Archive for the 'Chinese' Category

Hot and Sour Soup

I pretty much always order hot and sour soup when I go out for Chinese (which admittedly is about once a year), but I think I’ve only made it at home a couple times, and the first was way back in high school. Two weeks ago I decided to attempt it again using a recipe from a Chinese cookbook I’ve had for a few years and it was awful. I absolutely hate wasting food but I threw out the entire pot after two bites. I’m not sure what ruined it, but it was beyond being rescued. Bummer.

Today I had a much better strategy. I used Jen’s recipe and bought Chinese red wine vinegar (instead of trying to fake it with rice vinegar like last time). It was GOOD! I doubled the vinegar (4 tbsp instead of the 2 listed in the recipe below) because I like it really sour, and I also added some dried bean curd sheets because I love them and now that we live really close to a huge Asian grocery store I can do stuff like that. If you’re vegan, I think the bean curd sheets would be a nice stand-in for the eggs, but in this case I used both. I love that I have cloud ears and lily buds just hanging out in my pantry now, so any time the mood strikes I can make it again! Also, if you have any pickled mustard greens handy, they’re pretty good stirred in too!

About the ingredients: Cloud ears are a dried black fungus. Tiger lily buds are pale yellow, unopened lily flowers. These, along with dried bean curd sheets and Chinese red wine vinegar should be available at a well-stocked Asian grocery store. Regular red wine vinegar would probably be fine too. If you have fresh shiitakes, use them! If you can only find dried, soak them in hot water for about half an hour, then squeeze out the liquid, cut off the tough stems, and slice thinly.

Recipe:
(adapted from Use Real Butter)

1/2 cup cloud ears
1/2 cup dried tiger lily buds
1/2 cup thinly sliced shiitake mushrooms
6 cups vegetable broth or water
1 cup tofu, cut into 1-inch strips
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, in strips
1 1/2 ounces bean curd sheets
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp Chinese red wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce

Put the cloud ears, lily buds, and bean curd sheets (torn into bite-sized pieces) into separate bowls. Cover with boiling water and let stand for about half an hour, then drain.
Cut the lily buds into 1″ strips and roughly chop the cloud ears.

Put the broth (or water) in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in the cloud ears, lily buds, and mushrooms and boil for 10 minutes.

Stir in the tofu, bamboo shoots, and soy sauce. Combine the corn starch with 1/4 cup water and stir until smooth. Stir into the soup. Stir in the bean curd sheets. Pour the eggs into the soup in a slow, steady stream, stirring the soup constantly so the eggs cook into thin ribbons. Stir in the white pepper, sesame oil, and vinegar and adjust seasonings to taste.

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Tofu, Broccoli, and Mushrooms with Noodles

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For some, the foods that bring up memories of childhood include boxes of Hamburger Helper and frozen Costco lasagnes, but not for me. I consider myself incredibly lucky that my mom made all our dinners from scratch. She made an enthusastic foray into the world of Chinese cooking, so a lot of our grocery shopping trips included a detour to the Asian market. I always felt so exotic perusing the aisles of seaweed snacks and tanks full of live fish, even though I was just in the dreary Portland suburbs.

This is by far the most-used recipe out of my mom’s Sunset Chinese Cook Book. The page it’s on is now so covered with oil splatters and scribbled notes that it’s a bit challenging to read. When I was feeling particularly nostalgic, I had her e-mail me the recipe (which she had heavily modified over the years), but I couldn’t find it last night when I really wanted this for dinner. So I winged it with what was in the fridge, and it turned pretty close to the dish we always just called “tofu-broccoli-mushroom-noodles.”

tofubroccoli

The mirin (the original recipe called for Chinese rice wine, which I can’t find) and oyster sauce really bring out the flavor of the mushrooms and give the whole dish an earthy sweetness. I used some basic Korean wheat noodles, but I seem to remember my mom using somen noodles (and I think chow mein noodles would work well too). Make sure you press all the liquid out of the tofu, because it gives it a much more appealing texture and helps it absorb more of the flavor from the sauce.

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Recipe:
(adapted from Sunset Chinese Cook Book)
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 block firm tofu, pressed and cut into thin, bite-sized rectangles
16 white button mushrooms, quartered
2 tbsp mirin
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce (available at Asian markets0
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp corn starch
8 ounces somen noodles

Steam the broccoli over simmering water until crisp-tender. It will soften up a little when it cooks later, so you don’t want it to end up mushy. Set aside.

Stir together the broth, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sugar, and corn starch and set aside.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high, and add the tofu, stirring occasionally for a few minutes or until golden. Add the mushrooms and mirin, and stir fry for about 3 minutes. Add the sacue and cook for about 1 minute, then add the broccoli and stir well. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the sauce thickens.

Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water and cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain, then arrange on a platter and top with the tofu mixture (or just toss everything together in a bowl).

Mu Shu Tofu

Mu Shu Tofu
Every time I see a recipe now, I have to stop and think for a second about whether or not I can get all the necessary ingredients at my local grocery store, and whether they will be reasonably priced. I just can’t stomach the thought of paying over five dollars for one stick of butter!

I also have to consider whether I have the necessary equipment, because my kitchen currently consists of 1 medium saucepan, 1 large nonstick frying pan, a big knife, a small knife, a large spoon, and a large spatula. THAT’S IT! No mixer, no food processor, no baking pans…

It’s good for me though. I like a challenge.

I knew I definitely wouldn’t be able to find mu shu wrappers at my grocery store, and toyed with the idea of making my own, but in the end, just decided to serve this on its own. It’s still fantastic! If you can find hoisin sauce and mu shu wrappers, I think you’ll absolutely love this. But even if you can’t…it’s worth making anyway.

(adapted from The Way The Cookie Crumbles. originally from Use Real Butter)

3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tsp corn starch
3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
12 ounces tofu
2 eggs
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup bean sprouts
1 small head of napa cabbage, julienned (about 2 cups)
10 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, cut into thin strips

Whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, and corn starch and set aside.
Cut the block of tofu in half horizontally. Press between clean towels to remove excess moisture. Cut into thin 1″ strips.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large frying pan. Add the tofu and cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until tofu is golden brown on all sides. Remove and set aside.
Whisk the two eggs together, and heat another tablespoon of oil. When it’s hot, add the eggs and swirl the pan to make a thin sheet. When just set, flip to cook the other side. Remove to cool, then cut into thin strips.
Heat the last tablespoon of oil, and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring, for about a minute, then add the garlic. Cook another minute or two, then add the bean sprouts, cabbage, and sauce. Stir well, then gently stir in the tofu and egg. Cook for about a minute, then remove from heat and serve.

Soba with Spinach and Tofu

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While I love pretty much ALL noodles, I think these buckwheat soba noodles are my favorite. I made a simple stir fry flavored with oyster sauce, and tossed it with soba for a quick and healthy dinner.

Shopping here has definitely been a big adjustment; I’ll have an idea of what I want to make, then get to the store and find that a few key ingredients just aren’t available. It makes meal planning a challenge, but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it soon.

I couldn’t decide how to categorize this recipe, so I put it under both Chinese and Japanese, because it has elements of each.

8 ounces soba noodles
a few tsp oil (such as canola or peanut)
12 ounces firm tofu, drained and cut into thin 1″ by 1/2″ rectangles
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp minced fresh garlic
about 20 white button mushrooms, sliced
1 large bunch spinach, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/4 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
pinch white pepper

Cook the soba for about 6 minutes in a large pot of rapidly boiling water.
Drain, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
Heat about a tsp of oil in a large skillet or frying pan over high heat. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown on all sides. (You may need to cook the tofu in two batches, depending on the size of your pan.)
Set cooked tofu aside.
Stir together the sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, broth, and white pepper
Heat another teaspoon of oil in the pan over high heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger, and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent.
Add the mushrooms and oyster sauce mixture and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the spinach (waiting until some cooks down before adding more, if necessary), and then the tofu and stir well.
Add the noodles to heat through, then transfer to a serving bowl.

Steamed Pork Buns (Bao)

They may not look like much from the outside, but these soft buns filled with smoky-sweet barbecued pork are one of my favorite foods.  I fell in love with them in Singapore 12 years ago and have been a huge fan ever since.

When we go to dim sum, I always eat far too many of these, and I’m so happy I now know how to make them at home!  

(adapted from The Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo)
Sauce:
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp ketchup
2 tsp sugar
pinch white pepper
2 tsp corn starch
1/4 cup chicken stock
Filling:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced onion
3/4 cup char siu pork, cut into 1/4″ pieces
2 tsp Chinese rice wine
1/2 tsp sesame oil
dough:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
6 tbsp milk
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Combine sauce ingredients and mix well.  Set aside.
To make the filling: heat the vegetable oil on high in a large saucepan and spread to coat the pan thinly.  Add the onion, lower heat to medium, and cook for about 5 minutes until the onion is light brown.  Add the pork and cook for about 3 minutes.  Add the rice wine and mix well.  Stir the sauce, pour into the pan, and cook for about 2 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.  Remove from heat, and stir in sesame oil.  Set aside, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until needed.
To make the dough: Mix the flour, baking powder, and sugar together in a medium bowl.  Make a well in the center, and add milk and water.  Stir until liquid is absorbed, then add the oil.
Knead for about 15 minutes, adding a little water if too dry or flour if too wet.  
Once the dough is smooth and elastic, return to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rest for one hour.
To assemble:  Roll the dough into a cylinder about 12″ long and cut into 12 equal pieces.  Keeping the unused dough covered with a damp cloth, work with one piece at a time.  Flatten slightly, spoon about 1 1/2 tbsp into the middle, and pinch the dough together to enclose the filling.  Set onto a small square of wax paper, and repeat with remaining dough.
Bring a medium saucepan filled with water to a boil.  Place a bamboo steamer on top and arrange the buns so they have room to expand (leave at least 1 1/2″ between them).  Steam for 15-20 minutes, then turn off the heat, and serve.

Char Siu Pork

Char siu pork was like an exciting new taste discovery to me when I was just beginning to cook.  I needed some for a recipe, so we went to the Asian grocery store and bought some.  I was intrigued by the appearance of the bright red meat, and also by the sweet, smoky flavor.  I continued buying Char siu to use in recipes until this weekend.  I discovered that my favorite Chinese cookbook had a recipe, and it didn’t look too difficult.  

I bought the wrong kind of pork (butt instead of loin), sliced it much more thinly than usual, and it was still absolutely wonderful.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to store bought!
(adapted from The Chinese Kitchen by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo)
About 2 pounds of pork butt or pork loin
4 tsp soy sauce
1/3 cup honey
1/4 tsp salt
4 tsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
4 tsp hoisin sauce
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
Cut the pork into slices about 1/2″ to 1″ thick.
Prick all over both sides with a fork.
Line a roasting pan with foil.  Place the pork in a single layer in the bottom of the pan.
In a small bowl, whisk together all remaining ingredients and pour over the meat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate 2 to 4 hours.
Heat the oven to 450 F.  Place the roasting pan on a rack in the middle and roast for about 25 minutes.  Turn the meat over and baste every 5 to 6 minutes.  If the sauce dries out, add some boiling water to the pan.  Some of the sauce may burn in the pan, but the meat should be fine.  Check for doneness by removing one piece of pork and slicing in the middle to see if it is cooked through.
Remove from the pan to cool.

Singapore Noodles

Singapore was the first foreign country I ever visited.  My family was living in Australia, but that didn’t really count as foreign, because as my mom liked to say, it was a perfect mix of California and the UK.  

But Singapore, to my 13-year old eyes, was really foreign.  I remember walking past Hindu temples in the Indian section of the city in awe of how it was unlike anywhere I’d ever been.  We ate at hawker centers, filling up on steamed pork buns and noodles that cost startlingly little.  I even tried durian for the only time in my life, holding my nose as I slurped up the sweet yellow flesh.
I loved Singapore, and I desperately want to go back soon.   This recipe is a quick version of the fragrant curry noodles that are sold all over the city.  In a temporary lapse in brain function, I completely forgot that I have a recipe for them in one of my cookbooks.  I turned to google, which never lets me down, and found this recipe on the Sugarlens blog. I didn’t have shrimp, so I used tofu instead. It was delicious!

(adapted from The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen cookbook by Grace Young, seen at Sugarlens)

Singapore Rice Noodles:

– 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
– 8 ounces rice vermicelli
– 3 tablespoons thin soy sauce
– 1 tablespoon rice cooking wine
– 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
– 4 ounces extra firm tofu, thinly sliced and cooked in a frying pan until golden
– 1 cup cabbage, cut into julienne strips
– 1/2 cup carrots, cut into julienne strips
– 1/2 cup finely shredded scallions
– 1 tablespoon curry powder
– 1 cup chicken broth
– 4 ounces Chinese barbecued pork, store-bought or homemade, cut into julienne strips

In a medium bowl, soak the mushrooms in 1/4 cup cold water for 30 minutes, or until softened. Drain and squeeze dry. Cut off and discard stems and thinly slice the caps.

In a large bowl, soak the rice noodles in enough cold water to cover for 20 to 30 minutes, or until noodles are limp and softened. Drain in a colander and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or skillet over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add the vegetable oil and sliced mushrooms, and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add scallions, cabbage and carrots. Cook until tender. Add the curry powder and stir-fry 10 seconds, or until fragrant. Stir soy sauce mixture and swirl it into the wok. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil over high heat.

Add the drained rice noodles and return to a boil, stirring noodles to completely coat in curry mixture. Cover and cook over medium-high heat 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until noodles are just tender. Add the tofu and barbecued pork, and cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed by the noodles. Serve immediately.