If Yan Could Cook. . .

Archive for the ‘Asian’ Category

Can you panko-bread it? & Mini Garlic-Cheese Biscuits

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I wish there was a registry of nice people, or some sort of awards system where you could nominate people who had done right by you on any given day: the middle-aged woman who seems to genuinely like working at your neighbourhood KFC, the concierge who went to bat for you against the company that owns your building, the people who answer Craigslist ads with good grammar and politeness, the man and his daughter who helped you move after seeing you tumble boxes down the street, the guy who lent you his bike lock when the pins fell out of yours right before an exam. Why is there no way to honour these people? I wish their prospective employers would call me and I could attest that yes, these are good people.

An easier question: what else can I bread in panko besides pork fillets? The short answer: shrimp – yes, but it’s better to make a batter; pork tenderloin – no, but pork tenderloin is so good it almost doesn’t matter what you do to it.

I dipped the shrimp in one egg whisked with two tablespoons of soy sauce, then flour, then panko crumbs, and then into a layer of hot oil.


They were great with Sriracha sauce, though it was a lot of steps and dishes to bread them. I suspect shrimp dunked in a batter and then fried would have been just as good. We had them with an unremarkable rice noodle soup (broth, green onions, white onions, Chinese five spice, lettuce, cucumber, spinach, thin rice noodles, sesame oil).


This soup base, detailed here, is a weeknight staple around here. Conceptually better for you than packaged ramen (JP calls it “undergrad fuel”).


I think Asian food by candlelight is just weird.

The pork tenderloin I rubbed with just a little bit of cinnamon, ground cloves, salt, and cayenne pepper. Cinnamon and cloves – good with ham, good with cookies. Go figure. Then I dipped it in one egg and two tablespoons of water, and cooked each side in oil on the stovetop. They went in the oven for fifteen minutes.


Tenderloin releases lots of juices, which makes the batter mushy, rather than crisp. It releases a lot of juices because it is mouthwateringly, meltingly juicy and tender. Even with the blah coating, it was so tasty, and that little sprinkling of cinnamon, cloves, and cayenne had somehow penetrated every bite without masking the meat. Man!

We had it with sliced radishes and zucchini, sauteed with garlic.


The giant orange cookies pictured are garlic cheese biscuits, based increasingly loosely on the recipe from What’s a Cook to Do? by James Peterson. In my version, a cup of flour and a tablespoon of baking powder get mixed together, and then 6 tablespoons of butter are cut in (between 1/4 and a 1/2 cup). Three gloves of minced garlic and a 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan-Romano cheese are added. About 1 cup (or slightly less) of milk is mixed in to form a wet batter. The first time I made them, with the pork tenderloin, I attempted to make large drop biscuits:


In the oven at 450 degrees F for fifteen minutes, these spread a lot and became flat discs. Today, with lunch, I put the same batter into mini-muffin tins:


These came out much better – bite-sized, buttery delights. With so few ingredients, one bowl, and a short baking time, an easy addition to the arsenal. I had them with fresh berries and some leftover vegetable soup.



Written by skimfu

April 23, 2009 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Asian, Pork, Shrimp

Chicken and Celery Stir-fry

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The above photo is not in my kitchen. Life moves quickly: from now on, very likely, I will be cooking in a different kitchen, one with stainless steel countertops and red walls, one I share with someone else.

In a few months I start grad school in a city with a perpetually wet chill and almost no daylight. Many mornings there I would catch myself waiting for the sun to rise at eleven a.m., realizing that it wasn’t going to, and the day was going to pass completely in a dark, gray haze. I lived there in a second, deeper haze of allergies; it’s hard to see past the itch on the inside my skull. It’s a place full of bad memories and good memories rewritten as links in a chain of regret. For whatever reason, whenever I visit, I never go to see the only good thing there: the ocean. I think its symbolism has begun to overwhelm me, its rhythm following me for years – not merely a link in the chain, but the medium in which it resides. All my mistakes and miseries suspended in seawater.

My father makes this dish, minus the red chili. As I cooked I thought of myself as a child or a young teenager or that static age one returns to in their parents’ house, sitting alone at our old kitchen table or their new IKEA bar, picking the celery and chicken out of their pooling juices with chopsticks. My parents eating on the couch, watching the news in the dark, the grim, stern local news anchor’s voice in the background, the eerie blue television shadows on the wall. Going back feels like failure, like I never left.


It’s still tasty though. Several bunches of green onions are cut such that the whites are chopped fine and the greens are left in big strips (more like a vegetable than a flavouring). Chicken thighs are chopped quite small and stir-fried with plenty of minced garlic and the green onion bottoms, adding a couple tablespoons of soy sauce in the process. This is cooked until the chicken has started to crumble a little bit on the outside, resulting in a chicken bits-soy sauce-oily liquid that tosses easily with big hunks of celery and the greens of the green onions. A handful of dried red chilies, crushed, also go in the mix. The celery in this dish is best left pretty crisp, not cooked long. Served over rice for a 20-minute weeknight dinner for two, hold the weary nostalgia.

Written by skimfu

March 10, 2009 at 10:42 pm

Posted in Asian, Chicken

Tonkatsu Addendum

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As a side note, the tonkatsu that I described how to make in an earlier entry is great in sandwiches. In this case, with white bread, Japanese wasabi-flavoured mayo, and lettuce.


Written by skimfu

March 10, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Posted in Asian, Pork

Fish Congee and Tonkatsu

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A few months ago, I went to Toronto and Markham to do nothing but eat Chinese food for a couple days straight. JP led me from congee house to noodles to bakery to Northern Chinese to Dim Sum; we were still eating Milk Jam buns at three in the morning. For a pasty white boy, he sure knew his stuff. Over Christmas, I went home to Vancouver and glutted myself on Chinese and Japanese food. Living here has worn down my standards terribly – I was starting to say that fibrous, bitter, overgrown gai-lan and steak as gummy as taffy was acceptable, even good “Chinese broccoli with beef”.

Yesterday, peering mournfully into my fridge, I thought: must we travel so far?

For the congee, I minced three gloves of garlic and tons of fresh ginger (three inches of stalk), and placed them in a bowl with three bunches of chopped green onions. I cubed seven cod fillets and threw them in the bowl too, along with a splash of rice wine vinegar and soy sauce, and a larger dose of sesame oil.

For the congee itself I used one cup extra-glutenous white rice and about two or three cups regular jasmine white rice. Here’s a suggestion: don’t do that. Try 1/2 a cup of each. I’m going to be eating congee for the rest of the month. This is really the food to glue shut the mouths of your fifteen hungry children. I had to scoop out half, plain, and store it in the fridge. Water determines texture, and you can keep adding as long as you want. The short of it is use lots and lots of water, and add more as it disappears. Boil it for about two hours, until the rice disintegrates into paste, kind of like oatmeal.

Near the end of cooking, add the fish mixture and as much salt and white pepper as you deem necessary, and stir in; the fish will cook quickly in the hot congee.


People often eat this for breakfast. My parents use it to accompany leftovers, when someone is sick, or when neither of them has any idea what to cook. While I made it, I kept imagining my mother shrugging, and saying, “Bo jook,” which, translating tone and context, would mean: “I don’t know, why don’t we just make congee?”

Tonkatsu is a Japanese deep-fried breaded pork cutlet, usually served in a sandwich, in a big bowl of rice and egg, or alongside noodles in soup. Okay, I don’t actually know what it’s “usually” served with, those are just the only ways I’ve encountered it. I figured it would go well with congee. It was surprisingly easy to make; it worked just the way I thought it would, which almost never happens.

First, make an assembly line for flour, one beaten egg combined with a few tablespoons of soy sauce (or water), panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), and the pan you’re going to fry them in, as below:


Take a trimmed pork cutlet, dip it in the flour, and brush it off, so the entire thing is covered in as thin a layer as possible. Next, dip it in the egg mixture, again letting excess drip off. Finally, coat both sides in panko; here you can go nuts.


The last step is easier on a gas stove than electric, because it helps to have good control on the heat of the oil – or at least it’s less messy, and there’s fewer black bits in the pan when you’re finished. The oil (olive is fine, but a waste; canola is more appropriate) should be very hot and the cutlet should sizzle, but not be popping all over the place. You only need enough oil to cover one side, and then flip, rather than actually deep-frying. This was actually my cleanest, least panicky experience with breaded stuff – all told, it took less than fifteen minutes.


In addition to the congee, I served it with some steamed bok choy and oyster sauce to dip the choy in, because I often use cooking for people as an excuse to lecture them on their vegetable intake. When I brought the food out, JP remarked, “I know you’re going to make some comment about me having yellow fever – but you’re the one who made it.”

“I am yellow, friend,” I responded, “that’s the difference.”

Written by skimfu

January 10, 2009 at 3:06 pm

Posted in Asian, Fish, Pork

Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich

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Today, biking through the Ville Mont-Royal, the back alleyways of suburbia meets industrial wasteland, I was struck by a feeling I often have, that I can only call placesickness. Like homesickness, it’s a longing to be somewhere else, but not a specific place. A longing for the concept of home, of a place where you can lie your head near the sleeping head of someone else, a place of better times, a place where you are loved. A place that exists geographically nowhere. A place – sometimes you’re sure – that exists somewhere in your past.

I started keeping my bike in my apartment, and it feels like I tried to domesticate one of the large, territorial cats – a tiger or a puma. My bike constantly needs more landmass to run free in than I can provide. We hit the northern edge of the island on an afternoon ride, shocked at how small the bounds of the city are.

When you search for “teriyaki” on Google or Epicurious, you get lots of recipes that feature bottled teriyaki sauce. Some of them are recipes that include nothing else: marinate chicken in teriyaki marinade. Baste chicken in teriyaki baste. Grill. How is this a recipe?

I find myself increasingly turning to Wikipedia. That is what I’m more interested in, anyway: generally what goes into a dish, what flavours are associated with it, disambiguation on its name, how its eaten in its native country, popular variations. On teriyaki, Wikipedia said: soy sauce, sugar or honey, and sake or mirin. Much better!

Because it was what I had, I used soy sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar (it’s surprisingly difficult to find mirin in my dominantly Asian neighbourhood), sesame oil, and orange juice (ginger would have been nice, alas). A solid few tablespoons of soy sauce, a big dollop of the honey, and tiny splashes of everything else, heated on low in sauce pan.

I used a whole, smallish chicken breast. Even while I was doing it, I knew it was a bad idea – every time I have made a chicken sandwich at a restaurant, I have butterflied the breasts or pounded them flat with a tenderizing hammer. As it was, it was way, way too thick for a sandwich. I let it marinate in the sauce mixture for as long as it took the oven to preheat, at 400 degrees F.

I put the marinated chicken breast in the oven for fifteen minutes, in a foil-covered tray. The sauce runs off the chicken, caramelizes, and burns pretty quickly, so it helps to keep basting it with its own juices plus any leftover sauce. I had it on a crusty ciabatta bun with daikon shoots (somewhere between spicy and that sandy feeling raw spinach leaves in your mouth) and tomato slices.

Written by skimfu

September 11, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Posted in Asian, Chicken

Same Ingredients, September to April: Yakiudon and Fried Wontons

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Classes started today. Yesterday I went grocery shopping and thought, “Time to be practical, time to make fast, time-tested, practical meals that can be easily transported.” That night, I made a stir-fry of chicken, carrots, broccoli, garlic, onions, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and rice. I have undoubtedly eaten about a bathtub worth of this meal since leaving home. I was planning to do what I’ve done since time immemorial: eat it for lunch and dinner for three days, and then make something else easy and familiar – more wonton soup with udon noodles, since I still had wontons and udon noodles.

When I got home, I looked at the cold tupperware full of stir-fry and I just couldn’t stomach it. Why, exactly, is life supposed to be boring from September to April?

Instead, I took out all the wonton soup ingredients and made something I’ve never made before, though often I’ve often been unsatisfied with something similar in mall food courts. Sliced onions, green onions, baby bok choy, bean sprouts, and udon noodles went in the wok, along with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, red chili flakes, sugar, and ground white pepper. You can be pretty indiscriminate about ordering – obviously the onions and udon noodles take a while to cook, but everything else is food-court-flash-fry-fast. I don’t think the last five ingredients are actually how the Japanese make the sauce typically associated with yakisoba; this was just my unreasearched guess, but it tasted about right to me.

I defrosted the wontons in a bowl of cold water, and then fried them in a separate frying pan in oil, flipping once so they were firm, crispy, and brown on both sides.

Shaved (curled? I used a slingshot vegetable peeler) carrot added some additional crunch. And then I felt much better about the tasty, tasty future.

[As this is a new roll, photos will probably be a while yet.]

Written by skimfu

September 2, 2008 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Asian, Pork

Feeling Lazy, Wonton Soup with Udon Noodles

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Montreal, how I hate you, sometimes. The city is like a subtle teenage bully, who never uses his fists, just looks you up and down with a long, lip-curled sneer. Just to let you know you are dressed wrong, you are fat, short, out of fashion, undesirable. Everyone hungers to be on stage, and not to be part of the audience that validates the pursuit. When was the last time you met someone who wasn’t an artist, someone who didn’t regard you with disdain for the weakness of your creative pulse?

Feeling spiritually hungry and lazy tonight, I opted for frozen food. In a soup pot, on low heat, I sweated (in just a dab of oil) some sliced white onion, an extremely liberal amount of green onions, chicken bullion, and Chinese five spice.

I added water and let it boil for a while, then lowered the heat and added some Udon noodles and frozen wontons, and lastly some baby bok-choy. A few dots of sesame oil over the top, in the bowl (or sriracha hot sauce, if I’d had it). Quick and good for the soul.

The bitter, uninspired soul.

Written by skimfu

August 11, 2008 at 8:17 pm

Posted in Asian, Pork, Soup