There comes moment in everyone’s life where you just have to take a stand. In the era of Trump, that’s not so hard. He’s an asshole AND a dick and basically a terrible, piece of garbage human being. So I decided, I really needed to make this public service announcement about the dangers of Trump. If you’re a Trump supporter, I’m sorry to offend and feel free to boycott this blog. Also, I know that’s probably not going to happen because because I’m pretty sure there are only three readers of this blog: me, my sis and my mom and we definitely didn’t vote for Trump. Anyway, for those of you who grew up in the 80s in the “Just Say No” era of American Drug policy, will be familiar with the following motif. For those who are not (I’m talking to you, millennials) prepare to have your brains blown, or fried.
Time flies. The older I get, the more that’s true. It’s been over half a year since the last post, which I’ll admit is kind of standard for me (which might explain the fact that this blog has a readership of about 6.3 people). More hard to believe, it’s been almost a decade since I started this here food blog. In that time – the posts in this blog provide documentation – Shefali and I got married, had a kid, moved from Brooklyn to Oakland, had another kid and well, continue to just live our rather ordinary lives. One of those markers of ordinary life came couple weeks ago when Kaya started kindergarten. But before her official start, she and I had an opportunity to hang out – quality time, just father and daughter. So I thought, what better way to spend time together bonding then making another food video?! Genius, right?! Kaya, was maybe a little less enthusiastic. I mean I’ve been subjecting her to these vids since she was a fat little baby (when we both looked a lot younger). So, she wasn’t really feeling it, having her own thoughts and all, but I’m her dad and I can still make her do stuff, so that’s cool. You’ll see in the video.
In any case, I wanted to make something that despite the passage of time has remained a constant in my life: fried chicken. I. Love. Fried. Chicken. It’s got to be up there in my top 5 of all time favorite foods. I will never turn down a piece of fried chicken. It has been there for me, always. For example, when I was maybe five or six and my mom accidentally chopped the tip of her middle finger off with a cleaver when she was cutting up a roast duck. Now, I actually look back on that episode with fondness because 1) well, it wasn’t my finger and I was napping when it happened and 2) because while my mom and my dad rushed to the emergency, finger tip packed in a cup of ice so doctors could sew it back on, my aunt and uncle took me and my sister to Kentucky Fried Chicken (before it was rebranded as KFC) where we feasted on salty, greasy goodness. Later when I was a teenager and my parents had a night out, they’d let me eat whatever I wanted and I always got a box of frozen Banquet Fried Chicken (spicy) and I’d polish off about three or four pieces in a sitting. As an adult, I’ve been fortunate to have my horizons expanded – at least when it comes to fried chicken. From southern style (American) fried chicken to to Japanese karaage chicken, I’ve made room for all of them in my heart and stomach. I’d say pretty much everybody around the world loves fried chicken and everybody does a version of it. In my humble opinion, it’s all good. I’m a globalist. I admit it.
I found this vendor in a bus stop in Antigua, Guatemala.
I found this fried chicken in a market in Pai, Northern Thailand. I tried to have at least one piece of fried chicken a day there, often for breakfast.
I’m happy to say that love for chicken that is fried has been passed on to my daughter. Nature? Nurture? Does the fried chicken come before the fried egg or vice versa? These are deep questions, I know. Welcome to my life. But I digress. One of my favorite versions is Thai style fried chicken. It’s got a lighter skin (rice flour instead of wheat flour) and the meat is often marinated beforehand (basically, brining does the same thing) so that the meat has a lot of flavor as opposed to just the skin or batter (don’t get me wrong, I love that too). It’s also reminiscent of the fried chicken my dad used to make for us when we were kids and he was getting really into cooking. He used bread crumbs for his coating though. Anyway this is the version I decided to make with Kaya.
Here’s the Ingredient list (amounts are approximates, as usual).
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup fish sauce
3-5 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp of ginger
3-4 tbsp of lemongrass
bunch of cilantro
2 1/2 tbsp of sugar
5 lbs of chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs) – you can also use little wings and drumettes)
rice flour to coat chicken pieces
oil to fry
And here’s the all important video for how we do it. Watch, learn and enjoy.
I’m a child of the 70s and 80s which makes me 1) old and 2) able to remember a time before a lot of processed and pre- packaged foods. That’s not to say that those things didn’t exist. Kraft mac n’ cheese was a much loved (if infrequent) treat as were Swanson’s chicken pot pies, hot dogs and potato chips. But my mom, whose Chinese roots (via Hong Kong) mixed with the hippie, DIY ethos of the time made sure that most of what we ate was homemade and nutritious. I can’t always vouch for the deliciousness. Check out my old meatloaf postfor a description of how my mom riffed on the classic American dish to varying degrees of success. This was also the era of carob bars instead of chocolate and health-food store peanut butter made of freshly ground peanuts (and nothing else) instead of JIF or Skippy which contained a whole lot of salt and sugar and tasted how peanut butter SHOULD taste). But looking back now, I realize how lucky we were to grow up in a house where food was something you cooked and not just retrieved from a box or heated up in the microwave. I credit my parents with making me the eater I am today and the cook. Today all these years later, I’m proud to carry on the tradition of preparing as many home cooked meals as I can and I think it’s having an effect. Judging by the way my kids eat, I’m happy to say they’re little chips off the old gluttonous blocks (me AND Shefali, who’s no slouch in the eating department). I’m also seeing glimmers of a real interest in cooking. First daughter Kaya loves to watch us cook and help out when she can. Second daughter, Mona, not yet two, lacks basic motor skills but if her man-sized appetite is any indication, she’s going to be a beast in the kitchen. It’s fair to say that both girls have spent a good portion of their lives in the kitchen because that’s where we spend most of our time. And so it only felt natural to start making videos with them. After all, Kaya’s been part of this blog and in these videos since she was just a baby.
So for her first video where she is an active and willing participant, we decided to make something pretty easy but really good. In fact this is Kaya’s favorite for breakfast: granola. I basically took a recipe from Alton Brown and made some of my own little tweaks (a little less salt, more oats, coconuts and almonds) and the results have been uniformly GOOD!!! But don’t just take my word for it. Take Kaya’s.
Here are the ingredients:
3 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 1/2 cups dried coconut flakes
2 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of dried cranberries.
I’m going to make a bold statement. If you don’t like stew, then you basically don’t like food. Because stew is the quintessential comfort food. It’s a slow cooked melding of vegetables, a little liquid (and some sort of protein if you’re lucky) that combine into a thick, rich, flavorful – well, stew (for lack of a better word) that fills you up with savory goodness and warms you from the inside. Every country and every culture has it’s version of stew and it is my ambition in this life, to taste. Every. Single. One. Some people want to cure cancer. I want to eat stew.
Recently, I took step one step closer to realizing my dream when I filmed Adesha preparing her version of Nigerian Chicken Stew. As a native of Oakland, California she would be the first to tell you that her version of this stew might not be the most traditional or “authentic”, but like all great recipes, it’s got a great story. And Adesha is a great storyteller. As you’ll see, she’s a complete natural (way more than that dork who appears in most of the videos on this site – um, that would be me) in front of the camera. Oh yeah, maybe it’s because she’s a professional singer (www.adeshmusic.com) and so she has what many of us non professionals don’t: stage presence. In any case, she makes an easy and delicious chicken stew and has a good time making it. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did filming it.
Here are the ingredients to make the chicken stew (serves about 4)
3 roma (plum) tomatoes
2 medium sized onions
1/2 bell pepper (green, red or yello)
sea salt (to taste)
Nigerian pepper (to taste) – can also use cayenne or any other hot chili powder
powdered iyan (pounded yam) – 1 cup = approx 4 servings.
I’m not sure exactly when my mom first started making ratatouille, that rustic French stew of eggplant, zucchini and bell peppers. Maybe it was after she took a trip to Paris, leaving me and my sister at home with our dad whose culinary expertise at that time was limited to tamale pieand mac n’ cheese with hot dogs and black olives (I’m actually getting hungry thinking about these meals). Or, maybe it was a recipe she got from one of the Time Life Foods of the World cook books lining the shelf in our kitchen. All I know is that at some point during my childhood, ratatouille became a regular in the meal rotation. While I didn’t love it at first (because what child in their right mind loves eggplant?!) I grew to love it because of what it represented: autumn, rainy days and my mom’s home cooking. Also, it’s really delicious. So that scene in the Pixar movie “Ratatouille”where the food critique takes one bite of the “fancy-pants” layered ratatouille and in an instant, is transported back to his childhood where his mom serves him her version of the dish -one of the best scenes in any movie, animated or not – had particular resonance for me. I mean I didn’t cry or anything. Okay, maybe I had something in my eyes that caused them to water and perhaps at the same time I found myself involuntarily emitting sob like sounds, but that’s totally normal when watching Pixar movies. Am I right?
Now as an adult, ratatouille has been a go to dish of mine for years. So far, my kids seem to like it too. Perhaps when they’re adults they’ll eat it and think fondly back to the simple eggplant stew that I, their father, made for them. Here’s the list of ingredients and watch the video below for how I do it.
1-2 lbs of eggplant
1-2 lbs of zucchini
2 red bell peppers
5-8 cloves of garlic
2-3 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine