Feb 28, 2022

Sweet and Sour Lotus Root 酸甜蓮藕片

I'm guessing back in the states, when people talk about lotus root, it's basically just one type of lotus root, I mean texture-wise. But it's just like potatoes, when picking lotus root in Asia, we tend to differentiate by texture also. Some like the lotus root on the crunchy side, some prefer a more floury crumbles.   


If you're making soup, you can use either crunchy or starchy varieties, both have their supporters. However, for this recipe, especially it can serve cold, crunchy lotus root works better. So if you get to choose, ask for the crunchier one.


Sweet and sour lotus root 酸甜蓮藕片 - 


Sweet and sour lotus root


Ingredients?

  • 1 chunk lotus root
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • Some corn starch
  • Some toasted white sesame seeds

Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons black vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar


How?

Thinly slice the lotus root, it doesn't have to be paper-thin, but make it within 1mm if possible, don't cut yourself though.


Lotus root slices

Dust lotus root with some corn starch, give it a few tosses for even coating, then shake away excess corn starch.


Lotus root slices coated with corn starch

Pre-mix the sauce using all three ingredients listed under the "sauce" section. The ratio for soy sauce, black vinegar, and sugar is 2:2:1. So if you need more sauce, increase the amount used with this ratio.


Take a non-stick pan and drizzle about 2 tablespoons of sesame oil. Turn to medium heat and wait till the surface gets warm. Transfer lotus root to the pan one by one. Try to even them all out, if not enough space, stack the smaller ones on top.


Searing lotus root slices

Sear till both sides of the lotus root turn slightly golden. However, when first searing the lotus root, try to leave them undisturbed for a moment till the corn starch has been set, then flip to the other side.


Pour in the sauce mixture and give it a gentle mix. Cook till all the lotus root pieces have been colored, they'll start to look slightly sticky too. Continue to flip and cook till no more sauce present.


Plate and sprinkle some toasted white sesame seeds.


Sweet and sour lotus root

This dish is supposed to serve as it is, or even served cold. Do not reheat it because there's a slight chance that the corn starch coating and the sauce will fall apart. Still appetizing, just not as appealing to the eye.


Extended reading:


Feb 22, 2022

Caldo de Albóndigas (Mexican Meatball Soup)

When it comes to meatballs, I'm much more familiar with Asian style meatballs. My second best knowledge might be Italian meatballs. So when I first learnt about this Mexican dish caldo de albóndigas, I was intrigued by the ingredients used in making Mexican meatballs specifically for this recipe. My surprise point - rice was involved. To be clear, uncooked rice was used and blended together with ground meat. That's a fairly unfamiliar concept to me with my Asian meatball background.


However, the idea of mixing uncooked rice with ground meat actually sounds like a good approach to me, also a delicious one. The result proved me right. In fact, I couldn't really tell that there were rice in these meatballs if I didn't know ahead of time. The rice provided volume to the meatballs, it's hearty but not to a point too dense and tough at all. The grains actually helped binding the meat, also absorbed the seasonings and provided even more flavors to the meatballs. I absolutely adore it. Such a genius idea. 


Caldo de albóndigas (Mexican meatball soup) -


Caldo de albóndigas


Ingredients?

Meatballs:

  • 0.5 lb ground pork
  • 0.5 lb ground beef
  • 1/3 cup uncooked long grain white rice 
  • 1/4 medium small onion
  • 1 egg
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Stock:
  • 1 jar/500 grams tomato sauce
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken stock

Others:

  • 1 medium small carrot
  • 1 medium potato
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 small bundle cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Some lime or lemon wedges


How?

Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel and finely chop the garlic clove. Finely chop the mint leaves. Finely chop the cilantro, remember to separate the leaves and the stems.


Peel and dice the carrot, potato, and zucchini. Rinse the rice grains a few times then drain well.


To make the meatballs, prepare a big container first. Add in ground pork, ground beef, uncooked rice, chopped onion, chopped garlic, chopped mint leaves, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1//2 teaspoon of black pepper.


Ingredients for caldo de albóndigas

Mix all the ingredients till evenly blended. Form medium to medium small sized meatballs. This recipe makes about 10 to 12 meatballs.


Mexican meatballs

Use a big pot, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and pour in the tomato sauce. Bring to medium small fire and wait till the sauce almost turn bubbling. Transfer the meatballs over one by one. Leave the meatballs undisturbed in the beginning till the shape starts to firm up.


Mexican meatballs in tomato sauce

Turn the meatballs and cook for a little bit more to further firm up the shape, it should take less than one minute. Pour in the chicken stock. Gently mix these ingredients and switch to medium fire, cook for about 5 minutes.


Add in chopped carrot and potato. Give it a gentle stir. Continue to cook for about 30 minutes.


Towards the end, add in chopped zucchini and chopped cilantro stems. Cook for 15 more minutes or till the zucchini reaches desired texture. Taste and adjust accordingly.


Adding zucchini to Mexican meatball soup

Scoop the soup to serving bowls. Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and place one or two lime/lemon wedges on the side.


Caldo de albóndigas

This is such a hearty and comforting soup recipe. I especially love that extra refreshing touch from freshly squeezed lime or lemon wedges. The meatballs were to a point "fluffy." I guess if I have to describe the texture of the meatballs, it's kind of like what Asians do by mixing some tofu with ground meat. Yeah, that's right, both the rice and tofu share similar function of binding and absorbing flavors while providing volume with a softer bite.


Caldo de albóndigas

This Mexican meatball soup totally won me over and for sure I'm going to make it for my family over and over again. They love it too. 


Extended reading:


Feb 17, 2022

Salted Duck Egg and Salmon Fried Rice 鹹鴨蛋鮭魚芥蘭炒飯

You don't really need to cook the salted duck egg, like my earlier recipe for ground chicken and shiitake mushroom congee, you can see that I simply peeled and halved the egg then served as it is. But sometimes people will further steam or quickly stir-fry the egg mixture for other dishes.


That's exactly what we are going to do to the salted duck egg this time. As for this fried rice recipe, the salted duck egg will break into smaller pieces while stir-frying in the wok at the same time. This will enhance the savory aroma, in which the egg will also serve as a different salty source on top of salt and soy sauce.


Salted duck egg and salmon fried rice 鹹鴨蛋鮭魚芥蘭炒飯 - 


Salted duck egg and salmon fried rice


Ingredients (about 5 portions)?

  • 3 rice measuring cups white rice
  • 3 regular measuring cups chopped gai lan
  • 1 1/4 cups salmon cubes
  • 3 salted duck eggs
  • 1/2 onion
  • Some olive oil or other preferred cooking oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice cooking wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Few dashes white pepper powder 


How?

Precook 3 rice measuring cups of white rice with slightly less amount of water than usual. This will result in dryer rice that are suitable for making fried rice. Once ready, fluff the rice and set aside for later use. You can also opt for leftover rice instead.


Slice the salmon fillet into smaller bite size cubes. Marinate the salmon with 1 tablespoon of Chinese rice cooking wine and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce for at least 15 minutes. 


Marinating salmon

Peel and dice the onion. Dice the gai lan. Peel away the egg shell for the salted duck eggs.


Prepare a wok or a big pan, drizzle about 2 tablespoons of oil and turn to medium heat. Wait till the surface gets warm, add in salmon cubes and let it sear first undisturbed. After a moment, flip and sear the other side. Let it set first before stir-frying can help preventing the fish from sticking to the wok/pan.


Continue to stir-fry the salmon gently just to make sure the fish are evenly seared. Once done, scoop out for later use.


Seared salmon cubes

Still using the same wok or pan, drizzle more oil to coat the surface, about 2 tablespoons. Turn to medium low heat this time. Add in peeled salted duck eggs and cut into smaller pieces with a spatula. Continue to break the eggs while stir-frying at the same time. Cook till slightly darkened and aromatic, scoop out for later use.


Cooking salted duck egg

Again, drizzle more oil if needed, just enough to coat the wok/pan again. Back to medium heat. Add in chopped onion along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Cook till slightly golden brown.


Searing chopped onion

Add in chopped gai lan and give it a quick stir-fry. You can up the fire to high heat if preferred, that's actually better but you need to make sure to maneuver fast enough without getting things burnt.


Transfer cooked rice over in two batches. Make sure the grains are evenly coated with the seasonings before adding the second batch. Add in salted duck egg and fluff the entire mixture. Taste and see if need more seasonings. I actually added 2 more tablespoons of soy sauce and few more dashes of white pepper powder here.


Lastly, mix in salmon cubes and cook till evenly blended in. Plate and serve.


Salted duck egg and salmon fried rice

It's important to taste and adjust the flavor "after" the salted duck egg has been added. The salted duck egg can be quite salty, so it's safer to check on the taste afterwards.


Salted duck egg and salmon fried rice

By the way, it doesn't have to be salmon, chicken works too and you don't even need to change a thing to work with it. Still use the same amount of soy sauce and Chinese rice cooking wine to marinate the chicken. If you'd like, you can even add about 1/4 teaspoon of sugar to the marinade. It'll create a nice dark soy sauce color when searing the chicken pieces.   


Other fried rice recipes:


Feb 11, 2022

Three Ingredients Only - Mikan Jam

Have you seen those smaller sized oranges in Japanese market lately? These cute bright color fruit are called mikan, often named as "Japanese mandarin" or "satsuma orange" in American market. 


The texture is more delicate compared to the larger counterparts. That said, mikan's membranes are softer and don't really need to be specifically picked out at all. Taste-wise, it varies slightly among all the mikan varieties, but I often find it on a sweeter side with a wee bit acidity compared to large oranges. 


Enjoying mikan straight up is the best way to savor it. However, sometimes making citrus into jam can lead you to a different realm. Don't believe it? Just wait till you try this mikan jam paired up with scone and clotted cream.


Three ingredients only mikan jam - 


Mikan jam


Ingredients?

  • 5 mikan
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice


How?

The small amount recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, which half the lemon should do.


Mikan and lemon

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil then add in whole mikan. Cook for about one minute.


Cooking mikan in hot water

Remove the mikan and soak them in cold water. Wait till the mikan cools down and able to handle by hand.


Remove mikan from water and pat dry. Peel the mikan first then slice crosswise, pick out the seeds if any, but usually mikan has none or very few seeds. 


Peel and slice mikan

Transfer prepped mikan to a medium-sized pot. Also add sugar and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Turn to medium heat and see if it'll bring to a boil. Otherwise up the heat a little bit more to bring it to a boil.


Cooking down mikan to make jam


Scoop out any foam on top then turn to medium or lower heat again, at least not boiling anymore. Continue to cook for about 20 minutes. Remember to stir the mixture once a while during the process.


Cooking down mikan with sugar and lemon juice

The mixture should start thickening, and will firm up a bit more once stored in the fridge. When it reaches desired consistency, scoop the jam to a container and store in the fridge. 


Three ingredients only mikan jam

The amount of jam here is rather small, since we only used 5 mikan for this recipe. Generally speaking, the jam should be gone fairly soon, so there's no need to worry about sterilizing the jar or do the water bath canning. My sincere advice? Just hurry and grab some scones to eat along with.    


Feb 4, 2022

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - Sopa de Estrellitas

Twinkle twinkle little star, this long forgotten childhood lullaby started to surface as I was prepping for a Mexican soup recipe called sopa de estrellitas. 


Sopa means soup, estrellita means star. Take a guess? The estrellitas part refer to the small star-shaped pasta. With tomato sauce as the main flavoring agent, chicken stock/beef stock/or sometimes water as the base. There are also cubed veggies and cute little stars involved, it's a very comforting yet nutritious recipe that kids would love too.


Sopa de estrellitas -


Sopa de estrellitas


Ingredients (about 8 portions)?

  • 250 grams estrellita/stelline pasta
  • 500 grams tomato sauce
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 2 celery stalk
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1 small bundle cilantro
  • 1/2 medium small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Some salt
  • Some black pepper


How?

Try to find star-shaped pasta, estrellita or stelline, but if you can't see them anywhere, I supposed you can substitute with rice-shaped pasta such as orzo. Just it won't be little stars anymore, and the texture will be slightly different. 


Estrellia stelline pasta

Peel and chop the garlic cloves. Peel and cube the onion. Cube the celery stalks. Chop the tomato. No need to peel the zucchini, just cube it. Chop the cilantro.


Ingredients for sopa de estrellitas

Bring out a big pot, non-stick preferred. Drizzle about 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add in the pasta. Turn to medium or medium low heat. Mix the pasta once a while and cook till slightly browned.


Stir-frying the pasta first

Add in the onion and up the heat a little bit, at least medium to medium high heat. Give it a quick stir-fry. Transfer the garlic and celery over. Again, give it a quick stir-fry. Lastly, add in chopped tomato and mix till blended. Cook for another 30 seconds or so.


Stir-frying ingredients for sopa de estrellitas

Pour in the tomato sauce and stir to mix, let it cook for about 30 seconds to one minute.


Adding tomato sauce for sopa de estrellitas

Pour in chicken stock and turn up the heat. Bring the entire mixture to a boil then lower the heat to keep it at a light bubbling. Continue to cook for 10 minutes.


Using chicken stock for sopa de estrellitas

Add in cubed zucchini and most of the chopped cilantro. Cook for about 2 minutes. Taste and season with some salt and black pepper. I used 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper here.


Adding zucchini and cilantro for sopa de estrellitas

Continue to cook till pasta reaches desired texture, shouldn't take long here. Once ready, scoop to serving bowls and sprinkle some more black pepper over, also garnish with some of the remaining chopped cilantro. 


Sopa de estrellitas

The soup was already sourish from the tomatoes, so there's no need to serve with extra lime wedges on the side. 


Sopa de estrellitas

It's a very hearty recipe and I supposed each Mexican family has their own way to make it. I know some use beef broth instead, but I like the chicken stock, which is flavorful enough and yet not too heavy for the veggies per my taste.


Other soup recipes: