Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Szechuan Sweet and Sour Pork Spare Ribs (Tangsu Paigu)

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe from my favorite Szechwan cookbook (Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook: Szechwan Home Cooking). The cookbook was the very first Chinese cookbook I bought. It includes many of the dishes I grew up with and its purchase was my first attempt as an adult to recreate some of them. The cookbook has been long out of print but you can find a few of the recipes here. The Dry-Fried Green Beans is a wonderful dish and is very similar to the one that Little Village Noodle House serves (a favorite restaurant of ours in Honolulu's China Town).

I love most Chinese spare ribs dishes but I particularly like this one because of the different texture that the deep frying gives the ribs (slightly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside) and the hint of sweet and sour. Not like those gloppy, red gooey ribs you get at some Chinese take-out joints. (Try a more traditional Chinese restaurant style sweet and sour spare ribs recipe without the red goop here.) I think the simplicity of the ingredients is what makes it so good. The recipe feeds about 2-3 people, maybe 4 if adding other dishes. It can easily be doubled. Some of the adjustments I made from the original recipe is slightly less salt and slightly more sugar. I found I couldn't taste the sweetness in the original recipe and it was just a tad too salty for me. I like a good balance between sweet, sour and salty in the ribs. I also like to marinade it for about an hour or so, instead of the 30 minutes that the original recipe calls for. The other major adjustment is that I minced the ginger instead of slicing it. If you prefer a milder taste of ginger, you can sliced a 1" piece of ginger into 1/4" matchsticks instead.

1 1/2 lb pork spare ribs (~ 1 slab)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoon soy sauce
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar (I used Mirin)
1 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
2 scallions (green onions)
Peanut oil for deep frying

Cut the ribs into individual ribs. Slash each rib meat approximately every 1/4" and remove excess fat. The slashes will help thicker ribs soak up the marinade. Put the ribs in a bowl and sprinkle ribs with salt, sugar, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and ginger.

Smash the scallions (green and white part) with a cleaver or another tool such as a meat tenderizer. Don't pulverize the scallions, just enough to bruise the scallions. The purpose is to release the flavors of the scallion. Cut smashed scallions into 2" lengths. Add to ribs, mix well and marinade for 30-60 minutes.

In a wok or other large heavy duty pan (e.g., Dutch oven), heat peanut oil to 375 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, heat the oil until almost the smoking point. In my wok, I need about 3 cups of oil for a double batch. Fry the ribs in small batches, don't overcrowd or put in too many or else the temperature of the oil will drop too low. I usually fry 3-4 ribs at a time, depending on the size of the ribs. Fry the ribs for 5 minutes until dark brown, then drain for 1 minute. Serve hot.

We've eaten these cold as leftovers the next day. Yummmmm.

On a side note, the Mister loves to quote movies and didn't miss a beat by quoting a Bruce Lee movie when I said I was going to make some Chinese spare ribs. Perhaps you've seen the movie. Enjoy, now go and eat well.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Chicken Adobo

The chicken adobo recipe that I use includes a step to brown the chicken. Being lazy, I have skipped this part and the dish still comes out pretty good. A couple of friends who make this dish a lot told me they sometimes skip browning step too. I particularly like this recipe because the chicken adobo doesn't come out as vinegary as some that I've had. I like the taste of vinegar but not to where it overwhelms the dish. I also like the addition of onions since I think it adds a nice flavor to the overall gravy.

3 lbs chicken, cut to serving pieces*
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup vinegar
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon paprika
5 bay leaves
4 Tablespoons of cooking oil or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Slurry Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

* Note: I like to remove the majority of the skin.

In a big sauce pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium heat and sauté the onions until soft (about 6 minutes). Add garlic and sauté for another 2 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Add the chicken to the pan. Add water, soy sauce, vinegar, paprika and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender.

Heat 2 tablespoon cooking oil in another pan. Add the chicken from the sauce pan and brown the chicken for a few minutes on all sides. Transfer the browned chicken back to the sauce pan.

Make the slurry by dissolving the cornstarch in water. Add the slurry to the sauce pan, stir thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste (I like to add fresh ground pepper but find no need for additional salt). Bring to a boil then simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve hot on plain rice.

As you can see in the picture, the chicken is very light in color, lighter than most adobo dishes I've gotten from take out restaurants. A few sprinkles of parsley or cilantro would have improved the presentation but it still tasted great. One of the variations of this recipe is to add half pork and half chicken. I have not tried it but it's simple to adjust. Just substitute half the chicken with pork and follow the recipe. I would think browning the pork would really add a whole new dimension in taste.

BTW, I've added pictures to the Dr. Pepper Pineapple Spare Ribs post. Instead of over rice, I served it over macaroni this last time. I enjoyed it even more with mac.

Have a good week. Now go and eat well.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Angel Food Cake

This weekend, I decided to make Alton Brown's Angel Food Cake. I think I've only had Angel Food Cake maybe a couple of times in my like and they were the store bought kind, not impressive enough for me to remember more than I had a slice. Angel Food Cake (or Angel Cake) is a true foam cake. Just sugar, (lots) egg white, extract, and maybe a little water. That's it. As far as being healthy? For a cake, it fairs much better in the calories and definitely in the fat department than most cakes. No fat and around 120-160 calories per serving. I would even call it a "healthier" kind of cake. (Wonder how it holds up with Splenda?)

I highly recommend watching Alton's Good Eats episode on Angel Food Cake first for those who've never whipped egg whites. He talks about the difference between soft and medium peaks. A visual here is much more helpful and it's something you can't get from reading the recipe. He also provides several other good tips that will come in handy (aside from all the scientific mumbo-jumbo, which I find interesting--yeah, yeah, I know, I'm such a geek). If you don't get the Food Network, you can watch the episode on YouTube.

In the episode, Alton had to loosen the cake away from the pan to remove it. Uh, yeah, I didn't have that problem. As a matter of fact, I had a hard time keeping the darn cake in the pan while I inverted it. Darn thing decided to just flop on one side. Overall appearance was not too bad but lopsided enough where I decided not to take a picture of it. Besides, it looked similar to the final product in the episode, so there.

Overall taste? Not what I remembered Angel Food Cake to be. It was incredibly "fluffy" and tender but dense. It almost melts in your mouth. I used 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract but would have liked a little more next time, maybe even scrapings from a vanilla bean. But in all, a very nice delicate cake that I can have without feeling too guilty. And it's a good way to get protein with minimal fat!

Now if I can only figure out what to do with those 12 egg yolks that doesn't include lots of calories. Think the dogs will be getting these as a snack tonight.

Have a wonderful week. Now go and eat well.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Side Street Inn Pork Chops

Yum, fried pork chops. The Mister cooks up a mean pork chop but awhile ago, I decided I wanted to try my hands at the Side Street Inn pork chops. It's their best selling item on the menu. We saw the pork chops while watching the episode of No Reservation where Anthony Bourdain goes to Hawaii for the first time, in his life. What got the Mister was that the dish was served with a side of ketchup. He said "that's so local style!" He also said he understands now why I love ketchup (hehe). Right then, I knew I had to make them.

We've never been to the Side Street Inn (it's on our list to hit the next time we go, which won't be for a while -- boo!) so I had to go on reviews I've read as to how mine will taste compare to the real thing. Besides, I thought, it's fried pork chops and it's a simple recipe, how bad can it be? Or more likely, how bad can I screw it up? You can find the recipe here along with a couple of other more popular Side Street Inn dishes.

I used canola oil instead of cottonseed oil. The only problem I had was keeping the temperature consistent in my cast iron frying pan (dang that stupid stove!). Here's the result. The picture below shows one of the chops right out of the frying pan. You can see a bit of oil on top. I kind of lost the breading on the a couple of them (like the one on the left).

The chops turned out a little greasier than I liked (dang that, oh I already said that) but the taste overall, not bad at all, quite tasty as a matter of fact. I can certainly see this dish being popular with the late night crowd. I served it as the recipe recommended. It was really good with ketchup (what isn't good with ketchup?), even the Mister liked it that way. I have not made it since but will definitely make it again when the weather starts to cool down.

If you're planning a trip to Honolulu, stop by the Side Street Inn. There's several reviews out there you can read. Reid of 'Ono Kine Grindz review is here. Pomai of Tasty Island has a great review here.

Or if you're not planning on going, give these a shot and enjoy a little piece of Hawaii Heaven. Hmm, now I want pork chops. (Oh honey...) Now go and eat well.

Postscript: So after dinner yesterday, the Mister and I watched a No Reservation episode. In the middle of the show, he asks, "we have 2 packs of chops right?" I said, "yes, and I would like some fried pork chops this weekend, please." He says, "Sure, then let's have those chops with the ketchup!" It's moments like these when you know you've been married a long time!

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot & Grill

Ahhh, good food and good company. What else can a person ask for? I met up with Kirk and Cathy from mmm-yoso for lunch at Little Sheep yesterday. It was my first time there so it was really nice having Kirk and Cathy there. Although I had my camera with me, I was enjoying myself too much with the food and all the stories Cathy and Kirk were sharing. But fear not, you can read Kirk's review here and here and see lots of pictures. You can also read Oh-So Yummy's review here (another Cathy, not Cathy of mmm-yoso).

I have to admit that I wasn't too sure if I was going to be able to handle the hot spicy broth but Cathy said it was really good and Kirk really enjoys it with certain ingredients. They haven't steered me wrong yet. All those "things" in the broth really is deceiving and I thought the spiciness of the broth was wonderful! I couldn't get enough of it. We had 3 different kinds of meat, lamb being one, taro, thick noodles, and some really nice greens that I can't remember the name (A Choy?). I'm sure Kirk will chime in to remind me.

In my opinion, lunch was exactly what hot pot meals were meant to be. Friends and family sitting around a delicious pot of hot broth, great conversation, gread food, and just enjoying life. I really should make a better effort to do these more often. Thanks again Kirk and Cathy!!

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot & Grill
4718 Clairemont Mesa Blvd
San Diego, CA 92117
Mon-Thurs 11:30am -3:00pm; 5:30pm - 9:00pm
Fri-Sat 11:30am -3:00pm; 5:30pm - 10:00pm
Sun 11:30am -3:00pm; 5:30pm - 9:30pm

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No-Knead Bread

I love fresh crusty, artisian style bread. Especially for sandwiches. So when I got my Dutch oven, I decide to try my hand on baking the adapted version of NY Times' of Jim Lahey's of Sullivan Street Bakery recipe. To date, I've also tried Alton Brown's recipe. Ingredients and method are very close between the two. Even Cook's Illustrated (CI) has an "almost" no-knead bread (that's next on the list to try). The CI recipe adds lager and vinegar, very interesting and it might provide some very good flavor. CI also has some good information for substituting a heavy stockpot for those who don't have a Dutch oven.

Since NYT's and Alton's recipes are so similar, I won't double up on the pictures except for the final products. Actually, I forgot to take a picture of NYT dough but as I recall, the initial dough after mixing was a bit more "wetter" than Alton's but just a tad.

I haven't been consistent on the exact time for the first resting stage (after mixing all the ingredients) but I always let the dough rest for at least 18 hours and as much as 21 hours. This recipe, or dough rather, is very forgiving. For Alton's, I did let it sit for about 19 hours.

This is what the dough looked like after being removed from the bowl, punched down, folded under, dusted with corn meal (to prevent sticking). Sorry there's so much glare in the pictures (now you know why I don't take a whole lot of pictures). Recommendation here is to use lots of flour and/or cornmeal or wheat bran, especially if you're using the towel method. I like to use my Exopat (same stuff as a Silpat), works great! I loosely covered it with plastic wrap and then covered with a towel.

Here's what the dough looked like after 2.5 hours of rising. You can see that it's doubled in size.

Dough Doubled in Size after 2nd Rising

I found that 2 hours just wasn't enough in my kitchen and it takes about 2 1/2 hours to 3 hours for it to double.

Then baked according to instructions and letting the final product sit for the required amount. It's important to let the bread sit and cool for the given amount of time to let the crust "settle." You'll hear the crust crackle and snap (ah, makes my mouth water). Here's what the NYT's bread looked like right out of the oven/DO.

NYT's NK Bread

This loaf was Alton Brown's recipe. Sorry the color is bad in the photo, I forgot to turn off the undercounter light. The Alton's crust is a bit lighter in color and not as hard. The very first bread I baked using the adapted NYT recipe created a very hard crust, almost too hard to bite through. So lessons learned, I like a lighter crust that's still crusty but more chewy by adjusting the baking time as 27 minutes covered and then 25 minutes uncovered. You will need to adjust according to your oven and your preference on crust.

Alton Brown's NK Bread

As you can see, the result is a wonderfully holey bread that looks like it came from a bakery. The taste is wonderfully rustic. I have not tried adding flavor enhancing ingredients (herbs, cheese, etc.) but have read on food forums that the dough works great with additions. We have enjoyed many paninis using this bread.
At this point, I prefer Alton's recipe even though the taste is pretty much the same. I don't know if it's because I made Alton's after having more experience with handling the dough but I found it to be a little easier (go figure since they are so close). But I do recommend NYT's adapted version rather than the original Lahey's recipe because the taste is much better due to more salt. Lahey's bread is somewhat flavorless and you should be able to taste a hint of salt in a good rustic bread.
BTW, that knife next to the bread is a Mac Bread Knife and I highly recommend it (even if it wasn't CI's first choice but then many people on knife forums don't agree with CI's review of bread knives). Also, Korin is having it's annual summer knife sale through July 31st, 15% off all knives! If you don't have a good bread knife (a recommended knife staple in any cook's kitchen), consider picking this one up with the discount. Too bad I've promised I wouldn't buy any more knives for a while (darn).
Now go bake some bread and eat well!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Monday, July 7, 2008

Wags for Wishes (July 11-13)

This year's Wags for Wishes will be held at the Otay Ranch Town Center on July 11-13 starting at 9:00 am each day (see below for more information). This event is the largest of its kind in the West Coast and it's a great place to go to see all the various dog sports. The event benefits the San Diego Chapter of Make a Wish Foundation. Admission and parking are free!

If you've never seen any of the dog sports, you'll be in for a treat. There will be Agility, Flyball, Canine Good Citizen, Disc, Field Lure, Herding, Sprint Racing, Obedience and Splash Dog trials. There will also be Junior Handling in some of these events.

Flyball and Disc Dog will be held at the nearby Otay Ranch High School since these 2 events require lots of grass. The high school is about 2 miles from the main event location. I highly recommend these 2 very entertaining events. The Disc Dog competition is amazing to watch! These owners and their dogs are so athletic and creative, I'm sure you'll enjoy watching some of them perform. As for Flyball, it's one of the noisest dog competitions around. I used to practice with Sydney a long time ago on a team, that is before she was diagnose with hip dysplasia, and it was always high energy, even at practice. You can watch this short Flyball Overview at SignOnSanDiego.com. There are some really fast teams in San Diego so don't blink or you might miss the race!

We're planning on going early Sunday morning with Merlin. I'm hoping to catch some Agility, Herding, Splash Dog, and Obedience. Maybe pop over to the high school if we're not too tired. Sydney and Cole get to stay at home since neither of them enjoy these kind of outings. I'm hoping that Merlin will take to Agility and Rally Obedience as he gets older. It's not necessarily to compete but rather to continue his training and building the bond between him and us. Oh yeah, and to provide him a *positive* release of his energy (wink, wink). He's showing good drive, fearlessness and focus as a puppy (all of 5 months!) but we'll see where his interest is when he's older. And whether his mommy will be able to keep up!

If you're looking for something to do this weekend, stop by the Wags for Wishes. It's for a great cause and I promise you'll find at least one event that you'll enjoy watching. If you've been considering trying out for some of these events, there will be workshops and try-outs available. Check the individual competition for more informaiton. There will also be vendors, a doggy fashion show, pet adoption, restaurants, and entertainment. Remember no off-leash unless you're competing (no brainer). There will be cooling pools, water bowls, and misters provided at the event. Although there are not a lot of natural shaded areas, the event coordinators will be creating shaded areas. If you has an umbrella (like those portable ones you can stake into the ground), take it with you to keep the pooches cool cuz it's going to be hot and I don't know how close those shaded areas will be to the events and how crowded they will be. Bring sunscreen for yourself and the kids.

Wags for Wishes 2008
Where: Otay Ranch Town Center, 2015 Olympic Parkway, Chula Vista
Time: July 11-13, 9:00 am - 5:00 pm each day
FREE admissions and parking!!

FAQs about Wags to Wishes

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Weekend Update

Hope everyone had a good long holiday weekend. I cooked a bit over the last 3 days but as my modus operandi, I didn't take any pictures of the dishes. I thought about it, but was just too lazy to go hike upstairs to get the camera (I make it sound like I'm climbing a mountain or something). There was one dish, however, that I'm going to wait to write about another day because it was the surprise hit of the weekend and I want to include at least a picture of it. So you'll have to wait on the write-up of sweet and sour dry-fried style pork spare ribs. The Mister put in a request for a double order of these, which means I'll have to make it soon. Other than that, just some simple but tasty dishes: tako (octopus) sunomono, ahi poke, guacamole, Buffalo style wings, grilled filet mignon with zesty fries, and lots of Fudgcicles and Lychee sherbet.

Have a wonderful week! Now go and eat well.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Happy Independence Day

Have a wonderful and safe 4th of July, everyone!

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