Braised beef shank is another favorite from my childhood that I commonly found as an appetizer at banquet-style dinners, though it isn't really a braised dish in the traditional western sense. It isn't served with the braising liquid, and it doesn't aim to fall apart on the fork; quite the opposite, actually. The shank is boiled in a mixture of soy sauce and aromatic spices, then sliced thinly and served cold. The end result is a great example of a cut of meat that is usually tough and cheap being transformed into something wonderfully flavorful by a bit of time and ingenuity.
Ingredients (see Notes below)
- Two beef shanks
- 1.5 cup dark soy sauce
- 3 cups water
- 6 star anise
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 10-12 sichuan peppercorns
- 5 cloves
- 1 inch piece peeled ginger
- 2-3 pieces rock sugar; otherwise, 2 tbsp table sugar
- Bring a pot of water to a boil, and simmer the meat in it for about 5 minutes, then rinse with cold water. This helps get rid of some of the gameyness and clean up the flavor a little.
- Place everything (the meat, soy sauce, water, and spices) into a pot and bring to a boil.
- Simmer on a low heat for about 2-3 hours.
- Let everything cool, and stick it in the fridge overnight. This step is not optional; the beef shanks will be infinitely easier to slice once cooled, and the extra time will let the flavors soak in properly. In addition, the tendons in the shank will have time to set, adding to its unique chewy texture.
- Slice thinly against the grain of the shank. If you're not sure which way that is, think of taking cross-sections of a tree, except instead of counting the rings this time you're looking to see the meat fibers and bits of tendon. Make sure the slices are thin, about 1/8 inch or thinner. Beef shank is a naturally tough cut; the thinner the slices, the shorter the meat sinews, the easier it will be to eat.
- Serve cold, preferably with a drizzle of sesame oil or some sesame seeds on top, maybe a few chopped scallions. Or just dunk it into a hot bowl of noodle soup, whatever works.
- (Optional) Save the braising liquid to use as the base for a future project.
Although I provide a list of ingredients, it is by no means gospel; everyone I've ever known has used slightly different ingredients in slightly varying amounts. Likewise, it's not the end of the world if a few ingredients are missing or have to be substituted, although all of the above list should be available at any decent Chinese grocer, or Amazon when all else fails. Dark soy sauce, which is similar to light soy sauce except fermented with a few extra ingredients and for longer, yielding a richer and less salty product, can ostensibly be replaced with regular soy sauce and more sugar (caveat: I've never tried this myself, so I have no idea how it will go--most places that sell soy sauce will sell dark soy sauce anyway). Rock sugar can be replaced by table sugar with negligible difference. Other aromatics like cardamom, fivespice powder, or orange peel can be mixed in. I would really caution against adding too many cloves, though; they have a tendency to overpower other ingredients very quickly.
The other thing worth mentioning is that the braising liquid can also work for other meats. Chicken thighs and drumsticks work with this flavor very well, and eggs can be used as well as sort of variation on tea eggs. A personal favorite of mine is pork tongue (I recommend the same boiling + slicing procedure, though with thicker slices and served hot), which arguably works even better than beef shank. It has an awesome flavor in addition to being available in plentiful supply for a cheap price, and I love the insane contrast between a horror-movie-esque pork tongue sitting on the cutting board and the same tongue ready to serve and neatly sliced on a plate moments later. Seriously though, pork tongue has an amazing flavor and texture, and everyone should try it at least once.
Edit: Before I say anything, I just realized...
Happy 100th post to us.
... That is all.
Way way back over half a decade ago, when I was still an uppity little teenybopper, I decided to adopt NuclearWaffle as my handle for all my internet goings-on. I can't remember why, but it probably had to do with an unhealthy fixation on blueberry Eggo waffles. Whatever the case, over the years that has translated to waffles being the general motif for all my screen names and such, and just a general nickname from old friends. Despite this, over the years I haven't actually eaten that many waffles. Eggos I stopped because I was too lazy to buy a toaster, and all others because I was too lazy to buy a waffle iron. However, now I have both. And since I hope nobody needs my help in properly preparing Eggo waffles, I turn to my other favorite, the Liège waffle. I mean, what kind of blog would I be running if I couldn't devote some time to my namesake?
As a note, it IS Liège, with an accent. For some reason WP refuses to put accented letters in the title. Now that that's out of the way... This waffle is a variation out of Belgium, using yeasted dough and a special pearl sugar. Once cooked, it is topped usually with more sugar, along with (depending on tastes) whipped cream, caramel sauce, or any number of things. As you may have deduced by now, this thing is diabetes city. A fully loaded waffle with caramel sauce, nutella, strawberries, and powdered sugar? The perfect discreet way to end at that crabby old man across the street who always kept the tennis balls that got lost in his yard.
The type of waffle iron doesn't really matter here; the differences will mostly be in crunchiness and thickness. Just about any iron will do, but I personally favor the ones explicitly labelled "Belgian waffle", even if they are referring to another type of Belgian waffle. That being said, the pearl sugar is an important part of this waffle. The heat from the iron changes the composition of the sugar and melts it slightly as well, resulting in warm crunchy pockets of sweet deliciousness. Sure, you can go without it or substitute for regular sugar, but then you just have a sweet bread waffle, and where's the fun in that? And now for the nitty gritty...
Ingredients (4 waffles)
- 200g flour
- 1 egg
- 80g butter
- 100g milk
- 4g yeast
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon (to taste)
- 4g vanilla extract (to taste)
- 65g pearl sugar
- Melt the butter and warm up the milk. If your yeast requires that it be "activated", dissolve it in warm milk--just make sure it's not so hot that it dies.
- Combine the flour, egg, yeast, cinnamon, and vanilla. Add the warmed milk and melted butter, and mix until a doughy consistency.
- Let the dough rest until it doubles in size, approximately 30 minutes to an hour depending on temperature.
- After the dough has risen, mix in the pearl sugar.
- Heat up the waffle iron, and cook. Yes, the lumps of sugar will not melt into the dough; this is a good thing.
- Top with powdered sugar and whatever else you feel like.
- There's really not much that can go wrong here. But for the optimal rise, a little trick I like to use is to put the dough (covered!) with a pot of boiling water in a deactivated oven. That way, you can maintain a predictable warm temp optimal for rising, without it being so hot it kills the yeast. I use this whenever it's winter and I need something to rise in a punctual fashion. Of course you can just give the dough more time, but that's pretty much dependent on preference and degree of boredom.
- Likewise for the timing on the cooking, I don't really have advice here. Following the waffle maker is a pretty safe bet, but even that not might be accurate since it may not be designed to handle dense sugary dough like this one. The best bet is waiting 4-5 minutes, and then just going by instinct--the color is a good indication of degree of cooked-ness here.
- Yes, the waffle iron is going to look like a mess with lumps and melted sugar and butter all over the place. But luckily, it's fairly easy to clean. Once you let it cool down, the melted sugar and sugar should solidify and lift right off the iron with a bit of vigorous wiping with a dry paper towel--if they don't, then you need a new nonstick coating. A few minutes and the iron should be good as new.
After the visit to BonChon I had an intense craving for fried chicken, but not of the dry KFC sort. Unfortunately, the closest thing I could get around here was King Chef, but that didn't exactly fit the bill either. Luckily enough, at that moment I thought of Oleana, and the Oleana book had a "Persian Fried Chicken" recipe, which involved marinating chicken in yogurt before frying it. Fried chicken, and a chance at playing with yogurt marination? Score on two counts. Since this is from a book, out of respect I will keep quantities out (since in this case they are vaguely important), and provide an amazon link for purchase.
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
- Plain yogurt
- Garlic, finely chopped
- Dried Spearmint
- Oil, for deep-frying
- Puree the yogurt, saffron, and garlic in a blender with a little water until the mixture is uniform and a nice yellow color.
- Cover the chicken well with the marinade, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. The rest is important so the meat is tenderized by the yogurt, and the flavor from the saffron and garlic have time to seep in.
- Take the chicken out of the fridge, and brush off the excess marinade. Dredge the chicken in a combination of flour, paprika, salt, pepper, and spearmint. For this part I didn't have any spearmint on hand, so I substituted it with some coriander powder since it also has a sort of cooling effect.
- Fill a medium skillet with a bit more than half an inch of oil, and heat it up to 350 degrees F.
- Fry the chicken until golden brown and well-cooked, about 3 1/2 to 4 minutes per side.
- Let the chicken rest a few minutes and dry out on a plate lined with paper towels. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.
I ended up having the chicken with plain jasmine rice and some sauteed spinach, which made for a pretty good combination. In terms of the crust on the chicken, it's closer to the Asian varieties than the American, and the yogurt had a pretty big impact on the texture of the meat. Maybe this was because I didn't get enough of the marinade off before frying, but I swear I tasted small bits of hot yogurt in there with the chicken. On one hand, it did provide an extra kick of moisture, but on the other it did impart a rather special taste. Not necessarily bad, just not something I'd have every day.
For anyone new, pork belly is hands-down one of my favorite things to eat ever. And as with any fatty meat, roasting it makes it so much better. Roasted slices of pork belly (pictured above) are a very versatile thing to have in the kitchen. You can pair it with breads, rice and kimchi (go, Koreans!), noodle soups, or basically anything you feel like.
Hell, it's so simple to make I'm not even going to post a formal ingredients & methodology split at all. All you need is skinned full-fat pork belly, preferably in slabs; big strips if you can't get whole slabs. Small pre-sliced ones are not acceptable. Mix a salt and sugar mixture, about one part salt to one part sugar if using kosher salt. For regular table salt (e.g. Morton) you'll have to reduce the salt amount to something like 1 part salt for three to four parts sugar. Rub the pork with enough of the mixture that it covers the entire surface and you can still feel the grains on there; discard any excess. Cover it in a tray that's JUST big enough to hold the bellies, the smaller the better, and leave it in the fridge for 6 to 24 hours. Any less and there won't be enough flavor; any more and it'll be far too salty.
When you take it out, the salt and sugar should have helped draw out some of the liquid from the pork, which will help intensify the flavor. Discard the liquid, and pop the bellies into the oven at 450 degrees, for about 45 minutes to an hour. You can also leave the bellies in there while the oven is pre-heating; this will help the fat render out. During this stage, it's okay if the bellies burn a LITTLE around the edges; this helps the flavor. Baste the pork with the rendered out fat about halfway in the cooking.
After the high heat cooking, reduce the heat to 250. By now, the pork should be swimming in its own fat; this is why you should put the bellies in as small a tray as possible. This ensures that the fat covers as much of the surface of the bellies as possible. Cook it at this low temperature for another hour. The technical term for this is confit, though you may not have enough fat to cover the bellies properly in this case; it's alright, just baste them regularly.
After it's done cooking, let it cool to room temperature and then put it in the fridge to help it set and make it easier to slice. Sliced up, they'll keep a week or two in the fridge; more if you really want, but I wouldn't recommend it. Reheat it in whatever manner is appropriate (I usually choose the frying pan, or just whatever stock I'm boiling my ramen in) before serving.
Even though pork comes first in the post title, the focus here is really the cloud ears. The presence of this "exotic" fungus makes this post another one following the general theme of "Suck it, General Tso" in my collection of chinese food writing. But seriously, it tastes good. Cloud ears (also known as wood ears) is very unique in its texture, slightly slippery and crunchy at the same time. Definitely something to try at least one, fungophobia or not.
- Cloud ears
- Pork, preferably a fat part like belly
- Red Bell Pepper
- Rice wine
- Corn starch or flour
- Soak the cloud ears in hot water for about 15 minutes, until they are soft.
- While they are soaking, slice the pork and place into a small boal with some shaoxing wine, salt, and water, thickening with a little bit of starch or flour. Use about 2 parts water to 1 part shaoxing wine. Mix well, and let it sit.
- Chop up the scallions (you can see in the above photo I've cut it at an angle so it's more pleasing), and cut the bell peppers and garlic into thin slices. Cut the ginger into small thin strips.
- When the cloud ears are ready, cut them into pieces of similar size to the pork slices. Make sure to remove any knobby hard bits from the pieces.
- Heat your wok over high heat, then add some oil. When it starts to just smoke, add the pork, and stir-fry it quickly. When the pieces are just starting to cook and turn white on the outside, add the ginger, garlic, chiles, and red bell pepper. Stir-fry until you can smell the ingredients strongly, about 20 - 30 seconds.
- Finally, add the scallions and cloud-ears, and season with more salt, and some ground pepper. Add some stock (or water), and thicken it with starch or flour to form a sauce. Wait a bit more until the sauce has thickened, then serve.