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Monday, December 31, 2012

Lobster Stew

One of the many many things that had happened in 2012 - I am now a self-declared big fan of the Bon Appétit magazine, the very first food magazine that I have subscribed to. An elegant entrée showcasing the generous lobster meat in a soul-satisfying stew, this recipe by Scott DeSimon comes from this very magazine of the December 2012 issue. A serving of soup comes loaded with chunks of lobster meat with the row and/or tomalley adding a deeper richness to the stew, the presence of milk, butter and especially the reserved liquid from par-cooking the lobsters together with a gentle touch of natural herb and a swig of sherry had done nothing but only a superb work in harmoniously enhancing the general flavor of the stew. 

The name and the idea of dealing with live lobsters may be rather intimidating a picture to take in; while I probably would have agreed that it does take a little more effort and time in its making, it really is not a hard one to make. With just a little patience and putting aside enough time to spare, making this lobster stew may be one that you can breeze through, creating an especially comforting bowl of stew within your very own comfort zone at home. And the best thing of all - this is one that you can and really should make way in advance of serving time in which the taste greatly intensifies especially when left to chill overnight. The end result? A milky broth appearing to be slightly orange in color, so genuinely infused with the flavor from the lobsters and other subtle seasonings in the making - a flavor truly defined with time.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Japchae (Korean Stir Fried Noodles) 잡채

Japchae was one of the first few dishes that was introduced to me when I had my very first exposure to the Korean cuisine years ago. Despite its pure simplicity without anything really fancy in its making, this was one that had surprisingly left me with an exceptionally good impression - healthy, plain tasty, pleasant to the palate and very appealing to the eyes in fact. The delicate strands of sweet potato noodles come tender but not overly so, retaining its springy nature just so perfectly well. Tossed with a myriad of ingredients and some simple seasonings, the noodles adopt the richness of flavor coming from this whole combination. The end result - a plate of stir fried noodles with a distinctive pleasing texture and a touch of crunch plus the exotic combination of different tastes and colors, all in one. A light and nourishing dish to my personal definition, this is one in which a spoonful will always leave you wanting for more.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Stir Fried Baby White Bok Choy 清炒奶白菜

A different version closely related to baby bok choy, this baby white bok choy is yet another member of the cabbage family. Dwarf and compact with curled, glossy and broad dark green leaves with short creamy white petioles, these are generally sweeter than the baby bok choy, the one with smoother, non-wrinkled leaves with a lighter hue of green. The thing about this white bok choy - their glossiness gets more prominent post cooking leaving the dish with a natural appealing and inviting look. This is one of the few vegetables that I would always prefer cooking them with the most basic way - stir fried with some crushed garlic, ginger and pinch or two of salt to taste. Done over high heat, this is certainly a case where less is more. Minimal add-ons, maximum flavor retention.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fried Rice with Salted Fish and Chicken 鹹魚雞粒炒飯

My first time having this fried rice with salted fish and chicken was just a little less than two years back, shortly after I moved here. It was then when I learned that this is a common and a very much sought-after one indeed, commonly served in Chinese restaurants here. And at some points I started wondering if it simply is a specialty made popular here or has it all the while been an option that I might have overlooked during the many years of dining out in Malaysia, one of which I have yet to clarify to-date. As simple as it seems and sounds, this is one that I soon found myself personally labeling it as a hidden gem among the many other items in a typical extensive menu in any Chinese restaurants. 

As humble as it may get, making this dish shine really does need not more than just a few ingredients. Salted fish, once a poor man's food and obviously no longer so these days, is probably the very key to defining this fried rice giving it its unique pungency. Preserved over time, a small piece really does go a long way with its salty nature and yet surprisingly not overpoweringly so when incorporated into the dish - one that you either really adore or simply hate. A good plate of this rice will be one that comes with a balance of all - saltiness from the salted fish of a good quality but not to overwhelming in general, sweetness from the bits of chicken and peas, refreshing crunchiness from the shreds of lettuces leaves complete with the natural aroma coming from the eggs. If you are one that does not particularly despise the salted fish, then this is one that you have to try for yourself to see how appetizing this really can be and how it may even easily be the one that wins your heart hands down thereon.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie

Day 10 into my battle against the seasonal flu, and I finally am getting the first slightest hint that the bugs will be gone real soon. Having a sweet tooth just the night before, we had this to the close the night with - the blueberry pomegranate smoothie, a complete boost to my immune system! Inspired by the very same version of smoothie hubby had at McDonald's, I started getting the idea of making our own at home especially considering that hubby seemed to have fallen in love with that smoothie right after his first try. As good as that can ever be (oh yes, it indeed was very good! lol), I guess we know just too well that once you get past their marketing part and actually bother stealing a second glance at the nutritional information behind the making, they can never be quite on par with those made from real fresh fruits, probably not even close. So make my own I shall! 

Unknown to me all the while until I have tried it for myself, blueberry and pomegranate are the refreshing flavor duo that together they make a winning combination, so much so that I would even think that they actually taste better complementing one another compared to having them on their own separately. A combination of two antioxidant superstars that packs a hefty nutritional punch, this smoothie makes a lovely and refreshing beverage that could make you easily over indulge probably without having to have the slightest guilt. With fresh blueberries and the POM 100% pomegranate juice being the two main ingredients, here's a link to the POM Wonderful website that nicely tells all the benefits these pomegranates have. As with the blueberries, here's a quick peek into some of the many health benefits they offer, briefly summarizes from a couple of reference sites.

  • Antioxidant Rich in vitamins and wonderful elements they boost your immunity keeping free-radicals in check.
  • Brain booster Restoring the general health of the central nervous system, the nutrients in blueberries improve brain functions and hinder the onset to many age related cognitive problems.
  • Low glycaemic index In between 40 to 53, their low-in-sugar and high-in-fiber properties keep you full for longer with less sugar level crashes or disturbances and thus a more stable blood sugar level.
  • Heart healthy Thanks to the antioxidant within each little berry, they strengthens cardiac muscles and regulates the cholesterol level, increasing the good ones, bringing down the bad. 
  • Cancer fighter Anthocyanin - a big word yea lol - a rich source of antioxidants that work in harmony with the other nutrients to pack a punch of cancer combatting properties.
  • Healthy vision Again the anthocyanin together with many other various vitamins, minerals and lutein - they work miraculously in maintaining ocular health, easing eye fatigue and simply promoting a healthy vision.

Bak Kut Teh (Spare Ribs Soup) 肉骨茶

Being my dad and brother's all-time favorite, we have plenty of bak kut teh growing up and dining out with never a specific time to having them - they never are confined to just breakfast or dinner in particular. Lunch and sometimes even supper, it has always fit so well like no others. Having different versions of bak kut teh from town to town whether they are of the same or different origins, this one featured here has got to be the one that I am most familiar with - Hokkien style? I am not exactly sure myself. Apart from this being one with a broth tinted with a touch of dark soy sauce, I have had others that come clearer in general - some taste more peppery than others, some come with ingredients all loaded within one same claypot, and some will have the different ingredients served in small, separate portions each. And in some later years was when I was introduced to yet another version with a totally different dimension from any aforementioned, nothing like the conventional bak kut teh in fact - the dry form of bak kut teh. Rather than being soupy, this is served in a caramelized thickened gravy usually loaded with dried chilies and heaps of garlic.

If I were to describe bak kut teh as per my very own experiences with them, it will have to be a claypot dish on its own in which the pork ribs are cooked in a herbal soup base infused with a concoction of herbs and spices. Savory in general, the pot of soup with such a herbal richness is made wholesome and complete with the addition of other simple ingredients - assorted mushrooms (shiitake, button and enoki to name a few), fried tofu puffs, deep fried bean curd sheets and some greens, among the common few. Great served with a bowl of plain white rice, yam rice or the fried shallot oil infused rice, they go exceptionally well with a side serving of crispy crullers with birds eye chilies and minced garlic in sweet dark soy sauce as the dipping sauce on the side. Too big a picture to take in? Maybe lol. But when you have found a good place serving bak kut teh that suits your very own taste according to your personal liking, having bak kut teh has got to be one of the few that always comes a maximum satisfaction guaranteed each time. 

Making this at home comes rather easily especially when you have managed to recognize and get hold of a spice mix meant for making a good serving of bak kut teh. With that in hand and those few essential ingredients to be incorporated together, time will be the remaining factor before you have a pot of bak kut teh simmering away within your very comfort zone, filling your home with a lingering robust and intense aroma as the cooking goes on. Moving here, it was months later before I spotted the first pack of bak kut teh spice mix with a brand most Malaysian will be familiar with - Yeo's. One single try and I have ended up going back to the same Chinese grocer to stock up on these spice mix since. They are in fact the best that I have come to try thus far, and never could I have been more satisfied with the pot of bak kut teh that we do get at home these days.

Making bak kut teh at home is one that I have always made sure that they come more than enough for just a meal or two. The fact that they never fail to taste better the longer they are left to simmer makes it a reason good enough to be having the same for the day or two after. So do aim a little more than what your tummy can accommodate - chances are they will always leave you wanting for more as soon as you are done with your first round of bak kut teh!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Spritz Cookies

It is the season of giving! Waking up to just one day more to Christmas and I am suddenly all so revved up and eager to get my hands at doing some last minute Christmas baking today. All planned for a light and easy day, I thought it probably is a good time to bring the cookie presser into the picture. My another first it sure is, and just like before I have not an idea of what to expect out of it. But cookie presser does wonders! When the clock is ticking fast and time running out, cookie presser is the way to go! Same amount of time, way more cookies cranked out compared to the manual scooping and shaping with hands or a pastry bag even. Plus you get an endless range of cookie shapes and decorating possibilities. As my first, I had the Christmas tree pattern, the snowman, the heart, the candy cane and the wreath, decorated with the basic most, some colored sprinkles - eye catching with such a festive feel.

Christmas tree
candy cane

With that, I made my first batch of spritz cookies with a recipe adapted from Rasa Malaysia. Plain cookies with a rich buttery texture and a slight hint of vanilla, they are tender crisp, definitely the kind that melts in your mouth the moment you pop them in. And Bee from Rasa Malaysia was right about these cookies - they are highly addictive indeed. The proof? A good one would be when I realized a piece missing each time my hubby made a round to the kitchen to check on me, or so he said lol. This recipe is a keep for sure. Making these was a baking experience made pleasant with an end-result that never a bit disappointing. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Jam Thumbprint Cookies

raspberry jam thumbprint cookies coated with toasted walnuts
Two days to Christmas! The tradition of baking Christmas cookies has never been something that run in our families. This year marks the very first year of me giving it a try in my own kitchen and probably setting my very own tradition here at home - first try with the very first batch of Christmas cookies. The decision to make these jam thumbprint cookies is one made when I stumbled onto a page while surfing randomly for Christmas cookies ideas online. Being my very first attempt at this and not having tried any of these previously, the whole process was one done with a mixed feelings. One loaded with excitement as the baking started, anticipation and patience in the midst of shaping and baking, and not forgetting the suspense as it got baked in the oven, not having a single clue as to how and what I shall expect or how it should turn out to be. 

This is a recipe adapted from Ina Garten from Food Network on her very version of jam thumbprint cookies rolled in sweetened flaked coconuts. Making a batch exactly as how each step is nicely laid out in her recipe, they turned out great as promised - where plain simplicity meets elegance and pure indulgence. From there, I made another batch of the same thumbprint cookies, this time rolled in toasted walnuts (pictured above) - not at all disappointing. A different dimension with a little extra crunch, both versions are uniquely different on the whole - appearance and taste. Same basic dough, but they shine so well on their own. Give it a try! Worry not about its complexity or any possible complications in the making especially considering that the clock is ticking down and Christmas is so near, because as a first timer myself, this is one that I can humbly say from experience that you will certainly nail it! 

apricot jam thumbprint cookies coated with sweetened flaked coconuts
raspberry jam thumbprint cookies coated with sweetened flaked coconuts

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Somen in Pig Maw and Chicken Soup 猪肚鸡汤寿面

It officially marked the very first day to winter yesterday, so promptly greeted with the snowy weather that we had throughout the day yesterday. Returning from our anniversary trip to Las Vegas just the past weekend, hubby and I both are now again in our battle against the seasonal flu that we thought we had just recovered from not that long just prior to our trip - pretty much thanks to the sleepless nights and overindulging ourselves in the endless lines of great food, particularly the part on overdoing the liquor (oops). With our lifestyle going haywire in the sin city, the few crazy nights had surely knocked some consciousness into me at the end of the trip, something that I have to involuntarily accept now - that I probably am slightly beyond my age for those stuff ever again lol. Day 5 of feeling under the weather (and still counting), well this should prove that there must be some truth to that little fact check there, and that I should really be thinking twice before ever engaging myself in any of those again in the future. Sign of repentance? Oh yea, I bet it is lol.

We have an unusually cold weather here in Michigan yesterday, the lowest it has got thus far (but then again the tough days are just about to start! grrrrrrrrrrr). Feeling all so sulky on the whole, I guess it's a thing good enough that I have this little craving left stirring in me still - chicken soup! This somen in pig maw and chicken soup 猪肚鸡汤寿面 is pretty much a fusion of my mom's chicken soup and my mom-in-law's somen. Mom's chicken soup comes with a whole chicken cut into pieces, a variety of mushrooms, and dried scallops - clear and yet so very flavorful and nutritious it makes itself such a great comfort food on its own. Mom-in-law's somen on the other hand, has always been the iconic dish at home (in which the noodle represents longevity in general) especially to the many auspicious days Chinese do celebrate - Chinese New Year and birthdays among the few. Served with pig maw soup with some greens, crispy fried seaweed and deep fried shallots, this is a tradition of the Putian people, or Xinghua 兴化人, a Han ethnic group from Putian, Fujian - dad-in-law's origin.

Cleaning the pig maw is one that really only gets better with experience. I can never forget how my first experience with it turned out to be a real disaster. I spent some good four hours at it before I was convinced that they are good to be incorporated into my pot of simmering chicken soup back then. Your second try will naturally take a lot less time than the first and the next time you are at it again, you will then realize that you would have gotten the hang of it by then. But generally this is how I usually get mine done.
  • Trim off any visible fat on the stomach lining. 
  • Inverting the stomach cavity, scrape the lining with a butter knife, mainly to remove as much slimy impurities as possible. This is where it takes up most of the time with cleaning a pig maw. So do practice a little patience here, because once this is over, you are pretty much done. Keep the scraping going - rinse occasionally, and repeat all over again. My cue to stop? When you get less and less from scraping, you hold it better with hands (especially with the slime lessening over time) and the smell gets more tolerable.
  • It should be good to go now, but I usually do end mine with a bout of dry rubbing with corn flour in and out to remove whatever it is capable of removing, followed by a good rinse after.
  • Repeat the dry rubbing now with a good amount of sea salt. Finish with a good rinse using warm water. A little more boiling and dry frying (a little more elaborated in the recipe part as they come) and that is it! 
Tedious? Maybe, but practice really does make perfect. These days, it takes not much more than half an hour to get them squeaky clean. And the best part about it? Doing it yourself at home means you know exactly the quality of the pig maw you are getting into the pot of chicken soup and of utmost importance, what your family ingests as it gets served on the table later. So worth it!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sautéed Assorted Mushrooms

An all-time big fan of mushrooms myself, I have always adored these fungi regardless of how they are served. But then again I must say that I have not had that many dining experiences with fresh mushrooms growing up in Malaysia. The most common ones that we used to have often come either brined in cans or simply dehydrated. Fresh mushrooms are definitely something that I have only come to truly appreciate years later leaving home to study abroad. Spotting first the fresh button mushrooms and then the many other kinds that I had or had not heard of back then was simply a sight so fascinating. And there it went - my love for mushrooms blossomed with every opportunity of savoring them over time. Sautéed mushrooms is by far my favorite whenever I have got the chance to get hold of plenty different kinds of mushrooms at the same time.

shiitake, king trumpet, enoki and white buttom mushrooms
Naturally earthy and rich in flavor, each comes with a distinct feature like no others - the aromatic shiitake, the meaty king trumpet, the crunchy enoki and the juicy white button, and together they can never disappoint when sautéed to perfection retaining their unique characteristics at their very best. So much so that they often are hearty enough to be made a meal on their own. And the absolutely great thing about this - it needs mothing more than the usual few things that you can easily get in your very own kitchen. Simple ingredients with an exceptionally extravagant result.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Farmer's Market Omelet

I have always loved and adored omelets for as long as I can remember. This goes especially to those breakfast buffet lines most Malaysia hotels serve, particularly upon me spotting the omelet kiosk usually with an inexhaustible queue. Nothing beats watching the chefs stylishly and single-handedly cracking up eggs and whipping up omelets after omelets right in front of you. Plus you do get the free smell lingering in the air while you patiently wait in the line, right until you put in your order and have it transformed to "your way omelet" piping hot and fresh on your plate minutes later. This favorite of mine has not changed a bit despite all the years growing up. 

Here in the States having breakfast has somewhat become something that I really do look forward to and especially so during the weekends. I get to eat and easily spend the morning hour away, taking my own sweet time to enjoy our selection of scrumptious breakfasts - never have to rush for anything, just some moments to sit back and relax. Getting a good omelet here is never at all difficult - you get them almost everywhere you dine. In fact they easily make a full page on the menu in any diners you go to. If anything, my only problem will be to settle for just one out of the very extensive menus of theirs. Torn as I have always been, I started making my own at home. This way I get to decide and be as greedy as I can ever be, loading my omelet with just anything that tempts my palate. Being as versatile as ever, making them is never too tough a job. And with it being a homemade, you decide how healthy they should get, just exactly the way you like it. An extraordinary treat on any ordinary days, these are simply egg-a-licious!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fried Rice with Dried Shrimps and Chilies 虾米辣椒炒饭

I grew up knowing two different types of fried rice that mom always make at home. They are mom's family version of fried rice (aka my maternal grandma's fried rice) - one that comes fried with plenty of crushed garlic and beaten eggs on a very high heat and the other type will be dad's family version of fried rice - which is this featured here (hereby aka the Taiping fried rice at home, Taiping being dad's hometown). Family recipes being family recipes, these are not the usual fancy fried rice that you usually get outside, having these at home is more towards a family affair thingy really. Both being as simple as ever, this Taiping fried rice that dad could never get enough of is anything but complicated - cooked rice fried with heaps of dried shrimps, birds eye chilies, shallots, garlic and plenty of beaten eggs. Needing not much else, a dollop of light soy sauce or dark soy sauce is all needed to lightly enhance the naturally rich flavor this fried rice already has.

While I have always considered myself one spoiled brat that had never had to spend much time in the kitchen helping out as a kid, it kinda amazed me to be thinking back now how I actually had had a first hand experience at making both these fried rice at one point or another. It must be those times when when mom got unusually too occupied with something else she desperately needed a helping hand despite knowing well how incompetent I could be lol. Astonishingly appetizing despite its simplicity, it is the heat and spiciness coming from the birds eye chilies and the unique flavor, aroma and texture from the dried shrimps that make them the keys to defining the taste and characteristic of this fried rice.

Traditionally done using a pestle and mortar to crush and grind the spices, dad would always insist that they tasted way better rather than having them blended with a food processor instead, which I personally think was quite a just claim made. Contrary to the over efficient food processor, the slow pounding that happens in the mortar releases the natural oil more gently, subjecting itself to a very minimal loss (if any) of the natural taste these spices have. Plus, you never will be at risk of getting them overdone losing the essential texture when incorporated into the fried rice later. But but but, a set of pestle and mortar is still in my to-get list yet to be crossed off as of today. So a food processor it is for now. Oops. If you are settling for this too, just be sure that you go easy on blending them. One good way to go about this is to blend the dried shrimps separately from the rest. This way you will get the right finer texture for the shallots, garlic and the chilies while retaining a moderately rough texture for the dried shrimps.

a dish in which simplicity rules - no garnishing necessary, as simple as ever

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ikan Bakar (Grilled Fish) 烧鱼

Arghhh, cravings cravings cravings!!! The first time I got all too ambitious and decided to make an attempt at this, it was this craving alert that pushed me right into this. I was all motivated, at least good enough to get me to the kickoff lol. A bout of excitement then started but that was soon followed by some disappointments and later a little frustration along the way, and at some points it was all three in one. The craving hits so hard you know you really would do anything to satisfy it even if it doesn't promise much. With that impulsive decision of mine, I spent hours in the kitchen that day trying to create and re create, adding a bit of this and a bit of that and decided on a bit more of this and a bit more of that all in the hope to get the right hit to the basic sambal because this is simply just how it works - no sambal and there won't be a foundation to this and so there'll be no ikan bakar! Oh NOOO!

My kitchen was quickly turning into a food lab. This was a picture of desperation in reality. Frustrated that this is one of the many things that I have never heard or seen served anywhere in the many Asian restaurants here where we lived, not even a version close enough to extinguish this craving heat in me; and even more so that of all things I had to crave for something so challenging and impossible to make my own. One thing leading to another, the hours spent experimenting on it was a real test against the little patience of mine, so much so that I was very close to the verge of just giving up and trusting myself to handle the craving on its own over time. But hey! Things took a turn for the better at a point and the sambal was actually turning out to be good if not superb. And I finally got my parcel of a sea bass fish with squids and okras wrapped in banana leaves grilling away to perfection a while later. One that came packed with bundles of joy and satisfaction at last to hubby and especially myself, and also to our group of friends who we shared this with - the few who are just like hubby and I, grew up surrounded by this good and gracious ikan bakar, a classic favorite in Malaysia. 

Amazingly spicy and savory in taste, this is a parcel opening to reveal an elegant piece of juicy seafood treasure contained within daubed generously with the specially concocted homemade sambal. This time the same craving attacked, I was way calmer than I was before. The highlight to this very episode of mine - the stingray! My very personal history with ikan bakar started with exactly this, one that I have never thought possible of finding here. Slightly better self prepared with the little experience I have in hand this time around, this is a masterpiece so heavenly I have never imagined myself making within the very comfort zone of mine here at home. Add in squids or clams as you like, they'll make just as awesome a parcel with or without. As the name suggests, this is always best grilled to give the fish wrapped in the banana leaves a uniquely charred characteristic and the aroma as they get caramelized on the whole. But I must say that to fire up the grill outdoor in this chilly weather on the other hand did not look that appealing to me. So oven to the rescue! And worry not about the result - it's finger licking good all the same lol. The only setback? The dipping sauces that I have yet to venture into still. The cincalok and the one loaded with shallots and chilies? Argh there goes me salivating again just picturing them lol. Anyone with some good recipes to spare me pleaasse?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Pastrami and Cheese Panini

Panini ever since my first try at it has been my personal favorite casual treat and making it at home is very much like an elegant piece of art created within the very comfort zone of yours. With its great versatility and an endless possibilities to making the many varieties of panini, a little imagination is probably what you need to go a long way making all the discoveries and getting wowed continually by these pressed sandwiches. Hubby was the one who made known to me the charm of pastrami when I first moved here, and a very popular and delectable deli meat it is indeed. Have this rich meat of pastrami sandwiched in between warm toasty breads complete with the warm gooey melted cheese in between, nothing beats a lunch as elegant as this - such a guaranteed hearty lunch! Or brunch! Or don't even set a time - just do it! lol. Adding a little extra touch of hot peppers that I have come to love and so adore from the renowned Potbelly Sandwich Shop, the whole creation is simply so brilliant - from a little spice and a nice kick to a heightened flavor and sensation! 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pan Fried Tofu with Dark Sweet Soy Sauce 油煎黑酱油豆腐

The joy of cookbooks - there always is something about the line of cookbooks on the shelf that make me feel delighted just at the sight of them. No doubt almost everything and anything these days is always just a click away on the internet, but my selection of cookbooks is nonetheless my personal pride still. No, I don't use them that often, and I hardly do flip through them, not even half as much as the time I spent browsing through the endless food blogs all over the internet. But it always is a simple joy to be taking a book or two out every now and then, discover something new that you have not read or seen before - pretty much back to the old school ways to picking things up in the kitchen. Sometimes it can be a page, or occasionally it can simply be a particular line or a photo that miraculously gives you that little spark of inspiration to try something new or re-create something classical that you have long forgotten. And a good thing about cookbooks? They are yours to be kept indefinitely, to be adapted and improved, to be marked and left with some personal scribbles or notes that will stay despite time.  

This Pan Fried Tofu with Dark Sweet Soy Sauce is one that came from one of those treasures of mine. Adapted from "the Steamy Kitchen Cookbook by Jaden Hair", this tofu dish always turns out so perfectly just as promised. Simple yet innovative, tasty and simply elegantly presented. Pan fried to perfect crisp and crunch drizzled on with a dark sweet soy sauce specially concocted, this is something extraordinary out of the very ordinary. The only fine-tune I did - I made it a little more spicier.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Steamed Chicken with Dried Lily Buds, Wood Ear Fungus and Mushrooms 金针木耳冬菇蒸鸡

Apart from the Peppered Pork Tenderloin 胡椒肉, this version of steamed chicken is yet another family recipe from my dad's side. I grew up having plenty of this especially at my aunt's place whenever we were over for the many lunches and dinners that we used to have together at her place. One brief glance at it, it does look simple enough, probably not even half as appealing as many others especially those with their vibrant colors or others with fancy ingredients incorporated. The name tells pretty much all what this steamed chicken is about. Dried lily buds, wood ear fungus and mushrooms trimmed and sliced and put to steam on a bed of chicken with a little extra touch of seasoning - as simple as that really. But this is one of the few times when look can really be deceiving. This is to me a masterpiece where simplicity is at its best. Have it served with a plate of  plain rice, and just that combination alone will be good enough to let the homey feeling contained within revealed at its best. Aunt's version came with some chopped birds eye chilies in it but I started without back when I first attempted making this a year or two back. It nonetheless shines like none other and if anything, it actually accentuates the natural flavors better, and so I have been sticking to this version ever since. A case where less is more? Maybe yea lol.  


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kongnamuk Muchin (Seasoned Soybean Sprouts) 콩나물 무침

Korean food and I - they have got to be a love at first try kind of a relationship between us. I have had my heart rooted for them the very first time I had them, and banchan was one of the many others that had captured my heart there and then, what I shall possibly call the best part of a Korean meal now even. I love the concept of having them served in small portions, in an array of varieties enough to fill as good as half of a table for four, and how they are all meant for sharing. I love how each portion despite small never poses a problem because they are replenished as one gets polished off while you are left craving for more still. And I love how they are presented and served just slightly ahead of the main meals to whet your appetite beforehand. The fact that they are made to stay through the meal accompanying the main dishes means you get to savor many different flavors mixing in the mouth at the same time - the beauty of Korean cuisine in my opinion lol. With bits of banchan plus bits of plain rice and bits of whatever main courses you have got your eye and tummy on, the idea may sound and look complex on the whole, a little intimidating even but never too overwhelming. I'm not sure if these are how they are done traditionally, but I really am liking this idea more than alright so long as I can execute enough self control to not over indulge in the banchan line and left with little or no space for the main meals as it goes. 

This seasoned soybean sprouts, is just one of the many many selections that I have come to simply adore. Crunchy, a little raw in taste with a tad of nutty flavor, to be liking it could be an acquired thingy for many but one that came rather easy to me. The very first homemade banchan of mine, this is one with genuine simplicity and taste that they make a delectable banchan just like many others and simply keep Korean mealtimes really interesting.

ABC Soup ABC 汤

A hectic week pre and post Thanksgiving and we finally caught the festive flu. Made worse with our lack of sleep and constant nose blowing, they surely did wear us down challenging our immune system further. And with my appetite plunging low getting super fussy, there really was not much that my aching throat could tolerate and approve. This ABC soup has always been the only thing that I have never said no to in my life - my all-time comfort food it sure is. It had been this soup that I had happily had through all those times when I got under the weather growing up and especially when I was on those orders for soft diet post all the teeth extraction nightmares in life. Gentle on the stomach and needing negligible effort to chew, it is amazing how they can be so tasty and still packed with all the essentials to sustain the good and reverse the bad. Packed with carrots, tomatoes, onions and potatoes and a little extra protein, their health benefits derive from the antioxidants, minerals, dietary fiber and particularly the provitamin A, vitamin B and of course whatever amount of vitamin C that is left still after the long hours of simmering. A soup so aptly named!

There probably is not a golden rule as to how this should be made. There can be no limit to the types of ingredients to be included and how much of each to be used. This is the version that I have grown up getting to know and love, and so this is how it shall always be to me personally with carrots > potatoes > onions > tomatoes quantity-wise. As with all the other homemade soups, I always have the cooking started early in the day and leave them simmering gently away until dinner time. Tailor the amount of ingredients to how much soup you wish to make. Essentially it will be good as long as the composition remains the same as aforementioned. ABC soup is one of the few that I always make sure that I make more than enough for our main meals and a sip or two in between meals for a day or two and probably even three. And I better not forget mentioning that this is just the perfect fit to keep you hydrated as you battle through - nutritious and tasty, hearty and healthy.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Stir Fried Instant Noodles 炒即食面

Another weekend with not a particular craving in mind, just anything simple sounds and looks good enough to us as hubby and I are still coping with the overwhelming Thanksgiving dinner. Not keen on neither dining out nor getting myself busy in the kitchen as the weekend approaches its end, I resorted to what most students (despite me being a long gone one *blush*) turn to for an easy meal - instant noodles. My favorite version will be the Maggi mee goreng mamak (fried Maggi noodle à la mamak style) that I particularly loved having at mamak stalls in Malaysia. To catch sight of a packet of those curry flavored Maggi noodles is close to being impossible here where we live, but we have the Indomie instant noodle in abundance here instead. So different brand, different packaging, different taste but same cooking principles - they are basically the instant noodles stir fried using the noodles within the packet.

The Indomie instant noodles come in packages meant to be served as plain fried noodles - simply have them boiled and mixed with the seasonings and voilà - fried noodles delivered as instantly as promised. But while I am all leaning towards an easy night, I am still all in to make our dinner a proper wholesome meal still, or a rather balanced one at least. So with a little extra touch here and there, giving the final appearance a little color and extra flavor, you get a slightly more elaborated version of fried noodles that may leave your guests (in my case my hubby that is lol) not grasping even a trace of anything close to an instant quality after all.

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