Sunday, February 09, 2014

TSON YEOU BIEN - Chinese Green Onion Pancake

Every country around the world has some sort of pancakes served with meal of the day.  This one is Chinese pancake that are served usually with lunch or supper.  It's main ingredient is the chopped fresh green onions.  I was not a great fan of green onions when I was young.  They tasted like soap in my mouth.  I ate them only when they are pre-stir fried.  As I grew older, that raw soapy taste has disappeared, and I enjoy eating green onions on top of UDON or as stir fried green onion dish by itself.
There are two way to mix to make this dough.  One way is to use boiling water.   Then, there is using the room temperature water.  For this one, I am testing with the boiling water.  All purpose of using the boiling water is to make a pancake that is crispy outside and soft center.   When I made this for the first time back in Viet-Nam, I didn't really recall so many steps to make this pancake.  It turned out delicious just the same.  But for the curiosity sake, lets see the result of all methods.   I think it's in the technique of folding and rolling that creates the layers like in the puff pastry.   We'll see.     
Method 1 - using boiling water plus shortening in the dough
2 C flour
Boiling water - after the bubbling have subsided  - start with 1 C
1/4 C solid vegetable oil or rendered pork fat (lard) or butter
a bunch of green onions - chopped well - will produce about 1-1/2 C to 2 C
Sesame seed oil  - about 1/4 C
Cooking oil - 1/4 C to 1/2 C

 Mix flour with 1/4 C solid vegetable oil until crumbly.
Add at least 10 Tablespoon of boiled water to start off to mix the flour.
(You can use the mixer with dough hook to knead the dough as well.)
It should form a shaggy dough.  Add some more water or flour, if needed.
The mixture should come together after 3 minutes of kneading.  Remove from the mixer, if used. or from the bowl to a work surface and knead into a ball. The dough will look rough at this point.   Cover and rest for 10 min.
(Repeat three times)  Unwrap and with hands, turn/knead the dough a few times.  You will notice the dough becomes supple and smooth right away at each turn.   Form into ball and rest again for 10 minutes.  You can get away with just two resting period and if the dough is supple and smooth after the second turn.   
 Divide the dough into 4  portions - depending on the diameter you desire.  Roll out the first one into round disc, about 1/4+ inch thick.  Cover it with saran wrap while you complete the other.
Take the first dough and roll into 10 inch diam. disc.  Smear the dough with 1 tsp of sesame oil.
Sprinkle 1/8 tsp of salt and smear into the oil on top to spread around the disc.
Spread chopped onions.

Roll the dough into cigar shape, then, roll the ends on top of each other.

Twist one end on top of the other end.
Wrap in saran wrap to rest for 10 min. before rolling into the final pancake form.
Remove from the plastic wrap.  Push down with the palm of your hand first, then, with the rolling pin, roll out into a disc - about 1/4 inch thick.  Set aside and roll out the rest.  For more layers, repeat the folding, rest, and roll out again.
Heat the skillet.
Add 2 Tbsp oil.
Place the first pancake in.   Cover with lid.   (Steam helps to cook and form separate layers ... like in puff pastry in the oven.)
Fry at Medium low heat. - 6 min. or till beautiful brown.
Turn it over.   Fry without cover  4 min. or till beautiful brown.
Cut with pizza slicer or knife.
 As expected, the pancake turned out crispy crust with flavorful green onions enclosed in soft body.   It turned out with an expected texture of the Chinese fried dumpling skin.

Serve with meal.

Dipping sauce, if desired.   Mix the following together.
1/4 C soy sauce, low salt
1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar to taste and add more, if needed.

As you gain experience, all this resting the dough before each turn and so forth will become natural and effortless to make this flavorful pancake.   You will recognized if the dough is ready with two turns and rests or with one turn.  Enjoy!
On with some more testing - multi-folding with sesame oil between each layer;  without the shortening mixed in the flour; make with room temperature water.  ... I think the secret is in the folding.

Fresh Crab Feast at Home

January was a perfect month clear and sunny month that brought perfect fresh load of live crabs at the local Asian markets.  For the great birthday feast, it was a perfect choice for the menu.  But how many crabs for eight guests?  2 crabs per person.  Total of 16 crabs.  And a good size gigantic crabs!  
There are a few basic recipes on how to prepare and cook crab.  You often see the most straight forward way presented by many great chefs and at the fishermen's wharf.  Bring a large kettle pot of water to a full boil and dunk the live crab right into it is one of the popular ways.  Our way is bit more detailed because we like to wash and clean the crab before steaming them or even to stir fry them?

16 large dungeness crabs with great pincher sizes
5 large fresh ginger nodes, cut into threads about 2 inches long
Soy sauce
Japanese Rice Vinegar

Tools:  sturdy wooden chop sticks and kitchen mallet.   Kitchen brush to wash crab shells, Chinese steamer.
And a Lots of Appreciation and respect for the crabs that you are about to prepare and partake in.

Pick up the live crab carefully at the end with pinchers away from you.  Back in the old days, the live crabs' pinchers are rubber banded or tied up, but now a day, it's skipped.  
Place the crab in a sanitized sink on its back.  Open the tail end flap and insert the sturdy wooden chop stick and tap it down with the kitchen mallet.  Wait a moment for it to stop moving.
The other way is to insert the chop stick through the mouth and wait a couple of minutes.

Start scrubbing and washing the exterior of the crab under running water.

Place one thumb near its head shell armor and the other hand's thumb near its mouth.  Use a force and separate the shell armor away from the body.  The interior is exposed.

Remove all the lung filaments.

While you are preparing the rest of the crab, start boiling the water in the steamer's pot.

Place the cleaned crabs in the steamer racks.

Cover with lid and start steaming for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on numbers of crabs in the steamer racks.  

Mix soy sauce, rice vinegar together.  Add sugar to taste till it is just right.  Mix well.   Otherwise, add no sugar and use Japanese seasoned vinegar that is already sweetened.  Add gingers that are cut into threads.
Serve and Enjoy!  Beats the cost of paying for 16 fresh Dungeness crabs.
Crabs prepared this way taste very fresh and better tasting meat as there are no muddled boiling water that is cooking the crabs and also sanitizing the crabs in the same pot.  But, every one has their preferred techniques.  Just go for it!

My Grand-daughter's Gymnastic Achievement Cake

I made this cake for my grand-daughter who worked very hard for her very first gymnastic achievement presentation a few weeks ago.
Cake is made of Chiffon Pandan Coconut and gymnasts are made of fondant standing on KitKat chocolate bar.
 Prepare Chiffon cakes as usual.  I made double batch using my commercial mixer
 Here is another tip that I promised before.  Yes, Aluminum chiffon cake pan works best.  If you are using the non-stick dark chiffon cake mold to bake, be sure to turn the heat down from 325 to 310 or 300 to make sure that it is not over baked or shorten the baking time.
 After cooling, remove the cake out of the mold using sharp knife to gently separating the cake from the mold.   Try to slice down in single motion if you want to keep the nice brown crumbs intact all around the cake.

 Make Chocolate ganache.  Or make your favorite frosting.
 Prepare the center filling.  This one has sliced banana - sprinkled with "FruitFresh" ascorbic acid powder to keep banana from browning.  And covered with fresh whip cream.
 Lift up the top half of the cake when the ganache is all set/firm.

 Set the top cake.  *It was a bit challenging.   The cake of course would not slide off.  Maybe the trick would have been to cover the cake spatula with powder sugar?   I used a long frosting spatula to lift and slide it to top the bottom cake.   Luckily it transferred smoothly.

 Since the cake has to be transported up the hill from where I live to Placerville.  To avoid cake slide during the driving, I decided to insert  bamboo skewers to hold the cake in place.
Upon arrival at the location, I placed the KitKat chocolate bar and inserted the fondant gymnast figurines on top by sticking toothpick thru them.