Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Boiled Peanuts

Boiled peanuts really take me back. They take my parents back too as a matter of fact. As we snacked on the star anise and clove boiled peanuts my mom made, my dad told me of how they used to sell bags of these at the movies in Hong Kong (back in the day). They would pop out each morsel and savor every bite--well maybe more like pop them in their mouths non-stop like we do popcorn at the movies. Then they would just throw the shells on the floor. Mounds and mounds of peanut shells, lima bean shells, and garbage would pile up on the floor. So the way everyone would get out of the theater would be to hop up on the seats and skedaddle out so that the people could sweep up the floors in time for the next showing.
Now we didn't throw the peanut shells on the floor yesterday, but we did enjoy the peanuts like they did way back when.

We bought about 2 pounds of peanuts.
Cover them with water and add 2 star anise and a 4 or 5 of whole cloves and about 4 table spoons of salt and boil until the peanuts are tender and the shells have soaked up some water. (about an hour, but it's really best to try them after the first 30 minutes or so to gage where they are in the cooking process).

Craving Satisfied

I can't even begin to tell you how long I've been reading cupcake recipes and how long I've been craving these black bottom cakes. I think what I really love about these are that they're both a chocolate cake and a cheese cake, all in one. It makes my inner (and outer) fat kid smile.

I had a recipe for black bottom cake that I was ready and excited to try. (True story). But then when I went to the grocery store, they were having a sale on cake mix, 88 cents per box for devils food.
Light Bulb.
SO I cheated. Sue me. I wanted cake, and I wanted them quick.

However! I did make the cream cheese filling from scratch and tweaked the recipe a found.
8 ounces of cream cheese (softened, leave it out for about an hour or two)
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
1tsp vanilla extract or a cap full of vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt

*Fill each paper cup lined tin 1/3 of the way up with the chocolate batter, and then dollop each with a spoon of cream cheese mixture. I added semi-sweet chocolate chips for fun, but you can omit them if you'd like.

Bake at 325F for about 20 minutes and voila. Light, airy black bottom cakes.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I devoured 5 right out of the oven. Yeah. They were that good.

Offal Porridge

I'm awfully fond of offal. Ok. Bad joke. But seriously, I don't know why I didn't enjoy these gem pieces of meat as a child--I bet this was good news to my parents who saw me as one less person to fight with over the highly prized organ meats.

Yesterday I had a pork organ porridge with liver and pork blood, I was rather disappointed when it came out without kidney. WHERE ARE THE KIDNEY SLICES?? Other than the missing kidney, the porridge was very good and it definitely satisfied my craving for something livery and irony (haha, these are my Andrew Zimmern descriptions).

Dragon Beard Candy

O my God. Why didn't i know about such a delicious little confection earlier? My parents have been holding out on me, claiming that I've had it before. And when I insisted that I had never seen anything like it, they're reaction was, in a nut shell, "You've been missing out...BUT...try it now." Yes, thank you parents.

It kind of looks like a dragon beard doesn't it? It's made from long thin strands of sugar wrapped around a mixture of chopped peanuts and granulated sugar like a cocoon. The texture was interesting. Once you take a bite of this candy, the sugar strands melt into a tiny chewy piece of sugar and that mixed with the roasted chopped peanuts and more sugar--oh, man, it was yummy. My only complaint is that I wish it were a little sweeter. I know, it's sugar wrapped around sugar, how could it not be sweet? I think it was because there wasn't enough granulated sugar in the peanut mixture, just a tad more would have really heightened the flavor of the peanuts.

This yummy and messy little candy can be found at Coi Palace in Daly City. Enjoy. I'll definitely be back for more real soon.

Sweet Pumpkin Dessert Soup

You'll notice that ever since I've been back in San Francisco, I've been having some of the best Chinese food. That should come as no surprise. Whether it be out at a restaurant, a hole in the wall, or at home, I just can't get enough.
The other day, my family made pumpkin and sweet potato dessert soup with evaporated milk. And it was o so silky and delicious. It was sweetened with rock sugar but only enough to enhance the natural sweetness of pumpkin itself. The final spoonfuls of evaporated milk made the dessert almost velvety to the tongue.

I am definitely a fan of all things pumpkin, and could definitely get used to it in a dessert soup for the rest of my life.

Black Sesame Mochi

One of my absolute favorite desserts as a kid was a warm chewy mochi ball covered in ground peanuts and filled with a rich, dark, runny black sesame filling. One thing that I love about this dessert is its name literally translates to mochi ball that fell in the sand. And it looks like exactly that--a sandy and delicious mochi ball.

Fut Tieu Cheug

What could that possibly mean? Well, it's a Chinese soup dish with shark fin, abalone, sea cucumber, chicken, and dried scallops--a dish that will sure make a monk jump over a wall--hence its name.

O the broth was incredibly bold and sweet in flavor because of all the wonderful (and expensive) ingredients. Each serving is about $38 at The Mayflower Restaurant in San Francisco, and it's worth every penny.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Clay pot Kind of Night

So my parents and my aunt tell me of this place on Irving that has some of the great claypot dishes and, well, you guessed it, we had to go so that I could see for myself. We ordered a LOT of food, and when they said clay pot dinner...they weren't kidding. Soup, roast duck, and five clay pot dishes. One by one the waiter brought out our clay pot dishes; unveiling them as the steam wafted into the air carrying each dish's unique aromas with it. Around the table all of our eyes twinkled and mouths watered as a symphony of, "mmmmMMmmM's" were heard. But the awe-stricken looks quickly ceased as we all dove in for a taste.

The verdict's out, I think we're going to keep going back until we've tried 'em all!

Duck feet and Mushrooms
Incredibly bold in flavor. The duck feet were cooked the way I like them, crunchy and full of anise and soy flavor.
Shrimp and Vermicelli
Vermicelli in a shrimp stock means that you can't go wrong. The vermicelli quickly soaked up all the stock as soon as it arrived at the table. Bad news for some because, well, there's no more stock. But good news for others because the vermicelli soaked up all the flavor with the stock.

This was probably my favorite of the night, pumpkin and clams.
The sweetness from both the pumpkin and the clams cooked in the savory base of the sauce, made for a great combination of flavors. I could pour that sauce over every thing!
Lamb and bean curd skin
I love lamb cooked this way because it doesn't taste gamey! The sauce was a little too salty for my taste, but flavorwise, it was incredibly bold and meaty.

Rice clay pots (one with chicken and one with Chinese sausage)
The winning points of this dish is that when cooked properly, a crust of rice forms at the bottom and the sides of the clay pot, leaving nothing but a nutty and crunchy surprise at the end.
What we did was take off all the toppings and pour a soy sauce mixture over the rice and mix (Carefully! As to not disturb the crust forming at the bottom)
Each of these rice clay pots is really a meal on its own--a vegetable, rice, a meat, and lots of deliciousness all mixed together.