Monday, September 15, 2008

100 Chinese Foods to Try Before You Die

The Omnivore's 100 has been making the rounds in food blogs, but I cheered when I saw Diana Kuan's version with Chinese foods. Let's see how I did (some of the numbers didn't bold with the words):

  1. Almond milk
  2. Ants Climbing a Tree (poetic, not literal, name)
  3. Asian pear
  4. Baby bok choy
  5. Baijiu
  6. Beef brisket
  7. Beggar's Chicken
  8. Bingtang hulu
  9. Bitter melon
  10. Bubble tea
  11. Buddha's Delight
  12. Cantonese roast duck (My world revolves around roast duck)
  13. Century egg, or thousand-year egg
  14. Cha siu (Cantonese roast pork)
  15. Char kway teow
  16. Chicken feet
  17. Chinese sausage (More by-products than an American hot dog, but oh-so-very good)
  18. Chow mein
  19. Chrysanthemum tea
  20. Claypot rice
  21. Congee
  22. Conpoy (dried scallops)
  23. Crab rangoon
  24. Dan Dan noodles
  25. Dragonfruit
  26. Dragon's Beard candy (You haven't lived until you've tried this stuff)
  27. Dried cuttlefish
  28. Drunken chicken
  29. Dry-fried green beans
  30. Egg drop soup
  31. Egg rolls
  32. Egg tart, Cantonese or Macanese (I've had both, actually.)
  33. Fresh bamboo shoots
  34. Fortune cookies
  35. Fried milk
  36. Fried rice
  37. Gai lan (Chinese broccoli)
  38. General Tso's Chicken
  39. Gobi Manchurian
  40. Goji berries (Chinese wolfberries)
  41. Grass jelly (I'm terribly addicted to this stuff)
  42. Hainan chicken rice (A family specialty)
  43. Hand-pulled noodles
  44. Har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings in translucent wrappers)
  45. Haw flakes
  46. Hibiscus tea
  47. Hong Kong-style Milk Tea
  48. Hot and sour soup
  49. Hot Coca-Cola with Ginger
  50. Hot Pot
  51. Iron Goddess tea (Tieguanyin)
  52. Jellyfish
  53. Kosher Chinese food
  54. Kung Pao Chicken
  55. Lamb skewers (yangrou chua'r)
  56. Lion's Head meatballs
  57. Lomo Saltado (Peruvian-Chinese food?! YAY!)
  58. Longan fruit
  59. Lychee
  60. Macaroni in soup with Spam
  61. Malatang
  62. Mantou, especially if fried and dipped in sweetened condensed milk
  63. Mapo Tofu
  64. Mock meat
  65. Mooncake (bonus points for the snow-skin variety) (True to my Hong Kong roots, I will eat nothing but the Cantonese-style mooncakes... sorry, Diana. :))
  66. Nor mai gai (chicken and sticky rice in lotus leaf)
  67. Pan-fried jiaozi
  68. Peking duck
  69. Pineapple bun
  70. Prawn crackers
  71. Pu'er tea
  72. Rambutan
  73. Red bean in dessert form (This makes me a bad, bad Chinese-American, but I can't stand hong dau saa or red bean soup)
  74. Red bayberry
  75. Red cooked pork
  76. Roast pigeon
  77. Rose tea
  78. Roujiamo
  79. Scallion pancake
  80. Shaved ice dessert
  81. Sesame chicken
  82. Sichuan pepper in any dish
  83. Sichuan preserved vegetable (zhacai)
  84. Silken tofu
  85. Soy milk, freshly made
  86. Steamed egg custard
  87. Stinky tofu
  88. Sugar cane juice
  89. Sweet and sour pork, chicken, or shrimp
  90. Taro
  91. Tea eggs
  92. Tea-smoked duck
  93. Turnip cake (law bok gau)
  94. Twice-cooked pork
  95. Water chestnut cake (mati gau)
  96. Wonton noodle soup (drool, drool... one of my favorite dishes)
  97. Wood ear
  98. Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings)
  99. Yuanyang (half coffee, half tea, Hong Kong style)
  100. Yunnan goat cheese
83 out of 100. Not bad for a Los Angeles-raised ex-pat kid, eh? My score would be a helluva lot lower if the parental units tried to Americanize our eating habits or if I didn't live in immigrant-heavy L.A.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Day of Squash Blossom Quesadillas

While walking through the Hillcrest farmers' market this morning, I was drawn by a sign advertising squash blossom quesadillas. D. decided to add crispy tacos to my order and we had breakfast.

The tacos were yummy and the quesadilla delicious. I didn't take a close-up of the quesadilla because the entire flower was nearly enveloped by cheese. However, the flower was used whole, leaving a soggy spot where the little zucchini nub had softened.

I had an insatiable craving for more tacos and wanted to go to Aqui es Texcoco. It's been a Chowhound darling for a while and I have yet to visit. D. and I called M.T. and M.S. and we were on our way.

It's a bit of a drive to Chula Vista, even from North Park, but it was worth it. We kicked things off with a cup of lamb broth (me) and ensalada de nopales (M.T.).

I don't have a lot of experience with nopales or cactus paddles, but the salad was light and the cactus perfectly cooked. In my sparse exposure to it, I've noticed that it can have a unsavory mouthfeel if poorly prepared. Think slimy and rubbery.

For my entree, I chose two quesadillas. I thought the menu indicated that it was a quesadilla with huitlacoche, squash blossoms, and mushrooms, but it turns out that it's "OR" and not "AND". So, I received a lone quesadilla with huitlacoche and, when the friendly owner popped by with a squash blossom quesadilla that he thought we ordered, I asked if we could keep it.

Huitlacoche was really interesting. In fact, I loved it. Woody like a mushroom, but with the bulbous texture of a really soft grape, it did look and feel a bit like a disease. Which it is. Tasted fantastic, though.

The squash blossom was cooked to perfection and diced, so there was no soggy spot. The owner also plied our table with a variety of salsas, which I loved. I finished off with a barbequed lamb taco, which was awesome. A plain tortilla filled with shredded grilled goodness.

Yummy. The lamb was juicy and fantastic. Saved the best for last, it seems.

It was a fairly heavy meal, so three items plus the lamb broth made a big lunch. It was also very inexpensive, with tons of food for 4 people coming out to $34.

Hillcrest Farmer's Market
3960 Normal Street (at the Hillcrest DMV)
San Diego, CA 92103
Taco stand is across the aisleway from Charlie's Best Bread that specializes in salsas, tacos, and tamales

Aqui es Texcoco

1043 Broadway, Suite 108
Chula Vista, CA 91911

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Chowdown at Sab-E-Lee Thai Restaurant

First, a great big thanks to Lillian for organizing this C-down and to Pat and Angie for the great company!

I like Thai food, but I don't know anything about it. Hell, if I did, I would have given up that coconut milky-goodness known as green curry a long time ago. My new Thai love: catfish larb. What is larb, you ask? It's ground protein, roasted almost to a jerky, that's marinated in lime juice, chilis, and herbs, and topped with rice powder.

For further edification, I leave you in the capable hands of Kirk (make sure to follow the links at the post's end to his past entries about Sab-E-Lee). In fact, it was at Sab-E-Lee that I ran into him. Hi, Kirk!

We ordered many dishes, but I was so busy eating that I'd forgotten to take pictures! Hence, there are only 3 photos from the whole shebang. Anyway, we ordered pad see-ew, which D. is rather particular about.

I really enjoyed it and I don't normally like pad see-ew. The flavor was great and there was clearly excellent
wok hei, as Kirk mentioned. D., however, thought that Bangkok Thai in the Emery Bay Public Market does it better.

Lillian wanted to try the spicy mint leaves on steamed pork leg. I think they meant basil when they said mint, but I love herbs, so why quibble over semantics?

I liked the dish, although the pork could have been a bit more tender. Other dishes not pictured included the mixed vegetables, panang curry (excellent with less coconut milk than most typical Thai places), and a fiery papaya salad.

It's been a few weeks since the Chowdown, but I'm still thinking about that larb. Yum.

2405 Ulric Street
San Diego, CA 92111

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chocolate Whopper Malted Drops

These were good. Well, bake Whoppers (chocolate-covered malted milk balls) into chocolate cookies with bittersweet chunks and there's little chance it would not taste good. The batter had a frosting-like consistency, resulting in light and almost cakey cookies.

Brought to you by Confessions of a Tangerine Tart and found on page 85, it was a delightful treat, albeit a rich one. I was a little surprised to see that the baking temperature was omitted from the recipe, but it turns out that 350 degrees F works just fine.

It turns out that Whoppers caramelize when baked, leading to a chewy and toffee-like little hunk in the cookie. I envied the bakers who had better access to Maltesers, which I have a hard time finding here in Southern California.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Eating Locally, Eating Well

I've been MIA. As I mentioned in a TWD post from a million weeks ago, I'm on a diet. Believe it or not, I think it's working. After gaining over 30 pounds in the last 4 years, I was done with hating what I saw in the mirror. Since I already had a little-used gym membership, I decided to upgrade to a plan that included personal training. This isn't just about losing weight, it's about feeling fit and better about myself.

After 3 weeks, I've lost some fat, gained some muscle, and found that my clothes fit a hell of a lot better. However, I haven't been much of a food blogger. My food intake has dropped dramatically and has become a bit monotonous. When I reach maintenance, I'll be much more liberal in my food choices, but right now, I'm being a bit paranoid about what and how often I eat, which isn't much to write about. Well, unless there are people interested in my protein bar taste tests.

Eating healthfully fits very well with eating locally. I'm lucky to live very close to the farmer's market in San Diego's Hillcrest neighborhood, so D. and I usually visit to pick up vegetables. Also, my backyard has produced tomatoes and some herbs, so I've had an opportunity to actually use them for a few things.

Grilled corn and veggies:

The corn's from the farmer's market and the squash and carrots are from our CSA. We have since stopped our CSA subscription, but it was fun while it lasted. The thyme? Courtesy of yours truly.

I'm a little flabbergasted at how well the tomatoes turned out.

Our plant looks a bit raggedy, but it's producing fruit. Given my astronomical failures of the past, I'm happy with production. I also learned that a little plant food goes a long way.

What to do with these tomatoes? My basil was also doing very well, so I decided to make bruschetta.

The last CSA box had some cherry tomatoes on hand, so I threw those in. My favorite little touches? Meyer lemon olive oil and fresh thyme. They give an interesting twist to a classic bruschetta.

Moo's Bastardized Bruschetta
(amounts are not exact... feel free to adjust them to taste)

8 small tomatoes (or 4 handfuls of cherry tomatoes), roughly chopped
1 cup loosely packed basil, chiffonade
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil (if using a flavored oil, use 1/8 cup flavored oil mixed with 1/8 cup unflavored extra-virgin)
5 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, stripped off the stem

Mix everything together thoroughly, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve by heaping small spoonfuls on slices of fresh, lightly-toasted baguette.

With leftover baguette, I decided to make one of my favorite sandwiches: basil, brie, and tomato. The brie, naturally, isn't local, but everything else is. The baguette comes from my favorite San Diego bakery, Bread & Cie.

Basil was also a recurring character in our CSA summer boxes, along with arugula, so pesto was an obvious answer to using up large quantities of both leafy greens. I tossed the pesto with linguine and more tomatoes.

The following isn't exactly a recipe, but more like a layout to my version of a decent and easy pesto.

Moo's Pesto Framework
(Adjust amounts to taste)

2:1 basil:arugula
small handful of nuts (I prefer pistachio, but pine nuts are traditionally used)
olive oil
lemon juice

Place the basil and arugula leaves in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add nuts and pulse until everything is chopped and combined. With the processor running, slowly dribble olive oil through the addition chute until the mixture forms a pasty suspension. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

I love cookies. I especially love cookies that contain some of my favorite things: peanut butter, oatmeal, and chocolate. This week's TWD is hosted by Stefany of Proceed With Caution and the recipe's on page 73.

With a busy Labor Day weekend away, I mixed the dough last night and baked some this morning. As the diet doesn't really permit lots of cookies, this morning's batch is going to work. Since I'm scrambling to write this post before I go, it's going to be short and sweet.

A spring-loaded scoop is an OCD cookie fiend's best friend. I like my cookies round and the scoop allows that without too much work.

Dorie calls for chunky peanut butter, but I had plenty of smooth peanut butter on hand, so I used that. The texture isn't as rustic as I would like, but it's still delicious. I also went for a mixture of semisweet and bittersweet chocolate chunks, as dictated by my pantry.

Mmmm... so diet unfriendly.

On a side note, we're done with the first season of The Tudors, so Henry VIII returns for more TWD and salacious acts in October.