Autumn is here and it is seriously getting colder with each passing day! When it comes to food in autumn, it seems like everyyybody, and I mean EVERYBODY gets gaga for pumpkins. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin pies, pumpkin every freaking thing! I have to admit though, never had a pumpkin spiced latte, is it really as good as it is hyped up to be? I'm afraid of getting wildly disappointed lol. One thing I realized over the years was that pumpkins are very popularly eaten as a dessert—when I first started working, our office has an annual Thanksgiving potluck. Of course, me being extra when it comes to food, I decided to put a spin on cooking pumpkin by making things like Thai pumpkin laksa curry with noodles, or this past year, braised pumpkin with chicken and shiitake mushrooms. While my coworkers enjoyed my pumpkin dishes, many had never had pumpkin cooked in a savory way before, which was a surprise to me because I grew up eating pumpkin in savory dishes way more than sweets! I've had pumpkin with rice, in soups, braised with assorted meats and vegetables, and it is just so comforting and warming.
Today, I'm sharing my recipe for a braised Japanese kabocha pumpkin, chicken and shiitake mushroom stew. It's SOO good ladled over a bowl of rice and Wilson loves this dish whenever I make it! Japanese kabocha pumpkin is more dense and sweet than the pumpkins in the US and are available at most Asian supermarkets. If you don't have access to kabocha, you can substitute the recipe with a regular pumpkin, but it's definitely yummier with the Japanese kabocha.
Typically I like to cook this dish was dark meat like chicken thighs, drumettes or wings, depending on my mood. The dark meat is much more succulent in this braised dish and there is something about the way that the sauce holds onto the meat that is just so satisfying, especially when you eat the wings and suck on the bones, haha! (gotta love our wings). For this recipe, I used the chicken drumsticks and wings leftover from carving a whole chicken, using the breast meat for another dish and using the dark meat for this stew.
Sometimes if I want to make this dish with chicken breast, I do a light marinade of salt, white pepper, sesame oil and cornstarch with it and do a quick stir fry to seal in the juices and to keep the meat tender. Then, you cook the pumpkin separately and add in the chicken towards the end to prevent the chicken from overcooking.
Chicken + marinade:
We hope you like this homey and comforting dish during the chilly autumn and winter seasons!
Until next time,
Growing up, my grandmother spent a lot of time making all sorts of steamed cakes and dumplings for us to enjoy. It was all made from scratch with fresh ingredients and plenty of love. Coming home from school we'd find turnip cakes or radish cakes, steamed dumplings or potstickers filled with chives, shrimp and pork, and just all kinds of handmade creations.
One of my absolute favorite things she made was a savory, chewy, sticky steamed mochi cake that I am going to share with you today. Honestly I loved all the things she made but this one is special to me because she developed this specifically to my tastes 😊
This mochi steamed cake, which we affectionately call "sticky cake" in our house (or nak nak ti in Taishanese), is filled with a variety of umami ingredients and textures like Chinese sausage, Chinese cured pork belly, cubed ham, dried baby scallops, scallions, pickled radish, mini dried shrimp and rehydrated shiitake mushrooms. The mochi cake is nice and chewy, and the flavors and textures of each ingredient compliment each other nicely as land and sea collide together in an explosion of umami goodness! *angels sing* It is best enjoyed warm from the steamer, and you can eat it as is or enjoy with hoisin sauce and sriracha.
Whenever I call her on the phone or visit my grandmother, she'll ask, "Sooo...want me to make nak nak ti?" And the usual answer, yes!
There's some prep involved with chopping all the ingredients into small pieces, and then cooking it on the stove top for the oils to come out and mix all together. The flour mixture is then made and is applied in layers into a steam cake pan alternating between the flour mixture and the meat. After steaming and giving it some time to set, it's ready to eat!
1. Prepare all your meat and veggies by chopping them all up in to small pieces. I find the smaller the pieces, the less noticeable they are in texture and flavor, whereas slightly larger pieces give you a more discernable flavor of each.
2. Stir fry the baby scallops, all the meat and mushrooms. Once the oil starts rendering out and it smells fragrant, remove and set to the side.
3. Pour both 16 oz bags into a mixing bowl. Add water a little by little and mix until the batter resembles a thick muffin or cookie batter. If it is flowing like pancake batter, you've added too much water, so be careful how much to add. Once well mixed, oil a round cake steam pan, about 12-14 inches. Doing so will help the cake come out of the pan more cleanly. You can also put down cling wrap or parchment paper along the sides and bottom if you wish.
4. Pour a layer of the batter onto the bottom and add the meat filling. Keep layering and alternating until you've run out of batter and filling. Make sure to leave enough filling to cover the top of the cake.
5. Heat a large wok with water (or prepare your steamer). Steam the mochi cake for 1 hour or until firm. Once it's done, remove from the steamer. At this point it will be very soft, (but still delicious), so you can either eat right away or let is cool and firm up a bit before cutting into the mochi cake. Enjoy!
You can always substitute filling choices with whatever you prefer if you're not one for Chinese cured meats, but these are flavors that I grew up eating with my grandmother. Whenever I smell Chinese pork belly or sausage (lap cheong), or pickled radish, or dried shiitake mushrooms (pretty much everything in this dish) it just makes me think of Grandma and her homecooking. There's always something in food the floods your brain with memories of home and for me, this is it! Hope you enjoy!
To be honest, my experience with Indian cuisine goes only so far as dishes that are popular in America--Chicken Tikka Masala, Butter Chicken, Tandoori meats, Roti, Naan bread, Curry, etc. I definitely can't claim to be very knowledgeable when it comes to Indian cuisine, and I have to admit that because of my inexperience with it, I've been scared to try new dishes in authentic Indian restaurants because I like to stay in my comfort zone of what I do know and recognize on the menu. That being said, I am very blessed to work with people from different cultures and my coworker Urvi brought in this tasty Indian snack called Sev Puri, or Chaat to share with us at work. The second I put the Puri chip into my mouth, I knew I had to get my hands on the recipe! The moment I swallowed, I put my hand on Urvi's arm and said, 'Please teach me how to make this!!'
It was so delicious that I wanted to learn to make it at home too, like all the time. The flavors of this Sev Puri Chaat recipe are incredibly fresh and simply bursting with flavors and textures. Crispy, tangy, sweet and has a hint of spice (dependent on how much pepper powder you put in it). From the first bite, this snack will take you on an adventure through flavor town and *sings* a whole new world...a new fantastic point of view...
If you've never had Chaat, the only way I know how to describe it is an Indian version of nachos topped with salsa. However, because there is no cheese, the dish is much more light, and therefore so very easy to eat lots of! (Not that you should eat too much of anything, but it's not as heavy and greasy as nachos with cheese and all the fixings). Urvi graciously welcomed me into her home and allowed me to film her showing me how to make the Sev Puri. I was happy to learn that the ingredients were all relatively inexpensive and are easy to find in any Indian supermarket. (I look forward to making a trip to an Indian supermarket soon!) Furthermore, the recipe was mostly assembly work so it was pretty quick to put together.
She also explained the different kinds of spices typically found in Indian kitchens and even showed me her expansive spice cabinet! It was very impressive, and definitely something I need to take notes on in organizing my own spice cabinets!
Isn't this spice box pretty? Apparently it's very common in Indian kitchens. Almost looks like an artists' paint palette!
After we were done filming, and I got a belly full of delicious Sev Puri Chaat (along with a take home baggy for Wilson to try...and for me to ultimately eat all of...shhhh!), Urvi showed me the rest of her beautiful home and even showed me the personal praying temple in her room. I didn't take a picture of it, but she had pictures of all the different Gods that she and her husband worship in the Hindu religion. It was very interesting to learn about, and both the imagery, stories, and ornate details in the little praying temple's architecture was amazing to see. The experience of learning another culture's food and hearing Urvi's stories were so fascinating, and beautiful to say the least. I felt so lucky and grateful to Urvi for welcoming me into her home, her kitchen, and teaching me so much about herself and her culture!
In any case, here is the awesome recipe that you really have to try! There aren't any measurements for the toppings since it really depends on how much you yourself want to eat and your own preferences. So top away!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do! I can't wait to make this again!
Just a girl, her husband and two dogs who love food ♥❤🐶👫🐶❤♥