Roasted Quail with Honey and Garlic

DSCF7702 (640x495)2014 is dedicated to the diligent practice of the martial arts. The love of learning traditional fighting systems remains to be  an enigmatic artifact that have persistently followed me almost all my life; like a dark shadow lurking behind. It never left, and I think it wouldn’t so in the next 30 more years. It’s a hobby that I have loved and have endured almost a third of my life. It’s a  journey into the sometimes unknown and unforgiving battles within these make shift gymnasiums and dojos.  I got injured. I was deprived of information bounded by strict traditions, but never let-up.

I learned my fundamentals the hard way  in these rudimentary and creepy atmosphere back in the 80s.  I went as far as Manila’s Chinatown; taking the jeepney and walking the dangerous and dark streets of Doroteo Jose and Quiapo to learn a particular art. Those places were rampant for pickpockets, drunk and boisterous bystanders, hookers,  crack and rugby users, and whatever else one can imagine. All these hardwork have finally paid-off.  Took me more than a decade (and still learning) and through this martial journey met some new friends and brothers in the arts whom I would treasure all throughout my life.

Before blogging, I wrote with a martial arts magazine called RAPID Journal. That was the beginning of my passion for writing and interpreting the martial arts. It was as provocative and as enthusiastic as food writing. I continue my communication with this group to this day whenever I visit Southeast Asia and every visit feels like I was never gone; and every training is as refreshing and as awakening as fresh cold water in a hot summer’s day.

I am for martial tradition, and it shall remain that way. I don’t do it for sports, for trophies or cash,  tournaments or ring fights nor for some religious beliefs attached to its foundation. I have fervent wish to pass them on someday.  My training is for cultural cultivation and preservation of the arts and health. These, in my belief, are cultural artifacts meant to be appreciated and loved.  It’s also a form of  training in which I can clear my mind and see clarity towards a life’s path and to whatever challenges I may face in the future. It’s a difficult process: learning, re-learning and practicing and doing the same over and over again. That’s the challenge I enjoy facing  (and getting whacked while doing them). Moreover, I meet new people along the way, and that’s another facet of training; a social interaction with people of the same interest and passion.

This dish somehow took me back to an era when I was still beginning my martial training. I was fervently reminded of  those Chinese banquet celebrations where Roasted Pigeons were served to start.  I love those pigeons, and sometimes, when I’m invited into a Chinese banquet for New Year’s, Wedding or Grand Celebrations in the Martial World, I would munch and gobble-up the pigeon plate.  Many Filipino-Chinese, I noticed, went for the more expensive fish and beef entrees. I went for the bird. They had probably thought I was queer, but the smokiness combined with the sweet smelling and crispy gamy skin from the roast lingered throughout the night or day. The salt was the kicker.

I know it’s special and I can never cook it myself. These quails are Vietnamese by nature and I’ve only cooked this once before. It involves so much preparation despite the simple cooking procedures and steps.

Ingredients:

  • A pack of Quails
  • Honey
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Dark Soy Sauce
  • Sesame Oil
  • Patis
  • Brown Sugar
  • Ground Black Pepper
  • Garlic, minced to a paste
  • bunch of skewers (soaked overnight)

Split the quail down the backbone and rinse off the cavities with running cold water. Discard the neck bones, and lay them flat on the cutting board.  Cut the skewers in half and pierce the quails from the legs to the neck to form an X.

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Prepare the marinade. Whisk all ingredients in a mixing bowl and adjust to taste.  Marinade the quails overnight.

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Set the quails on a roasting pan and bake them in a pre-heated oven at medium-high or heat until the skin caramelizes. Baste the quails with the marinade every so often to prevent them from drying.  Flip the quails three-fourths of the way to cook the other side.

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Dipping Sauce:

  • Lime Juice
  • Garlic, minced
  • Sugar
  • Thai Chilis
  • Patis

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Cold Chicken with Szechwan Pepper

DSCF7455 (640x480)Luca won Master Chef this season, and it was no surprise. He works in the industry. He’s Italian and he’s food depicts his background and character and they were all evident in all his dishes.  I believe that was the main ingredient that brought him the crown. His opponent, although technically more capable, just didn’t have that inner so-called ‘inspirational passion and soul’  so needed and required to be in a real, professional kitchen. I guess that’s just my personal opinion. The other home cook challengers should probably keep their day jobs and stay where they belong.  I was thinking while watching how they’d survive the heat of a fast-pace, brutally hot, and extremely impersonal approach in the line.  Again, this is just my personal opinion. It’s a TV show meant to be entertaining, and it’s ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ reborn.  Honestly, I was hooked and I was extremely entertained by the play-by-play drama orchestrated by the three host.

Anyway, I was able to pick-up some dishes from watching the weekly series. Many were just glamourized home-cooked dishes and nothing else. I’d enjoyed the classics as usual and hated the fancy plates they presented (Luca’s wasn’t). I enjoy doing simple, smooth ‘comforting’ dishes with bold and lingering flavours to the palate. I discovered this by biting my nails into Szechuan Food, and this has been continuing for three weeks now. It’s an entirely new horizon for me and the taste just wakes up my senses.  Moreover, Szechwan cooking serves cold dishes that can be eaten anytime of the day. That’s just so appetizing and this dish is with no exception. It’s so easy to prepare, but the varied dipping sauces are phenomenal.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken Breast or Leg
  • Green Beans as garnish

Dipping Sauce:

  • Szechwan Pepper
  • Sea Salt
  • Green onion, minced
  • Garlic, mined to a paste
  • Soy Sauce
  • Shaoxing cooking wine
  • Chinese Vinegar
  • Spicy Sesame oil
  • Brown Sugar

Boil the chicken until tender. Set aside at room temperature and shred or slice into small pieces. Keep it in the fridge to cool.

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In the meantime, roast the Szechuan Pepper and Sea salt in a pan.  When the spice starts to become aromatic, transfer into a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder and grind into a fine or coarsely grounded seasoning.

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Blanch the green beans in boiling water, and let it run in cold to stop the cooking process. Lightly sauté in oil, garlic, and Shaoxing Cooking wine.

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Set the green beans on the plate followed by the shredded chicken. Sprinkle with the Szechwan & Salt Seasoning and minced garlic. Serve with the Chinese Dipping Sauce on the side.

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Sliced Cold Beef in Chili Oil

DSCF7426 (640x492)Thursdays are reserved for Tai Chi Chuan and Szechwan Food.  These two are my personal goals for the day.  Before leaving for Madrid, I discovered a hole-in-the wall, mom & pop restaurant in the suburbs serving what they call down-to-earth Northern Chinese and Szechwan Cuisines. The restaurant only has a seating capacity of forty, but the volume and number of people coming in and out (without take-out) is non-stop as its doors open for lunch. It became my new stopover for snacks before awaiting a grueling Tai Chi practice ahead.  I needed to be stuffed; just enough to last me until midnight.

This discovery led me to the oriental store for sauces and grocery ‘items’ I saw on the menu (I asked for an English copy).  Through this guide, and through an old Szechwan cookbook, I was able to decipher some of the dishes I’d usually order. Everything happens to be in Chinatown, except for the Dried Orange Peel, which I searched everywhere and unfortunately, couldn’t find anymore. I vividly remember and know it was available about ten years ago in some store in Chinatown.  Tough luck.

Szechwan cooking is tattered with spices, and all parts of either the pig, chicken or beef are served stir-fried, braised or BBQ, by themselves or with vegetables. Fish is an expensive item and Ma Po To fu is one of the many popular dishes.  Lamb is also a common item, and Beijing Pancakes are abundantly served. Soy Sauce and Chinese Vinegar are condiments to all. But, I won’t deal with them for this one.  Later.

This dish caught my attention besides the extremely spicy BBQ line-up they offer. I enjoyed the sauce (I did it once a long time ago) and the beef itself provided several more meals after. It’s cheap, but the taste is lingering and unforgettable .  This is the start of my quest for something off-tangent.

Ingredients:

  • Beef Shank or Beef Tendon
  • Star Anise
  • Black Peppercorns
  • Szechuan Peppercorns
  • Green Onion
  • Ginger
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Shaoxing Cooking Wine
  • Chinese Vinegar
  • Spicy Sesame Oil
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sugar
  • Sea Salt

Start by tying the Beef Shank into one solid piece. Heat a pot of oil and sear oil sides. Add water and boil to simmer together with the aromatics: green onion, ginger, white onion, and garlic for about an hour. Remove the shank from the pot and strain the broth.

Return the shank back into the pot, add the wine, soy sauce, star anise, peppercorns and vinegar.  Boil to simmer for another hour or so or until the shank is tender.  This is one way.

I used some cut Beef Tendons (just so many kinds of tendons) for this dish.

My procedure was:

Place the tendons in a pot of water and let it boil. Discard the first boil, and start with fresh water. Add the aromatics as with the Beef Shank. Let it boil to simmer until just tender. Add the spices, wine, soy sauce and vinegar and let boil further.  Strain and adjust the broth according to taste.

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Remove the tendons from the pot and place in the fridge. Save the broth for stir-fry and noodle soup.

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Cut the shank or the beef tendons as thin as possible and spread it on the plate.  Drizzle the vinaigrette all over or make it as a dipping sauce (on the side; as it was served to me) and garnish with finely chopped green onion.

Vinaigrette:

  • Soy Sauce
  • Chinese Vinegar
  • Spicy Sesame Oil
  • Sugar
  • Sea Salt
  • Garlic, minced

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