Stir Fried Chicken with Peppers

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An old friend of mine has been visiting from Hong Kong, and I have been eating out with her a great deal in the past few days. Today, we both had a craving for some simple home cooked Chinese food.

As we prepared the chicken stir fry and the poached Chinese greens for lunch, we talked about our kids. Angela was three when she was one of the flower girls at my friend’s wedding. We blinked and now Angela is going to college. When I was young, I used to chronicle time by the films I made.  After I had the girls, time has been measured by their milestones or the particular challenges they faced at a certain stage of their lives. With old friends, we mark time by the memorable gatherings throughout the years — and often times they are about the special food we have shared. “Remember that amazing handmade soba noodle in Niseko?”  It seemed like only yesterday, but it was six years ago that my friend and I brought our families together on a trip to Niseko. We hold on to the memories as time slips through our fingers like sand. I miss the family trips we used to make.  Nowadays, the girls are no longer interested in traveling with their parents. They are forming intense and meaningful friendships that will hopefully accompany them for the rest of their lives, same as the ones I share with my old friends from my youth. Even though my friend lives on the other side of the ocean, the time and distance that separate us seem to disappear as soon as we manage to get together.

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Our Hokkaido trip 6 years ago

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I have not been able to catch a smile like this for a long time now. It’s reserved for her friends only.

I don’t know if today’s simple lunch will be one that we remember years from now, but it was comfort food that we both missed. I make stir fried chicken variations a couple of times a month because it’s simple and versatile.  You can almost add any vegetables to the dish and make it a meal. We made ours with a mix of jalapeño and sweet pepper because we both like spicy food. I also added a little celery for a little crunch.

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Stir Fried Chicken with Peppers and Celery:

Ingredients for the sauce:

1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce

2 teaspoons rice vinegar

1 tsp fish sauce

1/2 tsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp sugar

Ingredients for the marinade:

1 tablespoon Shao Xing cooking wine

Thinly sliced ginger

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch or tapioca starch

Ingredients for the Stir Fry:

1 chicken breast, cut into bite size

2 stocks celery, sliced to match the size of the chicken pieces

1 red jalapeno, sliced

1 green jalapeño, sliced

1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

3 tablespoon cooking oil, separated

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon grated ginger

Preparation:

Marinate the chicken breast pieces in wine, ginger and cornstarch for 30 minutes.

Combine all ingredients for the sauce and set aside.

Heat a large wok over high heat. When the wok is very hot, add half of the oil, then add the chicken without the marinade. Stir fry, stirring until the chicken turns opaque. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and set aside. Reduce heat to medium.

Add the remaining oil to the wok; add the garlic and ginger, stir for 20 seconds. Add all three kinds of peppers and the celery, stirring over medium high heat until tender crisp, about 3 minutes.

Return the chicken to the wok, add the sauce, mix well and cook another 30 seconds to one minute. Serve immediately with rice.

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Dan Dan Noodles

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I have written in a prior blog about my Sichuan ancestry and the spicy food that was a part of my upbringing. Dan Dan Noodles is a Sichuan street food that became well known all over China. Traditionally it is made with ground pork, but today I made it with 99% fat free ground turkey in an effort to curb our red meat consumption. It turned out to be absolutely delicious. I made it for lunch, but Peter asked me to make it again for dinner. I was watching a beautiful film called Five Days in Maine at the SF Film Festival when I received a text from Peter, “ These noodles are so fantastic that I can’t stop eating them.” 

This is a dish best made with fresh ramen, which gives it the extra chewiness and elasticity. I bought mine at a Chinese supermarket on Clement Street. It comes in a package of 2.2 pounds divided in 4 bundles.  Each bundle is about 2 servings. You can replace it with other noodles or pasta such as fettuccine if fresh ramen is not available.  

I usually make Dan Dan Noodles with a spicy pickled mustard called 榨菜 Zha Cai, but today I used a crunchy pickled lettuce that comes in a jar from the Chinese supermarket.  It adds flavor and crunch to the minced meat.

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Pickled Wo Sun, a Chinese lettuce stem

Dan Dan Noodles

Ingredients:

4 oz 99% fat free ground turkey or ground pork, beef, or chicken

1/3 cup Chinese pickled lettuce, chopped (Chinese market, see photo)

1 teaspoon pickle juice from the same jar

1 teaspoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons chopped green onion

1 teaspoon, grated or finely minced ginger

2 teaspoons dark soy sauce

1 1/2 teaspoon Shao Xing cooking wine

1/2 teaspoon tapioca or corn starch

8 to 9 oz fresh ramen noodles (Asian super market)

1 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoons ground peanuts

1 cucumber, thinly sliced

sliced red chilies, sesame seeds & chopped green onion for garnish

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Sichuan peppercorn & chili

Ingredients for Chili Oil:

3 tablespoons oil

2 cloves crushed garlic

4 to 5 dried red chili, chopped or 2 teaspoons chili flakes (more if you like it very spicy)

1 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn 

Ingredients for Sauce:

1 tablespoon +1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 heaping tablespoon tahini sauce

2 teaspoons dark sweet rice vinegar (Chinese market)

1 teaspoon sugar

2 coves garlic, peeled and very finely minced

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Preparation:

Mix the first 9 ingredients in a bowl, cover with saran wrap and set aside in the fridge.

Heap up the oil in a small pot on high. When the oil is piping hot, add the chili, Sichuan peppercorn and crushed garlic. Close the lid and turn off the stove. Let the oil sit on the stove for 5 minutes before filtering out the chili, peppercorn and garlic and keep only the oil in a bowl.

Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce with the chili oil. Set aside.

Boil a large pot of water to cook the noodle to el dente. Rinse in cold water and drain completely. (Fresh ramen cooks fast. Make sure you check the doneness often.)

Heap up 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or pan on medium high. Stir fry the minced meat mixture until done.

Mix the noodles, the chili oil sauce, the cooked minced meat together. Top with chopped green onion, chili flakes, sesame seeds. and serve with cucumber slices.  Mix about 3 tablespoons chili oil sauce with the noodles first and taste it before using the rest of the sauce just in case it’s too strong for you.

You can also mix the noodles with the chili oil sauce first. Separate into two serving bowls. Then top them with the cooked minced meat and the rest of the other goodies.

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Yummy Ketchup Sriracha Prawns with Broccolini

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Audrey left today for a debate conference and I really miss her, especially at dinner time.  She is representing China in the negotiation of the South China Sea dispute.  I was reading up with her on the history of the region and the involved countries.  It is amazing how biased most of the Western publication is against China.  So much of the original Chinese history and geography books and the maps that prove China’s sovereignty rights in the area have been completely ignored by the Western media, which is only interested in portraying China as an aggressor.

Audrey spent almost her entire spring break doing research on the topic.  As she read more and more about the issues, she began to worry, “Philippines and Vietnam are going to gang up on me, mommy. And Malaysia is not exactly on my side either.” Then she found out about the Gulf of Tonkin Agreement between China and Vietnam and got really excited.  She said, “We have both been benefitting a great deal from this bilateral collaboration. We can do it again!”  (Lately I have often been surprised by her casually uttering terms such as “bilateral collaboration.” I guess the debate lessons are paying off.) Audrey quickly dashed an email to Vietnam, expressing her wish to repeat the same success. As she found out more about the interdependence of the the nations involved, she wrote a few more emails to Malaysia and to South Korea.

The first text I received from her after she landed in her seaside destination was: “Landed safely. Lobbying went well on the flight.”  I had to laugh.  The Chinese diplomats should be envious of my 13-year-old girl, who seems to possess a natural sense of fairness and talent for negotiation and peacemaking.

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Audrey doing research with the help of a little home-made ice cream

Angela is working tonight at the take-out restaurant and will not have dinner at home.  I made this absolutely delicious prawn dish for the empty nesters. 

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Ketchup Sriracha Prawns with Garlic Broccolini

Ingredients:

1.4 pound large prawns, shelled and deveined

2 to 3 tablespoons cooking oil

3 tablespoon ketchup

1 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

1 teaspoon xylitol or sugar

2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon packed minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced or graded ginger

3 stocks green onion, chopped

1 teaspoon tapioca or corn starch

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon Shao Xing cooking wine

Ingredients for Broccolini:

2 bunches broccolini

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Salt to taste.

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Preparation for Broccolini:

Remove rough parts of broccolini.

Heat oil in a wok or pan on medium high. Add minced garlic and stir until aromatic.  Add broccolini and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Add salt and stir for a few more seconds. Set aside.

Preparation for Prawns:

Peel and devein the prawns.

Add 1 teaspoon salt to the raw prawn and squeeze and stir with your hand for a minute.

Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes and rinse the prawn in cold water.

Add the Shao Xing wine and let marinate in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the Ketchup, Sriracha, soy sauce and xylitol or sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pat dry the prawns with paper towel and add mix with tapioca or corn starch.

Heat 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoon oil in a non-stick pan on medium high. Pan fry the prawn to about 85% done on both sides. Scoop out and set aside.

Add another 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and sauté the minced garlic, green onion and ginger until aromatic, about 30 seconds to a minute.

Add the prawns back in and pour in the Ketchup Sriracha mixture.  Stir for 30 seconds to a minute and serve hot with garlic broccolini and rice.

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Asian Flavored Pork Chops with Sautéd Vegetables

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Lately, I have been trying to feed Peter less meat. I either use small portions of sliced meat in vegetable stir-fries to enhance the flavor or I serve him the same vegetarian meals the girls have. I know he misses meat when he tells me to relax and not worry about cooking dinner. “I’ll order from Green Island tonight,” he’d say. Green Island is his favorite take-out place, where you can get three dishes of tasty Chinese food for $27. Peter usually orders the stir fried beef with vegetables, curry beef brisket and rock cod in garlic black bean sauce.  That’s how he gets his weekly fix of greasy, salty Cantonese provision. When I got a midday call from Peter asking if there would be meat for dinner tonight. I knew that it was time for me to cook a serious meat dish.

I had opened a bottle of good brandy some time ago to make desserts and there was still 1/3 of a bottle left.  I decided to use it in the marinade, but if you don’t have brandy handy, Shao Xing cooking wine will probably work fine, too.  The key is to marinate the meat for at least two hours, ideally 4 to 8 hours. The pork chops that I bought today were about 1/2 to 2/3 inch thick. If your chops are 1 inch thick, you will need to use 1 1/2 portion of the marinade. The pork chops will absorb and lock in every last drop of the marinade and turn out tender, juicy and absolutely delicious.

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Asian Flavored Pork Chops with Sautéd Vegetables

Ingredients:

4 pork chops

1 green bell pepper, sliced

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 red jalapeno pepper, seed and sliced

1 small yellow onion, sliced

2 to 3 slices of ginger, thinly slivered

3 tablespoons cooking oil, separated

2 teaspoon soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon dark rice vinegar or rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for Marinade:

2 tablespoons light soy sauce

2 tablespoons brandy

1 tablespoon molasses or honey

2 teaspoons Worcestershire Sauce

1 teaspoon sesame oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

6 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon minced ginger

1 teaspoon sriracha sauce

1 teaspoon tapioca flour, or corn starch

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Preparation:

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Pound the pork chops and poke holes on the meat with ice pick or the tip of the knife. Use your hand to mix the chops with the marinade and transfer to a large ziplock bag. Leave in the fridge for 2 hours to overnight. All the liquid will be absorbed into the chops as they marinate.

Cut a slit on the pork chop at the opposite side of the bone to prevent curling during cooking.

Heat 1/2 of the oil in a large cast iron skillet on medium. Pan fried the pork chops about 4 to 5 minuets on either side or until cooked through. You will need to cook longer with the lid on if your chops are thicker. The chops brown easily because of the sugar in the marinade. Lower the heat a little if necessary.

When the chops are done. Take them out of the skillet and set aside.

Heat the rest of the oil in the same skillet on medium high and sauté the vegetables. Stir for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Give it a few swirls with the spatula and turn off the stove. Cook the vegetables in two batches if your skillet is small.

Separate the sautéd vegetables into four plates and top with the pork chop. 

Or slice the chops before serving with rice and saluted vegetables.

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Empress Dowager’s Crab

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Empress Dowager’s Crab is a Chinese dish that most of you have probably never heard of — a scrambled egg with an unusual but delicious twist. I have mentioned in previous blogs the hairy crab obsession in Shanghai, that has in recent years spread to other major cities in China. People make this scrambled egg to satiate the craving for hairy crabs when crabs are not in season, or not in one’s budget.  Fable had it that the dish was invented one day when the Empress Dowager demanded to eat crab out of a whim. The royal chef had to improvise with eggs because there were no crabs to be found and he didn’t want his head chopped off. 

The egg white is to imitate the taste and texture of crab meat while the yolk the flavor of the crab roe.  Since the steamed hairy crabs are always eaten with a dark sweet rice vinegar and finely minced ginger, this dish uses the same unique combination of ingredients to trick the tastebuds into making the association with crab.  When I was growing up, it was made with only eggs, ginger, vinegar, salt and sugar, but the fancier version nowadays includes diced fish or prawns. I used ling cod today.

I have always loved eggs no matter how they are prepared — soft boiled, hard boiled, over-easy, poached, omelette, braised in soy and tea, steamed egg custard… you name it. Eggs are the most versatile food in the world, and today they are masquerading as crab meat. Traditionally the yolk is cooked slightly runny. Peter doesn’t like his eggs runny and I cooked the yolk a little bit longer, but still very soft. You mix the cooked white and the slightly runny yolk right before serving to let the flavor of the yolk coat the white.

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Empress Dowager’s Crab (Scrambled Egg with Fish)

Ingredients:

4 extra-large eggs, white and yolk separated and beaten

3 to 4 oz white fish or prawns

2 1/2 tablespoons dark sweet rice vinegar (CHINKIANG VINEGAR, Chinese supermarket)

1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons minced ginger

1 teaspoon sugar, separated

1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

1 tablespoon Shao Xing cooking wine to marinate the fish

1/4 teaspoon corn starch

2 tablespoons cooking oil, separated

Chives or cilantro leaves for garnish

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Preparation:

In a ziplock bag or a bowl, marinate the fish in the Shao Xing cooking wine and a pinch of salt.  Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to over night.

Beat the egg white and egg yolk separately in two bowls.

Pat dry the fish and dice into 1/3 to 1/2 inch cubes. Mix the corn starch with the diced fish.  Stir the diced fish into the egg white with a teaspoon of the minced ginger and a pinch of the salt.

Beat the yolk with with 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 loosely packed tablespoon minced ginger, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon sugar.

In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon minced ginger with 1 1/2 tablespoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and a pinch of salt. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat. Pour the egg white, fish mixture into the pan and gentle stir until the fish turns opaque. Put the cooked egg white and fish cubes on a serving plate and set aside.

Wash and dry the pan. Heat the rest of the oil in the pan on medium low heat, pour the yolk mixture into the pan and stir until slightly congealed but still a bit runny. Scoop the cooked yolk on top of the egg white and the fish.

Garnish with chives or cilantro leaves.

Mix the white with the yolk before serving.  Pour the vinegar ginger mixture into he dish if desired.  Give it a taste before deciding how much of the ginger vinegar mixture you need.

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Braised Duck & Vegetarian Lettuce Cups

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Braised wild game bird

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Vegetarian Lettuce Wrap

One of Peter’s patients gave him two wild game birds as a present.  I couldn’t tell what type of birds they were.  They were a little smaller than a chicken, but from the slightly iridescent feathers that were deliberately left on the wings they looked more like ducks than chickens.  So I prepared them the way my grandfather always did on Chinese New Year’s eve during my childhood. He was the first original foodie that I knew. I wrote about him in a previous blog when I cooked Kung Pao chicken, a dish from my grandfather’s home province of Sichuan.

This duck dish is called 酱鸭 —  “saucy duck,” a traditional Shanghaines braised duck with soy sauce, rock sugar, wine and a myriad of spices.  My grandfather would always save the sauce from the braised duck and use it to braise eggs and extra firm tofu in the following days. They were the most delicious eggs and tofu I have ever tasted. Meat and poultry were so scarce that we wanted the taste of them to last for as long as we could.

The wild game birds were extremely lean, but not at all tough. Though this recipe is for ducks, these wild birds turned out absolutely delicious. I saved the sauce as my grandfather did and will use it to braise eggs and tofu in the next couple of days.

Happy Year of the Monkey!

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Braised Wild Game Birds

Ingredients:

2 small wild ducks (or 1 duck)

3 tablespoons oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

8 thin slices ginger, separated

2 stocks scallion, chopped

4 star anises,

1 teaspoon Chinese peppercorn, separated

6 pieces dried orange peel

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup Shao Xing cooking wine

1/4 cup light Soy sauce

2 tablespoons dark soy sauce

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 – 4 cups water or chicken broth

2 teaspoon honey + 2 teaspoon hot water

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Preparation:

Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a dutch oven with 3 slices ginger, 1/4 teaspoon Chinese peppercorn. Brown the ducks on both sides.

When the ducks are browned, discard the ginger and peppercorn, save the oil. Set the ducks aside in a plate.

Add the last tablespoon oil and sauté the garlic, ginger, star anises, peppercorn, orange peel and sugar until aromatic.

Add soy sauce, wine, vinegar and water and bring to boil.  Return the ducks to the pot.  Turn the heat to low and simmer for one to one and half hour, turning the birds at half way time.

If you braise a whole duck instead of wild game birds, this recipe is for one duck.

You can cook ahead and let the cooked duck sit overnight in the fridge.  Let it drain completely before cutting.

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Vegetarian Lettuce Cups

Ingredients:

1 cup cubed baked tofu or smoked tofu (You can find them in most super markets. I used braised tofu from Chinatown)

1 cup diced jicama

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/4 cup frozen peas

1 red jalapeño, seeded and diced

3 – 4 shiitake, fresh or dried, diced

3 slices ginger

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon Hoisin sauce

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 tablespoon cooking oil

1 head butter lettuce

Preparation:

Wash and dry lettuce leaves.  Set aside on a plate.

Heat oil in a wok on medium high. Add ginger slices and stir until aromatic.  Add tofu, jicama, pepper, frozen peas and shiitake. Sauté for 3 minutes.  Add minced garlic, Hoisin sauce, Sriracha and salt and stir for another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Do not over cook because you want the jicama cubes to be crispy.

Serve with a little Hoisin sauce, topped with chopped roasted peanuts and wrapped in lettuce leaves.

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Braised Pork with Arrowheads & Shiitake

Braised pork is also a very traditional Shanghainese dish for Chinese New Year.  Last Chinese New Year, I made it with winter bamboo and tofu skin.  This year I cooked it with arrowheads and shiitake.

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Pot Stickers

Pot Stickers are another Chinese New Year staple.  The shape resembles that of a Chinese gold bullion. You can either make them with store purchased wraps or make your own wraps. We made our own wraps this year with chopped Napa cabbage and braised tofu inside.

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Yuba noodle salad

Yuba noodle salad is a simple, easy and delicious dish I make with regularity. Everyone in the family loves it.

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Mocha Roca Fro-Yo

Lastly, the dessert. There is nothing Chinese about this one, but it’s one of our family’s favorites.  I posted the recipe in a previous blog.  The only change I made today was to replace the almond roca with mocha roca.

Baked Ginger Scallion Shiitake Rock Cod

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I did my weekly shopping at Costco today.  As usual, I brought a shopping list, but ended up buying many more items that were not on the list, such as a bag of organic roasted seaweed chips with brown rice.  They were addictive and I wish I never saw them.  There was no rock cod on my list, but I saw that the fillets were packed only hours before the store opened and decided to buy a tray.  Freshness is the key to preparing any good seafood.  That’s why many Cantonese restaurants have tanks that house the live fish or shell fish.  When we order fish we would always ask for “swimming fish.”  Well, rock cod packed on the same day is the next best thing to “swimming fish.” 

Though my hometown Shanghai is a a coastal city, growing up I seldom had fish, which was usually reserved for special occasions or Chinese New Year. I never had any “swimming” rock cod either, only belt fish or yellow croaker.  Nowadays, if you visit an authentic Shanghainese restaurant, you will see fried belt fish or braised yellow croaker on the menu instead of steamed cod.  I began cooking and eating rock cod after I married my Cantonese husband, who measures the quality of a Cantonese restaurant by its steamed cod.

Today, I prepared the rock cod fillets by wrapping them in parchment paper with sliced ginger, scallion, red jalapeño and Japanese shiitake mushroom and then baking them in the oven.  Wrapping the fish in parchment paper seals in the moisture and the flavor, and it also ensures the tenderness of the fish. It is like steaming in the oven. I love the intensely aromatic steam that escapes from the piping hot pouch when I open it. And the broth from the fish is absolutely delicious over rice.

This recipe is relatively easy and is one of the tastiest fish dishes that I have ever cooked.  Try it!

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Baked Ginger Scallion Shiitake Rock Cod

Ingredients:

4 pieces 4 oz rock cod fillet

8 to 10 dried Japanese shiitake mushroom, rehydrated and sliced

3 stocks scallions, 2 inch slices

1 red jalapeno, sliced lengthwise

1 tablespoon thinly sliced ginger

2 tablespoons or more light soy sauce, separated

4 teaspoons or more Shao Xing cooking wine or other Asian cooking wine

4 teaspoons sesame oil

Sesame seeds for garnish

Marinade:

2 tablespoons Shao Xing cooking wine

Preparation:

Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for an hour or longer until completely soft and rehydrated. Keep the soaking water.

Marinate the fillets in the cooking wine and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes in a sealed container.

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Wrap the fillet individually in parchment paper with 1 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce, 1 teaspoon wine, 1 teaspoon shiitake soaking water, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, topped with slices of ginger, scallion and shiitake.  If you prefer your fish a little saltier, you can increase the soy sauce to 2 teaspoons.

Fold the sides of the parchment paper together and seal with a metal paper clip on top. 

Arrange the packets on a baking sheet.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or so depending on the size of the fish.  I baked mine for 15 minutes because the fillets were thick.  You can fold the tail end in two to match the thickness of the body.  It is important not to over cook the fish.  If anything, you should err on the side of under cooking it.

Serve hot from the parchment or transfer to a shallow bowl. The broth is so delicious that you will need a spoon.

Note:

If you don’t have dried the shiitake mushrooms, you can make this dish with fresh shiitake.  Dried shiitake has a more intense flavor.

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Spicy Chen Pi Beef

 

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In Chinese culture, nothing edible is ever thrown away — pig’s ear, innards, fish head, chicken feet, orange peel… you name it.  During the years of scarcity when I was growing up, every part of an animal or a plant could be made into a delicious dish. 

Ever since I brought back the oranges from my mother-in-law’s garden in Los Angeles, I have been saving the rind to turn into Chen Pi. Not only are her oranges extremely sweet and juicy, the peel is also thin and fragrant, which is perfect for making dried orange peel. In the olden days, it would take a long time to produce Chen Pi.  You must first leave the rind in the sun to dry, and when it’s dry, you’d steam it.  Then you’d dry it again in the sun. The process of drying and steaming would be repeated 9 times before the peel would acquire a piquant fragrance and become Chen Pi.  People cook with it, or drink it in their tea.  They also make snacks of it.  You can find the snack version of Chen Pi in most Chinese super markets.

I dried mine in the oven and I only repeated the drying and steaming process 3 times, but the Chen Pi was very aromatic when it came out of the oven the final time and the house was redolent with the sweet scent.

When I saw the beautiful filet mignon tails at the neighborhood butcher’s, I decided that they would be perfect for a spicy Chen Pi beef stir fry. And it was absolutely delicious! 

You don’t have to make your own orange peel. It’s available at most Chinese herbalists or dry goods stores.

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Spicy Chen Pi Beef

Ingredients:

4 pieces, about 1.2 pounds filet mignon tails, cut into 1 inch cubes

3 tablespoon to 1/4 cup cooking oil

8 slices peeled fresh ginger

3 clove garlic, sliced

4 dried red chilies (I left them whole because I only wanted the dish to be mildly spicy, but you can cut them if you want to turn up the heat.)

1/2 small red bell peppers, seeded and diced

1 jalapeño, seeded and diced

4 stalks green onion, sliced diagonally and separate the white from the green part

2 heaping tablespoons dried orange peel (available in most Chinese herb stores)

1 teaspoon orange zest and more for garnish

1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn or Sichuan peppercorn powder 

Cilantro leaves and crispy garlic for garnish

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Marinade:

2 teaspoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 tablespoons Shao Xing cooking wine

Sauce:

1 1/2 tablespoons light soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon sugar or xylitol

1/4 teaspoon white pepper powder

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Preparation:

Marinate the cubed filet mignon pieces for 20 to 30 minutes.

Mix all the Sauce ingredients in a small bowl, stir to combine well. Set aside.

Soak the dried orange peel in 2 tablespoons water until soft.  Save the water.

On medium high heat up a wok with the oil, stir fry the red chili and Sichuan peppercorn (if using) until aromatic. If you are using whole Sichuan peppercorn, you may want to spoon out and discard the peppercorn as they are very strong in flavor especially if you bite into a whole one.  (I love biting into a Sichuan peppercorn for a burst of flavor that numbs my tongue, but Peter only wants a hint of the peppercorn flavor in the dish.) 

Turn heat to high and add the sliced ginger, rehydrated dried orange peel, white part of the green onion and chili into the oil and stir for 30 seconds.  Then add red bell peppers, jalapeño and stir for about 30 seconds.  Add the beef and stir fry until 50% done. (Alternately, you can sear the beef cubes in a separate pan and then add to the mixture in the wok.)

Add in the sauce and the saved orange peel water. When the sauce thickens, add the green part of the green onion and orange zest and stir for another 30 seconds.

Serve hot with rice.

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Yuba Noodle Salad with Crunchy vegetables

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The few things that I never allow to run out in the fridge are Hodo Soy tofu and yuba, along with milk, Fage and eggs.  In a household with two growing vegetarian teenagers, we cook tofu 4 times a week.  Tofu is versatile, nutritious and relatively easy to prepare.

Today, Peter called me around noon to say that he had a little time and could come home to have lunch with me.  “I am wrapping up a case and should be home in 15 minutes,” he said.  There was plenty of leftover in the fridge of course, but I wanted to serve him something fresh and tasty.  Since his office is only a 5-minute drive from home, I want to encourage him to come back for lunch more often now that I am home.

I went for the yuba noodles in the fridge after I hung up the phone with him.  It took me about 10 minutes to slice the carrots, cucumber, cilantro and green onion.  Toss them with the yuba and viola! you have a beautiful and healthy lunch.  I even had time to put a little make-up on for him.  Peter was very impressed with this delicious dish that seemed to have magically appeared in a matter of minutes. 

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Yuba Noodle Salad

Ingredients:

1 pack HodoSoy spicy yuba

1 cup julienned carrots

1/2 English cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 cup sweet snap peas, thinly sliced

1/4 cilantro leaves

1 red jalepeno, thinly sliced (optional)

1/4 red onion, slivered

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

1/2 stock green onion, the white end, chopped

1/4 teaspoon finely ground Sichuan peppercorn (optional)

2 teaspoon rice vinegar

2 teaspoon fresh lime or lemon juice

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Preparation:

Prepare the vegetables.  Open the package and break up the yuba from the package.  Mix everything together in a salad bowl.  Top with chopped green onion and sesame seeds before serving.

Note:

You can sauté the whole Sichuan peppercorn with 2 teaspoon of and discard the peppers after they are brown and aromatic.  Save the oil for the salad.  Or you can simple finely grind the peppercorn and add to the salad. 

Add a little salt or soy sauce if you prefer your salad a little saltier.  I added no salt or soy sauce and the salad was perfect.

If you don’t have lime or lemon juice, just use more rice vinegar.

You can also use other crunchy vegetables of your choice such as radish and celery.

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You can also try my other 10-minute tofu salad by clicking on this link.

Noodle Salad with Tahini Dressing

P1090172Tahini in most US super markets is of Middle Eastern origin, but it is an ideal substitute for Chinese sesame paste, which is usually only sold in Chinese markets.  Noodle salad with sesame paste is a very traditional and basic Chinese dish and it is usually made with thinly sliced cucumber and carrots.  Since I swiped a few packs of fresh baby corn from our Marco Polo kitchen, I made mine today with blanched fresh baby corn, bean sprouts and sweet snap peas.  I also added shredded  chicken breast into the noodle to make it a more substantial meal, though the dish is perfectly delicious without the meat as a vegetarian dish.

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Noodle Salad with Tahini Soy Dressing

Ingredients:

200 g soba noodle (I used soba noodle because it is slightly healthier compared to Chinese noodle)

5 to 6 fresh baby corn

3/4 cup sweet snap peas

3/4 cup bean sprouts

1 to 2 red chili peppers

1 poached chicken breast

Green onion and toasted sesame seeds for garnish

1 teaspoon sesame oil

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Ingredients for Dressing:

3 tablespoons tahini

2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon Chinese peppercorn

6 to 8 thin slices ginger

2 stocks green onion, cut into 2 inch sections

1 chili pepper, chopped

2 tablespoon cooking oil

1 to 2 tablespoon water for thinning if desired

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Preparation:

To make the dressing, heat the oil in a wok or sauce pan on medium heat. Add the ginger, chili pepper, green onion and Chinese pepper corn.  Stir until aromatic and browned but not burned.  Discard the the ginger, chili, green onion and pepper corn. Save the fragrant oil.

Blend the oil with tahini, rice vinegar, honey, garlic and water in a blender until smooth. 

Cook the noodle according to package direction to al dente.  Rinse the noodle and drain thoroughly.  Mix with sesame oil to prevent from sticking and clumping.

Blanch the vegetables in a pot of boiling water.  You only need to leave the vegetable in the boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly.

Boil a pot of water with a few slices of ginger.  When the water is boiling, add the chicken breast with half cup Shao Xing cooking wine. Let boil for a minute or two with the lid closed.  Turn off the stove and let it sit in the hot water for another 10 minutes.  Let cool and shred by hand.

Mix everything together with the dressing and garnish with chopped green onion and sesame seeds.  Serve at room temperature.

Note:

If you are pressed for time, you can also make a simpler dressing by mixing together the tahini, soy sauce, rice vinegar and garlic with 1 tablespoon of water in the blender without making the fragrant oil, but the fragrant oil does give it an extra special flavor. Add a teaspoon or two of Sriracha sauce if you want a little heat to the dressing.

You can also try the original Chinese sesame paste noodle with thinly sliced cucumber and carrots to the noodle.

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