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COOKBOOK PRE-ORDER AND PREVIEW: MAPO TOFUMMUS

“IN 2012, IN A FORM OF SELF-ABANDONMENT, I STARTED THIS FOOD BLOG.  SEVEN YEARS LATER, I AM ABOUT TO PUBLISH A BOOK ABOUT THIS JOURNEY.”

I sat here for hours struggling with how to begin the sentence.  Stranger things have happened in this world I’m sure, I mean I could swear I saw a sea creature that looks like a glowing condom on the internet, but from where I stand, it doesn’t get more inexplicable than what I’m feeling right now.

It began in 2012.  It was just about two years into our miserable six years-long residence in Beijing.  In a form of self-abandonment almost, I started this food blog.

With no enthusiasm or objectives, setting out more to be a concession than a declaration, I did what I thought was throwing the white flag to all my other grander ambitions in life, that I was going to be that person, “a blogger”, a non-job made up by people whom I judged, past tense, to be minimally interesting that they had to put themselves on speaker.  It wasn’t brave.  It wasn’t inspired.  It was never expected to arrive anywhere.  I was standing on the edge of a cliff.  And I took the extra step.

The least of what I saw coming was that seven years later, I am to publish a book about this journey.

So yes, a Lady And Pups Cookbook.  The Art of Escapism Cooking – A Survival Story. 

This book is about my time in Beijing, what started it all.  If you are kind of new here, then yeah, no, I didn’t enjoy that.  This book is an self-reflective examination of how I retreated to my kitchen as a place to evade from my unpleasant realities.  What was wrong, what wasn’t, and answers that I am still unsure of today.  It’s honest but also contradictory, opinionated but nonetheless a personal truth.  An internal monologue, despicably self-serving and personal, almost to a fault.  Because for me this is more than a cookbook.  It’s therapy.  It’s closure.  It’s my attempt to draw a conclusion to what was a very difficult time of my life, to put the unsettlement to rest. You may find it funny.  You may find it bitter.  You may even find it obnoxious at times.  But it was what I had to say in the way that I had to say it, screaming and kicking, uncensored, crude, to boil my emotions down to something better than the ingredients of its making, a consommé of the nasty bits of my experience.  If you find that it resonates, I’m glad that you know you are not alone.  But if you don’t, then there are 80+ really fucking good recipes with it.

The book will be officially published in October but pre-order is available now.  Here is a recipe preview, of page 288 if you want to be precise.  I formulated the recipe list when I was still living in Beijing, but most of the book and recipes were written and shot after I left.  It is spoken in retrospect, a memoir if you will, where I am better equipped to find humor in past tense. I know I have been away from this blog for quite awhile, but from now on I will be posting more regularly again and continue to share sneak peeks.

I know I should be beating the drums right now.  But really, I just want to say Thank you.  You’ve made a very strange thing possible in my life.  Now go buy it, too.

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TANGY BEAMMUS WITH SPICY EGGPLANT AND MUSHROOM

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BY ANY RELATIVE COMPARISON, IT WASN’T REALLY A BAD DAY IN MY PROGRESS TO MATURITY.

  

OK, last night, was a rough night.

It was at the inconvenient juncture of 3 am, when this garlic-tolerant vampire usually pop herself a good reliable melatonin-jelly bean and wait for it to propel into a semi-decent night of sleep, that she found, Marnie.  Of course, to Marnie’s fluffy highness, it was no big deal with her mighty presence of 1.4 M followers (M, guys, not K anymore.  K apparently is for losers), but for me, for me it was devastating to say the least.  A living hybrid of Forest Gump and Ewok, two most endearing mystical creatures in the world.  Not only she sent me into an unstoppable scrolling with the constant mindless chuckles, but she had led me into the internet-dominating world of sausage-tongue dogs with no returns.  Boom, here was another.  Boom, omg that one’s adorable, too.  Then one after the other, like an avalanche of deadly cuteness, burying me under a blanket of midnight-delights that, despite my best effort, I barely crawled out of in one piece at the wee-morning of 5 am.

Today, I woke up looking just as well as one of them.

But, professionally speaking, I still have to get my shit together to talk my other discovery last night, which happened to be one of those nights when I found myself scraping the bottom of my keyboard looking for potato chips-crumbs to sustain this bunker-style life.  To my surprise as well, foraging through my dark forest laden with seductive canned meat trying to lure me into the dark side, it was also the night where I found my long-lost, inner vegetarian-self.  Did you know, that if you puree a couple cans of buttery white beans with thick Greek yogurt, a dab of tahini and whatnots, then cover it with a company of bits-y browned vegetables in a spicy and garlicky oil, an highlights of fresh herbs and squirts of some good olive oil, then you would have a meal so satisfying that it would almost make you forget that something is missing from this diet?  Tangy, creamy, oily and savoury with just the right amount of pain to keep you going back for more, and needless to say, a completely legitimate weeknight emergency-dinner.  I mean, it wouldn’t be the worst thing, nor even difficult, to do this once in a week is what I’m saying.  Wait, you mean, everybody knows that?  OK, great, I guess just like Marnie, I’m also just late to this game after the few million others…

But at least, I was comforted by the fact that while one side of my sense of responsibility faltered, and the other side had prevailed.  By any relative comparison, really wasn’t a bad day in my progress to maturity.  Speaking of which, it’s approaching 2 pm as we speak.  And I think, somewhere civilized, what they call… a siesta is it?, is considered a very responsible, if not a must practice of fine living.

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GARAM MASALA YOGURT-CREAMED SPINACH

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SNACK ON THIS WARM AND TANGY YOGURT-CREAMED SPINACH.  I’LL BE RIGHT WITH YOU.


Let’s pretend that you’re scooching on my overly soft leather sofa, and while I’m making a considerable amount of noise in the kitchen getting the dinner ready.  You guys pop a bottle of something white, and snack on this warm, mildly spicy and tangy yogurt-creamed spinach with garam masala.  There are crusty baguette and sour dough on the table for your breaking, and you’re being harassed by a slobbering… borderline-obese blonde.  You surrendered a small piece over.  

“If you keep my secret.  I’ll keep yours.”

“I heard that~”.  

And I’ll be right with you.

  
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Serves: 2 ~ 4

Garam masala is quite different from typical curry powder in my opinion, consisting more spices that are “warmer” and “sweeter” such as cinnamon, cloves and cardamon, and less coloring from turmeric.  Nowadays it should be pretty common in supermarkets, and of course, online.  This would serve great as a side-dish, or just as a simple meal with a loaf of crusty baguette or sour dough.


Ingredients:

  • 17.6 oz (500 grams) of fresh baby spinach, or 1 1/2 cup (240 grams) of squeezed-dry frozen spinach
  • 1/4 cup (40 grams) of golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp of unsalted butter + 1 tsp for creaming
  • 6 small shallots, finely minced
  • 1 clove of grated garlic
  • 1 tbsp of grated ginger
  • 2 tsp of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp of garam masala
  • 1/8 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1 cup (245 grams) of whole milk
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (163 grams) of Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp of chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 ~ 1/2 tsp of sugar (depending on the sweetness of the raisin)

Soak the raisins in hot water until plumped.  Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a large pot.  Wash and remove the roots from the spinach, add to the pot and cover with lid.  Let steam for 1 min, or until the spinach has just wilted.  Transfer the spinach to a large sieve and rinse under cold water until cooled enough to handle.  One small handful at a time, squeeze as much water out of the spinach as you can with your hands and set aside (you should have approx 1 1/2 cup after squeeze).  Finely chop the spinach.

Cook 2 tbsp of unsalted butter in a pot over medium-high heat until bubbly and browned.  Add the finely minced shallots and cook until slightly browned on the edges, then add the grated garlic and grated ginger with 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp of black pepper, and sauté a little bit until fragrant.  Add the flour, garam masala and ground cumin, and cook for 1 min.  Off heat, add the whole milk and stir everything together quickly to prevent lumping, then bring the mixture back to a simmer to thicken.  Add the chopped spinach and raisins, re-season with salt’n pepper and sugar, and continue to cook over medium heat for 10 ~ 15 min until most of the liquid has reduced down.

Evenly stir in the Greek yogurt and chopped cilantro until creamy and cook until just warmed through.  Do not boil the yogurt or it might break.  Stir in the last 1 tsp of unsalted butter, and re-season with salt and pepper if need be.

Sprinkle with more ground cumin on top, and dried chili flakes if preferred.  Serve with crusty breads.

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KOMBU MISO BUTTER SAUCE + DISK FRIES

“DANCE…AND FEAST…AROUND THE BIG BONFIRE OF TOTALITARIANISM”

I apologize for the speechlessness today.  In the past couple days, it has been next to impossible to compose anything on wordpress because…

Every year in China around a historical holiday known as 6-4, a massive and elaborate celebration takes place.  The great beast of China and its army of cyber-minions will gather, dance hysterically, and feast on the corpses of information freedom, and any non-Chinese-friendly internet activities around the big bonfire of totalitarianism.  I have about a 5 minute window to finish/publish this post before the beast finds me.  So my friends, please, help yourself with some disk fries and kombu miso butter sauce, for it is unbeatable in deliciousness and unrelenting in spirit….  A small and insignificant thing it may be, but nonetheless makes me feel slightly better to say – you can bet that the beast….

…ain’t fucking getting any

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CHEWY LAYERED ROTI + KICKASS DIP

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” …WHOPPING 90% HYDRATION…
SPRUNG LIBERATED OUT OF THE FOUNTAIN OF SECRET DOUGHS “

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ALTHOUGH extremely rare, there are recipes that seem theoretically impossible at first, but somehow just come smooth-sailing under the first trial.  They make recipe-developers feel invincible even just temporarily, like the lighthouse of success glowing just over the foreseeable shore.  Handshakes with Batali and cold beers with Tony Bourdain, book-signing with fan-blown hair and the next dinner party, Ina Garten is bringing her cake.  These occasions embolden even the blindest of self-confidence.  But then, then there’s the opposite of such.

I call them, the kitchen nemesis… or for times, my baby kitchen unicorns.  It’s a tormented, twisted love-and-hate relationship, with an adored food-item that hides a secret so beyond your grasps that failures of making it has been haunting you for years… even decades.  The recipe of which you have ventured high and low for – with or without the luck of finding any at all – that in the very end, all greatly disappointed, again, and again.  A lover, who’s not completely yours.

For the past 2 decades, my nemesis… my baby unicorn… has been but one thing.READ MORE

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