lamb


Well, there’s really no easy way to put this. So I might as well just come right out and say it.

I don’t know how to cook Chinese food.

Yes, I know this sounds ridiculous coming from a Hong Kong native who ate pretty much nothing else but Chinese food for her entire childhood. Naturally, you would think that Chinese cooking would come as second nature to me. But alas, nothing could be further from the truth. (Chinese eating, however, is another matter altogether and on that front, I believe I do my culture proud.)

I remember the first time I asked my mom to teach me how to cook something Chinese, way back in the day when I considered popping frozen mini-pizzas into the microwave as cooking. I honestly don’t even remember what she was making at the time. You see, what stuck in my memory are exchanges like the following:

Me: Mom, how much soy sauce did you just add in?
Mom: Oh you know, just enough.
Me: … um, how many teaspoons is that?
Mom: Oh I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. There’s no need to measure.

Let me tell you, when you’re new to cooking, nothing is more frustrating than figuring out what to write down in your notebook (aka future recipe treasure trove from whence magical dishes shall be recreated!) when all your mother will tell you is that you need to “add just enough soy sauce.” Right then and there, I became convinced that Chinese cooking was some crazy voodoo magic, possibly involving incense sticks and incantations but definitely not involving actual measurements. So instead, I turned to cuisines with actual recipes(!) published in actual cookbooks(!) and began learning to cook from there, all the while quietly avoiding the topic of Chinese cooking and hoping no one will notice.

That is, until my favorite cookbook-writing duo came out with a book focused on Chinese cuisine, specifically the cuisines of the minority populations of China. As wary as I was about Chinese cooking, I can never resist one of their cookbooks, so our cookbook collection got another book bigger. Thanks to this new addition, I’m slowly learning to overcome my fear of Chinese cooking. And these days, you can even find me guilty of foregoing measurements in favor of instinct. Because if ever there’s a cuisine flexible enough for creative/lazy measurements, it seems it would be ours.

You know what they say: Like mother, like daughter.

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Coffee Rubbed Lamb Chops

On Valentine’s Day this year, I went to a yoga class taught by Les at Yoga Tree, one of my favorite yoga teachers in the city. Although I can’t really afford to go to Yoga Tree all the time, especially given the availability of cheap and decent yoga at my school’s gym, I still try to take classes at the studio about once a month. Les’ Vinyasa classes are always on top of my list because even though they’re pretty sweaty and hardcore, they’re also surprisingly calming and meditative. On top of that, he just seems like such a sweet guy! For example, during last Thursday’s class, he reminded us to “not let Hallmark tell you to love only one single day out of the entire year!” Aww…

While I agree that the whole idea of spending lots of money on flowers, cards, and gifts on a random day in February seems a bit silly, I do like the idea of celebrating the company of someone you love with a special dinner. (Of course, you can always count on it to me to justify the food part of any holiday!) Last year, Nathan and I decided that instead of spending a ridiculous amount of money on one of the hundreds of prix fixe dinners offered in SF, we would splurge on some fancy groceries and cook at home – deliciousness and quality together-time minus the crowds and stress!

Our plan was so successful last year that we did it again this year (I feel like I can’t really call it a tradition yet, because this is only the second time we’ve done it). Since I’ve been whining about doing yoga all week, Nathan sweetly took charge of the shopping. When I got home, I was greeted by pink flowers, a glass of rosé, fancy chocolate bars, and a dozen of freshly shucked oysters with Nathan’s famous mignonette! Yum!

Valentine 2008

In between slurping down those yummy oysters, we also made an awesomely delicious and awesomely stress-free dinner: Coffee-rubbed Lamb Chops, Green Garlic Mashed Potatoes, and Creamed Spinach, paired with this gorgeous bottle of Ridge Syrah I’ve been saving for a special occasion. By the way, if you’re looking to cook a semi-fancy dinner without fussing over complicated recipes, you’re going to love me by the time you finish reading this post! But just remember what Les said… don’t just love me for today! Ha!

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manti

Have I told you that I heart dumplings? Wait, I got that wrong — It’s more like I heart heart heart dumplings!

After reading about Brian and Michelle’s dumpling party a few weeks ago, I’ve been craving a dumpling party of my own. Unfortunately, I really have no excuse for making more potstickers because I still have a huge batch sitting in the freezer, from a dumpling party not too long ago. (And yes, I can still call it a dumpling party, even if it was a dumpling party of one. It’s like an army of one, only less violent and more delicious.)

Thankfully, Saveur comes to the rescue! My favorite foodie magazine also happens to have one of my favorite, non-Chinese dumpling recipes – Manti or Turkish dumplings. These are tiny dumplings made with homemade dough and filled with little bits of lamb, onions, and parsley. They’re first baked in the oven to make them chewy before being boiled in stock (also in the oven). Fresh out of the oven, they’re then tossed with a garlicky yogurt sauce, topped with mint and chili powder, and finished with a drizzle of olive oil. The only bad (?) thing about them is that they’re really really addictive. So don’t blame me if you end up eating the whole pan!

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