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January 29, 2009

Hot! Hot! Hot!

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Hot Sauce
hot sauce: hot peppers, sweet pepper, vinegar, and salt

It's actually cold cold cold. The 2 inches of snow that fell Monday night and all day Tuesday is gone but thick patches of slippery ice still have to thaw. And there is a 20% chance of more snow showers tomorrow.

During very cold days we turn to Filipino comfort food like siopao and noodle soup. We had 2 pieces of store-bought siopao labeled Pork Asado filling (more like Mystery Meat Plus Loads Of Flour Filler filling). I made siopao but was disappointed with the hot sauces we have in the house. For siopao I prefer Tabasco style made with only three ingredients: hot peppers, vinegar, and salt. In addition to Tabasco we have numerous tiny and large bottles of hot sauce from Thai sriracha to Malaysian Sos Cili to Mexican styles. The Tabasco is just too vinegary for me and the rest too garlicky. I know, I'm very picky. I nearly gagged when I smelled the Mexican Cholula brand because of the added spices, I think one of them is cumin. I love cumin in most cuisines that use it but not in hot sauce to drizzle on my siopao. They just don't go very well together IMHO.

I was not going to drive through the snow to look for a good bottle of hot sauce, I made my own with cayenne peppers, sweet bell pepper, brown coconut vinegar, and salt. Aaah, much better...reminds me of the hot sauce and siopao back in the Philippines. And the sauce is really hot!

Hot Sauce
5 cayenne peppers, more if you prefer it hotter
1 small red bell pepper
¼ cup brown coconut vinegar or cider vinegar + more to taste
1 teaspoon salt
  • Blanch, or sear peppers on stove until skin is charred. With gloved hands, remove skin and seeds from peppers. Put in a blender, add vinegar and puree. Transfer into a stainless steel pan. Add salt and cook on low heat until just heated through, about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust vinegar and salt. Transfer into a sterilized bottle or jar. Let cool before storing in the refrigerator. May be used right away but tastes better after a few days.
Siopao and Hot Sauce
yummy together: bola-bola (seasoned minced pork) siopao and hot sauce

January 27, 2009

Hopia

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Hopia
Hopia
sweet yellow mungbean paste in flaky pastry shell

I mentioned in my Chinese New Year's post the Vietnamese flaky pastry filled with sweet yellow mungbean paste. In the Philippines this small pastry is called hopia. Two recipes for hopia have been bookmarked for over a year already but I never had the energy or motivation to make them. Simply reading the procedure exhausts me and because these snacks are available from the Filipino grocery, I always thought it would be a waste of time to make them. I finally baked some yesterday since I was also baking a loaf of purple yam (ube) bread to save on gas. I am so glad I decided to make them. They came out very flaky and not greasy, the mungbean filling is very smooth [but could have been sweeter]. The hopias are closer in color (whiter) and texture to the Vietnamese hopia than to the Filipino hopia which has a thinner more tender and delicate pastry. I think using a combination of pork lard and solid shortening is the key to the most tender flaky crust but I don't like to use lard except for ensaimada.

The shell is surprisingly very easy to prepare, roll, and shape. The dough has lots of vegetable oil and therefore very pliable and does not stick on the counter or rolling pin. I made really big ones, almost double the size suggested in the recipe, and piled the filling up high because I love sweet mungbeans. It was not a waste of time after all and will make them again perhaps with other flavors like pandan and matcha and other fillings such as sweet azuki beans. Or maybe I'll try making mooncakes if I find the plastic molds/presses with Chinese characters and designs.

Hopia
filling
16 ounces dried peeled split yellow mungbean
water
1½ cups sugar or to taste
½ teaspoon salt

Dough 1
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon grapeseed or extra light olive oil

Dough 2
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon grapeseed or extra light olive oil
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon water

Egg wash
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

  • Prepare the filling: Place mungbeans in a bowl. Rinse with cold water, drain, and transfer into a medium nonstick saucepan. Add enough water to top about 1 inch of the beans, bring to a boil. Skim off top, reduce heat to medium, and continue cooking into a paste, stirring often with a silicone spatula to prevent burning. Use a wooden spoon to mash down the beans in the saucepan. Sprinkle the salt and add 1 cup sugar, adding more to taste. Spread paste into an even layer on a shallow rectangular dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes to dry it out. Set aside to cool. When cooled, form 3 tablespoons into a ball and flatten into 2-inch rounds. While paste is cooling, prepare the doughs.
  • Dough 1: Mix flour and oil with a fork in a small bowl until crumbly. Divide into 4 parts. Set aside.
  • Dough 2: In another bowl, mix flour, oil, and water with a fork. Knead lightly on the counter until it forms into a ball. Divide into 4 equal pieces.
  • Flatten one Dough 2 into a 1/8 inch thin square. Crumble a quarter of Dough 1 all over the flattened Dough 2. Roll as jelly roll, pinch both ends and roll gently back and forth to form into a 1 inch thick log. Set on a small sheet pan lined with paper towel. Repeat with the rest of the doughs. Refrigerate for no more and no less than 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Divide the chilled logs into 5 pieces. Roll out one piece into a 1/16 inch thin square or round. Place a mungbean round on top of dough and bring the edges together. Pinch edges and turn upside down so that the seam is at the bottom. Place on an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Brush tops with egg wash and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
Hopia
for the square shaped ones, I used a scalloped square cookie cutter as mold

January 25, 2009

Lasang Pinoy Sundays: Eye Candy

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Chocolate with Liqueur
Chocolate with Liqueur



Although super tiny at 2 inches and filled with only half a teaspoon of liqueur, a few "bottles" will satisfy your craving for both chocolate and alcohol. My favorites are the Danzka cranberry/raspberry vodka and Galliano. These treats come in a box that looks like an alcohol cabinet with small shelves. Very cute. And yummy.

For more Lasang Pinoy Sundays Eye Candy delights go visit SpiCes or click on the yellow button.

January 21, 2009

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

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photo source here

The year of the Ox in Chinese New Year starts on January 26. Although we don't celebrate this festive Chinese holiday (maybe we should as I have a little Chinese in me, my dad is a quarter Chinese and my mom probably also has some Chinese ancestry), we have become much more aware of it when we lived in Hong Kong. We remember the tiny bonsai kumquat trees bursting with full-size orange fruits and hanging on the tiny trees were small red money envelopes. In the Philippines we associate the Chinese New Year with tikoy. Searching online for articles on tikoy I found this and this video from Penang, Malaysia. The Malaysians call their brown tikoy Tee Kuih, also pronounced tikoy. Many Asians celebrate Chinese New Year incuding the Vietnamese. At the Eden Vietnamese shopping center (featured last night in Anthony Bourdain's show) a lot of shops sell sweets and cakes for Chinese New Year where I bought a container, labeled New Year Candies, of candied winter melons that are exactly the same as our candied kondol which I haven't eaten in over 20 years. The candy is so very good and reminds me of my childhood. I also bought a piece of a very yummy cake stamped with Chinese Happy New Year characters, filled with sweetened yellow mungbean paste flavored with durian, and in the middle is a salted duck egg yolk, sort of a combination of hopia and mooncake. I forgot to take a photo of it...I will try to bake some today and if successful will post the photo and recipe, wish me luck.:D

Chinese New Year Treats
Vietnamese candied winter melon and Filipino pandan tikoy

January 19, 2009

Banh Mi

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Roast Chicken Banh Mi
homemade roast chicken banh mi

I went to the Vietnamese shopping center (a 3o+ minute drive) to look for plastic mooncake mold/press and to eat banh mi. Although there are several superb Vietnamese restaurants in and around my city, incredibly not one of them sells these sandwiches. I did not find the molds I wanted but was able to eat an 8-inch banh mi filled with Vietnamese ham, liver pate, and the usual pickled vegetables and trimmings. The sandwich was so delicious and I love the bread's crackly crisp crust and soft airy crumbs. I ate the whole thing before I realized I didn't take a single photo. I could get addicted to this sandwich that has all the flavors that we as Asians love: salty (fish sauce), sweet, spicy.

Yesterday I baked some Vietnamese style mini baguettes. I followed a recipe I found online. They don't look as pretty and they are not as airy as the restaurant's. I have to change something either with the ingredients or in the procedure. I also have to score the unbaked bread just on the surface and not as deep as in regular French baguette because the breads spread so much. They were very crisp though and the crumb very soft. I could buy the bread from the numerous bakeries at the center but they should be eaten the same day they are baked or the crust would lose its super crispiness which I think is what makes this sandwich so good.

Vietnamese Mini Baguettes

Vietnamese Mini Baguette

1 cup rice flour
1 cup pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups hot water, about 120°F
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1½ teaspoons sugar
1½ teaspoons salt
4 cups all purpose flour

  • Mix the rice flour, pastry flour, instant yeast, and baking powder in a bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment. Add the hot water and stir for 30 seconds. Add sugar and salt and mix for 1 minute. Cover with plastic film and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Remove plastic film and add 2 cups of flour, mix on low for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the flour, half cup at a time and mix on low for 2 minutes. Remove paddle and replace with dough hook. Knead on medium speed for 3 minutes. Cover with plastic and leave to rest for 30 minutes. Knead again for 2 minutes on low speed. Transfer into a bowl, cover with plastic film and let rise for 1 and a half hour, or until double in bulk.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, it will deflate by itself. Cut the dough in half, and then cut each half into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, and flatten a little. Cover the dough balls with plastic film and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • Flatten the balls into a 6 inch oval with the palms of your hands. Deflate any gas bubbles in the dough by pinching them. Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge. Flatten the dough again into an oval with the palms of your hands. Press a trench along the central length of the oval with the side of one hand. Fold in half again lengthwise. This time seal the edges together with the heel of one hand, and roll the dough so the seal is on the bottom. Roll the dough back and forth with the palms of your hands into an 8 inch long roll. Place the rolls, seam side down, 1 ½ inches apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat. Cover with plastic film and let rise for 1 to 2 hours or until double in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 425F. Slash the dough by running a razor blade or a sharp knife along the length of the baguette. Bake the bread for 20 to 25 minutes or until crust is golden in color, rotating the baking sheets after 10 minutes. Cool on a rack before serving. Best eaten the same day it’s baked.
Note: The above is not the recipe I used for the mini baguettes, I made adjustments to the original to adapt to my kitchen temperature and humidity and the type of flour I use.

Next post: Vietnamese roasted or grilled chicken

Vietnamese-style Roasted Chicken
Vietnamese style roast chicken with lemongrass, shallots,
garlic, sugar, soy sauce, and fish sauce



January 13, 2009

Lasang Pinoy, Sundays: Left-over

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leftover shredded chicken adobo sandwich

It's left-over this week at Lasang Pinoy, Sundays hosted by SPICES. There's plenty of tiny containers in my refrigerator to choose from but nothing beats "aged" adobo which tastes better after a few weeks in the refrigerator. I toasted the chicken flakes on a hot skillet until crispy and crusty and layered them with cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, and an egg omelet on dark rye bread. Weird combination, I know, but the sandwich is yummy. I washed it down with iced banaba tea.


just like wine, adobo gets better with age


January 9, 2009

Bangkok Dangerous And Tom Yam Gung

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IMG_0528
tom yam gung

Bangkok Dangerous B




I love watching cheesy Nicholas Cage movies on DVD. In Bangkok Dangerous Nicholas has a really weird dyed black hair that looks greasy and stringy (almost mangy), and at the beginning of the movie I thought his receding hairline has been painted on with black make-up or tar which makes the movie all the more cheesy. He plays an assassin named Joe who, in his supposed to be last assignment before retiring, grows a heart when he falls for a pretty deaf-mute Thai girl. He does not want to finish the fourth assassination job which results in an all out war with his employer. I know, lame premise but whatever...the movie is entertaining. It has enough action and a little gore (such as a severed arm) although pretty tame IMO. The directors, the Pang brothers, contrived to show what every tourist (including myself) must experience when in Bangkok: heavy traffic, floating market, giant golden Buddha, tuk-tuk, jewelry shops, and most importantly, spicy food. When Joe went on a date with the deaf-mute girl he starts sweating profusely while eating spicy Thai food, and was encouraged by the girl to take some Tom Yam Gung which is extremely spicy. She offered some basil or mint leaves to cool him off but then she kept giggling (silently) at his expense. The movie is full of cliches and unnecessary subplots but I really enjoyed it. Highly Recommended (to those who have low expectations and just want to be entertained).

After watching the movie I got hungry for Thai food. Tom Yam Gung is one of the easiest dishes to make and since I had the ingredients except for straw mushrooms which I substituted with fresh oyster mushrooms, I prepared it and in less than 20 minutes I was slurping spicy and sour prawn soup.

Tom Yam Gung
a little more than ½ pound medium prawns, shelled with tails on
2 stalks lemon grass, cut into 2 inch pieces and bruised
3 birds eye chili, sliced
6 cups water
1 small piece fresh galangal, sliced
2 tablespoons fish extract
½ cup lemon juice
1 cup straw mushrooms
coriander leaves, for garnish
  • Boil the water in a saucepan, add lemongrass and galangal, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the prawns, chili, mushrooms, and the fish extract and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice, taste, and add more fish sauce if needed. Transfer into a serving bowl and garnish with coriander. Note: the lemongrass and galangal are not meant to be eaten but to flavor the soup.
This simple sweetish spicy savory Thai chicken dish is one of our favorites, we never get tired of it. It is strange that we have never seen this dish in any Thai restaurants in my area or maybe I don't now its name in Thai.

Minced Chicken With Basil

Thai Minced Chicken With Basil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pound minced chicken
1½ tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 tablespoons fish extract
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
80 Thai basil leaves
6 birds eye chili, sliced
  • Heat the oil in a wok or saucepan and fry the garlic for 1 minute. Add the chicken and stir fry for 4 minutes. Add the soy sauce, fish extract, and sugar and mix thoroughly. Add the basil leaves and the chili. Stir fry for 5 minutes. Transfer into a serving dish.

January 7, 2009

Sisig

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Bangus Sisig
sour and spicy fish sisig, specially good with an ice cold bottle of beer

Sisig, a spicy and sour appetizer made with parts of or a whole pig's head, also made with a variety of meats, fish, and even tofu, is one Filipino dish I have never heard of nor eaten before reading so much about it in several Filipino food blogs. A friend from Los Angeles and I were chatting on the phone yesterday making plans to meet up in the Philippines in the next few months (I haven't decided yet if I'm going). She is a part-time caterer and she mentioned that she cooked for a party of 45 last Christmas and one of the dishes she made was bangus (milkfish) sisig. She gave me a very simple recipe which she says is a bit different from the ones served in Manila restaurants. Her bangus sisig is not crispy because she poaches the fish before mixing with the seasonings. Another friend told me today that her sister who owns a restaurant in Quezon City that serves bangus sisig deep fries the fish before chopping to have a crispy texture. They had me itching to taste this dish and today I made not just the fish sisig but also pork belly sisig. Both are really tasty and I can now understand the popularity of sisig.

The following recipe for the fish sisig is just a guide. You can add more or less soy sauce, calamansi juice, and hot chili peppers to suit your taste. I like mine really spicy and sour.

Milkfish Sisig
2 pounds whole milkfish (or tilapia)
1 T vegetable oil
2 C sweet onions, chopped
birds eye chili peppers, chopped, to taste
2 T soy sauce
¼ C calamansi juice
1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • Poach or deep fry fish. Debone and flake, or chop if deep fried. Set aside.
  • In a skillet, heat the oil and saute onions until very soft and light brown. Add chopped hot chili peppers and saute for a minute.
  • Transfer into a medium bowl. Add soy sauce, calamansi juice, and chopped red onions. Gently mix in the fish. Taste and adjust seasonings.
  • Transfer into a serving dish with chopped hot peppers, soy sauce, and calamansi on the side.
The recipe for pork belly sisig is here.

January 6, 2009

Green Eggs

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Green-shelled Eggs

One of the vendors at the farmer's market sells different colored egg. The shells have shades of green from deep, light, and olive, some are pink-ish, light peach, mottled brown, and of course brown. These eggs have smaller whites than regular eggs and therefore have less protein and their yolks are dark yellow to almost orange. I was told that these eggs are from Ameraucana chickens.

Last week I boiled a few and forgot to time them. I usually cook eggs by letting the water come to a boil, turn the heat off, cover the pan, and leave the eggs for 10 minutes, then I rinse them immediately in very cold water. One of the things I can't stand is boiled eggs with green rings around the yolks. There is no difference in taste but it just looks unappetizing. When I removed the shells I could see the green through the whites. I noticed that the green ring is thicker than normal and I was not repulsed by it because it looks interesting with the contrast of colors, green against yellow and almost orange in the middle making the sliced eggs look like kabocha squash. After a day in the refrigerator the thick green rings disappeared on the remaining few slices of eggs. I wonder if this is true for all eggs, that is, the green ring disappearing after a few days, hmm.

Overcooked Eggs
they look like kabocha squash

Kabocha
kabocha squash

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