Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tangzhong Loaf with Green Tea Custard

Okay, seriously, I surrender. I'll admit it: I'm bored. I need to go back to school, even if it means the hell of finals and stress and week-long, exercise-deprived library visits.  It's horrible! And the worst thing is that we've sort of hit a heat wave here in NorCal, and even I'm not bored or crazy enough to go running in this heat. Plus, Dad is still in Vegas for his convention, so I don't have anyone to cook for (Mom won't eat my food, unless it's to humor me)! So I'm here stuck at home, doing some occasional cooking for no one, and occasionally watching some of Mom's korean dramas (ugh, what have I resorted to!).

The other day I tried making more Tangzhong Starter because Mom has this thing against crusty breads (she says it makes her teeth feel like they're going to fall out), and Tangzhong is supposed to yield a softer crumb. I found a recipe on Do What I Like for a soft bread loaf and thought it would be fun to make some buns with them. Since I had leftover frozen matcha custard filling from my dorayaki pancakes, I decided to fill them up with it. However, I read somewhere (I lost the link) that you can also fill it with pork floss or Rou Song, so I've posted the recipe below. However, in general, this bread is very versatile and can be filled with anything from red bean paste to hot dogs or curry.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Miso Soup

I know, this isn't exactly a recipe, and I certainly cannot claim credit for making this (well, unless you count pouring in the hot water). But our next-door neighbors had just come back from a family vacation to their hometown in Osaka, Japan, and they brought back a very interesting souvenir for us.

It was a very beautiful (as are all things Japanese) box containing 9 different shapes that looked a lot like cookies or cakes. Good thing we didn't eat them though, because they were in fact ready-made miso soup mixes! Apparently, each 'shape' represents a different flavor, but we've only tried the orange one on the left so far. The cookie-like thing is actually a giant inflatable tofu containing dried green onions and some kind of pink vegetable. There's also some seasoning packets inside. Overall, it was very convenient and tasty - just like the real thing! Mom told me to pack it away and take it with me to Philadelphia, where I probably won't have such easy access to fresh food.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dorayaki with Green Tea Cream Filling

Today was one of the slowest days I've had in a very long time. I hadn't slept well last night and woke up pretty early for no particular reason...after all, it wasn't like I had any pressing issues to address. Anyway, I woke up, ate breakfast (I think I'm starting to OD on fiber, what with FiberOne cereal for breakfast and lunch, and dinner consisting mostly of purple rice and vegetables), and decided to pass the morning making Japanese dorayaki, or sweet pancakes.

Traditionally, dorayaki contains a filling of adzuki (red bean) paste, but Dad doesn't really like it, and we didn't have any in the house. Oh, did I mention that the temperature sky-rocketed to about 95F today? I didn't really feel like leaving my front door, never mind driving to the market. So, anyway, I did some research, and apparently, people have started putting all kinds of fillings inside - peanut butter, custard cream, even nutella! I found a recipe for the custard cream and decided to tweak it a little with our leftover matcha (green tea) powder.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Curry Bread

Okay, I'll admit it. This entire loaf - all 16 ounces of flour - was a failure. It wasn't the recipe, or the baking, or even the yeast; in fact, the yeast had performed a little TOO well. No, ironically enough, it was the fact that my loaf had risen too MUCH in the oven, and as a result, the inside remained raw by the time the crust had turned a nice golden brown. I tried cutting the loaf in half to increase the surface area, but I knew better than that. Once the crust is done, you just can't bake it any longer (I can verify from more than one experience in the past). So by the time it came out of the oven the second time, it felt literally like a rock. Mom tapped on the surface and joked that the thing could bash someone's brains out. Dad took one bite and complained that his gums felt like they were bleeding. Epic fail.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vegetarian Dim Sum Dumplings

I've been feeling a little guilty lately because a lot of the food I've been making for my dad has been dessert-ish and unhealthy. It's hard, though, because Mom usually makes main dish, and we don't have extravagant dinners to begin with, what with our household consisted of just 3 people. But still, I figured I had to start cutting down on the sugar and fat and maybe look into something a little more health-friendly.

I recently borrowed Andrea Nguyen's book Asian Dumplings from the library (check out her website), and it's filled with all kinds of cute and delicious recipes. Among them were the clear-skinned dumplings that you usually find in dim sum. Of course, you automatically think Har Gow which, disturbingly enough, contains pork fat (still not disturbing enough to keep me from gobbling those goodies down at restaurants - hey, so long as I don't see them putting it in right?), so I chose instead to make vegetarian dumplings, which are significantly healthier. Plus, I felt guilty about using the meat in the house, so veggies were cheaper and available on hand.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Father's Day Part III - Bread Pudding Breakfast

And so, we come to the final part of the Father's Day trilogy. Sunday is supposed to be the REAL Father's Day, so I left dinner to the Big Leagues (Mom). Of course, it HAD to be steak, accompanied by leftover appetizers from Saturday and finished off with my all-American apple pie. I'd have to say that red meat is not very much my thing. I'll eat a little to keep my mom and her rants about me being malnutritioned at bay, but a big ol' hunk of steak is a bit too much for me. But I did eat a little, and I have to say that Mom sure knows how to cook her cow.
So anyway, I managed to secure my position in arranging breakfast...and I thought I'd try my hand at bread pudding. My dad usually loves French toast, and it was what I was aiming for, but in the end, it turns out the pudding didn't taste much like French toast. But oh well, at least it got rid of some of the giant bottle of rum Dad bought me long ago (I used to get away with not making him tiramisu by claiming that we had no rum in the house). And it was actually what I had been saving my braided brioche loaf for from last week. I'd have to say bread pudding takes a while to bake, but other than that, it's incredibly easy and great for getting rid of leftovers. Chances are you'll always have the ingredients on hand (except maybe the rum?), and it's actually very hard to really mess up.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day Part II - Apple Pie

As a continuation of my last post (the epic Father's Day weekend), I also attempted at the very daring challenge of making apple pie. I know, apple pie isn't exactly what comes to mind when you think 'summer', but my dad requested it along with steak (Mom's department there). And plus, he helped with a lot of the peeling and cutting, so thank goodness, it didn't take as long as I thought it would.

I got the recipe from Joy of Baking, which, by the way, is an AMAZING goldmine of recipes. But anyway, Dad and I had lots of fun attempting this monstrosity of a dessert. I don't know why, but doesn't apple pie seem like such a DAD thing? Like hot dogs and burgers. I guess it's the American/Man image...where foods lose the loftiness and adopt the more down-to-earth character that we often associate with masculinity. Or maybe I'm just rambling and reading too much into it all. Maybe I should just shut up and eat my food.

Father's Day Part I - One crazy day in the kitchen

Father's Day this year was not just a day - it was a weekend. I'd have to say it was pretty fun, but seriously, in any other circumstance, I would say the effort was DEFINITELY not worth the result. Especially for my father, who places taste and quality far above presentation. But anyhoo, I was bored and had time to kill. Plus, I just borrowed an incredibly cool book from the library (hors d'oevres by Eric Treuille and Victoria Blashford-Snell) and it had so many pretty pictures, I couldn't resist.

So on Saturday, I made a Father's Day dinner that consisted entirely of appetizers. I will say one thing: I have new-found respect for caterers. Making appetizers both tasty and appealing is HARD. Even with my dad helping me in the kitchen, it took all day (well, half the day; we spent the morning making apple pie). But in the end, everything came out pretty well.

Actually, there were a few more appetizers (skewered shrimp with lemon mayonnaise, curry puffs, vegetable dips, etc.), but in my haste, I either forgot to take pictures, or the food wasn't aesthetically pleasing enough to be posted. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Shanghai Shepherd's Purse Wontons

Yesterday Priscilla came over again...amidst a chaotic mess of flour and meat in the kitchen! Mom decided it would be cool to make wontons that day so we could join in (and then stuff Priscilla with a lifetime's supply for her family too). I think Mom has fun feeding visitors....so long as she gets the credit when they smile with their mouths full.

Now, I know when people think 'wonton' they jump to the image of the Cantonese pork-stuffed dumplings found either in soup or deep-fried and crispy (think Panda Express). But of course, Mom is a Shanghai girl, and the only wontons she will ever make are Shanghai style. And, of course, anything Shanghainese is bound to have the infamous Shepherd's Purse vegetables native to that part of China. I think the real wonton is supposed to be stuffed with a mixture of ground pork and shepherd's purse, but Mom's version is a bit healthier, with a higher percentage of veggies and the addition of shrimp.

Graduation dinner - Roasted Salmon

Actually, this post is a little bit late, but I've been so busy experimenting in the kitchen that I got too lazy to post up pictures of my graduation night dinner! It wasn't a big thing; we had a simple (but delicious!) dinner at our family friends' house in Escondido - Dad didn't even want to think of the lines outside of any restaurant within 20 miles of UCSD on the night of our graduation ceremony. But I wanted to post these pics because they were taken with a DSLR - our host is an avid photographer (though not of food). I got a little overexcited with the picture-taking during dinner preparation as I danced around Mom with the bulky camera while everyone else stared in bemusement.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Candied Pecans

Mom is a huge fan of nuts. It's weird, because she usually hates desserts (she's more of a savory food person), but when it comes to nuts, there's a special place in her heart. I guess when you look at it, Chinese snacks usually consist of nuts. Plus, they're usually not as sweet.

Well, whatever the reason, Mom has a special craving for this recipe of candied pecans. She's so funny - she asked me to find the recipe for her, but when I read her one, she stared accusingly at me and scolded, "No! That's not right!" as if it were my fault the recipe read the way it did? She's very proud of her food. When I told her I was going to post this online, she insisted that she be noted in the credits. Silly mom.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Mantou (Steamed buns)

Man, I have to admit. This was a very very epic trial that actually amazingly succeeded, thanks to the help of my dear mother and my wonderful friend Priscilla. Not only did they do the hard work of cooking and working the dough, but they also tolerated my random runs to the window so I could take the thousand food photos throughout the process.

So Priscilla (who I rarely see, as we go to different colleges) found out about my cooking craze and decided to visit and join me in the kitchen for the day. We decided to tackle wheat mantou (or Chinese steamed buns) interspersed with red and black quinoa for an added kick of health. Surprisingly, Mom got involved as well and even contributed to the rising and cooking parts of the process. She taught us one interesting trick - when rising yeasted dough, you can heat up a microwave oven, then turn it off and place the dough (wrapped in saran wrap and laid on foil) on top. The warmth of the preheated oven is just enough to give the yeast a cozy, comfy place to expel their carbon dioxide.

Vietnamese Cold Noodles (Bún)

Today was a pretty food-heavy day. My friend Priscilla came over to cook with me and ended up staying for dinner as well. I'll post up some future posts about the stuff we made...but dinner consisted of Vietnamese bún, or cold rice vermicelli tossed with an assortment of veggies and herbs and meat (in this case, Mom's lemongrass pork chops), all drizzled with nuoc cham dipping sauce. It's definitely tasty - but not exactly filling. I think I started getting hunger pains a couple hours after finishing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chocolate-filled Brioche

So I just came back from San Diego...and I'm officially a member of the UCSD Alumni and the owner of a Bachelor of Science degree! Woohoo! Of course, the excitement is much tempered by the fact that I still have 4 years of medical school and God knows how many years of internship waiting ahead of me. Sigh...like my friend Moonjung's dad said, "sounds more like slave labor than education". Agreed.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vietnamese Spring Rolls

This is a continuation of my last post for Nuoc Cham or Vietnamese Dipping sauce. Like I said, today was a HOT HOT day. Man, just having the laptop on my lap for more than 5 minutes is killing me.

Anyway, like I said, hot food requires a special dinner menu - in this case, Vietnamese spring rolls. Trust a tropical people to know how to dine in heat. We actually have a few variations on it; for one thing, Mom insisted on stuffing in cilantro, which I know is not traditional. And for another, the basil at the market today looked half-dead, so we ended up not putting that in either. Fortunately, we grow our own mint in the backyard, so we have plenty of that.

I think half the magic of spring rolls is the fun you get making them together at the dinner table. Dad's spring rolls always look horrible, with the contents spilling out while he rolls them. Mom always manages to stuff everything in her mouth right before it explodes out of the skin, so it's funny watching her try to eat. I like to pride myself in the fact that mine are actually quite pretty - but then, I have a lot of practice making these for dinner during college.

Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Dipping Sauce)

Today was HOT. Like tanktop and short shorts hot. Hot like only California can be. Man, can you feel that global warming? Anyway, hot weather means cold food - in the case of today, Vietnamese spring rolls!

We actually made them together for dinner, and I took some pictures, but I didn't manage to get really good shots. Well, I got a few, but I need to find a way to fix up the background. We'll see if Tastespotting or Foodgawker have an issue with it...if so, I'll see if I can figure out how to use my Photoshop to tweak the background a bit.

This post is dedicated to the sauce we used to complement the spring rolls - Vietnamese dipping sauce or Nuoc Cham. It's pretty much limeade mixed with fish sauce (the vilest-smelling thing you will ever encounter, but used correctly, it is delicious). It's light and refreshing and really captures the essence of Vietnamese food - clean and sour with a hint of sweet. I got the recipe from Andrea Nguyen's VietWorldKitchen; I think she mentions that you can add some minced garlic or diced chilis in there for extra flavor if you want.

Shanghai Drunken Chicken

Yesterday, for dinner, Mom made a classic Shanghai dish that has been and will forever be my Dad's favorite. She's been making it for as long as I can remember; I guess she must have hit on it really early on, and it made such an impression on Dad that it became a recyclable dinner theme in our household from then on.

It's called Shanghai 'Drunken Chicken', which has something to do with the way it is cooked. I don't exactly know how it's done (Mom refuses to teach me and can be downright nasty when I try to help her in the kitchen), but Rasa Malaysia has a great recipe posted here. What I do know is that it is traditionally served with seasoned soy sauce, oil, and scallions - we actually had it at a local Shanghai eatery - but Dad prefers the ginger/garlic/scallion sauce they serve Hainan Chicken with. I personally prefer the former.

Anyway, here's a picture of my share of the chicken (no dark meat for me!). I wish I had more opportunities to play with the lighting/composition, but apparently the juices start drying out the moment the poultry is cut, so I could only take a few hurried shots amidst my mom's yells to stop and join the dinner table.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup

The other day, Dad asked me if I had any recipes for Mushroom soup. I think he was thinking back to our trip to Slovenia (I still need to post that), where we had mushroom soup almost every night. I never had the chance this time, but Dad says the first time he ever visited Slovenia, his coworker helped him order a mushroom soup made from an assortment of mushrooms literally picked minutes before from the restaurant's own personal mushroom garden. It must have tasted like heaven.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Spanish Paella

I first made this dish during the very end of my senior year of high school (ages and ages ago) after happening on a random recipe of Paella on Mediterrasian. There was a night that my parents went out for dinner, and my friend and I jumped on the opportunity to lord over the kitchen. After hours of cutting, crying (from the onions), and haphazard stirring, I finally chanced upon a dish that actually did not turn out half bad. That was nothing, however, to my astonishment when my mom, trying out our leftovers, actually took a great liking to it. I mean, Dad will literally eat anything I give him, but when my viciously, brutally honest mom compliments my cooking, that's when I know I've hit the jackpot.


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