Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Nata de coco

One of my favorite jelly desserts!
I add nata de coco to my plain froyo + mochi, nata de coco to milk tea (from the bubble tea shops), nata de coco to vanilla ice-cream, and nata de coco to my warm earl grey tea!
I heart you nata de coco 

Just some facts about nata de coco I learnt today:
It is from the Philippines.
It is produced from "the fermentation of coconut water, which gels through the production of microbial cellulose by Acetobacter xylinus."
Production process:

  1. Extraction of coconut water
  2. Fermentation of the coconut water with bacterial cultures
  3. Separating and cutting the produced mat of nata de coco
  4. Cleaning and washing the acetic acid out of the nata de coco
  5. Cutting to packaging
Courtesy of wikipedia
Aren't microbes amazing? They produce yummy food like cheese, kimchi, sauerkraut, beer and nata de coco!

Monday, 20 August 2012

Miso-marinated fish

I bought frozen fish from the supermarket today, so I tried experimenting with marinating fish with miso today!
I had leftover spring onions and an onion from last week, so I decided to add those in as well, to give some 'kicks' in flavor.
The fish I bought today was basa fish, apparently a type of catfish and a cheaper alternative from Vietnam to haddock or cod. Here's what I did
1. Rub a big lump of white miso all over the fish (I didn't take time to let it thaw out before starting the marination/)
2. Chop the spring onion into coarse chunks, and the onion into large but thin slices.
3. Mix the onions in between the fish fillets.
4. Let the fish marinate and partially thaw out.
5. Pan-fry the onions (till half-cooked) before adding the fish. Keep turning the fish to prevent it from sticking to the pan, and keep the onions above the fish so the meat comes into full contact with the heat.

Even though I didn't let the fish completely thaw before cooking it, it turned out fine because the water from the frozen fish melted and mixed with the miso, making a thick miso sauce that seeped into the meat and flavored it.

Simple but delicious! /please

Paris Baguette

I can't believe that I haven't written a post about Paris Baguette yet. This is one of my favorite bakeries in the Bay Area so far, which offers a wide selection of Japanese-bakery-style pastries. Every pastry I've tried so far has been delicious -- high toast, green tea pastry, red bean pastry, sweet rice pastry (my ultimate favorite! This has azuki inside mochi inside pastry), tuna melt sandwich, strawberry shortcake (my all-time favorite cake), green tea pumpkin shortcake, etc.

I should post photos of the pastries next time before I eat them too quickly... 

Anyway, we heard that Paris Baguette in Palo Alto started selling shaved ice, so we went to try it yesterday. It was rather... disappointing =/ My boyfriend described the experience quite aptly -- "This is what you get when a bakery tries to sell shaved ice." Indeed. 

From the first look, it really looked promising. Lots of fruit, azuki on top, even mochi bits. Yummy, right? 

WRONG. Look at what's wrong in this picture. THE ICE IS WRONG. This is not the shaved ice I was expecting. I was hoping for shaved ice like the one you get from Taiwanese places, where you literally SHAVE snowflakes off the ice, not grind it up like ice-kacang or lame american snowballs =(
Or maybe I'm just pampered....
Ice aside, the strawberry sauce they poured over the ice was a little weird =/ And the melon didn't go well with the strawberry and kiwi, because the melon taste overwhelms the light kiwi taste! 
There was a huge lump of vanilla ice-cream in the middle of the whole ice tower, which was a surprise. Pleasant for some, not so much for us I guess, because it made the whole thing taste pretty random, as if they couldn't decide which style to make it in...
Or maybe we were just affected by our disappointment with the ice =(

Back to eating pastries for us..
*There is another branch of this bakery in Sunnyvale. The Palo Alto branch is newer and bigger. This is also a Korean bakery that makes Japanese-style pastries, just putting it out there. 

Paris Baguette (Palo Alto)

383 University Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301
(650) 838-0404

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Tobiko and Seaweed on Rice

I bought tobiko from HanKook supermarket the other day, and made a yummy afternoon snack with it!
I simply put a whole dollop of tobiko on top of warm rice, mixed in some wasabi+soy sauce in, and added seaweed on top.

yummy!  /blush

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Making dumplings (水餃)

I hand-made dumplings for the first time in 10 years today!

Here's roughly how I made them (total yield was 35 dumplings):

1. 1/2 lb ground pork (see Note 1 below)
2. 7 chives, chopped into small sections
3. 7 water chestnuts, coarsely chopped
4. Liberal amounts of sesame oil, white pepper, soy sauce and tsao-hsing wine
5. Dumpling skin (I used the Hong Kong 水餃 one from Ranch99)

Note 1: I found out that using ground pork is not a good idea; the meat ends up being a lump and doesn't have the nice chewy texture. Next time I will buy a chunk of pork and chop it up into small pieces (oh I can already imagine the pain in my arms).
Also I didn't use enough chives.. the chive flavor didn't get through the meat (though it smelled really good before being cooked!). Next time I will use a higher chive-to-pork ratio.

1. Mix the pork with the chives, water chestnuts. Add enough seasoning to your liking for flavor.
2. Put a portion of the pork onto the center of a dumpling skin.
3. Wet the entire edge of the dumpling skin with water (this makes the dough stick to itself). 
4. Fold the skin into half, and make 6 pleats on one side of the skin, 3 on each side. Press to seal tight. (A video demonstration can be found here). 

To make boiled dumpling, simply place in water or your desired soup base. I used plain water this time and the dumplings tasted a little flour-y, so I will experiment with using either salt-added or chicken stock-added water.

To make gyoza, heat up some oil on a pan, and fry the dumplings until they are halfway to crispy. Then add some water to the pan and let the dumplings simmer as the water boils away. This will help the dumplings cook more quickly. Keep simmering in water as long as you think the meat filling is still raw. When the filling is cooked, proceed to pan-fry the gyoza until you achieve a nice golden-brown skin.

Condiments I used to pair with my dumplings were chili with soy sauce (you can use dark or light), and vinegar with chopped ginger.

Freshly-made dumplings

Gyoza with chili+soy sauce and vinegar+ginger

Boiled dumplings

Friday, 10 August 2012

Red Hot Wok (Cupertino)

This is a taiwanese restaurant. I would give 2 stars for the food, and 4 stars for the shaved ice.
We walked in and the waiters/waitresses were friendly enough. We ordered the three cup chicken, garlic kang kong, fruit fried rice, hot plate beancurd, and the inn spare ribs. The food took forever to come, and they forgot our fried rice order until we asked them for it for the 4th time (45 min after sitting down). They were super apologetic the entire meal, but unfortunately good service cannot make my stomach happy with the small portions that didn't carry enough flavor. The only thing I really liked was the kang kong, but you can't really go wrong with garlic stir-fried veges (if not you should just close shop). The three cup chicken was only ok. I guess I was expecting the same as what I had in Taiwan, or even at Rose Tea Cafe in Pittsburgh, PA. Nevertheless, my expectations weren't super high since I was famished anyway. The flavor was there, but just wasn't intense enough. And the small claypot  was only 70% filled with food, which is like ?!?! No comments about the beancurd or spareribs. The fried rice was interesting, kind of like pineapple fried rice, but the portions were seriously disappointing, and I could have easily whipped it up in 5 min myself.

The shaved ice was not bad though, comparable to Satura next to Jang Su Jang in Sunnyvale. The mango puree and mango chunks went well with the shaved ice, which looked like frozen mango juice. 

If I were to return, it would be for the shaved ice (though at $7.45 for the small portion, I would just go to Satura).

I'm going home to cook myself my second dinner.

I know I sound bitchy here, but I'm just really overly disappointed by my underwhelming dinner =(

10074 E Estates Dr
Cupertino, CA 95014
(408) 996-2999

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Mozzarella on baguette with olive oil

This is one of my favorite home-made snacks! It's really simple to make too --
1. Buy mozzarella cheese (the large ball or bocconcini, not shredded), a baguette and some olive oil.
2. Cut the cheese and baguette into chunks.
3. Place the cheese on top of the baguette.
4. Place in an oven (or toaster oven) at 250F for a few minutes, until the baguette is slightly toasted, or the cheese has melted slightly.
5. Drizzle some (just a little, don't soak it!) olive oil on top of everything, and serve!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Cold brew coffee

We just found out about cold brew coffee from Whole Foods Market! The coffee is really concentrated, so you dilute it down with water or milk to yield a nice, smooth drink. Yum! I don't normally drink coffee because I'm very sensitive to caffeine, but this didn't make me jittery at all. Kept me awake though, on the car ride to Monterey a few weeks ago.
So we are trying to make our own cold brew using ground Philz coffee beans. Our first experiment will be with my boyfriend's favorite flavor, Tesora, a medium roast.

Here are the ingredients:
1. French press
2. Ground coffee (we will be trying coarsely ground beans this time, hopefully we don't have to use an additional coffee filter)
3. Water @ room temperature (3 parts water to 1 part coffee beans) --> we boiled our filtered water first to kill off any bacteria (I'm a microbiologist after all, careful as always)

1. Add water to ground coffee inside the French press. Stir as you add the water (This moistens the beans to ensure an even brew)
2. Cover the French press with the lid placed lightly on (do not press down!), or use clingwrap to cover the top of the pot.
3. Leave overnight, or for 12 hours, in the fridge.

To enjoy, add one part milk or water to one part coffee concentrate!

UPDATE: We left our beans in the water for 12 hours, and it was great! Despite grinding the beans coarsely, there were still some particles in the coffee from the French press. To yield the nice smooth texture, we still have to use a coffee filter! 

oven broken =(

Our oven at home is broken, so no baking for a while =( Hope our landlord fixes/replaces it soon!
We've been eating out for the past week, and it's so easy to forget to eat our veges.. need to make a conscious effort toward this end!