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My dear Chinese friends, are you tired of all the Chinese New Year foods? Want something light, healthy and simple? Look no further. This is very simple to prepare and easy on your tummy! Bonus is that you can prepare ahead of time!

Eggplant Appetizer 凉拌茄子

Eggplant Appetizer 凉拌茄子

Eggplant Appetizer 凉拌茄子 (serves 4 people)

Ingredients:
2 Chinese long eggplants

Sauce (mix together):
2 cloves garlic– minced
2 red hot peppers (optional)– minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp black rice vinegar 黑糯米醋– see note below
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp chili oil
1 tsp sugar

Chopped cilantro for garnish

Method:

  1. Fill a large bowl with some water (enough to soak eggplants after they are cut), add in 2 tbsp white vinegar. Start the steamer on high heat.
  2. Wash eggplants and remove the stem caps. Cut into 3-inch length pieces, then cut in half lengthwise. Immediately soak cut eggplants in vinegar water. Since eggplants tends to float on the top, use something heavy (pot, plate, bowl etc.) on the top to press down eggplants, so they are totally submerged in vinegar water to prevent discoloration after cooking.
  3. Drain the water. Place eggplant in steamer with skin side face up. Steam on high heat for 3 minutes. Remove and let cool.
  4. Cut eggplants into strips then place in a bowl or deep dish plate. Spoon over the sauce and garnish with cilantro. Served cold or room temperature.

Regina’s Note:

  • Black rice vinegar 黑糯米醋: I like to use black rice vinegar in this recipe because it’s less acidic than typical white vinegar and has a some sweetness to it. If you use white vinegar, use less amount and increase amount of sugar.
  • To prevent eggplant from discoloration after cooking, soak in vinegar water and steam with skin side face up.
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Indian Lamb Soup ‘Sup Kambing’ 印度羊肉湯

Indian Lamb Soup ‘Sup Kambing’ 印度羊肉湯

In my hometown Muar, Malaysia, there is a famous Indian lamb soup restaurant. All these times I went back to Muar I actually didn’t get to taste the delicious soup because the weather was too hot to have this rich heaty nourishing soup. After all, I didn’t want to take the chance of a bleeding nose after taking lamb soup. This soup to Indian people is just like chicken soup to Americans when someone in the family gets sick.

But here in U.S., this soup is perfect for a cold rainy winter day. For those of you who are hesitated to taste lamb because of its smell, it has all kinds of spices that you can barely taste the ‘lamb-y’ flavor.

A side note– Malaysian lamb soup is different from Singapore lamb soup. While I searched online for recipes I found Singapore version uses more turmeric powder and soup has a more yellowish color. I tried Singapore version before but it was overpowering in certain flavors but lacked other spice… just not quite the taste I remember from that soup place in my hometown…

Indian Lamb Soup ‘Sup Kambing’ (serves 8-10 people)

Ingredients:

To grind (using coffee bean grinder):
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds

To blender (using blender, adding just enough water to facilitate blending):
3 cloves garlic
3 serrano peppers
1 lemon grass– se only whitish part, chopped before blending
1 inch galangal– cut into small pieces before blending
1 inch ginger– cut into small pieces before blending

3 bay leaves
4 star anises
3 cinnamon sticks
12 green cardamoms
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 large onions– slice
1 boneless leg of lamb– trim off excess fat, cut into pieces
2 lamb shanks– see note below
enough water to cover the meat
salt to taste

Garnish:
Cilantro leaves

Method:

  1. Grind dried spices until very fine. Blend fresh spices. Cut lamb into pieces (except lamb shanks), then rinse under the water several times. Drain the meat.
  1. Heat a stock pot on medium heat, add in 2 tbsp of oil. Add ground dried spices, bay leaves, star anises, cinnamon sticks, cardamoms and turmeric powder. Stir until aromatic (add a little more oil if needed).
  1. Add in blended fresh spices, stir until the flavor comes out. Add sliced onions, cook until onions are soft.
  1. Add meat to the pot. Stir to mix well. Add water– water level should be 2 inches above the meat. Cover, and turn heat to medium high.
  1. When it boils again, skim off the impurities floating on the top. Continue boiling for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 2 hours. At this point the meat should be tender and falls apart from the bones. Add salt to taste. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve hot with fresh baguette.

Regina’s Note:

  • Lamb shanks: I used lamb shanks mainly for its bones because it’s the bones that gives the richness of the soup base. You can use other lamb parts as long as it contains bones.

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Butter Garlic Parmesan Shrimps with Penne Pasta

There was this butter garlic Parmesan shrimp clip showed up on my Facebook feed. It looked pretty easy so I decided to give it a try, and I also added pasta. The clip didn’t show ingredient measurement so I just came out with my own version (the fun part of cooking is you don’t have to follow recipe to the T!). The pasta turned out quite delicious and got family’s approval. Now we have one more choices for pasta dinner!

Butter Garlic Parmesan Shrimps with Penne Pasta (serves 6-8)

Ingredients:

1 lb shrimps (31-40ct, headless, shell-less, tail-on)
1 box penne pasta
4 tbsp unsalted butter
3-4 cloves garlic– minced
1/2 onion– diced
1 cup julienne sun dried tomatoes
2 handful baby spinach
1 cup whipping cream
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Add butter to melt.
  3. Sauté garlic and onion until aromatic. Add in sun dried tomatoes. Stir a few times.
  4. Add in shrimps. Stir until shrimps are partially cooked. Add in whipping cream and spinach. Cook until spinach are wilted.
  5. Add in drain pasta. Stir to coat sauce well. Add salt and pepper to taste. When the sauce thickens slightly, sprinkle in grated Parmesan cheese. Toss a few times then dish out. Serve immediately.

Regina’s Note:

  • Boiling pasta: I like to keep my cooked pasta in boiled pasta water to keep warm while I prepare the pasta sauce. But to avoid soggy pasta caused by soaking in boiled pasta water, I turn off the heat when pasta is half way cooked– this way the pasta will remain al dente when I add them to the sauce later.
  • Cheese: You can use combination of Parmesan cheese and Asiago cheese.
  • Want more garlicky? Feel free to add more garlic or granulated garlic

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This is a very easy condiment to prepare. In Malaysia, we always have this condiment for wonton noodles and flat noodles with gravy “Wah Tan Hor 滑蛋河”. Here in the States, you can also find this condiment in Thai restaurant and some Vietnamese restaurants. The pickled peppers sure will wake up your taste bud with its tangy and spicy taste, making all foods taste much better. If you want less spicy, use jalapeño peppers with round bottom tip (pointy tip ones are spicier).

Pickled Green Peppers 醃青辣椒

Pickled Green Peppers 醃青辣椒

Ingredients:

15 Serrano peppers– sliced
4 tbsp water
1/2 cup vinegar– see note below
1 tsp sugar– if needed

Method:

  1. Blanched sliced peppers quickly in boiling water (as soon as you drop them in water, scoop them up right away). Drain peppers and spread out to cool fast (I put them in fridge briefly to cool fast and stop cooking process, so the peppers will stay crunchy and not soft).
  2. Combine water and vinegar in a small sauce pan then bring to a quick boil. Taste the vinegar water, add sugar if it’s too sour, and stir to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  3. Combine peppers and vinegar water. Store in a glass jar, in the fridge. The peppers is ready the next day. It’s normal that the peppers turn yellowish color. Always use a clean dry spoon to take out peppers from the jar.

Regina’s Note:

  • Vinegar: Since I use sushi vinegar (which has added salt and sugar), I cut down on sugar. Also sushi vinegar is not as acid as rice vinegar. If you use vinegar that has stronger acid, adjust sugar accordingly.

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My family loves this Chinese soup, especially on a cold day. Ethan would always add LOTS of ground white pepper to his bowl of soup. We used to visit a local Chinese restaurant called Daimo, and we would order this soup almost every time. Too bad the restaurant changed ownership and the soup didn’t taste good. The restaurant even closed down later on. My kids are not fans of green onion and cilantro in general, but they like the green stuff in the soup!… This is good because this soup without lots of green onion and cilantro doesn’t taste right…

West Lake Beef Soup 西湖牛肉羹

West Lake Beef Soup 西湖牛肉羹

West Lake Beef Soup 西湖牛肉羹

Ingredients:

1 1/4 lb beef– chop into coarse ground with some slightly big pieces

Meat seasoning:
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp tapioca/corn starch
3 tbsp water

5 cups water
3 tbsp rice cooking wine
Starch water (mix 2 tbsp tapioca/corn starch with 1 tbsp water, stir well before use)
Salt and ground white pepper to taste
3 egg whites
2 stalks green onion– chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro– chopped

Method:

  1. Season beef with meat seasoning, mix well. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil on high heat. Add in beef, stir to loose up the meat. When the soup boils again add cooking wine, followed by starch water while stirring the soup.
  3. When the soup starts boiling again, add salt and ground white pepper to taste. Pour in egg whites while stirring the soup. Turn off heat and add in green onions and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Regina’s Note:

  • Egg White: Do not whisk egg white as it will create egg white bubbles in the soup.

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Why “Three-Cup”? It refers to one cup of sesame oil, one cup of soy sauce and one cup of rice wine. Of course, this amount is for cooking a lot of chicken. When you are cooking for less chicken, be sure to scale down these three ingredients to 1:1:1. Oh, and basil leaves is a MUST– the basil fragrance really enhances this dish.

Three-Cup Chicken 三杯鷄

Three-Cup Chicken 三杯鷄… Yum! The sauce is so finger licking good that you’ll want to refill your rice bowl.

Three-Cup Chicken 三杯鷄 (serves 2)

Ingredients:

12 chicken wing mid joints– cut into half — see note below
2 tsp salt
3 slices ginger– thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic– chopped
3 hot red peppers– chopped
2 tbsp sesame oil– see note below
3 tbsp rice wine
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
Handful of Thai basil leaves– see note below

Method:

  1. Wash mid joints and remove any tiny pieces of broken bones.  Season with salt for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat a wok on high heat and pour in sesame oil. When the wok gets smoky, add in chicken pieces. Sauté on high heat until the chicken turns lightly brown and the meat is almost cooked.
  3. Add in ginger, garlic and pepper. Sauté until the aroma comes out.
  4. Stir in rice wine and soy sauce. Turn down the heat a little, and stir until the meat is cooked through and sauce thicken slightly (if your meat is more on the raw side, you can also cover with a lid at this step so the meat cooks faster).
  5. Add in basil leaves. Stir a few times until basil leaves soften. Dish out. Serve hot immediately with steamed rice.

Regina’s Note:

  • Chicken Mid Joints: I am not good at making big chop with my cleaver knife– the bones always never have a clean cut and the meat pieces are sometimes crumbly… and not to mention the raw meat juice splashing everywhere on my kitchen counter. So, my solution is chopping the wing mid joint when they half frozen, without washing– the process is much easier to manage and way less splashing. Wash the meat and remove any tiny broken bone pieces after chopping. Alternatively you can use boneless chicken thigh pieces, but I prefer bone-in for better flavor.
  • Sesame Oil: Typically the amount of sesame oil is same as rice wine and soy sauce, but I cut down to 2 tbsp (you can even use 1 tbsp) and use chicken fat rendered from high heat sautéing.
  • Thai basil leaves: After adding basil leaves to cooking, cook briefly until the leaves soften then dish out so the fragrance of the leaves stay with the meat.

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Chili Colorado

Chili Colorado

 

Mexican dinner at our house used to be marinated beef flap meat and chicken that Richard grill and then cut into pieces as make-your-own burritos fillings, serve along shredded lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, sour cream,shredded cheese and tortilla. But here’s the thing: I don’t even marinate the meats– we always buy it pre-marinated from Mexican grocery. So it’s not really proudly from my kitchen… until I found this Chili Colorado recipe and try it out. It’s a process, but definitely worth the effort. I don’t follow the recipe exactly, so I don’t know if it’s authentic Mexican flavor. But the Chili Colorado is delicious and my family loves it~~ I am happy! 🙂 Ok, my next Mexican food challenge would be Spanish rice (I’ve been buying Spanish rice from Mexican restaurant… shhh!)

Chili Colorado (serve 6-8 people, adapted from David’s Free Recipes.com)

Ingredients:

4-5 lbs chuck roast or beef short rib chuck– see note below
Meat seasoning:
salt
fresh ground black pepper
granulated garlic/garlic powder

water to almost cover the meat
2 cups of Chili Colorado sauce– see below for recipe

Method:

  1. Trim off any excess fat of the meat, and cut into 1-2 inch chunks.
  2. Heat up a frying pan on medium high heat, add 1/2 tbsp cooking oil. When the frying pan starts to get smoky, add in some beef chunks (do not crowd the pan with too much meat, or it will not brown nicely), and sprinkle a (more less) thin layer of meat seasoning on top of meat. Flip the meat when the bottom is browned, and repeat witha thin layer of seasoning. Transfer cooked meat to a large stock pot. Repeat this meat searing process in several batches.
  3. Turn off heat and add 4 cups to the frying pan, use a spatula/ wooden spoon to scrap off any seasoning stucked to the pan. Add this water to the meat, and fill the pot with extra water to almost cover the meat.
  4. Turn on high heat to bring the pot to a boil, then lower heat to medium low, covered and simmer for 1 hour (you prepare Chili Colorado sauce during simmering if the sauce is not ready).
  5. Stir in Chili Colorado sauce to mix well. Covered, continue to cook on medium low heat for additional 1.5-2 hours. Stir occasionally. The meat will get more tender the longer it cooks, and the sauce will slightly thicken. Turn up the heat a little towards end of cooking time if the sauce is too watery (aka too much liquid), but be sure to stir often to prevent burn at the bottom. Add salt to taste. Serve hot with Spanish rice, beans, salad and warm tortillas.

Regina’s Note:

  • Meat choice: I prefer boneless beef short rib chuck. It’s a more expensive cut of meat, but the marbled fat makes the meat very tender and moist after cooking. Chuck roast is cheaper, but I find the meat is tender but on the dry side.
  • I always think Chili Colorado can be beef or pork version, but I have been wrong all these time~ Chili Colorado is for beef ONLY. The pork version is called Carne Adovado.

Chili Colorado Sauce Recipe (yields 2 batches, about 2 cups each batch– adapted from David’s Free Recipes.com)

Ingredients:
2oz. dry pasillo chilis (dry pablanos)
1 1/2oz. dry guajillo chilis (dry Anaheim chilis)
3 1/2 cup water
1 red bell pepper
2-3 jalapeno or Serrano peppers (adjust spicy level to your liking)
1 big onion
6-8 cloves fresh garlic
3 1/2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry oregano
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Method for Chili Colorado sauce:

  1. Remove the stems of dry pasillo chilis and guajillo chilis. Cut into pieces and add in 3 1/2 cup water. Microwave for 2 minutes. Let chilis soak in water while you prepare other ingredients.
  2. Remove stems of red bell pepper and jalapeño/Serrano pepper. Cut into chunks. Cut onion into chunks too.
  3. Add softened chilis, red bell peppers, jalapeño/Serrano peppers, onion, and soaking water to a blender. Blend until smooth.
  4. Heat up a saucepan on medium high heat, add 1 tbsp cooking, blender mixture and seasonings. Stir constantly for 5 minutes (beware that the sauce at this liquid-ty stage will splash, by stirring constantly you can reduce splashing). Reduce heat to medium to medium low, continue stirring and cooking, until the liquid evaporates and sauce thickens to about 4 cups. The sauce is ready for use. Extra sauce can be frozen after cooling completely.

Regina’s Note:

  • Red bell pepper: original recipe uses green bell, but I prefer red bell because it brings out more of the beautiful reddish color of Chili Colorado sauce.

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