Dairy

OMBRE SALTED CARAMEL FLAN POPSICLES

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IN A COOK’S UNIVERSE, THE BAKER’S REALM IS A MYSTICAL AND DANGEROUS WORLD

Recently, someone asked me what’s the typical number of trials I have to go through before arriving on a satisfying recipe.  And to that I said, “Two, I guess?  Most likely?”.  Well… in all honesty, I didn’t mean to lie.  I just forgot to ask, if they were asking the cook?  Or the baker?

I’m definitely more cook than a baker.  And as a more-cook, relatively speaking, I have a more optimistic repertoire of savoury things where I have demonstrated slightly more competence in not screwing up.  But in reality, if I were to take into account of the other side of the fence as well, the wild and parched, the untamed and unpredictable, the land of where the sweet things are… then my friend, I don’t think I have hairs enough to count my failures.  In a cook’s universe, the realm of the bakers is a mystical and dangerous world, governed by a whole different set of laws and physics and creatures who look beautifully from afar like a herd of pink unicorns, but once approached, will vaporize into a cloud of black smokes and swallow my expectations in whole.  It is scary.  And it is real.  And it is a place, unless guided by other wizards specializing in this black magic, that I do not like to enter lightly.

But sometimes the universe, especially my universe, is not perfect.  Sometimes there’s no precedent, or magic potion to follow for what I wanted to create, or more accurately, re-create.  For this instance, a childhood treat that Jason and I practically grew up with and hold dearly in our heart, the caramel flan popsicle (or as they called it in Taiwan, “pudding popsicle”) that we used to be able to buy in almost every convenient stores, but mysteriously vanished in the past decade.  And in times like these, I just had to hood up, bid the loved ones farewell, climbed over the fence, into the woods, and hoped that something, anything, would make it back in one piece.

Well, it didn’t.

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APPLE FUNNEL CAKE W/ APPLE YOGURT SORBET

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The yellow bowl, my recent favourite for everything, is from Dishes Only.

I STARED HATEFULLY INTO THE FUNNEL CAKE LADEN IN CINNAMON SUGAR AND MELTED CREAM, THEN REACHED OUT MY TENTACLES AND TOOK ANOTHER “ONE LAST BITE”

I think we’ve all been there.  There, every year in the first week of June, when the temperature abruptly severs from the safe briskness that was Spring, and ready or not, takes a sudden dive into the skin-binding, armpit-greasing humidity and heat that lays the red carpet for the bikini-season to come.  When we realize that it’s already too hot to cuddle with the safety of our long-sleeves and sweatpants, but when we look down upon the masses that used to hanged so discreetly underneath the winter-coats around our waists, thighs and oh-fuck-everywhere, we see the rings of humiliations, as if in an awkward smile, still hanging.  And for the epic beach vacation forever in planning and the sleeveless dress that’s been waiting since 2005, that it is once again, all too late.

That moment came, or shall I say, ambushed me last weekend while I was spending an otherwise lovely afternoon on the patio of our favourite hang-out, The Taco Bar.  As usual, after an epic feast, we sat there rounding up the finale on their fantastic funnel cake with vanilla ice cream, which came in an oversized Chinese porcelain bowl as big as the size of our winter delusions, and all of a sudden, the sky clouded up and a low thunder roared deeply in the air (I’m not shitting you).  Right then and there, in a time-freezing moment amidst the pre-summer warmth, as shocking and hollowing as any unanticipated bad news, I felt the tip of my multi-rimmed belly and the surface of my bulging thighs behind the veil of the thin fabrics, unexpectedly… touched.  Yes, touched I said.  There are you who would either laugh this off completely as science fiction, the normal people.  Or there are you who would nod profusely in empathy, most of whom have been through a pregnancy of some sorts.  But me?  I’m just the f-word.  In the awakening, I stared hatefully into the funnel cake laden in cinnamon sugar and melted cream, but instead of pushing it away, I reached out my tentacles and took another “one last bite”…

That.  That was the moment when I realized… I had to come up with a version that is at least 5% healthier.

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THE SHIT I EAT WHEN BY MYSELF: K-TOWN RICE’N CHEESE

THE RICE AND SAUCE QUICKLY COOKED INTO SOMETHING LIKE A DOPPELGANGER OF RISOTTO, BOUND BY THE STRINGENT GOOEYNESS OF MELTED CHEESE,

OF WHICH HE THEN GOBBLED DOWN BY EACH OVERSIZED WOODEN-SPOONFUL

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I hardly think that it’s unreasonable, sometimes even understandable, for people to bundle their perceptions for different cultures around a region, as a whole.  As one of the Asians, Taiwanese to be exact, I am certainly far more accustomed to many of the familiarly bizarre lifestyles or values from our neighboring cultures, than say someone who are born and raised in the Midwest of America.  Regardless of agreements, I can generally find an answer for much of the “Asian weirdness” that are otherwise lost in translation, even just by association.  But a few days ago, prompted by a segment from Tony’s Parts Unknown, I sank into a recent uprise of Korean phenomenon so baffling, that the regional cultural gap… has never felt so wide.

Did you know… that there are a swarming number of YouTube channels with millions of views and followers… broadcasting hours after hours of young, slim Koreans doing nothing but sitting in front of their HD webcam-equipped computer, and just… eating themselves to a pulp?!!  Just eating!  Just nothing else, absolutely nothing else, but them eating… and eating.. and eating what appears to be an obscene and non-human amount of foods that defies the very laws of physics!  Perhaps I should point out that the nature of these shows are not competitive, as the broadcaster, almost always, are the sole living subjects in front of the cameras inside his/her own bedrooms (except maybe this living sea-creature wiggling before its imminent death).  What seems to be just a random somebody filming him/herself leisurely ingesting takeouts after school or work, sometimes for hours, will only slowly begin to stun your consciousness when you realize… how freaking much foods have already gone inside their average-sized human torsos.  Then the shows end almost as bizarrely as they begin, when the broadcasters, however long it takes, finally decide that he/she is sufficiently fed, then goes offline…  The purposes of these shows, if there was one, don’t make any fucking sense!  It could even be argued as being hazardous to social health, but, oh God knows I tried, I just couldn’t stop watching!  On top of the fact that I couldn’t understand a single Korean-word buzzing through my ears like white noise, I still couldn’t stop watching for the same human-condition that disables us to walk away from a car-crash!

Well, today’s recipe, is a ruinous aftermath from such a show.  This dude… this fit-by-any-definition Korean dude, after ingesting what was a legitimate tub of spicy Korean stew, he then mashed 3 more Japanese rice balls into the leftover sauce, and further blanketed it with more shredded cheese that he grabbed from an enormous bag that seemed to be kept by his desk as importantly as back-up staplers.  The rice and the sauce quickly cooked into something like a doppelganger of risotto, bound by the stringent gooeyness of melted cheese, of which he then gobbled down by each oversized wooden-spoonful.  I think it rendered me mindless.  In retrospect, I believe the only sound hovering above the paralyzing astonishment was the voice of my own murmurs… That shit looks good.  I’d totally eat that shit.  So here, aside from a tip-of-the-hat, if I didn’t channel this episode into another post of (as coincidentally fitting and attributing as it is) The Shit I Eat When By Myself, what kind of a recipe-sharer would I be?


Servings: 1/10 serving for its inspirer, but 1 serving for a normal humanoid

When I made this the first time and took these photos, I forgot to add the nori/Japanese seaweed.  So don’t scratch your head wondering where they are, and just be assured that the recipe is better with than without.

K-TOWN RICE’N CHEESE

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2" square peeled ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) whole milk
  • 4.6 oz (130 grams) SPAM, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp (40 grams) gochujang/Korean chili paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp (11 grams) honey
  • 2 cups (300 grams) cooked rice, preferably a day-old
  • 1/4 cup diced scallion
  • 1 sheet (9" x 8 "/23 x 20 cm) Japanese nori/seaweed, torn into 1" pcs
  • 1 tsp Japanese rice vinegar, or 3/4 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (25 grams) + 1/2 cup (50 grams) shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt unsalted butter with toasted sesame oil, then cook chopped onion, garlic, ginger, salt and black pepper for a couple mins until softened. Transfer to a blender along with milk, SPAM, gochujang, honey and ground black pepper, and blend for 1 min until smoothly pureed. Mix the mixture evenly with cooked rice, diced scallion, nori/Japanese seaweed, vinegar (the vinegar is important for brightening the flavour!) and 1/4 cup shredded cheddar.
  2. Microwave on high for 4 min, stirring once in between (taste and salt to season if needed), then top it with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar and some ground black pepper. You can finish melting the cheese in the microwave, or place under top broiler until browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.
https://ladyandpups.com/2015/06/02/the-shit-i-eat-when-by-myself-k-town-ricen-cheese/

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THE PARADOX OF ICE CREAM-SPRING ROLL W GROUND PEANUT BRITTLE

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…BUT IT DOESN’T STOP THERE.  THE REAL MIND-BLOWING PART IS THE LAST DESCENDING SPRIGS OF THE UNIMAGINABLE… FRESH CILANTRO LEAVES

If you were those who like to travel to unfamiliar places, see unfamiliar pictures, eat unfamiliar things, chances are that for many times, you have been caught up in moments where I’d like to call – the encounters of food paradox.  Foods that don’t make sense, shouldn’t make sense, but the moment we put one in our mouth, the argument between logics and instincts all quiets down, and the only sensation left with any capacity for thoughts, is how defiantly delicious it stood against our prejudice.   It changes everything, on top of the very least, our palette henceforth, will never be the same.  This post, I hope, is about exactly that.

I have been longing to find a way, an accessible angle, to tell you about a thing called, ice cream-spring roll.  It’s a common street-food in Taiwan, not particularly flashy or groundbreaking.  In fact, among the immensely competitive and ever evolving Taiwanese street-foodscape, one may even argue, standard stuff.  But if you have no affiliation with the food-culture from this island proud for nothing but, the concept of this ice cream-spring roll, with its deceivingly predictable name, may just very well be your next big revelation.  Up front, what is expected surely is that there’s ice creams, most likely local flavours like taro or mango but could also include strawberry and vanilla, which are rolled inside a chewy crepe made with simply flour, water and salt.  No innovation there.  But to make things more interesting, a tall pile of sweet nutty and salty ” sandy streusels” is being shaved directly from a ginormous brick of peanut and caramel brittle, matching its proportion to the ice creams to almost 1:2.  The shaved/ground peanut caramel brittle alone, already completely push the texture and flavour of the spring roll to another dimension, but, it doesn’t stop there.  The real mind-blowing part, is the last descending sprigs of the unimaginable, the last to belong in the dessert isle, the controversially pungent… fresh cilantro leaves.  What?!  

You know I would describe it to you if I could.  I’d say it’s melty, creamy, sandy and crunchy all encased inside a film of chewiness.  I’d say that it’s sweet with pops of saltiness, the permeation of powdered peanuts and caramel and a whiff of herbs in the back-note.  But for the life of me, I cannot describe to you the immense confusion upon the impact of the first bite, then the gentle surrendering into the next, then a breeze of exhilaration on the last.  So I won’t.  You’ll have to try this one out yourself.  Because, that’s the beauty of a food-paradox isn’t it?  One that does and should be lived outside the limitation of words.  Maybe you’ll hate it.  Maybe you’ll love it.  Whatever it is, we will celebrate the forever-forward exploration that is eating.

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YOGURT OATMEAL W BROWNED BUTTER HONEY + CANDIED PINE NUTS

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 I AM PERSONALLY NOT FOND OF BITING INTO NUTS IN ANY FORM OF FOODS…  I CONSIDER THEM AN OBSTACLE, LIKE FISH BONES.


The enamel mini casseroles are a durable and very affordable selection from Dishes Only.

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OK, quick post today, because I’ve got a whole day of shooting-blanks on writing something else (which, if you can imagine, is very time-consuming)(but Jaime, if you’re reading, everything’s going swell).  Today, I bring to you a wholesome and classy creation inspired by a great product, perhaps the most important humanitarian relief for all wo-mankind, that is… Activia.  Girls, you understand.  Without going further into the detailed records of accomplishment by this effective yogurt-brand, I would just like to say that the day it entered the direly needy market of China, that was a good day.

Just like any other international food brands, Activia offers different flavours depending on where it’s sold.  So I don’t know if this is available elsewhere, but here, it comes in the flavour of oatmeal and walnuts.  Weird?  No.  It is really good.  So good that I must turn it into a completely overblown and yogurt-purpose defeating extravaganza.  OK.. well.. maybe except that… I am personally not fond of biting into nuts in any form of foods, ice cream… breads, nothing.  I consider them an obstacle, like fish bones.  So the walnut has to go.  However my peeve does come with the one and only exception – pine nuts.  Pine nuts are not very nut-like, with its buttery and almost creamy texture, they don’t interrupt as much the pure pleasure of ice cream melting in my mouth, nor the soft and chewy progression of breads in between chews, nor in this case, the thick and creamy texture of a perfectly cooked oatmeal.

Oh no, not just any perfectly cooked oatmeal.  This oatmeal has two distinctive texture between soft and chewy (thanks April Bloomfield :), and that at the end of its cooking process when it gets as good as any, it’s further creamed with loads of thick Greek yogurt which adds not just body, but great flavours and a mild tanginess.  Oh wait, you thought I was just gonna throw some sad nuts over the top and call it a morning?  No, my friends, we are gonna coat these pine nuts in an almost-simple syrup, and then… and then we’re gonna fry them in a little butter.  You heard right.  This is not Paula Deen talking.  This is Brooks Headley with the James Beard thing.  So everyone just zip it.  And then since we already have that gloriously browned butter, it would be a complete shame if we don’t take a few tbsp of it, and make it a sticky sauce-thingy with honey, dark brown sugar and a good dose of salt.

See, it’s so good that I just couldn’t stop getting long and wordy with it.  OK now I really got to go.  I believe you have an oatmeal to attend to.

YOGURT OATMEAL W BROWNED BUTTER HONEY + CANDIED PINE NUTS

Serving Size: 2

Candied pine nuts are adapted from Brooks's candied pecans.

Ingredients

    CANDIED PINE NUTS:
  • 1/4 cup (47 grams) pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp (25 grams) sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) water
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne
  • Small pinch (about 1/16 tsp) salt
  • 1 tsp turbinado/raw sugar
  • BROWNED BUTTER HONEY:
  • 5 tbsp (70 grams) unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 tbsp (70 grams) honey
  • 2 tbsp (24 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • GREEK YOGURT OATMEAL:
  • 3 cups (700 grams) water
  • 1 cup (123 grams) rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 1 cup (75 grams) quick oats (not instant)
  • 1 scant cup (180 grams) Greek yogurt

Instructions

  1. TO MAKE THE CANDIED PINE NUTS: Combine pine nuts, sugar, water, ground cayenne and salt in a small pot, then bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook and stir occasionally for approx 2 min, until the mixture is sticky and slightly thickened. Drain through a sieve to get rid of excess syrup, set aside.
  2. In a stainless-steel or aluminum pot (not non-stick), bring the unsalted butter from "BROWNED BUTTER HONEY" to a boil over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and stir gently with a fork to disperse. Keep swirling the pot during frying, until the pine nuts turn golden browned (any further they will be bitter). Drain immediately through a fine sieve, and reserve the butter. During the cooking process, the mixture will be filled with alarming burnt bits, but don't freak out. They will mostly stick to the side of the pot. Toss the fried pine nuts with turbinado sugar and another pinch of salt.
  3. TO MAKE THE BROWNED BUTTER HONEY: Discard 1/2 of the butter and leave the rest in the pot. Add honey, dark brown sugar, water and salt, then bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Stirring constantly, and cook for 30 seconds until the ingredients have fully melted. Set aside.
  4. TO MAKE THE GREAK YOGURT OATMEAL: Combine water, rolled oats and sugar, then bring to a gentle boil. Cook for 5~7 min until soft, then add the quick oats, and cook for another 5~6 min. The mixture should be quite thick. Stir in the Greek yogurt, then cook only until heated through. Do not boil the yogurt. You can thin out the oatmeal with a bit of milk to your liking.
  5. Serve immediately with a good ladle of browned butter honey (may need to be reheated slightly to loosen), and sprinkle with candied pine nuts.
https://ladyandpups.com/2015/05/08/yogurt-oatmeal-w-browned-butter-honey-candied-pine-nuts/

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RE-CONSTRUCTED BANANA AND PEANUT BUTTER MASCARPONE PIE

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As seen on my Instagram, this vibrantly yellow bowl is from Dishes Only.

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I DON’T KNOW.  IT’S NOT A DESSERT.  IT’S THING.

When it comes to the awareness for Del Posto’s celebrated pastry-chef that is Brooks Headley, as well his critically acclaimed cookbook Fancy Desserts, I’ll admit, I was late to the game.  To start, I’ve never been to Del Posto, even for the time while I was still living blissfully in New York, I never.  I knew where it was.  I knew it was good.  But for the many times that I’ve passed it by, I dug into my dangling shallow pocket, and went for the Halal-truck parked around its corner instead, unregretted.  Then to further my negligence, I didn’t even give it the slightest consideration when their Brooks published his first, wacky and unconventional cookbook named – reeked of intimidations – Fancy Desserts.  I mean those who know me, from experiences perhaps too personal, already mourns my biological disability to even execute the dumbest-ass desserts, let alone, as if,  fancy.  The title only sounded slightly more appealing than watching a documentary on spaceship engineering.  But, my firmly footed ignorance all began to shake when my loyal advisor, The Piglet, out of many many other the-Gisele-Bundchen of cookbooks, named it The Best of 2015.  Finally, I sighed, I Amazoned, and I realized that for all this time…

I was so wrong.

Behind its unfiltered and seemingly unstudied photographs, is a smacking and dignified mockery to all the others who lack its otherwise overabundant substances.  I realized that a cookbook can only dare this level of anti-pornographic statement when it’s got nothing, absolutely nothing more to prove to us shallow pigs, than to say, I’m too good for pretty.  And it is.  This is the most honest, egoless and humorous cookbook I’ve ever read, but LOL aside, the book mercilessly attacks my mortal imagination with one-after-the-other daring recipes that completely defies logic, but wins intrigues if not hearts (throw in a James Beard Award for good measure).  I must, I murmured.  I must immerse myself in his teaching…

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BEIJING DRUNK-FOOD, JIANBING

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WITHOUT THE BRAVERY FROM WITHIN A BEER CAN… YOU CAN NOW MAKE THIS SIGNATURE BEIJING STREET-FOOD AT HOME

What the hell’s this?  Well… let me refresh it for you.

If you have ever lived or travelled to Beijing.  It was nightfall.  Granted that you should be excused by the overwhelming remorse that soon followed the moment you stepped out of the airport, you thought, it would be in your best redeeming interest to hang out with some old or newly acquainted companions for a night of bad behaviors around the Work’s Stadium in Chaoyang District.  After what probably felt like a mirage of flying alcohols, soul-murdering-ly bad musics, and an unbroken stream of ugly faces, you woke up the day after, half-alive, with a banging headache and wondering how the hell did last night end.  While other histories were less certain or best left forgotten, chances were, whether you remembered it fully or from the swamp of broken memories, that without even knowing what it was called, you ended it with this.

This, this is called jian-bing.

Here, before I say anything more, I want you to listen carefully.  It is not, your fault.  We’ve all done it.  We’ve all, for more than once, either unconsciously or with full consent, stood under the dingy lightbulbs from a hygienically suspicious food-stall in a notoriously poisonous country, and ate this thingy that highly resembled a french crepe on one side, but marbled with beaten egg on the other, made by someone reaching into buckets of some things that both screamed highly dubious at best.  Yes, that was a long sentence, because I just wanted to rip it off fast like a bandage for you.  It’s ok, my friend.  It’s just a Beijing thing.  It probably didn’t hurt you as bad as you thought it would.  It probably, if memories are slowly coming back, tasted much better even in the haze of your drunken skepticism.  Between it’s thin, soft and slightly chewy body, there was the appetizing aroma of a skillet-fried egg, the pungent and salty punch from the smothering of chili sauce, and to your surprise, a shattering and crunchy contrast from an unknown source that you were too drunk to identify.  Most likely, it was actually, really really tasty.  And dare I say, it has probably, been missed.

Now, without the bravery from within a beer can, or the risk of losing a liver, you can make this signature Beijing street-food at home, knowing that none of the ingredients contains traces of stray cats.  Ha ha, just kidding.

No I’m not.

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THE SHIT I EAT WHEN I’M BY MYSELF – GRILLED CURRY CHEESE, iPHONE ONLY

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NOT KNOWING IF (THE SWEAT) WAS DUE TO THE HEAT OF THE KITCHEN, OR HOT-FLASHES AS EARLY SIGNS OF MENOPAUSE

OK, so it’s been awhile since I last did The Shit I Eat When I’m By Myself Series, and I thought today – the day I turn 35, the day when the oestrogen has officially left the party, the day when avocado becomes a face-cream instead of food – is a good time to rekindle (it’s called letting it go).  And also, because I got this lovely birthday present from you-know-who, I thought I will follow Tiffany and do a post entirely shot/edited by iPhone 6 only!  Initially, I thought it would be the most liberating thing ever, not having to carry a heavy and bulky camera while dripping sweat, not knowing whether it’s due to the heat from the kitchen or hot-flashes as early signs of menopause…  But actually, trying to go back and fourth VSCO Cam and Snapseed to edit photos on a phone-screen, made me feel that this is probably more of a thing for the twenty-something hipsters, than the thirty-something demographic born with severe technology-defects.  So I don’t know… until now, I still can’t decide if I like working this way…

Anyhow, this is No. 5 for The Shit I Eat When I’m By Myself.  Sticking to the tradition of being completely non-sense, it’s a mixture of minced beef, melted Japanese curry cubes (boosted by cocoa powder!) and shredded white cheddar that you can keep in the fridge, then when emergency hits (like the day you turn 150), it can be quickly melt into a spicy and intense grilled curry cheese in between 2 slices of crusty country loaf (balanced by an added sweetness from raspberry jam!).

So enjoy, I’ll see you on the other side.

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