Making our own dumplings

February 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

When I was younger, I used to help my parents make dumplings. About twice a month, they’d take out the huge wooden board, dumpling wrappers, home-made pork filling, and methodically wrap them, each one looking exactly like the one before it. I remember for our elementary cultural carnivals, where each student would bring food from their country of origin, our dumplings would be the first to go.

Making dumplings is definitely a communal or family activity. Usually, we’d set up little stations. Since I was the most useless, I’d always end up being the one lining the dumpling wrappers with water so they’d stick when my mom or dad wrapped them. Once in a while, I was allowed to try my hand at wrapping one, but it’d always come out so ugly that I’d give up and go back to my original station.

This past Chinese New Year, I was especially homesick and decided that I’d not only make dumplings, but I’d go further than my parents ever did and make them completely from scratch, skins and all. The process was surprisingly simple, just flour and water with a little salt mixed together, and rolling out the individual skins became quite meditative, even though I’d occasionally freak out about the Chinese BBQ ribs in the oven.

I stuck with the filling that I’ve been eating since I was a kid – pork and leek. Except I didn’t have any leeks so I used scallions instead, and they still turned out great. Until recently, we always used to boil dumplings at home, but lately, my dad (maybe it’s a regional thing? He’s from southern China and my mom’s from northern) likes to pan-fry them. And I’m a huge fan of anything with golden crusty bottoms.

Pork and Leek Dumplings

2 lb flour
1 1/2 cups cold water
pinch of salt
1 lb ground pork
4-5 stalks of green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon minced ginger
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs

Mix flour, water and pinch of salt and knead to make a soft dough. Cover for 20 minutes with a damp paper towel.

Marinate ground pork with soy sauce, salt, chopped ginger, and sesame oil. Add the sliced scallions, vegetable oil, eggs and mix thoroughly. This is your pork filling

Knead dough on a floured cutting board and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 2 inches wide. Shape each strip into a round log, and cut into 3/4 in. pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle, and with a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper. Line the outer edges with water using your finger. Take 1 tablespoon of filling and put into the center of the wrapper, fold in half, and pinch.

Place dumplings in a fry-pan with 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until the bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup of water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away, uncover, and reduce heat to medium or low. Let dumplings cook another 2 minutes and then serve.

I like to serve my dumplings with a dipping sauce – soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, rice wine vinegar, minced ginger, scallions.

Chinese BBQ Ribs

February 17, 2010 § 1 Comment

And here’s the ribs recipe that I made for Chinese New Year. With really tender meat just coming off the bone and a great, sticky caramelized crust, these were a big hit that day. The recipe was adapted from RasaMalaysia.

Chinese BBQ Ribs (adapted from Rasa Malaysia)

Marinade – For the marinade, the measurements of the ingredients do not have to be exact. Instead, make sure that you taste and season according to your personal preference.

3 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
salt to taste

1 rack baby back pork ribs
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Add all the marinade ingredients in a sauce pan on med-high heat and stir until blended. Cool.

Rub the ribs on both sides with the chopped garlic and then marinate the ribs with 2/3 of the sauce, preferably overnight, though 6 hours should be enough.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheet with foil and place the ribs on top. Cover with another sheet of foil and roast for 2 hours.

Afterwards, take the top sheet of foil off, coat the ribs with the rest of the marinade, and set the ribs under the broiler for 5 minutes, so the crust gets slightly charred and crusty. (This is where I set off the fire alarm in my apartment). Let the meat rest for about 10 minutes, and then dig in.

Chinese New Year 2010

February 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

I always get really homesick when it’s Chinese New Year. Usually we have some family friends come over and we all sit down to eat a huge meal of roast duck, roast pork, dumplings, etc. This year, in addition to celebrating the beginning of the Year of the Tiger away from home, I also had to deal with yet another date-less Valentine’s Day. womp womp.

No matter. To console myself, I made a menu of a bunch of delicious Chinese dishes that would at least make me feel like I was at home and with Jia’s help, we made a truly amazing dinner. Chinese-style eggs and tomato, hoisin glazed eggplant, pork and scallion dumplings (with even the skins made from scratch!), sesame noodles with chicken and cucumber, and the piece de resistance…Chinese BBQ spare ribs.

The big success of the night was definitely the ribs. In the Chinatown in New York, there’s always this one particular roast meats shop that our family visits to pick up spare ribs, roast pork, and roast duck, and I never thought I’d be able to replicate those flavors in my own kitchen. On Saturday night, I came back from a party a little tipsy but somehow managed to remember to create the hoisin-soy-honey marinade, which just goes to show that food is always a number one priority for me. So even with the ever-present danger that I’d drunkenly slice off my fingers while mincing garlic, the ribs made it to the fridge to marinate over night.

The next day, after fretting over the pork and setting off the fire alarm in our apartment, I finally pulled those babies out of the oven. They had that beautiful charred but glossy outer coating, and the meat on the bone was perfectly tender and succulent. They were a huge success with everyone and now, they’ll probably be my go-to barbecue recipe.

So, our 3 1/2 hours of cooking yesterday really paid off, especially since there are plenty of tasty leftovers in the fridge.  Even though we weren’t with family and didn’t do the traditional exchange of New Year’s greetings and red envelopes, we still got a taste of home.

Celebrating World Nutella Day

February 7, 2010 § Leave a comment

Friday was World Nutella Day, and our apartment celebrated by making Nutella crepes topped with bananas! The recipe came from Mark Bittman and follows his minimalist approach. The best part is definitely filling the thin pancakes with whatever the hell you want. If you choose to go with a savory filling, just omit the sugar.

Sweet Crepes (from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman)

1 cup flour
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups milk
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of melted better, plus a little more for cooking

Filling and Topping

Nutella, as much as you like!
1 sliced banana

Whisk all the ingredients for the crepes in a large bowl. Ideally, let the batter rest for at least an hour to 24 hours. I actually didn’t let it rest and the crepes turned out just fine.

Melt butter in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add a ladle of batter and swirl the pan so it forms a very thin layer on the bottom of the pan. When the top of the crepe is dry, after about a minute, flip and cook on the other side for 15 to 30 seconds. Any longer and you’ll have a dried out crepe.

To fill:

Take a single crepe and smear thinly with Nutella. You may need to put the Nutella in the microwave for 30 seconds so it smears more easily. Fold crepe into quarters and place four folded crepes on a plate. Top with sliced bananas and drizzle with Nutella. Serve

Also, this past weekend, Mother Nature dumped a ton of snow on the D.C. area, which meant that I was stuck inside watching the Georgetown vs. Villanova game (103 to 90 baby!!), eating baked goods from Trader Joe’s, and catching up on coursework. In between, I got really homesick and decided to make scallion pancakes. When I started rolling out the last one, I remembered I had two cans of sweet red bean paste in the pantry and tried it in the last pancake.

At first it looked like a bad idea because the paste started leaking out of the pancake, but when I fried it, the red bean caramelized and make the outside even crispier than usual. And there were individual layers of red bean throughout. YUM! Homesickness cured.


January 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

I tried this grilled pork belly dish for the first time at Honey Pig in Annandale, VA. When I went grocery shopping with my mom this weekend at H Mart, I saw already-sliced pork belly and decided to give it a go. Though I know the traditional way to prepare and eat this dish requires that the meat is unseasoned and given the good old lettuce wrap treatment, I wanted something spicy, sweet, and savory.

With the 7 lb container of gochujang that I still have from one of my mom’s impulse buys, I threw together a bunch of traditional Asian ingredients for a marinade and hoped for the best. Surprisingly, the pork belly turned out just as I had hoped. Here’s the gist:

3 heaping tablespoons of gochujang, Korean red pepper paste
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 green chili pepper, diced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons salt
as much water as you need

Whisk all those ingredients together while pouring in water little by little, until you have a thick liquid. The marinade should not be pasty but able to soak into the pork belly.

Marinade 1.5 – 2 lbs of pork belly in the red marinade for at least an hour, preferably several. When done marinating, grill or pan-sear, flipping on to the other side after about 30 seconds and after 30 seconds on the other side, take off the heat. Don’t move them too much while they’re cooking. Also, make sure you don’t grill them for too long otherwise they’ll dry out and I hate nothing more than dry pork.

You can either wrap this in lettuce with white rice and Korean bean paste, or do as our family did and simply eat it over white rice with sauteed greens. YUM.

Thanksgiving Weekend Round Up

November 30, 2009 § Leave a comment

Still recovering from all the wining and dining this past weekend. Posting photos with some rambling now, recipes may come afterwards.


Wednesday – Family friends came to the house from Boston, bearing nine, gorgeous live lobsters. We found this out after we’d already steamed a dozen Chesapeake blue crabs and purchased an entire roasted duck. Opened a bottle of Marques de Riscal and had a happy time around the table. Surprisingly finished almost all the food we had to eat.

Thursday – Thanksgiving at Nan’s in Long Island. Met her fiance, James. They’re so cute together. Two whole turkeys, endless side dishes, four giant desserts. Nan’s zombie, hairless cat named Zoey who hissed at me when I tried to take her photo. Failed at working off calories by playing Wii Home Run Derby. Food coma all the way home.

Friday – Post-Turkey Day reunion with high school friends. Lots of wine and cheese. Giant eclair cake. Essentially, take vanilla pudding mixed with equal parts cool whip. Start with layer of original graham crackers. Top with pudding mixture. Alternate layers. End with graham crackers on top. Cover in melted chocolate frosting. Make pretty design with any leftover pudding mixture. Let chill in fridge for 2 hours so crackers get crumbly. Let everyone who eats it believe that it was insanely complicated to make. Puahaha, suckers.

Saturday – Visited Nan in NYC. Ate and ate and ate,including smores. Watched Zombieland, laughed at Tallahassee and cried at the blood and gore. Joe is a LIAR. More wine and Wii. Played House of Dead and shot fake zombies to make myself better about the movie. Could not sleep.

Sunday – Woke up to zombie cat Zoey staring me in the face. Huge farmer’s breakfast at Cornelia Street Cafe and Bakery. Murray’s Cheese on Bleecker. IBERICO HAM. Home. Birthday noodles, pre-20th bday celebration with fam. Thanks for the gifts! Pass out.

Story of the Leo’s onion

November 6, 2009 § Leave a comment

About a week ago, Danielle was standing in line at the pasta station at Leo’s dining hall when she noticed a display of vegetables, including this GIANT white onion. I don’t know what made her take it straight from under the pasta lady’s nose, but I’m definitely glad she did.

It took a long time for me to appreciate good cheese, especially anything blue and extra stinky. Maybe it’s because in my family, we didn’t really eat too many dairy products growing up. But now, there’s nothing I like better than a slab of melted brie slathered on bread.

I’d done the sweet topping + brie combination before, so after picking up about a 1/4 wheel of brie at Dean and Deluca yesterday, I thought we’d go the savory route for our apartment wine and cheese night.

I think that caramelized onions taste pretty much good on anything, even by themselves. They take a while to make, but once you have that wonderful onion jam, you realize that the constant stirring and vigilance is completely worth it, especially when it’s combined with gooey triple cream cheese.

Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

4 large onions, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons olive oil

generous wedge of Brie (we had a pound of Belletoile Triple Creme split among 5 of us)
sliced baguette or crisp french toasts

On medium heat in a large saute pan, heat the olive oil until it begins to shimmer. Add all the onions, salt, pepper, and sugar and stir occasionally. * The key is allowing the onions to brown a little, leaving crusty goodness on the bottom of the pan and then scraping up the bits with a wooden spoon. This trick gives the onions that wonderful mahogany color. If it looks like the scraps on the bottom of the pan are about to burn, add a little water (don’t be scared of a little sizzling), and it’ll be easier to scrape them up. No matter what, you have to make sure you stir them, especially towards the end when most of the moisture from the onions has evaporated.

This whole caramelizing process will take about 45 minutes to an hour, but you want to keep an eye on them; otherwise they might burn.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F. Once the onions are dark brown, place the wedge of brie on an oven-safe dish, top with the onions, and stick in the oven for 7 minutes or until it starts to get gooey, but doesn’t melt completely.

Serve with the slices of baguette.

Asian comfort food: sesame peanut noodles

October 16, 2009 § 1 Comment

It’s starting to get pretty chilly here in DC and the rain isn’t helping any.  On days like these, all I want to do is snuggle on the couch with a really good book and eat comfort food, which includes any type of carb. One of the dishes I start to crave the most is a sesame peanut noodle dish that my mom always used to make when she didn’t feel like making anything too complicated.

It’s great because you can customize it to your own tastes, and extremely simple so even if you’re living in a college dorm like me, it’s definitely manageable.  I usually like to add shredded soy-poached chicken leftovers and lots and lots of hot sauce, but if you’re vegetarian, the dish is filling enough to be eaten without any meat. The sauce is wonderfully creamy and the flavors balance so well, with sweet countering savory perfectly.

I’ve made it enough that I don’t really use formal measurements, but I adapted the original recipe from, who else, Mark Bittman in his book, The Best Recipes in the World.

Sesame peanut noodles, serves 4-5

12 oz udon noodles, linguine would be ok too
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/2 cup of peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
chili oil or hot sauce to taste
salt to taste
minced scallions as garnish
* the recipe also tastes really good with grated cucumber mixed into the sauce

1. Cook the noodles in boiling salted water until tender. Drain.

2. Whisk the peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, hot sauce, and salt.  Gradually pour warm water into the mixture and continue whisking until the consistency of the sauce resembles heavy cream. Adjust the seasoning if needed.

3. Toss together the noodles and the sauce and add any more seasoning if necessary. Drizzle with additional sesame oil, if desired, and garnish with scallions.

This dish tastes good both warm and cold, so save leftovers!


The start of weekly roommate dinners

September 10, 2009 § Leave a comment

Last night was the first of our roommate dinners and we started off with the steak au poivre I used at the tapas party over the summer as well as some roasted thin asparagus with sharp parmesan. Everything looked so nice with the white porcelain dinnerware, new silverware, and lavendar tablecloth. Plus, I’m still loving the fact that our dinner table is located in the nook we have near the windows, which just makes everything even more cozy.

Assuming that my roomies weren’t just being nice, the dishes were a success despite the fact that the stove top I was cooking the steaks on wasn’t even level. I hope they all get used to being my guinea pigs.

Steak au poivre

4 4 oz. steaks, I used rib eye but  New York strip or filet mignon would work beautifully as well
3 tablespoons butter
extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion,thinly sliced
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper
minced parsley to garnish

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Pepper the steaks really liberally and salt as well. When butter is melted, turn heat to high and cook steaks. Leave for about 3 minutes. Remember: don’t move the steaks once you’ve placed them in the pan. You want a good caramelized crust to form on the outside and shifting the steak just ruins that. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the meat has a small bit of resistance when press down on the center if you like your meat medium-rare (which is how it should be IMHO). Take out of the pan, cover with foil, and let rest.

Pour excess grease or oil out of the skillet but leave the brown bits on the bottom. Add the remaining butter and stir until melted. Add the water and dijon mustard and stir, all the while scraping up the brown bits, which have all the great flavor from the meat. Add onions and cook until soft. Season to taste.

Spoon sauce over steaks and garnish with the parsley.

Roasted asparagus with parmesan

1 lb green asparagus
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Meanwhile, cut the woody ends off the asparagus spears. On a shallow baking pan, drizzle asparagus with extra virgin olive oil and season with liberal amounts of salt and pepper. Mix the asparagus well and then place in a single layer. Top with the parmesan and roast for about 25 minutes or until the asparagus are slightly brown.


Spinach Catalan style and Shrimp with Garlic

August 19, 2009 § 1 Comment

Here are two more recipes from the tapas party that I promised. I first had the spinach dish at Jaleo in D.C. and I think it’s part of the reason I recently overcame my aversion to green and leafy vegetables (yes, I was one of those kids). The toastiness and crunch of the pine nuts adds really great flavor as well, and plumping the raisins in the hot water beforehand makes all the difference.

The shrimp was definitely the most popular dish of the night. We didn’t even bother with transferring it to a nice serving platter; I just moved the hot saute pan from the stove and set it on the counter, right before every one attacked the garlicky olive oil with crusty slices of bread. I think we bought about 2 pounds of smaller sized shrimp, and within 25-30 minutes, we had eaten it all. It was so good that we couldn’t even stop eating it even if we wanted to! It’s also something that anyone, even complete kitchen novices, can make so if you’ve never cooked anything before, I HIGHLY recommend letting this be your first attempt.

Spinach with raisins and pine nuts

1/4 cup raisins
1 pound of fresh spinach, stems removed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pine nutes
salt and black pepper to taste

Soak the raisins in hot water for about 10 minutes, until they become plump. Wash the spinach, but don’t completely dry the leaves. Steam in a large saute pan until they’ve become wilted and tender, less than 5 minutes. When the spinach is cooler, squeeze out all excess moisture and chop roughly.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, drizzle in olive oil over medium heat and add the pine nuts and raisins. Stir occasionally, until the pine nuts have become toasted and slightly golden. Add the spinach and sautee for about another 4-5 minutes until everything glistens. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot or at room temperature.

Shrimp with garlic

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (it must be EVOO, the fruitiness really adds to the flavor)
6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced as thin as possible
1 pound peeled shrimp (in this case, it’s better if the shrimp are on the smaller side)
coarse salt to taste (NO black pepper)
chopped parsley for garnish

On medium heat, combine oil and garlic in a deep skillet or saute pan. When the garlic begins to sizzle and turn golden, add the shrimp. Cook and stir until the shrimp have become opaque. About 3-4 minutes. MAKE SURE that you don’t overcook the shrimp, otherwise they get all nasty and rubbery and the dish is ruined (no pressure!).

Stir in however much salt you want, garnish with parsley and serve immediately, directly from the pan. The sauce tastes AMAZING with good country bread.

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