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!

Chinese Braised Daikon

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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.

Totoro cake and cooking adventures

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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.

Sous Vide Pork Sliders

The plate was tiny, so this picture is a bit of an optical illusion.

The plate was tiny, so this picture is a bit of an optical illusion.

Today my fiance and I went to a church potluck today for the “families” in the church. It’s a little weird in my mind to think of us as a family since we aren’t quite married yet and we certainly don’t have any children (at least not that I know of). I guess we’ll get there soon enough though.

For the potluck, we ventured into the land of sous vide. A good number of years ago a friend of mine told me about the concept and how he was thinking of buying a semi-ghetto build-your-own sous vide machine kit. The idea is that you seal (or vacuum seal) meat with seasoning and cook it in a water bath at a low temperature. This prevents it from getting overcooked. Then you take it out and sear the sides for texture. At that point I thought the method was kind of cool, but thought this friend was pretty nuts to buy a make your own kit.

Fast forward a few years to now. A different friend (although these friends do know each other) has gotten into a sous vide craze. It’s great for cooking meat and for cooking things in large quantities. Today was my first time doing it by myself. I don’t really know where I got the idea for asian style sliders, and as usual I ended up just winging it. So I’ll go into what went into it, but I don’t have any measurements.

So what I did was marinate pork tenderloins overnight in gallon size ziplock bags. I put them in a pot with water and the sous vide cooker at 140 degrees (F) for around 3.5 hours. Then I seared the outside. To make the sliders I used King’s Hawaiian Roll and topped with some Asian-style slaw made with cabbage, carrots, green onions, and some seasoning.

They turned out pretty well. The pork was really tender and the flavors paired well with the sweetness of the Hawaiian rolls. Overall I’d call this one a success!

Pork tenderloin marinade:
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Minced garlic
Brown sugar
Salt
Pepper
Rice vinegar
Red pepper flakes

Slaw:
Shredded cabbage
Shredded carrots
Finely chopped green onions
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Sugar
Salt
Pepper
Rice vinegar
Minced garlic
Sriracha sauce

Guest Post: Mama Oh’s Kimchi

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Awhile back I was talking to my pastor’s wife about making kimchi. I love eating kimchi, but I had no idea how to make it. I guess I didn’t have enough motivation to try to find a recipe online or anything either. But at some point in the conversation we agreed that it was the mark of a “real Korean woman” to know how to make homemade kimchi.

Recently, some other friends who shared my enthusiasm for kimchi and I finally decided to give it a try. I didn’t actually organize this experience so it was nice to just join in. I didn’t even have to find a recipe because some of the others are Korean and asked their mothers.

The process took up much of the day — we soaked the cabbage for 3 hours, made the paste, then coated the cabbage in the paste and jarred it. Now it has to ferment at room temperature for 24 hours, then in the refrigerator for 3 days. But we did a preliminary taste test and it tastes really good. It’s definitely cheaper and better tasting than anything you can get in stores here in Madison. I’m really excited to eat it when it’s fully ready.

Below is the hand-transcribed recipe of Mama Oh’s kimchi
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Note the quote of the day at the bottom of the page. “Get into the armpits of the kimchi; get it all in there so you hear it laugh when it’s tickled!” It sounds ridiculous, but there actually is some logic behind the statement. In order to get the best flavor, it’s important to get the pepper paste in between all the leaves of the cabbage. But yeah. Kimchi armpits. Sounds delicious right?

Achievement for today: I am now a REAL Korean woman (despite being Chinese-American). Yay!

Kimchi Omelet

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I know kimchi omelets aren’t really proper Thanksgiving food, but no worries, I’m helping to cook up a giant traditional Thanksgiving meal later. This is just breakfast =)

It’s kind of weird to not go home for Thanksgiving anymore. Up until I moved to Madison my family always had the same Thanksgiving traditions. Dinner with a family or two from our street, games (usually Masterpiece or Pictionary), and lounging around watching TV. Dinner always consisted of traditional American Thanksgiving food, Chinese food, and lots of sparkling cider and wine. It wasn’t until the last couple of Thanksgivings that I was finally able to partake in the wine.

This year I’m bringing some of my family’s traditions here to Madison. We have two 10 lb turkeys, a 10 lb ham, 15 lbs of mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, gravy, mac and cheese, pie, and 15 bottles of sparkling cider. In addition, we have 卤水 (basically marinated) chicken wings and eggs, stir-fried green beans, sticky rice, chinese broccoli, and a few other Asian dishes. A few friends and I will be cooking most of the day and we’re expecting 30-40 people.

Anyhow, back to breakfast. I sort of just threw some stuff together, but it ended up working out fairly well. I don’t have a lot of experience in making omelets, so I’m still working out how to perfect the cooking methodology. I also didn’t really measure anything, but I’ll try my best to describe what I did.

Of course keep in mind that the proportions are all subject to preference.

Ingredients
Eggs (2-4 eggs per omelet)
Ham (~3 small slices per omelet)
Kimchi (~1/4 cup per omelet)
Baby spinach (a small handful per omelet)
Salt
Pepper
Sesame oil
Vegetable oil

For the sauce:
Gochujang (1-2 tbsp)
Kimchi juice (2-3 tbsp)
Water (enough to reach preferred consistency and spiciness)
Sesame oil (to taste)

Beat eggs with a fork or chopsticks or a whisk. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

In a frying pan, heat vegetable oil. Add kimchi and ham. Once the kimchi and ham are heated, add spinach and cook until the spinach wilts. Drizzle with sesame oil. Turn off heat and set aside.

In a small pan, heat a little more oil. Once hot, add the egg and allow to cook. Once the bottom of the egg is cooked, flip and allow the other side to cook. Spread the kimchi, ham and spinach mix over half of the egg. Fold the other half over.

Drizzle with sauce.

Taiwanese Meat Sauce on Rice (肉燥飯 / Rou Zao Fan)

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Once again it is Monday (almost Tuesday). The weekends always fly by too fast.

This past week was good. It was the annual Users Group Meeting (UGM) at Epic, so I stayed with a friend in Verona for a couple days to avoid morning traffic. The week went by really fast. The school year just started so my weeks get a whole lot busier. With AAIV small groups on Wednesdays, Harvest family groups on Thursdays, and AAIV large groups on Fridays, I have 3/5 of my weekday nights booked up already. This week was also my church’s week to serve food at a local homeless shelter, so Tuesday night was spent prepping chicken salad for ~80 people. This is to say I had a long, busy, albeit good week.

Weekends in general are just as busy as weekdays. On Saturday I went apple picking in Mt Horeb with a couple of friends. Got lots of Honeycrisp apples and had some hot cider. After apple picking we went to “downtown” Mt Horeb, had lunch at a place called The Grumpy Troll (we shared a 1.5 lb soft pretzel!!), and then wandered around the town looking for trolls. When we got back, we needed to get 150 servings of sandwich material for church lunch on Sunday, so we headed to Costco and I ended up getting a membership. I had been thinking of getting one for a while, but was never sure how often I’d use it. But these days between getting things for church and for the homeless shelter, I end up going to Costco more often that you would expect someone of my demographic to go. Plus, I really like wandering Costco. Not just because of the free samples, but also because they have a lot of random things that you won’t find at a normal supermarket like Korean BBQ pork jerky. It turned out to be quite delicious but a little too chewy for my jaw. After the Costco run, we grabbed some supplies to make apple crisp before meeting a bunch of other friends at Perkins for dinner. After dinner we made apple crisp to bring to church on Sunday. And then it was Sunday.

Sunday morning. I forgot to set my alarm and woke up at 7:45. What time did I need to be at practice? 8:00. Ruh-roh. Jumped out of bed and thankfully was only 10 minutes late. Sunday afternoon. Decided to make a Taiwanese dish for dinner. Went shopping and spent the rest of the afternoon cooking. Made a second apple crisp because most of us who made it on Saturday didn’t actually manage to get a piece of the first one. Just for reference if anyone wants to make the crisp, it’s just the recipe link that I pasted above, but halve the water (1/4 cup) and double all the ingredients in the “crisp” part.

So onward to the Taiwanese food. I adapted the recipe from Tiny Urban Kitchen but made some adjustments. I was aiming for 20 people or so, so I scaled the recipe up a bit. I skipped the mushrooms because one friend doesn’t eat mushrooms, replaced ground pork with ground turkey because one friend doesn’t eat pork, and replaced the shallots with onions and garlic (just ‘cuz). It turned out to be really good, but a tad salty. Next time I’ll cut the soy sauce more. But I’ll definitely be making this again.

Ingredients
5 lbs ground turkey
2 medium onions, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2.5 cups soy sauce
5 tbsp rice wine
5 tbsp sugar
2.5 tbsp five spice powder
2 cups water
10 cups cooked rice

In a large frying pan, cook onions and garlic until brown. Add turkey and brown. Transfer the meat, onions and garlic to a large pot.

Add soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, five spice powder and water. Bring to a boil then lower heat and let simmer for an hour or so.

Serve over rice. (I also served with stir-fried broccoli).

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