scallion pancake

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This is the savory pancake that is served in Chinese restaurants. It is so simple to make! The ingredients are flour, salt, hot water, oil, and scallions (green onions). The dough is filled with scallions, rolled out, and fried until crisp. It is sliced into wedges and served with a vinegar-soy dipping sauce. Delicious.

Scallion Pancakes (adapted from Food 52 and Allrecipes)
(Makes 2 pancakes)

Active time: about 40 minutes
Resting time: 2 hours

For the Dough:

2 cups (240 g) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt (1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt)
3/4 cup hot water (150˚F)

For the Oil Mixture
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

For the Pancakes
1 cup scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced (save 1-2 tablespoons for dipping sauce)
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or as needed.

Combine bread flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the hot water. Mix together with a wooden spoon to form a shaggy dough.

Transfer dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead dough until sticky but relatively smooth and elastic, dusting with a minimal amount of flour, if needed. Shape into a ball and wrap in plastic on the work surface. Let dough rest for 2 hours.

Mix vegetable oil, sesame oil, and flour together in a skillet over medium heat until starting to bubble, about 3 minutes. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Unwrap dough and cut in half with a dough scraper. Cover the second half with plastic for later. Roll out half into a cylinder and flatten with your fingers. Use a rolling pin to roll out dough into a rectangular shape about 1/8 inch thick, 12-15 inches long, and 4 inches wide. The secret is to roll it as thin as possible. Flip dough over and dust lightly with flour halfway through. If the dough springs back, cover it with plastic or a clean kitchen towel and let it rest a few minutes.

Paint the surface of the dough with the oil mixture until just covered, leaving 1/4 inch of space around the edges. Sprinkle evenly about 2-3 tablespoons scallion on top. Roll up dough tightly to seal in the scallions, starting with the long side nearest you. Pull the opposite edge over the top once you have reached it.

Start coiling one end of the dough inward toward the middle; wrap the opposite end around the coil to finish, tucking the tip under the bottom. Dust the coil lightly with flour and roll dough out into a pancake about 1/4 inch thick, rolling from the center outward. Turn the pancake one quarter turn and repeat. Flip pancake over, lightly flouring the surface, and roll and repeat. You should get a pancake that’s about 9” in diameter. Repeat process with remaining dough, oil, and green onions to make the second pancake. Stack with wax paper between the pancakes until ready to fry.

Heat vegetable oil in a 10 inch heavy bottomed skillet over high heat. Add 1 pancake; lower heat to medium. Cook until crispy and browned, about 4 minutes per side. You don’t want it to brown too fast or the inside will not cook. The outside will be crisp and brown. When both sides are browned, slice the pancake into wedges. When cooked, the inside will separate into honeycomb-like layers. Repeat with the second pancake. Cut into wedges. Serve hot with dipping sauce (recipe follows).

Dipping Sauce for Scallion Pancakes

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
Hot sauce to taste
Ginger, grated, to taste
1-2 tablespoons scallions, thinly sliced

Mix vinegar and soy sauce in a small bowl. Add hot sauce to taste. Grate some ginger to taste. Combine with about 1-2 tablespoons scallions.

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spare ribs in black bean-garlic sauce

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Spare Ribs in Black Bean-Garlic Sauce
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

2 pounds spare ribs, chopped into 2 inch lengths
1/3 cup salted black beans
8 large cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon vegetable cooking oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons black soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
salt and pepper

Put the black beans in a small bowl and cover with water. Let it sit five to ten minutes until softened, then drain water. Mash the softened black beans to a paste. Set aside.

Add the garlic and mix well. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the black bean-garlic paste and fry until fragrant. Add the spare ribs, turning to coat thoroughly. Season with soy sauce and black soy sauce. Add 3/4 cup water and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 45 minutes. Stir ribs occasionally.

Remove the cover and let the ribs cook on medium high heat until the sauce is reduced and thickened. Taste. If it’s bitter, add sugar. Taste again, then season with salt and pepper.

soy-glazed chicken

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This recipe is a family favorite. I found it in a cookbook whose title I forgot and over the years I’ve perfected it. This recipe never fails to disappoint for the juiciness and flavor of the chicken. Five Spice Powder is available from Asian supermarkets; it has a wonderful anise scent without being overpowering. It adds just the right amount of flavor to the chicken.

Soy-Glazed Chicken
Marinating time: 8-12 hours
Roasting time: 35-45 minutes

1 x 3 pound whole roasting chicken
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon black pepper, coarse ground
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoons Five Spice Powder

In a small bowl, blend the soy sauces, garlic and onion powders, black pepper, oil, and Five Spice Powder. Put the chicken in a large zipper lock bag and pour the soy sauce mixture over the chicken. Close the bag and turn the chicken so that the marinade gets evenly distributed. Refrigerate for 8-12 hours, turning once half way through.

Preheat the oven to 450˚F/230˚C. Prepare a roasting pan with rack. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place it on the rack, tucking the wings back. Discard the marinade.

Roast 10 to 15 minutes at 450˚F/230˚C then reduce the heat to 350˚F/175˚C. This crisps the skin and the soy sauces caramelize it. Continue roasting for 25 to 30 minutes. At 25 minutes, test the thigh and breast with an instant read thermometer. The internal temperature of the chicken should be 165˚F. Be careful not to over cook the chicken or the breast will dry out.

Carve the chicken and serve it with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce for chicken (Also available at Asian supermarkets), and a spicy chili dipping sauce (recipe to follow).

Spicy Chili Dipping Sauce

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes
2 large cloves garlic
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons water

Put all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

singapore jerky fried rice

DSC04256Cousins from Singapore came up for the wedding and brought us a favorite treat: roast pork jerky called bakkwa by Bee Cheng Hiang. I decided to top this vegetarian fried rice with some strips of the meat. It’s chewy and salty and sweet by itself and makes a great snack.
Singapore Jerky Fried Rice
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

4 cups cooked red-and-brown rice, room temperature (can use brown rice or white rice)
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup scallion, bias cut
1/2 cup corn niblets
Coconut oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 squares Bee Cheng Hiang roasted pork jerky cut into slivers

Heat two teaspoons oil in a 10 inch skillet. Pour in the beaten egg and scramble it. Remove from the pan. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. When it shimmers, add the rice, scallion, and corn. Cook until heated through, stirring to mix well. Return the egg to the pot and combine with rice mixture. Salt and pepper to taste. Spoon into bowls and top with a few slivers of the jerky. It’s salty and sweet and savory. Enjoy!

ground pork lettuce sandwiches–no recipe needed!

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I bought an induction cooker for Baht 1500 (about US$46.00). It came with a skillet and a spatula, seven settings, and instruction books in Thai and in English. I’ve only used the fry setting to make my mother-in-law’s favorite week-night Chinese meal, a deliciously light dish I call “lettuce sandwiches.” It’s made with ground meat and served on a leaf of organic cos or romaine lettuce. On the meat I drizzled some wasabi-soy-garlic sauce and sprinkled on top a few cilantro leaves and chopped scallions. It’s heady stuff that not only clears the sinuses it also adds a salty tanginess that’s very satisfying in a crunchy sort of way! To make this all you need is a pound (500g) of ground meat (beef, chicken, or pork will do) browned in a little oil, salt and pepper. Eat. So simple to make!

from my kitchen window

Typhoon Haiyan missed us. It’s been sunny and HOT here. Of course, as soon as the kitchen light snapped on this evening, Roti, the backdoor neighbors’ little white dog barked for his treat. He’s the cutest little beggar, so after his little performance I obliged him with a dog cookie. Khun Yupha who goes walking after dinner with her sister, saw a huge python just lying across their path in the soi.  She immediately scooped up Roti. She thinks it got her other dog last summer. It’s hard to imagine that even in the city of Bangkok, we have all manner of reptiles: pythons, cobras, and water monitor lizards. It’s still a jungle out there. It’s still eat or be eaten. And that reminds me that the true force of nature is lurking in the quiet sois and waterways deep inside the city.

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I’m glad Gigi the Mutt is safe inside our yard. She did so enjoy crunching these bones up afterwards! Andy  had requested Chinese barbecued spare ribs with sesame noodles this evening,  so to cut the heat in the kitchen, I made the ribs in the Sharp Healslo convection oven. It doesn’t generate as much heat as the range oven. I like these sesame noodles, especially when I can add my favorite veggies. This time, I used baby mustard greens and winter melon. I also recommend asparagus, sugar snap peas, and snow pea pods.

home made poh pia

Poh Pia is sometimes called the Chinese tortilla. It is a thin wheat pancake made of just flour and water,  that is filled with meat, vegetables, and sauce. The fillings make the poh pia outstanding; the pancake is merely the holder. These fillings vary regionally as well as from family to family. Usually, we buy the pancakes, because it’s easier than making them. But I was wrong. Making them from scratch is not only delicious, it’s fun to play with your food! Our friend Arun and his wife Ann invited us to share their family meal and taught me how to make these delicious unassuming pancakes. Two of them are rolled out together with a little oil in between to make a double pancake. After you fry up a double pancake, you peel them apart and you have two pancakes again!

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recipe redux: chinese barbecued spareribs and sesame noodles

Chinese barbecued spare ribs with string beans in ginger and garlic on a bed of sesame noodles

My sister-in-law requested this recipe for Patricia Yeo’s Sesame Noodles (from Food 52). We had it for dinner made with a home-made sesame dressing rather than with tahini sauce, and the taste was superior. For the Chinese barbecued spare rib recipe follow this link. So, Mimi, bon appétit.

Sesame Noodles (adapted from Patricia Yeo’s Sesame Noodles)

Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 1-10 minutes depending on whether you are using fresh or dried noodles
Servings: 6 as a main dish, 8 to 10 as a side dish

For the sesame dressing:
3/4 cup white sesame seeds plus 1 tablespoon
7 tablespoons peanut oil (I used rice bran oil)
3 medium or 2 large shallots (I used one large onion)
1 large clove garlic, minced (I used 2 garlic cloves)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon hot chile paste
3/4 to 1 cup water (or less)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

For the noodles:
12 ounces dry spaghetti pasta (or fresh Chinese egg noodles, if available)
3 tablespoons peanut oil (I used rice bran oil)
1 cup blanched snow peas (I used asparagus in the photo. Green beans will do too)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced, optional
1 cup daikon radish, thinly sliced, optional
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup chopped peanuts (I used whole peanuts)
1 cup scallions, thinly sliced on the bias

Preparation

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the sesame seeds and toast, stirring,  until golden brown and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. Be careful not to burn them. Put the toasted seeds in a blender. Save the skillet for the next step.

Cook’s Note: The original recipe says to toast the sesame seeds in a 350˚F oven for 10-15 minutes. I find the toasting them on the stove top is faster.

In the empty skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat. Sauté the shallots or onion and garlic until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Add the shallots or onion, garlic, remaining 6 tablespoons peanut oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and chile paste to the sesame seeds in the blender. Blend on high speed just until a thick, rough paste forms, 2 to 3 minutes. Stop blending when most of the seeds have broken up and been puréed. After the paste forms, it will begin to get oily if you continue to purée it, as the seeds begin to give off their oil. Taste and adjust seasonings by adding more sugar, chile paste, and/or soy sauce.

Cook’s Note: The original recipe recommends putting up the puree in the refrigerator for a day, to give the flavors time to develop.  This is not necessary, however.

Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a rolling boil. Cook the noodles according to package directions. If using fresh Chinese egg noodles, gently fluff the noodles and add them to the water, stirring. Return the water to a boil and cook the noodles for just 10 to 30 seconds. Drain the noodles immediately and cool them under cold running water. Drain well. Put the cold noodles in a bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons oil.

To dress the drained cooled noodles, drain off any oil that has gathered on the top of the purée. Whisk about 3/4 cup water into the purée to thin it and to reach a creamy consistency; the sauce will lighten in color and emulsify. Add more water as needed. Add the chopped cilantro to the dressing.

Cook’s Note: Adding the chopped cilantro is optional at this point because it will be added as a garnish on top of the noodles at the end.

In a large bowl, toss the noodles with about half the dressing. Add the snow peas or asparagus, red pepper, and daikon, if using, and gently toss to combine (using a pair of silicone tipped tongs is recommended). Taste and add more dressing if desired. Put the noodles in a large serving bowl or on individual plates. Garnish with the cilantro leaves, chopped peanuts, and sliced scallions, or pass little bowls of the garnishes at the table.

sesame noodles, take-out style

Chinese barbecued spare ribs with string beans in ginger and garlic on a bed of sesame noodles

I borrowed The Essential New York Times Cook Book (2010) from the NYPL. While it doesn’t claim to be the bible of cook books, it is comprehensive and has lots of interesting recipes, like this one. I like it because Amanda Hesser, who compiled this collection, also includes serving suggestions. Since the guys wanted a carb blowout for dinner, that is, Chinese barbecued spare ribs, I decided to try Hesser’s suggestion and serve them with sesame noodles. This is an interesting noodle dish, similar to Japanese somen because it’s served cold.  It’s been hours since dinner and the apartment is still redolent of hoisin sauce and sesame oil!

Takeout-Style Sesame Noodles (The Essential NYTimes Cookbook)
I could not find lo mein noodles uptown so I made do with linguine. I will try spaghettini next time. Linguine were too starchy and tended to be gummy when cold. I cooked them for six minutes, one minute over the recommended time. I needed to cook them less, then chill them right away in ice water to stop the cooking. I ran the coldest water from the tap over them. Another thing, if you don’t have rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar will do. And I made the cucumber and peanuts optional. Read my serving suggestion below.

1 pound lo mein egg noodles (1/8 inch thick) frozen or fresh (can substitute linguine but try spaghettini)
2 tablespoons Asian sesame oil, plus more for a splash
3 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar (can use balsamic vinegar)
2 tablespoons sesame paste or tahini
1 tablespoon smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 teaspoons chile-garlic paste or to taste (available in the supermarket Asian section)
1/2 cucumber peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut into 2 inch long sticks, optional
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts, optional

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes. They should be al dente. Drain, rinse with cold water, drain again, and toss with a “splash of sesame oil.”

Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame paste, peanut butter, sugar, ginger, garlic, and chile-garlic paste in a medium bowl.

Pour half the sauce over the noodles and toss. Add more sauce as desired. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the cucumber and peanuts. I recommend serving it with chopped scallion, cilantro, and the skinniest slivers of ginger–the trinity of Chinese cooking. Like revenge, this is a dish best eaten cold.

Cook’s Note: Don’t be shy! Use all the sauce. Believe me, it’s worth it.