Bao Down

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Gua Bao
is a Taiwanese street food, comprised of a steamed bun, braised meat, and other fillings. I was first introduced to these teeny-tiny bites of delight while I worked for a food truck in San Francisco. Every weekend our truck met with other food trucks at Fort Mason hosted by Off the Grid, a Bay Area-based food and music event planner of sorts, bringing together only the best local food trucks at different venues weekly throughout the Bay. Off the Grid events were super fun to work because we were always busy and we got to meet some really awesome and talented people in the food truck community. One of my favorite trucks that I became a huge fan of was Chairman Bao, food truck that specialized in gua bao. A light and fluffy steamed bun with a tender, crisp slice of pork belly, with a nicely pickled crunch of daikon. So many excellent flavors all in one bite. You can’t help but want more.

This week I put my own spin on gua bao with braised pork belly, sweet pickled papaya and spicy pickled cucumbers.

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FOR THE BUNS
Recipe slightly adapted from Food52
Yields 16

INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup water, room temperature
2 1/8 cups flour
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoon nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 Tablespoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup reserved pork fat, room temperature (you can use bacon or pork belly fat)

METHOD
Set up a stand mixer with a dough hook. Place the yeast and water together and mix just to incorporate to activate the yeast. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Then add in the flour, sugar, milk powder, Kosher salt, baking powder, baking soda and fat and mix on low for about 10 minutes. After the mixing cycle, your dough should be gathered into a ball. Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled medium-sized bowl, wrapped in plastic wrap. Keep the bowl in a warm area of your kitchen and allow the dough to rest for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size.

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Once the dough has rested and risen, transfer it onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a sharp knife to divide the ball in 2 equal-sized pieces.

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Then divide each half into 4 equal-sized pieces, making 8.

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Roll each piece into mini logs, then cut each log in half, making 16 pieces total.

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Each piece should weigh about 25 grams each and be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Then roll each piece into a ball and place on a baking sheet. Loosely wrap the sheet tray with plastic wrap and allow to rise for a half-hour.

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After the buns have rested, use a rolling pin to roll each ball into a 4-inch-long oval. Brush each bun lightly with oil, and lay a chopstick horizontally across the center of the oval and fold it over onto itself to form a bun. Gently pull out the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and place it onto a sheet tray, allow all the rolled out buns to rest for another 45 minutes.

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Set up a steamer on top of your stove. Steam your buns in batches so the steamer isn’t overcrowded, and steam them for about 8 to 10 minutes. Quickly remove each bun and place on a sheet tray to cool.

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The steamed buns can be used immediately or kept frozen in Zip-Lock bags for up to 2 months. Reheat the frozen buns on a stove top steamer for about 3 minutes, or until soft and warmed all the way through.

FOR THE FILLING
Recipe slightly adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4-8

INGREDIENTS
1/2 pound slab skin-on pork belly
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 stub ginger, peeled and minced
3 each star anise
2 each Thai chili
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup Asian rice wine
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 Spice
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup light soy sauce
3 cups water

METHOD
Heat a nonstick or cast-iron skillet on medium-high. Once hot, place the pork belly into the pan and allow to sear for 5 minutes (or until light golden brown) before turning the belly onto the other side. Allow to sear for another 5 minutes, flipping the belly till all sides are seared nicely.

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Remove the belly and place onto a plate. Lower the heat to medium, then add the oil, garlic, ginger, and chilis. Toss for 2 minutes. Then add the star anise and brown sugar. Stir for a minute then deglaze with the wine. Stir till the sugar is melted.

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir thoroughly. Return the belly to the pan and turn down the heat to low. Carefully cover the pan with a lid or aluminum foil. Allow to braise for at least 1 hour. Check the belly for tenderness after 1 hour. Cook till fork tender.

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FOR THE PICKLES

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Spicy Pickled Cucumbers
Yields 1 cup

INGREDIENTS
1 large English cucumber, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1 Thai chili, julienned
1 Tablespoon Kosher salt
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds

METHOD
Heat the vinegar, sugar, chili, salt, pepper flake and sesame seeds in a small pan till boiling. Place the sliced cucumbers in a Mason jar or deli cup, then pour the boiling brine into the jar then cover. Allow to sit in room temperature for an hour, then keep in the refrigerator.

Sweet Pickled Papaya
Yields 2 cups

INGREDIENTS
1 small green papaya, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon Kosher salt

METHOD
Bring the vinegar, sugar, water and salt to a boil until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the brine into a Mason jar or deli cup with the papaya. Cover tightly and allow to sit in room temperature for 1 hour. Then keep in the refrigerator.

Pickles can be used once cooled, and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

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TO ASSEMBLE
16 steamed buns
braised pork belly, sliced into 16 pieces
hoisin sauce
spicy pickled cucumbers
sweet pickled papaya
1/4 cup cilantro leaves

METHOD
Place a slice of the pork belly into the bun, smear a little hoisin sauce on the pork. Put 3-6 cucumber slices and about 3 tablespoons of papaya on top of the pork. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Enjoy!

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Call Me Miss Honey Lavender Stracciatella

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I’ve been binge-watching LogoTV’s RuPaul’s Drag Race for the past month. All seven seasons. It’s an addiction I’m very happy to admit. I love me some drag queens and especially love me some RuPaul.

(PS: How has she not aged an ounce?! Get it, mama Ru!)

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I remember watching RuPaul’s talk show (The RuPaul Show) on Vh1 in the late-90s. I was in middle school when it aired, and was so enamored by Ru. What a talent, I thought; you couldn’t keep your eyes off her. I was a fan of hers then and am an even bigger fan of her now. The Drag Race competition show is such a guilty pleasure of mine. I watch it while I’m getting dressed for work, while I’m cooking, and when I unwind after getting off from work. And while most shows lose their luster after each season, Drag Race does quite the opposite: it gains more fans and attention with every year.

When I was deciding to make a new ice cream for this week’s post I immediately turned to my mini garden I’ve been working on for the past 3 months. One of my favorite things I’m growing right now is lavender. The aroma is so soothing and delicious; I so desperately have been wanting an excuse to cook with it.

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My idea was to create a honey lavender ice cream with a twist–add some chocolate. Dark chocolate and lavender go so well together, I didn’t want to turn down the opportunity to pair these flavors for this ice cream flavor. And instead of simply adding chips, I wanted to make a stracciatella-type ice cream. The soft, mellow taste from the lavender ice cream immediately reach your taste buds, and then these quick yet small bursts of chocolate melt in your mouth and add a lasting finish. Both flavors are undeniably perfect together, much like RuPaul and Michelle Visage!

And how great of a drag queen name is Honey Lavender Stracciatella? It’s mine now!

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Honey Lavender Stracciatella Ice Cream
Yields 1 quart

INGREDIENTS
4 cups whole milk, divided
3 Tablespoons lavender buds, dried
6 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
6 large egg yolks
1/8 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup 60% dark chocolate chips (or bar cut into chunks)

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METHOD
In a small pot, heat 2 cups of the milk till just-scalding.

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Place the lavender buds in a separate medium-sized pan (preferable shallow).

When the milk is scalding, quickly remove from the heat and pour into the shallow pan with the lavender buds. This will “shock” the lavender and immediately extract all of the essential oils you want to obtain to get the greatest amount of flavor. Turn on the heat to medium-low and whisk occasionally to avoid scorching. Add in the honey and salt. Allow flower buds to steep in the heated milk for about an hour, adjusting the heat if it gets too hot or cool.

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In a separate mixing bowl, place the egg yolks and whisk rigorously till thickened. Add in the sugar and continue to whisk to thicken.

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After the lavender/milk mixture has steeped for about an hour, strain the milk with a fine-mesh sieve, discarding the flowers. Return half of the milk into the shallow pan, turning the heat up to medium. Place about 1/4 of the strained milk slowly into the egg/sugar mixture. This is called “tempering” the eggs. You’re essentially heating up the eggs very slowly avoiding to curdling them. Whisk and slowly add in more of the lavender/milk liquid until the mixture is warmed.

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Then add the egg yolk/milk mixture into the shallow pan, incorporating it with the rest of the heated lavender/milk base. Whisk the mixture constantly, making sure not to overcook the eggs. Adjust the heat and/or remove the pan from the heat to maintain an even cooking temperature. Once the mixture has thickened to the point where the mixture coats the back of a spoon, it’s done. Immediately transfer to a shallow bowl and place on top of an ice bath to cool down.

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(Cook’s note: If you see the sides of the pan start to “cook” you’ve overcooked your eggs and must immediately remove from the heat and strain the mixture and place in an ice bath to cool down. When you overcook the mixture you’ll end up with a scrambled egg-tasting ice cream base, or even worse, scrambled eggs!)

Once the mixture has cooled down, remove from the ice bath. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it into the refrigerator to cool down for an additional 3 hours, overnight if possible.

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Pour your ice cream base into your ice cream maker when you’re ready to churn it. Follow churning process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

When you have about 30 minutes left of churning, set up a double boiler, and place the chocolate chips into a heat-resistant bowl to melt the chocolate.

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While the ice cream is churning, slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate. The circular motion from the churning will create “shards” from the chocolate once it’s frozen. Which is exactly what “stracciatella” means in Italian:,“little shreds” or “little tears.”

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Cover and place the ice cream into the freezer and allow to firm for at least 3 hours.

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(Editor’s Note: All TV show screenshots in this story are property of World of Wonder Productions.)

The Best Diet

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So I’m on this Cemita Diet. And it’s working out pretty well so far. You see, I am constantly recipe testing everything I make for this blog (and for my full-time job as a cook). Most of the things I note while I’m recipe testing, is of course, the taste of the products I’m making, the shelf-life of the food, and if it’s so good I can eat the product repeatedly. This tested true for this Cemita recipe, which I ate 4 times within the last 2 weeks. Hence, the Cemita Diet. And it’s not a bad diet to be on.

And what makes this sandwich even better? The FRESH BREAD I made. That’s right, fresh sesame seed buns. As Sir Mix-A-Lot protested: My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun. Clearly he was talking about bread buns, AMIRITE?

I can attest that this sandwich, a Mexican torta, native to the Pueblo region, is as tasty as it is beautiful. Layers of your choice of meat (in this case, I made shredded chicken), Panela cheese (a Mexican soft, white cheese, similar to Queso Fresco and Mozzarella), ripe avocado slices, chipotle aioli, crisp butterleaf lettuce, tomato and red onion, and a pápalo* salsa roja on a sweet and soft sesame seed bun. If you’ve never tried a Cemita, you’re in for a real treat–every bite is tastier than its predecessor. Perfect with an ice-cold beer on a hot summer day, I’m almost positive the next Big Diet trend, is gonna be that of the Cemita.

(*Cook’s Note: pápalo, also known as Bolivian Coriander, tastes a bit like cilantro, but isn’t actually related to either herb. It’s a relative to the daisy plant, and has a very astringent, floral and minty taste. All the reasons certain people who hate cilantro, are all the qualities that make the pápalo plant so refreshing and delicious.)

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Cemita Poblano de Pollo
(Pueblan-Style Chicken Torta Sandwich)
Yields 2-4 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS
2 each Cemita rolls (recipe HERE)
1/2 cup prepared chipotle aioli (aioli recipe HERE)
2 avocados, cored and sliced into 1/4-inch pieces
5 ounces Panela cheese (about half a wheel), cut into batonnets
1 cup shredded chicken (recipe HERE)
1/2 cup pápalo* salsa roja (24 ounces canned tomatoes; 2 cups papalo leaves; 1 sprig fresh oregano, picked; 2 jalapenos, tops cut off; roughly chopped; 2 garlic cloves; 1 small red onion, peeled and roughly chopped; 1 lime, juiced, salt to taste)
4 pieces butterleaf lettuce
1/2 tomato, thinly sliced into 4 slices
1/2 small red onion, sliced into a fine julienne

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METHOD
Make the chipotle aioli. Add 1/2 cup of canned chipotles (with sauce) into 2 cups of aioli. Mix together. Place in refrigerator.

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Make the pápalo salsa roja. In a food processor or blender, combine all of the ingredients till well incorporated. Season to taste. Place in refrigerator.

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Slice each roll in the center horizontally. Place into a toaster oven or oven at 375 degrees for about 7 minutes, or until lightly brown.

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Liberally spread both inner sides of the rolls with the chipotle aioli.

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Add the avocado slices and Panela cheese to both sides.

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Place about 1/2 cup each of shredded chicken on the bottom halve of the cemita roll for each sandwich.

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Spoon 1/4 cup each of the papalo salsa over the chicken.

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Add the lettuce, tomato and onion.

Cover with the top halve of the cemita roll. Slice the sandwiches in half. Enjoy

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On a Roll

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The signature component to a Cemita (a torta/sandwich native to the Pueblo region of Mexico) is its sesame seed bun. Much similar to the Brioche, the Cemita roll is soft, with hint of sweet on the inside and has a nice hard outer crust. I love using this bread for burgers, pulled pork sandwiches, too. But of course, it’s best utilized with this awesome Cemita recipe here.

Cemita Rolls
Yields 2-4 rolls
Recipe adapted from The Homesick Texan

INGREDIENTS
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon milk
1 Tablespoon water
1 cup sesame seeds

METHOD
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar and yeast. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salt, eggs and oil. In a small saucepan, warm up the buttermilk over low heat until it’s just-warm…don’t let it boil! Slowly stir the buttermilk and egg mixture into the flour mixture till the liquid is just incorporated. Allow the mixture to rest for about 15 minutes.

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After the dough has rested, knead the dough on a lightly floured countertop till smooth.
(Note: the dough will be sticky. In this case, rub your hands with extra flour to keep from getting dough stuck on your fingers.)

Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for about 1- to 1-1/2-hour or until the dough has doubled in size. Once rested, divide the dough into two or four equal-sized balls. Again, cover the rolled out balls and allow to rest for an additional 15 minutes. unnamed-9
Flatten each dough ball into a disc and place onto a sheet tray. Cover the sheet tray with a damp towel and allow the rolls to proof for a final half-hour. While the dough rolls are proofing, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. When the dough is done proofing, stir the milk and water in a small bowl and brush the tops of each roll and sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake the rolls until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
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Cookie Mom-ster

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For this Mother’s Day I wanted to dedicate this post to my mom. She is an amazing, smart, strong, beautiful, hard-working, loving, and resilient woman. I like to think (and hope) that I inherited all of those beautiful qualities from her.  Happy Mother’s Day, mama!

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Unlike me, my mom is very particular when it comes to sweets. She loves desserts with fruit, whereas I love rich desserts with chocolate. Remember this post? But one of the desserts my mom and me can agree on are Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. They’re her favorite cookie because they have a form of fruit in them, I imagine.

So when my parents came up to visit me a couple months ago, I asked my mom what kind of snack she wanted me to make for their trip back home. She mentioned oatmeal raisin cookies, so I put this recipe together that I thought she would love. I had a bottle of rum on hand from a rum cake recipe I always make for her, and decided to use it to rehydrate the raisins. I love the rich, caramel-like flavor the rum gives after they’ve been soaking with the raisins, so I added them to the dough. The recipe isn’t too sweet, so I also rolled the dough in sugar to create a pretty sugary crust. The end result is a not-too-sweet, spicy, (a bit boozy) oatmeal raisin cookie with a great depth of flavor.

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Snacks intended for their voyage back home, my parents confessed to me that the cookies were all gone way before they even got home. Apparently, my dad was a fan of them, too!

What are your favorite cookie flavors? What recipe reminds you most of your mom? Share your stories in the comments below; I’d love to read them!

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Mom’s Favorite Oatmeal Rum Raisin Sugar Cookies
Yields 1 dozen medium-sized cookies

INGREDIENTS 
1/3 cup dark rum, more if needed
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sugar, for dusting

METHOD
To rehydrate the raisins, place them  into a small bowl and pour the rum into the bowl. The raisins should be completely immersed in the liquid. Add more if needed. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars on medium-speed till incorporated. Add the egg and vanilla and mix till combined.

Drain the excess rum from the rehydrated raisins, reserving the rum. Set raisins aside. Fold in the rum into the mixture. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure all ingredients are mixed well.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, spices, salt, and rolled oats. Slowly add the flour mixture into the sugar/butter mixture on low till just combined. (Don’t over-mix.) Fold in the rehydrated raisins to the dough. The dough will be slightly sticky—that’s OK.

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Place the dough in the freezer for about 30 minutes, or until the dough is solidified. (Cook’s Note: If you’re making these a day ahead, wrap and place into the refrigerator overnight.)

While your dough chills, preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Place about a half-cup of sugar into a small bowl. Set aside.

Roll a small ice cream scoopful (or 2 Tablespoonfuls) of dough and place into the bowl of sugar and fully coat the cookie ball. Place the dough ball onto the sheet tray, leaving about 2 1/2 inches of space between each cookie.

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Bake for about 14-17 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges. When done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.

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Bidi Bidi Bánh Bánh

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I first discovered Bánh mì sandwiches in Little Saigon–an area in the city of Westminster, California, where a large population of Vietnamese Americans live. The Asian Garden Mall, “Phước Lộc Thọ”, had several Vietnamese-owned restaurants, clothing, jewelry, electronic, and beauty shops. My family would go there often when I was a kid because my mom enjoyed shopping there, and the mall was only a 30-minute drive from where we lived.

Bánh mì translates to “bread.” The French-style baguette was introduced to the cuisine during the French colonization in Indochina in the late-1850s early-1860s. The sandwich is traditionally made with pork liver pâté (also from the French), cold cuts, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro, and mayonnaise.

For this recipe, I decided to go with a throwback recipe from Bon Appetit from 5 years ago. I loved the recipe then and I love it even more now. With a few tweaks and the addition of crispy shallots and a homemade French baguette recipe, this is definitely one of my favorite sandwiches. This sandwich is so good it makes my heart beat like Bidi Bidi Bánh Bánh.

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Pork Meatball Bánh Mì Sandwich
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit
Yields 4 sandwiches

INGREDIENTS
For the spicy mayonnaise
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 1/2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha)

For the Pickled Carrot
2 cups coarsely grated carrots
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil

For the Pork Meatballs
1 large shallot, minced and sautéed in oil till translucent
1 pound ground pork
1/8 cup basil, picked and finely chopped
1/8 cup cilantro, picked and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as Nam Pla or Nuoc Nam)
2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (I used Sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
oil for frying

For the Sandwiches
4 each French baguettes (recipe here)
1 each jalapeño chile, sliced thinly
1/2 cup cilantro, picked
1 large shallot, peeled and thinly sliced into rounds
oil for frying

METHOD
To make the Spicy Mayo, stir all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt. This can be made a day ahead. (Cover and chill.)

To make the Pickled Carrots, mix together the first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature for about an hour, mixing occasionally.

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To make the Pork Meatballs, stir all of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Form the mixture into scant tablespoonful balls, rolling the mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. You should have 12 meatballs. Arrange them onto a baking sheet. This can also be made a day ahead. (Cover and chill.)

Preheat your oven to 300°F. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in half of the meatballs. Sauté until browned and cooked through, turning the meatballs to evenly sear all sides lowering heat if they begin to brown too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer the meatballs to another rimmed sheet tray. Place into the oven. Repeat searing and baking with the remaining meatballs.

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In a small sauce pot, add 1/4 cup of oil. Place the sliced shallot rings into the pan. Turn on the heat to medium and wait for the oil to heat. (Allowing the shallot rings to fry in cold oil makes it easier to control the heat and to avoid burning them.) Once the oil begins to heat up, toss the shallot rings until a light golden brown. Transfer rings to a paper towel-lined plate.

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Cut each baguette horizontally in half. Spread spicy mayo over each bread halve.

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Place 3 each meatballs onto the bottom halve side per sandwich.

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Arrange the jalapeños one one side, then adding the (drained) and pickled carrot, crispy shallots, and cilantro. Gently place the top on baguette tops. Repeat with all sandwiches.

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You Can’t Have the Mango!

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Why is it that every time I hear this song by Everything But the Girl, I’m reminded of Chris Kattan’s Saturday Night Live character, Mango? Does it give you flashbacks, too?

I digress. So the whole thing with mangoes started when my parents came to visit me in Portland recently (yay!). I was so excited to host them in my new apartment. We went on a road trip and visited our family in Idaho. It was such a lovely week, I’m so glad to have spent some quality time with my family. Working in the hospitality industry, it’s hard to get the time to take long vacations and spend time with loved ones. I really want to (and will!) make an effort this year to work less and spend more quality time with the special people in my life. Promise.

Back to the point of this story: My mom brought me a bunch of mangoes (it’s her favorite fruit), her reasoning being that I “need to eat more fruit.” (She thinks I don’t eat enough fruit, which is pretty much true.) But I somehow forgot about them, and when I finally remembered that I had them (in actuality, a telephone conversation with my mom asking me if I had eaten said mangoes) I found them overripe in my fridge. I was bummed; they were too mushy to eat raw. And I’m really hesitant to eat things with weird textures. (Random fact about me: I don’t care for eggplants or bananas because of their weird mushiness.) Yet I tasted the overripe mangoes and figured they were still salvageable, so I made this delectable Mango Coffee Cake instead.

The Martha Stewart recipe I adapted it from called for a glaze, but I decided to top the cake with my Vegan Caramel Sauce that I upgraded by steeping the coconut milk with star anise for about an hour.

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This recipe is best served warm and with coffee. (Duh.) Store the cake in room temperature wrapped in plastic. Upon serving, just reheat it in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. It still tastes really good even after a week.

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Mango Coffee Cake with Coconut-Star Anise Caramel
Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE STREUSEL TOPPING AND CENTER
3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

FOR THE CAKE
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for your baking pan
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream
5 overripe mangoes, flesh scooped and mashed lightly

Vegan Caramel Sauce

METHOD
First make the streusel topping. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or rub in with your fingers until small to medium clumps form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the streusel center: Mix together the remaining 1/4 cup of brown sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. For the cake: Butter a 9-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon salt into a bowl and mix together.

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Beat the butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed till fluffy, about a minute. Add in the egg and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the sour cream and mashed mangoes, beginning and ending with flour. Continue to beat until well combined.

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Pour half of the batter into the greased pan. Sprinkle the streusel center mixture evenly over the batter. Pour in the remaining batter, and spread evenly using an offset spatula. Sprinkle the rest of the streusel topping.

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Place into the oven and bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack, and allow to cool completely. Remove cake from pan, and transfer to parchment.

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Make the caramel sauce. While still warm, drizzle over cake and let the sauce drip down to the sides. Let set for 5 minutes before serving.

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Groceries

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The second part of Liz’s spiritual journey of self-discovery continued in an ashram in India, where she meets pivotal characters like Richard from Texas. The meals were simple, but I thought something as comforting as a big bowl of yummy butter chicken and rice with fresh homemade naan would be the perfect meal. (Especially right now, since it’s been cold and raining here in Portland for the past week.)

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Butter Chicken
Recipe slightly adapted from Foodess
Serves 2-4

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE MARINADE (do a day ahead)
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tablespoon oil

FOR THE SAUCE
2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
1 cup small diced white onions
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 can diced (no salt added) tomatoes
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

GARNISH
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
3 cups cooked basmati, brown or jasmine rice

SERVE WITH
Homemade Naan (recipe HERE)

METHOD
FOR THE MARINADE
Place all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and thoroughly combine with a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight.

FOR THE SAUCE
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions, cooking till tender. About 20-25 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the spices and salt, tossing to coat the onions. Cook for five minutes. Add the tomatoes, milk and butter. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and allow to cool. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.

(Cook’s Note: I do this step overnight because I feel that the flavors develop even more after a day.)

The next day: Drain the excess oil from marinade and set aside. Return the sauce to the stove and reheat till boiling. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer and add the chicken, slowly stirring to cook. Add the cilantro. Cook for about 10 minutes (or until done). Turn off the heat and serve.

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(Editor’s Note: All movie screenshots in this story are property of Columbia Pictures.)

BReaking BRead

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This delicious bread is best served with THIS recipe for Indian Butter Chicken.

Homemade Naan
Recipe slightly adapted from Baking Steel
Yields 4 pieces

INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt

METHOD
Preheat your oven to 425º F degrees. In a medium bowl sprinkle yeast over the lukewarm water, then sprinkle sugar on top. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes or until foamy.

Whisk in the olive oil and yogurt. Add the flour and salt, mixing till combined.

(Cook’s note: Dough will be rather wet and sticky. That’s OK.)

Cover the bowl with a damp side towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot in your kitchen. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on how warm your kitchen is. About 30 minutes before baking, place a baking steel (if you have one) or cast-iron skillet into the oven to heat the pan.

Put some flour on your hands and turn dough out onto a well-floured work surface, sprinkling the dough with the flour as you work with it. Divide the dough into 4 equal-sized pieces. The dough will be rather sticky, so attempt to work the dough as minimally as possible, using as much flour as needed to keep it from sticking to your hands. Shape each section into a ball and let rest for about 20 minutes before shaping. Cover the dough balls with a damp towel.

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To shape the dough, use your hands to gently stretch the dough, lightly pulling the edges to stretch evenly, using all of your fingers to elongate it. Wet your fingers and lightly rub the surface of the dough with a bit of water. Using an oven mitt, remove your cast-iron skillet from the oven and then gently place the dough (water rubbed side down) onto it. Bake for 3-4 minutes. Using a pair of tongs, check to see if the side has gotten golden brown, if so, flip it over and bake for another 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and repeat the process with remaining pieces of dough.

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Smooth Operator

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This vegan caramel sauce–I dare say–tastes even better than its dairy counterpart. Perfect for topping an ice cream sundae or to add some flavor to your cuppa Joe, this caramel sauce goes with just about any sweet recipe, just like these Indonesian Sweet Rice Fritters pictured above. Did I mention that it’s vegan?

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Vegan Caramel Sauce
Recipe adapted from Eff Yeah It’s Vegan!
Yields about 1 pint

INGREDIENTS
1 can coconut cream, separated from water
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons kosher salt

METHOD
Place the thickened part of the coconut cream into a sauce pan on medium-low heat, whisking in the dark brown sugar. Continue to cook the mixture for 20-25 minutes, stirring constantly, and lifting the pan off the heat if it begins to bubble to the point that it might overflow. Reduce the heat if it starts to bubble rapidly. The appropriate cooking temperature should be at a full, rolling boil but not boiling over.

Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla and salt. Pour it into a glass bowl or pan to cool. This creates a very thick but pourable caramel sauce.

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Return to the accompanying recipe HERE

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