How Tao Cleans/Peels Shrimp

Peeling and deveining shrimp can be a time consuming task so here are a few tips that will help the process be a little less painful.

1. First, I remove the legs. I pinch the legs and then pull/rip them off by pulling to the side.

2. Next, I remove the shell. Sometimes when pulling off the legs, the shell will begin to peel off. Other times, I just split the shell along the leg-side and then peel off the shell. To remove the tail shell, I split the last segment, on the leg-side…

peel it back and pull off the tail shell by pinching the tip. It’s important to pull from the very very tip of the tail shell so none of the meat is pinched, otherwise I’d just rip off the tail meat with the shell.

Pulling off the tail shell, I now have a shell-less shrimp. There isn’t a lot of meat in the tail, so if you rip off the meat with the tail shell, don’t worry about it.

3. Devein the shrimp with a toothpick. Yes, a toothpick! I picked up this technique from Ellen’s grandma (popo). It starts with sticking the toothpick through the body, from one side to the other, making sure that the toothpick lies below the vien. Then I pull the toothpick out through the shrimp’s back-side.

By pulling out the toothpick, some of the vein will also come out. I pinch the vein against the toothpick with my fingers and then continue to pull the entire vein out. If the vein breaks, I just re-insert the toothpick under the vein and pull it out again.

When I learned how to devein shrimp with a toothpick, it was with live shrimp! I don’t mean freshly killed, I mean alive and still moving with a shell on. How? Well, the cool thing about the toothpick method is that it can also be done without removing the shell. The shell is segmented, meaning there are gaps between the segments through which a toothpick can be used to pull out the vein. Deveining live shrimp is not for the fainthearted, though. You have been warned.

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Loofah Squash [Si Gua] (絲瓜)

My grandma introduced me to this vegetable when I went to Taiwan one year… and if you were wondering, it really is the same loofah that you use to scrub your back in the shower! But it tastes delicious and is a great light vegetable to eat. So easy to make too…

Ingredients:
2 loofah squash
quarter of a white onion, diced
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbsp vegetable oil
sigua loofah squash chicken broth

1. Use a peeler and peel the skin.
peel sigua loofah squash

2. Coarsely slice the loofah. Don’t slice too thin otherwise the squash will just melt when it is cooked.
cut sigua loofah squash cut sigua loofah squash

3. Dice onion to add some flavor
cut onion

4. Add oil, let heat up, and add onions. Cook 2-3 minutes until onion starts to yellow/brown.
oil saute onions

5. Add the loofah squash to the pan and saute on medium high heat. When the pan has heat up again, add the chicken broth.
saute squash

6. Cook the squash for ~5 minutes until broth has evaporated. Continue to stir until the squash is soft (but still a little crisp).
saute squash saute squash

7. Season with salt to taste. Take off heat and plate.
saute squash saute squash

Enjoy!!
saute squash

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Chinese vegetable: On-Choy, 空心菜

My favorite vegetable is the Chinese dish 空心菜 (pinyin: kong xin cai) or in Cantonese, On-Choy. The literal translation is hollow heart vegetable. It totally makes sense once you take a look at the green stems…which are hollow on the inside! I always ask for this dish in any Chinese restaurant- even if its not on the menu because it is often a specialty dish. If you try it you might even impress the waitstaff with your Chinese vegetable knowledge.

You used to only be able to find this vegetable at the Chinese markets (i.e. Ranch 99, or Chinatown). However, this vegetable has been making a more mainstream appearance… you can now find it at Berkeley Bowl, although you probably won’t find it at a Safeway.

Chinese vegetables are so easy to cook- just stir-fry! If you recall our earlier post on Basics of stir-fry: baby bok choy, you will see a similar recipe below.

Ingredients:

One bunch On-Choy/空心菜
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped (feel free to use more.. we love garlic around here!)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
salt to taste

Directions:

1. Take the vegetable and unbundle it. Cut about 1/2 inch-1 inch off the stems and discard.

2. Next separate the leaves from the stem. Just gently snap off the leaves and separate from the stems and put into separate bowls. (I like to do this because the leaves cook so much faster than the stems, so starting with the stems will keep your leaves tender and not overcooked). Wash the leaves and stems thoroughly and dry. (Sometimes I lay them out on a paper towel to dry. This is so that when you toss in the vegetables later you do not get crazy oil splatter from the water)

3. Add oil to a pan, add garlic and turn to high heat.

4. When you hear the garlic start to sizzle, add the stems. (Be careful of oil splatter if the stems have any excess water). Cook for ~2-3 minutes or until the stems start to get soft, but not fully cooked (taste one to try).

5. Add in the leaves to the pan and slowly mix as the greens cook. Don’t worry- they shrink A LOT!  Cook another 2-3 minutes until greens are just tender. Add salt to taste.
Note: Another variation I like is instead of salt to use 豆腐乳(fermented tofu). Thoroughly mix 1-2 cubes with some water in a separate bowl and add in pan in lieu of salt.

6. Take vegetables out of the pan immediately otherwise they will continue to cook and get tough. Even if you take them out onto a plate, they will still cook a little. Enjoy!

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Chicken and Dumplings

I swear in my last life I was probably from the South… I love all comfort foods! Chicken pie, meatloaf, fried chicken and… chicken and dumplings! We recently purchased a new cook book from America’s Test Kitchen and I must say that it has not yet disappointed us.

To my delight, I saw a recipe for chicken and dumplings and I decided that that would be the first recipe for me to try out… I have to warn you that the recipes are pretty long and labor intensive, but totally worth it.  I’ve also found the recipe at the Cook’s Illustrated site here. Also, you will be able to see my substitutions when I made the dish in [brackets]. I recommend sticking as close as you can to the original recipe.

Ingredients:
Note: This recipe uses a dutch oven to cook, but I don’t have one so I used a regular pot (not non-stick) and it worked just fine.

Ingredients for stew:
Note: Don’t use low-fat or fat-free milk in this recipe.
chicken and dumpling ingredients

carrots onion celery

5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs [I used ~ 2 lbs skinless chicken thighs here, but used chicken breasts before too]
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
4 carrots , peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 ribs celery , sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large onion , minced
6 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry sherry
4 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1 cup frozen green peas
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves [I had no fresh parsley handy, so used cilantro. I reckon 1/2 tbs dried parsley would work too...]

Ingredients for dumplings
Note: Don’t use low-fat or fat-free milk in this recipe. Start the dumpling dough only when you’re ready to top the stew with the dumplings.
dumpling ingredients
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons reserved chicken fat (or unsalted butter)

Instructions:

1. For the Stew: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper.
season chicken

2. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add half of the chicken and cook until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and remove the browned skin. Pour off the chicken fat and reserve. Return the pot to medium-high heat and repeat with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken. Pour off and reserve any chicken fat.

3. Add the butter to the Dutch oven and melt over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook until softened, about 7 minutes.
saute vegetables

4. Stir in the flour. Whisk in the sherry, scraping up any browned bits.
add flour add flour and mix

5. Stir in the broth, milk, thyme, and bay leaves.
parsley and bay leaves

6. Nestle the chicken, with any accumulated juices, into the pot. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked and tender, about 1 hour.
add chicken

7. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Discard the bay leaves. Allow the sauce to settle for a few minutes, then skim the fat from the surface using a wide spoon. [While the chicken is cooling, make the dumplings. Letting the chicken cool will help when we shred it later]
cooled chicken

8. For the Dumplings: Stir the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Microwave the milk and fat in a microwave-safe bowl on high until just warm (do not over-heat), about 1 minute.
mix dry ingredients milk and reserved broth

9. Stir the warmed milk mixture into the flour mixture with a wooden spoon until incorporated and smooth.
add wet to dry mix dumpling ingredients

10. Shred the chicken, discarding the bones, then return it to the stew.shred chicken

11. Return the stew to a simmer, stir in the peas and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.
pot

12. Following the photos below, drop golf-ball-sized dumplings over the top of the stew, about 1/4 inch apart (you should have about 18 dumplings). Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until the dumplings have doubled in size, 15 to 18 minutes. [I used a small baking scoop to size and drop the dumplings in]
scoop dumplings cook dumplings

serve dumplings

13. Serve and enjoy…
serve dumplings

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How to Poach Eggs

Oh silly me.  I thought poached eggs were so difficult to do and only good for eggs benedict.  But I have quickly learned that poached eggs are so simple to make and oh so healthy because there is no oil involved.  Oh, and yet again there is a secret ingredient that makes it all work… vinegar! Oh you’ll never go back to cooking eggs with oil!

Ingredients:
2 eggs (try to let sit to room temp)
1 tbsp white vinegar

vinegar

Directions:
1. Use a shallow pan and fill with enough water to barely cover the eggs (about 2 in high). Turn on stove to medium heat and heat water. When the water begins to slightly bubble and has a sheen to it, add in the vinegar. Make sure the water does not BOIL. It will destroy the egg and you will have egg drop soup instead.

heating water heating water to a sheen

3. Carefully crack and gently add in the eggs, using the side of the pan to slide it in. If you are not sure of yourself, you can first crack the eggs into a cup and use the cups to pour the eggs into the pan. You can cook up to 4 eggs at one time, but I’d only do two at a time. If the top of the egg is not submerged in the water, just use a spoon to gently pour some water over the top of the eggs to help set the tops.

For poached eggs with set whites and warm yolks, cook room temperature eggs 2 minutes, chilled eggs 3 minutes. For set yolks cook 2 minutes longer.

cooking egg

4. Use a slotted spatula to gently remove the egg from the pan so that the water drains. You can put the eggs on a kitchen towel or paper towel to remove the excess water. Serve egg however you would like-

Add them for eggs benedict…
cooking egg serve egg

…with toast
serve egg

…with soy sauce chicken
serve egg

…the possibilities are endless.. enjoy!

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Chives, Tofu and Pork Stir Fry (韭菜豆干肉絲)

This is a quick and easy stir fry dish with very few ingredients and makes for a quick meal. Every time I go to a Chinese restaurant I love ordering a dish similar to this. I love the combination of chives, tofu and pork. Yum. So here is my interpretation of the dish. The measurements are estimates…

Ingredients:
1 bunch chives, washed and chopped
1 package tofu curd, sliced
1/2 lb pork loin (~3-4 pieces) , cut into strips, marinated (see recipe below)
4 tbsp hoisin sauce (add more to taste)
1 tbsp diced garlic(optional, I just had some lying around)
2 tbsp oil

chives tofu pork ingredients chives
tofu pork

Ingredients- Meat marinade:
2 tbs light soy sauce
3 tbs chinese cooking wine
1 tsp sugar
2-3 tsp cornstarch and mix well.
marinade ingredients

marinade pork mix marinade pork

Directions:
1. Add oil and garlic to pan on high heat. When the garlic begins to turn brown, add in the pork.
add oil add pork

2. Let the pork cook. When there is almost no pink left (~4-5 min) , add the hoisin sauce directly to the pork and mix.
cook pork add hoisin

3. Add the sliced bean curd to the pan and mix. Let cook for ~2-3 minutes or until bean curd is soft.
cadd tofu cook tofu

4. Add the diced chives and mix. Let cook about ~2-3 minutes.
add chives cook chives

5. Taste the stir fry. If there is not enough flavor, add more hoisin. If it is not salty enough, add more salt. Then EAT! Serve with rice.
serve dish

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Caprese Salad

I love ordering caprese salad when I’m eating at Italian restaurants… but I always felt a tinge of guilt that I was overpaying what I was actually getting. So of course my next mission was to recreate the caprese salad. This didn’t take much since there are only 4 ingredients! When you have so few ingredients, the quality of the ingredients becomes extremely important. So go for quality when you shop!

Ingredients:

3 ripe tomatoes (you can use vine ripe or roma), diced into 1/4 inch slices
1 bunch of fresh basil
Fresh mozzarella cheese (about 1 lb) [I've shown two types I like to use.. the fresher the better!], diced into 1/4 inch slices
extra virgin olive oil (“EVOO”)
balsamic vinegar (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

basil and tomatoes olive oil and balsamic
mozzarella cheese mozzarella cheese

Directions:
1. Place the tomato slices on a shallow plate, layer the mozzarella cheese on, and the basil leaves. I like to coarsely chop the basil leaves. (There really is no rule to which goes first.. as you can see I placed the cheese first and then tomatoes on top. It just depends on the sizes. Just remember big on bottom and smaller on top. )
2. Drizzle with EVOO, and a little balsamic if you like the taste.
3. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Enjoy homemade fresh caprese salad!

caprese salad

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Soy Sauce Chicken (or Brown Chicken) and Eggs

This is a childhood favorite of mine. Sometimes I make it with eggs, other times without eggs, or even eggs only.

Ingredients:
1 cup wine
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 cups water
sugar
ginger
2 lbs chicken (6-8 drumsticks)
4-6 eggs (optional)

Directions:

1. Place 2 lbs of chicken drumsticks into a stock pot.

2. Cut some ginger, and add it to the stock pot along with one cup wine, half-cup soy sauce, two cups water and a little sugar.

3. Bring the soy sauce chicken to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. If you are adding eggs, start water boiling in a separate pot.


4. Once the egg water is boiling, add the eggs.

5.  After boiling the eggs for 15-20 minutes, peel them and poke about 20 holes all over the egg, using a toothpick. The holes should go deep into the yolk to help flavor get in. If you are gentle, the holes will not be very visible.

6. Add the eggs to the soy sauce chicken. Everything is cooked now, but still needs to simmer for the flavor to develop.  Be sure and check the level of liquid and add water to maintain it. At this point, you will most likely need to add 1/2 to 1 cup of water. I recommend simmering for at least another 30-45 minutes, but I like to do a few hours when I have the time. If you eat some early, you can always simmer the rest tomorrow.

7.  Before serving, taste the broth. If it’s on the salty side, add some water and re-heat. Serve over rice or noodles, with some of the broth and top with a vegetable.

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