Tag: Sichuan

La zi ji – Chicken with Dry Hot Peppers

la zi jiDoesn’t the pinyin look like “lazy ji(chicken)”? Anyway..I guess I am on a chicken kick, because this is my second chicken dish in a row! And, coming from a porky household, that says a lot.

La zi ji is a dish that is prettttty popular among Sichuan food lovers, and I can see why! Who wouldn’t like fried chicken pieces nested in tons of hot peppers? (Okay, maybe not people who don’t like spicy…) In addition to frying the chicken, most restaurant versions of this dish also coat the chicken in quite a bit of cornstarch, so then it’s like half cornstarch coating and half chicken.

I really don’t like deep frying in our apartment, because it splatters grease everywhere, and it uses up a bunch of oil, and it makes me feel guilty when I eat the food. Of course, there are obvious exceptions to this rule, but for the most part I don’t make fried foods as a habit. By pan-frying the chicken instead of deep frying, it makes la zi ji a rather simple dish to make to satisfy spicy food cravings while not splurging so much on  calories.

I realized that I really like to eat this dish by getting a piece of chicken, followed by a piece of pepper (with rice, of course). Sometimes a piece of Sichuan peppercorn will also make it to the mix, for a true ma (numbing) la (spicy) taste 🙂

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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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Hong You Chao Shou

I love eating Sichuan food! When we go to Sichuan restaurants, we will often order spicy oil wontons, also known as hong you chao shou (紅油抄手)。 Hong you translates to ‘red oil,’ better known as chili oil. Chao shou is another way to say wonton. So,hong you chao shou  = chili oil wontons.

When we were in Taiwan last year, I got two cookbooks- one of which was this tiny, old cookbook in Taiwan called 正宗川菜,which means ‘authentic Sichuan dishes’. I love this little book for its pictures and approach to breaking down Sichuan food into what I would describe as different flavor styles.

I decided to go all out and make these wontons from scratch- from the chili oil to the wonton skins. If you think about what you get at a restaurant- 6 or 7 tiny wontons for ~$6-7, you will definitely be happy knowing that you can make these on your own at a fraction of the price =)

I highly recommend that you make the chili oil in advance, because it keeps extremely well, and you will be able to cook these chao shou in no time!

Wonton skins, and from the same dough, noodles that were eaten with Niu Rou Mian

hong you chao shou

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Mapo Tofu

I’ve had this picture of mapo tofu from Wu Chao Shou in Taiwan as my Google picture for forever…it’s time to replace that! And, it is also way overdue for a post about 麻婆豆腐, seeing as I make it rather often (does once every 2-3 weeks count?).

mapo tofu

Mapo Tofu
mapo doufu

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Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Beef noodle soup probably doesn’t need any introduction. I believe it was the Taiwanese who made it famous, but it is made in different ways: hong shao, ‘red braised’ with a soy saucey color, and also qing dun, which is a clear broth (no soy sauce) with a lighter taste. I’ve also had beef noodle soup where the stock has been cooked with tomatoes, too!

My mom sent me this recipe as the best beef noodle soup recipe she has tried, and I made some small adjustments to it. I’m not really sure if one would consider this Sichuan or Taiwanese, because I think beef noodle soup was made famous by the Taiwanese, but there are Sichuanese components in it, like the fermented soybean paste….We are going to Taiwan at the end of the month, and I am so excited to try all the different ways that beef noodle soup is made!

Edit: So according to this site, they think that the origins of niu rou mian started with Chinese soldiers who fled to Taiwan in 1949. They made a beef soup with the spicy bean paste (that definitely originates from the Sichuan province) and soy sauce, and served it with noodles. So, I think I can confidently call this Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup. Yay!

taiwanese beef noodle soup hong shao niu rou mian

niu rou mian

With homemade wheat noodles and short rib! And bokchoy and cilantro from the garden 😀

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Megan’s Spicy Chicken

I decided to see what would happen if I added all the ingredients I liked together in a pot with chicken. So, I seriously just added a little bit of this, a little bit of that, tried to think what else would go with what, and went with it. The outcome? A new favorite! I don’t know if any real Sichuan person would nod his/her head in approval, or shake it in dismay, but I used components of what I know to star in Sichuan dishes, like chili peppers and peppercorns. Anyhow, this was my tribute to Sichuan in the form of a chicken dish. I want to name it Lee Family Spicy Chicken, because Tim has upping his spicy game, and can now eat from the same spicy dishes as the big kids (like me :D).

I like this dish a lot, not only because it is spicy and low maintenance ( just like me 😉 ), but because the ingredients are fairly standard ABC kitchen ingredients. For me, I happened to have all of these ingredients in my kitchen. Your mileage may vary, but the good thing is that these ingredients keep well, especially if you take my advice from a previous post and freeze your ginger! For some pictures of ingredients not commonly found at American grocery stores, visit this post on Sichuan spicy cooked fish to see what all these things are.

The third version of this chicken; the plainest looking but the best tasting!

Our dinner comprised of this chicken, in addition to stir-fried cabbage (that I made without the spicy peppers), and lots of rice.
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Homemade Chili Oil

My issue with certain spicy oils or sauces (which will remain unnamed) is that flavors in the sauce dominates the flavors in the dish, so that it tastes like an extension of the sauce, rather than the dish itself with added heat.What’s the solution? Make my own chili oil.

My grandma would almost always keep a covered glass bowl of homemade chili oil at her house, and it would be ready for eating when we had goodies like jiao zi (dumplings) or bao zi (steamed buns), or whatever else we wanted to add heat to.

Chili oil is easy to make, and you can control what goes into it, and not have ingredients like disodium 5′-inosinate in it. Make it at least a day ahead, to let the oil get fully infused with the flavors.

chili oil la jiao you

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Spicy-Numbing Fried Rice 麻辣炒飯

I grew up eating fried rice the “Americanized” way, with peas, egg, sometimes carrot, and some sort of meat (usually ham or Chinese sausage). She cooked it with these ingredients for our family so that we would have more variety and that it could be more of a complete meal. Imagine my shock when my mom told me that real fried rice was just rice, egg, and green onions! She recounted the times she watched her grandpa cook fried rice, complete with the scattering of green onions right as the rice came off the stove.
All in all, fried rice is not meant to be all fancy! If you think about it, many Chinese dishes have humble origins, as most Chinese people did not have access to huge cuts of meat and lots of animal products to work with. It makes sense that fried rice was simple. Rice. egg. green onions.

Before leaving for any trip, I try to empty out the fridge so that I don’t come home to moldy produce or leftovers. I guess, I did a pretty good job of it, because this is what our fridge looks like right now:

containers of salami, doenjang (soybean paste), marmalade, Thai chili peppers, cornmeal, dates, tonight’s leftovers…

Don’t be fooled; there’s only one egg left in that carton. Cat, tahini, passion fruit sauce, meager amount of hazelnut chocolate spread bacon, butter, and more salami…

In our pantry, we had one 6-oz can of salmon “for emergencies only”. We also are running really low on rice, but luckily we have enough to hold us over until Saturday!

I thought of the salmon, saw the cabbage, and remembered the time my mom made fried rice with shredded cabbage. I didn’t even have green onions to make “real” fried rice! And when I say real, I mean authentic. Beggars cannot be choosers, so I made fried rice anyway. It’s super notChinese, unless you count the Taiwanese cabbage I used..BUT, I enjoyed eating it, and maybe you will want to make it too, if you find yourself with a depleted fridge.

Spicy-Numbing Fried Rice 麻辣炒飯 (ma2la4chao3fan4)
Serves 2

2 eggs, cracked in a bowl and whisked in preparation for scrambling
6 oz canned salmon, tuna, or chicken (Or you can use ham, Chinese sausage, or whatever leftover cooked meat you may have)
3 fresh chili peppers, sliced lengthwise- add more if you wish! I used Thai chilies.
3/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, finely ground in a mortar and pestle or coffee bean grinder
3.5 cups thinly sliced Taiwanese cabbage*
2 cups cooked rice, brown or white
3/4 tsp kosher salt (Diamond brand)
1/4 cup finely chopped green onions (optional)

1. Heat a wok over medium-high heat Add oil to coat a thin, thin layer on the bottom of the wok, and add eggs. Scramble in big chunks until they are 50% cooked. Transfer to a bowl.

2. Add a little more oil, ~1 tsp, to the wok, and add chili peppers and cook until you can smell the spiciness. Add 1/4 tsp Sichuan peppercorns, then immediately add your salmon and its juices. Break up into about 1 inch, coarse chunks. This step is just for the purpose of heating the salmon through, so don’t make too many chunks otherwise it will disintegrate in your rice! Add salmon to the bowl with your par-scrambled eggs.

3. Heat the wok until it’s smoking, then add 2 tsp oil. Immediately add the cabbage. Stir fry on high heat. Move the cabbage around constantly! Hopefully you have a non weak-sauce burner that will be good enough to produce some dark brown semi-charred spots on the cabbage. After a minute or so of stir frying like this, add 1/2 tsp salt. Cook for a few more minutes until the cabbage is cooked (try one). If your wok is small like mine, cook the cabbage in two batches, making sure to let the wok heat up between batches.

4. When the cabbage is done, turn the heat to medium and add the rice and break up the clumps. Add the eggs and salmon and 1/4 tsp salt. Break up the chunks of eggs, salmon and add 1/2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns.

5. Mix everything thoroughly. Adjust for salt. Scatter green onions if you have them over the top of the rice, and serve!

*I find Taiwanese cabbage to be more tender than regular cabbage. It is also much crispier and crunchier than regular cabbage when cooked. Find Taiwanese cabbage in the Asian grocery store- it is flat, oval, and much less dense; its weight will surprise you!

***Update (3/28/14)- It occurred to me that maybe not everyone has Sichuan peppercorns and peppers in their fridge+pantry? If so, semi-okay substitutes would be white pepper powder for the Sichuan peppercorns, and dried chili flakes for the fresh pepper. But, then you will just be making Spicy-Numbing Fried Rice, and it will taste very different! Let me know if you try this.

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