Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ja-Jang Dukk-Bokki (Korean Rice Cakes in Black Bean Sauce)

I love Korean rice cakes, lovely chewy little cylinders of ricey goodness. Pair that with a sweet/savory black bean sauce, and you've got a winning combination.

 Ja-Jang Myeon is a popular food among Koreans, but is Chinese in origin. It consists of a thick black bean sauce which is fried along with other ingredients, like onions, veggies, meats or seafoods. Ther noodles served with it are thick white noodles made from wheat flour.

Last time I was in Hong Kong, Shanghai cuisine was rather popular. My uncles and aunts took us to a few places that served it, and at one we has thin sliced rice cakes with a thick black bean sauce. I was inspired to try a dish like it when I got home, and substitute the noodles with rice cakes instead.

Ingredients are as follows:

2 large onions, sliced or diced, however you prefer (I diced them, then wished I had sliced them into slivers instead. A lot easier for picking up with chopsticks)
1/2 a pack of Korean rice cakes
1/2 cup water, just in case you need it
1 large heaping spoonful of Korean black bean sauce
1 spoonful of Chinese oyster sauce
1 spoonful of sugar
3-4 spoonfuls of soy sauce
2 spoonfuls of vinegar
1 box of firm tofu (optional)
2 long stalks of green onions, diced up finely.

1. Sautee the onions in a large skillet with a little oil. Add rice cakes when onions are a third done. Cover until rice cakes are soft. Add a little water to keep the rice cakes from burning.

2. When rice cakes are soft, add the black bean sauce and oyster sauce to it, stirring to make sure every thing is coated evenly. Add a little water in case it's too dry.

3. Add the rest of the ingredients, adjusting to taste. Personally, I like mine a little more sweet, so I add a tad bit more sugar. If you like yours a little less sweet, add 1 spoonful instead and maybe a little more soysauce.

4. Lastly, add in the tofu and cover the skillet until the tofu is heated up.

5. Plate and garnish with green onions.

Enjoy and share with friends! :D

Monday, June 21, 2010

Coconut Custard with Raspberries and Chocolate Rum Sauce

Today was a day for custard.

Earlier I went to dim sum with my family. I was really looking forward to the little egg custards which are standard fare for dim sum. These little flaky pastries have a smooth yellow custard that is gentle in flavor.

Today, they were okay... I was very 'meh' about them.

So I decided to make my own.

I've never made custard before, but different flavors and ingredients began swirling around in my head once I decided to try my hand at these little treats.

First off, I made the crusts. I don't really like making pastry crusts... the ratio of ingredients, the temperature and the right amount of mixing it.... it seems tedious...

I used to make a lot of pies in high school, so i  had some basic crust skills from then.

Ice water
A cold bowl to mix it in. Stick it in the freezer first.

I'm awful at giving measurements, and this time I eyeballed everything. Next time I make this I'll get better ideas of measurements, but this time was just experimental.

Cut the butter into small cubes, the colder the butter the better, so they dont melt too much while mixing the dough. Mix em around with the flour and salt until crumbly, chunks of butter are good for a flakey crust. Add ice water as needed. Make sure it's moist, but not wet. Should be crumbly little pieces before you pack it all together, wrap it in plastic and stick it in the fridge for at least an hour or so.

Now for the fun part!

I decided not to make a straight up egg tart. Instead, I used coconut milk in place of cows milk, both for richness and taste. I think the teeny bit of nuttiness deepens the creamy nature of this custard.

Custard was:
Coconut milk
4 eggs, separated; whites beaten to meringue
Dash of salt
Spoonful of flour
Dash of vanilla

Little custards right out of the pan, before decorating and chocolate.

I mixed everything together with an electric mixer, without the whites. It came out pretty thick and tasty, but I wanted a rich in flavor, light in texture dessert. So I folded in the whipped whites. It made the surface a bit bubbly when baking, but texture-wise was still smooth inside. I think next time I may just use the yolks for a nice smooth surface.

The chocolate sauce was:
Semi sweet chocolate chips

Melt the chips then add the rum till they get to a nice pouring consistency. I like this combo because it's simple and the rum gives the chocolate a tiny extra bit of bitterness. It's not overwhelmingly alcoholly either.

Raspberries made a great topping, though most any fruit will do. Drizzle on the chocolate sauce and you're good to go!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Jellies!

After yesterdays adventures with agar agar, I had to make more... I was thinking of more flavor combinations.

These jellies are little, so I wanted them to have bolder, more intense flavors. I cut down on the sugar because I wanted it to be more about the fruits and spices than just tasting like candy.

The first idea I had was Lime-Coconut with Pinapple. We had some frozen pinapples so I pureed some, added water, agar agar and a little sugar. I also made some agar agar with coconut milk and lime juice. These two are combined to make a great tasting little treat. The lime and pinapple hits you first with the tartness and there's a smooth creamy finish from the coconut milk.

Peach-Rambutan. Rambutans are like lychee, but with a milder flavor. Canned ones are great for these jellies because they have a consistent texture. Canned lychees have tougher bits nearer to where the pits were taken out. I peeled the peach and pureed it, added water and boiled it. As it boiled I skimmed off the bubbles to create a clearer juice. I also added a teeny bit of sugar then the agar agar. This one is very much like what you can get commercially. Peach flavored lychee jellies are very popular, though my version is a little more gentle and less sweet.

Next was something a little more mellow, Chai Tea with Ginger and Pear. For this, I boiled some ginger slices in Chai I brewed earlier. I also added some brown sugar for a deeper sweetness. I originally wanted to add honey, but we were out. I sliced some pears and layered them. After it had cooled and firmed up, I flipped it out of the mold and cut them into squares. The Chai and ginger leave a bit of a spicy feeling on the tongue and the pear gives nice texture and sweetness to this one.

Lastly, I made Strawberry-Kiwi Jellies. I made three seperate parts, one with pureed strawberries, one with pureed kiwis and one with coconut milk. I like these ones best, mostly because they remind me of watermelon with the color. The coconut milk adds a nice creamyness to this otherwise tart dessert. The little crunchy seeds of the kiwi are great for texture.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Lychee and Kiwi Jellies

If anyone has ever been to a Chinese market, they have probably seen bucket-like jars filled with jelly candies, usually containing lychee. These are very popular snacks and are made with agar agar, a extract from certain types of seaweed. The jelly made from this is not like Jello, it's still jelly like, but doesnt melt when it gets hot. It can be made into a lot of flavors and cream, milk or coconut milk can be added to create a creamy taste. Popular kinds of recipes are mago puddings and almond flavored jelly served with fruit.

Here, I have some powdered agar agar. It's sold in powdered and strand form; both need to be dissolved completely. Boil some water; I also opened a can of lychees and added the syrup to the boiling water. My final product came out a little too sweet because I forgot that the powdered agar agar had sugar added into it. Some do, some don't. Make sure you check.

Being Asian, we have a ton of little cups that make perfect molds and containers. I pulled out some and got some larger cups for the different colors and flavors.

I had red, green and blue dyes so i added little amounts of those to the agar agar mixes. Some food color containers have a little top that can dispense one drop at a time, but there are also ones that just have a screw-off top. These can be tricky to pour, so just dip the end of a chopstick or toothpick in and mix it into the agar agar.

I also added a little coconut milk to one of the cups so the the jelly could be a little creamy.

Work fast when working with containters this small. Pour them before the jelly sets. It helps a lot to plan before you color and pour everything. I decided that next time I will probably not use blue... it just does not look as appealing as green or red.

I also cut up some kiwi and stacked them in the flute cups. I also added lychee pieces to some of the other jellies.

Ta-Da! Try it at home, it's fun! I made all these kinda tiny, perfect to a little treat when you want something sweet.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Immitation Chipotle Rice and Corn Salsa

Chipotle is very popular because it's so simple and very satisfying. I was thinking about it, and decided to try to recreate some of the stuff they make right in my own home. I decided on imitating the rice and the corn salsa because they are both very tasty and also quite simple.

It turned out like this:

Rice, Chipotle style:

2 cups long grain rice (I used jasmine rice, I really like the fragrance and taste of it, but anything is fine. It was what was available at home.)
1 handful cilantro
1 lime
3 pinches of salt
1 spoonful of oil
All these ingredient portions can be altered. Less lime f you like it less sour, less cilantro if you like it less cilantro-ey.... etc

1. Cook the rice and let it cool a bit.
2. Mince the cilantro and add to rice.

3. Juice the lime and add it to the rice. Add salt and oil and mix everything together.
T'is done.

Corn Salsa

1 pack of frozen corn, thawed, but still cold
1 handful of cilantro
1 or 2 fresh jalepenos
1/4 of an onion
2 limes
1 tsp salt... a little less than that, perhaps. I dont know, I hardly ever really measure.

1. Okay, so mince up the cilantro, jalepenos, onion real fine and toss them in with the corn.

2. Juice the limes and add it and the salt to the corn mix.
3. Mix well. You can let this sit in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavors mix a little more or you can eat it right away.

I like to have this with sliced avocados and some type of light meat. Fish or shredded chicken breast works really well because their flavors mingle well with the lime juice. A dollop of tour cream and some diced tomatoes are always a welcome addition as well. Enjoy!