Monday, September 13, 2010

An evening of cooking success!

Last night my friends and I hosted a Yushu fundraiser dinner. Saturday and sunday we spent all day cooking. My friends, Jessica, Tashi and I made about 400 momos, 200 meat and 200 potato. We bought a nice garlic chili sauce and I also made the summer chili recipe and we made a small side salad .

We had a few disasters including sticky steamers (even when oiled) a freezer accident where a whole bunch of momos stuck together, and arriving at the venue to find no sound system set up, but in the end it was a great success.

More than a pound of chili sauce was gone to the scrapings, we we finished the evening with a handful of each kind of momos, which we gave to the staff of Emack and Bolio's who gave us their space for the evening. We earned more than $600 to donate to victims of the quake in Yushu this past April.

All in all, a cooking success story!

HUGE thanks to the Palden family, fantastic local musicians Taina Asili, Gaetano Vaccaro and David Rubin who performed, and our wonderful friend Sonam who rushed in when crises hit at the end.

Recipes we cooked:

Beef Momos
Potato Momos
Sonam's Summer Chili

Friday, September 10, 2010

Uyghur Rice with Lamb

I was introduced to Uyghur food in 2008, and have been addicted to it since then. Uyghur food is similar to Jewish or Turkish food, and its very unique in central Asia. One of my favorites is a rice dish, I believe called "Polu" but I am not sure. I've heard the name only in passing, but I insisted on learning how to make it. So here's another favorite of mine

Uyghur Rice with Lamb


2 cups basmati rice
3 cups water
1 lb of cubed, bite sized lamb (The lamb in my pictures was actually cut too large)
1 medium sized/small tomate, chopped
1 medium white onion, chopped
1-2 handfuls of shredded carrot
1-2 handfuls of golden raisins
2-3 tsp salt (to taste)
cinnamon (to taste)


Start by chopping your onions and tomatoes and shredding your carrots. I really think organic adds a lot of flavor, so if you have the choice, go with that. We used a nice heirloom tomato, which provided great flavor!

Heat up a pan with some oil. Start browning the onions and the meat together. Keep cooking until the onions have reduced.

When the onions have reduced, add chopped tomatoes.

Stir until the tomatoes have also reduced.

When the tomates are reduced, add your carrots right on top.

Now add the cinnamon and salt, stir and taste to make sure it tastes right. It should taste a bit saltier than you will like the final product, since you will be adding a lot of rice.

Once the spicing is correct, add 3 cups of water.

on top of this, well destributed, pour 2 cups of basmati rice.

Sprinkle a handful or two of golden raisins on the top.

Cover and cook on a medium flame for 25 minutes. On an electric stove, you might need to adjust this. The water should be simmering.

Stir and eat! mmm.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What?? You're Vegetarian??: Potato Momos

Last night I went to a friend's house for momos. She and her husband had invited some guests, absolutely wonderful people, and we were all having a great time, preparing for dinner, when we suddenly found out that one of our guests is vegetarian. Fortunately, a good friend of mine is vegetarian and taught me, years ago, how to make potato momos. We whipped them up very quickly, and everyone seemed to enjoy them. Photos and recipe below!

(Note! Since we were just throwing this together with the leftovers in the fridge, we didn't have cilantro or scallions. Fortunately, it still tasted good! Be creative. This is a great way to get rid of leftovers. I call these my "poor man momos" because it's so cheap to throw together)

Potato Momos
3 medium sized potatos
1 white onion
1 large bunch of scallions
1 handful of cilantro
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 inch of ginger root
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cumin (OK, all of these are rough estimates)
Salt to taste
1 cup of frozen peas

Momo Dough

One of my favorite things about this recipe is that its really quick to make and is prepared easily.

Start with cubing some potatoes. Boil these until they are nice and soft and mashable.

While the potatoes are boiling, chop the onions, scallions, garlic, ginger and cilantro. Onions, scallions and cilantro shouldbe coarsely chopped, the ginger and garlic should be finely chopped.

When the potatoes are done, mash them, also mash in the chopped onions, cilantro, scallions, garlic, ginger and spices. Feel free to taste this, since there is nothing that can't be eaten in its current state.

Now, so as not to destroy the peas, gently mix them in with a fork, spoon or spatula. The peas will defrost on their own.

Now time to make the momos! For information on folding the momos, check here!
Thinley watches as I start work on the momos.
He wanted food NOW! I can't blame him...

Steam for 15 minutes, or until the wrappers are no longer sticky.
Tashi, baby Rinchen, and Thinley, all eagerly awaiting momos.

Jessica and Thinley ready for dinner!

OK, seriously, kids love momos. I'm just going to say that not only is this a great, filling, veg option instead of meat momos and is fat free, insofar as I can tell, but kids seriously love this. Thinley puts ketchup on his. Potatoes and ketchup? Is any kid NOT going to like that? I love it too, but I stick with chili sauce.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

MOMOS! Beef Filling. A photo guide

The most famous and most popular Tibetan dish, hands down, is the momo. Momo is a dumpling, similar to gyoza and many other Asian dumplings.

In Tibet there are many kind of momos. The differences are not only the filling, but also the manner of cooking and even the dough. I plan on posting MANY momo recipes here, but I just wanted to start with one of the simples. Plain, everyday, thin skinned, beef momo.

Momo in Tibet would normally be filled with yak meat, but aside from once or twice a year when my brother and I spit out the $13/pound and get some ground yak meat (very difficult to find in the USA) we stick with beef. The best yak meat substitute is actually freerange buffalo. In some places, you can find that for only a dollar or two more per pound and the difference is really noticable.

Momo are great. Everyone loves them. My parents, brother, grandma. Here's the best part, on those rare occasions (like right now) when I am in the USA, my American high school and college friends who have no Tibet exposure aside from me specifically request momo parties! So the following photos were taken at last night's momo party. Sorry there aren't any photos of the finished momos. We...we ate them.

Beef Momos

Filling Ingredients
1/4 of a pound (roughly) of ground beef or lamb or bison per person present
2/3 the volume of beef in scallions (that is to say if the beef fills up half a bowl, you want 2/3 of the remaining half full of scallions)
white onion (optional, I use one really large white onion for 3 pounds of beef)
chopped fresh garlic, to taste
chopped ginger root, to taste
Soy sauce

Dough Ingredients
a few pinches of salt

Large mixing bowl
Medium mixing bowl
cutting board and knives
good, large steamer

Start by mixing flour and water in a bowl with a few pinches of salt until you have a stretchy, but not sticky ball of dough. Let this sit while you prepare everthing else. Cover it with a damp towel or something.
Put your beef into a mixing bowl and start chopping up your ginger, garlic, onions and scallions.

Now, add some soy sauce to taste and some warm water (for the quantity you see here, I used about a cup.) and mix this all together into a big pile of meat!

YAYYY. Meat.
OK, moving on. Take the dough and roll it between your hands to form coils about an inch and a half thick.

Slice these into discs about 3/4 of an inch thick and squish these between your hands in a spiralling motion.

Take the spiraled discs and start rolling them with a small rolling pin, rolling only the edges and turning the disc to get all sides. The center should be thicker than the edges. A 3 or 4 inch flat disc is ideal. If you lack a small wooden dowel, for a rolling pin, I recommend a beer bottle! As you can see, our men who were rolling were pleased. We let them drink the beers first.

Get some forks for your meat. Preferably, put them in the meat tines down. As you can see, we had problems with this.

And now the two most popular way to fold momos!

Circular Momos: Gently cupping a disc on your fingers, fork in about a tablespoon of filling.
Pinch one side, forming a corner, then keep pinching the edge over to that first pinch. Pull another bit of the edge and pinch to the first spot and continue doing this all the way around, it will start closing the dough. Use your thumb to gently push in the meat. Cup it carefully in your hand to help it keep a round shape.
A better angle to see the pinching.
Finally it will be pinched shut with a tiny spiral of dough at the top, pinch that spiral to itself to form a circle at the top.
And you get a beautiful final product like so!

And here, for you viewing pleasure, is the most beautiful momo I've ever made:

Crescent Shaped Momos:

Hold the dough disc in your hand and fill it kind of like a soft taco. Pinch the end

On one side, and ONLY one side, pleat the edge, pinching it to the flat side. So one pinch, move about 3/4 cm, another pinch, move 3/4 cm...continue. It's pleating, plain and simple. One side will remain flat. This will naturally create a crescent shape.

Keep carefully moving along the edge pleating until you come to the end, and which point, pinch it at the end, shutting it and pinch all along the top edge to make sure its sealed.

LOOK!!! I made a momo!

Lightly oil your steamer and lay the momos on them so that they are not touching. Steam for about 20-25 minutes over boiling water. Serve with chili sauce, soy sauce, and black vinegar if you have it!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

my take on MSG

So, a few of my recipes call for Monosodium Glutimate, AKA MSG or in Chinese Weijing. I always note that it IS optional, but I get a lot of questions about why I use it at all, usually with the implication that MSG is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad substance.

First of all, what is MSG? MSG is a taste enhancer made (at least the ajinomoto brand that I buy) of fermented corn. Yes, it is extracted through chemistry, but then again, so is table salt and refined sugar. Fermented corn doesn't seem that terrifying to me.

MSG enhances umami flavor. Umami is considered the fifth flavor, and finally getting recognized. There is sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami, or as my dad describes it "Protinaceous." Basically that indescribably flavor found in roasting meats as well as many mushrooms. It's not sweet, not salty, not sour, not bitter. It's umami.

In the same way that a tiny sprinkling of salt can be almost unnoticed, but really bring out the flavor of a dish, MSG does the same.

MSG, like sugar, naturally occurs in LOTS of foods. In fact, the first MSG was naturally taken from a japanese seaweed, kombu. I use that seaweed in soups sometimes. It's delicious. In fact, MSG occurs naturally in so many foods and in such quantities that the FDA stopped food companies from labelling foods "No MSG" or "No Added MSG" because it was there anyway!

Some people claim to have reactions to MSG, however the vast majority are simply convincing themselves of the effect, as many scientific studies have shown. One of my friends claims to have severe reactions to it, although she didn't tell me this for a long time and ate several of my dishes with MSG with no reaction at all. For full details on the health effects and scientific studies on MSG, check here.

The short story is there, there have been no noticable or scientifically reproducable effects beyond that of placebo for reasonable amounts of MSG mixed into foods. And let's be honest, that sounds a lot like what we say for salt.

Are there medical downsides to MSG? Surely. Some studies indicate that it may be connected to obesity, but so is sugar and salt is connected to high blood pressure.

In short, like any other condiment, MSG is just fine when used within reason. Since most of my recipes call for a pinch or small sprinkling of MSG, I like to think that I and my food consumers will be alright.

Of course, feel free to disagree and feel free not to add MSG to your food. I like it, not everyone does.

But when it comes to danger, I think we should all be worried about my obsession with Chili.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Yellow Laphing: A Photo Guide

As you may have seen, yesterday I failed at making Yellow Laphing. Today, fortunately, I have redeemed myself.

And so, I present you with an Illustrated Guide to Yellow Laphing
White all purpose flour
a few pinches of salt
a few pinches of MSG (as always, optional)
soy sauce
chili paste

Large pot or clean bucket
Mixing bowl
circular cake pans (2 or 3)
Wide pot with a lid.
Trays or pans

Before making the Laphing
peel a few cloves of garlic.
Drop these into a bottle of water to soak and flavor the water.

The Night Before
Yellow Laphing is a two day procedure.
The night before, in a large mixing bowl, mix flour and water. The amount is up to you, but 4 cups of flour will make about 10 laphing pancakes, in my experience.
Knead this into a nice dough ball.

Set up a large pot and place a screen type strainer over the top. It must be fine or else it wont strain appropriately.

Now pour water over the dough ball and start kneading the dough in the water. The water will turn milky white.

When the water is white, strain it through the strainer, holding back the dough and catching any dough bits in the strainer. Put the dough and bits back into the bowl. Repeat the process.

The dough will start to break apart and change consistency. You are extracting the gluten from the flour. As this happens, you will start getting little gluten bits at the bottom, which seem to act a bit differently from dough, this is a good sign.

Continue kneading and squeezing the gluten. It will start to feel rubbery and squeaky. It may even squeak (mine does!) this usually means the gluten is nearly ready. Keep repeating the kneading and straining until the water runs mostly clear and you are left with a nice clump of gluten, which you can mold together with your hands and squeeze out any remaining water.

knead a pinch of baking soda into your gluten, cover and leave that for tomorrow. Cover your big pot full of white water and let that sit until tomorrow.

Day of Serving

THIS is where I made my epic fail yesterday. Open the pot, the water should be settled. Mostly clear on the top and white thick goop at the bottom. Bring the pot CAREFULLY over to the sink. POUR the water out into the sink until the white goop is about to pour. This should leave a thin layer of water over a thick layer of goop. This was where I failed yesterday! I scooped out the water instead of pouring it and so I didn't get out enough water and made icky jelly instead of pancakes.

Add a few pinches of salt, a pinch or two of MSG, a small pinch of tumeric and a tablespoon of vegetable oil into your white goop and stir it together with a ladle.

Put an inch or so of water in your wide bottomed pot and bring this to a boil. On your counter, put the trays and partially fill them with water and maybe an ice cube or two.

Stir the goop and ladle one spoonful into the cake pan. It should just barely cover the bottom if you tip the pan around. Maybe a ladle and a half. Float the pan in the boiling water. Tip it around a bit until the bottom is coated and the coating has started to solidify. Also, make sure a bit tips up onto the sides.

Cover the pan and let the water come back to a boil. When it's boiled for a minute or two, the pancake should be a translucent yellow. Carefully pull the pan out and float it in your cooling bath on the counter.

Wait until the pancake is cool to the touch, then run your fingernail (please wash your hands first) along the sides (this is why you have to get some up on the side) until you get it to start peeling. Then carefully peel off the pancake.

ooh! A pancake! Look! I made a pancake!!!

I find that a 3 pan system is best. One boiling, 2 cooling. Stack the pancakes in a tray or dish.

On a clean cutting board, cut a piece of your gluten into centimeter by centimeter pieces. Roll a pancake and slice it into half inch wide coils.

Put the noodles in a bowl and top it with the gluten. Sprinkle salt, msg, and chili to taste. Pour soy sauce over that and then water the soy sauce into a "soup" with your garlic water and stir. Serve! mmmmmmmmmmmm