Tag: authentic chinese

Guo Tie- Potstickers

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

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

Mei Gan Cai Shao Rou

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.

mei gan cai shao rou

Please eat me!

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Salt and Pepper Shrimp

Hello everyone! Sorry for the delay in posting; life has been getting in the way of me sitting down to write posts. I actually have hefty backlog of posts to work on….

This week has been pretty packed, with Mr. ABC Chef (my husband, Tim) coming back from PyCon in Montreal, celebrating his birthday with two birthday dinners (one where I made Korean food for him and 4 of his buddies!), and going to Hopkins Alumni weekend, which was mostly an excuse to hang out with my best friend 🙂

The best friend and I ate out every meal, except Sunday breakfast, which we made together- dou jiang and fan tuan, which are staples of Taiwanese breakfast. Stay tuned for a fan tuan (deep fried dough aka you tiao, dried pork, and salted and slightly sweet radish bits- all wrapped up in sticky rice, almost like a sushi roll!) recipe to come.

Then on the way home, Megabus was delayed a whole hour, so I spent over an hour in line, doing nothing but trying to get the intermittent WiFi to idly browse Instagram and Facebook, while fighting the cold breeze.

Anyway, now we are back to our regular schedule!

I would regularly ask, “媽媽(mama), how do you make this?” when we just ate something really tasty at a restaurant. Or, my mom would shake her head and discreetly mutter to my sister and me that the restaurant was taking shortcuts because x and y dish should not be made this way, but that way instead.

媽媽 always said that the Chinese “salt and pepper”seasoning should just be toasted salt, and Sichuan peppercorns, ground up. Nothing else. When we got salt and pepper pork chops (because they were always the least expensive and you would get more than if you ordered squid or shrimp), I would look forward to the deep fried pork pieces that were laced with this addicting seasoning, and when the meat was gone, I would use my chopsticks skills to hunt for abandoned pieces of scallions and jalapenos, and mix it with the restaurant white rice in my bowl. I wondered why no one else would eat these pieces of salty goodness that were left behind, but was also glad that my sister and I had these morsels all to ourselves.

salt and pepper shrimp

 I’ve been wanting to post a recipe for salt and pepper shrimp that would do justice to its name. When you make the salt and peppercorn powder, prepare to be blown away by the mysteriously addicting aroma that is created by the marriage of two simple spices!

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Shi Zi Tou (Lion’s Head (Meatballs) )

I don’t have any particular childhood story for lion’s head meatballs, other than the fact that I remember eating the ones my grandma made, and the fact that I always make it with her special ingredient, which makes it not as traditional, but I really like it this way! Read along.

Two factors make my mouth water when I think of shi zi tou: well-seasoned meat, and tasty broth to go with it. I think most restaurants serve lion’s head with gooey cornstarch sauce, but I prefer a clean broth and fen si, or mung bean vermicelli, that can soak up some of that yummy broth.

It’s getting warmer, and the season for hearty braises will soon be gone, so make this while you can! My sister said “you totally need to post a shi zi tou recipe”, so this is for you, 姐!

lion's head

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Tang Yuan – Stuffed Glutinous Rice Balls

Tomorrow is the Lantern Festival, which is called Yuan Xiao Jie (元宵節)in Chinese. I don’t know much about it, other than the fact that it tang yuan is traditionally eaten at this time. Hooray for an excuse to eat tang yuan!

So, tell me more about tang yuan, you say. Remember yuan zi? Tang yuan are basically filled yuan zi. I think there are actually savory fillings and sweet fillings, but my only experience is with sweet, so that’s what I’ll be featuring today.  A common filling that is also my favorite is black sesame paste, and other popular fillings include peanut and red bean paste


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Twice Cooked Pork (hui2guo1rou4)

Hui guo rou has a literal translation of ‘return-to-the-pot meat,’ which means that the meat is, well, returned to the pot, meaning that it’s cooked with two methods.  First, the pork belly is boiled, then it is thinly sliced and sauteed with leeks and other ingredients. Hui guo rou is not one of the dishes that made it on my mom’s menus, but I remember first eating it (or at least remembering its name) sometime after college, and really enjoying it. When I found out that its roots were in Sichuan, it made sense, because I have not tried a Sichuan dish I don’t love.
When I called my grandma (my mom was in Europe) to ask how to make it, she confirmed that this was a 家常菜(jia1chang2cai4), which I translate as a homey-style dish, or home-cooking type of dish. Another vote for this dish!
Can you go wrong with pork belly? Or doufugan? Or leek? Hmmm. probably not.

Meanwhile, Simba and Pepper love to get in between me and my computer..

Hmm…what else can we do to make her give up on using the computer?

Hui Guo Rou Twice Cooked Pork

We like some pork with our leek in our family- this was 3 cups of leek!

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Water Cooked Fish (Shui3Zhu3Yu2 水煮魚)

This is not a dish I ate while I was growing up, but I get 水煮魚 almost every time I go to a Sichuan restaurant. I did my best to re-create it here, after reading Chinese and recipe databases and consulting with my mom and my grandma (po3po2), who moved to Chengdu when she was 4 or 5.IMG_1949-minedited

I love Sichuan food because it is spicy (peppers) and numbing (Sichuan peppercorn, or hua1jiao1 花椒), which is pretty exciting to my tastebuds. 好過癮! (hao3guo4ying3)

Ingredients Spotlight:

My Caucasian/American co-worker’s wife bought Sichuan peppercorns from Penzey’s, and apparently she was really frustrated because try as she might to grind the peppercorns as finely as possible, they tasted “gritty”. Turns out the problem was that the peppercorns she got still had lots of the black seeds in them! At the Asian or Chinese market, look for peppercorns that have mostly the husks/shells, because those are what give the numbing or ma2 麻 flavor.

Ground up in a coffee bean grinder

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Zha Jiang Mian (炸酱麵)

If you’ve been to Lan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House in Philadelphia, they offer zha jiang mian (pork with brown sauce with noodles??) that is very popular, but this ain’t no zha jiang mian, in my opinion. It tastes more like a confused hybrid of 炸酱 (zha jiang) and 魯肉 (lu rou, also known as rou zao).

The zha jiang mian I’m used to eating is a hearty, chunky, thick, brown sauce…with noodles and julienned veggies. I had it this way in Beijing, in restaurants in LA, and in my mom’s kitchen 🙂

The essential ingredients for this sauce are fermented soybean pastes (isn’t it neat how most cultures’ cuisines have figured out what wonders fermentation does for food? miso paste, kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, etc). Dou ban jiang, soybean paste, has a short ingredient list including soybeans, salt, and flour, and has a umami savory taste to it, and I would describe it as a paste version of a less fermented soy sauce. Tian mian jiang has mostly flour (mian means flour), but is sweet instead! The texture and consistency reminds me a lot of Korean red pepper paste- gochujang, but it’s not spicy, obviously.

zha jiang mian chinese spaghetti

Photo credit to A. Liu!



The traditional kind, with only pork, no tofu. Yes, a humongous portion for my very-hungry-that-day husband Mr. ABC Chef.

My sister invited some students over for a movie, and I helped by making the zha jiang mian. The students all loved it, and all of them were native-born Chinese, and one of them who particularly liked it, said that he spent his college days in Beijing, travelling about for good food. Major win! It made me really happy to hear that my food was validated by who I like to call, REAL CHINESE people! Not just ABCs…but people who have lived in China, and in Beijing, the birthplace of zha jiang mian! Weeeee! By the way, zha jiang mian is a great dish for lots of people- I cooked this for about 15 people- just cook lots of vegetables, noodles, and a big pot of the meat sauce. Then, people can help themselves to whatever they want.

Chinese Spaghetti (for lack of a better translation)
Zha Jiang Mian
炸醬麵 Continue reading

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