Friday, January 02, 2015

Mi Xao Toi Bo (Vietnamese Noodles with Garlic Butter) Maggi Seasoning Sauce

Mi Xao Toi Bo (Vietnamese Noodles with Garlic Butter) Maggi Seasoning Sauce 1

Shortly after getting back home, I was still thinking of the simple, but oh so good garlic noodles that I ate at Swamp - San Francisco. Years ago, when I first heard about Crustacean's garlic noodles, I quizzed my friend DP who had eaten there and asked her what she thought was in the dish. Garlic and butter were a given. The saltiness, could it be Maggi Seasoning Sauce, the not-so-secret favorite for Vietnamese kitchens? She said possibly, but it was creamy too, and suggested Parmesan cheese.

Since Crustacean is so expensive, I tried making a version at home and thought the garlic butter noodles were rather ho hum. But paired with Vietnamese Cajun seafood like I had at Swamp, or any other seafood dish with sauce, and the simple garlic butter noodles really shine through.

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.

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.