Saturday, August 29, 2009

Minced Beef With Egg

College was a time for food exploration for me. Before that, I rarely get to eat anything outside of home prepared food. The first time I encountered minced beef with egg was during one of those quick dinner after class in one of the restaurants at the "Asian Ghetto" on the south side of UC Berkeley. Of course, I was too chicken to order it because the dish came with a raw egg over some slimy beef! All of the boys I know love that dish and they all ordered it one time or another. Once, I managed to get a taste but then decided to stick to my own food. I finally overcame the look of the dish and decided to make it myself. It was very hard to find a recipe for this dish for some reasons. Perhaps because it is too simple...kinda like how it would be hard to find a recipe to fry an egg. I did have to use a recipe/direction from a cookbook the first time I attempted to fry an egg, mind you.

(Printable recipe)

1 lb of boneless beef chuck
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of salt
ground black pepper
1 tsp baking soda
4 tbsp corn starch
1 cup green peas
2 eggs

So, on to the cooking:

Take about 1 lb of boneless beef chuck. Trim the fat. I have the piece somewhat frozen so that it'll be easier to slice.

Dice it up in approximately 1/4" cubes.

Pull the cubes together in a pile and roughly give it a nice chop. The end product doesn't need to be so fine, some rough pieces should be okay.

Put the minced beef in a bowl and set aside. Mince 3 cloves of garlic.

Combine the garlic with the beef in a bowl. Add about 1 tsp of salt and as much ground pepper as you'd like. Sprinkle in 1 tsp on baking soda (to tenderize the beef). Toss in 4 tbsp of corn starch or enough to cover all of the beef pieces with a thin layer of corn starch. As you can see in the picture below, I did not add enough corn starch (only 3 tbsp) which will not ensure a satisfying gravy-ish end product.

Use your super clean hand and give it a good mix.

Heat about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil in a pan. Add the beef mixture and proceed to push the beef around for 1 minute.

Turn the heat down to medium high. Add 1/4 cup of water. Let it cook until the beef is turning brown.

This is what it looks like if you don't have enough corn starch. No gravy. :(

No matter, I hope you learn from my mistake. Next up, throw in 1 cup of peas. I got mine frozen and had to run it under the tap for 30 seconds.

Another mistake! My hand got a little too happy and actually dumped in a lot more than 1 cup. Sad face again!

Cook for another 2 minutes or until the peas are nice and tendered. Scoop some steaming hot rice to a bowl. Top the rice with the minced beef and peas. Be sure to make a little well on top of the beef and peas. Why, you ask? Because your truly here darn forgot to do that and it resulted in unhappy end product as seen below. When I proceed to crack an egg over the dish, the egg just slid off the mountain of beef and peas and made a happy home at the SIDE of the bowl rather than perching at the center.


How to eat such a dish: Quickly use a spoon/fork to scoop up the steaming hot rice and beef mixture and drape it on top of the raw egg. Break the egg and use your eating utensil to let the egg mingle with its hot hot neighbors. Eat the gooey goodness.

If you do not want to entertain the idea of a raw egg, quickly fry an egg in your still hot pan.

Then transfer it to the mountain of rice, beef, and peas.

Lessons learned:

1. Add enough corn starch to cover beef with a thin layer.
2. Don't go trigger happy and add too much peas.
3. Remember to make a small well at the top of the mountain of beef so egg won't slide pathetically to the side of the bowl.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Pan Fried Tilapia

For a simple lunch with my sister, I made pan fried tilapia fillets and serve it with rice. I love tilapia! The juicy fillets have a very light taste and yet very filling at the same time. All the while, tilapia are very cheap and easy to obtain. I usually get the frozen ones to save for a quick and easy meal.

((Printable recipe))
4 medium fillets of tilapia (a little more than 1 lb)
4 cloves of garlic - minced
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of ground black pepper
1 tbsp of dried parsley
(if you're using fresh parsley, chop up about 3 tbsp)
olive oil
approximately 1 tsp of lemon juice


Defrost the tilapia fillets if you got it frozen like me. Pat dry with some paper towel.
Next up, mince the garlic. I like to use the knife blades and press down on the whole garlic cloves so that it's semi flat. This makes it easier to peel the last bits of skin off. Mince away!

Sprinkle on the salt and rub on both sides of the fillets. If you accidentally sprinkled a bit more salt on one fillet than the other, feel free to carefully rub the two fillets together to distribute the salt. Rub rub rub.

Sprinkle on the ground black pepper and rub. Give those fillets a good massage.

Rub on the minced garlic. Yummmssss. Are you tired of rubbing already? Don't worry, the next step is the final rubbing phase. Having said that, rub on the parsley. One time, I used freshly chopped cilantro and it very yummy as well. My sister actually prefers the cilantro over the parsley.

Are you done with the rubbing? Yes? Yes?

Time to hit the stove! Heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil on a pan. Lay the fillets in one single layer like so:

Cook on medium high heat for about 3 minutes on each sides or until fish flakes easily.
While it's cooking, squeeze or sprinkle on the lemon juice. It doesn't have to be a lot, just a hint of lemon is good.

Remove from heat and serve with steaming hot rice!

Have fun cooking!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Easy Eggplant

My mom's three eggplant plants are flowering and two of them actually have fruits! Hoorah! Time for some eggplant dish.

I'm not a big fan of eggplant but since my dad has become a vegetarian again, I've try to learn new vegetarian dishes. So, I picked this beauty for lunch.

On to the easiest to obtain list of ingredients ever!

(Printable recipe)
1 medium size Chinese eggplant
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of ground black pepper (freshly ground pepper would be great)
1 dash of paprika
2 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp soy sauce
olive oil

First, peel and mince the garlic and set aside.

Trim the stem end and slice the eggplant length wise at approximately 1/4 inch thick. I don't know why I didn't skin it ahead of time, but you could peel the skin off before slicing it.

Sprinkle on the salt and pepper on both sides of each slice (one side of the end slices). Throw on some paprika to spike it up. Go crazy!

Heat up a large sauce pan (large enough so that all of the slices can fit) and pour in about 2 tablespoon of olive oil. Arrange the slices into the pan and add the minced garlic.

Leave it cooking each side for about 2 minutes. Toss in the soy sauce. Cook on medium low heat until the eggplant is no longer spongy and is tendered.

Remove from pan and peel the skin. Don't ask me why I didn't remove the skin earlier....and serve! ...with rice!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

First Step to Daily Cooking

When I started cooking daily the main focus was keeping down costs. I gravitated from frozen meals to fresher and fresher ingredients. I also switched around which dishes I used as a sort of default "got to go shopping, but can't till X days from now," with work schedule and school usually being the main complications. But, cooking around a busy schedule has taught me some tricks.

I learned that Farmer's Markets are generally cheaper than grocery stores (at least here in Northern California) and that their choices are refreshingly varied, all year round. When I started out on my own I cooked a lot of Italian dishes. This was partially because pasta cooks up easy, quick and is always delicious, and partly because the very first cookbook my parents bought me was an Italian cookbook. I livened up my sauces with fresh bell pepper, green onions, mushrooms and canned olives. Still, the cuisine ended up repetitive and boring. I tried fresh garlic and basil, spinach and artichoke hearts; but other than slowly acquainting myself with a more diverse knowledge of cooking vegetables, my enthusiasm for dinner dwindled.

It was time for something new. I have been experimenting with Asian cuisine for the past year, and broadening my recipe repertoire. Meanwhile, I have sought to make my yummy meals ever more quickly with the aim to eat healthy and delicious meals, but be able to maintain cooking and eating so no matter what sort of time my schedule allows me for the preparation and eating, I will always be able to appease my taste buds.

The first step is to always know what sort of week you have ahead of you before your trip to the store. I know I can't make Eggplant Parmesan or Lasagna on a night that I get home at 5 pm and have to be at a meeting at 7 pm. So I have the makings of several "easy" meals stashed away to pull something together in that eventuality.

For me these dishes are: Couscous Salad, quessedillas, wraps or a pasta dish. I can put any of these together in under a half hour and on some days under 15 minutes. I vary the ingredients so I don't get bored repeating these dishes.

Simple Stir-Fry, Enchiladas, and Pizza are my fall-back dishes when I have the time for something that might take a little longer but I don't quite have the energy to try something new.

These are the first dishes I will deatail, before describing the new - often more time-consuming meals - I have come to enjoy.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Saucy Choppers

Welcome to the Saucy Choppers! This blog will be featuring recipes from around the world as we proceed to gather and explore international cuisine. We are embarking on a culinary adventure, which will hopefully lead to many happy tummies.

Your authors are two women whose love of food led them into the kitchen, and whose common interest inspired them to try dishes further outside their customary practice. Now we would like to share our love of food, at times quick and easy -- with an exotic taste -- to involved dinners that will stun guests at a dinner party.

But at the heart of each of these posts is the love of food. Experiment and enjoy!