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ULTRA SOFT STRINGY, STICKY RICE BREAD

  

Is it going to be blue or purple, this wall, or perhaps, a minty green?  Should I tile the bathroom, covering it in organized shines, or leaving it as is, a rustic plaster of diffused grey?  Those clusters, years of emotional settlements that are solidified in actual physical forms, are bothering me, a lot, and I want to dump them all away and start over, as if it could work both ways.  Did I mention these walls here where I stand, damn it, made of fucking concrete, are mockingly strong and defeating and apparently, impossible to drill through by whatever strength and tools I have left.  What’s happened?  I used to be able to drill through lots of things, now apparently, not anymore.  Now I can only paint shit over.  Maybe there’s nothing wrong with that, that it’s just life bitch, but the mirror that came to us from an obliviously happy time of my life from a wholesaler in Jersey City, broad, reflective and inescapable, is now helplessly laying against the ground, catching things ruthlessly from a low and unnatural angel, a woman standing with her head cut off.  The mere wish to just to get it 3 feet up in perspective, to frame things, once again, rightly, seems now both realistically and psychologically, difficult.  I have been dragging my own weight for months, defended no longer by excuses because they, if I had any, are peeling off by now like old paints, revealing the raw surface that has always been behind, staring at me only through a thin mask of pigments that I couldn’t even decide the color of.  Perhaps the problem is not the color.  Perhaps these walls, damn it these fucking walls… have something to say.  And I gotta listen… listen bitch… before moving forward.

Blue or purple, or perhaps, soon hopefully, a minty green?

 

BEFORE YOU GUSH OUT UNGODLY THINGS LIKE “OMG, IT’S GLUTEN-FREE BREAD!”…

SHUSH, IT’S NOT.

  
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HONG KONG’S CURRY FISH BALLS OVER RAMEN

Drifting over moving chaos, under the clouds of settling dusts, weeks… have passed.  It’s been almost a month since my last post, the longest it has ever been.

This posting gap was considerable in blogging years, unplanned nor welcomed, and in many ways in fact, nerve-wrecking.  But I wanted to do the first “official” post properly, to wait, to get all the shit that needs to be done in our apartment, one that we renovated ourselves 6 years ago before moving to Beijing, so I could include a proper introduction of our new life to your all in this post.  Kind of…  Friends, apartment.  Apartment, friends.  Now help yourself at the buffet.

But turned out, as it seems, that there is more work involved behind those House And Garden variety of apartment showoffs that I used to take completely granted for.  After 4 weeks of grinding constructions, big and small, to touch up those little imperfections that, really, bothered nobody but myself… the apartment, is still not there yet.  So I decided not to wait any longer.  This post may not include apartment therapy – maybe in another week – but worry not, it’s still got food.

Now, for the first “official” post marking a new beginning in Hong Kong, I thought it was only fitting that we start with something iconic to this city.

Every city needs a hero.  Best yet, an nourishing one, dependable, non-judgmental, and accessible to all under its shelter, big or small, rich or poor.  One that doesn’t care if you were hustling sober through the high traffics or stumbling drunk on the stone-cold pavement, always and forever, as the city promises, the rescue that is steaming just around the corner.  Dirty water hot dog in New York, jian-bing in Beijing.  Here, this thing called curry fish balls is the food-hero that bonds between Hong Kong’s identity and its people who hold it dearly.

The fish balls, pre-fried, are boiled in a large tank of neon-yellow water which gets replenished as more fish balls are removed from the water, and served with a spoonful of curry sauce and hot sauce to standing customers huddling around the booth.  This boil-and-sauce technique, I suspect, is catering more to a streamlined service with higher turn-overs than say, optimising flavours.  The fish balls, without actually being cooked in the curry, are slightly bland and therefore have to draw all their flavours from the topical sauces instead of being a single, together, perfect entity.  This makes sense for street vendors, of course, especially in this relentlessly expensive city where any means necessary to speed up services are justifiably, if not rudely, executed.  But if we were to recreate this dish at home – and I would argue that it’s in the best interest to honor its complexity – we shall do things a little differently.

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Your Next Perfect Porchetta Sandwich is from Chinatown

I guess I am currently in the middle of what one would call, a blogger limbo.

We have “officially” moved out of Beijing, so to speak.  But in the next 3 weeks when our apartment is under renovation, we are going to be staying in a hotel where the closest thing to a cooking vessel is the bathroom sink with hot tap water (hotel sous vide?).  How do I create something delicious when the mere act of making fruit smoothies posts challenges?  Then I realised, the answer lies just around every corner in this city.

Cantonese-style roast pork.  Something as abundant in Hong Kong as Starbucks are in New York.  This awesome thing, is everywhere.  Even if you didn’t live here, chances are you’ve seen it in your nearest Chinatown, a staple in Cantonese cuisines.

Typically served with rice, which I’ve always had my doubt on.  I mean, it is a great piece of roast pork, with salty yet juicy flesh and gloriously blistered skins.  But on its own, and paired with yellow mustard, in my opinion, it just isn’t the most flattering companion for steamed rice.   It is however, the most perfect yet most under-utilized sandwich candidate, practically an half-way porchetta sandwich.

Here’s what you do.  You chop up a whole box of these porky awesomeness, then you make a “dressing” out of minced scallions, ginger and red chilis, with pungent savouriness from fish sauce and a tang that cuts through the grease from red wine vinegar.  You let this “dressing” seep through the nooks and crannies of an unapologetic pile of the chopped roast pork, into the thirsty holes of a toasted crusty roll that catches it all.  Then you cap everything up with a few slices of provolone cheese, and you draw your finishing touch with a smear of yellow mustard.

Porky, crispy, drippy and zero-cooking involved.  What can I say?  Hotel meal.

YOU LET IT SEEP THROUGH THE NOOKS OF AN UNAPOLOGETIC PILE OF CHOPPED ROAST PORK, INTO THE THIRSTY HOLES OF A TOASTED CRUSTY ROLL.

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THE PUNCH-IT BURGER AND HOUSTON, WE’RE READY TO TAKE OFF

I’ve waited six years… wow, six… to say this son-of-a-bitch line.

I’ve imagined saying it while beating its saggy ass with a whip rubbed with the most homicidal Mexican chilis as it wriggles in pain.  I’ve imagined saying it while twisting its balls with electrically charged clamps as it howls in my upmost amusement.  I’ve imagined saying it while watching, ever so pleasurably, as its ugliest face twisted angrily into an even uglier version of itself if that’s even grammatically possible.

I’ve imagined, for six years… wow, six… to say this line with a fuck-you.

And now, when the time has finally come, I can only feel it exhaling through the gaps of the keyboard, in a long heavy breath of bittersweet…

We’re leaving Beijing.

Can… can I say that again?

We are.  Leaving.  Beijing.

Yes, leave, move away, to Hong Kong if that’s important to mention, but more importantly the point is, out of Beijing.  I mentioned last week that I have “eeeewge news” to break it to you, but truth is, this is more than news.  It is a long-awaited, mental or physical, release.  Why is it such a big deal?  Well, I know, I know that the context of my predicament hasn’t been thoroughly explained on this blog.  Most of you are probably only aware that One:  I/we live in Beijing, and Two:  I don’t like it.  But why am I here and why don’t I like it, well, is a subject I thought was too boringly political or unappetising to be discussed on a, after all, food-blog.  I thought if I were to really explain it, I’d need a book to do the job.  But now that we’re leaving, I feel like I owe it to its final ending to, at least in a brief effort, paint the short story.

The first part of the question of why we’re here, is much simpler.  We left New York in 2008, Jason, our dog-children Dumpling, Bado and I, for what was thought to be a very logical career opportunity of his.  Our beloved island New York was, at the time, tilting like a breaking iceberg, and so we jumped into a less vogue but sturdier looking boat – China.  We actually lived in Hong Kong for 1 1/2 year  (so technically we’re moving back to HK) before moving to Beijing in 2010.  Then it was without any foresights to say the least, that what came after, the next following six years, was the unhappiest, destructive even, but also self-realising and perhaps fruitful period of my life.

Why do I hate it here?  Why is this “an angry food blog”?  This to me, is a funny question, as if asking why wouldn’t I like a burger soaked in whiskey then force-fed to me in a rubber tube?  I mean, where do I begin and how much time do you have?  There’s nothing wrong with burgers, nor is there with whiskey, but they just don’t mash well together, like me and this place.  Maybe if I was a politically indifferent outcast who enjoys pale skins more than sunlights, and the scent of burning coals in the atmosphere because it marvellously reminds me of BBQ briskets… Maybe if I was a juvenile man-child who sees uncivility as a safe haven to misbehave like an utter douchebag…  Maybe if I simply like being somebody here because I was a nobody back home, or better yet, just plain too self-secured to be emotionally affected by any shenanigans…  Then I believe, I would have a shot of being happy here.  But I’m, unfortunately, not.  I don’t mean it sarcastically.  I’m not “gifted” in that way, to see the vanilla ice cream behind the annoying chocolate chips and be able to happily eat around the obstacles.  They bother me.  Internet censorship bothers me.  Authoritarian politic bothers me.  Pollution bothers me.  Blind nationalism bothers me.  Douchebags bother me, and worse yet, blindly nationalistic douchebags who are happy being douchebags, reeeaaally bother me.  Hey look, I’m sure this city is more complicated and deeper than that, so I guess, I’m just too simple for this city.  I have no problem being too simple for bullshits.  But aside from political factors, and maybe (just maybe) for no faults of its own, Beijing is also where we lost Bado and Dumpling.  Two of the most spirit-breaking episodes of our lives happened here, skin-deep, back to back.  It used to be just an angry place – the good old times – but now it’s a sad place.  And though it might not be fair, but the feeling that we came here in whole and now left in pieces, is a negative association I don’t need.

IN TWO WEEKS TIME, WE WILL BE GONE.

NO, NOT FROM YOU OR THIS BLOG, BUT FROM THE PLACE THAT BROUGHT US TOGETHER, WHERE IT ALL STARTED

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SPICY SALMON BIBIMBAP/KOREAN RICE BOWL

 

Hey guys.  I know I’ve been a bit absent lately.  So many changes and curve balls have been flying around in all directions I feel like I’m all twisted up like a hot pretzel!  I can’ wait to share all these updates with you (EEEWGE news, guys!  And, uh no, I’m not pregnant… nor is it a book thing, not yet), but for now, please let me quickly share this bibimbap recipe (or more accurately, hoedeopbap as a reader pointed out) with you.  This is one of my absolute favourite things to eat lately.  It’s deceivingly easy to make, unbelievably delicious, not to mention, coincidentally healthy because it’s borderline a veggie-bowl.  I think you’d be very surprised by how good it is, like I was, considering how little “cooking” was involved.  I make a big batch of the toppings and keep them in the fridge, which would more than adequately sustain the following couple days of crazy balling (which, again, I will soon update you on ;).  So… yup, eat up.  Eeewge, guys… eeewge.

 
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ZERO-FOLDING PASTEL DE NATA, A HYBRID

Ever since I came back from Lisbon, the question haunts me.

What is a perfect pastel de nata?

Well for me, now more than ever, that depends on who you’re asking.

If you were from the Asian parts of the world as I am, growing up, this wildly popular pastry since the 90’s actually came from, and have always been, more as a Macao thing.  Sure it’s known as the Portuguese-style egg tarts from Macao, the former Portugal colony famed for its many Portugal-influenced hybrid foods, but notice that it is NOT called pastel de nada, not even Portuguese egg tart, but ambiguously, “Portugese-STYLE” egg tart.  Style?  The name itself oozes deniability, suggesting that on one level or another, these tarts can’t be expected as a 100% identical replica of the originals, but a mere adaptation of some sort.  Therefore with time, as the popularity of these tarts swept through every bakeries in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and even KFC (yes, they sell these at KFC here…), the Portuguese association sort of fell irrelevant, and the gold standard on what is a great pastel de nata, in Asia at least, is set on however it is made in Macao.  And really, most people don’t have a clue on what the real thing is like.

But I’ve always wondered about this.  I mean is “Portuguese-style egg tart” even a thing in Portugal?  Do people even actually eat this stuff there or is it another freaky fortune cookie-phenomenon?  And if they do, the question isn’t if it was the same from Macao, because I know there was no chance in hell that they’re the same.  But the question is, how different?

So a couple months ago when I finally visited Lisbon for the first time, I was on a quest for truth.  I didn’t know what to expect, but almost as immediately as we landed at the airport, truth no 1 revealed itself.  Pastel de nada is definitely a thing in Portugal.  I mean, they were everywhere, as common as bagels in NY or surfers in L.A.  Well great, fantastic, because it allowed me to conduct an in-depth and thoroughly tasted investigation on truth no 2, which is, how different are the real things from Macao’s?  Well, this was where the troubles began.  They are, as expected, quite different on many textural levels, and now…

I’m completely torn.

I ASSURE YOU THAT THIS CONCLUSION, WHETHER YOU AGREE WITH IT OR NOT, CAME AFTER MUCH TORMENTS, SELF-REFLECTIONS AND EVEN SOME SOUL-SEARCHING ON WHO I AM AS A SENTIENT PASTRY EATER… (BUT THE ANSWER TO) WHAT IS ULTIMATELY A PERFECT PASTEL DE NATA?

WELL, A HYBRID

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CHARRED CAULIFLOWER W/ GARLICS, TABASCO VINEGAR

During the CNY holidays, Chinese people go home.

And I mean, everybody, goes home.

Good people, bad people, people including the government who, day in and day out, guard its Chinese great firewall that Censors all freedom of communication to the outside world.  Yeah, those fuckers.  They go home, too.  Hey, even bad people need vacation.  Now, logic may have you think that it’s a good thing.  Censors gone, Facebook in.  Right?  Fuck no.  To understand it further, just imagine this:  The relationship between the Chinese government and its internet as sort of like… a psychopathically suspicious husband (the government) and his virgin wife (internet).  A wife who, on a typical day, is neatly brainwashed and filled with husband-worshipping propagandist fantasies.  The husband loves his stupid wife and likes to do kinky stuff to her behind closed doors, but at the same time, he also knows that she is unstably horny at any given hours, and wants to screw the free-thinking hot neighbours at every chances she gets.  So what happens when a jealous husband needs to leave home for awhile?  Letting his pure propagandist internet get raped by the terrors of free wills and information?  Of course not.

So what does he do?  Two words, chastity belt.

THE SINGLE LIGHT AND JOY IN MY DAILY SUFFERING FROM THE PAST 10 DAYS OF CYBER SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

For the past 10 days, all means to access blocked websites (guess what? that includes wordpress, too!) on my computer was completely taken down by the government.  And today, for the first time in an internet-eternity, I am finally getting a flickering signal and am able to log on to my blog.  I don’t know how long this “window” is going to be, so let me talk fast.

I want to share with you, a recipe from one of the most beautiful cookbooks out there, the single joy and light of my daily suffering for the past however-many days of cyber solitary confinement. The charred cauliflower with garlic and vinegar, from Gjenlina.

This dish is said to be one of the most highly requested dish from this celebrated restaurant in California. I have no doubt that in many customers’ hearts, the recipe is a shot of perfection as it is, but I still made quite a few changes. Not to “better” it, but to personalise it in a way that mirrors closer to my own style. Instead of using pre-made garlic confits, I quick-brined some garlics in fish sauce which softened and flavoured the cloves, then I fried them in olive oil until golden browned, sweet and tender. I then use the garlic-frying oil and reserved fish sauce to roast the cauliflower. Gjelina’s recipe instructed to brown the florets in skillet first then finish cooking in the oven, but I don’t have a skillet large enough to brown the florets properly, so instead, I just charred them 2″ below the broiler and it did the job pretty well. Then finally, instead of red wine vinegar, I used a mixture of tabasco sauce and white wine vinegar to get that sharp chili flavour and extra kicks. It was a healthy feast of robust and lively flavours, spicy and salty, acidic and sweet all at one crunchy and caramelised bite.

There’s not that many vegetable dishes that make me say unholy things like “I didn’t miss the meat at all“, but I think this recipe pulled the unthinkable.

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*Believe it or not, after I found out that the recipe was missing, it took me 20+ tries to get it back online….. fuck.

CHARRED CAULIFLOWER W/ GARLICS, TABASCO VINEGAR

Serving Size: 2

Inspired/adapted generously from GJELINA cookbook

Ingredients

  • 5 cloves garlics
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4~6 small dried chili
  • 1/3 cup (68 grams) olive oil
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp tabasco sauce
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • sea salt and chili flakes to season

Instructions

  1. Lightly smash the garlics to peel the skin, then brine in fish sauce for 20 min. Meanwhile, clean and cut the cauliflowers into small florets, trimming the tough fibres/skins off of the stems, then scatter evenly on a sheet-pan. Preheat the broil on high.
  2. Remove the garlics from the fish sauce (reserve the fish sauce), then transfer into a small pot with dried chili and olive oil. Cook over low heat for 7~9 min, until the garlics are golden browned and soft. Remove the garlics and chili, set aside. Pour the garlic-oil over the caulifowers, along with reserved fish sauce, black pepper and white pepper, then toss to evenly coat every florets. Place the baking-sheet about 2" under the broiler, and char until the first sides are deeply caramelised. Turn the cauliflowers over, then broil until the other sides are charred as well, and that the cauliflowers are soft. Re-season with sea salt if needed.
  3. Transfer the cauliflowers, along with all the oil and juices into a large skillet. Add the reserved fried garlic, chili, white wine vinegar, tabasco sauce and chopped parsley. Cook over meidum-high heat, tossing to combine, until everything is heated through. Sprinkle with chili flakes and serve.
http://ladyandpups.com/2016/02/17/charred-cauliflower-w-garlics-tabasco-vinegar/

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Longevity noodle w/ black sesame and crispy shallots

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It is the first day of the Chinese New Year holiday, and I’m quickly leaving you with my version of a festive and symbolic dish that are served in many Chinese holidays or events.   Taiwanese call it “noodle threads (面线)”, or as it is called “wire noodles (索面)” in southern China.  It’s extremely long and elastic which makes them resistant to breaking and thus symbolizes longevity and eternity.  And in a deeply superstitious Taiwanese culture, this purpose alone is sufficient to get it invited to every events where they’d like to see good omen literally printed on the menus.

But I don’t eat it like any of that non-sense.  I love this noodle simply because it’s freaking good.

It has a super fine, silky and soft but slightly chewy texture with a subtle saltiness.  And it is just the ultimate February-comfort food, especially soaked in dense chicken stock infused with a deeply nutty, gingery and garlicky black sesame paste, and the pungent aroma from crispy fried shallots.  Its smooth and yarn-like body slides effortlessly into the tummy, with a sip of darkened and aromatic broth that lingers in the mouth.  Every time I make this, I wonder why I don’t make it more often.

So friends, Happy CNY.  Live long and prosper.

 

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Servings: 4

You should be able to find this type of noodles in most Asian supermarkets, or such as this one from online sources.  Or you can substitute with the shorter, Japanese version called somen (hair noodle).

 Ingredients:

Evenly mix toasted sesame oil, black sesame paste, grated ginger, grated garlic and salt together, then set aside.  If you’re frying your own shallots, drain them well after frying and season with a good pinch of salt.  If you are using store-bought, sautée it slightly over medium low heat to bring it back to life, and season with a bit of salt.  Crush the crispy shallots until resembling coarse breadcrumbs.

Bring your chicken broth to a boil, then season well with salt.  Ladle the broth into serving bowls then add a dash of sake, and swirl in 1 scant tbsp of the black sesame-mixture for each bowl.  Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook the noodles just until done (it should only take a couple min).  Drain well, then transfer into the soup.  Top generously with crispy fried shallots and dust with white pepper.  Serve immediately.

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