Chinese Tag

THE INCREDIBLE CHICKEN TOFU – FROM THE MIND OF A CHEF

TENDER EDIBLE CLOUDS MADE WITH CHICKEN BREASTS?!!  WHAT IS THIS WIZARDRY, DANNY?!

Holy shit, did you watch Season Six of Mind of a Chef with Danny Bowien from Mission Chinese Food?

Did you see where his mentor Yu Bo, in episode two, turned a puddle of pink chicken-slush into pillows of fluffy-looking curds, something they call, chicken tofu?!

Did you gush outloud, tender edible clouds made with chicken breasts?!!  No special curd-forming acid or salt required, virtually fat-free, and answers the prayers of millions of suffering souls of how to triple the volume of two pieces of chicken breasts without adding much more calories, but more importantly, transforming its woodsy nature into custardy, melt-in-your-mouth, weightless pillows of savory delights?!!!

Did you close your eyes and imagine exhaustively of what it’s like to cuddle the impossibly light and quilted bodies in between your tongues, a dream that feels unreal but known to be true?!!

Did you marvel?!

Did you cry?!

Did you say oh please baby Jesus dear Lordy, can someone please tell me how this wizardry is performed?!!

Well, guess what, you’re welcome.

And the spicy version drenched in chili oil, you’re double welcome.

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WORLD PEACE CURRY, AND HAPPENS TO BE GLORIOUSLY DELICIOUS

SOUTHEAST ASIAN AROMATICS, KOREAN CHILI PASTE, INDIAN SPICES, GREEK YOGURT, ITALIAN SUN-DRIED TOMATOES, CHINESE ANISES, AND IN THE END, A LITTLE PUSH OF ALL AMERICAN CHEESE.  AN OTHER-WORLDLY CURRY THAT TASTES LIKE THE PINNACLE OF HUMANITY

I’d like to introduce you to world peace curry.  

Why?  Because curries are better than humans.  Curries know how to coexist in unity.  Even though at a glance it feels like an impossibility, a chaos without logics, a discord of competing self-interests and cultural clashes, but curries always find a way to be the most delicious repeal of our disbelief.    Don’t believe me?  I put it to the test.  An unlikely coalition of southeast Asian aromatics, Korean chili paste, Indian spices, Greek yogurt, Italian sun-dried tomatoes, Chinese anise seeds, and in the end, an intrusion of American cheese?!   It should end in war but instead, it rejoices slowly and bubblingly in a lusciously rich, creamy, intensely aromatic, complex yet beautifully balanced alliance of flavors, savoriness and tang.  It tastes like the pinnacle of humanity, our best hope for world peace even against our cynical judgements.  And also, perhaps most importantly, the best you’ll ever put in your mouth.

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BUFFALO WINGS SOUP DUMPLING W/ SKIN CRACKLING

YOU’RE TRYING TO TELL ME THAT YOU DON’T WANT THIS?

You’re probably looking at this and asking yourself three questions.

A).  Isn’t dim sum month over?

B).  Why do we need a soup dumpling that tastes just like buffalo wings?

C).  Are we making soup dumplings at home now?  Is that what it’s come to?

Look, all very legit questions, deserving very responsible and adult-like responses.  But I’m afraid that in the absence of an adult in this room, I will have to assume the task of answering them myself.  In my best effort to be thorough to Question A), I guess, I lied.  OK, next question.

Why do we need a soup dumpling that tastes like buffalo wings?  Okay, who’s being the baby now?  Grow up.  Adulthood is not about needing things.  It’s all about wanting things.  And you’re trying to tell me that you don’t want a delicate pouch of dumpling filled with melty minced chicken and a sudden explosion of red-hot and tangy stream of sticky juice and spicy, garlicky butter?  Where everything is so carefully contained within a subtly yeasty wrapper so thin that one could almost see through its sinister intent, resting on top of a shard of chicken skin cracker that shatters into intense poultry-ness, only to be cooled down by a dollop of sour cream twinkling with crumbled blue cheese?  All is one.  One is all.  Spicy, tangy, juicy, fatty, crispy, creamy, delicate, intense… all in an ecstatic dance of all the best stimulating senses.  You don’t want that?  I think you need that.  OK, next question.

Are we making soup dumplings at home now?  Yes we are.

Because?  See answer to Question B.  Plus, it’s easier than you think.

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FISH WONTON W/ ANCHOVY, GARLIC , TABASCO

 

HOW DARE YOU.  I’M SUPPOSED TO HAVE TASTE-BUDS OF HIGH CALIBER

As we are preparing for our Tuscany vacation that is fast approaching this Saturday, I’m going to quickly leave you with an even faster recipe.

I threw this together in less than an hour today, in a frantic effort to clean out the freezer (duh, to make way for the incoming fleet of smuggled imported Italian goods), and they turned out to be little drops of afternoon delights.  So why fish wonton?  Why fish?  See, I don’t know about you, but when other people stock up their freezer with prime rib-eye steaks from Cosco, I do mine with frozen catfish fillets.  I don’t know why.  Cheapness, possibly.  Don’t make me admit that I like frozen catfish.  I’m supposed to have taste-buds of high caliber.  How dare you.  No, the point is, I was saying… as I was cleaning out my frozen fish tank, I thought, fish wonton, why not?

Ground fish, here in Asia, is actually quite a common ingredient with wide applications.  What it lacks in meaty-ness, it gains in an uniquely light, soft and creamy texture which resembles between ricotta filling and French quenelles.  It makes a wonton that is light in body and texture, with a particular sweetness in its gentle nature.  To dress it up, I used a deeply savory olive oil with salty specks of anchovies and crispy garlic, brightened with fresh grated ginger, chopped herbs and a subtle zing of tabasco sauce.

Satisfying afternoon pick-me-ups, or, if kept ready in the freezer, light and well.. relatively healthy meal on demand.

 
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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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Sichuan/Chongqing Little Slurp w meat sauce and chickpeas

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COULD THIS WORK?

THAT WOULD BE YOUR LAST THOUGHT, BEFORE THIS BOWL OF MAGIC POTION SUCKS YOU INTO AN UNSTOPPABLE WHIRLPOOL OF HAPPINESS.

Sorry I have been absent.

Boy, do I have a good reason.

Recently, I believe, we’ve all been experiencing a kind of peculiar surrealism in life.  I don’t know about you, but for multiples times during the span of my day, I found myself staring at the mundane occurrences of my perceived reality – the sound of cars brushing through the street… radios in the background… my farts – like Neo, wondering if this was all just an elaborate Matrix.  Am I going to be unplugged and wake up?  Or am I trapped here forever?  For one, Donald Trump is going to be the president of the United States.  And for two, which is completely unrelated and sinks even deeper on a much more personal level, my body and wellness has taken an unexpected turn to a place where my mind is scrambling to cope.

Actually, unexpected may sound understated.  Unfathomable, comes to mind.

I was diagnosed with a “condition” so to speak.  I want to share everything with you.  But the trouble is, I don’t know everything yet.  Something along the line of cicatricial alopecia, but let me urge you to think twice before Googling it, and the truth is, there are still a lot more to find out before arriving at a conclusion, so there’s nothing too informative I could tell you at this point.  It may come across as unnecessary and self-absorbed to talk about something without any provided informations, I get that, but I simply lack the talent to conduct business as usual, to roast a turkey, to make a pie, when my mind is in disarray.  In two weeks time, I hope, I will be able to tell you everything.  But before you frantically light up a cigarette, let’s just find comfort in the fact that it isn’t life-threatening, I hope, but let’s face it, not much more fantastic than that.

Meanwhile, on the other hand, something very fantastic.

This is a recipe that I have been developing for awhile.  In Chinese, it is called wan-za-mian, meaning peas mixed noodles.  It was one of my most missed and pondered upon, single food item that I’ve tasted in Beijing, even though it originates from Chongqing (a city next to Sichuan).  It may look alarmingly laborious, that a bowl of noodle consists of 3~4 components, but oh gosh, nothing is more worthy of your time.  The amount of liquid in proportion to noodles lurks in between two categories, too little to be called a “soup” but a bit more than just “sauce”, and therefore may I say, just perfect.  It comes waddling towards your table in seemingly distinctive parts: the noodles half-submerged in soup, the soft and mushy stewed peas (which I’ve substituted with chickpeas) on top, the dark brown minced pork sauce made with sweet and spicy chili bean paste, and everything, I mean everything, glossed and covered under a layer of flaming rouge chili oil.  Could this work?  That would your very last thought before this mixture, under your anxious chopsticks, churns and folds into a spicy, oily, savory and deeply complex bowl of magic potion that sucks you, and your thoughts, into an unstoppable whirlpool of happiness.

Believe me.  I felt like shit, and this thing still made me happy.  Imagine what it could do to you.

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GENERAL TSAO’S CHICKEN WINGS

This is a seriously, seriously great General Tsao’s recipe.  I was never a General Tsao’s fan but this, this I can really down a bucket.

The recipe is roughly based on The Mission Chinese Food Cookbook, which I have, as I always do, rendered almost unrecognizable.  Besides sugar and ketchup, almost none of the original ingredients has remained intact (see note at the end of the recipe) but something tells me that it can stand proudly on its own.  The chicken wings are impossibly crispy, and more importantly, stay crispy even if they are hopelessly coated with this fruity, tangy, sweet and spicy sauce under that rich and deep rouge color with an almost jewel-like gloss.  Really, this sauce, a reduction of pomegranate and cranberry juice with a layering of vinegars, chili paste and garlic .  I don’t even care if you did it justice by frying your own batch of crunchy jacket-ed wings.  I mean drench your McNuggets in it for all I care and I guarantee you that you’ll still want to bottle your own.

I don’t have much else to add, especially about the mystical emergence of General Tsao’s chicken in virtually every Chinese restaurant in the US (I mean Netflix has a documentary on it for crying out loud).  When things are looking good, just shut up and wing it.

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MAMA’S BRAISED CHICKEN LEGS ON RICE W/ FRIED CHILI CAPERS

IT IS, DILEMMA.

FORTUNATELY, ONE THAT COULD BE TACKLED WITH A BIT OF REVERSE-ENGINEERING.

We don’t, most times for good reasons, screw with heirloom recipes.  Recipes that are passed down for generations.  Recipes that our grandmother learnt from her grandmother, so on and so forth, are generally deemed as the sum of all collected wisdoms in a pot, sacred, untouchable.  Recipes that should and will be followed, obeyed even, without any desecrating thought of adding an extra tbsp of mustard here or a dash of unholy spices there, otherwise somewhere inside the dusty family album, grandma’s tearing up.  Because this is how it has always been done, as far as recipes go, is an unarguable instruction.

But should they be?  My family, for one, doesn’t have an “heirloom recipe”.  Not really.  My mom is a fantastic cook, which probably isn’t a credit to both of my grandparents whom, from what I’ve heard, were either too short-lived or too much of a diva to teach her anything in the kitchen.  And as far as paying-it-forward goes, she never writes anything down.  So all in all, a single generation and one big approximation, I think, is probably not an heirloom recipe makes.  But, if I were to pass down anything from my mother’s repertoire of ambiguous recipes, if there’s anything that resonates my memory of cooking and eating together as a family, it is this.  My mom’s braised chicken legs over rice.

I don’t quite remember when she started cooking this dish, but by estimation, somewhere right after we moved to Vancouver from Taiwan.  This tastes and smells like coming home after school.  And as a notoriously picky eater back then, this evoked my first acknowledgment of hunger.  In my wishfully sentimental heart and eagerness for an “heirloom”, I would pick this recipe out of it all, to be passed to people by whom I would like to be remembered.  You.  But coming back to what I was saying, I don’t regard heirloom recipe with absolution.  If anything, and I’m sure as in most cases, it is a progression.  If I were to pass this recipe on, looking back, I wouldn’t do it exactly the way she did it.

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