kruizing with kikukat

Monday, February 27, 2012

Almost Hoki's: Fried Ginger Chicken

The high point of this week in the Kikukat house was D1 getting her braces off.  She has had them since Spring of 2009.  Well, she has sort of had them on since 2009.  I say sort of because, as I found out last week, she has been removing the main wire herself to periodically clean her teeth.  No wonder it took so long!  and more importantly, how did this get by all the adults?!?  I had braces while I was growing up, and I NEVER took the main wire out.  I don't think I would even know where to begin now!  Anyway, D1 can now enjoy actually biting into foods like whole apples, pears, and fried chicken.  Perhaps if she hadn't been practicing orthodontics on herself, she may have been able to bite into the chicken I fried for AE's New Years Day party.
showing off them pearly whites

As I was saying a few weeks ago, I was asked to bring desserts and fried chicken to AE's party.  While I'm not crazy about all the dirtiness accompanying frying, I do enjoy a salty mouthful of fried chicken (and fried chicken skin!).  Given the history of food service at AE's, I realized that the fried chicken might be the only non-dessert food I get to eat.  I decided that it would be worth my while to get dirty and actually fry the chicken.

Perhaps in your home, fried chicken is a no-brainer/no recipe required entree.  In my home, I NEED to follow a recipe.  Fault can be traced back to my college days in Seattle.  The Hawaii club at UDub always did bento orders for meetings.  Being a deer-in-the-headlights freshman, I thought it would appear most cool to do as the masses. . .order a bento. 

Bento was always ordered from Hoki's, a hole-in-the-wall place in Ballard (northwest Seattle).  Hoki's was owned by the Hokama family, transplants from Hawaii.  Hmmm, I'm getting the feeling that I've told this story before.  Well, I'm old, so I'm allowed some degree of compromised mental function. Hoki's bento contained rice (sprinkled with furikake), takuwan, beef teriyaki, fried ginger chicken & macaroni salad.    It was the fried ginger chicken that became the standard by which all fried chicken would be judged.  Wow!!!  I was blown away by the distinct ginger flavor which perfumed each crisp  bite.  I knew that Mountain View Gramma's  salt & pepper fried chicken would no longer be the best.

When UDub students had the fortuitous occasion to have possession of a car, there was always a requisite trip to Hoki's to be made.  On one of these trips, I realized that fried ginger chicken could be ordered by itself (rather than part of a bento).  Oddly enough, the chicken in the bento was wing pieces, while the chicken in the plate lunch was deboned chicken thighs/breasts/etc. 

During the summer of 198_, when I remained in Seattle to take summer classes, my roommate Gayle took a job at a Japanese restaurant, Miya's, on the northern part of The Ave.  She encouraged us to have dinner there, so a few of us happily obliged.  I was pleasantly surprised to see fried ginger chicken on the menu.  Of course, I ordered it and discovered it was exactly like the deboned pieces at Hoki's.  I couldn't believe it. . .for the first eighteen years of my life, I had no clue fried ginger chicken even existed.  Now I had discovered two places, just a few miles apart, both serving the identical dish!

The mystery was solved when I attended a Fourth of July drunken party with Gayle (this was when I discovered Jack Daniels and I didn't get along).  I was surprised to see the Hokamas (of Hoki's fame) at the party.  Gayle explained that Mr. Hokama was a former employee of Miya's before striking out on his own. I figured someone shared the recipe.  I am in no way implying Mr. Hokama pilfered the recipe from Miya's. . .please read on.

Fast forward ten years.  Married.  No kids yet.  Just moved into a new home.  Trying to decide what to have for dinner, I perused a local Buddhist church cookbook and was intrigued by a fried chicken recipe.  I located the same recipe in a high school alumni cookbook AND, get this, in a cookbook my first grade (I was a first grader) class put together for Christmas.  I took a chance and made the chicken.  I was my beloved fried ginger chicken!  I guess nobody in Seattle did any recipe stealing if that many cookbooks contain the recipe.

Since then, I have been using this recipe as my standard (although it can hardly be called standard) fried chicken recipe.  I've made it with both wing pieces and deboned chicken pieces, and both work well (deboned thighs should be cut into 3 pieces, and deboned breasts should be cut into 5 or 6 pieces).  The one deviation I've made from the recipes was that I prefer the more robust taste of the chicken when it is marinated overnight (recipes said to marinate 1-2 hours).  I normally coat the chicken pieces in flour (sometimes I use a combination of cornstarch & potato starch) about 10 minutes before frying.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Fried Ginger Chicken

     2 lbs chicken (wings, thighs, breast)
     1 tsp brown sugar
     2 tsp salt
     1/8 tsp pepper
     1 clove garlic, grated
     1 tsp ginger, grated
     2 tsp sake

Place chicken in a bowl.  Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken.  Marinate overnight.  Coat with flour or desired fry coating and fry until brown.

I mentioned earlier that D1 took her braces off, but she also went to Honolulu on Saturday to participate in Japan Wizard.  She said they placed 11th and assured me there were more than 12 teams (whew!).  D2 enjoyed a sleepover at a friends on Saturday night (thank you, Nicky & Miles).

As for me, I enjoyed a hot shower.  After 15 years, I replaced the original solar water heater.  It got to the point where I couldn't be absolutely certain the heater would switch from solar to electric (on cloudy days), and the reset button in the heater would also malfunction.  I'm $5700 poorer now, but I am no longer held hostage by the cloudy day, and I'll get more than half of the $ back in the form of a tax credit next year.  I'm feeling very fortunate because the day of installation happened to be the only sunny day all week.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Tribute to the Steamy Kitchen: Hainanese Chicken Rice

Happy Presidents Day!!!  I had a fairly uneventful work week last week, and I'd be thrilled to have another one just like it.  I got to reconnect briefly with an old friend at Waikoloa Elementary School on Friday afternoon and had a nice dinner at Sansei Waikoloa.  The Alaskan Flower Sushi, which has a small bit of rice, ikura, fresh salmon & a shiso leaf, was melt-in-the-mouth delicious.  Too bad the order only came with two pieces.

I'm not sure how I got started on this quest, but for some reason, I've been wanting to make Hainanese Chicken Rice.  It could've been a blog I read or it could've been Cheryl Lu Lien Tan's book, A Tiger in the Kitchen, but I was on a mission.

Because Jaden Hair is a deity in the food blogging world, I figured trying a recipe from her blog would be where I might find success.  I followed her cooking instructions religiously for the soup, rice and hot sauce, but I ended up doing my own thing for cooking the chicken.  I started out with her method, but the chicken was not cooked enough for my comfort level.  Aunty Janice sometimes refers to poultry as "Chinese cooked", meaning that while the meat is silky smooth, the liquid still has a pink tinge to it.  If you follow the instructions in Jaden's blog, you will end up with a chicken that is "Chinese cooked".  If the pink doesn't bother you, no problem.  When all was said and done (and the chicken done to my liking), I thought that my typical accompaniment for poached chicken, ginger sauce, would work well with the other two sauces (hot sauce and dark soy).

This meal ended up being a huge hit in the Kikukat house.  The Ds loved the broth (it tasted so much like gai jow).  The sauces proved to be a nice trinity with the slight sweetness of the dark soy off-setting the spicyness of the hot sauce while getting the aromatic kick-in-the-pants from the ginger.  The shocker for me was the rice.  D1 couldn't stop eating it.  She even brought some for lunch the next day with some chicken and ginger sauce (pity the person who had to sit next to her after lunch).

If you like your chicken the way I do, the following method will yield a more "cooked" chicken:  Boil water.  When water is at a rolling boil, add chicken and immerse for 1 minute.  Remove chicken and rinse under cold water.  Bring water to a boil again.  Place chicken in pot.  When water returns to a boil, cover pot and turn off heat.  Let stand 30 minutes.  Bring pot to a boil again.  Turn off heat, cover and let stand 1 hour.  Remove chicken.

 click on recipe title for printable recipe
Ginger Sauce

     1 c peanut oil
     2 tsp salt
     1/2 tsp white pepper
     2 tsp garlic, coarsely chopped
     6 tbsp ginger, coarsely chopped
     1/2 c green onion, chopped

Combine garlic, ginger & green onion in a food processor.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Place in a heat-proof bowl.  Heat oil, salt, and white pepper until very hot.  Carefully pour over ginger mixture.  Chill any leftovers.  Bring to room temperature before serving.
There is always a glass container with ginger sauce in my fridge.  We use spoonfuls of it to dress up cold tofu cubes or unsalty chicken (boiled, broiled, fried, etc.).  We also use it as the oil base for fried rice or Chinese stir-fries (the aromatics are already there).  And if my buddy Willy is reading this, there is no gluten or dairy in this sauce!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentines Day!!!  Hope you are making the most of a WORK day and will find time to celebrate sometime.

Last week, we were fortunate enough to share our home with two guests from Nagano, Japan.  Shiori Ikeda and Yoshiko Tomii are students at Iiyamakita High School.  They were here with eight other students and three teachers on a science-oriented tour of East Hawaii.  The four days in Hilo were spent exploring Seaside Aqua Farms, Richardson Ocean Center, Imiloa Astronomy Center, Subaru Telescope, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and Puna Geothermal Ventures.

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After each full day of science immersion, we dug in at our favorite feeding sites in Hilo.  The Ds insisted on dinner at Restaurant Osaka the first night, in spite of me telling them the tempura udon in Japan was likely to be far superior.  The girls ate nabeyaki udon and both proclaimed it "delicious".  The second meal had a very real purpose:  to sample loco moco.  Some of their classmates had been talking about loco moco that day so they were curious too.  We opted for Kuhio Grille over the ultra casual Cafe 100 (sorry, proximity to shopping and Yogurtland beat out the home of the loco moco).  We joined the Rents for dinner at Miyo's (yes, another Japanese restaurant. . .but we knew spaghetti was going to be served at the aloha dinner the following evening). 

In spite of a lacking the usual "take your friend to school" day, the visit did not lack in bonding opportunities.  Shiori and Yoshiko enjoyed cheering on HHS' boys basketball team in the quarterfinal match against Keaau.  They even took turns as passengers in the M. . .for most of the year, Japan is not suitable for convertible driving/riding.  Not one to be left out, D2 immersed herself in the bonding activities. . .she slept with the guests on their last evening, crowding in bed with Shiori.

Long gone are my valentines day celebrations which involve fancy dinners, flowers, and gifts, but I can't say I'm missing it.  I'm finding that the gift of friendship is much more rewarding and timeless than long-stemmed roses, dinner at La Mer and Prada. . .well, maybe not Prada.  Sigh. . .

Monday, February 13, 2012

Testing the new C A R (Candy Apple Red)

A little over two weeks ago, I wasn't sure if I could pull the trigger.  I happened to be cleaning up for house guests from Japan when I came across a Williams-Sonoma catalog.  My heart skipped a beat when I saw the newest bad boy in the Kitchenaid lineup of mixers. . .a seven-quart behemoth.  I tried to convince myself that I could live without it, and I even went so far as to look up prices at and eBay to convince myself Williams-Sonoma was overpriced.

Wrong move!  Amazon was selling it for $799 + shipping, and eBay had one for $600 with an additional $145 for shipping.  That's when I knew I couldn't pass up the Williams-Sonoma deal.  For $603 (which includes $30 shipping and Hawaii tax), the mixer was delivered to my door within a week of pulling the trigger.  I'm waiting for my $40 cash back and my 2-year subscription to Food & Wine magazine to arrive. . .all perks for buying from Williams-Sonoma before the end of March!

This baby is just a quart larger than the model it replaced.  The diameter of the bowl feels the same, but the bowl seems to be a lot deeper than the six-quart.  The most salient point is the noise level.  This baby is much quieter.  I can actually hear the tv even when I have the mixer going.  Of course, the true test of a mixer is the quality of the food it produces.

In between cleaning house, I managed to distract myself by making muffins and cookies.  The corn muffin recipe can be found here.  Sandy and I worked together at Moanalua.  She was a home ec teacher there before moving closer to home (Kalaheo).

I wanted to bake cookies with the kids for Valentines Day, and I was leaning towards spritz cookies.  Somehow, I ended up owing a favor to one of the vice principals at HHS.  He told me he likes oatmeal cookies with raisins.  Having never made oatmeal cookies before, I took this as a challenge and set off to find/tweak a recipe.  The pictures you are seeing here are from my 2nd attempt.  My 1st attempt produced horrific cookies which resembled lace cookies instead of cookie-jar quality oatmeal cookies.  I quickly searched for another recipe to tweak.

click on recipe title for printable recipe
Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

     3/4 c butter, softened
     3/4 c flour
     3/4 tsp salt
     1/2 tsp baking soda
     1/2 tsp cinnamon
     3/4 c brown sugar, packed
     3/4 c sugar
     1 egg
     1 tbsp water
     2 tsp vanilla
     3 c "quick" oatmeal
     1 c dried cranberries (5 oz)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a small bowl, stir together, flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars.  Add egg, water, and vanilla.  Stir in flour mixture.  Stir in oatmeal.  Stir in cranberries.  Drop tablespoon globs onto greased cookie sheets.  Bake 11 minutes (I used Airbake sheets w/o rims).  Allow to rest 2 minutes on cookie sheets before transferring to wire rack to cool.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies (use #50 disher).

For best results, especially if you like your cookies on the thicker side, chill cookie sheets/dough balls while waiting to bake.

A few notes before I sign off for this week
  • I know the vice principal said he likes raisins, and I'm sure substituting raisins for the cranberries would make a decent cookie.  I don't like raisins at all so I wasn't about to make a cookie with ingredients I don't like.  That would be just dumb.  If he doesn't like cranberries, HE can pull all of them out himself.  
  • The 7-qt Kitchenaid mixer is available in four colors:  white, black, silver & candy apple red.  As far as I'm concerned, there was only one choice.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Almost Thanh Long: Roasted Garlic Heaven

Three years ago, almost to the date, I was fortunate enough to take a trip to the Bay Area for the New Teacher Center Symposium.  (It had been Super Bowl weekend back then too, but I no longer get all hyped up, as age-wise, most of the players could be my sons.  I might have been called "cougar" at some point in my life, but even I have limits.)  One of the highlights of that trip was dinner at Thanh Long, a quasi-Vietnamese restaurant on Judah Street in San Francisco.

For years before, I had heard stories about the legendary roasted garlic crab served there.  I didn't give it too much thought because I grew up eating crab with a mayonnaise-shoyu dip.  But I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity to try it.
The restaurant was nothing special in appearance, but the food (in addition to the roasted garlic crab, Co and I split a plate of garlic noodles) was out of this world good.  As soon as I got home, I searched the internet for a copycat recipe.  One of the blogs, Rasa Malaysia, had a copycat recipe, so I decided to give it a try.  Two years later, its become my go-to recipe for crab (and for garlic noodles too).

If you're ever in San Francisco, Thanh Long is a MUST try.  Their snooty sister restaurant, Crustacean, also serves crab, but the relaxed atmosphere of Thanh Long is more conducive to getting down and dirty with crab.  Trust me. . .with this crab, you will WANT to be in an environment where you can just dig in.

Rasa Malaysia's recipes for Roasted Garlic Crab and Garlic Noodles can be found here.  I use 1/4 the amount of black pepper because I don't usually care for pepper.  I've made the crab with both dungeness and king crab.  For ease, I prefer king crab.  My wallet prefers dungeness.   

The above link will take you to recipes for both roasted garlic crab and garlic noodles.  When I make roasted garlic crab, I always make the garlic noodles.  I'm not sure if its for nostalgic reasons or not, but it goes well with the crab and tastes so good.  The local Chinese store sells fresh noodles (Shandong Fresh Noodles), but spaghetti works great too.  I also try to have a baguette nearby for mopping up all the tasty sauce.
Uncle Edz

Although I've never tried it, extra jumbo shrimp could likely be used in place of the crab.  I know that Thanh Long serves garlic prawns, and my BFF tells me he prefers the prawns to the crab for ease of eating.  When it comes to eating, shopping and Trivial Pursuit, my BFF is hard to beat!

And while I do love cats, a jaguar is more my speed. . .a black one (preferably an XKR-S), especially if I was looking for something young, sleek, and ultra-hot!