Monday, January 26, 2015

Hot and Sour Wood Ear Chicken (辣酸雲耳雞, Laat6 Syun1 Wan4 Ji5 Gai1)

Copyright © 2015 Douglas R. Wong. All rights reserved.
Black vinegar provides the sour and red chili peppers provide the heat to this dish. This flavor combination gives the dish its taste signature. Chicken and wood ear fungus is also another classic ingredient combination. Wood ear fungus is available fresh at your local Asian market and provides a slight crunchiness to this dish. If you can’t get fresh, wood ear fungus is also available dried, in which case all you have to do is rehydrate the fungus. Just be careful how much dried fungus you use, since rehydrating dried fungus expands greatly in volume.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tomatillo Salsa

Copyright © 2015 Douglas R. Wong, all rights reserved.
Tomatillo salsa is variation of the Salsa recipe that I published earlier. Tomatillos add, what I would describe as, a slight lemon flavor to the salsa. Tomatillos are also crunchy, so there’s also a texture contrast to the rest of the ingredients in the salsa. I made this salsa for my family’s 2014 Christmas dinner. Everyone got to snack on tortilla chips and tomatillo salsa before dinner.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Fish Maw and Crab Soup (蟹肉魚肚羹, Haai5 Juk6 Jyu4 Tou5 Gang1)

Copyright © 2015 Douglas R. Wong, all rights reserved.
Fish maw is the bladder of the fish that controls buoyancy. Fish maw is one of those weird and wonderful special banquet ingredients (at least in my experience) that is served at auspicious events such as weddings and at Lunar New Year. I made this soup with fresh crab meat for my family’s 2014 Christmas dinner. Fish maw can be purchased at your local Asian market or herb specialty store. If you’re lucky enough to have an Asian herb store near you, it’s worth going in to see all the dried herbs and creatures that are sold at these stores. The herb stores also have the most variety of fish maw to buy and with the prices to match!
There are two types of fish maw: dried and fried. For this soup dish, the fried version is used. If you purchase the dried version, like I did, there’s an extra step to deep fry the fish maw yourself. I actually shallow fried the fish maw, ladling hot oil over the fish maw (be careful when using this method). You can save a step and time by buying the fried version. The best description of fried fish maw is that it look like chicharrón, which is fried pork skin. The fried fish maw has to soak in cold water for at least an hour to soften it to a spongy texture and then cut into bite sized pieces. After soaking, fish maw has no inherent flavor (so it won’t smell fishy at all) and acquires the flavors of the ingredients it is cooked with. So the use of a good stock and ingredients is important to the flavor of this soup.
I was fortunate enough to prepare this dish while Dungeness crabs are in season, so I was able to get freshly cooked crab from my local grocery store. I used the meat from two cooked Dungeness crabs and that produced about 1 lb. (500 g.) of meat. If you’re not fortunate enough to have freshly cooked crabs available, canned or frozen crab can be used. Crab is not the only meat that can be used, and you can use abalone or sea cucumber as substitutes.
The soup stock was made using the Bone Soup (, Tong1) recipe. You can used a prepared soup stock, but the taste of the soup is heavily dependent upon the quality of the ingredients used. So if you’re going to all the trouble and expense to make this soup, you should make your own soup stock. The last Chinese character in the recipe’s name, (gang1), signifies that this is a thick soup. A thick soup means that a corn starch solution is added to thicken the soup. The amount of thickener added to the soup depends upon personal preference, but the soup should be thicker than a normal soup and not thicker than a very thick gravy.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Bone Soup (湯, Tong1)

Copyright © 2015 Douglas R. Wong, all rights reserved.
Soup stock is always made from bones, so the name of this dish is just my way of naming a most basic dish with a cute name. My sister and I were joking about growing up with a freezer half filled with bones to make soup stock. While there’s some truth to that, I don’t remember my parents ever having to buy bones in the market to make soup. As dishes were prepared, rather than being discarded, the bones were saved in the freezer. So unless you specifically want to make a particular soup (e.g. pork soup), you just use the collection of bones from the freezer to make soup.
I have the same habit of saving my bones in the freezer and then using them to make soup. So this recipe doesn’t produce the clear broth that is characteristic of a single species stock (e.g. using just chicken bones to make a clear stock), but is a rich collection of proteins leached from a variety of bones that are boiled together with some ginger and garlic. Now I know that doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it’s an apt description of making soup stock.
When making the soup stock, scum and oil from the bones will float to the top of the liquid. You can be obsessive and remove scum and oil as it rises while the pot comes to a boil, but I’ve found that you can wait until the soup stock boils in a covered pot and then remove the scum and oil. As a result of removing the scum and oil, the level of the liquid will go down in the pot. I just add some boiling water to restore the level of the liquid in the pot, so make sure that you have some boiled water available in a water kettle. As the soup stock cooks, the level of the liquid might also go down, so this method can also be used to restore the level of liquid in the pot. Not a lot of boiling water in total gets added, so taste of the soup stock is not affected.
I don’t add any salt when making the soup stock. Salt can be added, if necessary, when cooking the ultimate dish in which the bone soup will serve as the stock. Some salt comes from the preserved mustard stalk, actually half a stalk, which I use to make the bone soup. The addition of the preserved mustard is my way of introducing a slight sweetness to the stock and no one will ever know that the ingredient was ever used. I guess it’s my secret for making tasty soup (well, not anymore). I used to use a whole stalk when making soup stock (there are two stalks per package), but the center of the stalk never got cooked through. Cutting a stalk lengthwise and using half a stalk, the mustard green gets cooked thoroughly and the taste of the soup stock is the same.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Sourdough Cranberry Linguica Oyster Stuffing

For the first recipe of 2015, I am posting a recipe that I’ve been making every year for my family’s Christmas dinners and has now has become a standard dish. Like the Chinese Sticky Rice (糯米飯, No6 Mai5 Faan6) recipe, the dish’s preparation starts a few days before cooking and some ingredients are stir fried before assembling the dish to add flavor.
I’ve been making this variant of the original Sourdough-Cranberry Stuffing Recipe at for many family Christmas dinners. The most notable additions are linguica and dried oysters. Given the aversion of one of my family members to celery, that ingredient is left out of this recipe, but definitely should be included if you make this dish (use the same quantity as the carrots and onions – 1 cup/125 ml.). I was always intrigued by the use of cranberries in this dressing, which is probably why I keep making it year after year.
I’ve been fortunate to be able to get my linguica from the Goulart Sausage Company. They are a small family owned business and I’ve been buying from them for many years (they make other products besides linguica). You know that their products have to be good when you see hardwood, used to smoke their products, stacked at the front of the business and smelling their smoker at work. I keep telling them that I need to visit them more often! Hopefully you can find such a gem of a meat producer, but if you can’t, store bought linguica or Italian sausage are good substitutes in this dish.
Oysters in stuffing is nothing new, but the oysters used are usually fresh. In this case, I’ve added dried oysters, an Asian ingredient, to a traditional American dressing. The dried oysters are of course rehydrated and are much smaller than their fresh counterparts. The oysters are a fairly recent addition to this recipe. I’ve made this stuffing without oysters for many years, so feel free to omit them since I think you’ll still like the results.
The thing about stuffing that I like are that the quantities of ingredients can vary and the resulting dish still tastes good. The recipe is very forgiving if you use too much of one ingredient or not enough of another. Some years I’ve used more linguica because I bought more than I thought I needed. Sometimes the onion I used is just a little too big, so I use it all. I’ve used other root vegetables, like turnips and parsnips, and in the end the dish was still tasty. So what I’m saying, is that you should feel free to experiment with the ingredients and quantities, and after all, you’re only experimenting on your family. 8-)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Grilled Apple-Oak Smoked Lemongrass Rosemary Garlic Turkey

Copyright © 2014 Douglas R. Wong, all rights reserved.This will probably be the last post for 2014. So with the last recipe of 2014, I wish you and your family a Happy New Year for 2015, and will see you next year with more recipes.
So the final 2014 recipe is for grill smoking a whole turkey with apple and oak wood that I made for my family’s Christmas dinner. You were probably expecting a photo of the whole cooked turkey in this post (it was impressive looking!), but since I was pressed for time cooking Christmas dinner, I wasn’t able to take any photos and the photo above is for the leftovers.
The turkey is made with a spice paste that is placed in the space between the skin and meat of the breast, thigh, drumstick, and back. The space is created by separating the skin from the meat using your hand or the end of a long cooking spoon. Even though the skin is separated from the turkey meat, it is still attached to the turkey, forming pockets for a spice paste. If using your hand to create the pockets, you have to be prepared to place your hand (and part of your arm) into the turkey. I use this method because I’m able to feel the interface between the skin and meat, and use my fingers to separate the skin from the meat without breaking the skin.
When I first thought about making the paste using a food processor, I wanted to use a fresh rosemary, garlic, kosher salt, and olive oil mixture. It’s a classic combination and I happen to have rosemary growing in my backyard. Lemons and lemon juice are typical additions, but I decided to give the paste an Asian twist by using lemongrass. Only the white portions of the lemongrass are used in the paste, and the inedible green portions, together with the rosemary stalks, are stuffed into the turkey cavity.
Inevitably, some of the spice paste gets on the outer skin when you’re putting the paste into the turkey. Don’t worry, since this adds to the flavor of the skin. The turkey skin is coated with a mixture of kosher salt, pepper, and baking soda. The idea and use of baking soda came from America’s Test Kitchen. The baking soda not only helps with browning, but also with crisping the skin. I used double the amount of ingredients called for in the America’s Test Kitchen recipe, keeping the 1:1:1 ratio of kosher salt, pepper, and baking soda.
Root vegetables can be cut up, coated with olive oil, and placed in the bottom of the roasting pan if desired. Pan roasted vegetables is a nice addition to the meal and doesn’t really add to the cooking time. The pan roasted vegetables also add some flavor to any gravy that is made from the drippings. I also put the turkey neck and organs on top of the vegetables in the pan to be cooked, but you can also omit these items and use them for stock or directly in the gravy.
A gas grill with a thermometer is necessary for grill smoking a whole turkey. Maintaining a constant temperature of 350⁰F (175⁰C) and previous experience with your gas grill will determine the total cooking time for the turkey. I have found that 12 minutes per pound (450 g.) produces the right results (again, previous experience determines total cooking time). So for a 14 lb. (6.4 kg.) turkey, a total of 3 hours is needed to cook the turkey.
The size of your gas grill also matters since that will determine how many burners can be kept on for indirect cooking, which influences the ability to maintain a constant temperature. My gas grill is large enough to keep both end burners on during cooking, so I’m able to center the roasting pan with the turkey between two lit burners. For smaller gas grills, only one end can usually be kept lit for indirect cooking once the roasting pan with the turkey is placed on the grate, which might necessitate an increased cooking time. Regardless, the roasting pan should be rotated 180⁰ half way through the cooking time to even out any hot spots in your gas grill.
The turkey should rest for 30 minutes or more before carving, so don’t carve the turkey immediately after coming out of the grill since all the juices will not remain in the turkey meat and will just drain onto the cutting board. I consider a turkey just a large chicken, so you can follow the instructions for cutting a chicken in the Poached Chicken (白斬雞, Baak6 Zaam2 Gai1) with Ginger-Scallion Oil (薑蔥油, Goeng1 Cung1 Jau4) recipe to carve the turkey. Unlike the chicken, where all the meat will fit onto one plate, separate the turkey dark meat from the white and use two plates. In the end, the turkey was very tasty and my family was duly impressed with the flavor.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bean Sauce Chicken with Green Beans and Salted Radish (豆瓣青豆角雞, Dau6 Faan6 Ceng1 Dau6 Gok3 Gai1)

Copyright © 2014 Douglas R. Wong. All rights reserved.
This is a basic bean sauce chicken and green bean stir fry with an added ingredient: salted radish. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to decipher the Chinese characters for this ingredient, so there’s no entry (as of now) in the English-Cantonese Ingredient Names page. The degree of saltiness varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, so the amount to use in the dish depends upon the brand you buy and your preference for saltiness in a dish. In general, I’ve found that those manufactured in Thailand are much saltier than those made in China. You’ll have to experiment with the amount to determine the right quantity to use. The salted radish not only provides flavor to the dish, but also texture since it’s crunchy. Use too little and you’ll probably not notice the salted radish in the dish. Use too much and the dish will be too salty.
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