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If you find red bean paste too time consuming to make, try your hand at taro paste! I recently made ba bao fan (8 treasure sticky rice) for Chinese New Year, experimenting by using both taro paste and red bean paste, only to find that the flavors were in competition with each other, and that I should have just used one or the other. Thanks, Mama, for explaining! (It still tasted preeeetty good though!)
If you have never cooked taro before, check out the post on how to prepare taro.
Taro paste, or yu ni, is basically cooked taro that is sweetened and lightened up with some sort of fat. Some people use milk powder, others might use milk or cream, but I just used oil because that’s what I had. Of course, you can always use more oil and you can use a food processor and/or sieve to make it extra smooth in texture, but I find that hand-mushed is just fine for our tastes.
What can you make with taro paste, you ask? Anything that you would put red bean paste in! You can do Chinese bakery buns with taro paste filling, make your favorite cinnamon roll or cinnamon swirl bread with taro paste instead, taro paste steamed buns, taro paste tang yuan, or just steam some with sticky rice and eat it.
1 lb big taro, sliced thinly
1/3 cup oil (or cream or milk, or a combination)
6 Tbsp white sugar
1) Steam the taro until it is easily poked with a fork and is no longer speckled milky white. Use a fork or food processor to mush up the taro to the smoothness or chunkiness that you desire.
2) Heat a heavy bottomed pot, then add oil. Add the taro, and cook for 5-10 minutes, until you see a somewhat crusty film of dried-up taro on the bottom of the pan. That’s good- means that some of the water has dried up! Add sugar and stir until it dissolves. That’s it!
-For baked applications of taro paste, I would suggest using something like 1/2 cup or more, to account for moisture loss in the oven). This is not so much an issue with steamed applications (sticky rice, bao zi)
-This recipe is suited to my taste, and you may find that you want more oil in yours, or more sugar. Definitely remember to make it slightly more sweet than you think it should be, so it can season/complement the plain carb (bread, sticky rice or bao zi) well.
-Depending on what fat you used, the shelf life will vary. You can always freeze it in ziptop baggies for later use!
This post is going to address all aspects of preparing big taro- not to be confused with little taro. I probably haven’t had enough little taro and haven’t given it enough chances, however, big taro has thus far won my heart over. Little taro is slightly slimy/slippery, and has a different and I’d say, more mild taste than taro. If little taro was a waxy potato (like a red potato), big taro would be a russet (half way between starchy and waxy). You know those “taro” (in quotes because 99.9% of the time, they use purple-dyed artificially flavored powder) drinks at boba shops? They mimic / attempt to imitate the big taro taste.
Big taro (as opposed to the hairy little ones) ranks high up on my list of favorite root vegetables- the best thing about it is that it is one of few vegetables that I think is adaptable both as savory (pan-fried then tossed into hot pot, taro cooked with pork, taro pork vermicelli (yu tou mi fen tang) <—want to post a recipe for this- someday!) AND sweet (xi mi lu, among many others) , without tasting too sweet for the savory, nor too savory for the sweet.
My mom used to buy taro in vacuum sealed bags, but when I moved to the other coast for college, I noticed that any supermarket that sold it, sold it whole- the big whonking taro root! Where Mr. ABC Chef and I live now, there are enough Chinese people that there is one supermarket-count em! one, that actually sells big taro. It sells taro both in the vacuum sealed bags, and also whole.
Unless the taro looks dreadfully moldy and dried up, I’ve found that buying a whole taro and cutting it up yourself, is the better way to go. The prep time is probably comparable to preparing a butternut squash, so buy a whole taro and slice and freeze what you don’t need! I know this varies by state/area, but over yonder, the supermarket near me sells whole taro by the pound for $.79/lb, versus the pre-sliced and vacuum-sealed taro for $2.79/lb (!!) Continue reading
Before we moved, there was an amaazing Indo-Pak restaurant by the name of Kabobeesh. From the outside it looked like an all-American diner, but once you stepped in, you saw a case of hot foods and a short man with a mustache and slicked back hair, the owner. Kabobeesh, located just a few blocks from a college campus, was the perfect place to go for a quick, tasty, and budget meal. Tim and I do not believe in eating like birds, and happily eat a hearty meal. Kabobeesh was one of the only places where we would each order an entree plate, and NOT finish our food.
I have a propensity for looking (i.e. staring) around the dining area to see what other patrons ordered, because you never know what gem you may have missed when you ordered! One day as we were walking out after dinner, we saw a table of four seemingly south Asian college/grad school friends, gathered around a big wok-looking thing, filled with chunks of saucy chicken that were covered in flecks of cilantro, and garnished with ginger and jalapeño slices. They were dipping their blistered naan into the sauce, and I realized that I was once again hungry. One of the girls caught me staring, and offered to let me try some! She put some chicken on a plate, and I did my best to share with Tim, who loved it even despite the cilantro. Now, if that in itself were not impressive enough, (he recoils at the smell of a 1/16 inch piece of cilantro), the chicken was tender, sauce was spicy hot, bursting with flavor and just overall delicious.
The next time we went to Kabobeesh, we ordered the chicken karahi, then told all our friends about it, too!
I know it’s not polite to stare, but in this case, it payed off :O. Girl from Kabobeesh, if you ever read this, thank you for sharing your food with a stranger! I will never forget it.
I was on the search for chicken karahi recipes that would take me back to Kabobeesh, but none of them had the sprinkle of masala at the end, nor the ginger and hot pepper slices…until I was browsing on YouTube one day. This lady Seema seems super legit, and I made her recipe and almost followed it to a T!
If you like an explosion of flavor, tender bone-in chicken, a dash of heat, and sauce so good you almost don’t need any chicken with it, look no further! I must warn you that you will probably require 4278685 naan or roti, or bottomless bowls of basmati rice to ensure no sauce is left behind.
Side note: I made upwards of 3 dozen roti, in attempts to make perfect ones that puffed up. Last night, on batch 4, I finally made ones that puffed tremendously-4 out of 4 were successful! In any case, I am still far from qualified to instruct anyone for roti making, but you should check out Bhavna or Manjula’s channels to see A-M-A-Z-I-N-G in action!
How many people out there have a bunch of celery leftover in the fridge after making soup? I do…it seems that celery often wins for best ingredient in a supporting role, but not often is it a lead ingredient.
Several days ago, I looked in the fridge and saw that there were still leftovers of the celery that I bought for soup and chicken pot pie. I thought of a dish that reminds me of home- my mom’s beef, celery, and dou fu gan (extra firm seasoned tofu). There would be sliced flank steak that was lightly marinated, there was tender-crisp celery, then dou fu gan for some meaty texture. Sadly, there was no dou fu gan to be found, but I did have beef, so I decided to make it without. It was still good, just different!
Sometimes, the strangest (and worst) meals are made when I throw stuff together randomly. Thankfully, more often than sometimes, these spontaneous ideas end up working out! The only downside is that during those times, I’m just trying to get dinner together and don’t have my notebook by my side. so that I can write ingredients down so that I can share them with you. Luckily, I made this thrice- so, it better be good!
As a note, this is inspired by one of my favorite dishes- fish and eggplant, that seemed to be ubiquitous in Philly’s Chinatown. Distinctions are that the eggplant is NOT deep-fried, and it is not a saucey dish, but will go dandily with rice..
Tasty Place and M Kee, thanks for your inspiration over the years <3
I’ve been keeping a pet in the refrigerator these days..my sourdough starter. This starter was given to me by my mom, and it’s been alive and kicking for over 2 years now. The starter I made way back when, turned pink for Valentine’s Day, and hence that one was no more.
If there’s anything you can do to keep your baking self-sustaining, it is to grow make some sourdough starter. This method is great- I’ve used it twice with 100% success! I’m no sourdough starter expert; just a novice user who remembers to feed her starter once in a while.
I bought a grain mill last year and I love it! I buy wheat berries and mill turns them into flour for me. Anyway, as I started to bake with whole wheat flour, I realized that some whole wheat bread recipes, even good ones, got kind of crumbly, flaky, and fall apart-y if they weren’t eaten right away. It seemed like most recipes for 100% whole wheat flour require a decent amount of fat, sugar, or both, to help keep the bread soft. I googled and researched a bunch on the internet, read articles, and either from some articles or as a result of reading, got this theory..Whole wheat grains existed long ago, when there was no way to separate the germ and bran from the endosperm. Sourdough also existed way back when, before the invention of today’s baker’s yeast (which, by the way, only contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as opposed to sourdough, which contains many more organisms). Soo…maybe whole wheat grains and sourdough go together.
So began the experiments. After baking whole wheat bread with sourdough, I noticed that the bread stayed intact and held a great texture, even though I only used water, sourdough, flour, and salt. My theory is that it’s not only the freshly milled whole wheat, but also the long fermentation time, and in the little organisms in the sourdough starter. So, when I want to eat something biologically leavened, (in this case, leavening that is not baking powder or soda) and nutrient-dense, I bake whole wheat flour/water/sourdough/salt bread. When I want something biologically leavened that is more splurgey, like cinnamon rolls, I’ll use mostly white all purpose flour and commercial yeast. After all, I doubt most people eat those types of breads for nutrition 😉
I tried to think of all the recipes that I could convert to use sourdough instead, because there is always sourdough starter in my kitchen, but not always yeast. I stumbled across this great blog that I think everyone should read- called Bint Rhoda’s Kitchen! She grew up eating this bread (cooked on the stovetop), and she is into sourdough baking as well! :d
I’ve made this pita bread with 100% whole wheat flour (oven), as well as 100% spelt flour (stovetop), both with great success, so I encourage you to try both and see which you prefer. Me? Stovetop for convenience and lack of pre-heating the oven. But, it’s always nice to sit in front of the oven and watch the pitas grow and get pillowy.
If you’ve made pita bread with baker’s yeast, it’ll be easier to make this recipe. No matter, just make sure the dough is soft, but does not stick to your hands.
A quick history of this blog for anyone who is new to this site: I originally started this blog, hoping that it would reach people looking for recipes of food that Chinese and Taiwanese people eat at home, every day. Real food eaten by real people on a regular basis, not food from a restaurant or food that is super-modified to be marketable =P
I THINK IT’S WORKING! I’m so happy that you readers, people from different backgrounds with the common affinity for Chinese or Taiwanese food, are benefiting from this site! I think it’s working because of lovely, kind comments from readers like YOU.
So, thank you thank you! Comments seem to pop up when I feel like no one reads the blog, no one cares, or that my blog is not flashy enough to attract and keep readers =O
Read on, and know that I love to read each and every comment that I get, and do my best to respond thoroughly! Please do keep leaving comments for me, and let me know if you have suggestions or things you’d like to see me tackle on here.
<3 <3 <3 – for my readers and commenters!
At some point before or around college, I developed an interest in matcha, or mo cha (抹茶), when I was in high school and college, and would make desserts for fancy occasions with the prized $6/1 oz matcha canister that I would get from Mitsuwa. When my sister got married in 2009, one of the cake tiers that I made for her was a lovely green tea chiffon cake with passion fruit mousse. When I was in college, I experimented with that same chiffon cake with a pomegranate mousse for Christmas- green and red! Boy, was I ambitious then 😉
Nowadays, I don’t dream about matcha as much as I did before, but I did see a great deal on matcha at Mitsuwa when we went to get ramen. I’ll bet that no ‘Asian’ food blog is complete without at least one matcha item in it, so here is matcha in one of its simplest forms (besides just drinking it)- ice cream!
I looked and looked to see if I could find any information about ingredients used in this old school brand of green tea ice cream that I remember seeing in California grocery stores, but no luck..There was a picture of a snowy mountain on the container, with dark bluish and white accents for the snow? Maybe even light pink/coral background. I think it was some brand name that sounded rather Japanese, and I remember it was very bitter, and that at first I didn’t like it that much. Once I actually got over the bitterness and tasted it for its tea-ness, I enjoyed it. Sadly, I have no idea if that brand exists anymore, and have no recollection of the name. Please leave a comment if you can shed some light on this long lost ice cream brand!
Anyway, all this to say that nowadays, sometimes I am disappointed in green tea ice creams because I expect a kick of strong matcha, and it’s not..I set out to make a very strong
Disclaimer: This ice cream is very matcha-y, but does not like to form into an ice cream scoop very well. It is much easier to get thick shavings of. However…if you like hard or chewy ice creams, this one is totally for you!
It is Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year for the PC 😉 ) in 5 days, and there are probably a bunch of posts about ‘traditional Chinese New Year foods’. My family has never really followed any traditions, and I don’t remember a set menu of dishes we ate every year for New Year. The closest thing to traditional is probably my grandma’s ba bao fan (8 treasure sticky rice). You can almost always count on PoPo to make her KILLER ba bao fan for any large food gathering :d Eep, thinking about makes me want to make it, too…
Anyway, I believe that tradition has it that you should make a whole fish (or is it two?) to eat in celebration for Chinese New Year, because it is supposed to symbolize surplus or prosperity (年年有餘) – nian nian you yu, which more or less means ‘may every year have surplus’. Yu for surplus and yu for fish are homophones, so I think that’s where the fish comes from!
I think that you are supposed to cook a whole fish, so if you are looking for that, might I suggest some lovely steamed fish? But, this braised fish dish is one of my absolute favorites, so maybe you should buck tradition and cut your fish up this year =O Hopefully I don’t get my Chinese card taken away for saying that.
This is one of my favorite everyday dishes my mom used to make (I know, I know- they’re all favorites, aren’t they), and I have fond memories of picking out all the soft pieces of garlic and mixing them up rice, fish, and more sauce. My mom made a lot of variations of hong shao when we were growing up, and this hong shao yu is a way to get hong shao on the table relatively fast. This may not be the prettiest dish out there, but it is proof that it’s what’s on the inside that counts!
I realize that southern California is not like most of the rest of the US, and realize it more and more as I am NOT in southern California, where Chinese supermarkets are indeed, SUPER markets. Anyway, if you have the luxury to be near Chinese/Asian SUPERmarkets and they happen to sell bone-in catfish or other firm white fish pieces, get them! I believe they are the remnants leftover after the fishmongers have butchered (?) the fish into filets and such. They are a great candidate for this dish, because the fish needs to be cut up anyway.
One of the perks of marrying into a Cantonese family is being introduced to lots of very Cantonese dishes, at least ones that run strong in Mr. ABC Chef’s family. Almost every time we made plans to see Mr. ABC Chef’s mom, she would ask him a few days before, if he wanted some lo bak go* (蘿蔔糕) or lo mai fan* (糯米飯). Obviously, the answer was always yes. This was not only great news for Tim, but for me, too! You see, usually, the only place my family and I ate luo bo gao was at dim sum restaurants. We really love luo bo gao, and were always trying to find and remember a restaurant that made it the way we liked it. Our criteria was pretty simple: a strong luo bo taste, and not too firm or too soft. We would discuss that so-and-so restaurant’s luo bo gao didn’t have much flavor and just tasted like rice flour, or that such-and-such restaurant actually had luo bo taste in it and that was liked it. I guess we never gave too much thought to experiment making it ourselves, though we definitely knew that getting the right ratios of luo bo (daikon/turnip) to liquid to rice flour was the secret. Turns out that all this time, my mother-in-law (MIL) had perfected it! Maybe that’s why I married Tim. Haha.
Since I’ve I had my MIL’s lo bak go, I haven’t missed the lo bak go at dim sum places, and don’t plan on ordering it out anytime soon. Now I can see why for Tim, eating luo bo gao at restaurants was outrageous, because of how good his mom’s was.
What makes this lo bak go so good? It’s chock-full of lo bak (daikon/turnip) and does justice to its name. It is the right firmness- not too jelly-like, and not too firm. It fries up beautifully and, like a well-seasoned dumpling, can be enjoyed alone without sauce (though, you can always choose to do so if you wish).
*Lo bak go = luo bo gao = 蘿蔔糕. How I say it depends on who I’m with, or who I was with when the memory was formed (Cantonese or Mandarin). Gotta fit in, yanno?!
lo bak go / luo bo gao