Menu Notes Week of 5-26-14

Another week goes by, and this past week I cooked only three nights out of the seven (been trying to get back into the job market). If I get a job soon, then that number might go down even more.

Water convolvulus continues to be readily available, and cheap. I’ve pretty much mastered this one now: slice up one chili, mince a clove or two of garlic, and ready three cubes of fermented bean curd. Heat up a pan on high, add oil, stir-fry the above until fragrant, around twenty seconds. Add the water convolvulus and stir-fry until cooked, usually until it’s wilted. Add soy sauce or salt to taste (though I personally prefer soy sauce, brings out the fermented bean curd).

Water Convolvulus with Chili and Fermented Bean Curd (椒絲腐乳通菜)

Corn is definitely in season and also readily available and sweet and tender. Instead of dumping it in with the other vegetables in a beef vegetable soup, I remembered not to salt the soup and waited until the end to add corn before removing and serving it on the side. Only then did I salt the soup, and the result was good soup and good corn.

We had some spareribs that had been in the fridge for a couple of days before I steamed them. They came out a little tough, and I attribute that to them getting dried out in the fridge. I steamed them with some shiitake, since it was a small amount of meat (they were left over from Saturday). Maybe soaking the meat in some mushroom water beforehand might re-hydrate it and cause them to steam better.

Steamed Pork Spareribs with Shiitake and Black Beans

I did make a couple of new things this week, by JC’s request. The first was broccoli beef. In the past, I would attempt to stir-fry the beef and broccoli together, but it was always hit or miss. The problem with stir-frying broccoli is that it’s difficult to cook it consistently. One side might be cooked and the other might still be raw. So, I instead parboiled them to my desired doneness (just-cooked with a nice crunch, but no rawness) and plated, then cooked the beef (marinated with soy sauce and sugar) to my liking and added a sauce (oyster sauce, a little more sugar, corn starch, and water) before pouring it all over the broccoli. Came out pretty good if I do say so myself. 🙂

Broccoli Beef

The second thing was a spicy Korean-style spinach-tofu soup. We had the leftover broccoli beef and vegetable soup so I just kind of threw it all together. First, I added some water to the veggie soup and heated it up, then added spicy Korean bean paste (comes in a red, little flat box). I tasted it but it didn’t really taste like anything so I added some packaged instant Japanese miso soup. Ah, that was the key. The miso soup has dashi, which gives the soup the savory flavor. Just before serving, I put in soft-tofu, the broccoli beef, and the spinach and brought it back to a boil before taking the whole thing to the table. Not bad!

Spinach-Tofu Korean Soup

I noticed something in making the beef and soup, the different perspective between the cook and the diner. From the cook’s perspective, it seems like boiling the broccoli and then pouring beef over it wouldn’t work, because the broccoli is boiled plainly. As the diner, when you eat the broccoli and beef together and they actually go well with each other, you might not think that the two things were cooked separately. The same thing goes for the soup. If I didn’t tell you I just threw it all together, you might think it was all by design. It’s interesting to think about food in this way, especially when eating out. I wonder how many dishes we eat are just some simple slap-togethers from the chef’s perspective.

See you next (this) week!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *