Category: Asian Grocery (page 1 of 3)

Chinese Long Beans Are Delicious: A Simple Preparation

Allow me introduce you to my new friend, Chinese long beans.

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If you have ever strolled through Asian markets, you may have noticed this unusual-looking vegetable.

Chinese long beans bring to mind a shopping trip years ago where my friend and I stared in equal parts horror and wonder at a woman’s dangling, long bean-like fingernails. This is precisely why I’ve walked passed them many times in Asian groceries and given them strange looks at Twin Cities farmers markets.

This all changed the following summer when I noticed the little boy I nannied chewing on a long bean his mother gave him as a snack. Long beans were one of his favorite snacks and he seemed content using his two and only teeth to nibble the wrinkly, green strands. Suddenly, they seemed less menacing.

Now, long beans are one of my favorite vegetables. They look more unusual than they taste and I actually prefer their sweet flavor and crunchy texture to standard green beans. If you are looking to add a new vegetable to your repertoire, try this simple preparation.

Chinese long beans

Be careful when adding the sauces to a smoking hot pan. I learned the glaze can burn when I scorched my first batch.

Ingredients:
Long Beans, cut into bit sized pieces (about two cups)
Vegetable oil (not olive)
Eggs, scrambled
Onion, diced or cut into half moons
Salt
Black Pepper
Soy Sauce
Sugar
Optional: Sesame seeds to garnish

Instructions:

  1. Wash the long beans, trim off the ends, and cut into manageable pieces.
  2. Cook scrambled eggs in a little bit of oil and set aside. Cut into strips or break into small pieces. If you plan to use the same pan to cook the beans, rinse or wipe out the pan when it’s cool enough to safely handle.
  3. In a hot pan, stir fry the onion in a little oil (not olive oil).
  4. Before the onions brown, add the green beans and stir fry until they are tender. If the outsides of the beans slightly blister, they will taste even better. Make sure the onion does not burn.
  5. Turn off the heat and remove the pan from the burner. If the pan is scorching hot, let it cool slightly so that the glaze does not burn.
  6. Toss the beans with soy sauce or miso mixed with a little it of water, plus a sprinkle of sugar or drizzle of honey for a salty-sweet glaze. Taste as you go and adjust the soy and sugar as needed.
  7. You could also add hot pepper, garlic, or sesame seeds.

Product Review: Kracie Popin’ Cookin’ Happy Sushi House DIY Japanese Candy Kit

I first learned about DIY Japanese candy kits reading Liz’s reviews of Japan Crate on her website My Subscription Addiction.

I don’t even subscribe to any subscription boxes, but love following her reviews and the latest subscription box drama. It’s like my soap opera. Anyway, after seeing some of the cool candy and cookie kits she was receiving in her Japan Crates, I decided to order some to try home.

Since we’re Amazon Prime members, I ordered two kits from their selection on April 6th. Unfortunately, I clicked the wrong shipping preferences, opting for free shipping instead of Amazon Prime shipping. One kit arrived two and a half weeks later while the second from seller JAPAN-SUBCULTURE arrived today, so I can only assume it arrived from Japan by pony express.

The good things about these candy kits is that they’re relatively inexpensive and are designed in fun themes such as sushi and pizza. I bought the Kracie’s Popin’ Cookin’ Happy Sushi House and Happy Kitchen Pizza kits for about $5 each. The Happy Kitchen Pizza kit creates a savory instead of sweet product. You can find more brands of kits on Blippo, but they charge $9 for the same Happy Sushi Kit.

United Noodles, my favorite Asian grocery store in Minneapolis told me that Kracie’s Happy Sushi House and Happy Kitchen Cake kits arrived this morning but are hard to keep on the shelves due to their loyal following. United Noodles added that they do carry sushi, ice cream and cake kits. Here’s a Youtube video example of someone preparing the Happy Kitchen Cake. I love how all of these kits are so happy 🙂

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I took one glance at the instructions and decided I needed some help. After a reader suggested I search for Youtube videos, I found a short & long tutorial that easily walked me through the process.

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Once you cut off the top and bottom ends of the kit’s plastic wrapper, it forms a sushi place mat on which you can place the candy.

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The kit contains everything you need, except for water.

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Since this kit is more complicated than the ones Liz has found in her Japan Crate boxes, I’m not sure I could have figured this out on my own. But, with the video tutorials, using the kit really was easy. My only goof was making four rice balls instead of six.

Each packet corresponds with one of the container’s sections. You simply fill the proper compartment with water up to the indicated line and mix in the corresponding packet with the little shovel. The red and yellow strips solidified and formed the fish and tamago (Japanese omelet).

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The most fun part was making the little fish eggs with the dropper. Once the thick orange solution hit the blue liquid, candy orbs formed. Prepare for some molecular gastronomy!

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The most difficult part was making the seaweed wrapper from a green cube of candy that had the texture of bubblegum. I broke the cube two and tried to press the halves into long, thin strips. The kit’s wrapper includes a life-size illustration of the correct size. One must work quickly because the substance becomes sticky and fragile as it warms in your hands.

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To finish the sushi, I scooped the fish eggs from the solution and placed them on the rice balls wrapped with seaweed. They stuck to the candy surprisingly well. Then, I used the little scooper to gently lift the yellow and red strips of candy from the mold. I cut each in two, and placed half on the last two rice balls. If I had six rice balls total, I would have been able to use the rest of the tamago and fish strips.

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I was happy with how my final candy sushi. The bubbles, tamago, and fish tasted inoffensively tutti frutti. However, when I took a bite of a whole piece of candy, I wasn’t fond of the rice ball flavor or texture. The bubbles and colorful gels tasted more like fruit, but the rest of the candy reminded me of dry bubblegum. More fun to make than to eat, for me at least.

In summary, I had a lot of fun making this kit and can see how they have a cult following. It’s amazing how the kits provide everything you need to easily make the cutest, almost lifelike versions of candy sushi. Depending on where you order these kits from, they’re relatively inexpensive. I can see these being a fun activity to make with kids. As a kid, I would have gone crazy over these kits. I was always on the hunt for unique and unusual candies and loved when my dad brought back candy from his international work trips.

As minuses, the kits may be difficult to prepare if you can’t read Japanese and don’t watch an instructional video. Depending on your tastes, you may also enjoy making the candy more than eating the candy.

Trying New Foods In The Twin Cities: UniDeli, Hmong Village & The Buttered Tin

Even though I lived in the Twin Cities for 26 years, I still feel like a tourist in my own hometown.

I have a North Dakota license plate and a Minneapolis area code. I spend two-thirds of my week in Iowa and rest in the Twin Cities. Sometimes we find it difficult to explain where we’re from. Do we say Minnesota or do we say North Dakota? Usually, I explain we’re from North Dakota via the Twin Cities. Being an adopted Korean doesn’t simplify the process.

Before we moved to Fargo two years ago, my husband and I created a culinary bucket list to complete before we moved. We didn’t have enough time to complete the list and it only becomes longer as new places open. When we’re home, we often return to our old favorites but now that we’re home so often, we’ve made it a goal to add some new places to our old reliables.

You can experience the Twin Cities like that badly written Reuters guide or you can deeper than your hotel’s restaurant or a national chain like Potbelly.

Here is my weekend attempt to branch out.

United Noodles UniDeli
I’ve shopped at United Noodles countless times, but I haven’t visited their deli since it was remodeled as the UniDeli a couple of years ago. I used to visit their old restaurant and choose from their variety of homey Chinese dishes and boiled peanuts. The food was inexpensive and reminded me of that which I actually ate in China, more so than any other Chinese restaurant in town.

Things have changed since we moved. The deli’s layout is updated and offers many Japanese foods. I’ve heard many speak highly of their noodle soups so I chose a bowl of spicy miso ramen ($9).

You order at the counter and wait for the staff to call out your number. There’s complimentary hot tea to enjoy while you wait.

This huge bowl was filled with ramen noodles, seaweed, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, tiny bok choy, green onion, a slice of fish cake, half of a tea egg and a tender slice of roasted pork. Since I ordered it spicy, the miso broth was coated in a slick coat of sesame-flavored chili oil.

I went through a pile of napkins as I tried to wipe the red stains from my mouth. This soup gave a new meaning to red smile, which has a whole different meaning in Game of Thrones.

Hmong Village
Years ago, I read Kao Kalia Yang’s beautiful autobiography The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir. I’ve never forgotten Yang’s account of moving from Laos to St. Paul, MN and have since become curious about Hmong food and culture. I’ve visited the Hmongtown Market and the Hmong Village in the past and tried crunchy pork cracklings, papaya salad, fried egg rolls filled with vermicelli noodles.

I’ve always wanted to return.

On Saturday afternoon, I studied Heavy Table’s 25 Tastes of Hmong Village and left with ten dollars in my pocket. I wandered the row of food stalls and stopped at two that seemed the busiest.

Blueberry’s the place to go for bubble tea. The stand was busy and is often favorable mentioned online.

Their list of flavors seem endless. Most of the blended and not blended options cost $3, including one’s choice of pears or two types of jellies. You’ll pay a whole lot more for the same thing at the Tea Garden. I stuck with my favorite, a basic milk tea with boba pearls. When I visited my friend in southern China in 2008, we often visited the milk tea shop and it’s like my comfort food now. I don’t get too fancy with my bubble tea.

I was in the mood for sliced pork belly and that sticky, purple rice as pictured in the blog You Care What We Think, but, since it sold for $8, so I tried the sausage instead.

Long links of sausage are sold at nearly every food stand in Hmong Village. I am not sure if stands typically make their own or source them from a supplier. I stopped at Mai’s Kitchen and ordered some for $5.

The styrofoam container was loaded with the sticky rice along with sliced sausage and a tiny container of dipping sauce. The rice was lovely. Despite it’s color it tasted like white sticky rice except with a hint of salt or mineraliness.

The sausage’s flavor and aroma was pleasant with garlic and lemongrass, however, the texture threw me. On my first bite, I hit a large, firm object. Upon closer examination, it appeared to be a curl of cartilage or bone.

“Oh well, ” I thought. “It’s sausage. Such things happen.”

I picked up a different slice and bit into another hard chunk. The same thing happened on my third bite of a third slice. I’ve only read positive reviews from those who’ve tried sausage at Hmong Village, so I wonder if I received an odd link or if this vendor sources a different style.

I stuck with taking pinches of the sticky rice and dipping them into the sauce. It was spicy and murky with fish sauce.

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of Hmong Village. Since it’s located near my in-laws’ home, I’ll return soon.

The Buttered Tin
Finally, Jake and I ventured to the Lowertown area of downtown St. Paul for a brunch at The Buttered Tin that recently opened this summer. My Twitter feed has been ripe with people raving about meals here.

The Buttered Tin reminds us of Sun Street Breads, our favorite brunch place in Minneapolis. Both offer scratch kitchens, homemade breads, and high quality ingredients.

We enjoyed everything we ordered.

The prettiest plate was their aptly-named Damn Good Egg Sandwich. I jealously eyed the runny yolk that dripped down Jake’s hands.

I polished off the chicken club sandwich on homemade, toasted bread along with thick slices of sweet and spicy pickles and really good potato salad.

The tart ginger lemonade served in mason jars was nice, too. We left too full for dessert but noticed many carrying out cupcakes in individual plastic containers and baked goods that looked like Hostess cupcakes and Twinkies.

During a weekday lunch, customers consistently lined-up to the door, but there always seemed to be enough tables for those who wanted to dine-in.

And Finally. . . 
In sad news for Fargo-Moorhead residents, Pizza Nico closed last week. It was our favorite pizza joint in town and we ordered delivery from them more than we’d like to admit. They made most everything from scratch, including sauces and cured meats. We wish the owners and staff the best. Thanks for the quality pies!

How To Save Money By Making Your Own Mock Duck. It’s Easy!

I’m not a vegetarian but I love mock duck.

Mock duck, also known as seitan, is a vegetarian product made from wheat gluten, meaning it’s not a good option for those with gluten allergies. I like mock duck’s chewy texture because resembles meat more so than other other meat-substitutes. Mock dock is often located in the refrigerated section of grocery stores and or sold by the can in Asian grocery stores. I remember enjoying my first tastes of mock duck in Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches at Jasmine Deli, a restaurant located along Eat Street in Minneapolis, MN. Three dollars never tasted so good.


This afternoon, I found mock duck in Sidney’s refrigerated case for about $3.69 per package. It’s cut into small pieces and ready to eat, but the package only contains a cup’s worth. Instead, I bought this bag of wheat gluten flour and decided to make my own. Although this bag cost a little over $7, it actually makes about three times more mock duck for the price of the packaged version when compared ounce for ounce. If you have some extra time, it’s really easy to make at home. I mostly followed the package’s instructions and adjusted a few elements.

Ingredients:
2 cups wheat gluten
2 cups boiling water
Garlic salt, about 1 teaspoon
A pinch of dried marjoram
A pinch of dried sage
9 cups of water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons molasses (could also use honey)
A few thick slices of of fresh ginger, washed and skinned

Instructions:
To prepare the cooking liquid, bring 9 cups of water, soy sauce, molasses and ginger to a simmer.

In a large bowl, stir together the wheat gluten and boiling water. It’s texture will be damp and spongy. Set the mixture aside until it’s cool enough to handle.

Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes to further develop the chewy texture.

Divide the dough in smaller pieces, and cut into slices. Drop into the simmering liquid. Stir and simmer for an hour.

You can just make out the steam rising from the pot.

The mock duck will absorb the liquid’s flavor and become chewier. The slices of mock duck will greatly expand in size.

Remove the mock duck and drain in a strainer. Place a heavy object on top of the mock duck to remove extra liquid or wait until it cools and press it with your hands. Now it’s ready to use. You can also use the mock duck to replace the meat in stir-fries, salads, or sloppy joes. Extra mock duck can be frozen for later use.

Fried Rice Seasoned With Gochujang & Miso

“Dang it”

I realized I had no soy sauce.  I had just chopped a mound of vegetables and de-frosted meat, only to discover an empty soy sauce bottle in my fridge.
With two takeout boxes of leftover steamed rice and a half hour of prep work done, there was no way I was not going to make fried rice.  I reached further into my fridge and pulled out a jar of Korean gouchujang and my trusty tub of year-old miso paste.
Then I proceeded like normal.  I stir fried my vegetables with a little Chinese sausage, chicken breast, and leftover rice.  Then, I flavored the fried rice with a mix of gochujang and miso paste, diluted with water for easier incorporation.  I found Chinese sausage at the Asian & American Market in Fargo.  It provided a subtle sweetness that balanced the miso’s saltiness and gochujang’s heat.
We were satisfied with the result.  So much so, that we polished off the skillet of fried rice.  If you also just own a standard skillet, you might not achieve any smokey char, but your fried rice will still be a respectable home variation.
My method of cooking fried rice is not an exact science.  Once I choose my vegetables and proteins, it’s basically a process of sauteing and tasting.  You could use soy sauce instead of miso and add additional seasonings like hot peppers and ginger.
Mantra: Homemade fried rice is easy.  Homemade fried rice is an efficient way to use up leftover meat and veggies.  Homemade fried rice puts extra takeout rice to work.
Ingredients
Vegetable oil
Chinese sausage, finely diced
Chopped vegetables (I used lots of onion, green onions, swiss chard stems and greens, and carrots)
Proteins of choice and/or scrambled egg
Leftover rice
1 clove of minced garlic
Miso paste and gochujang, diluted with some water
White pepper
Cracked black pepper
Directions
In a dab of vegetable oil, begin sauteing the Chinese sausage.  When it renders a bit, add the vegetables and stir until softened but al dente.  I add the vegetables that take longer to cook first, such as carrot and onion.  Then, I add the softer vegetables like chard leaves, green onion, and garlic.
As the vegetables are cooking, prepare any additional protein or scrambled egg in a separate pan.  Add a little more oil to the vegetables and then stir in the rice.  As the rice is cooking, flavor with diluted miso paste and gochujang, black pepper, and white pepper.
Add the scrambled egg and/or other cooked meat and combine.  Taste and adjust for seasoning (I used a lot of miso and gochujang).
Cook to your liking.  I prefer my fried rice to develop some crusty bits.
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