Sunday, January 20, 2008

Open Dim Sum Thread

All over the world, people are eating dim sum today. This Hong Kong Style brunch is a family staple, and we are always on the search for a new and better dumpling house. We'll tell you about ours if you tell us about yours. Just post in the comment section below.

Enjoy!

Friday, January 18, 2008

It DOES take a village

I've tried a few blogs over the years. None have amounted to much, and it turns out (surprise) that blogging is hard. Staying motivated, finding new things to write about, etc takes a commitment. I am thrilled that our team at alltastesame has been able to keep up our momentum over the past few months, and I want to thank everyone who's contributed (to the writing, to the eating, to making suggestions) for helping us indulge our inner foodie. OK, it is not so "inner".

I also want to thank a few other bloggers who have responded to requests for information, provided encouragement, advice, etc. Thanks to berlinkitchen, Asian Grandmother Cookbook and now eatingasia for all of these inspiration and feedback. Some of you have inspired just by what you do, but all have been willing to share their thoughts and advice. For that, we're thankful.

All the best and happy eats.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Meme of Self

I was touched when I saw on one of my favorite food blogs a reference to our little page and a request for me to answer the questions posed in a meme

Who and I to say no to the hands of web-fate.
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What were you cooking/baking 10 years ago?
10 years ago I was working on government and putting in perhaps 60 hours a week. I had very little time to cook, but when I found the time tried to be as healthy as possible. I was also very single at the time, so much of my cooking was for one (I find it easier to cook for two especially since my wife is a willing consumer). I made a lot of pastas, and spent some time teaching myself how to make fresh pasta at home – so much better than dried. I also made a lot of curry soups and stews, using Thai canned curry (red, green yellow) and coconut milk. These were very useful for when I cooked for groups of friends.

What were you cooking/baking one year ago?
My wife and I were just newly married, and we did a not of cooking together – a lot of Chinese stir fry with fresh veggies, and I also worked to perfect my father-in-law’s spicy dry Indian shrimp with ginger and garlic.

Five snacks you enjoy:
Almonds
Sesame oil flavored seaweed sheets – like Asian chips made from laver
Fresh Clementine oranges
Pocky
bon-chon fried chicken

Five recipes you know by heart:
1) Stir-fry – because there is no recipe – just do it by feel
2) Southern Fried Chicken
3) Indian style dry shrimp with Ginger and Garlic
4) Florentine-style steak with rosemary sauce
5) 1-2-3-4-5 pork ribs

Five culinary luxuries you would indulge in if you were a millionaire:
1) my own garden for vegetables, herbs, and spicy peppers
2) only the finest fresh olive oils for cooking
3) my own butcher with an endless variety of fresh free range meats
4) Regular shipments of mangosteens – you can’t get them here in the US
5) my own cheese cave with cheeses from all over the world

Five foods you love to cook/bake:
1) Fresh dou miao – pea tendrils – with ginger and garlic
2) Fresh bread of any kind
3) I am really into making stuffed pastas lately with all kinds of fillings
4) Crispy roast duck
5) Fried chicken

Five foods you cannot/will not eat:
1) Tripe – can’t do it, lord knows I have tried
2) pig’s feet – trotters
3) Sea cucumber – just can’t dig it
That is about it.

Five favorite culinary toys:
1 - I love my Taiwanese knives made from former Chinese artillery shells – they are awesome
2 – my micro-grater
3) The mandolin my wife bought me many years ago
4) Salad spinner – saves so much time
5) our kitchen aid stand mixer with multiple attachments, including pasta maker and meat grinder

Five dishes on your "last meal" menu:
1 – A cheese selection from Bartholemy in Paris, including Epoisse
2 – my aunt Essie’s fried chicken
3 – pan-cooked trout I caught flyfishing
4 – Fresh sushi from the little dive near sukiji fish market I know
5 – Hong Kong dim sum


Five happy food memories:
1. the first time I made Jiaozi with my wife’s family
2. cooking spaghetti with aunt Essie – because she let me season the sauce
3. Eating Essie’s fried chicken before my brother’s wedding
4. Cooking the food my wife and I cooked at our Thai resort cooking class
5. Eating at Le Jovan in Paris with my father when I was 12 years old

I am passing this meme off to my friend Martin at Berlin Kitchen and ramblingspoon.com/blog/

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Chinese Dumplings (Jiaozi) for New Years

If you know any of the authors, or have read the blog before, you know we are a bit “overboard” when it comes to dumplings. Perhaps we were dumplings in a former life or something. Anyhow, with family in town we decided to make homemade Jiaozi – traditional Chinese dumplings. It’s a bit of a new year’s tradition within the family, and who are we to mess with tradition or pass on a dumpling consumption opportunity.

This step-by-step record of our dumpling day may help you if you decide to make your own dumplings. yes, yes, you can buy frozen, tastless versions in the costco, but these are so much better and as with som many things food related, the proces is part of the pleasure. Moreover, the version here is our version, but there are lots of variations to try, so don’t feel you have to stick with anything said below. If you like black mushrooms, for example, throw them in. Don't dig on no swine? Use beef. The options are endless.

You start with the filling. Ours is made with ground pork - about 2.5 pounds of it. Don't buy anything too lean - you need some fat in the mixture. If you find your is too lean, you can also add additional pork fat. Generally, to this we would add perhaps a 1/2 cup of dried shrimp, but we were out, so none in this patch.

To this you add chopped and drained Napa cabbage:


The cabbage must be cleaned and then chopped, salted and drained of water. THERE IS A LOT OF WATER IN CABBAGE and unless you follow these steps, the dumplings will be watery and have a very bland taste. The cabbage should be salted with a lot of salt and then allowed to sit and drain for at least 30 minutes – preferably with a weighted plate on top. We then wring out the cabbage in a dish towel until it is very dry.



Once this step is completed, add the cabbage to the pork and add in an egg as a binding agent, chopped green onions, corn oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, salt and ginger to taste. The resulting mixture looks something like this:



I believe the mixture benefits from a chance to sit and integrate. An hour if fine, overnight works too but there is no need to wait. if you want, just start wrapping.

Once the filling is complete, it’s time for the hands on process

WRAPPING

The techniques for wrapping dumplings vary and take a little time to master. It is a process best shared with a few friends or family members. You can make you own wrappers with simple flour and water, but better yet to buy some round pre-made Chinese wrappers. You can also use square won ton wrappers, but then the shape is different than what we use.



you add a small amount of filling to the center of the dumpling and then wet 180 degrees of the wrappers edge with water.



You then start to fold the dumpling in half, gathering the excess edge from one side together to form folds along the edge. You can fold them straight in half to made semi-circles, but by pleating them, you create a bottom to the dumpling that helps if you intend to pan fry some. Also, pleating adds lots of nice ridges for the dipping sauce.



Don't be discouraged - this takes time to master. There are also shortcuts, including the for purchase dumpling press available at Williams Sonoma. But they are much better if you do it by hand.

A finished dumpling should look like this:



You can then make a bunch of them:



You then boil in hot water, using the patented three boil method. Add the dumplings to boiling water. Wait for the water to come back to a boil, then add a cup of cold water.



Wait for the second boil, add another cup of cold water and then the water boils the third time - take em out and serve.



Mmmmmmmmm, heaven. Dipping sauces can vary. We like soy, sesame oil, a little hot sauce or chili oil and green onions.

We ate a large number of these at dinner - as many as 10-15 per person (ok, some even more I admit). It's good to make a large batch, and these freeze very well. The process for storage is to place the sheet pan with the fresh dumplings in the freezer to harden. Once set, then throw them in a zip lock freezer bag and boil whenever you want a really tasty snack.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Simple Pleasures – Shrimp Fried Rice

Stir-fried shrimp for New Year’s Eve resulted in leftovers. As the first hunger pangs of 2008 emerged, we decided to make use of what was on hand. The stir-fried shrimp from the previous night turned into a lovely, flavorful shrimp fried rice.

Started with scrambling some eggs, and then thawing some frozen peas, carrots and green beans. The shrimp were large, so we cut them into piece, and then chopped up some green onions and ginger. The last ingredient was plain white rice. Ideally, it would also be a day or two old, but we had to make some from scratch. If you have to do so, make sure the rice is well cooked and a little dry or the fried rice can get a little mushy. Final touches included a little soy sauce and a little sesame oil.



So here is wishing all of you a lovely 2008. Here’s hoping it is filled with simple (and not so simple) pleasures.