Homecooked Meal – June 15, 2007

This is a meal from 7 years ago that I remembered after going through some videos from that time period. 2007 was the first time I came to Hong Kong on my own, and I spent quite a few evenings at my aunt’s house eating homecooked meals. This one was a four-disher:

Chicken Wings Braised with Carrots and Potatoes
Chicken Wings Braised with Carrots and Potatoes
Choy Sum with Fish
Choy Sum with Fish – I thought it was chicken at first!
Steamed Pork Cake
Steamed Pork Cake – the old standby
Steamed Chicken Eggs with Preserved Duck Eggs
Steamed Chicken Eggs with Preserved Duck Eggs

And finally, the full ensemble:

Family Dinner
A nice family-style dinner, the only kind of dinner at my aunt’s house

I get hungry just looking at these photos. Enjoy!

Menu Notes 5-12-14

Monday

Dinner - May 12, 2014

Choy Sum Stir-Fried in Ginger Oil
Pan-Fried Pork Chops in Onion-Soy Sauce
Tomato-Corn-Onion Soup

Pretty successful meal today. Heated up some oil and fried some ginger slices before adding the choy sum and stir-frying until most of the water was gone, added a little salt and plated.

Pork Chops in Onion-Soy Sauce Choy Sum Stir-Fried in Ginger Oil

For the pork chops, first seasoned one side with salt and pepper, then fried that side for about 3 minutes before seasoning the other side and flipping. Plated and then stir-fried some sliced onions in the same pan before adding the sauce mix: soy sauce, sugar, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, water, and alcohol (I used Chinese rice wine). It’s great when you put the sauce in and it sizzles and evaporates with much fanfare. Cooked onions until tender, scraping off the pork chop bits. Poured over chops.

I had some leftover chicken broth so I added some water and threw in a tomato, a corn on the cob, and some of the onion from the pork chop. Cooked until the tomato fell apart. Corn is in season now so it was sweet and tender. Great!


Tuesday

Tuesday Dinner

Chicken Breast with Lemon-Caper Sauce
Bok Choy Stir-Fried in Ginger Oil

We bought some capers a while back and thought to make lemon-caper chicken, and this week we finally had a chance to try it. This one is super easy to make. We like our breasts a little thinner (plus they’re easier to cook that way) so I first split the breasts down the middle. Season with a little salt and pepper, then pan-fry until done, about 3 minutes each side on medium heat. Plate, then make the sauce and pour over. I improvised the recipe from here. Once again, the final product went really good with rice. In Chinese cooking, it’s sort of blasphemy to put butter in rice, but from this dish I can understand why it’s normal or acceptable in Western cuisine.

Pan-Fried Chicken Breast with Lemon-Caper Sauce Bok Choy Stir-Fried in Ginger OilBok Choy Stir-Fried in Ginger Oil

The bok choy was cooked in exactly the same way as the choy sum from yesterday. In San Francisco we called this vegetable 上海白菜 (as opposed to regular bok choy, which has white stalks), and here in Hong Kong it’s called 小唐菜. Either way, it’s all the same plant, just at different stages of development. More here.


Wednesday

Wednesday Dinner

Beef Vegetable Soup
Bok Choy Stir-Fried in Ginger Oil
Pan-Fried Chicken Thigh with Montreal Seasoning

Wasn’t sure what to make today until I saw a cabbage at the grocery store and decided to make beef vegetable soup. We still had a corn left over from Monday, and we had tomato, onion, and potato, so I bought some barley, carrots and a piece of beef shin/shank in addition to the cabbage. Beef is less popular in Hong Kong which means prices are relatively higher, and beef shank is one of the cheaper cuts. Even so, it’s pretty good in soups and stews. For this one, I didn’t do any browning or sweating or anything else. Just cut everything up, put it in the pot, add water, salt, and pepper, and cook for 3 hours. Came out great.

Beef Vegetable Soup Chicken Thigh with Montreal Seasoning

The other two dishes were more like accompaniments to the soup, just some small plates to go with the rice (though the soup itself was pretty good with rice also). The bok choy was a reprise from last night, still had some left, and we had a piece of chicken thigh in the freezer so I used that up. Nothing fancy there, just season with McCormick Montreal seasoning and pan-fry, then cut up, and serve with some English mustard on the side.

Pretty good dinner today!


Friday

Dinner - May 16, 2014

Beef Vegetable Soup
Water Convolvulus with Chili and Fermented Bean Curd
Stewed Chicken Wings with Bittermelon and Potatoes

Finished up the rest of the vegetable soup today and added a couple of new dishes. I bought a big bag of chili peppers for $5 and used a couple to cook some 水通 also bought from the wet market. Finally bought some fermented bean curd to go with it. IMHO, a lot better than shrimp paste. There are two in the picture because I made one without chilis for JC.

The chicken wing dish was a miss. Stewing chicken wings has always been difficult for me. The end result is usually a bland dish, and this one was no different. Perhaps the secret to chicken wing stew is in the broth. Since I used plain water, it probably didn’t do anything. I used the entire bittermelon because the sparerib dish last week was so good and I found myself wanting more bittermelon, but in the case of the chicken wings, ugh, wasted a perfectly good bittermelon. Today is Monday and there’s still a bit pot of it in the fridge. I’ll have to finish what I created.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but we have only one stove. For this meal, I tried making the veggies ahead of time, then microwaving for about 30 seconds just before serving. Made for a less stressful experience trying to time everything, and the veggies didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects. I might do it more often in the future.


Saturday

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the Cob

Didn’t have a full meal tonight, but I did boil up some corn to snack on. I learned from here that the water should not be salted when boiling corn. It did seem better, but I think I’ll cook the corn a little longer next time, maybe 7 minutes.


Another week goes by. Happy cooking!

Road Trip, Day 4 – Farmington Hills to Chicago

Day 4 - Farmington Hills to Chicago

November 3, 2012

Day 4 of the road trip was mostly uneventful. We checked out slightly after noon, I cleaned the car windows again, and we gassed up the car before hitting the road. Spent the majority of the drive on I-94 in Michigan heading into Indiana, then spent some time on I-90 again (last time was in New York) before crossing into Illinois. In Indiana, we encountered Interstate 80, which of course is familiar to us San Francisco/Oakland folks. I don’t know what was more exciting, seeing I-80 all the way out here or traveling through three states in a single afternoon.

Something that was a little unfamiliar was paying tolls for regular, plain-old highways (in the Bay Area, we’re used to paying tolls for bridges). On this day we paid a couple of tolls to use the Indiana Toll Road, and one toll for the Chicago Skyway. The receipts stated “All time Central”, reminding us that we had crossed from the Eastern Time Zone into the Central Time Zone, gaining an extra hour to our day.

For the record, we stopped at the Marshall Rest Area 702 in Michigan and the Michigan City Welcome Center in Indiana. Note that the aerial photo in the latter link is wrong (it’s a photo of the airport in Michigan City). Here’s the photo we took of the center:

Michigan City Welcome Center, Indiana

The area just outside of Chicago felt a bit industrial and reminded me of driving down 880 in the East Bay a little bit (or maybe we were already in Chicago, the South Side to be exact). We arrived in the city in the early evening, passing by places that I had heard of such as U.S. Cellular Field and Soldier Field. Sears Tower (or I guess Willis Tower) was easily identifiable. Identifying the route once we neared the hotel’s vicinity, however, was another matter. Google Maps did not indicate that there were two levels of streets, and I think we ended up on the bottom when we should have been on top. Either way, it took some time to sort out how we could actually get to the hotel entrance.

Approaching Chicago Central
Approaching Chicago Central on the Dan Ryan Expressway
U.S. Cellular Field
U.S. Cellular Field
Soldier Field
Soldier Field

After an afternoon of driving (and a small peanut butter sandwich for lunch), I was ready for one of those world famous Chicago pizzas. I did some digging around online and found a place that had good reviews, then put in the order. When I gave them the hotel’s address, they said that we were just outside their delivery area. Darn. We ordered from a different place, and as luck would have it, this was the place that originated the stuffed crust pizza!

Chicago-Style Stuffed Pizza
Famous Chicago-style stuffed pizza
Buffalo and BBQ Wings
Buffalo and BBQ Wings
Chicago Night View
Chicago night view, Lake Michigan in the background

We gorged ourselves with pizza and wings and enjoyed some of the night view before winding down the evening. I had discovered that the car had a USB port, so I partook in my new nightly ritual, loading podcasts and MP3s onto a thumb drive.

Next: Road Trip, Day 5 – Chicago to Rochester

Menu Notes Week of 5-5-14

Monday

Spaghetti with Tomato Shrimp Sauce
Spaghetti with Tomato Shrimp Sauce

Nothing fancy, just your regular spaghetti with canned tomatoes and the leftover (frozen) shrimp from the salad last week. My recipe called for browning some garlic in olive oil, then discarding the garlic, probably to infuse the oil with garlic flavor. Maybe I didn’t brown enough, or maybe I used too much liquid subsequently, because I couldn’t really taste garlic in the end product. I also made too much pasta again. A pound is way too much for two people, a half pound might be better for next time.


Wednesday

Sweating Onions
Sweating onions

Clams in Tomato Whiskey Sauce
Chinese Marrow (節瓜) Flavoured with Ham and Dried Scallop
Steamed Pork Cake with Preserved Bok Choy (梅菜)

I had some leftover tomato juice from Monday’s canned tomatoes and figured I’d make a tomato egg-flower soup, but on the way to the supermarket it occurred to me that clams might be good in tomato sauce, so decided to give it a try. I sweated some onions first, then poured in the juice, and added another package of diced tomatoes just to be safe. Thinking about it now, maybe I didn’t need that extra package. Added the clams along with some Irish whiskey just for kicks, and it actually came out pretty good. I ate a lot of the sauce like a soup. The leftovers will make a good pasta sauce for tomorrow.

Clams in Tomato Whiskey Sauce Chinese Marrow Flavoured with Ham and Dried Scallop

I was craving some mushy Chinese marrow so I cooked these in a broth flavoured with Chinese ham and dried scallops (Swanson’s chicken broth flavoured with ham, and added my own dried scallops). Again, I drank the sauce like a soup and all was well. This one is super simple, plus I cheated with the Swanson’s, can’t really go wrong.

Steamed Pork Cake with Preserved Bok Choy (梅菜)
Steamed Pork Cake with Preserved Bok Choy (梅菜)

Lastly for today we had the steamed pork cake. I tried pulverizing the meat a little less today, and it came out alright. I realized that the packing of the meat happens not because I put too little accompaniments in it, but because I’m using a little tiny plate in order to squeeze it into the rice cooker. When I eat this dish in a restaurant, it’s always on a flat, large plate, and the cake itself is pretty flat as well. Obviously when you shrink the size of the container, the contents gets packed. This one will be good tomorrow as a leftover after spending a night in the fridge.


Thursday

Macaroni in Tomato Clam Sauce
Macaroni in Tomato Clam Sauce

Nothing special today, just used the sauce from last night to top some macaroni. Did shell the clams, though.

Guess it’s a tomato sauce week this week, but thankfully the sauce is all gone now.


Friday

Yam Leaves (Bittermelon in Background)
Yam leaves with bittermelon in the background, notice the ivy-like leaves

Stir-fried Yam Leaf with Garlic
Braised Pork Spareribs with Bittermelon and Black Beans

After getting the 青莧菜 last week thinking it was yam leaf, this week I got the real thing. Compared to 青莧菜, 翻薯葉 (aka 翻薯苗) is a little less tender and is probably better off being cooked in some liquid. After stir-frying for a bit, I tried some and it wasn’t as tender as when I’ve had it in restaurants. After adding a little water, it came out pretty good. I want to say it reminds me of spinach a little bit, but unlike spinach it doesn’t leave that feeling on your teeth.

The spareribs came out really good. I bought two whole ones and cut the meat off and into pieces, and braised the bones and meat after browning them with some garlic. After about an hour, I topped off some liquid (water only this time, no “secret ingredient”) and added sweated bittermelon and onion and let that braise for about 30 minutes. Removed the meat and veggies and seasoned and thickened the sauce, and all was well. Went really good with rice. I’m salivating just writing about it!


Sunday

Rice Cooker Wings
Baked chicken wings with spicy Montreal seasoning

A lazy Sunday today and wanted something to snack on while watching TV. Plopped some frozen chicken wings in the rice cooker, set the cake function for 25 minutes (maybe I should call them steam-baked?), season at 5 minutes, flip at 12 and season again, and beep-beep-beep, some plump, juicy wings ready for enjoying. These are the same as the ones I made on the Tuesday of 4-14-14.

Menu Notes Week of 4-28-14

Monday

Fresh Straw Mushrooms
Fresh, not canned

Had a full menu today, back to work after Easter break:

Cilantro Tofu Soup with Preserved Duck Eggs and Straw Mushrooms
Garlic and Shrimp Paste Water Convolvulus with Chili
Ginger Pork Tenderloin

The soup was almost perfect, think I was a bit overzealous with the cilantro. One bunch might be good enough next time. Otherwise, 1 half-pack of tofu and 2 eggs worked well. The fresh straw mushrooms were a refreshing change from the canned variety.

Cilantro Tofu Soup w. Preserved Duck Eggs, Straw Mushrooms Garlic and Shrimp Paste Water Convolvulus w. Chili

When the veggie man grabbed the mushrooms for me he accidentally grabbed a chili pepper. I stir-fried that along with some garlic and shrimp paste in oil before throwing in the water convolvulus, and it came out better than the last couple of times. Note that this was the lighter-colored variety of convolvulus, also known as 水通.

Ginger Pork Tenderloin

The ginger pork tenderloin was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe I should have grilled the tenderloin instead, like how I used to do it in America. Instead, I sliced it and marinated it in soy sauce, sugar, ginger, sesame oil, and cornstarch. The flavor was there, but the texture was not. It was actually too tender. As the cook, having seen the meat in its raw form, eating it in its cooked form reminded me of the former. Not good. Perhaps tenderloin is not good for stir-fry. Anyhow, it was the first time I bought it in Hong Kong, never saw it before today.


Tuesday

Chinese Marrow with Dried Shrimp and Bean Thread

Too much water, tried to boil it off and marrow got too soft. The marrow probably releases some water when it’s cooked, too, so keep that in mind for next time.


Wednesday

Tom Yum Flavoured Soup with Shrimp and Straw Mushrooms

Had the leftover mushrooms from the other day as well as some Tom Yum soup paste, so decided to make a soup with it. Came out pretty good. I learned not to wash all the straw mushrooms at once if I’m not going to use them, because after storing them in the fridge for a couple of days all the water was drawn out and they got all damp and shriveled up. In the past, unwashed mushrooms remained firm and dry when stored.


Thursday

Chinese Marrow with Dried Scallops
Chinese Marrow with Dried Scallops

Chinese Marrow with Dried Scallops
Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings
Water Convolvulus Stir-Fried in Garlic and Shrimp Paste
Steamed Salted Duck Egg

Been doing the water convolvulus thing to death lately, gonna hold off for a while. I guess I wanted to use up the shrimp paste (still have some). The other way to make it is with fermented tofu, which I like better.

Salt and Pepper Wings
Salt and Pepper Wings

The salt and pepper wings may have come out a little too salty. This one’s really basic. When we didn’t have an oven we used the “cake” function on the rice cooker to make chicken wings, and they came out OK, though maybe tending more to the damp side. Perhaps I’ll start using the oven to cook the wings because sometimes I want traditional roasted, dry wings.

The Chinese marrow came out good but once again I used too much water (though this time it was for the sauce, not the marrow). I ended up pouring most of it out, but overall this dish came out great. We had some leftover oyster sauce stuck inside the bottle so I mixed in some hot water to get it out. I used three dried scallops. Didn’t need any other seasonings.

Salted Duck Egg
Salted Duck Egg

The salted duck egg exploded again, probably because I thought to use it at the last minute and it was still cold coming out of the fridge. At least it wasn’t as bad as last time.

That’s it for all the stuff I bought earlier in the week, off to the market tomorrow.


Friday

Garden Salad with Shrimp
Garden Salad with Shrimp

Garden Salad with Shrimp, Japanese Sesame Dressing
(Lettuce, Red Bell Pepper, Onion, Scallion, Cherry Tomato)

I went to the wet market not knowing what I’d make, thinking I’d try putting together something different using only ingredients that looked good. I stumbled upon some lettuce (not sure what kind, similar to Romaine, I want to say Chinese lettuce) and bell peppers, and it occurred to me to make a salad. In Hong Kong, vendors will throw in a few scallion stalks if you buy over a certain amount from them, so I used some in the salad. I was most proud of the shrimp since I’m usually not that great with seafood: boiled them in water along with some sliced lemon and onion, then plunged them in an ice bath. Refrigerate the whole thing, result: tasty and crispy!


Saturday

Chef's Salad
Chef’s Salad

Chef’s Salad
(Lettuce, Red Bell Pepper, Onion, Scallion, Cherry Tomato, Ham, American Cheese, Hard-boiled Eggs)

Had some ingredients left over so made a Chef’s Salad. Didn’t even know I’d made one until I made this post. My eggs could use a little work, had a hard time peeling them. I did bring them to room temp before boiling them.


Sunday

Washed Yam Leaf
Washed and ready to go

Chicken with Yellow Peppers
Stir-fried Yam Leaf with Dried Shrimp and Garlic

Chicken came out kind of tough, not sure if because it was frozen variety from China. When I tossed the meat into the pan to stir-fry, it stuck to the pan. Pan was not hot enough. Probably not enough oil, either. I did not marinate the chicken, just seasoned with salt and pepper. The toughness took away from it, a lot.

Chicken with Yellow Pepper Yam Leaf with Garlic and Dried Shrimp

The veggie came out good, and I say veggie because I’m not 100% certain that it was a yam leaf (翻薯葉). It tasted like it but the leaves didn’t look exactly like the ones I googled. Maybe it’s a variation. I had some in my ramen today and it was really good, I’m a big fan of it.

Update 5-7-14: I found out that the veggie I got was 青莧菜, the all-green variety of 莧菜, which has purple/red in it. In America, we used to have this with salted and preserved duck eggs, deep-fried garlic, and stock. Now that I think about it, it did taste similar to that. Yam leaf does indeed have ivy-like leaves, and was not what I had on Sunday.


A pretty good week last week in terms of menus. The beat goes on…

Menu Week of 4-14-14

Monday

Water convolvulus stir-fried in garlic and shrimp paste
Chicken wings steamed with fresh shiitake mushrooms (garlic and soy sauce)
Steamed salted duck egg

Biggest lesson today was to not over-stuff the rice cooker. I tried to squeeze in the salted duck egg plus the chicken wings (which were larger, plumper Chilean ones) which resulted in the duck egg exploding, the rice compacted, and the chicken wings undercooked. Fuzzy logic is not the end-all-be-all of cooking!


Tuesday

Baked chicken wings with spicy Montreal seasoning
Pumpkin Chayote Pork Soup

After Monday’s debacle I had to do right by my chicken wing fix. Went back to basics and baked those plump wings sprinkled with spicy McCormick Montreal seasoning. Yum.

The soup was a new creation. I’ve never been a fan of pumpkin, but JC advocated it so I experimented with it. Made it traditional Chinese style, cooked in water with a piece of pork. The pumpkin peel is hard when raw, but it softened up a lot after being in the soup. Same goes for the chayote. Saves some time with prep.


Friday

Lotus Root and Carrot Soup
Almost perfect soup

Lotus root and carrot soup with dried lotus seeds

I really like this soup but I didn’t try adding lotus seeds until now. It seems that the seeds go well with the roots. I remembered to add a Chinese sweet date (蜜棗) this time. The pork bones I used had boar taint (yuck), taking away from the soup a bit.

Menu Week of 4-7-14

Monday

Steamed pork cake with shiitake
Fried eggs over-well with soy sauce
Cabbage, tomato, corn, potato soup

With the pork cake, I forgot to put dried wood ear in it to keep the meat from packing too much. Of course, the secret is to buy a whole piece of meat and pulverize it yourself with a knife so that the meat is unevenly and not overly grounded. I did remember to save some bits of fat to mix with the ground pork so that it wouldn’t dry out. Added a tiny bit too much soy sauce in the marinade (soy sauce, sugar, corn starch, sesame oil), but still very tasty overall and great with steamed rice.

Soup would be good with real chicken broth, but who has time to make that now? Not a big fan of the make-ahead-and-freeze method, plus it wouldn’t fit in our HK freezer anyway.

Lastly, those eggs are an HK staple. Been a while since I’ve made it and boy was it satisfying.


Tuesday

Steamed bok choy with soy sauce and sesame oil
Steamed chicken wings with garlic and soy sauce

Got kind of lazy today, didn’t want to go grocery shopping, so used up whatever we had. Having a hard time coming up with what to make next.


Wednesday

Oxtail and brisket stew
Red wine, carrots, onions, corn on the cob, tomatoes, garlic, butter

Coated the meat with flour and browned in cooking oil, set into rice cooker. Browned onions in leftover oil, then added butter and leftover flour (didn’t want to waste it) to get a roux effect going, added wine, water, and beef broth mix. Added salt/pepper and Worcestershire, then poured the whole thing into the rice cooker along with the rest of the ingredients. Set rice cooker to slow cook for 4 hours. Came out great, though probably a bit unhealthy.


Friday

Boiled chicken breast with dipping sauce
Watercress and carrot soup

It was suggested that the chicken breast could have been hand-pulled instead of simply cut with a knife. The suggestion is well received and taken under advisement. Also, the breasts were placed in boiling water that was brought back to a boil, then steeped with the heat off. I could have probably steeped it for a little less time. It’s always tough trying to balance tenderness and doneness with chicken.


Saturday

Fish soup with cilantro, tofu, and preserved duck eggs

Forgot to add ginger.


Sunday

Pan-fried Shrimp with Soy Seasoning

Pan-fried butterflied shrimp with soy sauce seasoning
Parboiled carrots and fresh shiitake mushrooms
Water convolvulus stir-fried in garlic and shrimp paste
Japanese cold noodles with dipping sauce
Cucumber salad

Eating in Tokyo

Eating in Tokyo was a delight. Japanese cuisine, as well as Japanese interpretations of foreign cuisine, really appeals to me. It’s about the presentation, the meticulousness and formality of it. There is also the variety, even within a single meal. Eating a bento is an adventure. Which part do I eat first? Or perhaps I should eat it out of order? The possibilities are endless.

Recent Hong Kong Meals

A super gallery containing tons of photos from our recent meals!