If Chinese cuisine had an eastern charcuterie equivalent, lu cai would definitely make it onto the plate. Lu cai is a general term for an assortment of soy sauce-and-other-spices-braised foods, ranging from the most popular beef shank, to seaweed knots, extra firm tofu (also known as bean curd- what an unappetizing translation 🙁 ), hardboiled eggs, pig ears, chicken legs, duck wings, and the like. A big pot of soy sauce and other seasonings (fennel, cinnamon, star anise, and sometimes a whole slew of 20+ spices!) is brought to a boil, then all these assortments of goodies are steeped and cooked on a low heat for a looong time, until all the flavors meld together and season the food items until they are spectacularly delicious. Lu niu rou, or cold braised beef (?) is probably one of the more famous, with the famous swirley beef shank cross section, but a lot of other foods can be ‘lu’ed! Excuse the Chinglish, but that’s probably the best way to explain some of these things..Oh, and lu niu rou should not be confused with lu rou or lu rou fan– they are completely different! Sorry, it’s probably a little confusing for non-Chinese speakers, no?
Lu cai is is easy to make, as long as you have some tastebuds, and patience. See, you’ll need to season the braising liquid to your liking, then cook and wait long enough for your choice of goodies to completely soak up the braising liquid. Once the foods have gotten generously seasoned, they will cool in the fridge and be served cold or at room temperature. It is the perfect dish to keep in the fridge to supplement a summer meal.
The most important component of this dish is the spice bag- in the past, I’ve either gotten these from my mom, grandma, or trips to Taiwan. If you live in the US, Oriental Mascot is a pretty popular brand, and that’s the default one my family would use. It should say on the packet how many pounds/ounces of food the packet is good for. A little goes a long way- for instance, I was told that my spice bag was good for 1200-1800 grams of food. Your spice bag should specify how many pounds it is good for…I used more than the 1800 gram suggestion, and thought it tasted fine! I think it depends on whether you are braising more meat or non-meat. Non-meat will dilute the liquid but meat will add its own flavor to the liquid. Continue reading
Now that I’ve gotten over my brief infatuation of gardening (the honeymoon phase is over; weeds galore have dampened my enthusiasm a little 🙁 ), I will be sitting down at the computer to write more. Thanks, reader MLee for leaving me a kind comment that reminds me why I started this blog in the first place 🙂
As I might have said before in the dumplings post and have been learning, you use hot water dough for foods like steamed dumplings, (zheng jiao) potstickers(guo tie) or chive boxes (jiu cai he zi) to make the dough nice and tender for crisping up. The hot water kills some of the gluten formation. For chewy stuff like noodles or boiled dumplings, use cold water for a chewier, stretchier dough.
Did you know that you can make these with whole wheat flour and they can still taste good, and in my opinion, even tastier? What’s even better is that the dough is nutritious and also more filling than if you were to use all-purpose flour, thanks to the fiber. Whole wheat also makes foods more jie shi (結實), or solid/sturdy/filling. I won’t be going back to all-purpose anytime soon. Read past the recipe for my favorite aspects of whole wheat flour, but first, the recipe and some pictures. Continue reading
The first time I had homemade sheng jian bao was circa 1999, when my aunts from Beijing visited and stayed with us for almost a month. That month, they made carb concoction after carb concoction for us. Sheng Jian Bao (or Shui Jian Bao) was one of such carby eats they made (One of the yummy foods they also made was hu bing, a cornmeal ‘pizza’ with garlic chives).
Welp, I had a bunch of sentences about how I believe the origin of sheng jian bao to be in Shanghai and all this stuff…but now I’m all confused after seeing a blog called TaiwanXifu. She writes, “Earlier today I asked a foodie friend, a chef who formerly worked at the Shanghai Shangrila Hotel, about the origin of Shui Jian Bao. He said that Shui Jian Bao are from Jiangsu/Shanghai. The dough is, as this recipe is, half yeast and half oil based. But Sheng Jian Bao are from Beijing. They are a totally yeasted dough, i.e. bigger and fluffier.”
Ack! Let’s just say I’ll be making what I know as sheng jian bao, also called shui jian bao. If an expert can shed light on the situation and confirm/deny TaiwanXifu’s friend’s words, please leave a comment!
For those who haven’t had the pleasure of eating sheng jian bao before, think of the crispy crunchiness of the potsticker, crossed with the fluffiness of a steamed bun or baozi. If you haven’t had both of those before, think of a meat or vegetable (or both)-filled piece of fluffy yeasted dough, with a crispy and crunchy on the bottom where it meets the pan. Hungry yet?
This pita bread and blog it came from got me thinking about using sourdough starter for EVERYTHING! It also helps that I gave away my quart container of yeast when we moved, and keep forgetting to get some from my sister who lives less than a mile away. Hah.
Not only did I want to use sourdough starter for everything, but I also wanted to use my white whole wheat or red whole wheat berries (by the way, milling your own flour makes the most sweet and fragrant flour!), so it was a double challenge.
I hesitate to take the time to post recipes that use sourdough starter AND whole wheat AND feature Chinese food, because how many people are in that Venn diagram intersection of interest groups?! Very few, I think. But, maybe there are more of us out there than I appreciate. (By the way, if you are in that intersection, please leave a comment!) Also, I wonder what came first- sheng jian bao or white, processed, all-purpose flour? Maybe whole wheat was how it’s always been made. Who knows..
Anyway, the first experiment of using sourdough starter in man tou (want to make a post on that someday, too!) was a big flop that resulted in a heavy rock of a dough. I learned from that experience, so here we are. If you are not in the sourdough or whole wheat club, I’ll also post the recipe I used for ‘regular’ dough.
As for the filling, there are several options- I don’t think there’s any rule, and something that would work in a baozi or dumpling would probably also work in sheng jian bao. On my first trip (of 4) to Taiwan, I ordered a sheng jian bao that looked scrumptious, then bit into it, only to find that it was ONLY CABBAGE and shrimp skin. WHAT! So really, it can be anything, though just seasoned pork seems to be a pretty popular option. I prefer meat (pork) + some vegetable in mine. Hm, maybe napa cabbage wouldn’t be right- I don’t think I’ve ever encountered napa in sheng jian bao. So, maybe no napa. I’ll ask my mom and get back to you ;D
More oil and slightly more flour in the steaming water
In the process of buying a house (plumbing issues have arisen upon further inspection….maybe we won’t be buying a house?)
Getting sick with gastroenteritis (wooohoo, free weight loss!)
Working as a pastry chef @ a cafe nearby (getting paid to do what I love- make food!)
As you can see, I’ve been busy with life outside the blog! However, the show must go on…
Today I wanted to share with you the recipe I use for dan jiao, or egg dumplings. If you like regular dumplings, pork, egg, or tasty food, you will like these, too!
My family is not traditional. When Chinese New Year would roll around, sometimes my dad would give me nothing. Other years, he’d be like, Here’s $40! Happy New Year! I would be envious of my Cantonese friends at school when they bragged about the 300 dollars that their grandma gave them, and how their savings was mostly comprised of Chinese New Year money. I don’t remember celebrating Chinese New Year with a big traditional meal, or any particular meal at all! I found out only 2 CNYs ago from my friend Desmond that you’re supposed to cook 2 fishes on New Year’s Eve- one to eat, and one for leftovers ? Huh.
4 years ago, I decided that I wanted to create some traditions, starting with Chinese New Year dishes. Puo Puo’s dan jiao were nestled in a big clay pot, among a bed of napa cabbage, fen si, and soaking in gao tang, or umami-rich broth that had been stewing for a looong time. The fen si soaked up the broth, and the dan jiao were just sooo good! It didn’t take much for PuoPuo to remind us that dan jiao, or egg dumplings, were gongfu cai, meaning dishes that require time, skill, and patience.
The first year I made them, it took no time for me to understand why puopuo called them gong fu cai- it took forever to make them. It will probably take you forever to make them, too, the first time you try. BUT! It is worth it. Really. These luxury dumplings now make it to our CNY table every year, despite a lack of any other tradition keeping. That enough should be incentive enough for you to try these out!
Makes 3 dozen
1 lb ground pork- in this case, the fattier, the tastier
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 stalk scallion, minced
2 tsp Shaoxing wine
1/4-1/2 tsp white pepper (to taste)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
4 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
9 large eggs
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp cornstarch+1 Tbsp water (optional)
For the soup:
-8 cups of broth- pork or chicken (pork recommended)
-Handful of dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms
-2-3 tsp dried shrimp or scallop
-Half a head of napa cabbage, roughly chopped
-1 box of frozen tofu, cut into chunks
-2.5-5 ounces of mung bean threads / vermicelli / fen si (粉絲）
-Salt to taste
-Anything else you want to toss into the soup (carrots, daikon, winter melon…in our household, the dan jiao is the star, so it doesn’t even need much else!)
For the soup:
1) I usually get a bunch of pork neck bones (~2 lbs) and add enough water to cover them, and then some. Bring to a boil, then rinse the bones of the yucky grey stuff. Dump that water, then replace with clean water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for at least 2 hours. The hearty add-ins like shiitake mushrooms and dried seafood can go in with the clean water, but wait until the very end (last 10 minutes of cooking) for the napa and frozen tofu. For the mung bean threads , they should be soaked in room temperature water until you are ready to eat. When your dan jiao are cooked and hot, add the fen si, close the lid, then turn the heat off. Let the residual heat cook the mung bean threads while you call people for dinner.
For the dan jiao:
1) Just like for making any other meat filling, (like for dumplings or hu jiao bing) you want to stir up the filling ingredients really well. If the mixture is really hard to stir (say, if it is very fatty), add one teaspoon of water at a time so that the water can help break up the pork pieces. When the filling is well mixed, the filling will start to form one big clump of filling, meaning that the fat has been mixed enough to help ‘glue’ everything together. Mix and mix until you see this big clump! Note that this will take longer to achieve with leaner meat, as it doesn’t have as much fat to glue everything together.
If possible, cover the filling and let it marinate in the fridge while you do other stuff. When you are about ready to use it, take a small piece, and zap it in the microwave or cook it on the stove. Does it need more salt or soy sauce? Add more now. Keep in mind that as you stew the dan jiao in the broth, it will lose some of its saltiness, so if by chance you over-salt/soy sauce it, fear not, because some of the saltiness will leach into the soup.
2) Make the egg wrapper part: beat the eggs and salt together. The cornstarch is optional, as I’ve seen both recipes that have and do not have cornstarch. But, it’s what I do, and it seems to help? Totally up to you. In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch and water to form a slurry. Add to the eggs and beat well.
2) Now it’s the fun part: making the dan jiao! Heat up a cast iron skillet (or non-stick pan). Then, add oil just to barely grease the pan, using a spatula to evenly spread it everywhere.
3) For the heat- it cannot be on high, nor can it be on low: it must be just right. Whatt? Too high, and the egg will set up before you can use the raw egg to glue the other half of the egg together. Too low, and the egg will just be runny and ugly as you add it onto the pan. So, you’ll need to find the perfect heat setting. Something like medium low should be about right.
4) Use a spoon to slowly transfer the egg onto the saucepan; you want a little bit of the egg to set up before adding more. When I make them, the spoon actually makes contact with the pan a bit; I find this helps me shape the oval well! Make an oval that is about twice the length of however tall you want the danjiao to be.
5) Look for the side of the egg that looks less set-up/cooked through; put a little bit of filling (no more than 2-3 tsp) on that half. leaving a small border on one side, and a large gap on the other side.
6) As soon as you put your filling on the egg, use a spatula to take the half without meat and fold it over, so you form a half-circle egg dumpling. Try to lightly press down on the edges to help adhere the egg to itself. In an ideal world, you will accomplish this step while there is still raw egg on the filling side that will help the sides seal up well.
7) Gently move the finished dan jiao to the edge of the pan, and make room for the next dan jiao. When the dan jiao is golden brown on each side, remove it to a plate.
8) Repeat steps 4-7 as many times as necessary to use up all your stuff! Add a little oil in between batches, if necessary. Cooking is an art, and you may end up with extra filling or egg. Make more egg to go with extra filling, or just cook the egg and eat it, if you have extra egg.
9) When you make the dan jiao, the filling inside will not cook all the way. That is because dan jiao are meat to be served in soup. Eat a bite of the dan jiao, drink some hot soup.
10) So, when you are ready to eat the dan jiao, heat up your stock until it’s a gentle boil, and add your dan jiao. Cook on a gentle boil for 10 minutes, and then your dan jiao will be ready! Follow directions up top for fen si, if you are using them.
If you have leftover dan jiao, they’re great with leftover stock plus rice noodles (米粉). Heat up the dan jiao and stock, and cook the rice noodles in a separate pot (to avoid getting the stock gummy from the starch of the rice noodles). Portion out the rice noodles, and top with dan jiao, stock, and leftover stuff from the stock. It’s a great lunch or dinner!
Before we moved, there was an amaazing Indo-Pak restaurant by the name of Kabobeesh. From the outside it looked like an all-American diner, but once you stepped in, you saw a case of hot foods and a short man with a mustache and slicked back hair, the owner. Kabobeesh, located just a few blocks from a college campus, was the perfect place to go for a quick, tasty, and budget meal. Tim and I do not believe in eating like birds, and happily eat a hearty meal. Kabobeesh was one of the only places where we would each order an entree plate, and NOT finish our food.
I have a propensity for looking (i.e. staring) around the dining area to see what other patrons ordered, because you never know what gem you may have missed when you ordered! One day as we were walking out after dinner, we saw a table of four seemingly south Asian college/grad school friends, gathered around a big wok-looking thing, filled with chunks of saucy chicken that were covered in flecks of cilantro, and garnished with ginger and jalapeño slices. They were dipping their blistered naan into the sauce, and I realized that I was once again hungry. One of the girls caught me staring, and offered to let me try some! She put some chicken on a plate, and I did my best to share with Tim, who loved it even despite the cilantro. Now, if that in itself were not impressive enough, (he recoils at the smell of a 1/16 inch piece of cilantro), the chicken was tender, sauce was spicy hot, bursting with flavor and just overall delicious.
The next time we went to Kabobeesh, we ordered the chicken karahi, then told all our friends about it, too!
I know it’s not polite to stare, but in this case, it payed off :O. Girl from Kabobeesh, if you ever read this, thank you for sharing your food with a stranger! I will never forget it.
I was on the search for chicken karahi recipes that would take me back to Kabobeesh, but none of them had the sprinkle of masala at the end, nor the ginger and hot pepper slices…until I was browsing on YouTube one day. This lady Seema seems super legit, and I made her recipe and almost followed it to a T!
If you like an explosion of flavor, tender bone-in chicken, a dash of heat, and sauce so good you almost don’t need any chicken with it, look no further! I must warn you that you will probably require 4278685 naan or roti, or bottomless bowls of basmati rice to ensure no sauce is left behind.
Side note: I made upwards of 3 dozen roti, in attempts to make perfect ones that puffed up. Last night, on batch 4, I finally made ones that puffed tremendously-4 out of 4 were successful! In any case, I am still far from qualified to instruct anyone for roti making, but you should check out Bhavna or Manjula’s channels to see A-M-A-Z-I-N-G in action!
How many people out there have a bunch of celery leftover in the fridge after making soup? I do…it seems that celery often wins for best ingredient in a supporting role, but not often is it a lead ingredient.
Several days ago, I looked in the fridge and saw that there were still leftovers of the celery that I bought for soup and chicken pot pie. I thought of a dish that reminds me of home- my mom’s beef, celery, and dou fu gan (extra firm seasoned tofu). There would be sliced flank steak that was lightly marinated, there was tender-crisp celery, then dou fu gan for some meaty texture. Sadly, there was no dou fu gan to be found, but I did have beef, so I decided to make it without. It was still good, just different!
Sometimes, the strangest (and worst) meals are made when I throw stuff together randomly. Thankfully, more often than sometimes, these spontaneous ideas end up working out! The only downside is that during those times, I’m just trying to get dinner together and don’t have my notebook by my side. so that I can write ingredients down so that I can share them with you. Luckily, I made this thrice- so, it better be good!
As a note, this is inspired by one of my favorite dishes- fish and eggplant, that seemed to be ubiquitous in Philly’s Chinatown. Distinctions are that the eggplant is NOT deep-fried, and it is not a saucey dish, but will go dandily with rice..
Tasty Place and M Kee, thanks for your inspiration over the years <3
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.
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 🙂
Hello there! Mr. ABC Chef and I made our annual trip to California to celebrate Christmas with my side of the family. We had a great time meeting up with some friends, picking a bunch of citrus at a vacation rental home, watching Gotham with my sister and brother-in-law, and celebrating a late 2 year anniversary with Mr. ABC Chef. Needless to say, we ate LOTS of carbs and meat, and barely no veggies- someone’s jeans were uncomfortably tight on the plane ride back 🙁 . Now, it’s time to eat better and lose some of that major pudge :O We returned to the Midwest, only to be greeted by rain and cold the day after we got back. The redeeming quality of winter is that it is the perfect time for soups, stews, and all other cold-weather yummies.
Today I’m sharing the recipe for the tasty chili I made when Mr. ABC Chef’s long time video game buddies came over to meet for the FIRST TIME in person, as well as what you can do to make your own chili bar. (Nope, no psychos- they were a bunch of normal and rather funny nerds from diverse backgrounds. Whew) I decided on chili because I could make a big batch for not too much $$, provide variation with almost endless chili topping options, and I could prepare it well in advance to make sure it was ready when they arrived. I made this chili the day before company came, so that all the flavors could marinate, and sink in overnight. Mr. ABC Chef says that people eat one serving so as not to appear rude, but seconds and thirds means they actually liked it. I hope our new friends’ seconds and thirds meant something! Continue reading