Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chicken Curry Udon

I'm warning you people--there are going to be a lot of posts about using up leftovers and eating cheaply. The blog might even have to be re-named "Chez Cheapo," because I'm all outta cash and that doesn't look like it's going to change for the next decade or two. Buying a home is not all it's cracked up to be. But I digress...

Today's lunch was chicken curry udon noodles. For a nice lunch for one, take a block of frozen udon and put it in just enough simmering water to soften it. Never buy the vacuum packed udon. It has a terrible doughy texture and if you even slightly overcook it it falls apart. The frozen stuff is really good. You just need to simmer it in hot water until it defrosts, and it has a nice bouncy toothiness to it.

When the udon is almost completely softened, throw in a few pieces of chicken breast that have been pounded flat and lightly salted. As that cooks, add a tablespoon of your favorite curry paste to the pot and stir well. When the chicken is half cooked, add a handful of whatever leftover vegetables you have on  hand. Cook for a minute longer or as needed, and voila! Refrigerator scraps become a presentable meal. I scavenge a lot around lunch time. Tell me what's in your fridge and I'll tell you what to cook!

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Duck Noodle Soup (and Sneak Peak!)

J manned the kitchen again today. I have to admit, he's been doing most of the cooking since we moved, since I'm exhausted after dealing with the house all day and he's been getting home reasonably early from work. It's a good thing we both love to cook. There's usually at least one person willing to man/woman the stove! Today's dinner was a joint venture. But for those who are surprised that J cooks, here he is in action!

Here are J's hands as he busily blanches some bok choy and enoki mushrooms for our bowls of roast duck over noodle soup. And in the background is our new Samsung induction range! It's really amazing. We're both still getting the hang of it, and we've been cooking very simple meals so it hasn't really had a chance to shine. I haven't even used the oven yet, other than to run a short steam clean cycle. But so far, we already love two things about this range. It can boil water for my morning coffee in about two minutes (fast and hot!), and it creates such even heat distribution that an egg dropped in simmering water turns into a beautifully poached egg with no work at all from the cook.  I can't wait to see what else it can do!

Here's a close up of our dinner. Not too shabby. We painted one entire room and got started on the ceiling of our hallway today, in addition to doing laundry, prepping some wall trim for paint, laying contact paper in the kitchen, and trying to clean up a little. 

Soup noodles are hardly enough when you lead a life of hard manual labor, so we added another plate of lu wei to tonight's dinner. I gussied it up with extra chili oil and ground Szechuan peppercorns.And another sneak peak for those who are looking: that's our kitchen countertop to the left, and our finished hardwood to the right! More to come...

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Assembling a plate of noodles is easy!!

You take a plate of various sliced vegetables. In this case, I used carrots, cucumbers, onions, bean sprouts, and cilantro (not pictured)...

Cook a nice hearty sauce. Recipe forthcoming. Warning: it's a weird one!

Combine artfully on a plate with some cooked thick noodles and toss well before digging in! Now, for the sauce recipe, which for me yielded over a pint of sauce. That should be enough to feed four if not six. These noodles may look like jajang mien, but the flavor and ingredients are definitely not traditional yet surprisingly tasty. This recipe is born of my desperation to use up as many jars as possible before our move. I'd like to get a fresh start, instead of hanging on to things that have been lurking in my cupboards for two years. So here goes:

  • 1/2 pound pork belly, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 1/2 bunch spinach (totally optional; I had some to use up)
  • 1 tablespoon shrimp paste
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1 dash cayenne, or more
  • 1/2 cup rice wine
  • 1-2 cups water
In a tablespoon of oil (I used duck fat; it's so handy to have some lying around!) sautee the onions and pork belly, adding the zucchini when the edges of the onion start to brown. Toss in the spinach if you had it, then add all the sauces and the cayenne. Stir well. Toss a little to toast the sauces, and when stuff starts sticking to the bottom of the pan add the rice wine and light everything on fire. I love a good cooking fire! Then, add the water and stir well.

Fair warning: at this point my sauce smelled pretty gross. Raw shrimp paste basically smells like the day-old bin at a bad fish market. I turned the flame down to a simmer and covered my pot, hoping for the best. An hour later, all the flavored had melded together and become something quite delicious! And the fat from the pork belly had helped thicken the sauce beautifully. A weird but thankfully delicious meal made from what was essentially kitchen scraps.

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dukk Bokkee and Durian Shake

Sorry, J, today I made food only I like.

Once in awhile, I force J to eat dukk bokee, or spicy Korean rice cakes. It's one of my favorite dishes, and one that I'm almost always willing to eat. Sadly, J does not share my enthusiasm for chewy dense rice noodles drowning in spicy red sauce, so I try to remember to put a lot of other stuff in it. Today's version included plenty of pork belly, zucchini, bamboo, fish cakes, spinach, enoki mushrooms, green onions, and yellow onions. He didn't complain (too much) and I got to wallow in my dukk love.

I did also make something we both love: a durian milkshake! If you've never had this incredibly stinky tropical fruit, a milkshake is the best way to try it out because the iciness dulls the smell of the durian. If you'd like to try it, find frozen durian pieces in the freezer section of an Asian market; it'll cost you $4-5 for a pack of six small sections instead of $30-50 for a fresh whole fruit! For one mug:

  • 1 section frozen durian, seed removed and cut into three chunks
  • 4-5 ice cubes
  • 1 scoop of vanilla ice cream if you have it
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp simple syrup if you like things sweet
Blend everything in a blender and serve!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Spicy Everything Soup

Well, I've been a very poor cook lately, but today's dinner wasn't half bad. This really was "everything" soup. I cooked down a leftover hunk of pork and used the broth along with a can of chicken stock ginger, kimchi juice, Korean chili paste, and Hondashi to form a soup base. Then I added shitake mushrooms, frozen fish balls, sliced napa, sliced green onions, sliced napa kimchi, and Korean "dough flake" noodles. With a side of kimchi and Chinese pickled vegetables, and some pineapple for dessert, this really wasn't a bad meal at all.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nothing from Nothing...

A lot of times, a pretty decent dinner can be made from nothing.

This looks like a lovely bowl of noodle soup with vegetables, fish balls, and duck innards. But in truth, it was a desparate attempt on my part to use up every last bit of fresh food in my refrigerator. I think I did okay.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Dukk Bok Gee

A few weeks ago, I realized it's been months, maybe even a year, since I've made Korean rice noodles. Which is crazy, because it's one of my favorite foods.

Don't worry, I fixed up a great big pot tonight, after referring to some of my previous posts for reminders about how to get it right.

I tried something new today: chol noodles. I read about them a few weeks ago, and a couple of friends said they are fantastic additions to dukk bok gee. And they were right! These noodles are sort of like spaghetti, but are more chewy and bouncy. They added a nice texture to the thick chewiness of the rice noodles.

I usually like my dukk bok gee with some slices of pork or pieces of fish cake, but I had neither today so we went vegan. For two meat eaters, we do tend to go completely vegan fairly regularly. A saucy noodle dish with plenty of kimchi and gochujang is one of those things that can survive meatlessness pretty well. Plus I had a ton of vegetables tonight: zucchini cut into wide ribbons, spinach, red bell peppers, shimeji and shitake mushrooms, onions, green onions, garlic, and napa cabbage kimch. It was a great meal, with plenty left for tomorrow.

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Liang Mian

Another scorcher in SF today. September is our only real summer up here.

I tried a new recipe today so we could beat the heat during dinner. The recipe needs tweaking to match that of my favorite Taiwanese cold noodle (liang mien) restaurants, but this is pretty good:

  • 4 tablespoons sesame paste
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon peanut butter
  • chili oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced extremely finely or pushed through a garlic press

  • 1/2 pound Chinese egg noodles
  • 1/2 cucumber, sliced
  • 1/2 carrot, sliced
  • 1/2 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
  • 2 eggs
Mix all the sauce ingredients together except for the chili oil and garlic. Shake well and set aside.

Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles per package instructions. When they're cooked, strain and rinse them in cold water or submerge them in iced water until they're cold.

While the noodles are cooking, shred your chicken. You can boil the chicken breast, or use a handful of leftover roast chicken. Then make your egg pancake. Beat two eggs, then pour them into a nonstick pan, scramble everything around a little, spread it back out in a layer, and cover with a lid until the egg is cooked through in one thin sheet. Carefully fold the egg into thirds so it's easier to slide onto a cutting board, then let it cool and slice thin.

Slice the vegetables. Make sure you slice them instead of running them through a grater. Unless I'm going to put the vegetables in a batter (like for carrot cake), I really hate eating grated vegetables. The edges are all rough and it makes vegetables taste like scraps, like you're eating the garbage someone left after she finished cooking. And because the vegetables aren't cleanly sliced, they lose their crispness and they sometimes bleed their color into the dish. Ew.

When everything's done, assemble the noodles and vegetables as you see above, then drizzle the dish with sauce, a small dab of ground garlic, and chili oil. Everyone mixes up his own bowl before eating.

In case you can't tell, I'm having a hard time letting go of summer. I brought a little bit of the tropics to us today by cracking open a young coconut to eat as our side dish. Eat plants and raw foods every day, right?

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Biang Biang Noodles (Attempt #1)

Okay, I'm going from no carbs to nothing but in the span of one post. Oh well, let's not pretend I don't love noodles.

During last week's fried chicken bash, E mentioned delicious vinegary noodles he'd had in Xi'an. Of course, I had to investigate. I think he may have had Biang Biang noodles, a local poor man's dish. I snooped around and think this is a decent recipe. However, like most peasant dishes, there's no definitive recipe and I suspect what makes the dish is really the ability to get your hands on a nice, rustic, chewy noodle. I made this bowl with dried noodles and it was pretty tasty though, so this may end up on my list of "mostly from the pantry" dinners.

For enough sauce for two bowls:

  • 1 shot soy sauce
  • 1/2 shot rice wine vinegar (for vinegar lovers like me, make it closer to 3/4th shot)
  • 1/4 shot chili oil (you can always add more later)
  • fresh noodles
  • 2 green onions, chopped finely
  • a very large handful of cilantro, chopped finely
  • white pepper
Cook your noodles, drain well, and combine with the soy sauce and vinegar. Cover with a handful of green onions and cilantro, add a dash of white pepper, combine, and adjust seasoning to your own preferences.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Butterfish Soup

Simple, healthy, and delicious. I really love noodle soups.

I've also decided I'll be buying more butterfish in the future. It's also called sablefish or black cod, but let's face it: butterfish is the best name. In addition to being delicious, it's plentiful and reasonably priced. That's right, the Seafood Watch guide says I can eat it. More fish for me!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Spaghetti and Meatballs

There's no food like comfort food:


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Shrimp and Cucumber noodles

It was a very green dinner tonight. Look at all the green foods we ate:

Shrimp, cucumber chunks, and dried Chinese noodles cooked in a homemade vegetable broth (with the shrimps' shells boiled in). Every so often I make vegetable stock from bits and pieces of carrots, celery, and onion that I save in a bag in the fridge. I know, it's really 1930s, but I figure it's a free quart of good stock!

Fresh fave beans sauteed with onions and fennel. This was surprisingly tasty. I love the flavor of soft, barely caramelized fennel.

Sesame marinated celery, a common Chinese cold plate.

And kimchi, everyone's favorite Korean cold plate. I didn't make this myself; we bought it at a nice little market off Geary and Fillmore. For my money, they make the best kimchi in city limits.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pickled Celery and Noodle Soup

I pickled some not-so-fresh celery a few days ago and totally forgot about it! Luckily, the whole point of pickling is that it preserves vegetables.

The celery in this dish is stripped of its coarser fibers, sprinkled with salt, and left to sit for about an hour. The salt is then rinsed off and the celery is squeezed dry. Then it's put into a plastic container with a light coating of sesame oil, a sprinkling of salt, and left to sit overnight. It's best eaten the next day, but a couple of days in the refrigerator doesn't hurt too much. I tossed it with slivered carrots and pressed tofu and topped it with a light drizzle of sesame oil for a cold side dish.

And, ever popular around here, "Throw everything into the pot" noodle soup. Today's noodle soup was cooked in a base of chicken stock, ginger, green onions, anise, rice wine, and sesame oil. The meal itself was made up of shitake mushrooms, chrysanthemum leaves, tofu cubes, dried baby shrimp, green onions, and refrigerated noodles (not dry; refrigerated is more toothsome and flavorful).

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Taiwanese Snacks

Last week my sister brought me a bunch of Taiwanese cookbooks I'd left in Los Angeles. This weekend, J and I tackled one of the most popular Taiwanese dishes of all time: oyster noodles (oh ah mee sua). Traditionally, you get the choice of having this dish with pigs' intestines and oysters, or just intestines. As (bad) luck would have it, we couldn't find any appropriate oysters at 99 Ranch this weekend and had to go for just intestines.

The result was not bad, but could use a lot of work. Next time we're going to do a few things differently to increase the depth of flavor and really pump up this dish. But in terms of basic texture and flavor, we did everything right. I'd even say we did better than most Taiwanese restaurants in the United States.

And what is a Taiwanese dinner without some kind of dessert in soup form? Today we did mung beans and glutinous rice balls in soup flavored with caramelized sugar (sugar cooked until it's amber). The best thing to use is Taiwanese "black" sugar, but alas we don't get that here in the States. But golden syrup is a lovely substitute and adds a bit more richness and flavor to desserts than plain white sugar.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Zha Jiang Mien

Would you believe dinner tonight is vegan? I don't always follow my own rules, but I try to eat meat only once a day. Today, I succeeded.

This is my first attempt at zha jiang mien, a Chinese noodle dish that's usually a mix of vegetables atop a meat and tofu sauce. It's Chinese spaghetti, if you will. Today, I used a mix of wood ear mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, and pressed tofu in lieu of pork. Since the meat version doesn't require much pork to begin with, the difference in taste is not unbearable even to meat lovers.

The biggest pain in the you-know-where about Chinese cooking is finely slicing so many vegetables. This is after already dicing up tofu, mushrooms, onions, and garlic for the sauce!

But it's worth it. The noodles are topped with sauce, then vegetables, and everything is mixed together while the noodles and sauce are still hot. The result is a big variety of colors, flavors, and textures.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Scallop Noodles

We ate a lot of colors tonight! More colors = more nutrition, and today we topped out at over half a dozen. I know, cheesy, but it's an easy way to remember to eat healthy.

J found a huge packet of small scallops for a great price at the supermarket, so we decided to do a stir fry with scallops, onions, two kinds of mushrooms, green onions, sugar snap peas, carrots, and onions.

We added a little shaoshing wine and hondashi, and a bundle of fresh noodles to make kind of a soupy stir fried noodle.

Afterwards, we had longan and satsuma tangerines for dessert. The harvest season for both of these fruits is in full swing now, and we were both happily stuffed since they are some of our favorites.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Shanghai House

Yum!! Four stars for a new favorite: Shanghai House on Clement near 37th. We've always been fans of Shanghai Dumpling King up the street, but I think we'll be hanging out at SH more often for quite awhile.

Armed with some Chowhound reviews, I knew the xiao long bao were one of the things I wanted to try. Ironically, it might have been the least exciting item there. Overall it was very well done, but the Shanghainese have a tendency to put a lot of sugar in their food and for us the xlb went a little overboard in that direction. Still, they're better than 99% of the xlb out there.
Now, getting on with why we were super impressed. The vegetarian goose, which is usually just tofu skin filled with mushrooms, was above and beyond good. The outside was fried to be light and crispy, and the filling was warm and well-seasoned with a light plum sauce. So tasty! We also got another bean curd appetizer which was also delicious but went unphotographed.

Knife cut noodles! I love these, but there aren't too many places in SF that serve it. Shanghai House's version had nice thick chewy noodles in a flavorful but not overly salty broth. So satisfying. I want another bowl right now.
Lamb soup with vermicelli noodles and pickled vegetables. Appropriately sour, peppery, and meaty. One of the best versions we've had anywhere.

And finally, the savory soy milk. This dish looks disgusting and most people can't quite stomach it, but it's one of my favorites. Shanghai House's attention to detail was once again apparent in this dish, which was served quickly enough that the deep fried crullers in it were still crunchy while we ate them.

We're really looking forward to going back and exploring the menu, but everything we had was so tasty it'll be hard to decide what to not order next time. Prices were pretty great for the quality: three of us got extremely full for about $15 each after tax and tip. My only quibble was that service is extremely slow. But it's a mom and pop operation, and the care they put in each dish really shows, so I assume they just really can't move any more quickly! And it really is worth it.

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