Cooking with Alison

Posts Tagged ‘Chinese food’

Night It Up! 2016 – Toronto’s Best Asian Food Festival

In Reviews on July 17, 2016 at am

There is still one more day left of the 2016 Night It Up Asian night market in Unionville (Markham), Ontario. I’ve been to most of the Asian food festivals across the GTA and Night It Up is, in my opinion, hands down the best of them all! The vendors seemed especially good this year. Below you’ll see what we ate, what we saw, what Really excited us, and some of the better deals that we found!

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Mini Chicken and Waffles Hors D’Oeuvres

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks on March 19, 2016 at am

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John loves deep fried chicken with waffles. I love deep fried chicken, probably more than any other food in the world, and I like eating waffles every now and then for dessert, but I didn’t like them in combination until I made mini chicken (soft bones) and waffles drizzled with maple syrup. These one-bite hors d’oeuvres make sense to me, because they are easier to eat than the regular sized version, they have the perfect ratio of meat to waffle, they have a great balance of sweet and savoury, and the waffles stay crispy for longer. I was inspired to make these when I spotted Eggo Minis at the grocery store. I usually try to avoid processed foods, but I couldn’t help myself. They’re adorable! Top them with tiny scoops of ice cream (use a melon baller), chocolate or strawberry sauce, and toppings (e.g. mini oreos, crushed nuts, whipped cream, sprinkles) and you’ve got an even more adorable dessert. [Confession: When I first started living on my own, I would eat Eggos for dinner. I’ve eaten a LOT of Eggos in my lifetime. Looks like I’ll be picking up where I left off. ;)]

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Best Chinese Abalone Recipe (Slow Cooker)

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Seafood on February 12, 2015 at am

Cooking with Alison’s Mom (Part 7)

Abalone is a luxury shellfish that is often served at Chinese weddings and other celebrations. Although preparation of abalone starts several days in advance, it is surprisingly easy to make, as long as you have a slow cooker. In fact, I like my mom’s abalone much much more than the ones I’ve had in high-end Chinese restaurants. I’ve shared her recipe below, just in time for Chinese New Year.

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Birds Nest Soup Recipe

In Asian, Asian Desserts, Other Asian Foods on February 1, 2015 at am

Cooking with Alison’s Mom (Part 6)

Dried birds’ nests (also known as swallows’ nests) are considered a Chinese delicacy.  Bird’s nests are believed to have many health benefits, including improving overall health and combating signs of aging.  There are 3 different types of bird’s nest and they can be distinguished by their differing colours.  The colours are, in order of increasing price, white, yellow (shown in the photos below), and red.  Some people say that drinking a few spoonfuls of birds’ nest each day will keep you looking young and feeling healthy.

Bird’s nest is most commonly used to make a Chinese sweet dessert soup.  After being boiled, bird’s nest becomes gelatinous in texture.  It is pretty much flavourless.  Here is my mom’s simple recipe for bird’s nest soup.  Alternatively, we also make the birds’ nest without the rock sugar and then mix a few spoonfuls of it into a bowl of warm milk.  I love drinking it with milk just before bed.

Inside view of a dried bird’s nest

Outside view of a dried bird’s nest

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Chinese ‘Winter Worm Grass’ Soup Recipe

In Asian, Soups on October 23, 2014 at am

Cooking with Alison’s Mom (Part 5)

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According to Chinese medicine, “dong chong cho” or ‘winter worm summer grass’ or caterpillar fungus (ophiocordyceps sinensis), has many health benefits.  Despite its high price tag, many Chinese families will boil it in a soup to improve their health.  After being boiled, the “dong chong cho” does not really taste like anything, and it has a nice slight crunch in texture.  This is how my mom makes “dong chong cho” soup.

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Chinese Conch Soup Recipe

In Asian, Seafood, Soups and Salads on August 22, 2014 at am

Cooking with Alison’s Mom (Part 4)

Conch is seafood, and is basically a large sea snail.  Conch soup is one of my favourite Chinese soups, because boiling fresh conch until it is soft, but still chewy, is my favourite way to cook it.  Conch can also be stir fried, braised, steamed, baked, or BBQ’d whole in its shell.  But note that the part of the conch that is found on the inside of the shell is the most tender, so use this part for quick cooking.  The ‘head’ of the conch is better used for soup, as it is quite a bit tougher.  Be sure to use fresh, live conch.  When you’re in the grocery store, poke the muscle (or ‘head’) of the conch (not the shell).  If it retracts into its shell, then it is alive.  The faster it moves, the better.  Ask the staff to remove the shell for you.  The type of conch that we use for this soup is shown in the photo below.

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Chinese conch soup recipe

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Easy and Delicious Curry Chicken Recipe (Only 5 Ingredients)

In Indian, Meat and Eggs, Poultry on July 27, 2014 at am

First off, you should know that this recipe is, by no means, an authentic curry recipe from any part of the world.  However, it is addictively delicious and ridiculously easy to make.  I don’t normally post recipes that aren’t traditional or authentic, so believe me when I say that this recipe is worth sharing.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it instantly becomes one of your family favourite recipes.  It’s mild in heat, buttery, and slightly sweet.  My sister’s friend, Chelsea, introduced me to this recipe.  She made it for us and a large group of people at a ski chalet, once.  Every single person loved it.  I made it for John’s mom one day and she loved it too.  This is a great dish to make for a crowd.

The key to making this sauce more than just a sum of its 4 ingredients, is to use high quality and complex curry powder.  I’ve had the best success using Malaysian meat curry powder.  Otherwise, it will taste like a curried, honey dijon chicken dish.  But even the curried, honey dijon chicken tastes great, so use whatever you have on hand.  Note that if you use a yellow curry powder, the colour of your sauce will be more yellow than mine.  Ideally, you want the dijon mustard to be indiscernible, leaving your guests wondering what’s behind that addictive flavour.

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Best Brand of Fermented Bean Curd

In Asian, Other Asian Foods on July 24, 2014 at am

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Fermented bean curd is a pungent Chinese condiment.  It comes in glass bottles in the form of cubes of preserved tofu soaking in brine.  It is salty and spicy with a hint of tanginess.  I love this stuff, especially with congee (see recipe here).  It can also be used in a marinade for deep fried chicken wings or in a sauce for stir fried Chinese veggies.

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The absolute best fermented bean curd that I have ever tasted was made in Hoi Ping, Guangdong, China, which is where my mother was born.  If you’re lucky enough to find this brand in your city, let me know what you think of it (and please ship some to me)!!!

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Chinese Chrysanthemum Tea (Hot or Cold)

In Drinks on June 30, 2014 at am

When I was young, one of my favourite drinks was instant chrysanthemum tea.  It wasn’t until I was older that I learned that chrysanthemums are actually flowers.  Then on my trip to China in 2008, I bought dried chrysanthemums for the first time.  I was so excited to see them in a tea shop and I couldn’t wait to make sweet chrysanthemum tea from scratch.  Needless to say, I don’t drink the powdered stuff anymore and I make it using a lot less sugar.  This non-caffeinated tea is delicious sweetened, and can be served hot or cold.  According to the teachings of Chinese medicine, chrysanthemum tea has several health benefits, including “cooling” your body.  So this is a great drink to have when you have been eating too many “hot” foods, such as deep fried or barbecued foods.

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Best Papaya Milk Drink Recipe (木瓜牛奶)

In Asian, Drinks, Other Asian Foods on June 6, 2014 at am
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Papaya milk made with 1 cup of milk

My family and I love the Chinese drink, papaya and milk (木瓜牛奶).  There is only one vendor that we buy it from, because most places do a terrible job of making this.  Often vendors or restaurants will add ice or, more commonly, use papaya that is not nearly ripe enough.  I’ve recreated our favourite vendor’s papaya milk drink.  The most important thing to remember when making papaya juice or papaya milk drink is that the papaya must be overly ripe, to the point where it is almost starting to going bad, as shown in the photo below.  The ripeness of the papaya not only affects the flavour of the drink, but also the texture of it.

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Ingredients That Freeze Beautifully

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Breads, Breakfast, Desserts, How-To, Indian, Main Course on June 1, 2014 at am

Whenever I cook with ingredients that I don’t use regularly, I almost always end up with extra ingredients that I can’t find the time or purpose for.  I hate to waste food.  So, very early on, I learned how to make the freezer my best friend.  Below I’ve shared a list of fresh and canned ingredients that freeze beautifully for months to a year, without a change in texture or taste.  Let me know if you can think of anything else!  I will add to this list as I discover new freezer friendly ingredients.  Also, I’ve posted many many freezer friendly recipes throughout the years.  Just look to the end of each recipe for freezing instructions, as applicable.

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My Absolute Favourite Fruit: Mangosteen

In Appetizers, Hors D'oeuvres, Snacks, Asian, Breakfast, Desserts, How-To on May 22, 2014 at am

I love almost all fruit, and mangosteen is, by far, my favourite.  If you haven’t tried purple mangosteen yet, I highly recommend that you do as soon as the opportunity presents itself.  When I was in Malaysia, I ate an entire bag and every day that I’ve been back, I regret not eating more.  That was a year ago!!!  Mangosteen are grown mainly in Southeast Asia and the best ones that I’ve ever had were from Malaysia. Disappointingly, in North America, mangosteen can be quite expensive and often not very fresh.  So be sure to choose ones with a fresh and green coloured stem, because there are such things as bad and so-so mangosteen.

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The purple fruit shown in the middle are the mangosteen

The purple outer shell is inedible.  To open a mangosteen, crush the purple shell between the palms of your hands and then pull it apart to open it.  But be very careful not to stain your clothes, because the purple dye is almost impossible to wash out.  In fact, many hotels in Southeast Asia ban their guests from bringing mangosteen into their rooms.  The white flesh on the inside of the fruit is soft, moist, juicy and refreshing and light tasting.  Also, there are large seeds within each lobe of the white flesh.

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If you get the chance to try a mangosteen, let me know what you think!

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