Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sweet and Sour Pork

One of my major goals for my tour in Shenyang - aside from representing the US government, obvi - is to learn how to make my favorite Chinese dishes. So two weekends ago the chef of our Consul General came over to my apartment to teach me how to make sweet and sour pork. Earlier, my friend Sandra taught me how to make the Taiwanese version (it's on her blog at, but I wanted to also learn how to make the verson that I generally associate with sweet and sour pork - the sweet, sticky, deep-fried version.

First Mr. Yan, the chef, cut 7-8 liang of pork loin into bite-sized strips. I'm not sure what kind of measurement a "liang" is, so if any of my Chinese-speaking friends know, please leave a comment! This will give you a good idea of the size:

Next, cut the ends of 1 red pepper and 1 green pepper (both non-spicy), and remove the center and the seeds. Cut both peppers into about 1 1/2 inch triangles. Chop up 1 yellow into large pieces, and set the onion and peppers aside together.

Take one clove of garlic and one piece of ginger (same size as the garlic clove) and slice thickly. Place in a bowl with the veggies.

Place pork in a bowl. Add 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp chicken powder. Add one egg and whisk together.

Place a pan on High heat and add some vegetable oil. Add the garlic and ginger. Then in another bowl, mix 3 large spoonfuls of corn starch with 6-9 spoonfuls of water.
In a separate wok, heat some vegetable oil on high heat - about 1 inch deep.
Add some ketchup to the garlic and ginger and let ketchup sizzle for 2-3 minutes, stirring.
Below is a picture of how much ketchup to add. Mr. Yan was driving me crazy with his lack of exact measurements!

Add 1/2 cup water and about 1 tsp of soy sauce. Add 1 tbsp tomato paste. Add 3 big spoonfuls of sugar. Add the water and cornstarch mix slowly, stirring after every spoonful. The sauce should thicken and look like this:

Add one spoonful of vinegar, then remove sauce and place in a bowl.
Add the rest of the corn starch (1 cup, minus the 3 spoonfuls already used in the sauce) to the pork and coat the pork.

Place 1/3 of the pork in the hot oil, making sure that the oil is deep enough to cover the pork. Let fry for about 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and put on a plate. Do this with the other 2/3 of the pork.

While the last third of the pork is still in the wok, drop the rest of the pork back into the wok and swish all the pork around for 2 minutes, letting the outsides brown a bit. Then add the veggies and swish around for another minute, then remove from heat.

Remove the veggies and pork from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a separate bowl or plate.

Pour the oil from the wok in a separate bowl.
Clean and dry the wok and return to high heat.
Place the sauce in the wok (will sizzle) and add 2 spoonfuls of the used oil. Add the pork and vegetables. Toss, then remove from heat and serve.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Family Outing

For the record, I am completely against this. However, my parents own several (and by several I mean many) guns, and my mom wanted to learn how to use them. Therefore, while I was home for a week, my parents and I got concealed handgun licenses. Getting licensed involved taking a 10-hour class, which included about 30 minutes at a shooting range. It was surprisingly - and disconcertingly - easy.

mom and I:

Sometimes I wonder if this is how Dan views us...

The gun looks so small and non-threatening next to the Hair.

at least we know where she'll conceal that handgun! THANKyouverymuch i'm here all week.


Also, I had to take pictures of the lobby of the shooting range:

After I saw this, I was more scared of the people shooting at the targets than the targets themselves:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Happiness is a Deep-Fried Twinkie

"Do I smell like fair?" was the last thing Kathleen asked me before she hopped on a flight from Dallas to San Francisco. We had just spent the last 4 hours at the State Fair of Texas, and yes, she did smell like a delightful mix of sweat and powdered sugar.

After a long layover in Tokyo's Narita airport on September 26th, I finally arrived in Dallas, TX for a weeklong vacation at home. On Sunday, I visited the State Fair of Texas with Kathleen and Christa, two of my best friends from high school.

Kathleen, me, and Christa on the ground (above) and on the Ferris Wheel (below).

This is the view of fairgrounds and the Cotton Bowl, as seen from the Ferris Wheel:

Dallas Skyline!

Kathleen and I raced down the giant slide. This is me beating her:

Victory pose:

Actually, the main attraction at the State Fair is not the slide, or even the Ferris Wheel. It's the fried food. More specifically, it's the thrill of witnessing firsthand feats of frying that defy the laws of matter (and sanitation).

For our first foray into frying, Kathleen and I sampled the classic Fried Twinkie. The above picture provides a glimpse into the depths of the deep fryer, complete with swirls of stale Twinkie floating in the murky oil.

The delicious result. It actually tasted like a cakey-version of a funnel cake with cream filling.

Kathleen ordered her fried Twinkie with a diet Coke. In her own words, it was the most ironic meal she's ever ordered.

Christa and her boyfriend. That's true love right there.

Some of the frying techniques really do defy the law the laws of physics ... or whatever branch of science applies. Deep fried lattes? Deep fried Guacamole?

Other outlets for culinary expression were equally puzzling. For instance, I'm not sure that there's a need to place a pork chop on a stick:

And I definitely know that there's no need to chicken-fry bacon:

(Yes, that's actually a picture of chicken-fried bacon, and no, I didn't stoop that low.)

Another mystery was the "Donkey Tail" stand.
What are donkey tails? How are they prepared? How are they consumed? And most importantly, why are they located next to the petting zoo?

One mystery that I handily solved was the conundrum of Fried Butter.

It seems that they take very cold butter, slather it in dough, and deep fry it very quickly. The result tastes remarkably similar to the dough of a Pillsbury flaky, buttery biscuit - the kind that comes in a can and is popped open.

Needless to say, the result was heavenly. This is me with butter rolling down my chin.

The final delicious discovery of the day was deep fried peanut butter cup macaroons. It appeared to be a Reese's peanut butter cup, combined with a coconut macaroon and fried.

But really, by the time they were shaking on the powdered sugar, no one really cared what the original ingredients were.

I think the following sign aptly sums up the day:

Happy's: We do what we do best
fried caramel apples, fried snickers, fried honeybuns, fried oreos, fried pralines, fried peanut butter cup