Friday, February 25, 2011

Indonesian Fried Noodles

I made this dish out of a yearning for the noodles we had in Bali during our honeymoon.  Let me backtrack a little and set the scene: we spent the first part of the honeymoon at Jimbaran Bay, which is mostly resorts. Great. Except when the food sucks, and the food at our resort certainly did suck. Big time. I mean, it was tears-welling-up worth, especially for the prices.  And if you're at a resort, you're a bit (or a lot) isolated from  local restaurants and establishments.

We had heard about a farmers' market in the area. Hooray, you would think. But to get there, we had to walk about 20 minutes, with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees, a brutal equatorial sun, and, if it's possible, 50000 degree humidity.  These are conditions I do not like--ask anybody.  I will talk incessantly about how hot and disgusting I feel, and then groan as if in mortal pain and say something like "I'm meeellltttiiinngg..."

I think we both lost weight during the first few days, because we refused to subject ourselves to the food at the resort (you see, we are very principled people with a strict moral code), and it wasn't easy to get to the farmers' market. When we did get to the market, we bought scary amounts of fruit to gorge on to tide us over.  But eating even 5 lbs of fruit a day was not going to cut it.

Out of desperation, we asked one of the staff for a recommendation for somewhere we could eat outside the resort.  We were told about a little restaurant, a hole in the wall kind of place, that had your everyday Indonesian food.  Oh thank heavens.  Oh I could have shoved my face in those piles of noodles.

So I found an Indonesian Fried Noodles recipe on Epicurious. I won't pretend that my dish was as good or authentic as the ones in Bali, but who cares. You're getting the recipe anyway.

Adapted from Epicurious
  • 1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or water
  • 3 tablespoons ketjap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce), or if you're like me and can't find that, 1 1/2 TBS oyster sauce and 1 1/2 TBS soy sauce (or even 3 TBS soy sauce with about a tsp of sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sambal oelek or Sriracha (Southeast Asian chile sauce), or to taste
  • 3 large shallots
  • 1/2 cup peanut, vegetable oil or other high smoke point oil
  • 8 oz dried...noodles (okay this was weird because the recipe called for 1 pound fresh flat Chinese stir-fry egg noodles, which I couldn't find, and so I used an 8 oz package of something called "Chinese Plain Noodles". I know. There's a picture of it later on to give you an idea of what to get, although you could really use any noodle, including angel hair pasta)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (14- to 16-ounce) package firm tofu
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 large onions, halved lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch slices (4 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced fresh red or green Thai or serrano chile, with or without seeds (with seeds if you want the dish spicier)
  • about 3 cups green veggie of your choice, cut into 1-inch pieces--I used Chinese broccoli, but you could use any or combo of green beans, snow peas, bok choy, etc.
  • 2 scallions, cut diagonally into very thin slices
Prep all your components beforehand.  Use your second refrigerator to store your ingredients until ready to use. What? You don't have one? Here's mine:

Which is basically our back patio, which we share with neighbors.

Mix together the chicken broth, Indonesian sweet soy sauce (or the alternatives mentioned above), fish sauce, and sambal oelek (or Sriracha) in a small bowl.

Bottles of umami standing at attention.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring, until golden brown, about 8 to 12 minutes.  From this:

To this:

Remove shallots with tongs or slotted spoon.  Pour shallot-infused oil into a small bowl.

Looks innocent, but oh so fragrant.

Cook your noodles according to instructions.  Drain, run under cold water to stop cooking, and toss with 2 tsp of shallot oil.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs together with a fork and a pinch of salt.  Heat 1 TBS shallot oil in the saute pan over medium heat.  Pour beaten eggs into pan and cook until barely set, about 2 to 4 minutes.

This was the part of the recipe that said to gently slide out the egg onto a cutting board and slice into 1/2 inch strips.  Since I was using a saute pan and due to my amazing culiinary skills, this is what I ended up with:

Whatever, roll it up best you can and slice away.

Heat 2 TBS shallot oil (I moved to a bigger pot at this point, but it could fit in the saute pan if you're neat and careful, which I'm not) over medium high heat and saute the onions with about 1/4 tsp salt until golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add garlic and chili.

Cook for about 1 minute, then add the diced tofu and cook for 3 more minutes.

Add your greens and cook until wilted or crisp tender, about 5 minutes.

Add sauce and bring to a boil.  Add noodles, scallions and reserved shallots and toss until warm.

Serve. And have a big big big beer.  


A note: I'm not sure I'll make this dish again, but it was decent enough that I posted about it anyway. It was tasty, but was a bit more work than this lazy-ass likes to do.

As opposed to other stir-fries that I've made, this one seemed more...complicated. It might have been because I was trying to watch the Super Bowl at the same time, but there were a lot of ingredients added one at a time so it was a minute here, 5 minutes here, make this component, make that component--I was a frantic sweaty mess after making this.  Here's wishing you have a more arid experience.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spicy Hoisin Chicken and Braised Celery

As you may have noticed, yesterday wasn't even Monday but I still labeled yesterday's post as "Monday". It was very kind of all of you to refrain from pointing it out, lest it burst my hazy semi-comatose state and kill me.  I'm all off-kilter.

I'm back, with a little coffee.

I've had all kinds of hankering for anything with soy sauce in it.  This spicy hoisin chicken dish hit the spot, and was easy and hands-down good.  

The original recipe called for chicken thighs with the skin, but I used skinless thighs instead and adjusted the cooking temp/time accordingly.  Also, next time I might cut down on the amount of hoisin and up the soy sauce, since I'd like to try making it a wee less sweet.

Adapted from Epicurious.

  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce (I might try 1/4 to 1/3 cup next time)
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 8 skinless chicken thighs with bones
Serves 8.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium bowl, mix together the first 7 ingredients.

Place chicken thighs in large baking dish (this is a 9 x 13 dish) and pour sauce over chicken.  Turn to coat well.  By the way if you want easier cleanup later, you can line the dish with foil.  Or, if you want to stand in solidarity with me and do your share of soaking/scrubbing, and soaking/scrubbing, then some more soaking/scrubbing, please feel free.

You can either cook the chicken at this point, or you can cover and marinate for an hour (I didn't refrigerate the chicken during this hour because I wanted the flavors to infuse into the chicken as quickly as possible, but if that's some big health no-no, then don't listen to me.  You can also, of course, place the marinating chicken into the refrigerator).

Bake chicken for about 35 minutes.

While the chicken was baking, I made a side of braised celery.  I mentioned this dish in a previous post without going through the full recipe, which some of you lamented about.  Well, here it is, and you'll see how basic it is.

  • Two bunches of celery hearts
  • 2-3 tsp vegetable oil (or some other neutral oil) 
  • pinch of five spice powder (optional) 
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chicken or veggie broth (or water)
  • 2-3 tsp of soy sauce
Trim the celery hearts and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces.  Then cut each piece lengthwise into 3 to 4 strips.  Or, if you're smarter than me, you'll do the lengthwise cutting first.

I love cutting celery. I love that crunching/ripping noise the knife makes when it breaks through all the threads.  I made that sound kinda violent. Hm.

Heat oil in wide saute pan or skillet over medium heat.  Add in the celery and enough broth to come about halfway up the celery.  This was extremely approximate.

Add in five spice powder, if using.  Cover and braise for about 5-10 minutes--keep checking to see when it gets to your desired texture.

When the celery is done, drain off a bit of the liquid (I put the cover on off-center by a smidgen and pour over sink) and add in the soy sauce.

You're done with the celery.

Take out the chicken...

...and serve with the celery and some rice.


I would totally make this again, and perhaps cut down on the hoisin a little and add more soy sauce or a touch of black bean sauce.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


The pugs know it's Monday.  And they're feeling similar to their friend Buddy.

I feel the same way, my little warm sleepy bundles of fur.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Freekeh with Leeks and Swiss Chard

Sigh.  I'm running out of things to cook.  Okay, that's melodramatic. But it's kind of how I feel.  Can I have hot chocolate and popcorn for dinner?  Ooh that sounds really good.

Besides the hot chocolate and popcorn idea, I've been making less new recipes and turning to old favorites, or tweaking them a bit.  For example, I love this freekeh with kale dish, but in order to avoid burnout, I decided to make it with leeks and swiss chard.  Revolutionary, I know.

Don't feel pressured to make this with freekeh if you can't find it--farro, long grain rice, or some other hearty grain that holds its shape well will do just fine.  Just prepare those grains according to a recipe you can find, and add them to the cooked leeks and swiss chard.


  • 2 TBS butter (or olive oil, or combo of butter/olive oil, doesn't matter that much)
  • 2 cups farro, rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth)
  • 1 bunch swiss chard (about 1 lb), thick stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
  • 4 small leeks (the leeks at my grocery store came in bunches of 4, so this is completely arbitrary) or 2 large leeks, or whatever--white and light green parts only, trimmed, and sliced into 1/3 inch rings
  • grated parmesan or other cheese of your choice
In a medium saucepan, melt butter and/or olive oil over medium heat.  Add in the freekeh and stir for about 2 minutes.

Add in the broth, bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer freekeh until al dente, about 30-45 minutes (partly depends on what consistency you like).

While freekeh is simmering, prep your swiss chard.

Don't forget the leeks.  Slice the white and light green parts of the leeks into 1/3 to 1/2 inch rings.

I won't go through the cleaning process in detail again because I've mentioned it before, but basically put the sliced leeks in a large bowl, and fill it with plenty of water. Gently swish so that any sand/dirt falls to the bottom.  Gently lift leeks out and drain in a colander.

Heat a TBS or so of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Toss in leeks with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are soft but not browned (although really does it matter, you can brown them if you want), from 5-10 minutes.  

Add in the chopped swiss chard leaves.  Add a pinch of salt and some pepper.

And it gets all wilted and melty like this after about 5 minutes.

Drain freekeh and add to leeks and swiss chard.  Top with cheese, if you must. And you must.

So easy, satisfying, and hearty. Seems healthy too, but what do I know.


Monday, February 14, 2011

I Love You

I'm not sure exactly what you are or from whence you came or where you are going, and I know this is an unusual sentiment for a human to convey to a felt doll, but I love you anyway.

Oh Etsy you slay me

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Okay Well Then FINE

I talked to my dad last night, which doesn't happen often because my mom is usually the one monopolizing the phone.  My mom was off doing something fun and nominally educational that retired people have time to do (okay I have some time, also, but this is no time to nitpick).

Anyway, so we're talking about a post where I mention him and the Chinese takeout he used to bring home.  Seeing a reference to himself in the big lights that is this blog was enough to stir him out of the usual phone dialogue of "Oh, I'm on the internet I'll tell mom you called okay goodbye."  We talked a little about the restaurant and whether the food was still as good.

Me, all excited that my dad reads my blog, asks him what he thought of some other post that I wrote, thinking that wow this blog could be a real foray into my dad and I having something fun to talk about on a regular basis.

In response, I could almost hear his big, blank stare. And a blink...blink.

I asked him if he read the post.  He said something like, "Uurrmm dunnooo no."

Let me note here that my sister has a blog. An adorable, awesome blog that I love to heavens and bitsies.

Back to dad.  As is typical of any younger child, I ask him "But don't you read *her* blog every day?"

And he said something like, "Uurrrmm hmmm well yes [merfle cough]."

"Well why don't you read my blog every day?" I ask with a most definite pout in my voice.

"Uurrmm hmmm well hers is about the pugs, and that's important and yours is mostly about food, and mom and I aren't as interested in that anymore."

It cut me to the quick.

So HERE dad, maybe you'll read THIS post because it has some PUG PICTURES.

This was Rikki the other day, moping and hoping for scraps as I cooked in the kitchen.  She lay here for at least an hour.

I think at some point she thought I flung something over in her direction...

Then she realized she was mistaken...

So I pet her instead.

I know she looks pathetic in this picture, but that's her MO.  She makes herself look extra pathetic and needy with big big round eyes so that any passerby with an ounce of heart has to stop and pet her. And then contemplate taking her home, because that's how she acts-- "Please take me home this beetch holding my leash doesn't give me nearly enough love oh I love you I just met you but I looooove yooouuu..."

Happy, Dad?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Lookee Here

I made a Recipe Index page! Look up! Look up! There it is!

I was inspired by a few friends to make this addition. It still needs "tweaking", which is code for "what you see now is what you get, but I'll just tease you with the possibility of change when really there is no such possibility".

That's my ginormous announcement for today.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ma Po-ish Tofu

A long time ago, I moved from Washington, DC to San Francisco.  I was the first of 3 college friends to move into an apartment on the outskirts of the city (Outer Sunset, for those of you familiar with the city).  I was sleeping on a mattress and playing a lot of music to keep myself company while I waited for various bits of furniture to trickle in, along with my roommates.

Ack I just realized that this was 2000. More than 10 years ago. Where has the time gone.

Anyway, besides playing music on a JVC stereo, I read a copious number of issues of Gourmet magazine (now, sadly, defunct). I was beyond mesmerized with an article written by a woman who traveled to China and wrote about her eating adventures, including downing live scorpions. But the real draw of this issue in particular was a recipe for ma po tofu, a dish that I enjoyed many a time growing up.  Although I had always enjoyed it as takeout, and was BLOWN AWAY by the fact that I could make it at home.  

I'm not sure what I did wrong, but the dish never turned out exactly quite savory enough, so I left the recipe by the wayside.  I didn't have the dish for many years, and when I did it was from places that did a sorry job of it.  That's how 10 years flew by.

But then a few weeks ago a Szechuan restaurant opened up nearby, and I ordered the ma po tofu.  And my love was reborn.  I have a very sentimental and emotional attachment to this dish.  I remember the excitement of my dad bringing home containers of takeout from our favorite Chinese restaurant, eagerly awaiting what I now consider the gold standard for ma po tofu.  And now I remember it as the first dish I made in my new apartment in San Francisco, when I was alone and figuring out how to flex my adulthood and identity in a new life.

I found a different recipe to use this time (I decided to evolve)--all the reviews said it was very salty, so I cut down on the amount of salty ingredients. Even so, I could have cut down by another TBS or so.  Also, since we're trying to go light on meat, I went quasi-vegetarian.  If you want to see the version with meat, just click on the link.

Adapted from Epicurious and Shirley Cheng
  • 1 TBS Sichuan peppercorns (use regular black peppercorns if you can't find Sichuan)
  • Two 14-oz packages of soft tofu, cute into 1-inch cubes (the original recipe called for 1 1/2 lb tofu, but since I wasn't using meat and the tofu packages in my grocery store don't come in 1 1/2 increments, I used two 14-oz packages)
  • 2 TBS Chinese black-bean paste or sauce (the original recipe calls for a combo of black bean paste and hot bean paste, the latter of which I do not have) (you could go lighter than 2 TBS)
  • 2 TBS oyster sauce (or a bit more black bean paste with a pinch of sugar if you want to be veggie)
  • 2 tablespoons Asian chili powder (I used Korean chili flakes, which is not too hot and kind of sweet--you could use red pepper flakes or cayenne, but use very little, like a tsp or so)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 TBS water
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions (white and green parts), thinly sliced on diagonal
  • 1/4 cup Shaohsing rice wine (I didn't have this, so I used medium dry Sherry)
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce 
Serves about 6. 

It's a long list of ingredients, but it's more simple than it looks. The actual cooking part goes pretty fast, so the name of the game is to prep all your ingredients beforehand.

Place the Sichuan peppercorns in a small skillet or sauce pan and toast over low heat until fragrant--about 2-3 minutes.  Place in spice/coffee grinder and whir away.

Smells so deelishous.

Dice your tofu. (okay, well, actually there was this whole step about placing the tofu into boiling water, turning off the heat, and letting it sit for 5 minutes before draining and patting dry with paper towels, but I'm realizing that this recipe is actually a bit complicated so if you want to skip it I won't tell.)


Mix the black bean paste, oyster sauce, and chili powder in a small bowl.

Savory and spicy. Behold.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch and water. I did take a picture, but it was the world's most boring picture, so I'm leaving it out.

Mince your ginger and garlic, and place in a bowl with half of the thinly sliced scallions (the other half will be added later).

Heat the oil in a large skillet or saute pan over moderate heat.  Place in the ginger-garlic-scallion mixture and saute for about 1 minute.  Add the sherry/Madeira and cook until most of the liquid evaporates, about 2 minutes.

Madeira.  How Chinese!

This mixture gave off the most wonderful scent ever.

Put the bean paste sauce into the pan, and cook for about 2 minutes.

Pour in the broth, soy sauce, and the remaining scallions.

Add the tofu. Bring to a boil.  Rewhisk the cornstarch mixture and add into the pan, cooking until juices thicken, about 1 minute.



Stir in peppercorn powder.  Serve over rice.  I also lightly braised some celery in a bit of chicken broth (5-7 minutes), and added a few tsp of soy sauce and a pinch of five spice powder.

Apparently it was midnight and very dark by the time I ate this.