For the two years or so, one of my favorite snacks is this......
These "spicy" peanuts are quite addictive. They aren't super spicy, but also have that "ma" (numbing) thing going on with whole Sichuan Peppercorns used along with dried chilies. It's a nice salty, spicy, and numbing snack. Inevitably I started calling these "numb nutz". I even started giving these away to folks, often telling them, "this snack reminded me of you". A little inside joke.
Anyway, I was wondering what would happen if I actually used these peanuts in a dish. I had a couple of cups of corn and used 1 cup of "numb nutz", doing a quick high heat stir fry. This was actually not bad......
The Missus has me cooking with "la rou" a lot these days. Her favorite prep is simply spinach stir fried using the Big Kahuna with La Rou and Garlic.
I topped it with some shaved gobo. It's Her current favorite; though I think the shaved Brussel sprouts with La Rou might be gaining ground. Heck, I've even done an edamame - orange bell pepper stir fry, that was more of a beer snack....it would probably go well with some numb nutz......
This year we did something a bit different for New Year's Eve. We decided to go out and have a nice dinner. With the rainy weather we decided to stay close to home and check out the New Years Tasting Menu at Red Card Café. The price seemed quite reasonable at $46 per person and we were pleasantly surprised. We enjoyed our meal.
Red Card Café 4140 Morena Blvd San Diego, CA 92117
Yes, you read right...."mock eel"....like really. I've found some time to cook a bit recently and am now going to try to make it through those cookbooks I've got stacked on my coffee table. I've often done riffs on Fuchsia Dunlop's recipes. Her cookbooks hold a special place on my shelves. So when her latest cookbook Land of Fish and Rice was announced, I pre-ordered it.
Being married to someone from China and working with several others, I've noticed something quite interesting; the Missus's Shandong cum Hunan lineage struggles with the sweet flavors of Su-Cai and similar cuisines. As does our former coworker "Lily" who is from Shanxi. Meanwhile "YZ" can't deal with "Yang Rou"....and so one and so forth. Me? I love it all. So while I'm tempted to go for the Dong Po Rou, the Missus wasn't having any of that. While paging through, I found a rather simple recipe that caught my atttention it's called Vegetarian "eels" in Sweet-and-Sour Sauce in the book. I was mainly interested because the recipe didn't use tofu; which would probably have been the easy out. Instead, dried shiitake mushrooms were used.
Of course I adjusted the recipe to suit our (the Missus's) taste, upping the Chinkiang vinegar and soy sauce, adding a bit of five spice, mushroom soaking liquid, and a chili for some heat. And of course, using the Big Kahuna which cut the cooking time to mere minutes. The dish is best made in small batches. Also, do a good job of "scattering" the mushroom while deep frying, otherwise they tend to stick together.
The Missus really enjoys this; the sweet-salty-sour-savory components go together well.
Vegetarian "Eel" in Sweet and Sour Sauce:
10-12 dried Shiitake Mushrooms About one-fourth of a good sized red bell pepper About one-fourth of a good sized green bell pepper Three thin slices of ginger One medium sized red serrano pepper Hot Water
1/2 tsp Dark Soy Sauce (you may also want to try Mushroom Soy Sauce) 1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
- Soak the mushroom in hot water for 20-30 minutes - Slice bell peppers into thin strips. Julienne the ginger. Cut the serrano pepper in half, remove seeds than cut into strips. - Remove mushrooms from the soaking liquid, squeeze out excess liquid, remove stems and cut into strips. - Strain 4Tb of the mushroom liquid - Combine sauce ingredients until sugar is dissolved - Combine mushroom slices with potato starch and five spice until coated - Heat oil and scatter the mushroom, you may need to do in two batches. Fry until slightly crisp and remove from the oil - Remove all but about 3-4 tb of oil and heat until nearly smoking - Add peppers into the hot oil and stir fry - Add Shaoxing, mushroom liquid, and ginger and stir fry until fragrant - Add the mushroom back into the wok, add the sauce and stir fry until coated. - Remove from heat and add dark soy sauce and sesame oil. Mix well.
I haven't done one of these posts in a while. To be totally honest, work has been crazy busy, so I've been making the same thing over and over for the Missus.
The weather has also been kind of wacky.......95 degree weather in the middle of November had us eating stuff like this.
Salads with pickled eggs; charcuterie and cheese plates.....tomatoes, radishes (though the Missus still can't figure out the deal with radishes and butter), and the like.
Sometimes with a nice glass or two of wine. Our visit to Burgundy really ramped up the Missus's love for wine and I really enjoyed the whites from that area. One in particular that makes an interesting story........more on that in a later post.
Then overnight we got rain and now it seems like fall. Which made the Missus want some Suan Cai Yang Rou. The cooler weather means it's time to start making Suan Cai.
At the end of my smoke session; smoking tri-tip for the Missus's Thanksgiving potluck, I looked through the fridge and found some tofu and cauliflower, which I love smoked. I'd recently purchased some La Rou and decided to do a simple stir fry with vegetables.
That smoked tofu tasted really good in this one. I'll be doing that again the next time I use the smoker.
We recently tried some roasted duck from a newer place....that too will be a future post. It wasn't very good; but for some reason, the drippings had some nice flavor. So it was duck fried rice time.
Funny thing, the Missus wanted all of this for lunch this past weekend. After I returned home from working half a day to catch up on things.
So the Missus got Her wish and I got all of this done pretty quickly, most of it is prep.
Other than that it's been pretty routine. Except for maybe this thing.
One evening I really didn't want to go out and eat....strange, I know. I picked up a chicken breast on the way home....even stranger because, other than for chicken katsu, I'm not a big fan of chicken breast. I could have gone for the easy out....Katsudon, which the Missus would have surely enjoyed, but I decided to just cook whatever. I made a balsamic reduction and did a simple, brined, then pan seared chicken breast with a balsamic sauce.
The thing that was fun was the other "stuff". Having broccoli and cauliflower on hand; I ended up ricing the veggies. I then rendered lardons of bacon using the fat to cook the riced vegetables, with some shallot, garlic, and scallions. Sort like funky fried rice.
It was delicious....though what do you expect......there's bacon in this, right?
I'd been waiting a while to post this little recipe. First off, it basically a rehash of my Red Cooked Pork Hock/Oxtail recipe. Secondly, it had been pretty darn hot for a while there. Since it finally feels like fall, the time seems right.
So yes, I did buy one of those Instant Pot 7 in 1 cookers. Mainly because our pressure cooker crapped out a couple of years back and I got tired of spending the entire day making Da Boyz food. I'd rather make the chicken-carrot-rice thing in a pressure cooker. What happened was interesting. I got the Instant Pot during Amazon Prime day for around $69. The Missus loves Her red cooked meats and one weekend requested that I make some short ribs. And so it came to pass....for 8 of the following 10 weekends I made this, only stoping when we left on our trip.
And while this is basically my red cooked stove top/braised meat recipe; there are some differences I made for using the Instant Pot. First off, I ended up reducing the water, because there's very little evaporation, so too much water waters things down. Second, the Missus loves mushroom in this; so why not add the strained mushroom soaking liquid as another layer of flavor. Third, because I wouldn't be there removing scum; after marinated the beef for about 15-20 minutes, I dusted it with cornstarch and browned. The Instant Pot has a saute setting which is great for softening vegetables, but it really doesn't do much for meat. Plus, the pot is quite small and I'd have to do more batches than if I did this on the stovetop. Fourth, the pressure in the Instant Pot is about 11 - 12 psi, versus a conventional pressure cooker, which, if I recall comes in at about 15psi. This means that cooking time takes a bit longer. Also, things are pretty easy with the Instant Pot, when finished you can do a quick release, check, and do another short session if you need to.
This may seem like a lot of steps but it really isn't and is rather quick. It's all about organization. Be careful not to overfill your instant pot!
I enjoy this over noodles; a pseudo niu rou mian for me.
Red Cooked Short Ribs Instant Pot Style:
3 1/2 - 4 pounds English Style Beef Short Ribs sliced to a 1 1/2 - 2" width 12-14 dried shiitake mushroom soaked in 1-1/2 cup warm water 2/3 Cup + 2 Tb Soy sauce 1/3 Cup Dark Soy Sauce 1/2 Cup Dark Brown Sugar 2/3 Cup + 2Tb + 1/4 Cup Shao Xing Wine 5 cloves garlic roughly chopped 1-2 1/2" knobs of ginger smashed 3 Star Anise broken in half 4 Scallions - white part only, roughly chopped 1 piece dried tangerine peel broken in half 1 2-3" cinnamon stick 1 Red Serrano Pepper sliced 1/2 tsp Ground White Pepper 1 Tb Granulated Garlic 1 Tsp Five Spice 1 Tb Ground Sichuan Peppercorn 2 - 3 Tb Corn Starch 1 Cup strained mushroom soaking liquid 2 - 2 1/2 Cups Water 2Tb Avocado or similar neutral flavored oil 1 - 2 Blocks Tofu 6 - 8 Boiled Eggs Steamed Bok Choy
- Soak the dried mushrooms in 1 1/2 cup warm water - In a pan rub the ribs with 2 Tb Soy Sauce, 2 Tb Shao Xing, Ground White Pepper, Sichuan Peppercorn, Granulated Garlic - let marinate - Prep and combine garlic, scallions, and Five Spice - Prep and combine ginger, star anise, tangerine peel, cinnamon stick, serrano pepper - In a bowl combine 2/3 cup soy sauce, 1/3 cup dark soy sauce, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar - Strain about 1 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid - Dust the short ribs with corn starch and start browning in oil on the stove top in batches. - Once the beef has completed browning deglaze with 1/4 cup Shao Xing wine. - Use the fat and liquid from the beef (do not add burnt bits) to the Instant Pot and set on saute - Add dry ingredients and saute until fragrant - Add the garlic-scallions to the pot and saute until fragrant and soft - Add 2/3 cup Shao Xing wine and bring to a boil - Layer the mushrooms on top of the spice and scallion mixture - Add the mushroom soaking liquid - Layer the beef ribs in even layers - Add the soy sauce mixture - Top off with water. First using only 2 cups, then more if necessary. Do not use more than 2 1/2 cups. Adjust and mix the beef if necessary - Cover and set to 45 minutes high pressure - Once complete do a quick release of pressure. At this point, use a wooden skewer or similar item to determine how tender the beef is. If more time is necessary set to high pressure for 10 more minutes - Once done, you may find that some of the bones have come out of the meat remove them. You can skim off excess fat if desired. This gives you more room to add the drained tofu and boiled eggs. - You can put on slow cook for up to 20-30 minutes before serving. Though it's actually better the next day.
The first dish that comes to mind when I think about Chamorro style dishes is Kelaguen, specifically Kelaguen Manok, the chicken version of the dish which is what you'll find in all the Chamorro/Guamanian restaurants in the greater San Diego area. After making the drive up to Guahan Grill a couple of times early last year with the Missus, She asked if I could just go ahead and try and make the stuff already.
So I did....after a couple of tries, I had it kind of dialed in. The Missus has a couple of coworkers who are from Guam and they make Kelaguen a lot....mostly using leftover rotisserie chicken and...ick, boiled chicken! After trying things a few different ways; I've settled on boneless, skin on chicken "legs", actually quarters, grilled over hard wood charcoal. Again, this is "kind of Kelaguen"...... I noticed that versions I've had here in San Diego lacked coconut. My solution was to use organic, non-sweetened coconut flakes and a tablespoon or so of coconut oil, which adds to the moisture, and provides for a nice fragrance. I use skin on chicken because it tends to preserve the moisture of the meat.
Even with all of this; I noticed that I could not get the lemon flavor dialed in; it just never came out the way I wanted. That's when one of the Missus's co-workers told Her that everybody "back home" uses "Yours Lemon Flavored Powder"! Which I wasn't able to find here, but you gotta love it; I actually found it on Amazon. I was a bit dubious about this stuff...looking at the label, "Ingredients: Citric Acid (Trehalose), Natural Lemon Flavor, L-Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Sodium Citrate. Made in Japan." Hmmm......
But in the end, this is what I needed to make the Kelaguen taste right.
At the same time, I was trying to put together the classic sauce/condiment for the kelaguen; Finadene (Fina'denne). After going thru a couple of iterations, I found that rather strangely, since I've said not to use said shoyu for sauces; Kikkoman actually worked the best for me. Along with Distilled White Vinegar and one other item to give it just a bit more umph; Spiced Sukang Maasim (cane vinegar). The slight spice and sour gave it a nice kick. As for the chilies....I've used everything from Chili de Arbol, Thai Chilies, Red Habaneros, Scorpion Peppers, to Ghost Peppers......it's all good! Actually the Missus is partial to white ghost peppers.
So now the Missus's Guamanian coworkers actually request that I make this; so I guess it's got their seal of approval.
The Missus really likes to saturate Her Kelaguen with Finadene. And I've actually used the Finadene in other dishes....even stir fried bean sprouts which come out like namul on jet fuel.
Kind of Kelaguen:
The Chicken 1 1/2 lbs of skin-on boneless chicken quarters salt black pepper granulated garlic one lemon sliced in half ghost pepper salt (optional)
- Season the meat side of the chicken with salts and black pepper - Season the skin side of the chicken with salts, black pepper, and granulated garlic - Grill over charcoal. Squeeze the juice of the lemon over the chicken while grilling - Once the chicken is cooked, remove to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
1 Tb coconut oil 1-2 Tb shredded coconut 2-3 stalks scallions sliced 1 Tb Yours Lemon Flavored Powder diluted into 2 Tb water salt, black pepper, and sliced chilies to taste
-Remove the chicken from the bowl reserving the juices; the objective is to conserve all the flavor you can. - Remove the skin from the chicken and consume later....it tastes really good fried up. - Chop or mince the chicken to your desired texture and add back to the bowl with the juices from the chicken - Add coconut oil, coconut, scallions, and chilies and mix - Add the lemon flavoring mixing well. - Season with Salt and Pepper to taste.
I'm going to give you what I started with when I decided on my final array of ingredients for the Finadene. Think of this as being a 1:1 ratio of soy sauce to vinegar. I think it's a good starting point. You can adjust to your taste from here. Actually, you might like to add some calamansi juice to replace some of the vinegar.
Fast Finadene: 1/2 cup of Kikkoman Soy Sauce 1/2 cup Distilled White Vinegar 2 Tb Spiced Sukang Maasim 2 stalks of scallions sliced 1 small sweet onion thinly sliced sliced chilies to taste
-Combine ingredients. Taste and adjust flavor as desired.
So what to do after pickled celery? Which the Missus loved so much....well, I had to actually go to the market and buy more celery....just to buy celery, something quite rare in our household. So now, the "hearts are for braising", the stalks are for pickling. Then the Missus said the magic words, "can you make some pickled eggs". It seems after all these years, it has come to fruition, I love pickled eggs, I mean, really enjoy them. The Missus, on the other hand hasn't been too keen on them. But now, I was all in. And this recipe turned out well. This time around, I went ahead and bought some pickling spice. The Missus really enjoyed the flavor that clove gave to the pickle....so I'll probably be revising my other pickle recipes soon. You can always add beet juice if you want those nicely colored pickled eggs.
The eggs were delish; and a dozen doesn't go very far in this household.
1 dozen boiled eggs 4 cups distilled white vinegar 2 Tb Kosher Salt 2 Tb Pickling Spice 1/3 Cup White Sugar 1 Tsp Mustard Seed 1 Small Vidalia Onion - quartered - but not cut all the way through (optional) 2 Chilies (optional - I used some Chili de Arbol from the yard) 2 cloves of garlic (optional)
- Wash and sterilize 2 ball jars - Combine Vinegar, salt, and sugar is a pot bring to a boil and then remove from heat. - When cooled add Pickling Spice and mustard seed - Place 1/2 of optional items into each jar - Add 6 eggs into each jar - Top off with pickling liquid and spices - Seal, cover, and refrigerate . Leave for 2 days before eating.
For some reason, it really went nicely with that nice tomato/mozzarella salad with basil.....some Maldon Sea Salt and a drizzle of Arbequina Olive Oil and it made for a nice light dinner on one of the recent hot days we've had.
Here's something you might not know about the Missus...She hates celery. Now, I can get away with using the leaves in a stir-fry; but for some reason She just doesn't care for the flavor of celery. She does however, really enjoy pickled items. So last weekend, the Missus wanted some white beans and ham hock....now I use the "Cajun Holy Trinity" as the mirepoix for that dish. So what to do with the leftover celery? The Missus had just asked me why I hadn't made my easy pickled onions in a while (because I've been busy at work and basically lazy on the weekends). So, I just used that base recipe, added some sugar, more salt, and some mustard seed. Also had half a Vidalia onion and of course some chilies from the garden. I did peel and do a quick blanch of the celery.
Well, turns out the Missus loves these....and I like them as a nice addition to a salad.
Slight spicy, with a touch of sweetness and salt, this is pretty darn good.
Easy Pickled Celery:
1 cup distilled white vinegar 1 cup water 2 tb sugar 2 tb Kosher salt 1 tsp black peppercorns 1/2 tsp mustard seed 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
peeled celery stalks cut to size 2-3 chili peppers (optional - I used some Chili de Arbol from the yard) 2 cloves of garlic 1/2 small Vidalia Onion - quartered - but not cut all the way through (optional)
- Wash and sterilize a ball jar - Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, red pepper, and peppercorns in a pot, bring to a boil and then remove from heat. - Add peeled celery to pot to lightly blanch - Place celery (and whatever else) in jar, add celery seeds, top off with pickling liquid - Seal, cover, and refrigerate . Leave for 2 days before eating.
Man, Cathy posted on Van Hoa last year. I hadn't been in the Vien Dong strip mall in a while, so I was surprised to see Van Hoa is now Banh Cuon Ha Long:
My good friend "YummyYummy" told me it's owned by the same folks as Song Huong....and honestly, I'm not a big fan of their Banh Cuon....so it might take me a while to check them out.
4016 54th Street San Diego, CA
Pho Duyen Mai:
I surprised to see Pho Nhu Y was gone when I drove by the other day. I kind of stopped going when they ceased to serve Bun Mam there. In it's place was this shop.
Again "YummyYummy" came through....apparently this place has ties to Pho Ban Mai, so I'll be checking them out soon.
5375 Kearny Villa Rd San Diego, CA 92123
Trinitea on Balboa:
Driving into the parking lot of Tropical Star, I noticed something a bit strange. They'd tried to open a kind of coffee shop a while back....I guess that didn't do too well. It's now the latest location of Trinitea.
It just seems weird to have the gigantic "Tropical" sign looming above the shop....which basically doesn't have a sign. I'm sure they'll fix that soon.
6167 Balboa Ave San Diego, CA 92111
What we've been eating to beat the heat:
We finally got some decent ripe Roma tomatoes recently, so we've been enjoying Salmorejo. Man, I'd forgotten how good this is.
It's been a strange couple of weeks; unseasonably humid, hot, not very comfortable. And what we've been eating at home was just as strange.
The Missus has been craving my Red Cooked type dishes...in this heat! I've made either red cooked short ribs or red cooked oxtail four times in the last four weeks. And each time we've gone through a dozen eggs to boot. Go figure!
I also noticed that some of the stuffs we've been having just reminds us of Spain.....
BTW, I really enjoy that Dry Sparkling Cucumber Soda.....
Other than that, it's been fairly normal around here......