Friday, August 29, 2014

Mushroom quinoa kale bowl

Now that I'm more familiar with the New Orleans area, I know where to do my grocery shopping and where to pick up specialty ingredients. I couldn't find my staple jasmine rice down here (though I must say I noticed that the rice selection here is much larger than it is up north), so I had to switch up my grains and opted for a box of quinoa and a bag of long grain brown rice. I also was just really craving a leafy green stir fry, and I figured before I venture into using collard greens and other local favorites, I might as well try out kale. 

I don't understand the kale hype. I don't get why people use such a rough vegetable in raw salads. It's gross. But I am so glad my grandmother convinced me to stir fry it instead because boy is kale naturally flavorful! Cooking it really helps break down its natural tough fiber and release a lot of its sweetness (when you use my recipe). So here's two recipes for you here. First I give you my super easy sesame oil mushroom quinoa that I promise you will make at least once a week, then it's my new favorite chicken and kale stir fry. 

Sesame oil mushroom quinoa (serves 3-4)
1 cup quinoa 
2 cups water
2 tsp olive oil
2 cups mushrooms (baby portabello or white button), chopped
1 tsp garlic powder 
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tsp sesame oil
optional: Cajun spice (because that's my life now)

1. In a rice cooker, mix together all ingredients except for the sesame oil. 
2. Start the rice cooker as usual. 
3. When it's done cooking, add the sesame oil and fluff the quinoa. 

✓ whole grains
✓ fiber
✓ vegetable
✓ unsaturated fats

Kale stir fry (serves 3-4)
1 bunch of kale, deribbed and chopped 
1 tbs canola oil
1/2 tsp salt 
1 tbs balsamic vinegar  
2 chicken thighs, sliced and marinated*
3 cloves of garlic, chopped

*chicken marinade:
1 tbs soy sauce
1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp sesame oil

1. In a deep pan, heat up 1 tsp of canola oil with the chopped garlic. Once garlic is browned, brown the chicken.
2. When chicken is about 70-80% cooked, remove from the pan and set aside. 
3. Add the rest of the oil onto the hot pan and carefully mix in the kale. 
4. Sautee the kale until it turns a darker shade of green and is softer. Sprinkle on the salt and add the balsamic vinegar. 
5. If kale does not soften, add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and cover with a lid for several minutes at a time. Remove from pan when desired texture is reached. 

✓ vegetable
✓ fiber
✓ vitamin A
✓ vitamin K
✓ protein

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sichuan, China

When I say China, you think factories and industrialization. What you don't think about is how China's also coined the "Big Green" and how applicable that name is to the country. Yes, the skies may be hazy and the water may not be as clear as it used to be, but China is still undoubtedly an expansive plot of very green land. I had the chance to tour several parts of Sichuan. In this post I will focus on the food I ate in Chengdu, Leshan, and Emei Shan. China is so expansive that even in the same province, the food and landscapes are vastly different. 

A bamboo grove at the panda breeding ground

The most famous of Chinese cuisines is Sichuan's ma la spicy style food. Ma la is made with fermented bean paste, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, and other spices, which gives it its distinct numbing spicy flavor. The reason why people in Chengdu eat so much of this spice is because of its geography. It's set in valley surrounded by mountains, so a lot of moisture gathers and lingers in the air. The spices used that characterizes the ma la flavor are actually to balance this excess wetness that would otherwise cause a lot of physical ailments such as joint pain. My guide explained that this is why Chengdu women have the smoothest flawless skin. 

As for the ma la food... thinking about it just makes me drool. The spiciness (albeit oily) really whets your appetite and even though you are suffering from the numbness, you can't help but keep eating. Everything is so flavorful and the ingredients are predominantly local, allowing all the fresh water fish and produce to be very fresh. After this trip, I really do have renewed faith in China. Its ability to rebuild Chengdu after the 2008 earthquake is simply astounding. And you really cannot go wrong with the food in this province! 

Ma po tofu! 

Hiking snacks: corn on the cob, sausages and dried meats, and tea eggs

The golden Buddha atop the fickle Emei Mountain
When in Sichuan, you must have ma la hot pot at least once
No Sichuan ma la hot pot would be complete without fish heads!

Ma la cold dishes made with beef offal
Baked pancakes with ma la spiced ground pork

Street food: spicy marinated chicken wings
Street food: spicy squid tentacles

The Leshan Buddha built under the rule of Empress Wu Zhetian in the Tang Dynasty
Leshan specialties: ma la fish, homemade tofu, and smoked duck
Buying grapes off the side of the highway from one of the countless vineyards
You can't visit Sichuan without seeing China's national treasure, the pandas! 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Acme Oyster House, New Orleans

Now that I've been in New Orleans for almost a full week, it's about time to update you on the local cuisine that I have been devouring. Acme Oyster House gets a lot of attention when it comes to these bivalve molluscs. No matter what time you go, there will most certainly be a line. 

I brought my family here early one evening to try to famous charbroiled oysters. They arrived on a platter topped with a generous portion of french bread. The oysters were sizzling hot and bubbling with butter, breadcrumbs, and parmesan cheese. Maybe because it's summer, but the oysters were on the small size. The best part of this dish though is definitely the buttery oil leftover. There's a 100% chance that you will be soaking it all up with the French bread. 

We also shared a gumbo, raw oysters (which they don't scrub down, so watch out for the muck), a whole soft shelled crab, and their signature peacemaker po-boy. Everything was good and all, but damn was that po-boy delicious. It's packed with fried shrimp, oysters, and catfish dressed with some spicy-mayo and served on some crispy thin French bread. My stomach is growling just thinking about it. 

All in all, the oysters were just aiiiiggghhht. It's a great no frills place to bring visitors to try the local flavors. But I'd definitely go back for another one of those po-boys though! ...which I actually did by myself 2 days later. 

Acme Oyster House
724 Iberville Street
New Orleans, LA

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer Arugula Salad

Oh wow, so it's been more than a month! So sorry for the unexpected hiatus, but I guess summer got to me. Well, I just moved into Tulane and after a full week of driving down south savoring lots of barbecue and of course the local New Orleans fare, I must say MAN DO I MISS MY FRUITS AND VEGETABLES! So here's a recipe for the first meal I made in my new home in New Orleans, Louisiana. It's a salad with a little bit of sweet, a little bit of savory, and a little bit of bitter. This dish is perfectly designed to balance out the muggy weather and the unbelievable amount of fried food I've been eating of late. 

Summer Arugula Salad 
1/2 cup arugula
1/2 cup cantaloupe, chopped
1/4 cup blueberries 
2 tbs roasted walnuts
2 tbs roasted macadamia nuts 
1 tbs olive oil 

1. Toss together the arugula and cantaloupe with olive oil
2. Top with blueberries and nuts 

✓ fruit
✓ vegetable
✓ fiber
✓ unsaturated fats
✓ protein

Notes: If you're not into arugula, try substituting it with baby spinach.