Monthly Archives: May 2015

Recipe: Yellow Curry / Kaeng Kari (แกงกะหรี่)

“Yellow Curry” is one of the popular Thai foods in the USA. In Thai, it is called แกงกะหรี่ (Kaeng Kari, pronounced “gkehng gkah-dee”). It contains chicken, potatoes, and onions, and is served with cooked jasmine rice, along with cucumbers and shallots lightly pickled in sweetened vinegar.

The English translation of a lot of Thai dishes causes great confusion. The translation that causes the greatest confusion is Kaeng Kari to Yellow Curry. In Thai, there are two types of soups. Unlike Western soups, they are served with rice as a main course. Some Thai people therefore do not like to translate them as soups. However I believe they should count as soup since a soup is a dish with a liquid. And if they must not call Thai soups as “soups”, then they must also translate Chinese tang, Korean guk, Japanese shiru, etc. all not as “soup”, since they are all not served at the start of a meal either. Anyway, there are two types in Thai cuisine. “Tom” is made from simmering whole pieces of Thai herbs in water/stock, etc. to infuse flavor. This includes Tom Yum (no coconut milk) and Tom Kha (contains coconut milk). The other type of soup is “Kaeng”, made from cooking a paste of Thai herbs and spices in water or coconut milk. Coconut milk based Kaeng includes Kaeng Kua, Kaeng However, since Thai restaurants translated “Tom” as soup already, they translated “Kaeng” as “curry”. Now, this name is highly inappropriate for so many reasons. First, what was the original meaning of curry? The British invented the word curry to describe all Indian food, especially the dishes with a sauce. Well then, they invented a spice blend called curry powder! And from then on, any dish containing curry powder became called a curry. Which is fine this way. The Japanese karē (see my recipe), the Korean kare, the Vietnamese cari, the Malaysian kari, all contain curry powder, and are therefore curries. But… Thai Kaeng do not contain curry powder. Only some people add it to Kaeng Kari. That’s why it’s called Kaeng Kari!! So therefore calling all Kaeng as “curry” is not appropriate at all. Only Kaeng Kari can possibly be called a “curry”. The terrible translation of Kaeng into “curry” causes further problems when translating Kaeng Kari. Calling the dish “curry curry” would sound quite strange. So they called it “yellow curry instead”! Why? Well, they already translated Kaeng Phet into “Red Curry”, and Kaeng Khiao Wan into “Green Curry”, so why not, it’s yellow! However, in Thailand there is a Kaeng called “Kaeng Lueang”, which literally means… “Yellow Curry”. So now that they call Kaeng Kari as “Yellow Curry”, what about “Kaeng Lueang”? Well, they don’t really care. Because Kaeng Lueang is not served in Thai restaurants in the USA anyways. If you’re wondering, Kaeng Lueang, along with Kaeng Som and Kaeng Pla, are some of the Kaeng that do not use coconut milk. In Southern Thailand, it’s called Kaeng Som, but in Central Thailand they already have a dish called Kaeng Som. (Som means sour and the Kaeng is sour from tamarind or lime juice.) The Central version is red and the Southern version is yellow from Turmeric. So the Central Thai decided to call the Southern Kaeng Som as “Kaeng Lueang”. Anyways, when they arrive in USA, and want “Yellow Curry”, they will expect Kaeng Lueang, but they get… Kaeng Kari instead. If you’re wondering, the Kaeng Lueang is usually translated as “Sour Yellow Curry” or “Southern Yellow Curry” or “Southern Sour Curry”, etc.

So, that was a long paragraph describing the inappropriateness of the name Yellow Curry. From now on I will call it Kaeng Kari. (I called it the American name at the beginning to not confuse people.)

Okay, so what makes Kaeng Kari different from Kaeng Phet and Kaeng Khiao Wan? All three use coconut milk inside. The difference in the soup itself is that the only vegetables used are potato and onion. You CANNOT add other vegetables and still call it Kaeng Kari. Actually I sometimes add carrot for color, like the “curry” in other countries, but not sure if Thai people will be happy about that fact. Similarly, potatoes and onions and carrots DO NOT belong in Kaeng Phet and Kaeng Khiao Wan. The other difference is the curry paste. Like Kaeng Phet, Kaeng Kari uses dry red chilies. It also has just about all of the other ingredients in Kaeng Phet/Khiao Wan. However, Kaeng Kari paste has less dry red chilies and is therefore less spicy. It also contains extra spices, including turmeric and some people add curry powder. Some people also add a few extra herbs.

In this recipe, you need a few ingredients. First, you need Kaeng Kari paste. I strongly recommend the Maesri brand “Karee Curry Paste” in a small can. You will use the whole can so it’s perfect for one time use. You can also use the Mae Ploy “Yellow Curry Paste” in a large container. The problem with Mae Ploy is that the container is super large. And it is also EXTREMELY spicy. Their Kaeng Kari paste is standable. But their Kaeng Phet and Kaeng Khiao Wan pastes are SO SPICY, that I cannot even eat a bowl of the finished soup. They are also extremely salty! It tastes like you added a whole salt shaker into the soup. But some people like it because it isn’t canned. Personally I think canning does not make the flavor much worse than the Mae Ploy. Both brands are very, very authentic. They are also very tasty (but Mae Ploy is too salty and spicy). So I recommend using Maesri as it is not too salty and spicy, and is in a convenient-sized package. Second, you need coconut milk. In making Thai Kaeng, you must saute the thick part of the coconut milk that floats to the top with the Kaeng paste until the oil separates. Chaokoh used to be a great brand, but now I cannot get the oil to separate at all, even after boiling half an hour. Mae Ploy’s coconut oil DID separate after a while, when I tried about a year ago. But it costs much more, so I don’t use it regularly. Aroy D is the brand with no preservatives and I haven’t tried it with making Kaeng yet. Do not use any other brand because if it is Asian, it is not good quality, and if it is non-Asian, it costs too much and may contain something like guar gum, which prevents it from separating layers. And NEVER buy “lite” coconut milk, which is just coconut milk diluted with water. Don’t worry because coconut fat is healthy even if it is saturated, as shown by recent scientific studies. Anyways, you may use Chaokoh if it doesn’t matter that the oil separates. But most authentic Kaeng should have oil floating on top. For a shortcut, you may saute the paste in a tbsp of coconut oil for a couple minutes before adding the coconut milk. This is not traditional, but does taste wonderful, hehe. So do it if you like! Next, you need seasonings, Thai fish sauce and palm sugar. Preferably, don’t use Three Crabs, which is not Thai fish sauce. Use the much cheaper Tiparos brand (used in the majority of Thai homes and still very good) or the slightly better quality, Tra Chang brand (harder to find). Palm sugar may be hard to find so you may substitute white sugar in this recipe.

Today I made a pescetarian version with tofu, which is not traditional. You may use chicken thighs if you wish. Vegetarians/vegans cannot eat Thai Kaeng as it has kapi inside the paste, made from krill. However you can make the paste yourself. I can make a recipe later.

Note: You can use 1 inch cubes instead of 1.5 inch. I prefer smaller, but 1.5 is more traditional.

Adapted from Serious Eats, Ajat Recipe adapted from both Serious Eats and the High Heel Gourmet

Ingredients:

1 can Maesri “karee curry paste”, if using Mae Ploy, use about 3 tbsp (depending on your preference, it may be too salty)

1 can coconut milk (14 oz), DO NOT shake!!

1 lb chicken thighs, cut into 1.5 inch cubes, or substitute with 1 package tofu (about 14-16 oz), cut into about 1.25 inch cubes since tofu doesn’t shrink

1 lb potatoes, cut into 1.5 inch cubes

NOT traditional: some carrots, cut into pieces slightly smaller than potatoes

1 onion, cut into wedges (traditional) or cubes (my preference)

palm sugar or white sugar (to taste and optional, about 1/2 tbsp or so if using)

fish sauce to taste (don’t add too much or it might be too salty, I use about 1/2 tbsp)

water

serve with: cooked white jasmine rice, ajat (cucumber and shallot lightly pickled sweet and sour) is optional but always served in Thailand, see recipe below the main recipe

Directions:

1. Prepare ajat first, if using. Then wash and start cooking the rice. Once started, you can start making the Kaeng Kari.

2. Traditionally: Open the unshaken can of coconut milk. Add the thick part floating on top to the pot with the Kaeng Kari paste. Reserve the rest of the coconut milk. Heat the pot, using a spatula to break up the paste and combine well with the coconut milk. Stir and cook until the coconut oil seprates and floats on top. However, this takes a while and it never happens when I use Chaokoh brand. So see the non-traditional way that is faster and easier.

2. Non-traditionally: Heat a pot with 1 tbsp coconut oil. Add the Kaeng Kari Paste and use the spatula to distribute evenly through the oil and cook a couple minutes as it becomes fragrant. Then carefully (it may splatter if oil is too hot) add the thick part of the coconut milk floating on top and stir well to combine.

3. Add the potato, onion, non-traditional carrot if using, chicken or tofu, rest of coconut milk, and water to cover the ingredients. Add fish sauce and sugar. You can also add after boiling to taste it. Then bring to a boil. Stir after boiling and adjust with fish sauce and sugar to taste.

4. Cover and simmer 15 minutes or until the potato is soft. Check to see if it is soft (taste it, it will be hot though!). Also adjust to your taste with fish sauce and sugar.

5. Serve! I ladle the soup into individual bowls, and serve rice on plates. Also serve with ajat. Then use a spoon to scoop some of the soup and ingredients from the bowl onto the rice and eat with a spoon and fork like Thai people. Eat ajat to refresh between some bites. Thai people DO NOT EVER eat Thai cuisine with chopsticks! They eat stir-fried rice noodles in a very interesting way with the spoon! Usually the fork cuts and the spoon is used to feed. You do not put the fork into the mouth, only into the spoon. Thai people also do not use knives at the table. They used to use hands like Indians and most Southeast Asians. But with Western influence, they switched to spoon and fork.

Ajat Recipe:

4 Persian cucumbers, sliced thinly into full, half, or quarter moons

1 shallot, halved and then sliced very thinly (I always skip shallot as I cannot stand raw onion flavor. Again not traditional)

some chilies or a jalapeno, sliced thinly (I also always skip. In Thailand the super spicy tiny chilies are used. You can use jalapeno too for less spicy. And always deseed for less spicy. In Thailand it is never deseeded, hehe. You can skip like me if you don’t like raw fresh chilies)

1/4 cup distilled white vinegar (or Japanese white rice vinegar if you prefer but white vinegar is traditional)

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup water

1/4 tsp salt

Directions:

1. Put sliced cucumber, shallot, and chilies in a bowl.

2. Add the other ingredients in a small pot and heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Turn off the heat and pour over the vegetables. You can also cool down first, then pour if you wish.

3. Stir well. Leave aside as you cook the Kaeng Kari or for about 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes so it is evenly seasoned. Then serve alongside the Kaeng Kari and rice. Ajat is always served traditionally. Today, I could not make it since I had no cucumbers 😦

Ajat is also served with Thai satay. It is very refreshing and tasty!

Enjoy! Kaeng Kari is very easy and quite quick to make when you have the canned paste ready. 🙂

  

Recipe: Sichuan-Style Vegetarian Mixed Noodles

This recipe is REALLY easy. You only need noodles and some Chinese seasonings. Cook the noodles while mixing the sauce. Then out the noodles in the sauce and mix. Eat. It is SO GOOD too. If you love noodles you will love this recipe. When you need to make something fast, make this recipe.

Adapted from Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop (the book has so many tasty noodle recipes!)

Ingredients: Makes 1 Serving (this way you can multiply for however much you need)

1 serving Chinese fresh or dry flour and water noodles (You can use the fresh “Shanghai noodles” in the refrigerated section, or dried noodles, like dry “Shanghai noodles”, “Shandong noodles” sometimes called “Shandong ramen” but it’s not ramen, or other noodles that only have flour (maybe lists salt too) as an ingredient, no egg, no alkaline agent. There are many different thicknesses and widths and you can choose your favorite. If you have more time, you can make fresh noodles, which Chinese people prefer much more than premade or dry noodles. Just follow my homemade Italian pasta recipe using no eggs. Instead use water, as little as possible to form a dough, don’t add too much. About 60ml water per 125 grams flour is enough. Knead for a longer time to form a lot of gluten. And use the fettucine cutter. Actually, you can use egg noodles if you like them more, but in Sichuan, they do not use egg noodles, only flour-water noodles. My dad said, in Shandong, sometimes they add egg. You can even use soba noodles. In Sichuan they have noodles made from buckwheat flour too.)

Sauce: 1 tsp Chinese white sesame paste or tahini, 1 tsp light soy sauce, 1/4 tsp dark soy sauce, 1/2 tsp Chinkiang or Langzhong vinegar, 1/4 tsp white sugar (optional), 2 tsp Sichuan chili oil (use my recipe), 1/8 tsp ground roasted Sichuan peppercorn powder (dry roast a heaping 1/8 tsp whole Sichuan peppercorns until fragrant, then grind in mortar) or Sichuan peppercorn oil (buy at store), half of a finely minced clove of garlic or 1/8 tsp granulated garlic (I use this because fresh garlic gives garlic breath and it takes time to cut), optionally about 1 tbsp water to thin it if too thick

1 green onion, finely chopped (optional)

1 serving of any green leafy vegetable like spinach, bok choy, or anything you like (optional if you don’t have but it is healthy and balanced to add)

a handful of mung bean sprouts (optional and adds crunchiness)

Directions:

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil.

2. Add green vegetable and blanch 1 minute or until just cooked (only 10 seconds for spinach). Then remove and set aside. You can put in cold water or just leave it. Blanch bean sprouts for a minute too if you are using.

3. Add noodles and cook until cooked. Just taste it and it’s ready when it tastes cooked, but don’t cook too long so it doesn’t become mushy.

4. Meanwhile, mix sauce in a bowl.

5. When noodles are ready you can either drain and add directly to the bowl, or rinse until cool. For some noodles, if you add directly, it will be a starchy mess, so I recommend rinsing. Rinsing will make the noodles “cold noodles” which are popular during the summer. Some people put the noodles back in hot water after rinsing but I find this very unnecessary. Maybe you can try not rinsing but adding extra water to the sauce. Some noodles do not turn starchy though.

6. Put noodles in the bowl and mix. Top with green vegetables, bean sprouts, and green onions if using. You can also sprinkle roasted sesame seeds on top if you like. Enjoy!!

Recipe: Tofu Clay Pot(豆腐煲)

In one of my previous posts, I gave an introduction to Chinese clay pots and how to care for them. Please read it if you want to make this dish in a clay pot. Here’s a great recipe that can be made inside a clay pot! Let’s learn more about this dish before making it below.

This dish is a Cantonese dish. Cantonese people are famous for making very “clear” dishes that do not have strong flavorings but just the natural umami flavor. One great example is Seafood Tofu Clay Pot(海鲜豆腐煲 hai xian dou fu bao [in Mandarin], pronounced hai, rhymes with eye, syehn, doh, like dough, foo, like in cool, ball. literally “ocean fresh bean curd clay-pot”, and “ocean fresh” means “seafood” in Chinese.), which relies totally on the stock to season the dish. Seafood and tofu, napa cabbage and other ingredients are cooked in broth in a clay pot. It’s very typical of “clear” flavored Cantonese cuisine, and requires fresh and good ingredients. Actually, as a result, I don’t recommend making it with seafood as the only tofu version is much better here. In the USA, I can only get frozen shrimp and squid and scallops, even though I live not far from the coast of California, ugh! It’s really crazy. They always have a horrible fishy odor, and I have to remove with a salt scrub, sake soak, vinegar soak, it’s crazy! And if there is milk good to have a milk soak too. These get rid of the terrible fishy smell. Also, the seafood in this dish cooks to so rubbery when I make it. I added it at the very and end and blanched for 1 minute, perfect, then turn off the heat and the seafood stays in the hot water and becomes harder to chew than rubber! Ewwww… so it may look beautiful in the picture but imagine the seafood to be rubber. Anyways I have no idea how Cantonese people keep seafood so tender, so I’m just going to give the recipe with tofu only, hehe. You can also make a vegetarian version with konbu dashi 😀

Adapted from the seafood recipe in Grace Young’s very good Cantonese cookbook, Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen

Ingredients:

4 cups napa cabbage leaves cut to 1/4 inch thick shreds (4 cups of the shreds not the whole leaves, hehe)

1 inch ginger, finely julienned (traditionally sliced ginger is used but I prefer julienned because you can eat the julienne and it is great flavor)

2 green onions, finely julienned

some cilantro to taste, cut into 2 inch long pieces (optional if you don’t like or don’t have)

6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms (I used less because I didn’t have 8), soaked in 1/2 to 1 cup hot water, to cover, and top with a small plate to press down, soaking until soft, like 30 minutes or so, or longer, and reserve the soaking water, which is very flavorful and full of umami, and thinly slice the mushrooms, I leave the stem on because it is a waste to remove and they soften from the cooking.

1/2 cup cooked bamboo shoot from a can or package, julienned or thinly sliced (optional if you don’t have)

1 block (approx. 14-16 oz) firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1.5 cups or more chicken broth/stock (preferably homemade Chinese style, but I always drink all the chicken soup I make and not leave it for stock, hehe), or Chinese stock, or dashi, or use Better than Bouillon, or water and must use dashi powder, or a combination (I used 2.5 cups because I prefer more soup, but it is traditional to have not too much soup in this dish)

about 2 oz dried Chinese mung bean starch noodles, soaked in cold water 15 minutes and drained well

1/2 tsp salt (use only 1/4 tsp if using dashi powder)

1 tsp dashi powder (decrease salt if using) (SO GOOD, adds amazing umami to Cantonese soups! I learned this from Wantanmien’s amazing Youtube video for Salmon Head Tofu Soup, which I make often for my mom) (you shouldn’t use if you are using actual dashi, or you can decrease it, just don’t overpower)

1/4 tsp white pepper powder

2 tsp sesame oil

Directions:

1. In a Chinese clay pot, put the napa cabbage evenly on the bottom. You can use a cocotte or a stainless steel pot if you don’t want to use a clay pot! But clay pot is beautiful, traditional, and inexpensive, although it is harder to care for. Please read my clay pot post for more information.

2. Sprinkle the ginger on top evenly, then julienned shiitake evenly. If using bamboo shoots, sprinkle evenly too.

3. Spread the mung bean starch noodles in an even layer.

4. Then sprinkle tofu evenly on top. You can evenly spread green onion on top now but it will not be very green later, so I recommend adding after boiling.

5. Sprinkle on top the salt, pepper, and dashi powder.

6. Pour over the shiitake soaking liquid, strained to remove small particles, and also the stock you are using.

7. Cover with the lid. Set over low heat. Then in 5 minutes, to medium-low, then medium. If your stove flame is weaker, like mine, you can start with medium low or even medium like I do. Then I stop it at medium high. Definitely do not do the highest heat with a clay pot. And don’t do medium high with a more powderful stove! If using a cocotte or other pot, just start on medium high or high depending on the pot!

8. When the soup boils, uncover and add green onion on top. Notice how the water level is higher now because the napa cabbage shrunk.

9. Now stir the contents gently to distribute if you wish. This is optional though, but try to immerse everything under the liquid unless you only added the smallest amount and it’s not possible.

10. Then cover and simmer 3-4 minutes or so over medium or low. Actually if everything is cooked well, this is optional too.

11. Uncover and put the cilantro on top evenly. Drizzle the sesame oil too.

12. Now you can cover again or just serve immediately. Enjoy the ingredients with the soup. Serve with rice and other dishes. I served tomato and egg stir-fry, which I have a recipe for and it’s very, very easy to make. You can also serve a green leaf vegetable like the several recipes I have, but it is optional in my opinion as the soup contains napa cabbage. Enjoy the clear flavor and umami of the broth!

Remember, I make it with seafood that turned to rubber, so don’t be surprised when you see the seafood in the below picture, hehe.

  

Recipe: Kaya (Southeast Asian Coconut-Pandan Egg “Jam”)

Kaya is a popular spread in Southeast Asia made with coconut milk, pandan leaves, sugar, and eggs. It’s usually translated to jam, but it’s more of a custard or curd. It is very sweet and eggy with pandan and coconut fragrances. In Malaysian and Singapore, it is commonly served in coffee shops as small sandwiches of toast with butter and kaya, called kaya toast. It’s a very tasty snack, hehe. The recipe is at the bottom of the post. It is also a topping for the Nyonya specialty dessert “pulut tai tai” made from glutinous rice naturally dyed blue with a special kind of flower (butterfly pea flower). But I will say that I do prefer fruit jams now that I have tried kaya, sorry!

Kaya is very complicated to make. Actually it uses only 4 ingredients and the process might not seem hard. But it is! And time consuming! So I probably won’t make it often.

Anyways there are different method of making kaya. First the traditional method made over a double boiler. Second the method made directly over heat. Third, the version I made today with method based from Serious Eats, where everything except eggs are cooked first, then cooled and eggs added last. This means less time reducing over heat. But I must wait an hour or so in the middle to cool the syrup so the eggs don’t scramble like crazy. I will put all the methods in detail below.

My recipe is mostly adapted from Rasa Malaysia, i am a food blog, Serious Eats, and Nyonya Cooking (video). I have also read kaya recipes of a dozen other blogs but these blogs are from which I adapted my recipe.

Ingredients:

300 ml coconut milk to 400 ml (1 can) coconut milk (I used a whole can in my method. But recipes all over the internet widely varied. You can also use “coconut cream”. But not the same as “cream of coconut”. The first is Thai and unsweetened. The second is American, sweetened, and thickened. For brand, use Aroy-D or Chaokoh or Mae Ploy. The first one is preservative-free. You can use can or carton. A small carton has 250 ml only though, and the big one has a whole liter so you need another use for it. Do not use the coconut milk that is sold like almond milk for drinking, obviously. Do not use lite coconut milk, which is just diluted coconut milk with a thickener. Also, you may use organic can from Whole Foods (not lite!) but it costs several times more than the Thai brands above, which are only about $1.)

200 grams sugar total (This is already very sweet. Some recipes called for more, like 250 grams. Others like the Serious Eats one used less. So I would say use between 150 to 250 grams.) (If using all white sugar, it will be yellow jam. Or you can caramelize the sugar like the Serious Eats or Rasa Malaysia recipes to make it brown. Otherwise, use some gula melaka, AKA dark brown palm sugar, or the coconut sugar from the health food store, or jaggery or brown sugar. I used 1/2 coconut sugar and 1/2 white sugar to get a dark brown color. You can also use 1/4 coconut/palm/brown sugar for somewhat lighter brown color.)

4 to 8 pandan leaves, each tied into a knot (Find them frozen at the Asian store. Different recipes used different amounts again.)

4 or 5 eggs (I think this is traditional. I used 4 whole eggs. This causes small scrambled eggs to appear. I will explain how to make the jam smooth. Used in Nyonya Cooking’s recipe and most other recipes I have seen.), or just yolks (makes it smoother, like the Serious Eats recipe), or half of them yolks and other half eggs (used in some recipes like i am a food blog’s recipe)

Preparation of Pandan: Some people infuse pandan leaves in the jam. I did this in the Serious Eats method. The annoying part is a lot of syrup or jam will stick to the leaves that must be removed. The other way is to blend the leaves until smooth with the coconut milk or some of the coconut milk, then strain finely and use only the liquid. My blender (Blendtec) is HUGE so this would be irritating to do. This also tints the jam green (maybe not if the brown/palm/coconut sugar is used though.) which is very beautiful in my opinion. Use either option before starting the recipes.

Preparation of Caramel, if using: This takes time and is very difficult for the beginner so I recommend using brown/palm/coconut sugar instead. Melt all or part of the sugar with an equal amount of water in a pot over low heat, then cook until brown. Don’t burn it so not too brown! Don’t stir either. It might also crystallize (really annoying) Then take off heat and VERY carefully pour in coconut milk. The sugar is at a VERY high temperature. Stir constantly to dissolve. The sugar may crystallize but it will dissolve. Now continue the recipe.

Directions:

BTW: Kaya is thick = coats the back of spatula/spoon.

1. Traditional way: You need a stainless steel bowl that fits over a pot. In this pot, put water but do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, beat eggs in the bowl, then put rest of the ingredients in the bowl and mix well together. Put on top of the pot and stir constantly with a spatula or chopsticks while cooking over medium heat for about 1.5 hours until the kaya is cooked. It should be thick and smooth. This is how Malaysian grandmothers made it. However, it takes too long and too much stirring. Also there is a high chance for eggs to scramble anyways so the other two methods are more practical. Anyways, if they scramble, see the step 2. So I recommend one of the other two methods.

1. Over direct heat version: Beat eggs, then Mix everything well in a pot. Then put over medium heat and stir constantly with chopsticks or a spatula. When it starts to thicken, bring to medium-low, then low. Stir for total 30 minutes or so until it is thick. Now see step 2.

1. Serious Eats-inspired method: less cooking of the eggs = less time stirring. But more time waiting in the middle. Actually next time if I make kaya I will do the second method instead. First put everything in the pot except eggs. Stir well and bring to a boil, stirring about every 30 seconds or so. Simmer over medium heat to reduce for a while, like 10 minutes. Then turn off the heat and cool down to room temperature or a little warmer (you should be able to touch it). Meanwhile beat eggs, then when cool combine everything well. Stir constantly over medium heat until a little thick, then lower the heat and cook until thick enough.

2. If the mixture is lumpy because of scrambled eggs, you can blend until smooth (ugh, must clean blender), or put through fine mesh strainer like I did (ugh, takes forever)… But some people like it lumpy so you don’t have to. When ready, transfer to a jar. When it is room temp (after pushing through the strainer for like half an hour it was already room temp by then) you can cover and refrigerate. When cool it is thicker because of the sugar. Now you can make kaya toast!

Kaya Toast Recipe (Serves 1)

Toast 2 slices of bread. Preferably use Asian style bread which is cut thicker than American, but I didn’t have. BTW, it’s super easy to make bread at home, just mix stuff together, wait some time, and bake. But I don’t have a loaf pan so I buy bread from the store, LOL… I will probably buy one in the future and put a recipe for Asian style bread. After toasting, Cut off the crusts. Actually it’s optional but traditional and better presentation. I dip crusts in kaya to eat, hehe. Try to do quickly so it’s still a little warm by serving time. Then cut each slice into 2 or 3 rectangles, I did 3. Take a cold block of butter from the fridge and shave off 2 or 3 thin slices. Put one slice on half of the toast pieces (the other half will go on top later). Then spread kaya to taste on top of the butter or on the other toast pieces. Put toast pieces together as a sandwich. Enjoy! Serve with hot coffee, or tea, as a breakfast or snack. 🙂

  

Recipe: Mushrooms and Crumbled Tofu Sauté (Vegan Dhingri Dolma)

Note: According to WordPress, this is my 100th post! YAY! 🙂

The Awadhi cuisine is that of the city of Lucknow, which is the capital of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. Many famous restaurant dishes originated in the Awadhi cuisine. One Awadhi dish is called dhingri dolma, which means mushrooms with paneer. This dish is made from button mushrooms, crumbled paneer, and flavorings, sauteed together. Although it doesn’t look very appetizing to me because of crumbled paneer (and it has a very funny name, hehe) , it is really good.

The recipe I am sharing today is a vegan version of Dhingri Dolma. Also, I am including a way to make it slightly Indo-Chinese fusion. It’s quite interesting and you will see. The finished dish is VERY good.

Adapted from: Veg Recipes of India

Ingredients:

200-250 grams white button mushrooms (or cremini / baby portabella), sliced (about 4 slices per mushroom or depending on size)

1 block firm tofu (about 400-500 grams), cubed (size does not matter too much, but too big is not good, so try bite size pieces)

2 tbsp oil (vegan), if non-vegan you may use ghee if you wish

1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes with seeds (optional) (like from Costco) (for Indo-Chinese only)

1/2 tsp caraway seeds (optional) (cumin can also be used) (skip for Indo-Chinese)

1 Indian size onion, equals 1/2 American size onion, finely chopped (optional)

For Indo-Chinese: skip onion, and use 2-3 green onions, finely chopped or sliced into horse ears, separate white (stem) and green (leaf) parts

3-4 cloves garlic plus 1/2 inch ginger, finely minced, or crushed into a paste in a mortar

1/2 inch ginger, finely julienned

(Instead of mincing/crushing ginger-garlic, you can julienne all of ginger and slice thinly garlic if you want, especially for Indo-Chinese)

salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp)

for Indo-Chinese: use 1 tsp to 1/2 tbsp soy sauce and decrease the salt to 1/4 tsp

white pepper powder (1/4 tsp) (or black pepper)

1/4 to 1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chili powder

1/4 tsp garam masala

Red chili powder and garam masala are optional for Indo-Chinese but may also be included. You can also decrease the amounts.

1 roma tomato, diced (if you do not have, you may use 1/2 tbsp tomato paste, or 1 tbsp ketchup instead. Ketchup is not authentic, hehe)

1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro

Directions:

1. Heat a pan or a kadai or a wok, etc.

2. Add oil (or ghee). Add caraway seeds and fry for 5 seconds.

3. If mincing/slicing/julienne garlic-ginger, add now. Stir-fry about 10-15 seconds (5-10 if using green onion). You can leave out the 1/2 inch ginger julienne and add later, this is traditional. However, I do not like the strong flavor in the ginger so I add it now.

4. Add onion and saute 5 minutes, medium high or so until translucent and lightly browned. If using green onion, add white part and saute 15 more seconds. If using ginger-garlic paste, add after 4 minutes and saute one more minute.

5. Add mushrooms and stir-well. Cook over high heat. Keep stir-frying. First they will absorb all oil and be too dry. It will be smoky. Sprinkle 1/2 of the salt. Stir-fry and after a couple minutes a little liquid will be released. Then more, and more. Once a lot of liquid, boil until liquid is evaporated.

6. Add the tofu and tomato. Stir well. Then add the rest of salt, and white pepper, red chili powder, and garam masala. Add soy sauce if using. Stir-fry. As you stir, do not be too gentle. The tofu will crumble. If it doesn’t, it must be very firm. If it is, crumble with spatula on purpose.

7. The tofu will become like scrambled eggs. At this point, do not cook until tomato is a mushy paste. Add the cilantro and green onion greens if using. If not adding ginger julienne at the beginning, add it now. Stir-fry one more minute. Turn off the heat.

8. Taste for salt. Adjust salt and spices to taste. Then enjoy!

9. This tastes really, really good. You can serve with rice, plain or pulao or Indo-Chinese fried rice. You can also serve with flatbread like roti, chapati, naan, etc. Enjoy!

Hopefully the recipe was not too confusing with the Indo-Chinese fusion additions weaved into the recipe 🙂

Enjoy if you try! It’s really good! Below is my picture of the yummy Indo-Chinese fusion version I invented. 😀

  

Recipe: Tang Yuan in Sweet Rice Wine(酒酿汤圆)

To make my favorite Chinese dessert, you need 2 things. First, the sweet wine rice. Please see my previous post to get more information about it and how it is quite simply made at home. You can also find it refrigerated at Chinese grocery stores. Second, the tang yuan. Although almost every modern Chinese person believes tang yuan are extremely time consuming and challenging to make (for some odd reason!), they are actually ridiculously easy to make, like really, really, really easy!! Mix glutinous rice flour with water to make a dough and then form balls with it. Then boil water and add the tang yuan. This is 99999999999 times easier than any western dessert or of any other cuisine to make at home. To see a detailed recipe as well as fillings (which make tang yuan extra yummy, especially black sesame filling!!), please see this post. However, if you need to make it immediately, then fine, you don’t have to make tang yuan at home, because the Chinese supermarket always has it in the frozen section, although it is totally expensive compared to mixing some glutinous rice flour with water. You can buy one package of glutinous rice flour for $1. Then that can make several dozen tang yuan!

Okay, when you have the ingredients, you can start. There’s also some optional ingredients. The first is a flower called osmanthus (桂花 gui hua, pronounced “gway hwah”) that is yellow colored, small, and found in the dried section. It adds a unique fragrance. But actually I have never tasted it before. And I don’t include in my recipe because I like it without the osmanthus too. Maybe someday I will try the osmanthus one. The second is egg. A common addition to sweet rice wine soup is egg flower (蛋花) which is made by beating eggs then adding to boiling soup, stirring with chopsticks, to create a unique and beautiful shape in soup. See my tomato egg drop soup recipe for more information. To western people, the egg in sweet soup may sound weird, but eggs are common in western desserts. Actually I usually do not include egg in the soup. But it is believed to be healthy to include the egg. Sweet rice wine soup with egg flowers is commonly given to pregnant women (the soup has less alcohol in it than a ripe pear, so don’t worry!) too. If you include these ingredients, the soup with wine rice grains, egg flowers, and osmanthus floating around is very beautiful.

Ingredients: Serves 3

1/2 cup sweet wine rice

3 cups water

1 tbsp sugar or to taste

12 black sesame filling tang yuan (or red bean paste filling tang yuan, or peanut, or red bean and black sesame, etc. If using unfilled tang yuan, which are much smaller, use more obviously.)

1 egg, beaten (optional)

Directions:

1. Bring water to a boil.

2. Add tang yuan carefully. Use a spoon to gently stir to prevent sticking. Bring back to a boil.

3. When boiling, lower heat to medium high and simmer a minute.

4. Add wine rice and stir well. Bring back to a boil.

5. If using egg, add beaten egg and stir 3 times quickly with chopsticks.

6. Serve in bowls, 4 tang yuan per person and ladle the soup on top. Add sugar to taste to each bowl. But if everyone doesn’t really have preference on sugar, you can just add at with the wine rice directly into the soup. You can skip sugar for a faintly sweet soup, which my parents prefer.

Sorry that my picture isn’t the best, hehe. Enjoy the delicious food!

  

Recipe: Homemade Sweet Wine Rice(酒酿/醪糟)

Chinese sweet wine rice is a unique Chinese ingredient. It is made from fermenting cooked glutinous rice with yeast until very sweet. If you know, yeast eats the starch in the rice and converts it to sweet sugars. If you let it go longer, the sugar will be converted into alcohol later. But at this point, the alcohol level is very, very low, like the amount found in ripe fruits. I can tell it’s so low since mh face is not red after eating it. Especially as it is served heated, the tiny amount of alcohol inside is evaporated anyways. Anyways, the resulting product is rice with a unique texture due to the starch being eaten and a very sweet taste. This rice is used in some delicious Chinese foods, including my favorite dessert, black sesame filled tang yuan in sweet rice wine soup. It’s SO GOOD. However, I have heard that some non-Chinese don’t like the flavor of it. But many do really like it too. So I recommend you to buy this wine rice from the Chinese grocery store in the open refrigerated section like where the pressed tofu, etc. are kept, and it should be nearby. The storebought one does cost a lot! And so if you like it, it is quite simple to make it yourself at home! I just recommend buying first in case you don’t like the large batch you made at home.

To make this wine rice, you need glutinous rice, also called sweet rice, sticky rice, mochi rice, and other names. These names are all extremely problematic and confusing. First, sweet rice is confusing since it ISN’T sweet (until it’s fermented). Second, sticky rice, that’s fine right? Cause the texture is stickier than normal rice… but wait! Ugh, Americans HAVE to call Japanese rice (used in every Japanese meal and in sushi) sticky rice too! And these two are TOTALLY different. So don’t EVER confuse them! Or else the rice in this recipe will not cook nor become sweet. Third, mochi rice is fine, a literal translation of the Japanese term, もち米… but that only describes the Japanese version used in mochi (short grain). There’s also a Thai version (long grain)! Fourth, glutinous rice, great! No other rice is called glutinous rice, and glutinous means “sticky”! But wait… it sounds like “gluten” that protein that all these health food fads are blaming right now and causing Americans to have wheat-phobia even without Celiac disease! Oh no! Because NO RICE contains this gluten! It’s just called glutinous cause it’s sticky. So honestly there isn’t a good English name for this rice! The only thing that works is the Chinese name 糯米, hehe.

PS. Of these four names, different country cuisines tend to use different names. Glutinous rice is most often used name by Chinese. Sticky rice is common name in Thailand but glutinous is also used. Sweet rice and mochi rice are both used in Japan. Sweet rice is used in Korea. But there are also exceptions.

Anyways, there are two varieties of the glutinous rice. The short grain Japanese version and the long-grain Thai version. The Thai version is cooked by steaming, while the Japanese version is cooked like regular white rice but with less water. I’m not really sure about the one used in China. My mom says that they always used the short version. But traditionally, the rice is steamed. Either variety works in this recipe. I currently use Thai glutinous rice so I’m not sure if the steaming cooks Japanese rice in the same time. Or you can boil it. To buy the different kinds, for Thai rice look for “Product of Thailand”. Japanese glutinous rice is often labeled sweet rice and is grown in the USA, in California. Japan doesn’t export very much rice.

Regular rice is translucent when raw (light can pass through, somewhat clear) while opaque when cooked (totally white). Glutinous rice is opaque when raw (totally white) and translucent when cooked (light can pass through, somewhat clear). That’s one way to see the difference!

If wondering, glutinous rice is also used to make the flour used to make Tang Yuan. The version we use is the Thai one because it is soaked in water, ground very finely, then dried. It says in Chinese on the package that it is soaked but not in English, hehe. The Japanese rice made into mochiko is not soaked. You should use soaked for tang yuan, but mochiko works too. Anyways, see the tang yuan post for how to make them. 🙂

Okay, so any more confusions about rice varieties and such can be asked in the comments. I’m glad to help!

The next ingredient we need is Chinese yeast balls for making rice wines. They are shaped like balls, and made of yeast grown on rice, then dried and powdered. Unfortunately, they come in packs of TONS of yeast balls! I can make hundreds of liters of wine rice with one package! Anyways these are super hard to find. After scanning the aisle like crazy I found it. It’s labeled “RICE CAKE”! XD

And no, the baking yeast does not work in this recipe, you have to use the Chinese yeast ball 😦

That’s actually all the ingredients you need. For equipment, you need a steamer and a cheesecloth. I use a stainless steel steamer set, with a pot on bottom, 2 baskets on top, and a lid. You can also use bamboo steamers with a stainless steel wok or a rack in a pot. But the stainless steel steamer is much easier to use! Just buy one set for $30 or less and you can make steamed buns, and much more. Remember the cheesecloth for steaming the rice! You can also cook Japanese glutinous rice in a rice cooker. If you use Zojirushi or other similar brand, the inside of the pot has the amount of water to add.

You’ll also need a really large bowl, or the traditional wine fermentation jars! A large colander that can fit all the rice is very helpful. And a bowl + rolling pin, or a real mortar and pestle, or just use a coffee grinder.

This recipe is adapted from use real butter. Their wonderful recipe method is the exact same as how it is made in China! It has been made this way for centuries, and my mom told me how my grandma made it in China. So I hope you enjoy 😀

First, use 500 grams of glutinous rice. You can also double it but I halved the original because I am just testing it this time, and making too large a batch isn’t good. Rinse the rice 3 times, and use the water to feed your plants. Rinsing too much gets rid of too much starch and it’s a waste, and it’ll never become clear water since it’s glutinous rice. You can just rinse once if you like! After rinsing, cover with water and soak overnight. If making in the evening, it’s fine to soak in the morning. You can even soak 24 hours too.

After soaking, drain. (BTW if using 1 kg of rice, you can do 2 batches.) Take the steamer basket and line with a cheesecloth. Spread the soaked rice flat on top. Then meanwhile bring water to a boil over high heat in the steamer pot. After boiling, put the basket containing rice on top. Cover and cook for 20 minutes on high.

While steaming, crush one yeast ball in a bowl until a powder. It shouldn’t be too coarse, but it doesn’t have to be way too fine  like flour either. Fine is better than coarse though. By the way, I’m using twice the normal amount of yeast, which is 1 ball to 1 kg rice. But you can’t really use 1/2 ball, and I bought so many yeast balls anyways. Also, using more yeast doesn’t hurt, so it’s fine.

Open (be careful not to burn yourself with steam) and taste the rice to see if it is cooked. It’s cooked when soft to eat, translucent. If cooked, proceed to next step. Otherwise, keep cooking for 5 minutes or longer until cooked.

Now put in a colander that can fit it. Rinse under cold running water until it cools down. It shouldn’t be cold, but not hot either. If hot, the yeast will die! Basically a little warm or just room temperature is fine. The rinsing step is the cool down the rice. It also absorbs more water, which is important. Remember to use clean water. In the USA and UK, etc. tap water is fine. But in other countries, like China, you should boil the water first then cool down. Then drain in the colander. Transfer to the fermentation container, which is the large bowl that can fit the rice. Or the traditional jar.

Tip! No rinsing, no wasting water? It’s more challenging, but okay. Transfer just cooked rice to the fermentation container. Then add 1 cup cold water. Mix with rice spatula until abosorbed. When it’s a little warm. You can see if is dry now. You can add like 1/2 cup more water or so. This is pretty hard to judge. It also heats up the bowl. So I just recommend rinsing.

Once rice is a little warm or room temperature, sprinkle yeast on top. In China you mix with your hands, clean, or in a clean food glove. I prefer to use a rice paddle though. Mix very thoroughly. Then press down on the rice. Lastly make a hole in the middle. (Sorry, I didn’t take pictures! You can check the recipe with pictures on use real butter). Then cover with plastic wrap (or the lid). Make a few small slits in it (if using wrap of course!). Then put in a safe place. I use the oven, turned off. Leave for 3 days. You can check on it every day. If your climate is cold, you can leave the oven light on.

The rice, as fermenting, will release liquid in a day or so. By 3 days, it should be the same level as the rice. When it should be ready, taste a little rice. It should be sweet. It should taste similar to the wine rice you get at the store. For some people, it can be ready in 2 days! For others (colder probably) it may be ready in a week.

I call it wine rice instead of rice wine. Because it is mostly rice, not wine. Only a little liquid.

If it gets mold, throw it away 😦

But you can prevent mold! Make sure you use clean utensils and water. And get NO OIL OR GREASE AT ALL in the rice. This totally ruins the whole process. Remember that!

Okay, when ready, I transfer to a clean jar and refrigerate it. In the fridge, it ferments much slower. But it will still become sour after too long. So use in a week or so. When sour it is not as tasty.

To enjoy! Put a heaping tbsp in a cup or bowl. Add boiling water. About 1/2 cup. Mix and stir. Enjoy!

You can also make my favorite, delicious, amazing, wonderful dessert, 酒酿汤圆 or tang yuan (with black sesame filling!) in sweet rice wine. I will post this recipe next. REALLY look forward to it. Since it’s SO GOOD!! 😀

Note: In Chinese, this wine rice is called 酒酿 and also 醪糟, they mean the same thing.

Picture! This is the rice yeast ball 🙂

 

A preview of the wonderful dessert recipe coming next 🙂

And you may think it looks not pretty. But don’t worry it’s good!

 

Enjoy! 😀

Equipment: Chinese/Japanese Clay Pots(砂锅/土鍋)

(Pictures will be added later! :))

The clay pot was the first cooking vessel of the ancient Asian cultures, before metal woks were invented much later. They are created with a special method that allows them to be placed over a fire and not crack. The clay pots do have limitations. First, they can only be used over a small flame or else it will crack. (This is the most irritating because it takes forever to boil!) Second, there must be liquid inside the pot at all times while it is heated or else it will crack. Third, you must handle it very gently or else it will crack. Fourth, you must “season” it or else it will crack. Fifth… okay, you should understand by now. But clay pots also have many benefits over metal pots. First, when you cook in the clay pot, you can smell this unique “smoky” flavor which can also apparently be transferred to the food you cook in it. Food cooked in the clay pot does taste better! Second, Chinese soups must be cooked in the clay pot because the herbs may react with metal. I usually use enameled cookware when I make soups like American Ginseng Chicken Soup (recipe is on this blog!) so it isn’t in contact with metal. But clay pots are even better. Third, clay pots make really good presentation, lol, really. So if you want to make Chinese soups I would recommend a clay pot. Also if you want to get unique flavor in clay pot dishes (clay pot dishes are foods specially prepared in a clay pot and are called “bao”; this includes seafood bao, tofu bao, and more. you can use a cocotte but clay pot is the traditional choice and adds the special bao flavor like how a wok adds “wok hei” in Cantonese or “guo qi” in Mandarin to stir fries.) I would recommend a clay pot. But if you’re new to Asian cooking you don’t have to get a clay pot yet, unless you cook Asian food for soups and clay pot dishes specifically.

There are many sizes and varieties of clay pots. In Japanese they are called 土鍋 (donabe, pronounced “dol-nah-beh” quickly, literally earth pot), and Chinese is 砂锅 (sha guo, “shah gwuh”, literally sand pot). The Japanese kind looks very much like one variety of the Chinese kind. But the Chinese have many other kinds too. Anyways, whatever kind you get it fine. Clay pots made in Japan are much more expensive than made in China. Mine was under $8 for the largest size but it was on sale. The tiniest donabe are for making nabeyaki udon. I have one from Daiso. The medium size sha guo are made for clay pot dishes called bao, like seafood bao, tofu bao, lamb bao, and others. This also can be used for cooking rice. Finally, the really big clay pots are for making soups like chicken soup, and also the traditional pot for oden, one of my favorite Japanese dishes, but takes forever to prepare! If you want to make clay pot rice or bao dishes, buy the medium one. If you want to make Chinese soups, buy the big one.

Once you have the clay pot you must care properly or else it will crack. First, completely submerge the pot and lid in water. Put the lid upside down in the pot. Soak overnight. Then drain and rinse, scrubbing lightly with a sponge. Be careful not to damage the pot. Then wipe the outside but not way too dry. Pour rice washing water inside to fill 80% full or so. Actually some people make congee inside, but have to throw it away. WHAT A WASTE! So I just use rice washing water, lol. Cover the pot and place over low heat. Then slowly raise to medium in 10 minutes. It might crack if you do it too fast. Now depending on your stove power you can turn to medium high but closer to medium than high. But if your stove is powerful, DON’T! If it cracks it is not my fault! Now wait till it boils. Be careful. If you aren’t watching, it may overflow and destroy your pot, because it has starch in the water. Now it took me over an HOUR for it to boil, ugh! When it finally boils (faster in the smaller pots) I stir the contents, then cover and simmer (on low, or medium-low if not able to keep a simmer) an hour. If your pot is smaller you can simmer less time. Maybe 45 minutes for medium pot and 30 for tiny nabeyaki udon pot. Then turn off the heat and leave until cool. It can be warmer than room temperature. As long as you can touch it, it’s fine. Pour and discard the cloudy water, then rinse well, both the pot and lid. Scrub lightly with a sponge. Be careful not to damage it. Then dry thouroughly. When dry, you can cover it and store it. Before your next use, some people soak it again. I think a rinse to wet the pot is fine.

Remember when you use the pot to always cook over low heat first, then increase to medium. You cannot use an electric stove, only a gas stove with a flame! Prevent quick changes in temperature. Don’t refrigerate a hot clay pot. Wait until cooler before washing too. I do not use detergent with any of my pots and pans. Especially do not use for this pot as it may absorb the soap. Lastly, for the first uses, don’t use strongly scented spices and the pot may absorb it, unless you don’t mind. Anyways, make sure you are careful. Clay pots crack easily!

As a side note, some people say you must treat cast iron carefully, like as carefully as I describe about clay pots. That’s not true. Cast iron is very durable. Of course you must be more careful with it than stainless steel, so it doesn’t rust. But don’t treat it too much like a baby. Same with enameled cocottes, people always say to use low heat, but for me the high heat is totally fine and does nothing wrong. But for clay pots, you have to treat it like a baby!

So I hope this article is very helpful! If it is too much work for you to care for the clay pot, I would not recommend you to get it. Just use an enameled cocotte instead. Those are much easier to take care of but really expensive! You can also use stainless steel, but not with Chinese herb medicines. So it’s your choice to see whether the clay pot is worth the small price and the extra space it takes up. 😀

Recipe: Dry-Fried Pork(干煸肉丝)

My favorite Chinese regional cuisine is Sichuan, of course! In Sichuan cuisine, there is a number of ridiculously addicting dishes. This includes the most wonderfully scrumptious, Chicken with Chilies(辣子鸡), and many other extremely delicious foods like anything Dry-Fried(干煸). If anything says it’s Dry-Fried, that is code for “Incredibly Marvelous and Insanely Tasty, so Awesomely Addicting that You Will Never Stop Eating”. The most delicious Dry-Fried foods are those with meat. The reason I am not a vegetarian and still eat pork and chicken after knowing what those animals live through (sob… makes me feel bad!), is: Chicken with Chilies, Dry-Fried Chicken/Pork, and Mapo Tofu with Ground Pork. Honestly, if there was no Sichuan cuisine, I would be vegetarian long long ago. So try at your own risk!

If you know me, I don’t deep fry at home since it uses up too much oil and I feel it’s wasteful. Also the fact that there is a wok with liters of burning hot sizzling oil that can be spilled and give me extreme burns. That’s the reason why I have to go to a Sichuan restaurant (wonderfully located near the grocery store I shop at) every other weekend for extremely wonderful and amazing chicken with chilies. When I start eating it, I cannot stop. It’s crazy. Really! Some American fans of the dish actually call it “crack chicken”. Sadly I cannot make this wonderful dish which uses deep frying. Actually, one day I will make a recipe using stir-fried chicken, but it won’t be as good. Anyways, the dish also requires one bowl of dry red chilies per plate. And you don’t eat a single chili, they just add this incredibly addicting flavor to the oil. So I always put the remaining chilies in a take-out container from the restaurant, and use for making Sichuanese dishes, lol. It’s very handy and wonderful. But I don’t even use up half of them before the go bad, which is wasteful 😦 but still the chicken is so delicious! YUM! Sorry!

So unlike chicken with chilies, dry-fried chicken/pork does NOT require deep-frying! Yay! So what is dry-frying? It is the process of frying in some oil until dry. During this process, the meat gets dry (like texture in-between jerky and tender meat) but extremely flavorful, especially after adding the addictive seasoning so-called Pi County Fermented Salted Fava Bean and Dry Red Chili Paste(郫县豆瓣)along with wonderful Sichuan peppercorns. And with the crisp and crunchy celery, the final result is SO GOOD! Some people really, really don’t like dry/tough meat though, and so this dish won’t be for you. But while I usually prefer tender meat in stir-fry, a dry-fry dish makes drier meat so amazing, full of concentrated umami flavor, wonderfully delicious, that it is totally fine for me. Just keep in mind it will be dry.

In Sichuan, dry-fry is made with chicken, and also Sichuan river eels. In the marvelous and fresh Sichuan vegetable markets, not only are there vegetables but also meat and fish sellers. (and those with live chickens and ducks of course) As you get to the end of the vegetable section and arrive in the fish section (you can tell cause it will smell bad) you will first see the eel seller. Please skip to the next paragraph if you are afraid. The eel seller has a large cleaver and a wooden cutting board. First he takes a live eel out of the tub containing eels and water. Then, as it squirms, the head is chopped off and it still squirms. The body is slit in half and blood and guts scraped away. Then the meat is given to you to take home. How pleasant! PS. I loved reading this in Fuchsia Dunlop’s book because I was like, wow, I saw that myself!

Since I don’t prefer to eat those eels, and cannot even get them here, you can use beef instead, like in Dunlop’s book, Land of Plenty. You should get it if you’re on this blog for non-vegetarian authentic Sichuan cuisine. (if you’re vegetarian, you should get Every Grain of Rice, which has meat recipes too but more vegetable recipes and tofu recipes and such) It’s my most used cookbook. Anyways, today, I used pork! The meat can be julienned (丝) or sliced (片). The first is preferred. But slicing is what I had already. So I don’t really think that pork is often dry-fried in Sichuan (I never even had either chicken with chilies or dry-fried meat in Sichuan! The first is a Chongqing dish and I wasn’t in the area.), but the seasonings are extremely authentic! So let’s get the recipe! Yay!

BTW, the chicken recipe will be posted in the future. It’s similar to this one but in slightly different amounts of ingredients.

This recipe is adapted from Land of Plenty‘s Dry Fried Beef Recipe with some influence from the Dry Fried Chicken Recipe too 🙂

Ingredients:

1 lb pork loin, cut into julienne or sliced thinly

4 stalks celery, sliced thinly diagonally (this breaks up the fibers and makes it much less fibrous! it’s very helpful!) (it might look like a lot but it shinks to the perfect amount, so don’t worry! I used 5 stalks since I like more, hehe)

4 green onions, finely shredded (separate white and green if you want to)

1 1/2 inches ginger, finely shredded (I ran out so I skipped. But it is recommended.)

1/4 cup oil (1/3 cup for more traditional) (you need lots of oil! if you don’t want so much oil, fine! use 2 tbsp only. first add only 1 tbsp. then before adding peppercorns, chilies, add the other 1 tbsp in the middle of the wok.)

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns (or, if you aren’t accustomed to trying to pick out peppercorns and accidentally eating one for huge bursts of ma flavor, use 1/2 tsp ground roasted Sichuan peppercorn powder. Dry-roast Sichuan peppercorns in a pan until fragrant, then remove and cool. Crush to a fine powder, which I do in a mortar. You can also use a coffee grinder, not recommended for tiny amounts. Add at the very end.)

6 dry red chilies (Japones, arbol, Chinese, facing heaven, etc.) (cut in half and seeds mostly removed, leave a few if you wish) (use up to 12 chilies if you wish!) (optional, you can skip)

2 tbsp Pi County chili bean paste

1 tsp light soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

homemade Sichuan red chili oil (optional) (if using, about 2 tsp maybe?)

Directions:

1. Heat a wok until hot, high heat. Add oil. Spread around bottom of wok. (surface where pork will be)

2. When oil is hot, add pork. I spread out and leave for 30 seconds or so. Then flip and start-to stir-fry, over high heat. After some time the pork will start to release liquid. I add Shaoxing wine just when it starts. But you can add when it is drying out too. So then keep boiling on high heat so it dries out. My pork released a lot of liquid, almost to cover all the pork. Don’t worry, it will dry up. When pork is dry, continue stir-frying a couple minutes so it gets somewhat browned in a few areas. You can leave flat in the wok for about 30 seconds, then stir-fry, and repeat. This makes it get browned faster. As it gets browned, lower the heat to medium.

3. Now put the pork to the sides of the wok, leaving a well in the center. The oil should flow into the well. If using little oil, add another tbsp here. Now add Sichuan peppercorns and fry a minute or so. You should smell the fragrance a little. Then chilies and fry until some parts of chilies are darkened. Don’t burn them! Lastly add chili bean paste and break into the oil. Amazing smell! It is so fragrant and delicious! After 30 seconds (after adding the paste) or so, start to combine with the pork and coat evenly with the paste. Yummmmmmmm! Mouth is watering by this point, LOL. Tip: the chili bean paste may stick to the bottom if the pan is not non-stick. After adding the celery, it releases a little liquid, which makes the “fond” come off. Don’t worry, it will not make the dish watery at all.

4. Now add the white part of the green onion and ginger. Stir-fry 1 minute, increasing heat to high again.

5. Add the celery and soy sauce. Now stir well to combine everything. Stir-fry a couple more minutes. You can stir well, leave 30 seconds, repeat. During this time, the fond should release from the bottom of the wok, the celery will shrink in volume. The strips will be able to bend. But if you taste it, it should still be crunchy. Yum!

6. Add the green part of the green onion and stir-fry 30 seconds. Turn off the heat.

7. Now if using Sichuan peppercorn powder, add now and stir. Or, sprinkle evenly on top after putting on the plate. I prefer adding in the wok, as it is easier. You don’t have to mix before serving. You can add sesame oil and chili oil now, or drizzle over it on the plate. For these, it doesn’t matter much for me because they are liquid. When you’re done, serve on a plate. ENJOY!!!

I warn you that this dish may be too addicting and you won’t stop eating! Don’t blame me if that happens! 🙂

 
It looked better in the wok than on the plate! It might not look that good (unlike the chicken with chilies) but it tastes amazing!!