Monday, October 22, 2007

FINALLY!!!! The Long Awaited XLB Experiment...

We finally tried our hand at making XLBs (aka soup dumplings). After years of being some of the toughest XLB cirtics around and having eaten our way around XLBs in New York, LA, SF, Taipei, and Shanghai, we put ourselves to the test. Well, as they say... walking the walk is WAY harder than talking the talking.
Wil and I knew the qualities we wanted in soup dumplings... flavourful, full of juice, and thin skin. We started off by using the XLB Tutorial provided by Gary Soup on his website Then we went with a divide and conquer approach. I was to handle the aspic and the filling and Wil was to tackle the dough.
I started the aspic by purchasing a whole pigs feet and had the butcher cut up in 1 inch slices. I boiled some water and threw in the pieces of pigs feet and chicken wings. I drained the water after about 5 minutes to get rid of the blood stink. I then filled the pot back up with water and add 2 tablesppoons of sliced ginger, 1 tablespoon of light soy, 1/2 cup of shaoxing wine, 2 whole star anise, 1 teaspoon of five spice powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 medium piece of rock sugar. I let this concoction cook on low heat for about 8 hrs. Adding more water whenever the liquid got too low and skimming off the fat every couple of hours or so. When it was done, it was a rather viscous liquid. I strained out the liquid and let it set in the fridge. When the aspic was fully formed, I scrapped off any remaining fat from the top. Right before use, I cubed up the aspic.

A pic of the aspic.
Wil made the dough according to the instructions and I made up the filling also exactly according to recipe. We had a whole bunch of people awaiting for this event so they all helped us with rolling out the dough and folding which was the most challenging part. As you can see, we were able to meet the challenge to varying results. Sometimes, we gave up and made gyoza shapes too.
Each of the batches were steamed for about 10 minutes. They were quite delicious... And could rival some of the places around town for sure. But we need to work on getting the dough thinner. That was the universal comment. Also, people liked the more complex and less porky singe-note of the broth I made. This is only the first step, we will come back for another round. Until then....

Monday, October 15, 2007

Old School Style

Over the weekend I was introduced to Joe's of Westlake. The idea of old school, red sauce Italian really appealed to my need for comfort food. The place is really a time warp. Especially the very old fashioned bar/lounge area. There was a wait for tables but now wait at the counter so we grabbed seats there. It turned out to be a great move as we got to see all the cooking and expediting action with the open kitchen right in front of us. The picture to the left is of all the plates waiting to be runned.
Seeing all the different options up close made it hard to decide what to order. I wanted to try everything on the menu. But other dishes will have to wait for another visit.
I decided to go with the calf's liver with onions and bacon. Liver with onions is not a dish that one finds very often anymore on menus and I had to take advantage of it. I ordered it medium, but it came out a bit more done than I liked. None the less, it was still smooth and luscious on the inside and nicely caramelized o nthe outside. The side of spaghetti with meat sauce was exactly how spaghetti should be... firm and aldente noodles with a savory and slightly sweet sauce.
Angeles ordered the veal parmagina with vegetables. That looked delicious also. Great fresh Italian bread fro mthe basket too. What an amazing value!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Power of Heat

I am reminded when I made this last night as to the power of wok heat. I have gotten a bit sloppy in waiting for the right temperature before adding in my aromatic - namely, I've not waited for the oil to get hot enough. Last night because I got a phone call in the middle of making this dish, I had turned on the stove with the oil but had not chopped the green onion yet, I ended up getting the oil really hot. When I added the green onions pieces, a wonderful aroma permeated my kitchen and this dish. When I had this shrimp and egg fried rice, I could really taste the aromatic green onion. As it should be!

Grand Palace SSF

The dim sum there is passable. I actually like Hong's Seafood better even though the pieces are less refined because the flavours are better.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Sour Cabbage Fish

Every once in a while I think, "Damn, I'm good!" about something I made. This dish was one of them. Actually, I should say "is" as I'm still having the left-0vers of it. It's called Sour Cabbage Fish (酸菜鱼or suan cai yu). It is a recipe that originated from the Yangzhou City which is in the provinve just north of Shanghai and Grandma Chou's home province of Zhejiang.

Anyway, I marinated some basa fillets with salt and white pepper in some rice wine with cornstarch. I let that sit for about 30 minutes. Then, I took some canned sichuan sour cabbage and some canned chilis and sauteed those in a teaspoon of vegetable oil to lift the aromatic qualities of the two out. Then I added about 4 cups of water and let the whole thing come up to boil adjusting thesalt a bit. When the liquid was boiling vigorously, I added the fish in with its marinate. I let the pot boil for about five minutes and that was that.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Sunday Night Supper Korean Style

Had Wil and Janet over for Sunday night dinner last night. As I haven't made Korean food in a while, decided to do that. Plus, the fog was rolling in and it seemed like perfect mela for a cool night. I used to make Korean food at least three times a week. I still like making a soondubu jigae for myself for dinner fairly often. Korean food is a weird combination of being hearty and light at the same time. There is very little oil used and most things are not even stir-fried like Chinese food.

It's really easy to put together an impressive feast. I got some pre-sliced bulgogi meat from Kukje. Dumped in a bottle of bulgogi marinade and let that sit in the fridge in a bowl. Meanwhile, I cleaned some and prepped some vegetables. The fishmonger at Kukje cut up some seabass pieces for me. The beef I cooked til medium on a grill pan on the stove. I put the pieces of fish in a pot with some water, a few left-over clams, onions, chilis, shiso leaves, bell peppers, sliced daikon, sliced carrots, and green onion and let that come to boil. I added in a heaping spoonful of gochujang. And voila... seafood jeongol. I had some extra vegetalbes and prawns that I didn't want to add in until we were ready to eat, so I set those aside as well as some noodles for the end. I put the pot on top of my camping butane burner and let that slowly bubble table top.

I had store bought kimchee and spinach salad as my panchan (sides). I thought about making seafood pajeon (pancakes) but decided it would be too much food. The bulgogi was served to be wrapped with red romaine lettuce with a bit of rice and ssamjang (red chili paste and fermented bean paste).
Everything came out really well. The beef was still very tender. The seafood jeongol was just spicy enough for us. It still had the brininess of seafood without any fishiness. I especially liked the pieces of diakon in there. We flash cooked the prawns in the broth and relished their supple sweetnes. No rotten shrimp here. The noodels had a lot of bite and and were perfect foil for the spicy broth.

All in all, an enjoyable meal with great company. Jane had brought a bottle of barberra. The smokiness of the wine went really well with the spicy fare. Who knew? I think the idea that one must have a sweet white wine with spicy food is definitely losing its hold. We topped off the evening with chocolate almond milk chai lattes. Ah... life is good....

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Post Love & Leather Weekend Comfort Meal

This past weekend was too much. Love Parade and Fest on Saturday and Folsom Street Fair on Sunday. By the time of early Sunday night, I was exhausted and needed some good ole TW comofrt food. Taste of Formosa out in the Richmond really hit the spot. We probably over-ordered but hey, to be able to indulge is a great blessing. Speaking of blessings... where else inthe world can one have a weekend of world class dj's, open expressions of fetish, and Taiwnaese street food all in 48 hours. I am truly blessed.

Seaweed salad.
Cuttlefish balls with sticks
Oyster pancake. Quite posssibley the best I've had in the Bay Area.
Kidney Sauteed in Seasme Oil
Wontons in Chili Oil
Beef Noodle Soup