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Friday, January 23, 2015

Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. - Monterey Park

Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. - Monterey Park 1

While eating at Hot Pot, Hot Pot! - Monterey Park, I noticed a crowd of people waiting in front of The Open Door, a Japanese fusion izakaya located in the same corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Garvey Avenue. I made a mental note to check it out, but wasn't in any hurry because there was a no photo policy and well, no photos means no point in going, right?

Then in August 2013, The Open Door shuttered and reopened as Tokyo Fried Chicken Co. Same owner, different menu. Apparently, the rebranding also meant a loosening of the no photo policy. While the menu now focused on fried chicken, that didn't mean the Japanese fusion dishes were gone completely.

On a quiet weeknight, lil' sis and I finally got around to checking out Tokyo Fried Chicken Co.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Chinese Deep-Fried Pork Ribs with Honey Vinegar Sauce

Chinese Deep-Fried Pork Ribs with Honey Vinegar Sauce 1

After eating the deep-fried honey garlic pork ribs at King Hua Restaurant - Alhambra, I wanted to try recreating it at home. Lightly batter and fry if you wish, but I decided to just deep fry until the pork got crispy instead. The ribs were then tossed with honey, vinegar, and soy sauce. I was out of garlic and dusted the ribs with sesame seeds instead.

The key is to adjust the honey and vinegar portions to your liking until you get the right balance of sweet and sour. Simple recipe, but packed with flavor.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Goya Champuru (Okinawan Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Pork Belly, Tofu, and Eggs)

Goya Champuru (Okinawan Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Pork Belly, Tofu, and Eggs) 1

After making Vegetarian Goya Champuru (Okinawan Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Tofu and Eggs), it was obvious that I needed to make a proper version with pork belly. Oh did I like this version so much better! The unctuousness of the pork belly was absorbed by the tofu and perfectly complemented the bitter melon.

I cheated and simply added sliced pork belly to my vegetarian goya champuru leftovers, but I think my method of pan-frying the meat first to get a slight char also made it more flavorful. Feel free to substitute bacon for the pork belly if you wish.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Singaporean Chilli Crabs

Singaporean Chilli Crabs 1

I already had my menu set to make Chinese Deep-Fried Chicken Wings with Spicy Salt and Vegetarian Goya Champuru (Okinawan Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Tofu and Eggs) before my dad left town. But, when I went to the grocery store and saw crab on sale for $4.99 a pound, I had to include the addition of Singaporean Chilli Crabs.

In preparation for my trip later this year, I bookmarked a bunch of Singaporean dishes to try including the famous chilli crab. A chili pepper, tomato, brown sugar, shrimp paste, eggy sauce? Sounds right up my alley. I had two fist-sized hybrid red jalapenos that I had frozen from my tour of the Huy Fong Foods, Inc. Sriracha factory that I was saving for a special dish. This was it! Red jalapenos aren't really spicy for me, so added with the other ingredients and the butter from two crabs and the overall dish should just have a nice kick.

While I did save the shell for photos, if you're making it at home, I'd omit and save the sauce for the pieces of crab you'll actually eat. My brother and his wife and I savored each claw and leg. I fried up some Banh Phong Tom (Vietnamese Shrimp Chips), which were perfect for scooping up the extra sauce. But, steamed rolls, rice, or even Mi Xao Toi Bo (Vietnamese Noodles with Garlic Butter) Maggi Seasoning Sauce would go great with this dish as well.

Will the Singaporean Chilli Crab I eat in Singapore this summer taste as good? I kinda doubt it? If you've eaten the real thing and make my version, you'll have to let me know which comes out the winner!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Chinese Deep-Fried Chicken Wings with Spicy Salt

Chinese Deep-Fried Chicken Wings with Spicy Salt 1

With how frequently I've dined at Hong Kong cafes through the years, and how often I order Chinese Deep-Fried Chicken Wings with Spicy Salt (*Hint. Almost every time.), I don't know why it took me so long to get around to making them at home. If you like my Chinese Deep-Fried Pork Chops with Spicy Salt recipe, this is even easier.

I simply salted the wings, then lightly coated them in just enough flour so they'll be crispy when fried, and like the pork chops, tossed them with a mixture of sliced chili peppers, scallions, garlic, and Chinese 5-spice powder. The first time I made the wings, I didn't have the fresh aromatics on hand and used dried chili peppers. They were still good, but I wanted them look like in the Hong Kong cafes for the photos.

The second time I made them, my dad was in town and heading out the door to go to my youngest uncle's house. He said they looked so appetizing that he couldn't resist and sat down to eat several wings. Then he mentioned later that evening to my uncles that I made really delicious wings. Which, if you know how picky my dad is about food, is high praise indeed. I saved a few wings for lil' sis, who couldn't stop complimenting them while they were reheating in the toaster oven, while she was eating them, and again afterward.

Considering my dad is notoriously critical, I figured I'd make the wings again for him a few months ago before he returned to Oregon. For non-spicy eaters, you can omit the chile peppers if you wish, like I did for the niece and nephew. The just-a-touch of Chinese 5-spice powder sprinkled at the end is what elevates these chicken wings up a notch.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Vegetarian Goya Champuru (Okinawan Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Tofu and Eggs)

Vegetarian Goya Champuru (Okinawan Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Tofu and Eggs) 1

Ever since my Canh O/Kho Qua Nhoi Thit (Vietnamese Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup) recipe, when I found out that some Vietnamese eat bitter melon at the start of the year to signify that the "kho qua" (hardship over in Vietnamese), I've thought it was a quirky little tradition. And while my family calls bitter melon "o qua" so we don't dwell on bitterness, I figured this recipe would come in handy at the start of this year.

Last summer when I was experimenting with ways to make bitter melon less bitter, I searched for additional recipes and stumbled upon Goya Champuru (Okinawan Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Pork Belly, Tofu, and Eggs). Normally, this dish is made with pork belly, but I wanted a healthy side dish. I was making Chinese Deep-Fried Chicken Wings with Spicy Salt, since my dad liked them so much the first time, and I figured I'd make them again before he left to go back to Oregon.

I sliced and parboiled the bitter melon to reduce the bitterness. Then it was a simple stir-fry of eggs and tofu, before tossing in the bitter melon last since it was already half-cooked. Just soy sauce was my only seasoning.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Homemade Dandelion Wine

Homemade Dandelion Wine 1

Ever since I read "Dandelion Wine" by Ray Bradbury long ago, I've been intrigued by the novelty of making wine out of dandelions. Would it taste like summer? Like liquid sunshine? I had forgotten about it until I dined at Creekside Grille - Wilson Creek Winery - Temecula. While reading about the beginnings of the winery, the brochure mentioned that Rosie Wilson, the family matriarch, used to make dandelion and rhubarb wine when they lived in Minnesota. I asked her if she still made dandelion wine. She chuckled and said, "No."

Intrigued nonetheless, after I got back, I Googled for some recipes. Many of which called for a gallon of dandelion petals. A gallon! I don't know where to go for a gallon of dandelions. So I went into the backyard (not the front, which was at the mercy of stray dogs doing their business on my lawn) and gathered a handful of dandelion petals. I plucked the yellow petals, being careful to pick out the green parts. Saved them into a little container in the freezer. Instead of pulling weeds, I cultivated the dandelions that grew in my yard. A flower here and there, maybe a half dozen plucked on a lucky day. For six months, I kept saving and saving until I had a quart of dandelion petals.

After steeping the petals, adding lemon juice and peels, yeast, sugar, and chardonnay, I had the beginnings of dandelion wine. A few weeks of fermentation later, the wine was poured into bottles and left in the back of the pantry to age. Every few months, I'd periodically rack the wine -- pouring it into a fresh bottle and leaving the yeasty residue behind. At six months fermentation I tasted a bit. Nope. At nine months, I uncorked it for my annual holiday party and it tasted slightly grassy, slightly sweet, very reminiscent of the bottle of dandelion wine from Hidden Legend Winery in Victor, Montana that I ordered as a taste comparison. Tasted again at the 10 month mark, chilled in the fridge, and the dandelion wine was even sweeter, pretty close to a moscato, which is my favorite wine.

Making dandelion wine wasn't difficult at all. It just required a lot of patience.