Sunday, February 28

Tim's Oriental and Seafood Market in San Antonio

The latest haul of goodies from Tim's

I took another trip to Tim's the other day and Oh Boy! Not sure whether I arrived on the right day (Friday afternoon) or because Chinese New Year celebrations are still happening but the fresh produce section was brimming over with goodness!

For those who need a reminder, Tim's Oriental and Seafood Market is an exceptionally good Asian grocer in San Antonio (7015 Bandera Road near the Huebner intersection) and I've already blogged about the bounty of previous visits.

For a little under fifty bucks, the latest visit netted me (roughly clockwise from the top left): shrimp dumplings (yum cha style), chicken and vegetable gyoza (potsticker dumplings, best snack), Frozen udon (the truly wonderful chewy, springy kind), coconut milk (snore), fresh shiitake mushrooms (the really puffy ones, not those boring flat kind), garlic chives (great for Korean pancakes), a bag of fresh snow pea leaves, four packs of enoki mushrooms, two packs of the most delicious, meaty oyster mushrooms (so good!!), a bag of my favourite dried shiitake and in the middle is a bag of fresh water chestnuts.

We have enjoyed all kinds of wonderful meals off this bounty, from Maangchi's buchujeon (Korean garlic chive pancake), to sticky pulled pork noodle bowls, basic mushroom pasta, cooked breakfast with egg foo young and stir fried mixed mushrooms - through to one of our favourites, a form of yosenabe shown below.

Yosenabe is roughly Japanese for thrown together pot, a one pot quick soup full of deliciousness. We make a terribly corrupted version where the components are mostly cooked separately so they have a variety of flavours, then combined at the end. It is fast and wonderful! This one has udon noodles, chicken broth, sautéed oyster mushrooms, fresh shiitakes poached in saké, soy and star anise, snows pea leaf sautéed with garlic, fresh enoki mushrooms and egg with spicy sesame oil - topped with spring onion shreds and togarashi.

Sunday, February 21

Beef noodle soup

I have a bunch of stuff I want to post but in honour of Chinese New Year I'll star with a recipe I've recently been working on perfecting. There's a Chinese restaurant here in San Antonio (Gin) that does the most awesome beef noodle soup! We have been back to try it over and over again and I think I'm finally close enough to a version that I am at least satisfied with. For the sake of transparency, this recipe is also derived from two Gourmet magazine recipes found here and here (God bless you Gourmet...I miss you so).

In a heavy based soup pot or dutch oven combine 6 cups of water, half a cup of soy sauce, half a cup of sweet sherry and a tablespoon or two of sugar and bring to a low boil. Then add the following...

Sliced ginger (about 3-4cm of a root), 3 garlic cloves sliced, 3-4 spring onions, 3 whole star anise, a cinnamon stick, a few pinches (~1tsp) of five spice and some red pepper flakes. Also add 8 to 10 of those big, fat, dried shiitake mushrooms.

Allow the spice mix to infuse at a low boil for about ten minutes then add about 2 pounds (1kg) of boneless beef short ribs (on the bone is also fine but add a few more).

(sorry vegetarians)

Don't don't chop the meat up at this point. Marbling is good but trim off any large fatty bits on the outsides.

Add the meat and put the lid on, letting the whole thing sit at a low boil/high simmer for two and a half to three hours or until the meat is very soft but not falling apart. Don't have the boil so hard that it shreds everything up and clouds the broth with too much protein. When the meat is done, take it off the heat and allow the meat to cool in the broth for at least an hour but preferably overnight in the fridge.

About half an hour before you're ready to serve, skim off any fat, strain the whole thing (keep the broth!! Dear heavens it is all lost if you throw out the broth!!) Allow the broth to settle and while that is happening rescue the short ribs and the shiitakes from the mess of stewed aromatics. Strip any obvious membranes and or stringy bits from the short ribs and cut the meat into roughly 1 inch cubes. Cut the shiitakes into thick strips. Gently pour the broth back into your soup pan leaving most of the sediment behind (some is good for flavour but not too much), add the meat and mushrooms and bring back to a simmer. At this point you'll probably want to dilute out the broth with either water or chicken stock, depending on how strong the final poaching liquid turned out.

Meanwhile you need to prepare the greens for the soup - Chinese cabbage (wombok) cut into strips and sugar snap peas works well. Also cook some noodles. For this soup wheat based noodles are better than rice so I used a pack of Japanese dried somen noodles. When the noodles are ready, add the greens to the soup until the are just wilted. Serve the soup over the noodles, adding some toasted sesame oil, fresh coriander leaf, sliced spring onion and red pepper flakes at the end.


Sunday, February 14

Chinese New Year

Well it's the year of the Tiger... Sorry, I had to go there! We just got home after celebrating Chinese New Year at our favourite local Chinese restaurant here in San Antonio, Kim Wah!

Kim Wah is a gem of a restaurant hidden in a typically ugly San Antonio strip mall. A group of us from work try to visit at least every two weeks and order an insane amount of really good food for about the same price as some horrid chain eatery lunch would set us back - Our favourites are peking duck with soup, salt toasted pork rib, snow pea leaves with garlic, beef flat noodles and of course the deliciously wonderful eggplant with sticky, sweet sauce! We were invited to last year's banquet but couldn't get a group together in time so I was determined not to miss out this year, even if New Year's Eve fell on the valentine's day weekend.

This year we did make it, along with our food savy friends Matt and Claire and of course Mr Roo (a fave of the restaurant staff). In my 'stupid white people' attempt to wear red for the evening I managed to dress Marty and myself in matching t-shirts (threadless of course) and didn't realise until we were on our way. The beloved thought it was intentional!

The restaurant was packed with a great mixed croud of people who knew the traditions and those of us who were just having a lovely time learning it all. I have to say they did a really good job of making it inclusive - of making sure we knew what was happening and why.

First course out was the Peking duck which is always a delight. They serve it sliced with fluffy steamed rice buns, spring onion slivers and hoisin sauce and you make little tasty duck rolls. Marty loves the sauce! Usually this is served with a broth made from the bones and either watercress or wombok, but there was no room for the soup at this banquet (Marty loves the soup too).

Next up was shrimp skewers served with a delicious dipping sauce that was more curry paste than sauce (poor Jose, there was lots of seafood but we made sure she had plenty to eat too)

Then came sticky, fall off the bone tender braised pork ribs with sweet 'special sauce' (like a rice wine based Texas BBQ sauce only Chinese... yummy!)

After that we had the most divine dish - braised abalone with shiitake mushrooms and snow pea leaves in garlic sauce. It was incredibly simple but sooo good. The sauce didn't overpower the very subtle abalone and the mixture of textures was a real treat.

The abalone came out with one of my absolute favourite dishes and one that I would be training myself to make if only I could find the lotus leaves - sticky rice with Chinese sausage and bbq pork in lotus leaves. This wonderfully chewy rice dish is sweet and salty and has a rich, smoky tea flavour from the leaves. I'm glad it came out last or I would have totally filled up on it! We also scored a serving of the wonderful eggplant in garlic sauce thanks to the chef who was worried there weren't enough non-seafood dishes for Jose and knew it was a favourite of our table.

Somehow our dinner was timed perfectly so that just as all the food was all served the entertainment began. Marty was sleeping peacefully on the beloved's chest at this point but we decided to wake him and let him watch rather than have him woken and risk the wrath of a frightened babe! Lucky for us he loved the whole show - I think he thought the whole thing was purely for his entertainment!

There were ribbon dancers, plate dancers, a martial arts demonstration from an award winning 9 year old (who reminded me an awful lot of Aang) and of course the lions! Silly me thought the lion dance for the blessing of the restaurant would involved just one lion, but there were LOTS of them! The lion dance was very noisy with lots of drumming and cymbals but Marty loved it - we all did. I felt like I was in a room full of Wild Things and I think Marty thought his toys had come to life, it was brilliant!

Josie feeding a lion a money filled red envelope for good luck

This was the lucky lion that ate the food offering from the restaurant. No mean feat considering it involved one of the puppet masters jumping onto the shoulders of the other while still manipulating the costume!

All up it was a really fun night - good friends, great food and giant lions!! Oh and dessert was pretty tasty too... Mango with tapioca and pomelo

Tuesday, February 9

A simple little thing like a passport photo...

You'd think that getting a passport photo for a 6 month old baby wouldn't be too tricky, right? Ha! Not only do Australia and the USA use a completely different set of dimensions (which rules out getting one done 'professionally') but the rules for the Australian photos say this:
Photos of children and babies should:
-Show the child or baby awake, looking straight at the camera with mouth closed and no pacifier
-Show the child or baby's face clearly without any other objects (including a parent's supporting hand) visible
Along with the usual stuff like white background, no shadows around the head, head not tilted etc etc.

Well let me tell you, getting Marty to look at the camera with his head straight AND his mouth closed was basically impossible! We even resorted to dripping apple sauce into his mouth in the hope that he'd close it, even for a fraction of a second! (Jo poo-pooed the idea of peanut butter on the roof of his mouth, no clue why!)

Here is a tiny selection of the 'failure' photos...

We did get three that we though might pass muster, so we sent all three and figured they could pick the one that passed!

All this does, however, mean that we have his citizenship paperwork in the works (hurrah!). Here's hoping that will only take a few weeks and then it's off to Washington DC to file his passport paperwork. Craziest thing is that the beloved has to appear in person to file it, but Marty doesn't have to be there! Go figure.

Wednesday, February 3

Random foodstuffs

Just finished the latest lineup of Marty foods. First up was stewed apple with finely chopped prunes. I just rough mashed it so there's plenty of texture but chopped the prunes finely enough to avoid large skins running loose in there (speaking of loose, hopefully not too loose...) Next up was baby carrots, boiled until tender but not soggy with a chunk of fresh ginger and pureed with a few slivers of said ginger and the juice of a mandarin (because we didn't have an orange on hand). And finally spinach wilted in a tiny bit of ham stock and pureed with butter. Holy crabcakes batman, I have never seen anything quite so green!! Tasty though.

Carrot with ginger and citrus, buttered spinach and (icky looking but tasty) stewed apple and prunes

Speaking of tasty, we came across this strange fruit while Ruthie was visiting and couldn't resist trying it out. It was a pomelo and turned out to be like a giant pink grapefruit only without the bitterness. It was wonderful!!

Our pomelo next to quite a large granny smith apple

Lots of pith but golly that flesh was delicious and it was so much fun to dig your fingers in and rip the flesh out...

Tuesday, February 2


Well I can hardly post less this month than I did in January, sorry about that!


Let's start over. We celebrated a very quiet New Year's eve with a bottle of champagne. It is already gearing up to be a huge and exiting year. We've had several visitors in the last month alone, including dear Aunty Ruth, the Wurfs and our dear friend Brandon from Chicago (our friend Chris' brother). We have another lot of visitors queued up including Jo's cousins from Leeds and Marty's Godparents Hamish and Clare. Crazy times!

Uncle Brandon! (Marty is a big fan)

In between visits we're trying to arrange for Marty's Australian citizenship by descent (which requires getting Jo's birth certificate from Oz) and then his Australian passport (which requires us to go to the embassy in Washington DC in person) not to mention all the other fun logistics like quotes from shipping companies, working out what to do with our stuff (what needs to come to Oz immediately and what can wait 6 months etc), selling the car... well you get the idea! Our rough time-frame is to be back in Oz around the first week of April but we're still keeping it flexible until we get more of this worked out.

There has been a little time to breathe though. For example we went for a lovely drive through one of the gated neighbourhoods here in San Antonio after visiting a friend. It was just hitting dusk, the cakes was asleep in his seat (for a change) so we figured we'd just cruise around for a while. We were having a lovely time watching a huge number of deer frolicking around all over the place, and then we came upon these two lovebirds playing hide and seek around a bush...

(click to make it bigger remember)

Gorgeous much?

And so I shall end a random post with a random picture!

I would like to point out that this is the aftermath of just one night of Ruthie's visit! Ok, it looks much worse than it is... really.

Monday, February 1

Making baby food

The cakes had his 6 month paediatrics visit the other day and the poor thing is still suffering post immunisation. Nothing major, just out of sorts. Captain crankypants in fact. Aside from the 4 booster shots, they also measured his height (26.5 inches or 67cm) and weight (15.5 pounds or 7kg) which puts him a little below the 50th percentile, so all good. His curve had dropped a little so the paediatrician suggested getting him on some slightly higher calorie solids by adding some butter or olive oil (this kid is go go go most of the time so it makes sense).

Those of you who have been paying attention will know that he's been eating some pretty tasty food ever since we got him started on solids (5 months), such as roast sweet potato with ginger, but this last trip inspired me to up the ante. We're still breastfeeding on demand (well not we) and are not planning to stop that anytime soon, but he's still eating solids three times a day, probably more soon. They say babies can only eat something that is about the size of their fist because that's all their tummies can hold. I think they gave Marty some other baby's fists! He can eat half a banana in one sitting and still be looking for more. Speaking of bananas (food of the devil as far as I'm concerned - they stink, they're slimy and they stain like some kind of toxic waste) our paediatrician also warned us of something else food related that we'd never heard but seems to be true, at least in our case. C.A.B.S. Carrot, apple, banana and squash (which seems to cover both pumpkin and zucchini here) are all foods that can block a baby up, or a least solidify their poop. Guess what we'd mostly been feeding him? No wonder he was doing mini adult poos - lucky for us he never blocked up entirely!

I dunno, do you think he wants it?

But anyhow, back to baby food making. In order to up the calories and drop back the CABS I made up a few fresh jars of food for the little tike. I usually make him 3 or 4 different things, store them in jars and we rotate them for 3 or 4 days before I make another batch. This week I made chicken stock mashed potato (simmer peeled/chopped spuds in chicken stock until soft and puree spuds with some stock and a little olive oil until creamy but not runny), asparagus and ham jelly (simmer asparagus until tender and blend with some ham stock/jelly that I had in the freezer from baking the Christmas ham) and since apple is still his favourite, poached apple with rasberry and rhubarb (hoping the others would help add some fibre etc). The end result was that Jo and I now want to eat Marty's food!

Chicken stock potato, asparagus with ham jelly and poached apple, raspberry and rhubarb. Four days of food; 20 minutes tops to make.

Next lot of food in the works - poached apple with prunes, poached pears and cardamom, more asparagus because it is really good and carrots poached in orange juice... He's also eating mashed peaches (delicious at the moment), mangos and avocado (his first food).