Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lychees: from Jell-O to martinis

I am always pleasantly surprised when I ask my Caucasian friends if they like lychees.  I think this tropical fruit has a very distinct flavor and texture that you either love or hate.  But almost everyone I have asked has said, “Oh, I love lychees!”  Shame on me for underestimating the worldliness of my friends’ palates.

One of my most distinct childhood associations with lychees was when I was about seven years old.  My Uncle Mike was a bachelor in his mid 20s and had invited my family over to

DRAGON LADY MARTINI


Prior to starting my blog, I tested this lychee martini out on some of my good friends from college.  I was a little nervous because there is a very successful restaurateur in the group.  His scrutinizing palate coupled with his ever present frat-boy sarcasm could be a lethal combo.  However, soon after our party, a lychee martini appeared on his restaurant bar menus.  I'd say that calls for a round of Dragon Lady Martinis.  Cheers!


Serves 2 
4 whole lychees (from the can, found in the Asian section of most supermarkets)
1 cup ice cubes
3 oz. Soho® lychee liquer
3 oz. vodka
2 TB lychee syrup juice (from the can of lychees)

Garnish two chilled martini glasses with two lychees on cocktail skewers.  Fill shaker with ice cubes.  Add the lychee liquer, vodka and lychee syrup juice.  Shake vigorously for 10 seconds.  Pour into martini glasses.

Monday, December 21, 2009

“Just needs a little soy sauce, mom!”

When mom used to make her weekly Sunday dinners for our immediate family 0f 17, it really was a grand affair.  We’d pack the chairs around the round dining room table and feast on no fewer than eight delicious courses of home-cooked Chinese food.  With a gentle flick of the wrist, the spinning Lazy Susan would smoothly float the platter of choice right in front you.  Each time my mom would bring out a steaming hot stir-fry dish from the wok, she would say with a shrug, “Oh, it’s not that good.  I don’t know, it’s just okay.”  Of course, every morsel you tasted was always one of the most delicious things you’d ever put in your mouth.  But it’s a Chinese thing to be modest and humble. 

There’s actually a scene out of Amy Tan’s best selling novel, “The Joy Luck Club,” that reminds me of our family dining ritual.  In



KUNG PAO CHICKEN


Prep ingredients earlier in the day, then sit down to a Kung Pao Chicken dinner in 20 minutes!


This Dragon Lady signature dish has a slight tinge of spiciness to it.  But if you prefer more “pow” to your kung pao, add 1 ( or 2 , or 3!) more green Serrano chili to the recipe, or sprinkle in some red pepper flakes during the last 3 minutes of stir-frying.  If you prefer white meat, you can also substitute boneless, skinless chicken breast for the chicken thighs (note:  the breast meat will cook faster than the thigh meat).

Serves 4
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon corn starch, divided
½ cup low sodium soy sauce
¼ cup white wine
1 teaspoon finely grated ginger root (Microplane zester grater works best), or ½ teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon white pepper
4 garlic cloves
4 green Serrano chilies
6 stalks celery (about 3 cups, chopped)
1 large yellow onion (about 3 cups, chopped)
4 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 tablespoons black bean garlic sauce (in Asian food aisle of most grocery stores)
¼ teaspoon salt

Steamed white or brown rice

Trim off excess fat from chicken thighs and cut meat into 1/2” pieces.  Place in a shallow bowl.  Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of corn starch on chicken and turn to coat.  In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce, wine, ginger, sugar and white pepper.  Pour 1/8 cup of the marinade mixture over the chicken and turn to coat.  Set aside.  (If prepping in advance, cover chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.  Take out 30 minutes before stir-frying.).  Add the other 1 tablespoon of corn starch to the remaining marinade; stir until dissolved and set aside.

While chicken is marinating, finely mince the garlic and set aside.  Finely mince the chilies