Tag: ground pork

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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MKee’s House Special Fish with Rice- Ga Herng Ban Kao Fan

There’s only one restaurant that Mr. ABC Chef (Tim) likes in Chinatown..it’s a Cantonese BBQ restaurant named M Kee. This place is near and dear to the hearts of many of our friends. You know it’s a legit because you would see the older folks from the Cantonese congregation go there- a very good sign.

One of our Cantonese friends, Amanda, whose father is a chef, had this dish that we had never seen before. It had fish, pork, string beans, celery, dried black beans, and didn’t look like anything we had seen before! We asked for the name and ordered it with rice.

It was…DELICIOUS! Generous chunks of fish, crunchy Chinese celery, seared string beans, morsels of ground pork, and seasoned well with dried black beans and fermented olives.  The combination of all the flavors together was quite magical, frankly 🙂

Ever since then, it’s become our favorite when we are there, and we recommend it to anyone who asks. There was a period where we went to M Kee so much that we got to know the waitresses and they would instinctively jot down my order as “ga herng”.

Needless to say, others have caught the ga herng bug and share a common love for it.

Amy, Nafis, and our other CCCNC friends- this recipe was made for you and all other fellow lovers of ga herng! I did my best to re-create a version that brings your tastebuds back to M Kee without tasting as heavy. For more a restaurant-y style rendition, add more sugar and soy sauce, making sure to heed my warning about soy sauce in the notes section.

*Apologies to all Cantonese people out there- I have no idea how to “spell” this dish properly in PinYin. Sorry if it is majorly butchered!

Special ingredients for this dish include:

The label says black beans, but they are actually olives based on the Chinese characters..

Funky looked fermented olives

I like these- they are dried and last forever

See? They last so long there is no expiration date ^_^V

M Kee house special fish ga herng ban cao

Chao Mi Fen

The more I record my steps to make recipes for this blog, the more I realize that it is so difficult to make exact recipes for dishes! There are so many variables in cooking- how powerful is your stove? How thick are your ‘julienned’ carrots? How big is one dried shiitake mushroom versus another? What type of salt? Even just for kosher salt, Diamond brand versus Morton brand have different sized flakes of salt- Morton brand is noticeably saltier per pinch of salt (try it!). Some soy sauces are super salty (cough Kikkoman red), and others are not as salty (Pearl River Bridge, for instance). I aim to provide as good of instructions as possible, but there are some variables I can’t account for. That being said, please use the recipes I post, but also use your tastebuds and intuition to guide you, even if that means straying from the exact amounts and such!

chao mi fen

Stir-fried Thin Rice
Vermicelli

炒米粉

chao mi fen (tsao mi fen)

help from: YTower and 李梅仙老師

Makes 4 hearty “carb” servings

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The Move

Due to some unfortunate circumstances, we moved yet again! I am thankful for friends and co-workers who graciously gave up their Saturday morning to help us.

Those of you who have had to move know that it’s a pain in a butt to pack everything, and also know that the number of boxes representing the kitchen area seems to always outdo boxes from any other room. I am trying to pare down the ‘stuff’ I have…do I keep my shaved ice maker? The Taiwanese in me screams yes! And, after our trip to Taiwan (less than 72 hours to go!!), I am sure I will be re-inspired to make shaved ice.  

Does anyone want a stovetop waffle iron? It’s a gift from my mom, but after 2 waffle sessions, I realized that I didn’t have the patience to make waffles over the stovetop and have to babysit them. (Sorry, Mama!) I am looking for a good home for them, so inquire within. Obviously, you must be able to pick it up from me..no deliveries 😉

Before the move to our current place, I went through a sad period of about 1-2 weeks where I didn’t feel much like cooking or baking. It’s hard to feel inspired to create when you can’t feel like the place you are living in is your home, for me, at least. It’s also hard when lots of your kitchen stuff is still packed away in boxes! By the time I snapped out of it and realized that I had to resume my routine for my sanity’s sake, it was just about time to move again..

I am thankful to be living in our new place, where we really like it. We have just gotten settled, and almost all the boxes have been unpacked or moved to closets. I am excited to cook!……when we return from Taiwan. We’re leaving on Saturday….sooo excited! We will be back in 2 weeks.

We bought a Costco-sized pack of AA batteries for my camera in preparation for our trip. We plan to take pictures of everything we eat, and maybe pictures of some scenery and people here and there 😉

I’m excited for many things in Taiwan, but I can’t deny that the food is one of the top things I’m excited for. Taiwanese people really know how to make great snacks, sweets, and food of all sorts! I can only pray that I can learn to re-create a few of the delicious morsels we will feast on in one of Asia’s best places 🙂

In the mean time, here are some Taiwanese/Chinese recipes to transport you to Taiwan while I am gone!

Lu Rou Fan (The most popular recipe on this site, believe it or not!)

Yan Su Ji (Taiwanese Popcorn Chicken)



Jiu Cai He Zi (Chinese Leek Boxes)

Garlic Chives/Pork/Shrimp/Dumplings

Spicy Pepper Stir-Fry (Make it as a side for your dinner tonight. I will be making it to go with our steamed fish!)

Homestyle Tofu

Sweet Red Bean Soup with YuanZi

Gan bian si ji dou 干煸四季豆

I hope you will forgive me for making not totally dry and not totally flat string beans. Let me explain…gan bian si ji dou is a standby dish that my sister and I would order because we were confident that it would be on a Chinese restaurant’s menu 95% of the time. Whether it was the plenty of garlic in the dish, morsels of ground pork, or the salty string beans, something kept us coming back! My mom would judge this dish based on how gan (dry) and bian (flat) the string beans were. Restaurants most often deep fry the beans to save time, but for the dish to be true to its name, you were supposed to stir-fry the beans in oil  until they slowly dried out and flattened.

The string beans from the CSA were amazing, and I couldn’t bear to cook the string beans silly, so I erred on the side of less dry and more plump.

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Pearl Meatballs (zhen1zhu1wan2zi 珍珠丸子)

When I was still single and living with 2 other girls, my housemate Lily made zhen zhu wan zi and shared some with me. I suppose they are named pearl meatballs because they look like pearls due to the sticky rice coating! I would also dub them porcupine meatballs, because they also remind me of porcupines..

I think they are from Hubei, China, where my grandma was born. Regardless of their origin, they are pretty tasty. This dish still requires some Asian market ingredients, but is one of the easiest dishes involving sticky rice that I am familiar with. These meatballs are slightly fancier than “regular” Chinese meatballs, but only take a bit more time for a taste and appearance that are so worth it, in my opinion! If you like rolling snickerdoodle dough in cinnamon sugar, this recipe is for you 😉 I am sorry that there are no water chestnuts in this recipe, because Tim doesn’t like them. But, if you want to get some, chop up 5-6 water chestnuts to add to the filling ingredients.

Cooking, especially Chinese cooking, is a good fit for me in the sense that I don’t like to follow all the directions all the time, and I like to make substitutions when it’s more convenient! Please refer to the notes and substitutions sections for some tips for the like-minded.

Zhen Zhu Wan Zi Pearl Meatballs
Fresh out of the steamer, minus two! (One for Tim, one for me)

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Chinese Dumplings 餃子

When I was growing up, one of my favorite meals to eat was dumplings (the Chinese kind, of course). I wouldn’t always get to eat dumplings when I asked my mom to make them, because she would sometimes say no to making them, saying that they required too much energy and time. I always wondered what made it so tiring, after all, it was “just” wrapping meat in dough! My sister, dad, and I would always help out with wrapping dumplings. Hmm..

Regardless of the energy and time-consuming nature, she would still plan for dumpling dinners, because she knew we enjoyed eating them so much. I would get to help out with flattening the dough circles, and the rest of my family’s job was to wrap dumplings while my mom rolled each dough round out, one by one. Whump, whump, whump– a couple strokes of the rolling pin would produce a perfectly round piece of dough with thin outsides and a slightly thicker middle. There were only a handful of times that my mom would buy dumpling skins; homemade was always better (plus, no need for a bowl of water to moisten the dough flaps!)
You could always tell which dumplings were the ones I made, because they were the ones that always 倒下来 (fell over), or worse, had sections where the dough was not pinched securely enough, so that the fillings escaped when the dumplings were boiled!!

This is what I heard as a kid while trying to wrap dumplings:
“It doesn’t matter if it’s ugly, as long as the filling stays inside”
“不要镇麽貪心” (don’t be so greedy with the filling!) (always use less filling if you are a dumpling wrapping newbie)

When I went to college on the east coast (go JHU!), I missed my mom’s dumplings a lot, so I made my own. The first few times, the dough was too wet and would sometimes break, resulting in explosive dumplings. I think I can finally say now, that I’ve become at least proficient now, after practicing more.


Jiao zi

餃子

Chinese  Dumplings

Makes 80-100 dumplings, depending on your 1) wrapping ability, 2) preference of meat:skin ratio, and 3) choice of homemade versus store-bought skins. Store-bought skins are less elastic than homemade skins, so you can’t put as much filling.

Ingredients:

Filling of your choice

A) Leek/Shrimp/Pork

1.5 lb ground pork
8 oz peeled and de-veined shrimp, coarsely chopped (1/4 inch – 1/2 inch pieces)
4 cups jiu cai (also known as Chinese leeks and garlic chives), chopped finely
1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine
1-2 Tbsp sesame oil
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce
1.5-2 tsp salt
A couple shakes of white pepper powder

B) Napa Cabbage/Pork

1.5 lb ground pork
18-20 ounces napa cabbage
1 Tbsp Shaoxing wine
1-2 Tbsp sesame oil
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce
1.5-2 tsp salt
2 tsp finely minced ginger
A couple shakes of white pepper powder
80-100 dumpling wrappers, or make your own

Instructions:
1) Mix all the filling ingredients (except the shrimp, for the leek/pork/shrimp) together, breaking up the clumps of pork. In terms of seasonings, the key here is…you may want to adjust the amounts for what you like. I wrote them as set amounts because I feel like that’s what people like, but as you know, if you go to a Chinese mom’s house, it’s always ‘a little bit of this, some more of that’ type of deal! In this way, I believe that Chinese people have mastered the ART of cooking 🙂

2) If the mixture is really hard to stir, 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 up, 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! If you are using the leek/pork/shrimp filling, you can add the shrimp after you are happy with the clumping.

3) Put a few teaspoons of filling on a dough round, then wrap.

4) After you wrap each dumpling, make sure to put it on a surface that is lightly dusted with flour to prevent sticking.

5) Also, use a semi-damp paper towel to cover the dumplings that await their destiny of boiling water! The paper towel keeps the skin from drying out and cracking (gasp!) while you wrap millions more dumplings.

6) Boil the dumplings in water until they float.

7) To freeze: freeze dumplings on a tray, so that they are not touching each other. After ~30-45 minutes or when the skins have stiffened up, then you can place them in a bag and freeze for longer storage. Do not just put them into a bag and into the freezer- you will have skins sticking together and one massive exploding dumpling when you try to cook them.

Accompaniments 
peeled whole cloves of garlic (for the adventurous)- take a bite of garlic, then a bite of dumpling!
finely chopped chili peppers

Sauce ideas – mix all or some together in a bowl for dipping. I grew up using a combination of soy sauce and rice vinegar, as I find that they let the dumpling filling taste shine the most! Also..the best dumplings should need little to zero sauce. 😉

soy sauce
rice vinegar
chinkiang vinegar
sesame oil
chili oil

Substitutions/Notes: 
-Food processor is not recommended because it will chop the pieces too finely
-You can test the saltiness by panfrying a small amount of the filling
-Why no ginger for the Leek filling? Ginger is often used with pork, in part to offset the ‘porkiness’. In this case, the leek/chive (jiu cai) flavor is rather strong, and we want the jiu cai taste to come through!

To freeze for next time: space dumplings evenly on a baking sheet, and freeze until the skin is completely stiff. Transfer to a plastic bag and store in the freezer.

Lu Rou Fan / Rou Zao Fan

There are so many names for this recipe…
I knew it as rou zao fan growing up, but when I went to Taiwan, everyone called it lu rou fan. At one hotel we stayed at, they kept it in a slow cooker in the buffet line. Pork seems to taste better in Taiwan..
Rou Zao Fan is definitely a street snack you would find at a Taiwanese vendor, like this (though this isn’t where I got mine):

From my trip in 2011:

lu rou fan

You can’t tell the size of it here, but for 30-35 yuan (~1 USD), it is more of a light dinner portion (at least for me). BTW, that’s pickled radish- a nice addition to offset the fattiness/richness of it. I guess you can eat however much of it as you want, but I decided to add some “healthier” components and make a meal out of it.

I made this back in college, with diced shiitake mushrooms, and a side of shanghainese bok choy, during my Cafe 1010 days!

lu rou fan

Taiwanese Minced Meat Rice
鲁肉飯/肉燥飯
lu rou fan / rou zao fan
3-4 servings

Ingredients:
-1 lb of ground pork, OR 1/2 lb ground pork and 1/2 lb pork belly, sliced into chubby matchsticks*, or you can decide whatever ratio you want. All pork belly makes for a VERY oily dish.
-1 cup of sliced fresh shallots + 1/4 cup canola oil (or neutral oil), OR 1/2 cup of fried shallots – make sure you get fried shallots, and not fried onions!
-2 Tbsp Shaoxing or rice wine
-1.5 tsp brown or white sugar
-1/4 tsp white pepper
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-pinches of salt (optional)
-3 cups of water +/- some
-5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in room temp water for 15 min if possible (optional)
-2-3 medium boiled eggs, peeled (boiled enough just so that you can peel them without the white collapsing on you) (optional)

Instructions:
1. Cook the meat, then add the shallots, then the rice wine. Keep stirring, then add sugar, white pepper, soy sauce, and mushrooms.

2. Add 3 cups of water, or enough to barely cover mushrooms and meat. If you didn’t have time to soak your mushrooms, then add 1/2 cup of water more. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 30-35 minutes, or longer, depending on the cut of meat. The meat should be very tender. If the sauce has evaporated too much, add some more water.

3. Check the flavor- it should be a tinge of sweet, but mostly soy saucey and shallotey taste. Some soy sauces are saltier than others…mine is more mild, so I added a pinch of salt and a little more soy sauce.

4. When the meat is tender, add the eggs and cook for 5 minutes. If you like your eggs with more flavor, add them in during the simmer. I added them in later to avoid the infamous green ring

5. Serve with rice!

Substitutions/Notes:
*it is much more luscious and buttery with the pork belly, obviously, but also more expensive and labor intensive because cutting of meat (gasp!) is required.
-If you are using fresh shallots, fry them in 1/4 cup canola oil first, until they are a deep golden brown. Drain and save the oil for some other use.
-A good accompaniment is any green vegetable stir fried in garlic and a little bit of salt.
-Should you have leftovers that you don’t know what to do with or don’t want to freeze, this tastes excellent over blanched vegetables, preferably leafy and flat so the leaves can soak up the sauce: (Chinese A 菜 or romaine lettuce come to mind)
-Don’t like hardboiled eggs? Want to avoid the extra step of boiling and peeling? Top the rice with a fried egg (I saw this offered on the menu in Taiwan…it seems like everything can be topped with a fried egg these days)
-The proper sweetener (at least what my mom always used) for this dish is actually rock sugar, comes in large chunks in a box. I don’t always have rock sugar on hand, and I’m not always willing to take the time to break the large chunks into more manageable pieces. But, if you really want to use rock sugar, use a chunk the size of half a ping pong ball.
-If you want to stretch your rou zao, consider adding some firm tofu or pork chops during the braise time. They soak up the sauce, too!

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