Vegatables

MASHED POTATO BUTTER AIOLI W/ FRIED CAPERS

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IS IT MASHED POTATO, OR IS IT A SAUCE?  IT’S THE BEST OF TWO WORLDS.

In the past few days, I don’t know if you can tell, but my year-long travel-ban situation (recap: sick soupy Dumpling has been losing his juice) has advanced to some sorta voluntary house-arrest, and besides spending all my time migrating him in between the bed and the bathroom, I’m also doing everything I can to not make it too obvious, that I’m trying to live out of a single potato.

And now I’m doing it again.  Guess I gave up.

But really though, am I the only one fascinated?  I mean, what’s the one thing most feared, about an aioli or butter sauce?  No, not that it’ll grow you an extra thigh, which it will and that’s that.  But it’s actually, with radical willingness, that both itself and your heart, it’ll sadly break (so true, Yoda.  so true).  Which is what makes this recipe, a hybrid between mashed potato and butter aioli, so superbly amateur-friendly.  We all know how the line between a “side-dish” and a “condiment” goes increasingly blurry for the most creamy and buttery “mashed potato” of its kind.  So why not smudge the line even further?  A smooth and silky butter aioli infused with Dijon mustard and fried capers, but with finely mashed potato as its solemn foundation.  The starch acts as a buffer, a liaison let’s just say, between the good butter that wants you to be showered with compliment, and the bad butter that just wants your world to separate.  And in the end, you’ll have a rich and indulging swirl that’s all the flavourful, and (sorta) (almost) (don’t tell me otherwise) half the calories.

Be warned that this is the kind of thing, an inconvenient happiness, that plays too well with others.  Before you even realize, it’s already got its paws on all your favourite proteins (meant to be healthy) and veggies (meant to be healthier), which will no long be enough without it.  One miserable night during my lock-down, a pan-fried piece of frozen salmon had never tasted so far far away from reality.

So is it mashed potato?  Or is it a sauce?  Who cares?  It’s the best two worlds.

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POTATO CHIPS AND THAI HERBS SALAD

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MORE REFRESHING THAN THE MORE COMMONLY PRACTICED CRISPY FRIED HERBS,

BUT FAR MORE ADDICTIVE…

MY relationship with dining-out for western cuisines in Beijing has been for the past 5 years, at best, a struggle of love and hate.  The incentive for attempting such silly missions is simple.  If you were living in Beijing, most of the times your best shot at some happiness at least is to make yourself feel like, you weren’t.  And sometimes, you know, the right restaurants can do that.

But unfortunately, for far too many times, I’ve sat on a taxi-ride home fed with the fury of underwhelming meals, overcharged bills, and all together more often than not, a complementary cocktail of clueless and laughable services.  In the end, I guess one could argue that all along, the true idiot had always been, perhaps, me.  Because I was the one who’s been looking for cow’s milk in a rat’s asshole, trying to match the standard of what’s available here with that of New York.

I was the real joke.

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CAULIFLOWER RICE CAKE + POOR MAN’S X.O. SAUCE

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YOUR DESIGNATED DIM-SUM PLACE CAN’T TOUCH THIS

Have you had Chinese turnip cake with X.O. sauce?

Well, the thing is, you probably have without knowing.  Over the dizzying array of small dishes on a dim-sum table, your friend passed you a plate of square white cakes with browned and crispy exteriors, served with a small oily dollop of brownish condiment.  You ate it, mmmmmmm…., probably even asked for the name of the dish, but let’s be honest, who the hell can remember any names from a feeding-frenzy over a dim-sum table?

Well, that, my friend, you just had Chinese turnip cake and its side-kick, X.O. sauce.

I’ve been long trying to come up with a X.O. sauce recipe.  X.O. sauce, suggested from the name given, is made with a large proportion of expensive ingredient, being soaked and shredded dried scallops, and thus lands as a prestigious condiments on the table of Chinese banquette.  It’s usually served in small spoonfuls, as an intense, savoury and spicy flavour-booster to highlight stir-fry dishes, rices and noodles, or dim-sum classics such as the turnip cake.  It’s wonderful.  I love it.  So why not just make that?

Well… I mean, dried scallops are great.  Fancy stuff.  One of those things that are pocket-burning to buy, a pain in the ass to prepare, and in the end of course as all fancy stuffs must be, highly fucked-able.  One miss-step in the prepping and cooking procedure, what was supposed to make this sauce supremely “X.O.”, will also easily turn it into a pile of rubbery and teeth-flossing donkey-hide.  In this particular juncture in my life where several “bad apples” are on the brink of collapsing, I’m not going to risk my iphone 6-fund on something that could potentially malfunction, too.  Especially, not when I believe the beauty of X.O. sauce could be replicated with ingredients that are more, literally, down to earth.

Instead of shredded dried scallops, I’m using dried shitake mushrooms.  In combination with dried shrimp which is also a traditional ingredient in X.O. sauce, this poor man’s version came out well beyond my highest expectation.  It’s robust, complex and intense, embodying the sea-essence from the dried shrimps and oyster sauce, as well as the earthiness of mushrooms and ham.  It’s a symphony of notes that cannot be described unless personally experienced.  And it’s my next it-sauce to be slathered on a bowl of rice, a quick slurps of noodle, or if I’m feeling like going the extra mile, this cauliflower rice cake.

Wait, what happened to turnip cake?  Because I’ve also, long been trying to come up with a turnip cake recipe.  Turnip cake, suggested from the name given, is made with a large amount of Chinese turnip aka daikon, along with Cantonese sausage, dried shrimps, and a batter made with white rice flour.  It’s usually steamed inside a rectangular mold, then sliced and browned over a hot skillet right before serving.  A humble, homey and delicious staple that’s as beloved as anything can get if you came from an Asian background.  It’s wonderful.  I love it.  So why not just make that?


 

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THE INCREDIBLE LAHMACUN AND AYRAN

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THE FOOD-EQUIVALENT OF BATMAN AND ROBIN, THE BRANGELINA OF ICONIC TURKISH EATS

  

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AS some of you may have noticed from this particular announcement, that I am now officially divorced… from the commitment of owning a stand-mixer (easy, gentlemen…).  More accurately, a surprised appliancewidow if you may, still deeply hurt by the concealed unhappiness my stand-mixer had apparently suffered from in the past 4 years, which finally led to his jump off the kitchen counter on a cloudy Oct 24th, decapitating himself in his last, escapist act.  The lumpy splatter of an unfinished pizza-dough over the black pavement, was his first and last, silent yet loudest protest, before declaring eternal freedom… from me.  Looking back, devastated, I don’t think he has ever loved me…

Now, mid 30’s, dumped, and less equipped…

I know at times like this, I’m suppose to resort to less labour-intensive tasks in the kitchen, a pasta-salad perhaps, or a one-bowl-pancake mix with added sparkles, maybe even the unthinkable salad, to hide the scars from this tragic embarrassment, and more importantly, look really hot while doing it.  But no.  In an counter-protest to the irresponsibility of a suicidal stand-mixer, giving up making doughs is admitting defeat.  With bare hands, I’m gonna prove that without him, I’m still highly desirable in the dough-market and totally dough-able.  Not just the same dough down the sad memory lane, but I’m gonna make something awsome-er, something super-er.

I’m gonna make the incredible, lamahcun and ayran.READ MORE

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Eggplant parmesan pizza w/ crispy capers

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NOT feeling particular talky today so let’s just eat.

Last night, armed with the perfect excuse of utilizing the abundance of eggplants, we had a pizza-rized eggplant parmesan.  Paper-thin slices of eggplants pre-toasted under an airy web of grated Parmigiano cheese until curly crispy and golden browned, scattered in between two layers of tangy tomato sauce and bubbling moazzarella cheese.  Then, topped with what acted as bursting land-mines of brininess and salt, my new BFF crispy-fried capers that makes it.  Just another evidence that I must drop any perfectly wholesome and healthy idea onto a throbbing field of carbs.

May or may not have something to do with my mind-paralysis today… and even if it did, the best kind there is.

” … BURSTING LAND-MINES OF BRININESS AND SALT… “

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FIRE-CRUSHED CUCUMBER SALAD

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THIS IS A CONVICT YOU’LL WANT TO FORGIVE, AND EMBRACE

I don’t mean to sound self-absorbed and overly theatrical if I mustn’t, but officers, I have a stalker.

Please, listen to me before you dismiss my report after I tell you that, yes, it’s a cucumber salad.  Harmless and gentle it may sound, but believe me when I say that this fella, is spicy… hard-core, and possibly painful.  And it has been disturbingly obsessed with me since… oh~ officers, at least a couple months!  I can’t provide the exact records of its past appearances because, you know, that’s the creepy thing about stalker-recipes.  Their shadowless movement between the blink of an eye, tailed with the constant awareness that it’s always there…  I know I saw it smiling at me between the flips of webpages somewhere during my cyber-surfing, multiple times, or was that through my swiping finger over the stacks of e-magazines?  And I could swear, officers, that it winked at me from the dinner-menu of at least two, or several restaurants that I’ve been to lately, plain-naked and sending me its very explicit intention.

It wants me, to eat it.  Oh my, you see?  I have to put it to rest.

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