updated recipe

PEANUT BUTTER STICKY RICE BALLS IN GREEN TEA

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THEY COMPLETE ME

Sorry but I have to run off quickly today, and leave you with this traditional and wildly beloved Chinese dessert.  These little pretty purses called tang-yuan, meaning “soup-circles”, are very popular, if not mandatory, at all major celebratory event and holidays because of their literal implication for roundedness and completeness. The elegance of its name may be lost in translation but I assure you that the reasons for their popularity are not, if you would just invest 1 hour of your life to find out.

The recipe for sticky rice ball-dough is an update from an older recipe, which I thought had a couple unnecessary steps and confusions.  Then instead of making a peanut-filling from scratch, which would probably never be as smooth with my incompetent food-processor, I decided to use a mix of store-bought smooth peanut butter with a little coconut oil (to loosen the texture further) and brown sugar.  The sticky rice wrapper is slippery and chewy, like little delicious purses bursting with lava-like peanut butter filling that comes with a hint of coconuts.  It’s a mouthful of complimenting textures and flavours, chewy and runny, sweet and slightly salty, intensely nutty and rich but balanced with the subtle bitterness and fragrance from lightly honey-sweetened green tea.

More than just words, they’ll complete you.

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MY XIAN FAMOUS SPICY CUMIN LAMB HAND-SMASHED NOODLES

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ONCE YOU GET THERE, WHATEVER IT TAKES FOR YOU TO GET THERE,

THE REST IS AS EASY AS BIANG

Does this recipe really need introduction?  If you have been enjoying, following, or even just been seduced from afar by the unstoppable uprise of this basement-stall to now 10 flourishing locations throughout New York, you would not be unfamiliar with the signature dish, from Xian Famous Foods.  The spicy cumin lamb hand-ripped (biang biang) noodles.

I have certainly been a fan.  More precisely, I have been enjoy Xian Famous Foods for the past few years, without actually stepping a foot inside any of their 10 locations.  Because I’ve been here, in Beijing, where “Xian famous foods” are not known as the name of a trending chain-restaurants, but in fact, a genre.  Those 4 Chinese characters almost recognized as their “logo”, are actually common here as a phrase that describes the local street foods of the city Xi-An.  Kind of like having a restaurant called “Texas BBQ”, or “Chicago Hotdogs”.  And on top of the usual suspects of cold skin noodles, cumin lamb burger (called “rou-jia-mo”), lamb offal soup… there is of course, the biang biang.

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miso stewed short-ribs French-dip sandwich

A ROUNDUP OF MY WEEK RANGING FROM TRAGEDY TO AWESOMENESS…

  1. Lost my sleep mojo.
  2. Left pink eye that’s flirting dangerously with my right eye.
  3. Egg allergy plus one-lick-too-many from testing the magic 15-seconds scrambled eggs, gave this pre-middle aged face a few beautiful, custard-filled pimples.
  4. Tweezer rage.  That corner of my eyebrow is never coming back is it?
  5. Being forced to sit straight up so the rim of my tummy wouldn’t touch my thighs.  They’re so close…
  6. My building’s management office and the grocery store downstair are plotting together on my imminent suicide.  Think I have to move.
  7. But again. my neighbour’s bichon, Coco, has a rainbow-colored afro on her head.
  8. Watched Frozen again.
  9. A dream of myself laying on Beth’s kitchen island, blanketed and all, as one of her props among other things, then fell asleep on the table and went into a second level dream which I have absolutely no recollection of.  Inception style.
  10. Watched Frozen again.
  11. An email that almost made me pee my pants.
  12. Eating this.

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MAGIC 15-SECONDS CREAMY SCRAMBLED EGGS

THE PREVIOUSLY-THOUGHT-IMPOSSIBLE SCRAMBLED EGGS-FANTASY

SPEED, AND CREAMINESS.  ALL TOGETHER

We all think we know how to do scrambled eggs.

We all know, I hope, that speedy scrambled eggs cooked over high heat will be grainy, rubbery… and worst of all, will ooze liquid out of themselves and ruin a good morning.  Thus we all know, that it’s almost only legal to cook scrambled eggs over a low-and-slow process, to get creamy or die stirring in the pursuit of that velvety wrapped-around-your-tongue texture.  Right, no news there.

So for the longest time, that’s what I did.  So for the past blissful decade, using my very scarcely inherited patience, I’ve abided by the rules in front of all those carefully guarded wee-flames, stirring and stirring until my mind started to wonder… on that last episode of Game of Thrones, on waitwas-that-mold-I-saw-on-my-broccoli?… on anything but asking if this was the only way to the perfect scrambled eggs.

But last week, in an attempt to feed liquid-food to my temporarily anorexic dog-son, I tried thickening an beaten egg with a bit of potato starch (or cornstarch) to make an egg-goo (which I rubbed on his mouth so he would lick it…).  And who knew, that unappetizing glob… lead me to one of my greatest kitchen-revelations realized.  I thought… wait a second… maybe… a thickening agent is the answer to the previously-thought-impossible scrambled eggs-fantasy.  Speed, and creaminess, all together.

And it is!  Just by adding a little mixture of milk and potato starch (or cornstarch), the water is forced to bind with the protein even if cooked over high heat, which solves the watery eggs disaster.  But better yet, it also creates a creamy and custardy texture with the bits of beaten eggs that aren’t completely cooked through, as if, YES, that they were done slowly over ow heat!  While in fact, 15 seconds!!  Ahem, friends, here’s how:

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THE VAMPIRE SLAYER RAMEN-EXPRESS

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CALL IT, THE RAMEN WITH 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC… WAIT.  44 CLOVES.

SOMETIMES, and for the sake of modesty not all the times, but sometimes, after I pasted every photos of a recipe in place and started to stare into space thinking about what I was gonna say… I thought to myself, seriously?  You fucking need a reason to eat this?

Uhem, just sometimes.

But well, today, happens to be one of those times.

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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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CANTONESE-STYLE ROAST PORK BELLY

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On the 20th of May 2013, I made a recipe that up to this day, more than a year later, still haunts me. It was a glorious, beautifully crafted specimen of pork belly confit, originally created by the Thomas Keller of whom I almost always, agree with.

There was nothing fundamentally wrong with it. The belly went through long hours of brining process before taking a hot-fat-tub bath that was equally as elaborate, then it went on to sit through an overnight pressing procedure… for reasons I followed without asking. Then, finally, 24 hours later in this excruciating climb to climax, it was sent into a skillet to fulfil its actual purpose – to form a golden, perforated crackling from the skin. The final torching of a caramel crust, although not from the original recipe, added a nice and thoughtful crunch and sweetness to the overall score. Like I said, there wasn’t anything fundamentally wrong with it…

Except that it was just too damn, unnecessarily complicated!

OK, you’re right. For those who only stop by once in a while, I’m evidently not someone who, by principle, seeks kitchen-shortcuts. I receive considerable amount of twisted pleasure from fiddling with obsessive cooking behavior I mean, I have an entire section named “Got nothing but time” (which I do) for crying out loud. But the premise is that the extra fusses should always be because a) it’s absolutely necessary by science (like fermentation), or b) it actually saves the overall effort by doing so (like leaving something to roast overnight). I guess all I’m asking for, the pole that I’m curbing my insanity to, is that the time and effort spent are not for some minuscule, or sometimes, undetectable differences. And I’m afraid that in the case of pork confit, I’m gonna have to prove myself right by proving myself wrong.READ MORE

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MOCHI DONUTS

” YOUR SKINNY JEANS
WILL SELF DESTRUCT IN 30 MIN.

THIS MESSAGE WON’T.

THIS, may come as a surprise to hear.  Or not… judging from how you rationalize things.  Well, let’s just say based on the look of things on this blog, this will come either as a gasping surprise, or, as the most obvious conclusion to any.  But what I’m trying to tell you, and this is a true story, is that every night before I go to sleep, the ever-last thought that I’m either saying or thinking before drifting into oblivion is alway this…

#$#$^@#!! I swear I’m gonna go on a fucking diet.

It’s true.  You see the thing is, I’m a side-sleeper.  And side-sleepers feel things.  Things that, with all due respect, back-sleepers wouldn’t necessarily feel so bluntly and graphically and that is, the horror upon realizing that my gut can move freely in 180 degree angle, and rest soundly on the mattress like a soft pouch of cottage cheese.  Did you know this about my gut?  Why am I always the last to know…

I’m telling you this because I want you to know that I am not beyond reasons.  I’m aware of the normal shape of things for a humanoid, and I have acknowledgement of the ancient nutritional pyramid built by aliens to assist mankind, I swear.  There was a lemon-olive-oil-pasta-thingy that was supposed to be here today to demonstrate that I’m well-balanced and eat vegetables.  I don’t know what happened to that.. maybe because, purely guessing, that it didn’t taste as good as this donut.

Right, this is a baaad donut.  A very gooood, bad donut.  I had a sun-dress that just arrived in mail and I got very angry at it, if you know what I mean.  And you would believe me when I say that I would not surrender my prospect into a spaghetti-strap sun-dress this summer, just over any donut, wouldn’t you?

No, no I won’t, because this is not just any donut.

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