Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Passion Fruit Nian Gao with Red Dragon Passion Fruit Spread

When Rooted Fare asked me to develop a recipe that used their limited edition Lunar New Year Flavor Red Dragon Passion Fruit Spread, the first idea that popped into my head was to make nian gao (mochi cake) with it.  Nian gao is commonly eaten during the Lunar New Year because it is a homonym for "year" and "high" in Chinese which is an auspicious phrase.  There are many kinds of nian gao such as Shanghainese stir-fried nian gao (a savory dish) or steamed Chinese nian gao (a sweet dish), but my favorite kind is baked like butter mochi.

The last few years I've been baking my nian gao in a Baker's Edge brownie pan to maximize the crust to interior ratio, but someone once commented that they would make it in muffin tins for the same effect.  Since I figured more people have muffin tins than a special pan, I decided to try making mine this way too.

For this recipe I adapted my trusty nian gao recipe by substituting 1/2 a cup of passion fruit pulp for an equal amount of milk.  I love the added passion fruit flavor, but if you don't have passion fruit pulp, you can definitely make this with the full 3 cups of milk.  And if you want an even more pronounced passion fruit flavor, you can use a whole cup of passion fruit pulp and just 2 cups of milk.

Passion Fruit Nian Gao with Red Dragon Passion Fruit Spread
makes ~24 servings

1/2 cup passion fruit pulp
2 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cups white sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 lb. sweet glutinous rice flour (aka mochiko)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup Rooted Fare's Red Dragon Passion Fruit Spread
Black sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Grease 2 muffin pans or a 9"x13" baking pan.

Combine the passion fruit pulp and the whole milk in a medium mixing bowl and microwave until warm but not hot, about 90 seconds (this is so the melted butter won't solidify when added and the eggs won't cook when added).  Whisk in the melted butter and sugar.  Add the beaten eggs and vanilla extract and whisk until combined.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sweet glutinous rice flour with the baking powder to combine.  Add the liquids a cup at a time and stir; this will help prevent lumps in the final batter.  At first the mixture will be *very* thick, but keep adding the liquids one cup at a time and stirring, and once the batter is smooth, you can add the rest of the liquids all at once.  Whisk until completely smooth.

If using the muffin pans, add 1/4 cup of batter to each well.  If using the baking pan just pour all the batter in at once.  Dollop about a teaspoon of the Red Dragon Passion Fruit Spread into the center of each well or all over the baking pan.  

Bake for 30 minutes if using the muffin pans, and about an hour if using the baking pan.  The nian gao is done when the edges are golden brown and the center is set.  If using, sprinkle on the black sesame seeds when the nian gao comes out of the oven.  Let cool before serving.  Store any leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.  If it is too firm after a couple of days you can gently warm it up in the microwave for about 15 seconds to get the chewy texture back.

If you run out of the Red Dragon Passion Fruit Spread (it is limited edition, after all), the original nian gao recipe is excellent with Rooted Fare's Crunchy Black Sesame Butter dolloped on it instead of red bean paste!

Previously:  Soy-Marinated Jammy Eggs

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Soy-Marinated Jammy Eggs (滷蛋)

The kind of lu dan I grew up eating was made from eggs that had been hard boiled, peeled, then dropped into a vat of red-braising meat, like Taiwanese beef noodle soup or braised pork.  I still love those kind of eggs, but nowadays I prefer my egg yolks to be jammy instead of hard and chalky.

When I discovered the recipe for Momofuku soy sauce eggs several years ago, I was delighted to be able to make the kind of eggs I was dreaming about (and without needing to make a pot of braised meat to do it!).  This version is heavily influenced by that recipe but adapted for 4 eggs, which fits perfectly in one of those pint-sized plastic deli containers.  You can save the marinade in the refrigerator and reuse it for another batch of eggs.

Serve these eggs with the aforementioned Taiwanese beef noodle soup or braised pork over rice or just about anything with noodles (ramen!) or rice (Taiwanese pork chops!).  I also like to snack on them by adding a squirt of Kewpie mayonnaise (and maybe a smattering of chopped chives if I'm feeling fancy) to imitate deconstructed deviled eggs.

Soy-Marinated Jammy Eggs (滷蛋)
makes 4 eggs

4 large eggs, straight from the refrigerator
4 tablespoons hot water
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon Joy's Five Spice

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the eggs.  Cook for exactly 7 minutes.  In the meantime, prepare an ice water bath and make the marinade.

In a pint-sized plastic deli container, dissolve the sugar in the hot water, then add the rice vinegar, soy sauce, and five spice powder.  

When the 7 minutes are up, immediately transfer the eggs to the ice bath.  Once the eggs are cool enough to handle, crack all over with the back of a spoon and return to the ice bath (the water from the ice bath helps with peeling the egg).  Carefully peel the eggs, then transfer them to the marinade.  Place a piece of paper towel on top of the eggs so that the marinade covers the top of any eggs that peek out.

Marinate for at least 3 hours and up to overnight.  Remove from the marinade and keep the marinade in the fridge for the next batch.  Serve the eggs immediately or keep in the fridge for up to a week.

Since the deli container is such a snug fit for the 4 eggs, you'll probably get patches on the eggs where they don't get as much exposure to the marinade.  You can fix that by rotating the eggs in the marinade periodically, but since its doesn't really influence the taste, I don't really bother.  Sometimes they come out looking like little mouse ears though, so the only solution to that is to add some sesame seeds to complete the mouse face.

Next:  Passion Fruit Nian Gao with Red Dragon Passion Fruit Spread
Previously:  Taiwanese Braised Pork over Rice

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Taiwanese Braised Pork over Rice (滷肉飯)

I always thought the Mandarin phrase "cha bu duo" meant "as much as you need" because that's how my mom would respond whenever I asked her how much of an ingredient to add to a dish.  For instance, when I asked her how to make lu rou fan (Taiwanese braised pork over rice), she told me to add fried shallots, cooking wine, and soy sauce to the browned pork.  I asked her how much of each, and she just said "cha bu duo" in an exasperated voice. 

But when I asked her what that phrase meant, she explained it means "more or less". Google translates it to "almost, nearly, similar". None of that is helpful though without any actual measurements, haha.

After several rounds of experimenting and the added guidance of TACL-LYF's Taiwanese Homestyle Cooking cookbook, I've come up with my preferred way to make this homey dish.  Some recipes call for using exclusively pork belly, but the version I grew up eating was made with only ground pork.  Using half ground pork and half pork belly is a nice compromise, but you can also just use only fatty ground pork.

One ingredient I've started using that's kind of like a cheat code is Lee Kum Kee's pork bone soup base.  It comes super concentrated so I like to freeze it in small portions and just dissolve the amount I need for a particular recipe.  Not only does it add a lot of flavor, it's full of collagen that will add a nice sticky mouthfeel to the braised pork.  If you don't have any pork bone soup, you can just use water, and I've read that some people add unflavored gelatin to give it that same mouthfeel.

If you want, you can add some peeled, boiled eggs to the pot while it's cooking to make lu dan (soy braised eggs), but I prefer my egg yolks jammy so I usually just marinate them separately.  I also like to serve this with some stir-fried greens like napa cabbage or bok choy, although sometimes if I'm really lazy, I'll just add the greens directly to the pot while it's cooking.

Taiwanese Braised Pork over Rice (滷肉飯)
makes 4 servings

1/2 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. pork belly, chopped
2 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon oil
5 tablespoons fried shallots
1 tablespoon rice wine
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1 cup pork bone soup or water (see note above)
1/2 tablespoon rock sugar
1/2 teaspoon Joy's Five Spice
1 star anise
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
4 cups steamed rice

Soak the shiitake mushrooms in hot water for at least 15 minutes, then finely chop.

In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the mushrooms and fried shallots.  Cook for a minute or two until fragrant, then add the ground pork and chopped pork belly.  Continue to cook until the pork is cooked through and a little browned.  

Add the rice wine to deglaze and then add the soy sauce, pork broth (or water), rock sugar, five spice powder, star anise, and white pepper.  Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to a simmer.  Let simmer for an hour, then serve over rice along with greens, pickled daikon, and a soy marinated egg if you like.

Next:  Soy-Marinated Jammy Eggs
Previously:  Sourdough Discard Okinomiyaki Waffles

Friday, April 22, 2022

Sourdough Discard Okonomiyaki Waffles

I’ve made waffled okonomiyakis before and sourdough discard okonomiyakis before, so I figured it was time to combine the two!  The use of sourdough discard in this recipe not only helps prevent waste, it also adds a little tanginess to the flavor, and adding a pinch of baking soda to the batter will cause it to get light and fluffy!  Using a waffle iron to make the okonomiyaki means that both sides get cooked at the same time (so no awkward flipping) and get a little crispier than just cooking it on a flat top.

You can add whatever fillings and toppings you want (it’s literally the definition of okonomiyaki); my preferences are bacon (easier for me to find than pork belly), and instead of chopping up my own cabbage, I usually grab a bag of pre-chopped coleslaw mix from the grocery store!  For toppings I like the homemade okonomiyakisauce from Just One Cookbook, Kewpie mayonnaise, bonito flakes, furikake, and chopped scallions.

Sourdough Discard Okonomiyaki Waffles
makes two 7’ round waffles

150 g (100% hydration) sourdough discard*
1 large egg
Pinch of salt
Pinch of sugar
Pinch of dashi powder
Pinch of baking soda
200 g chopped cabbage (or coleslaw mix)
4 slices bacon, cut so they’ll fit the waffle iron
Okonomiyaki sauce
Kewpie mayonnaise
Bonito flakes
Chopped scallions

Preheat your waffle iron to medium-high.

Mix the sourdough discard, egg, salt, sugar, dashi powder, and baking soda until well combined.  Add the cabbage and mix again.

Place half the bacon on the bottom of the waffle iron and grease the top half.  Add half of the batter on top of the bacon and close the waffle iron.  When it’s golden brown and cooked through, remove from the waffle iron and repeat.  Top immediately with your desired toppings and serve hot.

*I haven't tried this myself yet, but if you don’t have any sourdough discard, you could try mixing together 75 g all-purpose flour with 75 g water and skip the baking soda, but it won’t have quite as much flavor or fluffiness.

Previously:  Hurricane Popcorn Marshmallow Treats
Next:  Taiwanese Braised Pork over Rice (滷肉飯)

Friday, March 25, 2022

Hurricane Popcorn Marshmallow Treats

Sometimes an idea pops in my head and it sounds so good that I'm sure someone else must have thought of it already, but then a quick search of the internets results in nothing!  I was inspired to make these because the kind folks at Sanzo had sent me some microwave popcorn and furikake in their limited edition Turning Red lychee sparkling water treat box.  My first thought was to make some hurricane popcorn with it, but I was already thinking of making some Rice Krispies treats, and then I just thought, why not combine them?

If you're not familiar with hurricane popcorn, it's a Hawaiian snack that combines kettle corn, furikake, and mochi crunch (aka Japanese rice crackers or arare).  It's one of those sweet and salty snacks that quickly becomes addictive because you just need that next bite to balance out the sweetness or saltiness from the last bite (kind of like Chicago mix popcorn).

These treats amp up the sweetness and crunch factor by adding marshmallows and Rice Krispies but still remain irresistible.  I add a little soy sauce (another common ingredient in hurricane popcorn) for saltiness but if that is a little too weird for you, you can just substitute with salt to taste.  Also, I only used 3 tablespoons of furikake so it's not too overpowering, but you can add more if really like that flavor.

Hurricane Popcorn Marshmallow Treats
makes 24 pieces

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon soy sauce (or substitute with salt, to taste)
3 tablespoons furikake, divided
10 oz. mini marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies cereal
2 cups popped popcorn (optional)*
1 cup Japanese rice crackers

Line a 9"x13" baking pan with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Once fully melted, turn the heat to low and add the soy sauce (or salt) and 2 tablespoons of the furikake and stir until combined.  Add the marshmallows and stir occasionally until fully melted.

Add the cereal, popcorn, and rice crackers and mix until combined.  Pour the mixture into the lined baking pan and press down with oiled hands (I like to save the butter wrapper to do this with) into an even layer.  Top with the remaining tablespoon of furikake.

Let cool, then remove from the pan using the parchment paper and slice into 24 pieces.  Enjoy!

*I made this again without popcorn and liked the texture even more!

Previously:  Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (Updated)
Next:  Sourdough Discard Okonomiyaki Waffles

Monday, March 14, 2022

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (Updated)

Quite a few things have changed since I posted my first rendition of beef noodle soup on this blog 14 years ago (it was my 3rd blog post ever!):  I've gotten better at cooking; I went through a vegan, then vegetarian, then pescatarian stint; and I started posting on Instagram

I'd say I'm more of a social carnivore now in that I do eat meat when I'm out with friends but very rarely cook it at home.  In fact, I think I've only made beef noodle soup maybe once or twice since I posted the original recipe.  But after seeing all the delicious BNS posts on the Taiwanese Home Cooking FB group and receiving a chuck eye steak from Vermont Wagyu, I knew it was time to fix that.

Looking back at the original BNS post, I was shocked to see that it called for 1.5 cups of soy sauce!  I chalk it up to one of those mistakes that happens when someone with little cooking experience tries to transcribe a recipe from someone who never measures anything when cooking.  I've since adjusted the quantity to a more reasonable 1/2 cup of low-sodium soy sauce.

The original version calls for napa cabbage and angel hair pasta, and while both are perfectly fine to use, I now opt for the more photogenic baby bok choy and use more authentic Taiwanese dried noodles like A-Sha brand.  And for the lu dan, instead of cooking already hard-boiled eggs in the sauce, I prefer tucking chilled 7-minute boiled eggs in the soup after it's been strained and cooling.  This way the yolks remain nice and jammy while the whites absorb the delicious flavor.

A few other changes:  I've listed white peppercorns, a cinnamon stick, and bay leaf as optional spices in addition to the star anise.  If you don't have them it's fine, but if you have them it will add a nice complexity to the soup.  The star anise is an absolute must, though, to make this a Taiwanese beef noodle soup.  Lastly, I stole this idea from Kenji's recipe--since almost all soups taste better the next day, I remove the beef from the soup, then strain everything else out before letting it chill overnight in the fridge.

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
makes about 2-3 servings

1 lb. chuck steak, cut into 1" chunks
1 tablespoon oil, if needed
2 scallions, cut into 2" pieces
1 inch ginger, sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tomato, skinned and roughly chopped
1 star anise
1 teaspoon white peppercorns (optional)
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
3 tablespoons rock sugar
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup Shaoxing rice wine
2 cups beef broth
1 bay leaf (optional)
3 large eggs
Baby bok choy or napa cabbage, blanched
Noodles, cooked
Chili oil/sauce (like Sze Daddy), optional

If there is a lot of extraneous fat on the steak, you can cut it off and render it in a large Dutch oven or pot (add it to the pot cold then turn the heat to medium).  Otherwise, heat the oil in the pot and add the beef.  Flip the beef around to brown all the sides, then remove from the pot. 

Add the scallions, ginger, garlic, star anise, tomato, and white peppercorns and cinnamon stick, if using, to the pot and cook for a couple of minutes until very fragrant.  Add the rock sugar and stir around until it has mostly dissolved.  Return the beef to the pot and deglaze the bottom with the soy sauce and wine.  Add the beef broth and bay leaf, if using, and bring to a simmer.  Cover and continue to simmer on low for an hour.

In the meantime, bring another pot of water to boil.  Add the eggs (straight from the fridge) to the pot and set the timer for 7 minutes.  Prepare an ice bath.  After 7 minutes, remove the eggs from the pot and plunge them into the ice bath.  Once they are cool enough to handle, peel the eggs and set aside in the fridge to chill.

After an hour, check the beef for tenderness and the soup for flavor.  Cook longer or adjust seasonings if needed.  When the beef is ready, transfer from the soup into another pot or container large enough to hold the soup.  Strain the rest of the soup into the pot/container with the beef in it.  Add the peeled eggs, cover, let come to room temperature, then place in the fridge overnight.

When ready to serve, reheat the soup (remove the eggs first if you want to keep them jammy).  Blanch the veggies in boiling water until bright green and tender.  Remove and then cook the noodles in the same boiling water.  Drain and portion the noodles into 3 bowls, ladle the soup and beef over the noodles and add the veggies.  Slice the eggs in half and add to the bowl.  Serve with chili sauce (I like Sze Daddy for additional Taiwanese flavors) if you like.

Previously:  No Knead Sourdough Focaccia
Next:  Hurricane Popcorn Marshmallow Treats

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

No Knead Sourdough Focaccia

I've been tinkering around with my sourdough discard pizza dough recipe for a while now to produce a focaccia to my liking, and I think I've finally figured out a recipe that produces the kind of focaccia I prefer:  fluffy with lots of big holes, a crispy bottom, and a soft interior that won't go stale after a day or two.

What I love about this dough is that it's quite forgiving as well.  You basically want to slightly overproof the dough, so you don't have to worry about timing very much since you let it ferment overnight in the fridge.  And just like my sourdough discard pizza dough recipe, there's no kneading required!

Regarding toppings, I've made more traditional versions with just olive oil, salt, and rosemary, but I've also treated it like a pizza dough and topped it with shredded Gruyere and zucchini before.  My absolute favorite combination is to drizzle the top of the dough with Laoganma spicy chili crisp and top with slices of Taiwanese sausage, mala salt, scallions, and sesame seeds.

No Knead Sourdough Focaccia

makes one 9" x 12" focaccia

75 grams active 100% hydration sourdough starter
175 grams warm water
250 grams all-purpose flour
6 grams salt
Oil for greasing the dough and pan
Toppings (flaky sea salt, herbs, cheese, etc.)

Mix the starter with the water in a medium mixing bowl until the starter is well dissipated. Add the flour and mix until a dough forms and all the flour has been incorporated.  Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.

Add the salt and use wet hands to pinch and fold the dough for several minutes until the salt has dissolved and the dough has built up some strength.  Cover and let rest for 30-60 minutes. 

Stretch the 4 corners of the dough one at a time and fold it over itself (this is called applying a fold).  Dribble some oil on top and use your hands to spread the oil and cover the surface of the dough, including where it touches the bowl.  Cover and let rest for 4-6 hours until doubled in volume.  Transfer the dough to the fridge to rest overnight.

The next morning, generously grease a quarter-sheet pan and start to stretch the dough out in it.  Give the top of the dough a light coating of oil, cover, and let the dough come to room temperature over the next 2 hours.  Continue to stretch the dough out every 30 minutes or so until it almost fills the pan.  If you have one, place a pizza stone or baking steel on the middle rack and preheat the oven to 450°F.

Once your dough is at room temperature and starting to get puffy, add your toppings starting with the oil.  Carefully spread the oil across the surface of the dough and then dimple with your fingertips.  Add any additional toppings and continue to proof until your oven is preheated.  Bake the focaccia for 15-20 minutes until browned to your liking.  Let cool slightly before slicing or cutting with scissors to serve.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge depending on your toppings.  You can rewarm the focaccia by microwaving briefly or in a toaster oven at 200°F until warmed through.

Next:  Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup (updated)
Previously:  General Tso's Tofu