Archive for October, 2011

Fried chicken, Jap style

My grandmother, the best cook I have ever known, was famous (in our family, at least) for ensuring that no one ever walked away from her table hungry.  Mostly because by the time you were finished eating, you couldn’t walk.  There’s a reason why I’m called Sumo, folks.

In restaurants, this dish is known as chicken kara age.  Normally, it looks like a plate of wings and mini drumsticks; my version is made from chicken breasts.  I just find it easier that way – no annoying bones to worry about.

1 lb boneless and skinless chicken breasts/chicken thighs (cut into small pieces/cubes)
3 inches fresh ginger (peeled and pounded with a mortar and pestle to extract 2 tablespoons of ginger juice)
3 tbsp soy sauce
6 tbsp sake
1/8 tsp sesame oil (optional)
Potato starch (katakuriko) to coat the chicken
Oil for deep frying

Use paper towels to pat dry the chicken pieces and transfer to a bowl. Add in sake, ginger juice, soy sauce, sesame oil (optional) and marinate for 30 minutes. Transfer the chicken pieces out of the marinate and coat them evenly with potato starch. Shake off excess.

Heat up a wok/pot of cooking oil (I have a deep fryer, which is a helluva lot easier). When the cooking oil is hot enough for frying, drop the chicken pieces into the oil and quickly deep fry them until they float. Transfer them out onto a plate and wait for a couple of minutes. Put the chicken back into the oil and deep-fry until golden brown and crunchy. Dish out to a plate or bowl lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil, serve hot with a slice of lemon and mayonnaise.


Mango Chicken

I love Chinese food.  I also love Chinese girls, but that’s not really relevant at the moment.

Unfortunately, there aren’t really any decent Chinese restaurants in my town; at least not any that I’ve found yet.  So, I came up with a solution – I’ll just make it myself.  Simple fix, ain’t it?

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg white
1 tbsp sake
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp plus 1 tsp brown sugar
1 can mango slices with reserved juice
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 tsp curry paste
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup oil for frying

Cut the chicken into cubes.  Mix in the egg white, sake, salt, and cornstarch.  Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes.

In a small saucepan, bring the sake, brown sugar, and 3/4 cup of reserved mango juice to a boil.  Keep warm on low heat.

Add 1/4 cup oil to preheated wok or skillet.  When the oil is hot, velvet the chicken by cooking very briefly in the hot oil, until it changes color and is nearly cooked through (about 30 seconds).  Use tongs or cooking chopsticks to separate the individual pieces of chicken while it is cooking.

Remove all but 2 tbsp oil from the wok.  When the oil is hot, add the ginger, curry paste, and turmeric.  Stir-fry for about 1 minute until aromatic.  Add the chicken and mix with the curry paste.

Add the sauce and bring to a boil.  Stir in the mango slices.  Mix all the ingredients and serve hot.


Cheese, Beer & Sausage Soup

I love soup.  Such a simple concept, but infinite combinations result in a plethora of flavors and aromas that could last me until the end of time.

A few weeks back, I found the recipe for this soup.  Finding the beer was not a problem (for some odd reason, I know where all the liquor stores are in my neighborhood), but locating the cheese was more difficult.  I needed 2 cups of Gruyere, cubed.  A whirlwind circuit of the usual grocery stores only yielded a few thin slices of Gruyere for what would have turned out to be an insanely expensive soup, had I gone that route.

Fortunately, I was able to locate a specialty cheese soup, and procured a block of Gruyere.  A little slicing, dicing, and simmering later, and I had my soup.  I distributed some samples to my usual circle of guinea pigs (my co-workers), and waited for the feedback.

Alas, the soup turned out to have an unpleasantly high salt content.  As in, it was a bald faced lie to call it cheese, beer and sausage soup – my supervisor and bestest friend in the whole world re-christened it “salt soup”.  In addition, the cheese didn’t melt as evenly as I would have liked, resulting in some depressingly un-aesthetic lumps of cheese.

So, back to the drawing board I went.  Well, the cutting board, anyways.  Decreased the salt, diced the cheese a little more finely, and voila!  A soup I wasn’t ashamed to share with the test audience.

So, without further ado………….

1 or 2 kielbasa sausage rounds, diced or sliced into rounds
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp minced garlic
6 tbsp flour
6 cups chicken stock
2 cups lager beer
4 sprigs thyme
2 cups cubed Gruyere cheese

Saute the kielbasa until golden brown  in a large, hot soup pot, about 4 minutes. The sausage will not be cooked through, It will finish cooking in the soup. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, salt, pepper and bay leaves, and cook, stirring, until the onions are slightly caramelized, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the stock and beer. Add the thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.

During the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the kielbasa and cook until sausages are cooked through. Add the cheese 1/3 cup at a time, stirring until nearly all melted and smooth after each addition. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste.

Chicken Stew

Without going into too many pathetic details of my life, a couple years ago, I fell in love.  Problem was, she didn’t feel the same.  Even dropped the f-bomb (friends) on me.  That one hurt.

Shortly after that, she decided to move to Vancouver (no, it was not because of me!).  Before she left, we got together and she gave me a recipe book as a going away present.  This recipe is from that book.  That, and the fact that it’s pretty damn tasty, make it one of my favorite dishes.

Don’t let the number of ingredients intimidate you – it’s surprisingly easy to make.

1/2 cup flour
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/4 white wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp bottled horseradish
4 ounces arugula or mustard greens, chopped
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

1) Mix the flour, coriander, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, allspice, and cumin in a large bowl. Season the chicken generously with salt and dredge it in the seasoned flour until well coated. Save any excess flour.

2) Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large stewpot. Add the chicken cubes and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a bowl. Add the stock and vinegar to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping up any bits clinging to the pot. Stir in the leftover flour along with the dates, honey, Worcestershire sauce, and horseradish. Add the chicken, cover, and cook for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is thick and bubbly.

3) Remove from heat, mix in the arugula and cilantro, and serve over rice.

This is where the magic happens.  Or at the very least, this is where you can read about my mad scientist-esque culinary experiments.

If you’re wondering about the name, it’s been my nickname since I was young.  When you grow up as a pudgy half-Japanese kid, the other little bastards aren’t exactly original when choosing your nickname.

Anyhow, I hope you enjoy my ramblings.  Try to ignore the rhetoric; the food is actually pretty good if you can get past my bad jokes and flair for the inane.