When my friend V was moving from her “sprawling” D.C. condo to her shoebox New York City apartment, she bequeathed her shiny red slow cooker (aka CrockPot) to me. I was very sad to see V go, but after I finished mourning, I was pretty excited to use her slow cooker :).
I had never used a slow cooker, but I’ve had great luck using it to make pernil. I also had a mishap when I did not set the timer for a pork tenderloin and ended up being stuck at the office a few hours later than I had anticipated.
This week, I decided to give the beef shank and broth of niu ro mien (traditional Taiwanese beef noodle soup) a try in the slow cooker. Normally, I would prepare the beef and broth in a pot on the stovetop, but I correctly guessed that the beef tenderness and broth flavors would benefit from an extended low-heat incubation.
There are many iterations of niu ro mien, but this time I used one beef shank, approximately 3/4 cups of soy, ginger, green scallions, Taiwanese basil, garlic, garlic chili paste, honey, and approximately 4 cups of water. And I learned my lesson with the pork tenderloin and set the timer to 7 hours.
After 7 hours, the beef was tender and falling off the bone but not disintegrating. The broth was flavorful, rich, and not too salty. All in all, the no-muss-no-fuss preparation was my best result yet of one of my favorite dishes!
As previously posted, I attempted to make Taiwanese pineapple cakes for Chinese New Year. Unfortunately, I did not cook down the filling enough the first time (and overestimated the amount of thickening that would occur after chilling), so I ended up with delicious shortbread with traces of runny pineapple cake filling.
However, I was determined to not waste the substantial amount of leftover filling. Not only did it take a considerable amount of time to make, but I also had to make a trip to the Asian supermarket in the suburbs to find winter melon, which is a somewhat tasteless melon that is required for the desired filling consistency. So, I cooked the leftover filling down further until it was thick as jam. After I refrigerated it, I gave the homemade pineapple cake another try.
This time, although I struggled a little bit with folding the filling elegantly into the shortbread “wrapper,” which was very delicate and soft even after brief refrigeration, take 2 of the pineapple cake was not a complete failure. The cakes turned out slightly misshapen (again, maybe the dough needs to be refrigerated longer and/or the wrapped cakes should be frozen before going in to the oven?), but they were delicate and deliciously buttery.
I was inspired by Eat the Love‘s modern twists on the traditional ingredients and added two twigs of Taiwanese basil (instead of EtL’s rosemary) to the filling. I also followed EtL’s lead and used honey instead of maltose syrup (which I do not have in my pantry…and I’m not sure where I would find it?). I like the basil flavor, but it was almost too subtle, so I would add more next time. The honey was also nice but seemed to overpower the pineapple. Next time, I would cut back on the honey and/or find some maltose syrup to use.
In the end, I’m not going to lie. . . there may not be a pineapple cake take 3. The filling and shortbread dough each took a bit of time to make, and assembling the cakes was not an elegant task. Although I think even my somewhat sloppy looking cakes tasted better than the Asian grocery store-bought versions, I won’t be putting any of the bakeries in Taiwan out of business. So, as long as my mom is interested in ferrying dozens of fresh pineapple cakes back from Taiwan for me to store in my freezer, the homemade pineapple cake recipe will probably fall to the bottom of my recipe pile.
But who knows what will happen when my supply is depleted!
chicken corn soup, chinese mustard greens, chinese new year, daikon radish cake, full kee, pineapple cake, pork shrimp potstickers, roasted duck, scallops shrimp vegetable medley, spicy garlic eggplant with pork, steamed red snapper, sticky sweet rice
Happy New Year!
It’s the year of the dragon, and to start this especially auspicious year on the right foot, I prepared a 10-course dinner for a few friends. I made an extra effort to include symbolic and traditionally served dishes to double down on my luck.
Last year, my Aunt K taught me how to make daikon cakes (luobo gao), a common Cantonese dim sum dish, but I also have memories of my Taiwanese grandmother regularly making the cakes from scratch. Not surprisingly, my aunt did not have exact measurements for me to follow (i.e., 1 medium-large daikon radish, 2 to 3 cups of water….). After making the cakes with my aunt’s supervision last year, I thought New Year would be a good time for my first solo-effort because the dish symbolizes prosperity.
I also made pork-shrimp potstickers (goyza), which symbolize wealth!
Chinese mustard greens are often served during New Year because in Chinese, it roughly translates to “long year vegetable” and symbolizes longevity.
Scallops, due to their likeness to coins, also symbolize wealth.
Roast duck is one dish no one in my family has ever mastered (or attempted, as far as I know). For every family gathering, the roast duck is always purchased, so I continued the tradition and ordered a whole roast duck (only half pictured) from Full Kee in Chinatown.
And there can’t be a Chinese New Year dinner without a whole steamed fish, which, in Chinese, shares a homonym with “surplus” or “abundance,” thus imparting a year of abundance. My dad reminded me that we shouldn’t finish the fish in order to ensure a year of luck!
For dessert, I decided to serve the traditional Taiwanese pineapple cakes. Although I initially purchased some pineapple cakes from the Chinese grocery store, I later decided to take a crack at making my own from scratch. I quickly learned why everyone BUYS these cakes instead of making them at home. Due to a variety of issues (namely, having a filling that was too thin), in the end, I yielded really buttery shortbread. I actually managed to salvage much of the filling, corrected my mistake, and have a container of the filling in my fridge, ready for my second crack at the pineapple cake (stay tuned for a future post!). I offered my friends both the store-bought and homemade versions:
Wishing you a year of abundant good fortunes, health, and luck! 🙂
Last week, I was stuck working at home after catching the flu. Since I was feeling under the weather, I did not want to venture out for lunch and attempted to create a meal from the random items in my pantry and fridge.
I had a pork loin that I accidentally overcooked in the slow cooker earlier in the week. And I had bit of bagged spinach leftover from a recent batch of wok seared salmon noodles. Initially, I thought I’d eat a few slices of the pork loin and stir-fry the spinach on the side.
Instead, I added a few staple items from my pantry–Nueske’s bacon, almonds, craisins, and apple vinegar–to create my own pantry spinach salad. After browning chopped bacon, I added the almonds to toast the nuts in the bacon grease. I tossed in a few craisins and a chunks of pork loin. Finally, I added a few splashes of apple vinegar to the pan, and then, poured it all over a bed of spinach. Voila! Pantry spinach salad.