Quick Simple Greens for Days

I’m trying to get more greens in my diet. There, I said it. I do detest most salads since the idea of a cold vegetable isn’t appetizing to me. Cheap greens to the rescue.

I browned a whole garlic clove in olive oil, before adding left over pressure cooked chicken stock and a slice of Benton’s country ham to simmer for a few minutes. When I’m ready, I throw in a boat load of collard greens and some salt. I like my greens a little crunchy so I let it simmer for only about 5 minutes. They’ll soften up in the microwave when I reheat them as leftover lunch anyway. Super passive cooking, super convenient, ideal when I’m busy playing with my other food and shit.



Blind Triangular Testing

One way to evaluate a new cooking method or product effectively is a blind triangular test. In this instance, we provide 3 samples – 2 of which are the same while one different. If the testee can’t effectively pick which sample is different, we can say what we are testing makes little difference.

This is useful in figuring out more efficient or delicious cooking methods. For instance – does searing meat before cooking it sous vide make a difference? How does making custards in a sous vide bath compare to the traditional double boiler method?

Faster Cooked Congee


Congee is a savory rice porridge/gruel. There are many versions of congee but a popular version, known as 'chok' in Cantonese, can be found in dim sum restaurants. The Cantonese versions is typically served with pork, fish or a processed form of egg known as century egg (or pei dan). That also happens to be the style I grew up with so it's closely associated with comfort food.

The ingredients and methodology for cooking chok is rather straight forward. Rice (cooked or uncooked) is simmered and stirred in a liquid for several hours; the longer the cook time, the smoother and creamier the final product. Soaked broken rice can be used for a smoother texture. Water (used in the Taiwanese version) or stock (used in the Cantonese versino) can be used for the liquid. In some cases, the bones and meat are added to the rice and water to add flavor, eliminating the need to make a separate stock.

I had the idea for a quick and dirty method to cook chok.

Stock was made as detailed in the Modernist Cuisine. Chopped up chicken wings (cheap while rich in collagen) were blanched and then pressure cooked in water for 1 hour. The resulting liquid was strained and used as stock. In the mean time, I cooked rice in a rice cooker.

Instead of boiling rice with constant stirring for hours on end, I boiled cooked rice in stock till the rice was soft (5-10mins). The softened rice was blended with a hand blender till the desired consistency, adding stock if necessary.

Chok texture
chok texture

The final product was topped with a chopped century egg, fried egg, spring onions, cilantro, crispy shallot oil, shallots, soy sauce and sesame oil. Great for hangovers or the cold.


Breaking Down the Fried Pork Belly

Fried Belly Testing

It’s been a crazy weekend of preparing for The Houston Beer Experiment. I’ve been playing around excessively with pork bellies and my new FreshMealsMagic sous vide kit. The event was great and I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with some amazing people and cooks. Furthermore, being in my element cooking and serving up food made me feel alive. It’s quite a great way to spend a Sunday.

My dish, fried pork belly, came in second. While it would’ve been real nice to take home the win and fly to Brooklyn, the whole process of coming up with this dish was a fun thought exercise into cooking.

Anyway, here’s some detail to my second place Fried Pork Beer Belly, explaining why I did what I did.

Step 1: Jaccard

The Jaccard is a device that tenderizes by making rows piercings into the meat. I recall reading a thread on egullet about it a while ago and was intrigued. Pork belly is a fairly tough cut of meat and “jaccarding” it would perhaps make it tenderer. Furthermore, the incisions would help with marinade penetration to give the meat more flavor.

Step 2: Brine

One of the stipulations to the contest was to use a form of beer so I went with hard apple cider in my brine. The rationale – pork and apples go together, as do pork and beer. Why not just use hard apple cider? (Honestly, it might be gimmicky. Regular apple cider might work just as well.) I brined the meat in a 4% brine for 12 hours. I also added 2% of the liquid weight in molasses to add color and to balance out the salt. Lastly, a few drops of liquid smoke were added for good measure.

A brief explanation on why brines work can be found here.

Step 3: Cook at 60C/140F for 50 hours

This step sounds excessive but it’s rather painless. After brining, I placed the pork bellies in Ziploc bags with a splash of apple cider. Everything was then out into a cooler filled with water with my nifty FMM heater to keep it at 60C.

Why 50 hours? Cooking the meat till 60C keeps the lean muscles moist and does make it ok to eat. However, some of the fatty tissues take a little more coaxing to really break down and tenderize. The Modernist Cuisine recommended a 24-72 hour cook time. I’ve sampled sous vide bellies at 12, 24 and 36 hours and the fat still came up a little tough so I just went with 50.

If you can’t afford to do this step, just put a whole bunch of pork bellies in crock pot, fill it up with liquid (water or apple juice is fine) and let it cook on low slightly uncovered. Once it gets to a boil, switch it down to the warm setting and let it ride till it’s soft (6-8 hours). It’ll still be good.

Step 4: Chill

When done with sous vide, remove the pork from the bags and chill, reserving the liquid for the sauce.

Chilling may seem somewhat redundant but it makes life so much easier. Ever handled a piece of warm butter? Warm pork fat feels that way too.

It’s also important to drain any cooking juices before chilling the pork as you want to ensure that the pork pieces are fairly dry on the surface when frying. You’ll thank me later for this. The juices will coagulate around the meat when chilled making them harder to remove.

Step 5: Fry

Along with testing out cooking times, I spent quite a bit of time toying around the frying bit too. I tested a hard cider batter which gave a really good apple aroma. Unfortunately, the batter couldn’t stay crunchy over time, which was not ideal since my dish had to hold for at least 3 hours. As such, I went for the regular dry-wet-dry breading method.


Corn oil tends to be the most suitable oil for my deep frying purpose. It’s readily available, economical and tastes rather neutral. For some reason, corn oil doesn’t absorb as much into the food once it’s removed from the fryer too.

Dry Coating

The dry coating gives the wet coating and breading something to stick to. I tried corn starch, tapioca flour and all-purpose wheat flour. I liked the results of corn starch the best and tapioca flour the least. But AP flour was readily available in my pantry so that’s what stuck.

Wet Coating

I normally use whole eggs but I found out that beaten egg whites gave a better result. Egg yolks made the final product a more ‘eggy’ and harder product than I would have liked. Beating the egg whites to stiff peaks made for a really fluffy coating. However, it was a nightmare when working with hundreds of pieces of pork belly.


Panko breadcrumbs. That stuff is amazing. It’s crisp and stays crisp. It works so well I didn’t even bother considering an alternative.


Since the pork bellies were in small pieces and were already cooked, I fried them at a high temperature of 215C (~420F) for a couple of minutes till golden.

Oh, and when frying, wear pants.


First Breakfast in Singapore

I just arrived in Singapore a few days back. Here’s what I had for breakfast immediately after a long 24 hour flight. That’s right, I ate all of this for breakfast. Cornflakes are NOT the breakfast of champions.

Won Ton Noodles

Won Ton Noodles
Topped with char siew (the red pieces of meat, which is really barbequed pork), won tons and tossed with some sauces, this is a Cantonese staple. You’ll see quite a bit of this in Hong Kong too.


Chicken Feet Noodles
Ok, I get it. Chicken feet for breakfast might sound kind of gross. But if you can get past that, this is actually pretty dang delicious. It’s noodles in some excellent dark baising liquid.


Kueh Chap 
A mix of braised pork, chitterlings, pork skin, eggs and various beancurd products. Some of it’s for the adventurous, even by Singaporean standards. It’s usually accompanied by a bowl of rice noodles in soup (not pictured). This is one of my favorite foods. Ever.


 Lor Mai Fun (aka glutinous rice)
Think of this as dirty rice that’s sticky. Done the Asian way. For breakfast. Blowing your mind? I thought so.
 Carrot Cake
Yeah, this isn’t your typical carrot cake. I think more accurately, it should be radish cake but they call it carrot cake around here. You take steamed carrot cakes and stir fry them with egg, an array of sauces and sometimes shrimp.


Chwee Kueh
These are steamed rice cakes topped with preserved raddish with a healthy dose of chili on the side. The rice cakes alone are pretty plain, but they go real well with the sweet and salty raddish topping.


Pork and Century Egg Porridge/Congee
I never really got when this is called porridge or congee. Anyway, this isn’t anything like oats porridge. To begin with, it’s made with rice. Also, it’s savory. They can come with different meats in it, ranging from fish to pork. My favorite is with a mix of pork and century egg. (It’s a preserved egg that’s black and looks utterly disgusting but I looove it. Don’t judge.) Oh yeah, and you top it off with a healthy dose of fried dough sticks. (That’s the brown stuff). I love this for breakfast or when I’m feeling sick (it acts like my chicken noodle soup then). 

Packing Challenge – FAIL

It’s been a while since I’ve had an epic failure in cooking. This one seems to be it.


My Charcutepalooza challenge this month was to make a paté of some sort. I opted for the English Pork Pie – ground up meat encased in a flaky pie crust.


But I blow at baking pastries. I’m not sure what it is exactly. Maybe I’m too impatient. Maybe it senses my fear. Maybe it knows I don’t like it. Maybe because I don’t practice enough since most pastries tend to be sweet and I’m too much an umami fan boy. Whatever the case, baking has never been an absolute enjoyment to me. As a result, my finished product tends to be ‘meh’ at best, English pork pie notwithstanding.


The general directions for the pie crust were simple. Mix in 8oz of cold butter and lard with 1lb of flour. Add in a cup of egg/water mixture.


Everything still looked like it could work at this point.

My experience? The dough was way goopy when I started adding the lard. I just used a touch of the egg/water mixture and added a little more flour. It was definitely going to be a flaky dough.


As for the meat filling, that was simple. I’m good with working with meats most of the time anyway. (I’m an umami fan boy remember?) There isn’t too much too write about this, it’s fairly similar to the sausage making process.


Before the bake... this could still work...

The problem came with the baking.


You see, flaky crust may taste great in a cobbler. But when it’s supposed to provide ‘structural support’ to keep a meat filling in, it’s quite A FAIL. Throw that in with a really juicy meat filling and things go to crap fairly quickly.


Things going to crap. The crust cracked resulting in a lot of juices going all over the pan. That in turn led to really wet and soggy crust. Not a good thing.

So this attempt at cooking something didn’t go according to plan. I’m a little upset. Then again, it’s in the failures that we learn. It’s cliché, I know, but I truly believe that.

It still looks half decent thanks to staging work. Meat tastes delicious though, as fatty pork shoulder always should.


Making a Cheap Cut Look Posh – The Very Affordable Ham Hock Terrine

Pork Hock Terrine

Pork hocks. I love them. They’re a delight to stew them with beans, slow cooked vegetables such as collard greens, or one of my favorite, stewed and then fried. Plus they’re ridiculously cheap. Pork tenderloins at the local farmer’s market will probably set you back $18-20/lb. Pork hocks, $2/lb. It’s cheap. I’m cheap. I’ll take it.

While I do favor the rustic preparations of pork hocks, there are ways to make them look more posh. In this case, I made a terrine. It doesn’t mean I like them better, they just look more presentable and perhaps palatable to some. Rather than gnaw on the bone, one can elegantly eat it with a fork and knife.

If you didn’t grow up with exposure to European food, chances are, the idea of a terrine may seem a little foreign. Heck, every single one of my friends didn’t really have a clue what I was talking about when I was talking about making them. (I live in Texas.) The definition may even seem complicated since they fall into broad categories. Generally, as per Ruhlman and Polcyn, it’s a big sausage cooked in a mold, dough or skin. In my instance, it’s shredded meat set in gelatin.

Back to pork hocks. Pork hocks are delicious. Pork hocks are also fatty and rich in connective tissues. This makes them ideal for releasing rich gelatinous goodness which is necessary in making some terrines. And so the process is simple – boil the hocks long enough to extract the gelatin into a flavorful stock called an aspic. Pull and shred the meat of the pork hocks. Set the meat in a pan. Pour on the aspic over. Put it in a fridge to set. Remove, cut it, and eat.

Alright, that’s simple in theory but in reality, there are a few more details. Let’s get into them shall we?

Let’s start with the stock/the braise of the hocks. I’m using some real simple aromatics here, just the usual carrots, onions, celery, garlic, bay leaf and pepper. Here’s my MEP (MEP = mise en place, which is just a fancy way of saying preparing your ingredients and having them in place before putting them together. Using the term mise en place makes you sounds like you’re a foodie. Saying mise makes you sound kinda bad-ass cool. Shortening that to MEP just means you’re too lazy to type.)

The aromatics portion of the MEP

Here’s what you’ll need:

2 Pork Hocks

2 Onions, quartered

2 carrots

2 sticks of celery

1 Tbsp of peppercorns

1 Bay leaf

2 cloves of garlic

1 sprig of thyme

water (guesstimate this)

3/4 oz of gelatin

1 cup of parsley leaves

Salt to taste

The hocks are ready for braising. That chunk of ice on the bottom left is from the chicken stock I threw in.

1. Put the hocks and aromatics into a pot and fill it with water. That chunk of ice you see there is from a little chicken stock I added for good measure. I was making room in my freezer. Bring everything to a simmer and simmer. I just left mine in a 160F to 200F (I changed the temperature) oven for a few hours overnight because I was sleepy. Overnight seems long and it probably is. Gelatin breaks down with prolonged cooking. But I had powdered gelatin to work with, not a problem.Next, remove the hocks, cool them down and then shred. I like large chunks. Put aside any fatty parts and tendons aside. Discard or eat them. (I roasted the bones and the tendons and ate them. Not the whole bone mind you, just the marrow.)

Straining the stock. I guess there was about 3 qt of liquid, way more than enough for my needs.

2. Strain the liquid at least twice. Four times is better.

The hock meat is ready for some aspic. Note that the meat fibers are all facing one direction. This allows for easier cutting and eating when served.

3. Mix the shredded meat with some chopped parsley and salt. Ideally, season the meat when it’s cool since the terrine will be served cold. The human tongue tends to be less sensitive to seasoning when eating cold foods. Pack the meat into a mold such as a terrine. I don’t have a terrine (it’s a container) so I used a bread pan.

Testing the aspic. I'm using a shot glass in an ice bath with salt. I tested with 1/4 oz of gelatin at a time. I didn't want the terrine to be too rigid.

4. In the mean time, mix in some gelatin with the aspic. Test the aspic by putting it on a cold dish or a bowl set on ice. (I used a shot glass.) It should be firm enough to cut but soft enough that it almost melts in the mouth.

5. Pour the aspic over the meat mixture. Place a plastic wrap over and place in the fridge to set overnight.

Terrine ready to be sliced. It's jiggly.

6.Remove the terrine from the pan. If there’s any difficulty, place the pan in some warm water to melt some of the gelatin until it slides right out. Then slice the darn thing to eat. (If it’s hard to slice, put it in the fridge or freezer for just a little longer to firm up.

7. Serve cold with some kind of acidic sauce to cut the richness of the terrine. Here, I’m using a raisin & onion chutney courtesy taken from Charcuterie.