Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Don't Hurry Your Curry!

When we'd get the cravings for curry rice, I used to always default to using curry blocks (yup, those cakey brown squares that stain your fingertips and plastic tupperware with that telltale neon yellow turmeric color).  Then, one day when I had already practically committed to making curry (cut all the potatoes and peeled the carrots, defrosted the chicken thighs, sliced the onions), I realized that I had run out of the blocks.  You could imagine how annoyed I was when I opened the cabinet and see that there were none left.  Too late to run to an Asian market, I quickly searched for a Japanese curry recipe online and found that I had almost everything needed to make my own "blocks" from scratch, or more properly termed, "roux."  It does take a little more time than simply peeling open a carton of the blocks and dunking the blocks into the pot, but this process allows so much more control over the flavor and ingredients.  I've long since stopped stocking up on those mass-produced MSG-laden things and started making my own roux with curry powder.

Still not quite at the point where I grind my own curry powder, but I have used different kinds to make the same recipe, including the commonly-used yellow kind that you can get from Costco, and this new fiery-orange one that my brother brought back from Singapore.  I will attempt a more pure form of Singaporean curry using coconut milk and lemongrass another time, but for now, here is a recipe for Japanese curry from scratch!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Lunar New Year - Homemade Roast Pork and Almond Cookies

When the Wongs toted that crispy brown whole roasted pig through the Chiu family front door last May for our engagement party, they had no idea that they would be enlightening their future in-laws to a new level of pork.  Audibly crackly skin over juicy layers, the fragrance of five spice and white pepper mixed with that thick savory-sweet dipping sauce, bits and pieces of meat flying from the cleaver after each bang to the cutting board--it was definitely an unforgettable affair for the five senses.  The Chius are accustomed to having pork stir-fried, stewed, or braised.  Cantonese style roasted pork (not to mention the whole beast with the head and all four legs intact) was kind of phenomenal.

So, for our first Lunar New Year as a married couple, Mama Chiu requested a couple of pounds of roasted pork to go with the other things that she would be preparing for our family feast, just as a treat.  Unfortunately, obtaining roasted pork on the Lunar New Year is somewhat like buying ham from HoneyBaked on Christmas Eve, except with voracious Chinese ladies and no pre-order-for-pick-up option.  Plus, all the nice, juicy belly parts would most likely be claimed already.

Therefore, to eliminate the hassle, Wes decided to just make it himself (which to me, seemed like an even bigger hassle).  To him, it was going to be a fun challenge, as neither of us have ever done it before.  He found and followed this recipe and it turned out really well!  I also made some Chinese almond cookies using this recipe, and those were also a hit - especially with Grandma, who hijacked almost half the batch in one fell swoop.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

How To Impress Your Man - Taiwanese Oxtail Noodle Soup

One day in 2012, Wes handed me a key to his bachelor pad.  He didn't make a big fuss out of it, but there had to have been some intent behind the act of walking up to the key copier at the Chinese supermarket and surrendering his key at the counter, with thoughts of doom on repeat in his head.  Soon after that happened, I made a trip to the same Chinese supermarket myself, on a mission of my own.  I wanted to validate his action.  So, I pulled out my good-potential-wife secret weapon: niu rou mian (牛肉麵)Taiwanese braised beef noodle soup.  My mom has been making it for as long as I can remember, I swear that the aroma can make any bad day a good one.  Secretly, I gathered my ingredients and brought them all to Wes's kitchen while he was still at work.  I was afraid that the stew would not be flavorful enough compared to all the beef noodles he has eaten at those many Chinese restaurants in the SGV. Thankfully, all went well and Wes hasn't been opposed to eating it now and again.  And I guess he hasn't been opposed to marrying me - looks like my mother's recipe sealed the deal.

Update 11/16/2020: I called my mom and asked her for some details, as she has been making this a lot recently with the pandemic and all.  I refined the recipe that I had before based on her specifications when I made this again for dinner tonight!