Tag: northern chinese food

Ji si la pi

If you find yourself not knowing what to do with the dry and tasteless chicken breast at the bottom of your chicken soup, fear not and continue reading, please!

Ji si la pi and liang mian were two dishes my mom would often make with scraps of leftover rotisserie chicken, or the leftover chicken meat in soups (for some reason, we always drank a lot more soup than we ate the meat at the bottom). These are two of my favorite dishes from childhood- either because they involved noodles (<3 carbs), or because of the sesame paste+garlic+rice vinegar winning combination?* Whatever the case, they share a common thread; They are the best types of dishes to make when it is really hot outside, because they are in the liang ban 涼拌 (literally means cool mix) category, meaning that they are eaten at room temperature / cool, and have garlic and vinegar, two components of almost every liang ban dish (okay, no vinegar in liang ban dou fu..but still!) What makes ji si la pi special is the liang fen (mung bean sheets). Ever had ‘glass noodles’ or ‘mung bean vermicelli’? Or, even the noodle part of chap chae ? Think of the chewy, QQ texture of those noodles, but in sheet form, then slathered in seasoned sesame paste and mixed with a bunch of yummy stuff.  Chewy noodles, crunchy cucumbers, firm pieces of chicken, nutty sesame paste, pungent garlic, and fiery mustardy taste (for the brave). Lots of win in one bite.

la pi mung bean sheets

The “la pi” in this ji si la pi

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Traditional Chinese Dumpling Skin 餃子皮

When it comes to making 麵食 or Chinese dough-based foods, there are generally 3 different types of doughs: 1) hot water dough (think scallion pancakes, potstickers and steamed dumplings), 2) cold water dough (dumplings, noodles) and 3) yeast dough (bao zi, man tou, etc).

For Chinese dumpling dough, you want to use cold water dough because you want strong dough that has good gluten development. This will make for chewy dumplings and great elasticity when you are trying to stuff your dumpling with lots of filling! It will also help your dumplings survive the boiling water that you will cook them in. I also have reason to believe that dumpling skin should have substance and some chew to it, whereas potsticker skin, made with hot water dough, should be thin and crispy.

Continue reading to learn how to make homemade dumpling dough.
Dumpling Skin
makes 80-90 dumplings; feel free to divide or multiply as you wish

Ingredients:
6 1/2 cups (780 g) flour
1 1/2 cups to 2 cups (414 to 473 g) water

Instructions:
To make the dough:
1) Add flour to a bowl. Use one hand to hold a pair of chopsticks or stirring utensil, and use the other to mix in 1 1/2 cups water. You should start to see clumps of flour/water forming.

2) Add water 1-2 tsp at a time and stir after each addition. I never learned how to make this dough by measuring, so these amounts listed are back calculated from the method you will see in the video and scaled up. If you want to learn the way I did, start out with flour in a bowl and add water slowly, by running a small trickle from your faucet.

3) The goal is to have ~90% of the flour bunched up into clumps of flour and water, and the rest of the flour as grains of flour. Make sure you mix well before each addition of water! If you add too much water, you can balance it out with some flour.

4) When you have reached 90% flour/water clumps, use your fingers to get the dough off the chopsticks, then start to pinch the clumps together into a ball. You should also be able to use this ball of clumps to pick up the stray grains of flour.

5) When you have obtained a ball of dough, knead away! You want dough that is firm but pliable. Knead about 5-10 minutes, or until the dough is quite homogeneous. Cover with a slightly damp paper towel, or a plate, and rest for at least 30 minutes.

To roll into skins:

6) Knead rested dough until it is completely homogenous and smooth. Use a few sprinkles of flour if it is sticking. Take about 2 fistfuls of dough at a time to work with, keeping the rest of the dough covered.

7) Poke a hole in the middle of the dough and start making a donut shape. Cut the donut to break it into a circular rope; roll into a log about 1 1/4 inch in diameter.

8) Use a bench scraper to cut the dough into roughly 1 inch wide chunks of dough, making sure to rotate the dough a quarter turn each time a cut is made. Coat the chunks generously in flour.

9) Turn the chunks onto one side and rotate to make a Rolo-shaped piece of dough. Do the same to the other side, then flatten into a puck slightly larger than a quarter.

10) Use a rolling pin to roll into skins, making sure to keep your thumb on the center to prevent the rolling pin from rolling out the center.

11) Put some flour on the skin so that it won’t stick to the other skins, or wrap dumplings immediately after skins are rolled out.

To wrap:
Refer to the video, or use the style your parents or Chinese friends taught you. 

Please Watch my videos for a better showing and explanation! Please excuse the editing; it’s my first time (obviously)!

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.

葱油餅 (cong you bing) Scallion Pancakes

I learned all my essential skills and understanding of everything food-related from my mom, who is an amazing cook+baker. Much of the time, I learned while procrastinating on homework by spending time in the kitchen. After all, who else would take over sauteeing for her when she was in the middle of cooking and had to answer the phone? 😉

I don’t know any measurements to Chinese recipes because it’s how I learned:
“Ma, how much wine?” “More…more….okay, 夠了 (enough)!” The dishes that remind me of home are the ones that I only know how to cook by feel, because I would almost always be there to watch my mom make them.

Scallion pancakes and mung bean porridge (葱油餅 cong1 you2 bing3 and 綠豆稀飯 lu4 dou4 xi1 fan4) were two staples in our house as I grew up. My mom would buy bunches of lush and green onions fresh from the Chinese supermarket (only in Los Angeles can you call the Chinese grocery stores SUPERmarkets), or sometimes she would rescue green onions from the fridge that were threatening to go yellow/brown and limp. We would make stacks of these, and my sister and I would take turns being in charge of cutting these into eighths.

My husband Tim will attest to the fact that when we go out with friends and they order scallion pancakes ($4.95) at restaurants, I try my best not to let my cringing show. Of course, I cringe because they are so easy to make at home, and with $5 you could buy enough ingredients to make you a huge stack of scallion pancakes with lots of scallions, not just a wimpy few scallions that they give you in restaurants.

scallion pancakes cong you bing

Thin dough and very little oil; cooked for a longer period of time

Won’t you try making it ? I brought these for my friends at Bistrot La Minette, and even they loved it! (To me, that is ultimate food validation, next to Tim’s validation of posting pictures of the food to his Facebook page or pretending to steal all the food 😀 )
You have been warned: Once you make this, you may also start to cringe when you friends order it at restaurants, because you’ll know how simple it can be to make at home! Enjoy!

Cong You Bing
葱油餅
Scallion Pancakes

Makes about 4 pancakes Continue reading

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