Saturday, August 27, 2011

糖醋排骨 TangCu PaiGu

"AAAH, issa swee- an sowah pohk!!"
Name that quote! Well, I let this instance of all-out stereotyping slide because Matt Stone and Trey Parker are equal opportunity stereotypers, usually in a very evidently self-aware way.

But indeed, this is sweet and sour pork. Cool! Or more accurately translated, Sugar-Vinegar Pork. What? It looks different than what you usually consider "sweet and sour pork" in Americanized Chinese restaurants? Well, that's because it's a different dish! I'm actually just realizing this myself, looking at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook (whence this recipe came). I've known of the two sweet/sour flavored pork dishes, but the one with small, deep fried chunks of pork is actually called 咕咾肉 gu lao rou. Er, the literal translation doesn't really make sense (mutter noise meat) and I don't know anything about the etymology. Interestingly enough, Patricia Tanumihardja (author of Asian Grandmothers) translates "gu lao rou" as "sweet and sour pork" (which I suppose isn't really wrong) and just calls "tang cu pai gu" "1-2-3-4-5 Sticky Spareribs" (based on the proportions in her recipe), maybe because otherwise she'd have to come up with a name for gu lao rou or use the awkward literal translation.

I've definitely seen tang cu pai gu much much more commonly than gu lao rou. Hmm. Actually I can't remember the last time I saw gu lao rou in a Chinese restaurant...I'll have to try to keep an eye out for it in the future. In any case, tang cu pai gu isn't deep fried. What? It still looks different than the tang cu pai gu you have in Chinese restaurants? Yeah, huh, the pros' dish is generally more deeply and darkly colored than how mine turned out. Probably recipe differences. I also definitely used the wrong cut for this dish (pork loin instead of ribs or some kind of more fatty, bone-in cut, but the manner of cutting isn't available in Western grocery chains). What's wrong with pork loin? Well, it's a lean cut and so cooks through faster (especially the thin cut loins that are commonly available), but the sauce takes a long time to reduce to the thick, concentrated consistency you want. So the meat in mine ended up a little dry, but it was still delicious. I'm not picky like that (though I do clearly very much appreciate it the better food is done). I suppose it's because the sauce has a very strong role in the dish, too.

Next time I'll try using the "country style ribs". Generally sold boneless, but the meat's fattier. Hmm, I wonder if the bonelessness affects things in this dish (in a soup/stew it certainly would). Actually, you know what, I don't know--the shape of the cut for tang cu pai gu looks like loin but with bone on the side. Maybe it's just a thick-cut bone-in pork chop. In any case, a thicker, fattier cut would handle the longer cooking better.

Wow, this post really ballooned on me. Interesting stuff, though!

See my revision and recipe here!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Green Curry

Damn. So...Thai green curry from scratch takes a lot of ingredients. I followed this recipe. Made from scratch, though, is much more fragrant and tasty than the pre-made paste you can buy in Asian food markets. If you've got the time, then I'd say it's worth it. I'm missing some ingredients here, and had to substitute lime zest for the makrut (kaffir...I recently learned of the racially derogatory roots of the word, "kaffir") lime leaves and pickled bird peppers for fresh Thai peppers. I've not worked with makrut limes/leaves, though, so I don't know how close a substitute lime zest is. But zesting the lime with knives was a gigantic grater wasn't able to grate the lime skin for some reason... The pickled bird peppers I'm realizing as I occasionally use them, are not as spicy as I'd prefer.

sliced off strips of the peel, which was very thin on this lime. Then removed the pith (it would be bitter otherwise).

next, sliced the peel strips very thinly

 green curry ingredients ready to process


mmm, looks and smells great, sizzling away

But then came the coconut milk. In my opinion, this recipe calls for a little too much. The flavor and spice was dulled down a bit by the amount of coconut milk. In the future I will use chicken stock to fill out the liquid volume.

looks neat, though. hmm, makes me miss matcha lattes and matcha cakes. and matcha desserts in general.

And tragedy struck: I realized this go-round with coconut curry that I have the same issues with coconuts as I do with all nuts (as coconuts are nuts after all). Yes, it's not mentioned in the blurb on the side of the blog, but in addition to milk products, I also avoid nuts, chocolate, and excessive glucose consumption as my system complains when I have them. Le sigh. So it goes.

pretty pikchar

If only I'd drizzled better

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Luobogao Revisited

蘿蔔糕 Luobogao is delicious! But it's a very involved process with many steps. I've done a post on it before, but really, I lucked out with the how the texture turned out that time. I've since tried making it several more times, making various mistakes along the way. Now, I've finally got things down pretty clearly, so I'm including my recipe this time, too. Just a couple details I learned along the way:
  • Fresher turnip grates much more easily and quickly. Buy as fresh as you can; you will save a lot of time in the grating step. (oh Harris Teeter/other customers, we need faster turnover of produce)
  • Water needs to be added to the turnip when boiling it. However, how much water you add will affect how much of the rice flour mixture you should add to get the texture you want.
  • It's best for the luobogao to be near room temperature when you sauté it. If it's too cold (bringing out from refrigeration), the browned surface will separate from the cake when you try to flip it (you can see in the pic above)--unless you've gone for a high rice flour:turnip ratio and bouncier texture. If it's too warm (still cooling from steaming), the cake will be softer and more difficult to handle and flip in one piece.
  • For the texture I like (crisp outside with soft/gooey interior), roughly a 4:1 ratio of turnip/water to rice flour mixture is what you want to aim for.

 Ingredients ready to go


 Boiling the luobo. You actually want maybe twice this amount of water (this pic was before I realized the need to add water).

 Adding the other ingredients in with the turnip.

 Mixing in the rice flour mixture.

 This is actually from the subsequent attempt. This looks about right, but maybe a touch too much rice flour.

Steamed and needs to cool before turning out, cutting, and sautéing.

羅蔔糕 Luo Bo Gao (Turnip Cake)
Makes 1 cake

2-3 黑香菇 hei xiang gu black mushroom (shiitake), soaked overnight, diced
12 small dried shrimp, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes, chopped
1 pound 白蘿蔔 bai luo bo (daikon) radish
~1 cup water
3/4 - 1 cup white rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1-2 links 香腸 xiang chang (Chinese sausage), diced
2 green onion, chopped

Vegetable oil
Sriracha + [oyster sauce or jiang you gao soy sauce paste]

  1. Mix rice flour, salt, and white pepper in a bowl and set aside
  2. Peel turnip and grate through small holes of grater.
  3. Pour grated turnip into large pot, add water (turnip shouldn’t be swimming in water but enough for a “slurry”) and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Heat skillet over medium-high heat, add oil. Once oil is shimmering, add sausage, mushroom, shrimp and green onion whites through middles and sauté several minutes (adding the green parts of scallion later), until fragrant and starting to brown.
  5. Mix in the sausage, mushrooms, shrimp, and green onion with the turnip, cover pot, and cook for 5 minutes longer.
  6. Remove from heat. Slowly add the rice flour mixture and whisk until well incorporated. Mixture should be of a thick, porridge-like, dropping consistency.
  7. Prepare steamer (I use a wok with steaming rack and lid), bringing water to boil over high heat. Be sure to have enough water in the steamer for the length of time.
  8. Pour turnip mixture into a medium-sized, flat-bottomed, heatproof dish. Use the back of a spoon or ladle to smooth out the surface of the mixture.
  9. Steam mixture for about 45 minutes, or until chopstick inserted into cake comes out clean.
  10. Remove dish from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  11. Once cooled, gently turn turnip cake onto a cutting board. Slice into smaller pieces before searing. (You can wrap the cake in plastic wrap and refrigerate to save for later. Bring to room temperature before sautéing so the browned surface doesn’t separate from the rest of the cake.)
  12. Heat skillet over medium to medium-high heat, add oil. Once oil is shimmering, place turnip cake slices in skillet and brown on both sides (3-4 minutes each). Serve with sriracha + oyster sauce or soy sauce paste on the side, or any sauce you like.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

稀飯|粥 xifan, zhou, jook, congee

This one's on the more "wonkish" side of Chinese cuisine (and really, many Asian cuisines). By that I mean that it's not part of the common, Americanized repertoire of "Chinese food". Xifan, as my Taiwanese family calls it, is rice porridge, more commonly called "congee" in English. Basically, it's rice that's been boiled for long enough to soften up and disaggregate into a porridge-like consistency. Based on preference, your congee can be more watery, with the grains relatively intact, or thicker and more porridgey. I've generally seen it as breakfast food and for when you're ill, prepared simply with water, relying on the other foods and garnishes you eat with the congee for flavor. I've heard Koreans eat it as hangover food, too, which makes a lot of sense; this keeps in line with the sick-food theme as it's light and not likely to upset your stomach.

This particular version of it, however, is savory and salty--the Cantonese preparation of it, called juk. The rice is cooked a very long time with pork bones and salted such that it's thick and smooth and filled with umami. This rice is delicious by itself! Though you still eat it with other things.

parboiling the bones, skimming scum

 after the rice and bones have boiled some 3-4 hours, the bones are removed

mmm, goes down so smooooth