Magic words: “Biang noodles?”


This nasty cold I have. It doesn’t go away. I’ve tried everything from ginger tea to hard drugs. Ok, not that hard. Four weeks in, I swear I would be willing to make an animal sacrifice (no, not my kitties) to get rid of the damn thing. I’m looking for a magic cure at the moment. Three weekends have now been spent in bed, and really, enough is enough.

I’m not really sick enough anymore to stay in bed all day (although I did that most of today), but I am working from home more often than not. After taking a week and a half off to “be sick” and “not infect anyone else,” enough was enough last week and I flew off to our Cologne office to work with a few colleagues for two days.

Anyway, one of my favorite bloggers out of Hong Kong put this blog post up a few days back and it was irresistible. Magic words – “Biang” and “Hand-smashed.” I hoped they might have some magic cure-all properties. Those hand-smashed homemade Chinese noodles looked too incredible not to try out right away – especially after her many reassurances that they were ridiculously easy to make (true.)

I wasn’t really into the idea of a spicy lamb cumin dish, though – her recipe for the sauce. Cumin and stuffed nose didn’t appeal. The husband wanted duck, and I had seen a pistachio pesto that looked interesting…but I twisted things up a bit into a strange fusion that worked in the end:

Hand smashed Chinese noodles with peanut/almond cilantro/mint pesto, wild mushrooms and roasted duck. Yes, it was a bit much, but it came together. The duck was superfluous – a rich extra that we didn’t need at all, but still didn’t overload if you had a few bites.

Mandy (up there from the Lady and Pups blog), recommends using a dumpling flour, which has at least 10% gluten. So I went out and got some yesterday. Not hard to find at your local Asian grocery.


Her instructions to make the noodles:

  • 218 grams (1 1/2 cup) Chinese dumpling flour
  • 2 grams (1/4 tsp) salt
  • 126 grams (1/2 cup) water + 15 grams (1 tbsp) for adjustment

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a dough hook mixer (I have a hand-held) for 5-6 minutes. Let sit for an hour, then roll out to about a centimeter in thickness.


Cut into strips (10 strips), take each strip, oil it so it doesn’t stick, smash it down on your counter with the back of your wrist, and then pick it up and stretch it out a bit by holding both ends and gently smacking it against the counter. It’s quite easy. You end up with a bunch of these – which you can lay out on a baking sheet. This goes quite fast – not the painstaking process of rolling out the dough and running it through a pasta machine x times and then cutting it. You only have about 10 strips – so ….really – quite fast.


Next, you want to boil each of them – dropping them into salted boiling water one at a time – for about a minute – until they rise to the top of the water. Drain, and mix with your sauce, whatever you choose, on the stove – gently tossing the noodles in the sauce.

For the pesto – I simply went with the “by feel” cooking method: a few cloves of garlic, a handful of peanuts and almonds, a chili, a couple handfuls of cilantro and mint, a teaspoon or two of sesame oil, a tablespoon or so of fish sauce, and oil. Best go with canola or similar, although I went with olive oil. Zap in your blender, adjusting for flavors and consistency with salt/oil/water.


For the mushrooms, I chopped them and threw them in a hot oven (200 degrees C) for about 20 minutes, tossed with oil, chopped garlic, and a chopped a spring onion, some sliced baby corn – until they were brown on the edges


Bringing it all together – warm the pesto, mushrooms and slivered duck (I cheated and bought a pre-roasted Chinese duck and then used pieces of it, torn up – would work just as well with a roasted chicken) on the stove in a pan while you finish cooking the noodles. Drain them and toss with the sauce.


Magic? No, she says with her still-blocked congested head. Back to ginger tea.

But they were yummy.

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Posted by on March 22, 2015 in Asian, Cooking at home


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Not quite Archimboldo


I was about to line all the veggies up on my cutting board in the usual way and realized that this is getting a bit boring. So instead I give you a rather untalented Archimboldi portrait. I should study his paintings a bit and see if I can create something a bit more inspired.

Anyway, you’d think after last night’s Korean feast over at Munich’s Seoul restaurant on Leopoldstrasse (good, but not great, wouldn’t go there again probably, but that’s me being very picky) that I would have had enough of Korean for at least a ….week? But no.  I get into these moods, and nothing can sway me for a few days if not longer. I swear, sometimes I wake up in the morning thinking about putting some kimchi on my toast. Ok, that’s a lie. But I do love it as a snack, I think especially during the winter when it is very cold or during the summer, when it is very hot. Maybe it’s when I’m in need of vitamin C/A, kimchi is supposed to be full of it – due to the cabbage. But it also has a ton of salt…not so good. But after yesterday’s incredibly beautiful but painful run (it was so slippery on the icy snow that I was a tense mess during the standard 9-10k, all muscled seized up the whole time), I knew I wanted some Korean snack food. It was calling to me.


I dropped by one of the Asian groceries in Munich yesterday in the late afternoon and picked up a bag of Korean rice cakes – Garaeddeok 가래떡- (basically a Korean pasta or dumpling) while I was poking around. I’ve made them a couple times. They’re not so far from Italian gnocchi or Schwabian Schupfnudeln in nature. Basically it’s all about layering a comforting soft starch with a delicious sauce.


I made them this evening. These were fresh, not dried, so to soften them, I simply boiled them in salted water for about 5 minutes and them pan-fried them for a couple minutes to give them a bit of a crispy exterior while the inside stayed nice and pillowy.


I had marinated a chopped up chicken breast this morning – in a mix of sesame oil, vegetable oil, some Gochujang (Korean pepper paste), chopped garlic and ginger, a bit of brown sugar, and some Vietnamese fish sauce.

I chopped a large onion and a medium sized carrot and sauteed them in oil until the onion began to brown a bit and sweeten up. Then I added the chicken plus marinade, and let them simmer together, adding in some more ginger and garlic, a handful of reconstituted shitake mushrooms, and several slices of lotus root, chopped into quarters. These simmered for a bit – until the chicken was cooked through. Then the rice cakes went in and were mixed in, letting the sauce coat the dumplings. I added in more of the Gochujang paste, a bit more sugar, and some soy sauce, perhaps a tablespoon. Mixed, tasted, corrected a bit here and there. Sprinkled it all with coriander and chopped green onion. Mixed these in and removed it from the hot stove.

Meanwhile, I had this beautiful kohlrabi in the fridge, so while the dumplings were frying and in between steps, I made a favorite salad with it – just chop it into matchsticks, and then make a simple dressing: 1 tsp soy, 1 tsp chopped garlic, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1/4 tsp sugar, 1 tsp black Chinese vinegar. Stir and them pour the dressing on the kohlrabi, mixing well, and let sit at least 15 minutes.

I had also bought some Choy Sum (a relative of Bok Choy, not so bitter), which I blanched in salt water, and then layered with slivered green onion, red chili, and ginger. Then you heat a little oil in a pan until it’s quite hot, and then pour the hot oil over the greens, followed quickly with a mix of soy and hot water. Also lovely and simple. (Both above veggie recipes from “Every Grain of Rice” by Fuschia Dunlop)



The greens are served room temperature as is the kolrabi.


Best thing is that there are leftovers tomorrow for lunch or dinner.


Looking forward already.


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Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Asian, Cooking at home, Famous Chefs, Pasta


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Green Green Green


Yes, this kale fad is beginning to hit Germany, although I do wish it would speed up a bit. At the moment, to find kale I have to order it in advance from the produce guy down the street or hope that the bio shop in town carries it, or in a lucky moment find it at the Viktualienmarkt. I know that I am only singing the chorus in a many-versioned opera that has resounded in the US in the last years over kale. Although I was informed that there is a backlash now against it. (A backlash? Why? People don’t like the taste anymore? They are resentful of the health benefits? They feel forced to express their individuality by *not* liking kale? I don’t get it. ) It’s such a versatile vegetable, you can eat it raw, saute it, juice it…endless variations. And as one of these “superfoods” I have to just shake my head and ask…why ever not?


Yes, a bit over the top on the kale. But most of it was for a dinner party on Friday night. One last bunch went into last night’s dinner.

I have a variation on a theme salad that I make fairly frequently, and decided to use the kale for that last night. Rather light, incredibly satisfying, a good salad when you are still recovering from the drinks the night before and you want to feel like you are doing good things for your body.

It’s essentially a light Asian-styled noodle salad. For the noodles I can recommend either a soba noodle – although they are quite delicate and you have to be careful not to overcook them – or in my case last night – a whole grain spaghetti. You could even go with a rice noodle, although not vermicelli, or also good is a yam noodle, harder to find, but much less delicate than the rice noodles. And then I just riff on the rest:

Protein – can be leftover cooked chicken or duck breast, can be raw or cooked tuna or salmon, or alternatively you can go with strips of firm tofu lightly sauteed in a bit of peanut oil.
Mushrooms – I like the funky crunch of tree fungus mushrooms, but I could recommend anything – shitake, oyster, even simple button – also lightly sauteed in oil. With the tree fungus mushrooms, I just reconstitute a few of them in hot water and chop them up roughly. Enoki are also really lovely. You don’t even need to cook them. Just pull them apart and sprinkle them in.
Greens – here I went for a combination – par boiled kale, reconstituted wakame seaweed, arugula. But spinach works, as do other dark greens
Herbs – last night there was cilantro and green onions, but I’ve also used mint and shiso leaf. Stick with the asian flavors – I wouldn’t do anything like parsley and certainly nothing like sage or thyme, etc.
Optional – other veggies – like halved sweet cherry tomatoes, slivered sweet red bell peppers, matchsticks of cucumber with or without skin, and avocado is always really nice – ripe, cubed.

For dressing, I try to stay as simple as possible: I like olive oil, although I know it’s not an asian flavor – but I mix it with sesame oil and some chili oil to give it some aroma. I usually put in ginger (1 inch or more if you like, peeled and processed in your garlic press – it works!), 1 clove of raw pressed garlic, a few squeezes of lime juice or lemon juice, salt to taste – perhaps start with a half a teaspoon and then add more, a bit of freshly cracked black pepper is also good. For a little heat, be generous with your chili oil or sprinkle in some cayenne. I mix it up, adjusting proportions and amounts based on how many I am cooking for – and rather go light on dressing, adding in a little more of this or that after tasting.


So the recipe last night – serves 3-4 – we have leftovers in the fridge – was approximately this:

  • 200 grams noodles, cooked until just barely al dente in salted water, drained and rinsed with cool water
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, par boiled for about a minute or two in salted water, drained, squeezed of water and chopped (about two cups after processing)
  • a small handful of wakame seaweed, reconstituted in boiling water, drained and chopped (a cup after processing)
  • a large handful of arugula (a cup or so)
  • a half of a leftover roasted duck breast, cut into strips
  • a half of a sweet yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
  • two or three green spring onions, chopped
  • a handful of cilantro, stems included, roughly chopped (about a quarter cup)
  • about 5 or so tree fungus mushrooms, reconstituted in boiling water and chopped (3/4 cup when done)
  • half of a ripe avocado, cubed – toss this in last because it is delicate and you want it to stay somewhat whole
  • a heavy shake or three of my japanese furikake mix (seaweed, salt, sesame seeds) to give it some crunch, but some toasted sesame seeds – perhaps a tablespoon or two – is a nice touch and works just as well.
  • Dressing was just as described above. I had perhaps a third of a cup of dressing when I poured it on, but I added a bit of this or that to correct flavors afterwards.


Mix all your ingredients  above, making sure to coat everything evenly with the dressing. You want the salad to glisten with the dressing, a just barely there feeling. Correct for salt – you may likely need to add some.

For a wine pairing I would go with a dry Riesling. Alternatively, a dry French cider could be nice as well.



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Waffle Latkes

Happy Hannukah! :-)


Time to make the donuts!. Uh…Waffles! Uh…Latkes.

Oh well. Want a bit of a cheat/shortcut?

I just read about this – mix up your potato pancake mix (I used 1 large potato, a two-inch chunk of zuccini, a 1-inch slice of celery root, 1 egg, salt, pepper, a few pinches of rosemary and about 5 chives snipped. Shred all the veggies, squeeze them out as much as you can and then mix with the rest), butter up your waffle iron, and when it’s nice and hot, simply put a few spoonfuls of your mix on the iron and let it waffle just like you would normal batter. It takes a bit longer, perhaps, but not by much – until your fresh potato latke is done.

Put on your favorite topping and voila – instant Hannukah. Makes 2 large pancakes.

Although it would probably be better if one of your favorite toppings wasn’t procuitto…just saying…;-)



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The Good Wife


Do not be alarmed. I did not eat them all. But it’s hard to wander around the central squares in German cities these days without being accosted by the smell of roasting meat, mulled wine, candied nuts. It’s enough to drive you mad. I gave in finally during a business trip on Thursday in Nürnburg. We waited for the train and the Christmas market was just outside the station. Needless to say, we needed to sample a few of the famous Nürnburger sausages. With sauerkraut. Alas, without the spicy warm wine. I was so tired from the travel this week that had I taken a sip, I would have been out cold on the spot.

Well, in case you hadn’t noticed – and it would be awfully hard to not notice – Christmas time is upon us here in Germany. There is no escaping it. Last weekend I in fact *did* drink my first mulled wine, and this weekend finds me…baking cookies.

A good (German) wife must certainly have some cookies lying around during the holiday season. And my ridiculous travel/work schedule in the last two weeks hasn’t allowed for anything beyond me begging the cleaning lady to bring some of her “Plätzen” (cookies) to us so we could munch a few of them in the in-beween-work moments. In fact, I need her recipe. They were delicious.

Not one to settle for some simple “Vanilla Kipferl” (sugar cookie crescents), I sought out the weird and wonderful for baking this weekend. Two kinds. Results: weird, not sure about the wonderful.

What did we end up with? For starters, I decided to go weird with a gluten-free thumbprint cookie. I like buckwheat, I like thumbprint cookies, I had some delicious plum mousse to fill them with from a colleague…what could go wrong? Nothing went wrong, per se. But damn it. BUCKWHEAT? No. Never again.


Don’t get me wrong – all the right stuff there – nice crunchy nutty texture, rich buttery crumble, the various jams fit well, but the overcharged flavor of buckwheat flour doesn’t do it for me. I like buckwheat meanwhile, as a whole grain risotto – delicious with lemons, greens, cheese. I love savory buckwheat crepes with a glass of cider. But buckwheat cookies? Nope, never again.

Ok, so cookie number two you ask? Have a look here:


A perfect and surprising flavor combination – chilis and chocolate – yuuuuum. And I was gifted one of those chilies after expressing strong interest in them. Let me warn you – not for the spicy averse. They were edible, but not enjoyable. But I still love chocolate chili, so these spiced chocolate cookies looked like a match for me.


Much better. A relief after the disappointment of the buckwheat bonanza. I did swap out regular flour for the oat and rice flour, I admit it – I wanted a slightly more “normal” ingredient list. And that worked without a hitch. These are chocolaty, although not over the top, soft and rich and slightly chewy because of the raisins, and they have a slow but strong burn entering after a few seconds from the chipotle chili powder I dosed them with. A worthwhile cookie.

Wishing you all a very lovely second Advent Sunday.




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Posted by on December 7, 2014 in Christmas markets, Holiday Foods


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Pumpkin Sage Dessert


Unexpectedly, I was in Cologne on November 11. The city goes a bit mad on this day, and I got to observe a little of it in the morning as I walked to the office. Lions and tigers and bears, and whatever else, costumed in celebration of the carnival to come in early spring next year. Inside our office there was no evidence of craziness, (or maybe there was, but it wasn’t carnival related).

I got home later that week…and maybe all the costumes reminded me of Halloween and pumpkins…who knows. Anyway, the bright little orange kombochas all over Munich started singing my name.

This dessert creation was the result.

I can’t really call it ice cream…because it’s a kulfi, which always has the requisite ice crystals, at least a very mild smattering of them, scattered through the otherwise very creamy frozen dessert. I had a craving for some vegetarian Indian dishes and ended up with a fusion mix for the meal. The traditional Paneer butter masala – indian cheese in a thick aromatic and delicious curry gravy, some unusual but very good carrot pancakes – made with a beaten egg, a handful of chickpea flour, shredded carrots and chopped coriander, and finally some flash fried spanish pimento peppers with just a bit of salt and pepper. But to finish off, I wanted to try something a bit nontraditional Indian, and had come across this blog recipe for pumpkin sage kulfi.

Beautiful photos over there and an easy straightforward recipe. But…he made his kulfi with almond milk and I admit I wasn’t willing to do that – I like almond milk, but I also like cow milk ice cream. Maybe next time. He also used canned pumpkin puree, which is hard to find here. Germans do love their pumpkins, you find them at every fresh produce stand around the city, big ones and small ones, and you can even simply take a slice home instead of buying something so huge you can’t possibly eat it all without turning orange.


So I quickly chopped up my pumpkin and threw it in the pressure cooker for five minutes on high (perhaps two cups of pumpkin when chopped up.) Meanwhile I warmed my milk (4 cups) with two tablespoons of chopped sage leaves, and skimmed them out after 5 minutes of cooking, added the sugar (3/4 a cup of brown sugar – but to which I added probably ANOTHER 1/2 cup later because the mixture was so very non-sweet, surprisingly.) I let this cook for a bit. After the pumpkin was done, I pureed it, and added a good cup or so of it to the milk mixture along with 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch.  And that is it. Let it cook until it thickens a bit and then take it off the heat and pour it into cups. I use old yogurt cups.


Nice serving sizes, not too much.

The kulfi itself was nice, but a bit one dimensional. So I made a little ginger syrup to pour over the top (1/2 cup of chopped ginger, a cup of water, cup of sugar – heat on the stove for about 20 minutes until it reduces down by half. Pour into a jar and use as needed. Keeps forever. And finally, to give it all an herby note I candied some sage leaves, which sounds complicated but which takes just a few minutes:


Brush each leaf (or dip, which is what I did) with egg white and then dip them into sugar. Let dry for a few hours until they harden. Also will keep for several months without a problem.

So the dessert concoction in the end was a nice complex combo: The creamy caramelly pumpkin kulfi infused with sage, the spicy sweet note of ginger syrup and the herby candied sage leaves over the top. Worth a try, although a bit fidly/takes some time. Most of the work can be processed simultaneously, and much of it is simply waiting around. But lovely presentation in the end.



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Taste of home


I managed to pack 11 meyer lemons into my suitcase a few days back – plucked from my mother’s tree. If I could figure out how to grow them here in Germany, I would in a heartbeat. I miss them a lot. Their aroma is like no other citrus and can only be rivaled (for me) by the keffir lime, perhaps. I could make these things into lemon sorbet, I can grate their skins into fresh ravioli, I could juice them into lemon tarts…they are a million times better than normal lemons. I have yet to find a supplier here. (WHY?!)

But the best way to stretch these out over time…when trips to California are few and far in between…is to salt them and pack them into a jar. Why? Because they make exquisite tagines. So 3 of the 11 were given away to a friend who also loves to cook with great and scarce ingredients, 5 of them went into that jar in the photo, and a measly 3 lie in my refrigerator waiting for a fate to come.


These take 5 minutes and a month to make. 5 minutes to cut them into quarters – leaving the lemon intact on just a single side, sprinkle their flesh with salt, pack them into a jar with a  bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, a bunch of cloves and coriander seeds and a handful of fresh thyme, and then cover them with more lemon juice (no meyers, but that’s ok), and another handful of salt. And a month to marinate and pickle to a finish, each day a careful shake and a push to make sure the lemons are always submerged under the juices.

In a month we’ll have a tagine, perhaps a chicken one or lamb, and I will have a taste of California and the smell of my mother’s tree in my head. And a month after that I will travel again to California and gather more lemons.


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