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.
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
I hadn’t necessarily thought this blog needed yet another recipe for red-cooked meat, but that was before I stumbled across a Sichuan version. This is, of course, out of Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty, like all our recent Sichuan recipes. It’s a perfect thing to make at this time of year, with the rich beef and ginger scent filling the house while cold rain beats against the windows.
We’ve been in the mood for Chinese food a lot lately, but were wanting some new ideas. Opening some Chinese cookbooks at random led me to a chicken recipe in Land of Plenty that I’d never noticed before. It’s called Tai Bai, apparently in honor of the poet Li Bai. It’s easy to put together and involves very little chopping, which is a real selling point some nights. It has no garlic or ginger – the primary flavors are chiles, both dried and pickled, plus Sichuan pepper. It’s moderately fiery, so I wouldn’t recommend this one if you don’t have much spice tolerance. We think it’s delicious.
After a long hiatus, we just made it back to our current favorite Chinese restaurant, Peaceful in Vancouver B.C. After a mighty emotional struggle, we decided not to get noodles this time. Instead we got Jon’s favorite beef rolls (rich fried bread rolled around thin slices of beef, raw scallion and hoisin sauce, OMG theyaresogood), an order of Sichuan greens and ma po tofu. I burned my mouth and ate way too much and have no regrets whatsoever. The ma po was really good – remarkably like the version we make at home, but with pork instead of beef, loads of Sichuan pepper, and very fresh wobbly tofu – but it inexplicably arrived in a Pyrex pie pan, which made me feel like a complete hog. Not that that’s a bad thing.
It’s always a bit odd to make a new recipe, taste it, then realize that you don’t know whether it turned out or not, since you have no idea of what it’s supposed to taste like. When we made dan dan noodles for the first time, it may or may not have been a success.
What I do know is that the noodles were flavorful, the sauce had an interesting sweet/spicy/salty tang, and the Sichuan pepper gave it so much ma that I couldn’t feel my mouth for half an hour afterwards. So perhaps it was a success. We decided to try it again another time.
That was our first time using Tianjin preserved vegetable, a fermented cabbage product that we had just recently found at a little Chinese market in Seattle’s International District. According to Fuchsia Dunlop, mistress of all things Sichuan, it’s not quite a perfect stand-in for traditional Sichuanese fermented vegetable, but it comes close. The flavor of it was sweet, a little funky and really, really, really salty. We keep trying to decide if we want to replace it when we use up the jar, or just use cabbage and lots of salt instead.
We had been doing so well on our self-imposed mission to eat tofu once a week. Not that I really think soy is particularly beneficial (the jury still seems to be out on that one), but we do eat a fair amount of meat, and I try to work in other sources of protein when convenient. Besides, tofu is cheap. We recently discovered silken tofu in boxes that keeps on the shelf for several weeks, so now we can stock up and have it ready to hand. Lately, though, we’ve slacked off on our tofu consumption.
After a few weeks of somewhat disorganized menu planning, I remembered that there was a box of silken tofu in the cupboard getting past its sell-by date, and a recipe for Ma Po Tofu in our Sichuan cookbook that hadn’t yet been tried, so that’s what we had for dinner one night after work. It was incredibly quick and easy, so I suspect we’ll have it again before too long.
Although the snow has melted here, the weather continues to be cold and clammy. In Sichuan province in China, the answer to this is plenty of bold spicy food, such as Kung Pao chicken. It’s hot, a little sour, and has the tingle of Sichuan pepper. It helps pep up a wet gray day.
We hadn’t bought chicken breast meat for a really long time until we made this dish. We usually use chicken thighs for everything, being cheaper and less prone to become tough, but it was actually kind of fun to use white meat for a change. The marinade and the quick stirfry keep the meat tender.
Posts have been a bit irregular of late, I’m afraid, due to a houseful of head colds. More time has been spent on the couch under a layer of cats than on the computer. However, here’s a recipe that I happen to have ready to go: a stirfry of beef and celery from a Sichuanese cookbook which will really knock your socks off. Chile-bean paste is a very delightful thing. Good for the sinuses.
We made our periodic pilgrimage to Uwajimaya last weekend, partly to shop for tacky Christmas presents but mostly to restock our supply of noodles, tea and chile-garlic sauce. We went to Samurai Noodle for lunch (the new Extra Pork Fat option is astonishing), then spent the next two hours battling our way through all the other people milling around trying to figure out which small red jar might hold the correct form of soybean paste or pickled turnip, or stampeding through the narrow aisles between the Hello Kitty stickers and the Daruma keychains.
The funny thing is, we came home with all this new stuff, all jazzed up about doing some new Chinese dishes or something Indonesian, and the dinner we ended up making didn’t use any of it. How silly. We were going to make a side of stirfried ong choy (water spinach), which we haven’t found anywhere else, but it started to compost itself before we could cook it (drat). We had to have plain spinach instead. And for dinner I made bao, one of my favorite things to eat in the world, with a new filling out of Fuchsia Dunlop’s Land of Plenty, which turned out to be the easiest bun filling I’ve ever made and used ingredients we already had around. Go figure. But never fear, we’ll get around to the soybean paste and pickled mustard greens later this week. Stay tuned!
Concerning bao: I love pretty much any kind of bread or dumpling with a savory filling, and bao are even more wonderful made fresh at home than they are off a street vendor’s cart. Continue reading