Habeas Brulee » Chinese Recipes http://habeasbrulee.com Sun, 17 Mar 2013 03:04:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.21 Chicken with Oyster Mushrooms, Portobellos, & Napa Cabbage http://habeasbrulee.com/2013/02/06/chicken-with-oyster-mushrooms-portobellos-napa-cabbage/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2013/02/06/chicken-with-oyster-mushrooms-portobellos-napa-cabbage/#comments Thu, 07 Feb 2013 03:45:40 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/?p=771

I got the new Fuchsia Dunlop cookbook! Oh, come on, you know you’re jealous. It’s as delightful as the last few, but with more non-spicy recipes and simple home cooking. My celebrity crush on her remains undiminished.

As usual, even when testing a recipe from a new cookbook I couldn’t leave well enough alone. We made a larger batch, added the cabbage to increase the veg:meat ratio and the Sichuan peppercorn for a bit of tingle, increased the relative quantity of ginger, and made a few other tweaks here and there.

It feels a bit strange to stir-fry without any soy sauce at all, but I think that’s what allows all the flavors to come through so clearly and intensely, and the dish as a whole is wonderfully delicious.

Chicken with Oyster Mushrooms, Portobellos, & Napa Cabbage
(adapted from Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop)
3 skinless chicken breasts (~1.5 lbs without the bone), thinly sliced
~1 lb mushrooms (we used 2 big portobellos and 3 big oyster mushrooms), thinly sliced
1 small head garlic (about 6 large cloves), thinly sliced
about the same quantity ginger, thinly sliced
1 napa cabbage (a bit on the small side), cored, quartered, and sliced into ~1/4″ thick pieces
safflower oil (or any other neutral oil with a high smoke point)
2 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
more salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
for the marinade
1 tsp salt
4 tsp Shaoxing rice wine (plus more for deglazing the wok, later on)
4 tsp corn starch
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground Sichuan peppercorn

1. Prep all ingredients as described above.

2. Stir the chicken in with the marinade ingredients and set aside.

3. Heat your wok, then swirl in some oil. Stir-fry the sliced mushrooms – forget everything you know about stir-frying in small batches and crowd the pan, letting the mushrooms wilt down as their moisture boils away until all their water is gone and they saute in the oil that remains. Remove the mushrooms from the wok and set aside.

4. Let the wok heat up again, and swirl in some more oil. Stir-fry the shredded cabbage (again, just let it fill the wok -you’re more wilting than frying it, and that’s okay) until slightly softened and reduced to about half its previous volume. Remove the cabbage from the wok and set aside.

5. Spread chicken out in wok, ideally in a single layer. Leave it alone until it’s nicely browned on the bottom. Patience, darlings, patience.

6. Once the chicken is seared on the bottom, stir in the sliced garlic and ginger, then stir-fry until the chicken is fully cooked.

7. Deglaze with a good splash of Shaoxing rice wine and scrape up all that tasty stuff from the bottom of the wok.

8. Stir the mushrooms and cabbage back in, along with the sliced scallion greens and the additional 1 tsp salt.

9. Season to taste. (I definitely like to add more black pepper at this point, at least.)

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Farmhouse Pork with Black Beans and Green Peppers (and Trotter Gear) http://habeasbrulee.com/2011/03/19/farmhouse-pork-with-black-beans-and-green-peppers-and-trotter-gear/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2011/03/19/farmhouse-pork-with-black-beans-and-green-peppers-and-trotter-gear/#comments Sun, 20 Mar 2011 02:08:05 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/?p=517

God, look at those charred peppers! They’re the long, vaguely gnarly, kinda slender but not really, fairly spicy but not very, probably Italian ones I find at my local organic Korean grocery store. I love them with a deep and abiding love. Dave, however, is pretty sure that nightshades give him stomachaches, so I don’t get to cook with them very much lately.

He’s out of town for a conference this weekend, and I was trying to make up for missing him by cooking delicious foods that he can’t eat. This tasty, spicy, black bean sauce pork dish was perfect!

I find that I’m losing my interest in refined food lately. I don’t want to deal with the tiny dabs of sauces and careful presentations. My photography oomph is being taken over by marketing photos for my glass work, and I’m less interested in taking the time to arrange careful photos of my food. But I still love variety in my food, and I’m still particularly in love with Chinese cuisine. I actually just read Fuschia Dunlop’s memoir, and now I’m even more hopeful of managing to come to like more of the unfamiliarly textured foods I mostly shy away from nowadays.

But peasant food doesn’t have to be boring or bland. The peppers are vivid here in flavor as well as in heat. I raised the proportion of fermented black beans because I love their intensity, and I threw in an ice cube of the trotter gear I made with trotters and pig tails from Bobolink farm according to Fergus Henderson’s recipe, which calls for intense homemade chicken stock as a building block for building that tasty building block.

I’ve come to prefer peasant food, sure, but my peasant food is damn good.

2008: Kumquat Marmalade
2007: Chewy Maple Cookies
2006: Cocoa Nib and Currant Rugelach

Farmhouse Pork with Black Beans and Green Peppers (and Trotter Gear)
(adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuschia Dunlop)
9 oz long Italian green hot frying peppers
2 oz pork belly
14 oz pork tenderloin
1 tsp shaoxing wine
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fermented black beans, rinsed and coarsely chopped
corn starch
Optional: 1 ice cube worth of trotter gear (recipe below; needs to be made way in advance if you plan to use it here)

Thinly slice the meats against the grain and place into separate bowls.

Stir the sliced pork tenderloin (or other lean pork) with the soy sauces, shaoxing, and a good hefty sprinkling of corn starch, and set aside.

Cut off and discard the stems of the peppers, then slice them at an angle into oval-ish rounds about 1 1/4″ long and 1/4″ wide. Keep the seeds and ribs – as Dunlop aptly points out, this is a peasant dish! Man, I love peasant dishes.

Prep the garlic and black beans as described in the ingredients list.

Heat your wok until it is nearly smoking and feels like a radiator with your hand a couple inches above the bottom. Swirl in some oil, then stir-fry the peppers in batches as needed until they get a nice tasty bit of char to them. Pour them out into a bowl and set aside.

Wipe any pepper seeds remaining out of the wok and return it to the heat, swirling in some more oil.

Add the pork belly and stir-fry until it’s lightly browned (and not necessarily fully cooked), then stir in the garlic and black beans and fry for just a moment until they’re gorgeously fragrant.

Add the lean pork and stir-fry until mostly done, then return the green peppers to the wok and keep going until everything looks totally done.

Shove everything in the wok out up the sides, and toss an ice cube of trotter gear into the bottom to melt it. When it’s melted, stir everything else back down in with it until hot and melded, then remove from the heat and serve with lots of rice and perhaps some sort of nice, sweet-ish tofu as a second entree.

Trotter Gear
(adapted from Fergus Henderson)
3 trotters (pigs’ feet) (I threw in some pig tails, too)
2 red onions, halved
2 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 leeks, coarsely chopped
1 head garlic
2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup Madeira or other sweet wine
Chicken stock to cover (about 1 quart) (ideally the homemade good stuff)

If your trotters or tails are a bit bristly (and sometimes they are), shave them. A disposable razor works wonders, and it’s very straightforward. Sort of comfortably homey, even. No shaving cream, though, please.

Put all the solid ingredients into a pot. Pour in the madeira or wine, and then add enough chicken stock to cover all the stuff in there. (Homemade chicken stock really is best. We condense our chicken stock down to fit into our freezer and then often use it condensed, so this was some pretty intense stuff to begin with.)

Bring to an almost-boil, and then simmer for 3ish hours, until the trotters/tails are “very wobbly” and the meat is falling off the bone (or easily pierced by a chopstick, or whatever measure you tend to like for this sort of thing).

Take the trotters (and tails!) out of the pot and put on a cutting board. Strain the stock and set aside.

Pull all the meat, flesh, skin, tendons, and other wobbly bits off the bones. Discard the bones. If you missed any hairy bits, just pull those bits off and throw them away too. But keep all those weird, gross looking wobbly bits – they are the magic here.

Chop your meat and skin and wobbly bits and such sort of medium finely – not a superfine mince or something, but more along the lines of pieces around the size of a pinky fingernail that’s been trimmed down to the quick. (Not the pig’s. Yours.)

Stir your chopped up wobbly mess back into the stock.

Set up a few ice cube trays lined with plastic wrap, and portion out the wobbly-bit-filled stock into ice cubes of meaty goodness. Freeze. Once they’re frozen, store them in your freezer in a big ziplock bag of meaty chunks. Add them to fried rice, to finish other stir-fries and sauces, soups, what-have-you. Instant tasty umami injection!

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Black Pepper Tofu with Pork http://habeasbrulee.com/2011/03/07/black-pepper-tofu-with-pork/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2011/03/07/black-pepper-tofu-with-pork/#comments Mon, 07 Mar 2011 16:42:26 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/?p=506

Dear people who live in or visit London,

Have you stopped by Ottolenghi yet? You should. It is a happy place that makes people happy. I spent about 2 hours fighting through insane crowds and delayed buses to get there during a London tube strike once (not counting the time spent flying across the pond and back, of course), and it was worth it. (Though to be fair, partially for the adventure and nearby chocolate shop.)

In other news, we made a modified version of Ottolenghii’s black pepper tofu, modified for us carnivores who keep Momofuku-style pickled chilies in our fridge, just in case. Though the black pepper is incredibly spicy all on its own, no chilies needed, which I’ve never experienced before playing with this recipe. And I’m really learning to love tofu in spicy dishes. It’s absolutely marvelous!

My apologies for the terrible photography. We made this dish while my mother was borrowing my good camera, so this is the iPhone Hipstamatic version of food blogging instead. It’s hardly ideal, but it’s better than failing to get my version of the recipe out to you.

2008: Shredded Burdock Root
2007: Lamb Kofta with Apricot Sauce

Black Pepper Tofu with Pork
(adapted from Ottolenghi)
800g (1.75 lbs) firm tofu
Corn starch, to dust the tofu
454g (1 lb) ground pork
3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
3 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
Safflower [or some other neutral] oil, for frying
65g (~4.5 tbsp) butter
12 small shallots (~350g), peeled and thinly sliced
12 garlic cloves, crushed and then minced
3 tbsp minced ginger
5 tbsp crushed (or very coarsely ground) black peppercorns
16 small, thin scallions, cut into segments 3cm (~1″) long
Optional garnish: sliced pickled chilies (recipe below)

1. Stir the pork in with the soy sauces and sugar and set aside.

2. Cut the tofu into cubes (3cm x 2cm, or about 1″ x 1/2″) and toss them in corn starch, shaking off the excess.

3. Heat your wok until it starts to smoke and feels like a radiator with your hand held a few inches above the bottom, then pour in enough oil to really coat the bottom in a thin pool. Fry the tofu in batches in the oil, turning the pieces as you go so that they’re golden and crispy on all sides. Once they are golden all around, and have a thin crust, transfer to a paper towel. It’s important to do this in batches, because if you overcrowd your pan the tofu will steam instead of frying and will never develop that wonderful crisp, dried texture.

4. Clean the oil and tofu bits out of your wok, then throw in the butter. Once the butter melts, add the shallots, garlic and ginger, and stir-fry until it’s all shiny and soft (should take about 15 minutes, but of course your mileage may vary).

5. Stir in pork once the shallots are soft.

6. Stir in the black pepper once the pork is pretty much cooked.

7. Stir in the tofu and keep going for just a minute until it’s thoroughly warmed up and coated in the sauce, then stir in the scallions and remove from heat.

8. Optionally, serve with sliced pickled chilies and a bit of their pickling liquid (recipe below). I really like the flavor and extra heat these offer. Though seriously, even without the extra pickled chili garnish, it was ridiculously spicy considering that all the heat came from just the black pepper, not chilies of any sort. Really tastily so. Serve with lots of rice.

Pickled chilies
(adapted from Momofuku)
1 C water, as hot as your tap can get (~120 degrees F in most American kitchens)
1/2 C rice wine vinegar
6 tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 C Thai birds-eye chilies (or other small (less than 2″ long) chilies)

Combine the water, vinegar, sugar, and salt, stirring them until the sugar dissolves.

Wear gloves when handling chilies, please. Just rinse them off and remove any stems if you feel fussy. You can slice them however you like when you actually use them later on. I like using green Thai chilies, because I enjoy their flavor and the green ones are supposedly spicier than the red ones. Really, use whatever makes you happy, and it’ll turn out just fine.

Pack the chilies into some sort of fringe-friendly, long-term-storage-friendly container (tupperware or mason jars), and pour the brine over them to cover. Stick them in your fridge for at least a few days. They’ll last approximately forever, to make every day a happy spicy vinegary day.

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Spicy Shrimp with Wine Rice http://habeasbrulee.com/2010/05/03/spicy-shrimp-with-wine-rice/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2010/05/03/spicy-shrimp-with-wine-rice/#comments Tue, 04 May 2010 03:48:46 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/?p=456

Perhaps you’ve perused the fridge at Kam Man or some other Chinatown grocery store and seen jars of this crazy awesome mushy liquid that looks like rotting rice in cloudy water. It’s sweet and boozy, a tasty precursor to more refined sakes. You can brew your own using Chinese wine balls (actually, yeast balls), but personally, I just buy it by the jar.

This recipe was adapted from Ken Hom, who has become my go-to source for quick and easy weeknight dinners. (I can’t believe I’m writing this. Since when do I prioritize quick and easy? Honestly, I still don’t, but once in a while when we get home late it really is nice to be able to throw something together in a rush.)

I’ve never eaten anything else like this. That’s really the point. It tastes almost as alcoholic as Dave’s chocolate mousse, with that gorgeously savory spiciness from the chili bean paste. Dave (my partner) is trying to avoid nightshades nowadays, which didn’t stop me from making a whole batch of this to eat myself over the next week. So worth it, even for me alone.

2008: Rhubarb Soup with Nicoise Olive Cookies
2007: Sour Cherry Braised Lamb Shanks
2006: Pear and Basil Tart

Spicy Shrimp with Wine Rice
(adapted from Chinese Technique by Ken Hom)
1 lb ground pork
1 lb large unshelled shrimp
kosher salt
safflower/peanut/canola oil
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 tbsp minced garlic
4 dried birdseye peppers, crushed
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 C thinly sliced scallions (circles of the green parts only)
for the marinade
2 tbsp shaoxing
1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
for the sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp shaoxing
1 tsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp chili bean paste (I use Lee Kum Kee brand Chili Bean Sauce (Toban Djan))
1/2 C chicken stock
1 1/2 C fermented wine rice

1. Mix the ground pork with the marinade ingredients and set aside.

2. Devein the shrimp, but leave the shells on; you can just slice through the shells easily when deveining.

3. Here’s the trick for making sure the shrimp are nice and crunchy instead of mushy – stir in 1 tsp kosher salt and let sit for 1 minute. Rinse with cold water. Repeat two more times (three salt/rinse cycles, total), then pat dry.

4. Heat your wok until it feels like a hot radiator with your palm 2-3 inches above the bottom, then add about 3 tbsp safflower oil and swirl it around to coat the inside of the wok. When it’s almost smoking again, add the shrimp and stir-fry until they are opaque. Remove from wok and set aside.

5. Add a bit more oil to the wok, maybe 2 tbsp or so, then stir-fry the ginger, garlic, and crushed birdseye chilis for a minute, until fragrant.

6. Add the ground pork and stir-fry until it no longer looks raw.

7. Add the sauce ingredients and stir thoroughly as it boils for a minute or two.

8. Add the shrimp and cook for a moment longer, then turn off the heat and stir in the sesame oil and scallions.

9. Serve with rice.

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Stir-fried Pork with Pattypan Squash and Garlic Scapes http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/08/08/stir-fried-pork-with-pattypan-squash-and-garlic-scapes/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/08/08/stir-fried-pork-with-pattypan-squash-and-garlic-scapes/#comments Wed, 08 Aug 2007 18:00:37 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/08/08/stir-fried-pork-with-pattypan-squash-and-garlic-scapes/

My wok has been yearning for seasonal vegetables. Since my bedroom door opens right into the kitchen, I can hear the wok at night, crying for fresh foods soon to go out of season and disappear until next spring.

I can’t sleep with a crying wok just a few yards away from my head. Something had to be done.

Okay, I confess: What really happened is that I told Dave that I wanted to make a quick ‘n easy stir-fry for dinner. He went out shopping and came back with all these wonderful colorful pattypan squashes and a bag of twistytasty garlic scapes. I think it was his idea of a compromise – I like pattypan squash more than he does, but garlic scapes are his favorite vegetable, bar none. He did all the chopping, then handed the bowls of ingredients over to me.

I’m generally the one who does all stir-frying at our place, as it turns out. He gets to do all deep-frying, and most of the broiling of steaks. I tend to bake cookies, he tends to bake breads. It’s been fascinating to see how we delineate kitchen tasks over time. For those of you who share a kitchen with a partner, do you split up areas of cooking like this, too?

I love the layered timing of stir-frying. I love the fast terror of it. I like to tell people that if they’re not afraid when stir-frying, they probably have the heat down too low. Be afraid! Revel in the adrenaline rush of cooking your dinner!

I love the different textures of the elements in this dish. I cooked the pork fairly rare, so it remained very tender. The scapes were just on the good side of the line between crisp and woody. The squash was tender and crisp all at once, a middle ground between the other two main ingredients.

With good ingredients, everything here is so flavorful that it just doesn’t need much in the way of seasonings to bring it to life. After all, it’s basically early summer on a plate. (Shh, it still feels like early summer to me, since garlic scapes have been available so late in the season.) Which makes it the perfect entry for La Festa Al Fresco 2007.

Stir-fried Pork with Pattypan Squash and Garlic Scapes
Safflower oil (peanut or canola oil would be fine instead)
4 cloves garlic, minced
An equivalent quantity of ginger, grated
1/2 lb pork tenderloin, cut into bite-sized chunks
3-4 medium pattypan squash, coarsely chopped
A large handful of chopped garlic scapes (about 1″-2″ inches long)
Shaoxing rice wine
Dark Chinese soy sauce
Sesame oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat up your wok until it starts to smoke. Do not be afraid, and do not turn down the heat. Add in some of the safflower oil and swirl it around to cover the bottom. Throw in the garlic and ginger and stir-fry quickly for just a moment, until the scent of them hits you.

Add the pork in one layer and walk away for a minute to let it brown. Really, get away from the wok and let it work its magic. Then go back and stir-fry until the pork is browned and mostly cooked. Remove the pork and set it aside.

Add in a touch more oil if necessary, then add the garlic scapes and stir-fry until they are dark green and somewhat charred. Remove and set them aside.

Again, add a little more oil if you must, then add the squash and stir-fry it until it, too, just barely starts to char. Each step should take you a very short time.

Once the squash is ready, stir the pork and scapes back in. Add a splash of Shaoxing and a smaller splash of dark Chinese soy sauce, and stir-fry for a moment. Turn off the heat, and stir in a drizzle of sesame oil.

Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and serve with rice or somen.

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Baby Lion’s Head Meatballs http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/04/11/baby-lions-head-meatballs/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/04/11/baby-lions-head-meatballs/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2007 11:21:38 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/04/11/baby-lions-head-meatballs/

The best thing about these meatballs is the coating. Each meatball is dipped into a coating made of stock, dark soy sauce, and cornstarch, then seared until nicely brown before being braised further. The seared layer of soy sauce coating each meatball is a tremendous burst of flavor, and absolutely makes the dish for me.

The name Lion’s Head comes from the story that the meatballs are supposed to look like, well, lions’ heads, with the bok choy being the lions’ wavy manes. I must admit, to me they just look like dinner. Still, as I would rather find dinner in my kitchen than a pack of lions, that is quite all right with me.

To be honest, this time I am perhaps even prouder of the bowl than I am of the food. As I mentioned in my last post, Dave and I have been taking a glassblowing class, and we’ve been making some pieces that I think are pretty good. I created the bowl you see pictured in this post, and I think the angle of it is just right for serving some sort of amuse bouche. I may have to make a set of angled bowls at some point.

It’s an addictive hobby, working with hot glass is, so don’t be surprised if you see many more of my meals being served in dishes which we’ve made from now on.

The recipe below mostly comes from Barbara Tropp, but I mixed in some inspiration from Martin Yan, and made further changes of my own to create the version I’ve posted here.

Baby Lion’s Head Meatballs
For the meatballs
1 1/4 lbs. ground pork
1 1/2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1/4 C everday or chicken stock
2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp kosher salt (or any coarse salt)
2 tbsp dried tiny shrimp
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
For coating the meatballs
1 tbsp everyday or chicken stock
1 tbsp Chinese dark soy sauce
1 tbsp corn starch
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the rest of the dish
1 1/2 lbs. baby bok choy
Shaoxing rice wine
About 2 C everyday or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Reconstitute the dried tiny shrimp in hot water for about half an hour. You can find these in any dried foods or seafood shop in Chinatown. They smell pretty strong, but they don’t really add a fishy flavor to the final dish, just an extra dose of umami. They’re often used in dumpling fillings for precisely that purpose. If you can’t find them, try substituting something else that adds umami, like meaty mushrooms of some sort.

Rinse the baby bok choy, dry it as best you can, and set it aside.

Mince the reconstituted shrimp, then mix together all the ingredients for the meatballs.

(Note: Chinese everyday stock is a pork and chicken stock. It is very tasty, and very convenient for everyday use. If you don’t have any around, chicken stock really will do just as well. Worry not.)

In a separate bowl, mix together the ingredients for the meatball coating.

Create the meatballs one at a time, rolling about 2-3 tbsp of meat stuff into a ball, then coat it in the coating and place it on a plate.

Once all the meatballs are created, coated, and set aside, start heating up your wok. Once the wok is hot, swirl in enough oil to coat the bottom. Stir fry the baby bok choy in batches (you want it to fry, not steam, after all), just for a few moments, then add a bit of salt and pepper and a dash of Shaoxing to each batch in turn, and remove them to the pot you will be using to braise the final dish.

That being done, swirl a bit more oil into your wok and sear the meatballs, flipping them with tongs, until they are browned all around. Remove them to the pot as well.

You want the pot arranged such that about half of the bok choy is below the meatballs, and the rest lie atop them.

Pour the stock into the pot over the rest, adding more salt and pepper if you like. Remember that Shaoxing and soy sauce are both salty, and be wary of oversalting if you add any more at this point. The stock should come up about halfway up the rest of the ingredients. Turn the heat on low under the pot, and let it come up to a simmer. Continue to let it simmer, covered, for about an hour, and then it is ready to serve.

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Sweet and Sour Lotus Root http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/02/05/sweet-and-sour-lotus-root/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/02/05/sweet-and-sour-lotus-root/#comments Mon, 05 Feb 2007 12:30:08 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/02/05/sweet-and-sour-lotus-root/

Actually, it’s a rhizome. But never mind that.

I ordered sweet and sour lotus root at a restaurant not too long ago, and it was my favorite dish of the evening. Naturally, I tried to replicate it at home the very next day.

I looked at the wildly different recipes in Fuschia Dunlop’s two cookbooks, one giving the Sichuan version of this dish, and the other the Hunan version. My version uses elements from both of hers, combined with my memory of what I had tasted when ordering it at Grand Szechuan on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan, and my general technique for stir-frying (and trying to avoid deep-frying when it’s too cold out to open the kitchen windows).

The lotus root remains crisp when lightly fried, and somewhat sweet. It loses its starchiness when cooked. The sauce is a fairly straightforward sweet and sour sauce, just thick enough to perfectly coat each slice of lotus root. As you make it, feel free to adjust the vinegar and/or sugar to taste to achieve the right balance of sweet and sour for your palate.

I find this delicately beautiful and tasty dish to be utterly addictive, which is a good thing, considering how much lotus root is sitting on my counter right now, waiting to be used.

Sweet and Sour Lotus Root
2/3 lb. lotus root, or 2 sections
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp granulated sugar
4 tsp Chinkiang vinegar (balsamic vinegar makes a decent substitute, if need be)
3 3/4 tsp corn starch
3/4 C chicken stock
1 dried Chinese chili (the slender, pointed sort that come about 2″ long)
2 tsp finely chopped ginger
2 tsp finely chopped garlic
3 scallions, only the green parts, finely chopped
Sesame oil to taste

Peel the lotus root and slice it into 1/8″ thick slices. Put the slices in a bowl of lightly salted room-temperature water while you’re preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Create a slurry of the salt, sugar, vinegar, corn starch, and a spoonful of the chicken stock. The idea here is to whisk the corn starch well with the other ingredients so that it does not get lumpy later on.

Remove the lotus root slices from the water and pat them dry.

Heat your wok until it just starts to smoke, then swirl in enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Stir-fry the lotus root slices until they almost begin to brown, but not quite – they will turn a bit more translucent and taste less starchy when they are done. It really does help to do this in smaller batches. As they cook, remove them to a plate covered in paper towels to drain.

Once all the lotus root slices are fried and set aside, throw the single chili into the oil, along with the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for a moment, until fragrant, then add the chicken stock and, immediately afterwards, the slurry you created earlier. Stir the sauce as it boils and thickens.

When the sauce is thick, remove from heat and stir in the lotus root slices and the scallions, and, if you like, sesame oil to taste.

Serve with rice and several other dishes for a family-style feast.

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Stir-Fried String Beans with Pork and Pork http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/25/stir-fried-string-beans-with-pork-and-pork/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/25/stir-fried-string-beans-with-pork-and-pork/#comments Thu, 25 Jan 2007 13:02:07 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/25/stir-fried-string-beans-with-pork-and-pork/

What do you do with leftover string beans sitting in your fridge? Start craving a stir-fry, perhaps. That could be the answer. Start poring through your favorite Chinese cookbooks, such as The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore by Grace Young.

Find a recipe for a dry-fried string beans and ground pork. Realize that you have no ground pork in the fridge, and you really don’t feel like going out again tonight.

Think about alternative ways of adding porkishness to the beans.

Suddenly remember the tin can full of bacon grease that lives in your freezer, growing more full every time you render the fat from bacon to make chowder and pour off most of it into the can.

Run out of stir-fried bacon grease string beans before everyone can get seconds, and then realize that everyone wants seconds, including you.

Think about making this dish again.

Try following the recipe a bit more closely next time. No bacon grease. Ground pork, though somewhat more than the recipe calls for. It’s good, but it lacks porkishness.

Realize that bacon grease is actually key.

Make the recipe a third time. Bacon grease, in smaller quantity than the oil the recipe actually calls for. About eight times as much ground pork as it calls for, and increased quantities of some of the seasonings as well.

Munch away, watching your estimated leftover portions diminish.

Figure you’ve finally got it right.

Stir-Fried String Beans with Pork and Pork
(adapted from The Breath of a Wok: Unlocking the Spirit of Chinese Wok Cooking Through Recipes and Lore by Grace Young)
1 tbsp bacon grease
1 lb string beans (a/k/a green beans)
1 lb ground pork
4 tbsp minced or grated ginger
1/2 C chicken stock
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp finely chopped scallions

Heat your wok until it feels like a hot radiator with your palm 2-3 inches above the bottom, then add the bacon grease and swirl it around as it melts. Add half the beans, reduce the heat to medium, then stir-fry them until they develop some nice pan char (brown spots) and begin to wrinkle. Remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside, then add the rest of the beans and do the same.

With all the beans fried and set aside, add the ginger and ground pork to the wok. Break the pork up into smaller pieces with your spatula, then distract yourself for a minute or so and leave it alone to brown a bit. Once the meat has had that moment to develop its deliciousness, stir-fry in earnest until the pork is no longer pink.

Stir in the chicken stock, salt, and sugar, and bring to a boil. Stir in the beans, and continue to boil until the liquids are reduced by half. If you like, you can throw in some corn starch at this point to thicken further what sauce remains.

Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar, sesame oil, and scallions.

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Stewed Garlicky Black Bean Spare Ribs http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/18/stewed-garlicky-black-bean-spare-ribs/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/18/stewed-garlicky-black-bean-spare-ribs/#comments Thu, 18 Jan 2007 15:12:00 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2007/01/18/stewed-garlicky-black-bean-spare-ribs/

I’m sorry, we ate the stewed spare ribs up so fast, all I have left to show you are the bones.

Okay, okay, fine.

I saved a bowl for you.

The ribs were lusciously tender, the meat quite literally falling off the bones in the pot. That’s what hours of slow braising in a sand pot will do for you. The sauce thickened until it practically merged with the meat, and it was hard to tell where pig ended and bean sauce began. I want to say that they had a smoky quality, but they didn’t, really. It’s just the only way I can think to express how hearty and toothsome and sweetly meaty they were.

Eating them was an exercise in pure tomfoolery. This would be a great dish to serve to kids right before bathtime, or, well, to people like me. To manage these ribs, you have to just dive in and eat with your hands, sucking each rib clean of meat and sauce before plunking the bone into the bone bowl and picking up the next. Nothing says fine dining like licking your fingers clean before heading to the bathroom to pick shreds of fermented black bean out from under your nails.

Stewed Garlicky Black Bean Spare Ribs
(adapted, with only tiny changes, from The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking by Barbara Tropp)
2 – 2 1/4 lbs lean, meaty spare ribs (weighed after removing extraneous fat and bone), cut into 1-2″ nuggets
2 tbsp corn oil
1 dried facing heaven chili, seeds removed, crushed
4 tbsp thinly sliced scallions
3 1/2 tbsp fermented black beans, lightly rinsed and coarsely chopped
6 large cloves of garlic, stem end (and any inner green bits) removed, peeled and lightly smashed
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 C water

This recipe is best made in advance, seeing as how it involves slow braising, followed by a chilling period in order to degrease before eating. It reheats beautifully, the flavors just melding together even moreso by the next day.

I made this in a Chinese sand pot, but you can use any heavy bottomed pot you like.

Try to convince your butcher to saw the ribs into shorter nuggets for you. You can do it at home with a heavy meat cleaver, but it will be loud, difficult, and result in terrifying bone shards. I used 2″ long pieces because that’s what I found at the store, and it just wasn’t worth the bother to cut them down further than that. Divide the rack into individual ribs by slicing the meat between the bones.

Heat up your wok until it is just starting to steam, then swirl enough oil in to coat the bottom and partially up the sides. Add the scallions and crushed chili and stir-fry for just a moment, until fragrant. Then add the ribs and just brown them on all sides before removing them to a bowl to set a side. Work in batches if necessary (with a typical home kitchen sized wok, it will be).

Pour a bit of the water into the wok and scrape up any tasty browned bits that have stuck to the bottom, then pour it into the sand pot, along with all the other seasonings and the ribs themselves. Stir the contents of the pot to mix things up properly.

A sand pot, like any other clay pot, must be treated gently. Never heat or cool it down too quickly, or it will break. Put it on a cold stove and make sure it has some liquid in it before you turn the heat on under it. Turn the heat on to the lowest setting, and heat the pot gently. You can raise the heat further later on, but this must be done slowly. You will probably find that after a certain point, you have to keep reducing the heat to keep the stew at a simmer rather than a boil. Once the pot is hot, don’t put it on a cold trivet without letting it cool down slowly first.

Note: If you are not using a sand pot, brown the ribs in the pot you intend to use and just throw everything else in after them once they are browned.

Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until the ribs are tender and done. This should take about 3-5 hours. (Tropp says 45 minutes. This contradicts all experience I have with braising. It is, in a word, bullshit. Braising to true tenderness takes hours. Unless there’s a secret trick I don’t know, in which case, please clue me in!)

Once the ribs are done, separate the ribs into one bowl and the sauce to another. If you have a nifty degreaser, use it. If, like me, you do not, put everything in the fridge for a few hours (or overnight) until the fat has risen to the top and solidified such that it is easy to remove. Degrease and recombine the sauce and ribs to reheat before serving.

Remember to suck the bones clean as you eat!

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Stir-Fried Clams with Black Bean Sauce http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/19/stir-fried-clams-with-black-bean-sauce/ http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/19/stir-fried-clams-with-black-bean-sauce/#comments Sun, 19 Nov 2006 22:05:58 +0000 http://habeasbrulee.com/2006/11/19/stir-fried-clams-with-black-bean-sauce/

I keep seeing these tiny, adorable clams in the Chinatown fishmarkets whenever I’m out shopping around there. They live in vast bins, not far from the live frogs and periwinkles that I keep meaning to learn how to prepare.

I have this thing about eating cute things. I like doing it. If I see something adorable and edible, I want nothing more than to pop it into my mouth. These clams were no exception. I wanted to cook them and eat them from miniature plates with a miniature fork, which is exactly what I did.

When I took them home and opened the bag to wash the clams, these two fell out locked in their tight embrace.

Stir-Fried Clams with Black Bean Sauce
Oil for frying
2 leeks, sliced into thin rounds and washed carefully
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp chopped ginger
4 birdeye peppers, ground
4 tbsp preserved black beans, rinsed and squished a bit with a fork
2 1/2 lbs. tiny clams, washed carefully
1 C chicken stock
2 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp light soy sauce
3 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
3 scallions, chopped (only the green parts)
1 tsp sesame oil

Heat your wok until it you can feel the heat radiating off of it with your palm held several inches above the bottom. Pour in enough oil to swirl around and coat the bottom of your wok.

Add the leeks and stir-fry until brown, then remove them from the pan.

Add a little more oil if necessary. Throw in the ginger, garlic, and ground birdseye peppers and stir-fry for about thirty seconds, or until their fragrance really comes out. Add the beans and stir fry for just a moment, then add the clams, stock, soy sauces, and wine and cover the pan for a few minutes, until many of the clams open. Remove the cover, and remove the open clams. Stir-fry until the rest of the clams that will open do, removing them as they open. When that’s done, return all the clams to the pan and stir-fry just a bit to warm them up again.

Turn off the heat, and stir in the scallions and sesame oil.

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