26 February 2010

try this! e-fu noodles

if (and when) you find yourself in an asian grocery store, step up to the noodle aisle and take a cake or two of these e-fu mein (pronounced like "mean", meaning "noodles" for the non-slanty-eyed).

also called "yi-mein" (because chinese people pronounce approximant consonants like they were on fire), they run between $1 and $2 a cake (much cheaper than a brick of illicit narcotics, and much tastier). they come in big cakes because they are fried after being made, and then dried in giant puck form for easy transport.

these lightly chewy, egg-based wheat noodles need to be boiled first to soften them up, and then rinsed (they're kind of oily). you can then fry them up with mushrooms, chives, garlic, adding your own sauce; or you can use them broth soups with asian vegetables and meat.

sesame oil and seafood goes well with yi-mein, cold or hot. in some chinese restaurants, you can get yi-mein with seafood and some bizarre fluorescent orangey-yellow cheese sauce (it's not like an alfredo, trust me) (and if i could find a photo, i would post it here1).

1i'm not *all* up against these east asian cheese concoctions because there are some tasty-looking creations... sadly, just none in my experience.

25 February 2010

what's orange, green, and yellow and covered in mayo?

the answer is russian salad, or salade olivier...

sounds like a mangled mess of things that aren't meant to go together, but it all comes together in this fantastic rich salad, great for bleh weather (like now). it's much like a regular potato salad but richer, meatier, and not as potato-y.

[this one has no apples... not intentional, but i know how my russian friend Елена would riddle me with guilt for this sacrilege. sorry.]

often made with ham, gherkins, potatoes, boiled eggs, peas, and carrots in a mayonnaise dressing, some varieties use fish, chicken, tongue, seafood or other meats, and sometimes include olives, capers, and/or other horrid fancy stuff.

here's a recipe from my Елена's mom:

2 lbs (~1 kg) potatoes (around 3 or 4 medium-sized, boiled until soft, but not crumbling; cooled, peeled and cubed)
2 or 3 hard-boiled eggs (chopped)
1/2 lb (200 g) carrots (cooked, cubed, and drained)
1/2 lb (200 g) green peas (fresh or frozen, but cooked – not overcooked)
1 small onion (cubed)
1 granny smith apple1 (cubed, make sure it doesn't turn brown by coating the cubes in a bit of lemon juice)
3-4 pickles (kosher-style, cubed; you can probably use sweet gherkins or ogorkis as well).
1/2 to 2/3 lb (200g to 300g) boiled/cooked meat (usually chicken or ham, cubed).
1 cup (250 ml) mayonnaise2
salt and pepper to taste

mix all this stuff up and then serve. fancy it up on a bed of lettuce.

1you can experiment with other apples but apparently in old russia, they might whip you for this.
2avoid using salad dressing-type mayonnaise – it does NOT taste the same. and my friend's grandmother will turn over in her grave... you do not want this.

19 February 2010

smiley face doughnut hole happiness

(or "happy chinese new valentine's year!", part two)

one of the few things my mom likes to make for chinese new year's (hereon end, abbreviated cny) is these crunchy, sweet little deep-fried snacks covered in sesame seeds called "smiley mouth dates" (笑口棗), which are neither dates, nor do they resemble mouths.

they do, however, resemble timbits with an overbite and pimples, like an awkward asian teenager! (someone on openrice calls them "happy nuggets"...)

for cny, these deep-fried delights are cooked up and often given away to friends, family, and sometimes to people you want to poison.

笑口棗 (smiley face nuggets)
2 cups (500 ml) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 ml) sugar
2 tsp (10 ml) lard or shortening
2 eggs (beaten)
1/2 to 1 tsp (2.5 to 5ml) baking powder
white sesame seeds for rolling

mix together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. cut in the lard/shortening using a pastry cutter or fork until uniform. add eggs until even more uniform. roll into tablespoon-sized (15ml) balls.

heat frying oil in a pan deep enough so there is enough depth for the suckers to float. the oil is hot enough for the dough when you put a wooden chopstick in the oil and tiny bubbles appear along the stick*.

drop each ball into the hot oil, and fry until they turn a beautifully delicious golden colour and they float to the top of the oil. drain on paper towels.

store them in an airtight container. eat liberally.

* i don't know how hot that is because i never measured. deal with it.

14 February 2010

happy chinese new valentine's year!

this year, chinese new year's falls on stupid valentine's day.

to simplify things, i've decided to combine both food-centric occasions into one... by making a chocolate golden carp*!

[this sucker is actually about 8 inches long and 3 inches tall... if it was a mackerel, he would have fed two for supper.]

*carps are signs of prosperity in chinese cultures because the chinese word for "fish" (魚) sounds like the chinese word for "surplus" (餘)... go figure. symbolism runs deep among the chinese.

when making chocolate candies, i learned that it's important to:

- never ever let any water touch the chocolate, whether it is white, milk or dark
- make sure you use an oil-based food colouring if you plan on colouring the mix
- if the melted chocolate is too viscous, you can melt paramount crystals (a palm oil/soy lecithin-based food additive) with the chocolate to help slick it up and make it easier to pour
- find people to actually eat your chocolate concoction... in this case, your valentine should ideally not be allergic to chocolate, dislike white chocolate, and not have mental blocks about eating things with eyes (even if they are fake)... NO i'm not talking about anyone in particular.

happy chinese new valentine's year of the chocolate tiger! 恭喜發財!

10 February 2010

when life gives you guavas...

what do you do with an excess of ripe guavas? make guava ice cream!

(guava with lemon ice cream)

WTF is a guava you might ask?

it's this!

(part of the myrtle family, guavas are small, sweet and fragrant tropical fruits with hard seeds that crack like micro-golfballs when you bite into them).

take a buttload of guavas (the riper the better), pass the pulp through a fine sieve to remove the seeds, and then cook it up in a plain ice cream recipe, adding lemon and vanilla as you like.

the formula i used was something like this:

1.5 cup guava paste
2 eggs
1/2 to 2/3 cup white sugar
1 cup milk
1 to 2 cups cream (the fatter, the tastier)
dash of vanilla extract
lemon juice and some lemon rind
guava juice (optional for more guava flavour)
1/2 to whole sachet of unflavoured gelatin

equipment required:
- candy thermometer
- double boiler
- ice cream/sorbet maker OR you can try this method which lets you take out some of your pent-up anger.

stir together the dairy products in the top section of a double boiler, beating in the eggs. mix the sugar with the gelatin and beat it into the mix, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn't clump. bring it all to about 70 C (158F) making sure the mix does not hotter than that.

once it gets up to temperature, remove it from the heat and make the temperature drop down to 18C (64F) as fast a possible. here in downtown canada, all you need to do is to set the pot in the snowbank that is usually your back porch in the summer. for the rest of you, try a large bowl of ice cubes and water.

you can store it in the fridge at this point until you're ready to icecreamify it (i.e. run it through the ice cream machine). icecreamify it in the ice cream maker to add freeze and air to the mixture. if you like it with less air (more like a gelato), that's your prerogative.

store in an airtight freezer container and serve it when your heart desires.