Soup

PAPPA AL KIMCHI POMODORO, KIMCHI TOMATO BREAD SOUP

A HYBRID BETWEEN THE CLASSIC TUSCANY BREAD SOUP AND KIMCHI JJIGAE, SERVED HOT OR COLD

If you follow my Instagram, you’d know that I have a barking barfing fur-child to attend to (yes, still).  So I’m quickly leaving you this recipe, which is a fantastic way to use up any day-old breads, or any over-proofed-thus-deflated breads in my case, which happens a lot these days.  It’s a hybrid between pappa al pomodoro, the classic Tuscany bread soup, and kimchi jjigae, the national anthemic stew from Korea.  You can serve it hot with the AC blasting, or chilled and cold at the next rooftop party ya’ll kids are so good at throwing nowadays.  Relaxed, soothing and comforting, unlike my life as we speak.  So go now.  Have some fun for me.

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ALMOND SOULONGTANG /KOREAN OXTAIL SOUP

ASIAN SOUTHERN ALMOND MILK,

WITH THAT DISTINCTIVELY FLORAL AROMA AND REMEDIAL RICHNESS THAT WORKS SO FLAWLESSLY WITH THIS TRADITIONAL SOUP, ELEVATING IT TO NEW HEIGHT

I’ve always pondered about almond, well, not specifically about what this word would mean to most of you, which is probably something like American sweet almond, with narrow leaf-drop shape and minimum coolosity inside what is already not-so-exciting trail mixes.

But I’m talking about what is also called “almond” in Asia.  Same name, but entirely different characteristics.  Asian almond is much smaller with flat heart-shaped profile, but most importantly, an immediate, elegant and floral scent separates itself from the American variety.  You could identify that scent/flavour if you are familiar with almond extracts or some marzipans, unique, subjective, and hard to describe.  Why both “almond” and yet so different?  Well, because they aren’t the same thing to begin with.

American almond is the kernel of a fruit in the drupe family (Prunus dulcis) (see comments for extra information), whereas Asian almond is actually the kernel of apricot.  And it’s extremely important to note that in Asia, even the word “almond” comes in two different, and mostly, dangerous distinctions.  Southern almond (Prunus armeniaca L.), sweet, floral and nourishing, is the common ingredient we consume in both dessert or savory dishes.  Whereas another variety called northern almond/bitter almond (Prunus armeniaca Linne var. ansu Maximowicz), smaller with an even stronger, bitter “almond-y” scent, is actually poisonous if ingested in large-enough quantity, and is only used in small amount for medicinal purposes.  The reason why almond extracts taste/smell like Asian almond and not American almond, is because the extracts are mostly made from bitter almonds (but relax, the extracts are treated in order to neutralize the poisonous elements).

So, a bit of some boring, nerdy botany talk.  But how does it all apply?

Deliciousness is what.

Have you heard of soulongtang?  The Korean ox bone soup that is milky white as a result of hours and hours of rolling boil, reaching a state of emulsion between liquid and gelatin, protein and other minerals – very much the same as tonkotsu ramen broth.  Well, that process is interesting to replicate, if you are one such individual with admirable persistence and disposable free time.  But in this rare reality where convenience and optimal result can actually coexist, we can achieve this rich and deeply nourishing soup in a fragment of the time it takes, by adding almond milk.  But not just any other boring, fake-ass, vanilla-falvoured almond milk sold in cartons please.  I’m talking homemade Asian southern almond milk, with that distinctively floral aroma and remedial richness and depth that, exceeding my own expectation, works so flawlessly with this traditional soup, elevating it to new height.

There’s nothing else I want more than the warmth and comfort of this dish, in this dark and uncertain time that is January 2017.  Hope you agree.

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THAI SPICY TOM-YUM-GOONG TOMATO GAZPACHO

I FELT LIKE MY MOUTH HAS TAKEN A BEACH VACATION DOWN IN  THE SOUTHEAST, THAT I COULD HEAR THE SOUND OF TURQUOISE WATER MASSAGING MY TASTE-BUDS

Something is happening here, and if you had any loved ones residing in Beijing, you may have felt this.  Perhaps from the shaken jitters that come through their voices, perhaps even traceable within their text messages… the emotions, raw and rampant, running uncontainably even from the choices of their emojis on Instagram.  Because over here, since about 3 days ago, something big is happening.  The most freakishunfathomable… borderline-scary natural phenomenon is rioting through the very air we breath, and the very reality we see, and frankly, it’s freaking everybody out here.  Emerging from the darkness, the elderly are moving cautiously and slowly out of the shadows of their dwellings, looking up, teary in disbelief.  The children, curious and enthusiastic, holding their hands out into the rare glistens and ask, Mommy, what is this?

What it is, is that for the past 3 consecutive days, the historically soupy and oppressively smoggy sky of Beijing, has been, impossibly blue.

I’m not talking about the-government-patting-themselves-on-the-back or the this-should-be-harmless-enough-to-leave-my-house-without-my-gas-mask kind of greyish relative blue.  I’m talking about… the Swissland-kind of blue, the 3D clouds-kind of blue, the mystical, unicorn-kind of blue that the Chinese has only seen or heard in movies or from the tales of strange, faraway travellers.  And maybe, it’s no big deal to you, but in Beijing, it’s nothing short of a miracle, like Moses parting the Red Sea and finding a 20 dollar-bill on the sea-floor while crossing.  Which is, literally, impossible.  As pathetic and outrageously sad this may sound, in a day like this, we almost owe it to ourselves to go outside and do something as mundanely rare as… having a fucking picnic.

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PEANUT BUTTER STICKY RICE BALLS IN GREEN TEA

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THEY COMPLETE ME

Sorry but I have to run off quickly today, and leave you with this traditional and wildly beloved Chinese dessert.  These little pretty purses called tang-yuan, meaning “soup-circles”, are very popular, if not mandatory, at all major celebratory event and holidays because of their literal implication for roundedness and completeness. The elegance of its name may be lost in translation but I assure you that the reasons for their popularity are not, if you would just invest 1 hour of your life to find out.

The recipe for sticky rice ball-dough is an update from an older recipe, which I thought had a couple unnecessary steps and confusions.  Then instead of making a peanut-filling from scratch, which would probably never be as smooth with my incompetent food-processor, I decided to use a mix of store-bought smooth peanut butter with a little coconut oil (to loosen the texture further) and brown sugar.  The sticky rice wrapper is slippery and chewy, like little delicious purses bursting with lava-like peanut butter filling that comes with a hint of coconuts.  It’s a mouthful of complimenting textures and flavours, chewy and runny, sweet and slightly salty, intensely nutty and rich but balanced with the subtle bitterness and fragrance from lightly honey-sweetened green tea.

More than just words, they’ll complete you.

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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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miso stewed short-ribs French-dip sandwich

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A ROUNDUP OF MY WEEK RANGING FROM TRAGEDY TO AWESOMENESS…

  1. Lost my sleep mojo.
  2. Left pink eye that’s flirting dangerously with my right eye.
  3. Egg allergy plus one-lick-too-many from testing the magic 15-seconds scrambled eggs, gave this pre-middle aged face a few beautiful, custard-filled pimples.
  4. Tweezer rage.  That corner of my eyebrow is never coming back is it?
  5. Being forced to sit straight up so the rim of my tummy wouldn’t touch my thighs.  They’re so close…
  6. My building’s management office and the grocery store downstair are plotting together on my imminent suicide.  Think I have to move.
  7. But again. my neighbour’s bichon, Coco, has a rainbow-colored afro on her head.
  8. Watched Frozen again.
  9. A dream of myself laying on Beth’s kitchen island, blanketed and all, as one of her props among other things, then fell asleep on the table and went into a second level dream which I have absolutely no recollection of.  Inception style.
  10. Watched Frozen again.
  11. An email that almost made me pee my pants.
  12. Eating this.
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THE VAMPIRE SLAYER RAMEN-EXPRESS

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CALL IT, THE RAMEN WITH 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC… WAIT.  44 CLOVES.

SOMETIMES, and for the sake of modesty not all the times, but sometimes, after I pasted every photos of a recipe in place and started to stare into space thinking about what I was gonna say… I thought to myself, seriously?  You fucking need a reason to eat this?

Uhem, just sometimes.

But well, today, happens to be one of those times.

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HOW TO MAKE SICHUAN MA-LA HOT POT ON THANKSGIVING

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WE, THE POT-HEADS, NOW ALL DO THIS…

THIS IS HOW, THROUGH NUMBING PAIN, THAT WE GIVE THANKS.

Do you know that the Chinese applies an ancient wisdom originated along the Yellow River, to an age-old question that has long plagued the minds of all mankind?  It’s the monthly family gathering next weekend…  It’s the awkward dinner with newly-made friends/colleagues…  It’s the unavoidable meal with the in-laws…  Hell, It’s the freaking birthday of Confucious!  No matter what the occasions really, we all found ourselves asking:  What should we eat for that?  True, it’s no easy question but the ancient wisdom has answers.  Yes.  Yes, we have an answer to that.  All of that.  As a matter of fact, it’s a one single answer, a last minute answer if need be, a one-pot-fix-all solution to any gatherings large or small, where no one, truly, wants to bear the responsibility of putting the foods on the table.  To that we say…

Let’s do hot pot!

It’s not overstating to call it a wisdom.  Hot pot is the perfect answer to any large dinner parties, especially where there’s equal importance to being well-fed, as well as simultaneously, feeling well-entertained.  First of all, instead of conjuring a meal of a dozen courses, there’s only one cooking to be done.  Then instead of being splattered into small groups, every guests gravitates from a feasting table with a dramatic pot of boiling stock in the center, and everyone cooks what they like -from an array of offerings such paper-thinly sliced meats, dumplings, meatballs, vegetables, even starches like noodles and fried doughs (yes!) – and how they like it, all from and in the mothership of a pot that just gets better and better throughout the meal.  Perhaps there’s something to the theatrics, or to having a “center piece” so lively and fluid… but what I can tell you is this, that strangely, the conversations around a hot pot table, is never cold.

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