mustard seeds and pork belly buns

pork bun

I got the Momofuku cookbook for my birthday! To break it in, we had some friends over to dinner and I made a bunch of things out of it: pork belly ssäm, pickled mustard seed sauce with pickled cucumbers (recipe below), sweet corn with miso butter, and steamed buns. Well, the buns were my own favorite bao recipe, but I shaped them based on David Chang’s process, folded over into little pockets before steaming, and it worked great. The sauce was killer. The salty-sweet roasted pork belly wasn’t bad either. There were very few leftovers. Continue reading

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pickled lotus root

Recently being in the odd position of having two leftover nodules of lotus root lurking in my fridge (H-Mart sells them in large packs, as it turns out), I looked through all my books for something to do with them besides just tossing them into a stirfry.  A recipe in China Moon
for pickled lotus root jumped out at me, as China Moon recipes tend to do.

Lotus root is a wonderful vegetable – like water chestnut, it stays crunchy no matter how much you cook it, and it has a very mild flavor that works with all sorts of things. Plus it’s really cool looking. I don’t get to cook with it very often, so I definitely didn’t want to let any of this batch go to waste. Pickling seemed like the perfect solution. Continue reading

street food party

Supper club is back, and we really had a great theme this time – street food! We could easily repeat this theme every year and have a completely different dinner.

borek//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

I made a variant of Turkish borek. This was the second version of borek that I’ve tried, from the cookbook Turquoise by Greg Malouf (a beautiful and inspiring cookbook, btw, but somewhat undependable in the ingredient lists and index). Both used the same yogurt and butter rough puff pastry (yum), but the first batch had a filling of steamed squash, herbs and feta. It was good but very subtle, so for the actual supper club I made a lamb and pine nut filling (the same one I use for my lamb pizza) and it worked very well. These guys are dense and rich and kind of a lot of work but well worth playing around with. Continue reading

dim sum

barbecued pork

For Sunday lunch this weekend there was a small Supper Club get-together for dim sum. After two hours of dumplings, pork and Asian beer we were all ready to sleep the rest of the afternoon away. We started with char siu pork, which was made in a rotisserie and tasted great (and made me covetous of the rotisserie – why do I not have one of these?) There was some sinus-clearing hot mustard and a homemade plum sauce to go with it.

pork hum bao

I made my favorite hum bao recipe, stuffed with Sichuan-style pork and bean sprouts. We ate quite a lot of these.

lettuce wraps with rice and oyster mushrooms

There was a lettuce wrap filled with rice, oyster mushrooms and kimchi, with a black bean dipping sauce – a really nice, fresh presentation.

sticky rice (steamed in a banana leaf) and half a bao

And sticky rice with water chestnuts, steamed in banana leaves (this course was almost forgotten entirely, we had so much other food).

pork meatballs

I missed getting photos of the vegetable-tofu dumplings or the mushroom wontons, but there were also these lovely little spiced pork meatballs, coated in rice and steamed. They were fantastic – they made me wish I hadn’t eaten quite so many bao.

We’re going to have to do another dim sum party – we ate ourselves silly but barely scratched the surface of possible recipes. What shall we make next time?

Hunanese salted chiles (and a very good tofu recipe)

red chiles

red chiles

I haven’t had much experience with curing, souring or fermenting things at home – I tried making preserved lemons once but it didn’t work particularly well – and it’s something I’ve been wanting to learn more about. Hunanese salted chiles, a key ingredient in the cookbook I’ve been working through, sounded like a good way to ease into things – sort of a lazy girl’s kim chee. It’s nothing but chiles and salt, does not need special attention or preserving techniques, and is very good to eat. It ages for two weeks in a cool place – I just stuck the jar on a pantry shelf in my basement, which stays near 55° all winter – then keeps indefinitely in the fridge. Although I can tell our jar of chiles isn’t going to have the opportunity to stick around very long.

salted chiles

It really is a simple recipe. The hardest part by far was actually getting hold of a pound of ripe red chiles in the middle of winter. We had to wait until we made a trip to the produce section of Uwajimaya in Seattle, where they had an excellent selection of what they called “red jalapeños” but most stores just refer to as Fresno chiles. They’re not an extremely spicy pepper but they’re very sweet and fruity, and all these flavors really came out in the preserving process. The final product is actually quite spicy, but also sweet and surprisingly silky in the mouth. I think they’re wonderful – hot, sour, salty and sweet, all in one condiment. This will become a pantry staple for us.

chiles and salt

Hunanese chopped salted chiles

from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuchsia Dunlop

  • 1 lb fresh red chiles
  • 1/4 cup salt

Cut off the stem and tip of each chile and coarsely chop them, including the seeds.

Combine the chopped chiles in a bowl with 3 ½ tbsp of the salt, mix well, place in a very clean glass jar and top with the remaining salt. Seal and put in a cool place for a couple of weeks before using, then refrigerate once opened. Will keep for months.

chiles two ways

What to do with the chiles once they’re done? As far as I can tell, anything that you would use either fresh chiles or chile paste for. I used them in place of fresh red chiles when I made red-braised tofu a couple of weeks ago, I threw a spoonful into a bowl of dan dan noodles, and last night I made a Hunanese dish of pork and tofu that really showcased the chiles.

I’ve made this recipe twice so far. The first time I didn’t have the salted chiles so I doubled the chile bean paste (as Dunlop suggests), and I used fresh shiitakes instead of dried. This time I did use dried mushrooms, and was frankly amazed at the flavor they gave to the sauce. I’ll need to keep dried shiitakes on hand from now on. And while the recipe was good with just the chile bean paste, it was worlds better with the salted chiles – more depth, sweetness, heat and just generally tastier. I nearly licked out the wok.

homestyle bean curd with pork

Homestyle Bean Curd

adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province by Fuchsia Dunlop

  • 2 dried shiitakes
  • 1 block tofu, cut into slices or cubes (whatever type of tofu you like – I only use silken these days)
  • 1 boneless pork loin chop, cut into thin slices
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing wine or sherry
  • 1 Tbsp chile bean paste
  • 1 Tbsp chopped salted chiles
  • 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 cup stock
  • 1/4 tsp soy sauce
  • spoonful of cornstarch mixed with two spoonfuls of cold water
  • 3 scallions
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • peanut oil or lard

Soak the mushrooms in hot water 30 minutes. Drain, remove the stems, and thinly slice.

Mix  the sliced pork with Shaoxing wine in a bowl. Set aside.

If you want the tofu to be a bit firmer, fry the slices until golden in a bit of peanut oil or lard. Set aside. I sometimes skip this step if I’m in the mood for soft-textured tofu.

Heat a bit of oil in a wok until very hot. Stir-fry the pork until the pieces separate, add the chile paste and salted chiles and stir well, then the garlic and mushrooms. Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the tofu and soy and bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook until it begins to thicken, then add the scallions and sesame oil. Serve with plenty of rice to soak up the sauce.

silken tofu

pork

red chiles

salted chiles

red cooked tofu

stewing

Our last trip to Seattle’s International District yielded a number of interesting ingredients, many of which I have yet to try. I did pull out the package of deep fried bean curd last week, and tried out another recipe from – can you guess? – Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook. It was extremely delicious, even though I have a feeling the fried tofu I bought somehow isn’t quite the right kind.

fried tofu

It was in the refrigerator case at Uwajimaya, next to the bean curd sheets. It seemed to be the right product until I opened it, but instead of puffs, the tofu was sort of in layers. It had a way cool chewy texture, though, and nice bean curd-y flavor. We were also really pleased with the sauce, which was completely simple to make and had a surprisingly rich taste, with lots of zing from the ginger and chile. It was rather soupy and made a delicious porridge in the bottom of our rice bowls. I totally want to do this again with the puffy tofu, if I can find it.

Also, this was our first foray into the jar of salted chiles I’ve had fermenting over the last couple of weeks. They were excellent – I’ll tell you more about them soon. You don’t need them for this recipe, though, it actually just calls for fresh hot chile.

red cooked fried tofu

Zhangguying red-braised bean curd puffs

Adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

Dunlop mentions that the recipe could be started by stir-frying pork slices in the wok before continuing with the other ingredients. I bet a little ground pork would be excellent here as well. But it makes a great meat-free meal.

  • 2-3 Tbsp lard or peanut oil
  • 9 oz deep fried bean curd puffs (or whatever kind of deep-fried tofu you can find)
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 inch ginger, sliced
  • 3 cups stock (I used homemade chicken stock)
  • soy sauce (to taste)
  • 1 fresh chile, sliced (I substituted a spoonful of salted chiles)
  • 5 scallions, cut into lengths
  • 1 tsp cornstarch and 2 tsp water

Cut the tofu into bite-size chunks. If it’s very oily, pat it a bit with paper towels.

Heat peanut oil or lard in a wok, add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry briefly, then pour in the stock. Bring to a boil and add some soy sauce and the tofu. Reduce and simmer gently for 5-10 minutes. Add the chile and scallions and cook for just a moment more. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl, bring the sauce in the wok to a full boil, and swirl in the cornstarch mixture. When the sauce has thickened slightly, remove from the heat and serve with rice or noodles.

kicking off the new year

winter sunwhitecaps

The past few days have all been surprisingly full of pork and sunshine – both very good things.

On Friday we went for a walk out at Washington Park near Anacortes. The sun was out but the wind was howling across the water and through the trees on the headland. It was fresh and deeply invigorating. We went home and made steamed bao, stewed kale and a pork roast marinated and braised with hoisin sauce, loads of garlic, scallion and ginger.

pork and greens and bao

Chinese-style pork

steamed bao

baowich

The pork was remarkably flavorful all the way through. We sliced it thinly and made little sandwiches with the pork and kale on sliced bao, with the sauce from the pork as a dipping jus. I may have eaten too much of this.

New Year’s Eve was Neapolitan-style pizza with friends, featuring spicy coppa and bits of leftover Christmas ham. We drank many bottles of Prosecco, Cava and homemade cider. I made onion dip and it turned out really, really well. A good time was had by all.

cassoulet

New Year’s Day is when we make cassoulet. I did a simple one, based on the version we learned at Duckfest. White beans, brined overnight then cooked with onion, bay, garlic and epices rabelais. Toulouse sausage from the Paris Grocery in Seattle, and a package of duck confit from our co-op. I got a great crust on it this year (still no breadcrumbs, mind you). A salad of baby arugula and a bottle of St Cosme made for a perfect, low-key evening.

Our fridge still seems to have a lot of pork in it.

vinegar chicken

vinegar chicken

Another recipe from the Hunan cookbook I’ve been working through. It was quite a lot blander than I had expected, with very little vinegar kick – maybe I need a rice vinegar with more oomph? But we’ve been trying to eat lightly during the week and this certainly fit the bill. One nice side product was the broth from poaching the chicken. Part of it went into the final stirfry, but I also used it to cook chard for a side dish, which made for wonderfully flavorful greens. I also froze some of it to use later.

This struck me as a good “gentle” dinner to make when you’re feeling a bit frail.

Dong’an chicken

from The Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

  • 4 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) or one small chicken cut into pieces
  • 2 inch piece ginger, cut in half
  • 3 scallions
  • 1 fresh hot chile
  • 3 dried chiles
  • 2 tsp Shaoxing wine or sherry
  • 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp whole Sichuan pepper  or Sichuan pepper oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp cornstarch stirred into 2 tsp cold water
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Bring a quart of water to a boil and add the chicken pieces, half the ginger and one scallion (lightly crushed). Reduce the heat to a simmer and poach 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the liquid and cool, then shred/cut into long pieces with the grain. It won’t quite be cooked through. You can add the bones and skin back into the poaching liquid to make stock.

Sliver the fresh chile and remaining ginger and scallions. Heat a spoonful of peanut oil, add the fresh and dried chiles, ginger, and Sichuan pepper and cook until fragrant but not burning. Add the chicken and stir-fry, splashing wine around the edges, then add the vinegar, Sichuan pepper oil (if using) and salt. Pour in a half cup or so of the poaching liquid. Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer. Add the cornstarch and scallions, cook briefly to thicken, finish with the sesame oil and serve with rice or noodles.

cumin beef

spices and aromatics

Another recipe from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, and this one is really a keeper. We were introduced to cumin lamb and beef at our old favorite (and much missed) Chinese restaurant Szechuan Bistro, and ordered it nearly every time we went there, but never tried to make it ourselves. Since the Greenwood arsonist burned the place down, we haven’t been able to get it anywhere locally. Now, well…I may not be able to reproduce their spicy green beans with tofu as yet, but at least I can have cumin beef. Any time I want!

sirloin

Part of why this was so successful was the beef. The recipe suggested sirloin, so I hunted out a package from the freezer, from our half-cow from Skagit Angus. All of the beef we’ve gotten from them has been spectacular, but this was particularly excellent – chewy but very very tender, with a full beef flavor and a nice amount of fat marbled throughout. One of the best tasting pieces of meat I’ve ever had. Dumping a lot of cumin and hot chiles on it didn’t hurt it at all, though.

We served this on Japanese-style white rice, with a lot of stir-fried kale on the side to cut the richness of the meat. I also used some of the leftover beef to make a sandwich with roasted peppers, which I can also recommend highly. God,  I’m making myself hungry.

Cumin Beef

adapted from the Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop

marinade:

  • 1 Tbsp Chinese rice wine
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt

stirfry:

  • 1 pound sirloin, cut into thin slices
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 hot green chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tsp dried chile flakes
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 scallions, finely sliced
  • sesame oil

Combine the beef in a bowl with the marinade ingredients and mix well.

Original recipe instruction: heat 2 cups of peanut oil in a wok to 275°. Add the beef and stir gently. As soon as the pieces have separated, removed them from othe oil and drain well. Set aside. Pour out all but a few spoonfuls of the oil.

What I did: put a wok over high heat and add 1/4 cup of peanut oil. Add the beef in batches, stirfrying briefly until it begins to color and the pieces separate. Remove from the wok and set aside. Add a spoonful or two of fresh oil to the pan.

Then: Bring the wok back up to high heat and add the ginger, garlic, chiles, chile flakes and cumin. Fry briefly until fragrant, then add all the beef back in and stir well. When it’s cooked as much as you want (I left my beef a little rare), add the scallions, pour in a bit of sesame oil and serve with rice.

chicken noodle stirfry

stirfried noodles

Last week, after Thanksgiving, I absconded with my father’s copy of Fuchsia Dunlop’s Hunanese cookbook. I gave it to him for Christmas last year but don’t have a copy myself, so I spent the holiday sighing over the recipes until he offered to let me borrow it for a while. Ha!

I adore Dunlop’s Sichuan cookbook and make stuff from it constantly, but I’ve been intrigued by the spicy, yet more subtle flavors of Hunan. Some of the recipes use pungent ingredients like preserved vegetables, fermented tofu and salted chiles, but many are very simple and lightly flavored with soy, rice wine and aromatics. It seemed like the perfect type of food to make in the inevitable detox weeks after Thanksgiving.

chicken noodle

The first thing I cooked, after we got home and I was feeling a bit frail, was this lovely chicken and mushroom stir-fry with rice noodles. The recipe called for dried shiitakes, which I don’t have, so I used the excellent fresh shiitakes that are grown locally. I was also delighted to find thin-cut chicken breasts at our Co-op, which made it easy to sliver the chicken. The dish was very good, full of vegetables, and refreshing after a long week of heavy eating, with just a little kick of spice to keep it interesting.

Stir-fried rice noodles with chicken and mushrooms

adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook

  • 1 lb chicken breast, cut into slivers
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine
  • about 10 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 pound rice noodles
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp salted chiles (I haven’t made these yet, so I used Thai pickled chiles)
  • 1 package bean sprouts
  • 3 scallions, cut into 1 inch lengths
  • soy sauce
  • sesame oil
  • sweet chile sauce (optional)

Combine the sliced chicken in a bowl with the soy sauce and rice wine, mix well and set aside.

Cook the rice noodles in boiling water until just done, drain and rinse. (I know everyone always says to just soak them, but I’ve tried this and I’m tired of crunchy noodles)

Put a large wok over high heat and add a couple spoonfuls of peanut oil. Add the chicken and fry until the pieces separate, then add the mushrooms, ginger, garlic, and chiles. When the mushrooms are soft, add the bean sprouts and cook for a moment, then add the noodles and scallions and mix it all up. Add a bit more soy sauce and a little sesame oil to taste. Serve as is, or with additional soy sauce or Thai sweet chile sauce (what we call “sauce for chicken” in our house).