Sunday, May 13, 2007

Vanilla yogurt

I just realized that I've never posted any photos on this blog. I do take pictures of my food, but close-ups are generally not that great, and food from a distance looks a little pathetic. Anyway, here is a fairly decent shot of my most recent batch of yogurt, this one flavored with a fresh vanilla bean (thank you, Kevin!), and a tiny bit of white sugar. I thought about using honey, which seems more fitting for homemade yogurt (I am a little bit granola myself), but then I figured the white sugar would sweeten without adding other flavors, and I did want to be able to judge how the vanilla turned out on its own merits.

My directions for yogurt are here. In this case, I only used half a litre of milk, therefore about 1/4 cup milk powder. For flavoring, I used half a vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped out; I added the seeds and pods to the milk while it was heating, left them in while cooling, and only strained out the pods at the end. I added about 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar to the hot milk, put 1 tablespoon prepared yogurt in a clean jar, added the 110º milk to it, stirred thoroughly, and set in my waiting incubator. I think my old directions don't convey how extremely easy this is, nor how forgiving a process: twice lately I have forgotten that my milk is cooling, come back to find it at 95º or so, re-heated it to 110º, and finished up the job. It comes out just fine, as long as the temperature is right when you add the starter, and you keep the whole thing warm for a few hours.

I have to admit, the kids were not really crazy about vanilla specks floating on the surface. Nora thought is was pepper and insisted on plain yogurt in her bowl. Cole's not a huge fan of the plain, but I'm sure once the top layer of the vanilla, where the specks reside, is gone, he would be won over by the sweeter version. I thought is was wonderful with some fresh mango sliced over the top.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


In March, the MV Doulos came to Kaohsiung, and I was blessed to meet Roopa, who was traveling aboard. (For the whole story, click here.) Roopa has not been home to Trinidad for 18 months, so I made her some doubles, which are a popular street food there. I found the recipe at, but made some little adjustments which I will include below.

Doubles get their name from the two pieces of bara (fried bread) that sandwich the curried chickpea filling (called channa). The spices are warming, and the soft bread is comforting -- I can see why they would be popular. This is a litte taste of the carribbean (with roots in India), easily made right here in Kaohsiung.


For the bara, combine
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon geera (cumin seeds, toasted and ground)
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

In a small bowl, combine
1 teaspoon yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar

and let set to sponge for five minutes. Add to flour mixture, adding a little water if necessary to make a slightly firm dough. Mix well, cover with a cloth, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours.

For the channa,in a heavy skillet heat
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping tablespoon curry powder mixed with 1/4 cup water

and saute for a few minutes. Add
1 14 oz can chickpeas (a.k.a., garbanzo beans or ceci), drained
stir to coat, and let simmer for five minutes. Now add
1 cup water
2 teaspoons geera (cumin seeds, toasted and ground)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cover and simmer until chickpeas are very soft, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the bara. Punch down the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes. Oil your hands to keep the dough from sticking, then take 1 generous tablespoon of dough and stretch it into a 4-inch circle. Repeat with remaining dough, arranging circles on a plate. Heat
oil for frying, about 1 inch deep
in a heavy skillet. Add two or three baras to the oil at a time, cooking until puffy and golden brown (about 15 seconds) before turning. Drain on paper towels.

Season the channa with
1 tsp Pepper sauce
salt to taste

and spoon onto the warm bara. Best shared with a Trini friend.

Buying tips:
Canned chickpeas/garbanzos are available at Walason's, Dollar's, Jason's, etc. One of the easier beans to find here. Walason's also has cumin seeds, which you will need to toast in a dry skillet and then grind for this recipe. I have not seen ground cumin for sale here anywhere, but I prefer to toast it and grind it myself anyway. It brings out the flavor and makes the kitchen smell good.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Tsang Yo Bing

Goodness, it's been ages. Well, I've come to realize that, while I envisioned this blog to be a place to post recipes that are useful for westerners cooking in Taiwan, it is actually a place for me to post recipes that I might want to refer to when I am away from home. As I am getting ready for a summer back in Washington, I find myself thinking of recipes that I might want access to while I'm gone. Today, I'm starting with Tsang Yo Bing, or scallion pancakes, a local street-vendor specialty. Tim made them last week and they were wonderful – I was especially happy to know that they were MSG-free. The pancakes can be prepared a day ahead and refrigerated, uncooked, making them great for parties: simply fry and serve, whole or cut into wedges, warm or at room temperature. Really, really good with a Coke.

Tsang Yo Bing (Scallion Pancakes)
From The Food of China, by Deh-Ta Hsiung and Nina Simonds
(makes 24 pancakes)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add
1 tablespoon oil
3/4 cup boiling water

and, using a wooden spoon, mix to a rough dough.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for five minutes, or until smooth and elastic. If the dough is sticky, knead in more flour. Cover with a cloth and let rest for 20 minutes.

Have ready
3 tablespoons roasted sesame oil
2 scallions, greet part only, finely chopped

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a long cylinder and cut into 24 pieces. Taking one piece at a time, place the dough, cut side down, on the work surface. Using a small rolling pin, roll out to a four-inch circle. Brush generously with sesame oil and sprinkle with scallions. Roll up the dough and pinch the ends to seal in the oil and onions. Lightly flatten the roll, the roll it up again from one end, like a snail. Pinch the end to seal it. Repeat with the remaining dough, oil, and scallions. Let the snails rest for 20 minutes.

Place each roll flat on the work surface and press down with the palm of your hand. Roll out to a four-inch circle and place on a lightly floured baking sheet. Stack the pancakes between lightly floured sheets of waxed paper and allow to rest for 20 minutes (or refrigerate up to 12 hours).

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and brush with oil, and add two or three pancakes at a time. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, turning once, until pancakes are light golden brown and crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with
ground white pepper
and serve at once, although once cooled they will disappear just as quickly.

You can reheat the pancakes, wrapped in foil, in a 350º oven for 15 minutes.