Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Chairman Mao's Red Braised Pork

or 毛氏紅燒肉 (máo shì hóng shāo ròu)

This recipe is by Fuchsia Dunlop, found in her book:  Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook (Recipes from Hunan Province)

(image lifted from Google images)

According to Wikipedia, Hunan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the south-central part of the country to the south of the middle reaches of the Yangtze River and south of Lake Dongting.  It is said to be one of the most beautiful provinces of Chines, being surrounded with the natural beauty of mountains all around the its east, west, and south sides, and by the Yangtze River on its north side.  Its cuisine?  Hot, delicious, and hot!

The name "red braised pork" indicates the method of cooking used - red braising, or red cooking, which is basically a cooking technique where food, typically meat, is browned with caramelized sugar, after which the meat is stewed in a rice wine and dark soy sauce broth, with spices, for some time.

As for the possessive aspect of the title, it is said that this is the favorite dish of Chairman Mao (Tse-Tung, founder of the People's Republic of China).  The dish is so famous that the Chinese government has even issued guidelines for it, otherwise the restaurant or chef/cook making and serving it cannot claim that it is authentic.  One of the regulations involve a specific kind of pork/pig meat to be used.  Interesting, huh?

Anyway, here is my dish:

Still in the pan, final 5 minutes of braising -

And, on the table, ready to be devoured -

The recipe can be found here.

My dish did not come out looking as well as the photo in the book (which is incidentally the book cover photo also) but that may have been because of -

1.  I am not so fond of pork fat or skin, so I trimmed them off.  And I sliced my meat in smaller chunks.  These appear to have the biggest impact since my dish was not "gelatinous" due to the leanness of the meat I used.
2.  I did not have dark soy sauce so I used light soy sauce, which meant that my dish would not have an intense red-brown color.
2.  I braised my dish for about 45 minutes only.  My reason?  I ran out of time because the first time I tried to caramelize the sugar, it ended up being burnt because the little girl kept calling me...  apparently, the longer the meat is braised, the better.

Nevertheless, the dish was really delicious.  Even hubby was impressed!


September 25, 2013

Not being satisfied with my pale dish, I went out and bought dark soy sauce and made the dish again.  This time, I kept the skin on the pork and sliced the pieces bigger... and I cooked the dish in my magic cooker for about 4 hours...

I like the result.  The color is lovely, and the meat was sooooo soft...

Double yay!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Spicy Coconut-Red Curry Soup

It's been raining non-stop the whole day. Blame it on the southwest monsoon, influenced by the recent category 5 typhoon... The winds were horrible (imagine how bad it was in Batanes, where it was signal number 4!!!)

In such a weather, soup is always a winner. And if hubby is involved, it would have to be a spicy soup...

The base of the soup is red curry paste and coconut milk. And a bit more chili.  Serve with sambal sauce (yes, spicy still!) on the side.

The recipe, roughly -

thin ginger slices
3 tablespoons red curry paste, or more as desired
2 cups coconut milk
2 cups chicken broth
6 pieces fish balls
6 pieces shrimp balls
about 100 grams fresh shrimp
sliced leeks
wansoy leaves
lemongrass, trimmed, peeled, tender part pounded
80 to 100 grams sotanghon (glass/mung bean) noodles, softened in water, drained
soy sauce or fish sauce, to taste
salt and/or pepper, to taste

Saute ginger in hot oil. Add curry paste. Stir fry until fragrant, a couple of minutes. Add coconut milk, broth, fish and prawn balls. Bring to a boil. When the balls float, add shrimps, lemongrass, leeks and wansoy. (Add chillies, if desired.) Add sotanghon. Season with soy sauce or fish sauce, and salt. Cook until boiling, stirring once in a while. Adjust seasonings as desired. Serve with sambal sauce on the side.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This time, the recipe is by David Lebovitz, which I found here.  The only variation I made was to lessen the chocolate chips to 1 cup and since I didn't have any nuts, I added some of B's peanut MM candies (I chopped them in half or so)

Then, I had some dark chocolate buttercream left over from some cupcakes so I decided to make cookie sandwiches!

To be honest, the cookies were good, but I still prefer my favorite...  The cookie sandwiches, however, were really yummy! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lechon Lomi

There was a time when I twiddled my thumbs and wondered what to do with left over lechon.  You see, it has been a tradition for us to have a whole (big) lechon at Christmas time.  And no, it's not just for us, we share it with the people we are close to everyday.  But almost always, there would be left over lechon - mostly the head, feet and rump parts - which we inevitably make into the traditional paksiw.

Not that I'm complaining - don't get me wrong, I love paksiw na lechon - but at the back of my head, there's this thought:  there must be some other dish that lechon can be part of OTHER THAN PAKSIW!!!

Well, thing is, I've been seeing lechon stalls in food courts with offerings such as:  lechon sisig, lechon sinigang, lechon dinuguan, lechon lugaw, and this:


The recipe is pretty much the same as my usual lomi except that I used 500 grams of lechon in place of all the "meats".  The revised recipe -

500g Lomi noodles, parboiled, rinsed and drained
shallots (at least 6 pieces), sliced
4 slices of ginger
8 cloves garlic, minced
about 6 cups chicken stock
500 grams lechon, chopped
1 medium carrot, julienned
1 stalk celery, sliced diagonally (celery leaves to be used too)
Baguio pechay or shredded cabbage, shredded
2 to 4 tablespoons soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
cornstarch dispersed in water
2 to 3 eggs, beaten lightly
For the garnish:
1 to 2 stalks leeks, green part only, sliced diagonally

Heat oil over low heat and brown the shallots (keep heat on low).  When the shallots have browned, remove them from the oil and increase the heat to medium-high. 

Saute the ginger and garlic (add more oil, if necessary).  Pour in the stock and let it boil.  Add the lechon, carrot strips and celery leaves.  Season with soy sauce, salt and pepper, to taste.  Let the mixture boil again then add the noodles and pechay leaves.

When the mixture boils again, thicken with cornstarch water.  Check seasonings again.  Then, while stirring constantly, slowly pour in beaten eggs, while stirring.  Remove from heat immediately.

Before serving, garnish with leeks and browned shallots.  Serve with calamansi and fresh ground pepper on the side.

It's yummy for such a day like today...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Ham and Cheese Roll Ups

Sometimes we get little (or no) notice of guests arriving.  And I've had to be creative in finding fast and easy food to serve.  Here's one.

I wish I could take credit for thinking of these but the truth is, I saw these at a function that we attended some time ago.  And I'd been meaning to make them since then.  Of course I don't know the actual recipe that the function organizers (or caterers) used but here is my version...

Take a piece of sandwich bread and cut the crusts off.  Then flatten the bread (this is a very important step, see next paragraph for the reason).  Smear mayo or butter on the flattened, crustless bread.  Then place a piece of cooked ham and a cheese slice (square slices are best) on the bread.  Roll the whole thing up and secure with fancy picks.  Slice into 3 or 4 mini-rolls.

At this point I have to stress that it is crucial to flatten the bread.  I discovered (the hard, experimental way) that if this step is missed, the whole thing crumbles and breaks - the resulting rolls are just plain ugly.

Well, our guests were impressed (whoo hoo!) and the best part was that it was easy, really easy, to make!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Peanut Butter Brittle Cookies

Because peanut butter cookies are my absolute favorite cookies, I make them every so often.  Once in a while though, I make little changes... mainly I add "little" things such as chocolate chips, M&M candies, chopped nuts...

This particular time, I added about 1/2 cup peanut brittle chips (I used the back of a large serving spoon to whack peanut brittle into little pieces).

Yummy, yummy, yummy!!!

Monday, September 9, 2013


Picadillo is one of those dishes that reflect the Spanish influence in Filipino cuisine.  It is dish traditionally made with ground beef, tomatoes, and spicy seasonings such as cumin, paprika, etc.  The Filipino version is usually made with tomato sauce or paste, with raisins added, or boiled eggs, potatoes, red/green bell peppers.  If the dish is served with saba - apparently a local cardaba variety not usually found elsewhere (perhaps a plantain banana can be substituted) - the dish is called Arroz a la Cubana.

In my version, I always skip the raisins and potatoes, and add diced bell peppers and boiled quail eggs.  And while the traditional Filipino style of picadillo is saucy, using tomato sauce and beef, I like mine rather dry, and I use ground pork and real tomatoes.

The recipe -

quail eggs, about 2 dozen, hard boiled

about 500 grams pork tenderloin, ground coarsely
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
fresh ground pepper

1 large sweet onion, chopped coarsely
3 cloves garlic, chopped coarsely
1 large tomato, diced
1 large green bell pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the ground pork tenderloin with the soy sauce and ground pepper.  Set aside for about 10 to 15 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the other ingredients.

Saute the onion, garlic and tomatoes.  Add the green pepper and ground meat.  Throw in the cumin and chili (and sometimes I even add crushed chili flakes because hubby likes it spicy).  Add the hard boiled eggs (shells removed, of course). Season accordingly to taste.

Note:  ground beef or ground chicken may be used instead of pork

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Fishball Curry for One

When hubby says he won't be having dinner at home, I usually don't bother to cook for myself.  I can easily eat a sandwich or whatever is left over from previous meals, or (gasp) open a can!

Tonight however, I had such a craving for curry and fishball that I gave in.  But then I didn't want any leftovers so I just made enough for one person - me!

It's a good thing that the recipe was easy to scale down... 

This is how -

Slice a small piece of ginger and a small onion into thin pieces.  Saute the ginger and onion pieces in hot oil until browned but not burnt.  (I used my omelette pan!)  Throw in about 6 to 7 pieces of fish balls (I halved mine to make more pieces) and stir fry a few seconds.  Meanwhile, mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of curry powder or garam masala (depending on how strong you want your curry to be) with 1/2 cup of coconut milk.  Pour this into the pan.  Throw in a piece of dried chili and some chopped basil (and maybe a piece of kaffir lime leaf too).  Season with salt, according to taste.  This dish was done in about 15 minutes!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Chicken and Chives Stir Fry

There were a few interesting items at the grocery today.  Flowering chives made a rare appearance!  And I remembered how my mom loved them!  She simply stir fried them with some chopped garlic and ate them as is.

Lovely and delicate as their flavor is, I really could not prepare them the way my mom did (for one thing they were too pricey!)  Besides, a bunch or two would not turn out a large enough dish or be appropriate to serve as an entree.

Then I remember eating a simple chicken dish in Hong Kong that seemed to me to be simple stir fried chicken breast strips with flowering chives.

So here is my attempt to recreate that dish.

2 to 3 chicken breast fillets
1 tablespoon shao xing wine
1 to 2 tablespoons light soya sauce
fresh ground pepper
1 bundle of flowering chives
cornstarch water (for thickening, if desired)

Slice the fillets into chunks.  Marinate in wine, soy sauce and pepper for about 30 minutes.

Chop the flowering chives into 1 1/2-inch strips.  (I always discard the tough ends and any wilted parts)

Heat oil in a wok until really hot (sizzling!) Stir fry the chives for a few seconds and then throw in the chicken chunks.  Quick fry, adjust seasonings (salt and pepper to taste).  Do not overcook.

The choice to add a thickener is personal.  Usually, if my dish is a bit saucy, I would add cornstarch water.  But it there's not much liquid, then I leave the chicken as is.

Instead of chicken, shelled shrimp, fish fillets, or squid may be used.  Flowering chives are also good as "topping" for noodles, especially long life egg misua dishes.  Another way is to add the chives to scrambled eggs.