Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Rice Dumpling Time Again!


Yup, it's time for Duan Wu Jie aka Dragon Boat Festival again!  I've written about these zongzi or rice dumplings before in 2011 and again in 2009 (and now that I'm looking back at those posts, man, apparently I take the same shots every year!  And the pictures seem better in the previous posts) so I will keep the words to a minimum! (And yes, that is an entire stockpot full of zongzi. Hey, if you're going to bother, make a lot! They happen to freeze very nicely, and then you can just microwave one when you feel the urge strike.


First ingredient: glutinous rice! Glutinous is such a weird sounding word isn't it? Anyway, this is sticky rice, and you have to buy this kind if you're going to make these dumplings, otherwise they will fall apart all over the place. For the savory ones, the rice is marinated in soy sauce diluted with water.


And second ingredient: pork! You have to get pork with some fat to it (but not too much fat). You could use belly but make sure there is actual meat and not just fat, which is what I keep seeing in the supermarkets. Check your local Asian grocery! This is cut into chunks and marinated in rice wine, soy, and five spice.


Filling the bamboo leaf cone. A layer of rice goes in the bottom, pork in the center, and top it all off with more rice. The rice to pork ratio is up to you; in our family, we never seem to make equal amounts of filling so the first few we make are super full of pork, and by the time we get to the last of the rice, we're rationing those precious, precious bits of pork (and let me tell you, an all-rice dumpling is no fun). I think we did pretty okay this year, though.

Red bean

And bonus shot of me in the middle of making a sweet rice dumpling. The filling here is chunky red bean paste, which you can conveniently buy prepared in a can. The rice, of course, is not marinated in soy sauce. But the filling technique is the same. And of course if you're making both you should figure out some way to distinguish between the two types, lest you spend the next few months playing rice dumpling roulette.


After all that wrapping comes a few hours of boiling. By the way, did I mention this is a good test of patience? It's worth it, I promise. Here is one of mine, almost ready to eat (and the reappearance of my fishy plate! It is sort of apt, if you know the legend behind these zongzi.)


And finally! Mmmm, porky deliciousness. (Sorry--I haven't had a sweet one yet, so no shot of those. Maybe after I stumble home from karaoke tonight.  Then again....maybe not.)

I love keeping these kinds of family food traditions going; it's an important part of our heritage. I mean, sure, I benefit by eating them (and these are so much better than the storebought ones) but there is something personally satisfying about spending a few hours sitting around the old kitchen table with my mom, making something we've made for years and years and years. And it doesn't hurt that mine totally look better than my mom's. ;)

Monday, June 18, 2012

ZuZu Ramen

Oysters, Deviled eggs with uni!, shrimp

Hokay! Here we are, Monday again, and this is a relatively timely post (naturally, I have drafts of many more posts that are much less timely waiting for me to finish them), since I was just at Zuzu Ramen on Wednesday. A little background here--I've "met" a bunch of neat people who are just as food-crazy as I am on Flickr, and over time, I've had the pleasure of meeting some of them in person. And last week, a couple of us went over to check out Zuzu Ramen in Park Slope (I have been following the chef's photostream for a while, and had met him at Choice Eats! It was not quite as stalkery as it sounds, heh.) And the man fed us like royalty--we didn't even order!

Disclaimer time! Some of this stuff is off the menu (but might be available as a special.)

Apple, mint and lemongrass infused sake

We started with the tray in the top photo. From left to right: malpeque oysters with tosazu gelee and radishes, dashi marinated deviled egg with uni, and you can just barely see the prosciutto wrapped shrimp on the right. Uni on deviled eggs is pure genius. The photo above is some homemade apple, mint and lemongrass infused sake. It turns out my two dining companions are not big drinkers, so I got to drink more than my fair share, woohoo!

Octopus, grapefruit, radish salad

This was followed by a spicy and refreshing octopus, grapefruit, and radish salad. Sinus clearing! Loved the little bits of grapefruit.

Salmon BLT Bun

And then, this arrived: the salmon BLT (sans the T; apparently the green tomatoes ripened and were no longer suitable for this!) I think C said it best, when she said "I don't want this to end." Yes, those are chicharrones topping the salmon. Yes, it is every bit as delicious as you are imagining right now. (There is a pork belly version on the regular menu. I will definitely have to try this next time.)

Chili-cumin Glazed Ribs

A close second in deliciousness were these (on the menu!) chili-cumin glazed ribs. Dude, check out the ENORMOUS RIB I picked up. Falling off the bone tender. Mmm. I was pretty ready to wave the white flag of defeat at this point, but then Scratchy came out to ask if we wanted some ramen. How could we say no? (Although I did ask for a small portion.)

Green Curry Ramen

Here's my green curry ramen, with the most meltingly soft charshu ever. And who doesn't love a soft-cooked egg?

Hot & Sour Ramen

C's hot and sour ramen (also a small portion).

Beef Curry Ramen

And P's regular sized slow-braised beef curry. I only had a sip of the broth, but it was yummy, and it turns out the beef is tongue. Will definitely have to try this one next time, too. And after that, we really did have to throw in the towel. I don't know about the other two, but I definitely waddled to the subway. (And because we really are food-nuts, we talked about a future outing to eat our way around Flushing. Wheee!) Can't wait to go back to Zuzu! So hey, if you find yourself over in those parts and in need of a dining companion....give me a shout!

 ZuZu Ramen
173 4th Ave. (nearest train stop is the R at Union St.)
Park Slope, Brooklyn
Cash only

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ginger-Shallot Fried Rice

Ginger-shallot fried rice

Well, I feel mildly silly about putting up a recipe for fried rice since it's really the kind of dish where you use what you've got! It's the perfect vehicle for rejuvenating leftovers, but it's also great for those days when you are out of everything but the staples, and feeling too lazy to go out and restock (I mean, not that that's ever happened to me, no sirree.) But Py asked for a guide specifically for ginger fried rice, and so I deliver (and anyway, it makes me happy someone is benefitting from this blog besides me!) So. Onwards!


Okay, so this is a fried rice dish that I actually make when I'm feeling a little bit under the weather, because although my usual fried rice recipe contains a bit of ginger, this one contains a LOT of ginger. There is some hoo-hah about ginger being good for you because it expels excess wind or something, but I don't generally believe in that kind of stuff, and so can't remember the exact details. (And what is excess wind, anyway? When you're feeling gassy?) Just make this because it's delicious! You can vary the ratio depending on your tolerance (or love, in my case) for spicy ginger, but I generally go with roughly one portion rice to 1/2 portion finely chopped ginger, and 1/2 portion finely chopped shallots. If I'm really feeling gingery, I'll use equal amounts. For one person, you'll also need an egg, and this time, for color, I added some chopped asparagus to replace the green onion I would normally use. If you are feeling extra decadent, you can also use some finely chopped bacon or even better, waxed meat.

So, the technique: First step, heat oil in a large pan (if you are using bacon, put that in first, and let the fat render out. You may not need oil, depending on how fatty the bacon is). Second step, add your finely chopped ginger and shallots, and stir, stir, stir! Fry until everything smells awesomely fragrant. Third step, add your asparagus (or other vegetable, if you'd like), and stir-fry until the veggies are just tender. Push everything to the side, pour in your egg, and scramble until almost set. Dump in your rice (which is hopefully cooked and leftover! Freshly cooked rice is too soft.); this is a good time to add a bit of salt and a drizzle of sesame oil. Toss everything (this is why you need the large pan) until it's all combined and the rice is heated through; I like to let the rice sit on the hot pan for an extra minute or two to develop a little bit of a crust. Serve! Enjoy the intense gingeryness!

I will also just note that this recipe cooks very quickly, so you should have all of your ingredients prepared and ready before you start. I mean, honestly--it took me less time to cook this than it took to type this whole damned thing out.

Space Panda!

It's been a nice weekend! I went to see Prometheus with a friend. Can I just point out how crazy it is to go see a movie in NYC? We (or I should say, she) showed up an hour early to get in line. A whole hour! Why they can't just sell reserved seats is beyond me. Anyway, the movie was pretty good (not as good as Alien or Aliens) and Michael Fassbender was terrific. Afterwards, we wandered around for a while, trying to find a bar to watch the Germany vs. Portugal game in--Germany won, yay! And then we went to Lincoln Center for their art fair, for a bit, and found this awesome Space Panda that she kindly bought me for my birthday. I love it. It's a panda in a helmet! Awesome. We chatted with the artist, John Ha for a bit, and I hope I have talked him into making some art with horses in it.

Dusk sky

Okay well, I've got to go keep an eye on this experimental almond bread I've got in the oven, so I guess I will stop babbling now and leave you with this shot of Lincoln Center at dusk. (Hey, 3 posts so far for June, not too bad, huh?)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Cool Stuff: The Office Edition


Okay. I know, I complain a lot about working in Jersey City. It's just that, I hate taking the PATH! I really resent the fact that I have to take the subway AND the PATH. Plus, there's that whole being taxed in two states thing. And the lack of good or even edible food by my office. But, sometimes we get to see some neat stuff; for example, I've been watching the progress on the new World Trade Center.

And back in April, we got to watch the retired space shuttle Enterprise fly-by, piggybacked on a jet.

 It actually flew over our building twice, so you also get a shot of it flying away.

Tall ship

And a few weeks later, we were treated to a parade of ships coming in for Fleet Week. Like this tallship...

blue angels

And then the Blue Angels flew by (and that's a Navy ship below).


Check out the crazy trails of smoke they left behind!

Enterprise shuttle, floating home

And most recently, we got to see the Enterprise again, this time at a significantly slower pace as it was transported by barge to its final resting place at the Intrepid Museum. It looks a lot smaller to me on the barge than it did on the back of a jet!

So, I guess I can't say we never see anything cool from JC. But I'm still sticking to my guns about the lack of good food near my office! Happy Friday, and I hope you all have fabulous weekends.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vancouver in One Post

Welcome home husband though ever so drunk

I'm glad "blogging regularly" wasn't one of my resolutions, because I would be failing that one miserably. Someday, I may get back to blogging more regularly (or at least frequently)--someday. I hope, anyway! I haven't finished my HK posts yet (oh, didn't this happen last time too? Yes, I think it did.) but lest I get too far behind, I'm just gonna go ahead and talk about Vancouver before too much more time passes. I just went for a short trip this time, mostly because I wanted to be there for Py's birthday. And I arrived to glorious sun and warmth! Woohoo, sun and warmth! So we made a beeline for the UBC Botanical Garden; above is my favorite explanatory sign from their Physic Garden. Welcome home husband, though ever so drunk! At least he'll also be free from corns!

Although before we got there, we stopped and had brunch at a place in Kitsilano, whose name I can no longer remember. Um, it was a pub, though? This is Py's southwest eggs benedict....

Cod & Chips

And my fish and chips. This was merely okay, with the batter being a bit too heavy and greasy. What I WAS tickled by was the paper lining the plate--it was one of those wax sheets that's printed to look like newspaper, except this one had all kinds of weird fish recipes, including one for Cheesy Pollock Loaf, which I really regret not taking a photo of. It involved lots of mayo and pollock mixed together and stuffed into a hollowed out bread loaf.

Flowering chives

This picture doesn't do a good job of showing it, but that bee in the middle of this picture was ENORMOUS. Even its legs were at least twice the width of normal bees. Not sure if this was a different species or if the obesity epidemic has reached the bee world.


And this cute and normal-sized ladybug paid Py's finger a brief visit.


On another day, we went to Stanley Park and saw this gang of goslings. I had to laugh, because everyone who walked by stopped to take a picture. We've become such a picture-taking culture! I was all for having a seat in the grass and hanging out and watching them some more, but it turns out that where there are geese, there is a lot of goose poop. So we kept going.

Cass Mccombs
We also saw two awesome shows--Santigold, who was awesome and had an incredible team of dancers, and the decidedly more downtempo and relaxed Cass Mccombs. Sorry, that's as good a picture as I can summon up of Cass McCombs--it was in a small, very dark venue. But it was awesome (and so was the Santigold show). I can't knock Vancouver's music scene!


As usual, we did a lot of good eating! And as usual, i did not take nearly as many pictures as I should have. I'm really starting to consider whether I should get a smaller camera so that I don't lug the dSLR around all the time....because then I could have shown you the enormous mango shaved ice (enormous and delicious) that we had one day at lunch at a Taiwanese beef noodle soup place. Instead, you just get a picture of these (also delicious) chicken wings from Peckinpah in Gastown. This was followed by very credible barbecue.


To celebrate Py's birthday, we made dinner reservations at Yew Restaurant, in the Four Seasons Hotel downtown. Another occasion where I really regretted not bringing the camera (Py seemed pleasantly surprised, heh) because we had some really great food there, and the restaurant just had a really great ambiance. (I was less pleased with the seating, which was kind of saggy, so I was practically at chin level with the table.) We started with a shared raw platter, which had some of the best oysters I've had in ages, and then I had bouillabaisse. Mmm, soupy seafood deliciousness. Oh--I must give a special shoutout to the biscuits we were served. Those biscuits were awesome. I would not be surprised if they involved lard. So you might be asking, "Well if you went to this fancy pants restaurant and didn't bring your camera, what gives with the bowl of fruit?"
Calamansi Pie, sliced

We were too full for dessert at Yew, so I made birthday pie at home! Those limes are actually calamansis, which, in case you can't tell from the bowl, are tiny. And my recipe called for 1/2 a cup of juice. Let me tell you, it takes a lot of these tiny bastards to make 1/2 a cup of juice. But it was worth it--calamansis have a sharp tartness that's different from limes (almost orangey, which makes sense because they are actually related to oranges). And the crust! Can't go wrong with digestive biscuits and butter, that's what I say.

Otter shooting lasers out of his nose

And how did we belatedly celebrate my birthday? Of course--trip to the aquarium! Yay! Check it out, this otter is totally shooting lasers out of his nose. Okay, I've rambled on enough--I will stop now. But there are more aquarium and flower pictures in my Vancouver set over on Flickr, if you are so inclined!