Xiaolongbao and Pork Belly Tacos

As usual it’s been a number of months since I’ve last posted. I don’t know that I have much to update. I guess I hit my six year anniversary of being at Epic and in Madison. It’s hard to believe I’ve been here so long… but this is definitely the place that I would call home now.

Anyhow, onward to the food.

Tonight we made sous vide pork belly tacos and xiaolongbao (Shanghainese soup dumplings) with some friends. The pork belly I’ve made many times but I’ve never written about it. Xiaolongbao are definitely one of my favorite foods but they’re pretty complicated to make, so I’ve never attempted them before. Both recipes come from Chef Steps and were followed fairly closely.

For the pork belly I seasoned with a little bit of soy sauce, cooking wine, sesame oil, and black pepper. Sous vide at 176 degrees Fahrenheit for around 7 hours before finishing in the oven. This time I made a glaze from soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil, black pepper, and garlic. I simmered that over low heat until it reduced (maybe to 2/3 of its original volume? Not sure.) then brushed over the pork belly before broiling. I broiled for 5ish minutes (should be sizzling and browning) before turning over, glazing the other side, and broiling for another 5ish minutes. Served on corn tortillas with chopped kimchi and green onions.

For the Xiaolongbao we followed the recipe as closely as we could. We used bacon for the broth, and we doubled everything. When cooling the broth/gelatin we used a 9×13 pan to attempt to get the same thickness. We found that because of the extra volume it took quite a bit longer for the gelatin to solidify. Used a two-tiered bamboo steamer that fit quite nicely in a dutch over to steam.

Overall both dishes came out really well. The main thing I think would be a good change for the future would be to cut the gelatin and add pieces in the wrapping process rather than mix it all up with the meat first. This should lead to a more consistent amount of soup in each dumpling. Other than that, I don’t know that there are any other changes I’d make.

That’s all for this time. In all likelihood expect another post in 2018 (hopefully sooner, but my track record would suggest that that’s how long it’ll take me to post again. Happy Labor Day weekend!

Dan Dan Mian

Well, it’s been over three months since my last post. We’ve officially moved into the house and have been living there for over two months now! We also went to China for a week with a small group from our church. While we were there worked with a local church and spent a few days on a college campus doing English corners and campus ministry. While we were there we were super blessed to see how God’s been working there!

While we were there we also got to experience authentic Sichuan food. Sichuan food is known a) for being really spicy, and b) for its use of this numbing peppercorn. It’s delicious!

We had a debrief meeting today and we decided it’d be fun to try cooking some Sichuan food with the hot pepper flakes and peppercorns that we brought back.

We made two dishes – 担担面 (dan dan mian), which is a spicy noodle dish, and 糖酥麻辣锅巴土豆 (tangsu mala guoba tudou), which is sweet/salty/spicy fried potatoes.

The recipe I followed for the 担担面 is from The Woks of Life. Since I’ve never made anything like this before, I followed the recipe pretty closely. I measures (almost) everything! Anyone who’s cooked with me before will know that that’s pretty unusual. These days I pretty much never measure anything. The main thing that was different was that I could not find “sui mi ya cai” anywhere in my local Asian grocery store. Despite that, it turned out really well! A great level of spice! Would definitely recommend.

The recipe I followed for the 糖酥麻辣锅巴土豆 (the potatoes) was from this site. The recipe is in Chinese and it’s pretty vague. A lot of the ingredients just specified “one spoon” or “two spoons” but didn’t say what kind of spoons. We cut and fried three potatoes and tossed it in a mix of white vinegar (1 spoon), sugar (1 spoon), ground peppercorns (1/2 spoon), cumin (1 spoon), chicken bouillon (1 spoon), salt (1/2) spoon, and garlic powder/hot pepper flakes to taste.

We made a “spoon” a teaspoon, and since the original recipe was for two potatoes, we did a double batch of the spices. The flavors were really good! The recipe said that it was important to fry the potatoes on low heat, but I think we used too much oil. We ended up turning up the heat at the end to get them somewhat crispy, but I think next time we’ll use less oil to try to get that “锅巴” crispiness. “锅巴” refers to the crispy rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot, so I think less oil will help the potatoes crisp against the wok.

Overall I was satisfied with both recipes and I would definitely make both of them again.

Hopefully I’ll manage to post again before the end of the summer… hopefully!

Beef Ragu


When I made this I had no idea what to call it. I started with a recipe that I got from a friend in college that was called “Farfalle Di Sera” (which means evening butterflies in Italian) as the base, but I made some changes to it so I’m not sure it’d still be called that. But after looking at this wikipedia page, I’m pretty sure it can be categorized as a ragu.

As you may or may not know, I typically cook dinner for around 25-40 people most Sundays for my church community. Normally I do things that are fairly simple because I don’t really start thinking about what I’m going to cook until Sunday afternoon and then only have a few hours to shop and cook. This Saturday the husband was out of town for a work trip and I had some extra time on my hands so I decided to try something different/more complicated.

I’m not sure I’ve ever braised that much meat at once before. After 5-6 hours the meat still seemed really tough, so I was a little worried. But a friend assured me that all would be ok if I just kept cooking it, and it all worked out!

I think it turned out really well and people seemed to enjoy it. Sadly it’s not very vibrant looking and hence not super appetizing, but it tasted good and that’s what matters right?

It’s only been 10 days since my last post, so I don’t really have a whole lot else to add.

Ingredients (note that this is probably enough for 30-40)
10 lbs chuck roast
5 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
7 medium zucchini/yellow squash, diced
5 small yellow onions, diced
3-4 cups chopped carrots
Heavy cream
Garlic powder
Olive oil

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot (I used a 12-qt stock pot… and then eventually had to divide into a second pot) and cook onions until soft and translucent.

Cut chuck roast into large pieces just so that they’re small enough fit in the pot you’re going to use. Season sides with salt and pepper. Brown all sides of the pieces of chuck roast and put them in the stock pot over the onions.

Add all the crushed tomatoes and simmer for 10-12 hours or until the meat is tender and shreddable with a fork. Allow to cool and skim extraneous oil from the top.

In a large pan, sauté the carrots with salt, pepper, and garlic powder until tender crisp and put aside in a bowl. Do the same with the zucchini.

Remove the large chunks of chuck roast and shred with two forks. I did this in the second pot I ended up using. When all the meat has been shredded, add about half back to the first pot and transfer about half the liquid from the first pot to the second. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, basil, and garlic powder to taste. Add the carrots and zucchini (drain any extra liquid first) and continue to simmer until the carrots are soft.

Add heavy cream to your desired level of creaminess.

Serve over your favorite kind of pasta!

Cauliflower crust pizza



I guess it’s the last day of 2016. Weird, huh? It’s been a good year though! And I suppose next year we’ll be celebrating the new year in our new house! Crazy! Life is moving FAST and owning a house feels super way too adult. But I guess at some point I have to come to terms with the fact that I am an adult.

Today has been a good day so far. Started off with an 8:30am showing of Moana. I’ve been meaning to see it for a while now. In fact, I had planned to watch it last Tuesday ($5 Tuesdays at Marcus) but every showing that day was sold out! I guess schools are out right now and parents are all taking their kids to the movies. Anyhow, I finally saw it this morning and it was really good! Definitely recommend it if you haven’t seen it already.

Then some friends and I made these cauliflower crust pizzas. Super delicious! We made two pizzas – one with bacon and kale (traditional red sauce and mozzarella cheese), and one with chicken and red onions (with homemade bbq sauce and cheddar jack cheese). Recipes for the crust and bbq sauce are below.

To assemble we put the sauces down first, then cheese, then the bacon/kale or chicken/onions. And then with the bbq chicken we drizzled more sauce on top before and after baking.

Then we sautéed the leftover chicken, kale, and onions in the leftover bacon grease! A simple but excellent use of all the leftovers!

Now we’re just lazing around watching the Little Prince and tonight we’ll be heading to our pastor’s house to ring in the new year. A great day to end a great year!

Well, I think that’s all I have to say for now. Happy New Year!

Cauliflower crust (per pizza):
1 large head of cauliflower
1/2 cup shredded cheese (we used Mozzarella)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt

Process cauliflower florets in a food processor until it has a rice-like consistency.
Bake 20 min at 400 degrees.
Use a dish cloth or cheese cloth to squeeze out all the liquid.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Spread on parchment paper covered baking sheet and bake for 20 min at 425 degrees.
Add sauce and toppings, then bake 5-6 minutes at 425 degrees.

Homemade BBQ Sauce:
I started with this recipe but didn’t really measure anything. I used all the ingredients from the recipe and added garlic powder, chili powder, and a few drops of liquid smoke. I also manually whisked everything instead of using my food processor.

Chinese Braised Daikon


It’s been less than a month since my last post – y’all should be proud of me! The fall always seems like a blur. I feel like I was just making a list of things I wanted to do over the summer and all of sudden it feels like it’s almost winter already.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and I’m in planning mode. For the last few years I’ve organized a Thanksgiving dinner for people at my church who are in Madison and don’t have family in the area. Each year has gotten progressively larger, but it’s kind of fun. When I was growing up, Thanksgiving was always great – friends, family, and lots and lots of food. And it was always a mix of traditional Thanksgiving food and Asian food! The best of both worlds. So I try to bring that to my Thanksgiving dinners here too.

One thing I like to do every year is a daikon and mushroom soup. It’s basically daikon and shiitake mushrooms simmer in chicken broth. It’s simple, but it’s great because it’s light and cleansing compared to the traditional turkey, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and gravy.

Daikon in general is pretty great. As long as I can remember I’ve loved daikon. Some of my favorites include the aforementioned soup and this braised beef and daikon dish. I really wanted to make this braised beef recipe tonight, but I didn’t think about it until this morning and it was too late because it takes 2-3 hours for the meat to braise.

So instead I found this recipe because it takes a lot less time to cook just the daikon. I vaguely followed recipe, but all of y’all who know me know that I am way to lazy to measure things so I didn’t follow it all that closely. I also skipped the green onions, minced ginger, and Shaoxing wine. Instead, I cooked the ground meat with ground ginger, onion powder, and garlic powder before adding the daikon and the rest of the stuff. Also I didn’t time it, but I’m fairly certain it took over 20 minutes to cook. I basically just let it simmer until the daikon were soft.

I know it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to serve with kimchi given that this recipe is Chinese and kimchi is Korean, but I didn’t really have anything else in the house and I thought it would add some color for the picture. I stand by it – it tasted good and without the kimchi the picture would be fairly dull color-wise.

Conclusion: my simplified version of the recipe turned out really well. But for those who aren’t comfortable with freehanding things, I am certain that if you follow the recipe to the t, it’ll turn out well too.

Apple Cider Donuts


It’s starting to feel a little more like fall, my favorite season! Unfortunately in Madison fall only lasts for, like, a month, so gotta take advantage of it while it’s here. I love that the weather gets cooler, that the leaves change color, and that it’s apple season! Super not into all the over-hyped pumpkin spice stuff (except for a certain someone’s pumpkin white chocolate chip cookies) but I love apples, apple pie, apple crisp, apple cider (both cold and hot), and apple cider donuts!

I was first introduced to apple cider donuts when I was in college. Every October one Friday was declared to be Mountain Day, classes were canceled and we all climbed up Mount Greylock, drank apple cider, ate apple cider donuts, and listened to various a cappella perform. It was definitely one of the most fun, memorable experiences of college.

When I moved out to Madison I got excited when I saw some apple cider donuts at the local grocery store. But unfortunately those ones were not nearly as good as the ones from Mountain Day (they tasted like they were made using those powdered hot apple cider packets… gross!). So with the help of Sally from Sally’s Baking Addiction, some sisters from my family group and I made some on our own.

We tripled Sally’s recipe and followed the directions pretty much to a T with one exception – instead of dipping the donuts in melted butter, we put them directly in the cinnamon/sugar mixture… which makes them healthier right? 😉

The result was pretty delicious (especially given that they’re baked and not fried). Super flavorful, moist, and fluffy. Definitely the best apple cider donuts I’ve had in a while. As one of my friends often says (she’s a huuuuuge Sally’s Baking Addiction fan), “Sally’s done it again!”

Totoro cake and cooking adventures



It’s only been a little over a month since my last post! I’d say that’s pretty good for me =)

I don’t know if this counts though since I’m not really going to post any recipes. But I had a bunch of pictures on my phone so I figured I’d post them.

The top picture is from my friend’s birthday. She loves Totoro, so I thought I’d try to make a Totoro cake. I’m really not very good at baking though so I was pretty nervous. I found this video and recipe so thought I’d give it a try but at the last minute I decided I didn’t want to attempt making the blueberry lemon cake, so I went with Funfetti instead. I mean, who doesn’t love Funfetti cake? I used plain buttercream for the stomach and eyes, the blueberry frosting recipe from the link for the rest of the body, and plain black frosting for the eyes and v’s on the stomach. I also had a couple friends help me with baking the cake, making the frosting, shaping the cake, and decorating the cake. So really I didn’t do a whole lot.

The bottom panel of pictures is from a cooking competition my church had between the family groups. Each group had to use chicken, kale, and strawberries to make an appetizer, entree, and dessert. Technically we only needed to use one of the ingredients in each course, but I thought a) it would be more interesting and b) our team would would get more creativity points if we used all three ingredients in all three courses.

Our group split into three team, one for each course. For the appetizer we made mini chicken tacos with shredded kale, cheese, and a strawberry salsa. For the entree we made Hmong stuffed chicken wings – that is, de-boned chicken wings stuffed with ground pork, rice vermicelli noodles, shredded carrots, onion, Hmong/Thai peppers, and kale (this was a substitute for cabbage), seasoned with salt, pepper, and oyster sauce. This was served over a bed of garlic/cilantro rice with a side of sweet and spicy Hmong pepper sauce (traditional Hmong pepper sauce (Hmong/Thai peppers, cilantro, green onions, fish sauce, lime) with pureed strawberries). And finally, for dessert we made chicken and buttermilk waffle cupcakes with strawberry cream cheese frosting topped with a popcorn chicken and maple glazed kale chip garnish. All in all I thought our team did a really good job with everything and even though we didn’t win the competition, we had a ton of fun cooking together.

Anyway, I don’t have much else to say. So I’ll end it with the rest of the random pictures from the cooking competition that I had on my phone.

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