雞年

Dear Reader(s),

好久不見 I’ve been silent for a long while now, it was nothing personal, just I had a lot going on. After moving to central New York we decided to buy a house and well looking for a house took most of the latter half of last year. Then buying, then I started in on refinishing floors, painting walls, etc., etc. You get the idea.

Then there was those weeks of raking leaves. Then the snow fell, and fell, and, fell. All that has given me little time to adjust to slow pace of rural life and even slower internet speed.

Pre Thanksgiving Snow

A little Thanksgiving snowfall.

I was beginning to think that the snow would never end and the daily shoveling was starting to be a bit of a bore. But, alas some unusually warm weather arrived and the snow disappeared.

At which point I decided to tap a few of the maple trees that dot our property. Making maple syrup is not something I’ve done since I was about five years old. And I am sure at that point I was more of a hinderance than a help. Not that it is terribly complicated, mostly just a lot of boiling.

However, being that we moved in rather later into the fall than I had hoped to I was not able to amass any firewood for doing even a makeshift outside evaporator. So I’ve been doing it on the stovetop. Which is not ideal, but it did help with the wallpaper removal I was planning on doing.

So while at the moment I am a slave to the flow of sap in the trees in the near future I do hope to return to a more regular posting schedule.

Maple Tap

The slow beginnings of maple syrup.

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肉燥飯 Stewed Pork Rice

I stayed up late to watch Taiwan’s Presidential Inauguration a couple weeks back and I was admittedly swept up in emotion of the event. So I thought I should pay tribute to Taiwan by sharing a simple recipe for one of the most Taiwanese dishes I can think of. 肉燥飯 (ròu zào fàn or in Taiwanese: bah-sò-pn̄g) also know as 滷肉飯 (lǔ ròu fàn or in Taiwanese: ló͘-bah-pn̄g).

Simple roadside stall food that has provided cheap and quick meals to Taiwanese for generations. The fragrance that fills the house when it is simmering brings me back to Taiwan, at least in my mind. True comfort food.

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At some roadside stand in 知本

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Recipe:

  • 1&1/2 lb. of pork belly with the skin, diced*
  • crispy fried shallots (or 6-7 fresh shallots, sliced)
  • 3 T. chopped garlic, ~5 cloves
  • 1/2 c. soy sauce
  • 1/2 c. rice wine
  • 3 T. sugar (demerara sugar is best)
  • 1/2 t. five spice powder
  • 1/2 t. white pepper powder
  • 4 c. of stock or water
  • optional, cilantro to garnish
  • optional, hard boiled eggs

Method: 

  1. Dice the pork belly and set aside.
  2. Heat a wok and add 3 T. of oil.
  3. To the hot wok add the chopped garlic and crispy fried (or sliced) shallots, stir fry until fragrant.
  4. Add the sugar, five spice powder, and white pepper, stir fry for a few seconds.
  5. Add the diced pork belly (or ground pork) to wok and stir fry until it starts to change color.
  6. Add the soy sauce, rice wine, and stock and bring to a boil.
  7. Lower the heat and simmer for an hour.
  8. If you would like add some peeled hard boiled eggs and braise for about 20 minutes.
  9. Serve over rice, garnish with cilantro.

*feel free to use ground pork here instead, this is simple food after all

台灣加油!

 

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開陽白菜 Chinese Cabbage with Dried Shrimp

Recently I was looking through my beginners Chinese textbook from Tunghai University in Taichung. I was doing a little reviewing on account that over the past couple years I have had little regular practice conversing in Mandarin and therefor last year’s trips to Taiwan were a bit of a wake up call. Though the review ended up being a bit of a nostalgia trap, oh the memories, those carefree days filled with studying and confusion.

However, in one of the chapters I had more or less forgotten about there was a list of Chinese dishes that the teachers at the Chinese Language Center, who also happen to write the textbooks, feel that it is compulsory to know. Such as Mapo Tofu and Kung Pao Chicken. Among the short list of dishes is one that is so common in Taiwan that you don’t even notice it after a while. In fact I make some version of it so often that I don’t even think about it. It is just there on the table next to rice and some sort of main dish. But like all supporting roles, a meal just wouldn’t be the same without it.

Of course I am referring to 開陽白菜 (kāi yáng bái cài) Chinese Cabbage with Dried Shrimp. That slightly homely, unassuming, ubiquitous vegetable dish that just happens to be at almost every meal, but I seem to have not bothered to write about. Because, you know, it will always be there. Well finally maybe I should bring it out into the spotlight.

Incidentally 開陽 (kāi yáng) refers to the dried shrimp (蝦米 xiā mi) in the dish that gives it a wonderful umami flavor that is quickly addictive. But the thing is I don’t understand this particular moniker for the dried shrimp or its etymology. I mean yes I can directly translate it (開陽 = open sun), but that does not make it make sense. Perhaps it is due to the color of the shrimp. Anyway if anyone wants to let me know, I am all ears.

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Recipe:

  • 21 oz. (600 g./about half a head) of Chinese/Napa Cabbage
  • 3 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 T. dried shrimp 蝦米 (more or less depending on personal preference)
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 3/4 c. of chicken stock
  • 1/2 t. of salt
  • 1/4 t. of sugar
  • 1 t. of corn starch mixed with 1 T. of cold water
  • 1 t. of sesame oil

Method:

  1. Soak the dried shiitake mushrooms and the dried shrimp in warm water for about 30 minutes. Then slice the mushrooms and roughly chop the shrimp.
  2. Roughly chop the Chinese cabbage into bite size pieces, wash and drain.
  3. Heat a wok over medium high heat until hot. Add 2 T. of oil.
  4. To the hot wok add the garlic, sliced mushrooms and dried shrimp, stir fry until fragrant.
  5. Then add the chopped cabbage and chicken stock. Stir, cooking until the cabbage is just tender.
  6. Then add the salt, and sugar.
  7. Add the cornstarch and water mixture stirring a few times until the liquid thickens a little.
  8. Remove from heat and add the sesame oil.
  9. Place in a serving bowl and if you would like you can add some cilantro for garnish.
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傳統油飯 Traditional Taiwanese Sticky Rice

One of my favorite foodstuffs in the world is glutenous rice. The QQ texture is just something I love. Whether it is ground into chewy mochi or in more hearty forms such as zongzi. Lucky for me, and not at all surprising, the Taiwanese also hold a special regard for glutenous rice. In Taiwan a traditional use of glutenous rice is in 油飯 (yóu fàn), literally “oil rice.” Perhaps not the best sounding name in English, so I think maybe “Taiwanese Sticky Rice” is probably the best English name I have come across.

油飯 is a very common celebration and festival food in Taiwan. It is often served to celebrate the birth of a child, at New Year’s meals, and at temple celebrations. But it is also not at all uncommon to find 油飯 in more everyday settings as well. In fact my favorite place to get油飯 is on the station platform at Taichung’s train station. It is one of my favorite parts of the railroad experience in central Taiwan, something I always look forward to. Something to snack on while the trains speeds through the rice paddies of the southern plain.

steamed glutinous rice with goodies

A quick snack for the train

The ubiquitous presence of 油飯 is possibly owing to the simplicity of it. Even though it is a pretty rich dish it is essentially fried (glutenous) rice. It is a little more involved than regular fried rice, as in there is a steamer involved (twice), but nothing too daunting. There is also nothing too exotic about the ingredients. Though I would suggest finding long grained glutenous rice (長糯米 zhǎng nuò mǐ) which is favored by the Taiwanese for glutenous rice dishes. It tends to hold its shape better than the short grained variety. Fortunately long grained glutenous rice is pretty easy to track down at most any SE Asian market.

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I am going to pass on a traditional and simple recipe for 油飯 though there are numerous variations and manifestations. Such as there are braised peanuts (滷花生 lǔ huā shēng) in the 油飯 I get from the train station from Taichung, which I really like. Some people like to substitute sesame oil for some of the oil or lard used in the recipe. This gives it a pleasant flavor and aroma, just remember to substitute not add extra. As the addition of too much oil makes it unpleasantly greasy.

Recipe:

  • 3 c. (600g) long grained glutenous rice
  • 7 oz. (200g) pork belly, cut into thin strips*
  • 5-10 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced
  • 2 T. (30g) dried shrimp, soaked and chopped
  • 8 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 T. lard
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 1/2 c. (100 ml) stock
  • 2 T. rice wine
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of white pepper
  • fresh cilantro leaves (and maybe some chili sauce)

Method:

  1. Wash and soak the long grained glutenous rice for at least 5 hours.
  2. Soak the dried mushrooms and dried shrimp in warm water for 30 minutes. Then slice the mushrooms and roughly chop the shrimp.
  3. Line a steamer basket with cheese cloth or other similar light fabric.  Place the soaked rice in the lined steamer and steam on high for about 30 minutes. Until the grains are translucent and tender.
  4. While the rice is steaming heat your wok over medium high heat. To the hot wok add the 4 T. of lard (or oil). Once the lard is hot add the sliced shallots. Fry until lightly golden brown.
  5. Next add the sliced mushrooms, chopped dried shrimp Stir fry until fragrant.
  6. Then add the sliced pork and fry until it changes color.
  7. Add the sugar, soy sauce, stock, rice wine, salt and white pepper.
  8. Lower the heat to low then add the steamed glutenous rice. Carefully and slowly mix in the rice until it is fully combined. Remove from heat.
  9. Place the rice mixture into a heat proof bowl(s) that fits in your steamer. Place the bowl(s) of rice mixture into a steamer and steam for a further 10 minutes.
  10. Serve with chopped cilantro and some chili sauce if so desired.

* If you would like you can marinate the sliced pork in a mixture of 1 T. rice wine, 1 T. soy sauce, and 1 t. of corn starch, for 30 minutes prior to frying. Strictly speaking it is not necessary, but it is totally worth it. Also you really can use whatever cut of pork you want, some prefer leaner cuts.

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炸豆渣塊

炸豆渣塊 (zhà dòu zhā kuài) I guess you could call them “Vegetarian Nuggets.” Literally it translates as “deep fried soybean dregs pieces,” so that is might not be the best name for them. Basically when you make soy milk or tofu you end up with a bunch of leftover ground soybean dregs that you have to find a use for and these nuggets are one of those uses.

Often I use the leftover soybean dregs in Biji Jjigae, but I am always looking for other uses for the stuff. I came across this recipe a while back and I was excited to try it. It reminded me some of the things I find in some of the vegetarian Buddhist restaurants I like to visit on occasion when I am in Taiwan. I am not a vegetarian per say, but I like the artistry that goes into the variety of textures and flavors they create.

This is a really easy recipe, especially if you have a digital scale, but if not, an old school scale works just fine. But do pay attention to the order of addition of the ingredients for best results.

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Recipe:

  • 7 oz. (200g) soybean dregs/pulp
  • 1-2 slices of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 oz. (30g) corn or tapioca starch
  • 5 T. (75ml/g) water
  • 2 1/2 oz. (70g) all purpose flour
  • Dipping salt (salt mixed with white pepper or 5 spice powder) (optional)
  • oil for deep frying

Method:

  1. To the soybean dregs add the minced fresh ginger and corn starch and mix in.
  2. Add 5 T. to water and mix in. To that mix in the 2 1/2 oz. (more or less) of flour to form a dough that is easy to mold. (Not so soft that it doesn’t hold its shape, not so dry that it falls apart.)
  3. Form the dough into little nuggets about the size and shape of chicken nuggets.
  4. In a deep pan heat a few inches of oil to 320° F or 160° C.
  5. A few at a time add the nuggets to the hot oil, fry for about 5 or 6 minutes. Until the nuggets float to the top and turn golden brown.
  6. Remove to a draining rack.
  7. Serve with a dipping salt or dipping sauce. Or you could even use them in stir fry dishes such as a sweet and sour.

 

 

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排骨炆菜頭 Pork Ribs Braised with Radish

Being that the Lunar New Years Celebration is just behind us I should have gotten this recipe out a bit earlier. Considering that it uses one of the auspicious symbols of the New Years, the daikon/white radish. Not to mention this recipe is a Hakka dish that is often associated with the New Years celebration. In fact it is one of the eight traditional dishes of the Hakka celebrations, the so called  四炆四炒 (sì wén sì chǎo), four braised and four stir fried dishes.

So here it is  a bit late, the Hakka recipe for 排骨炆菜頭 (pái gǔ wén cài tóu or in Hakka: pai  gud vun lo ped e) or Pork Ribs Braised with Radish.

It is wonderful and wonderfully simple dish that is easy enough to make whenever you would like and it is really nice in those cold winter nights. Or when you have a banquet to prepare for whatever the case may be.

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排骨炆菜頭

Recipe:

  • 1 & 1/2 lbs. (600 g.) pork ribs (split)
  • 1 lb. (500 g.) daikon/white radish, sliced or cubed
  • 1  carrot (optional), sliced
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, sliced thin
  • 4 c. (800 ml) water
  • 1 T. rice wine
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. ground white pepper
  • 1 T. fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Method:

  1. split the ribs apart and blanch in boiling water for a couple minutes
  2. Place the blanched ribs, water, rice wine, and ginger in a pot and bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and simmer the ribs for about 30 minutes. (Skim off any scum and foam that forms.)
  3. Add the the sliced or cubed daikon/white radish and the sliced carrot and simmer for a further 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Add the ground white pepper and salt. Gently stir in.
  5. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the chopped cilantro leaves.
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蘿蔔燒肉 Braised Pork and Daikon Radish

It has been a while since I had time to post a recipe so I thought I would start with a very simple one. A home style version of 蘿蔔燒肉 (luó bo shāo ròu), braised pork and daikon radish. A little bit sweet, a little bit salty, a bit of spice from the radish, it is a great dish for the winter months. Nice and hearty.

The 蘿蔔 (luó bo) aka Chinese White Radish, aka Daikon (I will use daikon, because I think that most people are familiar with that moniker in english) is popular in winter dishes in many parts of East Asia. For pretty much the same reasons that root crops are traditionally popular in the west during the winter…they store well. Of course I had to drive to bloody Utica to find one.

But it is well worth it as they are of great use in the kitchen.

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Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium daikon radish (about 600g)
  • 1 lb (500g) pork shoulder
  • 3-4 slices of ginger
  • 1 c. water
  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 2 T. rice wine
  • 2 T. sugar

Method:

  1. Peal the daikon radish, quarter lengthwise, then cut the quarters into 1/2 to 3/4 inch segments.
  2. Cube the pork (about 1 & 1/2 inch pieces).
  3. Heat a wok over high heat, when hot add 1 T. of oil.
  4. To the wok add the cubed pork, stir fry until browned, add the ginger stir fry for a few seconds until fragrant, then add the cubed daikon radish and stir fry for a few more seconds.
  5. Then add the water, soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar.
  6. Cover the wok, reduce the heat to medium and braise the pork and daikon radish for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the radish is translucent.
  7. Uncover and cook on high until the liquid is reduced to about 1/4 cup. Just enough to to glaze the pork and radish.

 

 

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