Noodle/Pasta/Rice

TURMERIC BUTTER CHICKEN RICE

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WHEN YOU RELEASE THE CHICKEN-BAG WITH A SCISSOR OVER THE BED OF COCONUT RICE, ALMOST LIKE GOD-SENT, A STREAM OF PROMISED GOLDEN LIQUID WILL PERCOLATE FREELY INTO EVERY THIRSTY GRAIN OF HAPPINESS THAT YOU’LL ALMOST HEAR THEM PURR.

Hey, I own a shit load of cookbooks, I do.  And I’m not saying it isn’t a problem.  Especially when it’s become a very common first remark that people make when they visit our apartment, noticing from the ungoverned stacks that seem to occupy every flat surfaces of every able furnitures, evidently overrunning our shelving-space that is already working its double-layer capacity.  And my worst fear is that before long, Jason has to kindly ask Thomas Keller to scooch over before he can “relieve” himself, if you see what I mean.  So yeah, there is an issue there.  But you know, I guess it could be reasonably understood.  I mean, for someone like me and for what I sort of do, I guess, it makes sense.  What doesn’t make sense, at all, is that for someone who owns this many cookbooks, I have almost never cooked a recipe from any one of them.  And I mean never, except maybe once but not really, ok?  Because I can’t follow instructions.  Period.  Now this is really bizarre.  For one, I create recipes and expect people to follow them explicitly all the time.  But if you didn’t, don’t fret it, because guess what?  Ha!  I can’t follow a recipe for a damn either!  It’s really more of a severe birth-defect than anything else, like the other day when I absolutely made up my mind that for the first time ever in my cooking life, even if it kills me, I was going to execute a recipe like how the creator had intended, and yet, I still derailed.

The particular recipe that I owe my grave apology to, is the turmeric-rubbed chicken from Eat With Your Hands Cookbook.  Now I have to give myself some credit here.  At first try, I really did manage to change ONLY HALF of the recipe!  Instead of roasting the turmeric-rubbed chicken over lemongrass and coconut milk, I decided it was in both of our best interest to do it over a bed of lemongrass and coconut rice.  The urge of putting a “sponge” underneath a grease-dripping hot body overruled my determination to obey, so I’m sorry for that.  But for the other half of the recipe, including rubbing the chicken with turmeric butter and letting it sit for 24hours, I followed painstakingly.  But the thing is, have you ever tried rubbing butter over the skin of a chicken?  Try sticking a piece of lard on a teflon surface to get a feel of it.  It’s practically impossible!  They just don’t bond!  And even though the butter is sufficiently seasoned, the “emulsion” prevents the seasoning from seeping into the chicken, even after the whole 24 hours of it.  So at the second try, it became inevitable, that in spite of my best effort, I had to sabotage the recipe completely.

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THE SHIT I EAT WHEN BY MYSELF: K-TOWN RICE’N CHEESE

THE RICE AND SAUCE QUICKLY COOKED INTO SOMETHING LIKE A DOPPELGANGER OF RISOTTO, BOUND BY THE STRINGENT GOOEYNESS OF MELTED CHEESE,

OF WHICH HE THEN GOBBLED DOWN BY EACH OVERSIZED WOODEN-SPOONFUL

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I hardly think that it’s unreasonable, sometimes even understandable, for people to bundle their perceptions for different cultures around a region, as a whole.  As one of the Asians, Taiwanese to be exact, I am certainly far more accustomed to many of the familiarly bizarre lifestyles or values from our neighboring cultures, than say someone who are born and raised in the Midwest of America.  Regardless of agreements, I can generally find an answer for much of the “Asian weirdness” that are otherwise lost in translation, even just by association.  But a few days ago, prompted by a segment from Tony’s Parts Unknown, I sank into a recent uprise of Korean phenomenon so baffling, that the regional cultural gap… has never felt so wide.

Did you know… that there are a swarming number of YouTube channels with millions of views and followers… broadcasting hours after hours of young, slim Koreans doing nothing but sitting in front of their HD webcam-equipped computer, and just… eating themselves to a pulp?!!  Just eating!  Just nothing else, absolutely nothing else, but them eating… and eating.. and eating what appears to be an obscene and non-human amount of foods that defies the very laws of physics!  Perhaps I should point out that the nature of these shows are not competitive, as the broadcaster, almost always, are the sole living subjects in front of the cameras inside his/her own bedrooms (except maybe this living sea-creature wiggling before its imminent death).  What seems to be just a random somebody filming him/herself leisurely ingesting takeouts after school or work, sometimes for hours, will only slowly begin to stun your consciousness when you realize… how freaking much foods have already gone inside their average-sized human torsos.  Then the shows end almost as bizarrely as they begin, when the broadcasters, however long it takes, finally decide that he/she is sufficiently fed, then goes offline…  The purposes of these shows, if there was one, don’t make any fucking sense!  It could even be argued as being hazardous to social health, but, oh God knows I tried, I just couldn’t stop watching!  On top of the fact that I couldn’t understand a single Korean-word buzzing through my ears like white noise, I still couldn’t stop watching for the same human-condition that disables us to walk away from a car-crash!

Well, today’s recipe, is a ruinous aftermath from such a show.  This dude… this fit-by-any-definition Korean dude, after ingesting what was a legitimate tub of spicy Korean stew, he then mashed 3 more Japanese rice balls into the leftover sauce, and further blanketed it with more shredded cheese that he grabbed from an enormous bag that seemed to be kept by his desk as importantly as back-up staplers.  The rice and the sauce quickly cooked into something like a doppelganger of risotto, bound by the stringent gooeyness of melted cheese, of which he then gobbled down by each oversized wooden-spoonful.  I think it rendered me mindless.  In retrospect, I believe the only sound hovering above the paralyzing astonishment was the voice of my own murmurs… That shit looks good.  I’d totally eat that shit.  So here, aside from a tip-of-the-hat, if I didn’t channel this episode into another post of (as coincidentally fitting and attributing as it is) The Shit I Eat When By Myself, what kind of a recipe-sharer would I be?


Servings: 1/10 serving for its inspirer, but 1 serving for a normal humanoid

When I made this the first time and took these photos, I forgot to add the nori/Japanese seaweed.  So don’t scratch your head wondering where they are, and just be assured that the recipe is better with than without.

K-TOWN RICE’N CHEESE

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2" square peeled ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (113 grams) whole milk
  • 4.6 oz (130 grams) SPAM, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp (40 grams) gochujang/Korean chili paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp (11 grams) honey
  • 2 cups (300 grams) cooked rice, preferably a day-old
  • 1/4 cup diced scallion
  • 1 sheet (9" x 8 "/23 x 20 cm) Japanese nori/seaweed, torn into 1" pcs
  • 1 tsp Japanese rice vinegar, or 3/4 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup (25 grams) + 1/2 cup (50 grams) shredded cheddar cheese
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. In a skillet over medium-high heat, melt unsalted butter with toasted sesame oil, then cook chopped onion, garlic, ginger, salt and black pepper for a couple mins until softened. Transfer to a blender along with milk, SPAM, gochujang, honey and ground black pepper, and blend for 1 min until smoothly pureed. Mix the mixture evenly with cooked rice, diced scallion, nori/Japanese seaweed, vinegar (the vinegar is important for brightening the flavour!) and 1/4 cup shredded cheddar.
  2. Microwave on high for 4 min, stirring once in between (taste and salt to season if needed), then top it with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar and some ground black pepper. You can finish melting the cheese in the microwave, or place under top broiler until browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.
https://ladyandpups.com/2015/06/02/the-shit-i-eat-when-by-myself-k-town-ricen-cheese/

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MY XIAN FAMOUS SPICY CUMIN LAMB HAND-SMASHED NOODLES

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ONCE YOU GET THERE, WHATEVER IT TAKES FOR YOU TO GET THERE,

THE REST IS AS EASY AS BIANG

Does this recipe really need introduction?  If you have been enjoying, following, or even just been seduced from afar by the unstoppable uprise of this basement-stall to now 10 flourishing locations throughout New York, you would not be unfamiliar with the signature dish, from Xian Famous Foods.  The spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped (biang biang) noodles.

I have certainly been a fan.  More precisely, I have been enjoy Xian Famous Foods for the past few years, without actually stepping a foot inside any of their 10 locations.  Because I’ve been here, in Beijing, where “Xian famous foods” are not known as the name of a trending chain-restaurants, but in fact, a genre.  Those 4 Chinese characters almost recognized as their “logo”, are actually common here as a phrase that describes the local street foods of the city Xi-An.  Kind of like having a restaurant called “Texas BBQ”, or “Chicago Hotdogs”.  And on top of the usual suspects of cold skin noodles, cumin lamb burger (called “rou-jia-mo”), lamb offal soup… there is of course, the biang biang.

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PEPPERONI MEATBALLS SPAGHETTI

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EACH MEATBALLS CONTAIN… A TON OF AGE-FORTIFIED FAT-BITS AND TIME-CONSUMING FLAVOURS

Last night, as I unleashed the freezer-section dumplings onto my most festive-looking plate, as part of our mostly-take-out Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner that didn’t even get bothered to be removed from its cleanup-friendly plastic-wares, and watched the annual city-wide shelling of fireworks carried out by every other citizens across the Beijing sky… I realized something.

I am a lousy… lousy… content curator.

There’s… something wrong with this picture.  Now is supposed to be the high-season for binge eating for most Asians, rivalling Thanksgiving in its contribution to glorified gluttony, a perfect cue for an Asian food-blogger such as myself, to abuse recipes like… banquet-style fried whole fish drenched in thickened sauce, or glistening red-braised pork ham-shank the size of my own thighs, or… or, at the very least, too much batter-fried sticky rice cake to regret over in the very next morning.  But instead, I’m here talking to you about something as generic as… meatball spaghetti.

Well, I blame it on this.  A 2 feet long monstrosity which I believe they call, who-the-hell-buys-a-whole-freaking-stick-of pepperoni, stretching its long leg into every last inch of leg-room inside my economy-class refrigerator for the past 2 weeks.   It was a generous remnant from a lunch gathering and ever since, I’ve been struggling to put it to a just rest.  On pizzas… in between sandwiches… blended into my Olay’s night cream.  Then just when I was about one-lost-chapstick-away from rubbing it on my lips for good use, I was reminded of an old trick.

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It was a never-failing method, inspired by an epic dinner spent in Lupa in the West Village of New York many years ago, a genius method to inject the kind of flavours only old age can produce, by blending dry-cured meat products into fresh food preparation.  The very same method, using trimmed prosciutto fats, landed me on the most insanely flavourful meatballs braised in white wine that I’ve ever tasted.  And I thought if it already looked hot in white, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t look even sexier in red, right?

So here, amidst the Chinese festivity of lunar New Year, comes the Italian pepperoni meatball spaghetti braised in a red wine tomato sauce.  May not be the most promptly cued entrance, but each meatballs contain not only the usual suspects of mixed ground meats, breadcrumbs, grated parmigiano cheese, herbs and whatnots, but also a ton of minced pepperoni sausage with all its age-glorified fat-bits and time-consuming flavours.

There’s a complexity that only exists inside the cultivated molecules being farted out by a workforce of happy bacterias over a long period of occupancy, which is completely welded into the meatballs just after a relatively short period of braising.  The fats get partially absorbed by the breadcrumbs within the meatballs as well as partially rendered into the sauce, deepened by just the right amount of red wine then heightened with a good dab of Dijon mustard at the end.  It’s just not your regular, daddy’s Prego meatball spaghetti.  It’s a time-fortified, age-defined, pepped-up meatball spaghetti that, consider yourself warned,  might just be mean enough to hurt your grandmother’s ego.

So excuse me if I didn’t mention rice cake.  Pardon my neglect for a CNY feast.  Today, I’m afraid is just gonna be meatball spaghetti…

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PEPERONI MEATBALLS SPAGHETTI

Serving Size: 4~6 ppl

Ingredients

    THE MEATBALLS:
  • 1 cup diced (150 grams) pepperoni sausage
  • 1/4 cup (1 small handful) parsley leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/2 medium-size onion, cut into chunks
  • 400 grams ground beef
  • 280 grams ground pork
  • 3/4 cup (50 grams) Japanese panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) grated parmigiano cheese
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne
  • 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • THE SAUCE:
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small celery stalk, finely diced
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1200 grams (three 400 grams cans) peeled Italian tomatoes, pureed in a blender
  • 3" parmigiano cheese rind
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp chili flakes
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • Chopped parsley leaves

Instructions

  1. TO MAKE THE MEATBALLS: Preheat the oven top-broiler on high. Run diced pepperoni, parsley leaves, garlics and onion in a food-processor until they resemble chunky, coarse meals. Transfer to a bowl along with ground beef, ground pork, panko breadcrumbs, grated parmigiano cheese, ground cayenne, crushed fennel seeds, ground paprika, salt and black pepper. Gently mix just until even, then shape the mixture into 8 tightly packed meatballs and place on a parchment-lined baking-sheet. Place in the middle-rack in the oven and toast until golden browned on all sides (flipping once). Set aside.
  2. TO MAKE SAUCE: In a large pot, cook extra virgin olive oil, chopped onion, garlic, celery stalk, fresh thyme and tomato paste with a generous pinch of salt over medium-high heat, until the onion is soft and the tomato paste starts to brown on the sides of the pot. Add dry red wine and cook for 5~6 min until almost completely evaporated. Then add the purreed tomatoes, parmigiano cheese rind, bay leaves, chili flakes, honey, ground black pepper, and all the browned meatballs with all the juice and dripping.
  3. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat to low, cover the pot with just a small slit for steam to escape, and let simmer for 2 hours until the liquid has reduced by 1/3. You should give it a gentle stir once every 20~30 min to prevent burning on the bottom. Re-season it along the way with salt if needed. The stew can be made days ahead. Before serving, gently mix the Dijon mustard into the sauce.
  4. TO SERVE: Cook 500 grams of dried spaghetti a couple min BEFORE al dente. Drain and transfer to a large pot, then add enough sauce to generously cover the spaghetti. Cook for another 2 min until the sauce is slightly reduced and coating every pasta, then transfer to a serving plate with the meatballs on top. Scatter more chopped parsley and a generous amount of grated parmigiano cheese. Serve immediately.
https://ladyandpups.com/2015/02/19/peperoni-meatballs-spaghetti/
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MACAO’S PORTUGUESE FRIED RICE GRATIN

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CAN’T-STOP-WON’T-STOP MESS-ON-A-PLATE,

WITH FLAVOURS THAT WELD PERFECTLY INTO YOUR NEXT WEEK-NIGHT REGULARS

 

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There are some women, whose problem is that they never believe they have what it takes to put together an IKEA coffee table.  Then, there are those such as myself.  Who hold unexplained and relentless faith in their own physical strength.  Who ask, how hard can it be?  Who practically built every single bed-bath-and-beyond in her apartment, with chapped unpolished nails and a can of diet coke.  And who, sometimes, get cocky.

If you ask me now, I would tell you I have absolutely no idea whatsoever, on why on earth did I think I had the same skills as a professional large-scale furniture builder/wood carpenter, which must be how I felt when I bought 3 colossally humongous, solid wood, antique courtyard doors that I thought I could turn into a dinning table with nothing but a mini screwdriver?  Why… why did this feel a bit different from those IKEA bookshelves with their friendly pre-drilled holes?  Why?  I kept asking myself the same question when I dragged this bone-crushingly heavy thing into the shower, scrubbing and rinsing off its ancient dirt that ran into the drain as black as the humour I found in all of this self-inflicted pain.  Today, I can’t feel my neck.

This is the kind of day when I’m really grateful for awesome leftovers.  I can only thank my foretelling self when I crawl to the fridge, dragging behind me a trail of defeat, and find a pure Macanese creation called “Portuguese sauce rice gratin”, a cheesy and bubbly seafood fried rice flooded with a light coconut milk curry and gruyere sauce then finished under the broiler, which I suspect, probably has nothing to do with Portugal.  I came up with its recipe the other day, because I’ve long been curious of it.  With its name being as confusing as its concept, this is one of those dishes that sounds weird but ultimately, defies all logics.  It’s one of the classics on every menu of “tea restaurant” in Hong Kong, among with its peers that all came into existence under the great mashing of different cultures during colonial times.   Without trying it before, you’d probably question… really?  But yes.  YES!  The rice gratin stirs into kind of a cheesy, coconut-y, mildly curried risotto almost, and pleases all way from the taste buds down to a warmed tummy, and repeats.  It is easily one of the most surprisingly delicious, can’t-stop-won’t-stop mess-on-a-plate I’ve cooked, with unlikely flavours that weld perfectly together into your next week-night regulars.

So I feed, heartily, staring into the wooden beasts with restored combativity.  I will break you, I say, and sit a piping hot pan of Portuguese rice gratin on your face while I sip lemonade.  You just watch…

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THE VAMPIRE SLAYER RAMEN-EXPRESS

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CALL IT, THE RAMEN WITH 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC… WAIT.  44 CLOVES.

SOMETIMES, and for the sake of modesty not all the times, but sometimes, after I pasted every photos of a recipe in place and started to stare into space thinking about what I was gonna say… I thought to myself, seriously?  You fucking need a reason to eat this?

Uhem, just sometimes.

But well, today, happens to be one of those times.

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CAULIFLOWER RICE CAKE + POOR MAN’S X.O. SAUCE

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YOUR DESIGNATED DIM-SUM PLACE CAN’T TOUCH THIS

Have you had Chinese turnip cake with X.O. sauce?

Well, the thing is, you probably have without knowing.  Over the dizzying array of small dishes on a dim-sum table, your friend passed you a plate of square white cakes with browned and crispy exteriors, served with a small oily dollop of brownish condiment.  You ate it, mmmmmmm…., probably even asked for the name of the dish, but let’s be honest, who the hell can remember any names from a feeding-frenzy over a dim-sum table?

Well, that, my friend, you just had Chinese turnip cake and its side-kick, X.O. sauce.

I’ve been long trying to come up with a X.O. sauce recipe.  X.O. sauce, suggested from the name given, is made with a large proportion of expensive ingredient, being soaked and shredded dried scallops, and thus lands as a prestigious condiments on the table of Chinese banquette.  It’s usually served in small spoonfuls, as an intense, savoury and spicy flavour-booster to highlight stir-fry dishes, rices and noodles, or dim-sum classics such as the turnip cake.  It’s wonderful.  I love it.  So why not just make that?

Well… I mean, dried scallops are great.  Fancy stuff.  One of those things that are pocket-burning to buy, a pain in the ass to prepare, and in the end of course as all fancy stuffs must be, highly fucked-able.  One miss-step in the prepping and cooking procedure, what was supposed to make this sauce supremely “X.O.”, will also easily turn it into a pile of rubbery and teeth-flossing donkey-hide.  In this particular juncture in my life where several “bad apples” are on the brink of collapsing, I’m not going to risk my iphone 6-fund on something that could potentially malfunction, too.  Especially, not when I believe the beauty of X.O. sauce could be replicated with ingredients that are more, literally, down to earth.

Instead of shredded dried scallops, I’m using dried shitake mushrooms.  In combination with dried shrimp which is also a traditional ingredient in X.O. sauce, this poor man’s version came out well beyond my highest expectation.  It’s robust, complex and intense, embodying the sea-essence from the dried shrimps and oyster sauce, as well as the earthiness of mushrooms and ham.  It’s a symphony of notes that cannot be described unless personally experienced.  And it’s my next it-sauce to be slathered on a bowl of rice, a quick slurps of noodle, or if I’m feeling like going the extra mile, this cauliflower rice cake.

Wait, what happened to turnip cake?  Because I’ve also, long been trying to come up with a turnip cake recipe.  Turnip cake, suggested from the name given, is made with a large amount of Chinese turnip aka daikon, along with Cantonese sausage, dried shrimps, and a batter made with white rice flour.  It’s usually steamed inside a rectangular mold, then sliced and browned over a hot skillet right before serving.  A humble, homey and delicious staple that’s as beloved as anything can get if you came from an Asian background.  It’s wonderful.  I love it.  So why not just make that?


 

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