Noodle/Pasta/Rice

HONG KONG’S CURRY FISH BALLS OVER RAMEN

Drifting over moving chaos, under the clouds of settling dusts, weeks… have passed.  It’s been almost a month since my last post, the longest it has ever been.

This posting gap was considerable in blogging years, unplanned nor welcomed, and in many ways in fact, nerve-wrecking.  But I wanted to do the first “official” post properly, to wait, to get all the shit that needs to be done in our apartment, one that we renovated ourselves 6 years ago before moving to Beijing, so I could include a proper introduction of our new life to your all in this post.  Kind of…  Friends, apartment.  Apartment, friends.  Now help yourself at the buffet.

But turned out, as it seems, that there is more work involved behind those House And Garden variety of apartment showoffs that I used to take completely granted for.  After 4 weeks of grinding constructions, big and small, to touch up those little imperfections that, really, bothered nobody but myself… the apartment, is still not there yet.  So I decided not to wait any longer.  This post may not include apartment therapy – maybe in another week – but worry not, it’s still got food.

Now, for the first “official” post marking a new beginning in Hong Kong, I thought it was only fitting that we start with something iconic to this city.

Every city needs a hero.  Best yet, an nourishing one, dependable, non-judgmental, and accessible to all under its shelter, big or small, rich or poor.  One that doesn’t care if you were hustling sober through the high traffics or stumbling drunk on the stone-cold pavement, always and forever, as the city promises, the rescue that is steaming just around the corner.  Dirty water hot dog in New York, jian-bing in Beijing.  Here, this thing called curry fish balls is the food-hero that bonds between Hong Kong’s identity and its people who hold it dearly.

The fish balls, pre-fried, are boiled in a large tank of neon-yellow water which gets replenished as more fish balls are removed from the water, and served with a spoonful of curry sauce and hot sauce to standing customers huddling around the booth.  This boil-and-sauce technique, I suspect, is catering more to a streamlined service with higher turn-overs than say, optimising flavours.  The fish balls, without actually being cooked in the curry, are slightly bland and therefore have to draw all their flavours from the topical sauces instead of being a single, together, perfect entity.  This makes sense for street vendors, of course, especially in this relentlessly expensive city where any means necessary to speed up services are justifiably, if not rudely, executed.  But if we were to recreate this dish at home – and I would argue that it’s in the best interest to honor its complexity – we shall do things a little differently.

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SPICY SALMON BIBIMBAP/KOREAN RICE BOWL

 

Hey guys.  I know I’ve been a bit absent lately.  So many changes and curve balls have been flying around in all directions I feel like I’m all twisted up like a hot pretzel!  I can’ wait to share all these updates with you (EEEWGE news, guys!  And, uh no, I’m not pregnant… nor is it a book thing, not yet), but for now, please let me quickly share this bibimbap recipe (or more accurately, hoedeopbap as a reader pointed out) with you.  This is one of my absolute favourite things to eat lately.  It’s deceivingly easy to make, unbelievably delicious, not to mention, coincidentally healthy because it’s borderline a veggie-bowl.  I think you’d be very surprised by how good it is, like I was, considering how little “cooking” was involved.  I make a big batch of the toppings and keep them in the fridge, which would more than adequately sustain the following couple days of crazy balling (which, again, I will soon update you on ;).  So… yup, eat up.  Eeewge, guys… eeewge.

 
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Longevity noodle w/ black sesame and crispy shallots

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It is the first day of the Chinese New Year holiday, and I’m quickly leaving you with my version of a festive and symbolic dish that are served in many Chinese holidays or events.   Taiwanese call it “noodle threads (面线)”, or as it is called “wire noodles (索面)” in southern China.  It’s extremely long and elastic which makes them resistant to breaking and thus symbolizes longevity and eternity.  And in a deeply superstitious Taiwanese culture, this purpose alone is sufficient to get it invited to every events where they’d like to see good omen literally printed on the menus.

But I don’t eat it like any of that non-sense.  I love this noodle simply because it’s freaking good.

It has a super fine, silky and soft but slightly chewy texture with a subtle saltiness.  And it is just the ultimate February-comfort food, especially soaked in dense chicken stock infused with a deeply nutty, gingery and garlicky black sesame paste, and the pungent aroma from crispy fried shallots.  Its smooth and yarn-like body slides effortlessly into the tummy, with a sip of darkened and aromatic broth that lingers in the mouth.  Every time I make this, I wonder why I don’t make it more often.

So friends, Happy CNY.  Live long and prosper.

 

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Servings: 4

You should be able to find this type of noodles in most Asian supermarkets, or such as this one from online sources.  Or you can substitute with the shorter, Japanese version called somen (hair noodle).

 Ingredients:

Evenly mix toasted sesame oil, black sesame paste, grated ginger, grated garlic and salt together, then set aside.  If you’re frying your own shallots, drain them well after frying and season with a good pinch of salt.  If you are using store-bought, sautée it slightly over medium low heat to bring it back to life, and season with a bit of salt.  Crush the crispy shallots until resembling coarse breadcrumbs.

Bring your chicken broth to a boil, then season well with salt.  Ladle the broth into serving bowls then add a dash of sake, and swirl in 1 scant tbsp of the black sesame-mixture for each bowl.  Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook the noodles just until done (it should only take a couple min).  Drain well, then transfer into the soup.  Top generously with crispy fried shallots and dust with white pepper.  Serve immediately.

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Needle point pasta in light blue cheese sauce

  

IF YOU LIKE STUBBY AND CHEWY PASTAS, LIKE ORECCHIETTE, YOU’RE GONNA LOVE THIS

Are you still waiting for your simple, elegant, next go-to dinner party recipe that you can strut out in front of an impressed crowd and say “oh this?  I just pulled it out of the fridge“?

Well, this one is mine.

In case you aren’t aware yet, but for the past two weeks, I’ve been and will be stuck with tiny and barely equipped kitchens in rented apartments all the way till early January.  You know when they say, you don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it?  Well, I feel exactly the same about my kitchen.  Because what I have now in my temporary possession is a bended cutting board, a non-stick skillet, and a knife that’s about as sharp as a letter-opener.  But, strangely, it is always when I don’t have something, that I find myself wanting it the most.

Two days ago, like a crippled soldier standing amidst the desert, not the most convenient timing of all you see, I found myself really, really craving some homemade pastas.

  
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SEOUL, AND CHICKEN GALBI RAMEN

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THANK YOU, SEOUL, FOR CARRYING THIS LIMP SPIRIT THROUGH ITS STREETS, FEEDING HER WITH NOURISHMENT, GIVING HER SUNLIGHTS.

So, 7 days went fast. And we’re back.

This past week, instead of a “vacation”, was really closer to being on a emotional exile. After two years of relentless, losing battles against too much realities, I just wanted, no, needed to be casted away, to somewhere unfamiliar, string-less… without memories, where I don’t have to… function. Where I could just drift. If only for a little bit. So in a sense, it isn’t really fair, to the city that happened to be used as my emotional rebound. Seoul.

We spent two days in Seoul following Hong Kong (which was more like a business trip for Jason). It was, without saying, not nearly enough time to properly court a great city so rich and immersed in its cultures and cuisines, let alone in a state of mind that was… exhausted at best. I think next time we go on another trip, we will need to be more prepared. Even being able to compare van insurance from the comfort of your own home would have made life a little easier for us on this trip. A family friend recommended this to us, but we didn’t take up the offer this time round. But I know we will next time. Normally, I attack my travels with mannerless enthusiasm, seeking if not prying for all it has to give whether or not it’s being offered. But this time, I wasn’t really thinking about that, about work, the duty of a blogger, about the game. I was wondering without thoughts. If I saw something, I ate. If I felt something, I took a photo. At best, the memory was documented in loose fragments, then slowly pieced back together as I uploaded my mindlessness into digital form, computed at last . So I’m not even going to pretend that I was capable of any profound insights, opinions, or even recommendations for Seoul. I would not insult it like that. Nor can I say when to go to Seoul, since I wasn’t in the mind during my visit. Instead, this is a mirage of its potentials, not fully explored, but it lays the promise of future reunion.

But above all else, I should probably say thank you, to Seoul. For carrying this limp spirit through its streets, even if only for a couple days, feeding her with nourishment, giving her sunlights, though at times, she stared blankly into space. For that, I will always be grateful.

Oh and by the way, this chicken galbi thing it’s got? Basically boneless thighs marinated in gushing garlicky red, then caramelised inside a hot skillet then tossed with carbs and hot cheese. Sick. Just sick. Just something, I guess, to miss Seoul by.

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MAMA’S BRAISED CHICKEN LEGS ON RICE W/ FRIED CHILI CAPERS

IT IS, DILEMMA.

FORTUNATELY, ONE THAT COULD BE TACKLED WITH A BIT OF REVERSE-ENGINEERING.

We don’t, most times for good reasons, screw with heirloom recipes.  Recipes that are passed down for generations.  Recipes that our grandmother learnt from her grandmother, so on and so forth, are generally deemed as the sum of all collected wisdoms in a pot, sacred, untouchable.  Recipes that should and will be followed, obeyed even, without any desecrating thought of adding an extra tbsp of mustard here or a dash of unholy spices there, otherwise somewhere inside the dusty family album, grandma’s tearing up.  Because this is how it has always been done, as far as recipes go, is an unarguable instruction.

But should they be?  My family, for one, doesn’t have an “heirloom recipe”.  Not really.  My mom is a fantastic cook, which probably isn’t a credit to both of my grandparents whom, from what I’ve heard, were either too short-lived or too much of a diva to teach her anything in the kitchen.  And as far as paying-it-forward goes, she never writes anything down.  So all in all, a single generation and one big approximation, I think, is probably not an heirloom recipe makes.  But, if I were to pass down anything from my mother’s repertoire of ambiguous recipes, if there’s anything that resonates my memory of cooking and eating together as a family, it is this.  My mom’s braised chicken legs over rice.

I don’t quite remember when she started cooking this dish, but by estimation, somewhere right after we moved to Vancouver from Taiwan.  This tastes and smells like coming home after school.  And as a notoriously picky eater back then, this evoked my first acknowledgment of hunger.  In my wishfully sentimental heart and eagerness for an “heirloom”, I would pick this recipe out of it all, to be passed to people by whom I would like to be remembered.  You.  But coming back to what I was saying, I don’t regard heirloom recipe with absolution.  If anything, and I’m sure as in most cases, it is a progression.  If I were to pass this recipe on, looking back, I wouldn’t do it exactly the way she did it.

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HOW TO WRAP ONIGIRI LIKE JAPANESE CONVENIENCE STORE


  

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Hi, here’s a random video on how to wrap onigiri, aka rice balls, like those Japanese convenience stores.  The easy-to-pull-away wrapper separates the rice and the seaweed, keeping the seaweed crispy until serving.  This technique will make beautifully wrapped onigiri, perfect for your next picnic, work lunch, or as a gift!  A few notes on how to do it right:

  1. Use freshly cooked rice, never day-old, but wait until it’s completely cooled (so the steam doesn’t make the seaweed soggy).
  2. Use triangle-moulds to make the onigiri.
  3. Cut the seaweed and allow enough width to cover the sides of the onigiri.
  4. Cut a piece of parchment that is at least 2X the width of the seaweed.
  5. The parchment in the video didn’t actually cover the entire inner surface of the seaweed because it wasn’t wide enough.  Don’t make the same mistake.
  6. Label the onigiri and they’re going to be your newest edible gift.

NOW THAT’S A WRAP.

  
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