Steamed chicken feet is our must-order dish at any dim sum restaurant. The idea of eating feet may turn some people off, but trust me, it is so tasty and addictive. Sucking on the bones and slurping the tender skins and cartilages are absolutely satisfying! I myself was grossed out by them when I was a kid. I remember my grandma often persuaded me to eat chicken feet for various health benefits including strong bones, and I just couldn't even try them. I blamed my neighbor's annoying free-range chickens that always managed to intrude my front yard. My grandma must be proud of me now. We usually order at least two portions of chicken feet for the three of us. Furthermore, this famous menu is one of our decision making in rating dim sum restaurants.
Serving dim sum style chicken feet on my own dining table had become my cooking obsession. So, I asked butchers at a grocery store that sold free range and organic chickens if they had the feet, and they said no. I knew an oriental grocery store that sold those, but I don't really trust the meat quality at that store. I asked several times the next grocery visits, hoping that they had those. Well, the feet need to go somewhere, right? Years later (after I quit asking the butchers) I found bags of chicken feet in their fridge, and they were so inexpensive. It's $2 for 15 feet! I had a wide smile having 30 chicken feet marching home.
Little that I knew that getting the chicken feet was the easiest part. All promising recipes I read involved all frying, braising, marinating, and steaming. I thought they were only steamed? It took me about two months to build up momentum to cook them. I must say that cooking them is a labor of love! We had to wait until the next day (yeah, couldn't speed things up having a toddler around) before we really had them served on our table. The greatest part was, they were as great as ones we can get from dim sum restaurants; and most importantly, hubby and our toddler (yes our toddler) loved them. It was so rewarding seeing them enjoying what I cooked. However, I may not make it again in a near future. Driving to Atlanta --the closest place to get dim sum-- may still be a better option
Chicken Feet Source: Dim Sum Central with some modifications 1 pound chicken feet
2 quarts oil
2 quarts water
1 ounce fresh ginger
3 pieces star anise
2 ounces honey
How many hours is the longest time you have ever spent in the kitchen?
I often thought that I wanted to make something simple but then I was caught in the flow and couldn't stop. Then I realized that I'd been spent hours in my tiny kitchen. That one afternoon on a national holiday was an example. I planned on making steam buns. But then I got an idea of shaping them like little chubby piglets.
The pink color was made out of pureed steamed beet. I used the smallest beet I had from my CSA. The different shades of pink were results of the length of steaming. The longer the buns were steamed, the lighter the pink color was! That's one new thing I learned that day.
Starter: 250 gr all purpose flour
1 sachet instant yeast
150 ml water
Mix all of the ingredients, let it rise until doubled.
Main ingredients: 100 gr all purpose flour
50 gr rice flour
70 gr powdered sugar
1 Tbs baking powder 1/4 tsp baking soda
5 Tbs beet juice from 1 steamed beet
50 gr salted butter
Mix all of the ingredients with the starter dough. Mix until the dough is well blended and shiny. Set aside some of the dough for the pig's ears, noses and tails. Divide the dough to 25-30-gram balls. Fill each ball with meat or mung bean filling. Shape the dough. Attach the body parts. Poke the nose. Glue 2 black sesame using white egg for the eyes. Steam for 10-15 minutes.
Just like most Asians, we also buy rice in bulk. That time at an oriental grocery shop, we picked the brand that we never had before. I thought it’s a good thing to diversify our source of food. Hubby opened that 20-pound bag of rice couple days later and found out that it wasn’t regular jasmine rice because the grains were opaque. It’s glutinous rice! I checked the bag to see if it said glutinous rice because I knew I wouldn’t buy that kind of rice in large quantity had I read those words. Nope! It said sweet rice. I must have thought that it’s sweet in term of the smell because jasmine rice is somewhat aromatic. So yes, sweet rice is glutinous rice.
I told my family that we accidentally bought the wrong rice, and they laughed at me. One simple email became a long threads discussing what I could do with the rice. Mom and mom-in-law told me to get the "proper" rice because eating too much glutinous rice wasn't good for our stomach. My older sister suggested that I made lo mai kai. It is glutinous rice with chicken or pork filling wrapped in a lotus leaf. I’ve had it at dim sum restaurants, but I never thought of making it.
Indonesians believe that eating too much glutinous rice can cause stomach upset. Yet we know some old believes have no basic explanation. Some said that it could cause heartburn, some said bloated stomach, etc. So, being stuck with a big sack of glutinous rice, we had a chance to prove it right or wrong. We ate glutinous rice for three weeks. We treated it like regular jasmine rice and ate it with whatever dish we had. During those times, we didn’t observe any digestion or other stomach problems. I guess in Indonesia, glutinous rice is almost always associated with coconut milk; and it could be the coconut milk that causes stomach discomfort. We ended up buying jasmine rice when we invited people for my friend’s baby shower. Otherwise we would continue having glutinous rice until we the bag is empty.
Following my sister's suggestion, I made this lo mai kai. I read some recipes online and got the big picture of how to make it, but I created the recipe my own. The filling for the usual lo mai kai is meat, but mine was dominated with kohlrabi, a bulb vegetable we got from our CSA box, just because we had it and I was afraid it would get bad. As usual, I didn't measure the ingredients, but I made a list of what I used for my first lo mai kai. Read More
I missed the Mid Autumn Festival this year. Not that I usually celebrate it with any ritual, but I'd planned on making mooncake at the right time Back then, grandpa usually bought us some mooncakes from a local store in our city's Chinatown. Those were type of mooncakes that my sisters and I like -a kind that can't be found anywhere else. That kind was the only kind of mooncake I knew, until I grew up.
Making the traditional one is not hard, but time consuming. I started with making the salted eggs for the filling. If you notice my recent posts, most of them mentioned salted eggs. I've made list of what I can cook using salted eggs, so I only need to make them all at once for different things. So the salted eggs were prepared about a month before. Then the golden syrup that needs to be done days before. The writer of the recipe says that the longer the syrup, the more fragrance it will contribute to the cake. For the filling, I used dried black bean from CSA. I've tried the canned one but it was too sweet for my taste. Making the filling from scratch, I can adjust the sugar to my liking. I think I still need to work on the filling. As you can see from the picture, the filling is crumbly, not firm like it supposed to be.
Preparing those things I mentioned above took days, because some of it needs to rest for days. I also know that preparing everything if one day would be too overwhelmed for me. It's also kinda impossible since I have limited utensils and space. Anyway, once I had everything prepared, it was easy and fun to follow the recipe. This year I used mooncake recipe from Anncoo Journal. I encourage you to visit that awesome website. Just FYI, I didn't use lye water as the recipe calls. I didn't think I could find it in my city, and I heard it is banned in some countries because of its adverse effect for human health. As a substitute, I mixed a cup of water with a tablespoon of baking soda.
I think making traditional mooncake is great for testing our patience. After done baking, the mooncakes need to rest for a day to soften the skin. However, it is fine to eat them right away if you don't mind the crunchy skin.
Hubby's parent are visiting us. My classmates teased me and gave their concern when I told them that my in-laws were going to stay with us for about 2 months. I wasn't and am not worried. They are as nice as parents could be. I knew I would be so busy at this time of the year, and I knew mom would happily cook for me. I got that guess proven.
She's been cooking some food that I barely cook. She asked me to make list of what I wanted to eat. Of course I jotted down everything I'd been missing from home in no time. She cooked soup and rawon the other days. Today menu was her signature dish, baked pork. The youth at her church often asks her to cook this dish for fundraising. I like it too. No wonder hubby ate a lot!
This year, one more time I didn't celebrate mooncake festival. I thought about making my version of mooncake, but didn't have chance to do so. I hadn't had break on weekend until this weekend. It's been a crazy semester this far. This fall break, I decided to have a break, before my body and brain get damaged. I went home bringing a pile of books from library that I need for my thesis. I thought about reading those books on weekend, but I haven't spent much time for those. I am not completely nervous though. I really really need a break, after those non-stop-intense two months of this fall semester. Finally, I have time to cook "real" food for hubby. I also had chance to bake mooncake
Mooncake Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival is a popular harvest festival celebrated by Chinese. The Mid-Autumn Festival is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, which is in September or early October in the Gregorian calendar. It is a date that parallels the autumnal equinox of the solar calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and roundest. In 2010 the Mid-Autumn Festival fell on September 22 -Wikipedia
...or people back home call it pia was one of my family's comfort food. I don't know where the name came from, but I guess it's from pie or flaky pastry that can be seen from its layering skin. There are a lot of famous pia that has its unique character; and since pia attaches to its region, this food is also has nostalgic element either to the individual who made it or to a specific culture. For its cultural value, pia is one of some popular foods used for gift. Pia shop will get so packed on holidays. Pia Kemuning is one example of favorite pia in my city. Dad always asks if they have the over baked ones. Stuffs that don't pass quality assurance are separated, mixed together with the other flavors, and sold with reduced price. Since dad loves everything too brown (he said it is sweeter and tastier), likes the assorted ones, and of course he is pleased with the reduced price, it is a triple bonus for him. Then there's pia Kembang Jepun, Surabaya that my neighbor used to give everytime she got back from that city. The shape is rectangular with crispy crust. I never bought one or even remembered that that pia existed when I lived for 6 years in Surabaya.
The other pia that my family loves is pia Balong from Solo. This pia is very rich, so eating one is very fulfilling. My sisters and I love the chocolate one. When my oldest sister was dating her ex-boyfriend (now her hubby), her boyfriend's mom used to send us a box (it's a LOT) of this pia, and among those plenty bags, the chocolate one was only one or two, or sometimes none, the rest was pork. No one liked pork for pia filling in my family. My older sister & I were very dissappointed when we opened the box. We were in middle school/high school at that time, and we were more excited than my oldest sister in term of opening gifts So, those pias would be given to anyone who liked those, mom would bring those to her work, some would get eaten by mom (but she didn't eat that much), and some will stay in peace in our pantry, forgotten. My older sissy & I asked our dearest oldest sister to tell her mom in law that we were not fond of pork pia, but my endearing sister was afraid of hurting her in-law's feeling. This continued to happen years after she finally got married. That's a funny pia story that we'll never forget.
Pia came up to my mind when I think what to do with leftover cooked mung bean from making kue ku last week. Thanks to my oldest sister who gave me recipe book that has pia recipe in it. I love the pia, eventhough mine do not have layering crust
"Kue ku", or ang koo kueh is a common treat for baby's full moon celebration. It also becomes part of daily snack that's famous with the term jajan pasar. Growing up, I got exposed to this kind of food especially from grandma. I remember she always made red-dyed eggs for my sisters' and my birthdays. Nowadays, having this treat for full moon celebration (ma gwee) seems to be outdated for most people. The old meaningful tradition has been replaced with "modern" ones like decorated cake, fancy pudding, or cake ice cream. As for dad, it is important to him to continue this culture of giving out everything red to friends on my nieces' full moon celebration. However, considering people might not like old-fashioned Chinese snacks, he agreed to my sister's plan, giving out cakes to her relatives and friends.
Until now, mom still preserves cultures inherited from her mom. Old fashioned snacks almost always presence in our house. By exposing those to her granddaughters, hopefully they can treasure their family culture and be proud of it. I think knowing their identity and family background is important for them so they can learn from the history and do better for their life. Food is a powerful tool to introduce a culture.
This past days I'd been wanting to make this kue ku, although it'd never been my favorite food. Greasy, sticky, bright red, and sweet are attribute I always gave to this delicacy. I read some recipes online, some required either sweet potato or potato, some required a lot of glutinuous rice flour. What I had 1/4 bag of glutinuos rice flour, and full pack of skinless green mung bean. No time for another grocery shopping this week, I substituted potato with mung bean. I think it worked. Although the pattern is not clear that might cause by too soft dough (and I couldn't fix it because I had no more flour), I like it much more than I like ones that I got from traditional market. It is not greasy, nor too sweet, nor too red. Isn't it the art of homemade cooking?! You have the control of what you are making!
Mung bean mixture: 300 skinless mung bean
1 cup sugar 1tsp salt
Heat water in a pot (about 1.5 as much as the mung bean), add the mung bean, sugar and salt. Simmer until soft. Keep simmering until water almost drains out.
For the Skin: 350 gr mung bean mixture
160 gr glutinous flour
Drops of food coloring
Use the rest of the bean mixture for the filling.
Take a small lump of mung bean dough. using hand, flatten it into a round shape. Spoon a teaspoon of filling into the dough, pinch the sides of the dough together and form it to a ball. Coat the ball lightly so it doesn't stick to the mould. Press the dough ball into the mould, knock the mould gently to dislodge the dough. Place it on a piece of cleaned banana leaf. Repeat the same process to the rest of the dough & filling.
Steam with medium heat covered for 5 minutes, then open the steamer's lid. Continue steaming for another 5 minutes. Over steaming will make the dough expand and wash out the pattern.
Finally I made mooncake again using the same recipe as before with some changes. The caramelized sugar wasn't as dark as before to get golden color instead of brown color. The mold that I used was the rectangle and smaller one. For the previous mooncake, we needed to cut into four portion, but this one is individual size, more practical as snack for our after-Christmas trip. This time also, I reduced the amount of water so (hopefully) the pattern could be sharper than before. I was wrong. The taste was great though. I need to hunt for a better mooncake recipe. Does anyone have one?
Where can you find mooncakes in December? The answer is my home!
I'd been wanting to bake this since last Mooncake Festival in October but school busyness didn't allow me to do so. Then now, winter is officially four days away, and I baked a traditional baking for the so called mid-autumn festival. *giggle
Sist bought me several mooncake molds from Jakarta when I went home last summer. *thanks sist. Since then I couldn't wait to use them. There are several kinds of mooncake. My favorite one was the kind that has round shape and smooth surface with cheese or chocolate filling that my grandpa used to buy from chinatown in my city. However, I couldn't find the recipe online. I am guessing that kind is made up by Indonesian Chinese. The kind that is very common is the one that has salted-egg yolk filling.
Speaking about mooncake reminds me of time when I went back from home to the US. An officer at Custom and Baggage at San Francisco airport asked me if I brought mooncake. I was surprised that he knew I brought ones. Apparently they asked every Chinese looking person because it was close to mooncake festival. They were looking for they one with salted egg, thus my favorite mooncake could pass Yay for hubby, that's a gift for my aunt for him.
I was a bit disappointed with this mooncake that I baked, but not so much since hubby loves it very much. The shape and pattern was perfect before they were baked. Then they rose, got rounded that washed out the pattern. I think the dough was too thin. I want to try again soon I finish my Christmas-cookie baking.
Filling (adapted from this): 1 pound red azuki beans
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
Soak red beans in water overnight. Boil, then simmer over low heat 1-1/2 hours or until skins open. Place in a saucepan with the oil and the sugar. Cook, stirring continuously, until almost all the moisture has evaporated. Let cool then shape to 10 balls (if not using egg yolk as filling).
Wrapper (adapted from this): 2 cup wheat flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
4 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Place the sugar and 2 Tbs water in a saucepan, turn on the stove to medium heat. After the sugar caramelized, pour the rest of water, continue stirring until sugar dissolved completely. Let it cool.
Mix flour and baking soda in a mixing bowl. Mix in sugar mixture and oil until well blended but do not over mix. Divide the dough into 10.
Flatten the dough with hand, place the filling, close the dough to make a ball. Cover the ball sufficiently with flour. Press the ball to a mooncake mold. Turn the mold over and tap it to take out the cake. Repeat process for remaining mooncakes. Arrange mooncakes on a lighlty-greased baking sheet.
Glaze with mixture of one egg yolk and 1 Tbs milk. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool before serving.