Meat

CUMIN LAMB AND HAND-SMASHED NOODLE SOUP

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FOR THIS WEEKEND….

I’m quickly leaving you with this recipe today because I don’t have a whole lot to say about it.  In fact, it is precisely because I’ve already said everything I wanted about them in my previous posts.  This recipe is a good example of how I, and you as well, can utilize all the recipes on the site fluently in combination, to draw to a different conclusion.  This particular dish is mainly a soup-version from my xi’an famous cumin lamb and hand-smashed noodles, but it draws from three different recipes that have somewhat became a staple of my own kitchen.   Plus a little further processing and tweaks, it can become something that scratches an entirely different itch.  So here, whether you are a dry noodle or soup noodle kinda person, or both, you can now travel between two worlds.

  
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MEET “THE WALTER WHITE” – THE KINGPIN OF MEAT BUNS

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PACKED WITH A WALLOP OF SCALLION GROUND PORK, A PIECE OF BRAISED PORK BELLY, ONE BRAISED SHITAKE MUSHROOM, ONE SALTED DUCK YOLK AND CHILI CONFIT, EACH BUN MEASURES 5 1/2″ (14 CM) IN DIAMETER AND ALMOST  1 LB (450 GRAMS) IN WEIGHT

IF THIS ISN’T CRIMINAL, I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS


There’s something about me unknown to most.  I have a sickly obsession for Chinese steamed pork buns.  Sickly, I said.  I think it was a childhood trauma that I developed in my earliest memory, over one afternoon by a hungry swimming pool when it was given to me as a snack, but I never suspect it would follow me ghostly into adulthood like an unsociable kink.  Ask my husband who never understood any of it, that whether it is placed on the table of a proper restaurant or abandoned in the metal cage of an electric warmer inside any 7-11’s in Asia, or even just a carcass of it laying on the asphalt being picked by a mob of pigeons… you put a steamed pork bun within my perimeter of sight?  And you’re likely to achieve a deer-in-headlights reaction from me.  Yeah.  Throw a steamed pork bun in front of me while I’m crossing the street?  And you can watch the progression of a human-roadkill unfold with captions, NatGeo-style.  I wish I could say that this is where the embarrassment stops, but no.  Thing is, size matters, too.  Even though we all know that size does not imply superiority or function, but as far as steamed bun goes, it is fair to say that I like’em as unapologetically as how men like their boobs.  Maximumly enormous for no good reasons.  I know, it’s completely shallow, illogical, utterly fantasy-based.  In fact, overly large steamed buns usually mean overly thick doughs and little fillings, and for the past 35-some years in the ever-pursuit for “the one”, big or small, I hardly found a steamed pork bun that I actually like.  I just believe that it’s out there.  It is an obsession supported only by faith, that as long as I bite into every single steamed pork bun that comes across my path, that if I just do that, then someday somewhere, I would find the one.  And that day came.

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THE JADED DOOR-NAIL MEAT PIES RUBBED W/ SCALLION BUTTER

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DOESN’T IT HELP YOUR CONFIDENCE IN MAKING THESE IN YOUR OWN KITCHEN, KNOWING THAT THEY AREN’T IMMORTALS,

THAT THEY TOO BLEED JUICE, JUST LIKE THE REST OF US.

To most people who aren’t born or raised in China or any of its politically disputed subparts, the idea of cooking Chinese cuisine, I guess, can feel intimidating.  For one, it sounds big.  And it is big.  It is big in a sense that it’s actually less confusing to approach it not as a generalized whole, but as a ccoalition of many different regional representatives.  The food cultures in the north, really is a world away from the south, and from the east coast-lines to the west high mountains, vice versa.  And to make matters more complicated than say, how it is in America, in the best as well as the worst sense, the gaps between regional cultures aren’t yet as erased by modernization and technologies as we speak.  So if you think you’re scared about making southern dim-sum simply because you aren’t Chinese, know that there’s someone else born and raised in northern China, who feels just the same.  But I’m not saying this to scare you.  I’m saying this to let you know that, yes, while there is real deep stuff to be sorted out in the study of Chinese cuisine, it is also just as important to know that a lot of it, is actually just bullshit.

Now, this is the first mental fortification you should master if you want to tackle this massive beast, knowing its bluff, knowing that a lot of the seemly variations in its dishes are just the smokes of admirable marketing campaigns.  For one example, when it comes to the dazzling and curious case of unleavened meat pies (where the dough is without yeast), besides their shapes and sizes and minor variations in flavours, I’m afraid that the only clear difference, like many other dishes I might add, lies within the fabrication of their biographies.

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XI’AN STYLE SMUSHED LAMB MEATBALL BURGER

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XI’AN-STYLE SMUSHED LAMB MEATBALLS BRAISED IN JOY-JUICE, STUFFED IN CH-ENGLISH MUFFINS… MORE THAN WORDS

I can’t even… I won’t even… I’m not even gonna…  Look, my friends, this is my Xi’an-style smushed lamb meatballs braised in joy-juice, slobbering in between a layer of sesame/peanut sauce and cilantro/red onion slaw, my signature chili oil and Xi’an burger buns (call it Ch-english muffins).  If you are looking at them and doesn’t have the urge to tell me to shut the fuck up now, and get to it, then I don’t know nothin’ about foods.  This is where that song – More Than Words – was written for, a song that I suffered through 20 years of karaoke with and couldn’t figure out the appeal, until now.

And you wouldn’t have to saaayeh~ that you love me.  Cuz I’d already knowoah~

  
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M(Y) SHANGHAI’S COLD WONTONS IN SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

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YOUR ULTIMATE REVENGE TOWARDS THE COMING ASS-BINDING HEATWAVES

A REFRESHINGLY PLEASURABLE PAIN, BEST SERVED COLD

It might say something about me, perhaps not in the most positive light, whenever I fell for a Chinese dish-inspiration from half way around the world while living right inside the epicenter of it all, where the “real things” are or so they say.  What kind of a food-blogger, who eats and breathes right off of the ground-zero of a very old, very diverse and rapidly morphing food-culture often generalized as “Chinese foods”, would cook you a Chinese dish that comes from an Instagram of a New Yorker who took it at a restaurant that are, out of all places, in Brooklyn. Lazy?  Perhaps.  Utter dumb luck?  That’s for sure.  Because you see, without this inconvenient loop around the globe it has traveled, the inspiration for this down-home Shanghainese summer snack, in one form or another, would have otherwise never found its way to melt in my warm embrace.  And this is, I guess especially for those who have experienced living abroad, a perfectly explainable social phenomenon.

Thing is, I believe across all cultures, that the restaurants indigenous to where they are located, often times with great effort, focus on serving what they perceive as “restaurant-style/worthy” dishes only.  It is a limiting but reasonable box that excludes the slightly less glamorous, homemade gems that are more commonly celebrated within the contentment of one’s own home.  It really isn’t hard to understand why.  Just imagine, that it would also seem odd, if not lazy, to see PB&J on the menu of a respectable American restaurant sitting in the heart of Manhattan, no?  However, when the citizens of such comfort are residing in a foreign land, say, a Shanghainese in Brooklyn, and decided to open a restaurant to selfishly serve his/her personal home-sickness, then guess what, dishes like these start to pop up.  And my friends, dishes like these, are always my favourite kind to eat.  Take this for example, M Shanghai’s wontons in spicy peanut sauce.   Something that I would have taken gladly from its bare and natural implications – burning hot pork wontons slurped cautiously from an even more inflammable pool of peanut sauce and chili oil – let alone after the discovery of its true, counterintuitive ingenuity over a much needed research.  It turns out (whether or not this is how it’s served in Brooklyn) that this fabulous summer-snack regrettably overlooked in most-if-not-all Shanghai restaurants in Beijing, is actually… eaten cold.

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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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JERKED SRIRACHA ROAST PORK TACOS W KIWI SALSA VERDE

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 WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST BEHAVE LIKE TACOS?

I don’t know, if there was any other single food-item in this world that, in the best sense possible, welcomes manipulations as much as say, tacos.

I mean think about it.  In this world where the not-so-secret food-police who enforces the law of authenticity, still patrols much of the way we perceive and evaluate what and how we eat, this iconic Mexican establishment seems to be freely, and deliciously if I might add, looming well outside of its strict jurisdiction.  They have applaudedly gone over and beyond their traditional origins, shown more adaptability and dare I say, humour, that’s unbound by the narrowness of ethnicity without muss or fuss.  How does it do it?  This means, to me at least, more than eating.  If you just take a look at this mad house we’re all living under now – where you can’t cook a pot of bolognese sauce without turning some Italian nonna in her graves, or enjoy any other blurred out version of mapo tofu without stepping on some bitches’ toes (who me?), or fucking crack a joke without hate – it would appear that, fingers crossed, the modern tacos are practically a beacon for social miracles.  This is not me saying pure authenticity, in food or anything else, is bad, nor is it good.  I guess, it’s only natural, a mean for us to identify with something, to belong, to cling onto a place in this world where we could find familiarity, call it pride, then do things to defend it.  But here we are stuck, on this globe that we were told is supposed to be getting smaller and smaller by the days, and inherently for the same reason, more and more hostile by the minute.  Diehard authenticity can taste more intolerant than delicious.  And I mean that in a lot more ways than foods.  So I guess here’s my question:

Why can’t we all just behave like tacos?

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