Saturday, April 30, 2011

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Roast Pork Belly, Peking Duck Style

Unless I'm baking, I rarely follow recipes to the tee. I find improvising to be a lot more fun and often more economical in terms of resources in the pantry. I made the exception with David Chang's preparation for his legendary Roast Pork Buns. There are just some recipes out there where you want to know how the original formula should work and taste. From there, you move on and adapt it as you see fit for yourself and your own audience. This was my intention. I cured the pork belly last night and brought it out this morning to roast so I could go to class and let it cool and sit in the fridge for a day (which is fine) while I procured the steamed buns from Buford Highway.

Roast Pork Wrap, inspired by David Chang's Roast Pork Buns
(click for glorious salivation)

But then a lightbulb went off- David Chang's roast pork buns are nothing more than a ripped version of Peking Duck, inspired by one of his local haunts in New York's Chinatown. Rather than the traditional pancake wrapper, they use steamed buns. What if I brought this back to the original with the pancakes? Oh ma gawd, YES! And what if I used scallion pancakes? So that's where I took a slight turn and ended up not following his recipe after all, and seeing as I could make these scallion pancakes at home, I could enjoy eating this that much sooner. Win.

These turned out to be Roast Pork Wraps, as if a taco/pita took a wrong turn in China or something. Spread a little hoison sauce on one half of the scallion pancake, add slices of the pork, some scallion slivers, pickled kirbies and daikon and that's it. One bite and it was an instant explosion of sweet and savory flavors, crunchy and soft textures. It was unctuous and it was refreshing all at once.

Just when I threw improvisation out the window, it came back and reminded me who's boss.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Playing with Seaweed

The farmer's market was selling these small packs of dried seaweed for something absurd like 60 cents each. I decided to give it a whirl for a rice bowl.

rice bowl: seaweed, pickled carrots, cucumber and daikon, soft-boiled egg
After hydrating them I realized that they were probably better suited for a brothy soup, but whatever. Tossed them with a bit of sesame oil and tamari soy. Julienned some carrots, daikon and kirby cucumbers... quick pickled them. Had an epic fail earlier trying to emulate Tim Ferriss' egg blowing trick, but the eggs were still good, so I had me some semi-soft boiled eggs. Plopped it all on some steamed rice and I'm good to go.

Y'all Know I Love Eggs

but this is fucking crazy!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

OMG Kale

It's kale time. Kale is one of those super veggies- high in nutritional value, antioxidants, etc etc etc... But it tastes awful if you don't know what you're doing. I feel like the boiled route, similar to collards and mustards, can make it kind of boring, and that's why we have collards, anyway, right? I really prefer to shred kale superfine to break down the texture and then sautee it with garlic. This is my answer to a lot of vegetables, but it hasn't ever done me wrong and interestingly, it's how I've convinced many veggie haters to eat veggies.

garlic sauteed kale, scallion scramble with sriracha, 10min quick pickles

Here, I've used the garlic preparation with the kale and served it alongside a scallion scramble and 10 minute quick pickles. Downed with a bottle of Regatta Ginger Beer and it's a good Tuesday brunch before class.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Shoe Box Fried Chicken

It's been such a lovely weekend. I got to tag along for a trip to the Dekalb Farmer's Market and pick up some much needed fruits and veggies. I also got some pork belly for some culinary fun later this week. Additionally, I got together with some friends and had a picnic in Piedmont Park. We got under the shade of a big tree, ate fried chicken, caprese salad, grapes and fresh baked bread. We read from David Wondrich's Punch and laughed at how preposterous so many of the recipes sounded. And then we laid there for an hour and did nothing.

The fried chicken I made was surprisingly good. I've decided that I hate deep frying foods. I mean, I love deep fried foods, but it's such a hassle to actually do it at home. At any rate, I figured that some wings (surprise!) would be super easy. No batter- just a flour/corn starch/old bay dredge. Aside from the mess of the job, the wings turned out fabulously.

shoebox fried chicken

I then tweaked a sriracha sauce with some soy and ginger, plopped everything in a paper bag lined shoe box and there ya have it! Shoe box fried chicken! (dunno why they look so small in the pic)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

RECIPE: Star Anise Chicken

I invited my friend Pam over to catch up on life and throw back a few beers after a long exam week. It's also been a long time since I've really cooked a meal. Figured I'd default to one of my favorite homemade comfort foods- chicken braised in a sweet and garlicky star anise soy. It's really easy (my definition), I never make it the same way twice, and it's always delicious.

star anise pods

If you've never seen star anise before, it's a dried spice that translates a lot of anise flavor to any sauce it's cooked in. It's very strong, so you don't need much. When combined with soy, garlic, a little ginger and sugar, the resulting flavor is remarkably bright and floral. If cooked long enough, whole garlic cloves will literally melt in your mouth and impart an impossibly sweet and savory flavor.

star anise chicken, summer squash and carrots

The chicken is obviously the best part, and I've been tweaking the recipe each time to try and find ways to make it even better. Usually, I'll start cooking the chicken from the very beginning so that it absorbs as much flavor as possible from the braising liquid, but I found that by the time I finally found the sauce to be suitable, the chicken would be overcooked. This time, in order to fix this, after de-boning the chicken thighs, I used the bones first in the braising liquid. After letting that simmer away for about 45 minutes, I added the chunks of meat and let that go for another 30 or so minutes. The meat didn't absorb as much sauce as usual, but it tasted more like chicken... and with that sauce... omg heaven.

  • 2-3 lbs chicken thighs, with skin and bones
  • 10 cloves garlic, slightly smashed and peeled
  • 1 sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 inch piece ginger, smashed
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 tbsp mushroom soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup xiaoshing wine or dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Trim the fat from the chicken thighs, leaving some skin. De-bone, reserving the bones. Cut the remaining meat into six pieces.

In a medium pan on high heat, add some cooking oil. When it begins to shimmer, add the garlic and onions. When the onions begin to sweat, add all of the remaining ingredients except for the meat (yes the bones at this point). Top off with chicken stock or water to one inch above the bones. Let simmer low for 45 minutes.

Remove the star anise and ginger. Add the thigh meat and continue to simmer low for one half hour. Taste and adjust with sugar, salt or soy depending on your preferences. Serve over steamed rice with veggies sauteed with ginger and garlic. Top with a little hot sauce to contrast with the sweetness.

Monday, April 18, 2011

RECIPE: Fried Wontons

My roommate was putting together a Southeast Asian themed dinner party this weekend with a focus on the use of lemongrass- Vietnamese meatballs in lettuce cups; beef rendang. I was going to contribute a lemongrassy version of my family's fried dumplings, but then I found myself with less than a few hours on the clock, and going with what was immediately available around me, I went with a recipe for fried wontons.

shrimp and pork filled fried wontons

I actually don't remember ever making wontons before. It may have to do with my family's regional upbringing, but we always made dumplings at home. In the US, Chinese American restaurants usually use a very flavorful pork filling and they're found in either wonton soup or fried with a side of sweet and sour sauce. In the more authentic cuisine I've had, wontons are rarely fried (though they can be) and they're filled with a combination of shrimp and pork, often served over noodle soup. The wrappers are much more delicate and practically melt in your mouth to reveal the tender filling.

After doing some research online, here's the filling recipe I ultimately adapted and went with:

  • 1/2 lb lean ground pork
  • 1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 4 whole water chestnuts
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
  • 1 tsp very finely chopped ginger
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp mushroom soy
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp white pepper

Coursely chop the shrimp. Finely chop the water chestnuts. Combine everything in a bowl and mix well. Let sit an hour in the refrigerator, covered, before using.

I was actually quite surprised at how well these turned out for a first try. The flavor profiles were verging on what pork and shrimp shiu mai taste like, minus the mushroom. I have a lot of the filling left, so I may find myself experimenting in the dim sum realm...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I Think I'm Turning Japanese (Korean?)

I'm approaching exam time here at school and it's in stressful situations like these that I begin to crave a lot of comfort foods. In my case this usually means taking some chicken thighs and braising them with mushroom soy, Xiaoshing wine, Chinese rock candy sugar, star anise and a lot of garlic. I like to enjoy this served over steamed white rice and a spoonful of garlic chili sauce whose hot acidity contrasts with the dish's fragrant sweetness.

Over the years in Atlanta, my cravings have adapted from Chinese-centric to something more pan-Asian: dirt cheap banh-mi, pho, soondubu and the banchan that accompanies it, bibimbap, a good bowl of freshmade ramen, izakaya snacks, rendang... With the exception of Chinese and the Japanese food I mentioned, it has been in Atlanta, and not my hometown of New York, where I was first introduced to exceptional Asian cuisine.

I've found that the massive hoards of the Chinese population in New York really dominate a lot of the flavors of Asian food there. Much in the way that authentic Chinese restaurants will still include General Tso's Chicken on their menus for the occasional non-Chinese diner, I've seen a lot of authentic Vietnamese and Japanese restaurants in New York include authentic Chinese dishes. It's a peculiar phenomenon, but it really happens.

In Atlanta, it's the polar opposite: massive hoards of Vietnamese, Korean, Thai... not so much of the Chinese. The authentic Chinese food is generally okay, not great, because there isn't a huge Chinese population here. Likewise, at authentic Chinese restaurants, you'll find Vietnamese and sometimes Korean options. The tables have turned. I don't think my father could survive with these options, but I know I've enjoyed it quite well.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ain't No Thang

But a chicken wang! Obama agrees. I grilled these babies up yesterday and they got gobbled up by my half drunk friends. There was something oh so wrong about the preparation, though. I first let the wings marinate for an hour in soy, red pepper flakes and a lot of finely chopped scallions. After grilling them, I tossed them with pork jelly! That is, leftover liquid from the pork butt I had braised a while back, gelatinized. I enhanced this with sugar and grated ginger and oh my goodness, it was so incredibly good.

grilled chicken wings tossed in pork sauce over a bed of watercress

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Chatham Artillery Punch

Surely, there's a classier way to serve this, but I didn't have a horse bucket that the recipe recommended. David Wondrich's Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl is perhaps one of the best gifts I've ever received. He goes into great historical detail the origins and methods of mixing punch for large booze-laden parties.

Chatham Artillery Punch

The ingredients of this one are pretty ridonculous: prepared oleo-saccharum, one bottle each of bourbon, rum and cognac, and three bottles of champagne. Ice. That's it. And smiles :-)