Vegatables

1 HOT SUMMER, 2 HOT CORNS

GRAB THE END OF SUMMER BY ITS HORNS, MAKING THESE HOT SPICY GRILLED CORNS…

Crazy week.  Barely anytime to chat!  But let’s grab the end of summer by its horns, by making these 2 versions of hot spicy grilled corns.  Worthy of a – I don’t know about you but from where I stand – still brutally hot summer.  So good that I couldn’t decide which one was better so I figured, you wouldn’t mind making the choices yourself.

The first one is a spicy and tangy mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar and shit loads of cayenne pepper.  Super caramelized and sticky, leaving a tingling, addictive pain on your lips with every bite.

Then the second version involves rubbing your corns with lots of miso-infused butter, grilled until nutty and charred, then showered with a soothing rain of Parmigiano cheese and seven-spiced togarashi powder.  You didn’t know corns can hurt so good.  Now let’s get to it.

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GARAM MASALA YOGURT-CREAMED SPINACH

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SNACK ON THIS WARM AND TANGY YOGURT-CREAMED SPINACH.  I’LL BE RIGHT WITH YOU.


Let’s pretend that you’re scooching on my overly soft leather sofa, and while I’m making a considerable amount of noise in the kitchen getting the dinner ready.  You guys pop a bottle of something white, and snack on this warm, mildly spicy and tangy yogurt-creamed spinach with garam masala.  There are crusty baguette and sour dough on the table for your breaking, and you’re being harassed by a slobbering… borderline-obese blonde.  You surrendered a small piece over.  

“If you keep my secret.  I’ll keep yours.”

“I heard that~”.  

And I’ll be right with you.

  
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Serves: 2 ~ 4

Garam masala is quite different from typical curry powder in my opinion, consisting more spices that are “warmer” and “sweeter” such as cinnamon, cloves and cardamon, and less coloring from turmeric.  Nowadays it should be pretty common in supermarkets, and of course, online.  This would serve great as a side-dish, or just as a simple meal with a loaf of crusty baguette or sour dough.


Ingredients:

  • 17.6 oz (500 grams) of fresh baby spinach, or 1 1/2 cup (240 grams) of squeezed-dry frozen spinach
  • 1/4 cup (40 grams) of golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter + 1 tsp for creaming
  • 6 small shallots, finely minced
  • 1 clove of grated garlic
  • 1 tbsp of grated ginger
  • 2 tsp of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp of garam masala
  • 1/8 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 cup (245 grams) of whole milk
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (163 grams) of Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp of chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 ~ 1/2 tsp of sugar (depending on the sweetness of the raisin)

Soak the raisins in hot water until plumped.  Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a large pot.  Wash and remove the roots from the spinach, add to the pot and cover with lid.  Let steam for 1 min, or until the spinach has just wilted.  Transfer the spinach to a large sieve and rinse under cold water until cooled enough to handle.  One small handful at a time, squeeze as much water out of the spinach as you can with your hands and set aside (you should have approx 1 1/2 cup after squeeze).  Finely chop the spinach.

Cook 2 tbsp of unsalted butter in a pot over medium-high heat until bubbly and browned.  Add the finely minced shallots and cook until slightly browned on the edges, then add the grated garlic and grated ginger with 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper, and sauté a little bit until fragrant.  Add the flour, garam masala and ground cumin, and cook for 1 min.  Off heat, add the whole milk and stir everything together quickly to prevent lumping, then bring the mixture back to a simmer to thicken.  Add the chopped spinach and raisins, re-season with salt’n pepper and sugar, and continue to cook over medium heat for 10 ~ 15 min until most of the liquid has reduced down.

Evenly stir in the Greek yogurt and chopped cilantro until creamy and cook until just warmed through.  Do not boil the yogurt or it might break.  Stir in the last 1 tsp of unsalted butter, and re-season with salt and pepper if need be.

Sprinkle with more ground cumin on top, and dried chili flakes if preferred.  Serve with crusty breads.

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MY FAVORITE CHILI SAUCE – THE MEAN SANTA

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THIS, this is my favourite chili sauce yet.  And that’s saying a lot.

One of the perks about growing up from an Asian background is that, pretty much since birth, most of us have been prepped in a semi-military-style training to resist torture and pain… that’s inflicted onto our taste-buds.  We’ve been conditioned to be susceptible, embracive even, to all forms and types of heat-source applied through all kinds of torture devices, that it will take a Jack Bauer to break our affiliation with the red terror.

In fact, we’ve grown so twisted in our relationship with such sensory violence, we search for it even when it isn’t given.  It’s almost guaranteed that at every food-serving locations, there would be some kind of hurt-yourself-if-you’d-like chili condiments available upon request, and you’re damn right we smother it onto just about anything until the subject bleeds red and begs for mercy, or wait, is that just the screams of my own consciousness?  Why do we do this to ourselves?  Because we know that there’s no gain without pain, and even a candy, sooner or later, needs to learn how to be a man.


”  ONCE YOU’VE DEVELOPED

AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP,

INTRODUCE HIM TO

YOUR BREAKFAST EGGS  “

 


Naturally, this type of die-hard environment breeds a certain level of snobbery.  If there has been any doubt on how we perceive our paler friends from the west when it comes to cooking and bottling heat, even though this is clearly not a competition, I’d like to end all speculation by saying… we win.  You see it’s not just about the heat and murdering brain cells, but about the flavour as well.   Whereas most North American brand hot sauces are vinegar based – some of which I have no doubt, is adequately hurtful – with little difference between them except for intimidatingly named chilis as ingredients, the world of Asian chili sauce (or Chinese ones alone) is a kaleidoscope of varieties.  And instead of pureed and in liquid-form, they are mostly oil-based with chunky textures, striking almost as a… side-dish.  Because for us, the red terror is not to be gingerly dabbed.  Dabbing is for baby-buttocks.  When we want to eat our chilis, we want to eat our chilis.

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So I hope I’ve made myself clear.  Throughout a life swimming in a red sea of hurt, it’s saying a lot for me to name a “favourite”, but I believe I’ve found one, so far at least, and I’m calling it, or him… The Mean Santa.  Why?  Because the ingredients are a vibrant combination of red → as in red chilis of course, and green → as in green chilis but more importantly, a giant stack of shiso leaves which give him a subtle, background fragrance.  But even more importantly, why is he my favourite?  Because he’s not just a spicy mean asshole, but he’s got flavours… substance… and depth, that make him so painfully loveable.  And despite of the suspiciously Asian-central ingredients (ginger, fish sauce… shiso), he is a fairly universal condiments that will make just about anything east or west, shall we say, not boring.

Hey, this is not a theory untested.

In the span of the last couple of weeks, The Mean Santa has scorched through my soft parts in company with just about anything except for the kitchen sink.  He will bear gifts to any grilled meat or seafood that you have prepared for the grilling season (chicken… duck… hanger steak… Heck, I’ve even spooned it over half-shell oysters and grilled them).  He will even turn any deadbeat, socially unexciting grilled vegetable into early Christmas, or a bland summer tomato sauce… a bowl of lonely noodle… a box of left0ver rice… ANYTHING!  Oatmeal.  Yes!  Oatmeal!  And once you’ve developed an intimate-enough relationship, you introduce him to your breakfast eggs.  Then together, you shall live happily ever after.

Spend a little time for your chili sauce.   It will hurt you good.

  
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Makes:  approx 2 cups

The sauce may look universally deadly, but in fact, the spiciness can be easily adjusted by changing the ratio between large long red chilis (vibrant color and mildly spicy), long green chilis (fragrant and medium-spicy) and small Asian red chilis (really, really spicy).  The ratio I have used in this recipe will yield the perfect, “intermediate level” spiciness.  Then again, even the same types of chili can sometimes vary in heat-level, so you should judge it by the chili you’re used to.

Small Asian chili is, I think, pretty common in supermarkets nowadays.  But if you have difficulty finding large long red chili, or long green chili, try substituting with red/green jalapeño.  Since the sizes of chilis come very different all the time (the large long red chili I used this time was ginormous), I would strongly recommend weighting the ingredients.  If you can’t find shiso leaves, you can still make the recipe without, and it’ll still be fabulous.


Ingredients: (chilis are weighted after stems removed)

  • 5.6 oz (160 grams) Large long red chili
  • 2.1 oz (60 grams) of long green chili
  • 1.2 oz (33 grams, or about 15) of small Asian red chili
  • 0.6 oz (18 grams, or 20) shiso leaves, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, grated then divided in 1/2
  • 1 tbsp of grated ginger, divided in 1/2
  • 1/2 cup (104 grams) of canola oil
  • 3 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp of ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of rice vinegar

Wash the chilis then finely dice all of them.  Add all the chilis, finely chopped shiso leaves, 1/2 the amount of grated garlic, 1/2 tbsp of grated ginger, canola oil, fish sauce and ground white pepper in a sauce pot.  Cook the mixture over medium to medium-low heat and stir occasionally.  At first, liquid would start to emit from the chilis, then it would start to evaporate.  Continue to cook for 10 min until there is no visible liquid left, then continue to cook for another 3 ~ 4 min to extract more liquid from the chili without turning them into mush.  The mixture should have reduced in size and the chilis should be soft.  Turn off the heat, then stir in the other 1/2 amount of grated garlic and grated ginger, sugar and rice vinegar.

Let the sauce cool completely then transfer to an air-tight container.  Let it sit for at least a few hours to another day to develop flavour.  It will keep inside the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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Mashed grilled eggplants w/ Mean Santa:

  • 2 Asian long eggplants
  • 1/2 cup of Mean Santa chili sauce, or more to adjust
  • 1/2 tsp of ground sichuan peppercorn
  • Soy sauce to taste

Preheat the top-broiler on high.  Peel the eggplants and cut into quarters length-wise.  Rub with a little bit of olive oil and grill a few inches under the broiler until partially browned and soft.  Remove from the oven and cut into short segments, then transfer to a mortar.  Add the Mean Santa chili sauce and ground sichuan pepper, then mash until evenly broken up and incorporated.  Taste and season with soy sauce for saltiness.  Let sit for 10 to 20 minutes before serving.

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OLD BEIJING LAMB SKEWER

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THERE are many virtues about Beijing, and as far as I’m concerned, they are all true.  The widely studied, highly evolved lung-capacity of its residence to withstand extremely volatile air molecules is among the most celebrated.  The profound unity and rewardless participation in the national sport of competitive spitting, for god and country, is none but true patriotism.  Then, perhaps the most famous although not as extraordinary as the former points, that it’s true, these fine citizens do know how to roast a damn duck.

Like actually actually.

But the most extraordinary things are those that go unadvertised.  The best-kept secret, the silent do-er in this fine metropolis is tucked away in every unknown streets and corners, and I mean every streets and corners.  It’s the most note-worthy and representative of Beijing street-food scene, and as far as I’m concerned, it is this word – 串.

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THE HOT BUNNY PASTA SAUCE

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” MY CURRENT…
ORANGE STATE OF MIND “

Jason has gone to my happy place without me.

A week-long business trip to New York, by himself, is just about as much salt as you can rub on a bloody wound of someone who’s doing her time in doggy-prison.  Right.  Perhaps I’ve failed to mention that for the past 6 months, I haven’t been able to leave my apartment for more than 12 hours because these days, a pot of hot caramel is constantly bubbling on my stove.  That’s just the code-words for my 14-years-old dog, Dumpling, with his very inconvenient heart condition that has rendered me immobile as well.  So, right, no NYC for mommy, or anywhere else for that matter…  But, as if squatting in my prison-cell isn’t responsible enough, now I’m being thrown into the “the cooler”…

As I am scraping these words with my finger nails onto the concrete walls of my solitary confinement, I guess it’s only appropriate to also drench myself… in gushing orange.

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KOMBU MISO BUTTER SAUCE + DISK FRIES

“DANCE…AND FEAST…AROUND THE BIG BONFIRE OF TOTALITARIANISM”

I apologize for the speechlessness today.  In the past couple days, it has been next to impossible to compose anything on wordpress because…

Every year in China around a historical holiday known as 6-4, a massive and elaborate celebration takes place.  The great beast of China and its army of cyber-minions will gather, dance hysterically, and feast on the corpses of information freedom, and any non-Chinese-friendly internet activities around the big bonfire of totalitarianism.  I have about a 5 minute window to finish/publish this post before the beast finds me.  So my friends, please, help yourself with some disk fries and kombu miso butter sauce, for it is unbeatable in deliciousness and unrelenting in spirit….  A small and insignificant thing it may be, but nonetheless makes me feel slightly better to say – you can bet that the beast….

…ain’t fucking getting any

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CHEWY LAYERED ROTI + KICKASS DIP

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” …WHOPPING 90% HYDRATION…
SPRUNG LIBERATED OUT OF THE FOUNTAIN OF SECRET DOUGHS “

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ALTHOUGH extremely rare, there are recipes that seem theoretically impossible at first, but somehow just come smooth-sailing under the first trial.  They make recipe-developers feel invincible even just temporarily, like the lighthouse of success glowing just over the foreseeable shore.  Handshakes with Batali and cold beers with Tony Bourdain, book-signing with fan-blown hair and the next dinner party, Ina Garten is bringing her cake.  These occasions embolden even the blindest of self-confidence.  But then, then there’s the opposite of such.

I call them, the kitchen nemesis… or for times, my baby kitchen unicorns.  It’s a tormented, twisted love-and-hate relationship, with an adored food-item that hides a secret so beyond your grasps that failures of making it has been haunting you for years… even decades.  The recipe of which you have ventured high and low for – with or without the luck of finding any at all – that in the very end, all greatly disappointed, again, and again.  A lover, who’s not completely yours.

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THAI HERBS AND PORK SALAD

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I’m determined to get a life during this Labour Day long weekend so let me quickly leave you with this.  Best.  Damn.  “Salad”.  You’ll.  Ever.  Have.  Period.  Period.

HOW COULD IT BE?  OH WAIT, IT’S THE PORK.

It’s a recipe I developed for Food52’s column “Half Way to Dinner“, and initially I didn’t write any measurements down because I wasn’t sure how open you guys would be towards a “ground pork salad”.  But it turned out, a few request for it came in and so I made it again the other night… and again… and again…

I was incandescently happy being lost in a sea of gushing green that I got confused for a moment.  How could be?  What’s happened to me?  The flavour between a few thinly sliced shallots, splashes of fish sauce and lime juice is practically addictive no matter what you mix it with, but still… am I a “salad” person now?  Oh wait… there’s the ground pork… lots of it.  Actually.  Well forget what I said then.

Best.  Damn.  “Meat salad”.  Ever.  Period.

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