Showing posts with label ethnic_food_recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ethnic_food_recipes. Show all posts

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tastes of Childhood: Making Lahmacun in Taipei


I've mentioned before that my mom's side of the family is Armenian from Musa Dagh, Turkey and that this is one of the reasons why we chose Turkey as our next travel destination: to seek out my homeland (or rather, one of my homelands - I'm also Polish, Swiss and generic British/Irish). Of all my many threads of ancestry, my Armenian heritage has always been the most vibrant and the biggest part of my life - I do believe that's because that side of the family came to the USA the most recently, and also because that branch of the family has been the most tenacious in terms of keeping heritage and memories alive. That tends to happen when your family lives through a genocide. When one's great grandfather (in my case, Mehran Renjilian) was a freedom fighter (the Turks would say "terrorist" but they're wrong) in the Armenian resistance...later turned minister. When one's family arrives in the USA after being forced to leave not one, but two countries - the second being Greece as the Nazis closed in.

So, after many years of regaling friends with homecooked Indian food, various appetizers and organizing outings to restaurants, I decided that on the eve of the trip that will mark my generation's first return to Musa Dagh, that I will cook some of the best-loved and most familiar dishes of my childhood.

The party will be in two weeks. I can make some of these dishes in my sleep, quite literally: I've had dreams where I have made hummus from scratch and upon waking up realized that even in my dream I followed exactly the right recipe. I have to admit, though, that there are others that I've eaten plenty of but never attempted to make (such as "fish cookies" which are flavored not with fish but with honey, and derive their name from the herringbone pattern cut across the top), and still others that I've attempted once before, failed at miserably, and never tried again...such as lahmacun.

The last time I made lahmacun, or tried to, I was too scared to attempt the dough, being terrified of trying something that included yeast. Instead I put the tasty topping on soft pita. The pita burned. I took the smoking mess of charred bread and raw meat laid out in a glass casserole out of the oven and plopped it on the counter, where the glass instantly shattered.

You can imagine my trepidation at deciding to not only attempt lahmacun again, but to do so with my tiny electric oven and with real dough made with actual yeast (I'm a great baker of cakes, muffins and such but not so experienced with bread products).

So this weekend was the test run.

My beloved husband helps out in the kitchen as I prepare the lahmacun dough.

I mostly followed this recipe, with a few changes to reflect the flavors I remember from childhood. I would never use ground beef - only lamb will do. Beef is a cop-out. I also added extra garlic, black pepper and allspice to the recipe. The "Armenian spice" I grew up with is made of cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper and allspice and that's the combination I created and added.

Ground allspice in my tiny marble mortar&pestle.
 Fortunately, I have a wonderful husband who, while not exactly a kitchen god in his own right, is very good at helping out in the kitchen - chopping, grinding, peeling, mixing, stirring - whatever I may need when my two hands and one brain just aren't enough.

Lahmacun is not just flavored with dry spices and lamb - it also includes the pungent flavors of onion, parsley, mint, tomato, lemon and garlic (and, of course, salt).

Mint and lemon - yum!
 My mom once wrote a short story of her experiences making lahmacun, lamenting that Nana - her grandmother - could always turn out perfect dough circles but hers were eternally lumpy and lopsided.

I have to say that I take after my mother, but it doesn't matter: I care about taste, not looks.

Sorry, Nana. I hope as you look down on me from heaven (despite my not being religious) I hope you will forgive my horrifically uneven dough rounds).
Creating this dish in Taipei was - and will be, when I make it again in two weeks - a collision of memories. My life in Taipei with our assortment of friends here, our decrepit apartment that we'll soon be moving out of for better digs, our insane cat, Chinese class, evenings enjoying Belgian beer at various Da'an cafes or going out for some of the best food I've ever had from around China and the world... and commingled with childhood holidays where we'd serve typical American food - turkey or ham, gratin potatoes, green beans, tossed salad, apple pie - alongside hummus, Armenian string cheese, cheoreg (my mom wrote that recipe!), babaghanoush, pilaf, fish cookies, olives and lahmacun. We'd eat scrambled eggs with string cheese, bacon and cheoreg the next morning sitting around Grandma and Grandpa's kitchen table in their suburban house that is so typically American that I once saw their living room in a TV commercial (except it wasn't theirs - it just happened to be the same pre-fab living room). Running around the backyard with my cousins, all much younger than myself and helping Grandma make deviled eggs - it took years for her to realize that I was, in fact, capable of cooking much more than that.

Those flavors - mahlab (a spice made from the ground pits of a certain cherry), tahini, aromatic lamb, tangy lemon, earthy cumin, pungent mint and parsley, fiery cayenne - are the sensory receptacles of my childhood and going back from there, of my heritage. Despite sweating in a kitchen in Taiwan over a plastic table covered in parchment paper, whereas my great grandmother would have done this first on a rough kitchen counter in rural Turkey and later in Athens, and later still in Troy, New York, I did feel a connection to the feisty woman who passed away when I was 9 and who never did quite become fluent in English. It was also meaningful to me to share this first batch of lahmacun - the food of my childhood - with my ever-amazing husband:

...who, you know, certainly appreciates good food. We ate it as I always have, topped with fresh vegetables (onion, cucumber, tomato, bell pepper, all will do) and a squeeze of lemon.

And it means a lot to me to be able to share this food with my friends in Taipei in just a few short weeks, before we say goodbye until October.

Oh yes, and I made a cucumber yoghurt mint salad, too!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Super Healthy Veggie Packed Fried Rice

I made this tasty, vegetable-packed dish today as a different take on the usual greasy, starchy fried rice. It's still got oil (olive) and rice (brown, whole grain) but with this many veggies, healthier fats and grains, flaxseed and optional protein, it's a tasty and colorful alternative to the usual stick-to-your-butt-no-matter-how-often-you-bike options in restaurants in Taipei.

It turned out fantastic - both flavor-wise and appearance-wise, with a lot of colorful veggies including pumpkin, red and yellow bell pepper, carrot and purple and green beetroot leaves. It was like a harvest-time reinterpretation of the fried rice genre!

1 cup brown rice
olive oil - need not be extra virgin or fancy (the flavor of extra virgin would get lost in cooking)
a pat of butter (optional)
1 whole bell pepper (or 1/2 each of two different colors of bell pepper)
2 cups of beetroot leaves (they're the ones in the market that are purple on one side and dark green on the other)
1/2 large carrot
1/2 small pumpkin (the gourd-like ones sold in Taiwanese day markets)
1/2 small sweet onion
To taste (optional): Thai fried shallots, black bean sauce, Lao Gan Ma, huajiao "flower pepper", salt, black pepper, fresh red chilis, sesame oil, soy sauce, paprika, vinegar, lemon juice, de-stemmed chopped cilantro, chopped fresh garlic, pulverized fresh ginger

three tbsp ground flaxseed (optional but really good for you)
a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and sesame oil to taste (optional)

Begin the long process to cook brown rice (it takes quite a while), adding a bit of salt, pepper and paprika to the water. Remember that brown rice requires more water (about 50% more), more heat, more steam and more time than white rice.

Set some water to boil to cook the pumpkin (if you want to be super-cool, cook the pumpkin chunks, including peeled skin, first, take out the skin and throw it away, set the cooked pumpkin aside and use the water to cook the rice to give it more nutrients and more flavor).

Wash and chop the onion and bell pepper, set aside
Wash, de-stem and chop beetroot leaves, set aside
Wash and grate or julienne carrot, including skin, add to beetroot leaves, set aside
Use a peeler to de-skin the small pumpkin, scoop out seeds, cut into chunks and boil until just cooked.

Wipe down a wok with just enough olive oil to comfortably cook, add chopped and powdered spices/salt to taste (no liquids yet, but you can add black bean paste, Lao Gan Ma etc). Cook on low/medium until it smells good. Immediately add bell peppers and onions and stir in thoroughly. Add soy sauce, vinegar, lemon juice to taste. Raise to medium heat.

When that is almost but not quite cooked, add beetroot leaves and grated carrot and cook until the leaves go a bit soft (not too soft). Add pumpkin. Mix well on medium (adding a bit of water if it gets a bit dry and threatens to burn).

Add cooked brown rice (ideally you prepared the rice well in advance as brown rice takes forever). Mix well and add flaxseed, stir in.

Add pat of butter and/or any flavoring oils at the end and stir well until it melts evenly into the mix.

The pumpkin should disintegrate somewhat and provide some consistency to the fried rice, but if you like the kind of rice that can be shaped into a dome, mix in one egg and mix well until thoroughly cooked in.

You can also add 1/3 cup cooked yellow lentils and/or walnuts, almonds or cashews if you want some protein (you can also add meat for that matter)!

Note: you can substitute or add vegetables - mushrooms would be great, as would small chunks of cauliflower or sweet potato leaves in lieu of beetroot. You could add tomatoes, bok choi, corn...really whatever you want.

Serve hot.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Typhoon Cookin'

We spent most of our day off yesterday at an ultra-fun Typhoon Party at a friend's apartment - which is just as 'vintage' as ours but in a much quainter way. Theirs is ageing like the bejeweled and makeuped star of Sunset Boulevard, ours is ageing like the tenement in Rent.

Came home to find not too much of the kitchen underwater. Much better than usual for typhoon - so much for "super typhoon" predictions, this one came and went with hardly a bell or whistle.

Anyway, we're having a curry party tonight; it's been a long time since I've cooked up several curries at once and even longer since I've made curry for guests. The last few dinners we've held have involved the very popular Ethiopian doro-wot kebabs I invented. This time I'm making sevpuri chaat as an appetizer, channa masala, a Malayali coconut fish and butter chicken as entrees (and might make baingan bharta if I feel like it, or might just make Iranian salad) and gulab jamun as dessert.

I've also been reading up on increasing the umami in foods. Umami is a Japanese word meaning 'deliciousness' - what it describes is the deep, round savory flavor of the best foods. Think great wine, stinky cheese (or very hard cheese like parmesan), veal stock, good paprika, grilled onions, clarified butter, walnuts, squid oil, fish paste, good yoghurt, tomato paste, cream, soy sauce, some kinds of seaweed, even grapefruit juice and shiitake mushrooms (though many mushrooms have it), and of course dark chocolate. It's that full, rounded timpani drumbeat of flavor that is the hallmark of really awesome foods.

It's also the main flavor of MSG - which, while I'm not convinced it's as bad as everyone says it is, I try not to cook with because a.) it's artificially made and I prefer to use as many naturally-grown ingredients as possible and b.) despite lack of conclusive proof, when I was young and before I even knew what MSG was, I was a frequent victim of "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome" - getting a headache after eating Chinese food in the USA. Fortunately, there are ways to bring out that full, round flavor without resorting to a white powder...just as there are ways to sweeten a dish without cane sugar or - gasp - high fructose corn syrup. For example: when making chocolate chip cookies use dark chocolate chips and add a bit of honey to the basic recipe, as well as a few tablespoons of cream. The honey heightens the effect of a sugar in a pleasing way and the cream works well with the butter to create a lovely flavor.

I've been trying to cook with umami in mind for awhile, which may be why most of my best recipes seem to involve a shot of alcohol. Julienned bamboo with minced mushrooms, red bell peppers and a few dashes of squid oil, a funky risotto with tomato paste and a splash of wine, like that. Judging from the effects - that is, my fiance gulping it all down (though he never seems to gain weight, what's up with that? - it's working. If we ever have a kid, I hope she/he gets my cooking skills and his predisposition to maintaining a healthy weight.

So I made the channa masala last night and I think it came out really well. I threw in a few things - just tiny dashes that the palate wouldn't be able to dissect and identify in that big stewed mass of curry (the sauce for channa masala is basic masala with tomatoes and onions). A splash of grapefruit juice with the lemon/tamarind I usually use (I suspect tamarind is also good for umami but haven't read that anywhere), just a half-teaspoon of a ground-nut mix we have laying around, a hint of olive oil in the ghee, a half-capful of mustard oil (it's strong stuff), a bit of paprika - I could use more of this because paprika fits in well with curry spices while the other ingredients don't, and need to be added in only tiny amounts. Mustard oil does, but only if you're cooking a specific set of mostly Bengali dishes.

I'm not sure if the little bits of this-n-that helped, but from tasting it this morning they sure didn't hurt. The channa masala has the resounding flavor that I was going for; not as perfect as the best channa I've ever made (for a random dinner party years ago, when I wasn't that great a cook and just got lucky) but far, far better than anything you'll find at an Indian restaurant here and much better than my earliest attempts at Indian cooking.

The thing is, I really am not convinced the little dashes of things did much at all. While cooking with umami in mind, I realized that Indian food is full of umami bombs that work very well if you just stick to the recipe. Instead of just using hot pepper to spice a dish, all sorts of flavors are used, which create a fuller, deeper spice flavor. Use of clarified butter as an oil/shortening and cooking onions and garlic in it before adding the main ingredients also works. So does frying potatoes (which is why everyone, around the world, seems to love fried potatoes. It's not the salt - it's the potato itself that gives us the flavor we crave) which are common in Indian snacks and some curries. Liberal use of yoghurt, tamarind and other ingredients boost umami flavor, and some combinations are worshipped as the gold standard of cooking, and there's a reason. It's quite clear, when you consider the effects of umami, why of all the biriyanis, mutton is the most popular, why vindaloo must be made with pork to get the full flavor (something about how the pork fat interacts with the vinegar), why butter chicken seems to be the most addictive chicken curry dish, and why sambar (full of grilled-then-cooked lentils) is such a hit in southern India.

So really, for any Indian recipes you want to try out, just get a great cook - almost any Indian mom will do - to show you how and stick to what she tells you. It doesn't really get better than that.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Three Fusion Recipes

Thanks to Michael Pollan, whom I now want to either hug or kick in the teeth for making my culinary life so difficult (wait, so you're saying that fresh squid is good, but squid chips are bad?), I've been shopping a lot more at my local traditional market - the one that sets up in the Jingmei Night Market area except, well, in the morning.

I've been asking the vendors where they get their food from and have been generally pleased with the responses - a fresh, grassy green from Wulai, tender bamboo from northern Taiwan, some sort of tasty bamboo shoot-like thing from Puli, sweet potatoes from Zhanghua, and I've been slowly trying every kind of green available with the exception of ku gua (苦瓜), which I know I hate.

The good thing is that this forces us to eat healthier because, by cooking our own food, we know what's in it (though we still occasionally chow down on night market goodies, but try to eat fewer octopus dough balls and more sweet potato leaves). It also forces us to eat what's in season.

This presents a conundrum, because while something is in season, it's everywhere, really cheap and really tasty - but there are only so many times and so many ways you can cook the same thing and you start praying for the next season to arrive and sweep away all that food you're sick of eating.

My guide as I seek to create new recipes for locally-grown Taiwanese food has therefore been the simple mantra - "If you are a boring cook, your food will make you bored".

This has resulted in a lot of odd fusion meals. The following three recipes are for the three most successful of these (though all of them have been basically good).

Recipe 1 - Sake Bamboo with Buckwheat Noodles


tender bamboo shoots or something of similar taste/consistency
about a cup of dry sake per half jin of bamboo (or to taste - I actually use more)
one large red chili
ginger, to taste, sliced into coins
two cloves of garlic per half jin of bamboo
salt to taste
a dash of chopped fresh coriander
1 drippy, generous tbsp Taiwanese honey per half jin of bamboo (clover honey is best, but whatever)
lemon juice (fresh) to taste
about 2/3 stick of butter per half jin of bamboo
one chopped green onion and a bit of chopped yellow onion (or to taste)
buckwheat noodles (duh)

Boil buckwheat noodles in separate pan. Set aside.

This is nice and easy - finely chop/press the garlic, red chili, coriander and various onions, slice ginger into coins, and saute in the butter until it smells good. Add the bamboo, chopped into slender rectangles or half-coins. Saute and make sure it is well-coated in butter. Add sake, lemon juice, honey and salt and stir-fry 'till done. Serve over buckwheat noodles with lots of the reduced sauce.

Wine - a nice, lightish red (I don't really go for white wines) or a Syrah
Dessert - fresh lychees, of course!

Recipe 2 - Mutant Fried Rice/Risotto Thing

Ingredients to serve 2-3

1 cup brown rice
3 regular-size, very ripe tomatoes
3 snake eggplants
2-3 giant mushrooms (you know, those big firm white ones)
Something a little crisper (I use tender bamboo but you could use whatever)
If you want meat, fresh pork is the way to go
paprika or capsicum paste (available at many organic markets)
red chili paste in the little glass bottle (the kind with vinegar, sesame oil and garlic)
chopped sweet onion to taste
a buttload of garlic
salt to taste
a hint of vinegar - balsamic vinegar or a darkish one is best
a good swig of red wine
any other seasonings you want - basil or coriander would work
a big bay leaf
olive oil

To cook - boil 2 cups of water plus a little extra with a touch of salt. Use to cook brown rice, which needs to steep a lot longer than white. Set aside for longer than you think you need to.

In a big pan, warm up olive oil. Roast the garlic in it, then add other seasonings, then onions, then finely-chopped tomatoes (do not peel, and don't use the ones from a can. Seasonal ingredients, remember?) after the onions have softened. Saute until it starts to look more like a sauce than a pile of vegetables. Add chopped tender bamboo or whatever your 'crisp' vegetable is. Add mushrooms chopped into nice fat coins, then eggplant a little later. Season to taste. When the eggplant is almost done, add the brown rice and cook risotto-style until it all melds together and the eggplant is thoroughly cooked. Serve hot.

Dessert: red dragonfruit wedges
Wine: a heavier red - a Malbec, Pinot Noir or Shiraz would be good

Recipe 3 - Green-Wrapped Fish


a big ol' degutted fish (the red or grayish-kind from Keelung are good - the darker ones hold up better...anything seasonal)
Some sort of green leafy veggie - I got something grassy, but sweet potato leaves, bamboo leaves, those purple/green leaves or anything that is more leaf than stem will work
a couple of fresh limes
Lao Gan Ma black bean pepper paste in oil (this can be hard to find - try Jason's at Takashimaya)
You guessed it - garlic and ginger
A bit of soy sauce and rice vinegar
Sesame oil
A good swig of aboriginal millet wine or sour plum wine (optional)
Chopped green onion and/or coriander
A few sprigs of lemongrass if you can get it
Black pepper

In a low but generously sized cooking pot with a wide bottom and lid, put a bit of water (enough to steam up and cook a fish) and a metal rack which you can buy at any cheapo store in the night market. Throw a little of your seasoning in there, including a bit of the sauces. On the rack, lay out your green leafy veggie, which should be cut so as to have as much leaf and as little stem as possible. It should form almost a sheet with only a few open spaces over the rack. Put fish on rack. Squeeze the juice of as many limes as you like over it and into the gutted area. In a bowl, mix up your other seasonings (except lemongrass or anything you may use that has an obviously odd texture) with all the sauces into one huge pile of gloop. Spread that generously over the fish. Then stick in the lemongrass (if any) or lay it on top. Cover top of fish with more of your green leafy veggie. Set heat on low/medium, put lid on pot, and steam the heck out of it. It's done when a fork run lightly over the top brings up tender chunks of cooked fish meat.

Serve with a side dish - mashed sweet potatoes, a stir-fried green veg or some sort of cooked gourd/melon work well.

Dessert: Custard apple
Wine: I'm gonna say white this time. Pinot grigio.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Famous Truffle Cake

Be prepared to spend a lot of money on this cake - it usually clocks in at about $50 USD for all ingredients, but that's only if you can get miniatures of all the alcohol.

For the cake:

· 3 cups all-purpose flour

· 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder – the darker the better (I like Ghirardelli)

· 3 teaspoons baking soda

· a pinch of salt

· 2 sticks butter (I know…) – unsalted real butter ONLY

· 3 cups white sugar

· 4 eggs

· 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

· 3 cups buttermilk

- 2 tablespoons honey (optional – adds moisture)

- nutmeg, cinnamon, clove and a pinch of crushed cardamom to taste (optional – to add depth of flavor)

- 2 shots chocolate liqueur (preferably better than crème de cacao but that’ll do in a pinch) – more if you want

- ½ cup dark chocolate shavings

And one of the following:

- ¼ cup flavoring of your choice. Some suggestions:

Grand Marnier, Chambord, amaretto, Frangelico, Jameson, Ararat Raisin Brandy, osmanthus paste, rose syrup, dark spiced rum, extra dark espresso+kahlua, kirschwasser...basically any flavor of your choice – make sure you can smell it in the batter before you pop it in the oven or it won’t carry any taste when it comes out

For the filling:

1 bag dark chocolate chips (or equivalent chocolate blocks) – semisweet or dark. I prefer Lindt, Ghirardelli or any higher-quality brand. Dark chocolate makes a better cake than milk

1 ½ cups cream (one small blue carton in Taiwan, one mini-carton in the USA) plus ¼ cup extra

flavoring to taste – I like to use a complementary flavor – so for coffee-flavored cake I might add a little coffee to this as well as some Frangelico (hazelnut) or Jameson (whiskey). For osmanthus, I add a little matcha tea powder. For rose, try to get some violet liqueur or even lavender liqueur.

½ stick butter (again, I know…)

Other things to make truffles

Powder of your choice – cinnamon, powdered instant coffee, cocoa, confectioner’s sugar, all good…

For the syrup:

White sugar

1 ½ cup flavor of your choice (see below for ways to play with flavors used here)

For the icing:

A bag of pure dark chocolate chips (you could use less)

¼ cup cream

topping of your choice including powder, shaved chocolate, fruit, nuts etc..


Make sure the cake batter is runny the way normal batter is. If it’s too wet or too dry, that’ll reflect in the cake that comes out. Add flour if too runny, add cream or buttermilk if too thick.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix sugar with the butter until it’s a paste, then slowly add eggs. In separate bowl combine other solids. Slowly mix together. Don’t stir too much or it’ll activate something in the flour that’ll muck up the consistency. At the end add vanilla, spices, chocolate liqueur and other flavors to taste, making sure to adjust the batter consistency as needed. Throw in chocolate shavings.

Remember alcohol evaporates, so if alcohol is making it runny don’t worry as much.

Grease 2 9-inch baking pans and add cake mixture above. Bake for 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.


While cake is baking, take chocolate liqueur and the flavoring of your choice for about 1 ½ cup total of liquid and put it on the stove (do not allow to boil, just warm it up). Add some sugar (to taste – I don’t like it too sweet) and mix until mixture cooks down to 1 cup. Tip: for rose flavor, don’t do this with rose syrup. The regular syrup is fine. For osmanthus flavor, don’t use the paste, rather make a strong concoction of osmanthus tea and add just a little paste. For the fruit flavors, use the jam/marmalade of that fruit along with the alcohol – but choose a nice, unsweetened organic version. For the coffee, it’s always a good idea to dump in an extra shot or two of Kahlua or Tia Maria.

When cake is done, while cooling use a pastry brush to brush the warmed syrup over the top. Give each layer two to four brushings, allowing each to soak in.

When cake is cool, turn one upside down, out of pan and onto tray. Brush with more syrup (which may have come out more or less as water-consistency; that’s OK) but don’t allow it to get mushy. Do not turn the other yet.

Set aside.

For filling:

In saucepan or pot, boil water and set a large bowl that fits over the top that will hold all ingredients. Do not allow water to touch bottom of bowl.

In bowl, heat up cream and melt butter in it. When cream is hot but not boiling, slowly add the chocolate chips, adding more as the old ones melt.

Add flavor to taste.

When the entire mixture is liquid, remove a small amount (one soup bowl fill), cover and set in fridge. Add a bit more cream to the rest, put in separate bowl, cover and set in fridge. Allow to set completely (at least a few hours or overnight).

When totally set, take out the portion with more cream. Using a very strong metal spoon, take out teaspoon or tablespoon (whatever) size chunks and roll them into balls. Place balls on top of upturned cake until entire top is covered in balls (hee hee). Use any extra to fill in the gaps/valleys between the…balls.

Flip second cake on top of first cake. Brush with more syrup as above.

For icing:

This is easy. Make another steam-cooker with a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water and melt chocolate – I use a full bag of chips but you could safely use less.

Line area below cake with wax paper. Trust me.

When chocolate is melted, pour over top, using pastry brush to make sure it evenly coats the sides. Brush over sides when you have a nice thick coating on top.

Set aside, allow to cool completely.

When cool, use a sifter, fine sieve or even a ‘tea spoon’ for loose tea (the kind with holes) to finely sprinkle confectioner’s sugar and cocoa over the top. You could alternately use shaved chocolate or really whatever you want.

Take out the rest of the chocolate batter. Using a strong spoon, take out teaspoon sized chunks, roll into balls and coat balls in powder/crushed nuts (heh) of your choice. For the osmanthus cake, I use matcha tea powder with confectioner’s sugar. Use balls to decorate cake. I like to put them around the top with some cut strawberries, chocolate curls, cherries or nuts, and then squish a few at regular intervals between the two layers to hide any irregularity there. Then set a few around the bottom.

Peel away wax paper to reveal a cleanly decorated, beautiful cake.

Keep in fridge until ready to serve.

For ideas on how to decorate it, just Google images of "chocolate truffle cake" - many people are far more creative than I am. I like the cube cake with truffles up the side but that would require altering the recipe.

I used to have a picture of this cake but I apologize, it seems to have been lost in the transition between computers.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Taiwan-friendly ethnic food recipes (Ethiopian fusion satay)

Just a few favorites I've managed to concoct with a reasonable level of authenticity from ingredients available in Taiwan...nevermind that a lot of these seem to come from Jason's (Taipei 101 and Takashimaya) and City Super (the green SOGO).

I've compiled a list of ingredients for each and as I put them up, will note where one can buy each ingredient, at least if they seem hard to get.

All will be saved under the tag ethnic_food_recipes with the food described in the title.

I was going to start with something easy - Iranian salad - but decided instead to begin with something difficult - Ethiopian food.

It is possible to make real Ethiopian food in Taiwan, at least I know one can make various wots, alechas and tibs, but you can't get teff flour so it's impossible to make the injera bread that it's all eaten with. I had teff sent to me from the USA but not everyone has that I've concocted this delicious recipe as a compromise - keeping the original flavor of Ethiopian wot (spicy tomato based gravy) dishes but in a form accessible to those in Taiwan.

Hence, Ethiopian fusion satay. These were a huge hit at the Christmas party - a few pounds of chicken gone within an hour. Trust me, they will be well received.


white breastmeat chicken (real doro wot is made with drumsticks, but whatever, you need injera to eat that), cut into largish chunks - any Wellcome or day market

cucumbers - the small kind are better - any market

satay sticks - Wellcome

one large tomato and 1/2 white onion - any market

2 cloves garlic and about a teaspoon of chopped ginger - any market

1 bay leaf - spice section of large Wellcomes or Jason's

ghee (clarified butter) - Indian spice shop off exit 4 of Taipei City Hall MRT 2nd floor of a nondescript building near the Dante, Taipei Milk King and Korea Viand)

1 cinnamon stick or some powdered cinnamon - spice section of any supermarket

berbere spice powder - make your own from this website:

(It's not as hard as it sounds - spices all available at aforementioned Indian spice shop, Jason's or Cafe Alexandre on Zhongshan N. Road, Tianmu)...and you can use it again to season meat or soups.

salt, black pepper and lemon juice - anywhere

paprika - Jason's

some red wine if you feel like it


Slice the cucumbers into wide coins by working diagonally. Set aside.

Rub the chicken with some berbere, salt, lemon juice and black pepper to taste.

Chop onion and tomato finely.

Put ghee - measurements according to what is needed to cook your chosen amount of chicken - into a wok or cooking vessel and melt. Add a lot of paprika (1/3 of the bottle or so if it's sweet paprika, much less if it's spicy), some berbere, the cinnamon stick, garlic, ginger and bay leaf. Allow to cook briefly until it smells really good.

Add onion and tomato and cook briefly.

Add chicken.

Cook for awhile, then add more lemon juice, salt, berbere, black pepper etc. to taste. Throw in a little red wine at the end if you wish. Cook until chicken is just finished - any longer and it starts to get tough - and it should be coated now in a thick, spicy red gravy. Set aside to cool.

When the chicken is hot but manageable, don a pair of gloves or scrub your hands and skewer on satay sticks, alternating chicken/cucumber slice - I find that two chicken chunks and 2 cucumbers is good.

Serve as is, or with the spicy gravy left in the wok added to a little chicken broth with flour to thicken, or with a sauce of your own concocting. I use a sauce I make with alecha spice powder, lemon juice and turmeric but that's a whole other production).

This sounds hard, but really the only tough part is the berbere, and that isn't so tough once you have all the ingredients together. It helps to get a mortar and pestle to grind the ones that come whole, though a hammer and Ziploc bag works almost as well.