Sunday, February 27, 2011

Corn-Stuffed Mushrooms

A delicious baked mushroom stuffed with corn, scallions, cream cheese, and some pantry staples (alright, so fried onions aren't usually a staple, but we've had them since Thanksgiving 'cause of green bean casserole -- SOMEbody had to eat it!)

Corn-Stuffed Mushrooms
5 Large Portobella caps, wiped clean
1 block cream cheese
2 handfuls frozen corn
2 handfuls oyster crackers, crushed (with your hands)
1 handful fried onions, plus more for topping
2 scallions, chopped
a lot of freshly grated parmesan cheese for topping

1. Tear out the stems from the mushroom caps and mix with the remaining ingredients except the parmesan (unless you want loads of cheese, in which case be my guest.)
2. Stuff the mushrooms with the mixture, making sure to get all the corn bits in there.
3. Top with fried onions and parmesan cheese --- be generous with the cheese!
4. Bake at ~350*F in the toaster oven for 20-30 minutes, until the cheese on top is melted and crisp and the mushroom is thoroughly cooked.
5. Serve immediately with some sort of carbohydrate and vegetation. Or, freeze in a container on top of rice for bento in the future :D You could probably refrigerate it too, but I find that makes the crispy top kinda soft : /
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蔥油餅 Scallion Flatcakes

Tai loves these things to death. If they weren't such a bitch to make, I'm sure he'd ask for them every week. As it stands, they are currently a once-every-three-weeks-or-so thing (although, I think that they are freeze-able, so next time I might just make an enormous batch and freeze half of it for later :D)

This is the Taiwan-style, which are thin, layered and crispy on the edges. I just had Shanghai-style flatcakes the other day at a restaurant, and those were deep-fried and puffy (I like mine better ^o^)

蔥油餅 Scallion Flatcakes
For 6 flatcakes

1 cup flour
1/2 cup warm or hot (but not burning) water, plus more as needed

1 bunch green onions
sesame oil (optional, but definitely recommended)
vegetable/canola oil

rolling pin
food/sauce brush (optional, silicon works the best!)

1. Put the flour in a bowl and add the hot/warm water. Mix it with your hands and knead, adding more water as needed until the dough holds together and is smooth.
2. Cover it with a wet paper or cloth towel and let it rise for half an hour at least.
3. In the meantime, wash, trim, and chop up the green onions. Mix a couple drop of sesame oil with a quarter cup or so of vegetable/canola oil, if using. Wrap your salt dispenser with a paper towel and tape or rubber band it in place (this keeps your soon-to-be oily hands from mucking it up.) Get out a shallow lidded container to store the flatcake balls in. Finally, clear off a bit chunk of counter space to work with and lightly dust with flour.
4. At this point, your dough is probably risen enough. Punch it down and knead it some more. Tear off a doughnut-hole size chunk (alternatively, roll it out into a log and cut into 6 even pieces).
5. Roll out your chunk as thinly as possible, rotating as you roll so it doesn't stick to the counter or rolling pin.
6. Brush your disc of dough with oil (or drizzle and smear with your hands, if you're not using a brush). Sprinkle with salt and rub it in evenly. Scatter a scant handful of scallions on top.
7. Roll up the dough into a tube, taking care to get all the scallion bits in there. Then roll the tube up into a cinnamon roll shape, pinching the end to secure (it usually unravels anyways, no biggie).
8. Put the ball in the shallow container and drizzle with some more oil (straight from the bottle, not mixed with the sesame oil, if using).
9. Repeat steps 5-8 until the dough it all used up.
10. Pour the leftover sesame oil mixture (if using) into the shallow container. Add enough oil to just cover all the rolls of dough. Put it in the fridge overnight (you can use it straightaway, but it turns out much crispier than if you let it sit.)
11. Heat up some oil (I like to scoop up oil from the container) in a nonstick skillet on medium. While it's heating, take out one of the dough rolls and roll it out with the rolling pin. The flatter it is the crispier it will turn out (I like it medium crisp, so I roll mine out about 75% of potential flatness.)
12. Put the flatcake in the skillet and fry it until it is clear-ish on top and nicely browned underneath (see photo above for level of brown-ness.) Flip it over and and fry until both sides are the nicely browned.
13. Drain on a paper towel. Repeat steps 11-12 as desired.
14. Chop the flatcake(s) into wedges and serve with dipping sauce if desired (see recipe below)

Happy Cooking!

Dipping Sauce
2 t.Soy sauce
1 t. Oriental Worcestershire or Black Vinegar
1 t. Mushroom/Oyster sauce
Drop sesame oil
Couple drops water, as needed if it gets too salty.

Mix all ingredients and serve.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Omuraisu Bento

A simple bento of omuraisu a.k.a. omlette rice and orange slices in juice. There are a couple ways to make omuraisu, some people wrap the rice in the egg, other people put the egg on top. For bento, the egg on top way is easier, so that's what I do :)

Simple Omuraisu:

bit liquid oil
half part Chopped onions
2-3 parts Cooked rice (day or more old preferred, esp. if it's been in the refrigerator -- the drier the better!)
1 part frozen peas
1 part frozen corn
ketchup to taste (about 2 T. per serving)
butter or vegetable oil
sake or cooking wine (optional)
mirin (optional)
sugar (optional)

For rice:
1. Heat up the oil in a wok or non-stick skillet and sautee the onions on medium-low until clear-ish.
2. Turn up the heat to medium and add the cooked rice, breaking it up with your wooden spatula. Once the rice is broken up, add the frozen peas and corn and reduce the heat. Cover.
3. After the frozen veggies have lost their frosty outer layer, uncover and stir quickly to prevent the rice from sticking to the pan.
4. Add a bit of salt to taste, and the scallions.
5. Once you the scallions become aromatic, add ketchup. Stir fervently and scrape the bottom of the pan often, otherwise the ketchup-rice will get stuck there.
6. Remove from heat and put in your bento.

For egg:
1. Using a different non-stick pan, heat up a small pat of butter, or vegetable oil, on medium heat.
2. Beat the egg(s) and, if using, sake/cooking wine, mirin, and sugar. You can do just sake/cooking & sugar, or just mirin and sugar, or just the liquid bits, but just sugar and egg is kinda wonky.
3. Once the butter is melted and just bubbling, or the oil is reduced in viscosity, pour in the beaten egg.
4. Once the egg is set on one side, but still slightly liquid on the other, flip it over carefully.
5. When the egg is all the way set, but not brown, remove it from the heat, fold it to the shape of your bento, and cover the rice with it.
6. Draw on it with ketchup (optional).

Happy Lunching!

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Mushroom Cabbage Stir-Fry

A simple, light side dish that comes together in a matter of minutes. This is yummy and low-cal for how filling it is!

Fresh mushroom
Tree Fungus

1) Slice cabbage into long slices
Set it aside for now

2) Cut off the stems of the fresh mushrooms and slice the caps. It is possible to use dried and re-hydrated or canned mushrooms, but fresh mushrooms have such a nice, pillow-y softness to them and are so tender and absorb flavors wonderfully!

3) Slice the tree fungus. If some pieces are too long, cut them in half.

4) Saute your mushrooms and fungus in a hot wok or saucepan
They will begin to emit their own juices when they are cooked and smell wonderful

5) Toss in your cabbage and let it cook with the mushrooms

6) Add soy sauce, sesame oil, and salt to taste

7) Turn off the heat and mix everything together and serve!

Happy Cooking!
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mabo Tofu

One of the most popular Chinese dishes, mabo tofu is quick and delicious! The flavor and spiciness is all based on the sauce you buy, so be sure to try many kinds! Pre-mixed "mabo tofu" sauce is available in some places so you don't even need to do anything other than add it to tofu, but if you want to make mabo tofu with authentic do ban jiang (spicy bean paste), here is the recipe for it!

1 box of tofu
ginger, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stalk of green onion, diced
2Tbs of spicy bean paste
1tsp cornstarch

NOTE: adjust spices to your liking

1) Gather your ingredients

2)Dice tofu into bite-sized chunks

3)Heat oil in a wok or pan and throw in the ginger and garlic until fragrant

4)Add tofu and spicy bean paste

5) Add some water to help the bean paste mix with the tofu. Mix everything together carefully with a spatula to prevent breaking the tofu

6)Cover and cook for 3-5 minutes. This lets the tofu soak up all the yummy flavor!

7)Mix cornstarch with enough water to dissolve and add it to the pan. This thickens the sauce so it is easier to scoop and serve

8)Turn off the heat, mix in the green onions, and you are done!!

This recipe is very flexible so you can add or adjust any ingredients to suit your own style. Try adding some ground pork if you eat meat! This is a popular way to serve this dish.

Mabo tofu is one of my favorite foods and I hope it can become one of yours, too!

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tofu Two Ways!

As a vegetarian, I often have troubles getting the requisite amount of protein each day. Even though tofu tends to be the go-to food for veggie protein, I don't really like the flavour or texture of most tofu. Also, for some reason, I am really bad at cooking with tofu. It just turns out terrible, its either too soft and soy-y or too salty or too hard and flavourless or pretty much anything but tasty D: (To make matters worse, they always come in these HUGE containers. Maybe it's just my aversion to cooking with it that makes the quantity seem daunting...but seriously. ENORMOUS. So then half of it always ends up going bad because even if you soak it in water in like you're supposed to it never lasts more than half a week. Luckily, I've found this really nice tofu at my far-away Largest Asian Grocery In The Tri-State Area that's a third the size of normal blocks and comes in two chunks. PERFECT :D /tangent)

Luckily, scrounging the fridge for dinner tonight, I remembered this really tasty tofu dish my mom used to make for Saturday breakfast time to go with 稀飯/がゆ/rice porridge. All it was was a block of tofu and some soy paste. Being adventurous, I decided to kick it up a notch and try one with miso too. Both turned out remarkably tasty (although I made way too much of the miso sauce and ended up scraping off half of it D:). Paired with some azuki-brown rice, miso soup, and a simple side of tomato, it was a well-rounded, protein-filled, and most importantly, SUPER-YUMMY dinner.

For Simple Soy Paste Tofu:
Soft tofu, drained
Soy paste (Kimlan is the best!)
Green onion/scallion, slivered (optional)

1. Cut your tofu into blocks (I didn't do this, 'cause I was the only person eating so there wasn't anyone else to get squeamish about me massacring the tofu with my chopsticks. If you're serving others, however, they'd probably like it pre-sectioned.)
2. Drizzle with soy paste (about 1/2 T. per 1 oz. serving...or however big my piece was. Just look at the picture.)
3. Sprinkle with scallions (optional). Devour.

For Slightly More Complicated But Still Very Easy Miso Tofu:
Miso (1 tsp per serving)
Mirin (couple drops per serving, to taste)
Roasted black or white sesame seeds

1. Cut tofu into blocks.
2. Mix 1 tsp. miso and mirin to taste.
3. Top tofu with miso mixture. Sprinkle with roasted sesame seeds. Yum yum!

For Tomato Salad That Was Actually Way Tastier Than I Thought It Would Be:
3 Cherry Tomatoes, washed and halved
Splash Vinegar (I used rice vinegar, but it was kinda stinky; next time I'm sticking with distilled white vinegar)
2 t. olive oil
Pinch Garlic salt
Pinch Sugar, to taste (cuts the acidity of the tomatoes + vinegar)

1. Mix it all together before preparing the rest of dinner, so the flavours can develop.
2. Eat. Serves 1.

For Brown Rice with Azuki
This should be prepared the night before you want to eat it, because it requires soaking time. I used long grain brown rice 'cause that's all we had, and it was fluffy. I would suggest short grain for those who eat with chopsticks because it is stickier. I got frustrated eating mine D:<
Also, you need a rice cooker or steamer.

1. Measure out 1 cup brown rice. Take out 3 T. of rice.
Put it in your rice-cooking bowl.
2. Add 3 T. azuki beans.
3. If using rice cooker, add water up to the line for brown rice plus a millimieter over. For steamers, use the finger trick and add just a hint more water. In both cases, let soak at least overnight (6-8 hours).
4. Hit cook/steam.
5. Eat. Serves 4.

Happy Dining!
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Monday, February 7, 2011

玫瑰夫人/Madam Rose Tea House

On Feb. 6, 2011 I attended a Lolita Meetup at an exquisite-sounding tea house called "Madam Rose" Oooooh elegant! Photos are discouraged, but if you are discreet the employees generally will allow some photography.

We got a room to ourselves because we had enough people to book a room, but the non-room tables were every bit as elegant and fancy! Do note that the minimum fare for a room is NT$5000 not counting the 10% service charge


No. 77號, Section 3, NánJīng East Road, Jhongshan District
Taipei City, Taiwan 104


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The setting

Vegetarian Afternoon Tea Set

Top: Sweets

Bottom: Savory
Regular Savory Tier
Double serving of Regular Sweets Tier.  It got doubled up because we had too many people to fit a tea tower for each person!

The teacups were very pretty and elegant. The tea comes in a pot over a tealight burner to keep it hot!
Price (out of 3): $$$ Each Afternoon Tea Set is NT$580! There is also a 10% service charge so the total ended up being NT$638 each. For booking a room, there in a minimum of NT$5000 not including the 10% service charge and a time limit of 3 hours. We went a bit over our time, but were not rushed out because it was not terribly busy at the time :D

Food: Very good! The tofu on the spoon was a bit strange, and the black thing on the lettuce was strange too, but everything else was very delicious and actually quite filling. The Rose Milk Tea I had was lightly rose-flavored (rose is my new favorite flavor!) and not too sweet. My favorite bites of food were the raisin scone, the macaron, and the cheesecake

Service (out of 5): ***** The servers were all very courteous and we got a "service button" that you can just press and they will then appear very quickly! She could explain all the different types of tea (3 pages worth...) and and patient with our many questions. Quite a formal location, so I suppose it is expected :)

I really loved Madam Rose! Too bad it is pricey and far from where I live, or I would go there more often!
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

鄉成 Xiang Cheng Thai Restaurant

Oftentimes when I was in America and people asked me where my family is from, I would say, "Taiwan." To which they would reply, "Oh, so you are Thai?"
"No, people from Thailand are Thai."
"Aren't you from Thailand?"
"No, my parents are from Taiwan. We are Taiwanese."
"Oh...." *blank face*
"It's an island off the coast of China."
"OH! So you are Chinese!"
"Um, yea" ^u^v

I never realized that Thailand and Taiwan were easily confused, so here is a quick geography lesson for you all first

Green = Taiwan, where I am right now
Red = Thailand, where the inspiration for the food at the restaurant I am reviewing came from


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NOTE: Google Maps still has the restaurant labeled as 去巴西/Go Go Brazil! I went there last year, and it has since changed to an Italian noodle restaurant, a "special ingredients" restaurant, and now Xiang Cheng, a Thai restaurant. All within the course of a year or so. Let's see how Xiang Cheng fares..

The new entrance! It is decorated for Chinese New Year :)

The decor and atmosphere is refreshing and clean with a twist of mod. Rather different than other Thai restaurants I have been to!

Basil and pork

Ho Fun

Eggplant Stir-Fry
NOTE: This contains meat. You can ask for without, though!

Sugar Cane Shrimp
It is really just shrimp paste wrapped around sugar cane and fried. The shrimp flavor did not come through as strongly and I would have liked

Egg Pancake with basil and veggies inside. Quite tasty!

Stir-Fried Water Spinach

Tapioca dessert. I am not a fan of coconut tapioca dessert in general. This one tasted very watered down with not much coconut flavor, but was not too sweet either. There were a few bits of hard, dry coconut flakes that were rather annoying, but overall it was just very "meh"

Prices for all dishes range from about NT$100-NT$300, so it is pretty average. The tables were a bit too small for all the dishes, though and we had to keep juggling dishes and trying to cram them all on! It is easier to finish an entire plate so the server can remove it

Price(out of 3): $~$$ Not cheap enough to eat at too frequently, but lower than say, 瓦城

Food: Yummy, but a bit too oily for me. I got indigestion, though it may have been because I decided not to eat any rice to cushion the grease with :P I suggest eating rice with the dishes!

Service(out of 5): *** The staff just takes the order, brings out the dishes and cleans up empty dishes. Wait time is about average with the dishes arriving a few minutes apart

Nice meet-up place. I would suggest getting a couple dishes to share so you can clear a plate and have it removed, otherwise you may have to end up pulling a spare chair to hold the rice bowl!
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