My Japanese buddy introduced me to Japanese snack bars years ago.  He described that most Japanese men like to hang out at these snack bars after work, eat, smoke and get drunk. To me, it is similar to happy hour.  I have never been to any real Japanese snack bar till a few years ago when I was visiting Tokyo.  I loved it. Even though I don’t speak any Japanese, I managed to order some snacks, some wine and I had really great times there.  I’m here in Hong Kong visiting friends. My girlfriends introduced me to a Japanese snack bar at a residential area.  Everything was served on a stick.  The restaurant is small, but very cozy.  Who cares about fancy restaurant in a hotel or fancy decoration on a dish?  No frills, no gimmicks.  The food was plain simple, and delicious.  We ordered grilled chicken wings, beef tongue, eel, chicken liver, chicken skin, pork with asparagus wrap, and a lot more…  The chicken wings were just grilled to perfection. They were crispy on the skin, and they were simply flavored with a dash of salt.  That was superb!  The grilled eel was crispy on the skin and soft on the flesh… I could probably talk forever to describe every dish I had.  I had great times hanging out with friends, chatting about old times, snacking these delicious food, and drinking tons of sake.  Life is good. I can’t ask for more.

A small Japanese snack bar in Hong Kong

Chicken wings and eels on a stick

Sake

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I used to order Seafood in White Sauce (served with rice) when I was a teenage. For a long time, I thought it was something difficult to make, but it wasn’t.  I remember I learned how to make it once in a cookery class by blending the butter, the flour and milk together. It was not as hard as I thought. I know I’m trying hard to lose weight and butter is probably not my friend. But I really want to try something else than just stir frying some veggie and shrimps together. I made the white sauce by blending a very very little amount of butter, flour and milk, and add the rest of the ingredients. It was yummy and appealing.  It’s something for a chance.  Besides, it is seafood in a white sauce is very popular Hong Kong dish that I grew up with. I do miss it.  If I had time, I could put the rice in an baking container, pull the shrimp and veggie (with the white sauce) over the rice.  Then sprinkle a bit of cheese on top, and then bake it for a few minutes till the cheese melts. That would be a Baked White Sauce Seafood Rice, super yummy.

Boil carrots first

Add broccoli to the water.

Cook shrimp next

Cook mushroom and add butter and flour

Mix the white sauce well

Add shrimp and veggie back to the pan.

White Sauce Seafood (with Rice)

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • Shrimp, 1 pound (cleaned and shelled. Or you can use a pound of mixed shrimp and other seafood).
  • Mushroom, 1 pack (pre-cut)
  • Broccoli crown, 1 (about the size of a hand)
  • Carrots, 3
  • Garlic, 2 cloves
  • Butter, 2 tablespoon
  • Chinese cooking wine, 1 Tbsp
  • Cornstarch, 1 tsp
  • All purpose flour, 1.5 Tbsp
  • Milk, about 1-2 cups
  • Chicken powder, 1 tsp

 

Steps:

  1. Cut broccoli into bite size. Cut carrots into bite size. Boil some hot water in a pot. Use high heat.  Put carrots in the pot and let it cook for 5 mins or so.  Add Broccoli to the pot and let it cook with the carrots for another 4 or 5 mins.  Turn off the heat. Drain off the water.  Put it aside.
  2. Finely chopped the garlic. Put it aside.
  3. Mix cornstarch with the shrimp.  In a large pan, spray non-stick oil on it.  Use high heat. Put shrimp in the pan.  Let it cook for one side for a minute or so.  Flip it over to cook the other side for a minute or two. Turn off the heat. Put the shrimp in a plate and put it aside. It’s ok that the shrimp is not fully cooked yet because you will put it back in the sauce to cook more later.
  4. Spray a little bit more oil to the pan. Put mushrooms, garlic and Chinese cooking wine onto the pan.  Stir fry the mushroom until it is cooked.
  5. Add butter and all purpose flour to the mushroom in the pan.  Turn down the heat to the lowest.  Mix the flour to the butter.  Add a little bit of milk at a time, and mix it well until it turns into a sauce.  You can adjust the amount of milk according to the thickness of the sauce you prefer.  Add chicken power, a pinch of salt and pepper, mix it well.  Taste it.
  6. Add broccoli, carrots and the shrimp back to the pan. Mix everything well with the sauce.  Let it cook for 2 minutes or so until the sauce is well mixed and the shrimp is fully cooked.  Turn off the heat. Serve hot.  Serve it with rice.
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I heard the Japanese golfer Ryo Ishikawa is going to donate his entire year of earnings to help Japan.  What a great guy!  I was very impressed by his generosity.  I donated what I could to the Red Cross for the Japan Tsunami Fund. I donated to my friend’s Girl Scout troops.  I bought ticket for my vacation next month.  I bought some software for my school work.  With all these spending plus the crazy gas price, I have to cut back on other things. I made a frugal dish called Ants Climbing A Tree. It’s a traditional Chinese noodle dish. Usually it was pretty spicy, but I made it mild.  It has a little bit of ground meat and the clear cellophane noodles and some seasonings. That’s pretty much it.  It’s easy to make.  The clear noodles absorb whatever seasoning that I added, and it was delicious.  Cellophane noodles are pretty cheap, like 20 cents a pack.  I probably used 1/3 pound of the meat. So I would say the whole dish is probably like $3!!  Not bad at all for a cheap meal when I’m a budget.

Cellophane noodles

Cook Cellophane noodles first

Cook onion and ground meat

Add noodles and sauce

Ants Climbing a Tree

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • Ground meat, 1/3 to ½ pound (I used ground beef. The traditional dish used ground pork. You can even use ground chicken or turkey).
  • Cellophane noodles, 2 small packs
  • Garlic, 2 cloves
  • Scallion, 2 stalks
  • Small onion, 1
  • Chicken powder, 1 tsp
  • Chinese cooking wine, 1 Tbsp
  • Water, 4 Tbsp
  • Cornstarch, 1 tsp
  • Soy sauce, 1 Tbsp
  • Oyster sauce, 1 Tbsp
  • White pepper, a dash
  • Chili sauce, ½ tsp (you can add more)

 

Steps:

  1. Boil about 5 or 6 cups of water in a saucepan.  When water boils, add cellophane noodles. Let it cook for 7-10 mins until it is soft.  Use a colander to hold the noodles and discard the water.  Put it aside.
  2. Cut scallion into dices. Put it aside.
  3. Finely chopped garlic.  Put it aside.
  4. Cut onion into strips, put it aside.
  5. Prepare the sauce: In a bowl, add chicken powder, water, soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper and cornstarch. Mix it well.  Put it aside.
  6. Use a non-stick frying pan.  Spray non-stick cooking oil to the pan.  Use high heat.  Add garlic, onion and meat to the pan.  Add Chinese cooking wine.  Stir fry the meat until it is cooked.
  7. Add cellophane to the meat.  Let it cook for couple of minutes to make the noodles dry up a little bit.
  8. Add the sauce.  Mix everything well.  Turn down the heat to low.  Let it simmer for 4 or 5 minutes or until the sauce is fully absorbed by the noodles.  Stir the sauce well into the noodles.  Add the chili sauce to the noodles.  Taste it. Add a dash of salt or more chili sauce if needed.
  9. Add chopped scallion.  Mix it well. Turn off the heat. Serve hot.
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Help Japan

14 Mar
0

 I felt devastating watching the tsunami situation in Japan from youtube or TV.  It was really scary. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQD-2tlppdY&feature=player_embedded

I couldn’t even imagine any what-ifs if it happened to me.  A good friend of mine was visiting Japan when the earthquake happened.  She sent a message on Facebook saying she experienced a little bit of earthquake when she was enjoying her coffee at a café.  We just didn’t know that the big earthquake came the next day.  We lost touch for a few days and I was thankful to know she and her family survived and they are safe in one piece.  I have a few friends in Japan, and they are all safe.  It’s really sad to think about how long would the country take to reconstruct roads, houses, schools, … to bring the nation back.  Even though I’ve only visited Japan couple of times, I felt a strong tie to it.  I love Japanese food.  Ramen noodles are pretty much my daily lunch these days.  I grew up with tons of Japanese cartoons and comics.  I still love Dragonball even thought I’m too old for that now.  I have used tons of gadgets and devices that were made in Japan.  I feel very sad.  I feel obligated to spread the words.

Help Japan. Help if you can. Donate.  Ever dollar counts. If you have itunes, try this link, it’s very easy to donate to the Red Cross for the Japan Tsunami Fund.

https://buy.itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZFinance.woa/wa/buyCharityGiftWizard

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Happy Friday!  After a hectic day, I really didn’t feel like cooking.  I had fake Chinese food for dinner… I mean Americanized Chinese food.  LOL.  I couldn’t help myself to post the food I ate tonight here.  To my Chinese friends, let me introduce you to the “Chinese food” in US! LOL.

I ordered a two-entry dinner at a food court in the mall.  I picked Orange Chicken and something called Fire Cracker Chicken (who thought of names like this? LOL), and it came with noodles or rice.  I got noodles.  The noodles were extremely oily and full of MSG.  Both chicken dishes were probably deep fried and then cooked in extreme high sugar content sauces.  I couldn’t think of anything more unhealthy that this.  Even KFC may be healthier!  I ate it.  LOL.  It tasted semi-ok.  But of course, I have lowered my expectation for Chinese food in US over the years.  It doesn’t matter whether it was from a restaurant or a take out place.  All of them pretty much taste the same and look the same.  To complement my bad choice of dinner, I bought myself a bag of nice chocolates.  It was pricey for a tiny bag.  But it was certainly worth it.  I now felt much happier.  No bad for a Friday that I didn’t have to cook or do dishes.  YAY!!

Americanized Chinese Food in US

Godiva chocolate

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My college buddy went to Hong Kong for vacation, and she posted a lot of food pictures on Facebook.  I was drooling just watching them.  She posted a picture of a street vendor selling stuffed tofu, stuffed eggplant, stuffed peppers and fish balls.  Those were all my favorite street snacks that I grew up with.  I remember every time I bought a couple of stuffed tofu from a street vendor after school, they were taken right out of a big deep fry wok.  I burned my tongue every time.  Hehehehe.  It really brought back a lot of good childhood memory.  My mom made stuffed tofu, stuffed eggplant, and stuffed peppers at home sometimes.  She showed me how, it wasn’t hard.  Besides, the home-made version is a lot healthier since it is not deep fried.

Ground fish into paste first

Put fish paste on the eggplant, tofu or pepper

Put the side with the paste facing down first

Stuffed three treasures (stuffed tofu, stuffed eggplant, stuffed pepper)

Ingredients: 

  • White fish filet, ½ pound (any boneless white fish filet would do, You can use 1/2 pound of ready-made fish paste.  You can get it from Chinese grocery store. )
  • Dried shrimp, a few pieces (about 1 Tbsp)
  • Scallion, 2 stalks,
  • Fish sauce, a dash
  • White pepper, a dash
  • Water, 1 Tbsp
  • Chinese Eggplant, 1 (if you are using the huge American eggplant, you probably need ¼ of it)
  • Tofu, 1 packet (medium or firm, don’t get silken)
  • Green pepper, 1

 Steps:

  1. Pre-soak the dried shrimps 30 mins in hot water. Then chop it finely.
  2. Cut scallion into dices.
  3. Cut white fish filet into big pieces.  Put the pieces into a food processor.  Add a tablespoon of water, a dash of fish sauce and a dash of white pepper.  Ground every thing finely until it turns into a smooth paste.  You can add a little bit more water to make it smoother. Remove the paste from the food processor.  Mix it well with the chopped dried shrimp and scallion.  Put the mixture aside.
  4. Cut eggplant into slices of about 1 cm thick.
  5. Cut pepper into pieces about 2 inches wide.
  6. Cut tofu into slices of about 2 cm thick.  Pat dry them with a paper towel.
  7. Use a butter knife to grab a little bit of paste onto the tofu, eggplant or pepper.  
  8. Use a large non-stick frying pan.  Spray non-stick cooking oil onto the pan.  Use medium high heat.  Put the tofu, eggplant or pepper with the paste facing downward on the pan.  Let it cook for 6 or 7 mins.  Then flip it over to let it cook for another 6 or 7 mins.  Serve hot. You can add a few drops of diluted soy sauce if desired.
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It’s only a couple of weeks since the Chinese New Year, and I feel like I’m buried already with work and school. It has been crazy.  One resolution I have for Chinese New Year was to eat more fish.  I made some fish cake from scratch.  I was trying to be creative. HAHAHAHAHA.   I got some white fish filet. I put the fish in a food processor with shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp and scallion.  Mix it well, form it into round cakes, put some breadcrumbs on them, and pan fried them. They turned out pretty good.  I was happy. I was so easily pleased. LOL.

Cut fish into big dices first

Ground everything and mix them well

Cover each fish cake with breadcrumbs

Pan fry the fish cakes

 

Ingredients (Makes about 4 pieces):

  •  White fish filet, ½ pound (any boneless white fish filet would do)
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms, 2
  • Dried shrimp, a few pieces (about 1 Tbsp)
  • Scallion, 2 stalks
  • Chicken powder, ½ tsp
  • White pepper, a dash
  • Breadcrumbs, 1.5 cups

 Steps:

  1. Soak dried shiitake mushrooms and dried shrimp into hot water for 30 mins or so.
  2. Chop mushrooms and shrimps finely.
  3. Chop scallions into dices.
  4. Cut the fish into big dices first. The put the fish, mushrooms, scallion into a food processor and ground everything for 20 seconds or so.
  5. Remove the mixture from the food processor.  Add chicken powder and white pepper into the mixture.  Mix it well. 
  6. Form the mixture into balls.  Drop the balls about 2 inches into breadcrumbs and fully covered them.
  7. Spray non-stick cooking oil onto a frying pan.  Flatten the fish cakes a little bit when put them onto the pan.  Let it pan fry for 6 or 7 minutes on medium heat on one side.  Spray oil onto the other side of the fish cake before flip them over and cook for another 6 or 7 minutes.
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恭喜發財 (wish you rich), 身體健康 (wish you healthy) , 心想事成 (wish your wishes come true), 出入平安 (wish you safe and sound), 財源廣進 (wish your wealth keeps coming), 青春常注(wish you beautiful), 兔年行大運 (wish you best of luck in the year of the rabbit)!  OK, I think I cover all the blessings that most people would say to each other.  HAHAHAHA. 

 I was going to make some vegetarian dish today but I had so many meetings that I really had no time to make anything.  For breakfast, I had plain ramen noodles.  So I considered myself fulfilled the tradition of being vegetarian for at least the first meal.  Mom should be happy about this :) I could have continued to be a vegetarian for lunch, but I couldn’t resist the Sushi at work today.  I had some spicy salmon maki rolls.  It was not bad. For dinner, I did Chinese take out as I had no time to cook (ya, more meetings after dinner).  I ordered Beef Negimaki appetizer, Sesame Chicken, Pork Fried Rice, and large Wonton Soup.  So combine what I had today, I had fish, chicken, beef and pork.  Even though the food was Americanized Chinese food (aka fake Chinese food), I covered it all :D  I couldn’t ask for more.  And tomorrow, Chinese New Year Day 2, I’ll treat myself a great piece of steak and a bottle of nice merlot :)   Life is good.

Chinese New Year Dinner - Beef Negimaki, Sesame Chicken, Pork Fried Rice

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Chinese New Year is just around the corner.  YAY!  I love CNY.  Feb 3 is Chinese New Year Day 1.  I want to go out and have a great dinner and celebrate.  Too bad it has been like snowing forever in NY.  The damn snow never stops. LOL.  I am definitely planning to make a big dinner on Chinese New Year Day 2.  Well, I need to be a vegetarian for Day 1 according to my family’s tradition.  I would probably make a traditional vegetarian dish with Chinese hair vegetable.  And Day 2, I will have a huge dinner.  So today, I made something lighter.  I wanted to grill some eggplant.  But look at my grill.  It is so buried in the snow. My propane tank is completely buried. That’s probably like 20 inches of snow on my deck.  So I tried making grilled eggplant with the broiler.  It works very well.  I pan fried the eggplant a little bit before putting it in the broiler for 10 mins or so.  It was easy to make.  I have been eating clean so that I can eat a ton of food for CNY.  HAHAHAHAHA.

My grill is buried

Briefly pan fried eggplant

Grill eggplant with the broiler

Grilled Eggplant

Ingredients (Serves 2 as side dish):

  • Eggplant, 1 big one if you get it from a American grocery store.  (2 or 3 eggplants if you are using the longer and smaller Chinese eggplants)
  • Oyster sauce, 1 tsp
  • Soy sauce, 1 tsp
  • Olive oil, ½ tsp
  • Water, 1 Tbsp
  • Sesame oil, a few drops (optional)

 

Steps:

  1. Slice eggplant into thin slices (less than 1 cm wide)
  2. Use a large frying pan. Spray non-stick cooking oil on it.  Use high heat. Put eggplant slices on the pan. Let them cook untouched for 2 or 3 mins. Then flip over to cook the other side for another 2 or 3 mins.   Turn off the heat.
  3. Use a non-stick baking tray, transfer eggplant slices to the tray.  Lay them out in a single layer. Spray a little bit of cooking oil on the top of the eggplant.  Turn on the broiler (which is the top heat coil). Let it broil for 10-12 mins or until the surface of the eggplant is browned a little bit.
  4. To make the sauce, combine oyster sauce, soy sauce, olive oil, water and sesame oil in a bowl. Mix them well.
  5. When the eggplant is done, drizzle the sauce over the eggplant. Serve hot.
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I was really in the mood of trying something new.  I needed to do something to de-stress.  Work hasn’t been going on too well.  Hopefully the coming Chinese New Year can bring me better luck.  For now, food is my comfort.  LOL.  I got a bunch of meat and other stuff from the grocery store the other day.  I heard it’s going to snow again next week.  I got a packet of very thin and lean center cut pork chops.  The meat looked really good.  I don’t usually make pork chops because most pork chops that I found in regular American grocery stores were like an inch thick, which were too thick in my opinion.  It wasn’t easy to find the thin cut pork chops.  I decided to make Baked Pork Chops and Rice. This is a very common Hong Kong dish that I grew up with.  I remember I only made this once back in my college days.  I cooked the rice first.  I marinated the meat, and then pan fried them.  I made the sauce. I put the pork chops on top of the fried rice.  I added the sauce.  Sprinkled some cheese, and then baked the whole thing for a little bit.  It was more work to make this dish compare to what I usually made.  But I really needed to occupy myself with something that took my mind off work.  

Make cut marks with the back of the knife

Pan Fry Pork Chops

Stir fry rice with an egg, add salt and pepper

Put Pork Chops on Rice

Cook Sauce. Then add sauce pork chops

Baked Pork Chops and Rice

Ingredients (Serves 2-3):

  • Cooked rice, 3 cups
  • Egg, 1
  • White pepper, a dash
  • Scallion, 1 stalk (optional), cut into dices
  • Pork chops, 1 pound (thin cut, prefer boneless center cut)
  • Soy Sauce, 1 Tbsp
  • Sugar, ½ tsp
  • Garlic, 1 clove
  • Chinese cooking wine, 1 tsp
  • Cornstarch, 1 tsp
  • Parmesan cheese, ½ cup (Optional)

 

Sauce:

  • Canned tomato, 1
  • Onion, ½, chopped into dices
  • Oyster sauce, 1 tsp
  • Ketchup, 1 Tbsp
  • Worcestershire sauce, a few drops
  • Cornstarch 1 tsp
  • Water, 3 Tbsp

 

Steps:

  1. Pan fried the cooked rice. Add an egg. Mix it well.  Add a dash of white pepper and salt.  Optionally, you can add chopped scallion to the rice.  Put it in a container that can be used for baking.
  2. To prepare the pork chops, use the back of the knife to make some cut marks on the meat first.  This helps to tenderize the meat and helps the meat to absolute the seasoning.  Flip the meat over and make more cut marks.
  3. In a mixing bowl, add soy sauce, sugar, garlic, and Chinese cooking wine.  Add pork chops. Mix them well with the seasoning.  Add cornstarch and mix them well.
  4. Use a large frying pan.  Spray non-stick cooking oil on it.  Use high heat.  Put pork chops in the pan.  Let it cook untouched for 2 minutes on one side.  Flip them over and let it cooked for another couple of minutes or until cooked. They should cook fast since the meat is thin cut.  Turn off the heat.  Put the pork chops on top of the rice in a baking container.  You can cut the pork chops in pieces first if you prefer. I cut them with a pair of scissors.
  5. Now make the sauce.  Cut the onions into small dices.  Use a frying pan.  Add oil to the pan. Put the onion into the pan. Let it cook for 2 or 3 mins.  Then add a can of canned tomato to the pan.  Add a oyster sauce, ketchup and few drops of Worcestershire sauce.  Mix it well.  Let it cook for 5 mins in low heat.
  6. In a small bowl, mix a teaspoon of cornstarch with 3 tablespoons of cold water. Add the cornstarch to the tomato sauce.  Let it cook until the sauce thickens.
  7. Pour the tomato sauce on top of the pork chops and rice.  Sprinkle a little bit of parmesan cheese on top.
  8. Use the broiler on high.  Put the dish into the oven and let it cook under the broiler for 5-10 mins or so until the cheese melts.
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