Category Archives: Poultry

we’re going java!

if you ask hubs about his favorite pinoy dish, aristocrat’s java chicken will rank up there.  well really, what he likes about the dish is the java sauce that goes with the dish.  i think if he had his way, he would order the sauce as the entree and the chicken as the side.  the sauce itself tastes something in between teriyaki sauce, kecap manis, or molasses with peanut-ty undertones.

aristocrat’s restaurant in manila invented the sauce.  the filipino packaged goods brand, mama sita, makes a version that is sold throughout pinoy supermarkets at home and abroad.  our friends on the west coast have located the sauce at their local ethnic grocery stores.  hubs and i have yet to find the same sauce on the east coast.

a while back, i tried to make java sauce at home (attempt #1).  hubs said that it came in quite close but wasn’t quite right.  over the holidays, hubs got a hankering for java sauce again, and this time, i had him stand right next to the stove with me until his taste buds concurred that we were spot on. Continue reading

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the 2 hour turkey

people descended upon my thanksgiving spread so quickly that i didn’t have the opportunity to take a photo of the entire spread.  i did manage to sneak in strategically to get shots of individual dishes.  i’ll be posting them over the next few days. first, the turkey glamour shots . . .

i always try to find the smallest bird possible.  this year, i got a 10 lb free range turkey from Costco.  i recall paying $23 for the bird.

rather than brining, i do a salt and pepper rub. because of its small size, my turkey will cook in  about 2 hours, giving me plenty of time to use the oven for other things.

here’s what i did . . .

Lemon Rosemary Roasted Turkey
(one 10 lb turkey)

Turkey 1 8-10 lb bird, preferably free range
Salt & Pepper 1-2 tbsp
Olive Oil 1-2 tbsp
Lemons 2, halved
Rosemary 1 bunch
Onions 2 medium sized onions, halved
  1. Pre-heat oven to 425º F
  2. Wash and dry the turkey
  3. Sprinkle salt & pepper on the front and back, as well as inner cavity of the  bird
  4. Drizzle all over with olive oil
  5. Stuff the turkey with lemons, onions and rosemary
  6. Place the dressed bird on a rack set inside a sufficiently large roasting pan
  7. Roast for ~2 hours or until the temperature of the breast meat reached about 160º F
  8. Remove from oven, cover with foil and allow the meat to rest

peking duck in beijing: part 2

[so somehow you endured my rampage on peking duck in beijing and want to read more on said topic, eh (said with canadian accent)?]

we arrived in beijing on an early morning flight, and soon after dropping off our luggage at the hotel, packed ourselves into a taxi hurtling towards east 40th road bridge location of dadong roast duck restaurant.  the restaurant itself was rather curiously ensconced within the newly restored imperial granary.  there was, what appeared to be, a small museum to the side of the restaurant about the granary during the qing era.

a phalanx of valets, maitr’ds and greeters filled the entrance of the restaurant.  once inside the vestibule, we observed a small army of chefs loading, turning and removing perfectly golden peking ducks from the blazing hot brick oven.  the decor of the dining area took me by surprise.  i guess, the last time i went to dadong (albeit different location), i sat at a traditionally decorated chinese restaurant — clean with carved wooden chinese chairs and yellow table cloth.  this newest iteration of dadong featured black and silver as the primary colors. the table cloths were replaced by surfaces done up with a glossy, mirror like finish.  the dragon and chinese symbols remained but more muted than before.   same restaurant, same duck but re-packaged in shiny new garb befitting “nouveau china” and its nouveau riche clientele.

our waitress handed us a massive tome of a menu, weighing close to 5 lbs.  after flipping thru 30-40 pages, we settled on the duck, stir fried  baby snow peas shoots, gong bao shrimp and a small bowl of fried rice.  the menu contained tons of opulent dishes that we didn’t order: abalone, sea cucumbers, crab, etc.  i quite enjoyed the shrimp. the snow peas were well done, though nothing special.  surprisingly, the fried rice came about 30 minutes late and was nothing short of terrible.  fortunately, the duck made up for that mis-step.

the waitress placed the (optional; ~15rmb per person, i think) condiment platter for the duck on our tables.  it contained sugar, pickled vegetables, scallions, cucumbers, hoisin sauce, radishes and fresh ground garlic. we stared at it for about 5 minutes until the master duck chef appeared table-side to carve our duck into perfectly thin, super crisp slices, and then arrange them into a floral pattern on a platter. i wonder how many years of training it takes to become a duck carver?

we had only ordered half a duck, but were unable to finish — no doubt because hubs fell in love with the accompanying pancakes.  he started to eat the pancakes sans duck.  we went through two baskets of pancakes because of his affinity for them.  to this day, if you ask him what dish he enjoyed most in china, he’ll say the peking duck at dadong but really for the pancakes.  me, i liked the duck.  i found the duck flesh tender and the skin amazing light, airy and crispy.  i think we have a good system worked out.  one order of duck.  duck for me; pancakes for him . . .

dadong also serves the duck with shao bing (烧饼; it’s kind of like a flakey and puffy bread dotted with sesame seeds) and a duck broth soup — not pictured.  our bill came to around RMB400-500 for two people, an amount that is a bit exorbitant by local standards but reasonable for the quality of the meal.

the next night we headed over to peking duck, private kitchen (“PDPK”), a new duck restaurant that hadn’t been around the last time i stayed in the capital. PDPK is located in the ground floor of an office complex in the business district. it is much less opulent and over the top compared to da dong.  the restaurant’s chinese name (果果私房烤鸭) refers to the fruit wood used to roast the duck.  and indeed, upon stepping inside the restaurant the heady scent of burning fruit wood swept over us.

the interior of the restaurant is quite dark. it seemed as if each table was barely illuminated by the light from candles warming plates of duck placed on top.  the tables and benches are quite low to the ground, as if to replicate the sensation of being seated on a manchurian kang.

the chef at PDPK has a different style of serving peking duck compared to dadong.  once we placed our order (whole duck only), a small plate containing sugar and thin slices of duck neck skin appeared.  while the duck fat had been drained, the skin tasted much smokier and less airy compared with  dadong — then again duck neck skin does tend to be tougher than skin from the rest of the duck.

our waitress set the main platter of roast duck on top of a candle to keep it warm.  while artfully presented, the chef carved the duck in a manner that featured the duck flesh rather than the duck skin.  the skin had been sliced into thin slivers attached to duck flesh that really didn’t allow me to fully experience the joy of eating crisp duck skin by itself.

like at dadong, we were also served duck broth soup and pancakes.  hubs commented that the pancakes at dadong were thinner and less chewy compared with PDPK.  he liked dadong’s more, but he gobbled up a whole bunch of those wrappers nonetheless.

PDPK is good value for money, and at 99 rmb per duck, it’s the most affordable duck on my list (there are some local places that serve peking duck for 50-70 rmb).  i’d say that their duck on any given day is better than your average duck in beijing, and especially better than peking duck in nyc.

that said, da dong, for now,  still remains tops for peking duck in my book. . .

Da Dong: (大董烤鸭店–东四十条)
1-2/F, Nanxincang International Plaza, 22A Dongsishitiao, Beijing, China
东四十条甲22号南新仓国际大厦1-2楼(东四十条桥西南)
Open daily 11am-10pm
Tel: 86-10-5169-0328
**there are several other locations in Beijing

Peking Duck, Private Kitchen: (果果私房烤鸭)
Vantone Center, 6A Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District, Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
朝阳区朝阳门外大街 6A号万通中心
Open daily 11am-2pm, 5pm-9.30pm
Tel: 86-10-5907 1920

peking duck in beijing: part 1

i promised hubby that we would gorge ourselves on some of the best peking duck on the planet during out trip to china. we would only be in beijing for a day and a half, which would allow us to have two peking duck meals.  i suppose i could have squeezed in a third, but our cholesterol levels at that point might easily have shot into territories even beyond lipitor’s rescue.  a few weeks before i left for the trip to in late august, i started researching the best places to eat peking duck in the capital.  i began by looking for the  “top 10 / best of” lists, and surprisingly,  many of the lists i came across had not been updated in 5 years. given the amount of change that has been taking place in china, i would have expected the top ranks of duck houses to at least include a few new names.

after some digging, i compiled a short list of my own (see below), and decided to pick one old standby, Da Dong,  and one new place, Peking Duck, Private Kitchen to try.

tomato in tribeca’s short list of top peking duck houses (August 2010) — in no particular order and not by any means completely exhaustive:
(* indicates where we actually ended up going)

  1. Quan Ju De: (全聚德) this one has been around forever and was the first duck house i ate at in china about 15 years ago when i believe it was still a state-run affair.  nowadays it’s got franchises galore throughout china, hk and australia. the restaurant is frequently mentioned as being the place for eating duck, though i personally think that their standing has more to do with their storied 130+ year history.  since trying the restaurant 15 years ago, i have never gone back — we were served a duck with 1 inch of duck fat still intact. blubbery and totally inedible. interestingly my beijing friends from back then told me that the fatter duck was considered to be more of a delicacy.  i have to think that in the 15 years since my visit, they’ve managed to roast a leaner duck in accords with modern tastes.  perhaps it’s worth another look.
    Peking Duck: ~220 RMB; although prices vary by location (they used to have a foreign tourist section where prices were much higher than for locals, not sure if they still do).
  2. Made in China: (长安壹号) the restaurant is located inside the grand hyatt hotel in beijing.  it was the hottest peking duck house in town 5 years ago, and the duck, pricey by local standards, was extremely flavorful and tender. i thought about booking there, but got swayed by my old standby, Da Dong, instead.
    Peking Duck: ~250 RMB.
  3. Duck de Chine – 1949: (全鸭季) Y called up her friend in beijing to inquire about the best place for peking duck.  her friend mentioned this place.  apparently the duck is similar to da dong in taste but the place has got a nouveau modern china ambiance.  it’s inside a converted factory space and has an art gallery out front.  will have to try the next time i’m in beijing.
    Update:  Y just wrote me.  Apparently, she just ate dinner there and  thinks Da Dong is still better … that said, she thought their sauce was quite interesting–it had a yin-yang swirl effect…
    Peking Duck: ~188 RMB.
  4. Li Qun Roast Duck: (利群烤鸭店) my friend S dragged me to this place 5 years ago.  you have to go down some dirty alleys before finding this place inside a converted hutong (old style home). S had gone there before and swore that they served the best duck because they used some sort of special fruit type wood to roast their ducks.  i thought the duck was really nothing special, but what really got me was how dirty the place was.  i didn’t get sick or anything but felt rather uncomfortable the whole time there.  not sure if they’ve managed to remodel in the last 5 years. while it’s not the most expensive duck in the city, they’ve jacked up their prices in the last 5 years — no doubt because they were featured in all these tourist books (used to be under 100 RMB per duck, i believe).   sounds like they’ve managed to evolve into a total tourist trap to me.
    Peking Duck: ~190 RMB.
  5. *Da Dong: (大董烤鸭店) i fell in love with this restaurant 5 years ago, and i still love it today. if anything, they’ve managed to get better  with age.  they’ve got several branches around the city.  we went to their newest and ritziest location inside the old imperial granary.  they were never the cheapest duck house in town, and their prices  (especially for other menu items) have increased in the last 5 years. however, i think the quality is worth it.
    Peking Duck: ~200 RMB
  6. *Peking Duck, Private Kitchen: (果果私房烤鸭) great value for money. the duck is similar in flavor to Li Qun, but the place is a lot cleaner, more modern, and the duck a lot cheaper.  prices for other dishes were quite reasonable.  they are not super fancy like Da Dong but they get the job done.
    Peking Duck: 99 RMB

Reviews on Da Dong and Peking Duck, Private Kitchen forthcoming

brined and roasted duck breast

i’m taking a little break from re-living the greatest highlights of my trip, and chatting instead about this duck breast i cooked last week.  i usually buy my duck breast from fresh direct.  it comes vacuum sealed and frozen.  a package runs about $15-$20, and you get a massive duck breast (larger than anything i’ve ever carved from a whole duck). the picture above shows half of the duck breast.

way back i took a class at fci about preparing easy meals.  about the only thing i remember is that cooking lamb fat causes fireworks and that duck breast tastes really really good when brined. in fact, just about everything tastes good brined.  all the flavors of the brine seep into the muscle of the protein…flavor flavor everywhere, all for you and me!

Brined & Roasted Duck Breast

Duck Breast 1 whole duck breast (2 to 2.5 lbs)
Water 6 cups
Star Anise 2 whole pods
Juniper Berries 1 tbsp
Mustard Seeds 1 tbsp
Pepper 2 tbsp
Cinnamon 1 stick
Salt 6 tbsp
Onion 1-2 medium sized ones
Tomatoes a few
  1. Prepare the Brine: (at least 24 hours before)  Bring water to a boil.  Turn off heat and stir in salt, star anise, juniper berries, mustard seeds, pepper and cinnamon.  Stir until salt dissolves.  Let cool to room temperature.   When cooled, pour the brining solution into a ziploc bag set inside a bowl.  Then place the rinsed duck breast into the brining solution.  Seal the bag.  Place into the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
  2. Prepare the Roasting Dish: Pre-heat oven to 400ºF.  In a small pan or roasting dish, place a few onions and tomatoes that are chopped into half or left whole.  Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Make sure to leave sufficient room for the duck.  Place into oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Cooking the duck breast:  Remove the brined duck breast from the solution.  With a fork, puncture the skin of the duck a few times.  Heat a large skillet (i use a deep stock pot because the sides prevent the duck grease from splattering my kitchen) and drop the breast skin side down first.  Sear for 5-6 minutes on both sides.   A lot of duck fat will be rendered.
  4. Roasting the Duck: Carefully arrange the duck on the hot roasting dish (from step 2).  Roast for 12 to 15 minutes until the duck is medium rare. Yet more duck fat will be rendered.
  5. Finishing: Let the duck rest for 10 minutes before carving into thin slices.

dashi-maki tamago with nori (rolled omelette, 出し巻き卵 )

making dashi-maki tamago is quite a bit like constructing crepe cakes.  you work slowly with each paper thin layer. and with patience and a little bit of practice, you can end up with a plate of rolled up eggs that are quite dramatic to look at and fun to eat.

for thanksgiving, i made a great big plate of tamago rolls. i needed something that could be made in advance, served cold and easily stored until plating.  you do need some special equipment — a rectangular frying pan with a curved lip on one end and a sushi mat.  i bought one in my local sunrise mart for about US$12.  i tried making tamago in a round frying pan, but it really doesn’t work as well.

i got my recipe for dashi-maki tamago from the venerable shizuo tsuji’s japanese cooking: a simple art. i found the resulting omelet to be a bit lacking in flavour (either that or my taste buds have become de-sensitized) and have adjusted the recipe by the addition of sugar.

Dashi-Maki Tamago
(makes 2 rolls about 8 inches in length and 1.5 inches in diameter)

Eggs 8 large ones
Dashi or chicken stock 2/3 to ¾ cup
Salt ½ tsp
Mirin 1 tbsp
Sugar 1.5 tbsp
Soy Sauce 1 tbsp
Nori 6 sheets cut in half to approximately fit the rectangular tamago pan
Vegetable Oil A few tbsps
  1. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, dashi, salt, mirin, sugar, and soy sauce until just combined.  The mixture should not be frothy. (Depending on the type of sugar used, you may want to dissolve the sugar in a little bit of warm broth/dashi).
  2. Divide mixture in half.  One half will be used to make one rolled omelette.
  3. Heat the tamago pan over medium heat.  Lightly wipe the pan with cloth moistened with oil.  Test to see if pan is hot enough by putting a dab of egg mixture into the pan.  It should sizzle.
  4. When the pan is ready, pour 1/3 of egg mixture (from the half portion that had been set aside) in the pan.  Shift the pan around so that the egg mixture is spread evenly.  Add a piece of nori on top of the uncooked egg.  When the egg is about 70% cooked, use chopsticks or a spatula to roll the egg towards one end of the pan. Leave the egg in the pan.
  5. Pour in another 1/3 of the egg mixture.  Briefly lift the 1st egg roll up to allow the new egg mixture underneath the cooked portion of the roll.  Then add a piece of nori on top of the uncooked egg again.  Repeat with final 1/3 of egg mixture.
  6. When the omelette roll is completed, remove it from the pan and wrap it in a bamboo sushi mat.  Press the egg gently to shape it.  A small amount of broth-like liquid should be secreted from the roll.  If there’s no liquid, the omelette has been overcooked.
  7. Slice the roll into 2-3 inchs long cylinders to serve.

shiso leaf wrapped teriyaki chicken (青紫蘇)

IMG_2471

oh shiso leaves! how i sing your praises. shiso leaves are a member of the mint family but as my dear hubby describes them, they kind of taste like a cross between cilantro and mint.  typically, found as a garnish to sashimi dishes, shiso leaves impart an incredible flavour and aroma when eaten raw or cooked.  i found a small package of fresh shiso leaves at mitsuwa and set about making a shiso leaf wrapped teriyaki chicken for dinner.  it’s incredibly easy!

Shiso Leaf Wrapped Teriyaki Chicken

Chicken Legs ~ 1 lb (I used jidori chicken legs with the skin on, that had been quartered)
Teriyaki Sauce ¾ cup
Shiso Leaves Enough leaves to wrap each piece of chicken
Toothpicks Enough to skewer each piece of chicken
  1. Wash chicken and pat dry.
  2. Marinate chicken in teriyaki sauce for 30 minutes.
  3. Tuck a shiso leaf inside a piece of chicken and roll it up.  The leaf should be on the interior of the chicken.  Secure the roll with a toothpick.
  4. Place the chicken in a sheet of tin foil and bed the edges up, forming a bowl-like shape. Place the foil bowl with the chicken onto a baking pan.
  5. Spoon about 5-6 tbsp of leftover teriyaki marinade onto the chicken rolls.
  6. In an oven set to 450°F or in a toaster oven set to broil, bake the chicken  for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the skin of the chicken turns brown.

Teriyaki Sauce
(Adapted from Shizuo Tsuji’s Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art)

Lately, in an effort to cut down on the amount of sauces I keep in my refrigerator, I’ve been making my own teriyaki sauce. It’s really easy!

Soy Sauce ¼ cup
Mirin ¼ cup
Sake ¼ cup
Sugar 1 tbsp
  1. Mix together ingredients above in a small sauce pan, and bring to a boil.
  2. When it reaches a boil, turn off the heat and allow the sauce to cool to room temperature.  That’s it!