Sunday, February 6, 2011

Happy Lunar New Year!

Lunar New Year was actually last Thursday, February 3rd, but Spring Festival's still going on; it's a two week celebration. My family wasn't very traditional, but we did celebrate Chinese festivals at a minimal level (so we did the New Year's Eve eating with family/friends and red envelopes). Pictured above is 羅蔔糕 luobogao (radish cake), a traditional food for Chinese New Year, and also commonly served at dimsum. The traditional foods for the New Year tend to be symbolic for punny reasons (a side note: puns are a HUGE part of East Asian humor). In the case of luobogao, it's because gao, which means something like paste or cake in this case, is a homonym for "tall," and you want to grow tall.

Making this is quite a process! But it's a fantastic dish. I mostly followed this recipe at Asian Dumpling Tips*, but halved the quantities and just dropped the wheat starch altogether and only used rice flour. Check out photos from the process, below:

 Grating the 白蘿蔔 bailuobo (white radish, a.k.a. daikon)
Radish with sausage, shrimp, scallions, cooked and ready to steam.

 My new steaming setup: steaming pan with wok and lid! So much better than the pot or sauté pan I was trying to get by with before. More to come on the wok in the future.

 Forty minutes later, ready to cool off and then pan fry. Can be eaten as is, but frying makes the skin and textures so much better.

Mmm, seared to perfection.

The textures came out perfectly. It was crispy on the outside and gooey on the inside. Yes, the recipe I referenced wanted a more "bouncy" texture, but I like it this way and don't want to bother with finding wheat starch. The flavor, on the other hand, wasn't quite there. The daikon flavor was really sharp. I'm not sure why that was. Maybe it was the radishes themselves. Maybe I should have cooked it longer than the recipe called for.

Actually, there are several things I'll do differently next time: pan fry the sausage and shrimp (and include black/shiitake mushrooms) first before adding the daikon into the pot rather than simmering the daikon and then adding the sausage, etc. to the pot. This, I believe, will bring out the savory flavors of the meats (and mushrooms) better since they were hardly present this time. I'll also try simmering the radish a little longer in hopes that the biting flavor of the radish will be reduced. I may also just skip on that whole wringing out the radish liquids. When I did that, the amount of liquid was exactly the amount the recipe said to add water up to--in other words, the radishes already had the right amount of water in them naturally. Though I suppose wringing it out lets you be precise in case of individual variation.

One last note: the red sauce in the opening photo is not ketchup, but rather sriracha sauce. I prefer a mixture of oyster sauce/soy paste, though. In any case, all in all, I'm happy with how things turned out.

*It's weird to me that the author, Andrea Nguyen, refers to luobogao as dumplings. I had to look it up, and I guess technically they are since apparently dumplings aren't necessarily filled and are just based on some cooked flour..


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