Vegatables

DIM SUM MONTH FINALE: Tapenade short ribs, plus dim sum party game plan

AT LAST, DIM SUM MONTH FINALE…

WHAT:  Beef short ribs in super garlicky tapenade sauce, an adaptation of a classic dimsum item – pork ribs with fermented black beans but with an American/European twist.

WHY:  The unexpectedly supple texture of the beef (thanks to baking soda) melting gorgeously into a pool of bold and complex mixture of flavors, a revelation that can be easily prepared ahead of time and cooks in under 8 min.

HOW:  For both flavors and accessibility, I have swapped the traditionally used diced pork ribs with the more luscious and rich-tasting beef short ribs, and Chinese fermented black beans with the equally bold and forward black olives.  Trust me, if I may say so myself, the reinvented combination works even better than tradition.  The surprisingly tender and velvety texture of the beef – achieved by adding just a tiny pinch of baking soda into the marinate – disintegrates in your mouth in a medley of perfectly orchestrated flavours that you didn’t even know would go together.  Black olives, strawberry jam, soy sauce, sesame oil, Dijon mustard, and a depth created by using both raw and fried garlics.  It’s easy to put together, and a cinch to cook in a blink of an eye.  You’ll wonder where it’s been your whole life.

Now, simply follow the instructions below on how to throw a hassle-free dim sum party!

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DIM SUM MONTH: GLASS DUMPLINGS W/ MUSHROOMS AND SMOKED GOUDA CHEESE

DIM SUM MONTH STILL CONTINUES…

OK, I know it’s not February anymore, but there’s still a couple more dim sum I want to share so DIM SUM MONTH is oozing into March a bit…

WHAT:  Glass-like translucent dumplings stuffed with caramelized mushrooms and a soft-hearted center of smoked gouda cheese, all in a beautiful tear-drop shape.

WHY:  Because the only tears you’re gonna cry are happy ones when you try this.

HOW:  This wrapper is actually my favorite not only because it’s so beautiful, but it actually freezes well, or should I say better than the more common and popular crystal shrimp dumplings.  It has a pleasantly bouncy and chewy mouth-feel, and it gives the audience a preview to whatever fillings you put inside!  In this case, we’re doing deeply oven-caramelized mushrooms that are bound together by a bit of ground pork and parmigiano-regiano cheese (and a hint of truffle oil if you can splurge), creating an earthy, warm and aromatic cradle that rocks a soft and temperate center of smoked gouda cheese.  Nothing is going to shout “funk!” in this flavor-profile here, only modest but confident display of a well-tolerated harmony.  The only accessory it likes is a brightening dab of heat from this chili sambal romesco sauce.  But the sky’s the limit here.  How about grassy colored spinach filling with a stronger punch of blue cheese, or sweet and red-cheeked carrots or beets and funky goat’s cheese?  Dream wild.

* I believe that the next post will be the final chapter of dim sum month, and I’m going to list out a complete game-plan on what, how and when to prepare certain items ahead of time, and throwing then all together at our virtual dim sum party :)

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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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POPCORN POLENTA W/ MUSHROOM JUS

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Yellow bowl from Dishes Only.

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WE ARE GONNA TURN POPCORN INTO GRITS

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One sleepless night in Hong kong, I sat in darkness as my face was dimly illuminated with fascinations and lights extruding from an iPad, where David Chang and Daniel Patterson were performing the magic of turning popcorns into polenta.  Popcorns.  This lowly snack that nobody deems worthy as anything but an afterthought on movie nights, or an amusement as we watch them being tumbled in disgusting, clownish rainbow food-dyes, in their hands, became this creamy and velvety substance.  That moment, I suddenly became interested in the word polenta again.

I tried cooking real polenta before… once.

It was somewhere back in the early 2000’s when I was still a collagen-filled college student, merely trying to feed myself at the end of the month by counting coins left from a careless visit to the Urban Outfitters.  Had I, a barely seasoned juvenile cook, any business making this hopelessly romantic Italian staple with slogans like “stir till death do us apart”?  No, absolutely no.  But clearly, no one had the heart to tell me.  I remember standing by the stove for what must’ve felt like an eternity, blood sweat and tears, tending a pot of lava-like substance that constantly spat out skin-meltingly hot sputters onto every surfaces that hurt, and yet somehow, still tasted like a flavorless goo with crunchy, uncooked bits.

It’s been like… I don’t know, 15 years?  I’ve never tried again since.  Actually, I forgot about polenta all together.  Bad word.  Very bad word.

Well, until PBS arrived.

Or more accurately, the show The Mind of a Chef arrived on PBS which was featured on Netflix which had just recently become available in Hong Kong.

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I can’t quite remember the specific episode, but it was Season One somewhere, featuring David Chang with guest chef, Daniel Patterson.  And the second they proclaimed, “We are gonna turn popcorns into grits” (not the exact quote)(and call it grits if you want but I’m calling mine polenta because it’s very yellow), I knew it was going to be very cool.  Of course, being a respectably fancy chef, Daniel had to demonstrate achieving this goal through extra laboring steps just to prove his self-worth (like… God-knows-how-many small batches of popcorns, separately, being poached then pushed through a ricer and then strained again…).  And leaving me, this lowly reputable home-cook with very little self-respect, to wonder why on earth couldn’t I cheat in like 4 steps?

Turned out, it can be.

Have your popcorns.  Blend them with liquid.  Strain.  Heat and season.

Without any stirring or sputters, I had creamy polenta with an extra nutty flavor from the popcorns in under 15 min.  Given that the texture may be less “pearly” compared to if I did it in 20 steps, but as a shortcut that served no other noble purposes but to make myself happy, I could gladly forgo the esthetic imperfections.  Especially, did I mention, that it was armed with melted cheddar cheese, and topped with deeply caramelized mushrooms with a dark pan-sauce made from garlics, fresh thymes, wine, chicken stock and a good dousing of tabasco sauce…  This gooey, buttery, savory, slightly spicy and tangy bed of comfort made an October Tuesday night really happy.

Who says that popcorns can’t be dinner?

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SPICY SALMON BIBIMBAP/KOREAN RICE BOWL

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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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CHARRED CAULIFLOWER W/ GARLICS, TABASCO VINEGAR

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During the CNY holidays, Chinese people go home.

And I mean, everybody, goes home.

Good people, bad people, people including the government who, day in and day out, guard its Chinese great firewall that Censors all freedom of communication to the outside world.  Yeah, those fuckers.  They go home, too.  Hey, even bad people need vacation.  Now, logic may have you think that it’s a good thing.  Censors gone, Facebook in.  Right?  Fuck no.  To understand it further, just imagine this:  The relationship between the Chinese government and its internet as sort of like… a psychopathically suspicious husband (the government) and his virgin wife (internet).  A wife who, on a typical day, is neatly brainwashed and filled with husband-worshipping propagandist fantasies.  The husband loves his stupid wife and likes to do kinky stuff to her behind closed doors, but at the same time, he also knows that she is unstably horny at any given hours, and wants to screw the free-thinking hot neighbours at every chances she gets.  So what happens when a jealous husband needs to leave home for awhile?  Letting his pure propagandist internet get raped by the terrors of free wills and information?  Of course not.

So what does he do?  Two words, chastity belt.

THE SINGLE LIGHT AND JOY IN MY DAILY SUFFERING FROM THE PAST 10 DAYS OF CYBER SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

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For the past 10 days, all means to access blocked websites (guess what? that includes wordpress, too!) on my computer was completely taken down by the government.  And today, for the first time in an internet-eternity, I am finally getting a flickering signal and am able to log on to my blog.  I don’t know how long this “window” is going to be, so let me talk fast.

I want to share with you, a recipe from one of the most beautiful cookbooks out there, the single joy and light of my daily suffering for the past however-many days of cyber solitary confinement. The charred cauliflower with garlic and vinegar, from Gjenlina.

This dish is said to be one of the most highly requested dish from this celebrated restaurant in California. I have no doubt that in many customers’ hearts, the recipe is a shot of perfection as it is, but I still made quite a few changes. Not to “better” it, but to personalise it in a way that mirrors closer to my own style. Instead of using pre-made garlic confits, I quick-brined some garlics in fish sauce which softened and flavoured the cloves, then I fried them in olive oil until golden browned, sweet and tender. I then use the garlic-frying oil and reserved fish sauce to roast the cauliflower. Gjelina’s recipe instructed to brown the florets in skillet first then finish cooking in the oven, but I don’t have a skillet large enough to brown the florets properly, so instead, I just charred them 2″ below the broiler and it did the job pretty well. Then finally, instead of red wine vinegar, I used a mixture of tabasco sauce and white wine vinegar to get that sharp chili flavour and extra kicks. It was a healthy feast of robust and lively flavours, spicy and salty, acidic and sweet all at one crunchy and caramelised bite.

There’s not that many vegetable dishes that make me say unholy things like “I didn’t miss the meat at all“, but I think this recipe pulled the unthinkable.

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*Believe it or not, after I found out that the recipe was missing, it took me 20+ tries to get it back online….. fuck.

CHARRED CAULIFLOWER W/ GARLICS, TABASCO VINEGAR

Serving Size: 2

Inspired/adapted generously from GJELINA cookbook

Ingredients

  • 5 cloves garlics
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4~6 small dried chili
  • 1/3 cup (68 grams) olive oil
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp tabasco sauce
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • sea salt and chili flakes to season

Instructions

  1. Lightly smash the garlics to peel the skin, then brine in fish sauce for 20 min. Meanwhile, clean and cut the cauliflowers into small florets, trimming the tough fibres/skins off of the stems, then scatter evenly on a sheet-pan. Preheat the broil on high.
  2. Remove the garlics from the fish sauce (reserve the fish sauce), then transfer into a small pot with dried chili and olive oil. Cook over low heat for 7~9 min, until the garlics are golden browned and soft. Remove the garlics and chili, set aside. Pour the garlic-oil over the caulifowers, along with reserved fish sauce, black pepper and white pepper, then toss to evenly coat every florets. Place the baking-sheet about 2" under the broiler, and char until the first sides are deeply caramelised. Turn the cauliflowers over, then broil until the other sides are charred as well, and that the cauliflowers are soft. Re-season with sea salt if needed.
  3. Transfer the cauliflowers, along with all the oil and juices into a large skillet. Add the reserved fried garlic, chili, white wine vinegar, tabasco sauce and chopped parsley. Cook over meidum-high heat, tossing to combine, until everything is heated through. Sprinkle with chili flakes and serve.
https://ladyandpups.com/2016/02/17/charred-cauliflower-w-garlics-tabasco-vinegar/

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AMAZING BROCCOLI STEAKS W/ RED CHILI SAMBAL ROMESCO

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I CAN’T DECIDE WHETHER I WANT THIS, OR A BEEF BURGER FOR DINNER.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME?!

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I think as far as being an honest and balanced recipe-curator goes, since the day I publicly checked a carrot gingerbread cake w/ cardamon frosting and fried gingers and mashed potato butter-aioli into the category of “vegetables” without changing a shade, my failure in this aspect has been pretty self-explanatory.  It’s not that I deliberately faked the book, because after all, technically, there were credible amounts of vegetables in all those recipes.  Two whole carrots in that cake, no kidding!  But it doesn’t help covering the obvious that truth is, I don’t… believe in vegetables.  I mean I know they’re real, like real corns in my Doritos and whatnots, but the last time I actually felt it was when a tub of poutine from Montreal was eyeing me from the bar, and even that turned out to be a little disappointment.

But don’t you dare think that I haven’t sacrificed anything as a vegetable-doubter in my whole existence so far.  Besides a pouch of cottage cheese-like substance I carry around my waist and thighs at all times, it is also with tremendous sadness that I say, I could never have a mini pet-pig named Chicharron (my hypothetical pet-pig name).  You know what happens when you name a pig – well bye bye, pork.  Nor can I have a sheep named Ricotta, or a cow named Gelato…  My fantastic farm-dream, gone, all because spinach can’t agree with me.  So all these years, I suffered, I really did.  But just like that, as if someone heard my misery, in an unexpected morning just like any other, this reluctant doubter crashed into her veggie-calling like being hit by a double-decker bus when I saw this dish on the Deb’s Instagram.  Thing is, you see, this would the second time that I was going to make something inspired by her IG, which was starting to feel a bit stalker-like, so naturally, I resisted, I really did.  I mean, treating broccoli with the kind of substantial respect it isn’t normally granted, kind of like the cauliflower steaks, I guess, can be good, but let’s not appear to be too desperate yet.  So I dug my head into making my first blog-video ever, or perfecting that recipe that didn’t seem to want to stop getting better, all but just avoiding the inevitable that on Saturday, a head of broccoli miraculously appearing in my fridge out of the blue.  I’ve got no clue who put it there but I guess I had to cook it.

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THAI SPICY TOM-YUM-GOONG TOMATO GAZPACHO

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I FELT LIKE MY MOUTH HAS TAKEN A BEACH VACATION DOWN IN  THE SOUTHEAST, THAT I COULD HEAR THE SOUND OF TURQUOISE WATER MASSAGING MY TASTE-BUDS

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Something is happening here, and if you had any loved ones residing in Beijing, you may have felt this.  Perhaps from the shaken jitters that come through their voices, perhaps even traceable within their text messages… the emotions, raw and rampant, running uncontainably even from the choices of their emojis on Instagram.  Because over here, since about 3 days ago, something big is happening.  The most freakishunfathomable… borderline-scary natural phenomenon is rioting through the very air we breath, and the very reality we see, and frankly, it’s freaking everybody out here.  Emerging from the darkness, the elderly are moving cautiously and slowly out of the shadows of their dwellings, looking up, teary in disbelief.  The children, curious and enthusiastic, holding their hands out into the rare glistens and ask, Mommy, what is this?

What it is, is that for the past 3 consecutive days, the historically soupy and oppressively smoggy sky of Beijing, has been, impossibly blue.

I’m not talking about the-government-patting-themselves-on-the-back or the this-should-be-harmless-enough-to-leave-my-house-without-my-gas-mask kind of greyish relative blue.  I’m talking about… the Swissland-kind of blue, the 3D clouds-kind of blue, the mystical, unicorn-kind of blue that the Chinese has only seen or heard in movies or from the tales of strange, faraway travellers.  And maybe, it’s no big deal to you, but in Beijing, it’s nothing short of a miracle, like Moses parting the Red Sea and finding a 20 dollar-bill on the sea-floor while crossing.  Which is, literally, impossible.  As pathetic and outrageously sad this may sound, in a day like this, we almost owe it to ourselves to go outside and do something as mundanely rare as… having a fucking picnic.

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