Tuesday, March 29, 2011

red faced monkey

Initially, I thought this guy was a tanuki but I soon realized (with much delight) that it was a monkey.  And not just any monkey, but the red faced variety often photographed in hot springs in the snow.   Please forgive my terrible photo — it turns out macaques are also camera shy.  

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kimchee Making as Therapy

Craving some spice and needing a reason to stop watching the ongoing nuclear madness up in Fukashima, I made me some kimchee.  Blessed pickled cabbage. 

Small Batch Kimchee
This recipe is not particularly precise- it's suppose to be therapuetic.

a quarter head of napa cabbage,  cut into pieces, soaked overnight in salted water (1/4 C salt & H2O to cover,) drained
3 stalks of green onion, finely sliced
1/4 of a carrot, julienned
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 T. fresh grated ginger
2 T. togarashi powder, this was a substitution for traditional Korean chili powder
2 T. fish sauce
1/2 t. salt

Begin by making the chili paste by grinding the garlic, ginger, and yellow onion into a paste (definitely use a food processor if you have one.)  Add the chili powder, fish sauce, carrots, and green onions.
Wearing plastic gloves, work the chili paste in to the drained cabbage until everything is well mixed.
Tightly pack the cabbage into a plastic/ glass container, pressing out any air bubbles.  Cap and leave at room temperature for 1-4 days depending on the time of year and on how sour your like your kimchee.  I like mine tart so I let mine go for 4 days.  Taste daily to check for tartness then store in the fridge.  Makes 2-3 cups or a enough to fill a big peanut butter jar.   It's reassuring to know that if I ever need to work out any anxiety; I can always turn to kimchee.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

a sandwich and a side of mammoth

For lunch today, I finally tucked into a bag of snacks I've been holding onto called mammosu no niku or Mammoth's Meat.  They were an impulse buy, driven by an attraction to lewd pink packaging and a mammoth drumstick clenching maw.

Check out pink cave man's Tyrannosaurus arms equipped with a fern fan.

So what does mammoth meat taste like?

Well, they're a lot like Funyuns in texture and somewhat in flavor, but with a meatiness reminiscent of  ramen flavor packets labeled beef.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Channeling Grandma

My paternal grandma was a lot like this bao.  She was warm, round and filled with goodness.  She was also a great cook and delighted spoiling us grandkids with sweets and 7-up.
I did my best to channel her while making my first batch of baos —the Chinese version (in this case steamed) of Hot Pockets— imaging her pleating technique and gentle warnings of overfilling.
And in the end, I was happy with the results.  The recipe's simple enough that I hope to keep an everlasting supply in the freezer to warm both my belly and heart.  Here's the recipe if you care to try them out. 

Basic Steamed Baos
adapted from Asian Dumplings by Andrea Nguyen 
You can fill these up with whatever you like but traditional fillings include sweet bean paste, char sui pork, or chicken.  I opted for a sweet and savory version, one using store-bought anko (sweeten adzuki bean paste) and the other beef curry —both were delicious.

2 1/2 C. Japanese bread flour (substitute with all-purpose)
2 t. baking powder
2 T. sugar
2 T. canola oil
3/4 C. lukewarm water
1 1/2 t. rapid rise yeast

Dissolve the yeast in the water and let it rest a minute before adding the canola oil.  In a separate bowl, combine sugar, baking powder, and flour.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the water/yeast mixture.  Knead for 5-10 minutes or until the dough is smooth.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with placitc wrap and let rise for 45-60 minutes or until doubled. 

Divide the dough into half.  Roll the divided dough into a 12" log and cut into 8-16 pieces depending on the size of your bao.  Roll each piece in to a ball.  When ready to fill, flatten  the ball out into a 1/4" disk and use a rolling pin to create a 2 1/2"- 3" disk, keeping the perimeter thinner than the center.

Cut parchment paper into 3" squares.

Fill each disk with 2-3 t. of filling and pleat to close and place on parchment.

Allow the baos to rise approximately 30 minutes or until doubled before steaming.

Steam on medium-high heat for 12 minutes for small baos and 15 for medium.   Remove from heat and transfer to a plate.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Cool completely before freezing. 
Makes 8-16 baos.