Archive for the ‘Chinese Food’ Category

New city, new job and n20140513-202943.jpgew kitchen… I’m back and a lot has changed since my last post. However some things haven’t and our loveof food, cooking and eating hasn’t. This week is a bit crazy at my new job, long hours, lots of politics and the prospect of working on Saturday. I came home from worktonight and really had major chocolate cravings. I was just going to buy some chocolate but instead thought I would bake.

Over the weekend my brother and I stumbled across a slice recipe that our Mum used to make for afternoon tea when we were young. Now, the slice is called Chinese Chews… I have know idea why and there is certainly nothing Chinese about them. My brother thought his Chinese wife would find the name hilarious. So I decided I would make this randomly named slice.20140513-194233.jpg

It was a very easy recipe and one I don’t think I have ever made. In a large bowl I mixed together 1 cup sugar, 1 cup mixed dried fruit, 1 self-raising flour, 1 cup desiccated coconut, 1 tablespoon cocoa. While I was combining the dry ingredients I had 125 grams of margarine melting.

When the butter was melted I added it to the dry ingredients along with an egg and a teaspoon of vanilla essence. Then I just mixed it all together. It is quite a stiff mixture so I got my hands in there to finish combining it all.

20140513-194241.jpgI then pressed the mixture into a slice pan that I had lined with baking paper. You don’t need to grease the tin or line it but I did this so I could easily remove the slice. Once evenly and firmly pressed into the pan I popped it into a moderate oven for 20 minutes.

While it was baking I mixed together the butter icing. Check out my recipe here. When the slice was baked I iced it while it was still hot. The icing melts into the slice and makes it chewy and yummy. The final touch was just to sprinkle some coconut over the top.

I let it cool before tucking in… Organising lunches, dinner and cleaning up while it cooled.20140513-194251.jpg

Then it was ready…. One bite and I was 10 again. Chewy, chocolaty and full of fruit! I behaved and only ate one piece and will take a lot into work tomorrow but it was worth the effort of baking just for that one slice of Chinese Chews….

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Steamed dim sum.jpgFirstly, thanks to everyone who gave such great food suggestions for my trip to DC. I would need to stay here a few weeks to make it to all of them but unfortunately I only have 3 nights. I arrived into the city late this afternoon and have already been out to try the first of the 3 places I decided on.

Ping Pong Dim Sum was recommended by FreshDaily 101 We have a weakness for dim sum. I had to go to this place, just so I could send photos of the delicious food back to J. To make him jealous… Oh, and it is so close to the hotel. It is a really nice restaurant, not at all what the name suggests and tonight it was packed and energized for their Wednesday mojito madness. I stayed away from the mojitos but was ready for a good meal after having only a smoothie hours before back in Arizona.

Although the menu isn’t completely traditional, it still offered all of my favorites and Ping pong selection.jpgthen some. After perusing the menu, I decided on the Ping Pong Selection which gave me my favorites and a mix of their more unusual dim sum flavors. To accompany the dim sum I ordered a draft beer I had never seen before, yuengling lager.

The beer came out quickly and it was delicious, a nice accompaniment for dinner. The Ping Pong selection was 10 different dim sum for $20. A little more expensive than other dim sum but I think in the end it was worth the money.

My first plate came out with 3 pieces, a honey roasted chicken puff, a Vietnamese rice paper shrimp roll and a crisp potato cake. Not the most traditional but incredibly delicious. All three were very fresh and crispy. The potato cake was amazing and so crunchy on the outside but creamy inside. A really good start to the meal.

A little different.jpgThe remaining items all came out in a large steamer. I do love being presented food this way. They were all still steaming and looked delicious. I left my favorites until the end… Eating my way through a steamed sea bass dumpling, a chicken, pineapple and lemongrass dumpling, a crabmeat and prawn dumpling and a beef and cumin dumpling. They were definitely fresh and perfectly cooked to my liking. They were unusual flavors but I really liked them. The beef had Indian flavors to me and the sea bass was just amazing.

Finally I came to my 3 favorites and how I measure any dim sum restaurant… Har gua, seafood shu mai and a char sui bun. The first two were good, tasty and well made. The char sui bun was the final test. It was so very good… After years of eating these after nights out in Japan, they are still one of my all time favorite foods. The bun was light and fluffy and pork had such great flavor.

I was so pleased.

This is a different dim sum restaurant. If you are looking for traditional, it isn’t the place for you but I say live a little, try something different! This is a great place to do that… Pineapple, cumin, and potato in dumplings… Who wouldn’t want to try that… Plus some of the best steamed pork buns I have eaten.

Thanks again Fresh Daily 101. This was a wonderful start to my trip. Tomorrow night is St Arnold Mussel Bar.

The Feast.jpgThis is our 100th blog. This is such a milestone, J. and I wanted it to be one about something that was special to us. That is why it has taken so long to post. To make it even more special I thought J. should write it… So from J. and I thank you for your support of the first 100 entries, we are looking forward to the next 100.

C & J

Take any style of cooking or cooking technique.  From any country.  I’ll give you a second to think about that for a bit.  No, really, think of any country or cooking style… Italian, French, Greek… you name it.  Guess where they got their origins?  China.  That’s right… any type of modern-day cooking technique has come from the Chinese.  Grilling meat over coals… they came up with that.  You think the French came up with sautéing?  Guess again.  The Chinese came up with that in a little vessel called a wok.  You thought boiling noodles until they were al dente came from the Italians?  Chinese came up with that centuries before Marco Polo made his trip back.

For all of their amazing techniques, you’d think there would be a lot more authentic Chinese food here in the US.  Unless you happen to live in San Francisco or New York and within walking distance to their respective Chinatowns, chances are what you know as Chinese food here in the US is fake.  I hate to burst your bubble, but P.F. Changs or that chain with the smiling panda found in most airports are Pork with Capsicum/Peppers.jpgabout as close to real Chinese food as those Gucci purses that just happen to be on sale for $20.

So when C and I had the opportunity to enjoy a banquet to end all banquets prepared by a Chinese grandmother, we couldn’t help but document the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Let’s be honest, grandmothers kick ass in the kitchen.  That Italian grandma you have who came from the old country who makes that great polenta you like?  Nobody can duplicate it.  That Polish grandmother who makes the best pierogis?  She’ll kick your ass with her kitchen skills.  With this banquet, we were bowing down to the one true kung-fu master in the kitchen.  Grand Master Qi Fen (for an apprentice like me, I must refer to her as master or shi fu)!  Grand Master Qi Kung Pao Chicken.jpgFen just happens to be a brand new grandmother after her daughter (SW – C’s sister in law) gave birth to a bouncing baby boy over the holidays, and she was gracious enough to prepare an amazing meal of 10 dishes for the whole family.  I’m going to let that settle for a bit… that’s right… 10 dishes!

She spent the entire day shopping, prepping, and cooking the amazing meal and I had no choice but to take my place as the apprentice, knowing that I didn’t even come close to her kitchen prowess.  That place just happened to be the kitchen stool next to her.  Watching her knife skills, her seasoning technique, her marinating technique, ingredients she used, and most importantly, her ability to balance up to 5 dishes being cooked at the same time yet making sure each was closely Mapo Tofu.jpgwatched.

Ever see a Chinese cook use a meat cleaver as precisely as a paring knife?  It’s something else.  You think you have good control with chopsticks?  I’m half Korean and have been eating with chopsticks since I was 5.  Grand Master was using long giant ones as if they were built into her wrist.

More importantly, watching Grand Master allowed me the opportunity to find out how the Chinese get those amazing flavors in to their food.  I don’t mean to give up a secret here, but you only need a handful of ingredients to get great authentic Chinese flavor in your dishes:  dark soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, green onion, garlic, and salt.  Stuffed Pork Meatballs.jpgThat’s it folks… you figure that out, you’re about 2% there in becoming the next Grand Master.  The other 98% I think is attributed to years of experience and repetition, but what do I know?

I’m not about to give out recipes in this post… that would take an eternity and I think C would rather give out that information after we take a shot at a few of these dishes ourselves.  I’m not about to name all of these dishes either but I’ll do my best in trying to describe them.  On to the food!

Kung Pao Chicken – Cut chicken thighs marinated in dark soy, Chinese cooking wine, a little salt and green onions quickly cooked with Chinese chili flake oil and green peppers with peanuts.  Who knew a dish in almost ever neighborhood Chinese restaurantPork Belly with 100-Year Old Eggs.jpg menu would taste this good.

Pork with Capsicum/Peppers – Thinly sliced pork (sliced with a meat cleaver no less) cooked with thinly sliced green capsicum/pepper.  I dare anyone to try and cut pork as uniformly as she did with a cleaver, and not lose at least part of a finger.

Mapu Tofu – Ground pork with spicy tofu.  The dish to judge all Chinese cooks by.  This one was flavorful and delicious. We have made this before – but we do it the cheats way.

Kick-Ass Fish.jpgStuffed Pork Meatballs – I have no idea how those balls went from hollow fried spheres, to soft, flavorful stuffed globes full of pork.  The dark soy/Chinese cooking wine marinade was excellent once again.

Pork Belly with 100-Year Old Eggs – Ever seen what the Chinese call 100-Year Old Eggs?  These weren’t those but they sort of looked like them with the dark soy infusing to the egg whites.  Soft pork belly slow cooked with that rich marinade.Salted Cucumber.jpg

Kick-Ass Fish – I challenge anyone to cook a flavorless white fish like tilapia and have it packed with as much flavor as Grand Master did in this dish.  One of the better fish dishes I’ve had in my life.

Salted Cucumber – A simple dish to cleanse the palate.  Crunchy cucumber cut uniformly with a giant cleaver.

Shrimp with Egg.jpgShrimp with Egg – Ever try de-veining 30 or more shrimp with a cleaver?  Try doing it and let’s see how many fingers you’ll have left.  Grand Master did that for every single shrimp (prawn for you Aussies) we had.

Snowpeas with Garlic – Crunchy snowpeas that went so well with rice.

Vegetable Medley – Gotta love that corn starch slurry to give it that classic Chinese shine!Snowpeas with Garlic.jpg

Definitely a meal I won’t soon forget.  I feel as if we’re indebted to Grand Master for this meal.  Maybe one day I’ll get to make my famous (to a circle of about 8 people) BBQ ribs for her, although that won’t even come close to the spectacle she put on for us.

If Grand Master Qi Vegetable Medley.jpgFen ever has a chance to read this, she’s invited to our house any day for dinner.  If the meal we cook for her is even halfway as good as the meal she prepared for us, then I would consider that a success.

Betel Leaf.jpgFirst let me apologize for my absence. I haven’t been well and have not been up to sitting down and writing when I Watermelon.jpgget home from work. I hope I am back to normal and be posting regularly again from now on.

Back to food!

J. and I still have so much food to write about from our time back in Australia. I thought I would share one of the meals we had at a great Asian restaurant in Melbourne while we were there.

For Christmas we were lucky enough to get a $100 gift card for Red Spice Road, a very cool, very delicious Asian restaurant in one of the gorgeous laneways in Melbourne. For those of you who don’t know Melbourne, it is filled with small laneways that have some of the best food, coffee and nightlife the city has to offer, well really, Australia has to offer. Whenever in Melbourne, time must be taken to wander these laneways and see what has changed, discover new places and visit old favorites.

Oysters.jpgJ. had never been to this restaurant before so we decided to go all out and get the $75 per person tasting menu… Tofu and mushrooms.jpgwhy not when we had the gift card! We mistakenly thought that we needed to pick a few of the items from the huge tasting menu to have, however it turned out that we got enough of everything on the menu for two… Oh dear!

The first trio of dishes were little nibblies or starters. Just a bite of each for us. But those bites were magnificent! First up was Betel Leaf with Chicken, Crab, Coconut, Chilli & Kaffir Lime. I usually find things wrapped in betel leaf to bitter but this was just perfect. The chilli & lime fought against the bitterness and the sweet crab and coconut just tied it all together. The next bite was Watermelon topped with Sticky Pork, Peanut and Prawn Relish. As weird and unusual as this sounds it was probably my favorite thing of the night. I don’t actually know how to describe this accurately but it was a burst of sweet, savory flavor in your mouth. I could have eaten 12 of them but we only got 1 each.

Lamb Ribs.jpgThe last dish in this first trio was an Oyster with Chilli Jam, Lime Juice and Crispy Shallots. Now IBeef salad.jpgam not sure if I have ever expressed the love J. and I have for oysters on the blog before… but we seriously have an obsession with them. I think we would have been happy to eat the oysters and nothing else if we could have had 3 dozen of them! These were the perfect bite, but sadly just one bite each.

A few sips of wine and a little chatter later the next trio of dishes arrived. These would be the appetizers. First was the Beef, Rice Noodle, Herb, Pickled Carrot, Cucumber and Shallot Salad, seriously spicy and delicious. There is something so refreshing about this kind of salad!

Kingfish salad.jpgIn this trio we also had Crispy Tofu with Mushrooms, Wombok, Bamboo, Green Onion and Masterstock Duck curry.jpgand Twice Cooked Lamb Ribs with a Tamarind and Coconut Relish. Both of these were completely amazing. The lamb ribs, well the meat just fell off the bone and then the tofu dish was unbelievably delicious. J. even enjoyed the tofu.

I was getting full, really full by this stage and the main dishes were still to come! I thought they would be small but they were huge and this trio had my favorite dish from this restaurant in it so I had to find room to eat!

The final trio… could we do it??

First was the Raw Kingfish, Green Tomato, Asian Celery, Green Chilli and Coriander Salad, light and perfectly cooked… we managed to squeeze all of this in. J. was a trooper and pushed through the pain. Also in the trio was a Duck Red Curry with Pineapple and Sweet Potato. This was a creamy, spicy curry with just the right hint of sweetness. If I hadn’t already had 7 other dishes I could have dived into this!

Pork Belly Perfection.jpgThe last dish was the dish that I come to Red Spice Road for… Pork Belly with Apple Slaw, Chilli Caramel and Pandan Cream.jpgBlack Vinegar. What do I have to say really… the name says it all. Crispy pork belly with chilli and vinegar – PERFECTION!

We were full… 9 dishes of food… I know it was a tasting menu but those servings were not small… And then there was still the dessert. I didn’t know if we could do it but the waiter promised us it was light and refreshing…Pandan Cream with Puffed Wild Rice, Peanut Praline and Coconut. Well, the waiter was right. It was fresh, light and delicious. The best thing to finish off our feast.

It was a long meal… 3 hours. It was a delicious meal and it was a big meal! We were both so impressed and happy with our dinner. We didn’t really need to eat for a few days after but of course we were on holidays so that didn’t happen.

So if you ever find yourself wandering around Melbourne’s laneways definitely check out Red Spice Road!

Wombok Salad.jpgI am a big fan of salad during the summer. When we were home in Australia Mum brought out some of my favorites. The one I want to share today was made the first Sunday we were home and some friends were coming up from Brisbane for lunch.

This is what I refer to as a Wombok Salad but it is probably more accurately called, Oriental Fried Noodle Salad . Sometimes I add roast chicken or pork to it but this day we had it as an accompaniment to Dad’s grilled lamb.

Now be careful… this is so easy you might just get it wrong!

Finely slice half of one large Wombok (or Chinese cabbage) until it is just above the base. The leaves around the base can get quite thick and bitter so I use a little but not all of that thicker part. Put all of this into a large salad bowl.

Then put 100 grams slivered almonds into a fry pan and gently brown them. I was kidding about the whole be careful because it’s so simple but the number of times I have got distracted and burnt my almonds is unbelievable. When browned just take these off the heat and let them cool.

Meanwhile, chop up 6 green onions (spring onions), these don’t have to be too fine but don’t do giant chunks either. I usually cut them around ¼ of an inch long. When cut throw these into the salad bowl with the wombok.

Next up is to make the dressing. In a bottle put ¼ cup of white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and ½ a cup of olive oil. Close the bottle and shake furiously!

Just before you are ready to serve throw in 1 small packet of fried noodles, the almonds and then pour the dressing over the top. Gently mix everything together and it is ready to serve.

I love this salad… It is one J likes too which is always good. I could eat this without anything else for lunch anytime. It was great however with Dad’s lamb… so delicious. This was just the start of the feast my parents put on for us when we were home!

P.S. Check out the salad bowl we used in the photo… very cool!

On lazy nights, when neither of us want to cook and we just want to grab something quick, we have so many choices it is dizzying. Close to us we have Wendy’s, Burger King, Carl’s Junior, McDonald’s and In & Out Burger. This is just the fast food burger places without even touching on the others like Filiberto’s or KFC. As much as I may crave and want these choices I prefer to make a healthier, fresher choice and more significantly a cheaper choice, Lee’s Sandwiches.

Lee’s is a Vietnamese restaurant/bakery/cafe/take out place just around the corner from us. They do a huge menu of sandwiches and baguettes as well as croissants. It is a great place to pick up some crusty baguettes for home made garlic bread or just for dipping in soup. However J. and I have taken a liking to their banh mi (Vietnamese rolls).

There are 18 different kinds of banh mi on their menu and we are working our way through them. Though it is alittle difficult for us to stray from any of the pork options. The pork is just too good to pass up.

My favorite and the one I keep going back to is the #6. This is their BBQ pork roll which is so refreshing and delicious. Thin strips of BBQ pork , carrot, cucumber, onion, topped with chillies and cilantro. All of this goes on their freshly bake baguettes. They bake them right there, you can sit and watch the baguettes go around. They have the perfect crusty outside and soft fluffy inside and are the best vessel for the deliciously fresh vegetables and pork.

J. recently tried the #18 which is pork and cured pork. Of course he chose a pork on pork sandwich! He was really happy with it and said it was just as good as all the others we had tried. The meat filling changes in each sandwich but you still get the carrot, cucumber, onion, chillies and cilantro no matter what. That freshness is what makes them so good.

Of course we still have a few more to try but so far we haven’t had a bad one. Even the night we went and they had run out of baguettes and we had the croissants instead, we couldn’t complain.

The thing that amazes me about this place is that it is so cheap. Banh mi for the two of us costs a little more than $6.00 and that is a meal for us! You just have to love that. Lee’s is a chain and there are locations in California, Texas, Nevada, Oklahoma and of course Arizona.

I am so happy they are literally just around the corner.. it definitely helps me make a healthier fast food choice. Not  that I will stay away from other options completely but it is great to have a fast, fresh and completely yummy choice too! All for a bargain price of $6!!!

My big brother did a wonderful thing for our family when he married an amazing Chinese woman. SW has brought many great things to our family, including but certainly not limited to the introduction to authentic Chinese food made at home. I could talk about all her other qualities but lets stick with the cooking.

Like her mum, my sister in law usually prepares 3 or more dishes for us to gorge ourselves on, picking bits and pieces from each selection. Whenever I go and visit my brother and his wife I request nearly the same meal every time. Rice, bok choy, an egg and mushroom dish which has no name and Mapo Tofu. SW. always used to ask me what I would like and I would always say, “that mushroom eggy thing and mapo tofu”. I think she finds it strange that I love these 2 dishes so much, needless to say she has stopped asking me what I would like.

Many years ago I introduced J. to mapo tofu, of course adding additional chillies for him, it has now become one of our go to meals and J. has often packed it up  to have for lunch at work. It is a fast and delicious dish to throw together during the week and you can make a big amount without too much trouble.

I cheat when I make this and buy the Mapo Tofu mix (though the packet says Mabo Tofu) from our local Asian supermarket Lee Lee’s. You can easily just follow the instructions on the back but we mix it up a little. The packet mixes come in mild, medium and hot so you choose your own level of heat, of course we go with hot!

In a large wok or frying pan I heat up some canola oil and fry some green onions (about 5 stalks), a handful of finely chopped chillies and two large tablespoonfuls of chinese chilli & garlic in oil. After a couple of minutes I add in the meat, we usually use ground pork but have used chicken and beef before. So I put in 500 grams of pork and cook until it has browned a little.

Next step is to add the Mapo Tofu packet mix. We use 2 packets for this amount of meat so that it is really nice and saucy. I add both packets and stir it through the meat. Finally I add in 500 grams of cubed tofu. I use just plain, regular tofu for this as it soaks up the flavor really quickly. This just needs to cook for a few minutes until the tofu has heated through.

We normally just eat this with rice but occassionally I add some quickly steamed bok choy so that I can get J. to eat a vegetable. The real trick with Mapo Tofu is to get him to stop eating after his second helping! Try this out, so easy, a little different and really delicious!

Most weeks we try to do a date night, a night where we get out of the house, away from the football and go somewhere new to eat and do something fun. Last Friday J. needed to pay up on a bet with me and we got to go to any movie of my choosing. I was nice and didn’t choose Twilight, I chose Argo, which incidently was an excellent movie, that we both enjoyed.

After the movie we went for dinner at the only buffet J. will set foot in outside of LasVegas. Hong Kong Gourmet Buffet, well the name probably tells you what kind of food is served, is a Chinese buffet with a few Western dishes thrown into the mix. J. has been here a few times but it was my first experience.

Now, great preparation goes into going to a buffet for us… only eating a certain amount leading up to dinner and making sure we are super hungry. J. has always lectured encouraged me to eat our moneys worth at the buffet. This buffet was only $15.99 so I figured I should be able to achieve that!

There was a great variety of food at this buffet, including a made to order sushi bar in the center, hot chinese dishes, fresh seafood, salad and dessert bars, vegetables and so much more.

My first plate I got some tempura vegetables, some dim sum and a few crab puffs. The tempura was surprisingly fresh and crispy still and the dim sum had great flavor for a buffet. As for the crab puffs, well they were just delicious!! So amazingly good.

Next I had some cheese covered shrimp which sound weird but were yummy! I also had some garlic shrimp and orange chicken, normally I would stay away from these westernised Chinese dishes but I thought I would give them a try. They were great and took me back to my college years when we used to order Chinese food while preparing for a show. I also had some of their marinated ribs which were seriously good.

I had been wanting to try the prime rib all night and finally cornered one of the servers to carve it for me. I had a slice of it and a couple of more crab puffs (I just couldn’t resist). The prime rib was actually delicious, perfectly cooked and the jus the accompanied it was just the right amount of flavor to go with it.

For dessert I just had a bowl of chocolate soft serve ice cream with some chocolate syrup and oreo cookie crumbles. That was great and pretty much all I could fit in after 3 giant plates of food. J. however had a bit more of a variety for dessert. I tasted a little bit of his. There was some good red velvet cake and some really good cheesecake. Overall it was good dessert for a buffet.

This isn’t like the Bellagio or Wynn buffets in Vegas, it isn’t fancy but it is fresh, with a huge variety and they keep bringing fresh food out all night. For a local buffet I definitely think it is a good place and for $15.99 it’s a price that can’t be beaten. The added bonus is that J. was full for a good 48 hours afterwards which means less cooking for me!!!

Most people may not consider dim sum to be breakfast or brunch food, but one of our favorite Sunday destinations is C-Fu Gourmet Restaurant and some of the best dim sum I have eaten outside of Hong Kong.

We have our routine down and the servers and trolley attendees know both us and our favourites. We sit and wait with anticipation for the trollies laden with all kinds of deliciousness to weave their way through the tables to us. One they arrive in quick succession one after the other J. gets to work.

Staples we have each visit are shumai, hargao, baked and steamed BBQ pork buns, chickens feet, shark fin dumplings (this refers to the shape not the contents) and we always finish off with some delicious egg custard in flaky pastry. Each dumpling is filled with juicy, yummy goodness and J. spends a great deal of time nibbling away on the chickens feet to make sure he doesn’t miss a bit.

We do have a lot of other things we love at this place. We substitute in shrimp in rice noodles, calamari, BBQ pork, sesame balls, Shanghai dumplings and so much more. We haven’t made a bad choice here yet.

Sunday around noon is the best time to get the freshest and widest assortment of dim sum and more Sundays than not you can find us there with a stack of plates and steamers. C-Fu Gourmet Restaurant is definitely one of our all time favourite places in Phoenix and perfect for a great Sunday brunch!