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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oven Kalua Pig

Edit: you are being redirected to the Recipe for Kalua Pig with Cabbage post, which is more up-to-date than this post.

For Annie and my wedding reception, one of my groomsmen made us some real kalua pig. He had his own imu or pit oven and, instead of coming to my bachelor party, the guy stayed up late to tend to the pig. That was a special wedding meal!

We don't have an imu in our backyard here in San Jose (some day...) but we still can make some "kalua" pig in the oven. The recipe calls for using boneless pork shoulders, Hawaiian salt, liquid smoke, W sauce, and ginger. Everything goes in an oven roasting bag, on a tray, and into a 325*F oven for four hours until the meat reaches "pulling" temperature, about 195*F internal.

We left them in a little too long and the internal temp went over 212*F. The meat was so easy to shred.

We reserved the jus in a pot and put it in the fridge overnight. The next day, just roll back the fat layer and scoop it out!

Here are three heads of cabbage, chopped.

In a large pot, cook the cabbage down with some of the jus. Add the pork and mix around until well incorporated.

Mmm, tastes just like home!


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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hokkien Prawn Mee

When you talk of Hokkien Mee, you have to qualify yourself: do you mean KL-style Hokkien Char Mee, or Penang-style Hokkien Prawn Mee? The two couldn't be more different. KL-style means thick, yellow noodles braised in a thick, dark soy sauce with pork, squid, fish cake and cabbage and, if you're lucky, some crispy pieces of lard. Enjoy it with some pickled chile peppers for a spicy-vinegary kick.

Penang-style Hokkien Prawn Mee is a soup-noodle dish, using both egg and rice noodles. The broth is made from lots and lots of prawns, plush pork and / or chicken bones. The noodles come laden with prawns, fish cake, pork, and crispy fried shallots.

Annie adapted this Hokkien Prawn Mee recipe off of the Rasa Malaysia website. She made a stock from shrimp shells and pork bones with some rock sugar for sweetness. Egg and rice noodles go on the bottom, followed by shrimps, pork, and a hard boiled egg. Ladle on the rich broth (great, unctuous mouth-feel with little bits of pork fat floating in it), then top with fried shallots. Serve with a spoonful of chili sauce made from blended chiles, shallots, garlic, and oil.

Our shrimp stock is not as dark as Rasa Malaysia's because we used mostly shells and not enough prawn heads. Next time, more heads!


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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sweet and Savory Biscuits

When I was growing up, we used to always have a can or two of Pillsbury biscuits in the fridge. They were just so convenient - just pop the can (always a lot of fun to see how far you could peel back the label before the internal pressure split the cardboard), lay out the biscuits on a tray, and bake them in the toaster oven. We would eat them with our spaghetti dinners, sopping up the sauce.

Annie recently had a little inspired moment with a can of Pillsbury biscuits. After baking, she split them, spread on some Nutella, added sliced strawberries, then topped with fresh whipped cream. At first it tasted weird to me because I felt the biscuits should have been served with something savory. But actually the slightly salty, buttery biscuit flavor went very well with the sweet fillings.

This is more along the lines of what I was thinking of making with those Pillsbury biscuits: ham, egg and cheese. I really like the flaky layers of these biscuits, as opposed to the wetter, crumbly ones you find at say KFC.

What's your favorite way to eat biscuits?


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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kahoo Restaurant (West San Jose)

We were in the neighborhood so we decided to stop in at Tokushima do Henkotsu for some of their delicious ramen and fried rice. But when we got there, we found that the shop had changed! Apparently the old guy had retired, and there was a newer, "hipper" ramen shop in the same place. We thought we'd stay and test it out. ("You never know unless you try.") The menu isn't very extensive, nor expensive. The waitress said her favorite was the miso ramen with vegetables. I got that while Annie ordered the shoyu ramen with vegetables.

My miso ramen. It's a pretty substantial bowl of food. The veggies include green onions, chives, cabbage, carrots, onions, and bean sprouts. There's also thin slices of pork mixed in. I think they use a red miso base with a slight chili pepper bite at the back end.

Annie's shoyu ramen. The pork-based broth is not very clear, and there's lots of little pieces of fat floating round in it (not that bad, actually). Noodles were pretty standard and nothing to shout about.

We also got a side dish of rice with some "bbq pork" on top. It's more like braised or boiled pork than grilled or roasted. But it was very tender pork and quite tasty.

Esther enjoyed her share of dinner to the last drop. Overall I'd say it wasn't the worst ramen I've had. I like that they put so much veggies in there. The price was reasonable as well. But, we will certainly miss Henkotsu. Now all I can do is look at old pics and dream.


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Friday, November 09, 2007

Cage Free vs Regular eggs

We go through a lot of eggs in the House of Annie, thanks to all the baking and cooking she does. We used to buy our eggs at Costco but recently have started buying them at Trader Joe's. We find that they are actually slightly cheaper by the dozen at TJ than Costco.

One night, we noticed that the "cage-free" eggs were on sale for about the same price as the regular eggs. It must have been a misprint, as the cashier at first rang them up at a higher price before we insisted a runner go back and verify the lower price. Cage-free eggs are usually 2 to 3 times more expensive than regular eggs, but we managed to get them for the lower price that night. I'm sure they changed the sale price sign soon after.

What is the whole deal with "cage-free" vs regular eggs anyway? They both come from the same chickens, but it's all about how these chickens are managed. Regular factory farms have chickens stacked tightly in small cages where they cannot move around or even stretch their wings. Cage-free chickens are allowed to roam freely inside their warehouse and are given darkened areas where they can lay their eggs in relative privacy.

Note that cage-free does not mean cruelty-free. Both cage-free and regular chickens have their beaks clipped so that they don't peck and injure each other as chickens naturally do in high-stress situations. Cage-free doesn't necessarily mean they are allowed to roam around outdoors, eat organic feed, or are anti-biotic-free. In effect, cage-free just means that producers have less chickens per square foot of warehouse than normal factory farms. Hence, the higher prices per dozen eggs.

So here is a comparison of the two. The cage-free eggs are on the left, the regular on the right. Of course, the color difference is immediately noted but there's also a viscosity difference, and a flavor difference as well. But ultimately, the real difference is in the mind of the consumer regarding the welfare of the chicken.

If you are really concerned that your eggs come from happy chickens, maybe you'd better purchase pasture-raised eggs from a small family farm (and pay much more for them) or raise your own chickens. As for me, I'll eat my eggs no matter where they spend their non-egg-laying time.


More: How to make perfect hard boiled eggs; Cute Japanese egg molds;

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Apple City Barbecue Ribs

Every couple of months or so I get the hankering for some barbecue ribs. My Weber Smokey Mountain smoker has enough room to handle 6 or more racks of ribs so I usually get some friends to order a slab or two from me. They are the best ribs in San Jose after all...

Recently one of my friends had a surprise birthday party and I was asked to smoke some ribs for the party. I normally do a dry rub of salt & pepper (and other stuff) but this time I took the recipe for "Apple City Barbecue Ribs" out of the "Smoke and Spice" cookbook. It involves a wet marinade and a dry rub, followed by smoking and then served with a sauce on the side. This recipe has won several major Grand Championships for the team that created it.

Here the racks of pork spareribs are trimmed then marinated overnight in a mixture of apple juice, apple cider, Worchestershire sauce, minced onion and thyme.

About an hour before cooking, drain and apply a rub made with brown sugar, onion powder, mustard, and more thyme.

Here they are after being smoked over apple wood for 5 hours at 200-225. It is served with a sauce on the side made from tomato paste, apple juice, Worchestershire sauce, molasses, and a little chili pepper.

I'd say they came out okay. Not as popular as my salt and pepper ribs but some people liked it with the sauce. To each their own. Me, I'm not so sure I like a recipe that requires saucing at the end to complete the flavor package. Plus, it was more work to prepare than s&p.


More barbecue recipes: Beer Can Chicken, Pulled Pork, Ribs on the Weber Smokey Mountain

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Great Vanilla Bean Giveaway

Jaden over at at SteamyKitchen has a drawing going on where she is offering a half pound of vanilla beans to 8 lucky people who leave a link to a recipe containing vanilla on her blog. I have offered up my Crepes post and linked to the YouTube video of me making the crepes at home.

What's that? You haven't seen the video? Well, here you go!

I previously offered my Paella post for Jaden's saffron giveaway. Unfortunately, my name was not chosen. Maybe this time (crossing fingers)!

Hey, this is fun. I'm not just blogging about food, I'm blogging for food as well! I should make a sign:


--- edit Nov 8 update ---
I found out that we were one of the people chosen to receive the vanilla beans!  I'm so tickled to have been chosen.  In future posts I hope to show Annie putting those vanilla beans to good use!


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Sakura Tea and Mochi

Growing up in Hawaii, I was exposed to a lot of local Japanese culture. But it wasn't until I met Annie that I was introduced to Japanese tea culture. We were privileged to attend a Japanese tea ceremony demonstration held at the Japanese Tea Garden on the grounds of the East West Center at the University of Hawaii. It was quite an experience, one that I will not forget.

Coming from a British-influenced country like Malaysia, Annie loves to drink tea. She was so happy when a Lupicia tea store opened up in the Valley Fair mall in San Jose. They have such really wonderful teas there, and sometimes you can find good deals on clearance items.

Such as this sakura tea - a black tea flavored with lightly salted and cured cherry leaves.

Of course, now you have to have something to go with the tea. What better finger food to enjoy with sakura tea, than sakura mochi? The soft, sweet, glutinous rice paste is filled with sweet azuki bean paste, then wrapped in a slightly salty cherry leaf that adds a faint "green" flavor and a pleasing bite to the texture profile.

Nibble, sip. Nibble, sip. Let the flavors meld in your mouth...mmmmm.....perfect!

What are your favorite tea / finger food combinations?


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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Akane Sushi (Los Altos), Part 2

Continuing from Part 1 of our dinner at Akane Sushi in Los Altos.

Our final piece of nigiri sushi was aji or Spanish Mackerel. The aji have been marinated to lessen the fishiness but preserve the texture.

Of the side dishes, I got a house salad while Annie got a clam-miso soup. This soup was! It had a very hearty clam flavor prevailing over the miso. No tofu, but at least you can eat the clams.

We also ordered a beef tataki plate, which is basically raw beef, briefly seared, then sliced and served with onions, green onions, radish sprouts, and a soy-ponzu sauce. That sauce was very addictive.

To finish, we got the "Akane II Roll" which is shio maguro (white tuna) and avocado wrapped inside out, then rolled in panko. Much better than a tempura-fried roll.

The total for this meal came to $50 plus tip, which is amazing considering the quality. On top of that, it's much closer to home than Sushi-Man in San Francisco. I think we've found a new favorite place to have sushi!


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