DIM-SUM

Last Friday was my turn to host the neighbors’ monthly get-together.  Inspired by the Chinese New Year celebrated this year on January 31, I decided to make it a dim-sum night.  These are the items I prepared.

Beef Sio-mai on spinach wrap

Beef Siomai on spinach wrap

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb ground sirloin, I purchased the pack with the lowest fat content
  • ¼ cup chopped water chestnuts
  • ¼ cup chopped bamboo shoots
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 t sesame seed oil
  • 1 T rice wine
  • 1 t sugar
  • ¼ cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 25 pieces spinach wonton wrapper.  The package suggests to use this type of wrapper to make vegetable dumplings, but I thought it would add some color and I decided to use green peas to complement the  spinach wrap.

Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate for an hour to overnight to meld the flavors.

Chicken and Shrimp Siomai

Chicken and Shrimp Siomai

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup boneless chicken breast, chopped
  • ¼ c chopped water chestnuts
  • ¼ c Chinese black mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 1 T rice wine
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T sesame seed oil
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • ½ t pepper
  • 15 pieces shrimps, shell and slice in the middle to remove the black vein
  • 25 Siomai wrapper

Mix all the ingredients, except the shrimps and refrigerate for an hour to overnight to meld the flavors.

Wrap the siomai using 1 T of chicken top with half the shrimp. Make a circle using the index finger and the thumb. Put the siomai on the hole and lightly grab the ends to make the siomai pockets.

Chicken Siopao

Chicken Siopao

I have posted the recipe for Chicken Siopao. For this occasion, I just made them smaller, about 2 inches diameter.

Turkey Dumpling

Dumpling with Turkey

This is actually called Peking Kuo-Tieh Dumplings.

Dough Skin:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 ½ cup boiling water
  • 5 T cold water

Sift flour in a bowl, mix in the boiling water. Leave for 5 minutes, then add the cold water. Transfer into a mixer or knead manually until it forms a soft ball.

Filling:

  • ½ lb ground turkey
  • 1 T chopped  fresh ginger
  • 1 scallion, chopped
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ cup chopped bamboo shoots
  • 1 T rice wine

Cut the dough into round the size of a pecan nut. Using a rolling-pin, flatten each and put 1 T of filling.  Make pleats on one side of the round and pinch on the other side to form the dumpling. This process really takes time but it is worth it.

Boil water in a pot. Drop the dumplings into the boiling water few pieces at a time. The dumpling will first sink into the bottom of the pan and then rise to the top when cooked. Scoop out each floating dumpling and set aside. Spray some oil to prevent from sticking to each other. Store in the refrigerator. This can be done the day before.

On the day of the party, fry the dumplings in a hot pan with little oil to prevent it from sticking to the pan. This takes about 3 minutes on each side.

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Chicken Skewers With Philippine Inasal Flavor

Chicken Skewers With Philippine Inasal Flavor

Ingredients:

  • 2  lbs boneless and skinless chicken thighs, If you buy the ones with bones, simply cut around the bones. Cut in bite-size squares.

Marinade overnight in:

  • ¼ c vinegar
  • 1 whole clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric, finely chopped or 2  t turmeric powder if fresh is not available
  • ½ cup chopped lemongrass
  • 2 T salt

On the day of the party, put 3 or 4 pieces in small bamboo skewers.  With little oil to prevent sticking, cook the sticks in a pan for 5 minutes each side. Start with a really hot pan.

Egg Noodle Salad with Sesame Dressing

Egg Noodle Salad with Sesame Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb egg noodles. udon noodles will work too
  • 4 pieces scallions, the white part only, slice lengthwise
  • 3 pieces of kirby cucumbers, or Persian cucumbers, or equivalent measure of English cucumbers
  • 1 sweet red pepper, slice into strips
  • 1 cup carrots, cut in sticks
  • Dressing: 2 t sesame  oil; 1 T peanut oil, 1 T peanut butter, 2 T rice vinegar, 1 T miso, pepper to taste .

Boil water in a pot and cook the noodles according to package directions.  Rinse and drain when done.

Make the dressing and toss everything. Serve immediately or keep cool in the refrigerator.

Siopao with Sweet Red Beans and Sweetened Coconut Filling

Siopao with Sweet Red Beans and Sweetened Coconut Filling

Ingredients:

  • 1 can sweet red beans. I cooked mine using dried azuki beans, sweetened with little sugar
  • 1 cup  Philippine sweet coconut or macapuno, optional

Use the same dough as for siopao. Put 1 T filling inside and steam for 10 minutes.

Egg Custard Tart

Egg Custard Tart

Custard:

  • 1 ½ c hot water
  • ½ c sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 t white vinegar
  • Dissolve sugar in hot water. Allow to cool and add the remaining ingredients. Strain and set aside.

Pastry:

  •  1 ½ c all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 stick, plus 2 T cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • Combine flour and sugar. Cut in the butter until it resembles coarse meal. Combine the egg and vanilla and add to the flour mixture. Transfer into a floured surface and knead for 1 minute.
  • Divide the dough into 18 or 20 pieces and press into 2 ½: tart pans. Since I don’t own the small  tart pans, I used the mini muffin pan.
  • Stir the custard mixture and pour into each tart. Bake in pre-heated 375 degrees for 20 minutes. Can be served hot or cold.

I offered different sauces to go with the dim-sums.

  • Soy-Vinegar.  ¼ cup soy sauce,  3 T rice vinegar, ½ t black pepper, finely sliced 1 scallion. Mix together. This is good for the dumplings. For variation, instead of scallions use, 1 T finely diced fresh ginger.
  • Hoisin-Sesame:  3 T hoisin sauce, 1 t sesame oil. Mix. This is good on Chicken Siopao.
  • Worcestershire: Also good used in the chicken siopao.

For drinks I served lychee juice,  jasmine tea and chilled sake.

Making each dumpling requires patience.  It’s been my habit to turn the TV on while I work in the kitchen. This time I tuned in to Netflix for my favorite old movies. I figured since I already saw the movies several times,  there is no need to pay attention much to the dialogues while making the dumplings.

Dim-sum night was a hit. My friend Isabel said to me, ‘this is over the top, you know I can’t match this’,  while her Italian husband said, ‘I am serving pizza on my turn!’.

To that I responded, ‘I would like that since I have been saying that the day I meet a pizza I like, is the day I become a true Floridian’.

Because right now, when it comes to food,  my heart still belongs to New York!

By the way, I completed the preparation of these good morsels while two of my favorite old movies played on the TV: School Ties and Last Holiday.  It provides me with the proper rhythm. Try it, it’s fun.

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Laing (Taro Leaves in Coconut Milk)

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Freshly harvested taro corm and leaves

I decided my taro plant is ripe for harvesting.  The plant was from a corm I obtained from an Asian store.  This member of the potato family is called many names in different places.  The most famous variety is the Hawaiian taro. In the Philippines, it is known as gabi. In the Caribbean countries, it is called malanga. And yet in other places like Japan and India, it is known as eddoe.

I know that in the Philippines, the leaves and stalks are eaten as well and in Hawaiian cooking, meat or fish are wrapped and cooked in taro leaves.  I have never learned to cook the  gabi leaves and so I posted to my Facebook friends and asked for suggestions as to what to do with the leaves. Apparently, there are two schools of thought on the matter: one is to cook the leaves and stalks when fresh and the other, is to dry them first.  Only one friend, who hails from the Bicol region which I believe is the home of this dish gave a detailed instructions on how to prepare  the fresh leaves.  A good number of friends, said that the leaves should be dried.

To seize the opportunity, I decided to try to cook them fresh first.  I’ll try the dried ones, the next harvest time.

My ingredients:

  • 10 stalks of gabi or taro
  • 2 cans of coconut milk. But since I was out of canned coconut milk, I extracted the cream from freshly grated coconut that I keep in the freezer.  I extracted a total of 2 cups of liquid.
  • 1 T sliced  garlic
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 T thin strips of fresh ginger. My ginger also came from my garden.
  • fresh hot peppers.
  • 3 T fish sauce.  I decided to make it a vegetarian dish so that it can be eaten as a side dish to fish or meat.  Everyone suggested to sauté with either smoked fish or pork.
  • 1 t oil

Procedure:

  • Peel the stalks and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Cut the leaves in small pieces, about 1/2 inch squares
  • Heat the oil in a pan, stir fry the garlic, ginger and onions for about 3  minutes enough to release the aroma of the garlic and ginger.
  • Add the taro leaves and stalks, coconut milk and fish sauce. Cover and bring to boil.
  • Lower the heat. Simmer  to slowly cook the leaves. Check and stir once in a while to make sure that the bottom is not burning.
  • Cook until the coconut oil is rendered. This takes a good hour.
  • Add the hot pepper any time  you desire to control the spiciness.

The resulting dish resembles creamed spinach. The taste,  non of that bite on the throat that everyone says would result when the leaves are not dried first.  This dish was never prepared in our home in the Philippines. I probably ate this no more than 3 times in my entire life. So I can’t be an expert on this dish.

But my laing is tasty. We just had it for lunch as a side to grilled fish.

Taro Leaves in Coconut Milk

Taro Leaves in Coconut Milk

Sweet Potato Tops Salad

I am loving South Florida where we now live. I get to plant all the tropical fruits and vegetables and flowers I want, limited only by the quarter acre lot size of our home. I find it so much easier to grow anything on this year-round sub-tropical climate.  A few months ago, I buried in the ground a sweet onion which started to sprout, I just pulled five big onions from that single onion.  I also planted sweet potato from  slips I grew from a store-bought potato.  The young tips of the stems are the ones referred to as tops which has young and tender leaves.  This is a widely used vegetable in the Philippines. I am constantly harvesting the tops of  my sweet potato plant. I use it pretty much  in any dish that calls for spinach. I’d like to say spinach can be substituted to this salad but the texture would be totally different. The yellow tomato is an heirloom kind, Hawaiian Pineapple, and some purple yard long beans, both are grown in the garden. I also added some pickled garlic.

Heirloom Tomato plant: HAwaiian Pineapple

Heirloom Tomato plant: HAwaiian Pineapple

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Tomato and purple yard long beans harvested from the garden.                                                                                             The little green fruits are called calamondin, they are used like lemons.

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Meyer Lemon plant.

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Sweet Potato planted on a pot.

The tops need to be blanched with a little salt. The dressing is simply lemon juice, picked from my Meyer Lemon plant, a little olive oil, salt and pepper. In the Philippines, this is a good accompaniment to fried fish.

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Sweet potatoes harvested from the plant. Recipe would be for another time.

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Sweet Potato Tops Salad with Tomato and Pickled Garlic.

Bitter Melon Chips

Sliced Bitter Melon

Sliced Bitter Melon

Our Indian friend introduced us to what she calls karela chips, karela is the Indian name for bitter melon. She flavors the bitter melon with turmeric and other Indian spices.  I made it once with the Indian spices. They are delicious. But today I was inclined to divert from the traditional and try something different. The result is similarly delicious.

Here’s how to make it.

  • Use two whole bitter melons, slice about 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle 1 T salt and let stand for 30 minutes. This will draw some of the bitterness out. Rinse with cold water and drain in a colander.
  • In a small container, mix 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp sugar.
  • Put the drained bitter melon chips in a bowl, add  1 T of olive oil and gently mix to oil every piece. Add the spices and continue mixing with your hand to distribute the flavor. You may adjust the chili pepper to suit your spice tolerance.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 375 F.
  • Arrange the chips single layer  in a baking pan.
  • Bake for 20 minutes, turn the chips over, and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until crispy.

Knowing what  we know now about the health benefits of bitter melon, I think that these chips can very well be a healthier substitute to crispy fried onion rings or potato chips as sides to sandwiches or even just for snacking.  As I was writing this post, I kept on getting up and reaching over the kitchen counter for  a chip or two.

Baked Bitter Melon  Chips

Baked Bitter Melon Chips

Fried Yucca with Cilantro-Lime Sauce

People always bring their cooking wherever they settle and South Florida is home to millions of Cubans. The first time we went to a local Cuban restaurant, we had fried yucca with cilantro sauce. And immediately after the refreshing taste and cool sauce hit my taste buds, my mind worked to dissect the components – mayo, garlic, lime and of course cilantro. Simple enough. I just had to work out the proportions.

I call this the Cuban French Fries.

  • Fresh or frozen yucca can be used. I find it easier to use the frozen kind. Cut the frozen yucca into 2-inch pieces, microwave for 5 minutes to defrost and cook.
  • Heat a pan with about 1/2  inch of oil. I use canola oil.
  • Fry the yucca pieces until golden brown.

Cilantro-Lime Sauce

  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 2 T  lime juice.  I like adding some zest of citrus to any dish I make calling for citrus.
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 c packed cilantro, leaves and stem

Process everything in a food processor. Alternatively, mince the garlic using a mortar, finely chopped the cilantro and mix everything.

I also use this sauce on fried plantain,  as vegetable dip and dressing for meat sandwiches. I am sure it will be good with French fries too!