Today was the trip to the produce market that we needed so sorely. It was…really nice. I just feel better when I invest time in taking care of myself, rather than pushing myself to do my homework (and do it well) at the expense of everything else (including my physical and mental health).
I also tried brewing some Tieguanyin (Iron Goddess) oolong tea, today, for the first time. I’ve had it before in one or another brand of bottled, iced, unsweetened tea, but I’ve never actually brewed it myself — until now.
The tieguanyin that I tried fell out of the package in very small pellets (though not as small as gunpowder tea — which I also bought a tiny bit of, but haven’t tried yet). The pellets turned into what you see, above (the shot is of the inside of my mug, after I had drank most of the first brewing, and had added more water for a second one). I put enough into my cup to probably have made several batches in a teapot…the pellets swell up, and gradually unfurl into leaves. The dynamic reminds me of how many times wakame seaweed will expand beyond its dry volume, when left to reconstitute in water.
Aside from this…I spent most of the afternoon preparing long beans. These are similar to string beans, only in my case they were about two feet long. To be cooked easily, they need to be cut into smaller pieces. I have a photo of nearly everything which went into this dish, except the Hoisin sauce. We used Lee Kum Kee brand, which we’ve found to taste better than the one we were using before (which I think was Dynasty), though of course that’s just personal preference. It tastes a bit fuller than soy sauce…a bit sweet, though. I think I’d like a bit less sugar, ideally.
Here, I’ll upload an image of the ingredients.
From the lower left moving clockwise: these are Maitake mushrooms; two tiny red Thai chiles (one cut and seeded with the ribs taken out, the other whole); about 2″ of grated ginger plus the juice that came out of it; seven fresh Shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut into pieces; one entire bunch of Chinese long beans (without the ends); and in the center are two grated garlic cloves (I already had the grater out, and thought it might have an effect like crushing, rather than mincing, the garlic — crushing gives stronger flavor). The upper right just barely shows the bottom of the jar of Hoisin sauce we used.
I actually got a few too many Maitake! I saw that they were affordable (somewhere around $8/lb., but one pound is a whole lot of mushrooms) and got a mid-sized cluster — about $2 worth. Maitake grow in clusters like oyster mushrooms. I’ve cooked with them before, and really like them — though I think they’re best in the hearty miso soup I make (lots of wakame, tofu, shiitake, and miso; and this, on top of overbrewed iriko dashi (iriko are dried sardines) which has been infused first with dashi kombu, and has shiitake soaking liquid added to it. This is not the kind of scant stuff I had always had at restaurants — maybe one day I’ll post how to do it). It wasn’t until I started cutting the cluster apart that I realized I had more than I needed. I saved the shiitake and maitake stems (minus the mycelium of the maitake) in a little bag for stock — it’s in the freezer, now. Shiitake stock is delicious, though I usually make it using dried shiitake.
Anyhow, we started cooking these on the stovetop with canola oil. What we probably should have done was put the little whole Thai chile in first so that it could have flavored the oil, then taken it out after it became aromatic, then added the garlic and ginger. What actually happened is that we put the garlic and ginger into the oil first, then added the chile. Because of this, the burn of the chile was not noticeable in the air (good heat comes with coughing ^_-) before the garlic started to brown. This is when we took the whole chile out and I added the small chile I had cut up. (I bought several of these [four, actually; does that counteract the seven shiitake? …sorry, it’s a joke that’s only accessible if you know what the significance of four is in my culture], but had been warned against using too many.)
Then we added the shiitake, which unfortunately soaked up all the fluid in the pan. GAH! 😛 I’ve got to find a way to get around this. It happens for me with eggplant and plantains, too (which is why I don’t cook eggplant or plantains very much, although I really like both of them). Maybe I need to par-cook them first so that they start to break down before they can suck up all the oil…
After this, we added the maitake. These are also called “hen of the woods” mushrooms. They’re more fibrous than shiitake caps. (Shiitake stems are too tough to eat.) After the mushrooms started to steam (though I wasn’t sure if it was steam or smoke), we added the long beans. I usually cut off the pointy ends; and this time, I cut off the last 1″ near where the pod contacts the stem…they just looked a little dry. The long beans are cut into pieces about 1″ in length. We then tossed these with a little more oil and a little salt (and what was left of the ginger) until they turned glossy and bright green. At this point, we added probably about two tablespoons of hoisin sauce (or four halfway-full serving spoons), tossed this to coat everything, and took it off the heat.
I tried a bit of this and realized it needed more salt — though I realized I had a choice between straight salt and shoyu (a Japanese term for soy sauce). I added maybe a little more than a teaspoon of soy sauce, and this helped.
What I found to be surprising is that the burn factor wasn’t very high at all, though the mushrooms had soaked up a lot of flavor. The shiitake could hold their own, but the maitake kind of fell apart! The long beans were good and crunchy, and the mushrooms gave bursts of flavor and a bit of heat. However, this needs to be eaten while it’s still warm. It starts to become unappetizing when cold (or when I’m full?). It also doesn’t look all that great (to me, as someone who scrapes off extra barbecue sauce), but it does taste good!
The thing about these Thai chiles…I took the ribs and seeds out of the first one I handled. Then I went on to doing other things, washed my hands about three times in the process, and realized that maybe I should see how hot they actually were. So I touched my fingertip to my tongue. After about 30 seconds, I could feel a little burn. Still! I’d washed my hands three times, and I still got heat off my fingertips!
I’m thinking that maybe if I need to get the heat absolutely off, it might be good to wash my hands in milk…
And, I realized, it’s a lot easier for me to cut the skin off of the ginger with my favorite knife than it is to try and peel it with a spoon. I’m not entirely sure exactly why it was so easy…
In any case, today was good, and probably the rest of this week will be better — after Tuesday. Gah, after effin’ Tuesday…
I need to get to work on my Body/Humor piece. I just don’t want to. We’ll see how long I can keep running off of that Iron Goddess tea, tonight…