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Entries in Chinese (13)

Wednesday
Aug242011

Soup Dumplings a.k.a. Xiao Long Bao

*Post by Angela.

In order to save money, I aspire to be a bit of a household MacGyver at times, repurposing everyday household items to create budget versions of fancy kitchen implements, and turning the odd condiment/leftover/impulse buy into a magnificent feast.

The other day, I spent several hours making a tonkotsu broth for ramen soup, a broth so rich, porky and filled with collagen that it started solidifying into gel after just an hour in the fridge. This got me thinking about soup dumplings, or xiao long bao, a magical dish that involves combining flavored meat gel with filling inside a dough wrapper, then steaming to allow the gel to dissolve into soup. Since I had so much extra tonkotsu broth left over, I decided to sub it in for the soup gel from this amazing recipe from Steamy Kitchen.

 

 

List of ingredients for the dough:
  • 400 grams (just a little over 3 cups) of all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil

First, I put about 2 ¾ cups of the flour into a large bowl. I started the water boiling, then added it a little bit at a time to the flour, using a pair of chopsticks to stir vigorously. By the way, pouring boiling water into a bowl while “stirring vigorously” with chopsticks is more difficult than you would imagine, so be careful! I kept gradually pouring in the hot water and stirring until it was all added and a dough had begun to form. Then I added the cold water and oil, stirred a little more, then dumped the whole mixture on the kitchen counter with the remainder of the flour and kneaded for about 10 minutes. Once I had a generally smooth and pliant dough, I covered it and let it sit about 30 minutes.

 

 

List of ingredients for the filling:
  • 1 ¼ lb ground pork (or 1 lb of ground pork and ¼ lb shrimp, but Mark doesn’t like shrimp, so I made the change)
  • 3 stalks green onion, finely minced
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground white pepper
  • ½ tsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 tsp dry sherry
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 1 ½ cups gellified tonkotsu broth (recipe here)

In a large bowl, I mixed together all the ingredients except for the tonkotsu broth, which I cut into 1/2” cubes. I took the dough and divided it into fourths, then made little golf ball sized dough balls. I rolled each piece out flat and topped it with about a tbsp of meat filling and a cube of tonkotsu gel. Then I gathered the dough around the filling and pleated it closed.

 

 

Once I had used up all the dough, I oiled up the bottom of my steamer and placed the dumplings in, making sure to give each dumpling some room to stretch out a little (otherwise, they will stick together and tear when you try to remove them). I steamed the dumplings for about 12 minutes and carefully removed them to a plate.

 

 

These are nowhere near authentic, but damn, if they weren’t great. Although to be fair, that broth is so good, it's bound to be the highlight of any dish that utilizes it. And the dough wrappers I can work on - they were fine, but maybe a little too thick, a mistake I tend to make more often than not for fear that they will tear. In any event, we were thrilled to be able to be able to get soup dumplings without having to drive to SGV, and to use up the tonkotsu broth in new way. Now if you'll excuse me, I've gotta go figure out how to turn my crockpot into a pressure cooker using a wire hanger and a hockey ticket...

 

Tuesday
May242011

Broccoli Beef

*Post by Angela.

Broccoli beef, that staple of greasy Chinese take-out restaurants, is a dish I ordered probably hundreds of times throughout college and law school, yet for some reason had never attempted to make until recently. It's a very quick and basic dish that pretty much anyone can make well, especially using this simple recipe from Jaden Hair from Steamy Kitchen. I didn't do anything to change it, other than to "Ang" the garlic (tripled it).

 

 

List of ingredients:
  • 2 tsp + 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tsp dry sherry
  • 1 tsp + 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 lb beef, sliced thin
  • 4 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp corn oil (or any other type of high heat oil)
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 3/4 lb frozen broccoli florets (obviously, you can use fresh broccoli - we just had frozen sitting in our freezer already)

First, I made the marinade, mixing together 2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp dry sherry, 1 tsp cornstarch and the black pepper in a small bowl, until the cornstarch was dissolved. I also defrosted the broccoli.

 

 

I added the meat to the marinade, mixed it thoroughly and let it sit for about 10 minutes. In a small bowl, I mixed the remaining tbsp of cornstarch with a little over a tbsp of cold water to make a slurry, and, in a separate bowl, I mixed together the 4 tbsp of oyster sauce, the remaining 2 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tsp dry sherry and the chicken broth to make the broccoli beef sauce.

 

 

I got out my wok, heated it over high heat, then added the corn oil, swirling it around a bit. Then I added the meat and let it sit without messing with it, for 1 minute.

 

 

 

I added the garlic, flipped the meat and let it cook just 30 seconds more.

 

 

I poured in the sauce (if you are using fresh broccoli florets, you should throw them in here) and brought it up a boil, then poured in the cornstarch slurry. I cooked another 30 seconds until the sauce had thickened.

 

 

I took the wok off the heat, added the broccoli and mixed it all up until everything was covered with the sauce. I served it over white rice. This is yummy, easy, and so very cheap to make - I wish I had tried it earlier in life, as I could have saved tons of cash and time spent waiting for the delivery guy.

 

Monday
May232011

Mission Chinese Food

*Post by Angela.

On a recent trip north, we stopped at a non-descript Chinese restaurant in San Francisco's Mission District for a late afternoon lunch at Mission Chinese Food.

 

 

Because we were dining so late in the afternoon, we had the restaurant almost completely to ourselves. A quick glance around confirmed the first impression from the exterior - this is your typical hole-in-the-wall Chinese joint, the type of establishment which is near and dear to my heart. A glance at the menu, however, contradicted the restaurant's looks - the unique dishes elevate the food from the provinces of greasy-spoon dining to the sublime. We literally wanted to order every item on the menu - the only thing holding us back was our stomach space and later dinner plans.

 

 

We started with an order of tangy peanuts (below, right), and soon after that, a complimentary dish of the Szechuan pickles (below, left) appeared at our table, delivered by the chef.

 

 

After much back and forth, we managed to come to an agreement on the thrice-cooked bacon, thick slices of fatty pork tossed with rice cakes, bitter melon, tofu skin, scallion, black bean, and chili oil (below).

 

 

I couldn't help but order the ma po tofu, with ground Kurobuta pork sholder, Szechuan peppercorn, and chili oil (below). MCF's version of my favorite dish cuts down on the heat and numbness factor in favor of flavor. Even after Mark cautioned me not to make myself uncomfortable, I could not stop spooning the umami-packed sauce over the accompanying rice.

 

 

Everything at MCF was absolutely fantastic. But the thing that really blew us away was the smoked beef brisket, cooked to an unbelievable tenderness in smoked cola BBQ sauce (below). The flavor of the tangy sauce punched us both in the face, which didn't stop us from using the slices of white bread that came with the messy dish to sop up as much of it as possible. By the end, the flavor was almost too powerful...that wouldn't stop either of us from ordering it again the next time we stop in.

 

 

Finally, I enjoyed a little ramekin of the savory egg custard with sea urchin and country ham (below). My initial bite was overwhelmingly greasy, but underneath the oil was a luscious velvety custard filled with delicious bits. 

 

 

After we had stuffed ourselves silly with all that goodness, Danny stopped by our table to chat. He doesn't just churn out delicious food - he's also one of the nicest people we've ever had the pleasure of meeting. I am definitely going to come here next time (and maybe every time) I'm in San Francisco, and I urge anyone in the area to do the same.

Mission Chinese Food on Urbanspoon

Wednesday
Mar232011

Mapo Tofu

*Post by Angela.

You may remember when I discovered my love for Sichuan peppercorns. Unfortunately, I have not found my Great Wall replacement in L.A. The situation got so dire – I had to do something. So I decided to try my hand at making it myself. It was a little bit of a pain getting all the ingredients (the spicy bean paste, fermented black bean paste, and Sichuan peppercorns had to be acquired from an Asian grocery store). But it was fantastic, although Mark really doesn’t like the mouth-numbing feeling and therefore, didn’t agree. I followed this recipe from Rasa Malaysia, which is normally my first stop when I want to cook an Asian dish for the first time.

 

 

I decided to make my own chili oil (well, not so much decided as forgot to buy it). I used Japones peppers, which are very, very hot, although you could use any hot dried chili pepper. Or, you could, you know, buy it.

List of ingredients for the chili oil:
  • 20-24 dried Japones chili peppers
  • 1 cup peanut oil

First, I chopped up the chili peppers, and learning from prior experience, was careful not to get the oils from the peppers on my hands. I left the seeds in for extra heat, but you could also discard them for a slightly milder oil. I placed them in the bottom of a glass jar.

  

 

I heated the oil in a small saucepan over high heat until it started to smoke slightly. I turned the heat to medium, cooked an additional 30 seconds, then removed it from heat and let it cool about 3 minutes. Then I poured the oil over the peppers and let it sit about an hour. I strained out the chil peppers and seeds and set the oil aside.

  

 

I also prepared the star of the show, the Sichuan peppercorns. You can often find Sichuan peppercorn powder in Chinese groceries, which is the easier way to do it. Or you could toast whole Sichuan peppercorns in a pan, then grind them into a fine powder.

 

 

Now that I had my chili oil and Sichuan peppercorn powder, I was ready to start the dish.

List of ingredients for the mapo tofu:

  • 4 tbsp peanut oil
  • 6 tbsp chili oil
  • 4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ lb. ground pork (or for a vegetarian version, textured vegetable protein would be perfect, or you could sub in 1 cup of your choice of vegetable, like chopped bell pepper, green beans, mushrooms, etc.)
  • 6 tbsp spicy bean paste
  • 4 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp fermented black bean paste
  • 2 14 oz. containers of silken/soft tofu, drained and cubed
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorn powder
  • 2 stalks scallions, cut into 1” pieces

First, I took 6 tbsp of that chili oil I made, added it to 4 tbsp of peanut oil in a pot and heated it over medium heat. I added the garlic, pork (or TVP/vegetables), and spicy bean paste, mixed it all up, and cooked about 5 minutes, breaking up the pork with my spatula. I added the chili powder, soy sauce and fermented black bean paste, stirred it until combined and cooked another 2-3 minutes.

  

 

I plopped in the tofu and broth, gently stirred it in (without breaking the cubes), then lowered the heat and simmered an additional 5 minutes.

  

 

Finally, I added the Sichuan peppercorn powder and scallions, stirred until combined, then served it up over white rice. The tingling started as soon as the spoon touched my lips, which was fantastic for me, not so great for Mark, who finds the sensation unpleasant (next time I make this, I'll leave the Sichuan peppercorn powder out of the dish and just add it to my portion). And the heat level was not insignificant, which was another plus. But underneath the fiery tingling was a wonderfully complex dish, melding garlicky porkiness and umami (from the two bean pastes) with the silky tofu. Mapo tofu might be my favorite Chinese dish of all time, and this recipe? Holds its own against any other I've tasted. If you can find all the ingredients, I dare you to try to make this only once.

  

 

Friday
Mar182011

Twice-Cooked Pork Belly with Chili and Leeks

*Post by Angela.

One of the best things about being friends with food bloggers is that it makes swapping recipes so much easier. The other day I was trying to come up with an exciting use for the pork belly I had in my fridge, and I immediately thought of Evan over at The Carnivore and the Vegetarian, who loves pork belly just as much as we do. I just knew he'd have something for me, and I was right - I saw this recipe mimicking a dish he had at Szechuan Gourmet in New York and I just had to have it. And not only did Evan give me a recipe combining some of my most favorite ingredients (pork belly, leeks, and chilies), but he was also nice enough to say "of course!" when I asked if I could post it.

 

  

List of ingredients (I doubled the recipe so that we would have leftovers):
  • 2 lbs pork belly
  • 2 medium leeks
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 tbsp peanut oil
  • 3 tbsp Szechuan chili sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dry sherry
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Sesame oil for drizzling
  • Cooked white rice

First, I put the pork belly in a pot, covered it with water, brought it to a boil, then lowered the heat and simmered for about 20 minutes.

 

 

As the meat was simmering, I combined the chili sauce and the garlic cloves in the food processor and pulsed until the two ingredients were combined.

 

 

I drained the meat, patted it dry, then seared the fat side of the meat in a pan over medium high heat (with just a touch of oil) for just a couple of minutes, until a nice crust had formed. Then I put the meat in the fridge to cool for about 15-20 minutes.

 

 

In the meantime, I trimmed the leeks, sliced them very thin cross-wise, and gave them a good rinse. I also cut the bell peppers into 1" pieces.

 

 

Once the meat was cool, I cut it into thin slices. Heh, doesn't the photo make it look like I had miles of sliced pork belly? Mmmmm.

 

 

I heated the 2 tbsp of peanut oil in a pan over high heat, and cooked the pork belly slices for about 5 minutes, until they started to brown. Then I added the leeks and bell peppers, cooked a couple of minutes, and added the hoisin sauce, vinegar, sherry, soy sauce, and chili-garlic combination. I tossed the ingredients until well-combined, then cooked another 3-5 minutes until done.

 

 

This was just delicious served over white rice - the unctuousness of the pork belly, the brightness and crispness of the peppers and leeks,  and the tangy/sweet/spicy/salty punch from the sauce. So, thanks to Evan for the wonderful recipe!