Tag: recipe

Happy Early Chinese(Lunar) New Year!

The Lunar New Year starts on Thursday, February 19 this year, but I think I should give everyone advanced notice so they can start buying ingredients for making rice cake now 😉

I was talking to a friend about really wanting to make ‘rice cake,’ and she (I actually forget who, now) asked, “Do you mean the diet food?” I had to quickly correct her and tell her, no, definitely not the diet food- anything but! This rice cake is made of sticky rice flour, or glutinous rice flour (which does not contain gluten in it, contrary to its possibly deceptive name). Sticky rice is even more carb-laden then regular rice- weee! Like its “regular” rice counterpart, long grain sticky rice is less sticky than short grain sticky rice, and this stickier short grain rice is ground up to produce what we formally call glutinous rice flour. Glutinous rice flour (糯米粉) is used to make the super chewy foods: yuan zijian dui, flat rice noodles, mochi and both sweet and savory nian gao (rice cake). I can’t think of anything else at the moment- feel free to chime in on other uses in the comment box!

I love QQ or “chewy” (for lack of a better translation) foods, such as those made from glutinous rice flour, and I love red bean, so I really love 紅豆年糕。Every year, one of our parents’ grandmotherly friends would make it around the Lunar New Year, and give a “loaf” to us, which was wrapped in plastic wrap and in a brown paper bag. It was the humblest of packaging for a tasty treat made with love.

We would slice the rice cake and coat it in egg and a tiny bit of flour, then pan-fry it until the insides were gooey, and the outside a nice golden brown. Dusted with a light powdering of confectioner’s sugar, this made for a great dessert or breakfast!

Every year since I’ve been away from California, my aunt sends me a package with new year candies and this rice cake. Thank you, Auntie R! I figure it is time for me to make it on my own.

T’s family said that this rice cake had just the right level of sweetness, and had a great amount of red beany taste. Make it, won’t you please?

 

hong dou nian gao 紅豆年糕 蒸

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Chinese Steamed Fish (Zheng Yu 蒸魚)

Tim’s dad caught a bunch of flounder and one huge bass (don’t know exactly which, but it was nice and meaty)! The bass that he caught must have been massive, because we only got a chunk of it, but it weigh somewhere around 3 pounds. We got 6 or 7 fish in total, and they lasted us through all of August and then some.

One of my favorite Chinese banquet dishes is the steamed fish that they serve towards the end of the meal. It’s a good thing it’s actually not too difficult to make at home! My mom taught me how to make this preparation of steamed fish a long, long time ago. The fish is steamed first, then you pour a yummy sauce over it, and you heat oil and pour it on to semi-sear the aromatics and become part of the sauce.
Chinese Steamed Fish

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Garlic Chive Pockets / Chinese Leek Boxes

This is for you, Jen Fung!

My grandma tells me to eat napa cabbage in the winter, and garlic chives, or jiu cai, in the summer. This applies largely to dumplings, because two of the most common fillings are some variation on pork and napa or pork and garlic chives.

Tim and I were in Chinatown getting groceries and these chives were so fat and plump! I knew they would be good. They call them garlic chives because they smell and taste so strongly of garlic that one would think there is garlic in the dish as well.

Today, I will teach you how to make jiu cai he zi ( 韭菜盒子), or literally, Garlic Chive Boxes. Chive pockets, for some reason, sounds more right to me. Maybe because of its association with hot pockets? Anyway, I toiled long and hard on this recipe…I made the dough 5 times before I was happy with it! I have lots of experiences with cold water dough, but the hot water dough was a new technique for me to learn.

These goodies are made with hot water dough, which also can be used to make scallion pancakes, potstickers, 小龍包 (xiaolongbao), or soup dumplings, and many other goodies.

I would eat jiucaihezi a bowl of xi fan or soup for dinner, or just as is for lunch or breakfast 🙂 Enjoy!

I found my pictures! Yay! If you have the patience for it, you can follow along in the linked video to learn how to roll out the dough. Even if you can’t understand her, the visuals definitely at least helped me!

She uses a lot more water, but I’m not sure why, because her measurements gave me very goopy dough many times! Follow my water suggestions for success 🙂


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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.

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