Monday, January 17, 2011

Simply photography-pan fried and boiled pork and cabbage dumplings


I love this last photo, shot next to the window with curtain on a sunny early afternoon. I more and more feel sun light is the best source for food photography.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Simply photography-veggie spring roll

Sichuan style red braised beef noodle soup-spicy!

Another food made with the lengendary Sichuan peppercorn - the signature ingredient in the Sichuan style spicy food! Besides, to make the red braised beef, I also added a couple of star anise, as shown above, for more fragrance and richer taste.

This is a very common diner food and home food in Sichuan. Because of the hot and humid climate, people adopted spicy food to help get sweat out. Also spicy food enhances metabolism, that's why people from Sichuan tend to be slimmer, although it's the so called food paradise of China. I grew up eating all those delicious food without appreciation until I left my hometown and country to a completely different place. I still remember I used to claim my love of steak and pizza , and such exotic western foods to my peers. Living in U.S.for years made me realize that I might be adaptive to the English language, the pop culture, the western lifestyle, but my stomach is the most stubborn part. Only the Chinese food that I grew up eating comforts it. That's how I started cooking and trying to replicate what I ate as as kid. Cooking is therefore my way of curing homesickness.

Sichuan style red braised beef noodle soup

Red braised beef recipe


1 pound beef for stewing, preferrably with some fat for juiciness
5 cm piece of fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic
2 spring onions
2 tbsp cooking oil
3 tbsp chili bean paste
3 cup beef/game stock
4 tbsp cooking rice wine
1/2 Cup soy sauce
2 tsp whole Sichuan pepper
2 star anise
1 tbsp brown sugar
salt to taste

1. Blanch the beef in boiling water for a minute or two until scum has risen to the surface, then remove the meat and rinse it under the tap. Cut the beef into 1-2 inch chunks. Crush the ginger slightly. Cut the spring onions into 2 or 3 sections. Slice the garlic.

2. Heat the oil in a flat-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. When it is hot, add the chili bean paste and stir-fry for about 30 seconds until the oil is red and richly fragrant. Add the beef, the ginger, the garlic, the spring onions, and the spices and keep stir frying for about 1 minute. Add the stock, soy sauce, sugar and wine.
3. Bring the liquid to boil, skim if necessary, then turn the heat down and simmer gently until the beef is beautifully tender. This will depend on which cut of beef you are using, but it should be at least 2 hours. (if using a crockpot, longer) Before turning off heat, add salt to taste.


To make soft yolk eggs and noodle

Add water into a deep saucepan, enough to submerge eggs. Place eggs in the pan and  turn on heat. Turn off heat when water starts boiling and cover the lid to let the steam keep cooking the eggs for 3 minutes. Drain hot water and submerge eggs in cold water until completely cooled down. 

Cook one bundle of buckwheat noodle as direction, about 3 minutes after water boiling. Drain the noodle immediately and serve with braised beef and its sauce, as long as egg halves and pea tendrils (also called pea shoots, are the leafy, tender stem portion of young pea plants) or cilantro.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Washington DC trip and egg and bacon breakfast

I am just back from the one-week Washington D.C. trip. The last time I was there it was summer, so I underestimated the toughness of its winter. Especially used to the upstate NY climate, I feel everywhere else should be easy to handle. I ended up walking in freezing temperature in the national mall area for hours wearing a thin sweater and a short peacoat. The fourth day I was finally beaten down, feeling nauseous and strong headache. Somehow, meeting the old friends from graduate school  the next day miraculously cured my illness. It's interesting that after graduating people move away, and you tell yourself friends are gone and it's a new phase of life now, but somehow old friends get together again, and you are immediately drawn back to the good old days.We had lots of catching-ups and laughs, and shared the happiness of a new marriage. It was a great time!

Following my friends' recommendations, we tried a dim-sum restaurant near our hotel, in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. Dim sum might still be an unfamiliar food for most American people unless you happen to live where there's a decent Chinatown. It's a Cantonese style brunch restaurant serving all kinds of snack food. Traditionally, people come with friends in the morning. They eat, chat, read newspaper, gossip and eat again. One meal may last up to 3 or 4 hours. Actually I didn't try dim sum until I came to US. and I immediately fell for the delicious food. It became a must eat food whenever I go to Chinatown. The way food is served in such restaurants is also interesting. Restaurant staff push carts full of all kinds of fresh cooked food around to every corner of the restaurant. When they pass you, they stop to let you take a look and take whatever you want to eat from the cart. They write down what you take on a card on your table and when you can't stuff yourself any more, they add up the prices of individual food to come to the total. For two people like us, it costs less than 30 dollars.

left: the outside of the dim-sum restaurant. right: BBQ pork chang fen (叉烧肠粉)--BBQ roast pork wrapped in wide rice noodle, dipped in specially made sauce
upper left: sticky rice with chicken and mushroom, wrapped in a lotus leaf (荷叶糯米鸡). upper right: BBQ roast pork bun (叉烧包), it's sweet and savory at the same time. A must try dim sum food. Yummy! lower left: deeped fried shrimp balls. lower right: pan fried turnip cake with pork (萝卜糕)

What I ordered here, is just the tip of the iceberg. A typical dim sum restaurant offers tens of kinds of food, coming with a small portion each. So you can sample quite a few each time.


One of my new year resolutions is to eat healthy and eat clean, like this brunch: Whole wheat toast + egg + 3 strips of turkey bacon + low sugar mango and pineapple juice (50 calories a cup). A good day starts here.