Monday, February 27, 2012

Flavoring Vegetarian Soups + Bitter Melon Soup 苦瓜蛋花汤

It is not the (huge) amount of oil you have to use. You also don't have to depend on excessively-rich, heavy hot sauces. How to flavor vegetarian soups?

Cooking Tips:
- Add tomatoes (I cannot emphasize enough);
- Then there is also a pre-fry of the onions (till slightly charred and caramelized) to deepen the flavor intensity.
- It is sometimes not everything-all-at-once-in-the-pot! The sequence of adding the ingredients is important as well. Refer to this post: Since celery, and carrots cook longer than Napa cabbage - those were added first so that more time is allowed for developing flavors with the aromatics (onions, ginger, garlic) before the Napa cabbage is added. To zoom into details, you should add the "white" bottom stems of the Napa cabbage first (since those take longer to cook), then the leaves.

This Bitter Melon Egg Drop Soup 苦瓜蛋花汤 is another example of using tomatoes and using a pre-fry step.

Bitter food is good for us, and helps to speed up our metabolism. Green vegetables such as broccoli, and spinach can also be classified as bitter good. Well, broccoli and spinach do not taste bitter to me. Bitter melon might be the ultimate!

I have cooked bitter melon soup many times and bitter melon soup (egg-drop version) quite frequently.

This time, the base of this Bitter Melon Soup 苦瓜蛋花汤 starts with ikan billis (dried boiled anchovies), some onions, ginger, and tomatoes. In a soup pot, aromatize them in a little oil. When the onions turn translucent, then add water (or stock) to constitute the soup. Allow it to come to a boil for about 10 minutes (for flavors and aromatics to infuse), then turn down heat, add in bitter melon and continue to let it simmer till the bitter melon is cooked (no more than 30 minutes). Before serving, gently stir in whisked egg to create silky egg-strands. Turn off the heat. Sea salt and ground white pepper to taste. Garnish generously with finely chopped green onions and cilantro.

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Chayote (Chokos) Tomato Stew 番茄焖煮佛手瓜

Okra with Tomatoes. Bitter Melon with Tomatoes. Brisling Sardines with Tomatoes. Cabbage with Tomatoes. And now...Chokos (Chayote) with Tomatoes.

When the word "Umami" became a hype these few years, tomatoes became a topic of the town as they are tied to ketchup which many claimed to taste "Umami" - kinda addictive with savory deliciousness. I do not like ketchup (or probably, should I say, not my kitchen or dining habit to have it?) but extremely so love tomatoes. That is why many Indian curries and dishes taste so good. They've got tomatoes.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Napa Cabbage and Barley Soup 白菜薏仁汤

Practice makes perfect when creating tasty vegetarian dishes. Nah, vegetarian dishes are not bland.

In fact, they can be flavorsome and delicious. Seriously, it is not difficult to develop flavors in vegetarian dishes. It is not the (huge) amount of oil you have to use. And you don't have to over-depend on excessively-rich, heavy hot sauces.

How then?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Stir-Fry Chayote with Fresh Lily Bulbs 清炒佛手瓜鲜百合

As I am quite familiar with using chayote in cooking, I also explored another relatively new ingredient to pair with chayote recently. Fresh Lily Bulbs mark a close resemblance to...errr.... "finger nails"?

Can you find the finger nails I am talking about?

Fresh lily bulbs have a natural hint of sweetness and according to Chinese medicinal perspective, have slightly "cold properties". When the weather is dry, lily bulbs can be used to relieve coughs, dry throats and to clear away "heat" in the body. They are also known to promote restful sleep, to treat insomnia and reduce heart palpitations.