Seafood

UNI CARBONARA WITH PORK SALT

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IF I RANTED, I HOPE IT ISN’T THOUGHTLESS…

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

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If I ranted, I hope it isn’t thoughtless.

If I wrote songs, I hope it isn’t comfortable.

If I were a wood-worker, I’ll have a summer cabin.

If I made things with metals, I hope I had made these.

If I were sociable, I hope I am also sincere.

If I were a friend, I hope I don’t mistake loyalty with bias.

If I envied, I hope I could say it out loud.

If I had experienced joy, I hope it is without victims.

If I had a garden, I hope it grows shades for stray dogs.

If I were young, I would change nothing.

If I were a parent, I hope I don’t always think like one.

If I were a believer, I hope I have strength for reasons.

If I were a lion, I hope I respect the lambs.

If I were a vegetarian, I am going to have a pet pig.

If I were smart, I hope it comes with wisdom.

If I were a follower, I hope I wasn’t blind.

If I asked myself questions, I hope it isn’t answered by someone else.

If I were a particle physicist, I hope I can overlook human pettiness.

If I had compassion, it shall be selective.

If I were powerful, I hope I have the capacity to let go.

If I were in the same position, I hope I could resist the mistakes.

If I could live anywhere, I want to live in New York.

But if I lived by the sea, I hope it is home for sea urchins, too.

And if I lived by sea urchins, I hope you would visit me in the summer.

If you visited me in the summer, I hope I make this for you.


  
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GOCHUJANG TUNA-MELT ONIGIRI

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ONIGIRI COULD BE NONE BUT A BALL OF RICE, UNTIL YOU’VE HAD A REAL ONIGIRI AND REALIZED WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT…

A BALL OF REALLY GOOD RICE

The weather in Beijing is driving me mad.  Rainy, swampy, relentlessly brownish grey.  In all the fond days that I’ve been in this dump, all five years and counting, the summers have never been this wet.  Soaking wet.  I mean let’s face it, nothing here is pleasant to begin with I’ll give you that.  But for this region, a supposedly semi-desert climate for fuck sake, that for what it’s worth, the relatively dry summers and butt-cracks used to contribute as the pitiful silver-lining of being in this hell-hole.  The cherry on a very bad cake.  But lately, no.  Not this summer.  Every morning begins with a slow poach inside a thick tarred and slimy cloud of grossness – think the colons of Jabba the Hutt or inside Donald Trump’s comb-over under a baseball cap – then, comes the almost guaranteed torrential rains around 7 pm that marinates everything in a wet mop-like humidity.  Then the next day, it repeats.  Did I mention that the pollution congeals even more enthusiastically in its special sense of sarcasm?  Did I mention that it’s been like this, for weeks.

It’s an understatement to say that these days, I’m not happy much.  All the recent riots of Instagrams flaunting farmer’s markets, elf-like human beings and basic living bliss, only make me bleed jealousy and really hateful thoughts.  If I could stab your heirloom tomato in the abdomen right now, I’d gladly do so with gruesome gratifications and throw in all its cousins for good measure.  It’s also safe to say that these days, I don’t go out much.  The joy of grocery-runs has been reduced down a battle of mind-dragging chores, not to mention, that at any given seconds, the heaven could punish me with an acid-fueled downpour for daring optimistic thoughts.   These days, I made do with what I have.

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SICHUAN MALA BUTTER CRAYFISH

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DO NOT MISTAKE THE LIKINGS OF LOUISIANA-STYLE CRAYFISH-BOIL TO THIS,

WHICH ONLY SHARES AS MUCH SIMILARITIES AS COFFEE HAS TO A FLAMING LAMBOURGINI

Just a small note for the weekend as you’ll need it.  OK, maybe it’s not small.  In fact, it’s a huge… epic… cardinally sinful and despicably addictive note that will forever change your summers, and you’ll probably regret it, hate me for it, really hate yourself for it, while being lost in a summer-long trance somewhere in between nuclear pains and unbearable pleasures.

Did you know, that Chinese loves crayfish?

Yeah, in fact, fanatical, is the more appropriate word.  So much so that in Beijing, they have an entire street called Gui, a whole freaking parade lined by jam-packed and neon-lighted restaurants that dedicates almost solely to the cult of this practice.  Now, do not… and I mean, do not mistake the likings of the southern Louisiana-style boil to this sichuan-style mala (numb and spicy) crayfish bloodbath, which only shares as much similarities as coffee has to a Flaming Lambourgini.  Underestimate these mean little fuckers, and you’ll be punished.  This is a dish that transcends the crayfishes through a condensed and ferocious red bath made by extracting every last bit of flavour molecules from a intense mixture of spice-blend, aromatics and sichuan fermented chili paste into the thick gravy of lava and glisteningly red butter.  Just a couple of bug-crushing and head-sucking into the whole thing, and your every taste-buds and every sensual nerves that link to the pleasure and plain receptors in your brain, will be spanked and whiplashed ecstatically by the unbelievable amount of flavours, happiness really, trafficked to you on high speed with an ill intention. You can’t eat just one.  No one can eat just one.  Even when every pores on your forehead and dripping sweats is begging, howling for you to show mercy.  You just can’t stop.  And after the irreversible damages done, you’ll want to robotically mop up the death-gravy with any carbs lying within an arm’s length.  There’s just no other ways for this to happen.  So think long, and think hard, before taking the plunge.

This summer, are you ready to go down the rabbit hole?

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SHRIMP AND RASPBERRY SALAD

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Beautiful crochet side plate is from Dishes Only.

THE OVERALL FLAVOURS ARE NON-AGRESSIVE, WITH THE TANGY AND SWEET INTENTION TO KEEP CALM, AND CARRY ON

Sorry, not particularly in a mood to talk today.  That can happen I’ve been powering through a day of anxiety attack, set off by my son Dumpling who so randomly decided that I too, should have a heart attack.  (If you needed recap, I have a very sick dog, whose apathetic small heart for the better part of his 15-years of unsocial life, sort of like the Grinch, have grown unstoppably large in the past 2 years.  Except that in the medical world, instead of Christmas, this would be called a congestive heart failure).

So here, I leave you with a summer shrimp salad starring my most recent obsession, the puny little sweet succulence that is Norwegian cold water shrimps (yes, like IKEA’s).  These shrimps have a almost candy-like sweetness which balances wonderfully with just a dab of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, and the bursts of tartness of frozen raspberries (keep the whole thing cold, you see).  The overall flavours are non-agressive, with the tangy and sweet intention to keep calm, and carry on, especially on a slice of well-buttered rustic bread and a lightly sea salted soft-boiled egg.  I think, I hope, that if I just eat enough of these, I may be able skip my next dosage of prozac.  Here, you try it.

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FILET-O-FISH’N CHIPWICH

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SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE OF LOSING CHILDHOOD INNOCENCE AND MATURING FOOD-PHOBIAS, I’VE GROWN ESTRANGED TO THIS WONDERFUL THING THAT PRACTICALLY RAISED ME

I’ve been wanting to do a fried fish sandwich for some time now.  In fact, it’s strange even to myself that it has taken me so long, considering that battered fried fish, from both the perspective of nostalgia and deliciousness, holds a very special place in my heart.

Myself, circa 1992, fresh off the boat in Vancouver and practically English-illiterate, this was one of the very first introduction I had into the then-completely-alien world of western food culture.  Once in a while, friends and families would make a special night out of dinning at the New England-style seafood restaurants lining the river-port, for this was a scarce enjoyment where we came from, and for me, watching the seagulls pirating scraps off of the table, it served a foreign exhilaration of this new place to call home.  Back then, with the inability to understand the menu, a dinner in a place like this would almost certainly meant having the same entree over and over again, and that was, yes, fish and chips.  A funny dish that, I was told, the child I was should really appreciate.  To be honest, I can’t really recall what the dish tasted like.  Eating, for who I was at the age 12, was not a priority in the purposes of life.  But the premise of those memories, the silhouette of those evenings, I will forever hold dear.  Then, perhaps taking the theory of all-kids-love-fried-fish a bit too far, for quite a while, my breakfasts were often times, if not persistently, fried fish-sticks that my mom homemade from the supermarket freezer-section, served with ketchup.  Now that, that I remember the taste of, and it tasted… delicious.  Diss it all you want, but it was like a bun-less and sauce-less filet-o-fish burger from McDonald’s which, to me, was and still is considered a very fine thing amongst others.  Hands down, for the first two decades of my life, it was (only marginally) the second-best thing from 6-pcs-of-nuggets.  If the completely illogical fear after adulthood doesn’t exist – that somehow it feels much safer to consume meats than seafoods from this fine American institution – nowadays I would’ve ordered the filet-o-fish over the cheese burger, at least twice as often.

So I guess, in short, what I’m trying to say is, that I’ve had my fair share of battered fried fish in my days growing up, and I loved it.  But somewhere along the line of losing childhood innocence and maturing food-phobias, I’ve grown estranged to this wonderful thing that practically raised me.  And so I guess, more simply put, I want it back.

To do so, I set out to create an ultimate sum of this significant chapter of my childhood dinning experiences, but, greater than its parts.  A sandwich that combines the classic elements of English beer-battered fish, sweet and tangy tartar sauce and herby butter-mashed peas, with the lunacy of sliced American cheese, and since I was already at the edge of a cliff, why not taking off with another layer of salt’n-vinegar potato chips in between to bring an extra element of crunch?  An idea so wrong, that I was about to write-off with self-doubt right before a dear Instagramer from a little town known as, the Great Britain, left a comment.  People here like putting “crisps” in their fish finger “sarnies”!, she said.  Aside from the unexplained urge to forever call “sandwiches” as “sarnies” from now on, that also brought the much needed endorsement for my madness.  It is done.  After all, with what is both the home of fish’n chips, and the founding father of the establishment of sandwiches, who the hell am I to argue?

And thus, we arrive at this conclusion, one that even my 12-year-old-self would’ve assumed, well that can’t taste bad.  And my friends, I was right to assume.

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THREE CHEESE OYSTER GRATIN

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MY MOJO (COULD HAVE) SANK INTO A MENTAL ABYSS SO DEEP, IT WOULD TAKE A KRISPY KREME-SUBMARINE TO RETRIEVE

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Hello. Sorry. I think it’s been awhile. I don’t know if there was a guideline on the Successful Food Blogging Manual specifically on post-frequencies, but I’m sure an entire week of blankness and neglect would on the other hand, dominate the entire Troubleshoots Section (As well as questions like this: What to do when you accidentally publish an unfinished post?)(Answer: Call 911.)(And: What is a writer’s block?)(Answer: Eat a donut.). Well, the truth is… that I wish there was a more socially excusable answer for my absence, you know, dog theft, broken hips, dead grandparents… house fire? Because really, anything is better than what I’m about to confess, which is the silent gasps among food-bloggers, the leading Do-Not’s under the manual’s flashing red, Skull-headed Section that you should probably read before Getting Started (Side by side with: Bad-mouthing Jesus.)(And also: Cursing out children). But the truth is that, in the past week, as honestly as I can put it… I simply got tired of foods.

Yes, if you were a food-blogger, along with the acute urge to weep after a deflated cake (Answer: Ingest alcohol and blog about that instead) and recipe-deficit (Answer: Put down the donut and make that a sandwich), this complication too can happen. But different from how I’d imagine it, which should’ve been a natural and peaceful death following a long and beautiful journey, this temporary episode came prematurely due to a self-inflicted and unforeseeable cause. In short, I simply got tired of foods because there had been simply, too much fooding. Can there be such a thing? Yes. With all this being said, if you have always wanted to start your very own food blog, but were not sure how to go about it, knowing that you can find cheap domain names could be the first step in finally becoming a blogger!
As briefly mentioned before, I partook in an annual Beijing’s restaurants review for a city magazine, thinking it was going to be the best blogging-perk ever, but after cramming almost twenty restaurants into the past mere four weeks (that’s 3~5 restaurants per week!), things started to get a little… overcooked. Like a bridezilla on her third wedding, I had managed to turn the single, most appreciated aspect of my otherwise ungrateful life, into just another demeaning chore. To say the least, it backfired.

Even though this miscalculated experiment, for my wellness sake, timely ended last Thursday, it has left me in a prolonged state of mental paralysis where I just wanted to suck my thumbs in peace and not having to come up with another word to describe a meal other than cursing it out. I wanted to just exist… on soda crackers for a month. Or so at least, fortunately, it only felt that way. To my surprise as well, thanks to a book here and there, it only took a few days for the cravings to cook again to slowly creep back in, and literally, exploded over this weekend. In hindsight, if the two dishes I made over the weekend had flopped, my mojo would’ve sank into a mental abyss so deep it would take a krispy krem-submarine to retrieve. But no, they didn’t flop. In fact, they were both smashing success, and one of them being what I’m about to tell you – the three cheese oyster gratin.

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This recipe was inspired by what we didn’t have at Vin Vi, one of the better restaurants/izakaya we’ve dined at during this entire process, which was on their menu but unavailable the day we visited. I’ve always loved izakaya-style cheesy grilled oysters/kaki mayo, where shucked in-shell oysters are topped with a mixture of Kewpie-mayonnaise and cheese, then go under high heat to be melted into the gloriously broken, greasy, and unapologetic beauties that they are. Its absence from that meal (perhaps thankfully to that) had left a vacuum in my oyster-deprived heart that, even after the most vicious eating-fatigue, must be filled. But if there was one thing I didn’t like about kaki mayo, it’d be the pool of oil they often sit on, being the aftermath of post-high heat mayonnaise that had inevitably separated.

So I substituted the mayonnaise with a thick béchamel sauce infused with dry white wine and loaded it with shredded white cheddar, gruyere, and a daring pinch of freshly grated nutmeg. Then after blanketing the shucked oysters from all directions with this stringy goo, it was then covered again with freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, more freshly grated nutmegs (the key, people, the key), and a few/or many little nubs of unsalted butter. Baked under the top-broiler for 13~15 minutes, the sweet oysters had released their juices to be blended as part of the cheesy pool of joy, slightly shrivelled and firmed up but still supple to the bite, smoldering under a crust of golden and bubbly surface. I’d warn you that it was hot, but again it might had been too late. After all, even I, who have been subjected to an entire month of human-foie gras feeding regimen and was already at the stage of over-ripened-for-harvest, couldn’t resist to (huff~ huff~ huff~) tuck one into my mouth right out of the oven and part the burning white sea with a torn piece of crusty sourdough.

And guess what, it was worth the burn, worth the paralyzing month of restaurant-hammering that ultimately led to it, worth every dragging agony to crawl back to the kitchen to make it, and now the what’s-one-more bulge of fat sticking out from places I don’t even know exist on my body. Hey, my friends, if you ever feel tired of foods, going in or churning out. Take a couple days off, eat some soda crackers. Then come back, and make this. And I promise you, all shall be good again.

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THREE CHEESE OYSTER GRATIN

Ingredients

  • 8~10 large shucked oysters
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (240 ml) whole milk
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) dry white wine
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) shredded white cheddar
  • 3/4 cup (75 grams) shredded gruyere
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/3 tsp sea salt, plus more to adjust
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, plus more to top
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano cheese to top

Instructions

  1. Rinse and clean the oysters to get rid of any impurities, gently dab dry, then set aside. In a pot over medium heat, melt the unsalted butter then cook the flour for 1 min. Whisk in the whole milk and dry white wine, and continue whisking until the mixture comes to a simmer and has fully thickened, then keep cooking for 5~6 min until reduced slightly and the alcohol has evaporated. Turn off the heat, then add the shredded white cheddar, shredded gruyere, grated garlic, sea salt, ground black pepper, ground white pepper and freshly grated nutmeg, and stir with a fork until the cheese has fully melted (taste and re-season with sea salt if needed).
  2. Preheat the top broiler on high. In a shallow oven-proof skillet, spread 1/2 of the cheese sauce on the bottom, then arrange the oysters evenly and cover with the rest of the cheese sauce. Grate enough Parmigiano cheese to entirely cover the surface, then scatter a few extra nubs of unsalted butter here and there. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 13~15 min, until it's bubbly and golden browned. Grate another generous pinch of fresh nutmeg over the top (do not be shy with the nutmeg!), then serve immediately with crusty sourdough.
https://ladyandpups.com/2015/04/13/three-cheese-oyster-gratin/
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MY BIG, FAT, SPICY KOREAN CLAM CHOWDER

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IF YOU’RE HOPING FOR A SLIMMED DOWN, DECENT AND POLITE CLAM CHOWDER TODAY, YOU ARE NOT GONNA FIND IT

We all have a food that we genuinely love so much, and at every long-awaited occasions when we put a bite in our mouth, we wonder to ourselves, why don’t we make that more often? Yes, well, that to me is grilled peanut butter sandwich. This… this, my friends, is not that. This is clam chowder, and it’s something else entirely some of the best clam chowder in san francisco.

I know exactly why I don’t make clam chowders more often. I know exactly the moment in time, the passage being said, the scarred memory in my head which still hurts, that all together forged a mental blockade in between me, myself, and my beloved clam chowders, for all these years. It was a particular spring day in New York, when I was just about to order my favourite “soup” from a popular bakery with a friend of mine:

“Do you wanna know why their clam chowder is so good?”
“No?”
“The other day, I saw them making it where they dunked an enormous brick of butter into the pot at the very end.”
“How enormous…?”
“Like big. Big. Like drinking butter.”

Head down, belly tucked, I walked away from that bakery without my clam chowder that day. In fact, if you can believe it, I sort of didn’t get my clam chowder for many years that followed… Like I said, it still hurts. But before you judge me, please keep in mind that this was in my 20’s when bikini-season was still very much a possibility, when dating was still a verb, not a noun. And most importantly, this was before I started this blog…

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CURRIED LENTIL AND SHRIMP POPCORNS

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PANCETTA TARTARE.

WHAT-EH-WHADAT?

OK, here’s the thing.  Mountains, and I mean mountains, of unattended laundries accumulated in the past 3 weeks that has led to a moment last night when I had to remind myself that, plastic bags aren’t clean underwear (put it down, Mandy, put it down…).  I mean come on, we’ve all been there, so surely you can understand if I say, grab yourself a handful of these shrimp popcorns and give me a helping hand.

But of course, these aren’t just any shrimp popcorns.  These are bouncy, minced black tiger shrimps mixed with soften lentils, grated gingers, anchovies, then just the right amount of curry spices and most importantly, let’s not forget, pancetta tartare.  What-eh-whadat?  Yes, finely, and I mean finely cubed fatty pancetta, are generously dispersed within every folds and turns, releasing pleasure-grease into each and every one of these little bad babies as they get thinly coated and fried to crispy weekend-delights.  But it doesn’t end there.  I mean if I expect these to be worthy of helping laundries, of course it doesn’t end there.  They are then tumbled and blanketed under a magic dust of salt and spices that may make you sneeze and tear from joy.

So here, don’t mind your greasy fingers.  After this load of bed-sheets, there are about 5 more.

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