Pescatarian/Gluten-Free Daikon Cakes

Daikon Cakes with Soy SauceDaikon or radish cakes are often a favorite at dim sum. My old co-worker J loved them so much that he categorically denied the existence of pork in them. The first time we went to dim sum together he tried to order them and I asked “I thought you didn’t eat pork?” He muttered something in response that indicated he had no idea there was pork, in the form of Chinese sausage or ham in them. The next time we were at dim sum we had a large group and everyone had been laughing as I helped J sort out what had pork in it–virtually everything but the chicken feet! He started to reach for the daikon cakes, but (in retrospect, I probably should have looked the other way) I reminded him there was pork. He looked crestfallen. Clearly, in his mind, these were pork free. Well, here’s for you, J, a pork free version of daikon cakes!

As I told Kay, the owner of the amazing Crow’s Wing Spa about these, she pointed out that they are also an excellent naturally gluten-free dim sum treat! As a committed omnivore in every sense of the word, I rarely cook things that fit dietary needs, so I was proud that this one catered to the needs of two very wonderful people I know!

What really inspired these though is my P-patch. In that I have only successfully grown my two kinds of radish (daikon and French breakfast). And exactly two peas. They were two very tasty peas though. And I’ve got radishes coming out my ears. So I decided to create the single furthest thing from a radish I could make from a radish: dim sum radish cakes! Using shiitake mushrooms and vegetable oil in place of the ham actually worked perfectly, so it became pescatarian–still need the shrimp paste to make it delicious!

Daikon Cakes

This takes a lot of time to make, but is great for making in large batches and storing for quick, fast meals. Plan to start in the evening and you’ll be ready for breakfast the next day!

Ingredients: 

2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 tablespoon Shrimp Paste, You can either use shrimp paste (as I did) or soaked, dried and chopped dried shrimp
1 pound Daikon Radish, grated (you can do this with a cuisinart if you want)
10 Dried Shittake Mushrooms, Soak in hot water for 15 minutes, discard stems, chop into small (pill sized) pieces
1 1⁄2 cups Rice Flour
1 cup Water
Salt & Pepper, Add to taste
Red Pepper, Add to taste
Vegetable Oil Cooking Spray
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil

Step 1: Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a medium to large skillet.
Step 2: Add the shrimp paste and cook for a few minutes, try to integrate it with the oil
Step 3: Add the shiitakes and the daikon to the pan, let it cook, stirring often, until the moisture is almost all gone (it might even start to stick to the pan, a good sign that it is done). Probably about 20 minutes.
Step 4: While the daikon mix cooks, whisk the rice flour into the water, eliminating all lumps.
Step 5: Combine the daikon mix and the flour mix. Adjust to your taste preference with salt, pepper and red pepper.
Step 6: Spray a 9in square (or similar) pan (pyrex or cake). Fill with mixture. Should be about one inch thick. Try to spread it evenly.
Step 7: Set a large bamboo steamer over a wok or place a bowl upside down in a large pot and the pan on top. Add water and steam the cake for 45 minutes.
Step 8: Remove from steamer, allow to cool for 30-60 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen, and invert on a plate. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Step 9: Slice into individual size slices.
Step 10: Heat sesame oil to high in a non stick pan. Place one slice in, cook till brown and crispy, flip and repeat on other side. Serve!

The Top Six Dishes I ate in Seattle this year

I’ll be honest, this started out as a top 5 list, but I had six dishes that truly stood out in my mind that I ate this year. I eat out a decent amount and I don’t always write about them–especially if the rest of the meal was distinctly underwhelming, as was the case in at least one of them. I like just picking a dish because I’m not judging the whole restaurant experience (another of these dishes was served with a side of horrifically bad service), nor am I needing to make extensive commentary. The only point of this is to give props to the creativity and skills of the chefs and restaurants around the city. They tend to lean towards newer restaurants, if for no other reason then that’s where I found innovative, taste-bud shocking (in the best way possible) flavors.

6. The pork belly I had at the wine dinner at Monsoon. This is the only one I have a picture of, but given that it stared out from my blog for altogether too long when it was first posted, I’m not going to add it over here as well. Scroll down to the bottom and read the description of my desire to swim in cabernet grape reduction to fully understand the lusciousness of this dish.

5. The Lamb’s Tongue Salad at Bastille. I noted this when I went as unbelievable. I clearly remembered it a month ago when I started this list. And still, as I try to jog my memory with other ingredients, what stands out is the surprisingly tender, beautiful meat, not generally what shines in a salad. This lamb tongue was delightful, great flavor, I could have eaten it as part of a much heavier main, yet the genius of the dish was that it was surrounded with a green, I believe dandelion, tiny chanterelle mushroom buttons and a few other lovely, light ingredients.

4. Springhill’s Smoked Oysters–okay, technically on the menu I believe the dish was under charcuterie and is titled “Sorpressata,” but while the sausage is lovely, it is not the star of the dish. No, the house-made sausage is clearly well made and delicious, but let’s talk about the true star of the show, the house alder smoked oysters. You know the smoked oysters that come in the can? I love those, but this is like comparing a Funyun to a beautifully crisp, freshly fried piece of shallot, like you’d get atop a fine French salad. The plate is rounded out with potato cracklins–which truly do conjure up the middle ground between fried pig skin and a potato chip. The red pepper sauce is the weakest individual component of the plate, but the whole dish works well together and each component matches the others so well. This dish, on its own, has brought me back to Springhill over and over.

3. Kimchi Quesadilla at Marination Mobile. After much deliberation, I chose the Kimchi Quesadilla as the dish I’d use form Marination. Really this Hawaiian taco truck has a few things I’d consider putting on this list, but the quesadilla was the first dish I had there and the one that blew my mind–after that first bite, I expected the unexpected and delicious. But the first time I saw the pinkish squiggles of sauce over my flour tortillas and bit in to the tangy bite of kimchi combined with tender soft pork, that was when I knew that this was something different. The Spam sliders might have changed my mind on a whole type of food, the spam musubi cemented that, but it was the kimchi quesadilla that floored me with possibilities.

2. Sometimes I think that hoping for new and innovative dim sum dishes in Seattle is a little like hoping for the Mariner’s to be in the World Series–Ain’t never gonna happen. So imagine my surprise when, in conversation with one of the men at Tea Garden, he mentioned that in addition to the pork stuffed taro balls, they also had ones with scallops inside. The first time we had this dish they were fresh out of the frier, and the scallop so perfectly cooked that it very nearly melted, spreading its sweet flavor throughout the crispy outside, the soft taro, one huge, delicious, if searingly hot bite. We returned and were able to order them a second time, but have since struck out twice and had them served less well prepared once. Was this moment of amazingness but a dim sum mirage? Here’s to hoping not!

1. Speaking of dishes that sometimes seem like a mirage, given the speed that B and I can demolish it, the not-on-the-menu (but nearly always available) Hamachi Collar with Bagna Cauda at Anchovies and Olives certainly qualifies. We were first offered this after two of the five dishes we asked for were sold out, but from then on we knew to ask for it by name every time. I get heartbroken when they’ve sold out of them for the evening. Collar is one of those cuts that Americans stay away from, most likely for its difficulty to eat. But when this chunk of fish lands on your table, you’ll abandon niceties and soon dig in with your fingers, if for no reason than after that flaky, tender fish is long gone, you can lick the anchovy and garlic spiked oil from your fingers and reminisce about the dish.

Asian Dumplings: A Book Review

Baozi If I had to choose my two favorite foods, it would be noodles and meat, so the dumpling is my own personal superfood. Andrea Nguyen, my new hero, has recently written my dream book: Asian Dumplings. Yes, all about dumplings. Oh, dear. I’m drooling already, just thinking about it.

When my copy first arrived on the doorstep, thanks to her generous publisher, I opened the box and sat down on the couch. It was ten o’clock at night, I was exhausted, I had just returned from a long dinner meeting and just wanted to relax with my beautiful book. And then I opened the book.

My advice for readers of this book? Do not read without your favorite dumpling joint on speed dial. Two minutes in I was already begging B for a trip to the ID for a late night dumpling run. Five minutes in and I was debating going by myself, so as to prevent the need for sharing an order.

Luckily B. remembered that I had made some soup dumplings with K. the previous week and our leftovers (which I was supposed to share with her, oops, sorry, K.) were in the freezer and he was able to convince me a road trip wasn’t necessary.

What is it about this book? Aside from gratuitous pornography of the culinary variety, more specifically, DUMPLING PORN, it jumps around the continent giving recipes for things I barely thought of as dumplings, but love just the same, like Samosas, as well as for the classics. I was pleased to see all my dim sum favorites like har gow and shu mei, alongside the foodie favorite, Xiao Long Bao, or soup dumplings.

I was ready to write about how amazing and wonderful the book was without ever having dove into a recipe. But that, darling readers, would not be fair to you. Or me, and my incredible need for daily dumplings. When we were in Southeast Asia I declared I was born on the wrong continent because I did not have the opportunity to buy noodles in soup on the street each morning. I have now decided the problem is compounded because I don’t have a daily dumpling. I’m pouting, just so you know.

Regardless of my pouting, I went about following a recipe, so that I can be sure that I can give this book my seal of approval (HA! Like it didn’t already have it from name alone). In the morning before work, I put together my dough for Baozi. I came home to it and followed all the instructions. Soon enough I had the most darling little dumplings! Golden brown and crisp on the bottom, meaty and delicious inside.

I had chosen to make these because I had everything I needed in the house. Now I can’t wait to go out and get the ingredients for all of the other ones. Were my dumplings perfect? No, making dumplings is not like making Kraft Mac n’ Cheese, simple from the first time. There were ugly ones and broken ones, but they all tasted perfect, so I think that’s what matters.

Am I Fooling Myself about New World Seafood?

I’m hesitant to post my feelings about New World Seafood, the new dim sum place I have found next to Seven Stars Pepper in the ID. Sometimes I wonder if I project my high hopes for a new dim sum restaurant onto the place and that is why I like it. I loved the food at Tea Garden at first, and that panned out okay, but not quite where I wanted it. Though I did know right away that Duk Li was bad news. Yet, while I thought the food was excellent at New World, I’m worried that as the shiny newness fades, I’ll realize that it is just another decent dim sum place, nothing special. I could hold my tongue, but I’m still rolling on a bit of a delicious dim sum high so I’m going to tell you about it in the hopes that New World can keep on serving great dim sum.

I arrived before the other members of my group and thus was the only customer in the cavernous room for about ten minutes while my parents and their guests looked for parking. The staff was very friendly without being overbearing, offering ice water and tea and food and letting me know to let them know if I needed anything else. I waited for the rest of the group to eat, a knot of fear in my stomach, wondering how long the food might have been sitting if we were the only customers. The room was pleasantly decorated, like your average large dim sum dining room, with a screen at one end, keeping me company with Vietnamese music videos.

When the other guests arrived the food carts came by. One of the first things that impressed both myself and another guest immediately was the English of the staff. Not only were they able to tell us what dishes were, but even the cart ladies were able to talk to us about what was in the various dishes. We started with a barbecue pork humbao. I could see the heat of the plate as the lady sat it down, my mom unfortunately missed that, as she burned herself on the plate. The fluffy baked buns tasted like they were fresh out of the oven! It was amazing. I was already feeling better about the food. We did a pretty full survey of the typical dim sum foods and I found some stuff pretty average, some great and some not so hot. The siu mai I found sub par, to taste a bit like mushrooms and chicken, as oppose to pork. My father detected a bit of an iodine taste in a har gow. The shrimp with cilantro dumplings, however, I found to be delicious. It was a pretty big jumble like that, some things spectacular (the tofu topped with shrimp) and some disappointing (the sparse-on-the-shrimp chow fun)

I wasn’t going to order chicken feet because I can’t eat a whole portion myself, and while I can count on my mom to try most anything, I wasn’t sure if it was worth it to order. Then the cart lady lifted the lid to the chicken feet and I couldn’t resist what lay inside. With an almost orange-y hue to them in place of the usual dark brown sauce, they were topped with a beautiful garnish of jalapeno. What? They’ve cooked my chicken feet with jalapeno peppers? Fabulous! Bring it on! And they were delicious. It was definitely a different preparation than I’d had at other dim sum restaurants, but in a very good way. One of the guests even commented “I don’t normally like this kind of thing, but these are great.” I liked to hear that. It gave me faith for my next order.

I always try to order something I haven’t had before when doing dim sum. Just one new item, if possible, each time. I had just recently had beef tendon in my noodle soup at Szechuan Noodle Bowl and found it delicious. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and call it the next pork belly–look for it on menus everywhere soon. So when the dim sum lady said that she had beef tendon, I couldn’t resist. I pulled it onto the table and I’m glad I did. With rich, beefy flavor, it is vaguely reminiscent of bone marrow, but with a bit of bite, so it can hold its own. This made a most unctuous and meltingly textured piece of meat, with a light soy sauce magnified by the flavors of the meat. I smiled. It was worth taking that bit of risk.

Overall, though, the meal was quite good and I had no complaints about it. Do I want to declare this the next great dim sum of Seattle? Well, I’m not there yet. Do I think it has potential? I knew that it did the moment I tested its stellar hot sauce.

New World Seafood on Superpages.com

Finding the Holy Grail: Mind Blowing Dim Sum

For the last year (or 24 years, though the first 23 were unknowingly) I have been searching for something that I know exists, yet had never seen myself, a holy grail of my own sort. A dim sum that could both blow me away with traditional tidbits and show me the unknown path to new and better dim sum. Growing up in Seattle I always loved a variety of places–the Top Gun in Seattle sticks in my mind as a favorite, but always new there was something better out there. Last year on our trip to New York we never made it out to Flushing and were consistently dissapointed in the offerings in Manhattan. Without a trip to San Fran in my future, I set my sights on Vancouver. Close enough for repeated efforts, with much opportunity.

This weekend I made it one step closer. I don’t want to say I achieved it, because, of course, there could be better, but I was satisfied. Fisherman’s Terrace in the Crystal Mall gets top scores on value, traditional stuff done well and on introducing me to new stuff. Minus points for telling me it was a 20 minute wait and then leaving us hanging for a full hour. Bonus points for being in a mall that had amazing soup dumplings (Shanghai Shanghai) that I could eat while I waited. I will definetly be torn in the future between trying this again and going out in search of better dim sum.

We started with shu mai. These were worlds ahead of any shu mai I’ve ever tried–whole shrimpies (no heads though), chunks of mushroom, held together with flavorful pork. There was enough skin to perfectly hold the thing together and even loan a little flavor. The top was amply sprinkled with tobiko. I was floored. Floored by a shu mai, who knew that could happen? Dishes arrived, none quite as shocking as the the shu mai. The mini pork buns were sub par, didn’t hold up to the ones at nearby Gingeri, but most everything else was the best I’d had of its kind. The chicken feet (which were originally missed in our order…I’m not claiming white person discrimination…but it is fishy!) were accompanied by the longest “ankle” (as my co-worker calls it) I’ve ever seen. We munched through taro root cakes (unbelievable, crisp taro flavor, texture), dried scallop and shrimp rice rolls, and a whole lot more. My favorite new item is what I have dubbed Jew food meets dim sum: a crisp chip topped with fruit salad (that part isn’t jewish) topped with smoked salmon and a creamy mayonaisse. It was truly like a chinese version of bagels and lox! All in all, a fun, interesting and eye opening experience.

Fishermans Terrace Seafood on Urbanspoon

Foolproof!: Easy to make Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao)

The holy grail of foods, that one thing foodies will travel thousands of miles to eat, you bet, yes they are that good. Here’s the thing though, here in Seattle, I have tried a few iterations and I have yet to get any actual SOUP in my soup dumplings. So this was my first big challenge. Must keep soup in dumpling. Second important thing: Must make taste good.

Now, I will admit that bringing soup dumplings TO a party was a bad move. Next time, you have party come to soup dumplings. I thought I’d keep them fresh by laying them on leaves of cabbage, as should be done when cooking them, then driving across town. They sucked. Luckily Brett and I made about 200 more the next night with leftovers and are still enjoying them out of the freezer. When cooking them immediately we were keeping soup about five out of six dumplings (sadly a better ratio than Joe’s Shanghai in New York City when we were there). After freezing, its more like half. More on that later. First thing you do–Make the soup. Very easy, do it the night before.

Soup for dumplings

Take a big stock pot, and toss in: a bunch of chicken feet, pork feet, and pork belly. I used one package each from my local chinese market, I think it was about a pound of each, maybe a little more. Unimportant. Cost about 6 bucks total. Added in shiaoxing wine, a glug or two, slices of ginger (a quarter knob or so), garlic (like 4 cloves) and a pile of chives. Fill up the rest of the way with water and put it up to a boil. Then turn it down and let it simmer for a bit. I left mine for 2 hours. If I had a bigger pot, I think I would have gone longer. But alas. If my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a trolley car. Whoa! Back on topic. So stick this in a tall thin container and you’ll have an easy time skimming the fat. Put it in the fridge for about an hour, then take it out, skim the fat and pour into a low flat container. This way it will be easy to chop up later. A lot of recipes I saw had you add gelatin or agar agar to make this more jellied. I saw no need, it jellied up extremely well just with all the feet (where do you think the gelatin comes from in the first place?). Fish your pork belly out at the end and shove greedily down your gullet smothered in hot sauce for an extra bonus in making soup dumplings.

Ok, now its the next day.

Soup Dumpling Filling

This is the filling. I used a pound of ground pork (the fattiest kind), about 7 large shrimp, a pile of chives (chopped), ginger, garlic, both minced, a couple of glugs of shiaoxing wine, a load of soy sauce and a bit of sugar. To taste taste your mix, through a bit in to the water of your steamer like a meat ball. I checked mine for taste and ended up adding more soy sauce. There are no amounts, because guess what, it doesn’t matter! Just make it taste good.

the dough for soup dumplings

The dough. I made two doughs. The first one SUCKED. Yup, all caps. It was sticky and it burst open, leaking soup all over the place. Luckily the reason I finished this was that after a good cry, I got over it and found a new dough, thanks to Jaden’s Steamy Kitchen. Basically I used about 2 cups of flour, 3/4 a cup of boiling water. Mix with a chopstick, then add 1/4 cup cold water plus a tablespoon of oil. Then knead, just beating the living shit out of it for about 10 minutes. Use lots of flour. After ten minutes, you will know it is ready when your hands hurt because the dough is so tough. Perfect. Rest it for 30 minutes. In this time, get your stuff ready:

1) steamer: Blanch cabbage in steamer water and lay over bamboo steamer. 

2) Mise en place. I found the best was to have the dough and board in front of me, the soup mix to one side, the filling to another, each with their own spoon. Lastly, a sheet of parchment paper off to the side, for finished dumplings. Keep flour near by for rolling.

Okay, now you are ready to go. My method is NOT the right way. But you know what, I want freakin’ soup dumplings, and this managed to get me some very soupy dumplings. Delicious soupy dumplings.

Chop off a bit of dough and roll it like you made a snake with clay when you are little. Cut off about a soup spoon size of dough (start big, get smaller as you get better) use TONS of flour. That was when I got good, when I stopped worrying how much flour I added. Roll the piece out, moving it constantly, into a circle. I would roll, flip, roll, flip to get enough flour all over it. You want the thickest part to be the center, thinner on the edges is best. But I never mastered that, and mine worked fine. Put your thumb and forefinger into an o, so that you are looking down on a circle, then drape the dough over that. Using a small, even amount of the filling and the soup, put them in the center of your circle of dough. Now squeeze your dough closed with your ‘o’ fingers. It ain’t traditional, but it sure works! It doesn’t need to seal, just be good enough that it stays closed.

Here, my friends, is what my first couple looked like. After a bit, I was too messy to photograph. But it works, it is delicious, and you should not be afraid to try it yourself.

You can now freeze them (lay individually, with none touching on a piece of parchment paper, on a baking sheet) and cook later, or even better, cook immediately by tossing on to cabbage leaves in steamer. The dough will start to look a bit translucent as it cooks, you should be ready then. About 5-8 minutes.

Enjoy!

Dim Sum at Sun Sui Wah

But first, a quick note: I have added a few pictures to the previous post. As per a request below, I am going to work on getting more pictures on the site–especially on home cooked meals–I don’t know about getting restaurant pictures yet.

And now on to my wonderful dim sum at Sun Sui Wah on Sunday. Aside from the whole catastrophe of me losing my passport on sunday morning (turns out you don’t actually need a passport or birth certificate to get in to Canada), we managed to get out of Seattle by 9:30, making it to the downtown Vancouver branch of SSW before noon. There was a bit of a wait for a table, but not bad, maybe 20 minutes, which isn’t all that much when you consider we drove over 2 hours to get there. The clatter and clank of dishes right away reminded me that we were not at a quiet, polite Seattle dim sum anymore. “It’s like a different country” Said B. Meaning China, not Canada. And it is, this was a real dim sum experience, and for me a first. I chose piece carefully, wanting to try everything–new things for the experience, things I get all the time to see how different they were here. I was careful to eat only small bites of what we got in order to conserve as much stomach space as possible.

I’m going to describe what I got here, please, anyone who knows the real names of these things, I would love to know!

The first cart that came by I picked a steamed barbecue hum bao. The outside was a great texture, pillowesque as it enveloped pork that fell apart at the slightest prodding. The hint of sweetness that I so dearly treasure may have been a bit overpowering, but it was better than lacking it. Next up was a squid dish, it appeared just to be a few whole pieces of squid steamed in a very light sauce. Simple, yet for a squid lover like me, a great punch of flavor. The tubes held sauce so there was a little explosion of flavor when you bit into it.

We grabbed a few pork potstickers from a tray, which were good, but still just potstickers–nothing overly exciting. A sticky rice was nicely packaged into small package so there was a very high sausage to rice ratio, a nice bonus for the meat lovers among us, also allowed the rice to take on more of the meaty flavor. I always order my thick rice noodles with shrimp inside, but here they had only beef, so I took that and was surprised at the soft texture of the beef inside, matching the noodles perfectly in texture, but with a terrific bite of flavor from the inside of the plainness of the noodles.

A little treat I had never had before came by soon after, small circles of tofu (soft and custurdy on the inside, but with a solid skin, so they didn’t fall apart) with a ball of shrimp on the top–like the inside of a har gow, but with out the skin, and a small sprinkling of roe. This was a great new treat, and it was very well liked by B and I. Another new dish that we really enjoyed, I can barely even describe. The outside was like the dough part of a steamed hum bao, but it was sliced like it had been from a log, and the inside was almost all filling–only maybe a centimeter of bao around the edge. The filling looked a little like sticky rice, perhaps? With just a bit of sweetness. It was my favorite of the day, so if anyone knows what it is, please tell me!

Unfortunately I haven’t convinced B to get over his fear of chicken feet, so one of my staples was out, but my other one was definetly in–Congee. B agreed this was some of the best congee we have tried. And nothing cures a hangover like a good congee. This made us very happy, it was the only thing I had trouble enforcing my one bite rule. We finished up with a little pan fried pork dumpling, which made our potsticker taste like cardboard, it was so packed with flaver (a breadier type of dough, much better meat). Last but not least, I finally realized that I had to ask for my daikon cake to get it, which I did. Those were pretty average, despite being fried to order.

I left Sun Sui Wah with a grin on my face. I finally understood why people were so snotty about Seattle’s dim sum–this was what they were talking about. And I’m willing to bet there are people who turn their nose up at Sun Sui Wah’s dim sum, so I’ll have to keep looking for new and better places!