Xiao long tang bao (Shanghai steamed soup dumplings)

This year R and I decided that we weren’t going to celebrate our birthdays and anniversary with gifts in order to save money (and plus neither of us really need/want anything). So, we promised each other we wouldn’t buy anything. Well, giving gifts must be a love language for me. I just couldn’t resist doing something for R’s birthday. Each year, the tradition so far has been to cook him a special birthday dinner. It’s usually lamb because he really loves it and it’s something that we don’t make on a regular basis. But in the last couple of months (ever since returning from our summer trip to Taiwan), I can’t tell you how many times he has mentioned xiao long bao. If you’ve never heard of these or eaten these, they are the most delicious dumpling you will ever have. What makes them extra special is that there is a gushing of delicious, savory soup inside each dumpling that escapes and dribbles down your chin as you bite into its tender, slightly chewy skin. If you ever go to Taiwan (or are in a restaurant that serves these), this is a must-eat kinda food. So, in my quest to become a good Taiwanese wife, I decided to attempt to make these and enlisted my roommate (a wonderful cook) to help. Attempting the make these is definitely not for the faint of heart. They take a lot more effort than the usual speedy Taiwanese recipes that we make on a day-to-day basis. Since the first time that I made these about 3 weeks ago, I have made them twice since and found that each time it does get easier.

The recipe below is a translation of something my roommate found online, along with some adjustments from trial and error. Continue reading

niu rou mian_1st attempt: A-

Here was my first attempt at Taiwanese Beef Noodle soup. Recipe courtesy of R.

First, I pan fried all the seasonings.

Picture 014

Then, added in the beef shank from our local butcher.

Picture 015

Here is the finished product. I served it for lunch on Sunday (Taiwanese Father’s Day) for R and I and J and M (Taiwanese restaurant owners). I ate mine with egg noodles (the yellow colored ones) and everyone else had the white noodles. The kick from the peppercorns and dried chilis was delightful. Noone died, so I give myself an A-.

Picture 018

Here are my recipe notes from R:

oil, star anise (11), dried chilies (12), peppercorns (small tablespoon), Chinese bark (2 pieces), salt (10 turns of the salt grinder), 4 scallions (break into 3rds by hand)–fry all this together, low heat

cut shank meat. cook in boiling water for about 3-5 minutes.

add meat to seasoning mixture. cook all on high heat until meat almost cooked (~5-7 minutes).

put meat and mixture into big pot with water and cook on high heat.

add 1 Corell-sized bowl of soy sauce and 1/2 the amount of rice wine.

add 1/4 c sugar

skim off the yucky stuff as it cooks. after soup boils, reduce heat to low-ish and continue to simmer for about 1 to 1.5 hours, or until meat is super tender.

taste broth before serving with noodles. if not salty enough, can add salt or soy sauce.

serve with preserved mustard greens and/or hot peppers/relish.

notes: added scallions (chopped up with knife) on top of noodle soup as garnish, but didn’t really like “raw” taste of scallions with this soup. next time will probably follow recipe and cook scallions. may add very small amount of really finely chopped green onions as garnish (b/c it is very pretty).

seasonings and amounts listed make a mild to medium hot broth. may want to decrease chilies and/or peppercorns (ma la) for guests who don’t eat spicy food.

made enough for 4 generous bowls, plus leftovers for 3 more servings.

making tai yang bing (Taiwanese Sun Cakes)

Tonight I attempted to make Taiwanese Tai Yang Bing.

Picture 006

The recipe I used calls for 3 different doughs: a water dough (the blobs on the left), the oil dough (the blobs in the middle) and the filling (the light-colored blobs on the right). The ingredients are simple. Mostly flour (all-purpose and cake), confectioner’s sugar, maltose, shortening and butter. Surprisingly, they weren’t as hard as I thought they would be to make. Continue reading