Chinese New Year in Tallahassee

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of celebrating Chinese New Year with some friends in Tallahassee. This was an awesome weekend. My entire stay there revolved around food. Good food and good friends is all you need. So, Jia was throwing the party at his place and I was told there would be dumplings. I didn’t know how many, but from the facebook event it sounded like they might be scared. This was Chinese New Year and I would’ve gone Hulk if I didn’t get my dumplings. So Gan and I thought we should make something for the party, as we didn’t know what other things would be there. We decided to make asian hot wings and Vietnamese spring rolls.

For the hot wings, I decided to use a base of melted butter and hot sauce. I threw in whatever ingredients I found in Gan’s pantry to try to make them Asian. For the sauce, I mixed 1 stick of melted butter, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, and a few tablespoons of Sriracha hot sauce. I added chopped thai chili peppers to the sauce. I strained them out in in case the sauce was too spicy.
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I’m not sure what kind of seasoning sauce it is, but it’s got a little chef dude and a crab on the label. I’m assuming it’s some sort of fish based sauce. It’s not like fish sauce though (the one with a squid on the label). I think its more like a mixture of dark soy sauce and fish sauce.
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I marinaded a package of wings (I’m not sure how much it was, maybe a 5lb pack?), with some chili oil, fish seasoning sauce, and pepper. Gan added some cayenne pepper too. The marinade didn’t really work, since I only put in a few table spoons of each for a large amount of wings. If I were to go back, I’d add a cup of soy sauce and some chopped garlic.
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Bake at 400F for 20 minutes, flip them over, and another 20 minutes. Toss the wings in the sauce and garnish with cilantro.
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The wings didn’t turn out as Asian as I would’ve liked but they were delicious nonetheless. It’s kind of hard to mess up cooking wings. Just bake them and experiment with some sauces. From the picture, it looks spicy but it wasn’t at all. The sauce was pretty mild, but if you wanted some heat you could get some pieces with chili. This was my first time making chicken wings, and they came out really well. The insides were juicy and alot of the fat on the skin was rendered out during the baking.

We also made some vietnamese spring rolls. For these, you just need some rice paper and whatever filling you want to put in. We put on lettuce, carrots, cucumber, avocado, and shrimp. All you need to do is soak the rice paper in warm water, throw in a bunch of fillings, and roll. You don’t even need to soak the rice paper for that long. Just get the entire surface area of the rice paper wet then take them out. As soon as you take them out, place them on a cutting board. They’ll seem like they’re still hard but after a few more seconds on its own they’ll soften up and get all sticky.

If you hate peeling and cutting avocados, the way I do it is pretty fool proof. Cut through the avocado along the centerline until you reach the pit and then just rotate the avocado along the blade of the knife to cut around the pit.
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Then just twist off the two halves.
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Take the half with the pit, strike your knife on the pit so that the knife is lodged in the pit and twist the knife to get the pit out. You could also use a spoon to get the pit out if using a knife scares you.
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Then just cut the halves in half lengthwise and you can peel off the skin to get 4 beautiful pieces of avocado. You could also use a spoon to remove the skin.
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Our spring roll station. Gan makes a great hand model.
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Here’s a video if you’re into that sort of thing. For some reason, it’s not letting me embed the video and it’s 4am so I’m too lazy to figure out why.

All this took only took a little over 1 hour. The wings took less than an hour to make not counting prep time. Gan prepped the vegetables while I made the wings and once the wings were in the oven we had 3 pairs of hands (me, Gan, Amy) to make the spring rolls. You could substitute the shrimp with tofu and make it vegan also. On it’s own, it’s already healthful. You can serve this with store bought sweet chili sauce.
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At the party, Jia and Ted made a ton of dumplings and had a lot of filling left over. I was afraid they’d be all gone by the time I got there, but that was hardly the case. Everyone had eaten by the time Gan and I arrived with our food but we still managed to clear the wings and most of the spring rolls. I guess that means they were good!

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I think this was a pretty good shot of the dumplings.
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Here’s one I made into the typical gyoza form.
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I have to give my props the Jia. The dumplings were excellent and the soy sauce braised tofu and eggs his mom made were delicious. That’s one of the foods that really makes me nostalgic and homesick. It’s a simple recipe and prep too. I don’t know what my parents put in it exactly but it’s a bath of soy sauce diluted with water and chinese spices (cloves, star anise, peppercorns, and other things) and you just simmer boiled eggs, tofu, and tough cuts of meat in the bath. On the right you can see Ted’s stir fried noodles also. If you can find them in the picture, there were also some chinese sausages, pistachios, and scallion pancakes.

Here’s round 1 for me. My favorite were definitely the tofu (bottom) and eggs. I think the slices of meat in the picture was beef that was cooked in the same bath. On the top is a piece of scallion pancake.
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The food was amazing. This was the next best thing to going home and spending Chinese New Year with my family. The tofu and eggs really made it for me.

Frittata

This is a great recipe to clear out your fridge. If you have some veggies you need to eat soon before they go bad, this is it. I had some button mushrooms, tomato, spinach, and bell pepper that I needed to use. I was tired of eating mushroom, spinach, tomato salad so I decided to make a frittata instead. I managed to use up all the mushroom and spinach I had for the recipe. I always have onions and potatoes in my kitchen because they keep forever. Carrots and peppers are good vegetables to keep in the fridge also because they last a long time in the refrigerator. If you looked in my fridge, aside for the milk and eggs, you’d think I was a vegetarian. Most of my fridge is stocked with vegetables. The majority of my protein intake comes from fast food. Yay for tacos!

The only thing I had to go out and buy were the chives and ricotta cheese. I’m always afraid of buying herbs because I never use all of it and end up having to throw them away. Now, I layer them on paper towels, put them in a baggie, and freeze them. I haven’t tried using the ones I’ve frozen but I’ll find out if it works or not.

This is my first time making a frittata. It’s basically an omelette, but instead of cooking small 2-3 egg portions, you fill an entire pan about inch thick and finish it off under the broiler. It’s almost like a quiche. I guess a frittata is a cross between an omelette and a quiche?

Ingredients:

3 tbsp oil
2 small potatoes, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
half of a green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup of sliced mushrooms
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 cup spinach
6 eggs
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
a few sprigs of chives
salt and pepper
*you may also want to add some protein like ham or sausage
*depending on the size of the pan, you may need to add more eggs

First, heat the oil in a pan on high heat and brown the potatoes. Once the potatoes are browned (You don’t want to cook them since we still have a long way to go until the dish is done. You don’t want mushy potatoes. We’re not making mashed potatoes here.), add the onions and bell peppers. Once those get a bit soft, add the mushrooms. Make sure the heat is high when the mushrooms are put in. You get a slap of umami flavor when they have a nice sear on the outside. Once the mushrooms have a nice sear, add the tomatoes and spinach. Now scramble the eggs and milk together. When the spinach has wilted, season with some salt and pepper. You want the vegetable mixture to be a bit salty, since we’re going to be adding eggs. Now, turn the heat down to medium and pour the eggs and milk mixture into the pan. Let this site until the eggs are about halfway cooked. At this point, top the dish with some chives and spoonfuls of ricotta cheese. Then, place the pan under a broiler until the top of the frittata is cooked.

ingredients
Lots of veggies. You can see that this is a healthful dish, aside from the cholesterol from the eggs but it’s not too bad.

frying potatoes
What’s taters? PO-TAY-TOES. >_>

frying potatoes, onions, bell peppers

veggies
Some ‘shroom for some umami.

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I add the tomatoes last because I don’t want them to cook too much.

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Add eggs, stir this around alittle bit then don’t touch!

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Once the eggs have set to this texture, sprinkle some chives on top.

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And add ricotta cheese. You can lick the spoon after too. I don’t know if anyone agrees with me but ricotta cheese tastes like ice cream.

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Here’s the finished product. I ate half of that…

Also, remember that metal has a high heat capacity. That means even when it has been sitting on the stove cooling after coming out from under the broiler, it’s still hot enough to burn you. As much lab experience and heat transfer knowledge I have, I still tried to grab the handle to serve myself some frittata and proceeded to burn myself. On a related note, last week I went to retrieve an aluminum pan from a 350 F oven that had a sample I was drying for Unit Operations Lab. I thought, “Hey 350 F isn’t that hot, I’ll just grab it.” Wrong. What was I thinking? I bake cookies at that temperature! 350 F is 177 C, 77 C more than boiling water. So yeah, I have no common sense.

hello?

What happened to everyone? My readership has been basically 0 for the past week. Is it my fault for not updating with quality posts? 😦

Here’s a new recipe. It’s just stir fried rice vermicelli. I don’t exactly know the name since there’s quite a number of noodles that are called “rice vermicelli” but the brand I use is Wai Wai brand and it’s the thinnest rice vermicelli you will find (also known as sen mee in Thai). Here’s the link to a picture of it. The package comes with 4 “sheets” of noodles and each sheet is about one serving. I happened to have some cabbage and carrots that needed to be used to in my fridge, so I made this. Normally, my mom uses ground pork for protein in this dish but I had some left over chicken also so I used that instead. My mom also adds dried shrimp to this recipe for some saltiness, but I didn’t have any.

Ingredients
2 servings rice vermicelli (2 “sheets”), soaked in water for at least half an hour before hand
1/4 head of cabbage cut into strips
1 cup carrot strips
3 eggs
about 1 cup shredded chicken (pre-cooked)
salt and pepper
soy sauce
4 tbsp oil

Start off by cooking the vegetables. Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a wok and add the cabbage and carrots. Season with some salt and pepper. Once the vegetables are cooked but still crunchy, set them aside in a large bowl. Then add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil. (If you have dried shrimp add them now, stir for about half a minute, and let them get fragrant. Push the dried shrimp to the side of the wok.) Crack the eggs in the wok and scramble them on high heat. Once the eggs are solidified, remove the eggs and set them in the same bowl as the vegetables. Now, drain the vermicelli and throw them in the wok. Stir the vermicelli until a lot of the moisture has been removed and you don’t see alot of steam coming off from the noodles (about 1 minute). Then, return the vegetables and eggs to the wok. You can add whatever cooked protein you have at this point. Just stir this mixture until everything is reheated and season with a few dashes of soy sauce and s&p.

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I didn’t really get any action shots of the woking since this wok cooking goes pretty fast. You can blame my inexperience on that. One guy has really great pictorials for Chinese dishes and he has a lot of pictures of the whole process. I’ll be able to do that one day…

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This recipe feeds two hungry people.

Burmese food: Part 2

It’s been awhile. Been busy with school and research. This is a Burmese noodle salad recipe. It doesn’t really have a name, it’s just something I’ve adapted from my parents. In Burmese cuisine, there’s a lot of types of noodle salads, called “thote” in Burmese. The ingredients in this recipe are common in a lot of thotes, so I would say this is a pretty authentic recipe. I like this recipe because you can make it beforehand and it can be served cold. The main flavors come from the fish sauce, shallot oil, and gram flour. Play around with the recipe and adjust it to your taste.

Ingredients (makes 2 servings):
2 servings rice vermicelli, cooked per package instructions and rinsed in cold water
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced

for the dressing,
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp chili flakes or 1 thai chili, chopped
2 tbsp shallot oil

garnishes,
3 large cloves shallot (or 1/4 an onion), sliced
2 boiled eggs
cilantro
fried shallots
3 tbsp roasted gram flour
2 tbsp dried shrimp, pounded into a coarse floss/powder
a few pea crackers
(see link for recipe from a previous post)

  • First start off by roasting the gram flour (Note: This is not the same as graham flour. Graham flour is whole wheat flour, but gram flour is just ground chickpeas). Just drop the gram flour onto a pan on medium heat until the color turns darker. It’ll give off a nice nutty scent once they’re roasted. Don’t burn them! Set this aside.
  • Now for the fried shallots. Cover a pan with a very shallow layer of oil. Take shallot slices (can substitute onion) and fry them on medium heat until golden brown and crispy. This will take a while. You only need to stir to make sure they don’t burn. Drain the shallots once they’re done. Save the oil for the dressing. The oil should take on the shallot flavor.
  • Now make the dressing by mixing in the oil, lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, chili, and shallot oil
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine cooked noodles, shredded cabbage, diced tomatoes, shallot oil, roasted gram flour, and dressing.
  • You can keep this in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
  • Once you are ready to serve, just add the garnishes as you like. Crumble in a few pea crackers. Top with some fried shallots, cilantro, dried shrimp, and sliced boiled eggs.

bumrese noodle salad

burmese noodle salad
I tried plating two different ways. I think I like the bowl shot better.


Here’s a street hawker that sells noodles. You can see that he’s got everything in nice compartments and it’s a quick and simple procedure to make an order. You’ll find a lot of these guys walking around with their carts or sometimes they’ll set up on the side of a busy road.

I think the best meal is breakfast in Burma. Almost everyone buys breakfast in the morning, because that’s when the most street vendors and hawkers are out. No one ever makes breakfast at home just because of the number of vendors available in the morning. The best thing is, a lot of street vendors have regular routes so the food comes to you! If you’re a regular, they’ll remember you and come to your house every morning. The cities are pretty condensed and there is a high population density so you can easily find a remedy to any food craving within a half-mile radius. The street we lived on had a coffee shop at the end and when you would wake up you wouldn’t have to walk more than 5 minutes to get anything you wanted for breakfast. Way better than walking to your fridge and getting cold cereal. That’s the thing I miss most about Burma, the food and the food culture. Words can’t describe how nostalgic I am right now.

In Vitamin C We Trust

It’s the peak season for tangerines right now and I just bought some. They are godly. I was surprised though, most the segments I ate were seedless. I only got 3 seeds in one whole tangerine. They are definitely the easiest to peel out of all varieties of orange. Not necessarily the tastiest, but their taste to easiness ratio is way high on my fruit chart. This XKCD comic is clearly wrong. The best part about tangerines is making that first puncture in the top. It’s almost sensual, the process of peeling a tangerine. Also, they’re good for you. Linus Pauling took 3 grams of Vitamin C day to prevent colds. I don’t care if there is no research that proves it. I believe in Linus Pauling! Every good scientist needs a quirk. Linus Pauling was crazy for Vitamin C. Nikola Tesla had OCD. I need to find mine.

What are you still doing reading? Go get some tangerines. Now.

I’m lazy, leave me alone

Spring semester just started and I’ve been too lazy to work on this blog. I’ve only had 3 days of classes and I already feel like I have a lot to do. On MWF’s I am either in class or doing research from 8:30 am-5:00 pm. I do have a bit of free time in the evening, but whenever I come home I don’t feel like working at all. I am a black hole of productivity. People who have studied with me know this. Anyway, I’m gong to aim for 2 posts a week MOL. (MOL…only people who have taken Dr. Johns’ Separations class will get this)

I made some cashew chicken last week for dinner. I make this whenever I have onions I need to use up. The high heat caramelizes the surface of the onions quickly to make them sweet, but they don’t get too soft and have a nice crunch to them still. You could add broccoli too if you have some. I always have chicken breasts on hand too. Whenever boneless chicken breasts go on sale, I buy a bunch, wrap each individually in saran wrap, throw those in a gallon ziplock bag and keep them in the freezer. It’s pretty convenient to make stir fries or make chicken strips to throw on a salad.

Recipe:
1 boneless chicken breast, cut into cubes/slices
1 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup roasted cashews
1 tbsp tapioca starch
2 tbsp peanut oil
2 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine
5-10 whole dried chili
salt and pepper
1 tbsp oyster sauce

Marinade chicken in 1 tbsp tapioca starch, 1 tbsp cooking wine, salt, pepper, and a small amount of oil (add a few drops of sesame oil if you have some). Let the chicken sit for about half an hour or overnight in the refrigerator.
Soak the chili peppers in some water for for about 15 minutes, otherwise once you put them in the oil they will burn quickly.
Add 2 tbsp of oil to the wok or pan and let it heat up until the oil starts to smoke.
Add the chicken and cook the chicken. Once the wok is heated again you can add the remaining 1 tbsp of cooking wine.
Remove chicken form the wok once it is cook. Let then wok heat up again and add the chili peppers and diced onions.
Once the onions are caramelized, return the chicken pieces to the wok and add the oyster sauce and cashews. Stir it around a bit and that’s it. Be careful seasoning with salt if you use roasted cashews with salt like I did. You probably won’t need any extra seasoning.

Serve with rice.
cashew chicken

I know that doesn’t look very healthful but I try to make up for it by eating a big salad. I incorporate tomatoes, carrots, and spinach to my diet so I don’t have to feel bad about eating ramen and Totino’s pizza all the time. Just the other day I sat there forcing myself to eat 2 cups of spinach because I hadn’t had any greens that day. Real men don’t need salad dressing. Mitch Hedberg’s joke explains my reasoning, “That would be cool if you could eat a good food with a bad food and the good food would cover for the bad food when it got to your stomach. Like you could eat a carrot with an onion ring and they would travel down to your stomach, then they would get there, and the carrot would say, “It’s cool, he’s with me.””