Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chinese Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs

I wrote about a Szechwan style ribs recipe here, which kind of reminds me a bit like dried fried beef as far as the texture of the meat. It's not a style of ribs typically found at a Chinese restaurant. But today's recipe is more that type, sans the red food coloring. It is also very close to what my uncles used to serve at their restaurants. I remember as a kid, I would get very giddy when we had this dish. This and tan tan noodles. I'm still working on the tan tan noodles recipe.

Anyway, the Mister and I love this dish. The balance between sweet and sour is just right (not overly sweet) and is very finger licking yummy! It's so good that neither one of us say much while we're eating this. It's pretty straight forward with a little bit of prep time. The frying of the ribs is also forgiving since it doesn't require keeping the exact temperature, like fried chicken or fingers do.

2 lb pork spare ribs (this is about a slab)
6 Tablespoon soy sauce
4 Tablespoon Chinese cooking rice wine (or any dry white wine)
7 Tablespoon sugar
4 Tablespoon vinegar
3 Tablespoon water
Peanut or vegetable oil for deep frying (~4 cups)

1 Tablespoon cornstarch
4 Tablespoon water

Cut the individual spare ribs into riblets about 1.5” lengths. BE VERY CAREFUL when cutting the individual ribs. Make sure your fingers are out of the way. I make a large cut on the rib side, then turn over and make a final cut, which usually does the trick. I found this easier than trying to hack through from one side. You also want to make sure you're not using your best kitchen knife to do this. I use a very old and not-so-favorite Chicago Cutlery butcher knife to do the hacking. You really are literally hacking the ribs. If you're not comfortable with this step, have your butcher do it for you. You'll also have less shards and sharp edges that way.

2-lb slab of pork ribs separated into individual ribs

First cut on rib side

Flip and cut on meat side to separate into riblets

Marinade ribs in soy sauce and wine for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Turn the ribs about 30 minutes in, making sure all the ribs get some good soak time.

In a Dutch oven, wok, or heavy duty pot, heat oil on medium high heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Deep fry the ribs in batches until golden brown but not too crispy or dry. I usually let the temperature go up to about 365-375 degrees F and then add about 6-8 riblets. I generally fry for about 4 minutes, depending on the thickness of the meat. Drain and set aside.

I then measured out the rest of the ingredients and mixed the slurry.

In a new wok or pan, add 1 tablespoon of cooking oil and heat on medium for 30 seconds. You can use less oil if using a non-stick. Add sugar, water and vinegar. Stir constantly. Add ribs and stir to coat. Push the ribs towards the sides, making a hole in the middle, add the cornstarch slurry to thicken sauce. I sometimes take the wok off the burner to add the slurry if I feel the sauce is a bit too hot. You don't want the heat too high when adding the slurry or else the sauce may turn too gelatinous and/or clumpy. Cook and stir for another 1-2 minutes or until the sauce is thickened and ribs are well coated. Plate and serve.

Serves 2-3 people. (The Mister and I can plow through 2 lbs of ribs easily.)

There you have it. Restaurant style Chinese sweet and sour spare ribs. Serve this up with some nice greens and some rice for a nice meal. We like to have brown rice with the ribs. The nuttiness of the brown rice seems to go really well with the sweet and sour flavors. Hope you enjoy this as much as we do.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Answers to Movie Quotes Trivia

Did you figure out all the movie quotes? Here are the answers.

  1. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (Aunt Voula)

  2. The Godfather, Part II (Kay Corleone)

  3. Young Frankenstein (Dr. Frankenstein)

  4. Blazing Saddles (Jim)

  5. Spaceballs (Dark Helmet)

  6. Bubba Ho-Tep (Elvis) - now you know I had to add a line from this movie, right?

  7. Waitress (Jenna) - give yourself an extra point if you got this one

  8. Ratatouille (Anton Ego)

  9. Rio Bravo (John T. Chance)

  10. 50 First Dates (Ula)

Hope you had fun and have a fantastic Labor Day weekend! Now go and eat well.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wednesday Nothings

Have you ever had those moments in life when everything comes at you at 100 mph? That's what it's been like for me this past month. Sheesh. I'm really looking forward (and need) the upcoming Labor Day weekend.

So just some mid-week ramblings. We're almost finished with Season 2 of Dexter (what's with the Communistic propaganda art? Did Showtime hire Obama's PR people to design that??) and I have to say it's better than Season 1. I also watched the previews for Season 3 and "supposedly" Dexter gets more edgy.

We also just got disks 1 and 2 of Heros Season 2 (thank you Netflix). We'll be starting that tonight.

Other shows we've been watching: Eureka and Burn Notice (Bruce Campbell fans rejoice). We're waiting for the final season of The Shield. In some ways, I'm kind of glad it's the last season of The Shield. The Mister likes this show more than me since I thought it jumped the shark in Season 5, although Season 6 did make an attempt to bring back the old "Vic Mackey." Another show that the Mister is waiting for is Rescue Me. I liked Season 1 and 2 but again, I felt the show was attempting to jump the shark in the middle of Season 3 (there's only so much of Sheila and Janet I can take). I'm hoping Season 5 won't be so Desperate Housewifey (no, I don't watch that show).

As for movies, most recently watched that I liked are: Penelope, 21, The Other Boleyn Girl (mainly because I've always been interested in this era's history), Mr. Brooks, and Death at a Funeral. The number of bad movies that I've watched outweighs the liked ones but I won't bore everyone with that.

Cartoons (yes, I watch cartoons) that I've been watching: Spongebob Squarepants (who doesn't watch Spongebob? Uh--the Mister), Chowder (hmm, me like a cartoon with a food theme, go figure), and Avatar: The Last Airbender. I really like the Avatar and highly recommend that for kids. There is a reason why the Avatar is so popular among kids and adults.

And I'll end today's rambling with some movie quotes. Let's see how many you recognize. Some are pretty easy and a couple of them are hard. Two of them have food themes. I'll post the answers over the weekend.

  1. What do you mean he don't eat no meat? Oh, that's okay. I make lamb.
  2. It wasn't a miscarriage. It was an abortion. An abortion, Michael. Just like our marriage is an abortion. Something that's unholy and evil.
  3. Let me out. Let me out of here. Get me the hell out of here. What's the matter with you people? I was joking! Don't you know a joke when you hear one? HA-HA-HA-HA. Jesus Christ, get me out of here! Open this goddamn door or I'll kick your rotten heads in! Mommy!
  4. You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons.
  5. How many assholes do we have on this ship, anyway? I knew it. I'm surrounded by assholes!
  6. That's it? That's the chant against evil from the "Book of Souls"? Oh yeah, right, boss. And what kind of decoder ring comes with that, man? Shit, it don't even rhyme well!
  7. I Can't Have No Affair Because It's Wrong And I Don't Want Earl To Kill Me Pie... Vanilla custard with banana. Hold the banana. (this is a hard one)
  8. I don't LIKE food, I LOVE it. If I don't LOVE it, I don't SWALLOW.
  9. All right, quit. Nobody's trying to stop you. You wanna quit, quit! Go back to the bottle, get drunk. One thing, though. The next time someone throws a dollar into a spittoon, don't expect me to do anything about it. Just get down on your knees and get it.
  10. Damn you Haole! You make my sister work in your hotels!

    Well off I go back to work...sigh. Hope y'all have a good remainder of the week and enjoy your long weekend! And be sure to eat well.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Ultimate Coconut Cake

To celebrate our wedding anniversary last week, I decided to make the Ultimate Coconut Cake for the Mister. He loves coconut, especially baked goods with coconut. Me? Well, I'm not a coconut fan unless it's deep fried around shrimp, hehe. But since the Mister is kind of special, I thought I'd bake him what has been touted as the Ultimate Coconut Cake. This cake has been featured in 2 Food Network Challenges and show cased on Martha Stewart's show. THE cake is the famous coconut cake by Chef Robert Carter of the Peninsula Grill.

If you haven't seen the throwdown from Bobby Flay or Chef Carter's guest appearance on Martha, let me try to describe this cake for you. It is 10 inches in diameter. It is 6 layers of cake and 5 layers of custardy-coconuty filling tall. It weighs approximately 12 pounds. Each slice served at the Peninsula Grill is 1 pound. Hefty! Just some idea of exactly what goes into this cake: 9 cups of sweetened coconut, 2.5 lbs of European butter, 3 3/4 cups of sugar, 5 cups of confectioner sugar, 6.5 cups of heavy cream, and 8 oz of cream cheese. No wonder it's so darn heavy!

I contemplated about making Bobby Flay's recipe, which won against Chef Carter's. But wanted to try my hand at the Ultimate cake first. With that kind of moniker, I went through my usual couple of weeks of trepidation, going through the process in my head, watching both the throwdown and Martha's show (you can watch that part of the episode on her website here), taking notes, planning and replanning again. I'm a decent cook but I'm a lousy baker. I do bake a handful of really good desserts, but cake, that's a whole other story. And from scratch. Hmmm...

At some point before the planned weekend, I seriously contemplated buying a cake from Peninsula Grill. Heck, what's a $100, right? (That's about $8.33/lb, heck, I've had lobster that cost more!)'s not so much the $100, and after making it, I can honestly say that $100 is worth every penny. It was the $124 shipping tag that was the show stopper. YIKES!! Now we're talking $18.67/lb. And the thought of paying more for shipping than the actual item's cost just doesn't seem right. So back to making the cake myself. Maybe another time for a very very special occasion (like our 25th anniversary).

I set aside 2 days to make the cake. Day 1, I made the coconut filling. This needs to chill overnight. I also made the simple sugar and set that aside in the fridge, too. The next day, I started on the cake. A standing mixer really comes in handy here. I measured out all my ingredients and shifted all the dry ingredients, per instructions, before I started mixing anything. I cracked all my eggs into a bowl with spout, makes adding eggs 1 at a time much easier. After I got my cake batter poured and into the oven (stupid oven, more on that later), I began on the coconut cake frosting. Easy to make, just follow the instructions, just make sure the butter is room temperature to help with the mixing. Once the frosting was done, I set that in the fridge for later.

The problem with my oven is that it's 20 years old and on the smaller side. A typical oven. But it wasn't made to handle 2 - 10" cake pans. The only way it worked was 1 rack on the top and 1 on the bottom. There are only 3 positions the racks can be and the optimal spot, of course, is the middle. Having this setup meant the top shelf is too close to the top heating element and the bottom is too close to the bottom. So rotating the 2 pans half way through might help even out the baking. Well, sort of but not really. The sides were rising way too fast and the middle was still runny at the half way point. By the last 5 minutes, the pan on top started to brown too fast, and well, let's just say these weren't the most prettiest cakes. But I marched on like a trouper.

Once the cakes were out of the oven, I popped in the sweetened coconut for toasting.

After the cakes cooled, I flipped them out onto 10" round cake boards. Because of the uneven baking, the middle of the cakes were lower than the sides. That meant slicing down the cake until the top is even. Which meant not enough cake to make 6 layers. So I decided on 4 layers. Also, I should have chilled the cakes before slicing through because the cakes started to crack in some places. I also don't think the cakes were completely cooled through the middle.

Once the layers were sliced, I started the assembly. I followed the instructions and it went along pretty well. The only little hiccup was dealing with the layers that were cracking, needed some extra care when layering. Once everything was assembled and frosted, I pressed on the toasted coconut. I chilled the caked for 2 hours before serving (we couldn't wait for the whole 5 hours).

Results: My cake actually looked more like Bobby Flay's cake than Chef Carter's (sorry no picture but you can check here to see a frozen version of it). It was a little lopsided since my cake layers weren't completely even. I used an upside down steel bowl with a cookie sheet on top as a make-shift lazy Susan. It worked well enough.
Although the instructions says to serve it at room temperature, I find it to be waaaaay too sweet at room temperature. I recommend serving it cold, tastes much better. Since there is so much filling, you really need to cut the cake when it's cold, anyway. It also tasted better after chilling for more than 5 hours (I think all the layers needed to set up).

The Mister loved the cake and wouldn't have me change a thing. Me? It's pretty darn good, except I'd like a little less coconut in the filling. For it to be a cake that I would love would be no coconut in the filling and a little less sweet (must be the Chinese in me). But it sure doesn't stop me from eating it. Surprisingly, I could not eat a 1 pound slice of cake. Neither could the Mister. I thought I could but I couldn't. As a matter of fact, 3 bites of it is enough to fill me. That's how dense this cake is. Whew! I had to freeze half the cake because there was just so much. Overall, I would make this cake again with adjusts to the sugar in the batter, filling, and possibly the frosting. So to summarize:

Day 1
Make the coconut filling and the simple sugar, refrigerate overnight. Make sure to finely chop the shredded coconut before adding it to the filling mixture.

Day 2
Make the 2 cake layers. While the cakes are baking, make the cream cheese frosting and set aside. Check the cakes at about 40 minutes to check for doneness. Make sure the toothpick comes out clean before removing from oven. Let the cakes cool completely on cooling racks. I recommend chilling the cakes another 30 minutes or so for easier slicing into layers.

Follow instructions of the Coconut Cake Assembly. After assembly, let cake chill for at least 5 hours. This will help the cake firm up. Make sure you have room in the refrigerator cuz it's huge!
Now go and eat well. And have a good week.

Postscript: I froze part of the cake (it's so dang big!). You can check it out here (and see pictures!).

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

AmerAsian Cuisine

AmerAsian Cuisine opened in Poway in March 2008 and we've been there several times since then. It's the first Filipino restaurant in Poway. Here's my disclaimer. My only exposure to Filipino cuisine has been limited to a friend's Mom's home cooked meals (her pancit was killer as so was her lumpias). That was over 17 years ago. So the Mister and I have been trying to expand our knowledge but in all honesty, I can only still identify a handful of dishes by sight (pancit, chicken/pork adobo, lechen, lumpia and beef mechado). This makes ordering turo turo style a little more difficult for me (I point a lot and ask "what's that?").

I stopped by AmerAsian Cuisine for lunch a few weeks ago and decided to get a 2 entry combo ($6.99). Although that is a little more than some of the other Filipino restaurants in close-by Mira Mesa area, the extra $1-2 can be saved on gas for those who live closer to Poway.

On this visit, I decided to get chicken adobo (one of my favorite dishes), and beef mechado. Odette Roda Peckham, the owner, was behind the counter that day. She is always very pleasant and obviously very proud of the food. Every time I ask the name of a dish, she is always quick to offer a sample of it. One evening, she even sent us home with an order of fish soup for free just to try. I can't remember the name of it (and no picture of course) but it was pretty good. It was a bit too salty for me but the Mister really enjoyed it. I have yet to try the kare-kare (stewed oxtail, beef, tripe and vegetables in peanut sauce) but that's on my list to try next time when I go with the Mister.

I love pancit and I think AmerAsian's pancit bihon is decent. The chicken adobo is typically on the vinegary side (I like mine to be a little less vinegary) but the chicken is moist and the gravy is plentiful. I like the Beef Mechado, tender pieces of meat and potatos are cooked perfect. But my favorite beef dish here is the Beef Caldereta. No beef caldereta on this day, though. BTW, the menu does change daily and if you're looking for something in particular, call ahead. Odette has told me that I can always call her in the morning to let her know what I'm in the mood for and she'll make it. How's THAT for service???

So for a quick and very reasonably priced meal, AmerAsian is a good choice for some home cooked style Filipino food. Odette learned to cook at a young age by helping her mom in the kitchen and I think knowing how much she loves to cook for people makes me enjoy the food that much more.

AmerAsian Cuisine
Twin Peaks Plaza
14897 Pomerado Road
Poway, CA 92064
(Right next to The Original Pancake House)
Hours: Open 7 days a week, 10:30a - 8:30p
Phone: 858-679-0644

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Catching Up

Sorry for the lack of posts this past week. I've been really busy but should be back in the swing of things next week...okay, shortly. And my next food item should hopefully dazzle a few! Just a hint as to what I'm planning for this weekend for a special occassion. It's sweet, coconuty, lots of layers, very very delicious and weighs 12 pounds!!

Have a wonderful weekend. Now go and eat well.

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