Spicy Thai Peanut Dip

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There was a large pile of unopened mail waiting for me at home upon my return from China a week ago. It took me a few days to sort them all out.  It’s quite a chore, but sometimes there are pleasant surprises within the pile.  A couple of days ago, I opened a package and found a bottle of Pic’s Really Good Crunchy Peanut Butter and a bottle of dry roasted peanuts from New Zealand.  Our whole family have been enjoying the peanut butter in the past couple of days. We love the pure and intense peanut flavor in this very simple and delicious peanut butter with only two ingredients – peanuts and sea salt. I have written in previous blogs about my love for peanuts, be it peanut chocolate fudge or peanut chocolate ice cream pie or noodles with Asian peanut sauce. There is definitely a peanut loving gene in my body.

I made a spicy Thai peanut dip for the okra that I found in the farmer’s market. I blanched the okra in boiling water for less than a minute. I then rinsed it in cold water and drained it. Within 10 minutes there was a simple, satisfying low carb meal on the table. You can use the dip for any number of vegetables of your choice: carrots, celery, turnip, cucumber… You can even use it as a sauce for noodles.  

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Spicy Thai Peanut Dip

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons peanut butter (I used Pic’s Really Good Crunchy Peanut Butter)

1 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon hoisin sauce

1 teaspoon xylitol or sugar

1 teaspoon lime juice

1 to 2 teaspoons Sriracha (depending on how spicy you want the dip to be)

1/4 teaspoon minced garlic (optional)

1/4 teaspoon grated ginger (optional)

1 teaspoon pure sesame oil (optional)

Chopped green onion, crushed peanuts and chili peppers for garnish

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Preparation:

Using a big spoon or your fingers, mix all the ingredients together. Garnish with chopped green onion and chili flakers.

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Roasted Halibut with Miso and Wine

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When I was filming in China, I was able to spend time in my parents’ kitchen now and then, baking them healthy desserts without the use of measuring utensils. Sometimes it turned out beautifully and other times it was a disaster, but my parents were always pleased with whatever I cooked for them and dutifully ate everything until the last bite. My mother has been getting increasingly forgetful. If I prepared the same dish that she had liked the week before, she would exclaim that she had never tasted anything this delicious ever in her life.

Whenever I had a free day from filming, I would sit with her and listen to her telling me stories from her past.  On some days, she would tell the same story a number of times. As the present becomes hazier, her focus has turned more and more toward her childhood.

During the Japanese invasion of China, my grandparents left to study in England when my mother was four and my aunt was two.  My mother lived with her maternal grandparents and her schizophrenic uncle while her sister lived with another branch of the family. 

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My maternal grandmother had this picture taken in a photo studio before leaving for England

My mother’s uncle was an extremely talented artist who had a teaching position in an art school, but every winter he would take a few months off because that was the season when his schizophrenia became severe. During those months, my mother would have a playmate.  According to my mother, her uncle loved her more than anyone else in the house. During his winter craze, he would either put her on the handle bar of the bike and ride around the streets in lightning speed, or he would hold her in his arms and tell her that he would throw her down from the balcony. He told her not to be afraid because she could fly. He told her that she would be rewarded with sweet roasted chestnuts if she let him throw her. “He would try to hang me over the railing, and I would giggle and hold onto him with all my strength,” my mother said without any sense of drama. If my mother’s childhood experiences happened today in America, she would need a life time of therapy to overcome the trauma. I wonder if her generation is more resilient because life was harder.

When time came for me to say good-bye to my parents, I was very sad, though I was also anxious to get home to my daughters and Peter in San Francisco. My parents and I never hug or say I love you.  That’s how we have always been.  But as I was getting into the car this time, my mother pulled me into her for a hug as if she felt this might be the last time she would see me.

I pulled a Chen, as Peter would say; I read the departure time wrong by an hour. The airline called me to say that they were closing the check-in desk, but I begged them to keep it open for another 15 minutes and told them I would not need to check in any luggage.  I sprinted from the car to the check-in desk and the airline staff rushed me through the border control, security and all the way to the gate. However, after five hours of waiting on the tarmac, the flight got canceled. I called my mother and told her about the cancellation. “You poor girl,” she said in her soothing and sympathetic voice as she has done countless times in my life whenever I told her about anything that was frustrating or disappointing. Then she brightened up, “No worries.  Just come home.” I wondered if she would remember this call and be really surprised when I went back to her apartment.

My mother was expecting me when I arrived, remembering clearly that I had called about the flight cancellation. Sheepishly, she said to me, “I’m so sorry. I forgot to say a prayer for you as I always did before you’d fly. I will pray for you tonight and everything will be all right for tomorrow.” She felt as if her negligence must have somehow caused the mechanical problems of the plane. My mother grew up in a missionary school taught by a British missionary and she believes firmly in the power of prayers. 

I have been home in San Francisco for a while now, but I have been too jet lagged and behind on so many things to make a dish worth blogging about until today. This simple roasted halibut with wine and miso is easy and delicious. You can enjoy it with rice, or some sliced cucumber, or by itself. I used the crunchy Japanese rice seasoning as garnish, but it actually is a crucial ingredient that enriches the taste and the texture of the dish.

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Roasted Halibut with Miso and Wine

2 pounds fresh halibut, cut into desired size

1 1/2 tablespoon red miso paste

1 1/2 tablespoon Shao Xing cooking wine or Japanese mirin

1 teaspoon cooking oil

Cooking spray to grease the baking pan

Garnish with:

Nori Katsuo Furikake (Prepared sesame seed & seaweed)

Chopped spring onion

Chili flakes

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Preparation:

Marinate the fish in the miso, wine and oil mixture for 30 minutes to an hour.

Pre-heat oven to 425.

Line a baking dish with foil and spray oil before laying down the fish.

Roast for 13 to 15 minutes or until fish is browned on the outside and opaque in the inside.

Garnish with Nori Katsuo Furikake, green onion and chili flakes.

Serve hot.

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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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Vegetarian Bulgogi Rice Bowl

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Bulgogi is traditionally made with beef, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be a delicious and nutritious vegetarian dish. I cooked mine very mildly spicy because the girls and Peter don’t like their food too hot.  Add chili flakes if you like more heat in the dish as I do.

This is a simple dish to make but very satisfying to eat. I used firm tofu, but extra firm will work well too. I used light soy sauce, but if you want the color of your tofu to be darker to resemble the real bulgogi, use 2 tablespoons light soy sauce and 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce. Go Chu Jang is a very sweet chili sauce. If you don’t like your dish too sweet, you can replace with other mild chili sauce. 

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Vegetarian Bulgogi Rice Bowl

Ingredients:

1 box 14 oz firm tofu, water drained and finely diced

3 stocks green onion, chopped

1 to 1 1/2  teaspoon grated ginger

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 egg + more if serving with sunny side up (Skip if vegan)

1 1/2 teaspoon tapioca, or corn starch

2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons soy sauce

2 teaspoons pure dark sesame oil

1 to 2 teaspoons Korean sweet & spicy sauce called Go Chu Jang (replace with other mild chili sauce and add a little more sugar if you don’t have Go Chu Jang)

1 to 2 teaspoons xylitol or brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoon cooking oil

1/2 carrot, thinly sliced or julienned

1 teaspoon sesame seeds for garnish

Sliced cucumber and/or Kimchi for serving

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Preparation:

Open the tofu package. If the tofu is soaked in water, drain all the water and let it sit on a plate with another plate on top to press more water out.

In a large bowl, mix together tofu, 5 tablespoons chopped green onion, grated ginger, minced garlic, egg, soy sauce, Go Chu Jang, tapioca or corn starch, sesame oil and sugar with your hand. Let marinate for about 10 minutes.

Heat cooking oil in a wok or pan on medium high heat, stir fry the tofu mixture for 3 to 4 minutes until aromatic. Add thinly sliced carrots and stir to mix.

Serve on top of cooked rice, garnish with green onion and more Go Chu Jang if desired. Top with a sunny side up egg to make it a more fulfilling meal.

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Coconut black Rice Pudding with Fresh Mangos

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I went to a Vietnamese Chinese market yesterday and bought some beautiful and delicious tropical fruits.  The mangos reminded me of the ones that I used to buy in Malaysia when I was filming Marco Polo.  This morning, I made a coconut black rice pudding with fresh mangos for breakfast. Rice with crushed peanuts is a usual staple for breakfast in Southeast Asia. It is as ordinary as oatmeal in the West.  Of course you can also serve this rice pudding as a dessert.  For me, coconut and mango is a perfect combination, like peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and chocolate.

I made my rice in the automatic rice cooker as I sliced the fruits. It’s simple and easy. I used the coconut milk beverage from the carton to cook the rice. And I drizzled about 2 to 3 tablespoons full fat coconut milk from the can on top of the pudding before serving. 

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Coconut Black Rice Pudding with Fresh Mangos

Ingredients:

1 cup of Thai black sweet rice or Forbidden Rice

2 cups coconut milk, beverage from the carton

1/4 cup or more xylitol or sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 to 3 tablespoons full fat coconut milk, can

2 tablespoon crushed peanuts, optional

2 ripe yellow mangos, peeled, pitted and sliced (small, flattened oval shape mangos)

Preparation:

Pour the rice, coconut milk beverage, xylitol or sugar, vanilla in the rice cooker and let soak for 30 minutes before pushing the on button.

When the rice cooker turns to warm, let rice sit for 5 minutes. Scoop rice into serving bowls and top with fresh mango slices, coconut milk from the can and crushed peanuts if using.

If you like your pudding wetter and creamier, you can also pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of coconut milk from the can into the rice cooker after rice has been cooked. Mix with a non-scratch spatula before scooping into serving bowls.  If you use forbidden rice instead of sticky rice, it tastes better in the creamier version.

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I used the left-over coconut milk from the can and the mango to make coconut mango panna cotta. I will share the recipe another time. 

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Easy Cha Siu in a Rice Cooker

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I had never followed any cooking shows before taking on the role of being one of the judges for a cooking related award. The past two weeks, I watched dozens of food documentaries and cooking specials.  I enjoyed all the documentaries.  Whether or not they are well made, they brought me interesting characters and engaging stories. Cooking specials, on the other hand, were often boring or disturbing for me to watch.  I now better understand why they are called food porn. Our hedonistic hunger is supposed to be satisfied by the cooking shows the same way our prurient thirst is quenched by porn films. We get off vicariously by watching dishes being cooked with so much butter, cream, salt and sugar by the most upbeat and cheery people, who exclaim nonstop how delicious everything smelled or tasted.

It seems that our natural relationship with food has somehow been ruined by the diet industry, its nutrition experts with their ever changing theories of what we can or cannot eat. Food has become less about enjoyment and contentment, and more associated with guilt. Hence we have food porn.

Answering the question of what we should eat, Michael Pollan, a renowned food author, said simply, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” By food, he meant that something your great-grand mother would recognize as food — a piece of chicken, a bunch of greens, a bowl of oatmeal or a slice of pound cake.  Energy bars with dozens of unpronounceable ingredients or Chicken McNuggets don’t count as food by his standard, I think.

I am not much of a food porn guzzler because I am quite content with what I eat. I don’t have restrictions or prohibitions. I cook what I want to eat. And cooking is a part of the enjoyment; it is the anticipation, the foreplay.

Today, I felt like eating a simple Chinese comfort food: cha siu, a sweet and savory roasted pork, on a bed of brown rice with stir fried bok choy. I discovered a great way to make cha siu — in the rice cooker for 12 minutes. It turned out tender, juicy and slightly charred at the bottom. It was delicious. (Am I not making my own version of food porn here? Am I not a nudist exhibitionist flaunting my food instead of my body?)

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P1050174Ingredients for Cha Siu:

2 1/2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into long strips about 2 inches in diameter

Ingredients for the marinade:

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon oyster sauce

1 1/2 tablespoon Shao Xing cooking wine

1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon Lee Kum Kee Cha Siu sauce (Chinese Barbecue Sauce)

5 to 6 slices of ginger

Preparation:

Marinate the meat for 4 to 8 hours. Lay meat in a single layer in the rice cooker  and push“quick rice” button, or for about 12 minutes if you don’t have a “quick rice” button. 

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Audrey and her friends making S’mores by the fire. I have never seen an inkling of guilt in her when it comes to eating. I love watching her enjoy food.

Savory Egg Custard with Ling Cod

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Growing up in Shanghai, I often ate savory egg custard over rice. It was one of the first dishes I learned to make as a child. Eggs were rationed like pork, rice, cooking oil and many other essentials.  One of the reasons people made custard with their precious eggs was that eggs seemed to expand in volume when you steamed them into silken custard. I remember very clearly that if I had one egg, I would use a small rice bowl to steam a custard, and if I had two, I would use a large soup bowl.  No one used measuring utensils in those days; everything was done by feel and by experience.  Most times, we made it simply with minced scallion and a small dollop of lard; sometimes, we would add a little minced pork or thin slivers of ham.  Occasionally we would also steam the custard with clams. Clam custard is one of my favorite dishes to order when I eat at a San Francisco Chinese restaurant called the R&G Lounge.

If you have not ordered it in Chinese restaurants, you probably have had it as a warm appetizer called Chawan Mushi in Japanese restaurants.  It is prepared in individual cups or bowls with prawns and ginkgo nuts instead of fish.

Today, I prepared the savory egg custard with fresh ling cod fish, shiitake, ginger and scallion. Peter devoured it after a long day being on call at the hospital.  He called it delicious and soothing. 

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Savory Egg Custard with Ling Cod

Ingredients:

12 oz. ling cod, cut into bite size

8 dried shiitake mushroom, soaked and rehydrated

4 eggs, beaten

2 1/2 cup chicken broth

2 stocks green onion, chopped

1 teaspoon finely minced ginger

1 teaspoon thinly sliced ginger

1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes

Cilantro for garnish

1 teaspoon light soy sauce (optional)

1 teaspoon pure sesame oil

Ingredients for marinade:

2 teaspoons Shao Xing cooking wine

2 teaspoons soy sauce

Preparation:

Marinate the fish for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Beat the eggs.  Mix chicken broth and minced ginger with the eggs and pour into a large bowl or a corning ware as I did.  Add fish and shiitake into the egg mixture.

Boil water for steaming.  When the water boils, lower the container into the steamer and turn stove to simmer. 

Steam for 10 minutes. Open the lid and sprinkle chopped scallion, sliced ginger and pepper flakes on top.  Steam for another 10 to 12 minutes or until the custard is just set. Do not over steam or the egg and the broth will separate.

Before serving, pour a teaspoon of light soy sauce and a teaspoon of pure sesame oil, and sprinkle cilantro.  If you want to enjoy the custard by itself and not with rice, you can omit the teaspoon of soy sauce.

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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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Lotus Root Salad with Soy Sesame ginger Dressing

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After pigging out for the past two days, I decided to eat light today.  Light, but very satisfying.  Our chef Duyen gave me a bag of fresh water chestnuts and a few packs of fresh baby corn so I could prepare the lotus root salad exactly the way she made it for me at lunch the other day — lotus root with snap sweet peas, baby corn and water chestnuts.  These four crunchy, refreshing and slightly sweet vegetables make a perfect combination.  If you have never tried these vegetables before, this dish will be a great way to introduce something new and exciting into your diet.

Lotus Root Salad with Soy Sesame Ginger Dressing

Ingredients:

2 cups thinly sliced and lightly blanched lotus root

1 cup baby corn, light blanched and diagonally sliced

1 cup lightly blanched, peeled and sliced water chestnuts

1 1/2 cup light blanched sweet snap peas

Green onion, chill flakes and sesame seeds for garnish

Ingredients for Dressing:

1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (optional)

1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice or rice vinegar

1 to 2 teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoon finely minced or grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon chopped green onion

1 tablespoon 100 % pure black sesame oil

P1090199Preparation:

Prepare the dressing by mixing all the ingredients in a bowl.  Set aside.

Boil a pot of water and when the water is boiling add washed water chestnuts.  When the water boils again.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Set aside to cool.  Peel the water chestnuts when they are no longer hot.

Boil another pot of water and when it is boiling, add baby corn.  When the is boils again, use a slotted ladle to take them out.  Rinse with cold water and set aside.  Add the sweet snap peas into the same boiling water.  When the water boils again, drain and rinse the peas with cold water.  Set aside.  Slice the baby corn when it’s no longer hot.

Boil the last pot of water and when it’s boil, add thinly sliced lotus root.  Drain when the water boils again.  Rinse with cold water and set aside.

Let the vegetables cool completely before serving.

Alternatively, if you want to prepare the salad ahead of time, you can mix the salad dressing without the sesame oil and set aside.  Mix the sesame oil with blanched and drained vegetables and leave it in a closed container in the fridge for up to 2 days.  Add the rest of the dressing before serving.P1090198

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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