The Essential Guide to Dim Sum

This is the article I wish I had written (or could write). It's a great primer on dim sum, complete with photos, descriptions, Mandarin and Cantonese pronunciation, and Chinese characters. As long-time readers know, I am a huge foodie and am basically illiterate in Chinese despite being able to speak pretty well.

If you go ever go to dim sum (or want to -- and you should!) I highly recommend it.

The Essential Guide to Dim Sum

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(Separately, the author Carolyn Phillips has an amazing blog called "Out to Lunch with @MadameHuang" about Chinese food. She's an American who speaks Chinese fluently and has lived in Taiwan and China. She has beautiful recipes and photos on her blog that have me salivating. I've exchanged a little email with her too; she seems really nice. Check it out!)

Something for my Christmas list

The last remaining bottle of the world's most expensive whisky is going up for auction tomorrow in LA. Glenfiddich made only fifteen bottles of the "Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve" from a cask that went into the barrel in 1955. (Janet Sheed Roberts was the oldest living person in Scotland and the granddaughter of the distillery's founder.) They apparently went into glass in 2010, so the whisky is considered 55 years old. One of the bottles from this set went for $94,000. According to the Glenfiddich malt master (how do I become a malt master?), the bottling is "incredibly elegant". Here are some other tasting notes.

The bottle itself is special too, "Each of the beautiful hand blown bottles has 24ct Gold adorning its neck and front. The stopper which consists of an aquamarine Cloisonné medallion monogrammed in gold with Mrs Roberts initials was made by Thomas Fattorini's." [From Glasstorm.com]

Yes please!

Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve, 55 year old whisky

[Via "This Is The World's Most Expensive Whisky" from NPR]

Get Fresher Eggs: Reading Egg Cartons

To find the freshest eggs at the supermarket, you can decode the numbers on the carton. The number we’re looking for is the three digit number (circled in red below). This is the ordinal date (the day of the year) the eggs were packaged (so 1 is January 1, 2 is January 2, etc.) Assuming the eggs were all handled the same way, I think you can assume that eggs packaged more recently are fresher.

Egg carton codes

Interestingly, the “use by” by date (the month/day indicated on the carton) seems less reliable. These two cartons in my refrigerator have the same packing date yet the “use by” dates are more than a week apart. In my local grocery store, I’ve seen packaging dates more than three weeks apart on the shelf. While the eggs are probably all safe to eat, I’m confident there’s a big drop in quality between these eggs. (I look for how thick/runny the whites are.)

In case you’re curious, the Pxxxx number is the plant where the eggs were packed.

Best Sandwich Ever: Katsu Burger

Michelle and I went with our friend Meng to Katsu Burger this week. Like it’s name implies, this little restaurant in the south part of Seattle (Georgetown) serves a unique katsu sandwich on hamburger buns. If you’re not familiar, katsu is a Japanese dish: pork cutlets in panko coating, deep fried.

They have a bunch of different sandwiches including beef burgers and chicken burgers; they even have a ridiculous “Mt. Fuji” burger with a katsu patty, a beef patty, a chicken breast, ham, bacon, and three types of cheese. I passed on that heart-attack-in-a-bun and had a spicy curry katsu burger. Meng had a katsu burger with bacon (my next trip...) We added fries (mine with curry powder, Michelle’s with nori) and a green tea milkshake.

katsuburger

It was really an insanely great meal. I’ve had katsu in famous places across Tokyo, but the katsu at Katsu Burger is among the best I’ve ever had. The burger was crazy good as was the shake. The fries were decent too (they could have been crispier to my liking.)

We waited a while for our burgers (definitely worth the wait), and it looked like you could wind up waiting for a table too. The only real bummer is that Katsu Burger is only open on weekdays.

6538 Fourth Ave. S., Seattle
206-762-0752

[Update 12/23/2011: We went back today and learned that after the New Year (2012) they will be open Saturdays 11-4!! Wahoo! Also, I learned their panko coated, deep fried hamburgers are silly good too.]

Bacon Salted Bourbon Caramel Apples

How can one recipe have so many of my favorite things in it? Bacon with bourbon, caramel, and apples? Awesome. It's probably too much to ask (and too gross) to add raw oysters, ramen, and jiaozi. Roasted nuts, however... I'll have to try this out.

bacon caramel apple

Ingredients

8 Granny Smith apples

8 wooden sticks

1 (16 ounce) package brown sugar

2/3 cup dark corn syrup

3/4 cup water

1 tablespoon Bacon Salt

2 tablespoons bourbon whiskey

Directions

Insert wooden sticks 3/4 of the way into the stem end of each apple. Place apples on a cookie sheet covered with lightly greased aluminum foil.

Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thermometer registers 290 degrees F (143 degrees C). Remove from the heat and stir in the bourbon if desired.

Keep the saucepan over low heat to keep the caramel liquid for dipping the apples. Stir the Bacon Salt into the caramel. Working quickly, carefully dip apples in the caramel. Place apples on the greased aluminum foil until coating has cooled and hardened.

From: http://www.jdfoods.net/recipe/1086/Bacon%20Salted%20Bourbon%20Caramel%20Apples

BBQ Fantasy Camp

Last weekend, my friend Sean Alexander hosted a "BBQ Fantasy Camp" at his home. He invited Grand Champion Pitmaster Konrad Haskins to teach this private class to a small group of us. Konrad is an interesting character, a South African who grew up in London, worked at Microsoft, and then went on to compete (and win) in BBQ contests. He has no shortage of opinions and stories on all topics (typically well-informed and entertaining), which he generously shared throughout our 9am-5pm meat-fest.

I was pleasantly surprised by how practical Konrad was about his BBQ. For instance, rather than smoke the pork shoulder whole for 12-13 hours, he butterflied it and then wrapped it in foil for a few hours after the initial smoking, shortening the cooking time significantly. (He finished it uncovered.) The results were spectacular.

It was also interesting to learn about how competition BBQ differed from home BBQ. He admitted he didn't really like eating competition BBQ. In competitions you only have one or two bites to show off to a judge, so you over-flavor everything to maximize the impact. However, if you did this for something you ate a whole meal of, it would be overpowering. They also use a lot of seemingly weird methods like cooking in fake butter instead of real butter, since the fake butters are engineered to taste more buttery than real butter. Gross.

Over the course of the day, Konrad cooked up a fattie (basically a whole Jimmy Dean sausage rolled in dry rub, smoked, and sliced onto biscuits -- yum!), brisket, pork shoulder, ribs, chicken, tri-tip, and burnt ends (plus biscuits and mushrooms). I never thought I could have too much meat, but I did. It was a good problem to have.

I really enjoyed the day and learned a lot. It certainly didn't hurt that the weather was gorgeous, the company entertaining, and the wine and beer plentiful and tasty. I'm ready to do more grilling and barbequing now. Thanks to Sean (and his awesome wife and my old friend Nickie) for hosting and to Konrad for the great lessons.

 

Here's Konrad showing us how to prep a full brisket; he separated the point from the flat, trimmed most of the fat away, and cooked them separately.
Konrad Haskins trimming a beef brisket

Part of the brisket being finished in a dutch oven with red wine and mirapoix - basically a BBQ Beef Bourguignon. Crazy good and falling apart tender.
Dutch oven with charcoal on top, sitting on a low Weber grill.

Here's another part of the brisket, this one smoked for a few hours, wrapped for a few hours, and finished on the grill for an hour. Look at the smoke ring!
Close-up of sliced brisket with a lovely red smoke ring.

Konrad had a good tip for getting more ribs onto a grill -- roll them up. The rolls are held together with a bamboo skewer running through them.
Three racks of pork ribs rolled and cooked like standing roasts in a Big Green Egg.

Chinese Steak Doneness System

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When you order a steak in China (typically at a Western steak house), they will often not understand what you mean by "medium-rare", etc. Aside from the language issues, they use a different , numerically based system here.

Rare

  • Very red and cool center == #3: 三成(sān chéng)-肉很红且凉

Medium rare

  • Red, warm center == #4: 四成(sì chéng)-肉红,中心温热

Medium

  • Pink center == #5: 五成(wǔ chéng)-中心粉红色

Medium well

  • Slightly pink center == #7 七成(qī chéng)-浅粉红色 (I presume #6 is between Medium and Medium well)

Well done

  • Cooked throughout == 全熟(quán shú)-全部烤熟,无粉红色

The Ultimate Bacon Lovers Gift Guide

I think my friends know I like bacon. After my previous post about The Bacon Enthusiast Gift Guide, my hometown friend Steve sent me this link to The Ultimate Bacon Lovers Gift Guide. It's another winner full of great gift ideas for the bacon lover in your life (so, pretty much everyone, because who doesn't love bacon?!)

I'm hoping there's a My First Bacon under the tree this year. Just sayin'.

bacongifts_myfirstbacon

The Ultimate Bacon Lovers Gift Guide from The Bachelor Guy