Recipe: Sichuan Lamb Shanks

~ This is Day 229 ~

In the past 3 weeks, I think I’ve only seen the sun once, or twice… a mere glimpse, before it disappeared back behind the clouds. When the weather is cozy, I like to make braised lamb shanks, Sichuan-style!

On average, one lamb shank per person. Also depends on how big your Dutch oven is.

The Night Before

  • 2-4 lamb shanks
  • Kosher salt

Using a sharp paring knife or cake tester, poke slits in the shanks. Generously season your lamb shanks with kosher salt and place in a container with a lid, or plate and have it covered.

At 4pm-5pm

  • 4-inch ginger
  • 4 stalks scallions
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 2 TBS doubanjiang
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Bouquet garni
    • 1 TBS fennel seeds
    • 1 TBS Sichuan peppercorns
    • 2-3 pieces star anise
  • ¼ – ½ cup dried whole chilis
  • 3 Yukon potatoes
  • 3 rainbow carrots
  • 6 oz. tofu skin
  • Scallion tops/chives, as garnish

I forgot to mention, before putting on the cartouche, make sure your braising liquid is perfectly seasoned. There is a lot of salt in the fermented chili paste usually, so most of the times, I don’t need to add additional salt. But always check and adjust!

If you liked any of my tools and stuff from the video, you can get it yourself with these links:

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you click on one and buy something, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Of course if you live by an Asian/Chinese supermarket, the spices cost a fraction of Amazon’s links.

Recipe: Sweet Soy Glazed Baby Back Ribs

~ This is Day 175 ~

We are living in strange times right now… if I’m cooking for myself, I want tasty one-pot/pan recipes or easy clean-up because I despise the clean-up part of cooking. I have always hated cleaning up all the mess from the cooking process. Getting back to the topic of this post, this is my go-to way to make baby back ribs at home because it’s super easy and prep is light for this. Roasting this is also easy because it’s not all active, you can do other stuff during the 20-minute intervals.

The following is for one third of a rack of baby back ribs. Serves 1.

  • ⅓ rack baby back ribs
  • 3-inch piece ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 scallions
  • ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 TBS red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • Optional marinading ingredients: mirin, Chinese cooking wine

Slice the ginger and garlic thinly, on a mandolin or using a knife. Put those into the mixing bowl or shallow dish (if using a full rack) after slicing. Next, wash your scallions and trim off the roots and other damaged areas. Cut into one-inch pieces and put into the mixing bowl.

If you’re feeling super lazy, this next part is optional but I do it (almost) every time anyway because it just makes the meat fall off the bone easier. You want to trim off excess sinew, fat, membrane, etc… basically all that white stuff.

Next, add in the brown sugar and chili flakes. Add soy sauce to coat the ribs. Toss and turn the ribs and have the rib bones facing up while it marinates. You can either have the ribs marinading in room temperature for 2-3 hours or in the fridge for 4-6 hours or even overnight. 

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a sheet tray with foil or parchment paper, Pam spray the rack and place the ribs, bones facing upward, on the rack, and into the oven, set a timer for 20 minutes. Pour all marinating ingredients into a small saucepan. Turn on the heat and reduce until syrupy. Strain solids out and discard, the reduced marinade is the glaze that you’re going to apply on the ribs every 20 minutes. 

After the first 20 minutes, using a pastry brush, apply glaze onto the ribs. Then set another 20 minute timer. At this point, your ribs have been roasting for 40 minutes. Flip your ribs over using a pair of tongs. Apply glaze and roast for another 20 minutes. Onto the last 20 minutes! Apply glaze and set a timer! If you have leftover glaze, not a problem. Using the last of the glaze, apply to ribs for the last time and turn your oven on the broil function for 5 minutes. Then take ribs out from oven. It should be glistening.

Place your sexy ribs onto a plate and garnish with some chopped chives or scallions. 

Homemade Dumplings: Wonton Edition

If you ever wanted to make your own Chinese dumplings at home, here is an instructional video on the how-to:

However, I don’t make my own wrappers. I know the theory… but I just can’t with my hand coordination. It’s very difficult rolling a perfect circle from a knob of dough. Props to my mom for doing everything by scratch.

Here is my ratio of my filling:

  • 1.5 lbs pork tenderloin
  • 1.5 lbs shrimp
  • 4 lbs Chinese flowering garlic chives
  • 3-inch knob ginger
  • 3-4 dumpling wrapper packages

The seasonings I use:

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you click on one and buy something, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own.

Pear Tart & Ginger Ice Cream

Maybe next year I should start with dessert prep and start from there because every year I have so many ideas on how to make dessert but after everything I go through, I give up and have no time to make a “difficult” dessert and end up doing something that I’m familiar with.

I won’t go on about how I was originally going to incorporate puff pastry into this and how it was going to come with a caramel sauce… one of these days…

I honestly didn’t have enough time to plan out this year’s prep list because my job’s work schedule changed its beginning and ending day of the week so I didn’t realize Thanksgiving was technically one week away… but the way that the schedule is now made it seem like I still had two weeks. SMH.

Here we have a slice of Pear Tart, using two types of pears – Asian Pear for the filling and Red Bosc Pears for the topping – served with fresh ginger ice cream and ginger snap crumble.

Recipe: Coconut Crab Curry

My favorite restaurant in NYC is still Fish Cheeks, an authentic Thai restaurant that focuses on seafood in NoHo. For the first year in the restaurant, they had a sign that read “A No Pad Thai Zone”. I’m there basically every week. If I’m eating alone, I always start with the grilled pork cheeks (those taste better than bacon by a million times!) and then finish with their coconut crab curry! Other favorites on their menu: zabb wings, tiger prawn/lobster karee, and po tak! They also have happy hour everyday, twice a day, which is #awesomesauce because people who also work in the industry usually work during “normal” happy hour times.

Anyway, six months ago, I stumbled onto Fish Cheeks‘ coconut crab curry recipe on Vice. I immediately bookmarked it and have been trying to get the energy to do it at home. Fall season has hit NYC and my work life has been overwhelmingly exhaustive. I’ve been working 6-7 days a week since Labor Day. Last Saturday, I finally had the time to make curry paste from scratch. I have a new appreciation for what goes into the work of making the curry paste. I wonder how big their mortal & pestle is…? Or maybe Fish Cheeks has an assembly line of cooks making curry paste at the same time?

There were three ingredients that I couldn’t find though; betel leaves, prik ban chang, and shrimp paste. I was told by the Thai grocer that a close substitute to betel leaves were the leaves of Chinese broccoli (gai lan, 芥蓝). Prik, which is chili in Thai, is a red chili pepper that is not spicy but is used to make curries red/orange in color. The Thai market was out of shrimp paste so I bought dried Japanese shrimp from Chinatown.

So here is my adaptation from Vice’s published Fish Cheeks‘ recipe.

For the Curry Paste:

  • ¼ oz. sea salt
  • ¾ oz. dried Thai bird’s eye red chili
  • ½ oz. fresh Thai bird’s eye chili
  • ¼ oz. garlic
  • ½ oz. fresh galangal
  • 1 oz. lemongrass
  • 1 oz. wild ginger
  • ½ oz. fresh turmeric
  • 1 oz. dried shrimp

Make the curry paste by mashing everything together with a mortar and pestle. I have a 6-inch one and the volume was perfect. Start with the top listed ingredient and then work your way down. Do not move onto the next ingredient until the previous one has become a paste.

For the Curry:

  • Two 14 oz. cans of coconut milk
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1 oz. fish sauce
  • 1 oz. palm sugar
  • 1 oz. lemongrass
  • 1 oz. tamarind concentrate
  • ½ oz. fresh galangal
  • 4 fresh makrut lime leaves, plus 2 finely chopped as garnish
  • 4 Chinese broccoli leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 8 oz. crab meat

In a medium saucepan over low-medium heat, bring the coconut milk, shallot, fish sauce, palm sugar, lemongrass, tamarind, galangal, 4 makrut lime leaves, Chinese broccoli leaves, and the curry paste to a simmer. Be sure to break the tamarind concentrate thoroughly with a whisk. Stirring constantly to prevent scorching, cook for 15 minutes, then take off heat and let it cool for another 15 minutes. Strain and discard solids.

Add in the crab and the rest of the finely chopped makrut lime leaves on low heat, until the crab is heated through. Pour into a serving bowl and serve with lots of steamed white rice!

Plans for Friendsgiving 2019

I’m very early this year for my Friendsgiving menu plans! Inspiration started and I decided to just go with it. I’ve been usually doing dinner for four for the past couple of years because that means less glassware to clean but I want to do six people total this year… Here is what I have so far; I expect menu changes…

Egg on Egg on Egg
Sea Urchin • Soft Scramble • Trout Roe
Potato Foam • Pumpernickel Soil
(1st course)

Quail with Autumn Mushrooms
Chanterelles • King Trumpet • Cremini Purée
Rosemary • Montegrato Pedro Ximénez
(2nd course)

5 Spiced Duck Leg Cappellacci
Celery • Brown Butter • Cured Egg Yolk • Fennel
(3rd course)

Dry Aged Duck Breast
Homemade Hoisin • Pickled Cucumber • Chive Oil
(4th course)

Pear Tart
Ginger Snap • Ginger Ice Cream
(5th course)

Service: March 29, 2019

Yesterday, I made pork belly steamed buns for family meal! I think it’s my last time planning/cooking family meal for awhile because I am now being rotated to the upstairs Private Events team.

I like to make more complex family meals on Friday/Saturday because that’s when the restaurant’s staff is at its highest and more people can enjoy my food.

I seared the pork bellies the night before and marinated them with the cooled down braising liquid. The day of, everything was brought to a simmer and placed in a 250°F convection oven for 3 hours, then pressed, in order to get nice, cuttable blocks.

I wasn’t able to get a good picture because by the time I realized that I forgot to take the picture, my plate was already half-eaten.

IMG_1300

The pork bellies were served with steamed open buns, rice with Chinese pork sausage, pickled cucumber, sauce made from the braising liquid, and a Napa cabbage coleslaw with miso vinaigrette.

Recipe: Szechuan Chili Paste

I have a feeling this is going to be a long post because I’m about to tell a story.

Growing up, I didn’t eat much spicy food because I didn’t like it. I would loathe if I knew my parents were going to a Szechuan restaurant because then I wouldn’t be able to eat anything except for cold vegetarian dishes and rice. At the time, I also disliked Szechuan food because of the numbing sensation. I would always unluckily bite into a Szechuan peppercorn, which tastes like soap, and still to this day, tastes like soap, and my mouth would go numb, while being on fire too. Needless to say, I was harshly against eating spicy food as a kid.

I didn’t start self-introducing spicy food into my diet until I was in college. I had a seafood soondubu jjigae (Korean seafood tofu stew) late one night and it was so delicious that I moved past the mouth burning sensation and devoured it, along with a lot of rice, since I was a novice.

By the way, chili flakes in Italian food is not considered spicy in my books. Unless, if I ordered the Linguine Misto Mare in Arrabbiata Sauce from Enoteca Vespaio – my favorite restaurant in Austin! I started cooking and experimenting with spicy food at home and moved slowly from there. I was more into Korean spicy flavors than Chinese spicy flavors in college.

It wasn’t until I spent a year and half back in Hong Kong that my addiction for Szechuan food skyrocketed. I was a private preparatory English teacher in Shenzhen and all of my coworkers were from Mainland China and most of them were avid Szechuan foodies. That’s when I started building my super high tolerance to Szechuan chili and peppercorns. We would eat spicy hot pot and Szechuan food almost everyday for lunch. Spicy frog hot pot was a common occurrence as well. I had the best Szechuan food in Shenzhen and it has had an everlasting impression on me. I have been to Szechuan province but that was during my childhood years and I chose to eat McDonald’s there. Hahaha…

So, ever since moving to NYC, just shy of 6.5 years ago, I have been on the quest to find a stellar Szechuan restaurant. I base all restaurants of every cuisine on the authenticity of their signature/classical dishes. And I know, I know, go to Flushing, people say… do you have any idea how far it is to go to Flushing just to eat? Taking the 7 to one of its termini is torture. And the Chinatown bus is just an accident away from happening. No, no, no, I live on Manhattan so there must be somewhere good. If my former colleagues were to ask me if I could find 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) in Manhattan, I would laugh in their faces and say that it is served as a variation here. Fish is not served whole nor chopped into chunks in America because “Americans” do not eat fish with bones. The so-called 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) in all Manhattan restaurants is always served with fish fillets. Hey, I’m not complaining about the fillets because it makes eating easier but I do miss eating the gelatinous parts of the fins.

水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) in China is served with whole fish or chopped whole fish and you can choose the type of fish that you want, whether you want a freshwater or saltwater fish. It is also always served in a basin filled with chili broth, chili oil, and scattered with chili peppers. You cannot find that here, although I have had some really great contenders to the real thing at the following restaurants:

Other great Szechuan restaurants/hot pot places are:

A Flushing import, Szechuan Mountain House, recently opened up shop on St. Mark’s Place and I was not impressed/severely disappointed with their 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil). However, they nailed other really good dishes, such as the Fish with Pickles and Fried Cony with Green Chili Peppers.

Okay, so where does all this tie into my recipe? Since I have been constantly unsuccessful in finding a restaurant that would serve me authentic 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil), I decided to make it at home. This recipe took me FOREVER to get right. It took years of researching and asking all my Szechuan friends (who asked their parents and previous generations for secrets and tips). This recipe results in a paste. You put the paste in a flavorful and seasoned broth to cook whatever protein you prefer but this braising/poaching technique works best with fish and frog, in my opinion. As of today, I have not perfected 水煮鱼 (Braised Fish in Chili Oil) at home yet. I need to continue with my trials and errors, i.e. what exactly is coated around the fish to make it to smooth and tender?… But I have perfected 水煮牛蛙 (Braised Frog in Chili Oil). I have been eating 水煮牛蛙 (Braised Frog in Chili Oil) for the past three weekends at home!

Feel free to adjust the spiciness level to your preference. Below, my recipe is quite spicy – based on a high tolerance to spice.

Yields 1 quart.

For the wet ingredients:

  • 100 g bird’s eye chili (aka Thai chili, they also come in green but you want all red; approximately 1 loose pint, stems removed)
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 125 g ginger
  • 50 g galangal
  • 50 g Chinese fermented black beans
  • 250g Szechuan spicy bean paste

For the dried ingredients:

  • 12 g star anise
  • 40 g Szechuan peppercorns
  • 2 g black cardamom
  • 1 g green cardamom
  • 10 g cinnamon sticks
  • 8 g sliced licorice
  • 25 g fennel seeds

Other ingredients:

  • 500 mL Shaoxing wine
  • 40 g brown sugar
  • Grapeseed or neutral oil

Remove all stems from bird’s eye chili peppers. Peel the garlic. Peel the skins off both gingers and cut into pieces, similar in size to that of the garlic cloves. In a food processor, blend all wet ingredients until homogenous.

In a wok, add cooking oil and have heat on medium. Add wet paste, and toss/turn/stir for 10 minutes. Add in Shaoxing wine and brown sugar and incorporate. Then turn heat to medium-low and add in dried ingredients. Toss/turn/stir frequently and cook for 20 minutes.

When paste is cool, place in air-tight containers and into the fridge.

Dungeness Crab with Ginger & Scallions

This is probably one of my favorite dishes in Chinese cuisine. My mom used to make this for us once every few weeks when I was growing up in Hong Kong but with different crabs (since there were thousands of different varieties of crab). We only had Dungeness crab in Canada and the U.S.

Along with two simple and quintessential Chinese ingredients, ginger and scallions, and rice wine, brown sugar plus soy sauces, you can have this often very expensive dish in the comfort of your own home.

Personal tidbit: save the sauce to dress noodles for lunch the next day. Delicious.