Beancurd what? Pockmarked grandma what? Why would anyone eat something sounds horrible like that?
Whether it’s been lost in translation or it has deeper meaning to the name more than we can imagine, pockmarked grandma’s beancurd basically is mapo tofu; one of popular Chinese dish from Sichuan region.
“Ma” stands for “ma-zi” (Chinese: mázi, 麻子) which means pockmarks.
“Po” is the first syllable of “popo” (Chinese: 婆婆, pópo) which means an old woman or grandma. Hence, mapo is an old woman whose face is pockmarked.
It is thus sometimes translated as “pockmarked grandma’s beancurd”
Most of you probably familiar with the deep red, oily, and spicy version of mapo tofu. It is actually one of my favorite dishes to make and eat.
But if there can be angle’s food cake and devil’s food cake, I would say the regular version of mapo tofu would be devil’s one. However, in my family, we tend to enjoy food less spicy, so I would consider our version of mapo tofu to be angel’s one and here I’d like to share this simple and comforting recipe with you.
Mapo Tofu (angel style)
1 block of silken tofu (cubed)
3 cloves of garlic (chopped)
2 green onion (chopped)
2 bird’s eye chilis
100 g minced pork
50ml water (optional)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon fish sauce
- heat the pan to medium high heat, add vegetable oil
- once the oil is hot, stir fry garlic and minced pork until the pork is half cooked
- add cubed tofu to the pan, give it a stir, lower the heat and let it simmer (some tofu release more water than the other, after simmering for few minutes, if it’s too dry, you may add some water)
- bring the heat up to high, add fish sauce
- turn of the heat, garnish with chopped green onions and sliced chilis
* If you prefer a quick fix for traditional style mapo tofu (not how it’s traditionally made), follow this same recipe and the only extra step you need to do is just adding a spoonful of this hot chili goodness!
Years ago I went to a party at my friend’s house and he made his version of delicious quesadilla using kalua pig. Then I thought, hmm, what can I put in my quesadilla to create flavours that hit my tastebuds at all the right spots!
Any of you who enjoy Thai food must have tried or heard of ‘Pad Krapow,’ stir-fried meat (chicken tends to be the popular choice) with holy basil; normally served over rice with crispy edge fried egg. To take this dish to the next level, some people use crispy pork belly but for me roast duck is the answer.
One day I had leftover roast duck stir-fried with basil, I figured, this is it! I’m going to put this in my quesadilla! It turned out that the pungent heat from bird’s eye chilis in the stir-fry is balanced out nicely with melted mature cheddar cheese.
If you can’t find holy basil, try using Italian basil, just like I did in this recipe. I prefer the flavour and aroma of Italian basil to sweet basil for this particular dish.
You can make plenty of this roast duck stir-fry, enjoy it with rice first and save the leftover to make quick and easy quesadilla the next day.
Check out the recipe and YouTube clip below
Roast Duck Quesadilla
half roast duck
7 clove of garlic
7 bird’s eye chilis
1 cup of Italian basil
4 sheets of corn tortillas
200g cheddar cheese
- dice roast duck meat and add into a dry frying pan on medium heat
- once the duck fat begin to render, add chopped garlic and chilis, continue stir-frying until fragrant (don’t cook too long, the meat will get tough)
- add basil leaves, give it a quick stir, remove from the heat and set it aside
- place a sheet of tortilla on a pan, medium high heat
- spread generous amount of cheddar cheese over tortilla, add a layer of roast duck stir-fry, top it with more cheese then place another sheet of tortilla over it
- once the tortilla is crisped and cheese is melted, flip it. It should take 1-2 minutes to cook on each side
After writing this, now I’m thinking, next time I make it, I’m going to add an egg in the middle to add extra gooey texture, I imagine it must be amazing!
Bon Appetit 😉
One of my favourite Japanese cartoon characters is Kinnikuman. He’s a clumsy version of superhero. Kinnikuman and I have one thing in common; we’re obsessed about food. Kinnikuman loves his gyudon (beef bowl) so much. He even has his dance move and theme song for it! Now, that’s beyond my ability.
Though I have no dance or song for my food but I sure do know how to make gyudon. This rice bowl is a perfect comfort meal for weeknight. There are lots of gyudon recipes out there. My recipe is just slightly different; I sear the beef first to render some the fat out of the meat and let the meat cook in its own fat for extra flavour.
In my town, there is a Japanese supermarket where I can easily pick up beef for Japanese style stir-fry which is thinly sliced ribeye. If you cannot get this type of preparation of beef from your local butcher, you can try freezing the beef about 1-2 hours, this will make it easy to slice it thin.
See the recipe and short video clip I’ve created below.
Gyudon (Beef Bowl)
100 g sliced beef
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon mirin
1/2 tablespoon sake
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon hon dashing
- make the sauce: on medium heat heat, bring water to a boil, add hon dashi, stir to dissolve, add soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar, bring it to a boil again, set aside
- sear sliced beef on medium heat until it’s sizzling on its own fat, add grated ginger, onion, and the sauce. Lower the heat and simmer until onion is tender
- serve on a bowl of steamed Japanese rice, sprinkle with chopped scallions, garnish with beni shoga (pink pickled ginger)
- option: Shichimi (flavoured chilli) can be used to add a bit of spicy flavour
Looking for an alternative to chicken wings for your beer snack? Try this Thai-Style Beef Jerky.
During school break in Thailand when I was a kid, there used to be a guy selling this style of beef snack with sticky rice, wrapped in banana leaf. He usually walked around our neighbourhood in mid morning with a bamboo basket full of this stuff. At time, it was such a joy to have this morsel savoury snack before lunch time.
The secret of making this beef snack is to dry the meat before deep frying it in medium high heat; this crisps the outer layer of the beef, while the inside remains tender. Traditional method is to leave it in the sun until it feels dry to the touch hence the name in Thai (nua-dad-daew) literally translates to ‘a sunlight beef’ in English.
I keep my recipe very simple, using inexpensive cut of meat (skirt steak); cutting across the grain and overnight marinade improve the texture and flavour of the meat beautifully. However, you may use any cut of beef as you please, this also can be made with pork.
Thai-Style Beef Jerky
500g beef (skirt steak)
2 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of ground pepper
vegetable oil for cooking
– cut the meat against the grain into strips
– marinate the beef with fish sauce, sugar, and ground pepper; refrigerate overnight
– spread out the beef on wire-rack; if it’s a sunny day, leave it in the sun for 3-4 hours; No sun? no problem! Preheat the oven to 50 celsius degree and leave the beef in there for 3-4 hours.
– heat vegetable oil in deep frying pan, fry the beef until crispy on the outside (this should only take couple of minutes)
– option: for extra aroma, cut up some pandan leaves and fry them with the beef just 30 seconds before finishing
I’ve been absent from here for way too long. I miss having fun in the kitchen showing my audience what I cook. I kept thinking of how to make my cooking more exciting, how I can perfect my content, and so on. That kept me away from coming up with something for awhile.
Finally, I decided that I should just do it! Anything would be a good new start.
Last weekend, I went to Berkley Bowl supermarket in Berkley, California. It is one of the best supermarket in my area, in my opinion. I love their selections of produce, meat, and most importantly, they sell French butter and fresh yeast (I know it’s important, right?!)
Anyway, I found this beautiful cut of uncured pancetta from Italy. What else can I make with it other than a hearty bowl of spaghetti carbonara with chunky piece of that salty fat.
My recipe is very simple and contain just few ingredients; spaghetti, egg, pecorino Romano cheese, black pepper, and of course that good pancetta!
My tips are…..lots of cheese, lots of freshly ground black pepper (usually it’s about 20 turns on my peppermill for one serving portion), and make sure you cut that beautiful pancetta nice and thick.
Here is my quick YouTube video on this dish
When I bake, I can do better when I know whom I’m baking for.
Lately, I haven’t been baking much. I’m just not very inspired by what I see at local market. Luckily, I have a next door neighbor who happens to be gluten intolerance (unfortunately) but loves sweets. Even though he enjoys his gluten-free bread and stuff, I can’t help but feeling sorry that he can’t enjoy fluffy cake.
I’m thinking what sort of cake can I make that doesn’t require much help from gluten in the flour and this Japanese style cheese cake came to my mind. My mission was to find substitute for the flour.
I was pleased with my experiment. This cheese cake is soft and velvety; the sweetness and the texture are well balanced. It goes well on its own, with berry sauce, or any fruit that you like. I found it very pleasant to eat, so did my neighbor!
Here’s the recipe of the cake that everyone will enjoy even if you’re not allergic to the flour.
Gluten-free Cream Cheese Soufflé Cake
200g cream cheese (Philadelphia cream cheese is desirable)
30g unsalted butter
3 large eggs
100ml whipping cream
1 teaspoon lemon juice
30g rice flour
10g potato starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
icing sugar for dusting
- bring cream cheese and unsalted butter to room temperature
- line 7” cake mould with parchment paper, this cake will rise to 3-4” high
- preheat oven 160 Celsius (without fan)
- sift rice flour, potato starch, and baking powder, set aside
- divide egg yolk and egg white
- in a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, 25g of sugar, unsalted butter until smooth (I use Kitchenaid with paddle attachment)
- add egg yolk into cream cheese mixture, one at a time, then add the whipping cream and lemon juice and mix until well combined
- mix sifted rice flour, potato starch into the mixture, set it aside
- make meringue by whisking the egg white with 50g of sugar to stiff peak
- combine 1/3 of the meringue in the cream cheese mixture, gently fold the rest of the meringue in (half at a time)
- transfer the mixture into the cake mould, smooth the top
- place the cake mould in a deep tray, pour hot water into the tray about 1” high
- bake for 90 minutes, check for the doneness by sticking a knife or bamboo skewer in the middle, it should come out clean. Leave it to cool down completely in the oven to minimize shrinkage
- refrigerate at least 2 hours
- before serving, leave it at room temperature for 10-15 minutes, dust it with icing sugar (optional)
Mini Teatime Cake
40 g caster sugar
30 g flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
granulated sugar and raisins for topping
- preheat the oven at 200c, put a madeleine mould (or other shallow mould) in there
- separate egg yolk and egg white
- whisk egg white with half of the sugar to firm peak
- whisk egg yolk and remaining sugar until pale
- whisk together 1/3 of egg white mixture, egg yolk mixture, and flour
- fold the remaining egg white in the above mixture
- take the mould out of the oven, spray it with cooking oil, pipe the batter in the mould, put some raisins and sprinkle some sugar on top
- bake for 10 minutes, remove the cake from the mould while they’re still hot