Monday, February 23, 2015

February 23, 2015: Happy CNY Chicken Lettuce Cups

Happy Chinese New Year (CNY)!

Actually, the new year started February 19th, but celebrations usually last a couple weeks.
From what I do remember, the first few days are celebrated with immediate family.  Afterwards, the extended family is invited over for dinner so family ties can be renewed.

Symbolic foods are important to bring good luck and prosperity for the up and coming year.

Today's dish is chicken lettuce cups made with some good luck ingredients.

Bamboo shoots for a fresh start for the new year
Carrots for good luck
Lettuce brings prosperity
Mushrooms give longevity and opportunity
Water chestnuts creates unity

A traditional lettuce cup would be made with dried oysters (symbolic of good fortune)
See my previous post:

This chicken version is easier to make and the ingredient can be easily found at most local supermarket.
I used chicken thighs but a chicken breast is a good alternative.  Chicken breast are easier to clean too. 

Chicken Lettuce Cups

 4 Chicken Thighs (about 1.25 lbs) - deboned, cut into 1/4" cubes (approximately)
1 T Soy Sauce
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1.5 t Cornstarch

1) Mix chicken, soy sauce, garlic and cornstarch together and let marinade for about 30 minutes.

Veggies (The Good Luck Ingredients)
1 - 8 oz can of water chestnuts, chopped about 1/4" dice
1 - 8 oz can of bamboo shoots, cut into 1/4" pieces
5 Dried Shiitake, rehydrate in warm water for 15 minutes, cut into small pieces
1 C Fresh Mushroom, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/4 C Carrots, 1/4" dice
3 Green Onions, chopped into 1/4" dice
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 T Oil for cooking

Stir Fry Sauce - Mix the following ingredients in a bowl for later.
2 T Oyster Sauce
2 T Hoisin Sauce
2 T Sherry or Rice Wine
1 T Soy Sauce
2 t Toasted Sesame Oil
1.5 t Cornstarch
1 t  Sugar

This recipes uses a two-step approach where the chicken is cooked for a few minutes and saved in a bowl.  The veggies are cooked next for a few minutes and the chicken is added back in to finish the cooking process.

1) Heat a pan on medium-high with 1 T.  When the pan is hot, add the chicken and cook about 3 to 4 minutes.  This gets the chicken cooked about 80%. Pour the chicken onto a separate bowl.

First, partially cooking the chicken.

2) Add the other T of oil to the pan.  When hot, add the fresh veggies - carrots, mushrooms and garlic.  Stir fry for about 3 minutes.

Cooking the fresh veggies first.

3) Add the bamboo shoots and water chestnuts and allow to cook for about a minute

4) Add the chicken (and the juices) back into the pan with the veggies.

5) Cover and let steam for about 3 minutes (to finish cooking the chicken).

6) Add the green onions and the stir fry sauce.  Cook another minute or two.

7) Serve with lettuce cups.  Fill lettuce like you would a taco.

Optional: Add extra Hoisin sauce to the lettuce cup or some Sriracha sauce.  Also, can garnish with fresh minced green onions or a few sprigs of cilantro. Can be served with white rice too.

The finished lettuce cups (aka lettuce tacos).

Friday, February 20, 2015

February 20, 2015: Easy Oscar Party Appetizer - Pigs in a Blanket

The Academy Awards are just around the corner.  That means people are gearing up for an Oscar party!
Here's an appetizer that's easy to make and requires only two ingredients, plus dipping sauces if you like.

Easy Pigs in a Blanket
1 - 8 oz can of refrigerated crescent dinner rolls (e.g. Pillsbury)
1 - 13 oz package of mini-size smoked link sausages (e.g. Little Smokies)

The sausages are cooked so you're just cooking the crescent roll. 

My YouTube Video: Channel eat4f1 

1) Separate the crescent rolls into triangles (usually 8 per tube).  Cut each triangle into thirds.
2) Roll the dough around the sausage - starting at the wide end and working towards the narrow end.

3) Depending upon the website
Pillsbury recommends baking 375F for 12 to 15 minutes while Hilshire Farms recommends 400F for 9 to 10 minutes.  I tried both temperatures and both worked.

The key is to bake until golden brown which worked out to 375F for 13 minutes and 400 F for 11 minutes.

Finished results  - Golden brown top and bottom.

Can be eaten as is or with a dipping sauce, such as, ketchup, mustard, ranch dressing or blue cheese dressing.  No rules here.  It's a party!  Par-tay!

Monday, February 16, 2015

February 16, 2015: Kagamigahara, Japan - Ru Ri Iro

Ru Ri Iro is a Japanese restaurant that serves combination lunches.  Here in Japan , the combo meals are often called, "Sets". 

A typical Set - Rice, miso soup, pickled veggie, a side dish and the entree.

This entree consisted of two perfectly fried shrimp (cruncy and not greasy) and a croquette.  I don't remember if it was potato or a seafood/crab croquette, but I would guess potato.  A little side salad and tartar sauce.

Another day another special Set.
Rice and miso soup again, side dish of squash and a little pickled veg.  Again two perfectly fried shrimp and a maguro (tuna) burger patty.  Surprisingly, the patty tasted beefy with a very slight tuna finish.  However, I would have guessed it was a beef patty if I didn't hear the description, "maguro hambugro".  The only two words that made sense to me in the whole ordering process.  All my years of eating in Japanese-American restaurants finally paid off.  lol.
The custard dish is Chawanmushi - a savory egg custard dish.

I don't know if this is part of the meal or the owner was being nice to our group, but our meal came with green tea ice cream topped with a little sweetened red beans, but it was a nice way to finish the meal.
Nap, Nap Time. 

Ru Ri Iro - location shown on the map below.  From a coworker, at night this place becomes a Izakayu.  A bar that serves small dishes.

A picture worth a bunch of words.  How it looks from the outside.  Note the distinctive wooden triangular sign.

Friday, February 13, 2015

February 13, 2014: Kagamigahara, Japan - Shige Ramen

While in Japan, ramen is a must try.  I'm not talking about the instant ramen where you add hot water to a cup, but ramen where the broth is made from scratch and the ingredients are fresh.  No freeze dried carrots or freeze dried meat bits here.

A local lunch spot is Shige (phonetically it sounds like "she-gay". That's how it sounds to my American ear.).

There are actually two Shige's across the street from one another.  According to the locals, Shige-the restaurant is owned by the Dad while the son opened up Shige-the ramen joint.

Also, according to the locals, the restaurant is a Chinese restaurant.
What?!?!?  My gaijin American mind is thinking - there's no General Tso's,  Sweet and Sour Chicken or Family Dinner #3.  I guess Shige the restaurant ain't know Panda Express knock-off.

Back to the ramen..
There are two options.  The most popular amounst us is the Chili Noodle.The other option is the Shoyu Noodle.

Chili Ramen - Rich, thick hearty spicy broth.  Pork and sesame paste (Guessing it's sesame paste based upon the jars next to the wok. Laden with bean sprouts, little bits of ground meat and topped minced green onions and blackened garlic oil (?).

The wheat noodles that are thick like spaghetti.

Searching the web for ramen broth with sesame paste, I find a reference to Tantanmen.  Which is a ramen version of Dan Dan Noodles - a spicy Szechuan spicy noodle dish.

Is this ramen shop showing it's Chinese heritage?

Besides ramen, there's gyoza and kari-age (fried chicken).  There's a larger menu which I can't read so I stick to the Set lunches.

Set A - Ramen (Chili Noodle) with a stir-fried side dish (that varies daily).  Today's dish is stir-fried eggplant with minced pork.

Set B - Chili Noodle, rice and fried chicken (Kari-age).  Delicious fried chicken that's not greasy at all.
A little salt-pepper powder for the chicken - The Magic Dust. The little salad is has a slightly sweet sesame dressing that's a nice foil to the spicy broth and chicken.

Freshly made gyoza - fried dumplings.  Can't go wrong with these little bundles of joy.

The sprog making dumplings.

Shige senior's is on the left while Shige junior's is on the right.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

February 10, 2015: Nagoya, Japan - Yamachan

Due to added responsibilities at work, I've been slacking off on my blog for a couple years.

On the upside, I've been fortunate enough to travel to Nagoya, Japan.

Bright Lights! Big City!

Strange and exotic food?

From what I've learned, different regions in Japan have their local food specialties. In Nagoya, chicken and miso are the local specialties foods.

Imagine eating locally sourced foods in the U.S.  The buzzword "locally sourced"  usually means the restaurant is hip and trendy, often charging a premium for dishes that usually focus around beets, but that's a rant for another post.

One of the first places we've dined at was a local chicken wing chain named, "Yamachan". They are famous for their Tebasaki Chicken wings.

These deceptively simple looking chicken wings are not sauced and are not battered nor floured before frying. Yet, the wings are crispy. The main flavor that hits you is salt and pepper (mainly white pepper?) with a very faint hint of sugar.  No heavy dose of garlic, soy or teriyaki sauce.  Just chicken, salt and pepper.

Simple yet addicting.

The instructions on the back of the chopstick pouch imply you only eat the second joint.  I do find the wing tip has an irresistible layer of crispy, salty skin bits.

Red Miso covered MM skewers.  (MM = Mystery Meat which was chicken.) What surprised me was how sweet the miso was.  I was expecting a salty coating, like the miso used in soup, but the coating was sweet and molasses tasting.

Kimchi fried rice is a nice side dish. Slightly tart from the fermented kimchi and peppy from the red pepper. The kimchi is rather mild compared to well aged Korean kimchi.

The logo is a dude in a chicken suit flashing a peace sign.

There are many locations throughout Nagoya.  This one is across the street from the Hilton.

Store front

Saturday, February 7, 2015

February 7th, 2015: because it's fun... Pizza Tossing Practice

When someone tells you, "Don't play with your food."
Your reply should be at least, "No! I'm having too much fun!"

Optional: "Special" words can be added to your response to place more emphasis on the "None of your foshizzle business" meaning of your reply.

Uploaded to YouTube a couple years ago, but forgot to publicly share. 
Ah, Technology.  Friend or Foe? Discuss.

A little two second video created to pull stills for a pizza making post.

Videos were a nice work around to find the perfect image instead of trying to time shutter for the perfect shot. 

For example, below, pizza is stretched out nicely and I'm not in the picture. Perfect!

BTW... The pizza turned out nicely with a thin, light crispy crust.
Original recipe and post can be found here:

For thicker more bready crust, I suggest using less water.  Baker's ratios future blog topic.

For now, just go out there and have fun!