Apr 15, 2018

Rice with Braised Kimchi and Beef (泡菜牛肉燴飯)

Spicy! This might be the first impression when talking about Korean kimchi. Indeed, this pickled veggie can be pungent and tongue numbing in a way, but when used as part of the seasonings and served over rice, the flavor softens. Instead of that instant kick on the palate, gentle spiciness and pickled aroma round up the entire braise and provide more depth to the dish.

Rice with braised kimchi and beef (泡菜牛肉燴飯) -





Ingredients (about 3 portions)?

  • 2 Hiroshima cabbage
  • 1 bundle spinach
  • 5 to 6 shiitake mushroom
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 lb/about 20 beef slices
  • 200 grams Korean kimchi (cabbage and daikon strips)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 portions quinoa white rice
  • 2 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce paste
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Some corn starch and water mixture


How?


There is no need to use exactly the same ingredients I have listed up there. It doesn't have to be "Hiroshima" cabbage, any type of Chinese cabbage will do. The same goes to quantity, a little variation is fine as long as it suits your own preference.


Cook the rice first. Destem the shiitake mushrooms and slice the caps. Trim off the stems from leafy greens and cut into about 2 inch long sections. Grate the ginger. Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Peel and slice half of the onion. Beat two eggs on the side.


Drizzle some oil to a big pan and turn to medium high heat. Add in onion, salt, and pepper. Cook till onion turns translucent then add in garlic and grated ginger. Give it a quick stir till that garlicky aroma comes out but not over-browning the garlic pieces.


Add in tougher veggies first, switch to high heat here if preferred. Also transfer shiitake over and cook for 30 seconds or more. Transfer remaining tender leafy greens to the pan and give it a quick stir. 




Pour in the kimchi along with its juice. Also pour in chicken stock. Bring it to a boil then lower to a simmer. Add in beef slices one at a time, also soy sauce, soy sauce paste, and oyster sauce. Let all the ingredients "braise" for a short moment then turn to low heat. 




Wait till temperature drops then pour in corn starch water while gently stirring the mixture at the same time to prevent lumps. Adjust the thickness with more corn starch water if needed. It should be gooey but not soupy.


Lastly, pour in beaten eggs and only stir it slightly for couple rounds. Scoop this kimchi beef mixture over rice.



Not too spicy and not too sourish, Korean kimchi here provides just the right touch to the whole dish. On top of flavors, the fresh cabbage was already cooked down and turned to softer texture. But the kimchi cabbage still has that crunchy bite, which provides even more depth to this comforting meal.


Other rice recipes:


Apr 8, 2018

紀の善 Kinozen - Following the Footsteps of Saboriman Kantarou

Netflix might be carrying different shows in different countries, but for Taiwan, there's a Japanese series called Saboriman Kantarou (さぼリーマン甘太朗), about a dessert-loving salaryman.

As Japanese as it can be, this show ventures into the leading actor Kantarou's mind when he tastes all the wonderful sweets in Japan. Put the semi-exaggerating reactions aside, it provides a good list of where to eat in Tokyo. So there I was, at 紀の善 Kinozen, where the leading actor figured out the meaning of "wa sweets" with matcha bavarois.




According to the TV show, Kinozen was a sushi restaurant transformed into Japanese sweets joint. Current owner remodeled the place. It still has a Japanese soul, but with a few minor touches of western influence.




Two-story shop, since we came as a small group, we were taken to the second floor tatami room. Need to take shoes off and not the most comfy seating style, but in return, slightly more spacious with a window overseeing the street.



Welcomed by hot tea, hand towel, and some rice crackers.




Here's one example what I meant by "a slight western influence." These piggy-shaped rice crackers were dusted with Brittany sea salt. Simple as it tastes, but delicate in a way.




Menu -






It's already hard to understand Japanese sweets names as a foreigner, but wait for it, the kind lady brought over this English menu that can be even more confusing.




Just pick and point, as long as I get my matcha bavarois in the end.


Anmitsu (あんみつ) - 




Red bean paste with agar cubes, red peas, some fruits, and served with brown sugar sauce/syrup. That's basically what it says on the menu. Kinozen uses dainagon azuki bean to make their red bean paste, supposedly one of the top varieties in Japan. The paste is smoother than it appears, with a soft and light sugary note permeating every pore.


Noticed a few brownish beans, they call it red peas on the menu, but do not mistaken it from azuki/red beans. Harder texture with outer skin about 2.5 times the thickness compared to cooked red beans. But once smashed, you'll fall for perfectly cooked smooth pea paste hidden underneath. Also the most obvious difference, it's salty. Not sweet, but slightly salty. What a way to balance this bowl of Japanese sweets.




In addition to sweet and salty contrast, there is also a comparison between the fuller bite red peas and clean-cut jelly-like agar cubes. Agar cubes carry little to no taste, but offers a clean and refreshing touch here.


Mitsumame (みつ豆) -




Served with brown sugar syrup.




Red peas can be very filling, so frankly speaking, we were struggling over below anmamekan (あん豆かん) -




Good news is that matcha bavarois came to a rescue when we were almost drowned by red peas -




Composed by three simple but strong elements: red bean paste, matcha bavarois, and heavy whipped cream.


The red bean paste was discussed earlier, so let's move onto the other two. The matcha bavarois was packed with matcha aroma, very low or nearly no sweet taste at all. Just pure matcha in an almost panna cotta form. The whipped cream, oh man, it was so creamy. Stiff in a way but not hard. To put it this way, the whipped cream used here is more like a highly condensed whipped cream made by 46% Hokkaido milk, it has to be good.


So the red provides sweetness, the white provides creaminess, and the green provides that adult-like tea and tannin touches. Separate these three elements, they are delicious on their own; but together, it become one greater self.


So "wa sweets," not exactly Japanese but not western either. Wa, instead of simply means "Japanese," Kantarou thinks that this word is more like "mixing, blending, integrating." What a great translation for crossbreed dessert like the matcha bavarois I've just tasted.


If you love matcha, do come here and give Kinozen's matcha bavarois a try. Moreover, if you love dessert, see if you can find Saboriman Kantarou on your Netflix show list. Been there and tried one of the recommendations on the show, it seems pretty legit and trust-worthy. Taste buds won't lie. 



紀の善 Kinozen

〒162-0825 Tōkyō-to, Shinjuku-ku, Kagurazaka, 1 Chome-1-12
+81 3-3269-2920
Official website: http://www.kinozen.co.jp/

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday 11:00 a.m. ~ 8:00 p.m.
Sunday and holiday 11:30 a.m. ~ 6:00 p.m.
*Please check website for recent day-offs update

Apr 2, 2018

Veggie Sticks with Garlicky Yogurt Sauce

Greek yogurt is healthy but sometimes its flavor can be too intense for some people. But just with a few extra ingredients, it can turn into a flavorful dipping sauce for veggie sticks. Even my Mister at home embraces this transformation.

Veggie sticks with garlicky yogurt sauce -





Ingredients?


  • Some veggie sticks (such as celery, carrot, cucumber, and romaine lettuce)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 5 to 6 fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper


How?


Prepare the veggie sticks. Peel and trim off the skin or fibrous parts if needed. As for the sauce, finely chop the mint leaves right before serving and mix with peeled and finely chopped garlic cloves, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of plain Greek yogurt.



Serve the veggie sticks with this garlicky yogurt sauce. That's it, can't be simpler than that.




I still got some leftover Greek yogurt, maybe it can be used as a marinade. Let me figure it out and maybe one other Greek yogurt related recipe will be up in the near future.



Extended reading:

Mar 27, 2018

Braised Konnyaku (こんにゃく) with Sichuan Peppercorn

Konnyaku (or conjac/konjac) can seem intimidating at first, especially that pungent smell when taking out from the package. But once giving it a try, it's actually quite easy to work with.

Braised konnyaku with Sichuan peppercorn - 





Ingredients?


  • 180 grams konnyaku
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Some Sichuan peppercorn oil
  • Some cilantro leaves (optional)


How?  


Hold your breadth and remove konnyaku from the package.




Tear it apart with hands. It creates uneven edges and further help the sauce to cling on.




Transfer konnyaku pieces to a small pot and pour in some cold water. Turn the heat up and cook for 3 more minutes after boiling. 


Transfer konnyaku pieces to a colander and rinse under cold water. Drain well and set aside.

Mix the soy sauce, cooking wine, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of water together. 


Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a small/medium pan and wait till the surface starts to turn warm. With medium high heat, add in konnyaku and sear for a moment. Add in Sichuan peppercorn and sear for about 30 more seconds to help releasing the aroma.


Add in pre-mixed sauce and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat just a little and continue to cook till all the sauce has been reduced, took me about 5 minutes.


Drizzle a little Sichuan peppercorn oil then transfer the konnyaku to a serving container. Garnish with cilantro leaves if desired.




Don't shy away from that pungent smell when first opening the package. That's why the first few steps of boiling and rinsing are crucial. Just for a short moment, they will turn into chewy, sweet, and savory small bites.


Mar 21, 2018

Black Garlic Pork Stew (黑蒜頭燉豬肉)

Black garlic has becoming a hype in the health food category in recent years. Unlike fresh bulbs, black garlic has a denser aroma and nearly lost all its spicy character. Texture-wise, it comes with a nearly paste-like form when smashed. It is said that black garlic has nearly double the amount of antioxidants compared to white garlic. 

While some Taiwanese like to use black garlic to flavor the chicken soup, I find it irresistible when used in pork stew.


Black garlic pork stew 黑蒜頭燉豬肉 - 




Ingredients?

  • 1 blub black garlic
  • 1 lb kurobuta pork
  • Few pieces yamaimo tofu or pre-fried tofu 
  • 3 to 4 fresh garlic cloves
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce paste
  • 2 small chunks pre-fried old ginger (爆香後的老薑)
  • 2 cubes crystal sugar
  • 2 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


How?


Cut the pork into bigger chunks. Squeeze the black garlic cloves out, kind of like removing the skin in a way. Peel and halve fresh garlic cloves. Cut the tofu into large chunks.




Bring a pot of water to a boil and quickly cook the pork chunks, should take less than 1 minute, just enough time to draw out some foamy bits. If using high quality kurobuta pork, very little foam will emerge. Once ready, drain well and set aside.


Use a big pot, drizzle some olive oil and turn to medium high heat. Add in black garlic, fresh garlic, old ginger, and some black pepper. Sear for a short moment just to release the aroma but not burning the garlics.


Transfer pork chunks over and sear for about 1 minute.


As for the tofu, if a softer and nearly falling apart kind of texture is preferred, then add the tofu into the pot now. Otherwise, add the tofu towards the end of the stewing process.




So for my version, I add the tofu in the beginning and sear for about 30 seconds. Then pour in hot water, soy sauce, and soy sauce paste. Bring to a boil then lower the heat a little, just enough heat to keep the sauce bubbling slightly. 


Stew for about 30 to 45 minutes depending on the part of the pork used and the tenderness preferred. Also try to stew till nearly all the sauce has been reduced. Pick out the ginger and add in crystal sugar cubes. Slowly stew and stir the mixture till fully melted.





You can't even pick out the garlic pieces anymore after stewing, both the black garlic and fresh garlic already melted into the sauce. It has to be delicious, don't you think so?

Mar 16, 2018

More Than Michelin Stars - Shoun RyuGin 祥雲龍吟

Taiwan finally got its own Michelin stars. Despite the pros and cons about this rating system, it's still a nice way to showcase the world of what Taiwan has to offer.


Luckily I had a chance to dine at Shoun RyuGin just few months before its Michelin fame starts to spread. It was a birthday celebration dinner for Mister, and indeed a memorable meal that not only satisfy our palates, but also our hearts.


In the beginning, Mister thought I was bringing him to RAW, another famed restaurant in Taiwan that happened to locate in the same building.


But of course I'm not going to give away the answer easily, so we took the elevator up to the 5th floor.


Mister could never guess this place. Shoun RyuGin, somewhat like a mixture of kaiseki ryori with a Taiwanese touch. It wasn't that famous back then, at least compared to RAW.


We arrived a little bit early and took some time taking pictures by the door. Just when we were about finished, the maître d' came out and led us to the resting area.


Welcomed by a cup of Taiwan Tieguanyin tea, calmed down our over-excited mood and ready for the meal ahead. 



Short moment passed, we were guided to our table.


When making a reservation, I mentioned that I'm going to take some pictures, so requested for a corner table if possible in the hope that my big camera will not cause troubles for other guests.


So pictures are ok here, just stay as low-key as possible and definitely no flashlights.


Food-wise, Shoun RyuGin is definitely up there, but that night was also a feast for our eyes. Carefully prepared tableware like pieces of art, with different texture and temperature, they further translated what chef had in mind into our hands.  

Roselle garnish on the table -


It was in season during early wintertime in Taiwan, so why not garnish the table with local grown Roselle?

Restaurant checked on food preferences and allergies when making a reservation, also asked if it was for some type of celebration. Per my case, it was a birthday dinner for my hard working Mister.


A text message reminder was also sent the day before the meal.


See that little "4" marked on the postage? It resembles that Shoun RyuGin is moving towards its forth year in the business.


Simple information about the ingredients used for the night's meal. Some ingredients used were marked on the map of Taiwan, where they were sourced. As chef Ryohei Hieda spending more time in Taiwan, the more knowledge and understanding he gained regarding what this little island has to offer. Up till the time I dined there, about 90% of the ingredients used were sourced locally.


Even as a local born Taiwanese like me had no idea how many wonderful ingredients we have and the possibilities they carry. Through chef's skills and creations, it truly brought me to a deeper understanding of local grown jewels.

Waitress asked again if we have any food allergies after presenting the menu. 

Some wine pairing options -


Besides the famous Juyondai sake pairing, there were also wine/sake pairing and tea pairing. I was torn apart between wine/sake pairing and tea pairing. Rarely do I have an occasion to try out tea pairing, but since it was my first visit, I still went ahead and chose the more common route.


Until next time, I will pick tea pairing without a second thought.


Put the beverages aside, Shoun RyuGin also offers many types of water. First, choose natural or sparkling water. As for natural water, there were four variations and provided with country of origin and hardness level.


A cup of cold Roselle tea to gently brighten up the senses first -


First wine pairing -


Yes, Taiwan has its own aged sparkling wine too! Traditional bottle fermentation and aged for 18 months. The waitress said that chef fell in love with its distinct hawthorn berry scent right away. It was also Mister's favorite wine of the night.


First course: Spot crab, potato, caviar -


Spot crab broth and smoked potato puree underneath. The saltiness mainly coming from the caviar. Took a bite, that saltiness was gently covered by the smooth crab aroma. Then it came a slight punch from the smoked potato puree.

Usually potato puree is blended with creamy ingredients. Changing that creaminess with seafood umami, then it somewhat describes how amazing this potato puree was.


Second course: Clam, sweet potato leaves, lemon -


Talking about umami earlier, this one definitely was an umami bomb. Just a crunchy thin later of potato leaf to hold up all these juicy clams. The satisfaction is like munching on a Taiwanese fried snack from a night market, but of course a much more sophisticated version.


Just when you think this course was finished, a brush of citrusy acidity came through, the whole combo just went up another level again.


And here came the fun part -


Pick the one that sang to you.


The cup will be used to serve the second pairing of the night, Juyondai honmaru honjozo sake -


Melon aroma was the key here.


This Juyondai was used to pair with our third course: Eel, egg; fig, miso, pine nut -


Fuller bite from the eel, almost like eating chicken. The sauce above was made of egg yolk and lemon. 


The fig dish got a heavier note of Japanese seasoning. Topped with miso pine nut sauce. A mix between sweet and saltiness. 


Frankly speaking, I didn't care much about the fig dish. Not my type of sweet and savory combo, but I can see why it was paired with Juyondai sake, that light fruity aroma rang together like a planned orchestra.


Forth course: Tile fish, mushroom, Buddha's hand citron -


Underneath the lid was the dragon pattern designed by chef -


Stock was prepared with fish bones, and the mushroom was cooked shabu style. What permeated the whole thing was an almost airy sweet note from Buddha's hand citron. 


This soup warmed up my body softly and gently. It might appear light and pale, but in fact packed with delicate aroma, but with just the right amount. A little bit extra will tip off the balance of this dish. Very comforting in a slow-moving way.


Another round of glass picking, this time with much more flamboyant colors -



But Mister picked a clean and white glass instead - 


Third wine pairing, sake specially made for the restaurant - 


Fifth course: Sail fish, sea perch, squid, sweet shrimp -


What a cute presentation!


A variety of sashimi was placed above Taiwan abalone shells stacked up into a shape of Taiwan. Well, a chubbier Taiwan. 


Sail fish was suggested to be eaten last since it went through extra smoking process, got a stronger scent.


After few bites, I wondered. If it wasn't shown on the menu, will the guests ever guess that this wonderful seafood were sourced locally?

Fourth wine pairing - 


2015 Domaine de Villaine Burgundy Bouzeron/Aligoté.


Also Sawanohana Beau Michelle sake -


Upon my first sip, wow, such a sweet sake! But soon flowed with rice aroma. How well can this sake pair with our fish course coming next? I was quite curious. 

Sixth course: Butterfish, crown daisy, mullet roe -


The fish was prepared by grilling and covering with stock at the same time. In a way not as over-powering as simple grilling. Underneath the fish were tong ho and shiso, two aromatic greens familiar in Asian countries.

And there's this salty, soft, and sticky mullet roe, truly paired well with that sweet sake. Took a look at my Burgundy white, which paired perfectly with the fish.

What sommelier wanted to express was how well these two contrasting drinks could match with the same dish. A fun way to proceed with food pairings, and a great experience for the guests. 

Seventh course: Ox tongue, radish, magou -


Thinly sliced ox tongue was cooked first under 60 degrees Celsius, and finished cooking tableside by pouring the warm stock over. 


There were also chrysanthemum petals and grilled corns in the juicy dish.


I didn't call it a soup dish. Waitress specially reminded us that this was a saltier broth and if preferred, simply treat it as a dipping sauce. But of course I devoured the whole thing. It was just like a Taiwanese beef broth but came with many more layers of aroma. Magou, a type of local peppercorn mostly used by Taiwan aboriginal people, has a bright and almost minty aroma, truly characterized this comforting course. 

Sixth wine pairing - 


2003 Nicolas Potel Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Aux Malconsorts.


The bottle was opened the day before to let it breathe. Filled with plum-like dark colored fruity aroma.

Eighth course: Squab, rosemary -


Chef incorporates one squab dish every season. Thanks to him, I never know Taiwan has such high quality squab. Plump and juicy.


So for the breast, the meat was grilled then perfumed with hay and rosemary. The leg was fried instead. 


A piece of charcoal was hidden underneath the breast, so that grassy aroma lingers throughout the course due to heat. A feast to the nose too.


It has that slight bitter note similar to chicken liver, well surrounded by crispy thin skin, all the great wine food elements packed in this dish.  

Halt the wine, here it came Kyoto bancha -


Ninth course: Koshi-hikari rice, clam, green onion, tomato -


By the time we came to our ninth course, three hours passed by. Prolonged dining time made me feel full easily. 


Tableside service. Our waitress moved the clams aside and scooped the rice for us. Even though Shoun RyuGin doesn't let customers take the meals home, but this rice dish is ok. Rubbing my tummy, I had to bring the leftover rice home.


Please do come here with someone you can talk to. Otherwise these three hours are going to feel like forever.  


Soup and tsukemono were also served along with the rice.


After finished tsukemono, found out that it was plated above such beauty - 


About time for dessert, but first we got our new hot hand towels and bancha got changed to Kyoto green tea -


Tenth course: Chestnut, chocolate -


Light milk chocolate ice cream in the center. The chestnuts were cooked with brown sugar whisky and the chocolate was flavored with magou.


The texture of the chestnuts was so fluffy. Just fell apart without much pressure. Along with ice cream, all the elements went down my throat smoothly. 


Eleventh course: Passion fruit -


Well, the upper part was passion fruit alright, but the bottom half was actually brown sugar tapioca and pudding. That cooked sugary aroma accompanying boba chewiness, what a great way to represent one of Taiwan's beloved sweets - boba.


Extra longan dessert -


Came with a bundle but only two were truly our bonus mini mochi sweets.


Also a bonus pairing from the sommelier -


2009 Domdechant Werner Riesling Auslese.


How come he knew I love Riesling?

Sugar apple! 


Another surprise. I mentioned that this dinner was for Mister's birthday celebration, so instead of cake, they brought us this sugar apple.


Just kidding, it was actually more like a slush made with sugar apple and pear. Even though it was just something extra as a good gesture from the restaurant, a lot of work still put into making this celebration treat for us.


Four hours passed, a memorable four hours meal. Chef came by the entrance and greeted us as we left for the night. To be honest, Michelin or not, Shoun RyuGin was already that star in my mind. 

A little information about making reservation at Shoun RyuGin. Deposit for 50% of the meal fee are required for first-timers. Reservations for the following month are opened a month before. For instance, if I would like to make a reservation for 4/10, then I can start calling the restaurant after 3/1. 

I'm a total pro-deposit type of diner. Especially for such high-end restaurant, think about all the resources that went into preparing one single meal. What if there's no-show? It becomes a tremendous burden for the restaurant, and thinks about all the food that went into waste?

So if paying half of the meal ahead can have any effect on preventing no-shows, personally speaking, it's totally worth it and the restaurant has every right to do so.


Shoun RyuGin 祥雲龍吟 currently holds two Michelin star status.


Shoun RyuGin 祥雲龍吟
5th Floor, No.301, Le Qun 3rd Road
Taipei, Taiwan
011 886 2 8501 5808
Facebook Page (Chinese): https://www.facebook.com/ShounRyugin/

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 6 p.m. ~ 11 p.m.
Sunday and national holidays off
Please also check on website for other day-offs

*Please call from 1 p.m. ~ 5 p.m. to make reservations
*Restaurant does not take phone calls during service hours