Sichuan Beef Noodle Soup

Here is one of the most popular street dishes in China, the Sichuan Beef Noodle Soup, or 川味红烧牛肉面. A bowl of chewy pulled noodle, covered in a warm, savory, spicy, and mouth-numbing beef soup, with tender braised beef that melts in your mouth. You can find them in a noodle shop on the street, or on the table of fancy restaurant; your mom or grandma would let it simmer all night so you can have a hot bowl of noodle and broth on a cold winter morning, or you can enjoying it with a cold bottle of Snow beer (a very cheap Chinese beer) on a hot summer night after watching a football match.

Though beef is not commonly eaten in China, however, braised beef is a classic dish in Sichuanese cuisine. The water buffalo indigenous to this mouthiness region has tough muscles that not suitable for stir fry, thus the only way to cook it is to either thinly slice the meat, or braise it slowly in flavorful stew.  This dish usually uses the shank of beef for it’s lean muscle and tendon, but we will use chuck roast instead.

IMG_2712

You’ll Need:

  • 500 g or 1.1 lb beef chuck (choose fattier cuts)
  • 100 ml or 1/2 cup cooking rice wine
  • 10 g or 1/3 oz tomato paste
  • 10 g or 1/3 oz dark soy sauce
  • 15 g or 1/2 oz doubanjiang/chinese chili bean sauce
  • 15 g or 1/2 oz hoisin sauce
  • 5 g or 1/6 oz sichuan peppercorn
  • 5 g or 1/6 oz coriander seed
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 dried chili

How to make this:

  1. Cut the beef chuck into 2 cm (1 inch) cubes, then, place the meat in 0.7 liter (3 cups) of cold water with cooking wine over medium heat, bring it to a boil, skim off the surface foam, and rinse the meat clean. Save the hot water for later use.
  2. In a stew pot, add some oil over medium-high heat, when the oil start smoking, add in the Sicilian peppercorn, cloves, star anise, cinnamon, bay leave, coriander seed and dried chili, stir the spices until the oil become aromatic. Spoon out the spices and tie them into a muslin cloth, then add the garlic and spring onion into the same pot, lightly fry them in the oil.
  3. Add the sugar into the oil, let it brown lightly, then add the blanched beef into the pot/pan. Searing all sides of the beef, then add the dark soy sauce, Doubanjiang, Hoisin Sauce and tomato paste, stir until the beef is covered by the sauce and turn dark brown,
  4. Add the still warm beef broth into the pot with the lightly fried spice bag, bring it to a boil, cover with lid, then lower the heat to low, and let it simmer for 90 min (at least).
  5. Pick out the spice bag, raise the heat to high and condense to stew (for about 3 min) slightly for a thicker stew. Sever the stew over some lamian/pulled noodle, and sprinkle on some chopped green onion and coriander, with a splash of hot chili oil,

*The reason this recipe does’t have any salt is because all the Doubanjiang and Hoisin sauce are very salty, so don’t add any salt.

*If you can’t find the ingredients,  sichuan peppercorn, dark soy sauce, doubanjiang and oisin Sauce  can be find in most Chinese/Asian market, coriander seed, cinnamon stick, star anise, bay leaf, cloves is basically five spice.

*My grandma like to replace the tomato paste with ketchup for a sweeter/more acidic taste.

Advertisements

Shio Ramen

Happy National Ramen Day! And as the dish became more popular in recent years, more efforts have been put into the studying and perfection of ramen. Similar to the 5 “mother sauces” in French cuisine, there are 4 “mother broths” in Japanese ramen. I have recently written a recipe for one of them, the Tonkostu ramen, a style with a rich, thick, creamy pork bone broth. However, it is a very new style of broth, at least compared to the one we are making today, the Shio ramen.IMG_6452

The Shio ramen is probably the oldest style if ramen, the word “shio”, which literally means 塩/salt perfectly describes the main flavors of this broth. However, don’t be afraid of the sodium, the base of the broth is usually made with clear chicken or seafood broth, with a “salty tare” + dashi, which contains a lot of natural salty ingredients, and chicken fat.

This recipe only takes 5 hours, which is a lot less than the “24 hours Tonkotsu Broth”, and like the Tonkotsu recipe, you can make a big batch of this and save them for later.

For the Chicken Broth, You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 of a whole chicken
  • 3 liters or 12.5 cups of water
  • 2 springs of green onions
  • 1 thumb size piece of ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 5 grams or 1/5 oz of sea salt

For the Salty Tare + Dashi, You’ll Need:

  • 1/4 liter or 1 cup of water
  • 1 palm size piece of kombu
  • 5 grams or 1/5 oz of katsuobushi
  • 5 grams or 1/5 oz of sugar
  • 10 grams or 1/3 oz of sea salt
  • 3 piece of dried shitake mushroom
  • 30 ml or 2 tbsp sake
  • 30 ml or 2 tbsp mirin
  • 30 ml or 2 tbsp soy sauce

You’ll also need:

  • 4 servings of ramen noodle (dried or fresh)
  • 2 springs of green onion
  • Cha Shu (Japanese braised pork belly)
  • Ajitsuke Tamago (Japanese pickled eggs)

How to make this:

  1. Trim as much skin and fat as possible off the chicken, then blanch it in boiling water, rinse and clean the partially cooked chicken, then place it in a pot of 3 liters, clean water with the ginger, garlic, and green onion. Bring the broth to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down to low and let the broth simmer for about 5 hours.
  2. Heat a pan over medium heat, and fry the trimmed chicken skin and fat until most of the fat is rendered out, which should take about 10 min, strain & save the fat in a container.
  3. About 30 min before the chicken broth is complete, place the kombu, katsuobushi and shitake mushroom in 1/4 liters of water. Bring the water to a boil over medium heat, then add the sugar, salt, mirin, sake, and soy sauce, lower the heat and let the mixture slowly simmer for about 15 min or until it turns slightly thick.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil, then place the ramen noodle in the water, stir a couple times, wait till the noodle is cooked, then strain it.
  5. Place the noodle in a large bowl, then add 2 spoons full of the salty tare + dashi, with about 1 cup of the chicken broth, and a couple drops of the chicken fat. Serve with some thinly sliced green onion root, some Chashu, and an Ajitsuke Tamago, then Enjoy!

 

Tortilla Española

img_4375.jpg

There’s rarely anything as simple and as satisfying as Tortilla Española or Tortilla de Patatas, the Spanish Omelette. This tapas classic has existed in Spain and parts of the Latin Americans since the 1600s, and it is still as popular today as the day it is invented. With only 4 ingredients, it’s savory and sweet, with a touch of smokiness, with an almost crispy crust on the surface, and a creamy, soft interior, like an aged cheese. Even though the traditional recipe doesn’t contain any onion, it was added to the recipe in the 1900s to provide some extra sweetness to the omelette. This recipe takes about 30 mins and serves about 4 people.

You’ll Need:

  • 3 medium-sized potatoes (about 1/2 kg or 1 lb, starchy potatoes)
  • 1 sweet onion (or any other type of white onion)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups olive oil

How To Make This:

  1. Peel and thinly slice both the potatoes and onion, you can slice them with a knife, or save a lot of time and effort by using a mandoline.
  2. img_4316.jpgHeat up a deep pan over medium heat, pour in the oil and wait until the temperature rises to about 150C or 300F degrees.
  3. Add the onion first, fry for about 3 min, then add the sliced potatoes. Continue frying for about 12 min or until the potatoes are cooked through.
  4. Strain the fried potatoes and onion, gently mix them with the 6 eggs. Cover it with some aluminum foil and let it sit for about 5 min.
  5. Heat a well-oiled non-stick pan (with a 10-inch diameter) over high heat, add in the thickened egg mixture and cook for about 1 min, this will create the crust for the omelette. Then turn the heat down to medium and let the omelette cook for another 3 min. While the top of the omelette is still a bit runny, cover the top of the pan with a large plate, then flip the pan over, with the cooked part of the omelette facing up, and slide the omelette back into the pan. Cook for another 2 min over medium heat.
  6. Cut the omelette into wedges, you can serve them both hot and cold, enjoy!

img_4373.jpg

Osso Buco alla Milanese

img_3824.jpgOne of my favorite cut of meat is Osso Buco, which literally means “bone with a hole” (Osso “bone”, Buco “hole”). It is the cross-cut of a veal shank with a marrow hole in the center. The veal shank is usually relatively cheap and flavorful, although tough, low and slow braising makes it tender & juicy. The marrow in the bone is silky and smooth, and perfectly caramelized to bring out the amazing flavors hidden in the bone!

This traditional dish from Milan is very easy to make and requires very few ingredients. Also, I understand that veal can be quite hard to find, and some people view it as inhumane to consume it, but both beef and pork work perfectly with this dish. The flavorful braised meat and its semi-sweet sauce are perfect to serve with risotto, polenta or mashed potato

You’ll Need:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cross-cut shanks (about 1 lb each)
    IMG_3765

    A Cross-cut of A Veal Shank

    • Veal: the best and the most traditional choice, very tender with a slight sweetness, but very hard to find
    • Beef: easy to find, very flavorful and juicy, can be a bit tough if not cooked right
    • Pork: easy to find, a bit sweet, can be a bit dry are long cooking, lower the temperature a bit
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped pancetta
  • 2 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 stem of thyme
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 cups veal, beef or chicken stock
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

How to make this:

IMG_3779.jpg

You want to brown it well so that the flavors of the meat can be brought out

 

  1. Dry both sides of the shanks, and generously season each side of the shank with salt and pepper, then cover with flour to get better browning on the shanks. Heat up a pan over medium-high heat, pour in the olive oil, and right before the oil starts smoking, place the shank in the pan. Sear each side for about 5 min or until they look like this. (It’s very important to brown both sides of the shank, the caramelization brings out a lot of amazing flavors, and help the meat stay on the bone)
  2. Take the browned shanks out of the pan, and in the same pan, add the chopped pancetta, onion, celery and carrot, turn the heat down to medium and cook them for about 10 min or until the onion has turned translucent. Add the minced garlic half way through since garlic burns very easily.

    IMG_3789

    Let is slowly braise in the stock & wine mix

  3. Add the tomato paste to the pan, stir and let the tomato paste to cook and bring out some sweetness, then pour in the white wine, stir until the sauce becomes even. (It’s very important to pour in the wine when the pan is hot since the alcohol will be cooked out while the wine’s aroma and flavors can be saved.)
  4. Place the shanks in the pan, and add the broth until they almost submerge the shanks. Cover it and let it slowly braise in a 175C or 350F oven for about an hour, then remove the lid and cook for another 30 min to thicken the sauce. You can add 10 min at the end if you want a thicker sauce.
  5. Serve it with some polenta, risotto or mashed potato. I made Risotto alla Milanese or the Saffron Risotto which is a traditional side for this dish, you can find how to make Risotto here, and Enjoy!

 

 

Thai Green Curry

I was having curry at a local Thai restaurant last weekend and it wasn’t so great, the so-called “Royal Curry” is similar to a peanut coconut curry, but it was way too sweet, and the consistency is too thick (they most likely used starch to thicken it). And I realized that overly-sweetness is actually a common theme in Thai food in Western countries, and after doing some research, the reason behind it is that for a dish like Thai Green Curry or Kaeng Khiao Wan (“Kaeng” meaning curry, “Khiao” meaning green, “Wan” meaning sweet), the sweet is usually understood too literally, when it actually meant to describe the particular color green of this curry, which is more like a cream green.

So, to make your Thai curry experience more authentic at home, we are going to make a pretty traditional Thai curry from Central Thailand, Kaeng Khiao Wan or Green Curry.

This recipe serves 4.

img_3131-e1518496611582.jpg

For The Paste, You’ll Need:

  • IMG_3082140 g or 5 oz Green Thai (or Birdeye) Chilies
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 Shallots
  • 2 stalks Lemongrass (just the root)
  • 1 thumb-sized chunk of Galangal (or ginger, they are very similar in flavor)
  • 1 piece of Lime Peel
  • 1 tbsp Mix Peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp Shrimp Paste (or anchovy paste)
  • 1/2 tbsp Rock Sugar
  • 1 tsp Coriander Seed
  • 1 tsp Cumin Seed
  • 1 tsp Salt

For the Curry, You’ll Need:

  • 1.5 kg or 3 lb of river fish (like bass, pike or carb) or fish balls
  • 0.7 kg or 1.5 lb of mushroom
  • 500 ml or 2 cups of seafood stock (water)
  • 500 ml or 2 cups of coconut cream
  • 5 – 10 stems of Thai sweet basil
  • 2 red chilies

How to make this:

  1.  IMG_3110.jpgFirst, we make the paste, roughly chop the green Thai chilies, garlic, lime leaves, shallots, lemongrass, galangal and lime peel, lightly toast the peppercorns, coriander and cumin seeds, then blend everything together with a food processor or a pestle & mortar, then add the shrimp paste, salt and sugar. Blend or smash it to an almost paste-like consistency. (At this point, you can either make the curry or freeze the paste and use it in the future)
  2. Bring the seafood stock to a boil, then add all paste to the stock, cook for about 8 min or until it turns to a cream like color. At this step, you can either strain the stock and make a smooth curry, or keep the small bits in there and make a more rustic version of the dish.
  3. Add the mushroom and fish(or fishball) to the soup, pouch both until they are cooked, then add the coconut cream, mix gently so you don’t break apart the fish. Bring the curry to a boil and remove the mixture from the heat. Add the chopped red chilies and basil leaves, sever it with some rice, and enjoy!

3CB5CF46-8B91-4949-8A21-2B412C0C8B9E

This is one of the easier Thai dishes, and take almost no time to cook, but it’s packed with amazing flavors and the freshness of the dish is unbelievable! The paste can be frozen into cubes and use in the future, and you can use almost any meat or mushroom or tofu you want, actually, Korean style fish cake is perfect for this dish. Give it a try, it’s really easy!

Tiramisu

It’s almost Valentine’s Day again, and for those who prefer having a cozy dinner with their loved one at home than experiencing the nightmare of dining out on Valentine’s Day, there’s nothing better to finish a lovely home cooked meal than a serving of the Italian classic, Tiramisu. It’s rich and creamy, but light and refreshing, the liquor might get you a little tipsy, but the espresso will pick you right up, that’s why tiramisù means  “cheer me up” or “lift me up”.

For a dessert this delicious, most are afraid the recipe would be too hard, and if you look around on the internet or a lot of the cookbooks, many recipes want you to make a double boiler to cook egg yolks or make the filling using the same technic as a mouse. Yes, using these technics does make the texture a little bit better, but it just seems too unnecessarily complicated. So, here is an easier and more traditional way to make this beloved desert! It takes about 15 min and makes about 2 servings, you can use a stemless wine glass or a rock glass which fits about 1 serving.

IMG_2490

(*Most recipe uses Marsala wine, which is kinda hard to find and makes the dish a little too sweet. This recipe uses limoncello, which is a southern Italian lemon liqueur, but you can use any liqueur you like, dark rum, Madeira, port, brandy, or Irish cream.)

You’ll Need:

  • 2 shots espresso
  • 30 ml or 2 tbsp limoncello
  • 10-15 dried ladyfinger cookies (cut in half if making cups)
  • 2 large fresh eggs
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean
  • 170 g or 6 oz mascarpone cheese
  • cocoa powder and shaved chocolate for garnish

How to make this:

  1. Take all the ingredients out of the fridge and place them on your kitchen counter so that they reach room temperature, this will make the whipping much easier.
  2. Once everything reaches room temperature, separate the egg white and yolk, then mix the yolk with the mascarpone cheese, limoncello, and half of the sugar in a large bowl until they turn into a smooth cream, you can also zest half of a lemon to add some extra lemon flavors (a citrus flavor breaks the fat and makes the cream much lighter)

    Whip until it forms a smooth peak

  3. In another large bowl, whip the egg white & the rest of the sugar until they form a stiff peak, if the egg white is at room temperature, this will only take about 3 min of whipping.
  4. Gently fold the half of the whipped meringue into the cheese mixture with a silicone spatula, after they are incorporated, fold in the other half. (DO NOT whisk because that will destroy all the lovely little air bubbles, thus making the Tiramisu too dense & heavy)
  5. Quickly soak the ladyfingers in the coffee, then place a layer on the bottom of the glass, then a layer of cream and another layer of soaked coffee ladyfingers. Repeat until the glass is filled, then let it sit in a fridge for at least 30 min
  6. Dust the top with cocoa powder, then sprinkle with some shaved chocolate and enjoy!

IMG_2500

 

Mushroom Risotto

Growing up in China, we eat rice for almost every meal, a warm bowl of congee for breakfast, a plate of savory & oily fried rice for lunch, and some light & fully steamed rice for dinner. Since rice was brought to Italy in the 1400s by spice merchants through the silk road, and most rice dishes around the world have a Chinese root, that’s why when I started cooking in an Italian restaurant, risotto was the first thing that I mastered, a creamy, tender rice dish that is perfect for almost any occasion. It’s perfect as the primo, a dish before the main course; however, it is also perfect with osso buco alla milanese, which is one of my favorite Italian dishes.

Since risotto is a dish that the city Milan is famous for, it requires some butter (most Italian dish uses only olive oil, but not this one), and the lovely mushrooms that can only be find in the northern Italian forests. Some of these mushroom might be hard to find, but I will provide a more common substitute in the recipe.

image2

You’ll Need:

  • 400 mL or 1 3/4 cup stock (chicken stock image3normally, you can use vegetable stock for vegetarian/vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 tbsp or 75 g unsalted butter (replace wit margarine for vegan)
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb length celery
  • 30 g or 1 oz  dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water
    • dried porcini mushroom, bold nutty flavor (common)
    • dried shiitake mushroom, earthy & smokey flavors (common)
    • dried chanterelle mushroom, subtle peppery & apricot flavors with firm texture (common)
    • dried morels, strong beefy flavors (rare & expensive)
  • 200 g or 7 oz mushrooms
    • crimini mushroom, mild flavor (common)
    • shiitake mushroom, rich, buttery, and meaty flavors (common)
    • trumpet mushroom, similar to the texture & flavor of abalone when cooked (optional)
    • maitake mushroom, intense fruity, earthy and spicy flavors and absorb companion flavors when cooked (optional)
    • pioppini mushroom, peppery flavors with a firm texture (optional)
    • shimeji/clamshell mushroom, delicate shellfish-like flavor with firm texture (optional)
  • 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 200 g or 7 oz rice
    • arborio rice , short grain, starchy and firm (common)
    • carnaroli, maratelli and Vialone Nano, traditional but hard to find (rare & expensive)
  • 125 mL or 1 cup dry white wine
  • sea salt  & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp freshly Parmesan cheese

How to make this:

  1. Place the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with boiling water, this will re-hydrate the mushroom.
  2. Heat up a deep pan over medium-low heat, add half of the butter with the olive oil. Peel and finely chop the celery, garlic and onion, add them into the pan with some salt & black pepper and cook them for about 10 min or until they turn soft.
  3. Add the rice into the pan, lightly fry while stirring it until it turns slightly translucent.
  4. Strain the dried mushrooms, save the liquid. Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms, add them into the pan with thyme springs, turn up the heat to medium then cook until most of the liquid are evaporated.
  5. Pour in the wine and cook until the liquid turns viscous, then add 1/2 cup of the mushroom liquid and the stock. Bring everything to a boil and reduce the heat back to medium-low, stir constantly, and cook for about 20 min, add more liquid if need.
  6. Once the rice hits al dente, pick out the thyme and add the rest of the butter with the Parmesan cheese, stir until it becomes amazingly creamy and oozy. Sever it with some extra Parmesan and herbs, and enjoy!