Sunday, December 23, 2007

Recipe: Yorkshire Pudding

It's Christmas. If you have roast beef at the holidays, you really should have Yorkshire Pudding with it.

Yorkshire pudding isn't really pudding by modern American standards. It's more of an eggy quick bread, but it is so tasty, and actually pretty easy to make. Just eggs, flour, milk and a hot oven.

The problem most people have is the timing. The original recipes were developed for the massive heat and lack of control you get with a wood fired oven. It requires a practiced touch to get the depth of batter and the temperature right, and if you don't know what you're doing, it won't puff up -- it'll just dry out and get hard. Plus the traditional way has you hold the roast AFTER roasting for about forty minute while the pudding cooks. Puh-lease.

I'm here to tell you how to make it good and right and easy. (And this works best if you either make it ahead of the roast, or you do like I do, and don't make a roast at all, but pan grill a couple of nice delmonico or rib-eye steaks. It also tastes good with just plain fried mushrooms.)

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 tsp salt.
  • fat -- either fat from the beef or butter

This amount cooks great in two bread pans, or an 8x8 cake pan. (You can up the quantities to 1.5 cups each of flour and milk and 3 eggs, and cook it in a 9x9 pan.)

Use a whisk or a mixer to blend the flour, salt and milk. Get rid of most of the lumps. Then add the eggs. Beat or whisk it up good. There should be no lumps, and a little bit frothy on the top, but not a lot. Set the batter aside in the fridge. It can sit there overnight if you want to do it ahead, but 15 minutes is fine.

Next preheat the oven to about 350. (No hotter -- this is where the traditional recipes make it hard.) It doesn't hurt to warm the pans, but you don't have to have them sizzling (which is the traditional way). You just want them to be warm enough for the fat to melt. (ADDENDUM: having the pans sizzling hot when you pour the batter in does indeed make them rise a little higher. You can just stick the pans in the oven for a moment after coating them with fat, and THEN pull them out and pour in the batter.)

For flavor, beef fat is best. Traditionally you get this from the roasting pan, after the roast is done. However, I usually fry up some suet or trimmings to get some fat. You can also do it the easy way and just use butter. Butter is always good.

Coat the inside of the pans with the melted fat. The pudding will rise up, so cover the sides as well as the bottom. Don't be stingy with it. There should be a bit of a pool of fat in the bottom of the pan. (If it starts to thicken, stick it back in the oven for a minute or so.) Stir up the batter and pour it into the pans. It should be about a half inch deep, maybe a little less.

Stick the pans in a 350 degree oven. After 12 - 15 minutes, turn the oven up to 400, then after another 12- 15 mintues to 450. It should be done after about 10 more minutes. It should be nice and golden. If it seems to be burning, you can take it out.

(Traditional recipes will tell you to put it in a 450 oven and turn it down, but if you get the amount of batter or timing or temperature wrong, it won't puff up, and will end up overcooked and dry. By cooking it in a slower oven, you give the whole thickness of the pudding a chance to puff a little and firm up, and then the hotter temperatures at the end crisp the outer layers. NOTE: if you decide to try to make popovers -- the muffin sized version of this -- do follow traditional recipes, as you will not be working with the same bulk of batter, and the traditional way is the only way to make them pop.)

The pudding will fall by about half as it cools. Don't worry about that. Let it cool and firm up. The hardest part will be to get it out of the pan. The bottom will stick a little, especially if you use the deep sided breadpans like I do. One easy way to get it out is to cut it in half, and use a metal spatula to loosen the bottom from the middle. Just beware, these things remain full of hot steam for a long time. Don't burn yourself.

If you are making a roast, make the pudding first and cover it until the roast is ready. You can pop it into the oven for a few minutes to heat it back up again. (It makes great leftovers.) If you're making it with steak, just cook the steak while the pudding is in the oven.

And that's a great holiday tradition.

Posting Schedule

I will be cutting back on the amount I'm posting in future, but I will at least try to keep to a regular scheule -- new posts on Sunday Nights. I probably won't get the chance to post again until January 6, 2008, when I'll get back to posting reviews.

In the meantime, keep your eyes open for a holiday recipe.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snowball Slushie -- make one now!

snowball slushie
The snow is fresh, pure and deep right now. Go scoop up a big bowl of it, and make yourself a snowball slushie! (It's best if the liquid you are using to flavor it is very very cold. I put ice in my Coke before adding the snow. You could use juice or Coolaid or wine or whatever.

I used my medium cookie scoop to make hard packed little snowballs. They absorb the liquid fast, so admire it quickly!

(More restaurant reviews coming soon...)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Podcast: Feed Me Bubbe

In honor of Hannukah, I should put you on to my very favorite video podcast: Feed Me Bubbe. It's a home made cooking show, where a Jewish grandmother shows you how to make all sorts of great food.

Feed Me Bubbe podcast (click here)

Spartan Gyros: real gyros, real fries!

Editor's Note: Alas! Alack! Spartan Gyro is no more. Olympic Broil, on Seymour on the North Side, is your best bet for good old fashioned fried food now.

Oh, my god, they have Real French Fries! I haven't had french fries like that since... well at least since MacDonald's stopped using beef tallow. Ahem. Anyway....

I stopped by at Spartan Gyros today, in East Lansing in the old Taco Bell building. It's hard to park down there yet, but I think the new parking ramp they are building right across the street will help. Right off, I was impressed by the big grill menu. Burgers, bbq, corn dogs, fried perch or shrimp. And of course, Greek salads, gyros and baklava. I went with the gyro, because it seemed like a good place to start. And I went with the combo because, well, they asked, and I figured I'd try it.

The gyro gives Lou and Harry's a run for their money. (Gyro afficianados will prefer Spartan -- it is authentic as well as good.) Lou and Harry get points for the spicing and searing on their meat (which comes from cooking it on a griddle rather than the traditional rotisserie). Both have good tsatsiki (yogurt sauce with herbs and stuff) though Spartan's chunky with fresh herbs and maybe some cucumber. And Spartan's wins hands down on the toppings -- with good onions and REAL TOMATOES! Tomatoes with flavor!

They also fill the gyro really full with a lot of meat -- which is either good or bad depending on how much meat you like in your gyro.

As for the Fries.... They are the thin kind. Plain, well fried from good potatoes. Crispy and yet with a creamy, steaming inside. I had a problem getting home, driving in the dark , trying to tear open the stapled shut bag so I could sneak more fries. (These are especially good take-out fries. Like the chips I had in London, they steam themselves just enough in the bag to enhance the flavor but not destroy the crunch. This, however, could be part of why I liked them so much. Very few fries these days stand up to the bag test. Most take on the mealy texture of stale potato chips.)

I am a french fry snob. I can't abide those crappy coated fries which are basically just fry-shaped tater tots. And don't talk to me about yuppie "seasoned fries", or the tasteless yet macho potato-skin fry. All of those are basically just a way to cover the fact that they are made with bad potatoes and "healthy" grease that can't handle the right temperatures.

A good fry is a wonder to behold. Nothing but potato, grease and salt. Sigh. Next time I go there, though, I want to try the corn dogs.

Spartan Gyros. 565 E. Grand River in East Lansing. 332-1833. (The menu says that they now deliver!)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Goodrich Shoprite - grocery, gourmet, boutique, convenience mart.

Goodrich Shoprite, at the corner of Trowbridge and Harrison near the train station, is one of the oldest grocery stores in the area, and probably the best. You could call it a "boutique." They're a regular grocery store, but they also have fine wines (they are the best place in town to get wine or beer), an excellent cheese and meats counter, unusual brands of nearly everything, plus toys, dishes, gifts. They carry their own baked goods (great donuts!) plus a variety of premium baked goods, like Zingerman's breads....

Not that they are a big store. Far from it. They're just a litte neighborhood store.

What they have is a buyer with taste and a sense of the cosmopolitan neighborhood. They are located right next to campus, and north of them is the "Flower Pot" (an old neighborhood of professors and the like with streets named after flowers) and Spartan Village to the south (student housing that serves a lot of foreign students and graduate students). Plus it's right at the on ramp to the freeways, so that alumni and others coming to MSU find it convenient.

I am a great fan of Meijers (hate Walmart, love Meijers, which is still family owned and has a great company mission of being both thrifty and "your everything place") but Goodrich is an amazing mini-Meijers with personality. The only downside of Goodrich is that you can't get near the Trowbridge area on a football saturday. So be aware of the schedule of major sporting events when you go there. (If you must go there on a football saturday, the best time can be during the game, actually.)

Goodrich Shoprite, 940 Trowbridge Road, East Lansing, (517) 351-5760

Monday, December 03, 2007

Aladdin's Delight - Quick, Filling, Good

Aladdin's Delight, in Frandor next to Apple Jade, is one of my favorite places to grab a quick lunch, especially when I'm in the more vegetarian mood. Their flavors are similar to Woody's Oasis on Trowbridge in East Lansing, in come cases identical (even their Big Board menus on the wall are essentially the same). Both places have Lebanese cuisine. Both share the title of best falafel sandwich in town.

This place is a great choice for both meat eaters and vegans. The menu has about half and half, meat or veg -- and many dishes have a meat or vegetarian version. While a few of the vegetarian dishes have dairy, it's always the main ingredient, so easy to avoid.

Aside from the falafel sandwich, a few other favorite items are the samosas -- a little fried pastry of patatoes, peas and spices (and very spicy). Fried or baked kibbee comes in meat or potato version. There's good hummus and babaganouj. (Hummus is a mixture of ground chickpeas, sesame paste, lemon and seasonings -- served as a dip or spread with bread. Babaganouj is a smilar dip made of roasted eggplant.) The bread is the very thin Lebanese kind.

There are a number of main dishes on the menu, and many come with a salad. My favorite combo is the Hashwi with yogurt salad. Hashwi is rice, beef, pinenuts and seasonings all cooked together, then mixed with a little shredded chicken. The yogurt salad is cucumbers in a yogurt, lemon and garlic dressing. If you pour the salad over the hashwi, it's a real taste delight! (I've been known to buy the salad just to dress up a quick roast chicken dinner of any kind.)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Send me menus!

You can learn a lot from a take out menu. Anything from the overall style of a restaurant to their hours and prices. Not to mention the name of that dish you had that you can't remember once you get home.

I'm asking readers (and restauranteurs) to send me take out menus from around the Lansing area. I'm not promising any reviews of particular restaurants, but if you include a note mentioning a favorite dish at the restaurant, I will include a line in a "reader recommendations" post once in a while. (Something like "G.K. says the salsa at El Whatever is out of this world. M.P. recommends the tortellini at Great Pasta Place, but only with the cheese sauce." If you want your actual name, or a screen name, included, say so in the note. I will also create a link to your blog or site, if you like.) And, of course, having a menu in hand will definitely encourage me try a new place, or to write up that review of a place I have already been to.

Also, for my personal interest, I'm learning to read Chinese. In particular, I'm learning to read Chinese menus. I sure would like to collect more menus with the dishes written in Chinese and English. (Or just in Chinese, even.)

So to reiterate, I'm looking for:
  1. Takeout menus from the Lansing, Michigan area.
  2. Menus from anywhere written in Chinese (preferably both English and Chinese.)

Send these to: Lansing Food News, P.O. Box 6362, East Lansing, MI 48826.

Thanks a bunch!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Make Your Hot Chocolate Richer

Since we have a winter storm heading our way, I'll pass on a little tip on how to make even the most ordinary hot chocolate cup a little richer. Just use an ordinary vegetable peeler to grate in a little bit of unsweetened baking chocolate.

Not only is it easy, but it can be cheaper than the gourmet mixes (which tend to be full of transfats and artificial ingredients, especially the kind you mix with water). I usually just use a spoon of Nestles in some super hot milk, and then grate in the baker's chocolate.

A quick dash of cinnamon is also nice. And apparently good for you -- they say it helps your body deal with blood sugar, and perhaps can help those who are insulin resistant. (Given the latest studies on Alzheimers -- that it may be another form of diabetes -- that's a really good thing. Who knows, cinnamon may have as much to do with the low rates of Alzheimers among curry eats as Tumeric does.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dim Sum Primer, Pt 4

Okay, I'm finally finishing up the Dim Sum Primer, with the larger plated items and desserts. You can skip back to the beginning of this series by checking out the Where to find Dim Sum in Lansing post.

Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaves. You could call these Chinese Tamales. Dried lotus leaves wrapped around a bundle of filling and sticky rice, and steamed. The rice is sweet and sticky, and the leaves have a faint tea aroma. The fillings vary. Most of the time, they have some meat -- maybe the drumstick part of a chicken wing and some chinese sausage, maybe some mushroom. Those are usually cone shaped and about the size of a baseball or bigger. The ones you see pictured are a dessert version -- filled with red beans and red banana. You can get the meat version at either Little Panda or Golden Wok. The dessert version is available most days at Oriental Mart -- the Asian grocery on Grand River across from Golden Wok. (They have a lot of dim sum items in the case and freshly made -- including some amazing, and yet greasy springrolls.)

NOTE: The sticky rice in lotus leaves is sometimes called "Sweet Rice with Chicken and Pork" or something like that. It makes it easy to mix up with the "Sweet Rice Dumpling" whch is fried. If you are unclear what you are ordering, ask how it's cooked -- is it deep-fried or wrapped in a lotus leaf?

Greens and oyster sauce. These are a great accompaniment to dim sum, especially if you want to up your vegetable matter. I don't think they have it at Little Panda (though I have never asked), but Golden Wok has it on request (and sometimes on the cart). The greens, which may be a broccholi raab rather than the little bok chois pictured here, come with a little dipping bowl of salty oyster sauce. I've never seen either place in town offer similar platters of meats, but most larger dim sum houses will also have platters of sliced bbq pork or duck as well.

Silver Noodles. There are several kinds of platters of noodles available for dim sum. These silver noodles are hand rolled, fresh rice noodles. They have a nice chewy texture like other rice noodles, but unfortunately look a little like worms. However they taste really good. At Little Panda they serve these stir-fried with some vegetables. Another favorite noodle dish which is available both at dim sum and on the regular menu is Singapore Noodles (or "Fried Vermicelli Singapore Style"). This is a stirfried thin rice noodle, seasoned with curry and served with shrimp and chinese sausage and peapods and other veggies.

Congee, Juk or Joke. Congee is a dim sum tradition -- a brunch food. It's a thick rice soup or gruel, made with chicken broth and often served with a "cruller", or a stick of fried bread to dip in it. It may be plain or with various meats, seafoods, or even a thousand year old egg. The picture here is of my own homemade congee -- which I make with whole grain rice, and corn and greens. What you get in a restaurant will be whiter and creamier. You can get this at Peking Express and other more authentic type Chinese restaurants too. Lamai often serves it with a little toasted garlic, grated ginger and cilantro sprinkled on top.

Sesame Balls. (I don't have a picture of these, but I'll add one when I get one.) These are our favorite dessert at Dim Sum. They are a ball of sticky rice flour dough, filled with either sweet red bean paste or sweet yellow lotus bean paste, coated in sesame seeds and deep fried. (You can often get these at Oriental Mart as well.) We call them Chinese Jelly Donuts. The wrapper is chewy and sticky, and the filling only lightly sweetened.

Mango Pudding. It's not really pudding. It's jello, made with a little milk. Not as sweet as American jello, and pretty refreshing, though we usually skip it because there are other things to fill up on. It comes in a bowl with a maraschino cherry on top. You often have a choice of Almond pudding as well. Sometimes they call this tofu or bean curd rather than pudding -- but that's because jello resembles bean curd to many Asians. (You can buy packs of this at Oriental Mart labelled "Do Fu Delight.")

And then there's Red Bean Pudding, which is also milk jello. At Golden Wok, you get this in big squares. Again, not as sweet, and the red beans add a grittiness to it.

Red Bean Pastry. This is a cool show peice that you don't see often, but may be able to ask for. It's flakey pastry dough, spread with sweet red bean paste, and rolled up, slashed, and baked. Really pretty, and I think it's one of the best ways to eat red bean paste. This you only get at Golden Wok (and that is true of all dishes which require pastry). They also have the little custard tarts -- which are exactly what they look like.

There are many other dishes you may come across. A lot of other dumplings that are similar to those I've already described. I haven't taken pictures of the chicken feet, or the tripe. If you want them, they are available at all dim sum houses. Chicken feet are gelatinous and many people like to suck on the bones. The tripe sometimes comes "red-cooked" or simmered in sweetened soy sauce and spices, and I just might try that sometime.

(NOTE: if you are a more sophisticated dim sum eater, you might notice that there are some dumplings listed on the Golden Wok menu called "Pork Dumplings". The Chinese characters for these list them as xiao long bao -- "little dragon buns" otherwise known as "soup dumplings." They are NOT xiao long bao. They are just pork dumplings. They're good, but they don't spit hot soup at you when you bite into them.)

Happy eating!

Where to find Dim Sum in Lansing
Dim Sum Primer, Part 1
Dim Sum Primer, Part 2
Dim Sum Primer, Part 3
Recommended Reading from

The best book on dim sum, imho is Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch. The recipes are good and they also demystify just what a lot of those dishes ARE for those who just want to eat. (This one is also available at the East Lansing Library, but it's pretty popular and often checked out.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Midori Korean BBQ Part 2 - Korean Food

(EDITORS NOTE: Midori is under new management. They don't prepare the sushi from the old menu well, but we don't know how they prepare the Korean food. We suspect their own new menu items are probably what's best. However, watch out for any roll with cream cheese in it -- it's whipped and sweet and overwhelms the flavor of anything its in. Ugh!)

The following refers to the food under the old managemet:

As I mentioned, Midori has great Korean food too. (Actually a mix of Korean and Japanese.)

My favorite is the Stone Bowl Bibimbap. You can get this elsewhere. (They make a good version at Korea House, for instance.) But I like it best here.

Bibimbap is a rice dish, originally it was for leftovers of a banquet. The kitchen help would get a bowl of rice, with a variety of foods on top, including an egg. But then in one town (and I don't recall which) restaurants started serving it in polished stone bowls that were oiled and heated to blazing hot in an oven. The rice would crisp up, the ingredients sizzle together, and the egg would cook.

And a maginificent dish was born.

Generally Stone Bowl Bibimbap is served in a blazing hot bowl, with a large scoop of rice, and a little bulgogi (thin sliced, grilled beef -- sweet and garlicky), and various vegetables -- shredded carrot, greens, beansprouts, mushrooms -- and an egg. Some places cook the egg first, but that's unnecessary. Midori cracks a raw egg on top. When you get your sizzling hot bowl, you stir it a little (or a lot, but I prefer not to mix everything up too much) and let the sizzling bowl cook it.

Bibimbap is served with a flavorful Korean hot sauce, and I recommend squirting some around the edge to caramelize just before stirring up the ingredients. I also usually pour in a little soy sauce along the edge. This will give you a couple of different flavors. It will also be too hot to eat, so let it cook and cool for a little bit. The top will cool off enough to eat while the bottom gets crunchy and tasty. Give it another stir every often to get the crunchy bits up from the bottom. (You'll have to let it cool again when you stir it, but it tastes SO good.)

One fun thing about Korean food is the array of side dishes. The fancier the meal, the more you get, usually. For lunch they just gave us three -- the spicy pickled cabbage Kimchee, the refreshing yellow sweet pickled radish, and the tasty fishcakes, cooked in a little sesame oil and garlic. You might also get a sweet and vinegar cucumber or seaweed salad, spicy radish chunks or even a creamy mix of cooked matchstick potato or turnip.

Depending on what you order, you might also get the standard salad, which you get in a lot of sushi places. (But it's really really good here. The dressing is particularly flavorful, and seems to be made partly with Korean dried shrimp.)

Another good, and filling, lunch are the noodle soups. Here pictured is the Tempura Soba -- a soup of buckwheat noodles with fried shrimp stuck in it. This, like the other soups on the regular menu, is a very Japanese flavor. They have a little card on the table, though, that lists some of their spicy Korean seafood soups.

They've got good Chap Chae (also called Jap Chai), clear noodles made of yam starch which are stir-fried lo mein style with a lot of garlic and soy and some veggies. And of course, being a Korean BBQ, a choice of things like Bulgogi -- the sweet garlicky sliced beef I mentioned above -- or Kalbi, the short ribs version. There's spicy pork or chicken. These are all cooked in the kitchen, but served on a sizzling platter with a bowl of rice and various side dishes.

Midori is on the west side of town, in a little shopping mall on Edgewood Boulvard (across from Meijers). Maybe a little hard to get over there for people on the east side, but I'll just remind you that the Goodrich Quality Theaters movie house out behind Lansing Mall is CHEAP, but is also clean and with new seating and equipment. We find Midori and a movie (or Little Panda and a movie) makes for a great combination.

I hope to get to some of the other Korean restaurants soon. In the meantime, enjoy Midori if you can.

Midori Sushi and Korean BBQ, 436 Elmwood Rd, Lansing. (527) 323-7991.

Friday, November 23, 2007

RECIPE: Chocolate Nugget Cookies

(Continuing with recipes for the Thanksgiving week -- I'll get back to restaurants on Monday.)

I invented this ultra-chocolate cookie recipe after going through a whole book of "chocolate cookie" recipes and not finding a single one that was chocolatey enough. They're simple and really satisfying. (And they freeze really well. Which is good because if you keep them in the freezer, you won't be tempted to eat them all in one sitting.)

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Cream the butter and sugar together, then stir in the egg and vanilla. Mix the dry ingredients together, and then mix them into the batter. Scoop out lumps a little smaller than a walnut. Bake at 350 for about 13 minutes. Cooking time depends on size of cookie and the variations your oven. I use a cookie scoop to keep the size regular and that helps a lot -- since chocolate cookies don't really brown to tell you they are done. Timing is everything.

These are actually best just undercooked. Once they cool, they take on a fudgy texture - not gooey, but rather a moist cookie that fractures the way fudge does when you break it. Melt in your mouth.

Blatant Advertising:

I love my cookie scoop. I LIVE by it. It really has made my life much easier. As I said above, a scoop is particularly important for this recipe. The ideal size for these cookies is the small scoop by Oxo. (It's also a very good sturdy scoop -- I've had other brands fall apart from over use, but the Oxo is still going strong.) This size is great for small meatballs too. The medium size is good for large meatballs and for a more medium sized cookie. You should be able to find this in town, or you could buy it from my Amazon link: OXO Good Grips Small Cookie Scoop.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Don't Forget Lamai Anniversary tonight!

I can't be there, so I'm reminding all of you: Lamai is having her anniversary bash tonight. According to the sign, she will be having her Thai Sukiyaki. Thai Food From Lamai's Kitchen is at 2033 East Michigan Ave, at the corner of Fairview, several blocks west of Frandor and the highway.

International Market

(NOTE: International Market has moved to the 2800 block of East Grand River in East Lansing. It's in the same strip with Oriental Mart and Fiesta Charra.)

The first thing you see when you walk into the International Market on Grand River in Okemos, is a wall of baskets, each full of candies. Unfortunately the wrappers on the candies are in Russian, so it's a pot luck purchase. But it's kind of a treasure hunt too.

The candies are odd and fun, but the rest of the store is a great little font of eastern European foods with a Middle-eastern flair. They don't have a lot, but they have a good variety of what they carry -- various rices and lentils, and a case of cheeses and cured meats and sausages. Not to mention Teas. (My mother has been yearning for an Earl Grey tea she got at a Russian tea room in LA. I found her a good substitute here.)

There's also a wall length refrigerator-case full of good stuff. I purchased some Labna -- a thickened creamy yogurt that is a lot like cream cheese. It is high fat for yogurt (though I haven't compared it to cream cheese yet -- might be a wonderful substitute for your bagel spread).

Labna could be used as a substitute for sour cream too. I'm considering experimenting with a salad dressing or dip that could be a variation of wing sauce for those who don't like bleu cheese. Heck, next time you have hot wings, just try dipping them in straight labana! (I will be posting a recipe Sunday for an easy treat I call Buffalo Shao Mai. I tried one with some Labana and it was heaven.)

International Market is located in the 2800 block of East Grand River in East Lansing. (Same building as Oriental Mart and Fiesta Charra.) (517) 853-8400.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

RECIPE Mandarin Pancakes

You're going to have left over turkey this weekend. Why not have fun with it? Make Peking Turkey!

I love making Mandarin Pancakes (aka Peking Doilies or Lotus Pancakes). They're fussy and fun, and really not that hard. And this is the same dough you use for potstickers and green onion pancakes. This recipe makes 16 small (4 inch) doilies.

All you need is:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • a little sesame oil (plain salad oil will do in a pinch, or any other fat, for that matter)
  • 1/2 cup more flour for rolling the pancakes out

For the filling:
  • Hoisin Sauce
  • Green Onions
  • Leftover Turkey (or chicken or pork -- don't forget this is a good use for the skin! For vegetarians, I have made fake duck skin out of dried bean curd skin -- moisten it, and then fry it until the surface is crispy.)

I also recommend a covered plate or some tin foil -- in which to keep the cooked doilies warm and moist while you roll and cook the rest. Oh, and you'll need a ROLLING PIN (or something that can be used as such -- you could try a tortilla press, but I don't know what effect that would have on the layers).

Boiling water dough is sweeter and more tender than most doughs, but mixing in the very hot water is a trick. A friend got me a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer this year, and I love it for this -- you can pour the boiling water in as the thing mixes (be sure to use a dough hook!). No problems holding the bowl, the spoon and the container of hot water. However, you can make it just fine with a bowl and a wooden spoon. Just pour the boiling water in all at once, and then start stirring. It won't look like it wants to combine right, but have faith. Lumps don't matter in this dough.

Eventually, as you stir, everything will come together into a sticky ball. Scrape that onto a sheet of plastic wrap (...oh yeah, you'll need plastic wrap, or something like it), along with any loose bits left in the bowl. Wrap it tight, and let it sit for a while -- anywhere from ten minutes to a full day. This step is essential. It not only allows the sticky gluten to "rest" (which makes it less sticky, and more pliable), but it also gives the water a chance to soak more evenly through the dough. (I told you lumps don't matter. Although if you ended up with a bunch of hard lumps, you'll probably want to let it sit longer than if you didn't.)

While you wait, get your other stuff ready -- chop the green onions, shred or slice the meat, get out your bottle of hoisin. If you want to be really fancy, you might mix up a sauce to taste with hoisin, sugar, oyster sauce and water, but plain hoisin will do. And if you want to go whole hog and make scallion brushes, you have to cut a 2 inch piece of scallion, cut little slits in each end to make the "brush" part, and then stick them in ice water to make the brushes curl up.

Now, get out a covered plate or a big sheet of tinfoil in which to keep the cooked pancakes. Get out your rolling pin, and put a scoop of flour onto the surface where you'll roll out the pancakes.

When you unwrap the dough, it should be sticky, but firm enough to hold its shape. Just scrape loose anything that sticks, and pat a little flour onto the surface. You don't need to knead it. Just pat flour onto sticky bits so you can handle it. It is easiest to divide this evenly by rolling it into a tube shape, and then cutting it in half. Cover half with the plastic for later so it won't dry out, and then divide up the remining bit into eight peices. (Just keep rolling the snake out thinner and cutting it in half and in half again.) You want to try to get the pieces all the same size, but if you can't, that's okay. You just want to remember to use littl pieces with little pieces and big with big.

Take two pieces. Pat them into disks. Pour a drop or two of Sesame oil on one of the disks and spread it around to cover the surface -- this will allow the two pieces to be separated later. Stack the dry disk on top of the oiled one, press them down a little flatter, and start rolling them out as a two-layered pancake. Pat the sticky bits with more flour as necessary. When they are as thin as you can reasonably get them (about a four-inch tortilla), it's ready to cook.

Have a pan already warmed up on medium to medium-low heat. A dry pan, no oil! These won't stick to a dry pan. After a minute or so, the dough will start getting translucent. Flip it over. The other side should have formed some white spots that were just beginning to turn brown. A little bit of brown spots are okay, but if you get big brown spots you cooked it too long or too hot (probably both) -- and if you do that, it will be hard to pull them apart. It is okay if you under cooked it a little, because you can always flip them over again. While cooking the second side, you'll start to see the pancake puff up -- that's a sign it is done, although it's good to let it puff more for a minute, as long as you aren't burning it.

Put the cooked pancake in a covered container -- in tinfoil or under a lid -- until you've cooked more of them. By the time you're done with all (or if you're impatient, with half), they should be just cool enough to handle, and you can start pulling them apart -- just remember there still might be some HOT steam inside the freshest ones.

The edge where you can pull them apart won't be as obvious as in the picture, but it's kinda like opening a plastic vegetable bag at the market. Just keep teasing the edge until you find a seam. If it starts to tear, back off, work it along the other direction, or try to get your fingers inside and separate them from the middle. (The edges are where they are cooked together, after all.)

Spread on some hoisin sauce, drop in some meat, and sprinkle generously with onions, wrap it up, and voila! You have a fun and delicious treat.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Midori Korean BBQ Part 1 - Sushi

(EDITORS NOTE: Midori is under new management. They don't prepare the sushi from the old menu well, but we don't know how they prepare the Korean food. We suspect their own new menu items are probably what's best. However, watch out for any roll with cream cheese in it -- it's whipped and sweet and overwhelms the flavor of anything its in. Ugh!)

The following refers to the food under the old managemet:

I'm not exactly a purist when it comes to sushi. I adore the big bright flavorful "fusion cooking" rolls, especially when they come with a Korean flair. I'm not so hot on the slab of raw fish on a ball of rice. Not that I have anything against raw fish, and I can appreciate simple elegance. But most Japanese sushi is just too pure for me.

As a result I cannot say how Midori stacks up among the top classic sushi places. (I suspect they're pretty good, as the sushi is always prepared with great care.) But I can say that my favorite place for sushi is Midori Sushi and Korean BBQ. Their flavors are vibrant and textures varied. (I also love their Korean food, but I'm leaving that for another review.)

Here are a few of my favorite rolls:

The Spicy Shrimp Tempura (pictured in the center) is the richest and most irresistible roll they have, imho. Inside is shrimp rolled in the milder darker Korean hot sauce. (Koreans have a wide variety of hot sauces, with a lot of different flavors -- some fruity, some straight spicy, some blazingly hot.) There's also cucumber and cream cheese, all wrapped in rice and nori. Then the whole roll is lightly battered and quickly deep fried. It's then cut into slices and a dot of a different hot sauce is on each slice. The flavors all melt together with the cream cheese, but there is the very crunchy outside, and the fresh crisp of the cucumber inside. You can eat each piece with two bites, but I recommend trying to get it in one. The gestalt of all the flavors and textures is heaven.

Another fancy large roll is the Caterpillar -- a spicy tuna roll which is draped with avocado slices on the outside. (Pictured at the top.) Depending on the chef and the presentation possibilities of your overall order, they may present this in a snake along your platter, with markings and scallion anntennae so that it looks like a big caterpillar.

The other big roll we like here is the Futomaki (pictured on the Right), which I understand just means "Big roll". At a lot of places, this is served as a selection of fishes, but here it is filled with crab, cucumber, avocado, kampyo, egg, and the crisp, sweet radish pickle that they serve as a side dish for many of their Korean dishes. This roll is lightly sweet flavored, and a good respite for some of the heavier rolls.

We usually order a big roll per person, and then fill in the rest with smaller rolls, like an asparagus, or avocado roll. Maybe a plain spicy crab or tuna. In the picture, I believe that's a Spicy Crab along the left, and Asparagus roll between the Caterpillar and the Spicy Shrimp Tempura, and a Cucumber and Avocado roll at the bottom of the picture above.

Below is what the tray looked like moments after serving. (It was completely empty soon after that.)

I hope to have some pictures and do a review of the Korean food at Midori soon, especially the Hot Stone Bowl Bibimbap, and maybe the noodle soup with shrimp tempura in it. In the meantime, just remember you can get good Korean food there. (And for great mom and pop Korean food in East Lansing, you can't beat Korean House in the Trowbridge shopping center. )

Midori Sushi and Korean BBQ, 436 Elmwood Rd, Lansing. (527) 323-7991.

Recommended Links:
Much as I love Korean food, you'd think I'd have more blog links. But alas, right now I only have one. My Korean Kitchen. Although Zen Kimchi really looks promising.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Roma Bakery, Grocery and Deli

Roma Bakery is a specialty grocery and bakery, located a little bit north of Oldsmobile Park on North Cedar. Anything you might want in a mediterranean cuisine, they have. Oils, vinegars, a whole wall of bulk spices. Dozens of varieties each of special ingredients like capers. Their deli case has Italian cured meats and cheeses. They even provide frozen dough in the dairy case for when you want to make your own pizzas at home.

But they are also a deli, and their sandwiches are small but hearty and, well, just really good. The subs are made with REAL BREAD -- crusty sub rolls they make themselves. I really like their #2 sandwich: prosciutto, lettuce, tomato and olive oil, but the prosciutto is pretty salty and I'm often burping it up for the rest of the day. So I usually opt for a #13 Lugnut Special(pictured above): ham, turkey, lettuce, tomato and mayo. But they have a great variety of other fillings, from Italian favorites like cappicola, pepperoni and salami, to plain old ham and swiss.

You can also get a small selection of salads and pastas by the pound, or slices of pizza or Greek spinach pie.

Their bread is good Italian stuff. Unlike many of the yuppie bakeries in town, this bread has crust! And unlike Paneras, it also has substance. While I do like Zingerman's bread a little better, Zingerman's has to be trucked in and is expensive.

Their pastry case is filled with sweet treats of every kind imaginable, from biscotti to strawberry tarts. (It's hard to escape that counter, and you have to approach it to get the bread.) They also do cakes and cornucopias for banquets and weddings. In March, they are famous for their Paczki (Polish jelly donut/pastries traditionally eaten for Mardi Gras).

Roma Bakery. 428 North Cedar Street. 517-485-9466. Their website is mainly geared toward catering and wedding cake customers.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Suria Malaysian Restaurant

(Editor's Note: Suria is closed. There is no place in town that I know of to get Malaysian food anymore. Sigh.)

I've mentioned Suria before, but I didn't have time for a full review, and they have changed their menu a bit in the new location. (The biggest change is that they no longer seem to have the big bowls necessary to serve the soup-style dishes, although they will try serving it on a large plate if you request a favorite dish from their former restaurant.)

Malaysian food has a lot in common with Indian, Chinese and Thai, and yet it's entirely it's own cuisine. A lot of curries and noodles, and can be very very spicey. They also serve Chinese food for the more timid, but I can't tell you how good it is because I always get the Malaysian food. Another great thing for the uninitiated: they have pictures of the dishes on the menu, which helps you remember what you had last time.

The most amazing thing is the appetizer Roti Canai (ROE-tee CHEN-eye) a stretchy, flakey flat bread which seems to me to be a cross between Naan and Croissants. I've been trying to make Roti at home, and though I think I've done pretty well on the Indian version, the ultra-thin layers of the Malaysian version are inhumanly impossible. (Well, okay, maybe superhumanly possible, kinda like my grandmother's pie dough.) This is melt-in-your mouth stuff. It comes with a little bowl of hot curry sauce to dip, that's just perfect with the buttery bread. (Note, you get one piece of bread with an order -- be sure to ask for a piece for everyone in the group, because you'll all want your own.)

My favorite dish is Panang Fried Kuey Teow. (Shown above.) Kuey Teow (pronounced KWAY Ti-ow) is a freshly made rice noodle -- chewy and creamy, and often large. It's stirfried (like fried rice or lo mein) with shrimp and chinese sausage, onions beansprouts, soy sauce and spices. It's really good, but it is intense and greasy. If you're not sure, you could ask for it not so spicey. This is one dish that has so much flavor, leaving out the spice would not hurt it. (The Beef Hor Fun is similar, and not hot -- but it also doesn't have the mellow flavor of the Chinese sausage.)

Another interesting noodle dish, that's unfamiliar but good for western tastes, is the Mee Rojak, which is a plate of egg noodles with shredded cucumber and bean sprouts. Over the top is the meat of your choice (shown here with shrimp), some fried tofu pockets, and a sweet sauce that reminds me a little of bbq sauce, garnished with ground peanuts. This one used to come mild, but the last time we had it, it was hot (and listed as hot on the menu). Again, they're happy to make something mild.

The other common sort of dish is a curry or meat on the side of a little formed ball of flavored rice (usually coconut or ginger rice). I love their chicken curry, but it is cut up, Asian style, with the bones in, and can be slow eating for westerners. The Nasi Lemak is something like a national dish of Malaysia: chicken curry, a mound of coconut rice, cucumbers, a boiled egg, and a little pile of fried spicy anchovies. If you're not quite up to the anchovies, the Chicken Curry is just fine. The BBQ Pork is very good when they have it, though a little sweeter than the Chinese BBQ Pork it resembles.

They also have a selection of dim sum on the appetizer menu. I've never got around to trying it, because I'm always too hungry for the Roti Canai. I've also never tried the Malaysian drinks and desserts.

Suria Malaysian Restaurant. 5025 S. Cedar St., Lansing. (517)887-8168.
Recommended Links:
Lily's Wei Sek Hong is a blog written by a Malaysian American. A lot of the recipes are American or of other ethnicities, but she has a lot of Malaysian recipes in her long list on the right side of the page.

Recommended Reading:
My favorite Malaysian cookbook so far is The Food of Malaysia: Authentic Recipes From the Crossroads of Asia (Periplus World Cookbooks) , but it's out of print. The other major book I use is the Wei Chaun cooking school book Singaporean, Malaysian & Indonesian Cuisine.

Drive-by: Lamai Anniversary, Nov 19

Lamai will be celebrating her anniversary on November 19 this year. That's a monday. She usually has special dishes for that, and sometimes has her Thai Sukiyaki.

(Another review coming tonight -- Probably Midori, although I don't have the pictures I want. BTW, I 've added pictures to the Sultan's review.)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Peking Duck Feast at Peking Express

Peking Duck was originally just a little treat at an Imperial feast, a lovely little burrito of duck, hoisin sauce and spring onion. This little treat took days to prepare.

Three days before the banquet, the duck would be quickly blanched in boiling honey water, then set to dry, then blanched again, and set to dry again. And again. This would go on for days until the skin was tight with honey, and had rendered out much of the fat. Then the duck would be roasted. The point of all this was to get the perfect crispy skin. The skin is the only part of the duck that is actually supposed to be used in Peking Duck. The rest of the duck should be prepared in another dish.

Peking Express knows how to serve the duck right -- as two dishes. But back to the duck....

So the luscious, crispy caramelized skin would then be cut up and served with a steamer full of lovely Mandarin Pancakes (aka Lotus Pancakes or Peking Doilies). These are very thin but tender and glutinous flat breads -- thinner than a tortilla, and when done right, more moist and tender. They should be made with boiling water dough (similar to pot sticker dough) and when made by hand, you put some sesame oil between two layers so you can roll them out extremely thin, two at a time.

You also get a bowl of hoisin sauce -- a salty sweet sauce with a number of spices it in -- and a pile of scallion brushes. Use the scallion (or green onion) to brush some hoisin on the pancake, throw in the onion and the skin, and wrap it up. Delectable!

Peking Express doesn't do the extra thin pancakes, but unlike any other place in town, they do use the right kind of dough. (Other places basically use a very very thin tortilla.) And they give you the actual scallion brushes, when most places give you just a few slivers of green onion and a pile of shredded cucumber.

It's a great dish for a celebration or banquet. We had such a banquet this weekend. The duck and doilies came first, as they should be. They're a great appetizer, but if you have less than four people, you could very well fill up on just this. (Heck, once the duck is gone, it's tempting to ask for more pancakes and just keep gobbling them with the sauce and onions.)

As for the rest of the banquet, the duck is enough to feed two or three people, so be careful how much more your order. Peking Express in particular tends to give you a lot of food for each dish, and we ended up ordering too much. (If you're sharing dishes, as you should at a Chinese banquet, figure the duck to be three dishes, unless you have some really hearty eaters, or you want leftovers.)

After the skin, came the rest of the duck, prepared in a stir-fry with slivers of vegetables and a bright flavor of five spice. (Five spice tends to be a mixture of anise, cinnamon, licorice, hot pepper, and any of a number of other spices -- fennel, cloves, ginger. There may well be more than five spices in there. It's just that five is a lucky number, so that's what it's called.)

The dish the owners always recommend for a banquet at Peking Express is the Giant Oyster Mushroom with Assorted Seafood. Oyster Mushrooms are a nice mild, chewy shroom, and the sauce is a mild garlic gravy. The seafood is shrimp, scallops, and yes...squid. The thing about squid is, if you cook it more than a minute, or less than an hour, it's tough. It doesn't taste bad, but it can be like chewing rubber bands. I'm happy to say that last night, the squid was NOT overcooked. It was a little chewier than the mushroom, but not bad.

The delight of the night was the Eggplant in Hot Pot. This is a gorgeous dish: purple eggplants and colorful sweet peppers baked in a hot clay pot in a sweet soy and wine sauce. I'm really beginning to get over my dislike of eggplant. There are just too many places in town that make good stuff out of it. The liquid in the hot pot keeps its temperature up, so be sure you don't burn yourself on this one.

Lastly we had a dish we've gotten before and we always forget it's not what we expect. Turbot Fish with Baby Bok Choi in Black Bean Sauce has dried salted turbot in it -- the fish is more of a seasoning than a major ingredient. It's tasty, but it's salty. If you want just some nice green veggies with the other dishes, you might try their Pea Greens in Minced Garlic Sauce. Those are really tasty in a light gravy. Chinese Mushrooms with Chinese Green is also a good vegetable dish, but heavy on the Mushrooms (nice plump whole black mushrooms.)

I love Peking Express. (They're one of the few places in town to serve good tea, which is ironic, because dim sum houses are supposed to be about good tea, but alas, ours just don't get it.) It is by far the best place to get Peking Duck. However, in fairness, I should say that Chinese Gourmet Village in Hannah Plaza puts on a nice feast too. I don't have a review for them yet, but here's a link to their site and menu.

All of the dishes mentioned above, by the way, came from the chef's special menu, which is an insert in the regular menu. If your insert gets left out, don't settle for the General Tsao's Chicken and Beef Chow Mein. Get the good stuff.

Peking Express, 611 East Grand River Ave, East Lansing. 351-0533.

Recommended Reading:

I have a really good book on Peking Style cooking from Wei Chuan cooking school. Chinese Cuisine: Beijing Style The only problem is that Amazon lists this book as being in Chinese. Most Wei Chuan books are in both Chinese and English, and I have a copy of this that has everything in both languages, so this is probably in both, but be prepared if you order it.

On the other hand Chinese Cuisine: Shanghai Styles is another great Wei Chuan book with similar flavors and styles, and Amazon even says it's in English.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Dim Sum Primer, Pt 3

Continuing on with Part Three of the Dim Sum Primer. If you want to know where to get this stuff locally, check out the "Where to get Dim Sum in Lansing" post.

Fried Sweet Rice Dumpling. This thing has a lot of names, and the names often sound like other kinds of dumplings. At Little Panda, they're now calling it something like "Meat Filled Dumpling". But it's so much more: The wrapper is a thick, chewy sticky dough made of sweet rice (or sticky rice) flour -- which is used in a lot of desserts. However, in this dish, it's wrapped around some seasoned ground pork, and then deep-fried. I had a variation in L.A. filled with chicken and cilantro. In either case, something about the sweet and the crispy chewy fried crust makes the flavor of the meat inside POP. You really should have this with the hot sauce, though.

Hot Sauce. At Golden Wok, they put the sauce on the table when you arrive. At Little Panda, you have to ask for it. It's made up of chili flakes soaked in oil, and may be seasoned with ginger or garlic as well. The oil here is not as hot as the flakes, and it carries all the flavor, so if you don't want it too hot, you can just dab your dumplings in the oil, or you can drizzle it on the food.

TurnipCake. This is another item that goes well with the hot sauce. "Turnip" Cake is generally made with a large sweet Daikon radish, rather an an actual turnip. The batter is made with rice flour and water, mixed with various flavorful ingredients, usually including Chinese sausage, mushrooms and dried shrimp, along with the grated turnip. This is then steamed -- more like an English pudding than a cake -- and then sliced and fried. Little Panda tends to have more flavorful fillings. Golden Wok sometimes has a variant of this with a Taro Cake - which looks almost the same, but is slightly purple. Taro is sweeter and pastier.

Chive Dumpling. This translucent dumpling is shaped kind of like one of those round rubber coin purses that you squeeze to open up. (Flat, round, with a coiled top.) They are almost always filled with seafood and chives. At Golden Wok, they have shrimp. We've seen them with clams, and I've heard of them offered with greens or cilantro inside too. (Little Panda doesn't offer them.) The wrapper is a slightly tougher version of the clear Har Gow wrapper, and the dumpling is pan-fried after steaming.

Steamed Ribs. These are not BBQ ribs, but rather little chunks of bone, meat and gristle which have been steamed with garlic and black bean sauce. (Black beans are fermented, salted beans used as a seasoning -- and they are really great with pork or beef in particular.) The thing is, even though you have to suck the tiny bit of meat off small bones, these are really good, especially at Golden Wok.

BBQ Pork Pastry. These are almost too rich.... Okay, forget the "almost". They are too rich. Tender, flakey pastry wrapped around sweet hunks of Chinese BBQ pork. Melt in your mouth, heart-attack-on-a-plate. Yum. (Only available at Golden Wok.)

Shrimp Balls. Sorry I don't have a picture of these. They are basically just a meatball of pure shrimp, coated in crumbled rice noodles and deep fried. When I want shrimp, I prefer a little more texture and variety of flavor, so I don't often order these -- but they are great for somebody who just wants shrimp. Add a little sweet and sour sauce or hot sauce, and they are a treat.

Next time I'd like to get to some of plated dishes, congees and desserts. (I don't have as many pictures of those yet, though.) But before that, I have a few restaurant reviews to get to, and a Peking Duck banquet.

Where to find Dim Sum in Lansing
Dim Sum Primer, Part 1
Dim Sum Primer, Part 2
Dim Sum Primer, Part 3
Dim Sum Primer, Part 4

Friday, October 26, 2007

Los Tres Amigos Taqueria

Okay, this is really good. A wide range of very authentic flavors. The menu is very different than their main place out by Lansing Mall, which has more familiar dishes. (The East Side is now officaly swimming in great Mexican food.)

The core of the menu here are the tacos, burritos and tortas (sandwiches) with a variety of fillings. But they also have various authentic soups, and antojitos (literally "little cravings" -- taquitos, enchiladas tostadas, etc.) and Mariscos, which are seafood dinners -- mainly choices of tilapia and shrimp.

We had Tacos for our first visit. And our second. My favorite is the al Pastor, which has spicey barbequed pork with onions and cilantro, athough I sure liked the Carnitas, which is another variety of pulled pork with pico de gallo. (Both pictured above.) And then there is the fish taco (Tacos de Pescado) which is a fried whitefish filet, broken up and served with cabbage, pico and a drizzle of a creamy dressing that's like a Mexican tartar sauce. (Fish taco pictured below.)

The tacos themselves are small -- tiny corn tortillas served double for each taco or a regular sized flour tortilla -- but they are stuffed full and worth the $2 price. They have fine chips, and a good mild salsa (hot sauce both on the table and at a little dressings bar by the cash register), and good guacamole.

(Note: since this time, we've tried a few more flavors. The chicken tacos come in two varieties, grilled or shredded. The grilled is served with pico de gallo, and is very flavorful, and will probably become my regular request, along with the Pastor, but the shredded -- which were served with lettuce and cheese, gringo style, had a surprising hit of black pepper, and a great salty Mexican cheese. My friend reports that the shrimp tacos were really good and will probably become her regular order.)

They also serve juices from big glass barrels of ice and sugar. The pineapple is a little too sweet, but the Tamarindo is just about perfect.

They are located just north of Frandor, on North Clippert, in the same shopping strip as Baskin Robbins and Medawar Jewelers.

Los Tres Amigos Taqueria, 730 North Clippert St, Lansing, 48912. 324-9600.
Recommended links:
The Great Taco Hunt is one man's journey to find the best taco stand in Los Angeles.

Recommended Reading:
Gringo's Guide to Authentic Mexican Cooking (Cookbooks and Restaurant Guides)