If I can’t meet you: a plated dish

When I was conceptualizing this dish, I really thought of comforting and warming flavors that work in the winter. Since it’s getting colder, although in Southern California, that means nothing because we basically have two seasons: warm or warmer, I wanted to make a dish that highlight Chinese fusion comfort food. I love eating Halal-Chinese food(yes, it’s a thing), and for this season, I wanted to do a dish that combined a few different influences and dishes from the different parts of China. I opted for lamb, a commonly used protein in that northern-Halal region of China, and braised it with mala spice, a warm, almost numbing spice mix that comes from the Sichuan region of China, and on top of that, since anything braised needs some sort of starch to soak it up, went with nian gao, or Shanghaiese rice cakes, similar to mochi, but savory. To make sure that the spice level was beginner-friendly, I’m also doing something that ties back with the Halal-Chinese inspiration, and using kefir, a drinkable yogurt, just as a palate cleansing component to knock down the spice a little. And to make it a little cheffy, I went with nasturtium pollen in the kefir, just for some fragrance and mild sweetness to temper the heat, and nasturtiums, just to make it prettier.

Now you might be wondering what the name came from. It’s a Koda Kumi reference(go figure, 99% of my dishes are named specifically after her songs or lyrics). That and the dish itself is meant to capture a specific moment. Growing up, I’ve had a ton of “friends” who have bailed or flaked on me, specifically during high school or friends from high school(to any high school friends reading this, not all of you have, but there have been some repeat offenders of this). So more times than not, I was left without plans for the day or night. With a dish like this, that requires braising as well as a lot of hands-on work, you can spend basically an entire night or afternoon making it. So in other words, you can make this dish instead of spending time with somebody who is a bad friend to you. That and the comforting nature of this dish will help wash away any frustrations you might have towards anybody, so it’s kind of a win-win, if you think about it. When abandoned, use braised lamb, rice cakes, and mala spice to erase any negativity.

Makes 6 servings:
For the rice cakes:
1 cup rice flour
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt
vegetable oil

Combine rice flour, water, and salt and transfer to an ovenproof bowl. Set up a bamboo steamer and steam for 30 minutes. Line plastic wrap with vegetable oil and using a rubber spatula, scrape the warm rice flour dough onto the plastic wrap. Oil your hands and carefully spread the rice dough into a log, wrapping it in the wrap. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours. Slice into medallions. Keep refrigerated.

For the mala spice:
2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns, ground
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1 teaspoon chili flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons paprika powder

Combine together.

For the braised lamb:
2 pounds lamb bones
mala spice
1/2 diced onion
2 bell peppers, roasted and skin and seeds removed
1 cup chicken or beef stock

In a saucepan, sweat out the mala spice with the onion and diced bell peppers. Sear off the lamb bones and deglaze with the stock. Simmer down for at least 4 hours, re-topping off the pot with water, until the lamb meat is tender. Gingerly remove the lamb bones from the stock and remove the meat from the bones. Allow the meat to continue braising down in the liquid.

For the kefir:
1/4 cup kefir
pollen from 1 nasturtium flower
a pinch of salt

Combine together.

To garnish:
Nasturtium petals and leaves

Start with your rice cakes/nian gao at the bottom. Scoop on your warm ragout and top with the kefir, and finally, the nasturtium.


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Virginia L. says:

    Not only the food is comforting to eat… the process of making this dish brought you comfort! You provide us inspiration and food for thoughts. Thank you, Fred!

    Liked by 1 person

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