Chinese Tag

CUMIN SPARE RIBS

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DON’T GIVE ME THE BULLSHIT, IN THE END, DO I TASTE FREAKING-ABSOLUTELY AWESOME?


  

To be honest, I don’t think I have ever truly enjoyed BBQ ribs.  It has always been, to me at least, more enjoyable as an idea – the smile of the pit-master, the black smoker hissing under the Southern sun, the sense of all American lifestyle – than in actuality.  In actuality, I’ve been waiting my whole life so far, to be impressed, turned, proven wrong, by something that I so desperately would like to grow more fond of.  But in the end, picking at a pile of ribs that are often borderline dry and overly sweet, I always ended up wondering if I have missed something.

This isn’t to say, the rib’s problem.  In fact, any form of scanty meats adhering to a disproportionate amount of bones, that requires bare hands and  sheer fangs to tear down, I’m there.  In fact, the rib-hole that had been ironically left hollow in my long years spent in holy BBQ-land, was immediately filled and nurtured within a month after I moved here, by the most unlikely of all cuisines.  A Northern Chinese creation called, cumin spare ribs.  Typically you wouldn’t think the word “mild” is the most associated vocabulary for American BBQ ribs, where plenty of spices and smokes coincide in effort to achieve the opposite.  But when put side by side with Chinese’s answer to finger-licking ribs, that’s exactly how they will appear.

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finger-sucking roasted beer duck

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IF YOU CAN POUR YOURSELF A HOT SALT BATH, THEN MOVE INTO SAUNA TO SIT STILL,

YOU CAN ROAST THIS DUCK


TODAY, I’m here to answer the question that has long infected the everyday-home-kitchens, with unending fatigue and boredom.  The underlining puzzle that, as a result, has put the other undeserved, pale and bland poultry, onto the seat of power in the dinner-menu arena for far too long.  The question that we, if we say we love foods at all, should all ask ourselves…

Why are we so scared of ducks?

I mean yes, they are physically slightly larger than the other poultry – chickens – which has enjoyed unchallenged dominance in the everyday kitchen-politics, for reasons that are insufficient at best.  For one, the only difference made by the small increase in size, is an increase in cooking-time that requires no additional effort from you.  Second, that effort-that-you-didn’t-really-have-to-make, will buy you incomparable rewards in flavours, succulency, and rest assured, rock-star-level wow-factors.  So despite the many… almost universal disagreement I hold with this happiness-forsaken country, I got to admit that they do, do one thing right.  They know how to do their ducks.READ MORE

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FIRE-CRUSHED CUCUMBER SALAD

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THIS IS A CONVICT YOU’LL WANT TO FORGIVE, AND EMBRACE

I don’t mean to sound self-absorbed and overly theatrical if I mustn’t, but officers, I have a stalker.

Please, listen to me before you dismiss my report after I tell you that, yes, it’s a cucumber salad.  Harmless and gentle it may sound, but believe me when I say that this fella, is spicy… hard-core, and possibly painful.  And it has been disturbingly obsessed with me since… oh~ officers, at least a couple months!  I can’t provide the exact records of its past appearances because, you know, that’s the creepy thing about stalker-recipes.  Their shadowless movement between the blink of an eye, tailed with the constant awareness that it’s always there…  I know I saw it smiling at me between the flips of webpages somewhere during my cyber-surfing, multiple times, or was that through my swiping finger over the stacks of e-magazines?  And I could swear, officers, that it winked at me from the dinner-menu of at least two, or several restaurants that I’ve been to lately, plain-naked and sending me its very explicit intention.

It wants me, to eat it.  Oh my, you see?  I have to put it to rest.

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DIRTY THAI FRIED RICE

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IF YOU DON’T DO IT, SOMEBODY WILL

EVEN though, for quite a while now, you and I have been sort of sitting inside a semi-private room, staring at each other and talking about what I ate yesterday… when it comes to predicting what you would actually like to eat, sadly, I’ve got very little clues.  As a matter of fact, for the sake of honesty and sanity, I spent a great deal of obsessive and compulsive effort not to think too much about that.  Instead I try to say, or at least most of the times, that hey look, if it hasn’t already, this is the kind of stuff that will make your world a much more exciting and tastier place.

I can’t say I’ve been completely frank… I was too afraid that this rom would look like a swimming pool inside a Pig’s soft parts, but on the other hand, striking the balance has proven to be tricky.  After all, convincing people to watch someone downing a tripe stew on TV, vs to make it themselves at home, is two completely different things.

But lately, I came across a recipe that, I believe, could be the great missing link.

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MY FAVORITE CHILI SAUCE – THE MEAN SANTA

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THIS, this is my favourite chili sauce yet.  And that’s saying a lot.

One of the perks about growing up from an Asian background is that, pretty much since birth, most of us have been prepped in a semi-military-style training to resist torture and pain… that’s inflicted onto our taste-buds.  We’ve been conditioned to be susceptible, embracive even, to all forms and types of heat-source applied through all kinds of torture devices, that it will take a Jack Bauer to break our affiliation with the red terror.

In fact, we’ve grown so twisted in our relationship with such sensory violence, we search for it even when it isn’t given.  It’s almost guaranteed that at every food-serving locations, there would be some kind of hurt-yourself-if-you’d-like chili condiments available upon request, and you’re damn right we smother it onto just about anything until the subject bleeds red and begs for mercy, or wait, is that just the screams of my own consciousness?  Why do we do this to ourselves?  Because we know that there’s no gain without pain, and even a candy, sooner or later, needs to learn how to be a man.


”  ONCE YOU’VE DEVELOPED

AN INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP,

INTRODUCE HIM TO

YOUR BREAKFAST EGGS  “

 


Naturally, this type of die-hard environment breeds a certain level of snobbery.  If there has been any doubt on how we perceive our paler friends from the west when it comes to cooking and bottling heat, even though this is clearly not a competition, I’d like to end all speculation by saying… we win.  You see it’s not just about the heat and murdering brain cells, but about the flavour as well.   Whereas most North American brand hot sauces are vinegar based – some of which I have no doubt, is adequately hurtful – with little difference between them except for intimidatingly named chilis as ingredients, the world of Asian chili sauce (or Chinese ones alone) is a kaleidoscope of varieties.  And instead of pureed and in liquid-form, they are mostly oil-based with chunky textures, striking almost as a… side-dish.  Because for us, the red terror is not to be gingerly dabbed.  Dabbing is for baby-buttocks.  When we want to eat our chilis, we want to eat our chilis.

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So I hope I’ve made myself clear.  Throughout a life swimming in a red sea of hurt, it’s saying a lot for me to name a “favourite”, but I believe I’ve found one, so far at least, and I’m calling it, or him… The Mean Santa.  Why?  Because the ingredients are a vibrant combination of red → as in red chilis of course, and green → as in green chilis but more importantly, a giant stack of shiso leaves which give him a subtle, background fragrance.  But even more importantly, why is he my favourite?  Because he’s not just a spicy mean asshole, but he’s got flavours… substance… and depth, that make him so painfully loveable.  And despite of the suspiciously Asian-central ingredients (ginger, fish sauce… shiso), he is a fairly universal condiments that will make just about anything east or west, shall we say, not boring.

Hey, this is not a theory untested.

In the span of the last couple of weeks, The Mean Santa has scorched through my soft parts in company with just about anything except for the kitchen sink.  He will bear gifts to any grilled meat or seafood that you have prepared for the grilling season (chicken… duck… hanger steak… Heck, I’ve even spooned it over half-shell oysters and grilled them).  He will even turn any deadbeat, socially unexciting grilled vegetable into early Christmas, or a bland summer tomato sauce… a bowl of lonely noodle… a box of left0ver rice… ANYTHING!  Oatmeal.  Yes!  Oatmeal!  And once you’ve developed an intimate-enough relationship, you introduce him to your breakfast eggs.  Then together, you shall live happily ever after.

Spend a little time for your chili sauce.   It will hurt you good.

  
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Makes:  approx 2 cups

The sauce may look universally deadly, but in fact, the spiciness can be easily adjusted by changing the ratio between large long red chilis (vibrant color and mildly spicy), long green chilis (fragrant and medium-spicy) and small Asian red chilis (really, really spicy).  The ratio I have used in this recipe will yield the perfect, “intermediate level” spiciness.  Then again, even the same types of chili can sometimes vary in heat-level, so you should judge it by the chili you’re used to.

Small Asian chili is, I think, pretty common in supermarkets nowadays.  But if you have difficulty finding large long red chili, or long green chili, try substituting with red/green jalapeño.  Since the sizes of chilis come very different all the time (the large long red chili I used this time was ginormous), I would strongly recommend weighting the ingredients.  If you can’t find shiso leaves, you can still make the recipe without, and it’ll still be fabulous.


Ingredients: (chilis are weighted after stems removed)

  • 5.6 oz (160 grams) Large long red chili
  • 2.1 oz (60 grams) of long green chili
  • 1.2 oz (33 grams, or about 15) of small Asian red chili
  • 0.6 oz (18 grams, or 20) shiso leaves, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves of garlic, grated then divided in 1/2
  • 1 tbsp of grated ginger, divided in 1/2
  • 1/2 cup (104 grams) of canola oil
  • 3 tbsp of fish sauce
  • 1/2 tsp of ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • 1/4 tsp of rice vinegar

Wash the chilis then finely dice all of them.  Add all the chilis, finely chopped shiso leaves, 1/2 the amount of grated garlic, 1/2 tbsp of grated ginger, canola oil, fish sauce and ground white pepper in a sauce pot.  Cook the mixture over medium to medium-low heat and stir occasionally.  At first, liquid would start to emit from the chilis, then it would start to evaporate.  Continue to cook for 10 min until there is no visible liquid left, then continue to cook for another 3 ~ 4 min to extract more liquid from the chili without turning them into mush.  The mixture should have reduced in size and the chilis should be soft.  Turn off the heat, then stir in the other 1/2 amount of grated garlic and grated ginger, sugar and rice vinegar.

Let the sauce cool completely then transfer to an air-tight container.  Let it sit for at least a few hours to another day to develop flavour.  It will keep inside the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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Mashed grilled eggplants w/ Mean Santa:

  • 2 Asian long eggplants
  • 1/2 cup of Mean Santa chili sauce, or more to adjust
  • 1/2 tsp of ground sichuan peppercorn
  • Soy sauce to taste

Preheat the top-broiler on high.  Peel the eggplants and cut into quarters length-wise.  Rub with a little bit of olive oil and grill a few inches under the broiler until partially browned and soft.  Remove from the oven and cut into short segments, then transfer to a mortar.  Add the Mean Santa chili sauce and ground sichuan pepper, then mash until evenly broken up and incorporated.  Taste and season with soy sauce for saltiness.  Let sit for 10 to 20 minutes before serving.

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THE PINEAPPLE BUNS/PO LO BAO

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“THEY HAUNTED ME LIKE THE SWEETEST NIGHTMARE”

I want to begin today by saying, “I’m sorry, Kelly.  I sidetracked.”

A few weeks ago, a reader sent me an earnest suggestion saying that ever since she lost contact with one of her beloved things to eat, the curry beef buns from Chinese bakeries, that she has missed it dearly, and that it may fit eloquently into this humble blog of mine because from what it seems (and she’s right), that I’d love me some curry, too.  Oh yes, Kelly.  Oh you have no idea, curry and me are like this.  We tight.  However… even though we spent a substantial amount of keyboarding discussing those mysterious curry beef buns, two other relatively mundane words that she brought up amidst the conversion haunted me like the sweetest nightmare and chased away everything else.

Wait, did you say… pineapple buns?

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INSIDE-OUT BLACK SESAME STICKY RICE BALLS

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“SO WHAT DOES
THE LETTER ‘Q’ TASTE LIKE?”

I.  Love.  This.  Stuff.

Everybody, girls especially, who has or shares an Asian background, loves this stuff.  This stuff is so popular it’s practically in the freezer section in every respectable Asian grocery stores, big or small.  This stuff is so unstoppable, that although originally meant to be eaten on a single Chinese holiday only, now is enjoyed all year round.  People look for excuses to eat this stuff.  Given that it’s warm, soft and sweet, it’s a comfort food for the mentally wounded.  But then again, given that it’s a circle which symbolizes “wholeness” and “content”, it’s a must-item in Chinese weddings, too.  Boyfriend dumped you, you eat this stuff.  Getting hitched, you eat this stuff.  You see what I mean?

This stuff is called tang-yuan (literally soup-circles), aka sticky rice balls.

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