Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hasta Luego!

Today, my mom and I are leaving our husbands home and we are going to Spain!

In Madrid: We will see Puerta del Sol, Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, Prado, Retiro Gardens, Reina Sofia, El Rastro market, and maybe even catch a bullfight!

In Barcelona: We will see Segrada Familia, Casa Mila apartment building, and Park Guell. We will explore the people-packed Ramblas boulevard, maneuver the maze-life Gothic Quarter, buy fresh fruits at the busy Boqueria market, and take in the view at Mount Montjuic. And of course, look out to the Mediterranean Sea.

Overall: We will sample tapas, use public transportation, enjoy the good weather (sunny 60s all week), and try not to strangle each other! :)

Adiós! I will report back next week!

I am going to sneak Pesto onto the airplane! Shhhh....

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Happy Adopt-versary!

Dear Pargo,

Happy Adopt-versary! Can you believe you have been with us for three years? Time sure went by fast.

When we first met you, you were unsure, scared, helpless, and ridiculously adorable.

Except for the ridiculously adorable part, you have completely transformed! You are now strong, smart, alert, and you love to be with people.

You enjoy the little things in life - sunbathing, barking, snuggling, sleeping, and of course, eating your chicken treats. You are loyal, lovable, and always welcome us home with kisses.

We hope you little antenna will never stop wagging.

Happy 3 years.

- Mom + Dad

Pargo inside his crate, coming home with us. Picture taken exactly three years ago.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Aloe Madness

Even though we are not blessed with a yard, we do have a little sunroom for our plants.

Last weekend, hubs spent hours trimming and re-potting our plants. Some plants had outgrown their current home and needed to be trimmed, be moved to bigger pots, or be separated into smaller pots.

Unfortunately, we didn't have enough pots of everyone! One of our biggest plants - the aloe - had to be cut down drastically.

So now we have a bunch of cut aloe leaves, plumped with aloe vera gel, waiting to be used.

I never thought I would say this:

Too bad we don't have any skin wounds, burn, or scalds. Nor we have any blisters, insect bites, rashes, sores, fungus, mouth sores, or dry skin.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Cupcakes Actually

I woke up yesterday feeling really cranky. I was lethargic, sloppy, and still getting over my cold. In a word, I felt gross.

As it was a nice day out, I decided the best way to get myself out of the funk was to be out, even just for a little while. So hubs and I got dolled up, packed up the pups, and went to get some cupcakes at this new local cupcakery called Cupcakes Actually.

Cupcakes Actually opened not more than two weeks ago, I believe. They offer six flavors and the price per cupcake ranges from $3.05 to $3.75. The store is conveniently located at Fairfax Corner, where there is plenty of parking. However, because of the boys, hubs dropped me off while he stayed in the car with them.

Cupcakes Actually definitely pays attention to details! The store has a sky blue theme that runs throughout and the cute little cupcakes are neatly presented on cake pedestals of varying heights. I picked two cupcakes, Actually Dipped Chocolate + Strawberry Fields (both shown in the picture above) and they were nicely packaged in a blue box and then placed in a small shopping bag!

After meeting up with hubs, we drove to a nearby field and enjoyed the cupcakes while the pups ran around.

I really liked the cupcakes!

The strawberry cupcake was infused with light flavors of strawberry and the airy butter cream frosting made the cupcake sweet, but not overly so. (It tasted a lot like the Sprinkles' strawberry cupcakes I made! Hubs even thinks that mine tasted better.)

The Actually Dipped Chocolate was delicious, too. This devil's food cupcake was topped with light butter cream and then dipped in chocolate fudge. The frosting looked and tasted marshmallow-ly. I was not disappointed. (Hubs' take? Just another cupcake, not worth the price tag.)

Ultimately, although I love the cupcakes, this was a very frivolous spending that I won't do it again for a long time.

After the cupcakes, we ran around with the boys to work off the calories before heanding home.

We were gone for maybe a little bit more than an hour, but what a mood enhancer! I felt a lot better and ended up having a very productive day!

Cupcakes Actually is located at 11944 Grand Commons Ave. Fairfax, VA 22030. Their phone number is 571-522-6315. Their website is still under construction.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Second Official Day Of Spring

On the second official day (3/21) of spring, we:

Beautified Our Fish Tank

We have a 55-gallon tank with freshwater fish. We can never seem to keep the plants alive so the tank is always pretty barren. Hubs decided as part of spring cleaning, he would clean the tank from top to bottom and give plants another try.

So we stopped by Petco, bought a couple of plants (jeeze, not cheap), and hubs set it all up once we got home. He scraped the algae, changed the water, and decorated with plants.

Before. A wasteland.

After. Full of life!

Gifted Pesto Big Bird

Poor Pesto. Being the second child, all his toys are hand-me-downs from his older brother.

Until now.

We went to Walmart and while browsing the pet aisle for something else, we found this pet toy for a dollar! Pet toys are notoriously expensive so this was a real steal!

Pesto is starting to grow his adult teeth so he has been chewing a lot lately, including power cords. This Big Bird has many chew-worthy parts that should keep his mouth busy and tail wagging.

He can finally return that smelly old squirrel back to Pargo. :)

Said "Happy Birthday" to My Dad

My dad's birthday was yesterday! He's 70! What a milestone. I wish him many many more healthy years to come!

My brother treated us to Todai, a sushi buffet. The best part of the meal was the mango, green tea, and red bean ice cream at the end.

Then later in the day, we took the boys home and had ice cream cake!

What are you doing this weekend?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sichuan-Style Chicken and Bell Pepper Stir Fry

I mentioned it before that I love this local Chinese restaurant - Sichuan Village. I can't get enough of the insanely spicy dishes. And the authenticity! You won't find General Tso's Chicken at this place.

Hubs and I eat there once in a while and when we do, we always leave with leftovers that feed us for the next several days.

There is this one particular dish (辣椒鸡丝) that we get every single time. There is no direct English translation, but it's basically chicken and green bell peppers, flavored with super spicy chili peppers and drenched in oil. OH YUM!

Just like everything else, I like to cook what I eat at restaurants at home. One problem: I couldn't find the recipe.

But, I knew it couldn't be too hard to replicate.

So I went for it. Without any recipes. I just cooked.

It turned out pretty good! The chicken pieces were tender and juicy. The green peppers added a bit of sweetness. It was yummy over white rice. It looked just like the one from Sichuan Village. Tasted very similar, too.

However, it wasn't spicy (enough)! I used two different kinds of green chili peppers - long green and serrano - but they didn't add any spice at all. Does anyone know what kind of chili peppers I need to use for a really spicy flavor? I definitely want to make the dish again.

This is my first original recipe! I came up with the ingredients + measurements on my own and in my not-so-humble opinion, it's just about perfect! Again, next time I will just have to find different kinds of chili pepper to use.

Sichuan-Style Chicken and Bell Pepper Stirfry:

- 1 chicken breast, thinly sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
- 4 green chili pepper, chopped (I used a combination of long green and serrano)
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt to taste

Marinade:
- 1 tbsp rice wine
- 1 tsp chili oil
- 1 tsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 tsp corn starch
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Marinate chicken with rice wine, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, corn starch, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
2. Heat pan with oil on HIGH. Add chili pepper (including the seeds) and garlic. Stir fry until fragrant.
3. Add chicken breast. Stir quickly and cook until 80% done. Make sure to cook on high heat - it adds the "burnt" flavor.
4. Add bell pepper. Stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes.
5. Add sugar and salt.
6. Serve hot with white rice.

I cook a lot with chicken and bell peppers, if you like this recipe, you may also like Canton Chicken and Chicken Stir Fry w/ Fermented Black Beans and Bell Peppers.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tracking Our Dollars: The Results

Four weeks ago, I tasked myself to keep track of our daily expenses for one month. Immediately after I wrote that post, I created a spreadsheet and a form in Google Docs. I then shared everything with hubs so he could track and play along too. :)

The first goal of this exercise was to find out where we are spending our money. The second, and less important, was how much we are spending.

From the pie chart, it's obvious that we spend the most on our rent, with utilities following behind. Therefore, it's safe to say that most of our spending is for putting a roof over our heads, as well as keeping us comfortable and entertained when we are at home.

Our third major expense is groceries, which makes perfectly good sense.

I am very happy with the way everything is broken out.

Without disclosing how much we actually spent in total, I will say that hubs and I are doing well.

The fact that all our other spending combined is less than our rent proves that hubs and I live a simple life. We can easily survive on one income, which is important in this economy.

I am not going to do this exercise for the upcoming month. Reviewing the spreadsheet I created, there wasn't anything that made me go, "why did we buy this again?". Therefore, I will conclude that we are very responsible with our money and there is no need to track little daily expenses.

I may start playing with mint, though. Hubs introduced it to me a long time ago, but I haven't fully understand all its capabilities. I think it helps with future planning, which is more what I am interested in.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

100% Pure New Zealand

Next year, after hubs is finally done with school, I have dreams of visiting New Zealand (and Taiwan) for a very long vacation.

(thanks hubs for sharing the video)




I want to swim with dolphins! Grab an apple from the Honesty Box! See snow-capped mountains!

And when I come back, with all 5000 pictures in tow, I will make a slide show to the tune of Forever Young.

Where do you want to go next?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Flats!

High heels may be elegant and fierce, but I can't walk in them. Instead, I live in flats. They are sweet, easy-going, and comfortable. I wear them everywhere with my favorite pair of jeans.

I think these are especially cute (peep-toe and ruffles!): Crocus Bud Peep-Toes, For You Flats, and Fundamental Flats from Anthropologie.

(But why must they be so out of my price range of..um...$30?)

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, March 16, 2009

There is a lot of "BS" in Proj Mgmt.

Last year on my annual assessment, my manager indicated that I should consider getting some sort of professional certification in the upcoming year.

I could get certified in anything, as long as it is work-related, of course.

So from Monday thru Thursday this week, I am getting trained on project management. *falling asleep*

The good things about getting this training is that 1) I will earn enough extra hours to cover a day of vacation when I go to Spain next week, 2) I don't need to worry about packing lunches, and 3) I get to miss a pesky deliverable at work.

But, I don't get home until late, which is a pain compare to my usual 4pm quitting time. Therefore, the hubs is forced to dust off and put on his mommy hat this week. :)

Ah, at least I will satisfy one of my career development goals and, if I pass the exam, something new to put on my resume.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Six-Dollar Coat

About a week ago, I was sitting in the office, twirling my thumbs, when the hubster called.

Hubs: Hi. I just sent you an email, did you get it?
Me: Umm...let me check....*hitting send/receive* Nope, not yet.
Hubs: Well, it's a deal for a pea coat. You should get it loh. I almost ordered it for you, but I am not sure about the size.
Me: Okay... *hitting send/receive* Oh, got it now. I will check it out. Thanks! Byeee!

5 minutes later...

Me: Okay, I ordered two! Hope they fit!
Hubs: Cool!

The coats finally arrived yesterday and I wish I had ordered more. Like one in every color.

They are not heavy winter coats, instead, they are light (good for spring/fall) and cute (perfect cut and fit) and super affordable (6 bucks).

I especially like those pockets!

Immediately after I ordered, I twittered about it. One of my fellow twitterers actually jumped on the deal too and got two for herself! Yay!

Thanks hubs + slickdeals!

PS. I will go windex that mirror now.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This Is How Much?

Hubs and I have been casually looking at homes and because of that, I have taken an interest in the shows on hgtv.

I especially like House Hunters, Property Virgins, Hidden Potential, and Curb Appeal. It's really fascinating for me to see how far the same amount of money can stretch at different locations across the US.

Last night on House Hunters, we watched a couple searching for a home near Tampa, FL.

Holy cow! In the $350-$450K range, they looked at new-ish single family homes that all have at least 3 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, a spacious kitchen with granite tops and stainless steel appliances, guest wing (!!), formal dining room, formal living room, family room, a pool, and a big yard!

We looked at each other and unanimously said, "Lets move there."

Let me explain why.

Our own budget is $450-$500K and in the DC suburbs, you will, without a doubt, NOT find something like that.

For example, this townhouse is literally across the street from where we live (roughly 15 miles outside of DC). Although a good location, close to metro, nice neighborhood, it is ridiculously priced at $445K (2358 sq ft).

So for fun, I did a little research today.

Here are some places hubs and I have talked about moving to -

{Greater Orlando Florida}

This little house, priced at $380K, has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and is 1,697 sq ft. It is located in Celebration, FL, which is developed by The Walt Disney Company and minutes away from Disney World. In fact, there is a road that connects Celebration directly to the parks that residents can drive to the Disney property without having to use any busy streets! Wow.

Celebration is a lot pricier than the rest of the Orlando–Kissimmee Metropolitan Area because of its prime location. There are shops, restaurants, and a town center all within walking distance.

But, just merely 10 miles away from Celebration, this 5 bedrooms and 4 baths house, located at Kissimmee, is selling for $424K (crazy good!). Oh, and it has a pool.

{California}

Heading west to Cerritos, CA (an hour outside of downtown LA), the same money definitely won't get you as far. This house, built in 1970, has 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and is 1170 sq ft. It is listed at $425K, more expensive than that gigantic house above!

However, from what I have heard, Cerritos is one big Chinatown, which is a big plus in my book.

In Encinitas, CA, about 30 miles away from San Diego Zoo, this 10-year old house has 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, and is only 1,386 sq ft big. It is listed at $475K.

I also did a quick search for houses in Cupertino, CA (roughly 45 miles outside of San Francisco) with criteria of anything less than $500K. I did not get ANY results back, which seems unbelievable to me. Maybe I did something wrong?

Really, I have always known that California would be just as expensive as DC (if not more) and Orlando is a lot cheaper. However, now I have a clearer idea what $450K can buy in these places.

Hey Mickey, hire me please.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cooking Disney: General Tso's Chicken

General Tso's Chicken, while called Chinese food, is actually an American creation. It is a sweet + spicy deep fried chicken dish served in American Chinese restaurants (and popular in the buffet line).

It's one of hubs' favorite dishes!

Years and years ago, I found a recipe and tried making it at home. It didn't turn out so well - it didn't taste like the General Tso's Chicken that we know and love from Chinese restaurants.

With a different recipe (one from Disney, no less!) in hand, I decided to give it another try. It was definitely....better! The tender chicken pieces wrapped in fluffy dough and coated with sweet (and a bit spicy) sauce were very appetizing! Not too bad, if I do say so myself.

Next time though, I will make extra sauce so not only the chicken pieces get coated, but we will have some leftover for dipping and rice. If you are trying this recipe out, I recommend doubling the sauce!

General Tso's Chicken:

- 1 large chicken breast, cut into cubes
- 3-4 red chili pepper

Marinade:
- 1 teaspoon chicken base (not bouillon; the paste-like mixture is available in gourmet stores and large supermarkets)*
- 1/2 teaspoon cooking wine
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- Salt, sugar, and white pepper to taste

Batter:
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 heaping tsp baking powder
- 1 beaten egg
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2/3 cup water
- Pinch of salt

Sauce:
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tsp ketchup
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 tbsp sugar
- a pinch of black pepper
- 1/4 tsp corn starch
- 1/4 tsp vegetable oil

1. Combine marinade ingredients and let cubed chicken soak in liquid for 30 minutes.
2. Combine batter ingredients. Set aside
3. Combine sauce ingredients. Set Aside.
4. Heat cooking oil for frying. Using tongs, dips marinated chicken into batter and deep fry until golden and cooked. Drain well.
5. Heat oil in a large pan and add red chili pepper. Add the sauce mixture. Let it boil. Add chicken pieces and toss to coat. Place chicken on a serving platter to serve.
6. Optional -
sprinkle chopped green onions on top.

* I didn't have this so I skipped it

{original recipe here, but I made slight changes}

Previously on Cooking Disney: Honey Sesame Chicken, Mom's Meat Loaf and Mashed Potatoes, and Canton Chicken.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, March 9, 2009

BB Two: Moving On Up!

by Guest
Previously: 1, 2, and 3

While Joyce and I have had no luck in our search for a place to call our own, others in this family have been more fortunate. Case in point, BB Two. Check out the new digs he just moved into today! No longer is he relegated to the shell of a leftover DVD-R cake box, this here is prime real estate baby.

Thanks to Lilo for donating this little wet habitat, BB Two can now swim about freely in his own posh home without the fear of giant sea monsters making a meal out of him. Included are two quality life-like plastic plants, a 360° view of our kitchen, living, and dining rooms, and it's very own activated charcoal filtration system. Oh, and I mustn't forget, the ever present set of 9 white LEDs overlooking the whole tank keeps things nice and bright, even on the darkest of days. His real plant and rock made the move as well, so there are still familiar faces to keep him comfy.

At first, he was a little shy and stayed near his rock. But now he is swimming up and down and all around. Too bad he doesn't have any siblings to keep him company. Then again, it's still amazing that this little guy managed to survive. Look below, he has his mother's fins!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring Planting 2009

This past Monday we woke up to several inches of freshly fallen snow on the ground. Today, Sunday, the snow has melted and the temperature will be in the mid-70s!

Spring!

So continuing our tradition, we planted some basil and cilantro seeds today.

We used bigger pots (lesson learned from last year) from the get-go so hopefully this will be their permanent home and we only planted a handful of seeds in each pot (to give them plenty room to grow).

We ended up with two pots of basil and one pot of cilantro.

I have more packets of seeds I got in the mail - some wildflowers, lavender, and even cayenne pepper! I want to grow them too, but ran out of potting soil. My goal is to get soil before the end of the week so we can start growing them as well.

Here's to a successful season!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞)

Three Cup Chicken is a popular chicken dish in Taiwanese cuisine. It is basically chicken simmered in sesame oil, soy sauce and Chinese wine. Sounds plain, but incredibly delicious.

The traditional recipe calls for 1 cup each of rice wine, sesame oil, and soy sauce. For obvious health reasons, the tradition is hardly followed anymore. Rather, most people use equal parts of each condiment depending on the amount of chicken they have (1:1:1).

According to Noob Cook, "although equal parts is a general rule, one can be flexible and adjust the ingredients to your liking - example less soy sauce to reduce the saltiness, and more Chinese wine and sesame oil for a stronger aroma."

Adding basil into the chicken is a must. The fragrant herb makes this dish very unique in taste and smell.

Make sure to cook extra rice when making this dish! Trust me, you will eat more than usual. :)

Three Cup Chicken:

- 1.5 lb boneless chicken thigh, cut into bite size pieces
- 10 cloves garlic, peeled & slightly bruised
- 6 slices ginger
- 2 stalks spring onions, cut to 2 inch lengths
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup rice wine
- 2 tsps sugar
- a few fresh basil leaves

1. Heat sesame oil in pan, then add garlic cloves, ginger, the thick white part of spring onions and stir fry till fragrant.
2. Add chicken pieces and stir fry till the surface are no longer pink.
3. Stir together soy sauce, rice wine, and sugar in a bowl, pour over chicken. Stir evenly, bring to a boil, and turn down the heat to low.
4. Add the rest of the spring onions, cook uncovered until the sauce is reduced & thickened.
5. Turn heat back up to high and add basil, cook for another 1 or 2 minutes.
6. Serve over steamed rice.

Note: You can also add one red chilli (de-seeded, cut to small sections) to step 1 if you wish to have a spicy taste.

{recipe adapted from here and here}

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

BB Two: Peek-A-Boo

Catch up on the BB Two Story: 1 and 2

Wow, time is really flying by. Has it really been almost a month since I lasted posted about BB Two?

Last time you saw him, besides his eyes and tail sticking out, much of his body was still inside his yolk sac. He was fragile and barely moving. I worried that he wouldn't make it.

But look at him now - all big and strong! About two weeks ago, after his yolk sac completely dissolved, he started eating flakes! I feed him once a day and get strangely happy whenever he eats.

Everything is going swimmingly. Heh.

My prediction is that BB Two will stay inside his little private resort for at least another 2-3 months. Hopefully by then he will be big enough to join the rest of the gang in the tank.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Snow Day!

Yesterday was a sweet little day.

Just when I thought we were going to get through winter without any major snowfall, we woke up to several inches on the ground! It was just enough for me to play hooky from work. Yay!

I stayed in bed just a little bit longer, spent time on the Internet, cooked a warm pot of soup + rice noodles, gawked at The Martha Stewart Show, and played along on The Prices Is Right (gah, I was terrible).

We bundled up and went for a photo shoot. I wore my brand new wellies! They made me feel girly and invincible. I am hoping for (lots of) rain this spring.

Pesto debuted his new rain slicker. I bought it for him at Old Navy for 97 cents! He looked great and it kept him dry.

Surprisingly, the usual cold-sensitive Pargo had so much fun romping in the snow. He looked adoable with snow all over his fuzzy face.

Like I said, it was a sweet little day.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Personal Goals: March Oh-Nine

It's March!

March makes me think of blooming flowers and chirping birds. As I write this post, it's cold and snowy outside. There is a couple of inches of fresh snow on the ground. Eep!

It's a new month so it's time to visit my past goals and make new ones.

My February goals were:

1) Spend time wisely, in particular, I was hoping to manage my online time better and be a more efficient writer.

The verdict: I failed miserably
. Oy. I *think* I spent a lot less time writing on {sugarlens}, but I spent an incredible amount of time on my blog layout and design. In all, I probably spent more time online than ever before! However, I do love the new face lift so I am not too disappointed that I didn't meet this goal!

2) Try (again) to eat well. Blah, I don't' want to talk about it. I have a feeling this will be my one standing goal for the entire year. I will try again this month.

3) DONATE two big bags of clothes. Done! And just in time too. On the last day of Feb, hubs and I had lunch with his former coworker and wife. The wife, Mary-Ann, happens to volunteer at a thrift shop in Alexandria. It worked out perfectly - I didn't have to make a far drive to Salvation Army or Purple Heart and I know that Mary-Ann will make sure my donations arrive safely to the shop. It's so nice to have an organized closet!

4) Make a nice V-day spread. I made a five-course meal!

I didn't do too shabby on my February goals!

I have a busy month coming up. I am taking a certification training at work and I am leaving for Spain at the end of the month! So goals for March can't be too difficult!

They are:


1) Try (once again) to eat well. I think the key here is to stop buying cookie mix or other sweets just because they are on sale or because I have coupons! Out of sight, out of mind, right?

2) Read about Spain. Before I go to a new place, I like to read about it first - the culture, the environment, the people, the food! I haven't done any of that for my Spain trip yet! My mom has been doing all the research and jotting down the must-see sights, but I checked out a few books from the library the other day and I hope to read them before I go.

3) Spend more quality time with hubs. Most days after dinner, hubs and I do our own separate things. This month, at least once a weeknight, I hope to do something together. Watch TV together, play with Pargo and Pesto together, read magazines together. Doesn't matter what, as long as we do it together.

What goals did you reach last month?

What are you working on for this month? What are you hoping to accomplish?

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Beef Noodle Soup (牛肉麵)

*UPDATE: I made the noodle soup again! This time with a few twists, please see here for details.*

Winter isn't quite over yet. To warm us up, I made Taiwan-style Beef Noodle Soup (Niu Rou Mian).

It was my first time preparing Niu Rou Mian - I found the recipe on Tasty Meals At Home. They did not provide any measurements (just the ingredients), though. When I made mine, I made sure to use measuring cups/spoons so I could post them here. However, much like all other dishes, the measurements don't need to be precise.

I haven't had Niu Rou Mian in a while, but I think mine tastes very similar to the ones served at the restaurants. Spicy dark red broth, but at the same time fresh and sweet! Yum! As far as the flavoring part goes, I wouldn't change a thing about the recipe.

Next time though, I am using a different cut of meat. The best thing about Niu Rou Mian is the tender meat with fat and tendon. The Beef Round Top Round Roast cut I used had nearly no fat and no tendon, which resulted in tougher and chewier meat. Still good, but not great.

The Round Roast may be good in western beef noodle soup, though.

After more research, I found out the best cut to use is beef shank. And instead of cutting the shank into large cubes from the get-go, I will braise the whole piece of meat and slice it when it's time to serve. This way, the meat won't lose its shape and much of the fat/tendon content. Plus, the slices will make the dish more presentable, too.

Hubs loves Riu Rou Mein and I am happy that I can make it at home now. It's at least $8 or $9 for a bowl at the restaurant. At home, we can make several bowls for a lot less.

Will most definitely make it again!

Beef Noodle Soup:

- 1.5 pound Beef Round Top Round Roast, cut in chunks (recommend using beef shank or short ribs instead)
- 5-6 cloves garlic, smashed
- 3-4 ginger slices
- 1 large tomato, cut in wedges
- 1 large onion, cut in wedges
- 2 tbsp chili bean paste
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 3-4 star anise
- 1/2 cup regular soy sauce (for taste)
- 1/4 cup dark soy sauce (for color)
- 1/3 cup rice wine
- 6 cups water
- 2 stalks green onion, cut in 2" slices

1. Wash beef under cold water and removing any excess fat. Bring a big pot of water to a boil and flash boil your meat in order to remove any excess membranes/harmful/particles from your meat. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat up pot and add oil. Add garlic and ginger. Cook until fragrant.
3. Add tomato and onion wedges. Stir well.
4. Add beef, chili bean paste, sugar, regular soy sauce, dark soy sauce, and rice wine. Stir.
5. Add star anise, water, and green onions. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.
6. Simmer for at least 2 hours. Longer (4-6 hours) for best results.
7. Serve over any variety of Chinese noodles! Enjoy!

Note: I like to cook the stew the night before actual serving so that all the flavors can come together overnight. On the day of serving, just simply bring the broth to a boil, cook some noodles and boy choy and assemble!

This picture is from our trip to Taiwan in 2005. This small restaurant in Taipei was especially busy. We tracked it down because of the great reviews in our Lonely Planet tour book. The line was out of the door!

I remember hubs sweating bullets while eating. Was it because the soup was spicy or was it because the restaurant had no air conditioning? I don't remember. It was scrumptious, though.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!