tsp corn starch or rice flour
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
2 medium zuchini, diced
2 tbs oyster sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs water
1 cup roasted cashews
minced scallion, optional

~steps

heat a wok on high heat with 2 tbs oil
coat chicken with 1 tsp of the starch or flour
brown chicken in wok, and stir, about two minutes
add vegetables sautee until tender, about two minutes
add cashews and stir
mix sugar, oyster sauce, soy sauce, water, and the rest of the flour in another bowl
pour in sauce and mix until well coated and sauce thickens, about two minutes
serve over rice or pasta and top with scallion for garnish

-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-

21
Jan
13

Day 17: Vanilla Ice Cream with Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

Hello Dairy, we meet again.

Hello dairy, we meet again.

Did you know that 90% of East Asians are lactose intolerant?  I did.  I also know that I am part of that statistic, and I have come to terms with it.  In case you wanted to know; lactose intolerance happens because our body doesn’t have the enzyme to break down lactose or milk sugar which causes the symptoms that the pink stuff can relieve.  Most mammals become intolerant after weaning, we however, will refuse to give up on the milk and all the goodness that dairy provides.  I mean, come on, a life without cheese, cereal, and ice cream?  We reached evolutionary hierarchy for a reason and it’s to enjoy vanilla bean ice cream and a bowl of frosted flakes.

Now, I don’t have real lactose intolerance.  Well, at least I’ve trained myself to think that there is such thing as Acute Lactose Intolerance.  It came in handy when I first found out I was lactose intolerant.  Growing up, my mom and dad always made me drink milk.  I would have a glass every morning and a glass every night. Sometimes I would have it as a snack.

“When is dinner?”

“Not until 6:30.”

“But that’s three hours from now, can I eat something?”

“No, if you are hungry have a glass of milk.”

“But that’s not solid, I didn’t say I’m thirsty.”

“We know, have a glass of milk.”

“Can I have it with Fruity Pebbles?”

“No.”

“But I’m hungry.”

“Then drink some milk.”

So, it is safe to say, milk was integral to my development when I was young.  I continued drinking milk every morning until my sophomore year in high school.  When I finally realized that I was lactose intolerant, something I learned in an unfortunate incident at school one awkward day during my German class.  I told my dad that I was lactose intolerant and that I probably shouldn’t drink milk anymore.  He didn’t believe me and the next day I saw two gallons of milk in the fridge.  Thanks Dad.

I luckily have been able to understand my allergy better, and can make smart decisions when I am out.  I know not to drink milk when I am out, I will have one dish that has lots of cheese on it, and I will chow down on Ice Cream if I am close to home (or a friend’s home that I trust).  I’m willing to face the symptoms, especially if these strawberries are chilling in my fridge.

~stuff

1 quart strawberries, washed and halved or quartered

¼ c or 4 tbs balsamic vinegar

¼ tsp black pepper, ground

basil, as garnish (optional)

vanilla ice cream

~steps

mix all ingredients except for ice cream and basil

let sit for at least an hour

serve over creamy vanilla ice cream and top with basil if using

-serves 4-

18
Jan
13

Day 16: Braised Short Rib

IMG_4411-1

Short Rib Ragu

My parents have been extremely influential in teaching me how to be a wonderful host to friends and family.  They’ve taught me how to cook, be gracious, and welcome people in to one’s home.  Their whole focus and philosophy is to always cook family style and always cook a lot of food for anyone who wants to come by.  They always had a set of three practices that they would live by.

 

1)     Have a stocked fridge. You never know who will stop in and need a comforting meal.

 

2)     Always cook family style. You should never limit a friend or family member to a certain portion or a small amount.  If they want more food or eat more, we shouldn’t judge them (unless it’s soy sauce)

 

3)     Serve a diverse amount of dishes.  Everyone has different tastes and everyone has dishes they are more inclined to, so everyone deserves to have at least of their options be a favorite, something that reminds them of home, introduce them to new flavors and textures, and begin new memories.

 

I’m glad my mom taught me these practices and instilled them in me as I watched her plan, prepare, and share her dishes with her family and friends. With this style of cooking, I’ve been amazed at how my mom has become a master at leftovers.  She is able to plan the meal, take into consideration people returning for seconds and thirds and still end the dinner without having any food left over to last more than one day.  I’ve heard rumors that Asian mothers have a certain sixth sense for these things; amongst knowing how to find a bargain, wear a perm in any weather, sneak meat into a vegetarian dish, and insult someone shrouded in a compliment.

 

As I started this blog marathon, I found myself having to prepare the week’s posts in one day because of my work schedule.  With the help of some very hungry housemates and friends, I’ve been able to host weekly dinners at my place and, surprisingly not have too much left over.  Unfortunately, last week I didn’t follow one of my Mom’s rules for hosting dinner.  I didn’t diversify.  I feel my mother saying “I taught you better” as she reads this.  I ended up wanting to share a bunch of meat dishes with you that week, so, the menu included pork belly, ground pork, roasted chicken, and braised short rib.  It was no wonder why I had so much of the ribs left over.  So, here is what I did with said ribs, in order to give it life, a new feeling, and a dish to pawn off on my housemates for their lunch the next day.

 

~stuff

2 tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

2 medium celery stalks, chopped

2 cloves of garlic

2 lb short rib, shredded or pulled

½ c braising liquid or broth

1 14.5 oz can whole tomatoes

1 tsp black pepper, ground

6 basil leaves, sliced

salt to taste

1 lb rigatoni

 

~steps

sauté onions, carrots, and celery in a large dutch oven until fully sweated, about 10 min

add garlic and short ribs and stir until fully cooked and fragrant

stir  in the rest of the ingredients except for cheese and simmer on low until flavors have fully developed, about 20 minutes

cook pasta based on package instructions and until al dente or slightly firm

add additional fresh basil leaves and cheese and stir right before serving and toss with pasta

 

-serves 4-

17
Jan
13

Day 15: [video post] Durian and My Momma

Day 15 has arrived. The top of the hill is here and now, for the rest of the month, I can see the finish line. I’ve reached that point in my posting that I realize that everything is last minute. I’m reminded of every paper I wrote in college.

There would be times that I would spend 24 hours in the library trying to finish three books in order to write a comparative paper on the presence of the color red in the clothes of the dominant characters in the story line. Sound like bs? It was most times. But I always had an end goal and I always accomplished it.

This year, it’s the dragon list. I must, no, I will accomplish at least half of the list by the deadline. Procrastination and resistance will only win partially and I will finish the year with more knowledge, skills, and experiences than last year. I’m excited to move forward and I can’t wait for the day when I get to look back at my lists, my posts, my life and evaluate where I have been and where I will be going. It’s been a great journey and there will be more to come, I know.

So as I do a mini halftime celebration of this marathon, I wanted to share with you one of the pivotal moment of my blog and me coming out of my comfort zone. I started doing video posts, I tried durian, and I involved my parents in this part of my world.

Now, I want to challenge my readers. Who wants to join me in a lunar New Years list? It’s coming up in a month and we should start planning the accomplishments we want to achieve next year. Maybe you could add durian to your list?




…me…


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