Monthly Archives: January 2015

Recipe: Hunan Country-Style Stir-Fried Pork(农家炒肉)

This super-easy stir-fry dish from Hunan Province (农家炒肉 nong jia chao rou, pronounced “nohng dzyah choll roh”, literally “farm house stir-fry meat”) is so tasty that you won’t realize how fast it is to make! Please try it out! If you do not eat pork, it is also very tasty to substitute chicken breast (or thigh).

Adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop. If you have been following this blog, there are now 4 recipes in a row adapted from Dunlop’s books! That’s because I cook from them almost every day! This book (and the other books) is really worth buying if you are interested in Chinese cooking, especially from Hunan Province.

Ingredients:
8 oz (1/2 lb) pork, sliced into thin strips (Traditionally, use 7 oz lean pork, such as pork loin, and 1.5 oz pork belly. However, I only used lean pork in this recipe because it is challenging to get pork belly here.)
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
about 8 oz green bell pepper (about 1 American sized bell pepper), seeds removed, sliced into strips or squares (approximately to match the pork)
2-3 tbsp cooking oil (total)
2-3 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 tsp fermented black beans (I recommend Yang Jiang Preserved Black Beans with Ginger), rinsed under cold water and drained
salt to taste if needed
1/4 tsp cornstarch, potato starch, or mung bean starch, mixed with 2 tbsp Chinese stock or chicken broth (you can use water + 1/8 tsp chicken bouillon powder) (optional, to give the dish a restaurant-style glaze)

Directions:
1. Mix pork with Shaoxing wine and both soy sauces, set aside.
2. Heat a wok. Add 1 tbsp oil and stir-fry the green bell pepper over high heat for 5 minutes to crinkle the skin and lightly brown the peppers, making them more fragrant. As the peppers cook, use the spatula to press against the side of the wok to cook them more.
3. Take out the peppers, leaving oil in the wok.
4. Add another 1-2 tbsp oil (1 tbsp is good enough for home cooking).
5. Heat the oil, add garlic, add pork on top. Sprinkle the fermented black beans on top of the pork. Let the pork sit for 30 seconds, then flip and stir-fry very briefly.
6. Add the peppers and stir-fry for a minute, adding salt to taste if necessary (remember the soy sauce and black beans are already salty). If using the starch glaze, just stir-fry pork 30 seconds, stir the mixture and add. Stir-fry quickly to coat the pork.
7. Once the pork is cooked (it takes about a minute, just make sure there is no more pink), turn off the heat and transfer to a plate.
8. Serve with cooked rice and a stir-fried vegetable dish. Enjoy!

Remember, wash and start cooking rice first. Then cut everything you need for stir-frying. Make one stir-fry dish first, then the next. By this time, the rice should be done. Depending on your speed, you can wait some time before starting to stir-fry.

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Recipe: Celery Stir-Fried with Pressed Tofu(芹菜炒香干)

Pressed tofu is an extremely delicious food made by pressing firm tofu until there are no holes inside anymore so it becomes drier and firmer, then it is cooked in five spice flavored soy sauce. Besides being vegetarian, it is also an extremely delicious food and is high in protein. Pressed tofu can also be smoked (in this case, I think that it is not cooked in the five-spice soy sauce).

I have already made a recipe with pressed tofu and Lao Gan Ma sauce, and the recipe can be found here. However, this dish is spicy, and some people do not eat spicy food. There are many ways to prepare pressed tofu, and this extremely easy-to-make stir-fry with celery is one of the most delicious as well as being non-spicy. In Chinese, this dish is known as 芹菜炒香干 (qin cai chao xiang gan, pronounced “tseen tsai chall syahng gun” with no silent t, literally “celery vegetable stir-fry fragrant dry”). There are many variants of this dish from place to place and household to household. (That’s why there are so many optional ingredients!) It is a very popular dish to eat in both homes and restaurants. Enjoy!

Adapted from Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop. I seriously recommend all authentic Chinese food lovers to buy all of Fuchsia Dunlop’s cookbooks because they are amazing!

Ingredients:
9 oz five-spice pressed tofu (五香豆腐干 wu xiang dou fu gan, pronounced “woo syahng doh foo gun” with oo as in cool, literally meaning: five fragrant bean curd dry. I love the Furuma brand, labeled “Savory Baked Tofu”, but it comes in packs of 12 oz. You can make some extra and add a little more celery. Or, you can use the extra for another dish.) OR smoked pressed tofu
7 oz Chinese celery or western celery (this is about 3 stalks western celery)
a red chili pepper or some red bell pepper (optional, for color. You can also use a small carrot.)
1 tsp finely minced garlic (optional)
1 tsp finely minced ginger (optional)
salt
white or black pepper (optional)
light and dark soy sauces (dark is optional)
cooking oil (peanut, canola, soybean, avocado, extra light olive, anything that can stand higher heat. NO EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL)
1/2 tsp sesame oil (optional)

Directions:
1. Julienne the pressed tofu.
2. Julienne the celery. Julienne the pepper (or carrot) if using.
3. OPTIONAL: Heat the wok or skillet, add 1.5 tbsp oil, and stir-fry the pressed tofu for a couple of minutes. This makes it more fragrant. However, the step is optional. Set aside the pressed tofu onto a plate.
*Chinese cooking tip: Don’t measure oil with a spoon unless you are REALLY new to cooking. Otherwise, always estimate. I also estimate measurements of soy sauce and other sauces, but this is only recommended after you get more experienced.*
4. Heat the wok and add 2.5 tbsp oil if you did not stir-fry the tofu, or add 1 tbsp oil if you did. Add the ginger and garlic if using and stir-fry until fragrant.
5. Add the celery and pepper/carrot if using. Add a couple pinches salt and stir-fry for a minute or two to cook the vegetables.
6. Add the pressed tofu and stir-fry until hot. Add salt to taste and pepper if using. Add 1 tsp light soy sauce and a little dark soy sauce for color if desired. Stir-fry for 30 seconds or so, then taste for salt. This dish does not have a sauce, and only has a tsp of soy sauce, so you may need more salt. If needed, add more salt until it tastes good.
7. Turn off the heat and stir in the sesame oil if desired.
8. Serve with cooked white or brown rice, a stir-fried green leafy vegetable, and maybe a meat dish if desired. Enjoy!

Here is a picture of the pressed tofu! 🙂

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Recipe: Stir-Fried Pork Slivers with Preserved Mustard Tuber(榨菜肉丝)

In my Chinese Pantry post, I introduced a few kinds of the many types of preserved/pickled vegetables in China. Even in Sichuan, there are so many, including pao cai (sour pickled vegetables such as daikon, carrot, chilies, and napa cabbage), suan cai (pickled mustard greens), ya cai (chopped preserved mustard greens), mei cai (another type of preserved mustard green), and of course zha cai (preserved mustard tubers). Zha cai (榨菜 – pronounced “djah tsai” rhyming with “eye”) is made from the tuber of a cultivar of mustard green. This tuber is called 大头菜 (da tou cai – pronounced “dah toh tsai”, literally “big head vegetable”) and is commonly used as a vegetable in Sichuan. It looks a lot like kohlrabi. One year, there were a lot of surplus da tou cai grown in Sichuan, so a farmer invented a way of preserving the vegetable into zha cai. The vegetable is first sun-dried, then salted and then pressed to release the liquid (“zha” means “press” in Chinese), then preserved in a earthenware pot with a mixture of seasonings including chili (although the end result is not spicy). The preserved vegetable is salty and crunchy, and has a unique tasty flavor in dishes. Although it was invented and is still made in Sichuan, it is now a popular ingredient in both Sichuanese and Cantonese cooking because of its umami flavor. You can buy zha cai in red and yellow cans labeled “Sichuen Preserved Vegetable”. Make sure you always use the correct type of preserved vegetables – I have seen many, many cooking blogs try to cook Chinese cuisine and use the totally wrong kind of preserved vegetable. This is due to the fact that just almost EVERY type of preserved vegetable in the Asian grocery store is just labeled “Preserved Vegetable” in English, without specifying anything else except Chinese, which most non-Chinese can’t read. I strongly recommend keeping the Chinese name on your phone. Don’t worry though, the “Sichuen Preserved Vegetable” is hard to miss, in the red and white can.

Anyways, to introduce you to this tasty vegetable, I have a delicious and very easy recipe for a very home-style Chinese stir fry. Serve this dish with a stir-fried vegetable dish and cooked white or brown rice. This recipe is adapted from Land of Plenty by Fuchsia Dunlop, my favorite cookbook and a must-have for people who love Chinese food!

Ingredients:
2/3 to 3/4 lb pork loin, cut into julienne strips (called 丝 in Chinese) (Sometimes, Costco sells a GIANT package of very good quality pork loins for a much cheaper price per lb than most grocery stores. I split the pork and freeze them, then defrost when I want to make a stir-fried pork dish. It’s very convenient and cost effective. :))
1/2 to 2/3 cup julienned zha cai, rinsed (the more you rinse, the less salty, so rinse more for a lower sodium dish)
2 to 3 tbsp cooking oil

Marinade:
1 tsp Shaoxing wine
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp water
ground white pepper or black pepper (optional)

Sauce:
2 to 3 tbsp Chinese stock (or chicken stock)
1/2 to 1 tsp soy sauce
3/4 tsp cornstarch

Directions:
1. Mix pork and marinade. Mix sauce.
2. Heat a wok or skillet. Add 2 tsp of the oil to the pork and mix. Add the rest to the wok. Add the pork and spread in an even layer. Sear for a minute, then flip and stir.
3. Add zha cai and continue to stir-fry until surface of pork is not pink at all. (about another minute)
4. Stir the sauce to mix the starch (which settles to the bottom of the bowl) and add it to the wok.
5. Stir-fry, thickening the sauce. When sauce is thick, check the largest piece of pork to see if it is cooked. Stir-frying pork slivers is a very fast process, and it does not take long to fully cook the pork.
6. Transfer to a plate and serve with cooked rice and a stir-fried vegetable dish. Enjoy!

Recipe: Fragrant-Spicy Pressed Tofu (香辣豆腐干)

Lao Gan Ma (老干妈 lao gan ma – say: “loll gun mah” – literally “old dry mother” but it means “old godmother”. Note that in Chinese terms, “old” is a respectful word and not an insult.) is a brand of chili oil sauces from Guizhou, China. The sauce began in 1996, and is now one of the most popular condiments in China and even famous among Chinese food lovers overseas. So how did it all begin?

In 1989, an illiterate woman named Tao Huabi (陶华碧 tao hua bi – say: “tall hwah bee”) opened an eatery where she sold noodles flavored with her chili oil sauces. They became so popular that she started selling the sauces too. In 1996, she closed down the eatery and started a sauce factory with 40 employees. Now, there are thousands of employees and over 1.3 million containers are produced daily and shipped to over 30 countries. She is still the owner of the company, which now many millions of dollars every year.

Lao Gan Ma brand sells many kinds of sauces. The original one is the one containing fermented black soybeans in chili oil labeled 风味豆豉 (feng wei dou chi) in Chinese. It is also the most popular of her sauces. The sauce contains fermented black soybeans, chili flakes, many spices and seasonings, all in a spicy red oil. There is so much flavor in this sauce!

This recipe is a very delicious stir-fry flavored with the sauce. The recipe is also vegetarian! Five-spice pressed tofu (五香豆腐干 wu xiang dou fu gan – “woo syahng doh foo gun” with “oo” as in “cool”, literally “five fragrant bean curd dry”) can be found in the refrigerated section of a Chinese grocery store, next to other tofu products, wheat gluten products, and other vegetarian products. This product is made from firm tofu, pressed until all the holes of water are gone, then simmered in a 5-spice soy sauce mixture to create a brown colored compact block of tofu. 5-spice pressed tofu is not only very delicious but also very high in protein! I hope you can find it! If you need any help, feel free to comment below.

Adapted from Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop! This book is wonderful and contains amazing delicious recipes for authentic southern Chinese home cooking. I strongly recommend it if you are interested in this kind of food. I also strongly recommend her other 2 cookbooks!

BEWARE!!! THIS DISH CAN BE EXTREMELY EXTREMELY SPICY!!! I cooked this for my mom, who thought it was not spicy at all. Meanwhile, I thought it was the almost the most spicy dish I ever ate, but also one of the most delicious, so I kept eating anyways XD. To decrease spiciness, I made the dried chilies optional and you can change the amount of Lao Gan Ma you put to your own taste :).

Ingredients:
6 oz five-spice pressed tofu, cut into julienne strips
1/4 onion, cut into julienne strips
1/2 bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
1 stalk celery, cut into julienne strips
2 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths. Separate white and green parts.
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
some ginger, cut into very thin strips (same amount as garlic)
5-10 dried chilies, cut in half and as many seeds as possible removed (optional) (using 5 is already making the dish EXTREMELY SPICY. using 10… -shudders-)
1/2 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns (When you bite into one, you will taste the unique “ma” flavor of Sichuan peppercorns! You can also use 1/4 tsp ground roasted Sichuan peppercorns instead, but add it at the end with the sesame oil. This will make the “ma” flavor throughout the whole dish, but not as strong as the sensation of biting into a peppercorn.)
1 tbsp oil (Chinese people use more, but Lao Gan Ma is already oily. You can increase the oil if you use less Lao Gan Ma, but it isn’t too necessary.)
1-3 tbsp Lao Gan Ma black bean chili oil sauce (1 tbsp for pleasant spiciness, 3 tbsp for very strong spiciness. Combine this with the dried chilies, and you get volcano hot spiciness!)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp white sugar
a little soy sauce to taste (Depending on how much Lao Gan Ma you used, because Lao Gan Ma already contains salt. If you used 3 tbsp, you may not need to add any.)
ground white pepper or black pepper to taste
1 tsp sesame oil

Directions:
1. Cut everything! Make sure everything is ready!
2. Heat a wok. (You can also use a saute pan, skillet, etc.) Add oil and Sichuan peppercorns. Stir a few seconds (about 5 seconds).
3. Add chilies and Lao Gan Ma sauce. Stir until the chilies have lightly browned patches, but be careful not to burn! This should take under 5 seconds in a hot wok.
4. Add garlic and ginger, and stir 5 more seconds.
5. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and white part of green onion. Stir-fry a minute.
6. Add sugar, soy sauce, and white or black pepper. Stir-fry a few seconds.
7. Add five-spice pressed tofu. Stir-fry a minute.
8. Add green part of green onion. Stir-fry 30 seconds or so.
9. Turn off the heat and add sesame oil. Stir to combine well, then transfer to a plate.
10. Serve this dish with cooked rice. Enjoy!

To make a Chinese meal, this dish can be served with a simple green vegetable dish like stir-fried baby bok choy or stir-fried lettuce. You can also pair it with both a vegetable and a meat dish. This kind of food is the most common in Chinese households. It is super delicious, filling, fast and easy to make.

If you are new to Chinese cooking, the steps to make a basic Chinese meal are:
1. Wash rice and start cooking.
2. Cut meat and marinade if using.
3. Then cut vegetables.
4. Mix sauces if necessary.
5. Get soy sauce, sugar, pepper, etc. near the wok before cooking.
6. Heat the wok and cook the first-stir-fry.
7. Rinse the wok if necessary and cook the second.
8. Cook more stir-fries if using.
9. The rice should be done cooking now or prior. When done, mix up with a rice paddle and cover to keep warm. Serve in bowls or plates.
10. Eat!

These steps can later be gone over in more detail, but this is the basics. It can be more complicated if including a soup, steamed dish, or other dish, depending on how long it takes to cook. Also, if you are a new cook, the rice may be done cooking a long time before you are done stir-frying. In this case, the warm function on the rice cooker is very helpful. Using a rice cooker is extremely recommended! You don’t have to watch the rice as it cooks or worry that it’ll overflow or burn. You can buy a good quality one at Costco for a very good price!

Enjoy your Chinese meal!

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