We’ve Moved

November 17, 2007

I realized I was going to use over 10% of my storage space before the end of my first month so I’ve moved to

Consolidating Mandarin Lessons

November 17, 2007

Today I focused on consolidating what I’ve learned over the previous 3 days. I’ve gone over about 45 Newbie lessons and 3 Elementary lessons so far since I started Chnesepod on Tuesday. Basically what I’ve done is sort the Newbie and Elementary lessons in ascending order by date. I then listen to the full lesson and chorus the Mandarin. Chorusing is when you speak along with the audio you’re listening to in your target language.

Some of the Newbie lessons were very basic for me so I would stop after the speakers had repeated the mandarin lesson 3 times in a row. If there was a new word for me I would listen to the entire lesson and then chorus the dialog (there’s a link to just listening to the mandarin for each lesson.) a few times and then mark the lesson as studied. If there were 3 or more new words for me I would listen to the full lesson, chorus the mandarin dialog a few times, then bookmark the lesson for reviewing the next day. The next day I tried the dialog, if I could get the entire lesson right away I would mark it as studied so it would drop off my bookmarked list. If I felt it needed more work I left it on my bookmarked list for more review the next day.

Right now I have 5 Newbie and 3 Elementary lessons in my bookmarked section. When I feel I can check 2 or more of them off as studied I’ll start on some new lessons. I really like this approach. I have multiple lessons to work on at various level of understanding, which keeps me focused and interested.

I’m still mulling over my learning tools for next year. Right now I’m leaning towards

1) Chinesepod
2) Integrated Chinese
3) Getting a Palm TX and installing Pleco.

Salted Fish Fried Rice

November 15, 2007

Salted Fish Fried Rice

Salted Fish Fried Rice is a great dish if you like salty, savory dishes. I’ve had this dish in Malaysian, Taiwanese, and Cantonese restaurants. It’s so simple to make. Serves 4 to 5 adults

Ingredients

  1. Rice for 4 people. Preferably rice made the day before and left in the fridge overnight. Helps to dry out the rice which is better for frying. If you are making rice at the same time you are going to cook this dish, make sure to use about 20% less water then you normally do. That’s what I did.
  2. 6 oz/160 grams of salted fish. Chopped to about 3 x the size of a pea or kernel of corn. I bought mine at Whole foods, but you can find it in Asian groceries as well
  3. 2 to 3 chicken thigh fillets skinned. Cut into bite sized pieces
  4. 1 medium sized yellow onion peeled and chopped
  5. 3 garlic cloves… crushed and chopped
  6. 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  7. stir fry vegetables – I used half a bag of Bird’s Eye frozen stir fry and half a box of Bird’s Eye frozen mixed vegetables.
  8. Fish Sauce. Definitely need this to have an authentic taste.

First you need to remove some of the salt from the salted fish. I ran tap water over the fish for a minute or so, then placed it in a pot of water to soak in the fridge for 8 hours. Every few hours I changed the water and ran the fish under tap water for about a minute.

To cook I placed a 5 qt skillet/saucepan(like a frying pan with taller, vertical sides) on medium heat on the stove top. I then added about 2 tablespoons of oil to the pan. When the oil had warmed up, I put the chopped onions in. Normally I add a bit of salt to the onions when I start cooking them. However, there is so much salt in the salted fish and fish sauce that I didn’t add any salt for this dish. Stir the onions until they become translucent (shiny and clear). Then add the crushed and chopped garlic. As soon as you can smell the aroma of cooking garlic (about 10 to 15 seconds), add the cut chicken pieces and another 2 tablespoons of oil. I waited about 2 minutes and then added the salted fish. About 3 minutes later I added the frozen vegetables. Since I had just made rice in my rice cooker, when the vegetables were almost done I added the rice to the skillet and then immediately poured about 4 oz/100 ml of fish sauce over the food. I kept stirring to mix everything together and cooked it for another few minutes.

As always, make sure the chicken and fish are thoroughly cooked before serving.

Mandarin Immersion Day

November 14, 2007

Yesterday I bombarded my brain with Mandarin. I did 3 new lessons in my Assimil Chinese with Ease. When I wasn’t actively studying, I was playing Assimil lessons so I could listen to it while I did everyday things like shaving, cooking, eating, etc. I was so upbeat about this experience that I signed up for a trial membership with Chinesepod. I took the listening test and scored at Elementary-low. Chinesepod has Newbie, Elementary, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, Advanced, and Media levels. I sorted the Newbie lessons by ascending order by date and did the first 19. I just kept doing them one after the other and didn’t realize how many I had done till my brain said enough and I suddenly became very tired. I’ve set a goal of reaching Intermediate level at chinesepod by Thanksgiving 2008. Ideally I can reach this target by June of 2008, but November 2008 is more realistic. Who knows, if I keep working at it, Mandarin might suddenly click in my head and I could reach upper intermediate in my time frame.

I must have done at least 9 hours of mandarin input time. I definitely want to try this once a week. I really felt like I was thinking in Mandarin instead of translating from English to mandarin and vice versa. I’m going to sign up with an internet Asian dvd rental store so I can increase my mandarin listening time and hear a wider variety of speakers. Plus most stuff on US TV isn’t too interesting to me, and I can speak English.

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

November 6, 2007

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Taiwanese beef noodle soup is one of my favorite home made dishes. It’s good year round, but especially tasty in the fall and winter.

Prep time 20 minutes. Cooking time about 2 hours. Serves 4 to 6 adults

Ingredients

  1. 5-6 Qts of water
  2. 1.5 to 2 lbs beef shin (this is found in asian grocery stores, you can substitute brisket or stew beef from a western grocery)
  3. 1.5 to 2 lbs daikon and carrots
  4. 6 to 8 napa cabbage leaves
  5. 2 stalks of bok choy
  6. 1/3 bunch of coriander/cilantro
  7. 3 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  8. pinky size of ginger, peeled and chopped
  9. 6 star anise
  10. 2 pieces of cinnamon bark
  11. 2 pieces of dried tangerine peel
  12. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  13. 1/3 cup dark soy sauce
  14. big handful of chinese noodles

Prep and Cook

  1. Put 5-6 quarts of water in a large pot and place on the stove to simmer.
  2. Crush and chop the garlic, peel and slice the ginger and place in the pot
  3. Add the star anise, cinnamon bark, tangerine peel, brown sugar and soy sauce
  4. Cut the meat into bite size pieces (some butcher shops will do this for you) and add to the soup
  5. Wash and peel the daikon and carrots, then chop into bite sized pieces and add to the soup
  6. Simmer for 2 hours. The beef will become melt in your mouth tender and the daikon and carrots will absorb the soup flavor
  7. After about 1.5 to 1 3/4 hours of simmering, place another, smaller pot of water on to boil the noodles.
  8. Wash and roughly chop the napa cabbage leaves and bok choy(if you are using baby bok choy you do not need to chop it). and wash the coriander/cilantro
  9. When the water for the noodles boils, add the napa cabbage, bok choy, and coriander/cilantro to the soup and cook for about 3 minutes and place the handful of noodles into the pot of boiling water. Do not cook the noodles in the soup, the soup will not taste as good since the noodles will cause the water to become cloudy as they cook. Some people use coriander as a garnish, but I prefer to cook it for a few minutes. (I won’t let my son eat any raw vegetables/herbs until he’s older and better able to resist food borne pathogens)

To serve place some noodles in a bowl and ladle the soup on top. Do not eat the star anise, cinnamon bark, or tangerine peel, they are only for flavoring.

I think this soup tastes even better the next day. You also may want to wear a bib or a dark shirt while eating the soup. I’ve stained a few light colored shirts while eating other versions of beef noodle soup in restaurants.

Roast Pork in Char Siu Sauce with Noodles and Stir Fry Vegetables

November 3, 2007

roast-pork-and-bok-choy.jpg noodles-with-stir-fry-vegetables.jpg

Tonight I made roast pork in Char Siu sauce with a vegetable stir fry over noodles. This is my interpretation of a dish I saw on TV show called Take Home Chef starring an Aussie Chef named Curtis. He approaches shoppers in LA grocery stores (I’ve only seen him go up to good looking women). He talks to them for a bit, then helps them design a dinner and picks up all the ingredients. He then goes to their house, shows them how to prep the food and then cooks it.

I used about 1.75 pounds of pork loin. I cut it in half length wise and then marinaded it with Char Siu sauce, honey tea syrup (I was out of honey), and 2 stalks of lemon grass that I bashed and then chopped into 6 pieces. I let it marinade for about 8 hours, but Curtis says you can do it over night.

When I cooked it I heated the oven to 350 F and placed my 12 inch cast iron skillet on the stove top, turned on the burner, and added about a table spoon of vegetable oil to the skillet. When the oil was hot I added the pork and cooked each side for 2 minutes., then moved the skillet into  the oven for 18 to 2o minutes at 350 F. It was cooked medium, but I put it back in the oven for 4 minutes to make it medium well/well.

While the pork was cooking I put 2 pots of water on the stove, a big one for the noodles and a small one for bok choy. I added a tea spoon of oil to each pot and a tea spoon of sugar to the small pot for the bok choy. Green vegetables cooked in water with a bit of oil and sugar come out nice and shiny. When the pork was almost done I added the noodles and the washed baby bok choy to the pots of water since they only take about 3 minutes to cook.

For the stir fry I washed and cut into finger wide pieces 1 small yellow onion, 8 ounces of daikon, 4 napa cabbage leaves, and 1 red pepper. I placed a large skillet on the stove and added a table spoon of oil to it. When it was hot I added the onion. A minute later I added 2 cloves of garlic that I had crushed and sliced. When I could smell the garlic I tossed in the rest of the vegetables with a bit of salt and cooked them until they were soft but still slightly crunchy.

To serve I placed the bok choy in the middle of a plate. I then sliced the roast pork and surrounded the bok choy with it. I put all the noodles on another plate and covered them with the vegetables and drizzled sesame oil and soy sauce over it.

This meal was awesome and will become a regular for us.

Vegetable Noodle Soup in Fish Stock

November 2, 2007

I like to make food that is inexpensive and tasty. Especially using only 1 or 2 pots and pans. I like to cook, but do not like spending 30 minutes to an hour cleaning up afterwards.

Last night I made a tasty pot of soup. Soup is great in the fall and winter since it warms me up when I eat it. It was pretty easy to make using mostly bits of frozen and canned veggies. It was enough for 2 adults and 2 kids.

1 Qt/liter of water. Yes I know they aren’t the same, but it’s a soup so it does not need to be precise.

1 can Mackerel in Tomato Sauce (8 oz/210 grams)

1 small can of sliced bamboo

1 pack of tofu chopped up

5 baby bok choy stalks washed

Whatever frozen, canned, or fresh veggies you feel like tossing in. I used mixed frozen veggies and corn since I had about 1/3 box of each in the freezer (4 ounces/100 grams of each).

Salt (I prefer sea salt)

Chinese noodles. About 1 big handful. (These noodles cook in about 3 minutes)

  1. Place the water and mackerel with sauce in a pot.
  2. Add tofu and bamboo when the water starts to simmer. (Chopped carrot and daikon could be added at this time since they take longer to cook)
  3. Put another pot of water on the stove for cooking noodles
  4. When the broth simmers again add the frozen vegetables
  5. Place Chinese style noodles into the pot of water when it boils and add salt to the soup
  6. At the same time add the washed leaves of baby bok choy to the simmering soup and stir them in.
  7. Soup is done when the noodles finish cooking.
  8. Place noodles and soup in a bowl and enjoy!!

Remember it is better to put in too little salt then too much while it is cooking. You can always add more salt when you are eating the soup, but it is impossible to remove salt from the soup once it is already included!!

Desert was home made banana bread with chocolate chips baked in a cast iron skillet. I forgot to take pictures of the food. Will do so when I make Taiwanese beef noodle soup this weekend.

The Art of Being a Kept Man

November 1, 2007

I started my life as a Kept Man after the birth of our son while we were living in Sydney, Australia. My wife’s company had transferred her to the Sydney office. We couldn’t find daycare for an infant, and even if we could, it would have been more then my take home pay. After much thought we decided it was best for me to leave my job and become a Stay-at-home-dad. I prefer the term Kept Man. Much cooler.

While living in Sydney I had a great time as a Kept Man. We went to playgroups and at least once a week hopped on a bus, train, or ferry and went exploring. Sydney really was a fun place for a Kept Man.

Now we live in the suburbs of New Jersey and life is different. Sure we’ll do local stuff in Jersey and take the train to New York once or twice a month too, but I’ll no longer be able to be in the heart of a world class city in less then 30 minutes. Instead of dwelling on the fact that we no longer live in a cool city I’m going to focus on my interests mainly cooking, eating, and learning Chinese.

To paraphrase Lin Yutang and Dr. Phil life comes down to 2 choices. You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be unhappy. I’ve chosen to be happy.