AS some of you may have noticed from this particular announcement, that I am now officially divorced… from the commitment of owning a stand-mixer (easy, gentlemen…).  More accurately, a surprised appliancewidow if you may, still deeply hurt by the concealed unhappiness my stand-mixer had apparently suffered from in the past 4 years, which finally led to his jump off the kitchen counter on a cloudy Oct 24th, decapitating himself in his last, escapist act.  The lumpy splatter of an unfinished pizza-dough over the black pavement, was his first and last, silent yet loudest protest, before declaring eternal freedom… from me.  Looking back, devastated, I don’t think he has ever loved me…

Now, mid 30’s, dumped, and less equipped…

I know at times like this, I’m suppose to resort to less labour-intensive tasks in the kitchen, a pasta-salad perhaps, or a one-bowl-pancake mix with added sparkles, maybe even the unthinkable salad, to hide the scars from this tragic embarrassment, and more importantly, look really hot while doing it.  But no.  In an counter-protest to the irresponsibility of a suicidal stand-mixer, giving up making doughs is admitting defeat.  With bare hands, I’m gonna prove that without him, I’m still highly desirable in the dough-market and totally dough-able.  Not just the same dough down the sad memory lane, but I’m gonna make something awsome-er, something super-er.

I’m gonna make the incredible, lamahcun and ayran.READ MORE

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To be honest, I don’t think I have ever truly enjoyed BBQ ribs.  It has always been, to me at least, more enjoyable as an idea – the smile of the pit-master, the black smoker hissing under the Southern sun, the sense of all American lifestyle – than in actuality.  In actuality, I’ve been waiting my whole life so far, to be impressed, turned, proven wrong, by something that I so desperately would like to grow more fond of.  But in the end, picking at a pile of ribs that are often borderline dry and overly sweet, I always ended up wondering if I have missed something.

This isn’t to say, the rib’s problem.  In fact, any form of scanty meats adhering to a disproportionate amount of bones, that requires bare hands and  sheer fangs to tear down, I’m there.  In fact, the rib-hole that had been ironically left hollow in my long years spent in holy BBQ-land, was immediately filled and nurtured within a month after I moved here, by the most unlikely of all cuisines.  A Northern Chinese creation called, cumin spare ribs.  Typically you wouldn’t think the word “mild” is the most associated vocabulary for American BBQ ribs, where plenty of spices and smokes coincide in effort to achieve the opposite.  But when put side by side with Chinese’s answer to finger-licking ribs, that’s exactly how they will appear.

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SO you watched Tony Bourdain in Bronx, didn’t you?

And if in the next following days, a certain very catchy phrase got stuck in your head like the most maddeningly annoying tune, echoing “chop’cheese… no, chop-peh-ded cheese… chop’cheese…”, steady, you are not mad.  You are just, like me, actually more Bronx than you ever thought you were.  This supposedly Bronx-via-Harlem native dish, even though, was not at all the leading lady in the narrative of that show (i mean let’s face it, Chuchifrito… who can beat that diva), but she struck a tune that I couldn’t stop singing, and there’s only one way to shut her up.

But just because I wrote about this handsome dude here awhile back, doesn’t mean I’m familiar with the other girl next door.  So who’s chopped cheese?  With a name like “chopped cheese”, you know she’s not the kinda girl who reads Goop, al’right.  She doesn’t take the hipster burger non-sense or customizable patty elitism, in fact, pffff, she doesn’t even give a fuck about her slightly more polished cousin, cheese burger.  Chopped cheese, is about disrespecting a patty in the most gloriously wrong of ways, dismantling it half-way during cooking with complete disregard to the concept of, juice, or the ludicrous question of, doneness.  Hey.  Just ain’t the way she likes it.  Everything we’ve been taught not to do to a patty, she’s done.  Justification?  Maximum caramelization.  To brown every possible square inch of ground beef to draw out the beefy-ness within, and let the cheese melt into the desperate nooks and crannies in between in a greasy, fluid unison.  In the most non-vogue sorta way, she’s some kinda sexy.

So here you’re thinking, how do I get me some of that sexiness.  Well first, before you even pull your pants up to go out to the grocery stores, you gotta put your mind right.  Any obsession within you for refinement, artisanal bullshit, the love for your French cuffs, should be tossed out the window.  She’s not impressed with your suits and ties.  She likes fatty and economically friendly ground beef (and if you even raise a thought of grinding your own beef?  To the left.).  She works better with non-real American cheese and a soft, squishy bun.  And she likes to be eaten instantly when you’re still in your grease-splattered T-shirt, standing by the edge of the kitchen counter, marvelling.   It makes her feel special.

Well now… so you’ve been introduced.  I guess this is the perfect time to… leave you two alone. READ MORE

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menchi katsu kare/ hamburger croquette w Japanese curry sauce




BEING not quite a licensed psychologist but more of a serial psycho-analyzer, I believe it must mean something, whether wishfully cute or symptomatically alarming, when your husband starts to lie to you about… what he had for lunch.  I mean it must

I’m not suggesting anyone to panic if similar clinical signs start to emerge in your marital routines or relationship.  Because based on my own study – lasting 6-plus years since the first, then constant episodes – the impact on the delicate harmony of nuptials isn’t exactly dire, but nonetheless, worth further investigation.  To continue, I guess I have to present the evidence of its first symptomatic appearance…

Back in the years when we were still in New York, for the longest time I was made to believed that in the barren wasteland far-far-away called “the financial district”, more often than not, poor he had to survive on a “very small cup” of Korean stew from a corner-deli (holding out both of his thumbs and index fingers to form a tiny circle) with an unfinished small bowl of steamed rice and kimchi.  Shoulders hunched and holding my sympathy hostage, his unspoken demand for a more nourishing dinner were usually met without any challenge.  Little did I know… until the first time I finally met him for lunch… The alleged “very small cup” turned out to be a venti TUB!  That amount can feed a Victoria’s Secret model for a month on her best eating days!  From then on, I take his lunch answers – “a few bites on a 6″ cold-cut subway and 1/2 of an oatmeal cookie”, “a small steamed bun with a little side of sautéed pepper and beef, but very little beef”, “a box of noodle that I ate half-way… only”, “zucchinis…”, “NO lunch” – with the scars of the deceived.  Who the hell knows, he could’ve sexed cheese burgers raining down with confetti then washed’em down by a keg of dark ale and instead just said, “some sliders at happy hour”.

But these were not the most shameful episodes you see.  The siren of his guilt-driven lies only sounds louder when all specifics are avoided, with just the misleading type of restaurants given…

“What did you have for lunch today?”

“Japanese…”READ MORE

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On the 20th of May 2013, I made a recipe that up to this day, more than a year later, still haunts me. It was a glorious, beautifully crafted specimen of pork belly confit, originally created by the Thomas Keller of whom I almost always, agree with.

There was nothing fundamentally wrong with it. The belly went through long hours of brining process before taking a hot-fat-tub bath that was equally as elaborate, then it went on to sit through an overnight pressing procedure… for reasons I followed without asking. Then, finally, 24 hours later in this excruciating climb to climax, it was sent into a skillet to fulfil its actual purpose – to form a golden, perforated crackling from the skin. The final torching of a caramel crust, although not from the original recipe, added a nice and thoughtful crunch and sweetness to the overall score. Like I said, there wasn’t anything fundamentally wrong with it…

Except that it was just too damn, unnecessarily complicated!

OK, you’re right. For those who only stop by once in a while, I’m evidently not someone who, by principle, seeks kitchen-shortcuts. I receive considerable amount of twisted pleasure from fiddling with obsessive cooking behavior I mean, I have an entire section named “Got nothing but time” (which I do) for crying out loud. But the premise is that the extra fusses should always be because a) it’s absolutely necessary by science (like fermentation), or b) it actually saves the overall effort by doing so (like leaving something to roast overnight). I guess all I’m asking for, the pole that I’m curbing my insanity to, is that the time and effort spent are not for some minuscule, or sometimes, undetectable differences. And I’m afraid that in the case of pork confit, I’m gonna have to prove myself right by proving myself wrong.READ MORE

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I have never been to Mexico.

To clarify further, I have never even been close to any of the states next to Mexico except maybe LA, which I’m not even going to use as my pathetic credentials on real Mexican cooking which is to say, zero to none.  I’ve heard that Taco Bell is about as close to real Mexican food as fortune cookies are to being Chinese.  I’ve also heard that they don’t actually “nacho” much over there.  Aside from that, Mexican food has remained quite a romantic mystery.

But even though I don’t know enough to say what’s Mexican food, whatever it is, that tasteless borderline-inedible crap we were served with the other day near Beijing’s embassy area, was definitely not it.  Given that it was a very hot day hence we weren’t feeling particular choosey, we thought those more-than-a-handful patrons who were present during off-meal hours were a good indicator that the restaurant at least serves human food.  WROOONG!  I mean seriously, seriously, how inhumanly difficult is it to serve passable tacos to someone who’s never had a real taco!  Not so freaking hard is it?  Why!?

We left the place feeling psychologically hungry.  The trauma only left me wanting more of what I’ve never had – dainty Mexican tacos good enough to fool myself.  Then before long, my discontent took my memory back to a cookbook I’ve owned forever but never cooked from – Off the Menu: Staff Meals from America’s Top Restaurants, which features A.O.C in LA and a recipe for their tostadas-tuesday.  OK, the critically acclaimed restaurant is not Mexican, and tostadas are not tacos but more like tacos with fried tortillas.  Do I have problem with any of that?  I mean do you?

Since this is starting to look like someone with no Mexican cooking experience, starting off from a recipe by a non-Mexican restaurant, I thought it won’t hurt much more to impose further ungrounded twists.  A.O.C’s recipe sauté the ground beef with aromatics and spices, but I want it to be more “Mexican-y”… whatever that is.  So I made a puree with soften dried chilis, onions, garlic and thyme, and a spice-mixture that includes something I’ve never used before in savoury dishes – unsweetened cocoa power.

ground-beef-taco03READ MORE

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YESTERDAY, the last day of Jason’s 3-day-business-trip to Hong Kong, Jiaozi/Dumpling pulled a performance of his life at 10 in the morning, in a theatrical masterpiece called – This Is It.  Good bye, mom and dad.  Limping and whimpering, wordless but powerful… his flawless craft of showmanship efficiently triggered a wild response from the only audience, and prompted an emergency change in Jason’s itinerary for an earlier return.  Then. This morning.  Suspiciously and miraculously so, he was moonwalking lively around his “feeding zone” – I’d imagine singing the Smooth Criminal – barking and dancing for his personally prepared chicken liver-rice.  Celebrating the success of his pathetic ploy… he ate a shit-load.

I know, I know that I shouldn’t project reasons and meanings behind animal behaviors when there’s probably none…  He’s just an cunning old, sneaky wavy-haired boy Maltese.  It’s just sometimes, it’s really hard not to do that.

But what does that have to do with today’s sandwich?  Absolutely nothing.


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the refreshment of slippery noodles in an icy tangy broth… gliding down with sizzling pork fat on a stick.



SEEMINGLY, if you think that I have lost my mind and regards to the diversity of this blog somewhere in the frozen land of popsicles, gelato and gelato plus slushy cocktails, here’s a proof that… you’re absolutely correct.  These days, I feel as much desire to be in close proximity to open flames as there is to a screaming baby on an airplane.  Even with evident love for a bowl of hot and slurpable fire, these days I want my dinner to feel as close to a cold shivering shower as it can get, and believe it or not, it can.

Allow me to present evidence from our last two years in New York where we had the pleasure of visiting Fort Lee a few times, aka the better Korean Town just across the Hudson from Upper Manhattan.  Before such trips, I thought I could be happily-ever-after with Manhattan’s functioning K-town with its satisfactory BBQ following an affordable eyelash-extension.  But Fort Lee had ruined such ludicrous fantasy with delicious aggression.  The variety of dishes served there isn’t too different, but with just an extra pinch of much-ness that kicks them from good, to great.  And among which, the glorious mul Naengmyeon was unlike any I’ve ever had.

It means “cold noodle”, but boy is that an understatement.

Apart from dishes with the same claims, mul naengmyeon has kicked the word “cold” to a new level.  Instead of mixing noodles that are cooled after cooking with various sauces, it plunges them into an icy bath of broth made from beef and pickling juice that is chilled to a borderline frozen state.  As I swam my chopsticks through the frosty lake of flavours, I could hear the sound of slushes colliding in a refreshing symphony.  The buckwheat noodles were cold, chewy and slippery, gliding effortlessly into my properly chilled tummy with the savoury and tangy broth, topped with more pickles and thinly sliced pear and cucumber.

It is not a summer dish.  It is the summer dish.


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