Monday, February 28, 2011

Red N Hot

37 Chalton Street

Red N Hot is a small chain of Szechuan restaurants that also has outposts in Manchester and Birmingham. Since there's one in London, P and I had to try it out to continue on our attempt to eat at as many Szechuan restaurants as possible. C joined us as well and we quickly dove in with "Cucumbers in Garlic Sauce", "Fire Exploded Kidney Flowers", their specialty dish of "Dry Fried Boneless Chicken Leg Marinated in Cumin & Dry Chilli" and some gai lan on the side, just to be healthy. The chicken was the star of the night - little chunks of dark meat, deep fried in a light batter with a good hit of cumin and fiery spice, and crunchy addictive peanuts mixed in. Chopsticks returned to this dish again and again, picking out everything aside from the red hot chillies. I'm sure I'll be back, once I'm satisfied that I've tried as many places that serve this cuisine as I can find.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Kimchi Jjigae

One of my favorite dishes when it's cold outside is fiery kimchi stew with cubes of tofu strewn throughout. While my rendition suffered a bit since I didn't have any silken tofu to hand and instead made do with firm tofu that had been frozen, giving it a chewy texture, it was still exactly what I wanted on a gray Sunday afternoon.

Kimchi Jjigae
Adapted from Serious Eats and Tamarind and Thyme

200g pork belly, thinly sliced
1 medium sized onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 loose cupful of kimchi, cut into bite-sized pieces and all the kimchi juices
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1 tablespoon shaoxing wine (or mirin)
2 tbsps gochujang
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 block of soft tofu (silken, if possible)
3 spring onions, chopped
salt to taste

Add pork belly to cold large dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Once fat starts to render off pork belly, add onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to soften, about 2 minutes. Add kimchi and garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add kimchi liquid, water, dried ginger, shaoxing wine, gochujang and soy sauce. Stir well, and bring to a boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to low, and simmer. Add tofu. Cook for 20 minutes, adjusting to keep to maintain simmer. Add salt to taste (you may not need any – I found mine fine as is) and throw in the spring onions at the end. Serve piping hot with white rice on the side. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Chinese No Clay Pot Chicken Casserole

While the highlight of Chinese New Year dinner was dumplings, I also tried a new dish that seemed to go over well. It's a quick and easy one - and feeds the masses - so I'd certainly recommend it for dinner parties if you want something tasty and comforting.

Chinese No Clay Pot Chicken Casserole
Adapted from The Kitchn
Serves 8


1/4 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch
450g boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 scallions, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve

1 handful coriander, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, roughly grated
2 ounces / 55g smoked sausage, such as Chinese lapchang or good Italian salami, cut into 1/4-inch cubes

300g fresh button mushrooms, caps thinly sliced
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and sliced into thin strips
1 tablespoon canola or peanut oil

3 cups Chinese long grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups chicken stock


Heat the oven to 350°F. Whisk together the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch in a medium bowl. Stir in the chicken, scallions, garlic and ginger, and toss so that they are coated with the liquid. Place this mixture in the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 15 minutes (I marinated them overnight) while you cook the mushrooms.

Place an oven-safe pan, like a 3-quart Dutch oven, over medium high heat on the stove. When it is hot, add the sausage and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let the sausage slowly release its fat. When the bottom of the pot is slick with the sausage fat, add the mushrooms. Turn the heat back up to medium high heat and let the mushrooms cook, without stirring them, for 5 minutes. Flip them over and cook for another 3 minutes.

Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pot, and sauté the rice briefly to develop some toasty flavor (you don’t want to brown the rice here, just sauté it for 1 minute or so), then add the salt and the chicken mixture from the fridge. Pour in the stock. Bring to a boil.

Turn off the heat, cover with a lid or with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Make sure to taste the rice for doneness before taking it out of the oven. I like my rice a little chewier; some might want it more cooked. Let stand 5 minutes, covered, before serving. Stir up the rice before serving, as the chicken and mushrooms will have risen to the top during baking. Stir thoroughly so that they are incorporated throughout the rice.

Garnish with chopped coriander and scallions and serve with extra soy sauce and chili garlic sauce, if desired.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Nian Gao

After my failure to make the nian gao of my childhood last year, I tried again this year. I think the baking dish shape made a difference, as the pan was too small last year so it took too long to cook all the way through. This time, the cake turned out perfectly, and I was actually excited to serve it to my friends so they could taste what it is supposed to taste like.

Nian Gao
Adapted from Frances Kai-Hwa Wang


450g glutinous rice flour
3/4 cup of vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs baking soda


Mix everything with an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Beat for 2 more minutes at high speed.

Oil or spray a 9"x13" baking dish with Pam. I used a nonstick baking pan that helped.

Pour batter into pan.

Bake in oven at 350F / 180C degrees for 40 minutes.

Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick—if it comes out clean, it is done.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Skylon Grill

Royal Festival Hall
Belvedere Road

January is great for eating out at bargain prices - P found a deal at Skylon Grill for 2 courses and a glass of wine for £15. It occupies a great location on the Southbank with huge windows overlooking the Thames. We settled in and opted for glasses of South African red. I chose the chickpea and goat's cheese salad with lemon dressing for my starter, while P had the pumpkin soup. While the picture of my salad is terrible, it was a refreshing mix of flavors and perfectly dressed with the tart vinaigrette. We both chose the confit duck leg with parmesan polenta and red wine jus for mains, and the duck was tender and crispy, just as it should be. The bed of polenta soaked up all the ducky juices and we both cleaned our plates. We were too full to go for a third course, which shows how generous the portions are. I think Skylon Grill runs special menus pretty often so it can be a fantastic place to have a special meal with a view at a very reasonable price.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


The Depot

After drinking far too much wine and Bailey's the night before, we met up with R & S for some rejuvenating breakfast at Bill's. I went straight for the bubble and squeak, on M's recommendation, and it was indeed scrumptious, though the extra addition of hollandaise sauce would probably be overkill on another not-so-hungover morning. I do love the fresh herb garnishes that Bill's uses on various dishes, but I'm still wedded to my bubble and squeak at Banners - no one has managed to top them yet!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Quinoa and Red Lentil Stew

A trip back to Austin meant that I came back with some odd food supplies in my suitcase, including quinoa. Seeing as how January always inspires me to try and eat a bit healthier, this recipe seemed perfect, especially when I found a half-empty bag of red lentils in the back of our cupboards. Since I wanted to finish the bag, I added more than the recipe calls for, but it gave the stew a nice body and texture - I've put the amount that I used in the recipe below since I liked it. This stew just gets better as it gets older - the flavors keep mingling and A was pleasantly surprised by how much he enjoyed this as leftovers.

Quinoa and Lentil Stew
Adapted from
Quinoa 365: The Everyday Superfood
Serves 4


2 Tbs. olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. chili flakes
1 Tbs. tomato paste
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup red lentils
5 cups vegetable stock (I used some pork stock)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh coriander
sea salt and black pepper, to taste


1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Add the onion and garlic and cook gently for several minutes, until translucent. Stir in the spices, tomato paste and then the carrots, and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

2. Add the quinoa, lentils and vegetable stock, and bring to the boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes, until quinoa and lentils are tender. Add the chopped bell pepper and simmer, uncovered, for another 5 minutes.

3. Remove stew from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and chopped coriander. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then season to taste and serve.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Hotel Chocolat Valentine's Collection

Valentine's Day and chocolates go hand in hand. It's the quintessential Valentine's gift, and guaranteed to please (unless your partner is one of the two people I know that don't like chocolate, in my not-very-scientific poll of my friends). Hotel Chocolat was kind enough to send me the Be Mine Concierge Gift Bag, packed full of goodies of varying kinds. Since my own Valentine and I were not quite ready to eat everything inside for fear of going into sugar shock, we shared with a couple of other friends. I was pleasantly surprised by the Love Me Do Dark Truffles, as I usually don't like white chocolate, but in this case the white chocolate shell was a lovely counterpoint to the decadently smooth dark chocolate truffle filling. These were promptly scarfed by our guests. We also thought the packaging was great, as the bag had a clever little card tucked into a discreet envelope on the outside of the bag - you won't even need to buy a separate cheesy card (unless you want to, of course). I like the quality of the chocolate that Hotel Chocolat uses, which is why I'm always excited to see a box of their sweets. Go on now, treat someone you love!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Harold's Chicken Shack #62

636 S. Wabash Ave.

Chicago, IL 60605

Harold's Chicken Shack #62 is part of a chain of many Harold's Chicken Shacks all over Chicago. This one happened to be on my walk home from where I was working, and I saw that perch was included in the list of foods sold on the awning. Lake perch is a specialty in the Great Lakes area, so I decided to treat myself to a little snack. I ordered a piece, and they're freshly fried to order so I had to wait for a few minutes before it was ready. I was offered hot sauce to go with it, so I dipped a couple of pieces in, but I think it was so tasty on its own that the hot sauce was unnecessary. The lake perch was moist and the breading seemed like a light cornmeal crust - a nice crisp crunch that gave way to the fresh, flaky fish. I wish I had more time to try other things - I noticed fried gizzards on the menu as well - but alas, I couldn't stay. Next time I see one of these places, I'll be in to try more.