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Homestyle Craving: 小米粥 Millet Congee

20 Dec

20121021_172600When I went back to Taiwan, out of the very many dishes I craved, I really wanted something that I dreaded to eat as a child. It was tasteless but nutty and had a weird texture – that’s probably because my mom wouldn’t let me put brown sugar in it. The secret to 小米粥 is to toast the millet before you make it into congee. Simple, but I couldn’t figure it out till I asked my grandma. If you have a chance to go to Taipei, hit up the restaurant on the corner across from the parking lot at the Shida Night Market (vague, I know) – really good stuff.

Note that if you apply heat to the millet beforehand, it will be more separate in the porridge as the starch will have hardened. Thus it’s recommended to toast QUICKLY 1/3 to 1/2 for flavour, then rinse with the rest and then cooked.

UPDATE: Mine wasn’t turning out in the same consistency as what I ate in Taiwan. Mom said to add half a cup (rice cup) or less of uncooked rice. Wash and cook with the millet.

UPDATE 2: For creaminess – boil water w/bit of salt then add millet. Cook like you would with oatmeal. Add almond milk for creaminess & boil down. Add raw sugar to taste. 

NOTE: if you need to add more water if the consistency is too thick, ADD BOILING WATER, not cold water!!!

小米粥 Millet Porridge (Xiao Mi Zhou)

Ingredients:

Serves: 3-4
Yield: 3 cups
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 2 cups boiling water as reserve
  • 1/2 cup dry millet
  • 1/2 chinese cup of uncooked rice (more like 2-3 tablespoons)

Directions:

  1. Toast 1/3 or 1/2 of the millet in bottom of pan or in skillet over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until some aroma begins to waft.
  2. In the meantime, bring water to a boil. How much you use depends on how thick you want your porridge.
  3. Add the rest of the millet.
  4. Add millet to boiling water and boil over medium-high to low heat for 25 – 30 minutes, until done. It will not absorb all the water, but some color and starch will be released to let you know as cooking finishes.
  5. If desired, add a few tablespoons of milk for creaminess.
  6. Eat warm, adding  demerara sugar or honey to taste.

If you like chinese soups, check out The Chinese Soup Lady – for all the pregnancy soups, confinement soups etc.

My childhood in a dessert: Ovaltine & Rice Krispies

24 May

Growing up in Vancouver as a child of immigrants in the 80’s, it wasn’t easy to assimilate into the Western culture and still have to struggle to maintain my Chinese heritage. I didn’t have Saturday morning cartoons because I had Chinese school, had thick glasses from grade 4 onwards and I wanted to bring a ham and cheese sandwich to lunch because the other kids would make fun of me that I was eating worms, when it was really chow mein.

Times have changed, of course… kids don’t have to struggle with their cultural identity as much anymore and I’m sure there’s a “Chinese Day” in high school cafeterias with chow mein, spring rolls and all.

So when I saw this recipe it brought me back. Back to the good old days of comfort food, homemade sweets and I smile thinking that this is symbolic of my childhood growing up… Ovaltine and Rice Krispies….

Ovaltine Pudding with Honeyed Rice Krispies

Malty Ovaltine flavors these puddings from New York City chef Pichet Ong.Ovaltine_Pudding_with_Honeyed_Rice_Krispies

SERVES 8

  • 2 1/4-oz. packages unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup Ovaltine powder
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped and reserved
  • 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 3/4 cups crisped rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
  • Whipped cream, for serving

In a 2-qt. saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over milk and let sit for 5 minutes. Add cream, Ovaltine, and vanilla seeds and heat over medium heat; cook, stirring often, until gelatin dissolves and mixture is warmed through. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and 1/4 tsp. salt until smooth. Pour mixture through a fine strainer into a large pitcher; then pour into eight 6-oz. serving glasses or ramekins. Cover each glass with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 2 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, heat sugar, honey, and butter in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook, swirling pan often, until mixture turns the color of medium-dark caramel; add remaining salt and cereal and stir to coat evenly. Transfer mixture to a greased baking sheet and spread out evenly; let cool and then break into small chunks.

To serve, uncover each pudding and top with some of the crisped-rice mixture. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and serve immediately.

Thanksgiving aka Turkey Fest Recipes: Part 1 – Starch

5 Oct

Thanksgiving is next Monday – Canadian Thanksgiving that is. Unfortunately since most of the food mags and sites are American, the recipes for all the ‘what’s new’ and trendy ideas for Thanksgiving come out in November. I’m not fretting too much though – as long as there’s all the essentials like turkey, veggies, starch and pumpkin pie on the menu, I’m good. Over the next few days leading up to the turkey/binge fest, I’ll be posting up recipes I’ll be trying or want to try, and hope you are inspired to do so too.

I can only eat so much turkey, but I can never get enough starch. Whether it’s mashed potatoes, candied yams, roasted sweet potatoes or any starchy gratin, it’s always a crowd pleaser. Here are some of my favourites, from savoury to sweet…

p.s. and no, I will not be putting the nutritional values up for these =)

Continue reading

How to make Taiwanese ZhongZi (or ZongZi) 粽子

16 Jun

Today is the 5th day of the 5th lunar month in Chinese calendar, aka The Dragon Boat Festival (Duanwu Festival 端午节 in Chinese). I hardly look at the lunar calendar but only know when it’s coming when T&T starts selling 粽子 (ZongZi or ZhongZi), lychee is in season or when Grandma starts making zhongi. I asked her to teach me how to make it this year, and she was glad to pass down the tradition to me. It’s actually quite easy, but the preparation process is complex and the wrapping needs to be practiced.

What this is great for, is getting friends and family together to make it and eat together – and that’s what it’s really about.

粽子 / ZhongZi / ZongZi Recipe

(courtesy of and featuring my Grandma)

Ingredients:

If you are comfortable with cooking and experimenting, discard all my measurements (as usual), but use it as a reference.

  • 1.3 lbs sticky rice
  • bamboo leaves as needed (and string)
  • 1/6lb peanuts (optional, as much as you like)
  • 0.65oz dried miniature shrimp
  • 0.65oz dried chinese mushrooms
  • 1/2lbs pork (fatty, belly, whatever… chunked)
  • fried shallots as needed
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp rice wine (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (or brown sugar syrup. DO NOT use Taiwanese black sugar)
  • salt, white pepper, to taste
  • Optional: Salted duck egg, chestnuts, dried minced daikon radish.
  • Serve with: sweet chili sauce or sweet soy sauce.

Preparation:

  • Soak overnight: peanuts, dried chinese mushrooms, dried miniature shrimp
  • Wash bamboo leaves thoroughly and till pliable. Remove stems and leave in bowl with some water to keep moist but not soak.
  • Wash rice thoroughly and rinse 3-4 times. Add 3 tsp of salt and mix. Update: soak for at least half an hour if you are planning to use a pressure cooker, 3 hours to overnight if using a steamer
  • Peel cooked salted duck egg. Remove the white and the membrane around the yolk. Toss with a tbsp of rice wine for flavour.

Methods – meat filling:

  1. Heat oil in wok. Add pork chunks and stirfry till fragrant. Remove from heat.
  2. Add more oil to wok if necessary. Stirfry shrimp and fried shallots, then add mushrooms and stirfry till fragrant. Add peanuts and mix.
  3. Add meat, season with soy sauce, rice wine, sugar. Saute rapidly over high heat until boiling (add enough soy and rice wine so that there is some liquid). Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. ALWAYS TASTE and add more if necessary of any ingredient.

Methods – wrapping:

  1. Take 2 leaves, one larger than the other and opposite end to opposite end. Overlap, with the smaller leaf on the top, line the edge of the leaves up but with the smaller leaf a little higher. (You’ll need to watch the video to know what I mean).
  2. Fold and form a funnel shape, with the left end longer than the right.
  3. Place rice, filling, and more rice as in the video.
  4. Fold the bottom over, pinch the sides in and push the rice and filling upwards. Make sure it’s tight or else when it’s cooked the rice will turn into mush. Pinch the top and fold. Secure with cotton string.

Methods – cooking – 2 ways:

  1. Boiling in pressure cooker: Put dumplings into pressure cooker and cover with water. Cook until boiling and reduce heat to medium-high. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove and cool. But always test first to see amount of cooking time depending on heat source, pressure cooker etc.
  2. Steaming: Bring water in steamer to a boil, and steam over low heat for 1 hour or until done.

Serve with sweet chili sauce or sweet soy paste.

Taiwanese Salt Pepper Chicken (鹽酥雞)

16 Jun

chickenAs usual, all measurements are just a guideline, but this came out quite delicious! Just need to figure out now to make it even crispier – if I remember correctly, my 2nd uncle (who’s a fantastic cook) double fried it in a large vat with lots of oil and over a gas stove outdoors.

Ingredients:

Marinade:
1 lbs chicken – cut into bite sized pieces
1 tbsp cooking wine
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 scallion/green onion – segmented
sliced ginger – large pieces
sugar

Coating:
sweet yam flour/starch
corn starch
flour
egg <– I didn’t use this, but will try the next round

Seasoning:
peppercorns
salt
five spice powder

Other:
oil
pan
pot
tongs/chopsticks
gloves
paper towels/lettuce leaves

1) Combine all the marinade ingredients and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Don’t cut the ginger and green onion too small or they might stick onto the chicken and will burn when you fry it.
2) Heat oil slowly in wok/pan/pot. I also pan fried a few pieces to see the effect – about the same, but used less oil. For best results use a gas stove, heat on low heat for about 5 minutes, then increase to low/medium. Adjust accordingly.
3) Combine all the dry ingredients for the coating. Should be 50% yam flour, 15% flour, 35% corn starch.
4) When the oil is hot enough, coat the chicken in the egg wash (optional) then dip into dry coat mix. Make sure it’s fully coated, squeeze as much powder as you can get on it (makes it crispier/fluffier) and drop into oil. Try a piece at first to test if the temperature of the oil is right. Fry till brown and remove onto paper towel or lettuce leaf.
5) Top with seasoning (see below) and serve immediately.

Seasoning:
1) In pan, panfry dry ingredients on very low heat till fragrant. Pepper 50%, salt 40%, five pice powder 10%.

Distraught over the discontinuation of the…..

23 Feb

Urban Tea Merchant’s Wedding Imperial blend. It was the perfect dark tea with chocolate blended with caramel and savoury with milk. It will be missed.

Update: the blender is Mariage Freres! And can still be found!

Description:

A Romantic expression of Golden Assam tea with hints of chocolate and caramel. Assam is the the worlds largest black tea producing region, located in Northern India, Assam teas are best known for their pungent, malty qualities. A worthy addition to any Mariage Freres collection, and one of our favorites. Brilliant with a little milk and sugar.

Tea Origin: India

And can probably be found:

Watson Kennedy Fine Home
1022 First Avenue
Seattle, Wa 98104
206.652.8350

Lucca Great Finds

5332 Ballard Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107-4060
Phone: (206) 782-7337

Anywhere else?
Update: ONLINE!!! @ Cultured Cup

八仙果 “Ba1 xian1 guo3”

11 Jun

or Chen Pi Ba Xian Guo 陈皮八仙果

Makes the nausea go away. Otherwise a tasty snack.

八仙果中國一種涼果,帶中藥味及薄荷味,能紓緩喉部痕癢,並且化

八仙果的製法是將陳皮半夏茯苓甘草二陳湯冰片中藥塞進佛手瓜的果肉內,風乾之後切粒而成。由於成本問題,近年已改用葡萄柚代替佛手瓜。

http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%85%AB%E4%BB%99%E6%9E%9C

For more preserved stuff (the Taiwanese love the preserves aka 蜜饯, mi4 jian4 – goes especially well with the tea) go to:http://www.pakary.com/driedbot3.htm

White Spot’s Mac and Cheese

21 May

Still till today the best Mac and Cheese. Though I’m pretty much a purveyor of fine foods, I hang my head in shame to admit that not even Beechers can beat it (it’s a bit tasteless, you know?) It was tasty, with real cheese that was gooey and the noodles were always perfectly al dente. It only comes with the Pirate Pak for Kids now… hey, adults eat mac and cheese too!

With a side of caesar and a glass of coke with lemon.

UPDATE May 22, 2008: While googling mac and cheese, came across rave reviews for Trader Joes Mac and Cheese (best microwaved). Hope this will be better than Beechers! And Trader Joes opened up in Bellingham!

2410 James Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
Trading Hours: 9 am – 9 pm
Phone: 360-734-5166

Crossing fingers that they have Beechers Flagship Cheeses!