Meat

    HOW TO EASILY SOUS-VIDE IN OVEN, WITH OR WITHOUT WATER

    FOR THE PAST 35 YEARS OF SOLEMN HATRED FOR WHITE MEAT, OF CLAWING CHICKEN SAWDUSTS OUT OF MY THROAT, IT MEANS TO TELL ME THAT ALL ALONG, I COULD’VE BEEN EATING THIS SUCCULENCE?!!

    IS THIS A JOKE?!!

    Let’s face it, most of us never took the idea of “sous vide” seriously as a realistic potential in our home-kitchen, now did we? But now there are so many sous vide devices on the market today that it’s hard to ignore the growing popularity of it.

    This French-sounding… European-ish words (“sus-vahyd”?) that refer to vacuum-sealing our ingredients and submerging them under a warm bath for a long period of time, thus resulting in the extraordinarily supple texture in any cuts of meat, okaaay, all sounds as wonderful as having little house-elf who rap us a Kanye song and clean around the house. Nice, clap clap, but who are we kidding right? Hey, believe me, I with you. Or… at least, I was with you… until a few weeks ago I swear.

    I mean, as someone who loves to cook to a degree of obsessive nature, I’m all about humping a technique that, legend has it, could transform a cardboard-like piece of chicken breasts into something so juicy and tender that it defies my anti-faith for chicken breasts. But to acquire such wizardry, well, I’ll need a wand of course, and it’s called a sous vide-machine. Thing is I would gladly “sus-vahyd” everything – hey I think it totally makes total sense – IF ONLY I was sitting on a machine that sucks all the air-molecules out of the bags, and another that keeps my tub of water at a constant temperature without asking too many questions. But guess what, I don’t have a sous vide-machine”s”, and I’m guessing you probably neither. I guess, we’re all just muggles! So in the end, the idea all goes back to resembling a fabulous Dobby who raps Kanye ? not a realistic potential. Or is it?

    A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Chef Steps, a great blog that promotes “Modernist Cuisines for home-cooks”, and at the top of its honorable agenda, is the mission to teach everyone how to sous vide at home, without any machines that is. It gave me hope, it really did. I considered it as an invitation into Hogwars. So I immediately dove into the first experiment, which was to tightly wrap salmon in a zip-lock bag and cook it in a pot of 120 F/50 C water that they said could be maintained over the stove… Okay, I would elaborate the experience in meticulous details for you but it could pretty much be summed up in one word, well, impossible. On gas-stove, on induction-stove… whatever, not even the lowest possible setting/flame could keep a pot of water at 120F/50C without heating it up eventually, not to mention the obvious impracticality and side-effect of babysitting a pot of lukewarm water for 40 min, or worse, hours… Chefs, it’s not you, but it doesn’t work on my stoves.

    But to their credit, the effort wasn’t spent in vain. The episode curiously reminded me of how, a long time ago, I used to babysit a pot of water in oblivion for my hot spring/onsen eggs, only until the moment when I found out that… wait, I HAVE A HOUSE-ELF!

    Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce you to – Dobby, no, THE OVEN. Uh-humph, sorry, have you met? Yeah, it’s this really old piece of technology, dinosaur really, that was designed to, guess what, creating an environment at a… yes, constant temperature! OK, at this point, we’re not even gonna pretend that we’re “sous vide-ing” anything, which means “under vacuum” in French. We’re not vacuuming anything, but just keeping to the principle of cooking foods under low temperature for a prolonged period of time. And I don’t know if you know this about earth, but in most cases, the temperature of water will eventually level to the temperature of its surroundings. What it means is that a pot of 120F/50C water sitting inside an oven that is constantly at 120F/50C, will stay at… YES, 120F/50C!! Do you see where I’m going with this? Do you? With a little adjustment to the oven-setting to make up for the heat that goes into cooking our foods, my friends, this is your new kitchen-revelation.

    Results… the salmon, was a bite of the softest and warm embracive epiphany you could ever put in your mouth. I would replace it with how I cooked salmon in this recipe and gladly eat it for the rest of my lives. Then the chicken breasts… what chicken breasts? It transformed the chicken breasts into something… not of this earth, okay. This is not chicken breasts, not even chicken, because planet earth does not breed this type of animal which has an unbelievable texture as if a chicken screwed a water-balloon and had a baby on Mars that spoke French. The texture, the suppleness and bounce, is for a lack of better words, infuriating. It means to tell me that for the past 35 years of solemn hatred for white meat, the chicken-sawdusts that I’ve been clawing out of my throat, all along, could’ve been this succulence?!! Is this a joke?!!

    But to my own surprise, amidst the simultaneous anguish and enlightenment, the wizardry didn’t stop here. Remember my sauna eggs? A little experiment I conducted based on the theory that, with a little adjustments in temperature and cooking-time (difference in air and water heat-conductivity and such boring sciences, blah blah blah), the same water-bath results can be replicated by using dry-heat only as well. But does it work with things other than eggs? YES. The chicken breasts and salmon cooked inside a water-bath in the oven, VS the same ingredients being cooked simply wrapped up in parchment in dry heat at a different temperature/time, are essentially, undistinguishable.

    You can “sous vide” in the oven, with or without water-bath.

    It very much seemed like something only the pros used but with the knowledge of having the UK’s leading sous vide specialists in this very field, this idea may not seem as out there as some of us used to think. So here, my friends, screw being muggles, come to Hogwarts with me. With a simple thermometer and oven thermometer, let’s do magic. I will continue this experiment with more ingredients and do a Part II or perhaps even Part III, but for now, I think you’ll be too busy eating – can’t believe I’m saying this – chicken breasts. I guess it’s true, nothing is impossible.

    READ MORE

    Continue Reading

    PROSCIUTTO AND DATES SU-STYLE MOONCAKE

    prosciutto-and-date-mooncake20

    DECEIVINGLY EASY…

    IT WILL SHATTER YOUR DOUBT-SYSTEM AS THE LAYERS CRACK LIKE THE WINGS OF BUTTERFLIES AND FALL ON YOUR JAW-DROPPED COUNTERTOP

    – XOXO

    OK, I know that mooncakes are generally sweet and not savoury (like the ones on https://www.emicakes.com.sg/mooncake-delivery-singapore for example, which look amazing) but I have decided to mix things up a bit here and BOY am I glad that I did. I don’t have much time today to elaborate much, in fact, not even enough time to say what I’m about to say but I gotta say it anyways because it’s just too damn important which is – PLEASE, don’t let the intimidating display of these lacy, delicate, flakey pastry filled mooncakes with salty prosciutto and sweet dates and honey… fool you. They are deceivingly easy, forgiving even, and I got them down with smashing success right at the first try (I’ve had more tears shed on making pancakes, let me just tell you that). This waffer-thin layered dough actually DOES NOT require any chilling (even though I still gave them a 30-min nap in the fridge just because I was insecure), believe it or not, and it will shatter your doubt-system as the layers crack like the wings of butterflies and falls on your jaw-dropped countertop. And then the filling… oh my god I don’t even have time to talk about this filling but I gotta say it anyways because it’s just too damn good! Part-crispy and part-fresh prosciuttos, mashed with finely minced dates and honey with a dash of black rum. It is the most fruitful reward you can expect out of the eternal conflict between salty and sweet. And then, these two things together… these two buttery, lacy, porky, salty, sweet things together! I don’t have time for this! Do you get me?! Just go do it and believe.

    – XOXO.


    I copied/pasted the instructions below to correspond with the photos so it’s easier to understand, but serious, you’ll probably have something great at the first try, then nail it at the second, tops. There’s also another su-style mooncake variation by Betty on Food52. Check it out.

     

    prosciutto-and-date-mooncake03

    Combine cake flour, water, unsalted butter and sugar in a large bowl, and mix it with your hands until it comes into a dough.

    prosciutto-and-date-mooncake04

    Transfer to a working surface and knead for a couple min until the dough is smooth and soft. Divide the dough into 12 equal portions, then set aside to rest.

    prosciutto-and-date-mooncake02

    Meanwhile, combine cake flour and unsalted butter in the same bowl for the oil-dough.

    READ MORE

    Continue Reading

    DOGGY MEATLOAF BIRTHDAY “CAKE” FOR BIG 15TH

    meatloaf-bday-cake15

    HIS FICTIONAL TWIN, THE GRINCH, WHO IS THE SOLE CLINICAL CASE TO HAVE BENEFITED FROM THIS MEDICAL ILLNESS

    This past week, August 26th to be exact, my dog-son Dumpling turned 15 years old, almost 100 years old in human-years.

    For small breeds such as the Maltese that he is, this may not be the most ground-shaking news, probably not even rare, but for my Dumpling, it is nothing less than a medical miracle. About a year and a half ago, shortly after the departure of our Frenchie Bado (here’s a short bio on the family, so far), Dumpling was rushed to the hospital after fainting in my arms with a screeching cry, where we were told that he was developing a severe case of congestive heart failure. It was ironic… really, for a borderline sociopathic dog loathed by almost everyone outside of his immediate families, to end up with a condition where his tiny angry heart, unstoppable and irreversibly, grew larger and larger by the day. But unlike his fictional twin, the Grinch, who is the sole clinical case to have benefited from this medical illness, for my Dumpling, what this actually meant was that… Christmas was going to be difficult.

    meatloaf-bday-cake01
    meatloaf-bday-cake02
    meatloaf-bday-cake03
    READ MORE

    Continue Reading

    CUMIN LAMB AND HAND-SMASHED NOODLE SOUP

    cumin-lamb-biang-biang-soup-noodle05

      

    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.

      
    IMG_9518
    IMG_9521
    IMG_9527
    READ MORE

    Continue Reading

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

    mega-meat-bun16

    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.

    mega-meat-bun02
    mega-meat-bun03
    mega-meat-bun04
    READ MORE

    Continue Reading

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

    door-nail-meat-pie26

    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.

    door-nail-meat-pie02
    door-nail-meat-pie03
    door-nail-meat-pie04
    READ MORE

    Continue Reading

    XI’AN STYLE SMUSHED LAMB MEATBALL BURGER

    xi'an-meatball-burger37

      

    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~

      
    xi'an-meatball-burger16
    xi'an-meatball-burger17
    xi'an-meatball-burger18
    READ MORE

    Continue Reading

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

    image

    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.

    image
    wonton-in-spicy-peanut-sauce02
    wonton-in-spicy-peanut-sauce03
    READ MORE

    Continue Reading