Lantern Festival

Snow Moon Lantern Festival

The Lantern Festival (元宵節) marks the conclusion of Chinese New Year celebrations. When it falls in February, it coincides with the arrival of the Snow Moon.


Beef Roll 牛肉卷饼

My version of the beef roll is a marriage of two recipes: sous vide beef shank and green onion pancakes. While I can prepare the beef shank in the Instant Pot, I find the process a lot simpler with sous vide. It just requires some advance planning.

Once the beef shank is done, I place the shank into the strained sauce and refrigerate. When I need to make a beef roll, I proceed with the green onion pancake recipe. As each pancake is done, I add a touch of Hoisin sauce, followed by thin slices of the cooked beef shank. Roll it up, slice in half, and I have a quick and delicious treat.



Growing up, I had heard about 蚂蚁上树 but had never had it. In my mind, I pictured something like ants on a log with raisins on celery sticks filled with peanut butter. But, it is a real Sichuan dish, which I found in the the re-issued edition of The Food of Sichuan by Fuchsia Dunlop.

I used Korean sweet potato starch noodle, just because it was what I had on hand. However, one bundle of noodles was quite large, and threw off the recipe. I had to make some adjustments to compensate, as well as add some additional seasonings because my pixian broad bean paste was not as red as the version I saw on YouTube.


National SRMK18N Rice Cooker Pan

My 17-year-old National SRMK18N rice cooker still works. I had already replaced the inner pan twice. Unfortunately, there will not be a third time since the replacement pan is no longer available. I was a bit devastated by this unplanned obsolescence. Panasonic still sells replacement parts for the SRMK18N, but none of them include the inner pan.

I’m going to give the Instant Pot a chance to serve as the daily rice cooker to see if it is up to the task.


Stir-Fried Lotus Root

I prepared this dish based on the Caramelised Lotus Root recipe from Kylie Kwong’s My China with some substitutions and modifications.

  • 3 pieces of lotus root, peeled and sliced thinly
  • peeled and sliced ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • garlic olive oil
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp shao hsing wine
  • 1 tbsp chinkiang vinegar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp chili oil with black bean
  • chili oil
  • fresh herb, such as cilantro or basil

Add oil to a hot wok. Once the oil is heated, add the ginger and whole garlic cloves, and stir-fry until toasted and fragrant. For that extra boost of garlic flavor, I add a splash of garlic olive oil, which is sold at Costco. Next, I stir fried the lotus root for a few minutes, before adding the sugar, wine, vinegar, and soy sauce. The sugar and vinegar gives it a pleasant sweet-and-sour flavor. Kylie’s original recipe called for 1/4 cup of brown sugar, which I thought was a bit excessive. I ended up closer to the 2-3 tsp mark, and you can always add a bit more at the end if the balance between sweet and sour is off.

As the lotus root caramelizes, add 1 tsp of chili oil with black bean. I use the 老干妈 (laoganma) brand and stir fry for another minute. I finish the dish with some additional chili oil, and then some chopped fresh cilantro or basil leaves, depending on what I have on hand.


MacOS Mojave 10.14 Will Not Install

It took way too many attempts this morning, but I was finally able to upgrade to MacOS Mojave 10.14. When I first attempted to upgrade from High Sierra, I was able to download and run the installation app. It then proceeded to close other applications and restart. However, a quick check of About This Mac showed that I was still running High Sierra.

I confirmed that my Late 2013 MacBook Pro was eligible for upgrade, and it was. I attempted to install again, and got the same result. What finally worked was restarting the MacBook Pro in safe mode by holding down the shift key at restart. When I installed Mojave this time, I finally got the installation time line after the MacBook Pro restarted.


Dry Roasted Cauliflower 干锅菜花

After having 干锅菜花 at a few Chinese restaurants, I’ve worked on a home version of my totally non-authentic dry roasted cauliflower. First, I start off with Chinese cauliflower, which I found available at selected 99 Ranch markets. I’ve been finding it consistently at the Cupertino and Mountain View stores, but not the Foster City one.

Chinese cauliflower
1 shallot, sliced
1-2 chili pepper, remove seeds and sliced.
2 Tbsp Shaoxing wine
1 Tbsp Light soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp Chili oil with black bean
Hunan bacon 湖南腊肉, cut into slivers.
1/4 tsp Chili oil

1. Preheat a large cast iron skillet on low heat. I started with the 10.25-inch Lodge cast iron skillet, but switched recently to the 12-inch Lodge cast iron skillet. With 30% more surface area, I could precook all my cauliflower in one batch instead of two.

2. Wash the cauliflower and cut it into bite-sized pieces. I then dry the cauliflower in a salad spinner so that the cauliflower will roast instead of steam.

3. Add a thin layer of olive oil to the cast iron skillet. When hot, add the cauliflower. I leave the cauliflower alone for 5-10 minutes, allowing it to sear. As the cauliflower sears, I turn the pieces over and leave it undisturbed for a few more minutes. Repeat as needed. Once the cauliflower has been roasted evenly on all sides, remove it from the skillet.

4. In a hot wok, add some oil and stir fry the sliced shallots and chili peppers. I’ve used red chili peppers or green jalapeños, sometimes even both. As the shallots caramelize, add a pinch of salt and sugar. Add Hunan bacon to taste and continue to stir fry. Add the chili oil with black bean. I use the Lao Gan Ma 老干妈 brand of chili oil with black bean sauce.

I’ve been using the Hsin Tung Yang 新东阳 brand of Hunan bacon. I’ve found this in the refrigerated dried meats section at 99 Ranch and also in the dry goods shelves at Marina Food. I was perplexed, but the packaging states that it only needs to be refrigerated after opening. When refrigerated, the Hunan bacon gets hard and difficult to slice. Nowadays, I purchase a package of Hunan bacon and allow it to return to room temperature. I thinly slice the entire package and store it in a plastic food container in the refrigerator.

5. Add the roasted cauliflower to the wok. Add the shaoxing wine, soy sauce and sugar. For this dish, I don’t use measuring spoons–just a splash her and a splash there. After stir frying for 2-3 more minutes, I start taste testing.

First, I’m looking at the texture of the cauliflower. I want the cauliflower to be cooked, but still retain some crunch. I’ll take a bite and adjust my cooking times accordingly. Next, I’ll adjust the seasoning of the cauliflower to taste with more soy sauce or salt. Once the texture and flavors are to my liking, I add just a touch of chili oil. I recently started a new bottle of Hsin Tung Yang chili oil just for variety. I’ve also used the S&B La-Yu Chili Oil before. Each has its own taste, so use whatever you like.


Sonnet Dio CF SD Reader Keeps Ejecting

I purchased a Sonnet Dio CompactFlash and SD card reader a few years ago to read the CF cards from the Nikon D800. While I still use the D800 on occasion, I mostly shoot with the newer D750, which used two SD cards instead of the CF/SD combination. One advantage of the D750 is that I can just pop the SD card directly into the MacBook Pro to import my photos, so I haven’t used the Sonnet Dio as much as of late.

When I recently tried to use the Sonnet Dio, I encountered a connection issue where the card kept getting disconnected. Not the safe disconnect, but the one that prompts a warning. At first, I thought the reader was somehow failing. However, this morning, I thought that the USB cable may be the culprit. So, I swapped cables and the connection problem disappeared. Glad I was able to figure this one out.


Chinese Sous Vide Beef Shank

I’ve been making braised beef shank for many years, but the end product had never quite matched the description in my cook book. I’ve tried braising in a cast iron pot for 2 hours. I’ve also left the beef shank in a crock pot for 8 hours. In the end, I’ve never achieved the jellied braising sauce until now.

To start, I adapted the braised beef shank recipe from Ken Hom’s Fragrant Harbor Taste. I vacuum sealed the following ingredients in a FoodSaver bag, and let it marinate for a few hours.

1½-2 lbs of beef shank
6 star anise
2 Tbsp whole unroasted Sichuan peppercorns
2 oz rock sugar
3 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1½ Tbsp light soy sauce
4 slices of ginger
2 two-inch sticks of cinnamon
2 tsp five-spice powder

Next, I cooked the beef shank at 175°F for 16 hours. When the beef shank was done, I removed it from the bag and filtered the reserved juices. For the first time, the braising sauce coagulated from all the gelatin extracted from the shank. The meat was incredibly tender.

Beef Shank Sous Vide

I sliced the beef shank thinly, added a dab of hoisin sauce, and wrapped it all up in a green onion pancake.


Lima, Peru Chinatown

I’m not a purist when it comes to Chinese food. Having grown up in America in the 1970s, I am accustomed to food that doesn’t taste quite like it does in China or Hong Kong. However, nowadays, the options are plentiful and the quality is much improved. When dining out in Chinese restaurants, we even have a selection of different regional cuisines. Yet, old school Chinese restaurants still have a place in my heart.

In a recent adventure to Peru, I could not pass up the opportunity to see the Lima Chinatown. A traditional gate marks the entrance to Chinatown. On it are the characters 中华坊 or China Square.

Lima, Peru Chinatown

Although the guide books refer to the neighborhood as Chinatown, that would be a term foreign to taxi drivers. The sign posts call this place Barrio Chino.

Barrio Chino

Without a fast data signal, I had to pick a restaurant for lunch by appearances. I saw a lot of ground-level cafes that seemed to offer fast food; i.e., fried rice or noodle plus one protein. Not what I was looking for. Instead, we ended up at Restaurante Salón China (中华喽)which is located on the second floor above a small street-facing bakery. On one side was the buffet offering and on the other side were the few people who were ordering off the menu. Of course, we opted for the traditional restaurant service.

I often joke that I know restaurant Chinese. After all, outside of the house, ordering food at a Chinese restaurant is the only time I ever use Chinese. Well, my restaurant Chinese skills were put to the test because the menu was in Chinese and Spanish. Usually, the fastest way for me to order is to read the English translation and then confirm with the Chinese text to make sure I’ve ordered the correct entrée. No such luck here.

This was the first Chinese restaurant that I’ve been to where the waiter did not speak Chinese. Fortunately, he did speak English, and even knew the names of the dishes in Cantonese. In fact, at first, I had ordered a different beef and noodle dish, but he suggested the beef chow fun (干炒牛河) dish instead, which came out remarkably well. The flavors were spot on.

Beef Chow Fun

At this point, we were very optimistic. The shrimp cheong fun 虾肠粉 looked exactly the same as you would get in America.


The egg tart 蛋挞 could have been better. That’s not to say that the kids turned it down, but I’ve had and seen better on many occasions.


The glutinous rice 罗米饭 was popular with the kids.


The bean curd skin roll 腐皮卷 was popular with the adults.


The least liked item was the Shanghai dumpling 小笼包 which was really off in terms of size. There was nothing 小 (small) about the 小笼包. Maybe that was my fault for ordering a Shanghai dish in a Cantonese restaurant.


Overall, I was very impressed with the restaurant. It had its highlights, service was attentive, and the exquisite beef chow fun made me feel at home. I didn’t stay in Lima long enough to fully explore the city and see if the best Chinese restaurants are outside of Chinatown, like they are in California. Considering our location, it was a pleasant surprise, and we even received a free Chinese calendar at the end of our meal.

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