March 21, 2015 No Comments
This month marks my half year living in Chicago. Since my move, I have been attempting new things, culinary and beyond–like cactus. Though common in Mexican cuisine, nopal, a species of cactus, was unknown to me until my neighbor Jessica invited me over for dinner, where she served nopales wrapped in warm, soft tortillas. I was pleasantly surprised by nopales’ ability to retain flavor, and its tender yet crunchy texture. It was so satisfying that trying it once was not enough. Luckily, Jessica lives only a few blocks away, and Mexican grocers are abundant in this new city of mine.
March 19, 2015 No Comments
I love dumplings! I love vegetables! Vegetable dumplings, however, I care much less for. There are a couple common shortfalls when it comes to veggie dumplings. First, it falls apart after one bite because, unlike pork dumplings, there’s no fat to bind the filling together. Second, the texture is mushy due to the water content.
I made these veggie dumplings for a Chinese New Year gathering I had last week. The filling has three ingredients: green peas, shiitake mushrooms, and vermicelli noodles. I tried to control for the two aforementioned shortfalls. To prevent the filling from falling apart, I coarsely grounded the peas using my food processor, which created a sticky green mush. Yum. To control for the mushy texture, I used a cheesecloth to strain the liquid from the peas. Adding diced shiitake and vermicelli noodles created more texture. For seasoning, I used salt and sesame oil. The result? A veggie dumpling that holds up. Not too watery. Not too mushy.
March 12, 2015 No Comments
Today it’s going to rise to a whopping 29 degrees in Chicago. And the forecast shows it’s uphill from here. I appreciate winter, but when March rolls around, even us Midwesterners start to tire from the snow and the cold.
Being in the mood for more greenery recently, it’s a welcome time to bake a matcha cake. I confess, baking intimidates me. This cake, however, is simple. The list of ingredients is not extensive: butter, flour, sugar, eggs and matcha powder. Matcha is green tea finely milled into powder form, and it is what gives green tea desserts their color.
Matcha, however, functions more than food coloring. It also adds flavor and subtly affects texture. This recipe makes a dense cake, with a subtle sweetness, pairing well with a cup of tea or coffee. By itself, matcha tastes slightly bitter. When added to desserts, matcha tempers sweetness. Many recipes for cake calls for a dash of salt to round off the sweetness. It is not necessary here because the matcha powders does the “rounding off”.
March 6, 2015 No Comments
I grew up eating an abundance of greens—from broccoli and peas to ong choy and gai lan. The brussels sprout, however, was not within my family’s repertoire. As a child, it was a vegetable that took on mythic proportions. I had never seen or eaten them, but heard enough to believe that brussels sprouts were capable of torture.
Then one day, my Mom came home from the grocery store and excitedly told me that she discovered these cute, little baby lettuce heads, which she was going to cook for me. I joined her in marveling over the Barbie-sized lettuces, not knowing then, that I was actually looking at brussels sprouts—not a lettuce at all, but a member of the cabbage family.
It amuses me, now, to learn that other Asian Americans have their own memorable first-encounter-with-brussels-sprouts stories. The outcome has been marvelous, since this versatile vegetable does well with Chinese-style cooking. Now, we have hoisin-glazed brussel sprouts, kung pao brussel sprouts, brussels sprouts paired with Chinese sausage, and my own recipe, black bean garlic sauce brussels sprouts.
February 26, 2015 No Comments
Yesterday marked the beginning of the Lunar New Year, and I wish you a joyous 2015 full of deliciousness! I am excited to be making phone calls to the family, and sharing meals with friends in the days and weeks ahead.
How are you celebrating the new year? If you are looking for some inspiration, Andrea Nguyen of Viet World Kitchen has some tips and advice on new year foods, decor and parties.
February 20, 2015 No Comments
Crab rangoons: A classic Chinese American menu item. Though there is no clear consensus on the origins of this fried cream cheese stuffed wonton, it is certain that the crab rangoon did not come from China or Southeast Asia, as cheese is neither produced nor popular there.
Crab rangoons appeared on the menu of Asian American restaurants as early as the 1950s, when America’s perception of Chinese cuisine (and people) was severely different from today. It was not until after Nixon’s visit to China in 1972 that Chinese food began to enjoy greater acceptance in the United States.
Thus, the idea of stuffing cheese into wonton wrappers was probably an immigrant’s attempt to make Chinese food more palatable to the majority of Americans. And the fact that they are widely popular today, and a ubiquitous item on the menus of Chinese American establishments is testament to the crab rangoon’s success.
February 18, 2015 No Comments
Sweet and spicy, I baked these cookies in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. With cayenne peppers, these are not-your-ordinary spice cookies. The first time I made these, I accidentally doubled the cayenne peppers from the original recipe, resulting in surprisingly spicy, yet still delicious, cookies. The recipe, from Epicurious, suggests pressing candied cherries in the middle of the cookie rounds. I didn’t have any, and used pistachios and almonds instead. In retrospect, I think they would have looked cuter without. Or alternatively, dried apricots might work well.
Happy Valentine’s Day. May it be sweet and spicy!
February 14, 2015 No Comments