Thursday, June 25, 2009

Japanese Cold Noodles

During those hot steamy Japanese summers, people naturally lose their appetites and the entire nation ends up eating lots of cold noodles. There are many different types of noodles all eaten with Dashijyoyu (soy sauce with fish broth), and these are most typically consumed with chopped scallions, Wasabi, Shichimi (Japanese 7 spice) or grated ginger.

I tried to find Soba here but the only one I could find was made in China and when I looked at the ingredients it said 100% wheat flour so I put it back. Even the lowest grade Soba should at least contain some buckwheat flour and a good one should be made from 100% buckwheat flour or close to it. I didn't feel like eating some artificially colored noodles made to look like buckwheat.

I did have some mung bean vermicelli noodles lying around so I just had these with some Dashijyoyu and freshly grated ginger. I also sprinkled it with my own mixture of 3 spice (chili, sesame seeds and sichuan peppercorns) and some thinly slice leeks. It tasted good enough and I guess I'll be having this and some other types of non-Japanese noodles until I run out of my Dashijyoyu.

Note 1: My favorite brand is Kamada. This brand is now available in the US and Canada.

Note 2: It's not customary to eat mung bean vermicelli noodles like this but well, I was desperate!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Chinese Scallion Pancakes with Sourdough - Yes, I'm crazy!

I have been wanting to make some Chinese Scallion Pancakes from Appetite for China and maybe I should have just gone to the supermarket and bought some dried yeast, but it was really warm out there and since I haven't recovered from my knee injuries entirely, I needed to give them a rest today in preparation for my long hike into town tomorrow morning.

You see - tomorrow is the day Torremolinos gets its cargo of fresh fruit and vegetables and since they keep these in a very natural state at room temperature - the sooner you can get to them the better. In fact, it's critical for certain things like peaches on Thursday morning, which are nice, fresh and juicy the day they arrive but are half rotten the following day.

Right now Paraguayos or Flat Peaches are in season and I want to get to the fruteria in Torremolinos before the others do and buy as many of these as I think I can humanly carry back home.

But I digress...

I first gave-up making the Chinese Scallion Pancakes when I found out I didn't have any yeast, but then I thought - hey, I've got to feed my starter today and isn't that...yeast?

Anyway I'm crazy. I put half the starter into a bowl which turns out to be 1/2 cup very conveniently, so I fed it with 1 teaspoon sugar and left it covered in an unairconditioned room for an hour. The original recipe tells you to dissolve some yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and add the sugar so I'm not totally off my rockers right?

Well, I am off my rockers because with wild yeast you're supposed to let it rise with more flour and you need to let it prep for hours. You can't just throw in some sugar and leave it in a warm room. But anyway I decided to follow through with this anyway because the Chinese Scallion Pancakes don't have to rise that much and it wouldn't be a total disaster if the yeast didn't 'activate' too well.

I also did worry about the flavor of the pancakes because making American pancakes with sourdough is one thing but Chinese Scallion Pancakes with sourdough? hmmm......

If you're Chinese and freaking out already, please bear with me.

Chinese Leek & Sesame Seed Pancake with Sourdough
(Adapted from Chinese Scallion Pancakes from Appetite for China)


1/2 Cup Sourdough Starter

1 Cup AP Flour + some additional flour for rolling it out and making adjustments

1 Tsp Sugar

1 Tsp Salt

1/4 Cup Toasted White Sesame Seeds

3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Cup Leeks (finely chopped)

"Sift flour into 2 equal portions into separate bowls. In the first bowl, slowly add the yeast- water, mixing with a spatula, until a dough forms."

The recipe called for 1 1/2 cups AP flour but I used 1 cup because the starter wasn't exactly watery. I mixed 1/2 cup flour into the starter and made a ball of soft sticky but not too sticky dough first.

"In the second bowl, sprinkle the salt into the flour. Slowly pour in 1/2 cup of the boiling water while vigorously stirring. Add more water and keep stirring until a rough dough forms."

I made some 'blanched dough' with the other 1/2 cup flour in another container, pouring 1/2 cup boiling water over it and then stirring it vigorously using a wooden spatula. I didn't add any additional water but added some flour to make it more firm. The recipe says you can do this.

The recipe then tells you to mix in 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, so I added 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil into the 'blanched dough'. I don't recommend you use olive oil and perhaps canola oil would be a better choice, but in Spain oil=olive oil.

I rolled both balls of doughs out on a heavily floured surface versus the lightly floured surface in the recipe (as the texture of both my dough balls was soft) and kneaded them together.

I covered this with a damp cloth and left it in an uncomfortably warm room for 40 minutes.

The question was: Would the dough rise?

After 40 minutes the dough wasn't looking too good so I decided to leave it for another 2 hours. I did use a sourdough starter that I didn't prep, so this wasn't too surprising.

So 2 hours and 40 minutes later, I rolled out the dough that had risen ever so slightly and made it into a 1-inch thick log and sliced them into balls about the size of Ping Pong-balls.

I then rolled each of these into 4 - 5 inch circles, brushed the top of each of these with oil and chopped up leeks (instead of scallions) and toasted sesame seeds, and then rolled them up - like you roll-up a jelly roll.

When you have this roll, you need to roll-it up again. Think about a snake making a tight coil.

The author has taken excellent photographs of how to do this step-by-step, so please take a look at her post.

Flatten these coils with a rolling pin and they're ready to be fried in oil in a non-stick frying pan. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes on each side until golden brown.

These apparently freeze well so just cook as many as you wish to have, because they always taste better fresh.

So how were my Chinese 'Leek' Pancakes with Sourdough?

They were a bit brown because my starter contained whole wheat flour but the flaky layers were delightful, and the flavor of the sesame seeds and leeks was absolutely divine.

I do urge you to make these things normally according to the original recipe in Appetite for China, but I'm quite pleased that not having commercial yeast in the house didn't stop me from satisfying my cravings for these Chinese Scallion Pancakes.

I've decided to submit this to Yeast Spotting as suggested by Elra.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dried Shrimp Pilaf with Tongue Numbing Sichuan Peppercorns & Iberico Pork Sausages

Like many of my original recipes, this one's definitely a crossover that uses the techniques of making a Pilaf and Maze Gohan. Maybe it's something to do with the fact that I'm a TCK (Third Culture Kid), and although I can be a purist about authentic recipes in the beginning, once I feel I have 'ownership' of it, I will use certain elements of these recipes in creating new ones. As a result, my original recipes can be eclectic.

On Saturday evening, after our mid summer's celebration down by the beach, we got a bit hungry and Ronny decided to make Gambas al Pil Pil which is a typical Spanish dish in this area. Basically it's shrimp or prawn cooked inside a nice dose of extra virgin olive oil flavored with Guindillas, salt and lots of garlic.

Anyhow after we had this with some of our sourdough bread, we had a lot of this delicious shrimp/prawn flavored olive oil left, which is normal, since the shrimp/prawns are always swimming in it. Instead of throwing it away like I normally do, I put the oil away in a covered container and stored it in the refrigerator so it wouldn't go bad and decided to make some Pilaf the following day. It's 37C here on warm days now so a lot of things go bad if you leave it outside the refrigerator, including fruit!

Dried Shrimp Pilaf with Tongue Numbing Sichuan Peppercorns & Iberico Pork Sausages


1/3 liter Rice

3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (from the Gambas Pil Pil)

1/2 Cup Dried Shrimp

1 Iberico Sausage


Sea Salt

1 Knob Ginger (grated)

Dry Dark Sherry (Alfonso Oloroso Seco)

2 Tbsp White Sesame Seeds

1 Tbsp Sichuan Peppercorns

2 Tbsp Dessicated Coconuts

Cilantro (a handful - chop it up)

1/4 Leek (thinly sliced)

Step 1: Wash the rice and then set it out in a colander to dry for about 30 minutes.

Step 2: Put the dried shrimp inside a bowl and let them soak in sherry.

Step 3: Before you start frying the rice in the oil, make sure you have the same amount of liquid in volume as the rice standing by. The liquid will be a combination of the sherry the dried the shrimp was soaking in (the broth) and water.

Step 4: Heat up the oil (from the Gambas Pil Pil) and throw in the grated ginger and fry a bit. Then throw in the rice and make sure they are all nicely coated in this oil. Add the sherry marinated dried shrimp. Salt a bit and add some soy sauce maybe 2 Tbsp.

Step 5: Add the mixture of sherry and water you've prepared and then put on the lid and let it come to a roiling boil on high heat, at which point you need to lower the heat to low.

Step 6: Set your timer for 17 minutes.

Step 7: When the timer rings, remove the rice from the heat and set it aside and put either a clean cloth or kitchen paper under the lid so that it absorbs some of the steam. And yes, it's ok to lift the lid and let the steam escape at this point.

Step 8: My grandmother would have wrapped this up in a rice cozy and let it sit around for 45 minutes, but since most of us don't have a rice cozy (you know - like a tea cozy?) I would just let it sit around for 20-30 minutes no more.

Step 9: While the rice is sitting there you can start chopping up the leeks and cilantro. You also need to toast the dessicated coconuts, sesame seeds and Sichuan peppercorns. The Sichuan peppercorns need to be put through the food processor in addtion to being you have quite a bit to do during this period!

Step 10: Chop up the Iberico sausages into bite sized pieces and sautee them in a non-stick frying pan until they're cooked. No need to add additional oil as they are already very oily. You can substitute this with Chinese sausages as well. Set these aside.

Step 11: Put the rice into a nice big bowl and season it with the sesame seeds, sichuan peppercorn, dessicated coconut, cilantro and leeks and add the sausages. Toss it all together and serve...and enjoy the tongue numbing experience.

Note: If you don't have leftover oil from making Gambas al Pil Pil, I'd just add some crushed garlic, chili (if you don't have Guindillas), parsley into the olive oil before you add the rice. It won't be flavored with prawns but you're using a dried shrimp sherry broth anyway so I think it should be OK.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Heart of the Matter - The Best of June's Produce

Heart of the Matter is a food blogging event that promotes 'heart healthy' food. This month's theme was 'The Best of June's Produce'. For more information on this event please refer to Ilva's post in Lucullian Delights.

Where I live in Costa del Sol, all kinds of melon are in season now and there are lots of people on the beaches in their bikinis.

So what could be more delightful than an icy smoothie made from any kind of melon? Depending on how frozen your fruit is it can come out pretty solid like a sorbet or more watery and drinkable. When the fruit is very frozen you'll need a spoon to drink it!

Frozen Melon Smoothie

1.5 Servings


1 Cup Frozen Fruit (Buy fresh fruit, cut them into cubes and freeze them overnight!)

1 Cup Fruit Juice (Grape Juice, Pineapple Juice, Guava Juice work very nicely)

3 Ice Cubes

Just put everything inside a blender and wizz around until smooth. If the motor stalls, turn it off and move the liquid around a bit by tilting the blender and then wizz again. Repeat until it's all lovely and smooth.

The frozen melon smoothie in this photograph was made from honeydew melon, but my favorite is water melon & banana mixed with guava juice, with some lime juice squeezed into it. The proportions would be roughly 2 Cups frozen water melon, 1 banana, 2 Cups guava juice and the juice of 1 lime. Serves 2.

If you're taking certain kinds of medication for your heart and I've heard certain fruit are good for this like grapefruit and bananas - I'd make this smoothie using these fruits or fruit juices.

Monday, June 8, 2009


This is a photograph of Sake offerings made to Meiji Shrine.

I've posted this because Jaden has done a great post on Sake in her blog. It's pretty useful information for anyone, but even more if you live in North America because she talks about brands you can purchase there.

My favorite has always been Mizubasho. Just as she's mentioned, quality Sake is always consumed cold. It's cheap Sake that's warmed and nice to drink in cold weather - like what you do with mulled wine. Nobody in their right mind would make mulled wine with vintage Chateau Haut-Brion if you know what I mean.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Paper Chef #41: Tuna, Artichokes, Asparagus & Vodka

The ingredients for this month's Paper Chef wasn't an issue for me. The cost of the ingredients was very interesting though: 75 centimos for 6 artichokes, 99 centimos for a bunch of asparagus and 15 euros for 850 g of tuna. Vodka? Well we have it lying around in here so I just used some of this.

Based on the cost of the ingredients, I decided that 'tuna' was going to be the star of my show. After all, it cost exponentially more than the other ingredients.

Other than that it could be the increasingly warm weather but I haven't had much of an appetite these days, which is maybe why I've been less inspired to cook. Warm weather just drains energy out of me and to be productive I need to keep the temperatures in my room under 24C. I guess this is why in Asia, the offices have pretty strong air conditioning to make sure people are working during the horribly humid and hot months of July, August and September instead of dozing off on their desks and being unproductive.

Enough of my excuses for being uninspired - and uninspired my executions were. Yes, I tried out three different ones and Ronny said they were all good, and I felt they were all kind of OK but nothing fantastic.

Anyway here they are:

The first one was very straight forward. I just braised the artichokes and asparagus in some olive oil with salt, pepper, guindillas and garlic, and served them with tuna braised in more of the same stuff. I used the juices from braising the tuna to make a sauce with vodka, sugar, soy sauce and wasabi.

In the second execution, the ingredients were braised in olive oil, with salt, pepper and guindillas again, and it was served with pasta. The tuna was marinated in vodka, lemon juice, salt and pepper prior to cooking.

The third execution was just watered down Japanese cooking. The artichokes and asparagus were braised in olive oil and seasoned lightly with salt only and set aside. The tuna was braised and then cooked in something similar to Teriyaki sauce, except instead of Mirin, I used vodka with lots of brown sugar, seasoned with soy sauce and spiked with freshly grated ginger. This was served with a nice portion of thinly sliced leeks on top to give it an additional zip. What was surprising about this last execution was how delicious the artichokes tasted with this sauce. The tuna flavored Teriyaki sauce spiked with ginger seemed to bring out all the good flavors in the braised artichokes more than before.

There's still time to send in your entries. Please go here to the Alison's lovely blog: Local Lemons.