Sunday, December 28, 2008


Because fireworks like these are legal ...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dim Sum - Bok Choy Roll

Every year millions of people tell themselves that they will eat more vegetables and take better care of their health for their New Years' resolution.  Well, I have more Dim Sum for the Holidays ... this time Bok Choy Rolls.   These are even a bit healthy!

Spiced, ground chicken wrapped in bok choy (Chinese cabbage, pichay in Tagalog) leaves and steamed.  Low fat, good fiber, decent protein content ... and they taste good, too. 

Yes, these make it easier to follow your resolution to eat better. 
Bok Choy Rolls are also really easy to make.

So, good for you, easy to make, and yummy.  If pizza wasn't already Nature's Most Perfect Food, these might come close. 

Oh, who am I kidding?  Burgers, bacon, lasagna, and many other delicious foods would be higher on the list than this one.  Still, they're good! 

  • Bok choy leaves
  • Ground chicken breast
  • Crushed garlic
  • Grated ginger
  • Salt
  • Soy sauce
  • Chopped green onion

I diced up some boneless, skinless chicken breast.

I ground up the chicken breast finely in Big Iron's grinder attachment.

I eyeballed the things to add ... just made it smell good.  Normally I'm very careful about how much I add ... measuring, weighing, writing down notes ... this time I was just playing around.

I wouldn't need the filling for a few days.  So, I put the filling into a zip-top bag for storage in the deep freeze.

I took the bok choy, washed it, and cut off the ends.  I sorted through and picked the best and largest leaves.  Some of them were nearly white and I didn't want that.  I wanted green.  I think our pig enjoyed the white leaves very much.

I blanched the leaves in boiling water to soften them.  About ten minutes in the pot per leaf.

After the hot bath, into cold, cold water to stop the cooking process.

For each roll, I laid out a leaf and put in approximately one tablespoon of my filling.

I folded the end of the leaf over my filling.

Sorry about the fuzzy photo.  Didn't notice again ... my lens was a bit blurry after taking a photo of the leaves in boiling water.  Note to self: camera phones don't like steam.

Anyway, just fold over the end and roll up to seal.

Here are the little rolled beauties waiting on the baking sheet for their final dip into the hot water.

Finally, I steamed the rolls for ten minutes.

Remember: Steam is hot.  Hot hurts.  Just a kitchen tip from me to you.

Seeing all these laid out and done was really great.  I had a definite sense of accomplishment seeing 40 of these ready-to-eat.

Now, the question is ... how were they?

Test Results

Primary Test Group: Delicious! Masarap!

Test Group Rotary: Completely eaten quickly.

Potential Improvements

I'd spice them more next time.  Possibly some oyster sauce or hoisin sauce.

I think next time I'll blanch the leaves longer ... maybe steam them longer.  Make the leaves softer.

Potential Variations

Like anything wrapped, this could have just about anything inside the leaves.  I think that chicken, though, is probably the best.  Its flavor is mild and compliments the bok choy leaves well.


These are good.  And, as I mentioned, healthy too.  Whenever I make Dim Sum, I'll definitely make these along with it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Dim Sum - Baked Chicken Curry Hum Bao

More Christmas Dim Sum!  A soft, slightly sweet bun stuffed with chicken curry.  A delightful, delicious surprise inside an already tasty bun.

I love these.  Baked hum bao (baked buns) are the first Dim Sum that I tried.  I fell in love immediately.  Soft, sweet bun willed with delicious Chinese goodness.

This is the food that eventually led me to loving Dim Sum and Chinese food in general.  When finding good sources of these delicious culinary treasure boxes, I ran into many other Chinese delicacies.

This recipe is from a book that's currently in print, so exact ingredients and quantities are again left out.  This is from Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch by Ellen Leong Blonder.  This is a great cookbook.  Definitely recommended


I thoroughly diced some boneless, skinless chicken breast.

Then, I put the chicken into a frying pan for pre-cooking.  Baking these is like cooking pizza ... the meat needs to be cooked before going into the oven.  The bun don't spend enough time in the oven to cook the meat properly.

Like the spatula?  I love my silicon spatulas.  Solid, single-piece ... can take really high temperatures.  They don't get hot, either.  A very cheap luxury.  Highly recommended!

I sliced (and later diced) some carrots and onions.  The purple circles on the left are slices of a local onion.  They're quite small.  And, as you can see, the local carrots are quite large.

Diced onion, crushed garlic, and diced carrots go into the frying pan for some softening.  Oh, the smell was fantastic.

Here's the rest of the ingredients for the filling.  Some peas, curry powder (of course), salt, and a few other spices.

I tossed everything into the bowl and mixed thoroughly.

I didn't need this for a few days.  So, I put it into a zip-top bag for storage in the freezer.

I used to use tape on the bags to label them.  Now, I just use a permanent marker to write directly on the bag.  Works great.

It's now a couple days later and I'm ready to make the buns.  The dough starts out like any decent, soft, heavenly bread with some shortening and flour.  I used a pastry cutter to cut the shortening into the flour.

After cutting in the shortening, I added the rest of the ingredients to the dough ... a little sugar, salt, yeast, all the usual suspects.  I'm not a fan of kneading bread by hand, so into my mixer it went.  10 minutes of thrashing by my well-used bread hook.

Like all breads, this one needed to rise.  About an hour until the dough doubled.  Your results may vary as room temperature here is fairly warm (80F / 27C).

I rolled out the dough into a rectangle.  About twelve inches by nine inches.

I divided the dough into twenty four little pieces. I sliced it into approximately three inch square pieces.  That yielded a dozen pieces.  Then, I cut each piece in half.

I formed each piece into a small circle.  The edges of the circle I made thinner than the center.  The edges will form the bottom of the bun.  If the edges are the same thickness as the center, the filling in the finished bun will be sitting atop a large piece of dough.

For each little bun, I put a heaping spoonful of filling in the center.

I folded two edges over the filling and pinched.

I folded the other two edges over the center and pinched.

I brought the four corners into the center and pinched to seal everything.

Finally, I twisted the center to seal completely.  Sorry about the fuzzy photo.  I only noticed that it was fuzzy only long after I finished.

Twisting the bottom ensures that the contents are sealed.  It also creates some tension on the top of the bun.  This helps makes the top smoother.

I turned over each bun and placed it onto a piece of parchment on a baking sheet.

I brushed each bun with an egg wash.  Then, into the oven for about 20 minutes.

Just look at those beauties as they came out of the oven!

Here are the buns as they were packed.  Look at the golden tops, the shine.  The promise of good things to come upon biting into them.

I was so happy when these came out of the oven.  Look at the golden tops.  The bread was soft and sweet.  Just like I remembered.

Test Results

Primary Test Group:  Delicious kuya!  Marasa!

Test Group Rotary:  Eaten quickly and heartily.  Many questions about how it's made.  Requests to make again.

Potential Improvements

These turned out very well.  Unfortunately, they were a bit small.  Next time, I'll make a dozen buns from the recipe and not two dozen.

Potential Variations

The fillings for these are quite varied.  Most savory, some sweet.  One can also steam these.

Personally, I want to fill them with BBQ pork.  So very, very good.


I love these.  Most people love these.  I'll make them over and over.  I recommend that everyone try!

If you don't make them, at least go to your local decent Dim Sum restaurant or Chinese bakery and get some hum bao.  If you're new to eating these, start with char siu bao (Chinese BBQ pork-filled buns).  They're really the best!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dim Sum - Rice Pearls

Christmas Day here ... outside my family is having a party.  My wife invited our workers and their families over for a Christmas Day Party.  From the laughing outside, they're having a good time.  Here, with my sore throat, I'm having not-so-great of a time ... but, I'm doing OK. 

I just plugged my phone/camera/note-taking-device into my computer for the first time in a week and realized that I had a lot of pictures in it from foods that I'd cooked.  And, I just looked at my posting history for the past couple of weeks ... dismal!

I guess that means that I'm going to have to be serious about my New Year's resolution: be more disciplined.  I'll believe it when I do it. 

Those spotty blobs you see in the picture to the right are actually rice pearls.  Sorry about the bad picture, I had to take it very quickly while serving them at the Board of Directors meeting for my local Rotary club. 

December was my turn to sponsor the food.  I brought Dim Sum.  If it didn't turn out well ... well, the food was free for them.  Grin and eat it.  Haha.

Apparently, the food wasn't bad as all but four small pieces were eaten.

This recipe is from the Smith Dim Sum book that is in print.  So, I'm not going to list the precise ingredients.

  • Ground lean beef
  • Pilit (sticky rice)
  • Tapol (purple sticky rice)
  • Chinese spices

I took the two kinds of rice and boiled them separately for about 10 minutes to briefly pre-cook the rice.  Not completely cooked, though.

I mixed the rices together.  Not completely as I wanted the colors to have nice areas.

I mixed together the ground beef and Chinese spices.  I made little meatballs, about one tablespoon each in size.

I rolled each meatball in the rice.  Using my hands, cupped to form a crude sphere, I molded each into balls.  I put each molded rice pearl into a steamer on parchment.

Steam for about 30 minutes to cook everything thoroughly.  When you remove the rice pearls from the steamer, remember this one little fact: live steam is really, incredibly hot.  Don't ask me how I know.

Serve with some kind of sauce.  I happened to like them with a sweet chili sauce.

Test Results

Primary Test Group:  Good, tasty!

Test Group Rotary:  No direct comments.  However, all but three were eaten.

Potential Improvements

I would steam them longer.  Maybe 45 minutes to an hour.  Make the rice more tender.


These are good.  They make great h'oeur deurves.  If you make these, make sure you serve them with some kind of sweet sauce.  They're fantastic that way.

Merry Christmas! Maligayang Pasko!

I hope this season brings peace, joy, and happiness to everyone out there.  This year Santa brought me a sore throat.  I guess that's better than a lump of coal.

Remember, there are a lot of people out there who are in trouble, their children are going to bed hungry, and they are in danger of losing everything for which they've worked.  Try to be forgiving of those who transgress against you.  If you can't forgive, at least try to keep it to yourself.  Trust me, I know how hard that is to do.

If you can, try to find someone or a family who you can help a little.  Even a single meal means more than you know.  I have seen the faces on the little children here in the Philippines when we bring them milk.  Priceless.

The glow of one warm thought is to me worth more than money. -- Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dim Sum - Mini Hoisin Ribs

Wow, is the time shooting past right now.  Christmas is coming soon and you know what that means: DIM SUM!  Yes, Santa will bring delicious little bits of Chinese goodness to all the good little culinarians out there!  Those who are bad will be forced to watch and eat Vienna sausage (if you like Vienna sausage, please, seek professional help).

Oh, look at those little ribs to the side there.  They were gone so fast.

This is from a cookbook in print.  So, I'm not going to list exact ingredients or measurements.  Still, there are no surprises here.  If you're familiar at all with Chinese cooking, the ingredients are all pretty obvious.

The cookbook in question is  Dim Sum: Delicious Finger Food For Parties by Fiona Smith and William Lingwood.  I like this book.  It has gorgeous pictures and the recipes are definitely delicious.

  • Pork ribs, cut in 2" pieces
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Other Chinese ingredients

The first step here is really at your butcher.  Buy the ribs and have them cut them into 2-inch lengths.  Be sure to have the butcher remove the membrane on the bottom of the ribs before cutting.

I mixed all the ingredients together in a non-reactive bowl and let is all marinate overnight.

When I was ready, I covered the dish with foil.  Then, put it all into the oven at 350F (175C) for 90 minutes.

Done.  Yes, it's just that simple!

Test Results

These were devoured.  Didn't get much feedback.  But, I presume they were appreciated.

Potential Improvements

Cook longer to more tenderness.  I think next time I'm going to cook for a full two hours.

Potential Variations

Can't really think of any here.  The name makes them fairly specialized ... Hoisin mini ribs.


These are tasty and easy.  Just toss them into a dish overnight, cook them for a couple of hours, done!

I'll make them again.  Most definitely!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Canadian Bacon - Second Attempt

Around here, there are many ingredients that are simply unavailable.  Actually, that's a bit of an exaggeration.  Almost everything is available if you are willing to pay the hefty import price.

I'm not willing to pay those prices.  Not when I can make the items myself.  Canadian bacon is so simple ... why should I pay a price that should be reserved only for Kobe beef wrapped in golf leaf?

Of course, it's the simplicity that makes it so difficult.  For me, at least, complex foods are easier.  With simple foods, if you get one thing wrong, everything seems wrong.  Complex foods manage to hide minor errors better.

Now, this particular batch didn't go so well.  The first batch was rather salty, so I cut way back on the salt.  I blame my mother for this failure.  She was the one who said that my previous batch was salty (well, she and others ... possibly including myself).

She claims that she is not at fault here.  When we were discussing this, she mumbled something about me being the one who chose to use only a quarter cup of curing salt.  And, she rambled on about how she might have halved the cure and not dropped it so low.  Blah ... blah ... blah.

Some people might think that she made a couple reasonable points.  To that, I say "hogwash!"  She raised me, it's her fault I cut the salt so much.

Certainly not my fault as I had limited input in cooking this batch.  All I did was buy the pork, prepare the pork, make the brine, inject the pork, brine the pork, smoke the pork, rest the pork, and slice the pork.  She raised me and ate some of the pork.

Any sane person can see that she is clearly the one at fault here.

  • One whole pork loin
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Instacure #1
  • 5 quarts water

Here are the ingredients for my simple brine: brown sugar and Instacure #1. Next time, I'll use a lot more of the pink stuff.

Here's my pork loin.  I was lucky to find a reliable butcher here who would do this for me.  Usually this is cut up quite differently for Filipino foods.  I have to pay a slight premium.  Still, it's worth it.

Here is my loin prepped.  I removed all the membranes, silverskin, most of the fat, etc.  And, I sliced it in two because I planned to try two different techniques.

I mixed my brine ingredients with five quarts of water.  Mixed thoroughly until everything was dissolved.

Then, I took my nifty meat injector (it looks like something right out of a really bad horror flick ... probably something by Troma) and give each piece a full shot of the brine.  I stuck the multi-holed needle right into the middle of my loin.

There are my pork beauties swimming in their brine.  They're covered for their protection and in a stainless steel pot.  Into my big chest fridge for five days.

Here they are after their five day stint in the fridge.  I soaked one of them in water for two hours in the fridge after this.  The other one stay wrapped in plastic in the fridge.

Here they are just started their time in my smoker.  225F (107C) for about five hours.  I took them out when their internal temperatures his 155F (68C).

There they are ... done.  Just not Canadian bacon.  Definitely yummy sandwich meat, though.

Test Results

Looking at the meat, the brine didn't even penetrate.  Disappointing.  I think I used too little salt.  I didn't even bother having the Primary Test Team taste this formally.  We just used it in soups and on sandwiches.

It wasn't that the pork tasted bad.  It was good.  It just wasn't Canadian bacon.

Also, I didn't notice a difference in saltiness between the two.  Probably because the salt didn't even get into them in the first place.

Potential Improvements

Big room for improvement here.  I'm going to increase the cure next time.  Probably do three versions, one with 1/2 cup of cure, one with 3/4 cup, and one with a full cup of cure.

Potential Variations

Lots of variations.  But, I'm going for a simple, slightly sweet Canadian bacon.  I don't want too salty.  So, once I get this down, I'll probably stick to only a single recipe.


Even with this failure, I think I'm closer.  I could taste the sweetness of the brown sugar in the meat.  Very faint, as the brine clearly didn't penetrate.  But, the sweetness was still there.

I'll figure it out.  When I do ... that's one less item that is unavailable here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pizza Cheese Showdown

For quite some time, I've made pizza with at least two kinds of cheeses: mozzarella and Parmesan.  I've done this for years ... a couple decades, actually.  So, I thought it was about time to examine my old habit.  Time to find out if it is a good habit or just something I did.

This is one of probably many cheese tests.  After all, there are a lot of different kinds of cheeses.  Some I can immediately rule out.  American cheese comes to mind.  I will not put that on a pizza.  There are many others worth trying ... some I can even get here.  Mozzarella, Parmesan, Romano, Cheddar ... maybe even Jack or Colby.

So many combinations ... so many pizzas to make.

In order to test correctly, I made sure to weigh the cheese.  30g of Parmesan for one pizza.  125g of mozzarella for each pizza.

My normal sauce on the pizza that will have both cheeses.  The two-cheese pizza I made round.  When I did the Oatmeal Showdown, I used food coloring to mark each type.  People found that to be strange, so I decided to use shapes this time.

Putting my sauce on the pizza that will just have mozzarella.  This one is square.

Here's a close up of the two-cheese pizza.

Here's a close-up of the mozzarella-only pizza.

The two pizzas after coming out of the oven.  My oven is working well again.  510F (265C) for 12 minutes to get these results.

Test Results

The Primary Test Team devoured the two pizzas.  As usual, they ate the pizza with all the subtlety of a stampeding herd of mastodons.

With only a couple of exceptions, the pizza with both cheese was preferred.


The result wasn't really a surprise.  While the intial taste of the two pizzas is similar, the Parmesan adds a nice sharpness to the aftertaste.  Something that the mozzarella-only pizza completely lacks.