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Dan Jiao- Egg Dumplings

Sorry for being MIA! So, where have I been?

  • 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!

dan jiao

Dan Jiao

蛋餃

Egg Dumplings

Makes 3 dozen

Ingredients:

Filling:

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

Egg Wrapper:

9 large eggs

3/4 tsp salt

2 Tbsp cornstarch+1 Tbsp water (optional)

Oil

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!)

Instructions: 

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.

dan jiao

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.

dan jiao

dan jiao

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.

Substitutions/Notes:

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!

 

dan jiao

dan jiao

Taro Paste- Yu Ni

If you find red bean paste too time consuming to make, try your hand at taro paste! I recently made ba bao fan (8 treasure sticky rice) for Chinese New Year, experimenting by using both taro paste and red bean paste, only to find that the flavors were in competition with each other, and that I should have just used one or the other. Thanks, Mama, for explaining!  (It still tasted preeeetty good though!)

If you have never cooked taro before, check out the post on how to prepare taro.

Taro paste, or yu ni, is basically cooked taro that is sweetened and lightened up with some sort of fat. Some people use milk powder, others might use milk or cream, but I just used oil because that’s what I had. Of course, you can always use more oil and you can use a food processor and/or sieve to make it extra smooth in texture, but I find that hand-mushed is just fine for our tastes.

What can you make with taro paste, you ask? Anything that you would put red bean paste in! You can do Chinese bakery buns with taro paste filling, make your favorite cinnamon roll or cinnamon swirl bread with taro paste instead, taro paste steamed buns, taro paste tang yuan, or just steam some with sticky rice and eat it. yuni

Yu Ni

芋泥

Taro Paste

Ingredients:

1 lb big taro, sliced thinly

1/3 cup oil (or cream or milk, or a combination)

6 Tbsp white sugar

Instructions:

1) Steam the taro until it is easily poked with a fork and is no longer speckled milky white. Use a fork or food processor to mush up the taro to the smoothness or chunkiness that you desire.

2) Heat a heavy bottomed pot, then add oil. Add the taro, and cook for 5-10 minutes, until you see a somewhat crusty film of dried-up taro on the bottom of the pan. That’s good- means that some of the water has dried up! Add sugar and stir until it dissolves. That’s it!

Substitutions/Notes:

-For baked applications of taro paste, I would suggest using something like 1/2 cup or more, to account for moisture loss in the oven). This is not so much an issue with steamed applications (sticky rice, bao zi)

-This recipe is suited to my taste, and you may find that you want more oil in yours, or more sugar. Definitely remember to make it slightly more sweet than you think it should be, so it can season/complement the plain carb (bread, sticky rice or bao zi) well.

-Depending on what fat you used, the shelf life will vary. You can always freeze it in ziptop baggies for later use!

 

How to Cook Taro

This post is going to address all aspects of preparing big taro- not to be confused with little taro. I probably haven’t had enough little taro and haven’t given it enough chances, however, big taro has thus far won my heart over. Little taro is slightly slimy/slippery, and has a different and I’d say, more mild taste than taro. If little taro was a waxy potato (like a red potato), big taro would be a russet (half way between starchy and waxy).  You know those “taro” (in quotes because 99.9% of the time, they use purple-dyed artificially flavored powder) drinks at boba shops? They mimic / attempt to imitate the big taro taste.

Big taro (as opposed to the hairy little ones) ranks high up on my list of favorite root vegetables- the best thing about it is that it is one of few vegetables that I think is adaptable both as savory (pan-fried then tossed into hot pot, taro cooked with pork, taro pork vermicelli (yu tou mi fen tang) <—want to post a recipe for this- someday!) AND sweet (xi mi lu, among many others) , without tasting too sweet for the savory, nor too savory for the sweet.

My mom used to buy taro in vacuum sealed bags, but when I moved to the other coast for college, I noticed that any supermarket that sold it, sold it whole- the big whonking taro root! Where Mr. ABC Chef and I live now, there are enough Chinese people that there is one supermarket-count em! one, that actually sells big taro. It sells taro both in the vacuum sealed bags, and also whole.

Unless the taro looks dreadfully moldy and dried up, I’ve found that buying a whole taro and cutting it up yourself, is the better way to go.  The prep time is probably comparable to preparing a butternut squash, so buy a whole taro and slice and freeze what you don’t need! I know this varies by state/area, but over yonder, the supermarket near me sells whole taro by the pound for $.79/lb, versus the pre-sliced and vacuum-sealed taro for $2.79/lb (!!) Continue reading

Chicken Karahi

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! kadai karahi chicken

Continue reading

Celery and Beef

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!

beef celery
Continue reading

Chicken and Eggplant

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

chicken eggplant Continue reading

Sourdough Pita Bread

I’ve been keeping a pet in the refrigerator these days..my sourdough starter. This starter was given to me by my mom, and it’s been alive and kicking for over 2 years now. The starter I made way back when, turned pink for Valentine’s Day, and hence that one was no more.

If there’s anything you can do to keep your baking self-sustaining, it is to grow make some sourdough starter. This method is great- I’ve used it twice with 100% success! I’m no sourdough starter expert; just a novice user who remembers to feed her starter once in a while.

I bought a grain mill last year and I love it! I buy wheat berries and mill turns them into flour for me. Anyway, as I started to bake with whole wheat flour, I realized that some whole wheat bread recipes, even good ones, got kind of crumbly, flaky, and fall apart-y if they weren’t eaten right away. It seemed like most recipes for 100% whole wheat flour require a decent amount of fat, sugar, or both, to help keep the bread soft. I googled and researched a bunch on the internet, read articles, and either from some articles or as a result of reading, got this theory..Whole wheat grains existed long ago, when there was no way to separate the germ and bran from the endosperm. Sourdough also existed way back when, before the invention of today’s baker’s yeast (which, by the way, only contains Saccharomyces cerevisiae, as opposed to sourdough, which contains many more organisms). Soo…maybe whole wheat grains and sourdough go together.

So began the experiments. After baking whole wheat bread with sourdough, I noticed that the bread stayed intact and held a great texture, even though I only used water, sourdough, flour, and salt. My theory is that it’s not only the freshly milled whole wheat, but also the long fermentation time, and in the little organisms in the sourdough starter. So, when I want to eat something biologically leavened, (in this case, leavening that is not baking powder or soda) and nutrient-dense, I bake whole wheat flour/water/sourdough/salt bread. When I want something biologically leavened that is more splurgey, like cinnamon rolls, I’ll use mostly white all purpose flour and commercial yeast. After all, I doubt most people eat those types of breads for nutrition 😉

I tried to think of all the recipes that I could convert to use sourdough instead, because there is always sourdough starter in my kitchen, but not always yeast. I stumbled across this great blog that I think everyone should read- called Bint Rhoda’s Kitchen! She grew up eating this bread (cooked on the stovetop), and she is into sourdough baking as well! :d

I’ve made this pita bread with 100% whole wheat flour (oven), as well as 100% spelt flour (stovetop), both with great success, so I encourage you to try both and see which you prefer. Me? Stovetop for convenience and lack of pre-heating the oven. But, it’s always nice to sit in front of the oven and watch the pitas grow and get pillowy.

If you’ve made pita bread with baker’s yeast, it’ll be easier to make this recipe. No matter, just make sure the dough is soft, but does not stick to your hands.

sourdough pita Continue reading

Thank You Readers!

A quick history of this blog for anyone who is new to this site: I originally started this blog, hoping that it would reach people looking for recipes of food that Chinese and Taiwanese people eat at home, every day. Real food eaten by real people on a regular basis, not food from a restaurant or food that is super-modified to be marketable =P

I THINK IT’S WORKING! I’m so happy that you readers, people from different backgrounds with the common affinity for Chinese or Taiwanese food, are benefiting from this site! I think it’s working because of lovely, kind comments from readers like YOU.

So, thank you thank you! Comments seem to pop up when I feel like no one reads the blog, no one cares, or that my blog is not flashy enough to attract and keep readers =O

Read on, and know that I love to read each and every comment that I get, and do my best to respond thoroughly! Please do keep leaving comments for me, and let me know if you have suggestions or things you’d like to see me tackle on here.

<3 <3 <3 – for my readers and commenters!

Matcha Ice Cream

At some point before or around college, I developed an interest in matcha, or mo cha (抹茶), when I was in high school and college, and would make desserts for fancy occasions with the prized $6/1 oz matcha canister that I would get from Mitsuwa. When my sister got married in 2009, one of the cake tiers that I made for her was a lovely green tea chiffon cake with passion fruit mousse. When I was in college, I experimented with that same chiffon cake with a pomegranate mousse for Christmas- green and red! Boy, was I ambitious then 😉

Nowadays, I don’t dream about matcha as much as I did before, but I did see a great deal on matcha at Mitsuwa when we went to get ramen.  I’ll bet that no ‘Asian’ food blog is complete without at least one matcha item in it, so here is matcha in one of its simplest forms (besides just drinking it)- ice cream!

I looked and looked to see if I could find any information about ingredients used in this old school brand of green tea ice cream that I remember seeing in California grocery stores, but no luck..There was a picture of a snowy mountain on the container, with dark bluish and white accents for the snow? Maybe even light pink/coral background. I think it was some brand name that sounded rather Japanese, and I remember it was very bitter, and that at first I didn’t like it that much. Once I actually got over the bitterness and tasted it for its tea-ness, I enjoyed it. Sadly, I have no idea if that brand exists anymore, and have no recollection of the name. Please leave a comment if you can shed some light on this long lost ice cream brand!

Anyway, all this to say that nowadays, sometimes I am disappointed in green tea ice creams because I expect a kick of strong matcha, and it’s not..I set out to make a very strong

Disclaimer: This ice cream is very matcha-y, but does not like to form into an ice cream scoop very well. It is much easier to get thick shavings of. However…if you like hard or chewy ice creams, this one is totally for you!

 

matcha ice cream green tea Continue reading

Hong Shao Yu- Braised Fish

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.

hong shao yu Continue reading

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