” the devil lies in the impromptu dollop of Thai red curry paste, which I consider a tragically unrealized soulmate to tomato sauces “
This may not look much. It was an accident really, the kind that perhaps only landed so simple and good because of.
Yes I said “good“, to a vegetable. What is happening to me? In a household where most end up rolled out of the fridge only for postmortems and the rest consumed only in repentance instead of joy, this dish received an unexpected broad spectrum of endorsement. Even though it may be deemed as a mundane green beans stewed in tomatoes – and you’re not wrong – the devil lies in the impromptu dollop of Thai red curry paste, which I consider a tragically unrealized soulmate to tomato sauces. Its magic locked within the pulverized lemongrass and galangal was freed by sizzling olive oil, casting this old red sauce in a spell of lemony gingery fragrance and warm heat. Of course such motherly sauce would’ve gladly taken any displaced vegetables under her wings, but I took a particular liking on her behalf to long string beans because of – other than the make-believe resemblance to spaghetti – their willingness to walk down a long simmering road together without throwing a mushy tantrum.
There’s a quiet elegant comfort about the careless ways those curly strings spread out on the plate. With or without the substantialness of poached eggs, it’s a special but not too special anytime-meal that I think you would too, enjoy in repeat.
” It’s savoury-sweet kinda thing, you know, obviously, but also smokey around where a mixed aroma of coconut, butterscotch and bacon meet and greet. “
What in the world is pork floss?!
And where the hell do you get palm sugar?! Or both, for that matter?!
Ok fine, so I knew this is gonna be a hard pitch. And I’m probably not helping my case when I tell you that pork floss, invented by an anonymous Chinese likely on a night of massive insomnia, is a brownish cotton ball made of predominantly pork, which is cooked, shredded, then painstakingly dehydrated while being tumble-fried inside a wok until what used to be muscle tissues have then transformed into super fine, fiber-like fluffs. Whaaat?! And as if that’s not mind-bending enough, its flavor profile wonders in between savoury and sweet with a maple bacon or jerky-like porkiness oozing into your sensory space as your mouth grapple to understand this textural anomaly.
It’s really just like any other culinary ingenuities that took form initially as a means to tackle food preservation before refrigeration, but ended up being cherished by its culture even till this day. Stretching from southern China down to Southeast Asia, hey, pork floss matters. For every skeptics, there also stands a loyalists who would cradle and defend this “porky cotton” if you will, against the world’s cynical suspicion. I too, love this shit.
Having said that, pork floss is not a stand-alone item. It needs companies. And as it has been increasingly branching out from its traditionally more savoury roles towards making collaborative debuts in, of all things, sweet pastries all across Asia, I feel it’s time for this surprisingly multi-faceted talent to be introduced to a more internationally recognized platform.
” relentlessly speckled with pale, large-sized granules that crunch much more enthusiastically than its homogenous peers “
You’ve been doing it all wrong.
Ok, sorry, I’m being rude. Let me be specific. If you live outside of Taiwan and have been trying to mimic any number of Taiwanese-style fried street foods like crispy chicken poppers, cutlets, or pork chops, chances are, you’ve been doing it all wrong. But, it’s not your fault.
Truth is, you’ve been misled. And in fact, among others, I’ve been one of the guilties who have mislead you. So please, today, let me correct my wrongs.
To explain, one must start with what exactly is so specific about “Taiwanese-style” fried… well, everything. Aside from seasonings which is not of today’s focus, what sets these crispy morsels apart from others is a very, very distinct crust. One that predominantly shares the same laced textural surface of a fried crust that is made of tapioca or potato starch, but in a closer look, is relentlessly speckled with pale, large-sized granules that crunch much more enthusiastically than its homogenous peers. It is these “white sparkles” that gives Taiwanese-style fried dishes their unique edge. And it is also, where things go wrong for you.
You see, in order to achieve such meticulously defined texture, one must use an ingredient that I have only seen being used in Taiwan, called sweet potato starch. It is the only starch that I know of that come in this kind of grainy texture instead of a fine powder. But what complicates things is that sweet potato starch is rarely seen in supermarkets or even Asian groceries, except maybe in stores that specializes in Taiwanese exports. Which is why, regretfully, it is often times replaced with tapioca starch or cornstarch that completely lack this unique characteristics. I too have been guilty of doing it that way.
But, not until I’ve found a solution.
You see, again, sweet potato starch behaves the same way almost in any other ways (as a thickener or in batters and etc) as a much more common ingredient, tapioca starch (made from cassava instead of sweet potato), except that tapioca starch comes in fine powder form without granules. But, ah-ha, there is something made of tapioca starch that does comes in “granules”, if you will, and equally important, is much much easier to get your hands on. Do you see where I’m going with this?
Yes that, my friends, is sago pearls.
How could I not have thought about this in my twenty years of hunting for sweet potato starch to no avail? How could I not have known that, duh, when sago pearls are put through the pulsing magic of a spice grinder, it resembles almost perfectly the exact same niche texture as the elusive sweet potato starch? And how could I, after having unearthed this revelation for months, took my sweet-ass time to finally bring it to your attention just now? Bad blogger… bad.
But well, now you know. Whether you’re thinking about making Taiwanese crispy salty chicken poppers, or something more like this, a classic Taiwanese spiced pork chop that is often served with rice, or whatever deep-fried fantasies your hungry mind is taking you where a crust with starry speckles of salty and crunchy pops glimmers above the horizon, now you know.
It’s better late than never.
Listen, I’ve made this flakey pastry about four times now. And each time, no matter how every single signs along the way was pointing towards an inevitable heartbreaking disaster, somehow, miraculously, it always turned out amazing. I’ve stuffed them with jam and cheese, with fruits and nuts, and this time, with bittersweet chocolate blended together with dark brown sugar and peanut butter plus a good chewy padding of sticky rice mochi on the bottom, and still I couldn’t manage to fuck it up. More crispy and shards-like than puff pastry, but more defined and layered than pie crust, comes together fast and relatively easy, and goes down even more so.
So, as someone with a very unlucky track record in the baking arena, I pass this recipe onto you. I’d say good luck, but something tells me you won’t need very much of it.
“ The wisdom in exploring Mars
lies in a single dumpling. ”
The merits to explore Mars may not be a subject that lands on a food blog very often. Yet.
Since the 1990’s, the world has spend billions of dollars over the span of numerous unmanned missions to probe at this relentlessly desolate planet far beyond human’s physical reach. And it has incurred questions, perhaps not so unreasonably, about what benefits, if any, that all of these hardcore sciencing could realistically bring to mankind. What’s the point of studying an unreachable plane that most likely cannot sustain any lifeforms but Matt Damon, at least in the foreseeable future? Wouldn’t it make more moral sense to redirect all those money, instead, on the many more immediate issues left unsolved on good old planet earth? And at the end of the day, does anyone really want to live on fucking Mars anyways?
While there are many scientific counter-arguments to those questions out there made by much smarter people who do math, here as a mere moron who survived one week in her high school physics class, I am simply going to put it like this:
The wisdom in exploring Mars lies in a single dumpling.
” NO REASON NEEDED, NO APOLOGY GIVEN. “
I’m not religious. I don’t have to explain why there’s pork, or fat-laden pork belly to be exact, in my biriyani.
Some truths hold themselves to be self-evident. Very few gets realized.
I also don’t have to explain this recipe’s utterly impure pedigree, a zig-zagging parentage between Southeast Asian and Indian and even a little of Chinese, making it an indecent, inglorious, bona-fide bastard. Drifted increasingly untethered to any particular nationality or culture, I feel somewhat of a kindred spirit to such mis-bred type, comfortable, reciprocal, defiant even. From one bastard to another, we know what we like, no reason needed, no apology given.
Right is right. Good is good.