Seafood

SHRIMP AND RASPBERRY SALAD

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Beautiful crochet side plate is from Dishes Only.

THE OVERALL FLAVOURS ARE NON-AGRESSIVE, WITH THE TANGY AND SWEET INTENTION TO KEEP CALM, AND CARRY ON

Sorry, not particularly in a mood to talk today.  That can happen I’ve been powering through a day of anxiety attack, set off by my son Dumpling who so randomly decided that I too, should have a heart attack.  (If you needed recap, I have a very sick dog, whose apathetic small heart for the better part of his 15-years of unsocial life, sort of like the Grinch, have grown unstoppably large in the past 2 years.  Except that in the medical world, instead of Christmas, this would be called a congestive heart failure).

So here, I leave you with a summer shrimp salad starring my most recent obsession, the puny little sweet succulence that is Norwegian cold water shrimps (yes, like IKEA’s).  These shrimps have a almost candy-like sweetness which balances wonderfully with just a dab of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, and the bursts of tartness of frozen raspberries (keep the whole thing cold, you see).  The overall flavours are non-agressive, with the tangy and sweet intention to keep calm, and carry on, especially on a slice of well-buttered rustic bread and a lightly sea salted soft-boiled egg.  I think, I hope, that if I just eat enough of these, I may be able skip my next dosage of prozac.  Here, you try it.

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FILET-O-FISH’N CHIPWICH

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SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE OF LOSING CHILDHOOD INNOCENCE AND MATURING FOOD-PHOBIAS, I’VE GROWN ESTRANGED TO THIS WONDERFUL THING THAT PRACTICALLY RAISED ME

I’ve been wanting to do a fried fish sandwich for some time now.  In fact, it’s strange even to myself that it has taken me so long, considering that battered fried fish, from both the perspective of nostalgia and deliciousness, holds a very special place in my heart.

Myself, circa 1992, fresh off the boat in Vancouver and practically English-illiterate, this was one of the very first introduction I had into the then-completely-alien world of western food culture.  Once in a while, friends and families would make a special night out of dinning at the New England-style seafood restaurants lining the river-port, for this was a scarce enjoyment where we came from, and for me, watching the seagulls pirating scraps off of the table, it served a foreign exhilaration of this new place to call home.  Back then, with the inability to understand the menu, a dinner in a place like this would almost certainly meant having the same entree over and over again, and that was, yes, fish and chips.  A funny dish that, I was told, the child I was should really appreciate.  To be honest, I can’t really recall what the dish tasted like.  Eating, for who I was at the age 12, was not a priority in the purposes of life.  But the premise of those memories, the silhouette of those evenings, I will forever hold dear.  Then, perhaps taking the theory of all-kids-love-fried-fish a bit too far, for quite a while, my breakfasts were often times, if not persistently, fried fish-sticks that my mom homemade from the supermarket freezer-section, served with ketchup.  Now that, that I remember the taste of, and it tasted… delicious.  Diss it all you want, but it was like a bun-less and sauce-less filet-o-fish burger from McDonald’s which, to me, was and still is considered a very fine thing amongst others.  Hands down, for the first two decades of my life, it was (only marginally) the second-best thing from 6-pcs-of-nuggets.  If the completely illogical fear after adulthood doesn’t exist – that somehow it feels much safer to consume meats than seafoods from this fine American institution – nowadays I would’ve ordered the filet-o-fish over the cheese burger, at least twice as often.

So I guess, in short, what I’m trying to say is, that I’ve had my fair share of battered fried fish in my days growing up, and I loved it.  But somewhere along the line of losing childhood innocence and maturing food-phobias, I’ve grown estranged to this wonderful thing that practically raised me.  And so I guess, more simply put, I want it back.

To do so, I set out to create an ultimate sum of this significant chapter of my childhood dinning experiences, but, greater than its parts.  A sandwich that combines the classic elements of English beer-battered fish, sweet and tangy tartar sauce and herby butter-mashed peas, with the lunacy of sliced American cheese, and since I was already at the edge of a cliff, why not taking off with another layer of salt’n-vinegar potato chips in between to bring an extra element of crunch?  An idea so wrong, that I was about to write-off with self-doubt right before a dear Instagramer from a little town known as, the Great Britain, left a comment.  People here like putting “crisps” in their fish finger “sarnies”!, she said.  Aside from the unexplained urge to forever call “sandwiches” as “sarnies” from now on, that also brought the much needed endorsement for my madness.  It is done.  After all, with what is both the home of fish’n chips, and the founding father of the establishment of sandwiches, who the hell am I to argue?

And thus, we arrive at this conclusion, one that even my 12-year-old-self would’ve assumed, well that can’t taste bad.  And my friends, I was right to assume.

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THREE CHEESE OYSTER GRATIN

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MY MOJO (COULD HAVE) SANK INTO A MENTAL ABYSS SO DEEP, IT WOULD TAKE A KRISPY KREME-SUBMARINE TO RETRIEVE

  

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Hello.  Sorry.  I think it’s been awhile.  I don’t know if there was a guideline on the Successful Food Blogging Manual specifically on post-frequencies, but I’m sure an entire week of blankness and neglect would on the other hand, dominate the entire Troubleshoots Section (As well as questions like this: What to do when you accidentally publish an unfinished post?)(Answer: Call 911.)(And: What is a writer’s block?)(Answer: Eat a donut.).  Well, the truth is… that I wish there was a more socially excusable answer for my absence, you know, dog theft, broken hips, dead grandparents… house fire?  Because really, anything is better than what I’m about to confess, which is the silent gasps among food-bloggers, the leading Do-Not’s under the manual’s flashing red, Skull-headed Section that you should probably read before Getting Started (Side by side with: Bad-mouthing Jesus.)(And also: Cursing out children).  But the truth is that, in the past week, as honestly as I can put it… I simply got tired of foods.

Yes, if you were a food-blogger, along with the acute urge to weep after a deflated cake (Answer: Ingest alcohol and blog about that instead) and recipe-deficit (Answer: Put down the donut and make that a sandwich), this complication too can happen.  But different from how I’d imagine it, which should’ve been a natural and peaceful death following a long and beautiful journey, this temporary episode came prematurely due to a self-inflicted and unforeseeable cause.  In short, I simply got tired of foods because there had been simply, too much fooding.  Can there be such a thing?  Yes.  As briefly mentioned before, I partook in an annual Beijing’s restaurants review for a city magazine, thinking it was going to be the best blogging-perk ever, but after cramming almost twenty restaurants into the past mere four weeks (that’s 3~5 restaurants per week!), things started to get a little… overcooked.  Like a bridezilla on her third wedding, I had managed to turn the single, most appreciated aspect of my otherwise ungrateful life, into just another demeaning chore.  To say the least, it backfired.

Even though this miscalculated experiment, for my wellness sake, timely ended last Thursday, it has left me in a prolonged state of mental paralysis where I just wanted to suck my thumbs in peace and not having to come up with another word to describe a meal other than cursing it out.  I wanted to just exist… on soda crackers for a month.  Or so at least, fortunately, it only felt that way.  To my surprise as well, thanks to a book here and there, it only took a few days for the cravings to cook again to slowly creep back in, and literally, exploded over this weekend.  In hindsight, if the two dishes I made over the weekend had flopped, my mojo would’ve sank into a mental abyss so deep it would take a krispy krem-submarine to retrieve.  But no, they didn’t flop.  In fact, they were both smashing success, and one of them being what I’m about to tell you – the three cheese oyster gratin.

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This recipe was inspired by what we didn’t have at Vin Vi, one of the better restaurants/izakaya we’ve dined at during this entire process, which was on their menu but unavailable the day we visited.  I’ve always loved izakaya-style cheesy grilled oysters/kaki mayo, where shucked in-shell oysters are topped with a mixture of Kewpie-mayonnaise and cheese, then go under high heat to be melted into the gloriously broken, greasy, and unapologetic beauties that they are.  Its absence from that meal (perhaps thankfully to that) had left a vacuum in my oyster-deprived heart that, even after the most vicious eating-fatigue, must be filled.  But if there was one thing I didn’t like about kaki mayo, it’d be the pool of oil they often sit on, being the aftermath of post-high heat mayonnaise that had inevitably separated.

So I substituted the mayonnaise with a thick béchamel sauce infused with dry white wine and loaded it with shredded white cheddar, gruyere, and a daring pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.  Then after blanketing the shucked oysters from all directions with this stringy goo, it was then covered again with freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, more freshly grated nutmegs (the key, people, the key), and a few/or many little nubs of unsalted butter.  Baked under the top-broiler for 13~15 minutes, the sweet oysters had released their juices to be blended as part of the cheesy pool of joy, slightly shrivelled and firmed up but still supple to the bite, smoldering under a crust of golden and bubbly surface.  I’d warn you that it was hot, but again it might had been too late.  After all, even I, who have been subjected to an entire month of human-foie gras feeding regimen and was already at the stage of over-ripened-for-harvest, couldn’t resist to (huff~ huff~ huff~) tuck one into my mouth right out of the oven and part the burning white sea with a torn piece of crusty sourdough.

And guess what, it was worth the burn, worth the paralyzing month of restaurant-hammering that ultimately led to it, worth every dragging agony to crawl back to the kitchen to make it, and now the what’s-one-more bulge of fat sticking out from places I don’t even know exist on my body.  Hey, my friends, if you ever feel tired of foods, going in or churning out.  Take a couple days off, eat some soda crackers.  Then come back, and make this.  And I promise you, all shall be good again.

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THREE CHEESE OYSTER GRATIN

Ingredients

  • 8~10 large shucked oysters
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) shredded white cheddar
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) shredded gruyere
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/3 tsp sea salt, plus more to adjust
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus more to top
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese to top

Instructions

  1. Rinse and clean the oysters to get rid of any impurities, gently dab dry, then set aside. In a pot over medium heat, melt the unsalted butter then cook the flour for 1 min. Whisk in the whole milk and dry white wine, and continue whisking until the mixture comes to a simmer and has fully thickened, then keep cooking for 5~6 min until reduced slightly and the alcohol has evaporated. Turn off the heat, then add the shredded white cheddar, shredded gruyere, grated garlic, sea salt, ground black pepper, ground white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg, and stir with a fork until the cheese has fully melted (taste and re-season with sea salt if needed).
  2. Preheat the top broiler on high. In a shallow oven-proof skillet, spread 1/2 of the cheese sauce on the bottom, then arrange the oysters evenly and cover with the rest of the cheese sauce. Grate enough Parmigiano cheese to entirely cover the surface, then scatter a few extra nubs of unsalted butter here and there. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 13~15 min, until it's bubbly and golden browned. Grate another generous pinch of fresh nutmeg over the top (do not be shy with the nutmeg!), then serve immediately with crusty sourdough.
http://ladyandpups.com/2015/04/13/three-cheese-oyster-gratin/
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MY BIG, FAT, SPICY KOREAN CLAM CHOWDER

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IF YOU’RE HOPING FOR A SLIMMED DOWN, DECENT AND POLITE CLAM CHOWDER TODAY, YOU ARE NOT GONNA FIND IT

We all have a food that we genuinely love so much, and at every long-awaited occasions when we put a bite in our mouth, we wonder to ourselves, why don’t we make that more often?   Yes, well, that to me is grilled peanut butter sandwich.  This… this, my friends, is not that.  This is clam chowder, and it’s something else entirely.

I know exactly why I don’t make clam chowders more often.  I know exactly the moment in time, the passage being said, the scarred memory in my head which still hurts, that all together forged a mental blockade in between me, myself, and my beloved clam chowders, for all these years.  It was a particular spring day in New York, when I was just about to order my favourite “soup” from a popular bakery with a friend of mine:

“Do you wanna know why their clam chowder is so good?”
“No?”
“The other day, I saw them making it where they dunked an enormous brick of butter into the pot at the very end.”
“How enormous…?”
“Like big.  Big.  Like drinking butter.”

Head down, belly tucked, I walked away from that bakery without my clam chowder that day.  In fact, if you can believe it, I sort of didn’t get my clam chowder for many years that followed…  Like I said, it still hurts.  But before you judge me, please keep in mind that this was in my 20’s when bikini-season was still very much a possibility, when dating was still a verb, not a noun.  And most importantly, this was before I started this blog…

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CURRIED LENTIL AND SHRIMP POPCORNS

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PANCETTA TARTARE.

WHAT-EH-WHADAT?

OK, here’s the thing.  Mountains, and I mean mountains, of unattended laundries accumulated in the past 3 weeks that has led to a moment last night when I had to remind myself that, plastic bags aren’t clean underwear (put it down, Mandy, put it down…).  I mean come on, we’ve all been there, so surely you can understand if I say, grab yourself a handful of these shrimp popcorns and give me a helping hand.

But of course, these aren’t just any shrimp popcorns.  These are bouncy, minced black tiger shrimps mixed with soften lentils, grated gingers, anchovies, then just the right amount of curry spices and most importantly, let’s not forget, pancetta tartare.  What-eh-whadat?  Yes, finely, and I mean finely cubed fatty pancetta, are generously dispersed within every folds and turns, releasing pleasure-grease into each and every one of these little bad babies as they get thinly coated and fried to crispy weekend-delights.  But it doesn’t end there.  I mean if I expect these to be worthy of helping laundries, of course it doesn’t end there.  They are then tumbled and blanketed under a magic dust of salt and spices that may make you sneeze and tear from joy.

So here, don’t mind your greasy fingers.  After this load of bed-sheets, there are about 5 more.

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COLD AND WARM SALMON SCRAMBLED EGG ROLLS

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HERE’S A GUEST POST OF MINE THAT APPEARED ON A CUP OF JO, AS ONE OF THEIR BREAKFAST SERIES.  JUST IN CASE YOU’VE MISSED IT…

When I was little, and by little I mean before my family moved to Vancouver when I was 12, before the unveil of a whole new alien-world of eating orders, I had always believed that a hot dog-bun… was solely designed for holding scrambled eggs.  Because that was how it was always given.  And that was the way it was always perfect.  Even after many years, after such belief had endured the discoveries of freezer-sections hot dogs, sidewalk hot dogs, gourmet sidewalk hot dogs to fancy restaurant hog dogs, it had not faltered.  In fact, my stubborn childhood “fetish” had only been reenforced through diversity and comparisons.  Before college, I stood even more firmly on my ground, that the perfect thing to go between a toasty bun, was the one and only – creamy scrambled eggs.  It wasn’t a childhood-thing to me anymore.  It was the truth.

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MACAO’S PORTUGUESE FRIED RICE GRATIN

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CAN’T-STOP-WON’T-STOP MESS-ON-A-PLATE,

WITH FLAVOURS THAT WELD PERFECTLY INTO YOUR NEXT WEEK-NIGHT REGULARS

 

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There are some women, whose problem is that they never believe they have what it takes to put together an IKEA coffee table.  Then, there are those such as myself.  Who hold unexplained and relentless faith in their own physical strength.  Who ask, how hard can it be?  Who practically built every single bed-bath-and-beyond in her apartment, with chapped unpolished nails and a can of diet coke.  And who, sometimes, get cocky.

If you ask me now, I would tell you I have absolutely no idea whatsoever, on why on earth did I think I had the same skills as a professional large-scale furniture builder/wood carpenter, which must be how I felt when I bought 3 colossally humongous, solid wood, antique courtyard doors that I thought I could turn into a dinning table with nothing but a mini screwdriver?  Why… why did this feel a bit different from those IKEA bookshelves with their friendly pre-drilled holes?  Why?  I kept asking myself the same question when I dragged this bone-crushingly heavy thing into the shower, scrubbing and rinsing off its ancient dirt that ran into the drain as black as the humour I found in all of this self-inflicted pain.  Today, I can’t feel my neck.

This is the kind of day when I’m really grateful for awesome leftovers.  I can only thank my foretelling self when I crawl to the fridge, dragging behind me a trail of defeat, and find a pure Macanese creation called “Portuguese sauce rice gratin”, a cheesy and bubbly seafood fried rice flooded with a light coconut milk curry and gruyere sauce then finished under the broiler, which I suspect, probably has nothing to do with Portugal.  I came up with its recipe the other day, because I’ve long been curious of it.  With its name being as confusing as its concept, this is one of those dishes that sounds weird but ultimately, defies all logics.  It’s one of the classics on every menu of “tea restaurant” in Hong Kong, among with its peers that all came into existence under the great mashing of different cultures during colonial times.   Without trying it before, you’d probably question… really?  But yes.  YES!  The rice gratin stirs into kind of a cheesy, coconut-y, mildly curried risotto almost, and pleases all way from the taste buds down to a warmed tummy, and repeats.  It is easily one of the most surprisingly delicious, can’t-stop-won’t-stop mess-on-a-plate I’ve cooked, with unlikely flavours that weld perfectly together into your next week-night regulars.

So I feed, heartily, staring into the wooden beasts with restored combativity.  I will break you, I say, and sit a piping hot pan of Portuguese rice gratin on your face while I sip lemonade.  You just watch…

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LAST SHIT – THE 3 FOUNDING DONBURI, THE ART OF EATING CANNED MEATS

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(THEY CAN) TRANSFORM INTO SURPRISING DELICIOUSNESS OF ELEGANCE AND COMPLEXITY

THIS is the last post (for awhile at least) of the new week-long segment, The Shits I Eat When I’m By Myself.  Jason is coming home tomorrow, and if you were any decent, none of us is ever going to speak of what happened here in the last few days…  But even though we’re near the end of an epic run, I have meticulously kept the best, and I hope you agree, for the last.

I’m going to share with you what I eat, sunny or rainy, broke or stashed, then-young and now-old, then-slim and now-lumpy… by myself or not, doesn’t matter.  This.  This is what I actually eat, love to eat, and I mean, like all the time.  This is what raised me, put me through college, and every other weekday-nights along with the lovely grin of Jon Stewart.  This, completes me.  I never had a name for this before, but for the sake of easy reference, I will now call it – The 3 Founding Donburi, The Art of Eating Canned Meats.

Donburi, is Japanese “rice bowl”, with various toppings that ranges widely.  The integrity of well-cooked short-grain rice is, of course, important, which is a subject I won’t even touch today for it’s so not the focus here (fine, two words, rice cooker!).  The focus here is the topping, and the topping, my friend, is a promiscuous playground for something that we all, at any given moment, got 1 or 2 stashed in a dark corner within the pantry.

Canned meats.

Good sardines in olive oil from Europe, bad sardines in olive oil from Europe, not-bad sardines in tomato sauce from Southeast Asia, corned beef, tuna, salmon… SPAM!  Misunderstood and badly represented, where people see them as shunned practices of desperation, I see them as cherished and indulging delicacies.  Good quality canned sardines (or even just the OK ones), with just a light touch of acidity, grated ginger and scallions piled over warm rice, can transform into surprising deliciousness of elegance and complexity.  How can I douse sichuan chili oil over diced SPAM, with a few drops of black vinegar and calling it a thing?!  Well, that is too, what doubters said at the historical moment when somebody thought why not smearing a bit of mustard over hotdogs…  Then browned corned beef, mixed with chopped kimchi and gochujang, toasted sesame oil and grated garlic… will have you breathing stinky and happy.

Each of the donburi will take… 2 min to put together at the most (not including the cooking-time of the rice).  Less than the time it takes to boil a pot of water.  And they will have you asking yourself, where have they been all your life?

Well… they’ve been right here.

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