Summer Starts as the Salad Search Ends – The Perfect Chinese Chicken Salad

By May 8, 2014 Recipes
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When I have a day where I don’t know what to do with myself, I will start cooking.

This is usually sparked from a ‘fridge-soul-searching’ moment where I don’t want cheezits and apple slices to ‘tie me over.’ I truly just want something belly-warming delicious. My roommates are out, the kitchen is empty, and I am bored and hungry. I will poke my head in the cheese drawer and after realizing that it was an impulsive decision I will think about the meals I miss having at home. Chinese Chicken Salad is one of my favorites. It was the first salad I starting asking my momma if she could make it for me; with crunchy iceberg lettuce, a heap of fried chicken, green onions, fried rice threads, peanuts, sesame seeds, and a sesame oil + soy sauce dressing it is a salad that you will scrape your bowl for more. It is perfect as a main dish, especially in the summertime in a wooden bowl. If you want to add more to the course list: chicken satay with peanut sauce, crispy egg rolls, maybe a rice or egg noodle dish, or stir-fry would go well with this flavorful, refreshing salad.

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Chinese Chicken Salad: Adapted from Sunset Chinese Cookbook

Ingredients:

Produce

½ of a medium sized iceburg lettuce – thinly shredded (¼ of an inch)

1-2 lb of chicken breast and/or thigh – skin on and bone-in

3 whole green onions –thinly sliced

1 small bunch of cilantro – roughly chopped

½ cup of salted peanuts

¼ cup of sesame seeds – lightly toasted (optional)

2 cups of rice sticks/bean threads – fried | or | 5 wonton wrappers – fried (optional) *see note*

Dressing

½ tsp dry yellow mustard

1tsp white sugar

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp pure sesame oil

1tsp lemon peel – grated

1 Tbs lemon juice

4-6 Tbs salad oil (canola, vegetable, sunflower etc…)

Optional additions: some grated ginger and minced garlic

Chicken Seasoning

¼ cup all purpose flour

1 Tbs cornmeal

½ tsp salt

½ tsp Chinese five spice powder *see note*

¼ tsp pepper

Must have: a fryer if you are making your own fried chicken and fried bean threads, a deep-frying thermometer.

*bean thread notes* – Bean threads (also called ‘translucent’, ‘cellophane’, or ‘shining noodles’ are made from ground mung beans and are sold dried in packages weighing 2 ounces to 1 pound. Though they are called noodles, they are considered a vegetable product. Before they are cooked, they look like stiff nylon fishing line, but they puff up crisp when dropped into hot oil. Or you can cover them with warm water for 30mins to soften, then simmer in soups or stir-fry with meat or vegetables, (excerpt copied from Sunset Chinese Cookbook).

*five-spice notes* – Chinese Five Spice is a blend of ground cloves, fennel, licorice root, cinnamon, and star anise.

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Instructions:

Preparing the Chicken: In a large frying pan, fryer or wok heat about 1½ – 2 inches of oil to 375 degrees using a deep-frying thermometer. While you wait for the oil to reach temperature; in a large plastic bag or a large bowl mix together the flour, cornmeal, five-spice, salt, and pepper. Cover the chicken pieces in this mixture and shake off the excess flour. When the oil has reach frying temp add the chicken pieces and fry until they are well browned on all sides, turning once or twice if needed to ensure evenly cooking, (about 10mins for breast meat, about 12mins for thigh). Drain and cool. Oven Option: “If you prefer to oven-fry the flour mixture, arrange in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle with about 2 Tbs salad oil and bake in a 400 degree oven for about 50 mins or until chicken is no longer pink in the thickest part (cut a small gash to test). Turn once, if needed, to brown evenly all over. You can also put the chicken under the broiler briefly to finish browning and crisping the skin,” (excerpt copied from Sunset Chinese Cookbook)

Preparing the Ingredients: Cut the iceburg lettuce in half and then using a large knife cut the lettuce into ¼ inch strips (while reserving the other half) – you should be left with roughly 4 cups of shredded iceburg lettuce. Then thinly slice the green onions and roughly chop the cilantro leaves as well as the peanuts. To toast the sesame seeds, heat a wide frying pan over medium heat without oil, add the sesame seeds and shake the pan frequently so you get some color on the seeds without burning them (about 2mins). Set prepared ingredients aside. Shredding the Fried Chicken: It is easier to shred the chicken if it hasn’t completely cooled, so carefully begin pulling the skin and meat off the bone and using your hands shred the chicken meat into bite-sized pieces. Discard the bones, don’t discard the skin! Cut it into thin strips to add to your salad.

Preparing the Bean Threads: Using a fry pan, fryer, or wok heat oil to about 350-375 degrees on a deep-frying thermometer. To test if the oil is hot enough you can drop one bean thread into the oil and if it sizzles + floats to the top + immediately poufs up and turns pearl white – your oil is hot enough and is ready to go. Add the bean threads to the oil, once they pouf up you can remove them onto a plate with a paper towel to soak up the excess oil (about 30sec).

Preparing the Dressing: use a jar or container to add the dry mustard, sugar, salt, pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice, soy sauce and sesame oil – close the lid and shake. Then add 4 Tbs of salad oil; shake and taste. Add salad oil by Tbs to taste. Option: if the dressing tastes slightly bland add garlic and/or ginger powder or add freshly crushed garlic or grated ginger to taste.
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(all photos by © Zoe Ching for Toasty Talk)

Oregon Coastin’ with Sunday Thai Cilantro Wings

By April 14, 2014 Recipes
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Coast to Wings

I’ve lived in Portland for more than 4 years and I had never been to the Oregon coast. This is like telling someone you haven’t watched the Titanic – it just baffles people. Going to the Oregon coast is an activity that has come up in numerous Portland conversations I’ve had, similar to, “let’s go to the art museum next week,” or “lets do a road trip to Canada” they are things you want to do but it is questionable if you truly intended to pack your stuff, get in the car, and make the effort to get there.

I think the best times are when you are slightly tired, a bit lazy, but ready for a ‘turn around’. The ‘turn around’ moment is when someone has to persuade you a bit and suddenly conversation turns into action, and you’re on your way. It typically goes something like this:

Between my roommate Caitlyn and I

Me: “Ugh I’m so tired”

Caitlyn: “Yeah I feel you, we should do something today”

Me: “I need coffee”

Caitlyn: “No I mean like go somewhere”

Me: “Oh sweet, yeah where?”

Caitlyn: “Lets go to the coast, you down?”

Me: “Yeahh.. that would be cool, uh so..”

Caitlyn: “K, sweet – we will leave in 30 minutes”

Me: Oh this is happening, okay um let me just..”

Caitlyn: *throws pants at me & a bag to put stuff in*

… I guess this is happening…

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Oh Sadie, Silly Pup

I think a huge motivating factor to do anything outdoorsy is having a dog. I never had a pup growing up in SF, so when I moved in with Caitlyn I was super excited. She got her puppy Sadie when she was 10 weeks old and a little devil dog but the cutest, mischievous thing. We are those people that for the life of us can’t stop talking about her – all the nicknames we have given her, the countless pictures of Sadie on our phone, how she understands English, and I love talking about what she likes to eat (uhh.. dogs love everything), but I like to insist she has an intense craving for yellow cheddar over white. It is a bit absurd but we are well aware of it – not that this makes us less obnoxious.

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Coastin’

It’s funny that you are driving in the bright sun and you know you’re close to the ocean when you hit fog, thick dense fog. It is just like San Francisco

where you grab a dress and sandals, hit the beach and freeze your butt off. Well nobody learns from these types of mistakes – so of course Caitlyn and I were wearing shorts, opps.

The coastal town – that one coffee shop with wood benches outside, the kite store with rainbow colors swaying in the wind, the puppy lovers shop with silly stickers smacked onto the front of the window of a dog with its tongue out, the boutique shops with wrap dresses you will never wear but might buy, the iconic local taffy spot on the corner next to the ice cream store with cake cones – it felt a lot like the California. Small coastal towns like Mendocino, Gualala, Monterey Bay, Half Moon Bay, San Luis Obispo, Carmel, but a lot smaller. It felt like a memory of home.

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Cilantro Thai Wings

adapted from “quick & easy thai: 70 everyday recipes” :: a cookbook by Nancy Mcdermott

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We got back home and were starved. I turned the gas-grill on and pulled out the chicken wings I had been marinating. Got them on a rack and started preparing the rice (meaning threw it in the rice cooker)

Ingredients:

a handful of cilantro stems (about 1/3 of a cup, roughly chopped/ torn apart) *see note*

1-2 lbs of chicken wings

4-5 garlic cloves – (minced/ finely chopped)

2 Tbs oil – (I used vegetable oil

2 Tbs soy sauce

1 Tbs fish sauce

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

1 lime – freshly squeeze (about a 1 to 2 Tbs of juice)

¼ tsp of sugar (optional)

¼ tsp of lemon/lime/orange zest – grated (optional) *see note*

(optional) add some heat, chili oil, minced Thai chilies etc (optional)

Additions:

Sticky white rice (aka sweet rice) from Thailand or short grain white rice goes perfectly with these charred cilantro wings.

*cilantro stem notes* – just amazing! Smell the cilantro stems as you break them apart to put into the food processor and you will never toss them again – so much flavor. They also outlast their leafy counterparts in the fridge up to a week longer. People also use cilantro stems to make healthy smoothies, not bad huh? And if you don’t have cilantro stems, maybe try parsley stems – I’m sure it would be delicious.

*lemon/lime/orange notes* – I used lime zest for this recipe. Have fun experimenting, zest gives an added note of richness to the flavor of a marinade – limes are usually more bitter/sour, orange is tangier and lemons are bitter to sweet. When grating don’t grate the white part of the flesh off because that is terribly bitter and will throw off the balance of your marinade a bit.

Must have: preferably a high-heat outdoor gas-grill or charcoal grill, but a high-heat oven skillet would work too. You’ll need a grill rack and also a blender or small food-processor (recommended but not necessary).

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 Instructions:

1) Machine Way: In a blender or small food-processor throw in (1) the garlic and pulse, then (2) add the soy sauce, fish sauce, and half of the cilantro stems and pulse, then (3) add the rest of the stems as well as the sugar, pepper, lime juice and zest. (4) Pulse and drizzle the oil in until all the ingredients are well combined.

OR

By Hand Way: minced the cilantro stems and toss into a bowl with the oil, you can muddle them a bit more with a spoon or fork. Then minced the garlic with some salt until you create a paste. Add the remaining ingredients: fish sauce, soy sauce, pepper, sugar, lime juice and zest – mix well until combined.

2) Marinating the Chicken: In a large ziplock or plastic bag, pour the sauce over the chicken wings and store in the fridge preferably overnight, but 4-6 hours is sufficient. (Note: if you plan on storing these wings longer than a night, consider cutting back on the fish and soy sauce because of the salt – it will absorb into the meat the longer it is stored in the fridge – resulting in an overly salty bite once you grill them).

3) Cooking the Chicken: Heat your gas grill to about 400 degrees. Take your marinated wings out of the fridge and spread them out on an oiled grill rack. Place the grill rack directly onto your gas grill and turn them over once they are to your crispy/charred liking – this could be anywhere from 3 mins to 6 mins on each side.

Once they are done scoop some rice out and place the hot wings around a plate, garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, and grab a napkin and grub. Also let me know if you create a yummy dipping sauce to go with these delicious wings (sweet-hot garlic sauce would be superb)! Enjoy.

Note: You can grill, broil, bake these wings however you would like to – try the oven, stove top, or grill outside – do what is convenient for you; (I prefer the gas grill though).

How to Make Pad Thai

By March 29, 2014 Recipes
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Talk about a dish that can be made a hundred different ways. I wrote a Pad Thai recipe up two weeks ago thinking it would be a fun and exciting recipe post to do since so many people love Thai Food, especially in Portland. What started off as a simple project turned into a weeklong research plunge as I discovered numerous Pad Thai possibilites – especially by asking the question, what makes a Thai dish “authentic”?

My interest in Thai food peaked when I moved to Portland and my desire to learn more about how to make it came from not a “best meal of my life’ moment, but from the countless times I have been utterly disappointed with dishes of Pad Thai. Rice noodles that are overcooked and gummy, sauce made with ketchup and filler ingredients like corn starch, no variety of texture (where is the crunch of those peanuts or bean sprouts?), or flavor that doesn’t hit a high note in your mouth and make you think, “How can this be salty, sweet, tangy, sour all at the same time?”

After inviting countless eager friends, who are now referred to as my “Bro Panel”, to taste my different Pad Thai creations we  rounded up one hell of a recipe. It has a lot of flavor but still gives you the crunch of fresh bean sprouts and the tang of squeezed lime juice. Notes of sweet and salty create the perfect balance of flavors poured over Thai rice noodles.

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Best ‘Bro Panel’ comments this week from my Recipe Eaters:

- “Ah man, I love the White Crunchies” (referring to mung bean sprouts).

- “Dude this is such a win, chicken and eggs – protein on protein.”

- “Can you put peanut sauce on this too, and make more chicken?”

- [dude 1]: “Wow.. I’m surprised you know what cilantro is bro” … [dude 2]: “Yeah well I eat pho and it’s in there homie.”

- “Soo… where’s the srriacha?”

- “So nice to have my nose run from spice and not something sketch.”

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Pad Thai – loosely adapted from “quick & easy thai: 70 everyday recipes” :: a cookbook by Nancy Mcdermott | + tips from Thai food blog ‘‘She Simmers’’

Ingredients

1/2 lbs (8 ounces) of dried rice noodles – (should be flat, not rounded & width should be linguine or fettuccine sized) *see note*

3 Tbs of peanut oil, rice bran, or grapeseed oil

3 large garlic cloves – chopped

1 inch of ginger – peeled and chopped (not grated)

¼ cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts

2-3 eggs – scrambled

1 ½ freshly squeezed lime juice

2 cups of bean sprouts – (also called ‘mung bean sprouts’)

10 Chinese garlic chives – (or substitute with green onions)

1 green thai chilies with the seeds, chopped | or | 2-3 thai chillies without the seeds *see note*

Sauce:

3-4 Tbs of fish sauce (start with 3 tbs, adjust to taste)

2-3 Tbs of soy sauce (start with 2 tbs, adjust to taste)

1 Tbs of palm sugar – (or brown sugar if you don’t have palm) *see note*

1 Tbs of fresh Tamarind Pulp (or Tamarind Concentrate if you don’t have Tamarind pulp) (optional) *see note*

Chicken and Seasoning:

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 1 lb)– cut into thin slices (bite size pieces, about 1/4 of an inch thick)

1 tsp of salt

½ tsp of ginger root powder – (optional)

Must have: wok, cast iron pan, or high-heat skillet. Note: the best skillet is 14 inches wide or larger and 1 inch deep, (shallow wide pan).

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*rice noodle notes* – get the rice noodles that are curved inside the package, not the straight ones that look like Italian linguine. The term rice noodle or rick stick is used too loosely. Go to an Asian Market, the ones made in Thailand or Southeast Asian are a good bet and the main ingredient should be rice flour. Sen Lek (เส้นเล็ก) = rice noodles. I used a flat rice noodle that was 3 millimeters (M) in width, (5 millimeters (L) is nice too).

For incredibly helpful and in-depth information on Rice Noodles click here (info from ‘She Simmers’).

*Thai chile note* chilies are optional, if you like heat use them. Also you can use any type of chili you want, jalapeño or serrano chilies would be nice too, or try chili oil. Red chili flakes are a more traditional alternative, (however I prefer freshly minced chilies).

*palm sugar notes* Palm sugar should be bought in small individual ‘disks’ usually sold in a plastic container at the Asian Market. It is superior to granulated sugar because it has a sweet subtle flowery taste with deep caramel notes.To add it to your Pad Thai sauce you need to pound the sugar with something flat and heavy like a meat pounder so you get little palm sugar crystals that will melt quickly in the wok. You could also use a cheese grater to shave the palm sugar into a delicious sugar fluff-ball that looks strangely like parmesan.

*tamarind pulp* is created from a relatively dry block of fresh tamarind with the seeds/stems still in it, then you rehydrate the block in warm water until it is ‘squeezable’. You then extract the ‘seed-gunk’ using cheese cloth (my preference), or a sieve. Or you can avoid this mess by purchasing Tamarind Concentrate. I make this whole ingredient optional because I personally can do without it, but it add a sour dimension of flavor that is not only traditional in Pad Thai but worth experimenting with.

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Instructions

Prepare the dried rice noodles: Most dried rice noodle packages are 16 ounces (1 lb of rice noodles), this recipe calls for 8 ounces (1/2 lb) so delicately split the noodles apart so you have about half. Place the dried noodles in a bowl of room-temp water that is big enough to let them soak in. Let them sit until they are done (this can take up to 12 hours depending on width size), so instead of waiting…

Method 1: Speed up the process by bringing a pot or saucepan of water to a boil, add the noodles, and remove from heat. Let the noodles steep (sit) in the water until then have become tender but still have a chew to them (about 3-6 minutes depending on noodle width, just taste-test one – should be pliable but firm and slightly chewy, but not gummy). Then drain and set aside.

Method 2: Or just drain the noodles and put them into your wok on high heat. Pour 1/4 cup of water into the wok and twist the noodles over with your spatula until they are pliable but firm, however still a bit too chewy aka “al dente.” Remove and set aside, (we will finish cooking them with the Pad Thai Sauce).

Preparing your Pad Thai Sauce: Combine fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar & tamarind pulp (optional) together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Prepping your Ingredients: Chop the peanuts, ginger, garlic, and garlic chives, wash the bean sprouts, beat the eggs etc…

Preparing the Chicken: In a bowl, toss your sliced chicken with 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp of ginger root powder (optional). Heat a large, deep skillet or a wok for a minute on medium heat, add 2 Tbs of oil, swirl the pan around to coat the bottom, add your ginger, cook until aromatic (a minute or less), then add the chicken. Cooking the Chicken: distribute the chicken evenly on the bottom of the pan, and then leave it alone to let it brown a bit. After about 1-2 minutes use tongs to flip each piece of chicken onto the other side, leave them be for another minute to brown.

Cooking your Pad Thai: Add in a bit more oil if the wok looks dry, then add your chopped garlic and chilies (optional). Then add the drained rice noodles in. Quickly pour your Pad Thai sauce (fish sauce, soy sauce, tamarind pulp, and sugar) over everything. To coat the noodles use two spatulas or tongs to gently lift the noodles up from the bottom of the pan and and twist your hand with the noodles in them so the sauce disperses evenly and coats the noodles thoroughly. Taste a noodle – is it too salty, too sweet, can’t taste the sourness? Adjust your Pad Thai sauce by adding to it until you like the flavor. (By Flavor Nature: tamarind & limes = sour, palm sugar & brown sugar = sweet, fish sauce & soy sauce = salty, chili oil/flakes & fresh chilies = spicy).

Push the noodles to one side of the wok and add in your beaten eggs, give them a minute to set and then scramble them until cooked (about 2 minutes). Then add your bean sprouts and garlic chives and turn off the heat. Add peanuts and lime juice to your Pad Thai or let your guests do the honor on their own plates.

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Mistakes I made when developing the recipe for this Pad Thai dish:

Burnt the garlic – (Cause: wok was too hot)

Grated the ginger instead of sliced or chopped it – (Result: the ginger juice was soggy and didn’t give off the same aroma)

Used to much oil in the bottom of the pan (Result: soggy/oily noodles, ugh..)

Used the whole package of noodles in my wok (everything kind of steamed and the sauce didn’t distribute evenly).

Used too much sauce (Result: a pool of sauce at the bottom of the wok, Chinese food to me tastes awesome when it is swimming in sauce and then you add white rice to soak it up, mm.. but with Thai food this is undesirable, it wasn’t fresh and tangy, just over done and too salty).

Experimented with dark soy sauce – (result: my god don’t touch this Chinese sauce to your dish, so overpowering and too sweet… just a mess)

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Recipe Questions you may have:

What are Chinese Garlic Chives?

Essential and delicious; a cross between green onions and chives, they give a punchy flavor to the Pad Thai that really does make a notable difference. Refer here to the ‘She Simmers’ Thai blog for more information on this fabulous ingredient in Thai cooking.

Where’s the Tofu?

Not my thing… but if you want to use tofu chose a extra firm tofu and pat it dry so it browns in the pan and doesn’t steam. ‘She Simmers’ likes the one that isn’t pre-seasoned and has a tint of yellow on the outside, refer to it here.

What is the best way to prepare the Rice Noodles?

The best way to truly prepare these noodles is to soak them in room temp water until they are done and ready to eat. I personally soak them as long as I can and then I place the noodles in hot water to steep a bit longer – this just speeds things up a bit, BUT you do risk the possibility of releasing too much starch from the noodles into your pan and then if you add excessive oil to stop them from sticking you can end up with soggy/oily noodles. So just be attentive and figure out your method, but cold soak without any blanching or steeping is the respected and traditional way, read more here (info from ‘She Simmers’).

Why don’t you add the eggs into pan with everything else? You use a separate pan.

I think it makes things a bit easier, if you take to long waiting for your eggs to firm up and get scrambled you risk your chicken (or whatever meat you choose) getting overcooked and also if the noodles aren’t in constant motion in a hot pan they will burn and form a crusty texture – uh oh not good.

Why do you make Tamarind Paste optional when it is an essential ingredient?

– I wanted this to be a relatively approachable recipe for people that enjoy Pad Thai but would never have fathomed cooking it at home. It is an ingredient that is a slightly difficult to find so I considered it optional in this recipe. If you want to buy Tamarind Paste make sure it it says ‘concentrate,’ the liquidy “Tamarind Juice” is too watered down. Best option would be to make your own Tamarind Pulp.

Can I use Ketchup for the Pad Thai Sauce?

– I’ve seen restaurants do it and I understand the reasoning behind it conceptually – (salt + vinegar + sugar) but personally I think it produces a shameful version of pad Thai that is not that flavorful and gives you less flexibility when you are creating your dish.

In Thai cooking you get a mouth full of flavor but each of those components – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, tangy etc – comes from individual ingredients (Lime = sour, fish sauce and soy sauce = salty, palm sugar = sweet). The problem with ketchup is that you have 3 flavor components in one – same concept as not using salted butter when you are baking – give yourself the freedom to experiment with flavor components individually for the best result.

What Fish Sauce do you recommend?

I like the brand Tra Chang with fermented anchovies. Just spend some time though reading the ingredients, some fish sauces are made with squid, fish, crab etc it depends on your preference. ‘She Simmers’ recommends a Southern Thai brand of Fish Sauce called Nam Bu Du.

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General Questions

Is this authentic Pad Thai, like the one I would get at the street vendors in Bangkok?

– No, by all means, no. For a very authentic recipe click here (‘She Simmers’), but I wanted to make a dish that I think is more approachable and seriously delicious.

What ingredients are used in authentic Pad Thai?

– banana Blossoms, palm sugar, tofu, tarmarind pulpe, salted or preserved radishes, shrimp paste in oil, small dried shrimp, fresh Chinese garlic chives: refer to this amazing list provided by the Thai food blog: ‘She Simmers’

What makes this dish the more American version?

– soy sauce, white/brown sugar, green onions, the omission of the ingredients listed above in “What ingredients are used in authentic Pad Thai?

Time to go to Wok

By March 12, 2014 Recipes
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asian-logo-this-one-THIS-ONE-THIS-ONE ahhhhGrowing up in San Francisco, there are about as many Chinese restaurants as there are nail salons in the Sunset District were I grew up.

My earliest food memories as a child was fighting my way through 1st grade at an all-girls, torture school in hopes that my mom would pick me up from uniform-hell and take me to my favorite Chinese restaurant, Yet Wah.

At the time I would only eat the potsticker wrappers and leave the ground pork part on my plate, (spoiled = yes, only-child… wait, what makes you say that?). I also loved egg rolls, pork buns, and chicken chow mein, fried rice and beef broccoli with black bean sauce got thrown into the routine rotation about the same time that I learned the gingery insides of my potstickers were well worth eating and didn’t deserve to be abandoned on my plate to my mother’s discretion.

Chinese food became the meal where my dad and I would order enough food to feed a family of eight; the two of us would chow down, shoveling noodles with our chopsticks, and then take the rest to-go so we could eat it two or three hours later in front of TV.

With Chinese food, isn’t everyone hungry soon after feeling like you’ve experienced the most intense food coma of your life?

asian-takeout-and-chopsticksTo be completely honest, up until college I hadn’t even fathomed the idea that it was possible to make Chinese food at home or to cook anything remotely similar to the bold and saucy flavors of Chicken Chow Mein, or that you could create your own gingery pork potstickers in a home kitchen. My first experimentation with cooking my own Chinese food came from pure desperation. Portland has a severe lack of delicious dim sum, somewhere between San Francisco and Vancouver BC we missed the mark. My freshmen year I was devastated by this discovery and homesick – every time I had an opportunity to visit back home the first meal was always Chinese, (or a burrito, but don’t get me started on Mexican food).

I was notorious for setting off the fire alarms in the dorm rooms, some dang steam from boiling water would make the system alert so you can imagine me trying to sizzle and crackle potsticker-skins in a pan of hot oil was not going to stay a secret – we were all evacuated from the building on more than several occasions (needless to say, I wasn’t the most popular person that year).

When I moved into my first house, my roommate got an insight into my culinary insanity as I rolled out individual buns at one in the morning to steam in batches for my barbecued Chinese pork wit h hoisin sauce. I was covered from head to toe in about three different types of flour with only two sentences into my essay due the next day.

After these crazy Chinese food endeavors, I am happy to announce that Beef and Broccoli is quite a breeze to make in comparison to rolling out your own potsticker wrappers. I’m excited to share this recipe because I recently switched it up by using broccolini (also known as ‘sweet broccoli’), which is kind of a hybrid between the sweet florets of broccoli and the crunch of asparagus. (Look at my drawing below). I have found broccolini at Whole Foods, New Seasons (Northwest grocery store), and sometimes even Safeway.

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Recipe: Chinese Beef and Broccolini – my San Francisco spin on the classic

This beef and sweet broccoli dish is the closest in flavor and taste that I have been able to get to any of the Chinese dishes I had when I was a kid. It is perfection over white rice, (brown rice and sticky rice is nice too). Broccoli of course works great for this dish too, but try to get your hands on a bunch of broccolini (sweet broccoli), it has an edge over the flavor-profile of regular broccoli crowns that will even have ‘veggie questioners’ hovering over leftovers in the fridge.

– Inspiration from Steamy Kitchen where she has a short 2 minute video on how prepares and cooks this dish –

–  Rasa Malaysia’s cookbook helped me a lot in the formating of this recipe. If you need more instruction click here

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(all photographs are by Zoe Ching | ToastyTalk, unless otherwise noted)

Ingredients

Produce

  • broccolini (also called ‘sweet baby broccoli) – one bunch
  • 1/2 pound of flank, skirt or sirloin steak – (I used skirt)
  • 1 Tbs of peanut, rice bran, or grapeseed oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic – minced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger – peeled and thinly sliced (thin circles not matchsticks)
  • Optional: shitake mushrooms – sliced

Steak Marinade

  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce (optional)

Personal touch: if you love garlic and ginger, add some minced/sliced to your marinade. I always do.

Stir Fry Sauce

  • 4 Tbs of oyster sauce
  • 2 tsp Chinese black vinegar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce

Must have: wok, cast iron pan, or high-heat skillet. (Ideal sizes: 14 inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet) 

Instructions

Steak Prep

Slice steak across the grain, about 1/4 inch (too thick and your cooked steak will be too tough), then add steak to a plastic ziplock bag or bowl with marinade ingredients (soy sauce, black vinegar and dark soy sauce) and let it sit in those sauces for 15 minutes on your countertop. (Overnight in the fridge is fine, but careful with saltiness).

Broccolini

Wash broccolini, cut ends if they are dry, then do an even cut across the stalks. Optional: then slice the stems stalks length-wise so they are a bit thinner. Blanch or steam the broccolini, see below, “Two Ways

Two Ways: (1) You can Steam the Broccolini in your wok or pan by adding 1 cup of water and bringing it to a boil, then add the broccolini, cover with lid, cook for 10 seconds on high heat, drain. (2) Or Blanch the Broccolini by bringing 3 cups of water to boil, add broccolini, cover with lid, cook for 10 seconds on high heat. Then drain. (I use this method

Heat Your Wok

Wipe out any water with a paper towel, heat wok to medium-high heat. Once the wok is hot but not smoking, add your oil and swirl it around to cover the bottom*. Add your sliced ginger and then after 10-20 seconds add your marinaded steak.

 (*Note: if your wok began to smoke, turn off the heat, then add the oil, then turn the heat back on – result: you avoided smoking your oil. This tip is from the book, The Breath of a Wok by Grace Young).

Cooking the Steak

Distribute the steak slices on the bottom of the wok, then this is key: leave it alone, do not touch shake the wok around, just let it be. After about 1-2 minute use tongs to flip each steak slice onto the other side, leave them be for another minute. (How you know they are done: slightly slightly pink on the inside (I like it medium rare), browned on the outside – if they have a meaty taste or are a bit chewy, don’t panic, soy sauce and oyster sauce will remedy this situation). Remove steak slices from the wok and personally I pour out the steak juices that reside in the wok as well.

Adding the Stir Fry Sauce

With your wok on medium-heat heat add the (1) minced garlic (the chance you will burn the garlic is very high, so don’t do that) then (2) add your mushrooms, then (3) add the cooked steak slices back into the wok, then (4) add the steamed/blanched broccolini, and coat it all with your (5) stir fry sauce (oyster sauce, soy sauce, and black vinegar). Simmer until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.

 Make It Yours

Make sure to taste your dish before taking it off the heat, I tend to add a teaspoon more of soy sauce and oyster sauce because I am obsessed with overly salty Chinese food. Also just think about what you like, maybe add a dash of toasted sesame oil, or some garlic powder to the steak marinade, or some fresh, crunchy mung bean sprouts to your final dish. Also I think ginger smells as good as it taste so I add additional slices to my steak marinade before cooking as well as a few crushed garlic cloves, the flavors just really seep in.

Please Comment with your thoughts below! This post took me a few days to write so your thoughts are appreciated :)

 

Additional questions you may have

Can I substitute Chinese Black Vinegar? - Yes, Steamy Kitchen recommends that you use young, unaged balsamic vinegar (unsweetened). The aged balsamic vinegar is too sweet for this dish so make sure it is the cheap, young balsamic. 

 Why don’t you use cornstarch? – I don’t like the taste of corn starch so if the sauce comes out a little thinner then I want it to I compensate by adding more oyster sauce to thicken it up a bit. If you want to use cornstarch just add it to the steak marinade with the other ingredients before you stir fry the steak slices.

What rice do you use? I love Trader Joe’s microwavable brown rice (takes 3 minutes to steam in a bag, so great), also I love Sweet Rice (known as sticky rice) which can be found at many grocery stores, Whole Foods has it. Or just short grain white rice works great in a rice cooker, I don’t use long grain white rice because it doesn’t pick up the sauce in the same way – but it is of course just a preference.

How long will this last in the fridge? 4-5 days it is still perfect. I love it the day after – the oyster sauce sinks into the meat and even the broccolini, tastes wonderful. After that do the smell test.. 

Where can I find Broccolini/ Sweet Baby Broccoli? Whole Foods Market, New Seasons Market and Trader Joes carries broccolini. I bet Safeway does too but don’t quote me on that.

Where can I find these Asian Ingredients? Any Asian supermarket should have all these ingredients

What Oyster Sauce should I buy? I like the brand called DRAGONFLY (premium flavored oyster sauce). Oyster sauce can have excessive additives so take the time to read the ingredients list on the labeling.

What Soy Sauce and Dark Soy Sauce should I buy? Soy Sauce: I like the brand called YAMASA (recommended by chefs), Dark Soy Sauce: I like the brand called LEE KUM KEE.

What Chinese Black Vinegar should I buy? I like the brand called ZHEN JIANG VINEGAR (product of China).

What Fish Sauce should I buy? I like the brand called TRA CHANG BRAND.

Where can I buy a wok, what kind should I get? Consult the book ‘Breath of a Wok’ and also the websites I posted are great resources: Steamy Kitchen and Rasa Malaysia.

What can you cook in a wok? Almost anything and everything, except tomatoes (acidity messes with the seasoning of the wok), and maybe not soups or broth.

A day touching the end of February

By March 3, 2014 Hello!
TTfirstpost(webready)stitch

Any bad day starts with anxiety and ends with chocolate cake. Period.

In no way, shape, or form did I think I would start my first ever toastytalk blog post about how I get frustrated when things go wrong and then I eat chocolate. But after debating this in my head for a little bit, I concluded (once I finished my cake and glass of milk) that it all seemed fitting.

Everyone has that day, where they wake up and say to themselves, “If I don’t get going on this project/assignment I am going to kill myself.” This was my morning, at the end of February, where it seemed that all I have been doing the whole time is moving at a slow and un-productive pace.

This introduces my Coping Strategy (that is similar to many like-minded, caffienated folk) – it starts with coffee… meaning a well crafted latte.

With a click from the espresso maker and a whistle from the milk frother, a 4 minute wait for my caffiene addition comes with a foam leaf. It brims to the top of the mug with enough steam to hit your senses without being to hot that it burns your hands, (ohh say about 150°F) – this, my friends, is a description of pure perfection.

Some would refer to it as a pretentious cup of overpriced foam art. (Fine, don’t ♥ my instagram latte). It’s a valid judgement, because on the contrary… can you deny how good it is?

So here I am with my coffee, and I am faced with this question…

coffeestich2

…Why Write a Food Blog | What Does It Take

From the world of food blogging and the buzz around it I have gathered countless different opinions, encouragements, objections, and suggestions which all add up to be quite exciting, but also overwhelming. The Consensus: you can do anything you want, but the likeliness that you ‘sound like everyone else’ is probable. Hmm…

A better way to put it… out of all the advice I have gotten here is the best takeaways: tie up all the loose ends, all your passions, hobbies, things you care about and want to share and then create a platform for all of it in an organized fashion. The people that are the most successful at food blogs and creating a personal brand identity are the ones that (1) enjoy blogging, (2) are consistent, (3) develop their own recipes and instructions, (4) vibrant food photographs, and (5) interact one-on-one with their food-enuthsuastic blog readers.

A few popular food blogs I admire and a sentence about why:

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 Top Left :: Sprouted Kitchen || Top Right :: Happy Yolks

Bottom Left :: Seven Spoons || Bottom Right :: Smitten Kitchen

(all photo credit to the authors listed above)

A sentence about why I have bookmarked these food blogs): there is a little bit of everything to fit whatever mood or inspirational state you are in: (1) maybe it is specific – you need a recipe pairing on what to do with your aspargus in the fridge (blog: smittenkitchen) or how to adjust thai ingredients to your liking with other flavors, like japanese Soba Noodles with Cilantro (blog: sproutedkitchen), (2) maybe you are just wanting a story - what is behind Tara O’Brady’s Kimchi Tofu Mandu dumpling recipe (blog: sevenspoons), (3) maybe you want to get lost in another world - a lens into a small Colorado farmer’s market with fresh Rhubard for Oatmeal (blog: happyyolks). 

…Something fun I did

a few years back I got to do an interview with Tara O’Brady, author of Seven Spoons. She had such thoughtful responses, here was my favorite:

If you could wine, dine and cook with any chef(s) (alive or not)… tell me who and why?

“Off the top of my head? That’s so hard to choose. First thoughts are MFK fisher, Julia Child, possibly Tony Bourdain because he’d get on with my husband and I think it would be a hoot to see him with Julia. Nigel Slater because I could listen to him all day long. And I have a deep, abiding love of roasted marrow bones, so Fergus Henderson needs to be there. And a double batch of his chocolate ice cream … I did it on my site. My goodness, it’s life changing. And then there’s two spots for Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton; they are a consistent source of inspiration and I’d relish the chance to see them let loose in a kitchen. I’m terribly indecisive sometimes. But [I’d] want it to be a killer party. I’d love to see Julia’s reaction to Crack Pie. I also wouldn’t mind if a whole gaggle of pals showed up–the more the merrier! Even better if they bring bubbles. Or gin.” 

(Read my full Blogger of the Month article here)

Scatterbrain Disclaimer: So I have written about 3 different topics that should really be blog topics of their own, the only reason they are clumped into the same post is because you are subject to my train of thought by reading this.

Maybe we can spin this as a reflection of how many different topics I will be covering on this blog and how excited I am! I really am though.. I have always wanted to start a food blog and see where how it will grow – finally it is happening!

Is it time for cake yet?

TTfirstpost(webready)stitch

Back to my coping strategy: This Flourless Chocolate Cake was from St Honour Bakery in Portland, OR. The flavor was there, but the texture was a bit dry and kind of crumbly. However, any chocolate cake goes perfectly with milk and Straus is a family owned brand that is seriously worth a trek by foot through the rain to New Seasons Market for a glass of it – it is divine. Scooping the natural, cream-float top out and onto my chocolate cake suddenly drained me of all my worries and anxieties as I reached for a fork. It was also wonderful to play with my new micro nikon lens for these pictures below:

Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

Straus Milk

Straus Milk

Chocolate Cake and Straus Milk

Chocolate Cake and Straus Milk

(all photographs are by Zoe Ching | ToastyTalk, unless otherwise noted)

____________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading my first post!

Here are a few of my ideas for posts in the next few weeks:

  • 5 best handmade foodie gifts
  • 8 steps to reduce food waste
  • Restaurant tricks: how to make produce last longer in the fridge
  • Personal recipe creations, (like my ginger wasabi ahi tuna with cilantro and avocado) 

flowing-ideas-2-stitch

TT’s Creative Drawing Board

♥♥ Zoe

A big hello from Toasty Talk!

By February 24, 2014 Hello!
Capri, Italy

THANK YOU FOR VISITING TOASTY TALK!

Dive into Toasty Talk!

I am so excited to begin Food Blogging and posting my Food Photography here! Content is not up yet, but please visit back soon, I think this is going to be a hit.

Above I have included a “teaser” gallery of  a few photos favorites from my collection (shot with my d3000 nikon or iphone).

In the mean time visit all my new social media channels and help me get a fun start!

Pinterest: @toastytalk :: Love food, photography, cooking, eating & the stories behind it. From culinary inspiration to food styling, illustrations to design. Follow what inspires me :)

Twitter: @toastytalk :: I’ll post info about exciting chef and culinary events, restaurant news, favorite dishes, my own recipe endeavors, and people in the food world I admire.

Instagram: @zoching (also @toastytalk) :: Pictures of food from San Francisco, Portland, New York City, and Europe (especially Italy), recipes I have played around with, beautiful travel pictures etc – come follow

Facebook: Zoe Ching :: my personal fb account

LinkedIn: Zoe Ching :: my personal linkedin account

EMAIL ME! zoe@toastytalk.com if you are as excited as I am and have any ideas, thoughts, contribution desires etc (maybe I can interview you!)

Previous Blog (2013): http://asianslooseineurope.com :: father & daughter, two native San Franciscians, embarking on the European Dream Journey, over 1000 views, take a look :)

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