Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dumplings: Bite-sized gifts.

Whether it be wontons, siu mai dim sum, soupy dumplings (shao loong bao), the dumpling in any form proves to be an easy and pleasant snack. And I think everyone should learn how to make it from scratch because you never know who will be knocking on your door with fork and knife in hand. If you’ve ever been to a Chinese market, you’ll see that there are just as many types of frozen dumplings as there are frozen pizzas at Ralph’s. My favorite is pork, shrimp, leek and mushroom. Sorry, but I can't provide you with the exact recipe because I'm an eyeballer. Ok here we go.

Start out with one pound of ground pork. The ‘generic’ ground pork is quite fatty and produces great flavor. I usually won’t use the ‘generic’ ground pork when cooking other Chinese dishes and go for the pork tenderloin or shoulder and have it ground by the butcher. It’s all preference. Add salt, white pepper, sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil over the meat and pour a little bit of Chinese rice wine. (I think it’s the same as dry sherry wine.) Then add 2 egg whites and tapioca/corn starch for viscidity within the mixture. No GARLIC in my recipe. Garlic overpowers the other ingredients. While those marry, start prepping the other ingredients.

Chop the following into very fine pieces: shrimp, leeks and ear wood mushrooms. Leeks are basically gigantic green onions and are great with dumplings because of the texture. They are thicker and have a strong onion taste to it.

Ear wood mushrooms, aka Black Fungus, add a perfect bite as well. This is also used in Vietnamese egg rolls (Cha Gio). Ear woods are sold in a hydrated form. Simply place them in a bowl of cold water for 10 minutes to rehydrate them; hot water if you’re in a hurry.

I like my dumpling filling to have an equal balance. As you can see, there’s a good amount of pink, green/white and black. Too much meat isn’t good. You should be able to smell the soy sauce and sesame oil after you’ve mixed everything. VERY IMPORTANT: take a test drive. Slap a small slab in a frying pan and make a patty, or wrap one in a dumpling skin and boil it. It’s better to go lighter on taste then over-salt the whole mixture.

Here’s how I boil my dumplings. Once the water is boiling on high heat, add the dumplings and boil them with the cover on. Once they start swimming around, remove the cover and lower the heat to medium-low for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and re-cover the dumplings for 2-3 minutes. Go!

For pot stickers, heat up the pan on medium and fry the dumplings for about 3-4 minutes, or until a light brown. Flip them over and pour in a 1/4” of water (or chicken broth for more flavor) and cover them for about 10 minutes. Once the water evaporates, they’ll start to brown after 5 minutes. Go!

For the dipping sauce, I like to use soy sauce, sugar, sriracha with seeds (thai chili sauce), rice vinegar and sesame oil. But soy sauce and sesame oil is perfectly fine. Enjoy. Read more!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Bacon-Wrapped Love

Pork is one of my favorite meats to cook with because it’s very easy to infuse savory and sweet flavors into it. (Try cranberry sauce or apricot jam on the pork.) It acts as a great, edible sponge that doesn’t need days of marinating.

Last week I wasn’t able to attend my friend’s birthday party at the Union Cattle, and I thought some delicious pork would make it up. She came over around 7 and told me she wanted to watch me cook. I bought two generous cuts of pork tenderloin from Whole Foods, apple-smoked bacon and some asparagus. Only $8 for the pork!

I seasoned both sides of the loins with salt and freshly ground pepper and wrapped each one with apple-smoked bacon, securing it with a toothpick. I then seared both sides till I got a nice rich brown color and slapped it in a 375 degree oven. Twenty minutes later, I let the loins sit out and threw in some crimini mushrooms from Trader Joe’s and browned them. I deglazed the pan with some Charles Shaw cabernet sauvignon to start the sauce. Ok, I know, it’s $2 buck chuck. All the food network hosts tell you to use wine you would drink. Well I don’t mind $2 buck chuck. I’m not Paul Giamatti from “Sideways”. If I’m going to spend $15-20 on a bottle of wine…it’s going down my stomach, not into my food. Anyway, after I reduced it for about 15 minutes, I added a little chicken stock to balance out any remaining tannins in the wine. And this is what we had… Read more!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Tantalizing Tofu

I went over to Zen Grill on 3rd & La Cienega with a friend and ordered the Tofu Steak with Veggies. Disappointed by the fact that it was super greasy, soggy and salty, I put it on myself to cook a better tasting, more delectable tofu steak. I started out by patting the tofu cubes (regular tofu) dry. You can cut them diagonally for presentation. I used two pieces and made a quick batter by using tapioca starch (corn works as well), water and salt. Mixed it till I achieved a medium-thick consistency. After frying the tofu about 7-8 minutes each side, I served it with a sesame/miso dressing I got from Mitsuwa market with some grilled veggies. It’s so good. I put the dressing on everything. Add a little furikake seasoning on the tofu. Enjoy. Read more!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Night On Melrose

My friend Michelle and I decided we should do Melrose Night. We were going to the 1988 Gallery for an exhibit and decided to fill up at Lala’s Argentine Grill and get drinks at the Larchmont afterwards. I was in the mood for Mario’s Peruvian & Seafood but they shut down at 8pm. Lala’s it was. A few of my co-workers introduced me to Tango Grill in West Hollywood and told me that Lala’s was better. And I couldn’t agree more.

We quickly valeted the car and were immediately greeted and seated. Lala’s wore a romantic, sepia interior with candles on every table and sung Argentinean songs under the sound of the indistinct voices of other diners. I thought to myself, too bad she’s just a friend or else we’d… *Wink.

As we looked over the menu, we were served some warm baguette bread with an herb/oil dip. I believe it was called “rovini”. It consisted of parsley, thyme, garlic, garlic, garlic, red pepper flakes and more garlic. Absolutely delicious. Like the Stinking Rose’s dip, I could’ve made a meal out of it. We asked for a third round.

We started out with the Tortilla de Papas, which is a potato and onion quiche. Basically a sweet potato pie with lots of butter and garlic. Yum. To spice it up a little, we topped it off with more rovini.

I ordered the popular Argentinean dish, “Milanesa”, which is a thin, deep-fried battered steak. It’ll score you some points on the cholesterol meter, but hey, once in a while is okay. To add more artery points, I got the “Milanesa Napolitana” ($12.95). It’s the same fried steak with a warm, basil red/cream sauce topped with melted cheese. My arteries! I actually removed the cheese. It was too much. My friend ordered the “Al Champignon” ($10.95), a grilled chicken steak with parsley and garlic flavored mushrooms. On top of that, we both got a 1/2 order of fries and mashed potatoes for our entrees. And a little salsa. The mashed potatoes are loaded with butter and garlic. Probably the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had… next to wasabi flavored mash. I didn’t even touch the fries because I had eaten the whole quiche.

Total damage for tonight was only $31.75 with appetizer and drinks. What a great deal. I admire places that don’t skimp on portions. I have to admit that it was too much of a visit to Deep Fried City. Like I said, please limit yourself to Lala’s. Your arteries will thank you. I think I’ll just have the grilled chicken next time and substitute the fries/mashed potatoes for a salad. The steaks also look amazing.

Lala’s is a great place for a date because of the ambiance and you’ll really enjoy the food. There’s outdoor seating as well, for those that like to people-watch on Melrose. Enjoy.

Lala’s Argentine Grill
7229 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90046
(323) 934-6838 Read more!

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