Posts Tagged ‘Chinese

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-

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-

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-

08
Jan
13

day 6: Chop Suey

Chop Suey

Chop Suey

I went to Palm Springs a few weeks ago and was reminded about the glamour of the 50’s and 60’s and how magical it was.  I love how Palm Springs and the people who have settled there never forgot that Hollywood and the celebrities of the mid century made it their get away spot.  My last trip made me realize how inspiring everything was during that time and how much of an influence that it had on culture, food, and people.  So, naturally, I started to do some research on the 50’s to learn more about the dishes, beverages, and designs that started or died in such an important moment in history.  And, because I’m always interested in food, ingredients, and ethnic cuisines and how they get their start in certain areas, I learned some cool facts about the history of Chinese restaurants.

In the late 1800’s, Chinese restaurants began to spring up in mining and railroad towns of the West Coast to accommodate workers who where primarily Chinese immigrants and mine workers from Toison or the Canton region.  Because of this, Chinese restaurants where filled with recipes from these regions like Egg Foo Young, and Moo Goo Gai Pan.  However, in the early 20’s restaurants began to cater more to American non-Chinese guests with the increased interest by White Americans to the non White (Jazz, the Jazz Singer, and now Chop Suey).  Egg Foo Young and Moo Goo Gai Pan became bland versions of Cantonese food to appeal to the American tastes of the time.  With this and the lack of access to authentic ingredients, dishes became something else and turned into egg omelets or stir-fries covered in brown gravy.

However, it was in the 50’s (to take it back to Palm Springs) that Chinese food began to become a dinner spot for American families to participate.  “Going for Chinese” became a phrase as common as going for Italian or going for French. Eventually in the 50’s, with the development of Hollywood culture, the industrial revolution, and the development of our Social Class system, the idea of eating out began to grow and was a weekly activity.  With this, Chinese restaurants began to create more formal and family dining experiences.  The dishes that where created in the 20’s have now become a staple in American culture and everyone knew of Chinese food the way many people know of it today.

It wasn’t until the 60’s when immigration policy began to shift to allow more Chinese immigrants into the US.  With the growing number of people from these communities, flavors and ingredients from Hunan and Szechuan began to make their way into the restaurant industry.  More spices and textures began to dominate the market as communities began to develop across the country.  Diners began to see American versions of Chinese food have flavor, spice, and texture to accommodate more of an “authentic” quality for the growing communities.  Americans began to start seeing the appearances of dishes like Hunan Beef, Orange Chicken, and Sweet and Sour Pork.  The rest was history.  Well, the rest was…Panda Express?

One of the things that sucks about Chinese American food is that it tastes so bland or one note.  It’s either really salty with some un-identifiable brown sauce, or is a plate of steamed broccoli, carrots, and bell pepper that is over cooked and raw at the same time.  But, I have a solution!  This version of Chop Suey comes from my sister in law’s mother.    She made it for Christmas two years ago and I realized then that Chop Suey can be flavorful, delicious, fresh, and fantastic. The sauce is made with vinegar, broth, and preserved vegetables to help highlight the fresh ingredients rather than a salty gravy to counter act any health benefits this could provide.

Researching the 50’s has inspired and interested me to cook the dishes the way that they where always intended.  You may find a recipe for Moo Goo Gai Pan or Egg Foo Young in the near future.  But I promise, I won’t touch Panda Express’ Orange Chicken.  That stuff is way too good and when one reaches perfection in a recipe, why would you change it?

~stuff

2 tbs vegetable, canola, peanut oil

1/2 c pickled vegetable

1/4 c shallots, diced

1 c carrots, julienne

4 stalks celery, 1/4 inch slices at an angle

1 c shitake mushroom, sliced (about 4 large caps)

1 c bamboo shoots, sliced

4 c sliced mixed vegetables [cabbage, bean sprouts, sugar snap peas, edamame…]

2 tbs soy sauce

1 tbs rice wine or cooking sherry

2 tbs black vinegar or 1 tbs Worcestershire Sauce

1/4 c broth or water

2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground white pepper

~steps

heat a oil in a wok on high heat until screaming hot

sauté pickled vegetables and shallots in wok

add carrots, celery, mushroom and bamboo until carrots turn tender and celery turns a bright green color

add the rest of the vegetables and stir fry until slightly tender

season the dish with the rest of the ingredients and turn the heat down to medium

stir until the sauce is well incorporated into the vegetables and the greens are all slightly tender

-serves 8-

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-

06
Apr
12

Spicy Sauteed Tendon with Garlic and Scallion

Spicy Tendon

I know Kung Fu.  Well, I know a few key basic moves.  Ok, I used to know Kung Fu.  It was part of a special extra curricular program that was part of my Chinese School when I was younger. Chinese school was a painful memory of my past.  While all my friends where enjoying two full days off from school, I had only one and a half days to play outside.  My Chinese school was from nine in the morning until noon. It was a short class, but it felt like a lifetime to a ten year old.  And, like my regular school, I wasn’t a very good student at all.  I would usually wake up early that Saturday around six or seven in the morning.  Run to the television and turn it on for Saturday morning cartoons, Saved By The Bell, and California Dreaming and attempt to finish a full week’s homework in between commercial breaks.  Once my parents woke up, I would then put the homework away and keep my textbook out to do last minute studying for a quiz (because I had finished my homework days in advanced) and then go to class.  During class I would listen real hard and answer in Mandarin, which is why I credit my ability to have basic conversations in Chinese but also why I lack reading and writing skills.   The redeeming factor on Saturdays was ending the day with my Kung Fu class.

Kung Fu class was fun.  I learned some fun sequences and felt like I could be the next Bruce Lee or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I didn’t get very far in my practice.  I had no idea as a kid that the art form required so much discipline and focus. But, you know what?  I got to yellow belt and I was satisfied. I just wanted the accessory.  It was something that I could show off to the world when my parents took me out for lunch and errands after school. I was a super hero. Well a beginner belt superhero.

One of the places I got to show off my “manly-ness” was at A&J restaurant.  Still one of my favorite restaurants of all time and I still get the same dishes every time I visit.  We went so often, to the point where the moment they saw a tiny Taiwanese boy running awkwardly in the parking lot with baggy Kung Fu clothes and a yellow sash, my order would already be in the kitchen.   A few minutes later, while my parent where still waiting for the rest of the order, I would have in front of me Zha Jiang Mian, pickled seaweed, and stir fried tendons.

It's not a sexy thing. But it tastes awesome.

I’ve been able to get both the seaweed and noodle dish in NYC to help curb my cravings. But, I have yet to find a place in the city to satisfy the tendon bug. The texture of this dish is hard to describe.  It’s a soft gelatinous chewy goodness, but has a subtle crispness fruity from the cooking processed.  Because the chili oil and scallion impart an intense citrus and floral fragrance, the flavor profile of the earthy garlic becomes a subtle nuttiness mixed with a hint of spice. Add the caramelizing of the soy sauce and you have a complex profile of flavors and textures in a dish that only has five simple ingredients.

The key thing with this dish is to use lots and lots of oil. You want the tendon to stir fry and not stick to the pan. Also, make sure your pan is screeching hot. Like, smoke alarm is going to go off hot. So make sure the house is well ventilated and you’re ready to deal with some chili oil smoke. There is a chance, if you don’t open a window, that you are creating some illegal bio-warfare.

Enjoy this dish.  It’s not exactly like the original, but maybe if I put on a Kung fu outfit and a yellow belt, it will almost be the same.

~stuff

2 tbs vegetable oil

2 chili pods (or you can use 2 tsp chili oil)

1½ lb beef tendon (boiled until soft), cut in 1 inch pieces

3 cloves of garlic, smashed

2 scallion stalks, 1 inch slices

1 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp rice wine

~steps

heat oil on high with chili pods until almost smoking

add all ingredients and stir fry for a few minutes, until fragrant

remove from heat and add salt to taste

-serves 4-

29
Mar
12

Easy Pork and Garlic Chive Stir Fry

...pork and chive stir fry...

It feels like spring came extremely early this year, which, as you know, means two things for me.  I will relentlessly talk about my love for the farmers market and you will be forced to listen with no escape like a slideshow of my family vacation.  And, I will tear down all the weeds (with itchy eyes and a runny nose) to pretend to make way for a patch of dirt with green sprouts and try to call it a garden.  Yay, spring!

 

Last year, I neglected my duties of weeding and let some of the weeds (which I thought where just plants) turn into small trees.  Yes.  This year, we had giant tree weeds.  I never knew that these things existed, but I have the 6-foot carcass in my backyard as proof.  In order to protect my integrity as a green thumb (*ahem*), I went to Target and bought a giant tree/bush scissor thingy (clearly a green thumb) and hacked away at all the weeds at my house.  It was a brutal image, with sticks, roots, and dirt flying in every direction.  In the end, it was a war zone but it was beautiful.  I was weed free and, as a bonus, there was faint aroma of garlic in the air.  It was amazing.  At first, I wasn’t sure what the smell was.  It was a familiar aroma and I couldn’t put my finger on it.  I finally realized it was the smell of Chinese chives.

 

It immediately brought me back to memories of my childhood.  My mom would cook it for dumplings and stir-fries and it would have an amazing gentle garlic flavor to it.  I started to get nostalgic and looked around for the sprouts of dark green leaves.  Turns out my neighbors had planted some of these chives a while back and they have began to grow into our part of the fence.  I ended up planting them in some pots that I had, and harvesting the leaves.  The best thing about these chives is that they are hearty.  So you can cut off the tops and in a few weeks, you’ll have some more leaves to enjoy.  And they’re easy to care for, so I can continue to pretend to be amazing with the green thumb.

 

For this recipe, I only needed 1/2 a pound of pork.  What my Mom and I do now is just buy a bunch of it, then slice it once we get home and then freeze them in individual sandwich bags.  This way they are proportioned out for when you need it.  Plus, the marinade for the pork was my Mom’s standard marinade that she used for all her sliced meats that she used for stir-fry.  It’s tasty and is a quick marinade.  You can use it with any sliced meat for any stir-fry.  I like the pork and chive combo here.  Use tofu as a substitute if you are a vegetarian or NOT on the primal diet.

 

Enjoy.

 

~stuff

½ lb pork (I used tenderloin), julienne

1 tbs soy sauce

½ tbs cooking rice wine

2 tsp rice flour or cornstarch

1 tsp garlic powder

½ tsp sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 bunches of Chinese garlic chives (about ½ lb), 1 inch slices

vegetable oil (if needed)

~steps

mix first seven items together in a small bowl and set aside for at least 15 minutes

heat a pan or wok on high until screaming hot and stir-fry the pork until cooked through (add oil if necessary)

add garlic chives and stir until cooked, a few minutes

-serves 4-

 

 

 

 

 

26
Sep
11

Fool’s Noodles

Lard, chicharon, and noodles. Yum.

Lard is amazing. I had some hesitation writing this post. An almost border line abusive conversation happened between my artistic freedom self and my down to reality self about whether or not 1) lard/pork fat/bacon/pork belly is a food trend that is over, stale, or needs to die, 2) way too unhealthy to belong on a blog that talks (mostly) about healthy local foods, or 3) too similar to lard rice to post.

In the end, I realized that I made the dish, took the picture, and might as well write the post.

Are you familiar with this dish? It’s a traditional Taiwanese dish you find on the streets of Taiwan. The dish is rooted during a time when the low income and working class were conscious of their access to extravagance, like meat, and the respect towards their food by not wasting any of it. I never ordered it when I was in Taiwan, mainly because I was eating other things that I couldn’t get in the US. I finally tried this dish one lunch with my parents when I was in middle school.

Growing up, my parents made sure that we always had a stocked fridge. Every meal must always have vegetables, fish, meat, and soup. This also meant that we went grocery shopping every week, which became one of the best family memories growing up. The weekly Saturday schedule was always driving 30 minutes to Irvine or 45 minutes to Roland Heights, getting some delicious Chinese or Taiwanese food for lunch, and then grocery shopping. It’s where I learned about Chinese produce, cuts of meats, and more about the food from my community.

One of the places we frequented was a Taiwanese restaurant that had “sha gua” noodles. It’s translated to “fool’s noodles”. Mainly because a fool can make it. Lard, soy sauce, noodles, and scallions in a bowl. Easy. The flavor is something between butter and nutty soy. To be more specific, in as much vague descriptions as I can give, it’s like an earthy, briny, less gamey buttered noodles with bursts of freshness from the scallions. The scallions also add a green crunch which buries itself in the creaminess of the lard mixed with the al dente chew of the noodles. All in all, it’s a great snack or meal after a night of drinking.

Enjoy all it’s goodies.

~stuff

2 servings dried Chinese Noodles

1 tbs lard

1 tsp soy sauce

1/2 cup scallion, minced

chicharon or pork rinds, crumbled (optional)

~steps

cook noodles per packaged directions until al dente and drain

mix in rest of ingredients

season with salt or soy sauce to taste and sprinkle the Chicharron if you like

-serves 2-




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