Nikujaga – Japanese Beef Stew

Niku = meat and jaga-imo = potatoes. So Nikujaga literally translates into “meat and potatoes” in Japanese. This is a very hearty dish commonly cooked in winter among Japanese households. With another Shanghainese street food to prepare, I bought more potatoes and carrots than I needed. I decided to make Nikujaga to use up the rest of the potatoes and carrots.

Ingredients:
1 lbs of thinly sliced beef, preferably a cut with enough fat on it (I unfortunately only had lean cut, the meat was a little dry after being cooked for a while)
1 onion, chopped into thin strips
4 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped into big chunks
4 carrots, peeled and chopped into big chunks
6-8 shiitake mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 handful of green beans, trimmed and cut into halves
Coconut oil
salt and little pepper
1/2 cup of sake
1/2 tsp of dashi powder
2-3 tsp of sugar
5 tsp of soy sauce

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Heat coconut oil in a pot. The pot needs a certain amount of depth but not too deep making it hard to stir later. Add the beef slices to the pot and cook them through. Remove the cooked beef slices and leave the grease in the pot. Add the onion strips in the pot and cook until they turn semi-transparent. Add the potatoes, carrots and mushrooms and stir for about 2 minutes. Add sake and cook until you smell the alcohol coming out. Add dashi powder, salt and pepper, sugar, and soy sauce. Stir to mix well and cook for another minute. Shirataki noodles (yam noodles) are often added too, but I didn’t have any at the time so I skipped this one. Pour the beef slices back into the pot and simmer with a lid partially covering the pot for about 20-30 minutes. While cooking, add a little water if the food seems dry but make sure you do so after 10-15 minutes of simmering – usually there will be enough water coming out of the vegetables after a while. Once the meat becomes tender and the carrots and the potatoes are soft, Add the green beans and cook for another 5-8 minutes. Dish out to serve.

The sauce is quite tasty and if you have any extra, pour the sauce on top of some steamed rice. They go great together!

It is such a simple dish with wonderful flavor profile. I love it! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Boiled chicken with home-made chili sauce, aka “Saliva Chicken”!

Before talking about the dish, I want to talk a little about spiciness in Chinese food. There are a few provinces in China that are famous for spicy food, ie. Sichuan, Hunan, etc. There are three basic kinds of spiciness you will encounter frequently in Chinese dishes: aromatic spiciness (“้ฆ™่พฃ”), mouth-numbing spiciness (“้บป่พฃ”) and usual hot spiciness. I personally distinguish these three by which part of my body responds to the spiciness. Aromatic spiciness apparently is mostly stimulating to your sense of smell and for example it can come from when you cook the hot pepper seeds with some sesame oil. Mouth-numbing spiciness is generally a temporary numbness to the wall of your mouth and tongue and a typical mouth-numbing spice used is Sichuan pepper corn (or flower pepper “่Šฑๆค’”). And usual hot spiciness comes from all kinds of hot peppers and it is most stimulating to the throat which results in a lot of water drinking.

Although, I personally think there should be another kind of “spiciness” that only stimulating to your sinus, that comes from wasabi and horseradishes, which I LOOOOOVE. Well, that’s a different story. I’ll save it for the next time.

Saliva chicken is a popular dish from Sichuan province, where the Giant Panda comes from. And its flavor combines all three kinds of spiciness mentioned above and it also has a tint of saltiness and even sweetness. Also the fact that it is a cold dish (an appetizer usually) makes it less heavy and very fresh tasting.

By the way, there is absolutely NO ingredient involving saliva from anybody in this dish. It is called saliva chicken is because it is so tasty that just thinking about it or looking at it will make you drool. Calling it “mouth-watering chicken” is probably more appropriate. Lol.

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Ingredients:
1 lbs of meaty chicken parts, eg. thighs, breasts
1 tsp of ginger, coarsely sliced
1 tsp of garlic, coarsely cut
1/2 stick of green onions, coarsely cut

2 tsp of ginger, minced
3 tsp of garlic, minced
2 tsp of sesame seeds
1 stick of green onions, finely chopped
A bunch of cilantro leaves
2 tsp of sugar
Salt and pepper
3 tsp of chinese cooking wine
2 tsp of soy sauce
1 tsp of black vinegar (or I used rice vinegar for substitute)
1 tbs of sesame oil
10-15 dried hot chili peppers, chopped (do not lose the seeds)
1 tsp ground paprika
1/2 tsp of chili powder
1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper

Boil water in a large pot. Cook the chicken with coarsely chopped garlic, ginger and green onion for about 10-20 minutes. The time really varies here depending on the thickness and the size of the piece. Time it right so it does not get overcooked. Once cooked, drain the water and run the chicken under cold water for 10-20 seconds and soak the chicken in ice. This hot to icy cold process is critical to make the meat texture great! When the sauce is being cooked, you can chopped up the chicken to bite sized chunks. The chopped chicken should be kept in a cool/cold environment before ready to serve.

In a sauce pan, heat up the sesame oil. Add garlic and ginger. Stir until you smell the aroma. Add paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper and chopped chili peppers. Cook in medium-low heat and stir until they blend well. The oil is turning red. Add sugar, cooking wine, and salt and pepper. Cook for another minute or two. Turn off the heat and add soy sauce, vinegar, sesame seeds and green onion. Stir well and let the sauce sit for 5-10 minutes. Add a layer of cilantro on top of the chopped chicken, and pour the sauce over.

This is easy to make. It is a cold dish and the spiciness brings back some appetite. A great summer dish to have at home! Enjoy!

Xinjiang-style Cumin Lamb

Cumin is the spice that is commonly and widely used in Uyghur (the major Xinjiang minority group) dishes. It brings fantastic flavor out of lamb meat. Cumin lamb is an ancient Xinjiang (Northwestern part of China) dish that can be traced back for like more than a thousand years ago.

Ingredients:
1 lbs of lamb leg, thinly sliced (Note: I only had ground lamb tonight, the texture is slightly less desirable but the flavor is still impeccable!)
1 tablespoon of Corn starch
Olive oil
Soy sauce
Coconut oil
1/3 white onion, thinly sliced
Cumin or cumin powder (Preferably to use cumin, it has a stronger scent and flavor)
White pepper
Chinese cooking wine
Salt and pepper
Chili powder
Paprika
Hot pepper oil
A bunch of cilantro, on the side

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Marinate the lamb slices with corn starch, some olive oil, soy sauce and some cumin powder – the meat just needs a coat but not to be smothered in the marinating sauce. Let sit for at least 2 hrs or overnight.

Prepare cilantro on the side of the plate.

Heat up coconut oil in a large pan. Add onion strips and cook until they are semi-transparent. Add the marinated lamb slices. Add some cumin powder, white pepper, Chinese cooking wine and hot pepper oil. Stir to mix well. When the lamb meat starts to change color, add more cumin powder, salt and pepper, chili powder and paprika. Please note that if you are using cumin, since it carries a much stronger flavor, you do not need to add as much as cumin powder. This dish is supposed to be savory, super aromatic with a little bit spiciness. Of course, gauge the spice ratio to cater to your own preference. When the lamb meat is completely cooked – this takes about 3-5 minutes, you can plate the dish and enjoy it with cilantro!

Everybody loved the dish and we totally “destroyed” it in like 5 minutes. I love the smell of cumin, absolutely inviting and salivating! Using the only Uyghur word I know to describe the dish, “YAKEXI!!!” (meaning, GOOD!!) Lol. ๐Ÿ™‚

Taiwanese braised pork rice

It was a rainy day and I got some boneless pork shoulder on sale. A warm bowl of braised pork rice for dinner seemed very fitting.

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Ingredients:
1 lbs of boneless pork shoulder (or better, pork belly)
A few cloves of garlic, minced
Thumb sized ginger root, peeled and minced
1/3 of an onion, chopped into small bits
A few portobello mushrooms, chopped into small bits
A few stems of green onions, chopped into small bits
Coconut oil
2-3 tsp of Soy sauce
1-2 tsp of Dark/Aged soy sauce
Chinese cooking wine
2 star anise
2-3 small pieces of Chinese cassia bark
1-2 small bars of traditional brown rock sugar
five spice powder
cumin powder
white pepper powder
salt and pepper

Steamed rice
Chopped cucumber and carrot strips and some cilantro as side dish

Boil water in a large pot. Put in the pork shoulder and let cook for about 3-5 minutes and get rid of the floating fat on top of the surface of water. Drain the water and rinse the meat under cold water. Chop up the meat into small 1-2 cubic cm chunks. In another large pan, heat up coconut oil. Throw in the ginger and garlic bits first and stir until you smell the cooking aroma. Add the chopped onion bits and stir until they turn semi-transparent. Add the pork bits and stir to mix well. Cook until all the pork turns white. Add all the spices except for salt and pepper. Add some water to smother all the ingredients. Stir to mix well. Turn the heat on until the liquid boils. Transfer everything into another pot, preferably a ceramic pot. Put on the lid and let cook in very small heat for about 2 hours. If you are running out of time, 1 hour is minimal. Add mushrooms and green onions a couple minutes before turning off the heat. Add salt and pepper and stir to taste. Serve with steamed rice and other vegetables as you like. Chinese tea-leaf eggs and sauteed greens are often used as well.

Make sure you have sufficient liquid in the pot as the juice is the best part! When pouring it on top of the steamed rice, the taste of it just blows your mind! ๐Ÿ˜›

That was a hearty and delicious meal! The pork was savory with a little sweetness. I just absolutely love the combination of star anise, Chinese cassia bark and soy sauce – very traditional Chinese! Enjoy!

What to do with beef liver?

Beef liver is packed with nutrients and it also have a unique taste to it. It has a strong mineral flavor to it.

I have two packs of beef liver.

Last night, I decided to do a test run and opened up one pack. I used otherwise the same ingredients as the beef fajita recipe (see this link https://foodtofeedmysoul.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/marinated-beef-fajitas-with-homemade-salsa-and-guacamole/) to cook the beef liver. Onion strips always go great with liver meats. The only thing to be careful is that the cooking time is slightly different between organ meat and muscle meat. It only takes about 5 minutes on medium-high heat to thoroughly cook the liver. And it is advised to cook the liver as a whole first and cut to desired slices later and do NOT turn frequently while cooking. It was delicious!

And I am searching as well as creating a more creative way of cooking the other pack of beef liver. Do you have any good ideas? ๐Ÿ™‚

Chinese chives’ pockets

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Chinese chives’ pocket is a dim-sum dish from Northeastern part of China. I recently stocked some Chinese chives from last trip to the local Asian market.

Ingredients:
A bunch of Chinese chives, chopped into fine bits
2-3 eggs, beaten
5-6 shrimps, cooked and chopped into small bits
(Chives:Cooked Eggs: Shrimps = 3:2:1 in volume)
Salt and pepper
Coconut oil
Sesame oil
Sichuan flower pepper oil
1 stick of scallions, chopped into small bits
A few small round tortillas

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In a large pan, melt coconut oil in medium heat. Make scrambled eggs and make sure not to over cook the eggs. Chop the eggs into evenly small bits and set aside. Stir fry the chives for about 30 sec to 1 minute (this step is optional). Mix the chives, eggs, shrimps well. Add salt, pepper, sesame oil, flower pepper oil, and scallions and stir well.

Fill the tortilla with the mix and fold the edge to seal the pocket. You can also make dough from scratch, which is the proper way of making the chive pocket. But tortillas will get the job done if you do not have much time.

In a pan, melt coconut oil in medium heat and make sure the whole surface is covered with oil. Carefully lower the pocket onto the pan and pan fry until one side turns golden brown. Turn to the other side and cook until it turns golden brown. Serve immediately!

I really like the taste of the Chinese chives and hope you do too! ๐Ÿ™‚

Scallion oil noodles – delicious Shanghai street food

Scallion oil noodles (“cong you ban mian”, noodles mixed with scallions and oil) can be found in most breakfast places. And is is a super easy dish to make at home.

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Ingredients:
Flour noodles, preferably narrow thin ones
Sesame oil or vegetable oil
Chopped up scallions (or use green onions for substitute)
Sugar, 2-3 teaspoons
Soy sauce, 2-3 tablespoons

In a small pot, add a few drops of oil and scallions. In medium heat, cook until you can smell the aroma from the scallions and add soy sauce. Add sugar in 10 -20 seconds or so. Stir to mix everything well and cook until the sauce start to sizzle. Another thing to look for, is the color of the scallions, they should be coated with soy sauce and sugar and appear to be dark brown. Remove from heat.

Boil water in a large pot and throw in the noodles. Cook for about 2 minutes. Pour out the hot water and add in cold water, bring to boil again. Run icy cold water through the cooked noodles for about 5 seconds. Drain all the water and set the noodles aside.

Dish out the noodles in a bowl, add the sauce to the noodles. Usually a few spoonful of sauce is all you need per person (it can get too salty if too much sauce is added to the noodles). Mix the sauce well into the noodles. Serve immediately!

You can add other stuff on top of the noodles, such as pickled ginger, seaweed bits, white sesame seeds, stir fried vegetables, etc. In Shanghai, adding dried shrimp bits is common too.

This makes me miss home, Shanghai! ๐Ÿ˜›