Sesame oil chicken (ma you ji)

My mom is usually the cook in the family (either due to traditional cultural gender roles or due to her control freak-esque distrust of my dad’s cooking–one year for Thanksgiving when she was out of town visiting her parents in Taiwan, my dad made duck and told me not to tell her because she thought it was too fatty; I have obviously inherited his taste because I love duck) so when my dad is in charge of dinner, he takes it very seriously and is very proud of his cooking.  The one dish he typically makes (others include French toast and soy sauce fried eggs) is ma you ji, directly translated to “sesame oil chicken.”  I didn’t know this was a typically Taiwanese thing until I tried to Google a recipe and of course my parents are no help because they just give me the Chinese name without any concrete translation (decoding dim sum menus is especially fun).  So anyway, a Taiwanese restaurant recently opened near my house but it doesn’t have sesame oil chicken on the menu, and this missing dish set me on a craving and I figured I should just ask my dad how he made is.  He didn’t give any measurements or time, so I supplemented with a Saveur recipe.


My dad suggested the vodka if I didn’t have michiu, but I didn’t use it; I used equal amounts of shaoxing (Taiwanese rice wine) and sake instead.  Other ingredients were about a 1/4 cup dark sesame oil, 1 lb. chicken drumsticks and about 1 lb. chicken breast, one knob of ginger.
ImagePeel, smash, and roughly chop 3-4 in. long piece of ginger.  Heat 2-3 Tb. dark sesame oil in wok or pan (I used a deep cast iron skillet) over medium / medium high heat.  Saute ginger for a couple minutes to release flavor.

Add bone-in chicken (I used drumsticks and also a boneless, skinless chicken breast that I had to use up; the bone-in chicken cooks much tastier) chopped in two or three pieces.  Brown and coat with oil for a couple minutes over medium high.  At moments throughout cooking, I drizzled extra sesame oil over the meat.


ImageAfter a few minutes, add Chinese rice wine (typically michiu, but I only had Shaoxing, which I read is a little less alcohol and milder than michiu, so I did half a cup Shaoxing and half a cup of an old bottle of sake that seemed to only get more potent with age), bring to a boil, then cover and simmer.

Simmer simmer simmer…


A little more than halfway through the cooking process, I tasted the broth and it tastes reeeeally alcoholy (hmm), so I added a little more sesame oil.  Cooking mellowed it out, of course, so you can really just season to taste with wine and oil.  I also sprinkled some black pepper and leeks over the top of the meat.

All in all, it only took about 20-30 minutes of fairly high simmering to cook the chicken all the way through.Image

Not very impressive looking, but it’s really tasty and perfect for a cold night.

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Cafe Noir (formerly Madame Chou Chou) brunch

Duck confit hash and eggs.


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Secret foie gras in LA.

I’m not really supposed to say where it’s from.  But I found it!  What a pleasant surprise for a random Wednesday evening.  Also a pleasant surprise was sitting three tables away from an actor from several of my favorite TV shows including Party Down and Parks & Recreation!  So typically Hollywood…

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Ray & Stark’s at LAMCA – Labor Day!

ImageIt’s a beautiful Labor Day and Ray’s & Stark Bar at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art provided the perfect outdoor dining lunch.  This $8 side of mac and cheese was just all right, which is not indicative of the actual entrees, which were fantastic (juicy, flavorful hangar steak and squid ink pasta with bottarga, for reference).


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Deuxave – Boston, MA

Seared foie gras with… fruit and stuff!  The service at Deuxave was one of the best I’ve ever had, and I’ve eaten at a lot of restaurants!  Without saying much, there was some brief miscommunication, and our waiter made his best effort to make up for it.

The other appetizer was a duo of steak tartare and carpaccio.  Yummm… I prefer tartare to carpaccio, but with both options, there was a great portion for two.

Likewise, I was impressed by the portion of the duck breast with quinoa.  Fancy restaurants are renowned for high prices and stingy portions, but this one was spot on.  I have had $20 plates of duck that literally had four slices of meat on it, so maybe my expectations are just very low!  In any case, Deuxave was a great experience and made Boston a successful and delicious excursion.

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Weekend in Boston.

Things I noticed right away: lobster everything, $1 oyster specials, “Mexican” food.

View from the first hotel, The Revere, a recently renovated Radisson.

Roof deck garden in Cambridge.

It took about 20 min. by bus to get from Logan Airport to South Station, and a 15 min. walk to our first hotel in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston.  At the station, however, I noticed these awesome rental bikes and saw that they had these located in tons of convenient spots around Boston and Cambridge.

The Hubway! Bike shares at $5 unlimited rides for one day or $12 unlimited rides for three days, free rides up to 30 min., but with so many conveniently located kiosks, it was well worth it for getting around town. Excellent for visitors, especially when the weather is good.

There was one brief stint with renting a Zipcar and driving out to Harris Cyclery, but ultimately, driving within the immediate city is somewhat pointless.  Especially since the 90 doesn’t really have as many exits within Boston proper as one might think to be particularly useful.

Our restaurant explorations were highly successful.  After a round of $1 oysters at Avila Restaurant right across the street from our hotel, we had a late night dinner at the bar of No. 9 Park, a somewhat fancy restaurant right on the edge of the Boston Common.  I was afraid it would be a bit stuffy, but it turned out to be perfect.  The bar menu had good prices on great food, the bartenders were extremely friendly, and we sat next to a regular who, in quite a drunken state, invited us to dinner, her treat, the next night at Erbaluce, another well known Boston restaurant.  It was pretty hilarious, but we did not take her up on the offer.

Foie gras with… lots of good stuff.

Our awesome bartender setting some drink on fire. I don’t actually know his name because the drunk regular kept calling him by one name, and then at some point, he good-naturedly informed us (and her) that that wasn’t his name…

I mostly wanted to go to No. 9 Park because they had seared foie gras on their bar menu.  It was quite excellent, and upon hearing that we were from California, where the state legislature banned foie gras earlier this year, the chef sent out a complimentary sample plate of the menu’s foie gras offerings (not pictured).  Incredible hospitality!

Following this late night excursion was one last stop, to Max & Dylan’s around the corner.  It is pretty much a typical bar, but they had a variety of macaroni and cheeses on their menu, including the ubiquitously-Boston lobster mac & cheese.  Lobster mac is notoriously hit or miss, but this one was actually a hit.

Max & Dylan’s lobster mac and cheese paired with a Duvel in the background. Real cheese sauce with breadcrumbs, and the lobster actually seemed to mesh well with the cheese.

Well, that’s all for now.  I’m adapting to a new laptop, so it takes a bit longer to go through these photos and think up clever/coherent things to say.

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Veggie Grill vegan mac & cheese

Even though I do like vegan versions of macaroni and cheese, it can’t ever really not taste like vegan mac and cheese.  Maybe it’s the quinoa pasta, maybe it’s the lack of dairy, and basically the absence of each part of the Macaroni + Cheese equation.  But anyway, here’s a mac and cheese from Veggie Grill, one of my new favorite places to eat near my house.  Aside from the uninspired name of the restaurant, the food is remarkable because it manages to be unpretentious vegan food with plates under $10 (well, they are pretty much $10 each), and chicken that tastes incredibly like chicken (kind of a scary thought if you think about it too hard, but oh well).  They have a fried chick’n plate with steamed kale, cauliflower mashed potatoes, and mushroom gravy, and it’s phenomenal and pretty guilt free.  They also have amazing dessert.  It has a bit of a fast food cafeteria style to it (order at the counter, get a number, they bring you the food on trays), but this is a casual alternative to other ~healthy/humane/organic/earth friendly bistro~ vegan restaurants where they patiently explain to you that the straws are more prone to breakage because they are made from corn (thanks, Sage!  I still love your food!).

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