Noodle/Pasta/Rice

LAST SHIT – THE 3 FOUNDING DONBURI, THE ART OF EATING CANNED MEATS

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(THEY CAN) TRANSFORM INTO SURPRISING DELICIOUSNESS OF ELEGANCE AND COMPLEXITY

THIS is the last post (for awhile at least) of the new week-long segment, The Shits I Eat When I’m By Myself.  Jason is coming home tomorrow, and if you were any decent, none of us is ever going to speak of what happened here in the last few days…  But even though we’re near the end of an epic run, I have meticulously kept the best, and I hope you agree, for the last.

I’m going to share with you what I eat, sunny or rainy, broke or stashed, then-young and now-old, then-slim and now-lumpy… by myself or not, doesn’t matter.  This.  This is what I actually eat, love to eat, and I mean, like all the time.  This is what raised me, put me through college, and every other weekday-nights along with the lovely grin of Jon Stewart.  This, completes me.  I never had a name for this before, but for the sake of easy reference, I will now call it – The 3 Founding Donburi, The Art of Eating Canned Meats.

Donburi, is Japanese “rice bowl”, with various toppings that ranges widely.  The integrity of well-cooked short-grain rice is, of course, important, which is a subject I won’t even touch today for it’s so not the focus here (fine, two words, rice cooker!).  The focus here is the topping, and the topping, my friend, is a promiscuous playground for something that we all, at any given moment, got 1 or 2 stashed in a dark corner within the pantry.

Canned meats.

Good sardines in olive oil from Europe, bad sardines in olive oil from Europe, not-bad sardines in tomato sauce from Southeast Asia, corned beef, tuna, salmon… SPAM!  Misunderstood and badly represented, where people see them as shunned practices of desperation, I see them as cherished and indulging delicacies.  Good quality canned sardines (or even just the OK ones), with just a light touch of acidity, grated ginger and scallions piled over warm rice, can transform into surprising deliciousness of elegance and complexity.  How can I douse sichuan chili oil over diced SPAM, with a few drops of black vinegar and calling it a thing?!  Well, that is too, what doubters said at the historical moment when somebody thought why not smearing a bit of mustard over hotdogs…  Then browned corned beef, mixed with chopped kimchi and gochujang, toasted sesame oil and grated garlic… will have you breathing stinky and happy.

Each of the donburi will take… 2 min to put together at the most (not including the cooking-time of the rice).  Less than the time it takes to boil a pot of water.  And they will have you asking yourself, where have they been all your life?

Well… they’ve been right here.

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THE SHIT I EAT WHEN BY MYSELF – ONE POT INSTANT MC-URRY W BROKEN PASTA

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MY “HURRY CURRY”… GOT MC-DED.

YESTERDAY, rising above a sea of flaming red and orange, I pulled myself together and decided to eat like a real human being.

I ordered McDonald’s.

That’s the danger of leaving me alone with myself, in an obscured reality and a space where I have nobody to impress, culinarily or physically.  Things… can get really low.  I ordered 2 large fries and 20-pc of nuggets, all of which are items I believe to be the gooders among evil, the first being undeniably an extension of real earth-grown potatoes, and the second, … protein.  So on the couch there I was, horizontally, feeling really good about myself consuming a conscious choice of – really, when you think about it – potatoes and chicken protein, and forgot all about WHAT shits I eat when I’m by myself?  I wasn’t at all anticipating a relapse.

The downfall was that I was being too good.  In an applaudable demonstration of restrain and wellness-living, I left a whole 10 pieces of nuggets untouched.  I was practically Gwyneth Paltrow.  But today, when I walked into the kitchen to make one of my absolute favourite of all The Shit I Eats, which is an one-pot, instant-yet-homemade Thai curry with broken thin spaghettis and something legitimate like tofu and shrimps, something unprecedentedly horrid happened.

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Unprecedentedly, was the key word.  I don’t.  Do this.  Except for this time.  My “hurry curry”… got Mc-Ded.

Broken, torn pieces of what’s possibly one of the greatest invention in the history of food, thrown into another greatest invention – curry.  And they married.  I mean, literally.  In the land of curry where it yearns nothing more than substances that can soak up all its complex glory, everything that a curry could ask for, the nuggets answered.  The breading and the porous interior of the nuggets became a sponge that drank up this bowl of good brown, along with broken thin spaghetti as a hearty backdrop, this was one of the best of the worst things I could possibly do.

Just to say… people probably shouldn’t do the same.  Even I.  Don’t do this.  Except for this time.

Shouldn’t.  Was the key word.READ MORE

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THE SHIT I EAT WHEN BY MYSELF – ORANGE RAMEN

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IT REMINDS ME OF (HIGH SCHOOL CAFETERIA), MINUS THE SIDE OF CONSCIENCE THAT CAME WITH ADULTHOOD

So… I guess here we go.  Day 1 of my new segment – The Shits I Eat When I’m By Myself.  Listen… if you were gonna dump me after this, please do it gingerly, ok?

And really, there’s no point talking or paining an elaborate narrative for this “shit”.  It’s pretty self-explanatorily wrong which, unfortunately by the same definition, also guarantees to be uber-tasty.  Any form of instant ramen-noodle drenched in a bastard-sauce between something tomato-ragu-ish and cheez-whiz-ish… cannot taste bad.  It reminds me of the very popular, tomato/cheese ravioli they sold at my high school cafeteria, minus the side of conscience that came with adulthood.

But what I should point out is – given that if you were gonna do the same – this is something one should only do when utterly alone.  I will not be held accountable for what happens when other human beings walk in on you doing this…

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MISO CARBONARA W/ MINI SAUSAGE MEATBALLS

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THIS COULD VERY WELL BE, THE ONLY SENSIBLE THING THAT SHOWS UP HERE FOR THIS ENTIRE WEEK…

Jason is going away for this entire week.  This isn’t the first time it happens, nor is it a rare occurrence.  But what you’ll feel differently about this week, not including this particular post, is going to be somewhat of a breakthrough.  Thing is, if you had any presumptions about me, as someone who likes to cook and carries out every meal big or small, with a sense of class and dignity, for the next 7 days, you’ll find your theory… horrifiedly misguided.  Pretty scallion-oil chicken rolls on a pedestal?  Gourmet popcorns to accompany DVD-binging?  Pffff~ pleeease… you’re too cute.

The fault, is mine.  For I haven’t exactly been honest about what goes on in here, when there’s absolutely nobody watching.  Truth is, like comedians being freakishly quiet off stage, cooking for me, is a hobby that erodes with the absence of audiences.  Truth is, what I “cook” for myself and myself only, is inexcusably, for lack of better words, horrendous.  So here I am.  I don’t know where I found such commitment, but I’ve sternly decided that we (as, you and me) have entered a phase in our relationship, where “truth” is required for the hope of a sustainable future together…

Which prompted this new segment I would call, as previously mentioned:  The stuff Shit I Eat When I’m By Myself.

Do not be mistaken that these are products of desperations.  You’d hurt my feelings.  They are all – and it takes great courage to admit – “foods” that I sickeningly and hopelessly, love to eat.  Regardless the fact that you may find them only socially excusable, if I was a college student who just spent the the last $20 on alcohol school supplies.  Some of them may be accompanied with a “recipe”, as others may, thankfully, not.  But whatever you will take away from this, I hope that they at the very least, entertains you.

So enjoy this one before “The Shit” hits the fan, the last proper dinner I made before the “audience” decided to leave me to rot in the land of culinary-ruin, creamy and nutty miso carbonara with tiny sausage meatballs.  For this could very well be the only sensible thing that shows up here for this entire week.

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XI-AN FAMOUS HOT RICE RIBBONS

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JUST WHEN I THOUGHT THE SHOW WAS GONNA EXIT FASTER THAN IT ENTERED, ON THE SIDE OF A NEIGHBORHOOD ROAD…

A NEW JOINT OPENED

  

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I must admit, my belated appreciation for the hype of Xi’an Famous Foods, was a slow, reversed progression.

Six years ago before we left New York, it wasn’t yet a thing over there.  Then after six years of looming around Hong Kong and then now Beijing, I barely noticed its presence let alone recognizing it as an established “food category”.  It was a shameful episode of my negligence, one of which I could only redeem by… well, help you not to repeat my mistake.  The first noise I heard from this funnily named Chinese regional cuisine from central-west, ironically, was when a few months ago, I was on my Beijing couch watching America’s Food Network featuring a micro-trending street-eats in New York, called “liang (cold) pi (skin)”.  Liang-pi?  You mean, the liang-pi they sold from a booth right next to the cash-register in my local supermarket?  The liang-pi that periodically showed up on my dinner menu?  The liang-pi that, yes, there at the corner groceries as well.  And yes, there at the food-courts in malls, too!  Now that I’m consciously aware of such thing, the liang-pi that was previously invisible to my radar, now appears to be, actually, everywhere!READ MORE

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DIRTY THAI FRIED RICE

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IF YOU DON’T DO IT, SOMEBODY WILL

EVEN though, for quite a while now, you and I have been sort of sitting inside a semi-private room, staring at each other and talking about what I ate yesterday… when it comes to predicting what you would actually like to eat, sadly, I’ve got very little clues.  As a matter of fact, for the sake of honesty and sanity, I spent a great deal of obsessive and compulsive effort not to think too much about that.  Instead I try to say, or at least most of the times, that hey look, if it hasn’t already, this is the kind of stuff that will make your world a much more exciting and tastier place.

I can’t say I’ve been completely frank… I was too afraid that this rom would look like a swimming pool inside a Pig’s soft parts, but on the other hand, striking the balance has proven to be tricky.  After all, convincing people to watch someone downing a tripe stew on TV, vs to make it themselves at home, is two completely different things.

But lately, I came across a recipe that, I believe, could be the great missing link.

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menchi katsu kare/ hamburger croquette w Japanese curry sauce

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DEEP-FRIED XL HAMBURGER PATTY… DOUSED WITH LAVA-LIKE JAPANESE CURRY… WITH A DEFENSIVE PILE OF SHREDDED CABBAGE AND PICKLES

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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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