Seafood

SICHUAN ANGRY BOILING FISH

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IT TRANSFORMS WHAT IS OTHERWISE AN UNDESIRABLE AND THEREFORE CHEAP INGREDIENT,

INTO THE UPMOST ADDICTIVE, DELICIOUS, AND PLEASURABLE NARCOTIC.

It’s crazy sometimes to think that I’ve only left Beijing for 6 months.  It somehow feels longer than that, which is funny because shouldn’t happy time fly?  But I think my brain has triggered an automatic mechanism that blocks the whole six-years-chunk of unpleasantness, and started presenting the more palatable reality that came afterwards as the constant norm, that our new life in Hong Kong has always been.  Weird, right?  Though it’s not to say that there aren’t things I miss about you-know-where, but I mean, I just typically disregard them as the involuntary muscle spasms of a fish right after its head gets chopped off…  I try not to think about it… don’t think about you-know-where…

But the other day, it all came boiling down.

A couple friends of ours arranged a harmless get-together in a seemingly unalarming location, and just like that, the dam broke loose.  The restaurant was a sichuan joint.  Ahh.. now I remember, sichuan foods.  The extremely intense, erotic, sometimes even perversive addiction that is the grand cuisines of sichuan.  Yes.  Yes baby I did miss you.  I don’t know why it took me so long to realize it, but it’s about time that something is to be done about it.  Of course, my obsession with sichuan foods has been quite well documented here.  I mean that broad rice ribbons riddling in chili oil, the spicy numbing crayfish boil, the melt-your-face hot pot….  But that day, I realized, I have forgotten the Queen B.

B, as in boiling.

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THE EGG YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU NEED – PART II, SALTED YOLK TARTAR SAUCE AND SPICY FISH STICKS

This is Idea No 2 for incorporating what I call the red diamond of foods, salted duck yolk, into your everyday cooking regimen (check the previous post for a new age of carbonara!), and that is, it makes an over-the-top, creamy and decadent base in mayonnaise or aioli which goes on to become thousand different sauces with limitless possibilities.

In this case, an incredibly rich tartar sauce which is worlds away from those pale-assed, loose-fitted watery blah that we’ve gotten too used to to question its legitimacy.  This tartar sauce, using cooked then pureed salted duck yolks, has a creamier and velvety mouthfeel with a hidden depth of richness that whispers its secret through its beautiful orange-yellow hue.  Yes, this tartar sauce uses 2 extra salted yolks for the amount that’s made (the yolk-to-oil ratio), and you may be inclined to suspect that the difference may simply just be a result of the extra yolks, regardless whether it’s salted or fresh.  But I can’t sss this loud enough – salted duck yolks do not taste like plain egg yolks!  They just don’t, ok?  Does fresh pork belly taste like bacon?  Huh?  Does milk taste like cheese?  Huh?  We y’all female homo-sapiens but do I look like Giiiiiisele?  Huh?  I think you get my point.  Do not think of the cooked salted duck yolks as an emulsifying agent such as fresh yolks (no seriously, it will not emulsify with oil because all its moisture has been extracted through the curing process), but think of it more as a seasoning, a salty… oily… and almost nutty flavor that is unique on its own.

Of course, this is a sparkly fuse for you to fire up that imaginative brain of yours, because the possibility is limitless.  A herby and garlicky base for your summer potato and pasta salads?  A secret weapon for your weekend brunch hollandaise?  That burger is never going to taste the same with this added flare, and if you like battered fish… oh my friends, if you like battered fish…  Crispy, shattering, and slightly spicy beer battered fish sticks, piping hot out of the fryer to find a pool of cooling and creamy concoction of flavors and textures to wrap their heads around.  If that sounds good to you, this is only a start.

AN INCREDIBLY RICH TARTAR SAUCE WHICH IS WORLDS AWAY FROM THOSE PALE-ASSED, LOOSE-FITTED WATERY BLAH THAT WE’VE GOTTEN TOO USED TO TO QUESTION ITS LEGITIMACY

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SALTED YOLK TARTAR SAUCE AND SPICY FISH STICKS

Ingredients

    SALTED YOLK TARTAR SAUCE:
  • 2 salted duck eggs, raw or cooked
  • 1 fresh egg yolk
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced
  • 1/2 tbsp minced capers
  • 1/2 tbsp minced baby cornichons
  • 1 tsp caper brine
  • 1 tsp tabasco sauce
  • salt and ground white pepper to season
  • SPICY FISH STICKS:
  • 250~300 grams catfish fillet, or any firm white fish preferred
  • 3/4 cup (105 grams) all-purpose flour, plus 1/2 cup for drenching
  • 1/4 cup (26 grams) cornstarch or potato starch
  • 1 tsp ground white pepper
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp fine chili flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (228 grams) light beer, really cold
  • 2 tbsp finely minced herbs, like basil and mint
  • canola oil for frying

Instructions

  1. MAKE SALTED YOLK TARTAR SAUCE: If using raw salted duck egg, wash clean under water (if they come encased in black salted sand) then place in a small pot and fill with water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 6 min, then transfer into cold water to cool down. If using pre-cooked salted duck eggs, omit this process.
  2. Crack open the cooked salted egg then scoop out the yolks. Place them into a food-processor or blender, along with fresh egg yolk, garlic and Dijon. Start running while slowly, SLOWLY, pouring 1/2 cup of vegetable oil to form an emulsion. Once all the oil is added, you should have a sauce with mayonnaise consistency. Transfer into a bowl and add minced shallot, minced caper, minced cornichons, caper brine, tabasco sauce. Mix well, then season with salt and about 1/8 tsp of ground white pepper. Cover and let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or best overnight before serving.
  3. MAKE SPICY FISH STICKS: Pop your beer in the freezer for a few min while you work. Add enough canola oil into a frying pot until it reaches 2" deep (7 cm), and bring to 340 F/170 C over medium heat. Cut the fish fillet into long strips about 3~4" long (13 cm) and 1/2" (1.5 cm) thick. Season LIGHTLY with a little salt and ground white pepper, set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup flour, cornstarch, ground white pepper, baking powder, baking soda, chili flakes and salt. Pour in the cold beer, add the minced herbs, and stir with a fork gently just until it comes into a loose and lumpy batter (lumps are fine. don't overwork it).
  4. Drench 3~4 pieces of fish in plain flour, pressing the flour into the fish so it sticks well and dusting off excess, then transfer the fishes into the batter. Once the fishes are coated with a thin layer of batter, transfer gently into the frying oil. ADD THE FISH ONE AT A TIME and fry for 10~15 seconds before adding the next, so the batter has crippled up and won't stick together. If the fish is sticking to the bottom of the pot, give it a gentle nudge on the bottom with chopstick to release it.
  5. Once the fish sticks are golden brown and crispy, drain well and set aside on a cooling rack. Repeat with the rest. Serve immediately with salted yolk tartar sauce.
https://ladyandpups.com/2016/06/07/the-egg-you-didnt-know-you-need-part-ii-salted-yolk-tartar-sauce-and-spicy-fish-sticks/
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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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MADRID, plus how to throw a tapas party

In the past few years, for more times than I’d like to admit, I have allowed myself to dance dangerously around a question that is as simple as it is complicated, as imaginable as it is hopeless, a secret irritation that haunts us all who have ever fell in love with a corner of this beautiful land they call Europe, but had to depart soon after. You know you ask yourself this, we all do.

Why. Why can’t I live here?

EVERY SIMPLE DELIGHTS FROM EVERY ASPECTS OF LIVING, RESTRAINED IN SMALL SERVINGS, BUT CONSTANT, AND IT DOESN’T STOP COMING

It’s a cliche, of course, for someone who doesn’t know or has travelled to Europe that much. But is that what romance requires, muchness? From the first time I landed a foot in Paris back in spring 2012, around the time when I just started this blog up till now, I have only been to a handful of European cities and each affair lasted no more than a week. And yet, the immense imagery of lost stories behind every architectures and cobble streets, the courage I seek to enjoy life with ease that they breath daily as a birthright, the endless sceneries roaming from hill to hills, the effortlessness, irritating almost, the fact that they can take their dogs everywhere (!!!)… All of it, everything, had left me in a stench of discontent at the boarding gates, the sense that I was going back to a place that was very much less so. I feel at my most content when I am traveling these places; I wholeheartedly recommend that you get out into the world for yourself and seek out these experiences too. Of course, the cost is always going to be an issue when visiting locations on your bucket list. This can be helped by a cash injection from a loan – check out Lending Expert for more information.

But having said that, it was a general infatuation for a region as a whole. Specifically, if you asked me, I could never quite pinpoint a city, or a country even, where I could actually see myself living in. As indisputably beautiful as Paris was and always will be, living there felt like being in a relationship with someone who would never love me more than I loved him. As authentically ancient and charming as Rome, the even more hard-wired slowness stirred a sense of restlessness in someone who wasn’t embracing retirement just yet. As much as the melancholic pessimism of Lisbon was alluring, it would probably deem unhealthy for me who’s equally negative, to marinate in large dosages. As for London, which I haven’t mentioned, the idea of moving from under one sky blanketed in smog, to another blanketed in overcast, was… just depressing to say the least. Then there was Nice, and Monaco… but who am I kidding?

That was, until Madrid.

I wanted to live here. But more importantly, I felt I could actually live here.

Even with the inevitable unfamiliarity with its pace of life and various language barriers here and there, everything felt natural, easy. It felt right. Madrid, I hope we could all agree, wasn’t the most beautiful European city, or the most prosperous. It wasn’t even the most convenient, given that few Asian airlines offered direct flights (but that’s gonna change this summer for Hong Kong). But there was something about it, the perfect mixture of ease and vibrancy, like it ran in its bloodstreams of knowing when to slow down and when to party, and it carried us, without even thinking, into the same infectious rhythm. An energetic morning, a late but overbearingly sumptuous lunch, a slow afternoon easing into the night, then a bubbling and munchy social scene to end it all perfectly.

Every simple delights from every aspects of life, restrained in small servings, but constant, and it doesn’t stop coming. That was what it felt like, as least for me, Madrid’s promises.

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LISBON, PLUS SURF’N TURF PORK BELLY AND SHRIMP SAUSAGE SANDWICH

After what seemed as long as forever, but now, feels as short as a blink of an eye, five weeks of traveling in and out of 6 different countries, I am now, finally, back home.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to sum up a journey as long as this one in one post.  It began in Hong Kong, then Taipei then back to Hong Kong, then it departed towards London, then Madrid, and Lisbon, then finally, passing by Germany, back to Hong Kong, then back to Beijing.  It was a zig-zaging montage of cityscapes, sounds, smells, flavours, stimulations… but also disorientations, sense of aimless drifts, dubbed by a relentless seasonal flu somewhere at end.  How do I tell such a story I have no clue.  I suspect I would be inadequate but I shall try.

I shall try, starting with Lisbon.

Why Lisbon?  I don’t know.  I guess there are moments in life that didn’t feel particularly monumental at the times, but somehow, years and years later, they stay with you whenever you feel like looking back.  Lisbon, in the best sense, felt as such.  There are cities where we go to feel the future.  New York, London, places that strut at the tip of our times, erecting glories built in glasses and steels, forward.  Lisbon, as rare as it is precious, is not that kind of city.  Lisbon, to me at least, comes into the scene as an ageing beauty.  Her allures permeates in a lingering perfume of melancholy, on the surface of every faded tiles, behind every half-closed wooden windows, cut deep into every folds of her stone-paved labyrinth.  She is old.  She is complicated.  There are a lot of bygone glories, loss and pain in her untold stories, some remembered only objects that cannot speak.  I found myself striken by a sense of wounded dignity at her unguarded moments.  In fact, sometimes  her unpolished cheeks marked with spray paints and the crumbling of her once beautifully tiled facades, like a ripped silk dress, made me feel impolite to stare.  But, I guess, that’s why Lisbon felt so unique.  Holding her own, almost carefully, with a flustered sense of self-esteem… she sits quietly, a city by the sea.

A place like her leaves an impression.  She made me wonder about the life she’s had.  She made me want to dig deeper.  She made me wanna do things that I’ve never done to any other places, beyond the politeness of walking through her streets and allies, beyond gorging the foods that she cooked.  I wanted to get more intimate.  Closer.  I wanted to hear her sing.  And if there’s one thing that I think you should do in Lisbon, however cheesy it may be, you should hear Lisbon sing.

And she sings Fado.

OF COURSE, WE HAD TO FINISH THE MEAL WITH A SANDWICH.  WE JUST HAD TO.  THAT’S HOW IT’S DONE.

BUT THIS TIME, WE WEREN’T SORRY THAT WE DID

First of all, it might help to mention that I am not a music person.  I have almost zero song downloaded to my smartphone, and in the 7 years I’ve dwelled in New York, a trip to New Orleans, I have never stepped a foot inside a jazz bar.  Curried goat, yes, but Bob Marley who?

So no, I don’t usually do this.

But to come to Lisbon without listening to a bit of fado, a music as burnt into the soul of this country as anything can hurt, is a regret that I wasn’t planning to walk away with.  However, before I go on, I warn you, that a fado experience in Lisbon can prove to be borderline awkward if you have some kind of personal distance-issues.  Chances are, as we were, you’d be seated on a stool tucked in between the elbows and knees of total strangers, so crowded it’d be difficult to reach down to your phones to take a selfie.  Chances are you’d be forced to share foods, and drinks, too, oh hell, conversations even.  If you got problems with any of those things as I almost do – oh fuck did I mention that they smoke indoors, too – chances are, it would be uncomfortable.

But again, chances are, you would regret it if you didn’t.

A young woman in her 20’s came into the tiny spot reserved for performers, professionals and amateurs alike.  Carried only by a couple of guitarists sitting a feet away, she started singing… no, more like… pouring her heart out on the floor.  There was so much passions, longings and losses that I felt through a song that I didn’t understand.  Her body moved like a stringed puppet, cringed, shaken, pulled by the very own emotions in the melody that she sang.  Her voice, at times almost inaudible, at times piercingly loud, communicated words without any translations.  It felt… brave, almost, bleeding this much feelings to a wall of strangers staring within an arm’s length.  Just when I thought I got a sense of what fado was, after her, came an old man in his 80’s.  He was more talking then singing, waving and pointing his hands in every possible gestures, sometime as if in an argument, sometime as if in mourning.  It was comical but not funny.  It was crude but endearing.  I can’t say I know fado, but if you ask me, the beauty of it is not in the perfection of vocal skills, but in the generosity of common strangers, singing their hearts to you on a sleeve.

We left the bar a bit in awe, with a couple of new German friends who were forced to share their chorizos with us.  Walking home on her crooked slopes echoing her voice in heart-strung melodies, Lisbon felt more mysteriously beautiful than before I got to know her.

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CLAM CHOWDER RISOTTO W/ CELERY PROSCIUTTO SALT

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CLAM CHOWDER IS A FOOD THAT SPEAKS NOSTALGIA, THE KIND THAT WANTS ME TO REMEMBER SOMETHING… EVEN IF THE MEMORY ISN’T MINE.  IT’S A POWERFUL STORY-TELLER.

Today is my favourite day.  Veterinarian day + Monday + The-day-I-woke-up-to-an-empty-coffee-jar day.  Pure.  Awesomeness.

So yes, I did.  I selfishly spent every God-damn beautiful hours of this day chuckling at waffle-coned dogs through a glass-wall, powered by a state of mind as sharp as a pile of shredded cheddar cheese melting inside a hamburger.  And at exactly 6:30 pm, realised that I’ve left very little time to tell you about this risotto I made last weekend.  It’s my fault.  The risotto doesn’t deserve this neglect.  In fact, this clam chowder risotto with prosciutto-salt deserves every autumn-loving and nostalgic-holic’s attention.  Thing is, I’ve always thought of clam chowders as a food that speaks nostalgias, the kind that wants me to remember something, in an almost eager manner, trying to bring out memories even if it isn’t mine.  Even though I was never that girl standing on a beach of grey sands, the cold waves, that late summer, that blue wooden bench and the knitted cardigan…, the soup wants me, no, it needs me to feel like one when I eat it.  Clam chowder is a powerful story-teller.

But again, people who are truly nostalgic about clam chowders probably wouldn’t do what I did, replacing potatoes with equally starchy arborio rice and chewy farro, then instead of saltine crackers, a sprinkle of finely crushed crispy prosciutto and toasted caraway seeds.  What can I say, it felt almost natural to me, and even more amazing because now it tells a slightly different story.  Of what, I’m not quite sure yet.  I need to hear it a few more times for it to become words.  Perhaps a rocky mediterranean shore… a brownish tweed newsboy hat… that old sea-port market and the stain of espresso on the napkin.  Or perhaps I’m just hearing a food-coma.

How about you?  Have you heard any good stories from your table lately?

The beautiful brass dinner spoon is made by the amazing Ann Ladson.

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