Took my last final of the year yesterday. I have officially survived through my first academic year of grad school. In celebration, I made some steamed pork-and-daikon buns…

…and scallion buns (hua juan) (花卷)

❤ my life!


I’ve posted a recipe using the sauces previously, so now I’m going to post a recipe using some of the Szechuan dried ingredients. Namely, the dried chili peppers and SiChuan peppercorns.

Hereby I present to you the famous and popular SiChuan dish: Kung Pao Chicken! Sweet, spicy, and a little sour…tender chicken matched with the crunchy peanuts…I mean really. What more can you ask for in a dish? Well, I guess you could ask it to look a little more appealing. Sorry for the un-tasty looking picture. I promise the dish itself it scrumptious!

Recipe after the jump

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Now that I went through the great pains of going over everything that’s in my pantry, I thought I could introduce a use for some of those sauces. I felt slightly guilty about not divulging my family dumpling secrets, so I’ll divulge this one secret family recipe to appease everyone. There’s a fair bit of prep work that goes into this dish (unfortunately true for many Chinese dishes), but I think the end result will be worth it.

The carrots add a little bit of a texture juxtaposition with the tender beef slices. I like to dry them out over night first, so they can really soak up the juices and the oil in the pan. It’ll still taste good if you don’t have the time to leave them out though. The key to this dish, and any stir-fry beef slices dish, is to cut the beef as thinly as you can. The thinner you make your slices, the quicker you cook your beef. The quicker you cook the beef, the more tender it will be. I hate tough, chewy beef slices! It takes patience and skill and preferably a sharp knife. But trust me, you want to put the effort into this part.

Recipe after jump.

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People ask me all the time: what do I need to keep stock in my pantry for oh-ten-tik Chinese cooking?

Okay, that’s a lie. People don’t ask me that all the time. In fact, no one has ever asked me that. But I know you are just DYING TO KNOW, right?!?!?! All right, here it is then, split into three main categories: sauces, dried goods, and liquids.


I bought almost all of these sauces in one day when I was trying to make some Szechuan cuisine (四川菜). I don’t think we use such strong flavors where I come from, which is across the Chang Jiang river (长江) from Shanghai (上海). (I’m not really sure why I feel compelled to include the Chinese characters for everything I say in Americanized Chinese, but somehow I’ve convinced myself that I’m validating my Chinese credibility this way. Makes me seem a lot more intense, don’t it?) I’m also not sure why I’ve decided to number the sauces from left to right, except that in Ancient China people read that way. Again, establishing my street cred here. Without further ado:

1. Fermented Bean Sauce or Chili Bean Paste (豆瓣酱): Essential for stir fries, adds saltiness and depth. Depending on the brand you buy, it may be spicier or darker in color. I haven’t experimented much between brands yet.

2. Fermented Black Beans: (豆豉): Intense and fragrant and soaked in oil. I love adding them to my stir-fries. I find them more flavorful and less intrusive than the fermented bean sauce.

3. Lao Gan Ma (老干妈): My friend who was over last night for dumplings asked “who is that person on the jar and why does she look like a man?” I have to agree that she is quite unattractive and also looks very unhappy in that picture. How typical of the Chinese to use a picture of an overworked woman instead of a happy, jolly woman (think Aunt Jemima). But god damn, that woman makes good sauce. Fermented black beans in chili oil is like heaven in my mouth. I add it to marinades, soups, and dipping sauces, especially for dumplings.

4. Pixian fermented bean sauce (郫县豆瓣酱): Like the other fermented bean sauce, but spicier. I think I like this more.

5. Sweet bean sauce (甜面酱): I don’t know much about this, except that it’s sweet. I’ve only used like half a tablespoon of it before and I’ve never used it since. I’m just glad I took it out for a picture because I just noticed that the due date was 10/15/2009. Gross! And I’m pretty sure I bought this less than two months ago. Damn Chinese supermarkets…just can’t trust ’em.

Dried goods

1. Dried mushrooms (香菇): Extremely versatile and indispensable. Soaking them in water makes stock (including great vegetarian daishi stock for Japanese dishes) and are great in soups/noodle soups. Can also be used in buns or stir-fries. I used to put them in dumplings, but I now avoid them because I find them slightly overpowering in my dumpling mix.

2. Seaweed (紫菜): These are a great and incredibly fast addition to soup that can make a crappy bowl of ramen taste like a million bucks. Okay, maybe not a million bucks, but at least $2 more than it actually cost you. One of my favorite soups also uses it: 紫菜鸡蛋汤 — seaweed eggdrop soup. Simple, but very satisfying.

3. Dried shrimpies (虾仁): For me, minced shrimpies are essential in my dumplings. I’m sure people out there have been DYING to know what sort of magic I put into my dumplings to make them so incredibly awesome and better than you’ve EVER had before. Here is the secret! These dried shrimpies add “unami.” I also like dried shrimpies (or “dried shrimp” if you aren’t feeling the cuter term) stir fried with napa cabbage. Just make sure to soak them in water first, because sometimes they tastes like feet at first.

4. Wood ear (木耳): I love using wood ear in stir fries. They don’t have much of a flavor, in my opinion, but they’re texturally great for many dishes, including pork sliver stir-fries. You’ll also need them if you ever want to make hot and sour soup (yum!!)

5. Dried chilies: If you ever want to add heat to your dish, just heat oil in a pan and snip up some of these guys and throw them in. It’ll smell great and add spice to your stir-fry.

6. Sweet potato starch (or any other form of starch): You know how and when to use starch. I’m not sure why I felt the need to put it in the picture. I guess I wanted some symmetry with #9 (secret ingredient whose identity I won’t reveal until you scroll down! DUN DUN DUN)

7. Star anise (八角): Love it for braising stuff, like braised pork belly (红烧肉). Also great for tea eggs!

8. Szechuan peppers: Szechuan cuisine is known for being spicy and numbing (麻辣). These peppers contribute to the numbing portion. You use them like the dried chilies: drop them in some hot oil before a stir fry. I like using them to stir fry potatoes (very thin-ly cut potatoes).

9. Secret ingredient…drum roll….wait for it, wait for it MSG!!!!! (味精): I never use exorbitant amounts, but a little unami never hurt anyone. So chill out, Americans! It won’t kill ya.


1. Soy sauce: I hope this one is pretty obvious. Kikkoman is my favorite.

2. Mirin: Not Chinese, but essential for Japanese cooking. I use it to make that sauce mix I love so much in both cold soba and katsudon.

3. Black vinegar: Make sure you get it from Zhen Jiang, the only place in China where I found the legitimate vinegar. Black vinegar is more flavorful and slightly more sweet than your everyday acetic acid vinegar. It’s like a milder and sour-er version of balsamic. I always dip my dumplings in vinegar. I also love vinegar in my noodles…

4. Dark soy sauce: Great for braising or anytime you’re going for that deep, dark, red color. Thicker and much saltier than regular soy sauce. Use with caution!

5. Sesame oil: MMMmmmmmmm soooo goooood. Some of my favorite recipes call for nothing but sesame oil and salt. Try cutting up some small pieces of cucumber and mix it with sesame oil and salt. Or take a quarter of a block of raw tofu, mash it with a fork, add sesame oil, salt, and finely cut scalltions (green parts only). It’s really the best.

6. Chili oil: Self-explanatory. I do like it in my dumpling dipping sauce, though.

7. Cooking wine: Absolutely essential. I always use it for any meat dish either as part of the marinade or during stir-frying. It adds depth and great flavor. Always buy “Shao Xing” or “Shao Hsing.”

P.S. Upon re-reading this entry, I’ve noticed that I talk about dumplings a lot. I loooove dumplings. I would make a blog post about how to make dumplings, but I’m pretty sure I’d be giving out family secrets. And that leaves no honor! Foh familie!

P.P.S. I love how I keep saying that something adds depth to a dish. Here’s a secret…I have no idea what that means. I just didn’t know what else to write about it. But I guess you would have never guessed. MUAHAHAHHA

Wild Salmon was on sale at our nearest grocery store, so Mike bought some and cured it. The result is similar to lox, except less smokey and a lot more salmon-tasting. It’s delicious for breakfast on toast and egg. It’s even better on a bagel with cream cheese. Yum!!

(also, can we talk about how much better my pictures turn out during the day? I think it’s time for me to get a new lens, considering all I use this camera for is taking pictures of food…)

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I’m not much of a baker. I don’t really like sweets, most of the time. And I absolutely detest frosting, especially ones with food coloring. That’s why the cake above pretty much goes against everything I believe in in life…except that it was made as a retirement present for a really great professor, who teaches the Joy of Electronics course at Harvard. Unfortunately, I am the opposite of artistic, so this circuit cake is unfortunately the best I could do. There are tons of better ones out there..

For reference, the resistors are made of Mike and Ike’s, cut up and stuck together. The capacitors were made of Rolo’s and IC’s of Kit Kat bars. I also tried to make a MOSFET (see pic below) with a Kit Kat bar. I suggest freezing all of your candy before you try a project like this.

In the end, the cake was well-received. The professor seemed to like it, and I’m glad that we had a little celebration of his last lecture. I think we all had fun with the idea of it. And you silly Americans will eat just about anything that’s sweet! Even though when I looked around the room, I realized everyone’s lips and tongues were stained green.

A picture of the overall cake after the jump.

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If you follow me on twitter, you may have had to endure my multiple tweets, complaining about my cheese-making failures. For a casual side project in school I decided to study how the mechanical properties of mozzarella change with different pH and longer stretching times. Unfortunately, it took me almost 4 gallons to milk before I could even make a control group of normal mozzarella. The results were fantastic, even though I forgot to add salt. If you’re ever interested in making mozzarella, I highly suggest Ricki’s Mozzarella Kit. I also have some helpful hints for you 🙂

Katsu-don has become one of my and Mike’s favorite dishes. But wait! you may protest. Isn’t Katsu-don usually ladled with tender, sweet, and fragrant onions with a layer of soft, poached eggs to tie it all together? The picture above doesn’t have any of the delicious parts!

Yeah, that’s because the picture makes the whole dish look seriously unappetizing. You don’t wanna see it. Just trust me that this is friggen amazing. The crunch of the deep-fried pork cutlet works perfectly with the tenderness of the onions and egg. The rice then soaks up the excess juices. Mm mm good!

Recipe after the jump. Oh and ALL RIGHT, I’ll show you the picture at the end too. But don’t tell me I didn’t warn you…

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Derious and simple. Also, the beef (I used top round) was on sale for only $2.50 and I made enough for two meals. Or my meal and my two roommates crowding around the pan in the kitchen sneaking bites until it’s all gone. Recipe from here

I really haven’t had the time to update this blog. So trust me when I say that tonight’s meal was delicious enough for me blow away the cobwebs on this site and post the pictures. I also don’t think anyone is reading this blog for recipes, so I’ll just give a detailed description of the dish, a la style of restaurants.

Appetizer: Ciabetta, pan-toasted in butter with crisped basil, and thin slice of Romano cheese, and crisped proscuitto.

Pasta: Deliciously fun curly pasta with a simple tomato sauce of simmered canned tomatoes, capers, fried proscuitto, and a dash of red pepper flakes. Topped with grated Romano cheese and basil.

Side: Blanched white asparagus (what a funny/gross looking vegetable!) tossed with red onions sauteed in beurre blanc (butter and white wine).