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Posts Tagged ‘Chinese’

Quick Shu Mai

Over dinner, my in-laws recently lamented the fact that Rice Kernel doesn’t eat much meat.  My MIL, a nutritionist by training, has long held that her boys got big and strong with chicken stock and milk.  When you press her for more information she’ll tell you she believes in meat protein during childhood years.  Lots of meat protein. 

Now, I’m a veggie lover and try to limit the amount of land animal meat I consume.  I also have plenty of friends who are vegan and vegetarian – and plenty healthy and strong.  Frankly, many of them out-run and out-lift me at the gym!  I don’t know how much credence there is in Mom’s message but since I do have a meat-loving husband and have no reason to refute Mom, I take it as a challenge to introduce Rice Kernel to different flavors and dishes.  Here’s our (probably Westernized) attempt at a Chinese dim sum favorite.  Easy to prepare and a great use of leftovers, this finger food is versatile enough to be an appetizer, breakfast, snack, or entree paired with some vegetables.

Shumai

1/2 pounds ground chicken (or ground turkey, pork, shrimp, crab)
1/4 cup minced carrots (small dice)
1/4 cup minced shiitake mushrooms (any mushrooms will do)
1/4 cup minced spring onions
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp ground pepper
1 tbsp sugar
wonton wrappers (almost all grocery stores carry these wrappers now)

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Place 1 tbsp full of mixture on center of wrapper and cinch the sides upwards (the bottom should be flat).
  3. Place on bamboo steamer or whatever steamer you have and steam for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through.

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This savory pork, shrimp, and vegetable filling is seasoned with ginger, garlic, and scallions – the most traditional filling for jiao zi.  My neighbor mentioned her family had been making these traditional dumplings with zucchini this summer.  I was skeptical at first but she was adamant they were delicious – and more nutritious.  In fact, the vegetable blends into the filling and is barely recognizable in taste or appearance.  Gound beef or lamb, both typical in northern Chinese cooking, can be substituted for the ground pork and shrimp. 

Why no pictures?  It was back-to-school night and I simply forgot….

For the filling
1 cups finely chopped napa cabbage (I used half napa and half shredded zucchini)
12 oz. ground pork
8 oz. peeled, deveined shrimp, coarsely chopped
3 medium scallions, thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine) or dry sherry
1-1/2 Tbs. grated fresh ginger
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 tsp. toasted Asian sesame oil
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. cornstarch
Freshly ground black pepper and salt
Wonton wrappers
 
To finish
Vegetable oil, as needed (for pan-fried dumplings)
Kosher salt, as needed (for boiled dumplings) 
1 recipe or Scallion-Soy Dipping Sauce, optional (below)
 
Directions 

In a medium bowl, toss the cabbage with 1 tsp. salt and set aside for 30 minutes to shed moisture. Wring out in a clean kitchen towel to extract as much liquid as possible.  (If using zucchini, wring out the zucchini to extract most of the liquid.)

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage with the pork, shrimp, scallions, garlic, Shaoxing, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, cornstarch and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Stir until well mixed. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Spoon 1 to 2 tsp. of the filling onto a dough circle, fold it in half, and then if you’re going to boil the dumplings, seal it by pinching along the curved edge. If you’re planning to pan-fry the dumplings for pot stickers, make your first pinch at the center of the curved edge and then pleat toward the center on both sides to create a rounded belly. This wider shape allows the dumplings to sit upright in the pan and form a flat surface for browning.

Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling. As you work, arrange the filled dumplings in a single layer without touching on large plates, so they don’t stick together.

To cook: either boil the dumplings…Bring a large (7- to 8-quart) pot of salted water to a boil. Working in 2 or 3 batches to avoid overcrowding, quickly add the dumplings one at a time, making sure they don’t stick to each other. Lower the heat to medium and continue to boil, gently stirring occasionally, until the wontonsfloat and are cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve immediately with your choice of dipping sauce.
…or pan-fry the dumplings Heat 2 Tbs. vegetable oil in a heavy-duty 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Working quickly and in batches if necessary (adding more oil for the second batch if needed), arrange the dumplings belly side down in concentric circles starting from the outer edge. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour in about 1/2 cup water or enough to come about a third of the way up the sides of the dumplings, bring to a boil, cover, and cook until all of the water has been absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lid, reduce the heat to medium, and continue cooking just until the dumplings are dry and crisp on the bottom, 1 to 2 minutes. Loosen the dumplings from the pan with a spatula. Invert the pan over a plate to flip the dumplings, browned side up, onto the plate (or transfer with a spatula). Serve immediately with your choice of dipping sauce. 
 
Make-Ahead Dumplings can be frozen (raw).  Do not thaw before cooking.

Ginger-Scallion Dipping Sauce

3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. rice vinegar
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. hot chile oil or toasted Asian sesame oil
1 1-2 inch slice ginger, minced
1 small scallion, thinly sliced

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and then stir in the oil and scallion.

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Do you buy bulk?  I never thought my little family of three would buy so many bulk products.  Meat products, to be exact.  But we do.  Because FHE’s favorite store in Costco.  If you peered into our freezer, you’d see bags of vacuum-sealed fish, whole organic chickens, chicken pieces, pork loins and, organic ground beef.  We’ve flirted with getting an additional freezer, mainly because the surplus of meat leaves little room for important things like frozen spinach or, say, ice cream.  But that would promote serious hording.

Tonight we tackled one of the blocks of ground beef.  Throw in a few pantry leftovers and, voila, the perfect sauce for rice or some egg noodles. 

Braised Mushroom Potato & Minced Meat Sauce, from Rice Kernel’s kitchen

Ingredients

1 lb minced beef or pork
5 pieces dried shitake mushroom, reconstituted
1 onion, chopped
2 small new potatoes, diced
1/2-1 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp corn starch
1/2 tbsp rock sugar or honey
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp five spice powder
1 tbsp Chinese wine
Cilantro and green onions, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Season minced meat with light and dark soy sauce, a little sugar, sesame oil and corn starch.
  2. Soak shitake mushrooms in hot water.  After 5-10 minutes, drain and dice into small cubes.
  3. In a heated wok, add 1 tbsp oil, cook onions and potatoes until soft.  Add 1/4-1/2 cup stock, as necessary to prevent scorching.  Add mushrooms to warm through.  Set aside.
  4. Add minced meat and stir fry until 70% cooked.  Add all seasoning.
  5. Add chicken stock and simmer on low heat for 15-20 minutes.  Add onions and potatoes and continue to cook to cook another 5-10 minutes.
  6. Serve atop rice with veggies of your choice.

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Congee is a type of rice porridge that can be found on breakfast, lunch, and dinner tables all over Asia.  Despite its many variations it can be recognized by a thicker texture.  Easy to consume and digest, it is the Asian equivalent of homemade chicken noodle soup – perfect for sick days or lazy days, any time of the year. 

It’s fitting I had a hankering for it today.  Eleven years ago today, my Mother passed away.  As a toddler and child, I was a picky eater.  Fortunate for me, Mom had all the patience in the word – she’d reheat my meals and lovingly spoon-feed me while I sang, danced, and played at the dinner table.  (That gene must have skipped a generation because, lord knows, Rice Kernel is not the recipient of such tolerance at meal times.)   Rice porridge, infused with stock, bits of meat and finely-chopped vegetables, was comfort that my Mother happily doled out when I was feeling ill and in need of some nourishment.  It’s one of a handful of vivid cooking memories I recall with my Mom.  One that I am happy to revive for my slightly-under-the-weather little boy.

Congee

Ingredients

2 cup long-grain white rice (or brown rice, or 1 1/2 cups rice and 1/2 cup millet) 
1 tsp kosher salt 
6 cups liquid (water, chicken stock)
Fish, Chicken, or Ground Beef (optional)
Finely-chopped scallion and ginger for serving

Directions

  1. In a sieve, rinse rice under cold water and let drain. 
  2. Put rice, 6 cups liquid, and salt into a 4-quart saucepan.* (See note below.)  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, partially covered, until the rice takes on the consistency of porridge, about 1 1⁄2 hours.
  3. If adding fish, add into porridge 15 minutes before the porridge is finished.  Cook through and carefully flake the fish before serving.
  4. If adding chicken, steam or bake dark or white meat chicken and shred.  Add shredded chicken before serving.
  5. If using ground beef, cook in a saute pan, breaking up the beef into small chunks.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add beef and drippings into the porridge before serving.
  6. Top with scallion, ginger, white pepper.

Note:  Soaking the rice overnight supposedly helps create a smooth porridge.  Some also believe that if you add a handful of cooked rice to the raw rice, it makes for an even starchier consistency.  If you prefer a heavier consistency, reduce the amounts of liquid.

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I’ve spoken of my husband’s fondness for noodles and our general enthusiasm for vegetables.  (Heck, the latter is what this journal is premised upon.)  But hot noodles in May (even in the temperate  Bay Area) don’t always whet the appetite or seem appropriate for dining on the patio.  So when I happened upon this colorful cold noodle recipe on Orangette, I began to salivate. 

The original recipe comes from The Greens Cookbook, a compilation of recipes from the famed San Francisco restaurant that pioneered vegetarian cuisine.  Known for using fresh vegetables, herbs, and spices from cuisines around the world, their dishes are vibrant and savory.  And this recipe does not disappoint.  The noodles are dressed with sesame oil, soy sauce, red pepper oil, a touch of sugar, and unexpected balsamic vinegar.  Robust and savory, the silky noodles are contrasted with ribbons of refreshing snow peas, vibrant julienned carrots, and crispy clean mung bean sprouts.  A flavor and textural explosion, it is perfect for a leisurely summer dinner. 

FHE asked that I tell you he and Rice Kernel slurped up every last noodle.  And that his bowl could have used some more red pepper oil.  There, hun.

Asian-Inspired Noodle Salad with Crispy Vegetables, adapted from The Greens Cookbook, via Orangette


For the dressing and the noodles
5 Tbs toasted sesame oil
7 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce (or tamari)
3 Tbs balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
1-2 tsp salt
1 Tbs red pepper oil
8-10 scallions, thinly sliced into rounds
3 Tbs cilantro, chopped
1 lb fresh Chinese egg noodles (like Orangette, I used spaghetti; please forgive the lack of authenticity)

For the vegetable garnishes
Reserved dressing
1 cup snow peas, strings removed
½ lb mung bean sprouts
3 Tbs sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet until lightly colored
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
Cilantro leaves

Directions

  1. Begin by making the dressing.  Combine all the dressing ingredients (except the noodles, of course) in a bowl, and stir them together until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Bring a large pot of (unsalted) water to a boil, and add the noodles.  Cook until done but not overly soft (slightly before al dente); then immediately pour them into a colander to remove excess water.  Transfer the noodles to a large bowl and pour half of it over the cooked noodles, tossing to distribute the dressing evenly.  Set aside the remaining dressing.  If the noodles aren’t to be used for a while, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate to allow the flavors to develop.
  3. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the snow peas, and cook them until they are bright green, about 20-30 seconds. Remove them with tongs or a strainer, and rinse them with cool water.  Cut them into long, thin strips, and set them aside.  Next, put the sprouts into the boiling water, and allow them to cook for about 30 seconds.  Pour them into a colander, rinse them with cold water, and lay them on a layer of paper towels to dry.
  4. If the noodles have been refrigerated, allow them to come to room temperature; then toss them with reserved dressing, as well as half of the sesame seeds.  Mound them in a wide bowl or on a platter, and distribute the snow peas, mung bean sprouts, and carrots over them. Garnish with the remaining sesame seeds and a few branches of cilantro.  Once served, guests can toss the noodles and vegetables together to thoroughly mingle the textures and flavors.

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