Gung Bo Chicken

Gung Bo ChickenChinese Legend
I like my Chinese food spicy, which is a good thing because most of the different regions of China come with their own brand of mouth-numbing heat. If I had to pick my favorite I’d probably go Sichuan over, say, Hunan or Cantonese. But, that’s mainly because it is what I have been exposed to the most. Plus you can never go wrong with a Sichuan Hot Pot.

I have written before about my personal challenges with Chinese cooking. It’s like I have a mental block when it comes to cooking with a wok. This is why, when I am craving Chinese food, I will generally leave it in the hands of the experts and order take-out. There have been a number of favorite establishments over the years that have helped me sooth my spicy cravings. And, there are a couple I frequent currently—but there is only one that remains head and shoulders above the rest.

Back in the dark ages, WAY before my husband and I started dating, our group of friends frequently dined at Emeryville’s Public Market. It was the perfect place for a large group to meet and eat because you could satisfy everyone’s appetite. You could get anything you wanted. Ginormous burritos? Yep. Afghani cuisine? Check. Noodle Bowls? Check. Hofbrau? Of course. Nine times out of ten, though, I found myself in the long line at The Crispy Fry for their Gung Bo Chicken, extra spicy. It was the perfect dish of spicy and saucy served over a huge mound of steamed rice. It was the ideal ending to a hard day of work or the best answer to a hard night of partying. And if the craving struck mid-week for lunch? You knew you had to get there early ‘cause the line started forming the minute the doors opened to the market.

When they remodeled the Public Market and the Crispy Fry ultimately closed, I was distraught. I have been searching for a replacement that is just as good ever since but have not had much luck. So, I have been forced to face my demons and try to do it myself. It’s been a process though I have had some success. This recipe for Gung Bo Chicken comes close but I am quickly coming to the conclusion that nothing could ever take the place of The Fry.

Gung Bo Chicken
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 3 to 4 servings
Read more…

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta

Bacon Cheeseburger PastaSuper Sized
In case you haven’t quite figured it out yet, food is a big deal in my family. If there is any event going on the chances are real good that I am planning some sort of food celebration to go with it.

And, there are a few specific days that my family has determined to be caloric free-for-alls. New Years’ day is one. Super Bowl Sunday is another.

As a general rule, I tend to base my Super Bowl nosh around the two teams competing that year. Not gonna lie but I’m pretty sick of the Patriots and their clam chowder. So I am going to call an audible and go in a different direction.

A week or so ago I was flipping through one of my many magazines in search of something to feed a crowd and came across a recipe for a Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta. I have to admit I was intrigued. I mean, it sounds good in theory but has the potential to be kinda gross.

My son, who happened to be sitting on the couch with me at the time, had a very different reaction. Apparently, the idea of cheese, ground beef and bacon mixed together with pasta is a fourteen-year-old boy’s idea of food nirvana. (He’s all about the meat and carbs.) He’s so excited, in fact, that he has been conducting daily check-ins with me to make sure that I am still going to make this for Super Bowl Sunday. And, I have repeatedly assured him I will. You would think this is life or death…

I am skeptical. Granted, not everything has to be haute cuisine—and people have been eating cheeseburger mac for decades. I am probably more afraid of the fact that I will love it and crave it for the rest of my days…much like an actual cheeseburger.

Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinade

Winter Fancy Food Show 2019News from the SF Fancy Food Show
The Fancy Food Show was held this week at the newly renovated Moscone Center. And, I can honestly say it was the most fun I’ve had at the show in a number of years. It was considerably larger with more vendors than had been there previously (which is not surprising). You can always tell how well the economy is doing by the number of vendors packing the pavilions. I can’t really say that there was one obvious overall theme to what I saw at the show, what I can say is that this was a year of innovation and exploration.

In shows past, certain categories have dominated the landscape. Last year you couldn’t take a step without running into vendors with jerky or meat sticks. It was jerky here, jerky there, jerky everywhere. Before the jerky, we navigated the very crowded category of coconut water and vitamin water craze. And don’t get me started on the chocolate years…Yes, there really is such a thing as too much chocolate. This year there was no dominant item. Variety was everywhere. If I had to sum it up in three words they would be: Innovative, multi-cultural, and female.

I chose Innovative because there were plenty of vendors who took a good product and made it better. For example, there was one company that proved that peanut butter is not just for the lunch box crowd. Their Spicy Thai Peanut butter was fantastic and would be great thinned out and used with chicken or directly into a salad dressing. Another company was not happy to simply produce great honey. Instead, they decided to combine the health benefits of honey with other ingredients like turmeric, black garlic, and calendula for great tasting honey that not only improves your health but ups your cheese plate game. Finally, there’s the beverage from Japan that looks like beer and tastes like beer but has no calories, sugars, carbs etc. It’s basically water and it’s all natural—blew my mind.

Last year the influence of Korean cooking was everywhere. This year the flavor doors to the rest of Asia have been thrown open. We tasted a fresh lemongrass paste made by a local vendor that was heaven. (Look for that on our shelves soon.)

One of the items in the “New and Exciting” section was a puffed water lily seed snack that you would swear was popcorn—but with more protein, less fat and fewer calories. Copper Cow Coffee offers coffee addicts the intense coffee flavor and sweet indulgence of organic sustainable grown Vietnamese coffee but in a portable single-serve pour-over set. And they are women-owned…

This brings me to my last word: female. There were a lot more booths promoting the products produced by women-owned businesses. Now, it may have seemed like more because those businesses were making it a point to let people know that they were owned by women. And, that’s fine by me. The fact that being a women-owned business is being presented as a positive thing is what makes it great. One such business is Muddle & Wilde which produces elegant citrus-based drink mixers that can be combined with your favorite liquor or added to sparkling water for a refreshing soda. They are fantastic!

As I sit here pouring over the stack of sales sheets and informational brochures that I collected, I feel energized and excited about what’s to come in the food industry this year. We’ll try to keep you up to date when something we loved from the show arrives. Until then, I have this recipe on my mind as I think about that lemongrass paste….

Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet Lemongrass Marinade
Adapted from Charles Phan’s Vietnamese Home Cooking
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Southwestern Chicken Stew

Southwestern Chicken StewSoup Switch
My whole life I have been a rule follower. I was that kid in the class who never put a toe out of line for fear of the punishments. I have never really been the kind of person to significantly test the boundaries of anything, though I have always wanted to be that person. A rebel. A maverick. I am pretty sure this is why I cook from recipes instead of off the cuff.

To be fair, I will change a recipe to suit my tastes but only after I have made it at least a couple of times. Rarely do I mess with things from the get-go. Last weekend though, my inner culinary rebel surfaced and I took a left turn…

What started out as an adaptation of a chicken stew with peppers from the Basque region turned into more of a southwest stew/chili/gumbo type thing. There was something about the combination of ingredients that had me reaching for the black beans and cumin. Served over rice, the flavors were reminiscent of the southwest with the hearty whole meal feel of the bayou.

Maybe it was innovation or maybe it was just muscle memory that made me assume that tomatoes and peppers should also have beans and a squeeze of lime but it turned out tasty. I made enough to store some in the freezer for a future mid-week dinner on the run.

Tonight the future is here…as is a tasty dinner!

Southwestern Chicken Stew
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp

Stir Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and ShrimpBaby, I have a cold
For this first normal day of the new year, I had intended to write about my plan for better eating habits for 2019 and I DO plan on eating better. My biggest problem right now though is that I cannot shake this cold! To make things worse, I know I am not alone in my quest. The number of friends, family, and coworkers who are fighting this same battle is astounding. So instead of outlining my plan to be healthier in 2019, I’m trying to figure out just how to get healthy.

We sell a Jasmine Green Iced Tea here at the store from Teas Tea that I love. The best thing about it, other than the taste, is the fact that it is loaded with vitamin C. Plus, it’s a great way to stay hydrated. This is why I have been having it every day since I got sick. Of course, you can always drink the hot version too. The heat will help with your sinuses.

Soups are a no-brainer when you are sick, especially this Chicken Soup with Dill or my favorite, depending on my energy level, Mexican Matzo Ball Soup. Choosing any one of these options is a good way to go as well: Thai Hot and Sour Chicken Soup, Minestrone, and Spicy Chicken and Rice Flu Chaser Soup.

Because anytime you have a cold and have stuffed sinuses it can be hard to taste anything, I tend to eat spicy foods when I am under the weather. A spicy stir-fry is my go-to for a few reasons. The first is if it’s spicy, I am able to taste it. Second, ingredients like ginger, garlic, and chilies, which are most often found in stir-fry, are great natural remedies for illness. Lastly, it’s fast and filling and not boring so the rest of the family will eat it too.

For those of you out there fighting this battle along with me, carry your tissue packs with pride and know that we shall eventually persevere. We will get through this!

Stir-Fry with Baby Boy Choy, Snow Peas, and Shrimp
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 6 servings with rice or noodles  Read more…