Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ma Po Tofu (麻婆豆腐)

No, I am not entirely confident that that Chinese is entirely accurate. Give me a break, I have a third grade reading/writing comprehension level. Anyways, my poor Chinese aside, I am not dead. In fact, I've been cooking quite a bit lately, and thanks to my dad, I've been learning a number of household Chinese dishes and general techniques in cooking Chinese food. I suppose now I'm giving away some of my secrets, but I'm sure that you can find most of these in some cookbook so I figure I'd give my own twist to it.

Now this dish is a pretty regular staple of Chinese cooking, and it's actually fairly easy to make, given that, I often cringe a little on the inside whenever someone decides to order it at a restaurant. It's okay, you can order it if you want, but I think you can make it better. This recipe ought to serve a good 3-4 people.

Ground pork (approx 1/2 lb)
Firm tofu (2 blocks)
1 scallion
1-2 cloves of garlic
2-3 slices of ginger
hot sauce (just go to a Chinese supermarket and ask for hot sauce, if you say you're making mapo tofu I'm sure someone will know what to point you to, my dad likes this brand, note: you can use spicy topan sauce but there are some extra steps, generally it is not really considered super authentic, I've done it before and it works)
soy sauce
ground pepper (black or white)
sesame oil
corn starch
water (cool to room temp)
cooking oil

I know, it seems like a lot, but you'll find that with Chinese cooking there are just some things you always have lying around, soy sauce, sesame oil, and corn starch among them.

So let's get started:


1.) Prepare all the ingredients: cube the tofu, mince the garlic and ginger, dice the scallion, and if you want to be super conscientious, mix together the water, sesame oil, corn starch, and pepper into a small bowl

NOTE: I didn't really specify how much water to use, but in general, I'd say 1/4 cup in approximation, maybe a little less, added with corn starch it makes a kind of roux, so how thick you want the sauce entirely depends on your water to corn starch ratio, everything else is just flavoring and this happens to be a good place to make sure it gets mixed in well

2.) In Chinese there's a process called 爆香 (again not confident on my Chinese) which essentially means to quickly stir the aromatics (garlic and ginger) in hot oil

3.) Lower the heat to a medium high and add the ground pork, cook until completely browned

4.) Add soy sauce to taste, add a couple small spoonfuls of sugar and mix

5.) Add cubed tofu into wok

6.) Mix thoroughly, add in hot sauce and water mixture, mix thoroughly until liquid thickens to desired consistency

7.) Turn off stove, add scallions and mix, then plate and serve


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spicy Braised Lamb Noodle Soup

Spicy Braised Lamb Noodle Soup, originally uploaded by jaceman4.
Yay! Alright we got pictures for this now. Anyways, here is the scoop. I have a general recipe, from my dad, for a beef version of this. I modified it a little. Generally, the braise stock uses daikon and carrots, I decided that was a little much of a hassle for me personally, so I went with napa cabbage and dried tofu. Additionally, I saw that they made a lamb version, so I went with that.

Lamb/Beef (I used shank)
Napa cabbage
Dried Tofu
Soy Sauce
Beef Stock (I used Better Than Boullion)
Star Anise
Spicy sauce (topan sauce works)

1.) Sear the meat so that the blood doesn't come out in the braising (on the side boil the noodles)

2.) Add soy sauce, water (about 1:1 ratio), cabbage, tofu, meat, spicy topan sauce (though I have a Schezuan paste that works), and star anise then braise for about an hour (or two)

3.) Make stock

4.) To serve mix beef stock and braise stock with noodles

There you have it, that's the general gist. If you are using spicy topan sauce, it's general practice to quickly stir-fry the sauce first. Yay.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Braised Ground Pork over Rice a.k.a 滷肉飯

I apologize for neglecting this blog lately, as I haven't really cooked all that much.  Anyways, I was thinking about how exactly I was going to post this, because I have no idea exactly what to call it in English, and I don't know that I would be able to write something comprehensible and beyond a 2nd grade reading level if I did it in Chinese, as I only know this dish's Chinese name.  That being said, as you can see in the title, I did my best, maybe that's just not good enough, but it'll have to do for now, it HAS to, because I say so.  I've been eating this since I was like 4, so I grew up with this, and I love it.  It's sort of a staple of Taiwanese food, I remember it was like one of the cheapest lunch menu item because it's simple and it's good.  Now you can make it yourself, I think.

Ground pork
Fried shallots
Hard-boiled eggs
Soy sauce
Five-spice powder
Rock candy
Dried tofu (optional)

Cooking Directions:

1) Heat a pan with oil and quickly refry the fried shallots

2) Reduce heat and add ground pork, brown ground pork

3) After pork is browned move to a large pot

4) At a medium heat; add eggs, soy sauce, water, five-spice powder, and rock candy (and dried tofu if you have it)

5) As soon as it reaches a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and let simmer for 2 hours

6) Serve over white rice

As you may have gathered, I'm not really good about measuring stuff out, so it's more of add to flavor, you don't want too much soy sauce or it gets too salty, and you don't want it to be too liquid either, so don't add too much water.  It should have kind of a runny chili sort of consistency.  Additionally, make sure you've shelled the eggs prior to adding it, having to shell eggs while you're eating the dish just kind of takes away from the experience.  I actually added some rice wine to flavor the pork a little bit while browning but that's not really necessary.  The amount of rock candy should be something akin to a small pebble, but it really depends on how much you're really making.  In terms of pork, I generally recommend at least a pound, but again it's pretty discretionary.  It's pretty straight-forward, and is really good.  Generally the service method is you get a bowl of rice, and ladle it over, and get an egg to go with it.  I like it, and I think you will too.  Though... ground pork is a lot harder to find than you might think.  BTW, for fried shallots, five-spice powder, and rock candy, generally Asian (namely Chinese) supermarkets will have them.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Loco Moco for the Lazy Gourmand

It seems like a really long time since I've posted something, and I guess it has, 3 months is a pretty long time. Sorry I haven't really put anything up here for you readers. This is something quick and simple I thought of, and while it's nothing super impressive, it makes for some good comfort food. For me personally, loco moco ranks up there in terms of Hawaiian comfort food. For those of you familiar with it, you're probably wondering one of two things, first, what's a gourmand's loco moco? Second, how do I make it simpler than it is? For those of you unfamiliar with Hawaiian cuisine, loco moco is simply hamburger patties served over a bed of rice and then generously covered with gravy and topped off with a fried egg (sunny-side up usually). It's fairly similar to the idea of say something like pork chops served with mashed potatoes and gravy. You know you use the gravy for everything, so might as will just serve it over everything. I actually might have some people say that the word "gourmand" doesn't really belong in the same sentence as loco moco, as its beauty is kind of found in its simplicity. I once brainstormed this wacky idea of loco moco that was something like sirloin or kobe beef served on a bed of rice pilaf soaked in a demi-glace and topped with a duck egg. I was told flatly by someone that "that's not loco moco anymore". I had something kind of like that at this place called Hally K Ono in California, which apparently is now closed, minus the duck egg. Anyways, the concept here is based on loco moco, so here's the run down.


Hamburger patty (1-2)
Can of hearty soup (recommend something like beef and vegetables otherwise French onion might be okay too)


1.) Cook rice

2.) Cook hamburger patties

3.) Make roux by melting butter and adding flour

4.) Add soup to roux mixture and stir until it thickens

5.) Plate rice and patties, then serve gravy of soup/roux over patties

Optional: Fry an egg and top the whole thing off

Honestly, that's pretty much it. If you want to get fancier, you can fry the rice ahead of time, or season the patties. It's pretty straight forward, and you get some extras from the soup. Generally speaking, that would be how I would make the gravy anyways, using beef stock, onion, maybe mushrooms, and beef stock. Feel free to season to flavor, if you want something a little tangy maybe add some red wine otherwise just serve as is. I didn't do it with the egg, but you can also do the egg on top too. Additionally, I just used frozen beef patties, but if you want, you can make your own, or buy fresh ones. It's something easy to make, especially if you use a George Foreman grill.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sloppy Joes

I realize I haven't posted anything here for a while and I apologize for that. I'm actually rather surprised that I haven't posted this recipe yet either, though it's not much to talk about. I remember sloppy joes used to be one of my favorites growing up in school, and I figure, it's pretty easy to make, and you can make it even better by adding a few quick things of your own as well. The base is simple and you can kind of amend as needed or desired. I apologize in advance for those looking for pictures because quite honestly, I don't have any, not of sloppy joes at least. Anyways, here goes:

Ground beef

That's pretty much all you need for a base for sloppy joes. I like mince in some onions and maybe throw in some chili powder or something for some flavoring.

Cooking instructions:

1.) Brown the ground beef, season to taste.

2.) Mix in ketchup, vinegar, and sugar until it reaches desired flavor

3.) Mix until desired consistency

That's it. Seriously, there's nothing more too it. This is where I would suggest you try to get creative, maybe try BBQ sauce instead of ground beef and you get a pulled-pork type flavor without the hassel of having to braise and pull the pork. Sure it's beef, it's different, but hey, it's faster and convenient, using ground pork doesn't work quite as well as ground pork has a tendency to be less cohesive after it's been broken up and so it doesn't really sandwich well onto a roll. Feel free to try various iterations, including perhaps an Italian sloppy joe utilizing tomato sauce or something, let me know what you come up with, the possibilities are limitless. I've also heard root beer and BBQ sauce make a mean pulled pork, okay, amend that, I know that root beer and BBQ sauce make a mean pulled pork, I just don't exact proportions, but hey, give it a go, it's fast and easy.

FYI: Ketcup, vinegar, and sugar are basically the components for sweet and sour sauce.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Fried Chicken Goodness

Hello everyone, I am not dead. No I am not. Sorry for the lack of posts here lately, well, more than just lately, like in, forever, or something along those lines. Anyways, I haven't really had the opportunity to come up with a lot of new stuff, but there's a couple of things that I discovered (or rather heard about) lately (and tried) and decided I wanted to share with all of you. Firstly, is this tip on frying chicken that I got from my friend. I have tried and verified this, the results are quite tasty. Oftentimes when chicken is fried it gets a little tough because you want to make sure it's cooked, and sometimes the insides get a little dried up. Therefore, to remedy this, it is recommended that the chicken be soaked in buttermilk, at least overnight. Then just batter straight from the buttermilk, no need to add egg to the chicken. It works quite well, the chicken ends up very moist and tender, while retaining the fried goodness. My next experiment would probably be to try it with katsu or something.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Artichoke-stuffed Chicken Marsala

I apologize that I haven't been posting new stuff lately, I haven't really made all that much, and things have been a little on the hectic side schedule-wise.  Enough with the banter and the excuses though, let's get this rolling.

As a first caveat, I've only actually done this once, and due to time constraints I actually couldn't make this as ideally as I would've liked, so some of the baking times and temperatures might be slightly estimated, meaning, I haven't actually tried them to see if they're ideal.  You'd probably want to tweak it a little as you go along, just so things work out a little more nicely.  I haven't really tried everything on here, so this is more of an ideal situation of how I'd make it.


boneless, skinless chicken breast
canned, quartered artichoke hearts
fresh mozarella cheese (preferably a block, not shredded)
marsala cooking wine
black pepper
lemon juice
Italian seasoning

Cooking directions:

1.) Soak the chicken breast in lemon juice overnight (not necessary, but it will tenderize the meat)

2.) Sear the chicken breast in lemon juice, just to get the outside looking cooked, you can skip to this if you don't have time or the inclination (or the lemon juice) to soak the breast the night before

3.) Drain the artichoke hearts

4.) Split the chicken breast open and stuff with a slice of mozarella, some artichoke hearts and season with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning

5.) Place stuffed breast into a roasting tray, pour in marsala cooking wine (a small layer)

6.) Cover with foil and cut slits in, then bake for 35 minutes

7.) On a stove heat a sauce pan with butter, saute the onions and mushrooms (and remaining artichoke if you have extra), seasoning with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning

8.) When the vegetables have browned add marsala wine and sugar and mix

9.) Let the wine reduce with the vegetables for about 15-20 minutes

10.) Add a little more butter and flour to thicken the sauce into a glaze/roux

11.) Pull the chicken out of the oven, drain out excess liquid

12.) Pour glaze over the chicken and bake uncovered for another 10-15 minutes

That should do the trick, I'll update if I try this and it doesn't work out that well.  The first time I did it, I didn't really have time to drain the chicken.  Cooking the chicken in the wine will give the meat itself a marsala flavor and keep it from drying out, however, I kind of like that roast flavor too, so, you want to drain it afterwards so you can get that edge.  I think you could probably just bake it uncovered with out adding the glaze and add the glaze afterwards.  As with all my recipes, I encourage you to play around with it and see if you get some better results.  Each person likes it a little differently.  Hope you enjoy!