Tag: spicy

Twice Cooked Tofu

If you find yourself craving hui guo rou (Twice Cooked Pork) but only have firm tofu, I think this could probably called twice cooked tofu, because it is pan fried first by itself, then sauteed with the other ingredients. Mostly, though, the flavors are very similar, so I thought to call this twice cooked tofu..

1) Slice some firm tofu (I used 1/2 lb) into small squares (about 1×1 inches)
2) Blot dry and pan-fry until golden brown
3) Stir fry with leek (I used a few stalks of green garlic), about 2-3 tsp tian mian jiang (sweet flour paste), and 2-3 tsp la dou ban jiang (spicy bean paste). For some crunch and texture, I added some minced lo bo gan (salted radish).
4) Add salt and/or soy sauce if needed.

You can also follow the recipe link above, if you would prefer to measure things 🙂


spicy pan fried tofu


-I used green garlic from my CSA and loved the bite and hearty texture it provided!

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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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

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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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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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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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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Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma)

I am a spice nut. I have an entire drawer dedicated to spices, and it still overflows! I have been acquiring spices of all kinds- from simple Sichuan peppercorns (hua1jiao1 花椒)to poultry seasoning to amchur (green mango powder). Aside: Whenever possible, I buy whole spices (nutmeg, cumin, coriander, cardamom, black peppercorns, etc) so they keep for longer without losing their potency. I have made it a habit to label my spices with the purchase date so I know how fresh/strong they will be.

Spice Islands says:
Ground spices: 2-3 years
Whole spices: 3-4 years
Herbs: 1-3 years
Seasoning Blends: 1-2 years
Extracts: 4 years

A rough guideline for how long to keep herbs and spices.

  • Ground Spices 2-3 years
  • Whole Spices 3-4 years
  • Herbs 1-3 years
  • Seasoning Blends 1-2 years
  • Extracts 4 years

– See more at: http://www.spiceislands.com/SpiceEducation/ShelfLife.aspx#sthash.tpVGbVvd.dpuf

A rough guideline for how long to keep herbs and spices.

  • Ground Spices 2-3 years
  • Whole Spices 3-4 years
  • Herbs 1-3 years
  • Seasoning Blends 1-2 years
  • Extracts 4 years

– See more at: http://www.spiceislands.com/SpiceEducation/ShelfLife.aspx#sthash.tpVGbVvd.dpuf

Even though the spices take up a good bit of space in my kitchen, I have the freedom to make spicy food and not have to run to the store for xyz missing ingredients.

I have been trying to cook with legumes more at home, and one of my co-workers, who is Indian, brought in a homemade kidney bean curry dish for me to try, to thank me for bringing baked goods (that he would regularly try) so consistently. I liked it a lot, and realized, hey, I have lots of Indian spices..I can probably make this, too! I don’t remember his verbal recipe exactly, but I found one online that had lots of similar ingredients.

Rajma, adapted from Show Me The Curry

-kidney beans – 1.5 cups dried beans, soaked overnight in enough water* to cover, plus 1 tsp salt, then cooked until tender, OR 4.5 cups canned (drained and rinsed)
-oil – enough to cover the bottom of the pan
-onions – 2, finely chopped
-ginger – 1.5 tsp, ground with garlic in a mortar and pestle, OR coarsely chopped
-garlic – 1.5 tsp, ground with ginger in a mortar and pestle, OR coarsely chopped
-cayenne powder (~1/2 tsp to start), chopped green chile peppers (1-2 to start), or whatever hot/fiery source you want
-turmeric powder- 1/4 tsp
-ground cumin – 1/2 tsp
-ground coriander – 1 tsp
-garam masala+ – 1 tsp
-tomatoes – 2 cups, fresh or canned (fresh would be better), coarsely chopped
-a few pinches of amchur powder (green mango powder)
-salt – to taste
-cilantro – to taste

1) Cook the soaked kidney beans in a pot for about an hour with 1/4 tsp turmeric, or until tender (taste one!), or rinse them if you have canned beans. 

2) Add oil, onions, garlic, and ginger to a heavy-bottomed pot (I used a Dutch Oven). Cook on medium to medium high, stirring constantly, to semi-scorch the onions and soften them.

3) Lower the heat to medium low.

4) If you are using fresh peppers, turn on range hood / fan / open windows, add chopped up hot peppers, and stir to wake the heat up 🙂

5) If you are using dried peppers, add turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala, and pepper powder. Stir constantly for about 20 seconds to wake the spices up.

6) Immediately add tomatoes, and cook for a few minutes to heat up the tomatoes if using canned tomatoes. For fresh tomatoes, cook until the tomatoes break down and get saucy.

7) Add beans, amchur powder, and adjust for salt.

8) Stir in cilantro (or not, if you husband despises the taste D:) and serve with rice. 

+Make your own garam masala:

-1 Tablespoon whole black peppercorns
-16 whole cloves
-6 whole cardamom seeds (green)
-1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
-1 teaspoon whole black, small cumin seeds
-2 bay leaves
-2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

Grind all of the ingredients in a coffee bean grinder or pepper mill. Store in a airtight jar and use anytime a recipe calls for garam masala! 

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