Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Crispy Honey Garlic Tofu Bites

Sometimes, I ponder about the silly things in life, such as gosh, why am I going to be a doctor? What am I doing with my life to help the world?

I'm a voracious news listener, and NPR podcasts are the most exciting part of my daily commute on the rail. There's people in Nepal suffering from the earthquake, and people dying in Africa with Ebola, and accidental deaths from drone strikes, and lots of other bad news.

I'm on my oncology month, so once I get to work, I get to hear more deaths and end of life/prognosis talks all day long; sometimes I feel like an ant climbing a mountain of bad news. My roommate said, jeez, cancer everywhere all the time sounds so depressing. But I really like oncology - not the cancer and chemo, obviously, but the "pushing forward and living and enjoying life anyway" spirit.

If these people can make it through their legitimate troubles, I can climb my mountain of "Gee, can I match to X residency" (which is really just a stupid molehill by comparison).
News and cancer and residency applications can be depressing, so then, I revert to pondering about random, less stressful stuff, such as what is tofu? 

Tofu, or bean curd, is coagulated soy milk curds pressed into blocks. (Sounds delicious, eh?) There's multiple wild theories on its invention, but my personal favorite is the "The Accidental Coagulation Theory," where sometime before 600 AD, someone in northern China noticed that curds formed when pureed soybean soup was seasoned with sea salt (specifically the nigari in the salt). If you want more info, Soy Info Center has a ridiculous 7 long page history.

Tofu is my huge comfort food, especially when it's fried and crispy. Here is a delicious quick tofu dish by i am a food blog that's easier (and healthier) because it's baked. Don't go crazy with the cornstarch like I did. 
PS. As I'm on oncology now, I feel obligated to say that, no, the amount of tofu in a normal, balanced diet does not have enough estrogen effects to cause breast cancer.

Crispy Honey Garlic Tofu Bites

1 pack pressed tofu *
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
pepper, to taste
sliced green onions and sesame seeds, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Dry off tofu using a paper towel and cut into 1 inch cubes. Toss with the cornstarch and place parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes, flipping the tofu halfway.

When you have just 5 minutes left on the baking time (tofu should be a light golden brown) start the sauce. Combine and heat up honey, soy, garlic, and pepper over medium heat in a small pan (or micowave at 10 second intervals) until bubbly and thick.

Remove the tofu from the oven and toss in the sauce. Garnish with sliced green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!

* Pressed tofu is tofu with water squeezed out - you can find it in Asian groceries. Otherwise, substitute regular firm tofu (remove excess moisture with paper towels).
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Egg Drop Soup with Fried Wontons

Another month, another rotation - Neurology has been by far the most foreign one. From squinting at MRIs ("oh yes, I definitely see that tiny blip") to scratching my head at disease names ("What is DADS, MADSAM, POEMS, TAC, PANDAS?"), it was quite a steep learning curve.

Interesting neurology physical exam techniques I learned: tap someone between the eyes repeatedly, put ice cold water in their ear, flick their fingernails, stick a tuning fork on the forehead, and listen to their eyeballs.

I promise these are legit physical exam tests.
What's hard about Neurology is once you finally piece together the story, which is definitely challenging when the patients themselves can't tell you what's going on, is that treatment is often limited. So while from a nebulous standpoint, the pathology is fascinating, but it can be a little depressing.

So let's go back to something simple and comforting. Egg drop soup - Chinese buffet style.
Egg drop soup or "Egg Flower Soup" is super fun to make - you slowly add beaten eggs and it cooks instantly, forming the silken strands that float in the soup. This soup has been around a long time, and there's a zillion variations - add-ins can include peas, tomatoes, tofu, scallions, ginger, and even seaweed. I prefer the thinner Chinese style egg drop soup than the cornstarch laden American version (huge pet peeve). Recipe adapted from Full Thyme Student.

Egg Drop Soup with Fried Wontons

3 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
3 eggs
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1-2 teaspoons soy sauce
ground black pepper, to taste
1 green onion, diced
optional: cooked mushrooms, shredded carrots, sliced asparagus, etc.

5 wonton wrappers, stacked and cut into ½ inch strips
vegetable oil, for frying

In a pot over high heat, add 2 cups chicken broth allow to come to a boil, then lower to medium heat. In a small bowl, whisk together corn starch and 1 cup of remaining broth until completely dissolved (corn starch will not dissolve in hot liquid, but will clump instead, so don't add it directly). Whisk corn starch mixture into hot broth and simmer for 5 minutes. Add in frozen peas and any additional vegetables, if desired, and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add sesame oil and soy sauce.

In a liquid measuring cup, whisk eggs. Pour eggs in a slow steady stream into the broth (now on low heat), whisking the entire time to get the egg ribbons. Stir in green onions, and black pepper. Adjust sesame oil and soy sauce to taste.

Add a small amount of oil (about 1/4 inch deep) in a pan/pot on medium heat. Once hot add a few wonton strips and fry until golden brown (about 15-30 seconds). Remove from oil with slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.

Serve the soup with wonton strips and diced green onions. Enjoy!
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass

So I had probably the most eventful week of my life. One, I got my boards score and not only did I pass, I managed to rock it (yay!) - that was a huge relief off my chest. Two, I got engaged (that's pretty cool). Three, I turned a quarter of a century old (not as cool, lol).

Guess this all means I'm growing up - getting a career, a marriage, and wrinkles.
To celebrate all that jazz, B's family and I went to Menlo Grill and Bistro near Stanford. I went to the bathroom and came back to find the waitress serving us complimentary champagne and congratulating me on my engagement.

Chef Uy: Eh? How did you know?! (we did not make reservations)
Waitress: Oh, you were just glowing when you walked in, so I asked what the occasion was.

That reminded my of one my favorite quotes by Roald Dahl: “If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” I can beam sunshine!
Happiness makes any food taste good, but, really, I did eat the most delicious dish ever: Miso-glazed Chilean sea bass with sticky rice, steamed broccolini, lotus root chips, in roasted mushroom broth. I tucked it away in my list of restaurant recipes to figure out.

More than 4 years ago, B went through great efforts to woo me. But the secret to my heart is two things: fish and froyo.
B: If I knew how much you like eating, getting you to go out with me in the beginning would have been so much less work!! 
Delightedly, I found a great deal on Chilean seabass - it's an rather expensive fish because of its buttery flavor. I decided, well, I'm gonna treat myself cause I'm a grown-up now! So this is the fanciest (ie most expensive) ingredient I've ever used so far in my poor student budget culinary career.

Fun Fact: Interestingly, Chilean seabass isn't even a bass, but a cod, and most aren't from Chile, but from Antarctica. In a mere 20 years, it rose from being some unknown fish with an ugly name "Patagonian toothfish" served as a cheap substitute to a luxury cuisine (now risking extinction) thanks to some sexy branding, as it was marketed under a fancier sounding new name "Chilean seabass."

My dish is quite close, except I couldn't find brocollini, so I inserted random Asian vegetable. If you don't know what vegetables you're buying in an Asian grocery store, try this handy visual guide. I have no idea how they did the sticky rice, but I nailed the miso fish (adapted from Epicurious). Oh yeah!

Miso Glazed Chilean Sea Bass

1/6 cup sake
1/6 cup mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons miso paste
4 (4 ounce) fillets fresh sea bass

Mix sake, mirin, soy sauce, brown sugar, and miso in a shallow dish. Add fish and marinate for at least 1 hour.

On a nonstick cooking pan on medium heat, pan sear the fillets for about 3-5 minutes (depending on thickness), drizzling the marinade as it cooks and caramelizes. Flip and repeat until fish is just opaque/cooked throughout.

Alternatively, you can bake the fish in its own marinate for about 20 min in an oven at 375F and broil for an additional 5 minutes (depending on thickness).

Chilean Sea Bass Sides

8-10 shiitake mushrooms
soy sauce

5-10 lotus slices (I used frozen, pre-cut)
salt and pepper, to taste
sesame oil
1 bunch choy sum (or any Asian vegetable of choice)
1 clove garlic, minced
~ 1/3 cup water (or extra mushroom broth)

Put shittake mushrooms and just enough water to cover in a pot. Boil for about 5 min, then reduce to a simmer while the pot covered for additional 15 minutes. Add soy sauce to taste.

Place lotus slices on foil and cover with sesame oil and salt and pepper. Bake at 375 F for 30 minutes, until crispy. I did not defrost mine, so reduce/adjust baking time of your lotus is defrosted or fresh.

Cut off the ends of the choy sum. Stir fry the choy sum and garlic with oil in a wok on high heat for a few minutes. Add water to the vegetables; cover the top and reduce to low for 5-10 min to steam the vegetables. Drizzle with sesame oil.

To plate, lay the vegetables first, then rice (packed in a square), then perch the sea bass on top. Drizzle the mushroom broth on the plate. Enjoy!
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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Braided Nutella Bread // I said yes

I've got some big news guys... I've rediscovered the joy of Nutella!

Ok, *ahem* there's some other big news as well. B decided he likes my food enough (and is willing to never have 6 pack abs again) and proposed to me lol! Thank you to everyone who's wished me congratulations =^__^=
Lots of people have asked about details, so I'd share a tiny snippet of our comical story. I had a whirlwind 24 hr trip to the Bay Area courtesy of his parents, and he proposed to me at Lake Lagunita at Stanford, the site where we first met more than 4 years ago (his first feature on OCD). 

Morning of engagement I
B: *wakes up* Today is going to be a great day!
Chef Uy: *wakes up* What’s for breakfast?

Morning of engagement II
Dad: *texts* Hey I got a hole in one!!!
(obviously, this is an omen for a lucky wedding)

B: *wearing huge baggy jacket to hide the ginormous ring box*
Chef Uy: Wow that is SO unfashionable!! Can you change that?
B: Hey, I like this jacket! It’s...comfortably loose.

*sun beats down*
Chef Uy: It’s so hot, are you sure you want to wear that jacket? Are you ok - you don't look good...
B: No, it’s nice and cool *clutching ring box while sweating buckets*

Chef Uy: *wandering around Stanford* La la la! 
Karen: *getting eaten alive by mosquitoes in the woods with her camera*
B: *melting away into a puddle*

*Walking along the lake*
Chef Uy: La la la!
B: Oh no (sees Karen obviously in the woods) No time for prepared soliloquy! *Yanks Chef Uy in the other direction away from camera* WILLYOUMARRYME!
Chef Uy: wha-? o_O
B: *puts ring on the wrong hand*

I was absolutely shocked when my friend Karen emerged from the woods, as she was supposed to be across the country, but was delighted to see her (and she got great pics). In my ideal proposal, it would be at a meaningful place, there would be pictures of the moment, and it would be totally private. B nailed all three. What a romantic guy!

So, I said yes :)
Lots of people have asked me about The Ring. B did a great job; he knows I love swirls and got a custom made twisted diamond ring by a really awesome mom and pop jewelry store. The owner Misha is the sweetest guy ever (plus he fed us Sees chocolates while showing us pics of his kids!)
While we're talking about pretty swirly things, here's a swirly braided Nutella bread by Kokocooks. The concept is really simple, but handling the bread is surprisingly tricky - the first try, my bread didn't roll because it was too sticky. The second try here is better since I added more flour while rolling.... but I might have overdone the Nutella, as it all oozed out. Oops.

I expected it to be like a French bread, but it's actually light and flakey, like the pain au chocolat croissants I munched on every breakfast at Stanford, hence my freshman fifteen (ok just five thankfully). B is part French and of course looooves his breads.
B and I have been long distance for many years given our medical schools; alas, we're still long distance but it's nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel! I can't believe I'm officially a fiance - man, that sounds crazy!

Braided Nutella Bread

1/2 teaspoon active, dry yeast
scant 1 cup warm water (~100°F)
2 1/2 cups flour, plus additional for dusting
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cups nutella
1 egg, beaten as an egg wash

Activate the yeast by dissolving in the 1 cup of water and let it sit for 10 minutes. Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Add yeast/water. Knead 5-10 minutes to for a dough that holds its shape but is still a little sticky (add more flour if needed). Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl.

Cover bowl with a damp towel, set in a warm place, and let rise until doubled, about an hour. Or place bowl in the fridge overnight.

On well floured parchment paper, roll dough thinly to form a rectangle. Make sure the dough doesn't stick to the paper. Spread the nutella evenly, leaving a ½ inch border of dough. Roll the short end tightly and split the dough down the middle, Twist ends around each other, with the nutella side facing the top (see photos). Transfer parchment paper into baking sheet; let dough sit 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush the bread surface with the egg wash. Bake bread for 20 minutes. Raise temperature to 425°F and bake until lightly browned, about 5-7 minutes more. Remove from oven, and cool before serving.
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Monday, April 6, 2015

Game of Thrones Bean and Bacon Soup

Happy Easter Monday! Here's an easy Bean and Bacon Soup from the official Game of Thrones cookbook (from The Wall, hence me scaling up a ladder).
While social media has been great for ideas and staying connected, it can feel like a facade of perfection. As a 100% proclaimed neurotic med student, I was starting to go crazy, comparing myself to other bloggers. From my clothes and beauty to my OCD blog to even friends/family/relationships, I felt envious of others' perfect lives, so I needed a break badly.

So... I self-imposed a social media block during Lent. I also deleted all the phone apps, and every other day, I couldn't go on facebook, twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc, or any blogs AT ALL.
Initially it was torture not checking my phone 10000x a day, but now that Lent is over and it's Easter, my social media hiatus has helped give me room to breathe. Also, I was just burnt out after my medical boards. I've focused on simplifying life and doing things for me, rather than to keep up with everyone else.

I recently finished Family Medicine, my first taste of ambulatory medicine. The "chief complaints" are often simpler, but the rapid fire patient-after-patient appointments can still be overwhelming. My clinic was super busy - almost 60 patients a day! My feet definitely hurt from standing all day.
I enjoyed a great deal of independence and got to see a huge variety of patients - from newborns to 100 year olds, from Medicaid/uninsured immigrants to wealthy big shots, Spanish speaking, English speaking, worker's compensation, urgent care, and even driving to high schools to do sports physicals for 800 kids (in one day!). Family medicine is like a smorgasbord of every type of medicine.

This bean and bacon soup is also huge smorgasbord. I confess my culinary efforts have taken a nosedive from laziness/decompression post boards and the lack of Pinterest these past several weeks, but it's so easy to toss everything in this one pot soup that even I can do it.

Bean and Bacon Soup

2 leeks (or green onions/scallions)
1 stalk celery
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot
1/2 teaspoon, garlic
1 can fava beans, drained and rinsed (I used butter beans)
2 cups chicken stock
4-6 strips bacon
salt and pepper, to taste

Chop the leeks, celery, onions, and carrots and sautee in a large pot with garlic and olive oil. Add chicken broth, and simmer for about 15 min.

In the meantime, cook your bacon strips (I used my toaster oven). Chop roughly.

Add beans and bacon and simmer for an additional 15 min. Add salt and pepper to taste.
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