Dairy

gateau a la sour cream + blueberry custard

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For someone who’s technically unemployed, I don’t know if this would violate the definition of such word but actually, for the past 2 weeks, I’ve been enjoying some sort of a “holiday”.  Well… a holiday on house-arrest if you will, but nonetheless, a holiday.  Despite the… minor inconvenience that we’re currently bound to the last place on earth that we’d like to spend more time in, Jason had decided to take the longest vacation-days he’s ever taken in his entire work-life, ever, an entire 14 blissful days to spend on doing something that we’ve practically elevated to an art-from… that is to do ab-so-lute-ly… nothing.READ MORE

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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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CARAMEL STRAWBERRY, BRIE, BUTTER/SUGAR TOASTS

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AFTER 10 months of not being able to leave… not a country, not even a state/province, but a particular CITY due to personal circumstances, at a certain point, the “think tank” starts to resemble more like a warm puddle in the middle of a barren desert.  Nowadays I seek recipe-inspirations like a stinking camel seeks for water, only minus the ability to regurgitate.  Don’t get me wrong.  All paranoid recipe-bloggers, me included, respects a well-stocked recipe-reservoir like doomsday-preppers hold high regards for canned beans.  It’s almost a co-dependant relationship and my list is about a mile long.

I guess… a closet full of recipes and nothing to cook, best puts it.

But ironically, as the painstakingly studied and tested recipes often end in heartbreaks, some of the best things I’ve cooked here are incidental occurrences on a whim.  Which brings us to today’s: So random I don’t even know what to call it.  Yah.  I don’t know what to call it because it came from a peripheral glance over the last 30 seconds of a TV-show that I don’t even know the name of, which (I think) pulled some golden-browned butter/sugar toast out of a skillet and served with soft cheese.  The idea stayed with me not because it was as hazy as a hallucinated mirage, but because instead of the more popular way of making “creme brûlée” toasts as under the broiler, this does it more efficiently and successfully, inside a skillet.

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CARAMEL STRAWBERRIES WILL BURST… THROUGH THIS BUTTERY, SUGARY, SALTY AND CHEESY GLORY


If you have ever tried making creme brûlée toasts under a broiler, you’d know that it’s an extremely volatile and unpredictable task.  Every single factor – the type of bread, the amount of sugar, the type of oven, blah blah blah – can contribute to its blackened, smokey, inedible demise.  But by doing it in a skillet – letting the toasts absorb a mixture of butter and sugar until they brown, caramelize and adhere to the golden browned toasts – the outcome is a much more controllable, crunchy, and delicious surprise.

Since we are already in the zone of talking caramel, why stop here?  Drawing inspiration from a traditional Chinese roadside snack, where they skewer various types of fruits, coat them with a whiffy thin layer of hot malt sugar then let hardened, I thought there’s no reason why caramel-coated strawberries would be unwelcomed between creme brûlée toasts and warm, melty brie.  And once in a very long while, everything just sort of goes according to plan.  The creme brûlée toasts are buttery and crunchy, with just enough heat to soften a good smear of French brie.  Then the caramel strawberries will burst through their crackly, lacey jackets as pressure applies and run their juices through this buttery, sugary, salty and cheesy feast of unnamed glory.

I guess there’s still some milage left in this tank.

  
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Makes:  2 sandwiches or 4 open-face

I don’t know why I’m fixated on making these more of a “sandwich” when in fact, it will probably be prettier and easier to eat as an “open face” (you know, like bruschetta).  So I’m leaving that option to you.  For an open-face toast, you’ll maybe need to double the amount of caramel/candy strawberries depending on the size of your bread, and also the size of strawberries.  I needed 6 small strawberries to fill 1 toast.

The freshly grated nutmeg is very important as it gives an “ooomph” to the flavour.  Don’t be shy.  You’ll want to see flakes of it through out the toasts.

Updates 2014/08/05:  Thanks to a reader we now know the show that inspired this!  It’s called Heartland Table with Amy Thielen.  In the show she uses maple syrup instead of sugar, which I think is a even better idea!  If you want to try maple syrup, substitute 3 tbsp of granulated sugar with 1/4 cup of maple syrup.


Ingredients:

  • Caramel and strawberries:
    • 1/3 cup (70 grams) of granulated sugar
    • 2 tsp of water
    • 12 ~ 14 small~medium size strawberries
    • Small cup of ice water on the side
  • 4 slices of rustic country bread
  • 4 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp of granulated sugar
  • 1 large chunk of good quality brie
  • Fresh nutmeg for grating

To make the caramel/candy strawberries:  Wash and remove the stems from the strawberries, then set aside.  Have a small cup of iced water ready.  Heat the sugar and water in a small pot over medium heat.  Cook until the sugar has melted and turned from clear to a pale yellow then to a rich, amber color (careful not to let it turn dark brown or it’ll taste bitter).  This will take approx 5 min.

Remove from the heat, then pick up a strawberry with a fork and dip it inside the caramel to coat thinly (there will be a bit of sizzle).  Let excess caramel drip off, then dip the strawberry in the iced water for 5 sec for the caramel to harden.  Remove the strawberry from the fork and set aside.  Repeat with the rest (If the caramel starts to cool down and is too thick to work with, return it to medium heat until it has loosen up again).

To make the toasts:  Melt the unsalted butter and sugar in a large flat-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat (if your skillet isn’t large enough to fit all 4 slices perfectly flat, then do it in two batches).  Once the butter and sugar look evenly blended (even though you may still see sugar-granules in the mixture), place the sliced bread inside the skillet with a tongs.  Swirl the bread inside the mixture for a few seconds to coat evenly, then flip and coat the other side as well.  Both sides of the bread should have evenly absorbed all the butter and sugar.  Cook the breads until golden browned, with caramel crust on each sides.

Remove from the skillet, and while hot, apply a generous layer of brie on top.  Pile the candy strawberries on top and grate a good amount of fresh nutmeg on top.  Serve immediately.

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MOSCATO AND SPICES POACHED PEAR GELATO

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CAN I JUST SAY… ONE OF THE TASTIEST GELATO I’VE HAD

TYPICALLY, this is where I enter the room, neck stretched and knuckles cracked, oozing a bit a creepy calmness to suggest the looming turbulence, and ghostly hovers over the keyboard…  Inhale…  Then screeeech, obnoxiously, on the worst, ever! weekend-getaway from hell, carrying a Dumpling that was dangerously “soupy” and could burst and leak out at any minute!

But… exhaaaale… I’m not gonna go there.  Not gonna complain.  My negativism is very bored with my discontent.

Instead, I’m going to, for just one day, do the thing that… you know the thing, the thing that happy people do.  Right, to bring you only the bright side of life, with teethy smiles, flowers, breezes, and above all else, happy gelato and all.  And not just any gelato, but can I just say, one of the tastiest I’ve ever had, too.  Hey, I said I promised you bright things.  But even with the promise not to go Gibson on you, it is impossible, from a literary point of view, to give you a complete narrative of this recipe without mentioning its less celebratory beginning.  After all, it was a collateral payoff of the disaster itself.

So let’s fast-forward through the theatrical tragicomedy where we found ourselves strapped to a ticking time-bomb in a smothering hot day, playing house with apathetic companies in a sluggish smog, and as if not comical enough, the farce promptly heightened with a side-plot of tree pollen-allergy.  To cut it short, on the way home with a crippled spirit and minus four friends, the story brought me to a roadside fruit-stand which I was certain, giving my trickling “chi” lately, to be the final K.O. of my demise.  But NO.  Well… yes and no.

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The high-season peaches, smartly, decidedly to side with main plot and joined the mockery.  But tucked in an unnoticeable corner behind the loud flares of summer cherries and melons, was a box of quiet… off-season pears.  Out of place, awkward and unwelcome, they stroke a string inside my empathetic core.  As someone who isn’t normally familiar with pears, I felt a flush of faith and immediately… asked if I could conduct a taste-test.

God damn it! I can be really cynical sometimes!

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But the pears were generous, sweet, and surprisingly fruity and fragrant.  On the rest of the ride home, I had six new companies tucked between my feet.  Of course right away, I started imagining ways I could play with my new friends… possibly… the only friend left.  How about a glazed pear tart to up the already-boiling temperature of my apartment and switch my emotional meltdown to a physical one?  Maybe not.  How about caramel and poached pear cake to nudge me over the edge into those-curious-sidewalk-people-who-mumbles-to-themselves?  Maybe later.  Well, I guess any oven-related tasks were unadvisable.

So I turned my mind to transforming a warm, spicy autumn classic into high-summer treat.  A sweet, fruity white wine cooked down to a syrupy consistency with pears, vanilla beans, cinnamon, star anise and cloves, then blended with cream to form a thick and supple gelato-base.  The high sugar content, balanced by the tartness of pears, ensured the gelato with a dense, pliable and never-frozen-hard consistency that I love, and the flavours were above all else, elegant but rich.  Hugging a cold, soothing box of poached pear gelato freckled with vanilla bean seeds, came the epiphany.  I see that if it weren’t because of a will-bending disaster trip that has left me wary of all social gatherings, I wouldn’t have discovered one my favourite gelato creation and be able to keep it all to myself.

Hmph, if that’s not how your optimism works, I don’t want to hear it.

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This is a seriously good gelato.  I know that pears are not exactly in season yet, so I think a great substitute would be summer peaches.  The moscato (a sweet fruity white wine) I used was slightly fizzy, which wasn’t actually intended but I don’t think it matters because all the bubbles will be gone in the poaching process anyways.  You don’t need to bleed money for this recipe because the bottle I chose was very reasonably priced at around $10 and the result was still great.

I really struggled whether I should make this a no-churn recipe or not, because theoretically, you can whip the heavy cream to soft peaks then fold in the pureed poached pear-mixture then freeze until hard.  But in the end, I still busted out the ice cream-maker just in case…  If you want to try the no-churn method, chill the purred poached pear-mixture after it’s blended with potato starch, then fold it into softly whipped cream and freeze.  It should do the trick I hope…


Ingredients:

  • 4 medium sized pears such as bosc (16.2 oz/460 grams after peeling and de-cored)
  • 2 cups (500 ml/480 grams) of moscato wine, or other sweet fruity white wine
  • 1 cup (200 grams) of granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp of honey
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 small stick of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (63 ml/60 grams) more of moscato wine
  • 2 tbsp of potato starch, or cornstarch
  • 2 cups (465 grams) of heavy cream (or half-half if you prefer)

Peel, de-core and cut the pears into quarters.  Split the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds.  Add the pears into a sauce pot with 2 cups of moscato wine, granulated sugar, honey, vanilla bean seeds and the split pod, star anise, cloves and cinnamon.  Cook over medium to medium-high heat until the liquid has reduced a little more than half, and becomes thick and syrupy, approx 30 ~ 40 min.  The pears should be very soft and translucent at this point.

Remove the vanilla pod, star anise, cloves and cinnamon, then transfer the mixture to a blender and add 1/4 cup more moscato wine and potato starch.  Blend until the mixture is completely smooth and thickened (the residual heat should cook the starch which thickens the mixture).  Then add the heavy cream and blend just until combined.  Chill the mixture in the fridge for at least 4 hours until completely cold.  Then churn it according to your ice-cream maker’s instruction, then freeze until hard.  (DO NOT over-churn it.  Stop when the gelato is slightly on the soft side then transfer to freezer.  The denser/less airy texture is what separates gelato from ice cream.)

Serve with extra shot of moscato wine if you’d like.

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SELF-MADE SOUR CREAM GELATO


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IT IS Fourth of July.  You’re busy.  I know.  But just let me squeeze in a couple minutes of your time because if you missed this, it would be the second greatest mistake of your life for we all know that the first in rank is always some hair cut (can’t beat that).  Guys… this is your emergency Independence Day dessert.  A discovery made after a kitchen-mistake of historic proportions, and in corresponding spirit of this holiday, proves again that greatness is often times a by-product of bad ideas.  And this, this is the greatest thing that’s ever happened after the establishment of long weekend.  What it is, is a gelato.  Not any gelato, but the creamiest, virtually zero air-molecules or ice-crystals gelato, that makes itself.

THREE INGREDIENTS → YOU WHISK → IT FREEZES → THAT’S IT!

It can be the base for any gelato flavour imaginable.  No machine, churning, whipping cream or whatsoever!  And it will look, feel, slide, melt and taste like the magic that it is.  Go.  Celebrate.READ MORE

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BROWNIE-COW POPSICLES

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 SHUT UP, SHUP UP, SHUP UP

Let’s play a game, shall we?

Let’s see how much of my babbling you can withstand before you say “shut up, shut up, shut up!” and burst into the kitchen to make yourself one of these milk and any-brownie, or as I call it, brownie-cow popsicles?

Right, so you see here’s the thing.  I kinda love Earth.  Maybe not enough to tie myself to a tree per se, but I do love Earth enough that I have more bicycles than mascaras, and I haven’t had myself an ungodly orgasmic piece of toro, for like more than three years now.  And believe me, I do love my ungodly toro.  But there’s something else I love dearly as well…  In the light of summer-days when reality strikes, I realized that I do also hold high regards for… a dry butt crack.  Yes, yes they do come loose-fit, oversized, or wet, and I daresay, more frequently so, since a few years ago when we decided to live in this particular apartment-complex in Beijing.  Little did I know that Earth and my butt crack were set on a collision course.

You still there?

Right, so where was I?  Yes, dry butt crack.

You see here’s the thing, as mentioned before, the apartment-complex we live in is supposed to be really “green”.  Whatever that means…  There’s no heater in the winter, or air-conditioning in the summer because the temperature inside the entire 10 ginormous buildings are monitored by… well, a “greener” system of some sort.  Or at least as I was told, at a time before I learnt my lesson about China, and still believed what I was told.  Awww…  So we moved in, with good-will kicking and feel-good blazing, we, were gonna save earth, one lease at a time.

Then came the lesson.  Never.  Never.  And I mean neeeevah, believe what you are told in China!  Four excruciatingly warm summers later, we are looking more medium-rare than “green”, still melting inside our boxer-briefs, extra-large-holes tank tops, and our butt cracks… feeling wet my friend.  Feeling wet.

Heh… hello?  Right, there you are.

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So why haven’t we moved you ask?  If you were still here to ask questions…  Well that’s a very kindly irresponsible thought for you to have I mean, what kind of earthlings are we if we were to bail on our promises just because we feel like we were brushed with meat-glue every time we hug?

Icecap-Jack, you melt.  I melt.

So perhaps you should know that… hey, you there?  I’m talking to you!  Right, so you should know that heat tends to do things to weak minds… the other day when I literally risked my sanity and as a result, Jason’s well-being, by boiling a huge pot of stock for 4 hours which turned our lukewarm bitchy beachy apartment into a steaming mind-bending crater of active volcano, I think I hallucinated a lil’bit.

I drifted to the nearest Cold Stone joint, took off my boxer-brief and sat my steamy butt-crack right on top of their sub-zero slab of freezing stainless steels…  Tssss~ aaahhh… like a steak on grill, now this is where my cheeks belong…  And then, only then, somebody came and handed me my go-to combo – sweet cream base with mashed brownies.

That’s it.  Nothing.  Else.  This is a purist’s Cold Stone and how it should be.  I peaked through my fingers to see the next guy ordering something as if the local candy store is unleashing a fuck-fest on top of his ice cream-cup, and got really, really bothered.  Get a room!  This is a family joint!  So I turned away and literally, with my ass chilling, I was about to dig into my…

… then I drifted right back to reality.  Pot.  Boiling.  Hot.  STEAM.  VOLCAAAANO!  See I have to take matters into my own hands…

Take a good brownie.  And I mean a good brownie, the dense… chewy, fudgy and chocolate-y brownie, and in this case, infused with Nutella.  Then break it into large chunks.  Force feed them to your popsicle molds, and if you don’t have any, some freaking paper cups!  Jam a stick in there, I don’t know, a chopstick for all I care, then pour milk that’s been thickened with sweetened condensed milk…  Up up up up, up riiiight there when it just fills the mold.  Then you freeze the bejeezus out of them!

Chewy gets chewier…  Fudgy gets fudgier…  Then we both get one and sit our asses down on a sub-zero freezer slab, and I’ll tell you about the other time when I…

Hello?….  You there?

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Makes:  10 popsicles

You don’t have to make your own brownie.  You can certainly use a store-bought brownie, with flavours to your likings to make these popsicles.  And if you want creaminess, you can substitute whole milk with half and half.  Note that 3/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk is enough sweetness for my taste, but if you like a closer-to-commercial-level sweetness for your popsicles, use more.

Ingredients:

  • Nutella brownie:  adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s favourite brownies
    • 2 oz (60 grams) of bittersweet chocolate
    • 1 stick (115 grams) of unsalted butter
    • 1.5 oz (45 grams) of nutella
    • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp (163 grams) of granulated sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
    • 1/2 tsp of flaky sea salt
    • 2/3 cup (120 grams) of all-purpose flour
  • To make the popsicles:
    • 1 1/2 cup of whole milk
    • 3/4 cup (230 grams) ~ 1 cup (306 grams) of sweetened condensed milk

To make the nutella brownie:  Preheat the oven on 350ºF/175ºC.

In a microwave-proof bowl, add the bittersweet chocolate and unsalted butter.  Microwave on high at a 30-seconds interval, stirring the mixture in between, until just melted (you’ll need approx 1:30 ~ 2 min).  Whisk in the granulated sugar and large eggs until thick and even, then add the vanilla extract and sea salt.  Whisk again until even. Add the all-purpose flour, fold the mixture together with a spatula until there is no flour-lumps left.  Pour the batter into a parchment-lined, 8″ square-pan or round-pan.  Bake in the oven for 25 min, until a wooden skewer comes out with moist crumbs from the center.

Let the brownie cool for 30 min.

To make the brownie popsicles:  Break the brownies up into large chunks (you’ll need about 2/3 of the brownies).  Lay a couple of pieces at the bottom of the popsicle-mold so the wooden stick has something to rest on, then insert the wooden stick.  Fill the empty space loosely with more brownies until they reach to the top.  Repeat with the rest.

Combine whole milk and sweetened condensed milk together, and warm in the microwave just enough for the sweetened condensed milk to dissolve (if not fully dissolved, the sweetened condensed milk will float to the surface during freezing).  Whisk the mixture together to make sure it’s fully incorporated, then pour the milk into the popsicle-molds until it fills to the top.

Freeze for at least 6 hours to overnight until hardened (in my experience, the popsicles always feel a bit soft right after they are removed from the molds, so once hardened, keep them removed and wrapped in plastic-wrap instead of inside the molds).

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THREE CHEESE MAZEMEN

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  MIGHT AS WELL CALL IT, A-MAZEMEN

SOMETHING truly unexpected happened this morning.

Something that, as far as I can remember, has never before happened to this under-exercised but nonetheless, well-conditioned casing of white-meat.  In the wee hours of this morning as a standard procedure, I rolled over in a complex twist and tango with my blanket and pillows as how it’s been professionally done in the past three decades, and in a turn of event, inexplicably…

… pulled my neck.

How the hell did that happen I have no idea, but I’m now muscularly decapitated.  Not only speaking to you with the non-photogenic side of my face in a zombie-like tilt, but perhaps it’s worth mentioning as well, feeling… understatedly uncomfortable.

This is very untimely indeed.  Because I have something that’s worth my every bit of literary effort to advertise, but somehow, sitting stiffly in front of a computer screen sounds and feels like a very bad idea right now.  So if I seem… out of words about this absurd, three cheese mazemen, inspired by Ivan ramen no doubt, don’t think of it as I’m slacking off.  Instead, think of this recipe as – and it truly is – beyond the reach of mortal vocabularies.

This recipe is actually a symptom of a condition that I’ve been suffering since I left New York, called cultural separation anxiety.  Compared to a relatively chilled attitude towards culinary fads and hypes while I was still in New York, I’m now constantly obsessed about what’s happening in a food-scene that I’m no long a part of.

And recently, it sounds like this Ivan guy is creating a lot of ruckus.

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Aside from the more familiarized styles of ramen that’s served in soup, or tsukemen as cooked noodles served with a dipping “soup-sauce” on the side, he seems to be popularizing a new style-hype called, mazemen.  What the hell is mazemen, and why is it legit?  Not only legit, but ingenious actually.  It snugs comfortably between a soup-ramen, and dry ramen (noodles dressed with just enough sauce to coat), making it kind of like a one-bowl tsukemen, where noodles are sitting in a generous amount of intensely flavoured “soup-sauce”, plus toppings.  It solves the eternal struggle of ramen-chefs and customers alike, to witness a good portion of the precious broth – the liquid soul of a chef who might have spent days forging out of his cradle of passion – being left wasted in the serving bowl… like a puddle of dead water, after everything else that took much less effort was otherwise consumed.

That shit hurts.

But with mazemen, just the right amount of highly flavoured soup is spared with each portion of noodles.  Highly flavoured as in, things that would otherwise make a “soup” too intense to drink, is being unleashed in an all-out ramen-extravaganza.  Like say, a soup infused with a three cheese combo?  Seriously, ingenious!  Might as well call it, a-mazemen!

But of course I understand that for most of you out there, the cradle of passion may not rock as violently as a ramen-chef.  There’s no shame in that, right, speaking from a person who published a completely pirated version of the sacred spicy miso ramen, and this time, without even consulting Ivan’s cookbook,  I’m not sorry to do it again.

Although this recipe may seem labour-intensive, believe me when I say that it’s already simplified and streamlined in 10-folds compared to a full-blown ramen operation (trust me, I have a book on that, and if you’ve read it, too, you’d appreciatively lick every single drop of soup from your ramen-bowl from now on).  A relatively easy and cheater-base stock is created in a speedy 4-hours time (hey, compared to say… 2 full days?).  Then every cheating soup-flavouring protocols known to noodle-pirates are implemented to bring this bowl as close to the real deal as I possibly can.  Is it at least, inarguably awesome, as far as noodle-pirates are concerned?

You bet it is.  I’m putting my neck on the line…

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The stock-technique of Japanese pork-based soup ramen will conflict everything you think you know about making stocks, that’s if you were French at least.  Forget what you know about low-and-slow of a bare simmer aiming at a clear stock.  It’s all about boiling the mixture into submission and get it to a milky and opaque state.  Then of course, lots of other steps and flavour-layering come after that (adding bonitos, konbu, dried anchovies and whatnots) but, we’re gonna cheat by using Japanese soup base.

It’s important to note that I start the base stock with homemade, unsalted chicken stock (flavoured with onions only) because I almost always have it in my freezer.  If you are going to use store-bought, it’s paramount that you buy chicken stock without salt, AND without the flavourings of thyme, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf or any other western herbs.  When in doubt, buy canned stock from an Asian brand.  But then again, it’s quite difficult to purchase stock that’s completely salt-free.  So if you want to just use water for the base stock, then add to the recipe of base stock: scrap-bones from 1 whole chicken, or 8 chicken wings.

The recipe for base stock will make for 8 servings, and can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept in the fridge in an air-tight container, as well as most of the toppings.  However, the final preparation for the actual three-cheese-broth has to be done right before serving, so I only documented the amount for 2 servings.  If you’re making for 4 people, double the three-cheese-broth recipe, and so on and so forth.

Most ramen restaurants like to serve ramen with sliced chashu (roasted/braised pork), but I beg to differ.  I like minced pork.  It’s kind of an accidental epiphany after my spicy miso ramen-express experiment, and I think it just incorporates better into the overall dish.  But if you like large slices of pork, I also included a quick recipe for that.


For three cheese mazemen: Inspired by Ivan Ramen

  • For base stock: (will make 8 cups, enough for 8 servings)
    • 3 pieces of pork back-gone + 3 pieces of pork shank-bone (total weight = 815 grams/29 oz)
    • 3 large scallions, cut into segments
    • 3″ of ginger, cut into chunks
    • 12 cups (3 litres) of unsalted chicken stock
    • 6 ~ 7 small Asian shallots, peeled and cut in half
    • 1/2 of a medium carrot, cut into chunks
    • 1/2 tsp of black peppercorn
  • For three cheese broth: (for 2 servings only)
    • 2 cups (500 ml/approx 500 grams) of base stock
    • 1/4 cup (15 grams) of dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and cleaned
    • 2 ~ 3 small Asian shallots, grated
    • 3 cloves of garlic, grated
    • 2 tbsp of Japanese hon tsuyu (soup base)
    • 3/4 tsp of sea salt, plus more to adjust
    • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper, plus more to adjust
    • 2 tbsp (35 grams) of cream cheese
    • 2/3 cup (80 grams) of soft white cheddar cheese, grated
    • 1/2 cup (30 grams) of Parmigiano cheese, grated
    • 1/8 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for topping
  • 2 servings of fresh ramen noodles
  • Toppings recipe follows

To make the base stock (can be done up to 3 days ahead):  Combine pork back-bones, pork shank-bones (and chicken bones or wings if you are using), scallions and ginger in a large pot.  Cover with cold water and set on high heat to bring to a boil.  Cook for 4 ~ 5 minutes after boiling, then careful pour everything into the kitchen sink with cold water running.  Wash/scrub off any scums and impurity from the bones (and chicken bones/wings if you’re using), as well as thoroughly clean the pot.

Return the cleaned bones to the cleaned pot, then add 12 cups of chicken stock (or water if you’re adding chicken bones/wings), shallots, carrot and black peppercorns.  Return to high heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat down to medium to maintain a constant (but not splattering) boil.  Cook the stock for at least 3 hours, to 4 hours (depending on what you can manage.  the longer it cooks the milkier it gets).  Shred and break up any bones/meats during cooking once they have soften (to release more flavour), and every time the liquid is reduced below 2/3 (meaning less than 8 cups left), add 2 cups of water to bring it back.  When you’re done, the base stock should be milky and opaque with bits of marrows and fat floating on top.

Strain the base stock through a sieve, and press on the scrap-meats and vegetables to extract as much liquid as you can.  You should have 8 cups of base stock.

To make the three cheese broth (for 2 servings only):  This has to be prepared right before serving.

Heat 2 cups of base stock with dried porcini mushrooms over medium heat.  Cook for 5 min until the mushrooms have completely soften and released the flavours into the soup.  Meanwhile, cook the fresh ramen noodle in another pot in boiling water.  Add the grated shallots, grated garlic, Japanese soba sauce base, sea salt and black pepper to the broth and cook for another min.  Then add cream cheese, grated white cheddar, grated Parmigiano cheese and fresh nutmeg, and whisk until the cheese has evenly melted (there may be stringy cheese that doesn’t fully melt, it’s ok).  Taste and re-season with sea salt if need be (note that this is more of a “sauce” than “soup”, so it has to be boldly seasoned).

To take the sharp edge off raw scallions, soak the thinly sliced scallion in water for 1 min then drain.

Transfer the broth evenly between 2 bowls.  Add the cooked ramen noodles, then top with pickled bean sprouts, thinly sliced scallions, parmesan and sesame pork, and a hot spring egg or poached egg (I’m using poached egg).  Grate more fresh nutmegs on top and drizzle with togarashi oil.

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To prepare the toppings:

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PARMIGIANO AND SESAME MINCED PORK: (enough for 4 servings)(can be made up to 3 days ahead)

  • 10.6 oz (300 grams) of ground pork-shoulder
  • 2 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1 tsp of black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp of white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup (30 grams) of grated Parmigiano cheese

Mix ground pork-shoulder, cornstarch, black and white sesame seeds, and salts together until even.  Heat the toasted sesame oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the ground pork until no-longer pink, and break it up as finely as you can with a wooden spoon.  Add the grated Parmigiano and keep cooking until the cheese is caramelized and browned.  Set aside until needed.


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SOY SAUCE GRILLED PORK NECK: (enough for 8 servings)(can be made up to 3 days ahead)

  • 2 pcs (13 oz/370 grams) of pork neck meat
  • 2 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 2 tsp of brown sugar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed

Pork neck is an Asian-specialty cut.  There’s only one small piece from every pig near the jaw, that’s perfectly marbled between fat and muscle.  It’s the short rib of pig.  But it can be hard to find, so if unavailable, you can substitute with pork belly (but trim most of the top slab of fat off).

Marinate everything together for at least 2 hours.  Preheat the top-broiler on high.  Remove the mashed garlic, then skewer the pork neck length-wise to prevent curling-up during cooking.  Place 3″ under the broiler and cook until charred and caramelized on one side, then flip and repeat on the other side.  Let the meat rest until completely cooled before removing the skewer.  Slice before serving.


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PICKLED BEAN SPROUTS: (for 2 servings)(has to be prepared right before serving)

  • 1 1/2 cup (150 grams) of bean sprouts
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 3/4 tsp of rice vinegar

Gently mix bean sprouts with salt, sugar and rice vinegar.  Let sit for 10 min, then squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the bean sprouts.  Set aside.


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FOR HOT SPRING EGGS:  Recipes on here, here and a final comprehensive guide.

FOR TOGARASHI OIL:  Recipes on SPICY MISO RAMEN-EXPRESS.

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DEVILS ON HORSEBACK ICE CREAM

“IF YOU GOT SOMETHING AGAINST SWIMSUITS… THIS IS A GOOD WAY TO TALK EVERYONE ELSE OUT OF IT”

WOW… I mean… just WOW…  I know it looks like I should be addressing my every bit of amazement to this fine specimen of frozen dessert right now, which really doesn’t need anybody’s introduction to be quite honest I mean look at it.  But I’m actually, with all my fingers involuntarily shaking, not focused on the ice cream just then.  Truth is, I’m still hung over, mentally taken hostage, emotionally robbed by the malfunction of this blog that has turned a rarely beautiful Beijing weekend into 48hrs of computer science-nightmare (if you came here during the weekend and found “the fridge” empty, I’m sorry).  It was a crisis so beyond the language that I speak it almost felt Sci-Fi, like an alien invasion, a fire-breathing Godzilla attack on the island of Java-script-what-eh?  I’m ashamed to admit that under the complete chaos and panic, I was so close… this close… like one-push-of-a-red-button away to just wiping everything I’ve done and everything you guys have ever said in the past 10 days, in the effort to restore control…

I almost nuked it…  I almost ground-zeroed my blog…

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