kua pao, gua bao

sadly, it is also sadly misrepresented as Chinese hamburger.
kua pao. gua bao. yum.
i watch a couple of cooking shows on Saturday mornings, and one of them featured this assembled bun, gua bao, or what we call kua pao in the Philippines. i got so nostalgic for it–the last time i ate it was three years ago, at my father’s wake, when my brother brought a big box of it to the inner sanctum–and back then i couldn’t eat more than a bite though as i was feeling ill. the sad situation got so much sadder.

it’s a wonderful snack composed of a soft white steamed bun. sort of shaped like a clam, that you slice and fill with a savory pork belly slice and top with cilantro, hot sauce and chopped peanuts. i promise, it is so good you can’t eat just one. i looked for recipes online, but then i coaxed my husband to look for a version in town to satisfy my craving in a snap.
kua pao of love
we went to JoJo Taipei, in Allston just outside of the Boston University line, and we ordered several Taiwanese dishes, dim sum style.
fried intestines
deep fried pork intestines, stuffed with scallions. if only they were stuffed with hot green peppers instead! still, a very welcome treat. i’m so spoiled :)
the special spicy beef noodles
my #2son proclaimed this a winner, but then again he’s a noodle monster…spicy beef and noodle soup.
it’s a treat to have a different kind of dim sum experience, no carts and not as much seafood choices, and to me, it’s very similar to Szechuan style dim sum like at Mary Cheung’s in Cambridge. i highly recommend the savory soy milk soup, dragon (soup) buns, and scallion pancakes, both plain or stuffed with beef.
overall, i love their gua bao though the sugar mixed into the ground peanuts was a bit startling for me. (they also sprinkle it on top of dessert steamed fried buns drizzled with condensed milk). i would definitely go back there for more, or ask my daughter to bring me home some, if she were so inclined to visit home and feed her poor old mother. 😉

tribute to a bicycle race from Paris to Brest: a choux pastry wreath filled with pastry and whipped creams

this looks really complicated but it really is NOT.
wow that sounds like a bravura statement from me, the one who hasn’t been baking as much as i’d like due to unforeseen circumstances. i miss baking so much that i’ve pushed myself to the brink!
this pastry is something i’ve been wanting to try to make ever since i heard about it from so many TV chefs and so many cookbooks. looking at it closely it’s just a cream puff, reconfigured. just make it in steps, and it won’t be so overwhelming. i think a lot of wanna-be pastry chefs start out with choux pastry–the same one used for cream puffs! as i did when i was in my early teens, ages and aeons ago–because it is so easy to work with.
for this, Paris-Brest wreath with praline cream, first make the pastry cream, then leave to chill in the refrigerator.
pastry cream, chilling
start the almond praline, which is a caramel poured over almonds, then left to cool and harden, before grinding.
almond praline, cooling off
almond praline, powdered
the praline will be blended into the chilled pastry cream.
make and form the choux pastry while still warm. can you tell i’m not an expert at piping anything? i kind of groan at the mess. i think i don’t like that there’s a lot of batter left in the plastic bag! i’m OCD like that….
choux pastry wreath
bake and cool, then split the wreath horizontally, scrape off excess dough, then fill with praline cream and whipped cream.
Paris Brest, not too elegant
“Suddenly feel like screen goddess in manner of Grace Kelly…
… though perhaps ever so slightly less elegant under pressure.”
–“Bridget Jones’ Diary,” Helen Fielding.

here are my cream puffs, and i always gladly share the recipe if anyone is interested.

nostalgic for summer, already: our summer coolers 2013

wait, is summer over?
it sure feels cool around here, and i keep overhearing people grumbling that summer season has ended. hope not! if it is, then it sure was a short one. we did have a ten-day-or-so stretch of a heatwave and we scrambled for ways to keep cool.

raspberry cheesecake bites
raspberry cheesecake bites: bake cheesecake (with shortbread cookie crust) in a loaf pan then top and cool with raspberry gelee topping, and cut into little squares.
avocado with sweet milk
this always gives the uninitiated quite a shock: avocado with sweet condensed milk! yes, sweet avocado.
thirst quencher, root beer float
pretty burgers all in a row
outdoor dining at the shake shack: we wanted to check out all the hullaballoo, with a rootbeer float and burgers and fries. verdict: it was just fine, though pricey and…”i’ve had better,” quoting a line from “Liar, Liar” heehee
coffee espresso chip
our favorite ice cream flavor this season: coffee espresso chip
summer beers
sampled a few new summer ales…
Switchback ale
some on a pleasant log cabin in Vermont.

grilled outdoors….
grilled "maskara" and an ear :)
and when it rained, grilled indoors.

tabletop grilling
grilled meat in lettuce and rice-paper wraps with Korean hot sauce.

i am doing an equivalent of a sun dance, praying for more sunny hot days as i browse through my grilling cookbooks and ice cream maker recipes. please don’t let summer be over.

Do You Need That? Common Food Prep Equipment

When opening a restaurant, it can be tempting to want to stock your kitchen with every piece of equipment and gadget available. However, depending on the types of food and beverages you’re serving, you might not need one of everything. You can find information on the newest food preparation equipment at http://www.nisbets.com/. Read on to learn more about common food preparation equipment.


What they do: Blenders are great for handling a variety of beverages and foods at a high volume and quick pace. Smoothies, cocktails, soups, sauces and purees are all made possible by the humble blender.

Do you need one? Probably. Virtually every type of restaurant serves a variety of menu items that require the use of a blender.

Immersion Blenders

What they do: Immersion blenders can be used to blend food in any container and can have a variety of attachments for different types of mixing.

Do you need one? Yes, especially if you don’t have a blender.


What they do: Just what the name says – mix ingredients together. Mixers are ideal for large volumes of food and are a must for baking.

Do you need one? Yes, the only question is how big do you need your mixer to be?

Slicers & Grinders

What they do: These handy devices grind meat, and slice cheeses and meats.

Do you need one? If you are a deli or serve sandwiches, yes. Meat grinders are also ideal for restaurants that serve burgers or that make their own sausages.

Food Processors

What they do: Everything. These machines are the all-purpose, go-to devices of any professional kitchen. Food processors mix and puree, grind and chop, and will do so at high volume.

Do you need one? Probably. Unless you choose to use more specialized equipment, having a food processor is a convenient way to have the capabilities of multiple tools in one piece of machinery.

barbeque days: rack of lamb

today the heatwave broke, and though it is a huge relief, we did enjoy many grilled meals outdoors. we don’t have central airconditioning (not very practical for a 117 year old house, in the Northeast U.S., where it’s really warm, maybe 2 weeks a year?) so we have window units here and there. even so, boiling water for our corn on the cob and potatoes for salad, raised the indoor temps to the 90’s! wooh. so we cooked out doors.
one of my favorites to grill is Frenched rack of lamb. ooh, the very thought of it right now is making my tummy growl.
i was able to recruit #2son to try a rib–yehey, he liked it! now there’s three of us in the lamb-chop-chomping team!

i just marinated it in olive oil, soy, Maggi seasoning, lemon zest, crushed garlic, rosemary leaves and peppercorns. (individual lamb chops would work too, just watch carefully so they don’t scorch too quickly.) rub the mixture really well on to the meat, and grill for about 3 to 4 minutes each side. transfer to a serving dish and cover with foil, then let it rest at least 5 minutes. serve with a drizzle of lemon juice.

i recruited my daughter with grilled lamb shoulder chops.

orange and almond tart

suddenly it’s summer!
from really cool, no, make that cold days and nights, in May–after we had turned off the furnace and made do with curling up under the thick duvets and flannel sheets–we are now on day 2 of a sizzling sweltering heatwave. i had to change all the bedsheets to cool cottons. and drag down the fans from the attic. i think i must have lost gallons of water, too bad it wasn’t pounds of weight though :) ! anyway i hied off to the pool for my “therapy session” and just to shame myself into not skipping, i am hereby announcing, i did my sixty 25-yard laps in 45 minutes. three times a week–this is the limit, i don’t see myself doing any more than sixty, i am getting old! this time it was complicated by having to share with two other people in a lane, meaning that we had to do the counterclockwise circle regardless of swimming ability or speed…that means constantly looking ahead to see if you’ll crash or drown. it calmed down after a while, i guess other swimmers just had the same idea of cooling off on this sizzling Saturday.
a boiled orange(!) + ground almonds

this tart was something i made when it was still cold, and turning on the oven was a great idea. this is one of the best tarts i ever made. promise! i was very doubtful about it, because it called for boiling an orange for almost an hour, skin and all. i’ve seen a buxom British celebrity chef do a cake with a boiled clementine and chocolate, but i was quite skeptical still.
i mean, why on earth would you want to boil a fruit so luscious and zesty as an orange? i’m so glad i took a gamble because it is just so delicious. my kids really loved it and made me swear to make it often.

orange and almond tart
recipe from “The Organic Seasonal Cookbook,”

the crab chronicles

it’s softshell crab season again, yehey!
i always watch out for these lovely critters, arriving on our shores, er, grocery shelves, i mean, in the green of springtime. i’ve yet to convince my kids to take a bite–they who usually gobble up fried fish and chips, tempura, and other such battered goodies. i just can’t fathom why not.

maybe it has something to do with how they’re prepped, while still alive. i’ll spare you the gory details, but i will say i apologized profusely to each one, and took a deep breath and got into the zone. you know, the me-human, gotta eat zone.

i decided to do a mad-scientist kind of experiment, dipping the crabs into a different crumb mixture in the third stage of deep-fry-batter.
after the crabs were rinsed and “prepped” dip in seasoned flour (salt and pepper, plus cayenne and paprika if desired), then beaten egg, then the breadcrumbs. i dipped two of the crabs in a mixture of plain bread crumbs and ground almonds,

one crab in only ground almonds
and one in only bread crumbs.

then they were all deep fried.
i’ve decided that i liked them all so much, i’ve declared it a draw. although if you bribe coax me enough i’d declare the half almond half bread crumb the winner.

i prepared a little bowl of creamy dip of mayonnaise, finely crushed garlic, lemon, olive oil, and aji amarillo for a bit of a kick. substitutes for aji amarillo (yellow pepper paste from Peru): i’d go for anything that is zesty like sriracha, or tabasco, or even ketchup if that’s all you can bear. or even just a spritz of fresh lemon juice! or calamansi! or lime! whew, just. go. get. some. softshell crabs. right. NOW.

lemon drizzle bites

lemon drizzle
i wanted to bring a dessert to a dear neighbor’s housewarming dinner party (i hope to be invited back heehee!)and i doubled the recipe to leave some for my sons. i’ll have to make another batch for daughter when she comes home from college, next week :) !

these “bites” (actually slices) are so bright and zingy, they will cheer you up even for just a brief and wonderful moment…

i used 2 jumbo lemons and a Meyer lemon…feel free to play around with other citrus fruits. i’m thinking lime, blood orange, tangerine…
lemony and zingy
for the cake:
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup superfine sugar
finely grated zest and juice of 4 lemons
4 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 & 1/3 cups ground almonds (almond flour)

2/3 cup granulated sugar

preheat the oven to 350°F.
grease and line a large rectangular pan (i used my pyrex) with parchment paper, then grease the paper.

beat together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and fluffy. gradually beat in the eggs, a little at a time, adding a little flour to prevent the mixture curdling. add the remaining flour and ground almonds and fold the ingredients together gently until just combined. turn into the pan and level the surface.

bake for about 25 minutes until just firm to the touch. transfer to a wire rack to cool. while still warm, sprinkle the granulated sugar in a thick layer over the cake and drizzle with the lemon juice. allow to cool completely and cut into thin slices to serve.
lemon drizzle bites, before
adapted from a recipe from “200 mini cakes and bakes hamlyn all color,” from Hamlyn, division of Octopus Publishing, (An Hachette UK Company)

april, come she will

ahh April.

24 years ago i watched the Boston Marathon from a hospital bed, having just delivered my first child, a 9 pound 7 ounce bouncing baby boy. i had of course heard of this elite racing course, and watched the results from afar. but that weekend in 1989 was the most precious race to watch.
husband and i watched the race, and sporadically the crisis in Tiananmen square, but we were understandably in a cocoon of indescribable joy, and thrill.
so all these years the Marathon for us was framed in a soft focus kind of swoon, always planning for a way to celebrate our first son’s birthday. until this year.
the grief, the sadness is unbearable, the trauma still fresh after a couple of weeks. i’m tempted to ask my Doctor for some magic medications to ease the anxiety and pain, and to stop myself from calling our daughter in college twice a day to say good morning-good night…just to reassure myself. helplessness is the one word that comes to mind.
i’m determined to focus on the happiest aspect of course. next year my son will celebrate as grandly as ever.

my Granma used to call her daughter, my Ma, to remind her that life was like a wheel, in Tagalog of course, “ang buhay, parang gulong ng palad,” and that one never knew when one would be up or down in the wheel of life.
i choose to think what she really meant was, we should carry on, and make the best of what we’ve got, and be ready for those awful terrible bumps on the road.

the very toothsomeness of you

fudgy cocoa cake
toothsome /ˈtuːθs(ə)m/

Definition of toothsome

1.(of food) temptingly tasty:a toothsome morsel
2. informal (of a person) good-looking; attractive: a toothsome bimbo I thought he was toothsome

noun: toothsomeness, adverb: toothsomely (from Oxford Dictionary).

i thought of this word instantly, as soon as i took a bite of this cake (recipe from King Arthur Flour, “fudge birthday cake”). i wanted to use Dutch-processed or alkalized cocoa because that is my preferred chocolate for cakes: deep, dark, lingering…the taste is almost like a feeling. ha, a chocolate feeling!? corny, but you’ll understand what i mean once you take a toothsome morsel of this.
moist and fudgy and toothsome cocoa cake, iced with dark chocolate ganache…

today was still a frosty day, we even saw some snowflakes walking out of the cinema at 6 p.m. (we watched “Jack the Giant Slayer”, me and #2son), and the James Taylor dude’s “Blossom” will make you really eager for spring, (and that’s the Carole King on the grand piano!).
seems my dreams have frozen
melt my cares away…