dip Tag

COOKBOOK PRE-ORDER AND PREVIEW: MAPO TOFUMMUS

“IN 2012, IN A FORM OF SELF-ABANDONMENT, I STARTED THIS FOOD BLOG.  SEVEN YEARS LATER, I AM ABOUT TO PUBLISH A BOOK ABOUT THIS JOURNEY.”

I sat here for hours struggling with how to begin the sentence.  Stranger things have happened in this world I’m sure, I mean I could swear I saw a sea creature that looks like a glowing condom on the internet, but from where I stand, it doesn’t get more inexplicable than what I’m feeling right now.

It began in 2012.  It was just about two years into our miserable six years-long residence in Beijing.  In a form of self-abandonment almost, I started this food blog.

With no enthusiasm or objectives, setting out more to be a concession than a declaration, I did what I thought was throwing the white flag to all my other grander ambitions in life, that I was going to be that person, “a blogger”, a non-job made up by people whom I judged, past tense, to be minimally interesting that they had to put themselves on speaker.  It wasn’t brave.  It wasn’t inspired.  It was never expected to arrive anywhere.  I was standing on the edge of a cliff.  And I took the extra step.

The least of what I saw coming was that seven years later, I am to publish a book about this journey.

So yes, a Lady And Pups Cookbook.  The Art of Escapism Cooking – A Survival Story. 

This book is about my time in Beijing, what started it all.  If you are kind of new here, then yeah, no, I didn’t enjoy that.  This book is an self-reflective examination of how I retreated to my kitchen as a place to evade from my unpleasant realities.  What was wrong, what wasn’t, and answers that I am still unsure of today.  It’s honest but also contradictory, opinionated but nonetheless a personal truth.  An internal monologue, despicably self-serving and personal, almost to a fault.  Because for me this is more than a cookbook.  It’s therapy.  It’s closure.  It’s my attempt to draw a conclusion to what was a very difficult time of my life, to put the unsettlement to rest. You may find it funny.  You may find it bitter.  You may even find it obnoxious at times.  But it was what I had to say in the way that I had to say it, screaming and kicking, uncensored, crude, to boil my emotions down to something better than the ingredients of its making, a consommé of the nasty bits of my experience.  If you find that it resonates, I’m glad that you know you are not alone.  But if you don’t, then there are 80+ really fucking good recipes with it.

The book will be officially published in October but pre-order is available now.  Here is a recipe preview, of page 288 if you want to be precise.  I formulated the recipe list when I was still living in Beijing, but most of the book and recipes were written and shot after I left.  It is spoken in retrospect, a memoir if you will, where I am better equipped to find humor in past tense. I know I have been away from this blog for quite awhile, but from now on I will be posting more regularly again and continue to share sneak peeks.

I know I should be beating the drums right now.  But really, I just want to say Thank you.  You’ve made a very strange thing possible in my life.  Now go buy it, too.

 


COOKBOOK RECIPE PREVIEW P.288

MAPO TOFUMMUS

Tofu is bland. Don’t let its supporters, including me, tell you otherwise. Flying solo, it carries a subtle but offbeat taste that comes from soy milk, which, depending on whether you grew up accustomed to it or not, could either be a very good or a very bad thing. Having said that, I love tofu, perhaps in the truest sense because I wholly embrace it for what it is, but more important, what it isn’t.

Tofu is not about taste. Tofu is a texture thing.

Hard, medium, silken like panna cotta–think of tofu as a mere vessel, an empty field of impending dreams. It’s like Mars, if you will, in that any exciting thing about it has to be outsourced, like Matt Damon. This will open up a whole window of promise.

Tofummus, for example, is what happens when you turn the least popular end of the spectrum of tofu, the firm variety, into a silken, creamy, luscious bed of hummus-like substance that begs for company. In this case, its soulmate, if you know what I’m talking about.

This is mapo tofu, the quintessential icon of Sichuan cuisine, one of its most successful exports across the world, numbing with Sichuan peppercorns and fiery with fermented chile bean paste, turned into a dip (an overdue development, if you ask me). The tongue-stinging, blood-red chile oil and deeply savory pork bits are immediately cooled down by the silky smooth touch of the pureed tofu, the most delicious reconciliation on the taste buds. And if you’re feeling kinky, make it a threesome with chewy scallion and garlic naan.

 

 

MAPO TOFUMMUS

Ingredients

    MAPO SAUCE:
  • 3.2 oz (90 grams) ground pork or beef
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 tsp potato starch or cornstarch
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp sichuan douban/chili bean paste (see pantry)
  • 1 tsp mushroom powder (see pantry)
  • 1/2 tsp finely minced fermented black bean, or 1 tsp the darkest miso you can find
  • 1/2~3/4 tsp Korean chili flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp ground sichuan peppercorns, plus more to dust
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp shoaxing wine or sherry wine
  • 1/4 cup store-bought chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 tsp apricot jam
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 5 drops rice vinegar
  • finely diced scallion to serve
  • TOFUMMUS:
  • 14 oz (450 grams) firm tofu
  • 2 tbsp garlic confit puree (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/3 tsp salt

Instructions

  1. MAKE GARLIC CONFIT PUREE: Smash 35 cloves (about 2 1/2 heads) of garlic with a knife and remove the skins. Set inside a non-stick pot along with 4 fresh bay leaves, 1/2 cup (120 ml) of canola oil, 1 tbsp fish sauce and 1/4 tsp ground white pepper. Cook over medium-low~low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlics are evenly golden browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and transfer the rest into a blender (or you can do this with hand-held immersion blender), and blend until the mixture is smooth. Keep in an air-tight jar inside the fridge for up to 2 week. Stir before use.
  2. MAKE MAPO SAUCE: Mix ground pork (or beef) with 1 tsp toasted sesame oil and potato starch (or cornstarch) until even.
  3. In a small pot, heat canola oil and toasted sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat, breaking it up as finely as you can with a wooden spoon, and cook until evenly browned. Add douban paste, mushroom powder, fermented black bean (or dark miso) and chili flakes, store and cook for 1~2 minutes until the chili flakes have turned dark maroon in color. Add grated garlic, grated ginger, ground sichuan peppercorn and ground cumin, and cook until just fragrant. Add shaoxing wine, scraping any caramelization that is sticking to the sides and bottom of the pot, and cook until the alcohol has evaporated, then add chicken stock, apricot jam, ground white pepper and rice vinegar.
  4. Turn the heat down to low, and simmer until the liquid has reduced by 1/2 and slightly thickened. Can be made a couple days ahead of time. Reheat until warm before serving.
  5. MAKE TOFUMMUS: Tofu is made from boiled soy milk which makes it technically “cooked”. But if you’re not a fan of the taste of soy bean, boiling the tofu again will make it taste more well-rounded. But it may also make the puree slightly grittier. If you decided to boil it, cut the tofu into marshmallow-size chunks and cook them in boiling water for 5 min. Drain well, and let cool on top of a clean towel, then transfer into a food-processor.
  6. If not boiling, simply pat the tofu dry with a clean towel, then set inside a food-processor. Run the processor for 1~2 minutes until the tofu is smoothly pureed. Add garlic confit puree, toasted sesame oil and salt, and run again until incorporated. The tofummus should still be quite tasteless at this point.
  7. Serve the tofummus covered in warmed mapo sauce, topped with finely minced scallions and dustings of more ground sichuan peppercorns. Serve with chewy scallion garlic naan (recipe in the book).
http://ladyandpups.com/2019/06/05/cookbook-pre-order-and-preview-mapo-tofummus/
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TANGY BEAMMUS WITH SPICY EGGPLANT AND MUSHROOM

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BY ANY RELATIVE COMPARISON, IT WASN’T REALLY A BAD DAY IN MY PROGRESS TO MATURITY.

  

OK, last night, was a rough night.

It was at the inconvenient juncture of 3 am, when this garlic-tolerant vampire usually pop herself a good reliable melatonin-jelly bean and wait for it to propel into a semi-decent night of sleep, that she found, Marnie.  Of course, to Marnie’s fluffy highness, it was no big deal with her mighty presence of 1.4 M followers (M, guys, not K anymore.  K apparently is for losers), but for me, for me it was devastating to say the least.  A living hybrid of Forest Gump and Ewok, two most endearing mystical creatures in the world.  Not only she sent me into an unstoppable scrolling with the constant mindless chuckles, but she had led me into the internet-dominating world of sausage-tongue dogs with no returns.  Boom, here was another.  Boom, omg that one’s adorable, too.  Then one after the other, like an avalanche of deadly cuteness, burying me under a blanket of midnight-delights that, despite my best effort, I barely crawled out of in one piece at the wee-morning of 5 am.

Today, I woke up looking just as well as one of them.

But, professionally speaking, I still have to get my shit together to talk my other discovery last night, which happened to be one of those nights when I found myself scraping the bottom of my keyboard looking for potato chips-crumbs to sustain this bunker-style life.  To my surprise as well, foraging through my dark forest laden with seductive canned meat trying to lure me into the dark side, it was also the night where I found my long-lost, inner vegetarian-self.  Did you know, that if you puree a couple cans of buttery white beans with thick Greek yogurt, a dab of tahini and whatnots, then cover it with a company of bits-y browned vegetables in a spicy and garlicky oil, an highlights of fresh herbs and squirts of some good olive oil, then you would have a meal so satisfying that it would almost make you forget that something is missing from this diet?  Tangy, creamy, oily and savoury with just the right amount of pain to keep you going back for more, and needless to say, a completely legitimate weeknight emergency-dinner.  I mean, it wouldn’t be the worst thing, nor even difficult, to do this once in a week is what I’m saying.  Wait, you mean, everybody knows that?  OK, great, I guess just like Marnie, I’m also just late to this game after the few million others…

But at least, I was comforted by the fact that while one side of my sense of responsibility faltered, and the other side had prevailed.  By any relative comparison, really wasn’t a bad day in my progress to maturity.  Speaking of which, it’s approaching 2 pm as we speak.  And I think, somewhere civilized, what they call… a siesta is it?, is considered a very responsible, if not a must practice of fine living.

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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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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.

For the past 2 decades, my nemesis… my baby unicorn… has been but one thing.READ MORE

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