Tag Archives: family

Holiday Happiness With Perfect Pork Shoulder and Crunchy Crackling

One of the most deliciously useful bits of knowledge I have gained so far in my time in London: how to roast a perfect pork shoulder, complete with addictive crunchy little strips of crackling on the top. At Rambling Restaurant a few weeks ago, chef foodrambler made a classic Sunday roast from the excellent River Cottage MEAT book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. While flipping through the cookbook, I happened upon this recipe for Aromatic Shoulder of Pork ‘Donnie Brasco,’ so named because you can put it in the oven on low heat overnight and ‘fuhgeddaboutit.’ Oh Hugh F-W, you are hilarious. Also, a meat genius.

Since the mere reading of the recipe made my stomach grumble with longing, we decided to make the pork shoulder for three consecutive Rambling Restaurant suppers. After a day’s worth of roasting, you pry apart the brittle outer shell of crackling and dig through a shuddering layer of burning hot pork fat to find the most perfect, tender, juicy, falls-apart-with-the-tug-of-a-fork meat. Shredded with two dueling forks and bathed in an impromptu soy-hoisin-chili-garlic-leftover spring roll dipping sauce mixture, we had guests raving that it was the best pulled pork they’d ever tasted.  And so I recreated it for my family back home in Boston, introducing them to the joy that is garlic and spice-rubbed, high heat-blasted pig skin.  Here’s the recipe so you can do it yourself, very very slightly adapted from Hugh F-W’s recipe in ingredients and time, should you decide at lunch that pork shoulder is essential for dinner, without quite enough time to ‘fuhgeddaboutit.’

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family styles reunion

irene and the lobster blt SMALL

hello from irene bean and a kickass maine lobster BLT.

the sisters (and parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins) had a family styles reunion for reals in new york city this week. activities included short ribs and pies at the irish pub; bibimbap, jap chae and massive amounts of raw beef at the korean barbecue; omelettes, cointreau-flambéed orange french toast, banana blueberry pancakes at brunch, and an immense number of soup dumplings.

oh, and chicken noodle soup in the hotel room. that’s how we do.

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it’s always sunny in scandinavia, part one: copenhagen

i recently spent a day in copenhagen with my mother on the way to sweden for my cousin sarah’s wedding. we took a boat ride through the canals, meandered through the cobblestoned streets, and ate lots of  traditional danish cuisine, i.e. colorful things stacked atop one another often involving bread, a mayonnaise-y type of sauce and some form of seafood. don’t worry, it’s way more delicious than it sounds and often very aesthetically pleasing. this concoction is certainly unlike any other chicken and bacon sandwich i’ve ever seen.

chicken and bacon sandwich

copenhagen, didn’t you know that bacon sandwiches are supposed to be greasy artery-clogging messes and not bountiful gardens of vegetal delight? no seriously, i kid because i love you and your incredibly moist curried chicken.

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nyc food tour, part six: Chinatown Rules Everything Around Me – dollar dollar bills, y’all.

chinatown in manhattan is a buyer’s paradise. you’ve got bargains galore, from imitation gucci to bootleg cds to endless loads of cheap imported crap. i used to live right off canal street, and wading through the hordes of tourists taking up precious sidewalk space while looking for fake fendi bags used to irk me on the regular (although i’ll admit that a local source for cheap sunglasses is immensely useful when you go through approximately 43.7 pairs per month). but the low prices aren’t confined to the luxury knockoffs   – the food in chinatown is plentiful, varied, authentic, and generally extremely inexpensive, not to mention FANTASTICALLY DELICIOUS.

i’d like to draw your attention to two particular purchases made with one dollar each. no joke. one single george washington, equivalent to 100 disregarded pennies that often inhabit the crevasses of your sofa or fail to merit your attention when lying unattended on the sidewalk.  regard the following plate:

fried-dumplings

lexi and irene worship at the altar of fried dumpling.

you might start keeping track of pennies now that you know that a hundred of those suckers will buy you a plate of FIVE succulent and freshly folded fried dumplings. yes, deep in the heart of chinatown exists what most be the most straightforwardly named hole in the wall food emporium on the planet: Fried Dumpling. you can tell by the name that this joint sells the best scandinavian-inspired modular shelving units in new york.

fried-dumpling-storefront1

kidding. they do make a mean burrito though.

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nyc food tour, part five: tofu clouds, sweet gooey balls, and family styles for reals

pork-chop-sandwich

mei: in true family styles, we have a guest post from our stellar cuzzin and woman-about-town, lexi, with some non-italicized interjections from yours truly. along with rachel, one of my oldest friends from back in the meth-and-mary-j-day, lexi, bean and i hit up the banh mi at nicky’s vietnamese sandwiches, where we stuffed our faces to a serious extreme.  above, the juicy pork chop with fresh pickled carrots and other veggies, in the warm embrace of a perfectly crusty/soft ratioed baguette.

lexi: ‘i have delicious yammies’lexi-and-the-classic

mei: to be specific, a headless lexi is double fisting the classic vietnamese sandwich with a paté of roasted ground pork and vietnamese ham. YUM. below, delicious savory grilled chicken on a luxurious bed of rice vermicelli. i’ll be honest, i would sleep on rice noodles every night.  as long as i had a soft pillow of summer roll on which to lay my weary head. Continue reading

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nyc food tour, part one: the union square greenmarket served up family styles

i just spent a fantastic weekend eating my way through the fantastic food paradise of new york city with my sister irene (recently somewhat MIA co-blogger) and cousin lexi (maybe sometime guest blogger).  in the family spirit of this blog, irene bean,  lexi and i are going to do a couple of joint posts on our nyc food tour.

stop one: bean and i kicked things off by exploring the hustle and the bustle of the union square greenmarket. here are some photos and random comments from our adventure.

mei: one of my favorite things to do is wander around farmers markets for hours while sampling food, ogling tasty looking displays, and meeting and chatting with the cool people who locally raise/grow/bake/create deliciousness.  also, farmers markets are generally very aesthetically pleasing. yes, there are quite often cute farmer boys, but also so many beautiful colorful flowers. we’ll start with those:

gerbera-daisies

mei: back to food now. here irene, aka vanna white, showcases the tart and creamy honey lemon drinkable yogurt from donnybrook farms you will win if you correctly guess the answer to the wheel of fortune puzzle:

irene-showcases-the-honey-lemon-drinkable-yogurt

irene: probiotic goodness can turn anyone into vanna white. grow that good fungus, dude!

mei: farmers markets bring such joy! check out the girl on the left and the ecstasy she is experiencing as she purchases fungicide-free items to put in her belly:

unconventionally-grown

irene: i think i can relate to her in many ways, namely, that i feel equally smug and gleeful when purchasing tasty greens.

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upcoming: nyc family food tour extravaganza!

the seeeeesters are reunited! irene and i are hanging out in nyc and planning a food tour for the day. first stop – union square greenmarket. also on the agenda – korean fried chicken, soup dumplings, hole-in-the-wall indian food takeout storefronts, cupcakes, falafel, turkish food, and more. anyone who ever said there were three meals in a day has never met the li sisters. we will be joined by our cousin lexi, who shares our shiang genes and therefore also a voracious appetite. this is some serious family styles.

irene and i are preparing to go out while eating beer cheese from ithaca and smoked salmon. i wondered aloud as to whether we’d need to save room in our stomachs for our daylong food tour. quote from irene, epitomizing one of the many reasons i love the girl:

‘i don’t need room. all i need is initiative.’

new york deliciousness, here we come!

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irene’s chinese food to eat before you die

the bean is back up in this business with a hilarious comment on the 100 Chinese Foods To Try Before You Die post, (originally from appetite for china). i’ve rescued it from the comments section where it might die without reaching its deserved readership, sorry for any repetition. irene, you are fucking funny and i love you.

from the mouth of the bean:

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This is a sweet list. I think the more challenging task would definitely be to list items in order of importance/level of eat-before-you-die-ness instead of just alphabetical order. (Mei, you’re really getting into the hyphenated sentences… I like them, but they’re so hard to type!) Anyway, where do I begin?!

Let’s start with the obvious: Peking duck. Sweet, salty, crunchy, oily, all wrapped up in a thin flour pancake. What could be better? (Aside: in my exploits at college, I’ve found that burritofying everything (i.e. taking things and wrapping them in tortillas) is a really good and convenient way to live.) I remember when mom and I were living in BeiJing and we used to eat this stuff all the time, and it was so freakaleeking cheap that I wanted to cry when we got back to Boston and it was 40 bucks/duck.

Next, xiaolongbao. Little dragon bun/bag, i.e. a deliciously moist dumpling filled with shrimpy porky soup. Easy to burn your tongue on this one, so you can’t eat it in one bite, which is unfortunately, because that’s my classy signature move. I remember that I was taught to eat this in my wide-Chinese-style soup spoon so that I could save all the soup from getting sloshed across my plate, and therefore, undrinkable. These little guys also come in a bamboo steamy thingy with some big bai cai (bok choy, cabbage) leaves underneath them that are pretty freaking tasty.

Prawn crackers, also known as shrimp chips definitely bring back the memories, namely the memory of Mei deep-frying shrimp chips in our rice cooker (or our wok? I realize that rice cooker makes no sense) and then accidentally dropping in one of the plastic handles on the pot cover. And then we had shrimp chips, and a lump of greasy black plastic. Mei, was that also the time that a burning gob of flying oil hit you right in the middle of your forehead? She clearly has a long career of food-maverickism (<— definitely not a real word).

Crab rangoon. Freaking tasty. I do not care to comment on the authenticity of this dish. Only on the warm cream cheesiness.

Haw flakes: I haven’t thought of these in so long! Those grainy red discs of delicious jujube fruit will always be that part of Chinese school that I remember most fondly.

Tea eggs: delicious. I’m going to have to learn how to make these one day. I can’t imagine that it’s that hard.

Now, here are a couple that I didn’t see (or that I missed because my brain is fried from 50 pages of the American Journal of Sociology):

Rice cakes (in ovalette form). These little suckers have an amazingly satisfying chewiness, and can be thrown into stir fry, soup, whatever. Mmm, mmm chew.

You tiao (literally, oil stick). These guys are long, bready sticks that are so oily you have to eat them folded up in a paper towel unless you want grease stains all over yourself. They’re also delicious sliced, toasted, and stirred up in shi fan (congee).

Any kind of green vegetable. There’s an “oriental” grocery that Daniel and I sometimes go to, and the vegetable section is full of all of these unlabeled, leafy beautiful greens, and they are all so delicious. You really can’t go wrong.

Okay, procrastination time over! I’m giving myself half an hour for hygiene, and the rest of the day for work! Such is a Sunday afternoon, especially when I slept through Sunday morning.

Love you allz! Let’s see some comments up in here!

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100 Chinese Foods To Try Before You Die – the childhood food memories abound…

i just went through the top 100 SF foods again with my roommate last night to narrow down what we’re aiming to hit up before i bounce for the east coast.  while i’m on the list tip, bear with me as i indulge my desire to see how well i’m doing on 100 Chinese Foods To Try Before You Die from a beautiful and serious food-porntastic website called appetite for china. the author is a freelance writer and cooking instructor with french culinary training who learned about food in her parent’s chinese restaurants and now travels, writes, and teaches around world.  i’m inspired, admiring, and envious. it’s a gorgeous site and full of good recipes that i plan to try asap. i’ve included a few of her accompanying photos.  is it weird that i want to jump into this bowl of congee (what i grew up calling shi fan or jook) and float on top in a rice-flavored steam bath?

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she says that the list is a pretty broad definition of chinese food and a mostly modern take, which makes sense for me as a second and third generation chinese-american who grew up eating chinese food, american food, and american chinese food. posts with links take you back to recipes on her site or wikipedia definitions, so i’ve bolded the ones i’ve tried and added a few comments.

  1. Almond milk
  2. Ants Climbing a Tree (poetic, not literal, name) – apparently a dish of minced beef and bean noodles, named ‘because the tiny morsels of meat cling to the strands of noodles as you dangle them from your chopsticks’. reminds me of how i ate ants on a log in nursery school by picking off the raisins, licking the peanut butter off the celery stick, and then refusing to eat the celery. always could pick out the best part…
  3. Asian pear – that seems unfairly easy.
  4. Baby bok choy – one of my favorite vegetables to cook
  5. Baijiu – an everpresent alcoholic offering in china.
  6. Beef brisket – my mom makes this and it’s DOPE.
  7. Beggar’s Chicken
  8. Bingtang hulu
  9. Bitter melon
  10. Bubble tea
  11. Buddha’s Delight
  12. Cantonese roast duck – mmm…my whole family loves roast duck.
  13. Century egg, or thousand-year egg – in my opinion, it is a texturally bizarre and marginally gag-reflex-inducing experience to unexpectedly encounter one of these in your porridge. definitely a classic jook ingredient though.
  14. Cha siu (Cantonese roast pork) – one of the most delicious salty-sweet-meat combos in a bun. i remember eating these in NYC chinatown with my grandmother.
  15. Char kway teow didn’t recognize the name, but have definitely had this dish before by the pictures on wikipedia
  16. Chicken feet – i’ll be honest, i always avoided these as a kid. i recently got into a discussion about how good they are though, and saw them at duc loi, so looks like a chicken feet night is in order…
  17. Chinese sausage – in my opinion, these have an interesting but somehow offputting sweet quality which unfortunately lowers them drastically on my pork product scale of tastiness
  18. Chow mein
  19. Chrysanthemum tea
  20. Claypot rice
  21. Congee – also known as shi fan, jook, porridge and probably a bunch of other names. eating jook always reminds me of family holidays like thanksgiving at my aunt and uncle’s house in albany. once the meal is done and the meat has been picked off the carcass, the turkey skeleton gets tossed into a pot of rice and 5-10 times as much water. the next morning we’d wake up to steaming thick savory rice porridge with bits of meat and scallions. such a perfect winter family meal, and it takes practically no work.
  22. Conpoy (dried scallops)
  23. Crab rangoon – so classic americanized greasy hole in the wall late night chinese food steez.
  24. Dan Dan noodles
  25. Dragonfruit
  26. Dragon’s Beard candy – just had this recently! tastes like if you ate your grandma’s sweater and it turned out to be subtly sweet and vaguely delicious.
  27. Dried cuttlefish
  28. Drunken chicken
  29. Dry-fried green beans
  30. Egg drop soup
  31. Egg rolls
  32. Egg tart, Cantonese or Macanese – my cousin paul always says that while asian food is absolutely amazing, the continent is a bit behind when it comes to desserts. as a kid, i always thought that these egg tarts were kind of a poor dessert substitute, but had them recently in nyc and, i’ll be honest, i ate five in one sitting.
  33. Fresh bamboo shoots
  34. Fortune cookies – these have a fascinating history and may not even be chinese in origin, but possibly japanese or american.
  35. Fried milk
  36. Fried rice
  37. Gai lan (Chinese broccoli)
  38. General Tso’s Chicken
  39. Gobi Manchurian
  40. Goji berries (Chinese wolfberries)
  41. Grass jelly
  42. Hainan chicken rice
  43. Hand-pulled noodles
  44. Har gau (steamed shrimp dumplings in translucent wrappers)
  45. Haw flakes – this was one of my absolute favorite candies as a kid. they come in wafer-thin disks, stacked and packaged in pretty paper. such a nostalgic candy memory…
  46. Hibiscus tea
  47. Hong Kong-style Milk Tea
  48. Hot and sour soup
  49. Hot Coca-Cola with Ginger
  50. Hot Pot
  51. Iron Goddess tea (Tieguanyin)
  52. Jellyfish – i have a very strong memory of eating this and duck tongues in an LA-area chinese banquet restaurant with my uncle michael’s family.  i think if you could eat sesame-flavored cold translucent gelatinous plastic, it would taste like jellyfish.
  53. Kosher Chinese food – this is such a classic Brookline feature (my hometown) that i’m surprised i’ve never tried it.
  54. Kung Pao Chicken
  55. Lamb skewers (yangrou chua’r)
  56. Lion’s Head meatballs
  57. Lomo Saltado -interesting, this is something i associate with south america cause that’s where i’ve eaten it. turns out it is chinese-peruvian fusion.
  58. Longan fruit
  59. Lychee – so fun to peel!
  60. Macaroni in soup with Spam – although i’ve never had this exact dish, spam reminds me of visiting my uncle victor’s family in hawaii for the first time when i was six.
  61. Malatang
  62. Mantou, especially if fried and dipped in sweetened condensed milk – i will forever associate mantou with a skit from a chinese camp i went to in minnesota at age 14. someone sang ‘mantou man’ to the tune of the village people’s macho man and i will never lose that association with the word mantou.  (btw, please click that link if you want a thoroughly enjoyable muscle-pumping dude in a tank top 70’s music video).
  63. Mapo Tofu
  64. Mock meat
  65. Mooncake (bonus points for the snow-skin variety)
  66. Nor mai gai (chicken and sticky rice in lotus leaf) – LOOOOOOVE THIS DISH.
  67. Pan-fried jiaozi  – i heart everything dumpling.
  68. Peking duck – this is one of my favorite dishes ever, and i think my favorite memory of eating it is going to peking duck house restaurant in nyc chinatown with my grandmother. so fatty, so succulent, so juicy yet crispy, so perfect.
  69. Pineapple bun
  70. Prawn crackers – these pastel colored styrofoam-y chips were one of my favorite things at chinese banquets as a kid. we used to call them shrimp chips. in thinking about them now, it’s clearly a bizarre idea to serve multicolored chips that taste like shrimp with your roast chicken, but i was obsessed with them…
  71. Pu’er tea
  72. Rambutan
  73. Red bean in dessert form – red bean ice cream is the shit. not as much a fan of the soup. chinatown ice cream factory in nyc chinatown serves a killer version…
  74. Red bayberry
  75. Red cooked porkhey irene, would you hit that? i’d hit it
  76. Roast pigeon – sounds better when you call it squab. first ate this with my grandmother li, also in nyc chinatown. i remember thinking how small they are, barely bigger than your fist. you dip them in a tiny plate of flavored salt. don’t think of street pigeons when you eat, it’ll just ruin the taste…
  77. Rose tea
  78. Roujiamo – her accompanying photo of this makes me want to make this RIGHT NOW and put it in my mouth.
  79. Scallion pancake – i have wonderful memories of making this on my kitchen table at home as a kid. you roll out a long snake  of scallion-studded dough, then curl it into a spiral, then FLATTEN. fry in oil, savor, stuff yourself silly.
  80. Shaved ice dessert
  81. Sesame chicken
  82. Sichuan pepper in any dish
  83. Sichuan preserved vegetable (zhacai)
  84. Silken tofu
  85. Soy milk, freshly made
  86. Steamed egg custard
  87. Stinky tofu
  88. Sugar cane juice
  89. Sweet and sour pork, chicken, or shrimp
  90. Taro
  91. Tea eggs
  92. Tea-smoked duck
  93. Turnip cake (law bok gau) – my dad and aunt tina love this stuff. i’ve just come around to it recently. i don’t know why i didn’t like it, because almost everything pan-fried is delicious, but i think it was because i always expected it to taste like potato and then would have the unexpected stronger flavor of turnip. but now i’m way into this, and it’s super tasty from super 88 in boston.
  94. Twice-cooked pork
  95. Water chestnut cake (mati gau)
  96. Wonton noodle soup
  97. Wood ear
  98. Xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) – i realize i’m quick to throw out the word ‘favorite’ when discussing many food items, but i can’t keep from getting excited when it comes to dumplings. and choosing between fried dumplings and soup dumplings is like choosing between breathing and sleeping. or kittens and puppies. or twilight and harry potter. or battling an ever-regenerating mustache and always reeking horrifically of B.O. so much love for all these things that the bestowal of multi-favoritism must be understood and accepted.
  99. Yuanyang (half coffee, half tea, Hong Kong style)
  100. Yunnan goat cheese

100chinesefoods-2

thanks diana! i hope it’s cool that i’ve so shamelessly poached from your blog post, it’s done with an immense amount of respect and admiration. i think i’m at 75/100 (clearly i’m not very good at counting in high double digits). most of the ones i haven’t tried are dishes i haven’t seen before, with a few exceptions for items i thought were gross when i was younger. now i’ll put anything in my mouth at least once (zing!). kidding kidding, i’m trying to keep this PG because i’m going to send this out to my entire family and this is already making me feel reeeally awkward. i really enjoyed all the family food memories that came up as i went through the list and want to share them with my relatives. this is part of why irene and i started this blog and why i named it family styles – food and eating carry such strong shared memories and cultural values and family bonds and passionate enjoyment and eating family-style embodies so many of those principles. my strongest memories of many of my relatives involve taking over huge  chinese restaurants (i have a LOT of cousins, and they’re all awesome) with their big round tables and spinning lazy susans and tackling an immense number of dishes, always family style.

irene and andy and mom and lexi and auntie julia and caroline and auntie virginia and all my other wonderful fam, i’m going to send this to you and hope that you’ll go through the list and see what food memories get dredged up. my apologies for all the cursing if you venture elsewhere on the site:) so much family styles love to all of you…

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family style!

family style (adj, adv, n, all of the above):

a) a method of serving a meal, often in chinese food, where all dishes are placed on a table and shared by all eaters.  generally includes reaching across the table, self-serving, thievery with chopsticks, and the always-adventurous rotating lazy susan.

b) the only way to eat.  the best way to try all dishes, no matter where or when or what kind of food. if you’re not okay with me spearing food off your plate and putting it in my mouth, we shouldn’t be eating together.

c) a blog about food, family, and anything else we want to write about, including insane-faced ballet/karate performing, bruce lee swivel-painting pageant talent performers. (see below). we being two sisters, mei and irene. another reason for the family title. we like to slow roast pork butt shoulder (yes, that’s what it says on the package from the chinese grocery), experiment with butter distribution in pie crusts, and bake prodigious numbers of sweet corn maple bacon cupcakes and bacon fat ginger snap cookies.  this blog is a wayfor us  to keep in touch across three thousand miles, share recipes and amazing food discoveries, and generally be a lazy susan passing around tasty tidbits of interesting things.  mmmmmmm.

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