Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies

Midnight Snack
 
I remember the time that I was not really fond of sweet food.  Growing up in Hong Kong, dessert was never an important part of the meal. The sweetest food that my mom ever made was the red beans or mung beans soup. And I kept on asking her not to put too much sugar in, otherwise I would not eat it. But even at that time, when it came to chocolate, I did not treat it as dessert or candy. It is "chocolate".  A special class of food. 

After coming to Canada, my taste palate changed.  After getting married, my taste palate changed even more.  Although I still do not like food that is too sweet, I do love dessert and crave for it very often. And my love for chocolate is even stronger, as N goes for anything with chocolate. But, as much as I love sweets, I am trying to exercise the principel of moderation, not to go overboard with it. 

Out of my craving for sweets, I finally made these brownies again. I first found this recipe in Lori Longbotham's Luscious Chocolate Desserts, one of my favorite chocolate cookbook. There is another version of it with more chocolate in Dorie Greenspan's  Baking: From My Home to Yours. I have yet to try it. I stuck with the original recipe this time because I recalled how much I loved it the last time I made it.  These are not the cakey type of brownies. These are the rich, sweet, fudgy, melt in your mouth brownies. These are the brownies that make you sneak out to your fridge late at night and break all your dietary rules.

Kitchen notes:  
  • As mentioned by Lori Longbotham, you should let the brownies cool down completely before you cut it.  They are quite sticky, so use a sharp knife. It is easier to cut it if you chill it first.
  • You can serve it at room temperature.  But to me, I like it chilled. The first time I made it, I was not used to the fudgy brownies. I thought I did not like it. But after I put it in the fridge and tried it the next day, it was heavenly.
  • I added a touch of espresso powder to enhance the chocolate flavor.

Recipe:  Katharine Hepburn's Brownies
Adapted from Lori Longbotham's Luscious Chocolate Desserts, 
which was in turn adapted from Family Circle magazine.

Ingredients:
1/2    cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2       oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1       tsp espresso powder
1       cup sugar
2       large eggs, slightly beaten
1/2    tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4    cup all-purpose flour
1/4    tsp salt
1       cup walnuts, chopped

Directions:
  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 325F.  Butter and flour an 8" square baking pan.
  2. Melt butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of about 1 1/2" of nearly simmering water, whisking until smooth.  Or melt it in the microwave.
  3. Remove the bowl from the heat, add the espresso powder, sugar, eggs and vanilla, whisk until well blended. Whisk in the flour and salt just until well blended.  Stir in the walnuts.  Transfer the batter to the prepared floured pan.
  4. Bake for 35 to 40 mins, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out sticky, with just a few crumbs clinging to it, but is not wet.  Do not overbake.
  5. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.  Chill and cut into 9 pieces.


 

    Saturday, March 27, 2010

    Quick and Easy Chicken Stew

     

    Welcome to my new site! It has been almost a month since I started blogging. (My first post was on Mar 2) What started out of curiosity without much thoughts has turned into a real passion for me. Besides what to cook for dinner, what has consumed my mind these day is also how to shoot the dinner. I have also begun to read up on a photography book on lighting called Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting.  Hopefully I would be able to improve on my food pix. So, I think it is time to give the blog a better name to replace Babooblah. Jasmine tea is one of my favorite tea with mild fragrant and soothing flavor.  It can accompany any meals and desserts and is just as good by itself. I would like to invite you to have a cup of jasmine tea with me and we will talk about cooking, photography and other stuffs.

    The recipe I'd like to share with you this time is Giada De Laurentiis' chicken stew. You can find the original recipe here. It is quick and easy to make and yet it is also hearty with lots of flavors. It is a satisfying light meal to have with some bread. Although N is not a soup/stew person, he usually ate a full bowl of it with half loaf of bread and asked for more. As usual, I have modified the recipe to incorporate a little bit more seasonings and also changed some of the steps as well.   

    Recipe:  Quick and Easy Chicken Stew
    Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

    Ingredients
    2      Tbsp olive oil
    2      chicken breast, skin-on and bone-in* (~1 1/2lbs), trimmed excess fat
    2      stalks of celery, cut into bite-size pieces
    1      carrot, peeled, cut into bite size pieces
    1      small onion, chopped
    2      small gloves of garlic, minced (about 1 tsp)
    1      can (14 oz) diced tomatoes, with juice
    1      can (14 oz.) low sodium chicken broth
    1/2   cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
    1      Tbsp tomato paste
    1      bay leaf
    1/2   Tbsp fresh (or 1/2 tsp dried) thyme
    1      tsp Italian seasoning
    1      tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to your own taste)
    1     can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained *

    * See kitchen notes

    Directions:
    1. Brown the chicken - Heat 1 Tbsp of oil in a heavy 5 1/2 quart saucepan over medium heat.  When the oil is hot but not smoking, brown the chicken breast skin size down first, 3 to 4 mins on both sides, until the pink is almost gone. Remove chicken from saucepan, discard the skins.
    2. Saute the veggies - With the oil from the chicken in the saucepan over medium heat, (add more olive oil to make up to about 2 Tbsp), saute the celery, carrot and onion until the onion is translucent, about 4 to 5 mins. Add the minced garlic to the veggies and stir for a few seconds.  Season the veggies with salt and pepper to taste.
    3. Add liquid, seasonings and chicken - Stir in tomatoes with juices, chicken broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf, thyme, Italian seasonings and red pepper flakes. Put the chicken breasts and any juice came out back the pan, press to submerge.
    4. Let it simmer - Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and turn down the heat to medium0low and simmer gently, uncovered, until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 25 mins.  Flip over the chicken breast and stir the mixture occassionally.
    5. Add beans - Take out the chicken breasts and let it cool for 5 mins.Add the chickpeas and simmer until the liquid has reduced to stew consistency, about 10 mins.
    6. Add shredded chicken - Remove and discard the bones from the chicken breast. Shred or cut chicken into bite-size pieces.  Return the chicken meat to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.
     Kitchen notes:
    • You can also use chicken thighs. But whatever parts of chicken you are using, make sure they are bone-in, because this is where the flavor comes from.
    • Of course, you can use other types of beans, such as kidney beans or cannellini beans. 
    • As with other stews, it tastes even better if you can make it ahead and let all the flavors melt together.




    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Green Beans with Cumin and Fennel


    I like learning how to make Indian dishes because I like playing around with spices.  I feel like a witch using magic ingredients to make potion. This simple vegetable dish is very similar to Chinese stir-fry.  You put the aromatics in, then the veggies, then the seasoning, some liquids, cover and wait, and then there it is, a magic potion for me to revitalize my day.  I need veggies everyday.

    Kitchen notes:  I did not change much about the recipe since this is such a simple one.  I did increase the turmeric by a small amount because I like the smell of it. I also substituted parsley with cilantro because I did not have cilantro on hand.  But please do use cilantro. It gives a nice touch to the dish.

    magic ingredients

    Recipes:  Green Beans with Cumin and Fennel

    Ingredients:
    3     Tbsp canola oil
    1     tsp whole cumin seeds
    1     tsp whole fennel seeds
    2     good-sized shallots or 1 small onion, peeled and cut into fine slices
    1     garlic clove, peeled and cut into fine slices
    1    1" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very fine slivers
    1    lb green beans, cut into 1" pieces
    1    tsp ground coriander
    1    tsp ground cumin
    1/4 tsp ground turmeric
    1/4 tsp cayenne
    1/2 cup water
    3/4 tsp salt
    1    small tomato, chopped
    3    Tbsp fresh cilantro, minced

    Directions:
    1. Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat.  When the oil is very hot but not smoking, add the whole cumin and fennel seeds.  Stir for a few seconds and then add the shallots, garlic and ginger.  Stir for a minute or until lightly browned.
    2. Add the beans and stir for another 2 mins.
    3. Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric and cayenne and stir for a few seconds.
    4. Add water and salt and bring it to simmer. Stir and cover.  Turn the heat down to low and let it simmer for 5 mins.
    5. Add the tomato and cilantro. Stir and cover.  Cook for another 4 to 5 mins oruntil the green beans are tender.

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti



    Have you ever dreamt of owning a coffee shop? Aside from being a musician, a photographer, a journalist, owning a coffee shop has been one of my dreams in my adult life.  The warm cozy decor, the earthy aroma of coffee, the sweet treats, the chit chatting with customers, there is just something irresistible about a nice family run coffee shop in your neighborhood.  This afternoon, after the baking in the morning, I made myself a nice cup of coffee, sitting on the patio, served with these delectable chocolate biscotti, watching Yogi, our dog, running around in the yard, I let my dream took over me again. After quitting my job for over ten years in the corporate world, what is my next step? Is there a possibility to realize my dream?

    If I have a coffee shop, these biscotti will definitely be on the menu. The chocolate coatings make them a special treats. But it is still delicious even without the coatings.  They are easy to make. All you have to do is to mix the wet ingredients and then dump the dry ingredients into the wet ones and mix them together. Then you have to wait for them to bake twice under low temperature. It is always tempted to try a few pieces after the first bake is done. The most difficult part of the recipe is to peel the hazelnuts. Please see my kitchen notes below

    Recipe:  Chocolate-Hazelnut Biscotti
    Adapted from Williams-Sonoma website 

    Ingredients:
    4         oz   semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
    1         cup firmly packed light brown sugar
    1 3/4   cup unbleached all-purpose flour
    1/3      cup unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch process
    1 1/2   Tbsp instant espresso powder
    1         tsp baking soda
    1/4      tsp salt
    3         eggs
    1 1/4   tsp vanilla extract
    1/2      tsp almond extract
    1         cup hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

    For the chocolate coatings:
    4         oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped*
    1         tsp. vegetable shortening*

    Directions:
    1. Preheat oven to 300ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper/wax paper/silpat. 
    2. In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the chocolate and brown sugar and process until the chocolate is very fine; set aside. 
    3. Sift together the flour, cocoa, expresso powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl; set aside. 
    4. Add eggs, vanilla extract and almond extract in the workbowl of an electric mixer. Beat the egg mixture on medium speed until blend.
    5. Add sugar, beat until blend.
    6. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture, mix until a stiff dough forms, adding the hazelnuts when the dough is about half mixed.
    7. On a floured surface, divide the dough in half. Form each half into a log 12 inches long. Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, spacing them well apart, and pat to even the shapes. Bake until almost firm to the touch, about 50 minutes (logs will spread during baking). Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Leave the oven set at 300ºF. 
    8. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the logs to a work surface. Using a serrated knife, cut logs on the diagonal into slices 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Arrange the slices, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes.*
    9. Turn the slices over and bake until crisp and dry, about 25 minutes more. Turn off the oven and let the biscotti cool completely in the oven with the door slightly ajar.

      For the chocolate coatings:*
      1. Combine the chocolate and shortening in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave at 80% power for 30 sec. Take out and stir with a wooden spoon. Microwave for another 30 sec at 80% power.  Take out and stir.  Depend on the power of your microwave oven, if large chunks of chocolate remains, you can keep melting the chocolate at 50% to 80% power for 10-15sec for 2 to 3 times more. But each time, give it a good stir and let the heat retained in the mixture to do the job of melting first before putting in the microwave again.  For 4 oz chocolate, it takes me about three 15sec rounds in the microwave and enough heat is retained in the mixture to melt all the chocolate completely. Be careful, do not over heat the chocolate.
      2. Holding one tip of the cooled cookie, using a wooden spoon to coat another tip end of the cookie with the hot chocolate. Let it set on a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet. Refrigerate until set. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 
       * See kitchen notes

      • How to peel hazelnuts? To peel the hazelnuts, toast them at 350ºF for 10 to 12 mins.  Wrap them in a tea towel and wait for the hazelnuts to cool down. Then, you can either rub the hazelnuts with the tea towel or rub them between your palms. You should work closely to a sink so that you can blow away the skin easily. This is not a perfect way. Some skins may still attached to the nuts but they do not affect the taste and texture of the cookies at all. There is another way to peel them by blanching the nuts with baking soda before toasting.  I have not tested that before.  If you have tried that or if you have other better ways, please let me know.   
      • The dough is quite sticky.  Use a wooden spoon instead of a spatula to scrape the dough out from the mixing bowl to the work surface. 
      • The work surface and your hands have to be heavily floured (but don't be excessive) in order to work the dough easily. 
      • The original recipe uses 8 oz of chocolate for the coatings and applies the coatings to one side of the cookie instead of the tip end of both sides.  It is your preference to decide how much coating and where you want it to apply.
      • These are the more crispy and crunchy biscotti made without butter. Therefore, be forewarned that they are quite hard in texture. You can slide it thinner to do the second bake. 1/2" is a good thickness.
           

        Monday, March 15, 2010

        Simple Chili with Kidney Beans



        When I first learnt how to make chili on Bebob's request, I always thought that I had accomplished a great deal since this was the first real Mexican food that I made.  But I was wrong, according to Wiki and History and Legends of Chili, Chili Corn Carne, chili is not Mexican food at all.  Although the real origin cannot be known for certain, there is no doubt that it evolved and got popular in Southwestern American, in particular Texas where chili is the official state food.


        No matters where it came from, a bowl of rich and lush chili is always a soothing meal. This recipe of simple chili is adapted from the The Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated. It is so simple and easy to make by using stable available in supermarket and yet the flavor it produces is deep and complex.

        Recipe: Simple Beef Chili with Kidney Beans
        Adapted from The Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated

        Ingredients:
        2    tbsp vegetable or corn oil
        2    mediums onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
        1    red bell pepper, cut into 1/2" cubes
        6    medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tbsp)
        1/4 cup chili powder
        1    tbsp ground cumin
        2    tsp ground coriander
        1    tsp red pepper flakes
        1    tsp dried oregano
        1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (add more if you like to increase the heat)
        1    lb lean ground beef*
        1    lb ground chicken breast*
        2    cans (16oz. each) dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
        1    can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, with juice*
        1    can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, pureed in blender*
              Salt

        * See kitchen notes

        Directions:
        1. Cook veggies with spices - Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 3 to 4 mins.  Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne. Saute until veggies are softened and started to brown, about 10 mins.
        2. Cook meat with veggies - Turn heat to medium high and add chicken to the veggies.  Cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 3 to 4 mins.  Add beef and cook until it is no longer pink, another 3 to 4 mins.  Breaking up large clumps of chicken or beef with wooden spoon during cooking.
        3. Add beans, tomatoes, tomatoes pureer and 1/2 tsp salt; bring to boil and then reduce heat to low for simmering, covered and stirred occasionally, for 1 hour.
        4. Remove cover and let it continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for another hour or so, until the meat is tender and the chili is slightly thickened. Taste it and adjust seasoning with salt. Serve with lime wedges and other condiments, such as diced avocado, chopped red onion, sour cream and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese. 
        Kitchen notes:
        • Original recipe is made with all beef.  To make it a bit leaner, I substituted half of the beef with chicken.  I have tried the recipe with all extra lean ground beef but the result was unsatisfactorily. With half of the chicken, the rich beefy taste is still there.
        • Original recipe is made with 1 can diced tomatoes with all the juice and 1 can tomatoes puree. I do not usually keep tomatoes puree in my pantry, so I made my own with whole tomatoes. Sometimes I use crushed tomatoes.  No matter what you use, just watch out for the amount of liquid.  If it seems to be too runny, just reduce the amount of juice from the diced tomatoes added to the pot.

        Wednesday, March 10, 2010

        Stir Fried Celery and Carrots with Dried Tofu


        Spring is on its way.  Pretty soon, the grass will be greener, the cherry blossom will be blooming; the dog will be happier since we will take him out more with nicer weather. This is just an anticipation.  The gloomy sky out there says nothing about spring.  To keep my hope alive, I need some spring colors.  Here is a simple stir-fry dish with lovely colors.

        Kitchen notes:  
        • The dried tofu is an extra firm tofu without much moisture. They usually come with different flavors and five spice is one of the most popular flavors. There are usually 4 pieces in a package. You can get it from most of the Chinese grocers. 
        • To remove the strings of the celery, place the inside (the hollow side) of the celery stalk upward.  Cut the bottom white part close to the root slightly, not all the way through. Then bend the cut portion outward and pull towards the top of the stalk with the strings.  

        Recipe:  Stir Fried Celery and Carrots with Dried Tofu
        Serves 2 (double the recipe to serve more)

        Ingredients:
        1     Tbsp canola oil 
        2     ribs of celery, cut into matchstick, around 1 1/2" long
        1     small carrot, cut into match stick, around 1 1/2" long 
        1     piece of five spice dried tofu, cut into match stick, around 1 1/2" long
        1     Tbsp chicken or vegetable stock or water
        1/4  Tsp salt

        1     Tsp Chinese cooking wine (optional)
        1     Tsp sesame oil

        Directions:
         
        Heat the oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat.  Add the celery, stir fry for 2 mins.  Add the carrots, chicken stock and salt.  The moisture from the stock help the veggies to cook faster.  But too much moisture may steam the veggies instead. So avoid putting too much in. Stir fry until the veges start to soften, about 2 more mins.  Add the dried tofu and the cooking wine (optional). Toss everything together and stir-fry for another 2 to 3 mins or until the vegetables are tender.  You can add a little bit more chicken stock, one Tbsp at a time, if the pan is too dry and the veges start to brown. To finish off, add the sesame oil and stir fry for a few second.  Serve immediately.      

        Friday, March 5, 2010

        Mini Chicken Pot Pie

        mini chicken pot pie

        Going hungry can prolong life?  Just read an article on the recent Time Magazine discussing the research on restricting calories and living longer.  That seems to make sense.  The body of a human beings was originally built to conduct enormous physical activities for hunting and gathering food and to withstand the hardships caused by scarcity of food.  Abundance causes all sorts of problems.  Even my mom, a traditional health conscious Chinese woman who does not care much about western medicine, has always been telling my dad and everybody not to eat to a full stomach, 80% is sufficient. I think that is the Chinese attitude towards everything in life and I follow it as well. Moderation is the key. 

        And here is the way to enjoy all the yummy food that you can have: portion control. Specially made for my hubby, N, is this mini chicken pot pie, hoping that he will adopt the principle of moderation. This is a recipe from The Best Recipe by the Cooks Illustrated Magazine

        Kitchen notes:  I have made this several times with a big baking pan.  This time, I made the individual portion size.  I only used up half of the ingredients for making four mini pies.  The rest of the pie dough and fillings are in the freezer.  I will see how they hold up.  As for the pie dough,  Since unsalted butter is used in the fillings, quite a bit of salt has to be added.  Please taste the fillings and adjust to your personal taste. This is a pretty basic recipe.  You can vary the types of vegetables such as adding mushrooms or herbs to suit you own taste.  The white wine (I don't have dry sherry) really enhances the flavor.  Don't skip it!   

        Chicken Pot Pie
        Serves 6 to 8
        Adapted from The Best Recipe by the Cooks Illustrated Magazine
        Pie Dough
        1 1/2
        Cups unbleached all purpose flour
        1/2
        tsp salt
        8
        tbsp unsalted butter (1/4 pound), chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
        4
        tbsp vegetable shortening , chilled

        Chicken Pot Pie
        1 1/2
        lb boneless skinless chicken breast or boneless, skinless chicken thighs
        1
        can low sodium chicken broth, with water added to equal 2 cups (or use 2 cups homemade chicken broth)
        1 1/2
        tbsp vegetable oil
        1
        large onion , chopped fine
        3
        medium carrots , peeled and cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
        2
        small ribs celery , cut crosswise 1/4-inch thick
        4
        tbsp unsalted butter
        1/2
        cup unbleached all purpose flour
        1 1/2
        cups milk
        1/2
        teaspoon dried thyme
        4
        tbsp white wine or dry sherry
        3/4
        cup frozen peas, thawed
        3
        tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves

        Directions:

        To make the pie dough: 
        1. Mix flour and salt, put mixture in food processor.
        2. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, tossing to coat butter with a little of the flour. Cut butter into flour with five one-second pulses. 
        3. Add shortening; continue cutting in until flour is pale yellow and resembles coarse cornmeal, keeping some butter bits the size of small peas, about four more one-second pulses. Turn mixture into medium bowl.
        4. Sprinkle 3 tbsp ice-cold water over mixture. Using rubber spatula, fold water into flour mixture. Then press down on dough mixture with broad side of spatula until dough begins to stick together. Test the dough with your finger by squeezing a small portion between your finger.  If the dough is moist and comes together, then pour the dough onto a floured work surface. If not, add 1 to 2 more Tbsp of ice cold water.
        5. On the work surface, gather the half crumbled dough together and shape it into a ball and then flatten into 4" wide disk.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30mins or longer while preparing pie filling. 
          To make the pie filling:
          1. Adjust oven rack to low-center position; heat oven to 400 degrees. 
          2. Cook chicken with broth - Put chicken and broth in medium size pot over medium heat. Cover, bring to simmer; simmer until chicken is just done, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer meat to large bowl, reserving broth in measuring cup.
          3. Cook veggies - Increase heat to medium-high; heat oil in now-empty pan. Add onions, carrots, and celery; sauté until just tender, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 
          4. Shred meat - While vegetables are sautéing, shred meat into bite-sized pieces. Transfer cooked vegetables to bowl with chicken; set aside.
          5. Make sauce - Heat butter over medium heat in again-empty skillet. When foaming subsides, add flour; cook about 1 minute. Whisk in chicken broth, milk, any accumulated chicken juices, and thyme. Bring to simmer, then continue to simmer until sauce fully thickens, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in wine.
          6. Pour sauce over chicken mixture; stir to combine. Stir in peas and parsley. Adjust seasonings.  Fillings can be made ahead and refrigerated.
          To assemble:
          1. Roll dough on floured surface to approximately 1/8-inch thick.. Put individual ramekins upside down on dough. Using a pair of scissors, cut dough rounds about 1/2" to 3/4" larger than the size of the ramekins. Depending on the size of the ramekins, you should be able to get 6 to 8 rounds.
          2. Pour chicken mixture into each ramekin. Lay dough round over pot pie filling. Press overhanging dough against the edge of the ramekins to seal it. Cut four 1/2" vent holes of one1-inch vent hole on the dough topping.
          3. Bake until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly, about 25 to 30 minutes for smaller pies. Serve hot.



            Tuesday, March 2, 2010

            Novice

            singapore stir fried vermicelli
            singapore vermicelli

            It's a new beginning, a new endeavor.  No matters how much ideas I have in my mind all the time, I usually do not put them into actions.  That applies to a lot of aspects in my life.  But I really can't help myself this time.  I got to try out taking food pictures.  Quickly I went to the "blackhole" where I store all my junks in the house and found some recycling gift wrap tissue paper, cardboard, unused placemats;  pulled out some dinning ware that I don't use that often; found a spot in the house with a bit of natural light; and took a million of pictures of last night's leftover.  Here are the two that do not show any obvious mistakes, except some dust on the placemats which I was too lazy to remove with photoshop.

                   

            Kitchen notes:
            This recipe of Singapore Stir Fried Vermicelli is adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine and can also be found on Rasa Malaysia, one of my favorite Asian cooking blog.  I had some failures cooking this dish before. It was either too soggy or the taste was not right. One of the key is the type of noodle used.  It has to be made with rice and water only and it is the fine and round rice noodle, not the big flat ones. After some research, I also found out that some Chinese chefs put in a litter bit of ketchup to round out the flavor. The dish turned out to be great this time! 

            Singapore Stir Fried Vermicelli (星州炒米)
            adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine 

            Ingredients
            For the noodle:
            8 oz rice vermicelli* 
            2 Tbsp vegetable oil   
            10 pcs medium size shrimp, peeled and devined
            1/2 tsp salt 
            1/2 lb. char siu (Chinese barbecued pork)l, cut into matchsticks
            2 cloves garlic, minced
            2/3 Tbsp ginger, minced
            1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
            1 chili pepper (I used the potent red Thai chili pepper), thinly sliced cross-wise
            2/3 cup bean sprouts, rinsed and drained
            4 green onions, root end trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
            5 fresh shiitake mushrooms 
            1 Tbsp ketchup

            For the sauce:
            2 Tbsp Madras (hot) curry powder1 1/2 cloves of garlic, minced
            2/3 Tbsp ginger, minced
            2/3 cup chicken broth
            3 Tbsp soy sauce
            2 tsp granulated sugar
            1/2 tsp sambal (or your choice of chili paste)
            1/2 tsp salt
            1 Tbsp oyster sauce
            1 Tbsp vegetable oil

            Directions:
            1.  Soak the noodle - Soak vermicelli in hot tap water for 8 to 10 minutes (or according to package instruction) until soften. Drain noodle and set aside. 
            2. Make the sauce - Put 1 Tbsp oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Add the curry powder, minced garlic and sauté for 20 sec.or until fragrant. Add the broth, soy sauce, sugar, sambal, and salt. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. 
            3. Stir fry shrimp and bbq pork - Heat a large wok or saute pan over high heat, add 1 Tbsp oil. When the oil is hot, add the shrimp, sprinkle 1/2 tsp salt on the shrimp, and stir-fry until just cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the barbecued pork; toss well. Put the shrimp and bbq pork aside. 
            4. Stir fry vegetable - Add the remaining Tbsp of the oil the the wok. When hot, add the garlic and the ginger. Stir-fry until the garlic is golden, 10 to 20 seconds. Add the onion, chili pepper, bean sprouts, scallions, and mushrooms. Stir-fry until crisp-tender, 2 to 3 minutes. 
            5. Add in bbq pork and shrimp, toss to combine. Add in noodles, sauces and ketchup. Mix and toss everything together thoroughly and to coat noodles with the sauce. Serve immediately

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