Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dim Sum

Dim Sum, also referred to as Yum Cha, may just about be one of th best things in the world.

This is a meal I shared with my family the last time we visited them in California.

What is it, you ask? It a Cantonese style meal comprised of small dishes that you can get right off the cart, or in some places, order it off the menue. I like the carts better. Imagine being in a big restaurant filled with sounds of people and plates. The large, round tables each have a lazy susan on them where the steamer-baskets and small plates are placed so they an be easily shared. People pushing carts filled with all sorts of goodies manuver their way through the crowded tables, calling out what kind of foods their rolling meal carries are tacked high with.

That is essentially Dim Sum. I remeber it fondly growing up, and love it today. The sounds and smells of a good Dim Sum is one of the favorite things in life.

 Looks amazing, am I right?

Dim Sum is usually comprised of buns, dumpling, rice noodle rolls which have all sorts of meats in them. Chicken, pork beef and shrimp are usual fair. Roasted meats, steamed veggies and desserts can also be found.

Fresh egg custards are divine and my all-time favorite dish is Ha Gao, a shrimp dumpling in a thin, tranparent skin made of glutous rice flour. I tried to make these babies from scratch once, and the skins are haaaard o pin down just right. So extra kudos to the ones who make them well.

An irreplaceable element of Dim Sum is, of course, the tea. If you want to eat a Dim Sum meal properly, tea is a must. Typically, tea is chrystanthemum (which is also wonderful for the complexion), oolong or puer.

Beijing Winter of 2008

2008 I went to Beijing and Hong Kong with my Dad to visit relatives and also to see the sights. I also saw food:

On the streets there were tons of yummy treats, Dad and I indulged a little :)

Dad got chicken and I got squid.. both on a stick! There were all sorts of stalls and stuff selling everything from scorpions, starfish and other goodies.

On this one strip, all those lanters hanging in a row are food stalls!

The next day I got one of the sweet things from a stall. It was hawthorn berries with walnuts all encased in sugar. It was wrapped in edible rice paper to keep from sticking to me. 

After going around for a while, Dad and I had hot pot for dinner.

We also got taken to this theme restaurant the next day by some of Dad's students. It was a very interesting experience.

And we even had entertainment!

Dad also took me to the faculty restaurant place at the University there. I had soup with a seahorse and other interesting a tasty items.

 I believe this was a type of soup dumpling

 Sea urchin!
 Dad ordered something sweet for me. I do like pastries...
Aaaaannnd..... I forgot what this was, but it looks good nonetheless.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Caramel Apple Pie

What goes together better than a tart apple with sweet, creamy caramel? Well, a slice of cheddar.... or peanut butter... but anyway, the point is: I made pie. I did this at.... 2 in the morning after not being able to sleep.

First off, pies need the right kind of apple. Usually, for apple pies, I like to use pink lady apples which are great. They have the right mix of tart and sweet and have a nice, crisp bite.

However, for caramel apples, Granny Smith are the way to go. I honestly can't remember the last time i bought Granny Smith apples. They are so very tart. But since the caramel will have a lot of sugar and cream it'll offset the sourness.

 I usually never use measuring tools in the kitchen because it doesnt have to be precise, but for the sake of posting a recipe, I'm guesstemating... I also cheated a tad bit and used pre-made Werther's Caramels and also pre-made pie crusts you can get in the frozen section. Usually, I really do like making things from scratch... yet pie crusts have always seemed tedious to me. As for the caramels, I can snack on the candies I don't use :)

Caramel Apple Pie

Apple part:
12 Granny Smith Apples (the smaller type ones you can buy in bulk. This may seem like a lot, but it yeilds a nice domed pie) peeled, cored and sliced thin
1/2 tsp cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves and salt
2 tbsp flour (in my case I only had glutinous rice flour on hand. I've been using that in place as a thickener for a while. It cooks up a lit smoother and doesnt have a taste of its own, like what flour does)

Caramel Part:
About 24 Werthers Chewy Caramels chopped up into 2 or 3 pieces each for faster melting time
1/4 cup cream or milk (I had milk on hand, so I used that, but cream or half and half would make it more rich)
2 or 3 pinches of salt
2 tbsp butter ( I used ghee, which has that wonderful butter aroma and taste without as much fat)
Chopped peanuts or almonds optional

Preheat the oven to 350 and also take out the pie shells and let them thaw about halfway through the pie-making. I use two pie shells, one for the top, the other for the bottom.

1. Wash, peel, core and cut the apples into thin slices.

2. Put them in a pot and add the spices and flour until all the pieces are thinly coated.
3. Turn stove on to medium and cook apples until about 1/3 of the way done. Let cool for about 20 mins.
4. Combine milk, caramels and salt in a saucepan and set on medium heat. Stir it so the caramels dont stick to the bottom and burn.

5. Once the caramels have melted, continue to cook the mixture on medium or medium low. Allow for it to cook down to about 2/3 the orginal volume.
6. Once it's cooked down, add the butter and nuts, if you have them.

6. Set aside and let cool till it's a soft spreadable consistancy.... kind of like toothpaste? No... bad analogy, more like runny peanut butter...? I'm going to stop... neither of those things sound appealing...
7. When both items are relatively cool, combine them in the apple pot, but use only half the caramel mixture. Make sure all the apples get a bit of a coating from the caramel goodness.

8. Pour filling into shell carefully. There will be a lot of apples, so encourage them into a nice heaping pile. Pour the rest of the caramel on top.

9. Place other pie shell on top. You may want to take it out and roll over it with a rolling pin, so it's easier to drape over...of you can be lazy like me and not... make sure to wipe the edges with water to help seal the edges. Crimp edges with a fork to ensure sealed-ness.

10. Cut slits in the top and brush with egg whites to give it that Betty Crocker look. I did not have egg whites today, but trust me, it looks awful spiffy.

11. Place on baking sheet, just in case there is drippage from the caramel, and pop into the oven for... a while? I go by smell, if it is wafting all through the house/apartment and is nicely browned on the top then I say it's done. Let's pretend that's about 30-40 mins.
12. When it's done, let it cool for forty-five mins to an hour-ish so you do not burn your mouth on the really hot caramel.

Okaaaaay...... so, to be honest, I'm forgetful. The moral of this story, do not be forgetful. Yes, it got burned, but have no fear, it's only a little extra toasty!

Now eat it! :D

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hong Kong Goodness Cont'd

I had to continue on in this post because I guess the other one got too long...

Fish and seafoods are also a feature on Hong Kong's menue. Since it is a port city water creatures are served in many delicious ways.... mmmmm.....

The great thing about buying fish here is that is is FRESH. Like live-two-seconds-before-they-hand-it-to-you fresh.

The best seafood is live, right before you eat it :)

Sooooooo good :3

One of the best things about my last visit to HK was the hotel we stayed at, the Shangri-La. It was incredible! One of the best things about the the Shangri-La? Tea time and the pastry shop... oh yeah!

To the left is on of the largest silk paintings in the world. It goes up about.... 20 stories? something ridiculous like that....

During tea time there was a quartet playing. It was extremely lovely music and my father clapped very enthusiastically for them everytime they finished a song. Later on that day when they saw us, they waved. It was sweet.

To the left is my family who came for tea <3

To the right is a tower of deliciousness.

The top and middle plate are various pastries, the bottom is tiny sandwhiches and more savory-type items.

These are some tiny cakes is picked up from the bakery at the Shangri-La later on that week. One my dad, mom sister and me. They were expertly made. Delicate, sweet enough but not overly so with the right balance of flavors.

The yellow one is a mango was mango custard, the white one was a creamy white mousse. The one with the berries was a simple sponge-like cake and the chocolate covered one was the Shangri-La specialty.