Month: December 2015

Sweet and Savory Braised Lamb Chops

Hi!!! Winter is really in full swing now. Shanghai is down to only a few degrees Celsius and everywhere I walk, people are wrapped in thick, down stuffed coats. What do we do when the weather gets cold? Well in China, we put on our long johns (no kidding), open the air purifiers and cook some lamb. We had lamb in the freezer and my mom found an old recipe, so behold, sweet and savory braised lamb chops. YAY!!!

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Onto the cooking!!!!

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First put the lamb in a mixture of honey, soy sauce and sesame oil, add some minced garlic, and let it marinate for 10-15 minutes. If you like it spicy, you could also add some finely chopped peppers. My brother doesn’t so we skipped that part this time.

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After marinating, heat up a pan on high and sear the chops for 1-1.5min on each side. Turn down the heat, pour in the marinating liquid, some water and continue cooking until boiling. We used a wok, but if you sear the lamb in a frying pan, I highly suggest transfering the meat into a pot or large saucepan before adding the rest of the liquid

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Once it is boiling, reduce heat to a small flame, cover the pot and continue cooking until the liquid becomes a thick sauce. Remove from heat, serve and enjoy!!!

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Tips:

  1.  Use good, fresh meat. This is especially important since lamb has a very distinct taste and the quality of the meat is very obvious. Plus,the better the meat, the jucier and more tender the dish will be
  2. Take extra care to preserve as much of the “juice” or blood in the meat as possible.
  3. Be extra careful when searing as the sugars in honey caramelize and burn easily

 

Sweet and Savory Braised Lamb Chops

Ingredients

  • 8-10 medium sized bone in lamb chops
  • Honey
  • Sesame oil
  • Light Soy sauce
  • 1/2 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 3-4 small red chilies finely chopped (optional but recommended)
  • 1-1.5 liters water

Directions

Mix together the honey, sesame oil and soy sauce in a 1:1:1 ratio. Add the garlic, chilies and let the lamb chops marinate in this mixture for 10-15 minutes. Heat a pan, or wok to high and sear the meat for 1-1.5 min on each side. Be extra careful as the honey caramelizes and burns quickly. Reduce heat to medium and add in the rest of the marinating liquid and water. (Transfer to a pot or saucepan if necessary). Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and allow the meat to slowly simmer for 35-45 minutes. The liquid should reduce down to a thick sauce. Serve and enjoy!!! 🙂

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Restaurant Review: Christmas Special at Cucina

Merry Christmas!!! Happy Holidays!!! So last night was Christmas Eve, and in my family, we alway make a point of going somewhere special to celebrate. This year was no exception. After a long and rather arduous search, we decided on the Christmas special in Cucina, an Italian restaurant in the Grand Hyatt

Overview

The Grand Hyatt is located in the JinMao Tower, the third highest building in Shanghai. The actual hotel starts on the 54th floor and Cucina is on the 58th. The Hyatt has 5 other restaurants a cafe and a bar. For more information click here

View from the Cafe
View from the Cafe. It looks all the way to the top of the building

The dinner cost 688RMB(106.46USD) and requires patrons to prebuy tickets, so my expectations were pretty high.

Environment

We were at one of the best hotels in Shanghai, so need less to say, the environment was AMAZING!!!!! We arrived a bit early so we just hung out in the Cafe. Everything was very fancy, well decorated and despite being in China, full of Christmas spirit. However, the Cafe’s offerings were overpriced to the max so we skipped

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A short half-hour later, we were led into the restaurant itself. I must say, I was impressed. It was simply decorated and had the feel of an elegant Italian villa decked out for Christmas. Best of all, the kitchen was open so patrons could watch the cooking. To make things even better, we got a window side table with full view of the bund. Sadly, it was raining so none of the pictures came out good. 😦

Food

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Since it was a Christmas special, the menu was set and to be honest, I was initially underwhelmed by the lack of choice. 1 Appetizer, 2 entree choices and dessert wasn’t even mentioned. I soon found out why.20151224_180756_resized 20151224_180729_resized

The dinner was a semi buffet. Essentially, it was a free for all selection of seafood, traditional italian eats, cheeses, salad and toasted bread. It was absolutely amazing, especially the seafood. There was even free flow drinks and sparkling wine.Totally worth the price.

I got 2 more plates of this stuff afterwards
I got 2 more plates of this stuff afterwards

Aside from the buffet, they also served us some pasta and a delicious house made thin crusted pepperoni pizza. The pizza was good but I didn’t like the sauce for the pasta, although the noodles were well done

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Despite all the good things about the appetizer buffet, the entree was sub-par. We had 2 choices: Baked cod with potato cake, mushrooms, brussel sprouts and sauce or Slow cooked beef tenderloin with potato cake, mushrooms, brussel sprouts and sauce. My parents and I ordered the fish and my brother ordered the beef

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The fish was well cooked but lacked seasoning and the sauce was pretty gross. Everything on the plate had a greasy feel and wasn’t really that appetizing. I was especially pissed that I only got 4 mushrooms and 3 brussel sprouts. One thing I do commend them on is the small portions and my brother said the beef was delicious. Who knows? Anyways, the entree wasn’t worth it.

What about dessert?

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Enough said. By the way, it was unlimited.

Service

The service charge was 15%, but if it were up to me, I would give them at least 20. The waiters were absolutely phenomenal. They were quick, attentive and very nice. There was this one French waiter who joked around with us and even tried to teach my dad how to pour wine. Aside from the waiters, the head chef would also appear from time to time and ask how was the food

Overall Impression

Overall, I thought the dinner was amazing and so was the restaurant. While it was expensive, I’m pretty sure I ate well over my share of seafood, so definitely worth it. I would like to return at a different time and try out some of the other entrees and pizzas. For more information, Check out this link: http://shanghai.grand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/Cucina.html

Until next time, Happy Holidays!!!!!!!!!!!!

Quick trip to FuZhou

Hi!! It’s been a week into winter break and due to family matters, had to cancel a much anticipated trip to Tailand 😦 I thought we were doomed to spend the rest of winter break cooped up at home when my mom announced a day trip to !!!! YAY. So on Monday afternoon, we packed our bags and hoped on a train to FuZhou, a small rural county in JiangXi Province.

JiangXi is a small province in South Eastern China which borders Anhui, Hubei, Zhejiang, Yunan, and Guandong(Canton). It’s mountainous and has a warm, humid climate. Although it has begun to urbanize in recent years, it is predominately rural and grows a wide variety of crops such as rice, sweet potato and clementines. We didn’t go this time, but it also includes many national parks and Jindezheng, an ancient town that produces a majority of China’s porcelain.

Why FuZhou? Well, my family recently got involved with a charity called 中国娃, which collects second hand computers and books to create libraries and computer labs in rural schools. A family from Shanghai recently supported and completed a lab in FuZhou, but were unable to come to dedicate it. The organizer, now a great friend of my mom’s, immediately called us and asked us if we could be the representatives.

The Environment

To be honest, I didn’t have very high expectations for the environment. My mom said it was rural and rather poor so I got a bit worried. However, I immediately changed my mind when I got there. First, the scenery was absolutely beautiful. We were surrounded with mountains and the rain brought a cool, swirling mist. The only sad part was that we couldn’t hike.

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The area also wasn’t as run down as I had expected. Almost everything was well kept and clean. Even the the narrow mountain roads were smooth and comfortable. But the best part was the people we met. Everyone there was  extremely grateful and received us with the upmost hospitality.

What We Did There

The first night was just traveling, nothing much to say there. The magic began the second day. We got up, ate breakfast and drove to the school to help with the new lab. After an hour’s drive along mountain roads, we arrived at the school.

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The school had recently been destroyed by heavy rains and had just been rebuilt. Most of the kids that go here have parents that work in the city as domestic help and only see their parents once or twice a year. This sad reality didn’t seem to hamper their enthusiasm for learning. We headed up to the third floor where the lab was. There were about 50 kids there, all eager to start.

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They excitedly opened the laptops and began clicking and exploring.My brother and I went around and helped too. Within 20 min, nearly all could access the internet and do searches. It was absolutely AMAZING.

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After that, we visited several other schools in the area. We quickly realized that the problem was not with the facilities, but with the lack of teachers. Some of the schools had only 1 or 2 teachers to cover 3-5 grade levels. Even though there were sometimes less than 30 students, the teachers were clearly over worked. 😦 On a happier note, the locals treated us to fresh clemintines and lunch time soon came. Delicious!!!! The rest of the day was spent resting and going back to Shanghai

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Fresh Clementines

Food

One word: AMAZING!!!!!! JiangXi cuisine is known for being spicy and aromatic which is not something I usually like, but there were soo many delicious dishes. Even better, all the produce is fresh, locally grown and organic. For lunch the second day, they took us to the cafeteria of the local governemnt office.

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There, we found a table full of delicious eats. I got to try some very interesting local delicacies, like fried goose neck, sweet potato flour balls in broth, and egg mushrooms. Unfortunately, I didn’t get more pictures

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Homemade preserved chicken feet with pickled peppers. This is avaliable throughout China, but their’s was especially good
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Egg mushrooms
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Fried goose neck

 

So that’s it for this trip. Merry Christmas and Happy holidays 🙂

 

 

Healthy Breakfast Pizza

Hi!!!  Winter break finally started, which means I finally have the time to make my own breakfast. YAY!!! So this morning, I started off with my own original recipe: Healthy breakfast Pizza

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It’s soooo delicious, but also healthy and simple. Onto the cooking!!!!

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For the crust, just mix together the ingredients, spread them on a baking surface and bake for 10-15min. It should have the consistency of a thick cupcake batter and be relatively pourable

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Then, add the  toppings and broil for another 5-10min. Done!!!!

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The best part of the “pizza” is the toppings so I suggest playing around with them. For mine, I made a simple sauce by cooking tomatoes with some spices. I also put on cooked spinach and a slice of ham for protein. I don’t like cheese so I skipped that, but feel free to add it (I mean what’s pizza without cheese).

Tips:

  1.  Cook all veggies before putting them on the pizza. The broiler really sucks away moisture so you will end up with partially burnt “chips”. Also raw veggies tend to be voluminous, which makes it hard to put other toppings on
  2. Wait to put the sauce on. If you put it on too early before broiling, it soaks into the crust and forms a soggy layer on top. Putting the sauce on top of the cheese is another good idea to avoid sogginess.
  3. Do not try to keep the pizza warm by leaving it in the oven after baking. It will turn out like this

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Healthy Breakfast Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg white
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 3tbsp water
  • 1 small tomato
  • salt and spices
  • toppings of choice (optional)
  • 1oz mozzarella cheese (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and grease a cooking sheet or pan. In a bowl combine the flour, egg white, baking powder, water and stir until completely smooth. The mixture onto the prepared pan and bake for 10-15min until cooked. While the crust is baking, start the sauce. Finely chop the tomato and cook in a saucepan with the spices and salt until extremely soft. Then transfer into a blender and blend until the desired consistency is reached. When the crust is done, remove from the oven and turn on the broiler. Once the broiler is done preheating, add the sauce, toppings and cheese and broil for 5-10min. Serve and enjoy!!!!!

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Pumpkin Pancakes

Hi!!! It’s December 12th, semester finals are over and only 3 days until Winter break !!! One of my favorite parts of the winter holiday is visiting my grandparent’s place at Xiangtan University. What makes it so awesome? 1)Relatives!!! 2) the scenery and (most importantly for this blog) 3) THE FOOD!!!!! My relatives are some of the best cooks around. So, for the next few posts, I’ll be sharing  some of my favorites from their place. First up: Healthy Pumpkin Pancakes

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Pumpkin pancakes are very common in Southern China and sold literally everywhere from fancy restaurants to alleyway stalls. Unlike western style pancakes, they’re made of glutinous rice flour and hence sticky. Despite being good, restaurant pancakes are normally chock full of sugar, chemicals and fried in mystery oil, but my grandparents’ recipe bypasses all of that. It was SOOOO good

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The pancakes are also extremely simple to make. Just gather the ingredients- steamed or canned pumpkin and flour. We used glutinous rice flour, but feel free to substitute.

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Mix them until fully combined and grill . Onto the recipe!!!


 

Healthy Pumpkin Pancakes

  • Servings: 3-4 people
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 250g cooked or canned pumpkin
  • 150g flour of choice
  • Sweetner (optional)

Directions 

Mix the ingredients together until fully combined. Lightly grease a pan and fry until fully cooked, flipping once in between. Remove from heat, serve and Enjoy!!!!

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Duck soup

Two days ago, I came back from school, opened the refrigerator for a container of Greek yogurt and found myself staring at a large, alien looking foil package. As it turns out, that package was a 3.5 kilo whole wild duck!!! In a world of factory farming and growth hormones, that is pretty freaking awesome. Hence, duck soup.

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Good news is it’s also very simple to make. First, soak the duck in water and wash out all the blood and nasty bits (not the organs). Then parboil for 5-10 minutes. Discard the water and put the duck in a pressure cooker with some water, ginger and cooking wine. Once it’s pretty much cooked, add in extra stuff and salt, continue cooking and……… It’s done!!!!!  As “extra stuff” I suggest foods with a lighter taste like fresh mushrooms, leafy greens, vermicelli or even chestnuts(they’re in season). We used wood ear mushroom and fresh duck blood- sooooo goood!!!!!

20151203_172424_resized_2 20151203_172350_resized_2 Tips:

  1. Invest in a good quality duck. The duck is preferably free range, organic and hormone free. The meat should not be fresh and tight, not too fatty. If it is, trim off some of the excess fat or the soup will be very greasy
  2. Cook the meat for at least 40min so it is tender but don’t go over 1hr 15min
  3. DO NOT over season the soup, the duck should already have a delicious natural flavor. Anything more than a little bit of salt will mask that.

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Duck Soup

Ingredients

  •  1/2 large duck
  • Ginger (chopped in thin, wide pieces)
  • cooking wine
  • 2-3l water
  • green onion (finely chopped)
  • salt
  • dried Wood ear mushroom (optional)

Directions:

Soak the duck in water and wash thoroughly to get rid of blood or other nasty stuff. If using, put the wood ear in a bowl and allow it to soak in warm/hot water for at least 30min. Parboil the duck for 5-10 minutes and discard the water. Place duck in a pressure cooker with the water, cooking wine and ginger. Cook under pressure for 40-75min the remove from heat. Once the pressure is released, open the pot. Add the salt and wood ear and cook without pressure for another 10min. Remove from heat, stir in the green onion and DONE!!!!!!!! 🙂

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