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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dishes from Mostly Scratch

I've discovered that I'm not so good at cooking from scratch, but I'm not bad at sprucing up instant stuff to make it into a meal.  You've all seen my handiwork with the udon noodles.  Now, I will show you what else I cooked a couple weekends ago.  They are all dishes from my childhood.1

Chinese people love soup, and my family especially love it.  So, I made a lotus root, red and white carrot soup2 with jujubes (a.k.a. dried Chinese dates or "hung tsoh") in chicken broth.  I also just blanched some watercress in the soup after it was done.  For the meat dish, I made spicy chicken steamed with preserved mustard (Chinese: tzah tsoi) and chili sauce.  For the soup and the steamed chicken, I asked Wah Toh for advice.  I followed her instruction exactly for the soup but I messed up on the chicken.  She told me twice: "Don't over-steam the chicken."  TWICE.  So what did I do?  I over-steamed the chicken.  Anywho, the dinner came out not bad.  The soup was delicious (sweet from the jujubes, but chock full of veggies).  The over-steamed chicken was tough so I didn't finish it.

An observant person would ask, "Where's the rice??"  And, I would have to answer, "I jacked that up, too.  Too much water in my newly bought $12 rice cooker."  But, I really loved the soup.  That made up for everything.  I was so full from the soup that I didn't have room for dessert.

Instead, I had the dessert for breakfast the next day.  I had gluten rice balls filled with black sesame and peanut (each rice ball is filled with sesame or peanut, not both), in a brown sugar and ginger sauce.  Super super good when accompanied by some hot jasmine tea.  The rice balls come frozen3 and you just drop them into a pot of boiling water.  When they start to float, they are nearly done.  The harder part (but not that hard) is the sauce.  You have to get the "slice sugar" (Chinese: peen tong) that is sold at Chinese stores--the packaging said "brown sugar."  You put the sugar into a sauce pan with a little bit of hot water and melt it over medium heat.  Then, you add some more hot water and a few slices of ginger.  All of this is to taste, so you would use more/less sugar and water as you see fit and based on the consistency you want.  Also, if you want more ginger taste then add more ginger.  Anywho, when the rice balls are done, you take them out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon, put them into a bowl and poor the sugar ginger sauce over it.  Like this!  I had the same dessert that night after dinner.

Okay, now, the last dinner that I made.  I chose something that was easily made and that required almost no work at all, and then a dish that required a little bit of work.  First, the easily made dish was steamed Chinese sausage.  This comes in a vacuum package and my favorite brand is Kam Yen Jan.  I have only a pic of the "white fat" variety but there's another variety that has a yellow pagoda stamp on it and it has duck liver in it as well.  I know, I know, the health conscious folk are slitting their wrists right now, but this stuff is REALLY GOOD.  You just prepare your rice and stick a few sausages in the rice and pop the whole thing into the rice cooker.  When it comes out, cut into smaller pieces and then drizzle with a little soy sauce.

Second, I made stir fried Chinese broccoli with beef.  Just cut into bite sized pieces, separating the stems from the leaves because the stems have to go in first.  Heat oil with chopped garlic and ginger, and then add the stems.  Season with salt and fairy dust4, and then add the leaves.  Now, you add a splash of rice wine.  (The ginger and the rice wine is what makes this dish.)  At the very end, add the sliced beef, preferably marinated lightly with salt, pepper, and soy sauce.  After plating, add some white pepper5 on the top.  You're done!

I supplemented with the soup from the night before and this time the rice came out great.  A complete meal!

1When I was growing up, my chores were food prep and clean up. I never was assigned with cooking, so, unlike my older sisters, I never really developed the cooking skill. This is why I'm way better at sprucing up stuff than I am at from scratch cooking.

2White carrot is also called daikon.

3I Mei is the best brand for sesame and peanut tong yuen.  You'll be sorry if you get another brand.  You'll end up with an "old pastry" taste in your mouth and the sesame is course.
Note:  Mr. Nonny Nu will likely have a comment about the phrase, "[t]he rice balls come frozen."


5Ground white pepper is not the same as black pepper.  It's finer and therefore is better at melding with the food.  While black pepper tends to give off its flavor, white pepper tends to melt into the food itself.  I like white pepper better because I never "bite into" a piece of pepper and get an unbidden explosion of spiciness in my mouth.  I got the Chinese white pepper with the wooden lid this time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving
by MonkeyPig, guest blogger

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

T for time to be together, turkey, talk, and tangy weather.
H for harvest stored away, home, and hearth, and holiday.
A for autumn's frosty art, and abundance in the heart.
N for neighbors, and novemeber, nice things, new things to remember.
K for kitchen, kettles' croon, kith and kin expected soon.
S for sizzles, sights, and sounds, and somthing special that abounds.
Thanks for joy in living and jolly good Thanksgiving.
Thanks for being friends and sharing your lives with MP, Woo, and Baysee.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Udon Noodle Dinner

Here's my dinner from last night.  It is made from instant udon noodle package with seasoning, but you can really dress this up into an actual meal!  I included green beans, Annie Chun's chicken cilantro wontons (frozen), and scallions in the noodles, but also added a side of butter lettuce.  Yummy!  The important part is to cook the udon through until it is chewy and no longer has the kinks that were given to it by the packaging.  Also, when you cook it, cook it with the seasoning packet the whole time so that the taste seeps into the noodles.  I also added some really good garlic chili sauce.