Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Mapo Tofu

I've had this picture of mapo tofu from Wu Chao Shou in Taiwan as my Google picture for's time to replace that! And, it is also way overdue for a post about 麻婆豆腐, seeing as I make it rather often (does once every 2-3 weeks count?).


Mapo Tofu
mapo doufu
Serves 2 if this is your only protein dish, serves 4 if you have other protein dishes

綠豆西米露 - Mung Bean Tapioca Soup

A few days before Chinese New Year, I brought red bean sticky rice cake  for my friends at the restaurant to try. "What is it?" one of the servers asked. "Bean cake," K told them. "Hmm, is this eaten with anything else- ice cream or something?" S asked. "It tastes....innnnnteresting..."

1) Sweet bean taste (and weaker bean taste, too, because this was a store-bought cake, not the one I made) and 2) Rice in dessert made for some disappointments in taste and texture department from these French cuisiners. Oops! Needless to say, they were not fans. I later told my mom on the phone about this funny cultural exchange, and we talked about the differences in Western and Eastern palates.

It's funny how different cultures think about different ingredients. For beans, Western cuisine and Eastern cuisine have completely different takes on it!

When I think of beans with a Western brain, I think of salt: chili, hummus, rice and beans, split pea soup, and salad.
When I think of beans with an Eastern mindset, I think of both salt and sugar: tofu, soy sauce, soymilk pudding, red bean paste (豆沙), Vietnamese 三色冰 or Che Ba Mau, red bean soup, mung bean soup, etc.

But, please stay with me on this beany journey- learn to appreciate both the savory and sweet applications of our legume friends!

'Mung bean' is the more appealing translation of the Chinese word lv dou (綠豆). Lv dou actually translates to 'green bean,' just like adzuki bean is another word for red bean. I'm sure people would be gagging if they heard green bean soup as a dessert, as a picture of the lovely string bean would first pop up in their minds.

If the taro version is the 'original' 西米露, then allow me to call this its mung bean cousin.
I was tempted to add a pinch of salt, after thinking of how salt is so smartly applied in the famous Thai dessert of mango sticky rice, but feel free to include or exclude that if you wish. I don't think Chinese people ever add salt to desserts, so I guess this is my take on this one.
Also, I'm not sure if 綠豆西米露 is the official correct name for this, but it's the way I thought to differentiate it from its popular taro counterpart. Bon appétit!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy Early Chinese(Lunar) New Year!

The Lunar New Year starts on Thursday, February 19, but I think I should give everyone advanced notice so they can start buying ingredients for making rice cake now ;) 

I was talking to a friend about really wanting to make 'rice cake,' and she (I actually forget who, now) asked, "Do you mean the diet food?" I had to quickly correct her and tell her, no, definitely not the diet food- anything but!

This rice cake is made of sticky rice flour, or glutinous rice flour (which does not contain gluten in it, contrary to its possibly deceptive name). Sticky rice is even more carb-laden then regular rice- weee! Like its "regular" rice counterpart, long grain sticky rice is less sticky than short grain sticky rice, and this stickier short grain rice is ground up to produce what we formally call glutinous rice flour. Glutinous rice flour (糯米粉) is used to make the super chewy foods: yuan zi, jian dui, flat rice noodles, mochi and both sweet and savory nian gao (rice cake). I can't think of anything else at the moment- feel free to chime in on other uses in the comment box!

I love QQ or "chewy" (for lack of a better translation) foods,such as those made from glutinous rice flour, and I love red bean, so I really love 紅豆年糕。Every year, one of our parents' grandmotherly friends would make it around the Lunar New Year, and give a "loaf" to us, which was wrapped in plastic wrap and in a brown paper bag. It was the humblest of packaging for a tasty treat made with love. 

We would slice the rice cake and coat it in egg and a tiny bit of flour, then pan-fry it until the insides were gooey, and the outside a nice golden brown. Dusted with a light powdering of confectioner's sugar, this made for a great dessert or breakfast! 

Every year since I've been away from California, my aunt sends me a package with new year candies and this rice cake. Thank you, Auntie R! I figure it is time for me to make it on my own. 

T's family said that this rice cake had just the right level of sweetness, and had a great amount of red beany taste. Make it, won't you please? 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Spicy Thai Basil String Beans and Pork

This dish is a collision of the ubiquitous "Spicy basil ________" at Thai restaurants colliding with string beans and pork. Apparently, others have thought the same way, but my dish is once again, heavy on the vegetables and lighter on the meat. Enjoy!

Spicy Thai Basil String Beans and Pork
makes 4-5 hefty servings

2 Tbsp oil + a little more
6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
Chopped or torn chilies, dried or fresh- as many as you can handle
9 oz lean pork, sliced thinly
2 tsp Shaoxing wine (optional)
5 1/2 cups trimmed string beans (from about 1 3/4 pounds untrimmed beans), chopped
1 Tbsp oyster sauce
2-3 Tbsp fish sauce 
1 1/2 loosely packed Thai basil leaves (~30 leaves)

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Taiwan Eats II of V: Gaohsiung

So then we left Taipei and took the high speed rail to Gaohsiung. If you make it through this post, you may be wondering..where are all the night markets at? Where's Liuhe (六合) and Ruifeng (瑞豐)? There were two main reasons we didn't go...1) We only spent two nights in Gaohsiung, and 2)One of my mom's friends, who keeps a strict healthy diet, told us we shouldn't go =(. We also didn't have much room or time for it, because our time was mostly guided by my mom's friends.

Fear not! With T (Mr. ABC Chef) in my company, there's no way we would have left future nightmarkets undiscovered. We went to practically all the night markets possible, in the other cities we visited. Stay tuned..


Xing Long Ju

xing long ju 興隆居

xing long ju  興隆居

xing long ju  興隆居
Yes, we were there at 6:50 AM!

xing long ju  興隆居
Making tang bao!

xing long ju  興隆居

xing long ju  興隆居
Fast workers!

xing long ju  興隆居
Get a tang bao (or 2 ;) ) and a soy milk, and for $1.50 you are set for an amazing breakfast!

xing long ju  興隆居

Picking up this huge tang bao with my right hand, while taking a picture with my left hand. Sorry it's kind of blurry :(