Long beans (长豆角) with chiles and bacon

This is the second TastyAsia recipe using long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo). The first is here. As I mentioned in the introduction to that recipe, long beans are a bit softer than regular green beans and they have a more intense “bean” flavor to them. That means they stand up well to the rich  flavor of well-cured bacon.

Long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo), with chiles and bacon

Long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo), with chiles and bacon

Because of their rich taste, long beans are very versatile. They can mingle with strong flavors like bacon, or just carry the weight of a dish on their own. And like almost all dark green vegetables, they supply a great quantity of valuable nutrients for their weight.

Fair warning: This next paragraph is intended only for true vegetable geeks. It’s challenging to define “long beans” precisely. What I’ve used in this recipe is the most common form of long bean in China and one which is also readily available in Chinese supermarkets in the United States, namely 长豆角 (zhǎng dòujiǎo) in Chinese, or Lat. Vigna sinensis var. sesquipedalis. These beans, also called “yard long beans,” can be almost a full yard long (30″) and they have longer and thinner seeds than other variants. But other vegetables sold with the same name, including 豆角 (dòujiǎo) or Vigna sinensis, which is only half as long as var. sesquipedalis; and Vigna unguiculata (饭豆, fàn dòu), also known in English as the cowpea. Making matters worse, some people think that var. sesquipedalis properly belongs under unguiculata instead of under sinensis. Bottom line: not everything sold as a “long bean” is the same vegetable. This recipe was made with 长豆角.

Here are long beans in their native environment (my cutting board):

These were about 70 cm before cutting

These were about 25″ before cutting

Slice them into 2″ lengths before cooking.

Long beans, after being sliced into shorter beans

Long beans, after being sliced into shorter beans

Have ready a small handful of dried red chiles. Note that the red chiles aren’t meant to be eaten unless you truly love that sort of thing. Even though you don’t eat the chiles themselves, they impart a wonderful spiciness to the dish just by being in the wok.

About ten or 15 dried red chile peppers

About ten or 15 dried red chile peppers

Now comes the bacon. You can use western or Chinese bacon. The latter is more like ham and has been thoroughly air-cured; it should be softened before using by immersing in water for half a day or by steaming.

Bacon!

Bacon!

First, cook the bacon in your wok until it begins to get brown. Stop the cooking before the bacon dries out and becomes crispy; you also don’t want the fat to render out and become oil. Let the bacon drain on some paper towels.

Bacon, cooked lightly in the wok until gently browned

Bacon, cooked lightly in the wok until gently browned

Bacon, cooked and resting

Bacon, cooked and resting

Then add the beans to the wok and stir-fry until the skins begin to wrinkle. Add the chiles in the last few minutes.

Beans and chiles

Beans and chiles

Now all that’s left is to add the bacon back to the wok and stir-fry until everything is heated through. And you’re done!

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1/4 lb Chinese or western bacon (if using Chinese bacon, soften before use, see above), cut into thin strips
  2. 1/2 lb long beans (长豆角, zhǎng dòujiǎo), cut into 2″ lengths
  3. Small handful (10-15) dried red chili peppers
  4. 2 tsp soy sauce

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the bacon (#1) and stir-fry until lightly golden. Do not overcook. Remove to paper towels to drain.
  • Using the bacon fat remaining in the wok, stir-fry the beans (#2) until soft and the skins begins to wrinkle, about 5 minutes. About midway through, add the dried peppers (#3). Stir-fry constantly to prevent burning.
  • When the beans are done, turn the heat off and splash in the soy sauce, stir to incorporate, and serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

Variations: As usual, much can be done with this basic recipe. You could add other vegetables to the stir-fry such as leeks, sliced mushroom caps, or even thin strips of bitter melon. You could also substitute spicy bean paste or chile oil for the peppers. Omitting the bacon would drastically alter the recipe, however the taste of long beans is enough that even the bacon isn’t a necessity. Substitute tea-cured tofu or shiitake mushrooms for the bacon.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

Posted in Bacon, Long beans, Recipes, Stir-fry, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sichuanese red-braised snapper

If you’re a Western cook, you’ve probably been amazed at typical Chinese fish preparations in which the whole animal lies on a plate under a sauce. How do you cook it? How do you eat it? Well, the goal of this post is to demystify the process so you can do this kind of thing with confidence in your own home.

Red-braised snapper with spicy Sichuanese sauce

Red-braised snapper with spicy Sichuanese sauce

The hardest part, if you’re new to Chinese cooking, is getting up close and personal with your fish; everything else is familiar and flows pretty smoothly.

Start with the basics, including some minced ginger and some finely chopped fresh red chile peppers:

Minced ginger

Minced ginger

Fresh red chiles

Fresh red chiles

You’ll want to mix those fresh spices with some spicy bean paste and Sichuan peppercorns. All of the spices go into the wok after the fish gets a preliminary fry. And speaking of the fish, use one like this:

FIsh!

FIsh! A fish of about 1.5 lbs will feed two to four people, depending on how many other dishes you serve.

You’re looking at a 1.5 lb red snapper above, but any fish of similar size will do. Snapper is great because it’s fairly round instead of being long and skinny like a trout. That isn’t of much significance except that it means the fish will fit more easily on a standard plate. But really, any white fish of similar size would be fine.

You’ll want to get a fish with clear eyes and a fresh smell. I’d ask your salesperson to clean it and remove the scales for you, although this is simple enough to do at home. (To clean a fish, run a knife through the belly from behind the head to the base of the tail, then open it and remove everything inside. To scale a fish, scrape from the tail towards the head with a fish scaler.) Next, cut some slices through the meat so that the sauce can penetrate well:

The fish, scored a few times vertically, down to the bone

The fish, scored a few times vertically, down to the bone

We’re going to braise the fish in this recipe, but in dishes that call for steaming, Chinese cooks will often stuff those slits with slices of ginger, onions, or other herbs.

Put some oil in your wok and fry the fish briefly on each side. The heat should only be medium so that the skin doesn’t stick to the wok and slide off the fish. You should turn the wok about, swirling the oil around, so that the whole surface of the fish gets lightly fried.

The fish sitting in the wok, frying briefly

The fish sitting in the wok, frying briefly

Another view of the same

Another view of the same

When the fish is just beginning to turn golden brown in spots, turn off the heat and remove the fish to a plate or board. Then pour off the oil until only a little remains to coat the wok. Add the spices and bean paste and stir fry.

This is the part where it really starts to become fragrant

This is the part where it really starts to become fragrant

Then add the liquid, turn up the heat, and bring it to a boil.

The sauce, heating up and getting ready for the fish

The sauce, heating up and getting ready for the fish

Slide the fish gently into the wok and cook for about five minutes or until done. The fish will be getting a bit fragile at this point, so don’t turn it. Instead, ladle the boiling sauce over the top.

The fish, back now in the sauce, cooking for another five minutes

The fish, back now in the sauce, cooking for another five minutes or so

Remove the fish once again, this time to your serving dish. Boil the sauce for another five minutes until reduced and thickened. Stir in some scallions and sesame oil at the last minute and you’re done.

To eat, simply press your chopsticks into the fish and drag the flesh away, moving away from the spine and parallel to the bones as they run to the outer edges. This will keep you from getting a mouthfuls of bones.

Once everyone has finished eating the meat on the top side, you should be able to lift the entire spine and bones up off the bottom of the fish, which will remain on your serving dish in the rich and tasty sauce. Don’t neglect the tasty meat in and around the head of the fish.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1 whole fish such as red snapper, sea bream, or rainbow trout (about 1.5 lbs altogether), scaled and cleaned, rinsed and dried, with some vertical slices cut through the flesh
  2. 3/4″ ginger and 3 fresh red chiles, seeded, both finely minced; 1.5 Tbsp spicy bean paste (辣豆瓣酱, là dòubàn jiàng); 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
  3. 1.5 cups water or stock, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
  4. 1-2 tsp sesame oil; 1 Tbsp chopped scallions

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat about 1/4 cup peanut oil in your wok until hot but not smoking. Add the fish (#1) and fry lightly for about 1 minute on each side. Remove the fish to a plate or a cutting board. Drain off all but 1-2 Tbsp of the oil.
  • Heat the remaining oil until hot but not smoking. Add the spices (#2) and stir fry for a minute or two until fragrant but not browning. Then pour in the liquids (#3) and bring to a boil, stirring so that nothing sticks.
  • When the sauce is boiling, add the fish back to the wok and braise for about 5 minutes. Don’t turn the fish; instead, ladle the boiling sauce over the top. Make sure everything is cooked through. Then carefully remove the fish to your serving dish. The sauce will remain in your wok.
  • Boil the sauce on high heat until it reduced by about half and thickens, about 5-7 minutes. When it’s done, turn off the heat and stir in the scallions and sesame oil (#4). Spoon the finished sauce over the fish, and serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

VARIATIONS: The easiest variation is to simply try this recipe with different types of fish. Also, adding a small splash (1 tsp) of white rice vinegar at the end makes for a slightly more complex flavor. The character of the sauce can be completely changed by omitting the Sichuan peppercorns and spicy bean paste, and adding a handful of scallions (white parts only) at the beginning of the boil.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

Posted in Braising, Fish and seafood, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Cabbage and egg

Here we have another Chinese staple, which also happens to be a completely simple and very tasty dish. Fresh cabbage adds a nice crunchy sweetness, while the egg and the sesame oil give a wonderful umami savoriness.

Cabbage and egg

Cabbage and egg

This is another one of those recipes that’s so simple it’s hardly possible to add much with process photos along the way. But I’ll do it anyway, since that’s the way things are done here at TasyAsia.

After chopping the cabbage, get the other ingredients ready.

The

Clockwise, from upper right: minced ginger, two eggs, dried chile paste, and soy sauce with sesame oil

Begin by stir-frying the cabbage. Turn it frequently in the wok so that it doesn’t brown.

Cabbage cooking in the wok

Cabbage cooking in the wok

Then pour the rest of the ingredients over the cabbage, stir-fry until the eggs are barely set, and you’re done. It takes longer to chop the cabbage than to cook everything up.

Speaking of which, here’s some information about cabbage. Grown worldwide, cabbage is a staple in countless cooking traditions. The previous cabbage recipe on this blog, which you will find here, called for Chinese or napa cabbage, which is 大白菜 (dà báicài). This recipe uses the familiar American green cabbage, known in China as 甘蓝 (gān lán, “sweet blue”) or alternatively as 洋白菜 (yáng báicài, “foreign cabbage”). Despite being known as a ‘foreign’ vegetable, it is cultivated and enjoyed widely throughout China.

Napa cabbage is a bit more delicate, while green cabbage has a deeper and more rewarding crunch. Feel free to substitute napa cabbage in this recipe, but if you do, you should shorten the cooking time significantly.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1/4 to 1/2 of a green cabbage, sliced into strips about 1/4″ thick, to make about 4 cups before cooking; 3 cloves garlic and 1/4″ ginger, minced finely
  2. 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  3. 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp chili oil

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Then add 2 Tbsp peanut oil and swirl it around. Add the cabbage, garlic, and ginger (#1) and stir-fry for about five minutes until the cabbage is wilted. Keep stirring it so that it doesn’t brown. It should still be quite crunchy.
  • Push the cabbage to the sides of your wok. Pour the eggs (#2) in the space in the center. Let the eggs cook for just about a minute until they begin to set. Then increase the heat to medium-high and stir everything together, cooking for an additional minute.
  • Pour in the soy sauce, sesame oil,  and chili oil (#3) and stir briefly until the liquids are incorporated. Serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

VARIATIONS: Some easy substitutions come to mind: first, you can use dried red chili flakes or Thai fried chili paste instead of the chili oil (adjusting the heat to your preference, of course). To increase the umami flavor, stir-fry 1/4 cup ground pork or 2 Tbsp minced fresh shrimp before adding the cabbage in the first step. For more ambitious substitutions, consider using whatever green leafy vegetables you have on hand: collard greens, chard, or even lettuce. You could also add cilantro, green onions, or other fresh herbs in the last step.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

Posted in Cabbage, Eggs, Recipes, Stir-fry, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Red-braised pork belly (红烧肉)

Red-braised pork belly (红烧肉, hóngshāo ròu) is such a common dish, and so simple, that I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to add the recipe to TastyAsia. Red-braising means braising meat in soy sauce and water or stock. Pretty simple. I’ve posted other red-braised recipes before, but this might be the most famous red-braised dish of them all.

Red-braised pork belly

Red-braised pork belly

The first recipe for red-braised pork belly that I ever cooked was from Fuscia Dunlop. (And everyone who likes Chinese cooking should buy her books. Seriously.) She tells a great story about this being Chairman Mao’s favorite dish, but I’ll let you read that on your own. All you need to know for now is that this is rustic comfort food, so there will be as many variations as there are people lovingly making this for their families.

Start with some skin-on pork belly. If you can’t get this at your supermarket, you’ll be able to find it at a Chinese grocery or a butcher’s shop.

Pork belly!

Two pounds of delicious pork belly!

You’ll recall that pork belly is the same cut that ends up as bacon. Therefore, it’s somewhat fatty. Therefore, like bacon, it’s delicious.

Pork belly, sliced into bite-sized cubes

Pork belly, sliced into bite-sized cubes

Put the skin side of the pork belly down on your cutting board and then slice it into cubes. Then parboil for a few minutes until the redness just starts to disappear. Remove the meat from the water, drain well, and either leave to air dry or else pat dry on a clean towel (you want to remove all the free moisture, because the next step calls for hot oil). It will end up looking like this:

Parboiled pork belly

Parboiled pork belly, gently dried

Next, lightly brown the pork cubes in oil and sugar. For this step, put the oil in a large pan (a dutch oven works well, as does a wok with a cover), and heat it on medium heat. Then add the sugar.

Sugar in hot oil

Sugar in hot oil

Continue heating the sugar in the oil until it begins to melt and caramelize. Don’t let it get too brown, or burn.

The sugar looks like this after it has melted. It's fine to continue to brown the sugar until the color is a little darker than this, but be careful not to burn it.

The sugar will look like this after it has melted. It’s fine to continue to brown the sugar until the color is just a little darker than you see here, but be careful not to burn it.

After the sugar has melted, add the pork belly back to the pan and stir gently until lightly browned on all sides.

Bite-sized cubes of pork belly, browning on the stove

Browning the parboiled cubes of bite-sized pork belly

Next, add the ginger and the dried spices into the pot.

One inch of ginger, unpeeled, cut into "coins"

One inch piece of ginger, unpeeled, cut into “coins”

Dried spices, including cinnamon, dried red chiles, and star anise

Dried spices: cinnamon, chiles, and star anise

Then add the braising liquid to the pot so that the pork belly is covered.

The cubes of pork belly are braising in a savory liquid for a good long while

The cubes of pork belly will cook in a savory liquid for a good long while. Once you get to this step, you can relax for a while.

And that’s basically it. The braising will take about an hour and a half, but it requires no more work on your part after this point. That gives you plenty of time to cook some other dishes and your rice without feeling rushed.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 3 Tbsp oil and about 2 Tbsp sugar
  2. 2 lb skin-on pork belly, cut into bite-sized pieces (about 1″ on the side, maybe a bit less), parboiled for 3-4 minutes, then drained and dried
  3. 1″ ginger, unpeeled, cut into coins; one 3″ stick cinnamon or cassia bark; 3 whole star anise; 8 whole dried red chiles
  4. About 4 cups stock or water, 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce, 1 Tbsp light soy sauce

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Then add the oil and the sugar (#1). Stir until the sugar melts and turns brown, without letting the sugar burn.
  • Then add the pork belly (#2) and stir-fry gently until lightly browned on all sides.
  • Next, add the aromatics (#3) and stir-fry for about a minute until everything is fragrant and beautiful.
  • Pour in the braising liquid (#4) so that the pork belly is covered. If you use stock, you can omit the light soy sauce, but if you use water, make sure to include it. Bring to a light boil, cover, and then reduce the heat and simmer gently for about an hour and a half. Add water along the way if the pork belly gets to be too exposed, except that for the last 20 minutes, you can cook it uncovered at a slightly faster boil to reduce the sauce. Garnish with hard boiled egg and serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

VARIATIONS: Some people enjoy adding things to the pot as the dish is finishing. Perhaps the most beloved items are tofu skins to soak up the delicious sauce, or fresh herbs such as Chinese leeks, scallions, or cilantro, to add another layer of tasty complexity. You can also vary the amount of sugar and chiles to suit your taste. Another wonderful addition would be about 2 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns to the dry spices (#3) above.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

Posted in Braising, Meat, Pork, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Soybeans with tofu and Tianjin preserved vegetable (天津冬菜毛豆)

This recipe is for green soy beans (毛豆, máo dòu), seasoned with Tianjin preserved vegetable (天津冬菜, Tiānjīn dōngcài) and other savory spices. You can use fresh or frozen soybeans. If you use fresh ones, shell them and then and boil until until tender, perhaps five minutes; prepare frozen soybeans according package instructions.

Soybeans with tofu and Tianjin preserved vegetable (天津冬菜毛豆)

Tianjin preserved vegetable is cabbage that has been cut up and well salted so that it will last forever. It contributes a rich umami flavor to any dish.

Tianjin Preserved vegetable

Tianjin Preserved vegetable. And might I add, what an insanely bad photograph! The guy with the camera is truly a talentless hack. Just look at how he tried at all costs to capture the specular highlights on the knife, to the extent of forgetting to capture enough DOF so that both the label and the food are in focus. And don’t even get me started on the obviously incorrect white balance. Yeeesh.

In addition to the preserved cabbage, you’ll use Sichuan peppercorns for the fragrant spicy-citrus flavor they impart.

Sichuan peppercorns

Sichuan peppercorns

And of course a small handful of dried red chiles for some heat.

Dried red chiles

Dried red chiles

Black bean garlic sauce adds even more richness. It’s easy enough to make from scratch (as I did here), but tonight I used a prepared sauce.

2014-1-18T Soybeans_BBGSauce

Everything comes together fairly quickly, making this another “simple” recipe, which as always on this blog means that the whole thing is finished in the time that it takes to cook your rice.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns and 5-10 dried red chiles (snapped in half, with  loose seeds discarded)
  2. 1 Tbsp Tianjin preserved vegetable  (天津冬菜, Tiānjīn dōngcài), sliced into slivers, and 1 Tbsp black bean garlic sauce
  3. 10 oz prepared soybeans (see above) and 3/4 cup diced extra-firm tofu
  4. 1 tsp sesame oil

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Then add 1 Tbsp peanut oil and swirl it around. Add the Sichuan peppercorns and the chiles (#1), and stir until fragrant. Don’t let the spices brown.
  • Add the Tianjin preserved vegetable and the black bean garlic sauce (#2), and stir for a few moments until everything is mixed and heated through.
  • Add the soybeans and the tofu (#3) and stir gently until heated and mixed with the rest of the ingredients, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Drizzle with the sesame oil (#4) and stir. Serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

VARIATIONS: The soybeans and the tofu taste excellent and they offer pleasantly contrasting textures, so everything else is really negotiable. You could use spicy bean paste instead of the black bean garlic sauce, or for that matter, oyster sauce or even dark soy sauce (with a little potato flour to thicken it up). Or no sauce at all. To vary the texture, add peanuts or cashews.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

 

Posted in Recipes, Soybeans, Stir-fry, Tofu, Vegan, Vegetables | Leave a comment

Chard (红厚皮菜) with black mushrooms

Chard is a sturdy, leafy vegetable that comes in various colors. Red chard (红厚皮菜, hóng hòu pí cài), cultivated in southern China, is especially beautiful with deeply green leaves and strikingly red stems. It tastes quite bitter when raw but the bitterness mellows as cooking time increases.

The finished dish: red chard with mushrooms and savory sauces

The finished dish: red chard with mushrooms and savory sauces

Let’s start with the mushrooms. If you are used to Chinese cooking, you know these as black mushrooms. If you’re familiar with Japanese cooking or are a native speaker of American English, they’re shiitakes. Either way they’re good. Unlike some things, these mushrooms are excellent both fresh and dried, so even if you like cooking with fresh mushrooms I recommend keeping dried shiitakes on hand, because reconstituting them in hot water is so simple and it creates a wonderful and versatile broth in the process. In fact, when I made this recipe, I started with dried shiitakes and then used the broth from their reconstitution as the base for a delicious meatball soup that accompanied the meal. Dried black mushrooms look like this:

Dried black (shiitake) mushrooms; soak in hot water for 30 minutes to reconstitute

Dried black (shiitake) mushrooms; soak in hot water for 30 minutes to reconstitute

If using dried mushrooms, soak them for about 30 minutes in hot water and then drain. Either way, fresh or dried, slice them up.

Sliced mushrooms

Sliced mushrooms

This recipe combines two savory sauces for depth. Both of those are easy-to-find staples in Chinese cuisine. The first is spicy bean paste (辣豆瓣酱, là dòubàn jiàng):

Spicy bean paste

Spicy bean paste

And the second is Lao Gan Ma spicy black bean chili oil (老干妈黑豆辣椒油, lǎogànmā hēi dòu làjiāo yóu). This adds a little bit of additional heat and also adds a bit of depth through the addition of the black beans. You want just about a teaspoon, not very much.

Black bean chili oil

Black bean chili oil

But of course, the star of this show is the chard. The leaves are big, firm, and sturdy, and you could almost imagine using them as giant fans to cool yourself with, should the heat of your kitchen become oppressive.

Sturdy leaves of chard. Note the colorful stems.

Sturdy leaves of chard. Note the colorful stems.

Cut up the chard into ribbons that are about as thick as your mushroom slices.

Sliced chard

Sliced chard

And that’s about it. Having come this far, your prep is complete, and it’s time to cook. By the way, this qualifies as a “simple” dish by TastyAsia standards, meaning that the entire thing, including soaking the dried mushrooms, can be completed in the time it takes to cook your rice.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 2 tsp spicy bean paste (辣豆瓣酱, là dòubàn jiàng), 1 tsp  Lao Gan Ma spicy black bean chili oil (老干妈黑豆辣椒油, lǎogànmā hēi dòu làjiāo yóu), and 3 cloves garlic cut into slivers
  2. 1 cup black (shiitake) mushrooms, fresh or reconstituted, cut into slices about 1/4″ thick
  3. 5-10 leaves red chard (or substitute other colors), sliced to match the width of the mushrooms

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Then add 1 Tbsp peanut oil and swirl it around. Add the bean paste, chili oil, and garlic (#1) and stir-fry briefly, maybe 30 seconds. Don’t let the garlic brown.
  • Add the mushrooms (#2) and stir-fry for another 30 seconds, so the mushrooms can soak up some of the liquid. Again, don’t let the garlic start to burn.
  • Add the chard (#3). Continue to stir fry, perhaps turning the heat up a little. It may take up to five minutes before the chard wilts and the volume reduces, but eventually that will happen. Once it does, you have a decision to make: for a more bitter and crunchier dish, serve right away. On the other hand, you can cook for an additional five minutes or so, mellowing the flavors and making a more tender dish. (I recommend this.) If you don’t want to keep stir-frying for the whole ten minutes, you can add 3-4 Tbsp water to your wok, cover, and let it steam for the same amount of time.
  • Serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

VARIATIONS: Any sturdy leafy vegetable will do, so if you don’t have red chard, substitute any other kind of chard, kale, mustard greens, or even green cabbage. Cooking times for green (western) cabbage will be comparable if not lengthened, but if you use Napa cabbage, cooking times will be significantly reduced. As with other vegetable dishes, you can play around with the spices quite liberally without doing anything wrong.

The essential Chinese pantry is here.

Posted in Chard, Recipes, Stir-fry, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Red braised chicken with lime, fragrant greens, and soybeans

This dish is my attempt to recreate another restaurant meal I had in Beijing. The actual recipe was made with rabbit and it was completely delicious. I had some trouble getting my hands on fresh rabbit tonight, so instead I used chicken thighs. The flavor was a bit different but still just as good.

The completed dish

The completed dish!

Most of the time here on TastyAsia, when I talk about “braising,” I’m actually describing the Chinese technique of red braising, which means slow cooking in liquid that includes some soy sauce. The soy sauce adds a deep reddish color, hence the name, and it also adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the finished product. This here is a great example.

The chicken is first browned, and then added to a large pot with enough liquid to just about cover.

Meat, at the beginning of the braise

Meat, at the beginning of the braise

The meat will cook in the pot for about an hour. Meanwhile, you can prepare the greens.

Fragrant greens

Fragrant greens: on top are bitter “salad” greens, then in the second row is chopped cilantro (on the left) and roughly torn basil (on the right)

The meat is finished in the braising pot, and then the greens are briefly stir-fried in your wok, along with garlic, ginger, shallot, and pickled chiles.

Garlic, shallots, and chiles. stir-fried briefly in the wok before adding the greens

Garlic, ginger, shallot, and chiles, which will be stir-fried briefly in your wok before adding the greens

The last thing to go into the wok is a handful of fresh soybeans.

Fresh soybeans, or shelled edamame

Fresh soybeans, or shelled edamame

When we had this at the restaurant in Beijing, it was served on a plate lined with a few leaves of fresh lettuce.

Lettuce, ready to assemble the final dish

Lettuce, on a plate, ready to assemble the final dish

Place the meat on top the lettuce.

It's all coming together now

It’s all coming together now

And then spoon the stir-fried vegetables over the meat, and serve.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 2 lbs chicken thighs (skin removed), browned browned for a few minutes on all sides in a non-stick pan (no extra oil required)
  2. 1/4 cup soy sauce, 2 Tbsp Shanxi black vinegar, about 1 L chicken stock or coconut water, and the peel of 1 lime plus that lime’s juice (note: you want to peel the lime very thinly, adding mostly green skin to the liquid, not the pithier white parts)
  3. 4 cloves garlic, 1/2″ ginger, 1/2 shallot, and 4 pickled Thai chiles (seeded), all minced finely
  4. 3 cups mixed greens, 1/2 cup cilantro, and 1 cup basil, roughly torn and tossed together
  5. 1 cup soybeans

DIRECTIONS: 

  • After browning the chicken (#1), put it into a a dutch oven or clay pot. Add enough braising liquid (#2) to just about cover, and then boil softly for about an hour until the meat is tender enough to pull apart with chopsticks. Then remove the meat to a cutting board and pull it into bite-sized chunks. (Discard the lime peel.)
  • Heat your wok until barely smoking. Then add 1 Tbsp peanut oil and swirl it around. Add the garlic, ginger, shallot, and chiles (#3) and stir-fry until warm and fragrant. Then add the greens (#4) and stir-fry until everything is warm and wilted. Toss in the soybeans (#5) and stir-fry briefly until hot.
  • Arrange the meat in a layer on a plate, and top with the stir-fried vegetables.
  • Serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

Variations: The most obvious variation would be to make this dish authentic to its roots, which would be to use rabbit instead of chicken. If you use rabbit, you might have to increase the braising time by about 15 minutes. You can also add mushrooms alongside or instead of the greens, and you can think about using other types of beans instead of the brigh green soybeans.

Posted in Braising, Chicken, Greens, Meat, Recipes, Soybeans, Stir-fry, Vegetables | 1 Comment

Green beans and pork in “fish-fragrant” sauce

To the Western ear, “fish-fragrant” sauce has a very strange name. Does it taste like fish? Does it smell like fish? No, not hardly.

Green beans and pork slivers in Sichuanese fish-fragrant (鱼香, yú xiāng) sauce

“Fish-fragrant” (魚香, yúxiāng) is the name of a sauce that comes from Sichuanese cuisine, originally developed to accompany fish. The sauce is tasty enough that it goes well with many different dishes, so it’s not surprising to find all kinds of things being given the “fish-fragrant” treatment. Pork is one of the most common foods served this way, with so-called fish-fragrant pork strips (魚香肉絲, yúxiāng ròusī) being almost a staple Here we have pork strips and beans cooked together in the yúxiāng sauce.

This is another easy recipe that can be fully prepared in the time it takes to cook rice.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1/2 lb green beans or long beans, but into 2-2″ lengths
  2. 1/2 lb lean pork, cut into thin strips, marinated for about 30 minutes in a mixture of 2 tsp Shaoxing rice wine, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, and 2 tsp potato flour
  3. 3 cloves garlic, 1/2 shallot, and 1/2″ ginger, minced finely
  4. 1 generous Tbsp spicy bean paste ( (辣豆瓣酱, là dòubàn jiàng)
  5. 1.5 tsp sugar, 1.5 tsp Shanxi black vinegar (山西香醋, Shānxī xiāngcǜ), 1 tsp soy sauce, 1 tsp potato flour, 3 Tbsp chicken stock (or water)

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add 1 Tbsp peanut oil and swirl it around, then add the beans (#1). Stir-fry for 3-5 minutes until bright green and beginning to soften.  Remove the beans to another dish.
  • Make sure the wok is still hot and then add the pork (#2). Stir-fry until cooked, about 2-3 minutes. Add the aromatics (#3) and stir-fry for an additional minute until warm and fragrant. Stir in the spicy bean paste (#4).
  • Add the beans back into the wok, stir-fry until heated through, and then pour the sauce (#5) over the top. Toss and serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

Variations: The most obvious substitution is to use long beans instead of green beans. You can add a handful of dried red chiles, either whole or broken into pieces, to increase the heat of the dish. You might also toss in a teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns.

My essential Chinese pantry

Posted in Long beans, Meat, Pork, Recipes, Stir-fry, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Spicy braised chicken

This recipe takes a bit of time to make but it’s still very easy and unfussy. The overall taste is reminiscent of northern China, but with a bit of a spicy kick. Braised to a tender perfection, you’ll be able to lift the meat from the bones with your chopsticks.

Spicy braised chicken

Spicy braised chicken

Begin with bone-in chicken pieces, leaving the skin on. If you use the pieces from a whole chicken, which I recommend, you may want to cut the breasts in half so that all the pieces are roughly the same size.

Chicken pieces!

Chicken pieces!

Brown the chicken for a few moments in a non-stick pan, then set aside.

Browned chicken pieces

Browned chicken pieces

Then briefly fry the aromatics in a deep pot, wok, or dutch oven; add back the chicken pieces and pour in the braising liquid until everything is just about covered.

Chicken in the braising liquid

Chicken in the braising liquid

As the chicken cooks, the liquid will start to reduce. The color and the flavor will also become more rich.

As the chicken cooks, it will become more flavorful and more colorful

As the chicken cooks, it will become more flavorful and more colorful

To complete the dish, remove the chicken so that you can reduce the sauce over a strong boil. Then everything goes back into a serving dish with some garnish, and you’re ready to go.

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 1 chicken cut into 8 parts, or about 3 lbs chicken thighs and breasts, bone and skin in place; browned for a few minutes on all sides in a non-stick pan (no extra oil required)
  2. 4 cloves garlic and 1 ” ginger, minced finely
  3. 2-3 whole star anise and 5 whole dried chiles
  4. 1/2 cup Shaoxing glutenous rice wine and 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  5. About 1 L water, chicken stock, or coconut water

DIRECTIONS: 

  • After browning the chicken (#1), pour the fat from your non-stick pan into a dutch oven or clay pot. Heat, then add the garlic and ginger (#2) and stir-fry until soft and aromatic.
  • Add the star anise and chiles (#3) and stir-fry for a few seconds until hot. Then add the Shaoxing wine and the dark soy sauce (#4) and heat until gently bubbling.
  • Next, add the chicken to the pot and then pour in the rest of the braising liquid (#5) to just about cover. Heat until gently simmering and then braise for about an hour. The chicken will be cooked through and very soft. Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil. Heat the braising liquid to a vigorous boil and reduce by about half until it makes a slightly thickened sauce. Then add back the chicken pieces and turn to coat with the sauce. Garnish with scallions or roughly torn cilantro, basil, or shiso leaves.
  • Serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

Variations: This recipe was so well-recieved that I made it twice in quick succession. The second time, I was a bit more pressed for time so I kept things a bit more rustic. Instead of mincing the garlic, I just tossed in some crushed cloves. And instead of minced ginger, I used some sliced, unpeeled ginger “coins.” For the last 30 minutes of the braise I also added a handful of small new potatoes. I think this second version was even better than the original.

Posted in Braising, Chicken, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bamboo shoots with bacon, chiles, and fresh basil

This is a home-cooked recreation of a Beijing restaurant dish. The restaurant in this case is another belonging to that great and rare genre, “Beijing creative.” Here is my version:

Bamboo, bacon, chiles, and basil

Bamboo, bacon, chiles, and basil

And here is my poor quality, underexposed, out-of-focus, iPhone shot of the original dish from the restaurant:

Restaurant version of the above

Restaurant version of the above

Never mind my poor quality picture; I promise that both versions of this dish are really good.

A word about the restaurant. As I described in my first post recreating a Beijing restaurant dish, most eateries in the city tend to be either fairly pedestrian places or else places that attempt to recreate traditional imperial banquet fare. So it’s relatively hard to find “foodie” places, where chefs have fun being creative. I found this bamboo and bacon dish at Private Kitchen #44, which is a delightful and quiet place in one of the hutongs in old Beijing. It was thoroughly wonderful.

Begin by placing the bacon in your wok and frying lightly. No extra oil is required.

Bacon, draining after frying

Bacon, draining after frying

Then fry the drained bamboo shoots with garlic in the fat left over from cooking the bacon.

Canned bamboo shoots drying on a paper towel after draining

Canned bamboo shoots drying on a paper towel after draining

Add the bacon back to the wok and toss with the rest of the ingredients, it’s that simple. (Note that the dried chiles aren’t meant to be eaten; much like chicken bones, they add flavor and depth but are supposed to be eaten around.)

INGREDIENTS and PREP:

  1. 8 oz sliced bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces about 1″ square and between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick
  2. 8 oz canned sliced bamboo shoots, drained and patted dry with a paper towel; 2 large cloves garlic, minced; 10 dried red chili peppers, snapped into roughly 1/4″ lengths, with most of the seeds removed
  3. 1 tsp sesame oil
  4. 1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
  5. 5 large basil leaves, torn roughly into a few pieces each

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Heat your wok on medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the bacon (#1) in batches so that each piece can lay flat against the bottom of the wok. Let it fry until it just begins to curl, then turn and continue cooking for another minute or so. Remove the bacon to drain on a paper towel. Repeat until all the bacon is cooked. It should be gently crispy in places but overall still flexible and soft.
  • Bacon fat will have collected in your wok at this point. Heat it until hot but not smoking, and then add the bamboo shoots, garlic, and chiles (#2). Stir-fry until hot and fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
  • Drizzle 1 tsp sesame oil (#3) over the wok and stir well. Stir in the dark soy sauce (#4). Finally, add the basil (#5) and toss.
  • Serve with rice and contrasting dishes.

Variations: Substitute other fresh herbs like scallions or cilantro for the basil. For additional contrasting textures, you might add chicken pieces or large chunks of fresh bell peppers.

Posted in Bamboo, Pork, Recipes, Stir-fry, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment