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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.

Glowbal’s Famous Brussel Sprouts

29 Sep

What You Will Need:

  • 1 lbs Brussels Sprouts
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Capers, drained
  • 1 oz Lemon Juice
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp Chilli Flakes
  • Salt to Taste

Method: Bring up the temperature on your deep fryer to 375 degrees. Wash sprouts and remove any dead or browning leaves. Quarter large sprouts and halve smaller sprouts. Ensure the Brussels Sprouts are completely dry before putting them into the deep fryer. Place Brussels Sprouts into deep fryer and cook for 1 minute or until golden brown. Remove the sprouts from the deep fryer and shake to remove all excess oil. Place into a small bowl, adding capers, lemon juice, grated Parmesan, chilli flakes and salt. Toss together, plate and serve immediately. (Serves 4)

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.

Spicy Dumpling Sauce

15 May

One of my fave dishes at BBTEA cafe is the spicy dumplings. I always end up with a runny nose during the meal, but refuse to admit to defeat and cease eating. It’s not the dumplings that’s tasty, but the sauce! Here’s my version of it:

As usual, measurements are just for reference. I just go according to ratio and adjust to taste.

  • 50ml light soy
  • 30ml mirin
  • 1.5 tsp black vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • squirt of fish sauce
  • red thai chili, chopped

Combine all, let sit for 10 minutes, or longer if you want the sauce to be hotter. Don’t dilute with water. This is not really a dipping sauce, but you spoon on top of boiled and drained dumplings, along with a handful of chopped cilantro.

Lavender Honey Ice Cream

13 May

So I’m hosting a cheese and wine thing this Friday – doing the usual pairings: 

  • meats from Oyama Sausage Company on Granville Island – wild boar procuitto and lamb chorizo.
  • condiments – Silkameen honey, spanish peppers, cipollini onions, date bread, quince paste
  • cheese – a blue, stilton, cheddar, riopelle, a spanish hard cheese.
  • fruit – pears, dried figs and cranberries
  • drinks – a Moscato d’Asti (my drink of choice for a sunny Sunday afternoon), Golden Star White Jasmine Sparkling Tea and a Kettle Valley Starboard (port).

So what am I missing? Dessert! Which will be Lavender Honey Ice Cream. Variations of the recipes below. Bon appetit! 

Lavender Honey Ice Cream – from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz  

  • ½ cup good flavored honey
  • ¼ cup dried or fresh lavender flowers
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream
  •  5 large egg yolks

1) Heat the honey and 2 tablespoons of the lavender in a small saucepan until the honey is fluid. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep at room temperature for one hour. 

2) Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Pour the lavender infused honey into the cream through the strainer, pressing on the lavender flowers to extract as much flavor as possible, then discard the lavender and set the strainer back over the bowl. 

3) Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly to prevent the eggs from cooking, then scrape the mixture back into the saucepan. 

4) Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon. (UPDATE: Don’t think that it’ll turn into a thick custard! Just when it starts to get glossy and thick, get it off the stove or in a few seconds it’ll turn into scrambled eggs!) Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons lavender flowers. Refrigerate overnight. 

5) Before churning, strain the mixture again. Press the lavender flowers to extract as much of their flavor as possible. Discard the flowers, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 

TOPPINGS: Roasted Blueberries :  spread fresh or wrinkly blueberries out on a cookie sheet, sprinkled them with sugar and roasted them at 400F until they soften and release their juices. OR throw them into a pot of maple syrup and warm it until they pop. 

NOTES: Since whipping cream comes in 355ml(?) and it calls for 275ml, what to do with the 80ml? Dump the whole thing in I say, cut down on the milk if you want to. More lavender better than less. Infuse the lavender and honey overnight if you want, final infusion 12 hours at least. Don’t overdo the sugar.

Update: This is my go-to HG recipe! HG in makeup speak = holy grail. The honey binds the flavours together creating an all rounded taste. Best part is, no one can guess that it’s honey.

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When I get my ice cream maker…

9 May

I’m gonna make:

Sake Sorbet

I have been OBSESSED with sake sorbet ever since tasting it in NYC. It was smooth, sweet and refreshing, and perhaps the lone reason why I shelled out for a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker. That, and because the weather’s getting warmer, guests are coming over, and I have tons of leftover liquor in the fridge waiting to be put to use. Also my next big purchase will be a BBQ so I can grill. If I’m too lazy to bake for dessert, why not serve a delicious frozen treat instead?

  • 1.5 cups sake
  • 1.5 cups simple syrup
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1tbsp lemon peel

Or sub lime for lemon, add a bit of yuzu – anything citrusy, Serve with, you guessed it, anything citrusy. Use the cheaper Gekkeikan for the sorbet (1.5L for $21.99). Save the exquisitely smooth and sweet (one of the few sakes that can be heated, not all of them can so read the label) YUKI HOTARU SAKE – ECHIGO DENEMON for sipping instead.

Update 2: Maybe I should have included some instructions. Combine all ingredients and freeze according to ice cream maker instructions. Apparently alcohol will NOT FREEZE (or anything over 5%). So either combine the sake with the simple syrup and heat, OR make the sorbet without the sake (add more juice or water) and add the sake to the ice cream maker when it’s close to solidifying and adjust to wanted consistency. So since I don’t have any cheap sake, I think I’ll make some pear sorbet, and add a few tablespoons of the good sake to taste. Hey, experiment! Don’t think you can go too wrong with this.

Simple Syrup:

1 cup white sugar, 1 cup water
In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.

Update3: MY PEAR RIESLING SORBET IS A SUCCESS! In a pot on the stove on med heat combine sugar and water (1/1) until dissolved. Add juice on one lemon, and cubed pears. Cook till pears are soft but not brown or mushy. Add riesling or chardonnay. Simmer for 5 minutes for alcohol to burn off. Cool and add to blender to puree. Put in fridge overnight (6 hours). Make sure ice cream bowl is chilled at least 12 hours. Make according to manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s still a bit too soft, put into container and into the freezer for 15-20 minutes to firm up.

Note: Like boiling water, if you watch it, it won’t freeze. So go away and do something non-constructive and come back and be surprised!

 

Next culinary venture: Recreating Jasmine Lemonade

27 Feb

I still dream about this concoction at the Shangri-La. I’m thinking either Jasmine tea from T on Broadway, as that’s their tea provider, lemon and San Pelligrino (which is what they serve).

May not be actual tea that they use, as I made this yesterday with fresh lemons, tea and club soda. The tea made it somewhat bitter, and as I recall the jasmine in the lemonade was very strong and sweet, so I’m leaning towards jasmine extract . Still haven’t decided on the lemons, whether fresh lemons, lemon juice or lemonade, but I can tell you that club soda is NOT the way to go.  It was WAY too salty, and San Pelligrino should be used instead (5% or 130mg sodium vs. 1% or 10mg).