Poultry

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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NASHED-UP HOT CHICKEN CUTLET SANDWICH

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HOT DICKS SO BIG

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Today is the 4th day, the longest duration since 2002, the year I moved to New York, that I’ve ever gone without ingesting a drop of coffee.  Not a drop.

Because on September 6th 2015, an otherwise wonderfully uneventful morning, my coffee-stash abruptly ran out on me without a warning as if it was premeditated, leaving me in a cold-turkey caffeine withdrawal that I’m frankly too sleepy to wrestle.  Right of course, I don’t live in a no-man’s land.  There’s a convenience store downstair just 3 minutes of walking from where my ass sits, ready to supply me lacking but coffee-like substances that will ease the cold sweats and wobbling mind.  But more to my own surprise than anything else, I didn’t go.  In the passing 96 hours of brain-paralysis, waiting for my online coffee shipment which hasn’t came yet, I just stayed inside my bunker chewing and spitting out green tea-leaves, mainly trying to open my eyes without much success.  Shit, I can’t even open them now.  Did you know you can type with your eyes closed?  Uh Whast was thsr?

This episode told me something about myself.  You know I would never sell my sloth short of its worth, God bless its noble soul, but apparently I have underestimated it all this time.  Apparently, I’m even lazier than the human instinct to stay lucid.  Su[er HumN, RElly.

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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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MY FAVORITE ROAST CHICKEN

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IN A NECESSARY IF NOT RELIGIOUS FINALE, YOU ARE GOING TO PICK THROUGH EVERY LAST SNIPPETS OF OFFERINGS ADHERING TO THE REMAINING CARCASS

Hello friends.  This is my favorite roast chicken.

If you were previously convinced that you know roast chicken, or how to do one right, well to that I say, I’m convinced that you don’t.  This is a recipe forged through years of corrections, beginning from the inspiration of Thomas Keller’s roast chicken doused in thyme and garlic butter, and manipulated by my own techniques through experience, then re-polished through a vinegar bath anew.  The chicken is not only accompanied by baby potatoes and garlics roasted inside its own grease, but – yes, I’m not done yet – but it has to, has to, be eaten with a runny sunny-side up.  That’s right.  Chicken and egg, I don’t know why you have to ask.   This is now a roast chicken recipe, with its entirety, a simple elegant yet unbeatably tasty form of perfection, worthy of the ones who are willing to receive it justly.

Because, equally important to the recipe, there’s only a single, correct way to eat this chicken, or any roast chicken for that matter.  One cannot claim to have had a proper roast chicken, if it wasn’t done this way.  That is, you have to devour it with your absolute bare hands.

Assisted with a kitchen-scissor if needed, or not, I command you to tear apart this chicken from limb to limb with at least 8 of your best-able fingers.  Undeterred by the occasional burns and shimmering under a coat of grease, your hands and your hands only, are the tool that’s going to snap the bones, tear through the flesh, pick up the crispy skin, pry the roasted garlics out from their husks, then sauce and mop everything up inside a puddle of thyme/garlic browned butter and runny yolks, and deliver them to the promised land.  Then with ferocious enthusiasm, in a necessary if not religious finale, you’re going to pick through every last snippets of offerings adhering to the remaining carcass, the untold secrets of muscles around the neck, the films of meat in between the ribs, the skins along the back-bone and the twin crown-jewels of oysters… oh God oh God the oysters…  Tell me you know where the fuck the oysters are, chicken-eaters!

Then at last, breath out, and let your rampant emotions settle.  Use your remaining clean pinkies to wipe the grease off of your cheeks then lick them. Take a sip of water, then bow out.

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    LET’S FILL THAT BOWL ON THIS SUPER !!!

    IN THE NAME OF SPORTS, IT’S TIME TO EAT OURSELVES TO A CELLULITE-D IMMOBILE PULP

    Right, let’s face it.  Who are we kidding?  The only thing sporty about me is that I could, maybe, jump over a puddle if my life depends on it.  But that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t want someone like me at the party this sunday – while the gang rouse up above a borderline-patriotic roar towards the flatscreen, beers blazing and testosterone bursting – who sinks into the couch giggling at her phone for French bulldog puppies on youtube.  Why, because my friends, I’m the one who’s gonna bring the kool-Aid.

    So let’s hit it.  For God and country, in the name of sports, and beefcakes clashing and tight muscles fluttering in slow motion… let’s eat ourselves to a cellulite-d immobile pulp and call it the spirit.  Man… gotta love this day.

    Here’s the game-plan.


    First, what’s a football party without some sliders?  These 2:1 sliders with charred green chili mayo, with patties that are 2 parts meat and 1 part cheese, browning and melting all over the place, is the one that you’re looking for.

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