Happy Duan Wu Jie! (端午節） I wanted to post a recipe for zongzi (Sticky rice and filling wrapped in bamboo leaves) because today is the Dragon Boat Festival or the DuanWu Festival, but I realized that most people don’t attempt these sorts of intense kitchen projects on a normal basis. I spent the good part of Saturday evening and Sunday morning soaking rice, soaking peanuts, boiling peanuts, soaking bamboo leaves, roasting peanuts, skinning peanuts, crushing peanuts, braising pork, dicing dried shrimp…and wrapping 30+ zongzi, all while fighting the splitting bamboo leaves (which had been soaked for several hours, too!) Whew! Just hearing the list makes me tired again.
(Oh, and zongzi are a traditional food eaten for Duan Wu Jie, which I believe involves dragon boat racing. Beyond that, I don’t know and am not curious to know more; I just take it as an excuse to eat more zongzi! )
Usually, big projects give me a boost of adrenaline, but this time was really tiring, and I feel like it made me burned out and I didn’t feel like anything requiring too much brainpower the whole week..
So, all I have to share with y’all today is a simple recipe for what most people call Dou Sha 豆沙, or red bean paste. Red beans are cooked to an oblivion, then toasted until they are dry, and mixed with fat and sugar to make a smooth paste that is fit for desserts of all kinds. According to a can I saw at the grocery store, this can also be called hong dou sha （紅豆沙），because it specifically uses hong dou, or red beans, as opposed to black beans, which can also be used to make a sweetened bean paste.
Our family always opts for the fastest/most rustic dou sha: chunky!
Hu jiao bing (胡椒餅） is a street food that was first introduced to me when my Aunt Cynthia dubbed it her favorite snack food from Taiwan. Intrigued by the description of a baked bun filled with peppery marinated pork and tons of scallions, I really wanted to try one!
During Christmas break of 2005, my grandma took me to Taiwan as a early high school graduation gift. I had already gotten accepted into college, so the trip was a big treat that I enjoyed a lot.
I remember eating lots of good food in Taiwan that first trip, but one specific memory involving hu jiao bing stands out to me..
Continue reading to see what’s inside this mysterious bun…
Tim and I have been eating lots of tofu lately. How much? Enough to buy the 6 lb packages of tofu! At about $5/pkg, it’s a pretty good deal, and there’s only one container to open.
Anyway, I have been substituting tofu for meat in several dishes and realized that it can be pretty darn good and fast, and requires less cutting board paranoia than when using meat.
We(I) had cooked Thai food for friends, and there leftover Thai basil but no more curry. Hmmmm…I saw my 3 lone blocks of tofu leftover, plus the basil. Three cup tofu? Could it be done? Read below to find out! If you are rolling your eyes at three cup tofu and are looking for three cup chicken, click here, if you please. Take notes that it’s almost exactly the same recipe..
The drier your tofu is to start with, the faster it will brown up.
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 zi, jian 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?
The san1bei1ji1 (三杯雞) or 3 cup chicken that my mom would make for us was always braised. Most restaurants’ renditions of 3 cup chicken is more of a stir-fry (served in a clay pot), has a thicker sauce and is very sweet compared to the homemade kind I’ve had. The kinds at restaurant are definitely not as healthy as the one you would make at home!
3 cup chicken refers to the 3 cups of seasonings that is added to cook the chicken: 1 cup wine, 1 cup sesame oil, and 1 cup soy sauce. Thai basil is also an important ingredient in this dish that helps to brighten up the dish by its sweet and slight licorice-y taste. The chicken is stewed in the richness of the sesame oil, balanced out by some sweetness and spiced up with garlic and ginger. In my opinion, it is a perfect dish to go with rice! In Chinese, we say hen3xia4fan4 (很下飯)．
Sadly, I did not have Thai basil in the house, and it’s been really busy these days, so I just made it without the basil :(. I was originally not going to not post this recipe and picture because I worried that people would think it an atrocity to see a picture of basil-less 3 cup chicken, but hopefully you are not deterred by my picture!
Three Cup Chicken
1 tsp oil
4-5 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs, cut into 2-bite sized pieces
3 thin slices of ginger
6 cloves garlic
2 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp each:
-Shaoxing (or rice) wine
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp light soy sauce
1 tsp dark soy sauce (optional, for color)
1 1/2 cups water
3-4 generous handfuls of Thai basil leaves (as much or little as you want, really)
1) Add 1 tsp to a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add oil, chicken, ginger, and garlic, and cook over medium low heat until the chicken is cooked through and no longer raw, about 5-10 minutes. Adjust the heat so that you are not waiting forever, but none of the ingredients should be burning.
2) Add sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves.
3) Add wine, sesame oil, soy sauce(s) and water. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to simmer for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is tender. In the last 5 minutes, remove the lid and let some of the water evaporate so that the sauce can thicken a bit.
4) Turn off the heat and add the basil.
-This could easily be adapted for a slow cooker or boneless dark meat.
-Italian basil could be used in a real pinch! Better than having none..
When I was growing up in the great state of California, our house never had air conditioning. Despite the shade that the humongous avocado tree in the backyard provided for the house, summer would be very, very hot.
I remember many hot nights of sleeping next to my sister on the large area rug under the dining table, in the one room that had a window air conditioning unit. It was also common to see my dad walking around the house without a shirt! (Is there a more economical way to cool oneself, anyway?)
As a remedy for these hot summer days, my mom would make liang2mian4, also known as 涼麵 or cold noodles, for dinner. Whereas we would rinse the noodles with cold water to speed up the cooling process, my mom’s job as a kid, assigned by her grandmother, would be to cool the noodles by fanning them!
If my mom’s job as a kid on 涼麵 days was to fan the noodles, my job was to make the sesame paste sauce. My mom would hand me the jar of zhi1ma2jiang4 (not to be confused with the game, mahjong) so I could scoop some into a bowl, asking “more?” until she said that it was enough. I learned how to adjust the ratio of sesame paste to water, adding more of one or the other until I got a nice consistency of ‘paste’: not too thin, not too thick.
I knew I wanted to make cold noodles because of the warm weather, and I knew that I had leftovers of romaine lettuce, red cabbage, and carrots from previous cooking days. The first thought that came to mind was the question of authenticity. I’m sure they don’t use cabbage and romaine in Taiwan. I remember romaine in cold noodles from Silk Road Express, a Chinese cafe on JHU’s campus! But other than that, I had never eaten it in cold noodles; after all, I’m quite sure romaine lettuce is not a frequently eaten vegetable in Taiwan.
I’ve been thinking about “authenticity” lately. I remember that we would more often than not, eat spaghetti noodles in our liang2mian4. Why? It
happened to be the noodles that we had in the house. Then I thought, if my mom used spaghetti, I should be able to use nontraditional vegetables if that’s all I got. Apparently, my mom was open to using substitutes in order to feed her ravenous husband and children without another trip to a store. Sounds logical, right? These is a place and time for substitutions, I have come to realize more and more.
Although my favorite cold noodles are still my mom’s version, I enjoyed today’s as well (so did Tim!). I’ll provide both versions. In my family, liang2mian4 was DIY, and I would encourage you to do the same.
Yep! Just sesame seeds.
I can tell you that sesame paste and tahini are very different, both in color and taste. My research tells me that Chinese-style sesame paste is made from unhulled sesame seeds, whereas tahini is made from hulled sesame seeds. The difference in color seems consistent with that claim. The sesame paste shown above is made from white sesame seeds and should not be confused with sesame paste made from black sesame seeds (used in Chinese desserts).