Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No! My Fan!

As we all prepare to sit down with our families and friends and various other loved ones, we ponder on all for which we are thankful. At least that's what we're supposed to be doing. However I'd put my money down that most people are not doing that this Thanksgiving Eve... and instead are doing what I am doing: frantically cooking and baking.

My task for this year is the Naw Mai Fan sticky rice stuffing which is basically a staple at Chinese-American Thanksgivings. You'll often find naw mai fan stuffing [roughly: "no my fon"] wrapped inside chicken and crispy chicken skin and touted as a "house special" at big Cantonese restaurants - typically something you must order 24 hours in advance. But most of us Chinese-Americans also make a big pot to serve instead of (or in our case, in addition to) American stuffing made with bread.

Fan, means "rice" in Chinese ~ An important word!

After my Pau-pau died in the 1960's, my Auntie Frances stepped up and took her place; in quite a few ways, really. But one small way was in making the naw mai fan stuffing at each Thanksgiving over the last 40 years until her final one, last year. I had already planned to make the stuffing this year, though was planning on sharing the responsibility with Auntie Frances, not instead of. *sigh* But life goes on and we go on with it.

These are the rices I use. The Calrose is my "regular ole bok fan".

I can't believe how large these hom-mai (dried shrimp) were!

I believe I've mentioned our family Thanksgivings to you before. But if not, I'll give you a refresher... My mom is #11 of 12 children. 10 of those children lived to adulthood; got married; had families, etc. Our family has celebrated Thanksgiving together for basically all the years the family was aware of Thanksgiving (being Chinese immigrants this likely did not happen until the oldest kids were in elementary school learning about American holidays). These days we have our Thanksgiving celebrations in a church in the Central Valley of California. We outgrew Auntie Frances' home almost 20 years ago (I remember eating dinner in one of the bedrooms that year).

The fastest way to cook lop cheong is to steam it
with your rice after the water boils down

The slicing and dicing seem to always take the longest in any Chinese cooking

Somehow our Thanksgivings evolved nicely into "On" Years and "Off" Years. In the Off Years, those who juggle their in-laws will spend the holiday with them. And in the On Years everyone tries to come together in a sort of biennial reunion.

The dried shrimp [hom-mai] were so large, I chopped them up

Green onions don't need cooking, add great flavor and a beautiful color

What I'm basically trying to get to here, is the QUANTITY of people at our Thanksgivings each year. And we're talking just my mom's siblings, their spouses and offspring. In the Off Years we run in the 60's. In the On Year we're more like 80's. This is why we rent the hall at the local church.

Just keep chopping and adding to the pan

Having enough food for 80-some people is nothing to wave a hand at. But my 2 cousins and I have been the force behind the event for the last 5 or more years and it oddly gets easier as the years go by. Once you're engaged to be married or 25 years old - you are considered an "adult" (even if you don't act like one). And all adults bring something to Thanksgiving. Since I've been an "adult" for.... a few years, I happily bring salad or bread stuffing or yams or pies or... Naw Mai Fan stuffing, like I'm doing for the first time this year.

I scrub my rubber gloves with hot water and soap and then
"stir" with my hands. It's really the best way!

Folks, that is my large turkey roasting pan - FILLED!

Just like bread stuffing, each family makes it differently. Each family has favorite flavors and different reasons for putting specific items in the stuffing. I made Auntie Frances' recipe, which may or may not be my Pau-pau's recipe (tho likely very close to it, if not spot on). It's not a complicated or glamorous recipe, which is why I'll leave it with you here. As is so often the case with Chinese cooking - you sorta put in as much as you want of each ingredient, until it tastes right to you.

My aunties writing to each other 11 years ago with the recipe proportions

Auntie Betty brought me this recipe photocopied from an email Frances had written Betty for Thanksgiving 1998. And here it is in all its vagueness:

7 cups regular rice
7 cups sweet rice

2 pounds lop cheong

3 1/2 pounds pork sausage

~1 pound of dried shrimp
3 bunches of green onions

1 bunch of cilantro

I cooked everything separately and then combined them together (in my largest roasting pan, no less) in the same way I make regular fried rice.

It's good just by itself...but even better with turkey and gravy!

Can I just tell you how satisfying it is to work for a couple of hours on an [expensive] dish that lots and lots of people will be eating, only to finally sample the finished product and discover that it tastes exactly like... it's supposed to?! I was pretty pleased and happy with myself! And I know my auntie would be so proud. We'll miss her an incredible amount tomorrow, but she'd be happy to know that we're eating well.

Happy Thanksgiving!! Be thankful. One can always find something for which to be thankful.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ono ono

I know...I can't even really believe it myself... just how long it's been since I've blogged. The last 3 months have been out-of-control busy for me. Which isn't such a bad thing for life but a bad thing for all those 'routine' things I like to do. By early November, I'd been out of town 10 of the prior 12 weekends but I now intend to be IN town at least all the way through Christmas. It's a nice feeling - especially since this is a beloved time of year for me. I'm going to attempt to do some catch-up here on activities referenced (since I certainly haven't been around to do any baking). One that I've referred to a lot was my trip to Hawaii over Labor Day. It was quickly shadowed by this but I've finally found some time to go back and actually sort through my photos.
A view of Waikiki and Diamond Head from Deb and Nick's lanai (aka balcony)

Just how close the beach is to their building! And they have the pool too!

The reason I've titled this post "Ono ono" is because ono means "delicious" in Hawaiian and BASICALLY all I did in Hawaii was eat (and shop). It was far less about being a tourist and far more about visiting my very best friend and learning about all of her favorite spots.

One of Deb's FAVORITE jaunts: Leonard's for malasadas

If you've read my blog for at least the last few months, you'll know who Debbie is. I drop her name all the time. She moved devastatingly "far far away" almost a year ago and while phone calls and IMing and infrequent visits there or here are good - it's just not the same. But while it will likely just take time to get used to this, it's perhaps not so difficult to find a bright side regarding the location to which they moved: Oahu, Hawaii. Just a stone's throw north of Waikiki and essentially across the street from both the beach and Ala Moana Shopping Center. If a best friend must move somewhere, I'd certainly rather it be Hawaii than.... *trying not to offend anyone, but assuming you'll understand* North Dakota?..

Reunited, and it feels so good

Deb made me breakfast complete with Portuguese sausage (a staple in Hawaii)

Deb's first day free, she took me on an "Island Tour". From Leonard's in Waikiki for fresh malasadas, down through Kahala, and a stop at Bubbie's Homemade Ice Cream. Then up the East Shore past Kailua Bay on our way to Matsumoto's in North Shore for shave ice. We returned to Honolulu after a quick stop for poke-by-the-pound, just in time for dinner (which we totally needed. Not).

Kualoa Ranch. Scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed here

Driving along the H2 highway on our way back to Honolulu

The days were lazy and filled with shopping and eating. I was on my own for a couple of weekdays while Deb was working. And I spent them entirely at the mall. Note to all of you (like myself) who are materialistic snobs: luxury items are cheaper in Hawaii than anywhere else in the world. This was told to me by a friendly yet pretentious Chanel salesman. But I also observed this with my own wallet two eyes at Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Prices run ~10% cheaper and additionally, sales tax in Oahu is about half that of San Francisco.

Ala Moana Center (complete with lower priced luxury goods) is RIGHT across the street!!!!

The food, the food, the food... I'm not sure "Hawaiian" food is the type that would be loved by all. But Asians, especially American Asians ♥ Hawaiian food. It's Asian-tinted in a very unrefined manner. Ahi poke, spam musubi, sesame ramen, malasadas, shave ice with condensed milk, [incredibly good] tempura udon from the food court, Dole Whips, afternoon tea ON Waikiki Beach, all the high end seafood at Alan Wong's (ok maybe that's a bit refined...) I was seriously in heaven.
Malasadas from Leonard's

Char-Siu Tan Tan Ramen at Goma Tei

Matsumoto's shave ice with azuki beans, ice cream,
condensed milk and (I think) Rainbow flavored syrup. Front view and back!

Buy poke by the pound from Poke Stop -
Creamy Ahi in back (just ok), Sweet Onion Ahi in front (very good)

For my [very belated, by September] birthday, Deb took me to the Moana Surfrider Hotel for afternoon tea. It was incredible! We sat just at the edge of the water and ate our finger sandwiches while watching sunbathers, surfers and paddlers. I loved it! It was perfect!

The Banyan tree at the Moana Surfrider Hotel

We wait for our tea experience to begin!

Pick 'yer own tea! They had a lot to choose from!

Afternoon Tea by the beach? Can it GET any better??

I am ♥ing this!!

It seems Hawaii attracts a ridiculous number of friends, so Deb and Nick are certainly never all that lonely. The month of September I think they went 2 days without guests! This particular trip our friend Kevin was in town for some golfing, and though he did not stay with Deb, we got together to hang on the beach, drink some cocktails and dine at Alan Wong's.

Met up with Kev and friends at Duke's

It was a magnificent vacation. And I suppose, if Deb's gotta be anywhere other than home, paradise will do.