Hainanese Chicken Rice is one of those seminal foods that I distinctly remember from my childhood. Silky slices of tender chicken, fragrant rice, clear gingery soup and the accompanying dipping sauces -- this dish stands out as an early taste memory so pleasurable that it can make my mouth water even today.
It was a treat to go to the restaurant in Tradewinds - one of the Manila hotels in the upscale business district of Makati. Unfortunately, hardly a trace of this hotel, its restaurant or its menu can be found on the Internet today - but it existed, a while ago - back in the early 80s. I found one blog post that confirms it here - its author reminisces about the dish and her commenters also confirm the name and existence of the hotel and restaurant.
So why was Tradewinds so special? One went to Tradewinds just for the Hainanese Chicken Rice.
As I'd mentioned before, I often tend to focus on the savoury, giving short shrift to sweet things. In my family my mom and I were the cooks, my little sister (with the sweet tooth, naturally), the baker. But DD has that sweet tooth, and less of an inclination to bake, and is more like to coerce me into emerging into the dark streets in our pyjamas, in search of dessert. We luckily live by a great Gelato shoppe a scant 1/2 block away and a cafe that offers crispy waffle bits and Bi-Rite ice cream catty-corner to the Gelato shoppe.
But with this recipe there's really no excuse to not make dessert at home.
As I've mentioned before - I love one-pot dishes: entrees that incorporate proteins, starches and vegetables all in one. I'd never made Albóndigas soup in the past, probably because I thought that having to make all the meatballs would be time-consuming. And while it did take a bit of time, the end result was pretty rewarding - you can even enlist loved ones in forming the little round spheres.
I’ve probably mentioned this before - baking/ baked goods and desserts of all kinds get short shrift at our house. If given a choice between making something savory or something sweet, I almost always will choose the savory appetizer, entree, vegetable side dish, etc.
But of late I’ve been trying my hand at after-dinner treats more - DD’s sweet tooth demands it. So - to avoid the late night forays to Holy Gelato in our pyjamas, I’ve been making panna cotta. I didn’t realize how easy it could be until I tried making my first batch, using David Lebovitz’s recipe for a vanilla version here.
Somewhere around the fall of last year, I went on a Japanese cooking jag, inspired by and anticipating our upcoming trip to Japan. We were taking Japanese language courses and I was shopping at Nijiya, weekly. The Japantown neighborhood suddenly became familiar, where it hadn’t before. My mania for Japanese cooking reached somewhat of a turning point when I took a Japanese Kaiseki cooking workshop through the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California in December, and cooked up a multi-course Japanese holiday dinner.
I cooked my mother's dish on mother's day. I was not able to make a trip to Southern California then, but loved that she had made it on the past 2 occasions when I visited last. Kiam Pung translates into Salty Rice, with "kiam" being salty in my parents' fukienese/ fujianese dialect, which I'm told is very similar to Hokkien, or Taiwanese. Basically I like to think of this easy dish is a Chinese Paella -- it's open to an infinite number of variations, but should always contain 3 essential ingredients (besides the rice, which is a given):
- Soy Sauce
- Some kind of green vegetable
- Some kind of meat or seafood or meat substitute
Marcella Hazan, in her seminal Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, wrote that of the thousands of recorded dishes that could illustrate the genius of a cuisine, Pork Braised in Milk would certainly be among the favoured few. Her recipe is exceedingly simple - start with a pork loin roast (bone included), brown it well in some oil, add around 2 cups milk, and simmer over low heat for several hours until tender. She also notes that, if we have access to it, and are not averse to the fact that it might fall apart in whilst carving, pork butt, or Boston shoulder, laced with a goodly amount of fat - is preferrable, but perhaps won't be as pretty on a plate.
One of our favourite bar bites ever are the pickled quail eggs at the Alembic. If you're starving, and find that you possibly can't wait for the five awesome dishes you've just ordered to start to arrive, take heart - you'll be grateful when these are set quickly in front of you. They arrive almost instantaneously, scooped up from a large jar behind the bar.
As DD narrates – he once (after a particularly stressful day), consumed no less than a mean dozen in a sitting, interspersed with some very good cocktails. And, characteristic of my husband in all the time I’ve known him – once he’s got his mind set on something, that thing is as good as done.