January 6, 2011

a taste of home (and a belated happy new years!)

I’m pretty sure I still dated the form I signed yesterday as 2010, oops.

**disclaimer** abnormally long intro this time so feel to skip my irrelevant ramblings...unless you're actually interested in cooking the food I show in which case read away

So much for my promise to post again before the new years, but in the words of my friend “I’m pretty sure your readers will live”. Yea well I knew that but still….

Anyways, a random interlude: for some reason, I’ve never liked odd numbered years. Maybe it’s because I was born in an even year or because I’ve always liked the divisibility of even numbers, but either way I’ve always been superstitious and apprehensive of the 1-3-5’s. I was really worried as this new year started.... fortunately, 2011has proven to be quite fortuitous (although I think that’s just some because I still have some of the luck from 2010 left over) and (unsurprisingly) the eating has been just as scrumptious. 

Since my promise to cook more at the beginning of last semester pretty much dissipated 3 weeks in (along with my sanity), I figured the best thing to do is to make it up over break (or what’s left of it). And considering all I’ve been doing is espousing the glorious goodness of brunch, I realized it was time to actually blog about something that has a much longer food history in my life: home-cooking mom style.  

The only things to really know about Chinese cooking (at least the way I learned it) is to use a lot of garlic (but don’t burn it), cook everything on high (but don’t over-cook it) and just throw in the same spices and ingredients for almost all vegetable dishes. 

"The List"
chili peppers
green peppers (ok these two are technically optional but in my family, they're kind of not)
soy sauce
garlic powder (we like our garlic)
cooking wine
sesame oil
salt & pepper (obviously.

My current list of vegetables (man I feel kind of odd doing this...it reminds me of the fashion blogs I follow where the writers post their five favorite items of the week and here I am listing my favorite vegetables...) eggplant, bok choy, mushrooms and tofu (not really a vegetable I know but whatever, leave me alone).  I swear half of the people I met have never eaten an eggplant which I find completely baffling since I think it is the most delicious vegetable on the planet. But then again, that is just me. 

Right. I forgot to mention scallions and ginger (well that’s mostly my mom’s doing, I never thought they were absolutely necessary unless you’re making meat). Anyways, this is basically how the beginning of every dish looks: garlic (onion/scallion), pepper flakes and oil.
Drop in your vegetables (in order of how long they take to cook).  We have some lovely  Oyster mushrooms here. ( I’ve never been a big fan of button mushrooms…too slimy. )

Cook on medium-high for a few minutes (don’t you love how exact I am?). Add in soysauce, salt, garlic powder and the rest of the staples
This mushroom dish also has some tomatoes and chives added in as well.  Since chives cook so much faster (and tomatoes are practically cooked already), definitely want to put them in after the mushrooms are almost done.
A note on eggplants. They take an annoyingly long time to cook compared to other vegetables. If you don’t cook them until they’re soft enough, a lot of times it comes out rubbery (probably a reason why many people are not fond of eggplants).
Another thing to do especially for really watery vegetables is to add starch at the end to turn the watery/soy sauce mixture more sauce-like. We use tapioca starch which you can buy in a pretty hefty bag for 79 cents in Chinatown. Cornstarch works just as well though.

When I cook silken tofu, I don’t even cut it, I dump the whole square in the pan and break it up with a spoon. Eventually, through the cooking process – it naturally breaks into nice small (but not tiny) pieces.
I am particularly fond of silk tofu because I find the texture a lot more palletable. My dad likes the firm kind because he complains silken is too difficult to handle and to eat…Well so are lobsters but everyone still eats them!

Firm tofu on the other hand stays neat and tidy in sliced pieces but I ind the texture to be a little too dry.
A vegetable we have been eating quite frequently lately. Green squash. It’s actually pretty funny because usually what happens in my family is we’ll get hooked on 2 or 3 dishes and eat those repetitively until we get tired of it and then move on to something else.  Don’t know if that’s normal but at least it means you get to get really good at cooking something.
Whoo this is a long post. Guess I’ve been snapping more pictures than I realized.  We had another roasted leg of lamb on New Year’s and my mom found a really ingenious (and delicious) way of cooking the leftover. Ingredients: garlic, green chilli peppers, carrots, seasoned salt and all of the stuff mentioned above. Since lamb is really game-y this was really yummy since it kept the tenderness of the meat and got rid of some of the gameyness through the use of the veggies and spices.

Only one more day until I go back to Penn (and I have to spend tomorrow working at my new internship so technically I guess I only have have half a day left). Man this week sure flew by! I also recently discovered the magic that is Picasa3 which means no more awkward collages from Photoshop! Get excited for the upcoming post. (part of it will probably be a cliche reminiscence of the past (1/2) year of eats). Waking up at 6am again tomorrow...joy.

Happy eating :)

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