Category Archives: Western stuff

Today’s food: Stroud’s style fried chicken

Stroud's style fried chicken

Stroud’s Chicken. What a wonderful feeling it was to live in a state that is known for having one of the most renowned fried chicken in the country.

I had the recipe that the chef provided to some online source, saved as a screenshot. It’s relatively simple, starting with a galic powder, black pepper and salt seasoning, moving onto a egg wash with eggs and hot sauce, and finishing up by coating the chicken with self-rising flour.

The real key is to the frying. When I first ate at Stroud’s, the subtlety of the dish surprised me. The chicken wasn’t about a boatload of spices, or craggy crunchy exteriors. The fried chicken at Stroud’s is all about the chicken. The simple, slight crunch of the batter highlights the moistness of the chicken, which undoubtedly comes from the long cooking time in a skillet, as opposed to a pressure fryer.

So fry the whole thing in relatively low temperature oil, between deep-frying and making a confit. When the chicken comes close to being done, raise the temperature to crisp it up.

 

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Filed under Food, Fried food, Western stuff

Saury three ways

Saury are wonderful. A Korean grocery store nearby were selling 10 for $8, which meant that I was able to escape from my seafood deprived state, and that I needed to keep eating saucy for several meals. This did not pose a large problem for me, since I love blue fish and their intensely fishy flavor. If white fleshed fish were coffee made by drip systems, blues are the less refined yet robust and strong french press coffee. Blue fish are not for everyone, but people who like it, love it.

Day 1, Grilled saury

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Wash, dry, salt on both sides, let sit for 30 min, create shallow incisions on both sides (as you might when baking a baguette), and broil on high, with the fish sitting at least 6 inches apart from the heating element. Common garnishes are grated daikon (highly recommended) and citrus (sudachi, if you can get your hands on it).  You can gut the fish if you want, but enjoying the bitter, rich taste of the fish offals are considered to be a marker of mature taste.

Day 2, Stewed.

Lay sliced ginger in the bottom of a pressure cooker, pour some sake, sugar, soy sauce, and a bit of water. Cook under pressure for 15 min. Or, stew for a while in a regular pot. The pressure cookers thoroughly softens the bones, making the fish much easier to eat.

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One added bonus is that you can add stewed saury on top of soba noodle in dashi based soup, and the soup gets enriched with saury fishiness.

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Day 3, saury onion pasta with garlic, garlicky toasted breadcrumbs, and italian parsley

Saury, breadcrumbs, garlic, onions, and italian parsley

 

The whole thing tastes like a large mass of saury and garlic. Wondefully tasty, but horrible for your breath. Sauté breadcrumbs with garlic until a bit browned. Sauté garlic, add filleted saury, fry in couple tablespoons of oil. When the thing’s crisp, throw in pasta water, toss with pasta, cram everything into a dish, and sprinkle some italian parsley on top. Filleting saury may be tedious, but this dish is well worth it.

 

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Filed under Fish, Japanese, Japanese noodles, pasta, Uncategorized, Western stuff

Flying To Taiwan

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The way to get the most out of your in-flight meal is: out of the two choices, choose the less appealing options (cheaper ingredients, less innovative quality, or sounds just plain weird).

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Although this has proven successful many times for myself, I cannot get other people to try this.

This is perhaps due to people’s fear of choosing the less appealing option and actually receiving an unappealing dish.

The irony of the situation is that whatever you choose for your inflight meal, whatever investment you have for your choice, the difference in quality is marginal.

This quality, this critical “choice” during the flying experience that proves to be have little substantial difference makes me feel that I have learned a life lesson every time.

 

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Today’s food: Gazpacho sômen

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Sômen are Japanese wheat vermicelli, eaten cold (in a bowl of cold water to prevent sticking) with a dipping sauce made out of bonito and kelp broth with soy sauce and mirin.

This version subs out the dipping sauce with Asian gazpacho, with bread, tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, stale bread (all tossed with salt and soy sauce infused with kelp and dried shitake mushrooms) and a bit of sesame oil. The infused soy sauce can be subbed with some menmi.

Toppings (usually julienned omelette, grated ginger, scallions, and myôga herb) are the best part of sômen. This one comes with minced parsley and a poached egg.

Sômen works best, but vermicelli pasta or ramen noodles will work too.

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Today’s food: penne with kabocha sauce

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Kabocha roasted with butter in  400f oven until soft, puree with soy sauce, sake, a bit of sugar.

Boil penne, sautee oyster mushrooms, pour in kabocha puree, toss everything together, and serve with a dusting of parmesan.

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Today’s food: Japanese neapolitan pasta with enoki mushrooms

Garlic, dried red pepper in oil rendered from bacon, stir-fry onions, enoki, add sake, ketchup, and reduce it aggressively, add pasta water, toss pasta.

For perfectly jiggly eggs:

Trusty frying pan, low heat, no lid, just patiently wait till the whites set.

Enoki neapolitan

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Lasagna, and making regular lasagna noodles no-boil

Lasagna, and making regular lasagna noodles no-boil

The loveliness of a conventional béchamel and bolognese doused lasagna. I did a little testing, and instead of boiling lasagna noodle sheets or using no-boil sheets, I soaked the pasta in cold tap water for over an hour, and stuck it in a lasagna. The result were pasta that were fully cooked but retained some texture. This technique could probably be used for most casserole applications.

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December 18, 2013 · 10:23 pm

Whatever BBQ places I failed to mention: LC’s and Danny Edwards

I moved from Kansas this summer. It was quite a painful ordeal, because I have grown accustomed and developed a strong affection for the Midwest lifestyle consisting of BBQ, observing flat and unchanging landscapes, and twelve packs of Hamms. Now that I am in Vancouver, I have to find a whole new set of things. Friends, a signature dish I can attach myself to, cheap yet drinkable beer, and a place that would offer me employment. I feel that my lingering feelings for Kansas is inhibiting me to pursue these new interests, so I decided to work through my residual emotions by writing about them. And one of the most important topic I have to cover is Kansas BBQ.

Within the landscape of Kansas BBQ, there are two particularly memorable institutions (besides The Stack BBQ, which very promptly earned the position as my favorite BBQ place in KC). One is LC’s BBQ, which is rather well known for its burnt ends. Regrettably, I was not able to make multiple trips to this place (partly because of its location) but their burnt ends left a lasting impression.

LC's burnt ends

I believe that in my post about The Stack, I mentioned that there were two camps of burnt ends. The first are the ones where burnt ends are a by-product of cooking a large chunk of meat, and because of the relative lack of care that goes in to these, they are (often wonderfully) inconsistent. The second sort is (or at least seems to be) made meticulously with great care, with attention paid to moistness, which leads to a consistent, uniform, and beautiful chunks of meat that are relatively free of gristle.

Well, LC’s belongs to the first camp, but it is their inconsistency in the doneness and resultant textures of the burnt ends that makes them wonderful. Some are perfectly done, the meat breaking down in your mouth as you throw them in. Some have yet to experience the breakdown of collagen, and gives a strong, meaty texture and flavor when you bite down on them. And some are cooked to a crisp, with a texture that’s strangely in between beef jerky toughness and cheese puff crunchyness. And very often, these three textures coexist within one chunk of meat, resulting in a wonderful variety of flavors in a bite. These inconsistencies are probably why LC’s receives mixed reviews, but to me, its why their dish remains memorable even after numerous encounters with burnt ends.

Oh, and it also helps that their fries are interesting. Not earth shattering, but interesting. The beauty of BBQ joints is that you get to dip your fries in BBQ sauce. The combination of the thin, crisp coating on these potatoes and the cumin laced BBQ sauce (not unlike Gates, but more subtle) is quite wonderful.

Potatoes

The other place that I often reminisce about is Danny Edwards BBQ. It seems to be ubiquitously well-regarded, and the reason for that is evident in every part of their existence. Its quaint architecture that seems to be a repurposed garage, the clean but not too spiffy interior, the cheery servers that don’t shout at you as you consider what to order (which is a frequent thing in some places) are easy to love. Their meat is also very consistently good, and there I had a wonderfully crusty pork sandwich. And even better, the meat is plentiful.

Danny Boulevards bbq

So plentiful, that I picked up the pieces that fell out of that sandwich, boxed it, and was able to make another heaping bbq pork sandwich at home the next day.

Danny Edwards BBQ, the next day

It’s not the end all be all of bbq joints, but if I were to frequent a particular place in the KC area, it would be Danny Edwards. Or of course, The Stack.

Well, but now I’m too far west and too far north to go to either of those places. So I will try to forget.

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The Stack BBQ

Since I’m nearing the end of my stay in Kansas, I am determined as ever to eat as much BBQ as I can. My current plan is to survey the best BBQ joints in KC by the end of June, tally up the results, and revisit the top three as many times as I can before I leave at the end of July.

I tried quite a few at this point. I went to the best known BBQ joints of Gates, Arthur Bryants, Oklahoma Joe’s, and Jack Stack. I have also gone to a slew of less known but well regarded joints such as LC’s, Woodyard, Biggs, Jon Russell’s, RJ’s, and Smokestack. There have been good moments, even great moments, but I never really experienced an affection as intense as the one that was brought by Stack BBQ.

Before my visit, nothing really drew me to that place. It doesn’t have the fun ambience of Woodyard, the fame of OK Joe’s, or the originality of RJ’s. I mean, even the name of the place is evokative of the best known BBQ joint in KC.

However, since I did give myself the mission of trying as much BBQ as I can, I decided to give it a try. I got the for two people Lunch option thing, which included 3 meats, ribs, toast, coleslaw, fries, and beans for 19 bucks.

I knew that sounded like a lot, but I was ready to be disappointed. I often approach dining with extremely low expectations, so that I would not be depressed. Expectedly or unexpectedly, the mound of food that came to our table was huge.

So here’s the meat. A pile of burnt ends, sliced beef, and sausage.

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The meat was simply wonderful. The smell of smoke was almost overwhelming, bringing with the dish an intensity that stood out even in an establishment that already smelled like smoke.  The sausage had a fine texture, with the bouncy feel that told you that this was not just some ground meat in casing, but carefully salted and mixed sausage meat. The burnt ends were fine. I categorize burnt ends into two camps: the byproduct ends that are inconsistent, chewy bits merely cut off from bbq meat, such  as those from Arthur Bryants (don’t get me wrong, these are desirable features and have a charm by itself) and the “burnt ends” that seems to be not a byproduct but is meticulously prepared, with more consistent and often tender results (such as those from Jack Stack and Smokehouse). The Stack’s ends were more of the latter. Wonderful texture and bark, but for somebody like me who believes that the beauty of burnt ends is in its inconsistency and combination of tough, smoked out bits and tender, juicy parts, it was not ideal.

The beef was just beautiful. Unbelievably moist, fatty (but not grisly) and smokey, these were probably the best sliced beef that I had at a BBQ joint.

Then here’s the sides. Beans, slaw, potatoes, and four carefully buttered pieces of bread.

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The sides tell you a lot abou the place. There’s really no half-assed attempts at the Stack. BBQ beans were similar to the meats: rich and intensely smokey. Slaw and fries didn’t really stand out, but in a good way. They were just good standard sides that supported the BBQ without overt presence. The toast was symbolic of the Stack itself. The bread is the product that are often the saddest elements of BBQ meals, with stale bits of commercial white bread that are salvaged only by being doused by meat juices and sauce. The Stack is so thorough that the bread was eatable by itself, toasted to perfection and with a healthy slab of butter.

If you haven’t noticed yet, this place has become my favorite BBQ joint. I have always scoffed at intense loyalty to specific establishments, but I might have to start rethinking my past actions.

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Fake Kewpie and iphone in a can

kewpie mayo attempt

I changed my mayo buying ways after being exposed to the wonderful 2-minute mayonnaise article on Serious Eats. Since I only use mayonnaise occasionally, but usually in large quantities, it made more sense to just make a cup at a time when I needed it, as opposed to having a large container of mayonnaise in my fridge. I also could not get used to the gloopy quality of US mayonnaise, so the adjustable quality of DIY mayo was appealing.

Soon after beginning to make my own mayo, I started looking into ways to replicate the wonderful taste of Kewpie. To achieve this goal, I poked around the Japanese Kewpie website to find any details about their production process. What I gathered were: there are 4 egg yolks for 500ml (roughly two cups) of mayo, the vinegar they use is a blend of apple and malt vinegar. Details can be found here. I played around with the amount of water to add (to achieve that Kewpie creaminess) and the salt content, and I think I have a fairly good replication of Kewpie mayonnaise. Might not sound like much experimenting was done, but considering how long it takes to go through a cup of mayonnaise, I think I did some substantial experimenting.

However, I am not that much of a credible source, since my financial situation forces me to rely on an year old memory of what Kewpie tasted like, rather than buying a one for reference. I still feel there’s a slight difference to the Kewpie I remember from childhood and this fake Kewpie. It might possibly be due to the fact that real Kewpie uses pasteurized eggs, which I’m too lazy to make myself.

So here’s the recipe:

1 cup of vegetable oil

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon of water

a dollop of mustard (to stabilize the emulsion)

1/2 teaspoon of salt

Just throw them in a jar, and whiz away with an immersion blender.

Now, about the iphone.

I was in a situation where I wanted musicin the kitchen, but was too lazy to turn on my main stereo system. However, I hate the unbalanced sound of my iphone speakers, and wanted to at least get it up to the level of an old radio clock, which is still pretty horrible. Since the iphone has a pronounced treble but weak bass, I figured it might sound better if I used the logics behind bass reflex/quarter wavelength loudspeaker, by basically cramming the iphone into a tube of sorts that would eliminate the treble and accentuate the bass.

The result:

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I played around with a couple of cans and glasses. I thought a pint glass with its horn-like shape would fare well,  but in fact a 28 ounce tomato can worked the best. It actually reflects the sound in a way that the volume of the iphone sounds louder. It sounds quite similar to those little clock radios that you see people constantly slamming in 80’s movies, which is saying it still sounds pretty bad, but at least it has that nostalgic quality to it. Anyway, it balances out the sound, increases the volume, and works with stuff you have in the kitchen.

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Filed under condiments, Western stuff