Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Taiwanese Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)...

When I think about Taiwan, it is their vast culinary landscape that draws me in. First and foremost, their sprawling swarming night food markets comes to mind. An eclectic hustling and bustling of open or enclosed street space where you can find anything from grilled fish ball skewers, pork belly buns, braised offals, noodles, stinky tofu and all kinds of desserts (think bubble tapioca teas, shaved ice and mochi). Despite all the evolving food crazes, many traditional Taiwanese foods remain just as popular with the old and young alike. What is traditional Taiwanese cuisine? As with many cuisines, it is rooted in modest peasant country dishes. Inexpensive ingredients such as offal cuts and wild vegetables used in homey dishes can be a source of immense pride and adoration, making its way on celebration tables and banquets. With time, comfort dishes get refined, adapted and expanded in a wide variety of ways by fond cooks and become new beloved dishes.

Three Cup Chicken is touted as a quintessential Taiwanese home-style dish. Even Taiwanese-Chinese-American chef Eddie Huang (author of his widely popular memoir-turned-TV series- Fresh Off The Boat, and owner of BaoHaus in New York) penned his second book titled Double Cup Love with a nod to this dish-- gosh, how much do I LUV that guy @mreddiehuang, and his mom who is working on the Huang's family cookbook @therealmamahuang :). Three Cup Chicken's name comes from its three equal parts measurement of soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine. I've researched the recipe from various sources, and many have said to use one cup for the amounts, however for the same two pounds of bone-in chicken, I found 1/3 cup yielded plenty of sauce so you don't have to overdo it. The signature savoury braise gets its rich flavours from the loaded garlic cloves, ginger and fresh basil. Picking up a few tips from my awesome friend from Taiwan Kate Chou's mom, it is such an irresistible and intoxicating dish to create at home simply.

Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

1/3 cup sesame oil
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into 8 to 10 thick slices
12 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 red chilies (optional)
2 lb. bone-in chicken legs, thighs and/or wings, cut into roughly 2-inch pieces (see below)
1/3 cup rice wine
1/3 cup light soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 bunch fresh Thai basil, leaves plucked

The Chinese meat cleaver is the "woman" for the job of hacking! I used leg quarters, so first cut the joint where drumstick and thigh meet. Then, cut the drumstick in half and the thigh in quarters; it may take a couple of good whacks to get through the bones, and if you miss the initial cut the next chop, make sure you remove any bone fragments before cooking.

Heat 2 Tbsp. sesame oil in a wok/skillet over medium-high heat; stir-fry the ginger, garlic, onions and chilies if using and cook until fragrant about one minute. Add remaining sesame oil and let heat to simmering.

Add chicken pieces and lightly brown, stirring occasionally for two to three minutes. Pour in the rice wine and soy sauce and bring to a boil (You can add 1/2 Tbsp. dark soy sauce to give the dish a deeper richer brown colour). Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the chicken pieces are cooked through, and the sauce has slightly reduced about 15 minutes. Stir in the sugar. Turn off heat and stir in the basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Ga-gorgeous and the aroma-- sweet savoury and garlicky with hints of anise basil fills the kitchen! 
Chicken, juicy succulent delicious in its potent, salty-sweet savoury braised sauce.

I forewent the hot chilies in the chicken dish as I was serving Hot and Sour Soup, alongside stir-fried bak choy, jellyfish and cucumber shreds and Stir-fried Fish-Fragrant Chicken and Eggplant. Leftovers even better the next day, as the flavours sit and meld...

Got extra basil leaves? "Popcorn" Chicken (Yan Su Ji) is probably the most recognized and delectable popular street food from Taiwan-- irresistibly delicious and the aroma intoxicating. Chicken pieces are marinated with fragrant five-spice powder and deep-fried. Then the tender morsels are sprinkled liberally with salt and white pepper once out of the hot oil and served along attractive tasty crispy wispy fried Thai basil leaves. Nom Nom at its finest!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Pari Pari-Style Chicken...

School is back, which means crunch evenings filled with homework, extra-curricular activities, next-day lunch and snack preps, and earlier bedtimes. Quick and easy-to-make dinners has been helpful to get me through the first week. One I really enjoyed making and my family loved eating is Pari Pari style chicken, inspired from a cookbook recipe by the Martha Stewart of Japan, Harumi Kurihara. A wonderful economical chicken dish that takes on a lovely golden slightly crisp skin by blessing it with a brush of sesame oil halfway though oven-cooking. Paired with steamed rice and a crunchy creamy coleslaw (prepared while the chicken is baking), it makes for a satisfying meal that went from kitchen to table in an hour!.. Leaving more time to do other things on a school night! Now that's a good thing :D

Pari Pari-Style Chicken (adapted from Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking)
Makes 4 servings

8 chicken thighs on the bone with skin on
2 Tbsp. dry sherry (or sake)
1 tsp. mirin (sweet cooking wine)-- optional
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
dash of ground pepper
2 Tbsp. sesame oil (to coat the chicken)
Serve with:
Worcestershire sauce for dipping
Steamed rice (I like white or brown short grain)
Creamy cabbage salad (as a side)

Debone the chicken, and place bones in a sealed bag and freeze for soup broth use later. Mix together the wine(s), soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and pepper then marinate the chicken and cover for about 15 minutes.


Meanwhile, prepare the side cabbage salad (I like to also add chopped parsley or cilantro and thinly sliced red onions for colour and flavour) and tossed with Japanese Kewpie mayo. Make it ultra-crunchy by following these steps and tips in my Tonkatsu Pork Cutlet post.

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place chicken skin-up on a foil-lined baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes then remove from oven (carefully drain the excess liquid) and brush thighs with sesame oil. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes more until the skin is crispy. Remove from the oven. While it is hot, cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Look at that lovely golden brown skin. Aromatic, tender-moist and delicious! 

Serve with steamed rice and creamy cabbage salad. I sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds and slathered the chicken in Peri Peri hot sauce. The brand I like is hot and tangy Nando's. Peri Peri on Pari Pari-- why not?

Or a dip dip in that yummy Worcestershire sauce making every bite extra tasty!

More on the cookbook author for inspiration-- Harumi Kurihara (栗原 はるみ, born March 5, 1947) is a celebrity home-maker and television personality in Japan. She has never had formal training as a chef and is highly regarded for her satisfying home-cooking, combining traditional Japanese with nouveau Western influences, while accounting for the real-world time constraints of a housewife. Other recipes I've made from her books, include my take on her Ginger Pork (Shoga Yaki)Pork with Aromatic Vegetables and Teriyaki Hamburg Steak. Again, with the appeal of catering to the home-cook with simplicity and deliciousness.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Fishing Up A Whack of Brain Food Perfect For #Backtoschool...

What could be better than a healthy fish meal with the extended family?- A meal of mixed F.R.E.S.H line-caught fish that is... Returning from a boating trip in Lake Simcoe, my parents and sister's family were undeniably happy and with abundance (yu, the Chinese word for fish literally means abundance). What an exciting way to cap off the long weekend Monday for the birthday boy fisherman aficionado brother-in-law Quan. And the perfect smart food to eat for segwaying back to school! Yes if you Asian, you would have heard growing up over and over again at every fish dinner how brilliant it is for your brain and eyes in attempt to woo you to eat it! Chockful of nutrients and goodness, I try to incorporate fish at least once a week in our meal routine. 

Five minutes into casting the line, my 9-year old nephew Tevan catches a 5 lbs, 10 oz pike! 
(Will the pike taste good?... we won't know unless we try.)

Fishing Photo Credits: Trai Ng

My parents and my awesome nephews all looking sharp.

Everyone is a winner that day!

On the menu: Pike, large mouth and small mouth bass and some perch.

For messy jobs, doing it outside is best...

Notice the makeshift knife rest-- an empty paper towel roll, encircled with a few 
rubber bands (to make it slip-free). Gotta love my handy dandy parents :D.

Looking fresh and ready to hit the heat...

The large pike was filleted and cut into pieces and pan-fried. The other fish were steamed :D  
(Yes, the pike was delicious and the meat firm perfect for pan-frying)

See my post on Cantonese Steamed Fish with Green Onions and Ginger.

The kids digging in, and having their last supper of mainly fish, before heading back to school!

I hope you will have a great first week getting back-to-routine!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Food Revolution Toronto September Contest-- Packed School Lunches!

Resharing from Food Revolution Toronto:

September means back to school and we want to help you get off to a great start with this month’s extra special contest! A healthy and delicious lunch sets your kids (or you!) up for a productive day of learning and fun. 

I had created a Packed Lunch Series two years ago with a first week worth of daily Back-to-School creative lunches for my kids. A personal mission to challenge myself beyond the lack-lustre basic brown bag and learn somethings along the way to provide tips that has worked with my family and some inspiration for many of you going through the same-- (Creative Sandwiches, Make Once, Eat Twice, Creative Leftovers, and Compartmentalize). The key learning is getting your kids involved with the menu planning and cooking! And have some fun!

For more ideas and expert advice on packing with nutrition in mind, head over to Yummy Lunch Club with R.D Carol Harrison also a Toronto Revolution Ambassador that aims to equip everything you need to know to plan and pack healthy lunches that your kids will actually eat.

Creative SandwichesMake Once, Eat TwiceCreative LeftoversCompartmentalize

For our contest, share a pic of your healthy lunch with our team on social media and you will be eligible to win not only a Jamie Oliver cookbook courtesy of HarperCollins Canada but also an OmieLife lunchbox!! This is no ordinary lunchbox – you can pack hot and cold foods all in one box and when you don’t want hot food, you can just remove the thermos! Think soup and a salad, pasta and some fruit, fried rice and a nice slaw – the options are endless! We will sharing all kinds of great ideas here and can’t wait to see your healthy school - or work - lunches! #omielife #omiebox #foodrevolution #backtoschool

How To Enter:

Show us your healthy lunch! Snap a photo of your lunch and tell us a little bit about what you made and how.

You MUST use the hashtag #CookwithFoodRevTO AND tag us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. That's it! Then you'll be entered to win a lunchbox and a cookbook!

Eligibility and Contest Rules:

– Contest begins on September 1st 2017 at 6am EST on and closes September 30th 2017 at 6pm EST.
– Prize consists of one (1) Jamie Oliver cookbook and (1) OmieBox lunchbox
– Open to readers of the age of majority with a Canadian mailing address.
– No purchase of any product necessary for entry.
– Winner will be chosen randomly (using random.org) from all qualified entries on September 30th 2017 after 6pm EST.
– Winner will be notified via email October 1st 2017 and will have 48 hours to respond to the email.
– Winner will be required to answer a skill testing question.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Bien manger à Montréal (troisième partie)...

Frites Alors or shall we be screaming Poutine Alors!?

Our annual summer mini vacay in Montreal to visit family has always been belly-lavished with homemade Vietnamese flavours but this rare time around, with a heavy pulse still on Asian, we were able to venture out and delve into some other tastes around the city- Lebanese falafels and shawarma and Benny & Co.'s rotisserie chicken not shown here. I seriously focused my attention on eating so these snaps are the best I've got from our lil' four-day escapade of eats. One fine afternoon consisted of Frites Alors, my nostalgic fave chic greasy spoon to mange frites in la belle province... only my boys wanted poutine... boat loads of it!

Classic squeaky cheese and gravy poutine

Bacon and grilled onions poutine

Head-over-heels in love with the rest!

My husband's family welcomed us with a lovely lunch of Asian-inspired chicken breast brochettes (marinated in fish sauce, garlic and ginger) served with a tasty-fun topping of gremolata- toasted coconut shreds and sliced green onions. Simple steamed string beans and a large green salad tossed with smoked salmon and grapes in a honey Dijon dill vinaigrette rounded the meal. Hearty and delicious! Merci Beaucoup sis-in-law Veronique!

Grapes add an interesting texture and sweet flavour to the savoury salad.

Some bun (vermicelli) and deep fried shrimp crackers too cause we Asian :D

Morning glory with a mixed berry danish and a coffee. Kids were all over chocolate croissants.

A late lunch in a Chinese Vietnamese noodle shop.

Roasted duck egg noodles soup

Spicy beef (bun bo hue) noodle soup 

Family dinner at a Vietnamese-Cambodian restaurant Kim Hour. They also owned the supermarket in the same strip plaza, offering an extensive and affordable menu. Merci beaucoup Kathia et famille! C'est tres delicieux. Bon choix!

Vietnamese Crab Meat and White Asparagus Soup

Extra Crispy Chicken and Cambodian Beef with Onions and Peppers.
Love the heavy fish sauce, lemongrass and ginger  indicative of Cambodian cuisine.

Mixed Seafood and Bak Choy

But the highlight of this delicious meal-- frog legs! Even my kids loved chewing on the deep-fried scrawny legs in a thin batter with a hint of fish sauce and possibly five spice.

Taste just like chicken wings :D

Snack at my parents-in law-- deep fried spring roll pork filling leftovers and battered fish. 
Wrap the pieces in lettuce and Thai basil leaves then dip in prepared fish sauce nuoc mam. 

Handheld bite-sized goodness!

The best part of the trip is just being out and about with the family and enjoying the Montreal air! 

Hoppity, Skippity, Jump!

And of course, no Montreal trip is ever complete without bags and bags of fresh oven-baked sesame bagels to tote home. These are from Fairmount Bagels and are possibly the best! Until next year....

Dense, chewy, slightly sweet and ever-so tasty!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Japanese Cabbage and Pork Gyoza...

Japanese gyoza and Chinese dumplings (jiaozi) -- what is the difference you ask? There are four noteable distinctions in my books. First, the ingredients-- while they share similar ones, Japanese tend to always use garlic in their filling and more veggies combined with a little meat. Next, the wrapper which also leads to the technique difference. Gyoza skin is softer more pliable, conducive to the technique of steaming first then pan-frying. Whereas Chinese dumplings do the reverse. Typically pan-fried then steamed, it's wrappers are designed thicker to hold up in the pan-frying process. Lastly, the texture. The gyoza wrapper is more pliable and expands during steaming creating more of a puffy pouch to house the filling and since more veggies is used, it's result looser than the dense meat-heavy Chinese jiaozi. The star to gyoza however is potato starch! Dusting gyozas first while it steams to cook, the water evaporates and bottoms start to brown that surely crisps up when the oil hits, creating an irresistible duo crispy and soft skin texture. This method applies to certain types of Chinese dumplings but not universally. No hard fast rules in this world of cross-cultural adapting perhaps, but some observations I've made to this day noshing on and making countless dumplings. One thing undeniable is that both styles are delicious and addictive, as you can't stop at just eating one.. am I right?

Now that we got this out of the way, let's start mixing, wrapping and cooking gyozas :D. So many recipes out there, but this is the one I'm enjoying right now...

Japanese Cabbage and Pork Gyoza
Makes about 48 dumplings

1/4 small white/green cabbage
1/3 medium nappa cabbage
1 tsp. salt
1 cup lean ground pork
2 tsp. chicken seasoning powder
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. sake or Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry

1 Tbsp. soy sauce
3 cups green onions, finely chopped (or use 2 cups garlic chives and 1 cup green onion)
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger (optional)
salt and ground white pepper
1 pkg. round Gyoza skins (Chinese dumpling wrappers ok substitute)
potato starch
cooking oil (I use canola)

Dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce to 1 part rice vinegar
a little sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds and chili oil (optional)

Finely chop the two kinds of cabbage. Mix together in a bowl tossed with the salt (this will aid in releasing their excess moisture). Set aside for 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine the pork with chicken seasoning, sesame oil, sake and soy sauce. Mix well, then add green onions and garlic, and mix again.

Squeeze the cabbage to remove excess water. Add to the meat mixture, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. The filling is ready, use it immediately or refrigerate covered overnight and use the next day.

As I mentioned this is key for great crispy succulent gyozas-- potato starch! Dust each dumpling with a little potato starch. Shake the dumplings to remove excess starch before pan-frying!

Here I heavily dusted a platter to sit the dumplings and to roll in to coat.

Set a small bowl of water for rimming and sealing the filled dumpling wrappers.

Wet the edges of the wrapper with water and place one Tbsp. filling in centre of wrapper. Pleat the wrapper or simply fold over so that two edges meet. Press along seam to seal shut. Repeat with wrappers. Cook immediately. Do not refrigerate prepared dumplings or they will get moist and stick together and to the plate. Click here for my complete step-by-step on how to make and wrap dumplings. 

For more on wrapping, check out my Dumplings 101

Shake the dumplings to remove excess potato starch. Heat up your pan to medium high and swirl 2 Tbsp. oil. When hot arrange them in a circular fashion in the pan with a little give between each so they don't stick too much when they cook and swell.

Made Pork Dried Bakchoy Soup as a yin counter balance to yang gyozas.

Add enough water to come a third of the way up the dumplings, cover and cook over medium heat until the water has evaporated and you can see the bottoms of the dumplings changing colour. #steamsteambaby

Remove the lid and drizzle a little oil over the dumplings. Cook uncovered, until the bottoms are crispy, then turn over carefully with a spatula to brown the other sides. Transfer to a serving platter.

Combine the dipping sauce and serve with the hot gyozas. Add some chilli oil if you wish.

I had some leftover filling and it was perfect tossed in a skillet with leftover steamed rice. I adjusted the taste with a bit of soy sauce and voila... creative leftovers that turned into a small meal.

Leftover gyozas reheated in a pan for a casj lunch the next day served with some tasty leftover cabbage pork fried rice!

Wrapping dumplings can be a fun family affair-- of course the kids can get in on it too!

My then 7-year old Japanese-Chinese nephew is a wrapping pro!

Gyozas can make for a great appie or side dish at any gathering! Itadakimasu!

Served with Korean Chap Chae, Inari Zushi and Deep-Fried Chicken Karaage