pork Tag

Singapore hawker marathon: Hokkien prawn mee (prawn bisque stir-fried noodle)

 

IT IS “UGLICIOUS”

WHAT:  This will be the last span in Singapore hawker marathon.  Another aesthetically underachieving, possibly unappetizing-looking dish called Hokkien prawn mee (basically noodles stir-fried with prawn bisque) that became one of the few Michelin-blessed hawker dishes in Singapore.

WHY:  At first glance, let’s be honest, it looks like shit.  Clearly, this is a dish that gives little to zero fuck about what anybody thinks about it.  But how on earth does a spatter of yellow and unenthusiastic gloop land effortlessly on the Michelin Guide, kind of made me curious.  And if you also care to find out, you’d be blown away just as well by the powerful and intent talent and flavors that traffic underneath all that unbothered facade.  As the highest compliment for both ends of the comparison, it’s the Ed Sheeran of noodles.

HOW:  Forget about making it pretty.  It’s not about being pretty.  It shouldn’t be pretty.  What this dish should be about, at all cost, is the nuclear fusion between two of the most powerful elements in gastronomy:  lard, and prawn fats.  Every bite of this lightly saucy strands of noodles is a perfectly engineered explosion of porkyness from rendered lard with crispy cracklings, and a concentrated prawn bisque extracted from blended prawn heads which is then fully fused into the noodles.  The brief “stewing” between liquid and starch inevitably gives the noodles a gloppy look, but it’s the best-tasting glop you’ll ever cross path with, a deep and glorious saturation of flavors per every millimeter tubes.  It will be thick.  It will be rich.  It will be intensely shrimpy, and porky, and garlicky, and almost irresponsible with that extra clash of hotheaded chili sauce.  With a little squeeze of citrus, it’s unstoppable and uglicious.

 
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ONE-POT SICHUAN SAUSAGE (OR ANY SAUSAGE) RICE W HERBS SALAD

THE ABUNDANT FAT AND JUICES FROM THE SAUSAGE WILL DESCEND GODLY AND SEEP DOWN THROUGH THE RICE BELOW, FLAVORING AND AIDING THE FORMATION OF THE HEAVENLY BOTTOM CRUST

If you follow my Instagram, then you’d know that I’m head-deep in rushing towards the finishing line on my cookbook.  Yeah, I’m writing one, and this is probably the first time that I’m mentioning it on the blog, all very anti-dramatic and all.  But I promise to talk more about it when the time comes.

For now, let me quickly leave you with a recipe, well more like a technique almost, that I think everyone who struggles with weeknight meals (or writing a book no less) should have in their repertoire.  Inspired by claypot rice, here’s how to turn any type of fresh sausages and a few cups of rice into a one-pot, steaming, savory, fluffy and crispy wonder.  If you have a few minutes to spare, you can prepare this sichuan-inspired sausage thoroughly studded with fatty guanciale bits (Italian cured pork jowl), burning with toasted chili flakes and tingling wtih sichuan pepercorns.  Or, you can use any other types of your favorite, fresh sausages like sweet Italian, spicy Italian, or fresh Mexican chorizo and etc.  Either way, the abundant fat and juices from the sausage will descend godly and seep down through the rice below, flavoring and aiding the formation of the caramelized, heavenly bottom crust.  Then this steaming and comforting one-pot wonder is complimented by a scallion and tarragon salad cooled by a touch of Greek yogurt.  If you’re anything like me, you don’t even need bowls.

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Roast pork butt sandwich

A couple weeks ago, I wondered my way into a small break from cooking.  For no particular reason than because, over one morning coffee, I felt it was called for.  People talk about the ferocity of love and passion a lot, in all forms and sizes that drives humanity for what it’s worth, rising in salute for its consuming, inconvenient, majestic torment and glory.  But what fuels it, what fuels love and passion, is often less marketable.

At certain points, what fuels passion is simply absence.

 

THE AU JUS… AND THE THOROUGHNESS OF ITS RAMPAGE DOWN THE RECEPTIVE PORES OF A TOASTED ITALIAN ROLL, DETERMINES WHETHER THIS IS A SANDWICH WITH PORK, OR,

A ROAST PORK SANDWICH

 

So I took a break, cruising.  I didn’t think about cooking other than making basic sustenances.  I rubbed my dogs‘ heads a lot.  I binge-watched two Netflix original series eating junk foods.  I rekindled with the familiar joy of ordering take-outs.  Holding a brown bag of meal No. 2 and a large diet coke, I waited, on the curb, for the lights to turn.

And just like that, I bumped into Fedoroff’s.

To be exact, Philadelphia-style roast pork sandwich shop in Brooklyn.  And by “bumped into”, I really just meant, like everything else nowadays, that I saw it on Instagram.

It spoke to me.  I took one look at this monstrous, ageless battle of meat VS bun, and I felt the jolt of adrenaline seeping back into my veins.  I wanted to cook this sandwich.

For the record, once again, I have not had a Philadelphia roast pork sandwich in my entire life.  Hence, this recipe is not based on any single one of your particularly preferred joint, especially  not Fedoroff’s.  In fact, I’m dead certain that my approach to this beloved classic is as offensive to its disciples as inserting hot dogs onto a margarita pizza.  No one intact trunk of meat to marvel over!?  No searing before roasting!?  Oh sweet mother of Jesus, ginger?  Fish sauce!?

Why?  First of all, it just makes more sense.  To come to this conclusion, you have to be willing to let go of a few fairy tales about roasting.  No 1, there’s no such thing as “locking in the juice”.  Meats don’t get sealed.  They’re not sexual scandals.  Legitimately, they can get seared/caramelized/browned for more complex flavors, but if you think that’s going to stop their juice from leaving the mothership in the oven (the antidote to that would be super low temperature but that’s not the story today), I’m afraid this is the adult’s equivalent of realizing there’s no Santa claus.  Besides, why make the futile effort to “seal”, when au jus, or aka, drippings is exactly what we are gunning for?

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PORK CHOP W/ TUNA-SANDO SAUCE

 

MAKE THIS RECIPE RESPONSIBLY, OR NOT AT ALL


I haven’t eaten tuna for almost 10 years.  Except one time in Hawaii when/where it was responsible.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or conveniently turning a blind eye, you should know exactly what I’m talking about.

It is estimated that by 2050, a large number of species of wild fish, tuna especially, will be gone.  That statement was made more than a decade ago.  It still stands.  Are we better than locusts?  The question is, are we worse?

So why am I, a hypocrite on all accounts, posting a recipe that involves tuna?  Because I see it now no longer as a question.  But instead, an opportunity.

I first came across the inspiration of a “tuna-sando sauce” from an espisode of Mind of A Chef on Gabrielle Hamilton, where she made the Italian dish maiale tonnato, thinly sliced pork served with a mayonnaise-based sauce flavored with canned tuna.  I was instantly intrigued.  It was one of those instances where, without actually tasting something, I felt certain about its sublimity, the velvety texture of a sauce that is the sum of all that is awesome about a tuna sandwich but minus the bread and the gritty mouth-feel, the silky-smooth grown-up twin of a childhood favorite, the 2.0 of that inexplicably enticing flavor that have satisfied all palates across the world.  Plus served with pork?  I knew it’d work.  It’s genius.  Especially, in my imagination, with a thick-cut slab of marbled pork chop that is deeply and glisteningly caramelized in browned butter infused with fresh bay leaves and garlics.  I die.

So I spent two years, diligently, not making it.

After all, I’ve been celebrating my tuna-sobriety for a decade.  Not even a piece of hard-core, fat-laden toro could break me let alone this soft porn.  So I guess, that rounds us back again to why do it now.  The answer is simple.  Because I realized me not eating or writing about tuna is as helpful as a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy.  The world simply doesn’t care that I quietly don’t eat tuna.  Over the years, I still see tuna sashimi continuously flying off of the rack from my supermarkets.  I still witnessed the rise of tuna poke-bowls walked through walls of social responsibility without a drop of effort or tear.  I still have friends who, I’m not sure whether intentionally or helplessly, order tuna again and again at gatherings despite my rejection.  I’d be lucky not to get a lecture from them let alone changing their minds.

I realized, thing is, no one can stop the world from eating tuna.  The world does not deal in the absolute, but only in compromise.  If anything, one can only possibly hope that it’s consumed responsibly.

So I’m taking this post as a chance to say this.  If you cannot not eat tuna, at least, make sure that it’s from a sustainable source.  And if you can’t be sure, then seriously, don’t do it.  It’s just fucking tuna, not a limb or dick.  It isn’t all that hard to cut loose.

I dragged for two weeks before posting this recipe, because even with all the precautions taken to  buy the tuna from a sustainable source or to talk to you about it, this could still be considered, on some level, a promotion to eat tuna.  And there’s no way for me to be sure that nobody who loves the idea of a sauce that tastes like tuna sandwich as much as me, wouldn’t just grab a dubiously sourced can from their local grocery stores.  So if that happens, it’s on me.  Yet, so what if I don’t post this?  Just a bleep of silence, one less tuna recipe out of a million and that’s supposed to be heard, let alone make a change?

So I chose to post it.  Not only it’s an opportunity to speak to those who come here to decide what’s for dinner, but also, as a member of the food-blog community which touches this subject all too rarely, it’s an opportunity to remind us all again that, not just our actions but more so, how our inactions matter.  Maybe you’re a food-blogger like me who’s never posted a tuna-recipe before.  Or, maybe you’ve posted recipes of tuna because it’s a popular ingredient, maybe you know about the issue of overfishing and maybe you choose not to mention it, either because it’s off-putting or that you’re scared it will give your readers an incentive not to share it, and maybe, that will hurt your traffic and followers, or maybe, you just don’t give a shit.  We’ve all been there.  We all still do it.

But our maybe’s are deadlier than a nuclear bomb.  Because it will play a part in rendering the ocean fishless.  You think North Korea is scary.  We should see what’s on our plates.

Look, am I a hypocrite?  Sure I am, I’m no vegan.  But not being able to do 100% is no excuse to do zero.  Even a hypocrite can do the right thing.  Starting with, we should at least give a fuck.

This recipe is good.  Really good.  And if you have the faintest hope to enjoy it for years to come, make this recipe responsibly.  Or not at all.

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THE PLAIN GENIUS OF MENCHI KATSU SANDO

IT HITS JUST THE RIGHT SPOT, ONE OF THE FEW LEFT IN OUR HYPER-STIMULATED MINDS THESE DAYS, WHERE IT STILL ACCEPTS OR EVEN CRAVES PURITY

As we know that there are plenty for the taking, but this is perhaps – as far as I know and hopefully true – Jason’s most obsessed of all perverse Japanese creations, the menchi katsu.

Menchi, meaning “minced”, and katsu, is anything “breaded and fried”.

It exists in many different forms and spirits, each and one of them equally bizarre to the conventional wisdoms of the west, but one in particular, the menchi katsu sando / fried ground pork patty sandwich, will send many scratching their heads inside a Japanese convenience store.  That is because its pure genius can only be realized upon one fateful encounter – one that reflects truly on its seemly simple but in fact, delicate preparations, and the childish yet complex satisfaction it plays on your tastebuds – which, unfortunately, can be a rare occurrence outside of Japan.  Actually, outside of Japan, this idea sounds more desperate than anything else.  Why do we want to fry a disk of ground pork – by the way, an almost comically massive disk of ground pork – then leave it with nothing else, and I mean absolutely nothing else, but just some tangy brown sauce in between two pieces of flimsy, flappy white breads?  You’ll question its painful simplicity, whether is from desperation, or, by choice.  Why not add something else to it?  Tomato?  Bacon?  Cheese?  Fried egg?  Jalapeno?  Two hotdogs and a jug of Bloody Mary with a mini umbrella?  Come on, anything, anything to satisfy this North American instinct to pile shit up.

But no.

I can’t explain it to you.  You’ll have to experience it.

But I can’t take you to Japan.  I can only bring the recipe home.

This recipe is my very controlled but slightly adapted, and perhaps,, in my opinion, enhanced version of the original.  And when I say that, I’m mostly referring to the katsu sauce.  Slight variations on this sauce are applied to a vast number of different dishes in Japan, like okonomiyaki and takoyaki to name a few.  But most of the recipe in English that I found online is, well, lacking, if not insulting.  Ketchup plus worchestire sauce, basically, with some soy sauce and sugar?  Please.  The sauce is much more complex and deserving of our respect than that, which requires several different angles of acidity and sweetness that adds up to be more than the sum of its parts.  There is a depth that, I feel, cannot be achieve with the conventional balance between vinegar and sugar, which is where “fruitiness” comes in aid.  Prunes.  Blended into the sauce, they built volume and flavours into the back-note, then pounded and added as a thin film in between the sandwich, they added textures and subtle sweetness.  This sauce plays brilliantly with the fatty richness – 35% fat if I failed to mention – of the menchi katsu, and brought both a voluptuous sort of moisture and adhesiveness to all parties.

You’ll realize why you don’t want to do anything else to it.  It hits juuust the right spot, one of the few left within our hyper-stimulated minds these days, where still accepts or even craves purity.

This is not just a slapped-on emergency sustenance.  There are thoughts and wisdoms, upon many generations, that evolved and stripped it down to its now, brilliant plainness.  If you are going to make it into a Big Mac, at least call it something else.

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FRANCE PART I, and Lyonnaise sausage w/ warm beans and sage butter

All the best things in life are clichés.

Paris, is a cliché.

I’ve fought consciously throughout my adult life not to fall for it, or at the very least, say it out loud, fearing I’ll sound like a girl wanting to model or a guy in a sports car.  It oozes unoriginality.  But in the end, excuse mine if you will, as we sat predictably at an open cafe at 6:30 am, watching this city in beige and pastel grey slowly waking up in a wash of golden summer lights, acutely aware of its both corny and extraordinary allure.  Paris, I succumbed, is Paris for a reason.

But I knew that four years ago, when I visited Paris for the time time.  This time, I wanted more.

I wanted more not from Paris, but from the country that it has instilled great bewilderment for inside my mind.  If that was Paris, then what is France?  An embarrassingly stupid question no doubt, for a pre-middle age woman to ask but frankly, I’m too old to pretend that I’m better.  If I were destined with death-by-sugar then fuck it, bring out the ice cream-truck, and I want her every single available flavors including the weird ones against my best judgement.  Not just to see her polished beauty but – almost out of both cynicism and total respect – I wanted to slowly cruise through her central veins, starting from Paris, then Burgundy, Lyon, Luberon, Marseille, then along her riviera that ends in Nice.  What would I find on a road trip in France?  Perhaps a side of her that looks no different than places just off of the New Jersey turnpike (and yes there are).  Or perhaps more beautiful cliches?  Those perfectly imperfect ancient villages and chateaus freckling along her cheeks.  Would I be able to have one?  To find it unmistakably amidst all, to go back to it again and again?  My favorite freckle of hers?

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THE JADED DOOR-NAIL MEAT PIES RUBBED W/ SCALLION BUTTER

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DOESN’T IT HELP YOUR CONFIDENCE IN MAKING THESE IN YOUR OWN KITCHEN, KNOWING THAT THEY AREN’T IMMORTALS,

THAT THEY TOO BLEED JUICE, JUST LIKE THE REST OF US.

To most people who aren’t born or raised in China or any of its politically disputed subparts, the idea of cooking Chinese cuisine, I guess, can feel intimidating.  For one, it sounds big.  And it is big.  It is big in a sense that it’s actually less confusing to approach it not as a generalized whole, but as a ccoalition of many different regional representatives.  The food cultures in the north, really is a world away from the south, and from the east coast-lines to the west high mountains, vice versa.  And to make matters more complicated than say, how it is in America, in the best as well as the worst sense, the gaps between regional cultures aren’t yet as erased by modernization and technologies as we speak.  So if you think you’re scared about making southern dim-sum simply because you aren’t Chinese, know that there’s someone else born and raised in northern China, who feels just the same.  But I’m not saying this to scare you.  I’m saying this to let you know that, yes, while there is real deep stuff to be sorted out in the study of Chinese cuisine, it is also just as important to know that a lot of it, is actually just bullshit.

Now, this is the first mental fortification you should master if you want to tackle this massive beast, knowing its bluff, knowing that a lot of the seemly variations in its dishes are just the smokes of admirable marketing campaigns.  For one example, when it comes to the dazzling and curious case of unleavened meat pies (where the dough is without yeast), besides their shapes and sizes and minor variations in flavours, I’m afraid that the only clear difference, like many other dishes I might add, lies within the fabrication of their biographies.

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PORK STICKY RICE BALLS W QUICK TTEOKBOKKI SAUCE

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I don’t know how weird is it to change the featured photograph, but I made this dish again, and I just like this street/take out-styling much more. It suits the dish. Enjoy!

I’M GOING TO EAT AS MUCH CHEWY AND STICKY RICE-THINGS DRENCHED IN PLASTIC-DYING SAUCES, TO MY TEETH’S CONTENT

So, today is the day.

No, not the day I rolled out of bed looking like Beyonce. Because that was yesterday. Nor is it the usual days that I hallucinate behind my gas-mask about the elusive, blue-est of the blue sky-day in Beijing that never comes. Because today, it actually is. Totally smog-free. Yay. But you know, the cheerleader in me rather focus on the fact that – like how snowstorms only come on the weekends – this miracle just had to happen in the fucking middle of the week. A thursday. Pffffff…. Today is also not that day that I unveil another fabulous cooking-alternative like how to make a creamy scrambled egg in 15 seconds, or how to make cruffins with a pasta machine, to say, help you get on with your lives in desperate needs of delicious comforts. I mean really, enough about you.

In fact, today is the day, that I’m finally done with… my Invisalign.

Yup, that’s right. For the past 6 months, I’ve been wearing my borderline-intrusive and not-so-INVISible teeth-ALIGNment devices inside my mouth, 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, which I’m finally getting rid of after what felt like a million years, and why? Well, to make adjustments on my low-profile and pre-middle-aged teeth so SUBTLE, that it could only be noticed by me, myself, and my forevermore judgmental selfies. I feel like getting Invisalign was a lot easier than having to wear braces. When it came to my teeth, if I hadn’t taken it upon myself to check out something similar to Dentist Georgetown, I probably wouldn’t even be in the position I am in now in terms of my teeth, so I am happy with the results.

You see, this is what ultimately happens when an emotionally unfulfilled woman is left alone in her solitary confinement for far too long that she starts to talk to herself in the mirror. Whereas a man may see from the reflection, an utter failure; but a woman, one crooked tooth. Hey, we’re optimistic like that. So, in 2 hours, I’ll be lounging at the dentist’s office, in a sacred ancient ritual where I rip these damn things off of my mouth and light them up in a hysterical bonfire until they turn to ashes. That shall feel good. Then I’m going to come home, with my device-free and minimally improved teeth, I’m going to eat as much as this as I can.

If you’re wondering why this, a savoury version, pork stuffed sticky rice balls giddying in a red pool of spicy, Korean tteokbokki (stir-fried rice cake) sauce as my first meal out of the pit, well there are good reasons. Even though there were plenty of sticky rice-things here and there in the past few weeks already, the experience of ingesting them was, well to say the least, a highly skillful and demanding task. You see when you mingle the word “sticky”, with devices that are trying to hold onto your teeth for dear life… things can get complicated. Somewhere along the chewing and the friction and the physical bonding of things, I could, without any notifications, lose a “grip” or get “de-capped” or worse, lose the last trickling ounce of dignity and the will to somehow make this feel funny-ish. So in the most appropriate and rewarding matter, the only thing that I should be granted with at the end my “correctional” sentences, I am going to eat as much of chewy and sticky rice-things drenched in plastic-dying sauce (yeah did I mention that? they get colored, too), to the content of my now invisibly aligned teeth.

But what’s in it for you? Well, if you were already a fan of Korean tteokbokki, then you should know that they’re always a reward even in the absence of a good reason, especially when stuffed with ginger and soy sauce flavoured ground pork, with a fast and easy and dare I say, better, spicy tangy and sweet tteokbokki sauce that will make your flat tires taste good. But really though, enough about you.

So here, another sticky rice ball recipe. If you want a word with it, talk to the teeth.

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