Snacks

DIM SUM MONTH: Turnip cake fritters w/ prosciutto

DIM SUM MONTH CONTINUES…

WHAT:  A very logical and long-overdue twist on the classic and quintessential dim sum – turnip/radish cake, in bite-size fritter form.

WHY:  For far too long have we allowed ourselves to be complacent with “tradition”, in this particular case, boring and bland squares of steamed rice cakes barely containing any turnips that draw all of its flavors and appeals from the XO sauce that is piled on top.  I mean think about it.  Without the XO sauce, who the fuck is turnip cake?  Even the slight attraction from its crispy pan-fried edges is more often missing than not.  But turnip cake deserves more than XO sauce, if we just take a moment to let the star – turnips! – shine through.

HOW:  An almost 50:50 ratio of finely diced Chinese turnips (or called daikon in Japanese) to batter, yields a supple and succulent texture in these little babies, almost juicy if you will.  Yes, juicy, which is not a word you hear often when it comes to turnip cakes, but it should.  Each tiny dices of blanched turnips burst out in natural sweetness within every bite, in perfect juxtaposition to the stickier batter that holds them all together and the incredibly crispy jacket that it wears.  Yes, crispiness, which brings us to my next point.  For all sakes, I don’t understand the way this dish was traditionally done, which was steamed into a big rectangular block, cut into slices, then pan-fried for that half-assed, pathetic excuse of a “crust” that doesn’t exist.  All along, it should’ve been in fritter-form!  360 degrees of heat and awesomeness that transforms that batter into blistered and satisfying crunch.  With turnip cake this good, we don’t need other distractions but a subtle ribbon of prosciutto on top.

*Yellow mixing bowl from Dishes Only.

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DIM SUM MONTH: Creamy salmon & egg in rice wrapper rolls

DIM SUM MONTH CONTINUES…

WHAT:  Stuffed rice wrapper rolls they call “cheung fun“!

WHY:  These gorgeous and elegant beauties are often overlooked on the dim sum table because of their less flashy appearances, mellow flavor profiles, and batters with the wrong ratio that results in unfortunate, mushy-textured wrappers.  Well, that ain’t their fault, in fact, cheung-fun is the most versatile blank canvas waiting for someone who appreciates its possibilities.

HOW:  In restaurants, this dish is always made to order.  The rice batter is usually steamed with the filling on top then rolled into a log and served with sweet soy sauce.  This method has its virtues but also, many flaws.  It is convenient from a restaurant’s perspective, allowing them to serve the dish hot and speedy, but not necessarily so from a creative point of view.  Making the dish to order will be unrealistic to pull off for at-home dinner parties, and steaming the wrappers and the fillings simultaneously will greatly limits its possibilities.  So, we are going to prepare the rice wrappers beforehand, and assemble them with the filling at the last minute.  In my wildest dreams where money flows like abs in a Channing Tatum movie, I would make the filling with gently poached lobster meat and XL lumpy blue crabs tossed together with herby mayonnaise and a few popping jewels of ikura (Japanese cured salmon roes).  But I live in the real world.  As you can see that my XXL Magic Mike-version is reduced down to slow baked then torched salmon with cheap-but-not-sad 15-seconds magic scrambled eggs.  Still Magic, just less Mike.  Serve the dish on a hot plate and simmering sweet soy sauce to bring the warmth back.  Hey, still fucking sexy.

By the way, most of the recipes in DIM SUM MONTH is designed to be prepared ahead of time.  Make each items and store them in the freezer (well, not this particular recipe), and at the end of the month, we’re going to have a dim sum blowout party.  See ya!

CREAMY SALMON & EGG IN RICE WRAPPER ROLLS

Yield: Approx 8~10 rolls

For the RICE WRAPPER recipe, I strongly recommend measuring by weight (not volume).

Ingredients

    RICE WRAPPER/CHEUNG FUN:
  • 3/4 cup + 1 1/2 tbsp (100 grams) short grain rice flour
  • 1/4 cup (33 grams) potato starch
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp (267 grams) water
  • FILLING: (see note)
  • 1 lb (500 grams) mid-cut salmon
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp finely diced scallions
  • 1 tbsp plain mayonnaise
  • 1 portion 15-seconds magic scrambled eggs (3 eggs)
  • fresh cilantro leaves
  • SWEET SOY SAUCE:
  • 1/3 cup (94 grams) soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp (31 grams) light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp (30 grams) water

Instructions

  1. This instruction differs from how restaurants typically do it, which is to always steam the cheung-fun/rice wrapper and the fillings together simultaneously, right before serving. Here, I prepare the cheung-fun/rice wrapper separately and beforehand. It gives me more control to play with the fillings, and makes them easier to prepare for a party.
  2. PREPARE THE CHEUNG-FUN/RICE WRAPPER: Make the wrappers up to 4 hours before serving. Check out RICE RIBBON for more referrences. In a jar that's easy to pour, whisk together rice flour, potato starch and water.
  3. For steamer, you can use any large pot with a rack placed in the middle to hold the mold/pan. I used a 6" (15 cm) square cake-pan as my mold to make the rice wrapper because 1) It fits into my steamer/pot (see photo). 2) It's just the right size for one single roll. If you have a larger steamer that can allow a bigger pan that will cut down the number of time of steaming, you can do that as well.
  4. Fill the steamer/pot with enough water just below the steamer-rack, then bring to a boil over high heat. Brush the pan with a bit of canola oil and place it on top of the rack. Give the batter a little whisk (do this every time before you pour), then pour just enough batter to create a thin film on the bottom of the pan. ADJUST THE POT so that it's LEVELED, and that the batter is evenly thick on all sides. Close the lid and steam on high heat for 1 min. The wrapper is ready when you see large air bubbles when you remove the lid. Brush the top surface of the wrapper with a little canola oil, then tilt the pan over a piece of parchment paper so it faces downward, then scrape the wrapper off so it falls onto the parchment. Repeat until you've used up all the batters, and keep each wrappers sandwiched between parchments. Plastic-wrap the whole stack and set aside until needed.
  5. PREPARE FILLING: Two hours before serving. Preheat the oven on 155 F/70 C. Rub the 1 tbsp of salt all over the salmon and let sit for 20 min, after which, rinse and pat dry with a clean towel. Place on a piece of parchment paper and rub the salmon with a bit of olive oil, then wrap tightly with the parchment. Place in the middle baking-rack (NO BAKING SHEET) and bake for 1:20 hour. Crumble the salmon into large pieces, and if you have a blow-torch, torch the surfaces so they're a bit charred. Gently toss the salmon with scallions and mayo (do the same if you're using lobster or lumpy crab meats). Set aside. Make the magic scrambled eggs. Set aside.
  6. Lay one cheung-fun/rice wrapper with the oiled side down (that would be the top surface when it came out of the steamer, which is the pretty side). Scatter a few cilantro leaves across the middle, then a bit of salmon fillings and scrambled eggs. Gently roll it together, and repeat (only make as many as you're serving).
  7. Place the rolls on a hot plate (the dish should be warm when served). In a small pot, bring soy sauce, light brown sugar and water to a simmer until the sugar has melted, then spoon the sauce over the rice rolls. Serve immediately.

Notes

If your budget allows, you can switch to using lobster or large lumpy crab meats, or a combination of the two. I would gently poach the lobster, then cut the meat into small pieces. Toss the lobster meats together with lobster roes (or the "brain"), lumpy crab meats and the scallion mayo. If you have enough of this, you can even omit the scrambled eggs and go delux.

https://ladyandpups.com/2017/02/14/dim-sum-month-creamy-salmon-egg-in-rice-wrapper-rolls/
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DIM SUM MONTH: CHARSIU PULL-APART PINEAPPLE BUN

DIM SUM MONTH CONTINUES…

WHAT:  The new poster child of dim sum-scape in Hong Kong, the char siu pineapple buns, pull-apart style!

WHY:  Do you need to reason to eat a soft, squishy bun stuffed with sweet char siu pork and topped with crunchy “pineapple” crusts?  The entirety of happiness all in one bite, pillowy, crunchy, salty, sweet, gooey, porky and buttery?  Do ya?

HOW:  Burn all the other recipes that are dumbed down and one-dimensional.  Here’s a thorough recipe to show you how to make them like a pro, either with fresh pork shoulders (my preference), or with store-bought char siu pork.  But what really makes this recipe different is how the delicate balance of flavors are re-imagined.  Instead of the typical, cornstarch-thickened sauce that screams boring, we are going to re-create the stickiness by mixing in honey, ground dates and dried strawberries.  Not only do they provide a natural gooey-ness, they also bring a hidden fruity tone to the flavor-profile, making these sweet and salty buns unstoppably addictive.

By the way, most of the recipes in DIM SUM MONTH is designed to be prepared ahead of time.  Make each items and store them in the freezer, and at the end of the month, we’re going to have a dim sum blowout party.  See ya!

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DIM SUM MONTH: Crystal shrimp dumpling w/ shrimp oil mayo

EXACTLY WHAT DIM SUM IS SUPPOSED TO, BUT SOMEHOW FORGOTTEN TO BE,

LITERALLY, AS TO TOUCH HEART

Welcome to DIM SUM MONTH!

WHAT:  I’m dedicating this whole month to the delicate art that is dim sum.

WHY:  I’m slowly and painfully realizing how scarce a good, thoughtful and delicious dim sum can be.  Even in Hong Kong – the supposedly promised land of dim sum – I found my expectation being shattered with sloppy, tired, and borderline unethical display of dimness.  Frankly, I’m fed up.

HOW:  Just as unfamiliar as most of you are in terms of making dim sum, I’m going to show you that it is possible for us to create these little baskets of happiness at home.  We are going to take each conventional dim sum item, and mix them with a bit of thoughtfulness and fun.  Almost every items can be made ahead of time, and hopefully at the end of the month, we’ll be able to host our own dim sum party that is more awesome than most.

Let’s start with the classic of the classics – crystal shrimp dumplings.

We are going to correct all of its frequently ignored mistakes: soggy and texture-less wrappers, and frankly, boringness.  This recipe will yield a wrapper that is beautifully translucent, shiny, and just a bit bouncy to the bite, filled with a generous amount of whole tiger shrimps held together by fatty ground pork.  Last but not least, a small dollop of mayonnaise made with shrimp oil and thickened up with cashew butter, will knock this out of the park.

It is a single bite that embodies a carnival of senses: textures, flavors, esthetics and imaginations.  Which is exactly what dim sum is supposed to, but somehow forgotten to be, literally, as to touch heart.

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JAPAN + SRIRACHA SENBEI, Japanese gluten-free rice crackers

I’m stalling on this post, about our trip to Japan, or more accurately, Osaka, Kyoto and Kurokawa.  This happens sometimes, either when the trip itself was too brief, or in this case, even with a sufficient duration to ponder, I find the place… difficult to compute.  Truth is, I’ve always had mixed feelings about Japan.  Mixed, but not foreign.  After all, I’m from Taiwan, hardly a stranger.  Since awareness I guess, Japan has been a place with unescapable elements everywhere deep inside its social fabrics that, to me, are both deeply seductive and also repulsive.  It’s a festival of confusions, to say the least, the reason why Lost in Translation was transcribed here, and perhaps the reason why I hesitated to come for years.  I didn’t know if I was more afraid to love it, or hate it, and either way, why did that matter?  I wasn’t sure of the answer either.  It’s a country where people pay for their dinner through vending machines, but spend hours drinking a cup of tea.  The country runs on the most highly efficient and developed system of high-speed rail that few others can compete, but the information kiosk of which, in the Osaka station, is still being organized in old-school filers.  It’s a country that is famed for its obsession in cleanliness and manners, but one of the few still left in the developed world where I have to endure second-hand smokes in restaurants.  A culture that is widely associated with its quiet, distilled form of beauty, that wabi-sabi life, and yet, the major cities within which are wild labyrinths of neon lights and carnivals of giant moving octopuses.

Slow, fast.  Quiet, loud.  Polite, yet perversive.  Allures, and frustrations.  Which one is true?  Or perhaps all is.

A country that thrives in contradictions.

I didn’t know what to make of it.  I still don’t.

I wanted to, like everyone else, just focus on its beauties, which are nothing but pure pleasures.  The yakitori (skewered/grilled chicken) in Wabiya Korekido in Kyoto comes close to an art form.  The beef heart sashimi from Maru in Osaka could not have been the revelation that it is anywhere else.  The amount of philosophy that goes into making a bowl of ramen cries for admiration.  A dip into the tinglingly warm hot spring, the liquid silk that percolates from deep within earth in the stillness that is Kurokawa, it is hard, real hard, not to fall for it all.

But with every enjoyments, comes with a blinding contradiction that seemed to overturn the previous experience.  Was my experience authentic rituals, or rehearsed theatrics.  Was this a sanctuary, or a theme park?  What the world is infatuated about Japanese’s deeply philosophical way of life, was that even a real part of their lives, or just advertisements?  Or maybe they are two of the same thing, a double-sided mirror.

I’m sure most of you don’t know what I’m talking about, a bunch of mumbo-jumbo.  I have failed to explain it, and for that I’m going to stop.

Maybe Japan was never something to be understood, but to be pondered upon.  Was never a maze, but growth-rings on a black pine trunk.

To get it, I gotta eat more ramen.

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CHICKEN CONFIT GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH

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IF LIKE ME, YOU’RE TURKEY-LESS OR DUCK-LESS, DON’T LET THAT STOP’YA

GRAB YOUR NEAREST LIMBS OF ANY SORTS AND GO TO TOWN!

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Life is going through some dramatic, if not crazy, changes.  And I’m mastering the art of adaptation.  I know I threw a bomb out last post without any proper context, and perhaps have gotten some friends worried.  I thank you all for the comfort, support, and unrelenting kindness that you gave this stranger who talks on the screen.   It is a compassion that I may even lack in comparison, embarrassingly, and such realization has helped pulling myself away from my emotional blackhole in a strange way, shown me perspectives.  If that makes any sense.  Still a bunch of gibberish, I know.

I promise I will explain everything next week.

Meanwhile, holy shit, Thanksgiving was last week?  Where have I been…

Well, this recipe was a whiff of fairy dust springing out of the ashes of post-Thanksgiving conversations.  Being genetically anti-turkey, I was dissing Thanksgiving leftover sandwiches on Instagram when this guy, rightly so, shut me up with these three little words – “turkey legs confit”.  OK, you win, and for the first time in my life, I’ve never felt so empty in my turkey-less habitat.  If you were like me, turkey-less, duck-less, goose-less or any fancy two-legged-less, don’t let it stop’ya.  Grab your nearest limbs of any sorts and go to town!  Chickens, why not!  In fact, any bone-in meats cured in ground bay leaf-salt then melted down slowly inside its own grease, is one of those things that guarantee to not suck .

Keep in mind that recipes of this sort is a vehicle-recipe, meaning it’s more like a tool, and it’s up to you where you want to be taken.  For me, I like to stay pure, especially when it comes to a dish whose glory lies within its singular yet complex, condensed, unadulterated poultry-ness.  Drowning it out with an avalanche of insecurity would mean wasting all those hours to get them to be independently fantastic.  Crisped up real good in some thyme-infused grease, then tossed together with a brightening note of Dijon mustard and white pepper, these chicken-bombs will take nothing more to sing other than some creamy cheese and crispy sourdough breads.  Soaked and pan-fried inside that confit-grease of course I don’t know why you ask.

It’s getting cold.  Keep your lips moistened with that precious grease.  Next week, we talk.

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CHICKEN CONFIT GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH

Yield: approx 6 sandwiches

Ingredients

    CHICKEN CONFIT:
  • 4 whole chicken legs (hopefully from good flavorful chickens)
  • 5 tbsp (71 grams) coarse sea salt
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • enough chicken fat or olive oil to cover
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • SANDWICH:
  • slices of sourdough bread
  • soft/mild cheeses such as brillat savarin, or brie
  • finely diced scallion

Instructions

  1. MAKE CHICKEN CONFIT: Place coarse sea salt and fresh bay leaves in a food-processor, and run util evenly ground together into "green salt". Rub the salt evenly over the chicken legs, with just enough to generously cover the surface, then let cure for 2 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven on 285 F/140 C. Rinse the chicken legs to remove the green salt then pat dry with a clean towel. Place them inside a baking container that will fit the legs snuggly and tightly (the less empty space there is, the less oil you'll need), then fill with enough chicken fat or olive oil to cover the legs. Scatter the garlics around, cover, then place on a sheet-pan and bake for 3:30 hours. Let cool completely inside the fridge. Can be made a few days ahead.
  3. To serve, carefully remove the legs from the oil, then place them skin-side down first in a large non-stick skillet. Heat over medium-high heat and cook until the skin-sides are golden browned, then turn and scatter the fresh thyme inside the skillet to infuse the oil, and slightly brown the meat-sides as well. Transfer the legs into a large plate (keep the oil inside the skillet). Remove all the skins and meats, and discard the bones. Toss the meats with Dijon mustard, ground white pepper, and 1 tbsp of the fat. Set aside.
  4. MAKE SANDWICH: Generously smear both sides of the breads with brillat savarin (or brie), scatter the scallions around, then a good pile of chicken confit. Inside the same skillet, leave enough confit-fat to generously coat both sides of the sandwiches, add the sandwich, and toast over medium-high heat until golden browned and crispy on both sides. Serve immediately.
https://ladyandpups.com/2016/11/30/chicken-confit-grilled-cheese-sandwich/
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SUMMER PHO BO ROLL

In the walk of a cook who fancies herself a genius, there is no pain more excruciating than to realize when someone else has out-genius her.  If you were one of “her” (not saying that I am)(I mean genius?  Who?  Me?), careful, because this is gonna hurt.

This guy, Tyler Kord, who wrote this book, A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches, is really pissing me off.

Okay, fine, go have a super successful and ever-expanding sandwich shop all over New York City as if that was a dream of mine or whaaaatever.  Dream-stealer….  And then sure, why not, go publish a refreshingly hilarious and strivingly honest cookbook that touches subjects beyond the otherwise self-absorbing stand-alone topic of foods, as if that was my personal 2014 2015 2016 resolution that is wilting faster than baby spinach in a hot skillet.  Face-rubber….  But I don’t care, see, don’t care!  But above all of his dream-stealing and face-rubbing behavior, which I have generously forgiven and let go, none has made me scream more in agony when I saw this recipe on page 168…

Pho mayo.

I’ll spare you the whole pretense of “I couldn’t imagine what it would taste like until I put a spoon in my mouth…blah blah blah blah blah”.  Truth was, the minute I read through the recipe, I knew it would work.  The combination of flavors and seasoning just made sense, guaranteeing, even just on paper, a creamy concoction that would embody all the magical essence of a bowl of pho.  Pho, in mayo form.  This realization sent my body into a self-strangling twist on my stone-cold kitchen floor, thinking, no, bleeding from the eternal question that haunts all mankind – Why, why wasn’t I the one who come up with this?

But I wasn’t.  So that’s that.  And by the way, this fabulous creation of what I call Summer Pho Bo Roll, is not in his book.  Yeah, I took his pho mayo… used it to generously coat a truck-load of thinly sliced beef short ribs, bean sprouts and finely chopped Thai basil, then stuffed them into a hoisin sauce -smeared potato roll, topped with chopped onions and a revengeful squeeze of Sriracha sauce.  It’s like eating a bowl of pho bo (by the way, the word “pho” on its own just means “rice noodle”.  Pho bo (bo means beef) is what you are actually referring to), but no cooking!  And it’s summer-friendly!

Dat’s right, Tyler, I stole your pho mayo.  Now you know what it’s like to be hurt.

I’M REALLY MORE LIKE ACHILLES IN THAT… I CAN MAKE MAYONNAISE BEND TO MY WILL USING ONLY MY MIND BECAUSE ACHILLES COULD DO THAT.  HOMER DOESN’T REALLY GET INTO IT THOUGH.

– TYLER KORD

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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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