Category: Chinese/Taiwanese Food (page 2 of 9)
It is Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year for the PC 😉 ) in 5 days, and there are probably a bunch of posts about ‘traditional Chinese New Year foods’. My family has never really followed any traditions, and I don’t remember a set menu of dishes we ate every year for New Year. The closest thing to traditional is probably my grandma’s ba bao fan (8 treasure sticky rice). You can almost always count on PoPo to make her KILLER ba bao fan for any large food gathering :d Eep, thinking about makes me want to make it, too…
Anyway, I believe that tradition has it that you should make a whole fish (or is it two?) to eat in celebration for Chinese New Year, because it is supposed to symbolize surplus or prosperity (年年有餘) – nian nian you yu, which more or less means ‘may every year have surplus’. Yu for surplus and yu for fish are homophones, so I think that’s where the fish comes from!
I think that you are supposed to cook a whole fish, so if you are looking for that, might I suggest some lovely steamed fish? But, this braised fish dish is one of my absolute favorites, so maybe you should buck tradition and cut your fish up this year =O Hopefully I don’t get my Chinese card taken away for saying that.
This is one of my favorite everyday dishes my mom used to make (I know, I know- they’re all favorites, aren’t they), and I have fond memories of picking out all the soft pieces of garlic and mixing them up rice, fish, and more sauce. My mom made a lot of variations of hong shao when we were growing up, and this hong shao yu is a way to get hong shao on the table relatively fast. This may not be the prettiest dish out there, but it is proof that it’s what’s on the inside that counts!
I realize that southern California is not like most of the rest of the US, and realize it more and more as I am NOT in southern California, where Chinese supermarkets are indeed, SUPER markets. Anyway, if you have the luxury to be near Chinese/Asian SUPERmarkets and they happen to sell bone-in catfish or other firm white fish pieces, get them! I believe they are the remnants leftover after the fishmongers have butchered (?) the fish into filets and such. They are a great candidate for this dish, because the fish needs to be cut up anyway.
One of the perks of marrying into a Cantonese family is being introduced to lots of very Cantonese dishes, at least ones that run strong in Mr. ABC Chef’s family. Almost every time we made plans to see Mr. ABC Chef’s mom, she would ask him a few days before, if he wanted some lo bak go* (蘿蔔糕) or lo mai fan* (糯米飯). Obviously, the answer was always yes. This was not only great news for Tim, but for me, too! You see, usually, the only place my family and I ate luo bo gao was at dim sum restaurants. We really love luo bo gao, and were always trying to find and remember a restaurant that made it the way we liked it. Our criteria was pretty simple: a strong luo bo taste, and not too firm or too soft. We would discuss that so-and-so restaurant’s luo bo gao didn’t have much flavor and just tasted like rice flour, or that such-and-such restaurant actually had luo bo taste in it and that was liked it. I guess we never gave too much thought to experiment making it ourselves, though we definitely knew that getting the right ratios of luo bo (daikon/turnip) to liquid to rice flour was the secret. Turns out that all this time, my mother-in-law (MIL) had perfected it! Maybe that’s why I married Tim. Haha.
Since I’ve I had my MIL’s lo bak go, I haven’t missed the lo bak go at dim sum places, and don’t plan on ordering it out anytime soon. Now I can see why for Tim, eating luo bo gao at restaurants was outrageous, because of how good his mom’s was.
What makes this lo bak go so good? It’s chock-full of lo bak (daikon/turnip) and does justice to its name. It is the right firmness- not too jelly-like, and not too firm. It fries up beautifully and, like a well-seasoned dumpling, can be enjoyed alone without sauce (though, you can always choose to do so if you wish).
*Lo bak go = luo bo gao = 蘿蔔糕. How I say it depends on who I’m with, or who I was with when the memory was formed (Cantonese or Mandarin). Gotta fit in, yanno?!
lo bak go / luo bo gao
In Chinese, there is a dish that appears on menus everywhere- tang qing cai (燙青菜), or blanched vegetables. It could be some sort of lettuce, A choy (a cai), could be you cai (yu choy), could be whatever vegetable the restaurant gets that is inexpensive at the moment. (In Taiwan, you can often expect tang qing cai to be accompanied by just enough lu rou to add some meaty flavor.)
When Tim and I celebrated special occasions with his side of the family, I would see bags and bags of gai lan in dai yi mah’s(first/eldest aunt) kitchen that needed to be thoroughly washed before cooking. Always impatient for dinner, I would volunteer to wash the gai lan, hastily swishing and rinsing the stalks in water to try not to have my hands turn red from the cold. Once the gai lan was cooked, it was imperative that the hot water was thoroughly drained to stop residual cooking, all stems and leaves were arranged to face the same way, and that the gai lan were cut one or two times crosswise (with scissors) for ease of eating. It was probably fitting that I washed the gai lan anyway, seeing as I would eat up oodles of gai lan before moving to sticky rice, chicken with scallion/ginger sauce, cha siu that was ubiquitous at big family meals.
At Cantonese joints, especially dim sum and barbecue (noted for the hanging ducks and chicken in the windows) places, blanched gai lan (also known as Chinese broccoli) with oyster sauce is almost always on the menu. You don’t have to go to a restaurant to get this one, though-it is easy to make at home. Usually, I assign Tim, my Canto hubby, to make perfectly cooked gai lan, but yesterday I cooked them on my own, with his detailed directions ;D
Cilantro haters, beware!!!! You have been warned. Now entering cilantro territory.
A visiting scholar named Ye Feng is staying with my sister and her family while she is in the US, and as she has pretty much become part of the family, she often joins us for meals when we do our weekly family dinners. One particular meal, Ye Feng announced that she wanted to share a dish with us, and, always curious, I looked around to get hints of what it might be. I saw a big bowl of cut-up cilantro, so I knew it would be a winner. (Mr. ABC Chef the cilantro-hater, had other thoughts.)
Ye Feng made what she called ‘lao hu cai,’ which in her version, consisted of a trifecta of scallions, cilantro, and jalapeños. ‘Lao hu cai’ literally means ‘tiger vegetable,’ and rightly so, because of the hot peppers in it. Apparently, Xi’An Famous Foods also sells something very similar, by the name of Tiger Vegetable Salad! Anyway, Lao hu cai is tangy, spicy, salty, and a great simple side dish that can be served with any Chinese-style meal. I love the freshness of the cilantro, paired with the malty tartness of the vinegar and topped off with heat from the peppers, and hope you would, too.
It’s helpful to let the vegetables sit in the marinade for at least 10-15 minutes to let the jalapeño seeds sink into the liquid, and let all the flavors meld together. The next day, the vinegary spiciness will be even more apparent, but some of the cilantro won’t be as crisp, so keep that in mind. I’m not sure if there’s any ‘official’ way to serve lao hu cai, but I loved it with rice and cabbage alongside the teriyaki chicken we had. Thanks, Ye Feng, for introducing this dish to us!!
Lao hu cai
1 big bunch of cilantro
2 stalks scallions
2 or more jalapeños
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp lao chen ( 老陳) vinegar OR Chinkiang black vinegar
1 Tbsp light soy sauce OR salt to taste
1 tsp sesame oil
1) Dice the cilantro into small pieces. Slice the scallions and jalapeños thinly.
2) Add the vinegar, soy sauce (or salt), and sesame oil. Mix well.
3) If possible, let all ingredients sit together for 10-15 minutes, as you prepare the rest of your meal.
-Feel free to adjust quantities as needed, adding jalapeños or using even spicier chilies if you want. If you can’t handle the heat but love cilantro too much to pass on this dish, you could use a green bell pepper in place of jalapeños.
-I usually use all of the cilantro- stems included, but feel free to use only leaves if you wish.
-Other recipes may include sliced cucumbers and/or red chile peppers instead- this version is made the way Ye Feng made it, and the way it was introduced to me. Adjust it to your taste!
My first memories and experiences of making mochi were in my junior year of college, with my best friend Jeska. You see, Jeska has an unfortunately long list of foods that upset her stomach, including an essential ingredient of most Western desserts: eggs. This meant that most of the baked goods that I made were, well, anti-Jeska food..
Fortunately, she brought with her to our new apartment a handwritten recipe for making mochi from scratch, given to her by her mom (Thanks, Auntie!) Shortly after, we commenced on a mochi-making experiment. About an hour later, we were covered with cornstarch, ouch-ing from the hot mochi mixture, but very happy with the results. We now had chewy, Jeska-friendly dessert that we made all by ourselves.
Maybe it was the fear of the thought of wrestling that hot dough, or the influence of my husband’s aversion to having food-coated fingers….But sadly, I only made mochi a few times on my own after that, despite my love for all things chewy and QQ.
While perusing Taiwanese cooking shows on YouTube, I found a recipe for hakka-style mochi. We tend to think of mochi as having a filling (red bean paste comes to mind first), but this hakka style mochi is made by showering the mochi bits with coating; usually peanut or black sesame.
This may not have the red bean paste filling, but the peanut and black sesame are no-fuss and simple to prepare. A pair of chopsticks is highly recommended for this recipe, as it helps shape the mochi and keep your hands dough-free.
For Chinese people, I can scarcely think of any time that soup is a main dish, unless it is filled with some sort of noodles or starch. Soup is usually enjoyed first or last in a meal (soup usually was eaten last in our household, but I think this part really depends on who you ask), and is much more liquidy and thin than any Western soup I can think of. There is a saying about soup in Chinese- liu liu feng, 溜溜缝, and I have to ask my mom/dad what it actually means, but I always take it to mean that soup fills the cracks in one’s belly after all that ‘dry’ food like rice/veg/meat. Usually but not always, Chinese-style soup is a thin, liquidy component to drink, as well as some things to eat- maybe some pork bits, some chicken, some mushrooms, vegetable. Regardless, it is way different than Western soups, so set your expectations accordingly.
When I went to Taiwan, I saw lots of street vendor menus reading 貢丸湯, or, gong wan soup. Gong wan? Gong wan (貢丸) are my favorite type of meatball to eat. With origins in Taiwan, gong wan are meaty and made of blended pork, and as opposed to tender meatballs that Westerners often strive for, gong wan are actually quite bouncy, if you will, in texture. It was and still is my favorite sort of meatball to eat with hot pot, so when you have hot pot, make sure to get a package (or three!) of gong wan.Where we are now in the Midwest, selection of frozen gong wan is limited (maybe because the majority of Chinese people here are from mainland China), so I hope to develop a recipe for homemade gong wan. In the meantime, frozen will have to do. If you can find (or make!) gong wan and skinny Chinese radish, you can make this tasty and easy soup.
My sister, BIL, and nephews/niece came over and we had dumplings, and I thought, hmm, dumplings are all ‘dry’- what would go with it that can help fill in those cracks? I remembered this soup from watching Taiwanese cooking shows on YouTube, so I had to make it.
This soup is souper simple, but I feel that it is quite refreshing and a light way to end the savory portion of any Chinese or Taiwanese meal. I hope you’ll make a pot of it and enjoy it with your dinner next time 🙂
Gong Wan Luo Bo Tang
Mr. ABC Chef jokes that it’s Me(i)-Gan cai, and it has easily become one of his favorite things to eat, braised with pork. What IS mei gan cai ( 梅乾菜）? Before, I only knew that mei gan cai was some vegetable that was salted and then dried, but didn’t know much else, so I decided to do a little research..
So, this is what I learned- mustard greens are salted, (xue cai or xue li hong), fermented, (fu cai), then dried (mei gan cai). All these products are made from the humble mustard green and some salt..AMAZING. Check out some videos of the process- this and this were what I found.
Please eat me!
Since moving to Indiana, I’ve found fewer Chinese or Asian grocery stores (three so far), and fresh Chinese cuts of pork have been slightly harder to find, but chicken is ever-present and evermore inexpensive. So…I guess it’s time to make more chicken? Also, I find myself reverting to making dishes with pork because that’s what I love and am used to eating, so using more chicken is a culinary stretch for me 😉
My mom and grandma started having weekly get togethers at Puopuo Jia (grandma’s house) which involve sharing stories and best of all, food. Sometimes my grandma cooks, sometimes they make food together, and sometimes they find a restaurant to try together. There’s a Sichuan restaurant that they loved (where my grandma and waitress spoke in Sichuanese, which I never even knew puopuo spoke!) that my mom’s going to take me to when we visit in December! Wooo!
My mom was telling me about one of my Puopuo’s most recent food experiments; this time it was feng ji,（風雞）, which translates to ‘wind chicken,’ because part of the process involves drying the chicken outdoors. Chicken gets salted and Sichuan-peppered , put in the fridge for a few days, then is hung outside to ‘dry’ and continue in the curing. Then, you steam it and EAT IT! After all, Chinese people don’t do prosciutto, cheese and crackers as a snack;D
Puopuo used her garage for the curing step, but I have no garage or basement, nor a crafty box to ward off critters as it hangs on the balcony.
Hearing of chicken, salt, and hua jiao (Sichuan peppercorn) made me salivate and want some, too. Since I haven’t devised that box yet, I made this dish to temporarily stave off my craving for some of puopuo’s feng ji. Thanks for the inspiration, Puopuo!
Turns out that this was quite tasty- the hua jiao does not overwhelm the chicken, and yet lends a nice different taste than ‘typical’ stir-fries. The carrots stay rather firm and don’t produce much water, so even if you stove is weaksauce, your stir-fry will not boil 😀 This was NOT created to be a spicy dish; the hua jiao are just supposed to give the chicken a little something. You can certainly add dried hot peppers with the oil at the beginning, if you wish.
Hello blog friends! I’ve been away for too long. You know…as we were busy with life and packing and travelling (Taiwan!) and moving/driving (11 hours!), I contemplated ‘quitting’ this blog. After all, doesn’t this hobby of writing about food and life take away from living life? My husband pointed out that hobbies do take time away from life. But, maybe it’s better to say that hobbies ARE part of life. I have also read about the importance of perseverance when authoring a blog, so I will continue to chug along.
As I think about the consistency of my blog and reflect back on major life events, it seems that the past 2 years have been filled with transition: got married to Mr. ABC Chef in December 2013, moved in September AND October 2014, (ugh, boo dishonest landlords) got a new job in June 2015, then now November 2015, here we are – we have not only moved apartments, but driven to a faraway place, 11 hours from where we have lived for the past 5-6 years. Sorry blog readers, for my strange and seemingly numerous absences….it’s kind of hard to blog when most of your stuff is in boxes or in a moving van!
With these moves, I’ve learned about the importance of feeling like there is a place to call home; whether it is a hotel to call home base while on vacation, an apartment that barely has a few pieces of furniture, or a warm and cozy house with rambunctious children running about, there is something unique about “going home”. We are hoping to buy a house to move to in the next year, so hopefully that will home for several years, or for as long as God allows.
Now that I am (f)unemployed, I believe it is high time to catch up on recipes I have been wanting to post. On with the regular program:
Before I met Mr. ABC Chef, my understanding of casual, non dim-sum Cantonese food was limited to some family favorites: salted fish and chicken fried rice (which Tim claims is not actually Cantonese, but also could be that his family never ate it), stir-fried rice noodles with beef, fried noodles with the sauce on top, and cha siu (barbecue pork). Since I started dating and got married, I’ve learned that siu yuk is often superior to cha siu, fermented olives and black beans are soo delicious, gai lan is one of the coolest leafy vegetables there is, and that no meal eaten with the Lee family at a restaurant is complete without ging-dou-gwat- (Beijing-style pork chops).
In the strong second place finisher, ranks Singapore noodles, a funky and unusual mix of curry powder and rice vermicelli, decorated with bits of egg, peppers, last night’s cha siu, crunchy bean sprouts, and other pleasant surprises.
These shrimp are far larger than shrimp you’d see in a typical restaurant order of Singapore noodles. But, if you’re going to be deveining them yourself, as I did, might as well go for the bigger ones, no?
No trip to get dimsum is ever complete without ordering this 2-3 bite wonder (or 1, if you are Tim) made of a generous pork and shrimp filling, and thinnest of wrappers. In fact, ha gao, siu mai, were probably among the first Cantonese words I learned as a child, as they were always found in the same cart. The Cantonese ladies would roam the dining room with the carts, and we would ask “Ha gao, siu mai?” and they’d either shake their head or reach over and lift the lids of the steamers up, one by one, until they found them for us. When I found out that siu mai was also Mr. ABC Chef’s favorite dimsum, I was happy but also sad- sad because that meant there would be more competition to snag any “extra” siu mai from the standard orders of 4 in each basket.
I never really thought to make it myself, but after getting dimsm in Long Island with Mr. ABC Chef’s family, I was motivated that only 4 siu mai came in each order (~$3) but if I made it, I could get many more!
(Oh yea, in case it wasn’t clear from the previous paragraph, just take note that this recipe is for Cantonese style Shao Mai, and not the Shanghainese type that has mostly sticky rice filling) Continue reading