I-Can't-Feel-My-Face Chicken

The sole problem I have with cooking spicy food at home is that I can never seem to get my food as hawt as restaurants do. I’m one of those weirdos that actually wants to perspire while I gorge, just so I know it’s real~~~

During my time in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, this came without effort, resulting in my tastebuds and large intestine telling me to go fek myself.

Amid my July travels, I was already sweating ballz from the dangerously wet humidity mixed with scalding summer temperatures in the center of Sichuan’s concrete jungle. While a classic tourist reaction might have been to reach for an ice-cold water (or beer, in my case), the Sichuanese were sitting down in their plastic chairs, halogen lights a-flicker, hovering over a bowl of noodles that were both equally hot in temperature as they were in flavor. The only thing keeping patrons cool -  a shitty little fan, probably on the lowest setting.

Be that as it may, I side with the Sichuanese on this one. 

Sichuan’s cuisine is one of the most well-known in the world. Seemingly unachievable knife skills, easily recognizable flavors, and red hues of peppers making an appearance in every dish. One of which I hold dear to me: là zǐ jī (辣子鸡). Not pronounced like “lazy”, more like “la” as if you were singing, and “zi” as if you were going to say “zip” minus the “p”. “Ji” as in “gee whiz”, ya dingus. 

Sadly, I haven’t attempted to make là zǐ jī, strictly due to the fact that I have had it made so perfectly in its town of origin, that if I were to mess it up, I’d probably be doomed for all eternity. If one does decide to make it at home, I’d give this recipe a shot. This one looks good, too.

So how do I quench my thirst for heat while I’m up here in the Bei? With these lil sonzabitches:

I present to you, the bird’s eye chili. What they lack in size, they make up for with a boom! Pow! Bang! These relentless peppers are sold in China for a dime a dozen, hitting hard like Kimbo Slice. Certainly not for the weak, just like my quick take on là zǐ jī:

I-Can’t-Feel-My-Face Bird's Eye Chili Chicken

serves 2-3, 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 7-8 chicken tenders (I buy these free-range ones here, for Beijingers)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sweetener, I used honey 
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce, coconut aminos, or tamari (aim for organic & GMO free)
  • 1 teaspoon shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons starch (I had tapioca on hand, but use whatever you prefer)
  • 2 spring onions, sliced, whites separated from greens
  • 4-5 bird’s eye chilis, chopped
  • 2-3 Hangzhou peppers, roughly chopped ( the green ones in the picture, organic here)

DIRECTIONS

Preparation

  1. In a small bowl, combine your soy sauce, rice wine, starch and honey.
  2. Dice your chicken into either cubes or about half inch pieces.
  3. Add your chicken to the mixture and let marinate while you chop your aromatics.
  4. Mince your garlic and ginger, set aside 
  5. Slice your onion, reserving the green part 
  6. Chop your peppers, set aside 

Cooking

  1. In a wok or nonstick pan, heat enough oil to evenly coat the bottom 
  2. Begin sautéing your garlic, ginger, and onions on medium-high heat, until they smell heavenly. About 2 minutes 
  3. Lower heat to medium, add your chopped peppers, and sauté. Try not to cough all over everything, sicko. The smell of the peppers will definitely make its way into your nasal passage.
  4. Give the chicken a quick stir and add in to your aromatics. Frequently tossing until the chicken is cooked through, about 8-11 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat, serve over white rice. Garnish with remaining spring onions 

TIPS/SOURCING

  • You can likely find the chilis and Shaoxing rice wine at any Asian grocer, I didn’t see them at regular stores when I was in the US.
  • Tapioca starch makes things more sticky than thick. If you don’t like sticky, which I don’t usually prefer, you can omit the starch all together, or use whatever thickener you like.
  • Don’t eat this on a first date because you will look like the bad cop from Terminator 2 when he’s melting in that lava or whatever. Not hot.

Know someone that likes to dig on spicy food? Make this for them, share it on IG, and tag me: @woklikeme

In Defense of Bacon + A Recipe for Homemade Bacon

Poor, poor bacon. Such a bad wrap in most western countries. My Chinese broze n’ hoez inhale pork belly and most fatty meats without batting a lash and they still have bangin’ bodz. Food here is preferred fatty, as it produces more flavor than say, lean, boneless, skinless chicken breast. Boooooring. 

Remember at the end of last year when cured meats were believed to be cancer-causing? Yeah. That sucked. What sucked more was all vegetarians being like, “told u so blah blah blah”.

Welp. I genuinely have no idea where to start with this, so I’ll just summarize it in one sentence followed by a disclaimer:

THERE ARE AN ENDLESS AMOUNT OF FOODS/THINGS THAT CAUSE CANCER.

That’s as real as it gets. And as someone who’s come from a long line of family members that have both lost the battle to cancer or survived it, it’s clear to me that food can be both your enemy and your home girl when fighting the good fight. 

Woah. That was really deep for a bacon recipe.

Before I begin, just know that your opposing opinion is unwelcome unless you are a vegan/vegetarian that eats 100% organic with food sourced locally when possible. If you care about food at all, you will understand why these credentials are beyond necessary.

If you’re one of the GMO-inhaling-soy-burger-eating-daiya-cheese-using-carbohydrate-overloading-sugar-hungry “vegans”, carefully forget that you stumbled upon this blog, because it’s clear you have no idea what type of eating habits you’ve adopted, not to mention the lack of attention you paid to the phaaaaaat list of ingredients on your “tofurkey”. 

Ugh. My eyes can’t roll hard enough.

Firstly, my opinion is unbiased because I have at some points in my life adopted a 100% vegan diet that was organic and local. I know what it takes to not eat animals/animal products, as I still practice veganism a few meals weekly.

A few questions to consider before we knock red/cured meats:

  • How was the animal raised?
  • What was it cured with? Nitrates? MSG? 
  • Was a processed form of sugar involved?
  • Was it dyed?
  • Are there preservatives in it?
  • What’s the shelf life?
  • How often am I eating red/cured meats?
  • Is it produced by a factory farm?
  • Did the animal have any quality of life at all?
  • What kind of cancer will be caused? (Srsly don’t fuck with me on this question. You can’t just say “That causes cancer.” and not be able to back it up with the kind of cancer it causes.)

These questions apply not only to red/cured meats, but to every single item you consume that is not organic. Bread, dairy, fruit, vegetables, drinks, frozen foods, grains, flours, spices etc. The list is endless unless your diet is 100% organic. I just can’t stress it enough.

Now let’s go back and take a look at what “organic” means. Is it a fancy word? Nah. Is it a new concept? Hell nah. Is it a trend or buzzword? Sadly, yes. But! It doesn’t have to be. 

Before industries and factories controlled what we ate *cough* Monsanto *cough*, ALL FOOD WAS ORGANIC. And it wasn’t called “organic”. It was just called food. This isn’t new, and the ignorance that goes into calling someone out for trying to eat organic and local is beyond me. It doesn’t make you a hipster or a snob for wanting food that was raised and grown without poison. Especially when the farmers responsible for cultivating it are paid fair wages. 

In short. Give bacon-eating dudes like myself a rest. Killing is killing and blah blah blah. I feel you, PETA. But moderation is key. 

End rant.

So now, for the bacon. The reason we’re all here. 

Homemade bacon is one of the easiest most hassle-free recipes out there. For a completely as-basic-as-it-gets-recipe, you just need two ingredients: pork belly and sea salt. 

The basic rule of thumb is this: 1 tablespoon of salt for every pound of pork belly you have. Got 5 lbs of pig? Use 5 tablespoons of sea salt. Boom.

I gave a few references here on why the fat that comes from the piggy can be good for you. Again, in moderation. 

The downside of making bacon in China is me lacking a smoker. However, in my humble little hutong kitchen, I have an oven that does me plenty of solids. Thus resulting in me using the low-heat baking method as opposed to smoking it. If you have a smoker, smoke dat shiii. If not, whatvez. 

Here’s my sweet, salty, and spicy recipe for homemade bacon:

Homemade Bacon

Makes 8-10 Servings (of two thick-cut slices)

Ingredients

  • 1kg organic, free-range pork belly

Cure Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons salt 
  • 1 tablespoon paprika 
  • 1/4 cup honey or sweetener of choice 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic power
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder

Tools Needed

  • time, 7-10 days
  • large ziplock bag
  • oven or smoker 
  • meat thermometer

Curing Your Homemade Bacon

1. First, rinse your belly, then pat it dry. Leave the skin on, it’ll come right off after it’s done smoking/baking. 

2. In a small bowl, add all of the curing ingredients together. Mix it up until everything is perfectly submerged and there are no clumps in your honey. 

3. In a large enough ziplock bag, slide in the pork belly, and then begin to drizzle your cure over the meat. Do your very best to cover every last bit of the belly in the cure. You’ll want to do this in the bag so you don’t lose any of the cure in a separate bowl. 

4. Once all of the cure is in the bag, get all of the air out and seal it up like so.

5. Put it in a safe place in your fridge and turn it once a day or so for 7-10 days. Try to give it a little rub down to distribute the cure evenly. 

6. You should notice around day 5 or 6 that your bacon will have started to become more firm. Just poke it from the outside of the bag. 

7. You’ll want to take it out when it is firm to the touch, which can happen on day 7. Sometimes a little longer. 

8. On the last day of curing, take your pork belly out of the bag, discard the cure, and give it a good rinse. 

Cooking Your Homemade Bacon

1. Pat it dry and let it rest for a few hours if you can before smoking or baking. This will help the salt redistribute for a better cure when it’s cooking. #science 

2. About 20 minutes before you’re ready to cook, preheat your oven to 200 degrees F. Place the pork belly on your baking rack and bake it until the internal temperature reaches 150F. Bake for about 1.5 hours, not testing until your oven timer is up. If the internal temp hasn’t reached 150F, just bake for another 15-20 mins.

3. Your bacon is almost complete! Take it out of the oven, either slice or peel the skin off, leaving on as much fat as possible. Let it cool.

4. Next, put your baked belly in the fridge to let it firm up. Maybe 30mins to an hour. 

5. Finally, your bacon is done. Slice it up as thin or as thick as you’d prefer. Do a dance and add it to whatever your life calls for. Eat it while driving, bring it to a movie, or encourage it to run for president. It couldn't possibly do as bad a Trump.

I suggest playing with whatever flavors you like, like this c00l d00d. My first time, I rubbed it down with coffee grounds and black pepper. Shit waz da kill.

Notice how it's not bright pink and slimy. Gross. That's what non-factory farm bacon should look like.

I just made breakfast. And then gave it a kiss. 

Did you dig this recipe? You got your own flavorz you prefer to use when curing meats? Leave them in comments below and share dis like it's hot, hot, hot!

Yum Yum Yangshuo Egg Dumplings (Primal, Gluten-Free, Keto)

I sometimes feel like the food industry is the root of all American problems. I won’t get all “Duuuude, blame The Man” on you right now, but seriously, just walk into a Starbucks and you’ll see an Egg McMuffin cleverly disguised as an “Egg & Cheddar” for three times the price that was clearly developed by a stronger marketing team. Likely, the same ingredients have been used, both will probably never expire, and you can nearly taste the greed with every bite. Srsly, take a bite. That shit is delicious.

It’s both sad and true that there really is no lesser of two evils in this case.

You’re probably thinking, what the feck does this have to do with Yangshuo Egg Dumplings? 

Well, a lot, actually. 

There’s some crazy statistic annually shoved down our throats that X percentage of Americans make losing weight their New Year’s resolution. Most fail, including me. This is actually the first time in many years that it hasn’t been my own resolution, and for one simple reason: it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t.

So, what does matter, you ask? Real, whole, nutritionally dense food.

Because I’m a bit of an extremist, I tend to throw out all my morals and values when I’m in America. Days of binge drinking, a bowl of pasta right before bed, too much driving, inevitably followed by even more sitting. 

My double chin is getting a double chin. And, guess what? That’s totally cool, because miraculously, now that I’m back in China I’m in veggie heaven, organic meats are affordable, and being active is effortless when you’re forced to walk or ride your bike everywhere. Not to mention, my body is working double-time to keep me warm in this 20 degree weather.

yangshuo-china-karst-mountains.jpg

In August of 2015 I had the pleasure of visiting a mountain town in southern China called Yangshuo. The scenery is as equally beautiful as the food is delicious. I won’t talk so much about that now, but one of the many comfort foods I took with me were the egg dumplings. 

The best part about these protein-packed lil’ thangz, is that they’re not manipulated to fall under the category of gluten-free, GAPS, or paleo. They just traditionally are. 

Yangshuo Egg Dumplings

makes approx. 20-24 dumplings, 30 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 2-3 eggs (cage-free, organic always preferred)
  • .25 lbs ground free-range pork or beef (fattier cuts are more traditional, 70-80% lean)
  • 1tsp minced ginger 
  • 1tsp minced garlic 
  • 3 small green onions
  • salt to taste
  • oil for frying 
  • water for light steaming (if using pork)

Start by mincing up your aromatics. Separate the white from the green part of the green onions. Slice the green part into thin rounds and reserve for garnish. 

Next, beat your eggs as you normally would for scrambling or omelettes. You can add salt to your liking, but I imagine most Americans will dip these little dudes into soy sauce, as opposed to their Chinese counterparts that prefer vinegar. So use salt sparingly. Set eggs aside.

Fold your aromatics into the meat and season lightly with salt, set aside.

On medium heat, add a few tablespoons of fat to your wok or pan, go with something neutral that doesn’t overshadow the existing flavors. I used sesame oil which is quite strong, but the Chinese cook with a lot of peanut and corn oil. 

Here’s where it gets slightly tricky: you’ll want to create somewhat of a rhythm while your frying, adding meat, folding, and flipping. It sounds hard, but it’s really easy after you’ve done a couple Yangshuo egg dumplings

Take about a tablespoon of your egg mixture and pour it onto your pan. It will create a decent circle. Let it cook for about 15-20 seconds and then top with about 1/2 tablespoon of your meat filling. 

Use a spatula to fold one side of the egg to the other, like a little taco, and then flip onto the opposite side. You should have used enough oil to where the egg easily lifts. 

Make about 3-4 dumplings at a time to start. Add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan once your Yangshuo egg dumpling is flipped, and let steam for 1-2 minutes to make sue the meat is cooked through.

Keep on twerkin’ until all of your egg mixture is used. If you have meat left over, save that for some green curry meatballs like this boss lady does here.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll wanna douse them shits in our lord and savior, Sriracha. Feel free to pair with a bowl of fluffy-ass white rice. Serve immediately, and slap away the hand that tries to steal one from your plate.

FAT GIRL SALAD WITH GORGONZOLA, PEACHES & FLAX

Let's start light. 

I'm at this weird point in my life, as PubLIZity says, where I craaaave salads. Don’t get me wrong when I’m out in public I’m usually eating baozi, burgers, pizza, etc. But, to me, there is no worse feeling than eating junk food at home when it’s just you and your boyfriend watching Seinfeld reruns on a Friday night. 

I do get pathetically disappointed at the Beijing foreign food scene sometimes, because, for lack of a better term, nobody keeps it real. I am NOT okay with paying 80RMB ($12) for hyped-up trendy restaurants that underserve and overcharge. Will they be closed down in less than a year? Yes. Is everyone there pretending to love it right now? Yes. Do I give a fuck? Kind of.

Here’s the thing, salads rule. It’s the one excuse we get to throw everything into a bowl or plate and not feel like we’re gorging at KFC. Dressings are important, too. Don’t let anyone tell you your dressing should be fat-free. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life. If you’re going to make a dressing at home, keep the 1:4 ratio in mind. 1/4 cup vinegar or acid to 3/4 oil. Get weird and mix & match oils with vinegars to see what you like. Throw in some  of your favorite seasonings and do the damn thing.

There are a few key ingredients needed to make your salad not suck:

  1. -good greens (or none at all, I’m a big fan of leafless salads, too)
  2. -a fatty dressing (preferably homemade, recipe follows)
  3. -fresh or dried fruit
  4. -nuts or seeds 
  5. -cheese or avocado (or both)
  6. -protein of choice

That’s only six ingredients to make yourself look like you know what you’re doing in a kitchen. 

That said, let’s get to prepping.

CHOPPED CHICKEN SALAD WITH GORGONZOLA, PEACHES, AND APPLE CIDER VINAIGRETTE, serves 2, 20 minutes 

INGREDEINTS

Apple Cider Vinaigrette:

  • 3/4 Cup EVOO
  • 1/4 ACV
  • 1 TBSP Honey (or whatever sweetener you like, for my vegan brothers and sisters)
  • 1 TSP Salt
  • 1/2 TSP Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 TSP Paprika (don’t be a wimp)
apple-cider-vinaigrette-.jpg

I just put everything directly into my dressing bottle and make it clap. Let everyone get to know each other. Leave it out of the fridge though, you don’t want the olive oil to solidify and not absorb the other flavors.

For the Salad:

  • Your favorite greens, I used a mixed bag 
  • 10oz chopped chicken breast
  • 1/2  medium honey peach
  • 2 oz gorgonzola 
  • 2 TSP flax seed
  • 1/2 avocado 
  • Salt & Pepper for seasoning

Sauté, grill, bake, boil or whatever your chicken breasts. I sautéed mine in 2TSP of coconut oil because I felt like it, okay?

Season them with whatever you like, I just used salt & pepper, and let them brown on both sides, as pictured, it should take about 10-12 minutes total. 

While your chicken is browning, plate your greens and slice your peaches whichever way you like. Set peaches aside and slice your avocado, set aside.

Once your chicken is finished, chop it up and let it cool off. If you’re really a smart guy, you’d constantly have pre-cooked protein stored in your fridge and dish out 2-minute salads like this dude. 

Shake your dressing and drizzle it over your greens, add your cooled off chicken, layer on the peaches and avocado, followed by the cheese, a nice sprinkle of flax, and then dress it up again with your ACV. Boom. Bam. Gaht. Damn. Look at you, you fancy food-maker.