Sep 17, 2018

Cheesy Mashed Potato Patties Served with Worcestershire Sauce

Something about oozing cheese and mashed potatoes.


My first intent was to make them into patties, somehow ended up more like Japanese korokke, but seared not fried. Mixed cheese was incorporated - mozzarella for its creaminess and cheddar for a boost of saltiness, but supposedly mini Camembert should work too.

Cheesy mashed potato patties served with Worcestershire sauce -



Ingredients (makes about 6 korokke-sized patties)?

  • 2/about 515 grams potatoes 
  • 1 cup mixed cheese (mozzarella and cheddar used here)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some all purpose flour
  • Some Japanese panko
  • Some Worcestershire sauce


How?

Prepare a pot of water. Meanwhile, peel and cut the potatoes into medium sized cubes. Drop the potatoes to the pot, start with cold water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower the heat to a simmer, cover with lid and continue to cook for about 20 minutes. Test with a fork and see if it can pierce through, otherwise, continue to cook till softened. 

Once ready, drain well and let them cool down for 10 more minutes, the remaining moisture can further evaporate during this time. Afterward, mash these potato cubes. Ideally, use a masher to do the job, if there's really no suitable tools, blender can be your last resort.

I actually store mashed potatoes in the fridge overnight, so I can save some troubles when ready to cook. In that case, remove mashed potatoes ahead of time to bring it to room temperature.

To the mashed potatoes, add in 1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream, chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon of salt, and 1/4 tablespoon of black pepper. Mix till incorporated.


Shape and squeeze mixed cheese into small ball shapes. Wrap the cheese ball with mashed potato. If mashed potato gets too sticky and hard to work with, mix in some flour. Shape into medium sized patties, similar to Japanese korokke.

Prepare three plates, one filled with flour, 1 with beaten egg, and 1 with some Japanese panko. Transfer potato patties one by one, first coat the patties with flour, then dip in beaten egg, lastly cover with panko. 

Take a non-stick pan. Add in unsalted butter and turn to medium heat. Once melted, gently add in the patties one by one. 


Sear till colored then flip to sear the other side, add more butter if the surface of the pan appears too dry after flipping.


Serve with some Worcestershire sauce.


Mashed potatoes can be hard to work with, they can get too sticky and make it very hard to form into patties. In that case, on top of mixing some flour to the mixture, try wearing gloves and dust both hands with flour.

Time to melt away with that oozing cheese filling.


Other recipes with potatoes:


Sep 10, 2018

Shaoxing Pork Rice Bowls 紹興豬肉丼

Monday blue, so comfort food came to a rescue. This recipe got all the elements for my type of Asian style comfort food - steamed rice top with braised pork belly, veggies, and to make it even better, a sunny-side up egg.

Shaoxing pork rice bowls 紹興豬肉丼 - 



Ingredients (for 3 to 4 portions)?

  • 1 lb pork belly strips
  • 1 big bundle spinach
  • 8 garlic cloves 
  • 2 ginger slices
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup aged Shaoxing wine
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 cubes crystal sugar
  • 1 stalk scallion
  • Some olive oil
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper
  • 3 to 4 portions steamed rice
  • 3 to 4 eggs


How?

Cook the rice first and keep it warm.

Peel garlic cloves, save 5 as a whole and roughly chop the other 3. Cut the spinach into shorter sections. Destem and chop the scallion. Slice old ginger, about 1.5 mm thickness. Cut the pork strips into two shorter sections, just make sure the meat can fit into the clay pot.

Use a pan first to prepare the sides. Drizzle enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and turn to high heat. Before the oil gets hot, add in chopped garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Once aromatic but not burning the garlic, add in spinach and cook till wilted. Scoop out and set aside for later use.

Wipe the pan with a kitchen towel and drizzle more oil. Turn to medium high heat and wait till the surface gets hot. Crack in one egg at a time to make some sunny-side ups. During the process, dust the eggs with some salt and black pepper. Cook till the edges of the egg whites turn slightly browned and crisp, but the center yolk remains gooey and semi-cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside for later use.

Now bring out the clay pot. First, season the top and bottom sides of the pork belly with some salt and pepper. 


Second, lightly oil the surface of the clay pot and turn to medium high heat. Once the oil gets hot, transfer the pork over and sear till colored. Flip and sear the other side.


Once both sides get that delicious looking color, pour in 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 1/3 cup of Shaoxing wine, 2 star anise, 5 garlic cloves, and 2 ginger slices. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Cover with lid and braise for about 20 minutes. Check and flip the meat once awhile to ensure even cooking.

Towards the end, add in 2 crystal sugar cubes. Put the lid back on and turn off the heat. Wait till the sugar has been fully dissolved and blended with the sauce. 


Take the pork belly out and rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Once cools down, slice the pork, about 2 mm to 3 mm thickness.


To serve the meal, scoop some steamed rice to serving bowls and top with a layer of simple spinach stir-fry. Add the egg on one side and lay down pork slices on the other side. Drizzle some thickened sauce all over and sprinkle some chopped scallion.


This braised pork belly is on the saltier side, so I purposely made the sides lighter with less salt. Adjust the flavors per your reference if needed.


This Monday not so blue anymore.


Other rice bowl recipes:



Sep 3, 2018

Sipping and Tasting - Strawberry Lemonade for Two

Believe it or not, I couldn't find any squeezer so indeed it was truly freshly "squeezed" lemon juice, by hand. A little workout before sipping on my lemonade.

Strawberry lemonade -





Ingredients (makes 3 medium portions or 2 medium/large portions)?


  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons strawberry jam
  • 2 tablespoons raw cane sugar
  • 1 shiso leaf
  • 2 to 3 big ice cubes


How?


Squeeze lemons and get 1/2 cup of juice. Julienne shiso leaf.




Take a pitcher, mix in raw cane sugar along with hot water. Mix or cover with lid and shake till the sugar has been fully dissolved.


Pour in lemon juice and 1 cup of cold water, shake or stir to mix. On the side, mix the strawberry jam with 1/2 cup of cold water till almost dissolved. If the jam used comes with chunky fruit, just let it be and don't bother too much to break them apart perfectly. Pour that into the pitcher and shake or stir till incorporated again.


Store the lemonade in the fridge to speed up the cooling process, or just add ice cubes to serving cups then pour in the lemonade. Garnish with shiso leaf, it'll add an elegant herbal note to the drink. Mint leaves work just as well.




This recipe yields a more sourish lemonade, so if a sweeter taste is preferred, go ahead and double the amount used for either cane sugar or strawberry jam.



Two tablespoons of sugar plus sweet jam, that means 1 tablespoon of sugar for one larger serving. Sounds like a lot of sugar? You'll be amazed, or so scared by knowing how much sugar actually put in sweetened drinks. I'm not telling you to quit sugar completely. After all, we all need that happy boost in life once a while. But do try to lower the sugar intake once a while, yep?


Other recipes using fresh lemons:


Aug 27, 2018

Japanese Style Taiwan Ramen 台湾ラーメン

Just like sweet and sour chicken in the states, such dish doesn't really exist in China. So even though this soup noodles is named "Taiwan" ramen, it can only be found in Japan, not in Taiwan.


I came across Taiwan ramen from a Japanese TV show. Memorizing most of the prepping steps, here's my take on Japanese style Taiwan ramen.

Japanese style Taiwan ramen 台湾ラーメン -



Ingredients (about 4 to 6 portions)?

  • 4 to 6 portions yellow noodles
  • 1.7 lbs coarse ground pork
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 1 bundle of Chinese chives
  • 1 pack bean sprouts
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup dried red chili flakes
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chopped ginger
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some Sichuan peppercorn oil (optional)


How?

Remove tougher tips/roots from bean sprouts. Cut the chives into shorter sections, about 2 inches in length. Peel and chop the garlic cloves. Peel and finely chop the ginger.


Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the bean sprouts and chives separately, should only take about couple minutes each. Once ready, drain well and set aside.


Use a big pot, drizzle some oil and turn to medium high heat. Add in garlic, ginger, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Sear till aromatic but not burning the garlic pieces.

Transfer ground pork over and give it a quick stir, make sure the meat has been separated.


Add in chili flakes, mix till incorporated. Stir-fry till aromatic.


Pour in soy sauce and continue to cook till incorporated.

Pour in chicken stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.

Meanwhile, prepare another pot of water to cook the noodles. Once done, drain and transfer the noodles to serving bowls.

Scoop some soup over and top with ground pork. Transfer some bean sprouts and chives on top. Drizzle some Sichuan peppercorn oil if desired. Serve immediately.


If serving up to 6 portions, use up to 8 cups of chicken stock and more soy sauce to ensure there's enough soup for everyone. 

The red oil floating around can be frightening, but just the looks, it won't hurt. The soup is not even as fiery as spicy hot pot. On a side note, sweat a little can somehow making this dish even more enjoyable. (Wink)


Other Asian noodles recipes:


Aug 21, 2018

Mushrooms with Tomato Cream Sauce

Some kind of thickening agent needs to be used to finish the tomato cream sauce in this recipe. Instead of a more western approach by making a roux first, which usually yields a denser touch, a simpler also gentler way of using corn starch plus water mixture came to the picture. 

Mushrooms with tomato cream sauce -



Ingredients?

  • 4 kinds assorted mushrooms (if using Japanese mushrooms, about 6 packs)
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 small bundle flat leaf parsley or cilantro
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Some corn starch and water mixture


How?

Clean the mushrooms first and pat dry if any water remains. Try to use mushrooms with similar shapes, otherwise tear the mushrooms into similar sizes before cooking.


Peel and finely chop the garlic cloves. Finely chop the parsley or cilantro. Drain the tomatoes.

Add the butter to the pan and turn to medium high heat. While the butter melts, add in some salt and pepper along with chopped garlic. Cook till aromatic and the butter fully melts away.

Transfer all mushrooms over and give it a quick stir, about 30 seconds. Add in drained tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil then lower the heat to keep it simmering. Once the juice reduced a little, pour in heavy whipping cream along with nutmeg. Mix in chopped parsley or cilantro.

Lastly, add in some corn starch and water mixture, about 1:2 ratio. Gently stir the mushrooms at the same time to prevent lumps. Thicken the sauce till desired texture. If uncertain, just pour in the mixture a little at a time. Remember, you can always add more but it'll be hard to revert back.


Garnish with more chopped parsley or cilantro if desired.


Other creamy recipes:


Aug 15, 2018

Le Palais at Palais de Chine Hotel - Taiwan's Very First Three Michelin Star Restaurant

Located inside Palais de Chine Hotel, the very first time I set my foot here was trying to look for a nice and quiet place for tea. Possibly due to its central location to all public transportation, the hotel was very crowded, so my peaceful time was out of the question. Me and my friend turned to other solution instead.


Years passed, I was here again, squeezed my way out of the jam-packed lobby, some things never change. Into the elevator all the way up to the 17th floor, where I finally found tranquility.


This time around, I came for star-studded lunch at Le Palais. Reservation opens up one month ahead. Maybe because I called right away, there weren't any issues getting a table for a weekend lunch.


Deposits required when making a reservation, $500 NTD, about $16.3 USD per head, which will deduct from the final bill later on. Slightly troublesome, but if such system prevents no show and any possible food waste, I'm all for it.


Door opens at 11:30 a.m. sharp. We arrived early, so instead of heading to other floors or back to the noisy lobby, might as well as wait here. There was a bench near the restroom, but a couple already took that spot. No other seats were available near the entrance. Well, there was a bicycle but who dare to cross legs over. 


Minutes passed, right on time, we were led to our table.


It was like venturing into another space and time, completely different from the noise downstairs. Inside Le Palais, where I felt like being invited to an ancient emperor or higher-up's home. But a few classic western touches can be spotted in fine details, a seamless integration between two elegant times.


And before any Chinese delicacies, we were presented with an array of art-like tableware, it was a feast for the eyes.


Even the tip of the spoon was decorated with colorful butterfly.


Wipes were served first table-side by pouring water into the cup, so that the wipes expand right on the spot.



Meal started off with hibiscus vinegar -


Very high in acidity, but then paired with the same intensity of sweetness, so this little appetizing drink was able to reach the balance way up high.


Beautiful menu cover -


I didn't take pictures of the dishes listed inside, but you can refer to hotel's link for Le Palais a la carte items.

There were two set menus designed around their Michelin star fame, both came with hefty prices, $8,800 NTD/$285 USD and $12,800 NTD/$415 USD. Both set courses only offer for two people and up, and the more luscious one needs to be reserved at least three days in advance.

The manager was the one in charge of taking our orders that day, friendly and professional. She recommended some dishes for us, especially there were only three of us, some famed dishes came in large portions and won't suit our needs.


However, among all the dishes, one thing I liked the most wasn't on her recommendation list - steamed water cress and salty egg dumplings.


The green filling wasn't the common spinach, instead, it was steamed water cress. Water cress has a soft texture, just like spinach, the leaves wilt when in contact of heat. But the stem bits inside still holds a gentle crunch. 

Different eggs were used as filling, when salty egg provides savory note, the infamous Chinese ingredient - century egg was also incorporated. Absolutely no such thousand-year old taste whatsoever, but filled with umami. In addition, it was hidden nicely inside the dumplings. Highly recommended for all first timers who never dare to try century egg before, this dish will convert you.

The wrapper was another highlight, tender like baby's cheek yet bouncy like it's been injected with collagen. In fact, I've never tried such texture even from all the other great dim sum places I've went.

Daikon radish puff pastry -



Look at those layers, a more accurate term should be mille feuille style puff pastry.


Chinese stock-like aroma, the kind made with Chinese dried ham, the scent leaked through moist radish filling, tasting it somehow made me feel like enjoying a bowl of finely braised Chinese soup.

I also reserved this barbecue pork when booking the table -


Manager explained that this barbecue pork was made with Taiwan black pig, using the center section from the shoulder, so precious that one pig can only made two portions of Le Palais' signature barbecue pork.


It might not be as famous, but Taiwan does produce one of the finest pork out there, clean taste with just the right balance of fat and lean meat, and the best part is that bouncy texture. All the good qualities presented through chef's skills onto this plate.


Talking about texture, believe it or not, even though it's barbecue pork, but the bite truly feels like free range chicken thigh, chewy but not dry, instead, bouncy and moist.

Stir-fried tiger grouper filet with American asparagus - 


Supposedly pickle olive leaves should be the main veggies here, but it was substituted with American asparagus.


Each plump fish was coated with a layer of slightly gooey sauce, guessing it was seasoned with Chinese style stock, so every bite was like a gentle umami burst in mouth. It's not easy to cook fish to this level, otherwise I can imagine more steak lovers converting to seafood.

For every dishes swapped, so did our plates. Clean and warm every time.

Wok-fried rice with shrimp and barbecue pork -


Sounds simple, but the hardest part about fried rice is that every grain should be separated, creating that dry and fluffy sensation, as opposed to ingredients sticking to one another. Think of it as a very thin airy gap between all the elements. And by far, this is the fluffiest fried rice I've ever tried.


Boiled beef in hot pepper sauce -


Not as pungent and tingling as spicy hot pot, but in a more refined way to showcase the spices.


And if you're an intestine lover, it was indeed "plump" and flavorful, fully soaked up the seasonings and not over-powering by red oil. 


Deep-fried cheese pastry -


We were presented with all the Chinese dishes in Asian ways, so all the sudden this fried snack showed up in a spiral stand with paper wrap, definitely caught our attention.


The direct translation from its Chinese name should be "fried tofu milk." But of course it still got that mild cheesy filling, and the dough was dusted with sugar powder.


Rather light but delightful ending to our meal, not too heavy, just the right amount of sweetness and creamy sensation. It was fun to finish our last dish with our own hands too.

After paying the bill, the waitress carried our to-go food bag all the way to the front door. There, she waited while we used the restroom, and offered this -


"Babu," the name for traditional Taiwanese style ice cream, it was hidden inside that bicycle by the front door all along. What a pleasant surprise.


From there, the waitress also went into the elevator with us all the way till we need to get onto our taxi. 

Service was impeccable, and the food was definitely up there. The only complaint I had remained at the hotel lobby. So did Le Palais live up its three-star fame? According to the meaning of a three-star, that means the restaurant worth a specific trip to try. Think of it this way, if I'm from some other country, let's pick somewhere close by, Singapore, will I fly all the way just to dine at Le Palais? Mmm...perhaps not. But two-star honor, that I can do.


Le Palais (頤宮) currently holds three Michelin star status.


Le Palais (頤宮)
Floor. 17, No. 3, Section 1, Chengde Road, Taipei 103
+886 2 2181 9999
Hotel website: Le Palais at Palais de Chine Hotel 
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LePalaisPalaisDeChineHotel/

*Reservation for the following month opens up on the first day of current month. For instance, starting August 1st, reservation throughout the end of September can be made. 

Opening hours:
Monday to Sunday lunch 11:30 a.m. ~ 2:30 p.m.
Monday to Sunday dinner 5:30 p.m. ~ 9:30 p.m.


Other Michelin starred restaurants in Taiwan: