winter Tag

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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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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LIDDED OATMEAL W/ CHOCOLATE GINGER SHORTBREAD

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18 INNOCENT YEARS OF UNSUSPECTEDLY CONSUMING THE SAME WEIRDNESS, CAN GROW INTO POWERFUL, LIFELONG BRAINWASHER

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WE are all cursed with weird, nonsensical foods that we’re obsessed with eating, for absolutely no other explanations but the mere fact that… we ate them growing up.  They were often times the legacy of our great mothers who one day, out of desperation, whipped it out of a dirty kitchen sink and thought she shall repeat, for however long until the day we broke free for college.  Beware, that on top of the obliviousness that such “foods” were not nearly considered legit one step out the front-doors, 18 innocent years of unsuspectedly consuming the same weirdness, can grow into a powerful, lifelong brainwasher.  Mommy-to-be should take note.

I have, about a mile-long-list of such things.  A list that should worth a new segment called, The Stuff I Eat When I’m By Myself (stay tuned).  And rest assured, it ain’t pretty.  But Jason, on the other hand, has but one, one single childhood nonsensical food-fetish that has long menaced his reasonable adult-life.  And that is, a congealed tub of dead-cold… stiffened cadaver of something, that once in its previous life, was perhaps a barely sweet, borderline-edible plain oatmeal.  Yes, laid bare… it’s gotta be cold.  It’s gotta be stiff.  It’s gotta… make no fucking sense.  Yuuum?… well to him it certainly is.  He could eat a whole tub of that shit…

So by my manipulative caring nature, I thought, for the second instalment of the shortbread-marathon I’m preparing for Food52, that this presents a perfect opportunity to redirect his relationship with dead oatmeals, into a more… socially acceptable scenario.  But first, speaking of shortbread cookie-doughs, I should point out how utterly amazed I was at how straightforward, fuss-free, versatile and most of all, failsafe they are – and for the same exact reasons, under-appreciated.  No confusing science behind baking powder/soda, nor is there any factors left to chances, I mean there’s none but one rule, just one simple rule to ensure you that at the end of a short amount of time, something crumbly and exceedingly buttery shall parade triumphantly out of your oven.  The rule being, a stern ratio between 2 parts solid fat (often butter) and 3 parts dry ingredients (could be a combination of various flours), by weight.  READ MORE

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THE SAUCY MARRIAGE PUDDING

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“VALENTINES, STEP ASIDE.
THIS IS PROFESSIONAL LOVE LIFE”

I was born a cynic.

I mean was that not obvious?  Had I been able to remember I’d say with certainty that I came in this world, a genetically negative and unpleasant baby who cursed at the color pink if she could form words, who went on to earnestly suggest divorce as an alternative lifestyle for her parents at age five.  Perhaps the last ounce of my lacking fluffiness died with the moment when my best friend stuffed Raccoon was brutally trashed in a random afternoon while I was away citing ABC’s at pre-school, the last straw in leaving a cold, hardened human being walking this lonely planet believing that all loves are, ultimately, just temporary.  So yes, I was born with, and still have now, a good faith in cynicism.

But somehow at the age of 27, I married my very first boyfriend.  How did that happen?

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FAULTY HEARTS REMEDY

You know… this blog really wasn’t, even indirectly, meant to be depressing at all.  Angry?  Yes.  It’s kinda funny.  Depressing?  Is just depressing.  But what now?

I found myself murmuring these thoughts through the indifference of the keyboard, while I watched my dog sunken within a pile of blanket like a flaccid lump of meat, the very life in him crippled by the exhaustion of every hard-earned heartbeat.  His heart murmurs, the doctor said.  Why does it sounds like an expression you can put on a Mother’s Day card for God’s sake…  And what about an overgrown, sensitive big heart?  Fuck, could’ve gotten someone laid on a Thursday night even without game.  To shit with these expressions…

In reality, you can actually die of a broken heart.

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THE WEST LAKE HYBRID

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You know… as someone who’s been gutting dead animals… chopping things… hacking and hammering in the kitchen for the past 15 years, I pride myself for the fact that I seldom, and I mean rarely burn or hurt myself inside my ruling domain.  No, it isn’t because I’m more masterful at wielding heavy machineries, but because I have a deeply-rooted, intolerated fear for pain which led to a full spectrum of obsessive precautions before any hazardous conducts in the kitchen.  But… just before I sat down for a chat with you, I though, hey, maybe it was a good idea to first finish slicing those mathafuckin’ fibrous and tough galangals for easy freezing… just to check it off my list…

Well, just like that, there goes my left middle-finger now looking tragically like a tissue paper and tape-wrapped lollipop, summer strawberry flavour.  You see?  You see me waving my middle finger in 360º just so you can see clearly?  Especially at you, galangals.

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PERFECT… WINTER SCONES

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As a reluctant and often times struggling home-baker, I have an unfounded, persistent, borderline sickening obsession with making biscuits and scones.  Nobody in the family eats them but me really (it isn’t saying much when you scan through all members in the family).  I have to endure the look of lostness and concealed disappointment in Jason’s eyes every time he comes home to the smell of butter and sugar, and yet I put myself through it often (yes everything is about me).  They aren’t the most foolproof things to bake either, evidently from the ghost of dead doughs past that still lingers in the apartment.  So I don’t know, I guess they just feel so much more earnest than cookies and cakes, a warmer and friendlier thing to break over a conversation or a cup of tea… well, with my imaginary friends at least.

But the truth is until a few days ago, I had not been able to tell them apart in the kitchen.

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