If you’ve never seen nor heard of pearl balls, they are meat balls rolled in soaked glutinous rice and steamed until the rice grains puff and create a sticky crust. Pearl balls, like most dim sum food, are sized to be eaten in one go. Lift one up with chopsticks, dip lightly in the spicy, sweet, salty sauce, pop into your mouth and chew slowly to enjoy the burst of textures and flavors. … Continue reading »
A popular Southeast Asian hawker food, this dish consists of minced meat flavored with chili, cumin, crushed galangal, ground coriander, coconut milk and fish sauce, wrapped around lemongrass stalks and grilled. There are Thai, Malay, Indonesian and Vietnamese versions but, for the life of me, I can’t recall any of their local names.
The lemongrass stalks are bruised before the meat mixture is wrapped around them. As a result, during grilling, the lemongrass emits its oil and flavors into the pork. I had to do the grilling indoors as it was raining earlier and the aromas that permeated the house were just unbelievable. Like citrus notes and pungent shadows dancing in the air. Oh, never mind. To even try to describe it would do this dish an injustice. I don’t think there are proper words.
And what about the taste? Juicy meat that is at once spicy, a bit salty and a bit sweet because of the coconut milk. Heighten the experience with peanut sauce on the side and it’s perfection twice over. … Continue reading »
The steamed pork dumpling that we call siomai in the Philippines comes from a traditional Chinese dimsum dish. It is ground pork wrapped in dough, steamed and served with a dipping sauce. In the English-speaking world, the spelling varies — shumai, shaomai, shui mai, shu mai, sui mai, shui mei, siu mai, shao mai, or siew mai — although they all refer to the same thing.
The mixture for the filling varies as well. Some include pork and black mushrooms while others include finely chopped cabbage. In the Philippines, we use a mixture of ground pork and shrimps along with finely chopped vegetables.
Question: What’s the difference between siomai and wonton? Answer: Wonton is wrapped in wonton skins and dropped into hot broth. Siomai is served straight from the steamer — in fact, often, in the steamer basket itself.
The confusion lies in the fact that, in the Philippines, siomai is often wrapped is wonton skins too but served as a steamed dish rather than as a soup. I used to until lately. If you go to authentic Chinese restaurants, however, siomai is wrapped in such a way that the top of the filling is exposed. A round, often thicker, wrapper — sold as “dumpling wrapper” in supermarkets — is used to enfold the filling. … Continue reading »
An updated version of an entry originally published in July 26, 2003.
When Speedy was first learning how to make spring rolls, he’d simply put some filling across the middle of the wrapper then roll. Then, he’d fry the rolls. And we’d complain that his spring rolls were too oily — with both ends of the wrappers open, the filling got soaked in oil during frying. Well, that was a long time ago. Speedy cooked lumpiang shanghai for lunch today and, my oh my, were they gorgeous. Non-greasy, crisp outside, juicy inside and very tasty.
The filling is a mixture of ground pork, chopped onion, garlic and carrots, seasoned with salt and pepper — a mixture different from what I use but which is just as delicious so that just proves that you can prepare the filling in many ways and still come up with delicious spring rolls. … Continue reading »
The Chinese, the Italians and the Arabs all used to claim having invented the noodle. Then, in 2005 in Lajia in the Chinese province of Qinghai, archeologists unearthed “an upturned earthenware bowl filled with brownish-yellow, fine clay. When they lifted the inverted container, the noodles were found sitting proud on the cone of sediment left behind.” The quote is from a report entitled “Oldest noodles unearthed in China” — published in October 12, 2005 by BBC News. The relic was 4,000 years old. Until someone digs up an older relic elsewhere, I think it’s safe to say that the Chinese invented the noodle.
History says that long before European explorers lost their way in the Pacific and landed in our islands, the pre-Hispanic Filipinos have been trading with the Chinese. And noodles found their way into the country, the beginning of a culinary love affair that would prove strong and steadfast over centuries of multiple colonizations. Today, the Filipinos are a noodle-loving people, from Pancit Malabon to the ubiquitous noodle soup we call mami that has been tweaked in so many ways that it has become as much Filipino as it is Chinese.
Despite the fact that many of the noodle dishes we find in our cuisine have Chinese origins, noodle dishes in the various regions of China are far more diverse than we can ever imagine. TV host Anthony Bourdain once quipped that he can spend the rest of his life doing TV food shows in China and not run of places to visit. I think I can spend the rest of my life traveling all over China and never run out of new dishes and ingredients to discover.
One of these little known noodle dishes — little known in the Philippines, at least — is called Ma Yi Shang Shu. The literal translation is “ants climbing (up) a tree”, a description that can make anyone quiver and shiver in disgust, and which probably explains why it isn’t popular in the Philippines at all. Or, perhaps, we have renamed it and it’s really a favorite among many. But just where did this noodle dish get its name? In her book Savoring China, culinary historian Jacki Passmore says a poet once observed the flecks of pork on a strand of glass noodle and gave the dish its name. Whether that’s fact or fiction, I know not. I only know that the dish is delicious and a welcome change from our usual sotanghon soup and the annatto-colored sauteed chicken and sotanghon. … Continue reading »
If you’re as much of a dim sum lover as I am, you must have tried just about every item on the dim sum cart. And you must have tried taro puffs at least once. Me? I rarely have dim sum without taro puffs. If it’s not on the cart and has to be ordered a la carte, I order them a la carte. That’s how crazy I am am about taro puffs. It’s been a long time ambition to make them at home but I was unable to muster enough courage until today.
There. The proof of my first attempt at cooking taro puffs. Granted they’re not perfect — I should have boiled the taro for another 10 minutes before draining and mashing them — but the first hurdle has been overcome. Fear. The fear that it’s too complicated for my cooking skills. I’ve thrown that fear our of the kitchen window. Or, perhaps, flushed it down the prep sink. Next time, it’ll be even better — bolder and better. Still, the first attempt is not bad at all. In fact, the taro puffs were pretty good — so good, I wondered what the fear was all about. Want to see how I cooked the taro puffs? … Continue reading »
Wontons require some effort to prepare at home but with practice, the preparation becomes easier the next time. We had this delicious wonton soup for lunch today and, despite the delay (I had to take photos for the how to wrap and fold wontons entry, it was heart warming to watch my daughters enjoy their lunch. Just wonton soup and some rice and they were very happy.
This recipe makes 50 wontons. … Continue reading »
Spicy, salty, a bit pungent with a heady aroma, this classic and very popular Chinese dish from the Sichuan (Szechuan) province is a favorite with my family because it is both delicous and easy to prepare.
There are two recipes for Ma Po tofu in the archive (of the other blog) but I don’t mind posting a third. Any recipe can be improved or tweaked further to suit the cook’s or the diner’s palate. In the case of Ma Po tofu, I was looking for a particular combination of spices and seasonings that would give it that certain oomph! That happened yesterday, finally. How? I added an essential ingredient that I did not have during my previous attempts at cooking the dish — Sichuan peppercorns. And there’s the matter of adding Shao Xing rice wine. There’s a bonus too! Because miso soup has become a family favorite — we have it at least once a week — I have become a wiz at cutting perfect cubes of soft tofu. And I have learned to stir them without breaking them. … Continue reading »