Tuesday, February 23, 2016

My Hot Pot (serves 2)

There are many hot pot recipes. Some are classic and even then everyone has a version of his/her own. Some you make up as ingredients present themselves. While shopping at H-Mart (a Korean market located in Burlington, Massachusetts) I came across Kobe beef. When I saw the thin slices of the marbled meat all neatly placed in its package only one thought came to my mind, shabu shabu--Japanese hot pot. The first time I ate Kobe beef was in Japan in the late 90s. I was there with 3 nursing colleagues from the Mayo Clinic, to exchange nursing ideas. I remember presenting numerous talks and then our Japanese nursing colleagues would take us out to eat all sorts of delicious Japanese meals. One of the meals was a dinner held at a Japanese tea house that was exclusively for members only. We were invited there since a few of the members were top executives of a hospital we were visiting. The shabu shabu that night was amazing with so many different vegetables and melt in my mouth Kobe beef. Since then I don't think I have ever had shabu shabu that tasted as good.

My Teochew family often makes a hot pot using pork broth, vegetables, pork balls, shrimp balls, fish balls, etc. on birthdays, holidays, family reunions and other special occasions. My mother gave me an electric Korean party cooker and it's perfect for two people. Today I decided to make a special hot pot using a blend of Teochew and shabu shabu style. Use any kind of vegetables you prefer to put inside the pot. I listed the ones I used below. If you can obtain Kobe beef that would be good. However, if you do not have access to this then use any good beef and thinly slice it. I find it is easier to slice meat paper thin when the meat is partially frozen, by putting it in a freezer for about 25-30 minutes.

When eating, just add a little of the vegetables, meat, tofu, and noodles into the pot at a time. This way the food is cooking while you are eating. The beauty about using an electric pot is that you can adjust the heat. I find that it is useful to have a little strainer to scoop up some of the fragile items such as tofu. I prefer eating a hot pot among family and friends and not strangers. Once I attended a wedding and one of the many dishes served at that event was a hot pot. I find it a bit awkward since I did not know everyone at the table and not everyone has the same eating etiquette. Here are a few tips when eating from a communal pot: Anyone can add food to the pot not just one person. This way everyone gets to eat. When sharing a pot among people it is good to use a separate chopstick to scoop out the contents and not use your own eating utensils that you put in your mouth and now use to dip in the same pot. This is a shared meal so try to refrain from eating all the best items yourself. Perhaps there are others sitting at the same table who may like all the items that you like.



My Hot Pot (serves 2)

Pork and Kelp Broth

Ingredients:

3.5 lbs pork (leg) bones
70 grams dried kelp (you can use less but I want a strong taste), washed in cold water
4 quarts water
1 1/2 Tbsp miso paste
Fish sauce
Salt

Method:

Use a large pot (preferably 8 quart pot), add the bones and just enough water to cover. Boil for about 5-7 minutes. Remove the bones and wash each of them under cold water. Wash the pot well. Return the cleaned bones to the cleaned pot and add 4 quart water. Once the water boils turn the heat to medium and let the bones simmer for about 1 hour. Occasionally skim the impurities that float to the top and discard. Next add the kelp. Cook for about 1/2 hour. Skim and discard any impurities that float to the top. Remove and discard the kelp. Add miso paste. Season with fish sauce and salt to your taste. Strain the broth directly into the hot pot.

Hot Pot Contents

List of ingredients that I used:

Kobe beef (slices)
Udon noodles
Enoki mushrooms
King mushrooms
Napa cabbage (sliced into 1 inch widths)
Baby daikon (radish) leaves
Chrysanthemum leaves
Baby spinach leaves
Firm tofu (cut into cubes)
Onion (cut into wedges)
Scallions (green part only, cut into 1 inch lengths)

*It's good to buy extra food this way you will not run out. I keep the extra items prepared/washed and ready to be taken out and eat as soon as anything runs low. The worst thing about eating a hot pot is that after eating all the food you are still hungry.

Dip

Use what you prefer.
I like to use a little soy sauce with or without hot chili.

Monday, February 8, 2016

My Lunar New Year Pork Dumplings

Do you know anyone who does not like dumplings? I certainly have not come across any. In Boston Chinatown the restaurants that serve dumplings usually have a line outside their door on most weekend evenings. It seems just about every nation in this world has their own dumpling. My mother has her versions. Even I have several versions of dumplings. For me it depends mainly on what I have available in my house or what I am inspired to use for the filling. Here is a recipe that is simple and tasty. You can substitute pork for another meat such as chicken or turkey. I use both scallions and garlic leaves for this since I have both available. If you prefer less garlicky taste then omit the garlic leaves and use one garlic clove instead of two. For recipes such as this I prefer to use my microplane to finely grate the garlic and ginger. This way no one will be surprised by biting into a large chunk of these root vegetables while eating. My filling is not too salty since I like to dip the dumplings into a sauce. The sauce is simple--just soy sauce, water and sugar. I add equal amount of soy and water. Sprinkle in sugar according to your taste. Add as little or as much as you prefer. I put the sauce in the microwave and blast it for about 20 seconds. Add hot sauce if you want to give it a kick. This recipe makes at least 60 dumplings. You can make more dumplings if you use less filling for each one. I used about 3/4 tablespoon of filling for each dumpling and this yields about 60 dumplings. If you have extra filling left over you can fry it and make a sandwich with it.

My Lunar New Year Pork Dumplings

The Filling (enough for at least 60 dumplings)

Ingredients:

1.23 lbs ground pork
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine
1/2 thumb sized ginger, peeled, finely grated
2 garlic cloves, peeled, finely grated
1/2 tsp chicken broth powder (non-MSG)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 onion, finely chopped (or about 1/3 C)
1/3 C chopped scallions
1/3 C sliced garlic leaves
6 oz thinly sliced napa cabbage leaves
1 egg (yolk and white separated)--the egg white will help seal the dumpling skin
1 Tbsp cornstarch

Method:

1) Break the pork into small pieces. Add soy sauce, oil, wine, ginger, garlic, chicken broth powder, sugar, pepper, onion, scallions, and garlic leaves. Gently mix everything well. Add the cabbage leaves and gently mix all ingredients until well blended. Cover and store the filling in the refrigerator about an hour or overnight to marinade. I put my filling in the refrigerator overnight.
2) The next day I take out the filling and blend in an egg yolk. Next sprinkle in the cornstarch and mix gently all the ingredients are well blended.

Making Dumplings

I use a store purchased package of Gyoza Skin (dumpling skin, 14-oz) for this recipe. The skin is made mostly from wheat flour, water and salt. Place a dollop of filling (about 3/4 tablespoon) to the center of the dumpling skin. Brush or use your fingers to wet the outer 1/4 inch of the skin with the egg white. Fold the skin in half. Seal the top and then seal one side at a time to remove as much air out of the filling as you can. Seal tightly so they will not open up during cooking. Make sure that the rest of the skin is cover (I used a dry towel) while you work so that they do not dry out. After making each dumpling do the same so they do not dry out during the process.

Cooking Dumplings

Add about a tablespoon of oil to a heated non-stick pan. Once the oil is hot place each dumpling sitting down on a pan. I push the dumpling gently down using my fingers to a sitting position so they do not roll to the side. This way the bottom of my dumpling is golden and slightly crispy once cooked. I also like the way the top of the dumplings look as a result from pushing the top down. The amount of dumplings can be in a pan at one time is depending on the size of your pan. Try to avoid overcrowding the pan with too many dumplings since this will cool your pan. Once the bottom is golden in color I add a little water (about 1/4 cup if that) to the pan and cover the pan for about 4-5 minutes to steam. You may have to turn down the heat to medium if needed to prevent burning the dumplings. Once the dumplings are translucent, uncover the pan and let the liquid cook until it evaporates. Remove the dumplings from the pan and they are ready to eat!

The Dumpling Sauce

There are many sauces for dumplings. Here is one that I like with these particular dumplings. I use an equal amount of soy sauce and water. Sprinkle in some sugar to taste. Heat in a microwave about 20 seconds until the sugar dissolves. Adjust the ingredients as needed according to your taste buds. Add chili pepper or Sriracha sauce if interested.


Leftover Filling Sandwich (serves 1)

I made 50 dumplings and used the remaining filling to make a burger for my sandwich. I fried the burger until lightly brown and cooked thoroughly. I toasted 2 pieces of baguette, spread some mayonnaise on the sides, layer one side with baby arugula, sliced European cucumber, cilantro, and pickled carrots (made from vinegar, water and sugar). I like my sandwich a little spicy so I drizzle some of Sriracha hot sauce on top!

The above photo is what the Lunar New Year looks like in Seacoast New Hampshire!! Small flakes of snow are coming down quickly. It's also pretty cold outside. I don't need to look at the temperature to know how cold it is. I judge the temperature by the leaves on this rhododendron shrub. When they are shrivel up like they do today you know you better bundle up warmly! Happy New Year!!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Oyster Omelet (serves 1)

Happy Lunar New Year! May the New Year brings you happiness, good health and tasty food! I think it's pretty nice that I get to celebrate a second New Year. If I mess up my first new year resolution there is always a second chance! :D

Recently my neighbor Marshall made a tasty oyster stew. I don't normally eat cooked oysters but his stew was tasty and fresh. His stew prompted me to make this omelet. I decided that I want to start my new year by making some oyster omelets...ok, semi-scrambled oysters.

Marshall told me where he purchased the freshly shucked oysters. I have been to Al's Seafood in the past but only to buy fish. I called them and was told they do have freshly shucked oysters that came in last night. It's $8.99 for half a pint (price as of February 2016). I can buy whole ones and shuck them but I know that will take me forever. I used 3 jumbo eggs per serving. I use a fork to gently break the egg yolks and mix it slightly with the egg white. I avoid whisking the eggs too much. While cooking I used only chopsticks to move the eggs around in the hot pan. The whole cooking process took less than a minute. The result was light and fluffy eggs with just cooked oysters. I ate this over toasted baguette pieces. 

Oyster Omelet (serves 1)

Ingredients:

Toasted baguette pieces
3 jumbo eggs
2 Tbsp chopped scallions (green part only)
1 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 tsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1-2 pinches of sugar
4-5 oysters (strained from its liquid and removed any shell bits)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp butter
A sprinkle of ground black or white pepper (garnish)

Method:

1) Toast the baguette pieces and set aside.
2) In a medium sized bowl add eggs, scallions, cilantro, fish sauce, soy sauce, and sugar. Gently break the egg yolks and slightly mix all ingredients together. Strain and drop the oysters in the bowl.
3) Heat a non-stick pan with oil and butter. Once the  oil is hot pour in the egg mixture over the entire pan. Move the contents around and remove from heat once the eggs and oysters are just cooked. Pour the cooked omelet over the toasted baguettes. Sprinkle pepper over it.

How I Prefer to Eat My Shucked Oysters...

Yes, I do shuck my own oysters once in a great while...especially when I want to lose weight!! I am such a slow shucker that I really believe that I lose calories as I shuck my next oyster! When I go to restaurants I am always amazed by the skilled fast shuckers. You know when you see them. They shuck beautiful and clean oysters for you. This batch below are the ones that I shucked myself. I like to eat all kind of fresh oysters. Most of the time I like them simply with just a squeeze of lime juice. Here I added lime juice and a little kick with a dollop of Sriracha sauce. Instead of ice I put these on re-usable frozen packs; works great!