Kung Pao Shrimp 宫保虾球gōng bǎo xiā qiú

Let's Play Dough

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The emphasis on flavour makes Sichuanese food a robust and confident cuisine. The Sichuan cuisine boasts 24 different types of ‘complex flavours’复合味. The Kung Pao taste (the sweet-sour-scorched chili flavour) is obviously the most beautiful one. The two spices (Szechuan Peppercorns and Dried Chillies) are sizzled in oil until the chillies are darkening. Throw in a bit of sweet and sour. And you have Kung Bao Flavour, a truly marvellous taste.

Serves 3-4,

  • 500g                            shrimp, peeled and deveined (this calls for about 1000g fresh shrimp)
  • 1 teaspoon                  salt
  • 1.5 tablespoons           Chinese cooking wine料酒
  • 1 teaspoon                  corn flour玉米淀粉
  • ½ cup (8 tablespoons) cooking oil
  • 3 tablespoons               Sichuan peppercorns四川花椒
  • 1.5 tablespoons           garlic, minced蒜末
  • 1 tablespoon                ginger, minced姜末
  • 10g                               dried red chili, roughly chopped干红辣椒
  •  60g                              leek (only white part), cut into small sections. Try to get 2 small-size of leek if possible. If not…

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Steamed Chicken with Chinse Red Dates and Mushrooms枣姑蒸鸡zǎo gū zhēng jī

cover.JPGI believe the recipe originates from the Hakka food,客家菜kè jiā cài or “guest families”. Unlike most cuisines in China, Hakka food is defined by a group of people rather than a geographical region. The Hakka had to make do with whatever unclaimed territory they could find, so frugality became a defining characteristic of their food. This lovely, lightly seasoned dish comes together so easily that some Chinese families adopt it as a staple. I will certainly scoop up spoonfuls of savory, earthy and yet subtly sweet sauce to put over mounds of jasmine rice,

Serves 2-4

  • 400-500g (two bone or boneless chick thighs), cut into small pieces
  • 3g                        ginger, thinly sliced姜片
  • 2 sprigs               spring onions, separate green and white parts, green part for garnish only,香葱
  • 3 to 5                red dates (remove the seed and split the date in half)
  • 3 to 5               dried shiitake mushroom 香菇, dehydrated, stalk removed (soak in the water for 30 minutes)
  • ½ cup              dried black wood wears 黑木耳, dehydrated (soak in the water for 30 minutes)

Seasonings

  • ½ teaspoon     salt
  • 2 tablespoons   light soy sauce生抽
  • 1 tablespoon     corn starch淀粉
  • ¼ teaspoon        ground white pepper 白胡椒粉
  • 2 tablespoons     Chinese cooking wine 料酒IMG_7510

Method

  1. Cut the chicken into small pieces. Separate green and white parts of spring onions.IMG_7637.JPG
  2. Place chicken, spring onions (white part only) and ginger in a mixing bowl. Add in all the seasonings and mix well. Allow it to marinate for half an hour. Then add dried dates and soaked mushrooms.  Mix well. IMG_7638.JPG
  3. Place the marinated ingredients in a shallow, heat proof bowl. Prepare the steamer and bring the water up to a rapid boil. Cover the bowl with a plate or aluminium foil. Steam the chicken over high heat for 15-20 minutes, making sure it is thoroughly cooked. Remove from steamer and sprinkle on spring onions (green part) before serving.IMG_7639.JPG

 

 

 

Tofu Sheets with Fermented Black Beans豆豉千张dòu chǐ qiān zhāng

cover1.JPGThere is a very long list of fermented soybean products in the Asian soy cuisines, such as Miso and Natto from Japan and Gochujang from Korea. Used as seasonings, they are found as culinary staples in the home kitchens of the East Asia countries. It is amazing how these little fermented black beans豆豉dòu chǐ have elevated the nutty and sweet flavour of this soy protein-rich dish, making the ordinary truly extraordinary.  Fermented black beans are usually packed in small plastic bags and can be found in any Chinese grocery stores.

Serves 2-4

  • 250g                    Tofu sheets, cut into small squares, 豆腐皮/千张切小块
  • 2 tablespoons    cooking oil
  • 3-4 cloves           garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon   fermented blackbeans豆豉 (rinse them and chop them coarsely to release the flavour)
  • 3-4                                     red chili pepper (replaced by red pepper if non-spicy taste preferred.)
  • 3-4                                     green chili pepper
  • 1 tablespoon                   Chinese cooking wine
  • 2 tablespoons    light soy sauce 生抽IMG_7481.JPG

Method

  1. Cut the tofu sheets, red and green chili pepper into small squares.IMG_7483.JPG
  2. Heat the cooking oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add garlic then black beans till fragrant. Place tofu sheets followed by red and green peppers. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes.IMG_7502.JPG
  3. Add 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine and 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce. Mix well. If the tofu sheers are stuck together, use chopsticks to separate them so each small sheet is evenly coated with seasonings. Cook for about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and plate.IMG_7503.JPG

 

 

Stir-fry Ground Chicken炒鸡肉松chǎo jī ròu sōng

cover.jpgThe chicken is very moisture and got its natural sweetness. I see this is the Chinese version of Thai Basil Chicken though it is easier to cook. It would please everyone, especially kids who may not be able to tolerate the spiciness.

Serve 2-4

  • 250g          ground chicken鸡肉

Marinade

  • 1/2 tablespoon   Light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon     high-quality Chinese Cooking Wine (click here for Homemade Cooking Wine)
  • 1 teaspoon       corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon       cooking oil

 

  • 2 tablespoons   cooking oil
  • 3 cloves       garlic, minced
  • A small portion  leek, minced
  • ½           red pepper, diced
  • ½           cucumber, diced
  • ½ teaspoon     tables salt
  • 1 tablespoon   light soy sauce生抽
  • 2 teaspoons         caster sugar白砂糖IMG_7250.JPG

Method

  1. Place ground chicken in a bowl, add into 1/2 tablespoon of light soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of Chinese cooking wine, 1 teaspoon of corn starch and 1 teaspoon of cooking oil. Mix well. Marinate for 5-10 minutes.IMG_7251.JPG
  2. In a wok over high heat, add the oil. One the oil is hot, add garlic and leek and fry for 1-2 minutes until fragrance. Add the ground chicken and stir-fry for 2 minutes, breaking up the chicken into small bits. Turn down the heat if you need a longer time to break down the ground chicken.IMG_7273.JPG
  3. Once the ground chicken become pale, turn up the heat, add salt, light soy sauce and sugar. Stir-fry for another minute. Add red pepper and cucumber, fry for 2 minutes.. Remove the wok from the heat.IMG_7274.JPG
  4. Ready to serve with rice.

 

 

Chinese Cabbage Salad 凉拌莲花白liáng bàn lián huā bái

cover.JPGA light yet hearty meal when you crave vegetables. You will probably get fixated on the contrasting textures of softness of the mushroom and the chewy and crunchy cabbage. Enjoy it as a salad for two or an appetizer for a family meal.

Serves 2-4

  • 500g           Cabbage莲花白(圆白菜)
  • 5-6            Fresh Shiitake mushroom or Wood-ear mushroom (soaked to become soft) (新鲜香菇或者泡发黑木耳), sliced
  • 1/2              Red bell pepper, sliced,红柿子椒切丝

 Dressing

  • 4 tablespoons    Cooking oil
  • 2 sprigs               spring onions, roughly chopped,香葱切丝
  • 1 tablespoon    Sichuan peppercorns花椒
  • 3-4                      dry chilies (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon       caster sugar白糖
  • ½ teaspoon     table salt盐
  • 1 teaspoon      sesame oil香油
  • 1 tablespoon   Chinese rice wine vinegar (optional)白醋IMG_6982.JPG

Method

  1. Peel the cabbage leaves and tear the leaves part into small pieces by using your hands (no need to use knife).IMG_6983.JPG
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Poach the cabbage by 2-3 batches. Each batch cooks about 1-2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon and place them in a colander. Poach the mushroom after you’ve done with the cabbage. Cook mushroom in the boiling water for about 3 minutes. Drain the cabbage and mushroom.  Cool it off under running water if you prefer. Use your hands to squeeze water out of the cabbage if needed.IMG_7024.JPG
  3. Heat the cooking oil over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add spring onions and fry over low medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add Sichuan Peppercorns and dried chilies. Fry for another 2 minutes. Drain by removing the caramelized spring onions, peppercorns and dried chilies. This will yield 3 tablespoons of spring onions oil.IMG_7026.JPG
  4. Place cooked cabbage, mushroom and sliced red pepper in a big bowl. Add into the spring onion oil, sugar, salt and sesame oil. Use chopsticks to mix them well.IMG_7027.JPG
  5. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge.

Double-boiled Sweet Corn Rib Soup玉米排骨汤

cover.JPGThe soup is clear yet the flavor is so intense. The double-boiling method is a unique cooking technique which has been popular in China for thousands of years. The ribs are not submerged in the large quantity of water but rather slowly steam in its own juices. We love the soup also for its natural sweetness and beautiful colors!

Double boiling or dun (炖) is a much slower and more gentle process, characterized by submerging a ceramic pot within an outer pot of boiling water – similar in concept to the double layered metal pots the French refer to as a bain marie. This technique is said to achieve the maximum extraction of flavor with little compromise to the flavor or texture of the ingredients used. It is therefore the method of choice for preparing nourishing tonics. Full flavor extraction can take up to 4 hours.

Serve 2

  • 300g                spare ribs or pork bone (expensive cut is not necessary)
  • 2 teaspoons   high-quality Chinese cooking wine (click here for homemade Chinese cooking wine)
  • 1 small carrot
  • ½                    sweet corn, cut into small bite pieces
  • 4                      Chinese dry dates红枣
  • 1 small thin slice ginger
  • 1/3 teaspoon   saltIMG_7136.JPG

Method

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the ribs and blanch it for about 3 minutes to cleanse it. Remove and rinse the ribs.IMG_7180.JPG
  2. Use 2 small heatproof bowls that will fit into a very large stockpot. Add into the ribs, dates, ginger, sweet corn, carrots, cooking wine and fill into 3-4 cups of water for each bowl. IMG_7181
  3. Cover the bowl and seal it with aluminium foil. Now place the bowl in the stockpot. Add water int the stockpot – the water should come up around the sides of the bowl, but not spill into it or out of the pot. If you don’t have a large enough stockpot, substitute a wide cooking vessel, such as a wok with a lid. Then cover the stockpot, let the ribs steam in its own juices over medium-high heat for about 2 hours. Replenish the water in the stockpot as needed, so it surrounds the bowl at all times.IMG_7182.JPG
  4. The soup is best consumed right away. Salt is added right before serving.

Tips:

  1. It is important the inner pot (bowl) must not be uncovered until the end of the cooking time, ensuring that there is no liquid evaporation, and therefore no loss of nutrients or flavor. This allows the soup to retain its essences – taste, nutrient value, moisture – offering maximum benefits to the drinker.

 

Dry Pot Cauliflower 干锅菜花gàn guō cài huā

cover.JPGDry pot (gan guo), is exactly what it sounds like – the dry version of hot pot. It is cooked and served in a clay pot or a small wok-like tableware (instead of regular plate) with a light flame underneath to keep it warm. As little liquid is used, it appears to be dry and all that’s left in the tableware is your meat or veggies, your spices and just enough sauce to moisten it all. The dish becomes more enjoyable with flavors keeping intensified after it is brought to the table.

Serves 2-4,

  •  3 tablespoons             cooking oil
  • 1                                     Chinese dry sausage 香肠(thinly sliced) or bacon strips (cut into small pieces)
  • 5-6 cloves                    garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 tablespoon                fermented black soy beans, carefully washed and minced 豆豉,洗净切碎
  • 500g                             Cauliflower菜花
  • 2-3                                fresh red chili, sliced
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons      light soy sauce生抽
  • 2 sprigs                         spring onions小葱IMG_7056.JPG

Method

  1. Heat the 3 tablespoons cooking oil in a clay pot over medium heat, add sausage or bacon, fry for about 5 minutes till meat becomes translucent. Add minced garlic, fried for 1 minute till fragrant, add gourd strips, stir fry for another 1 minute. Add garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes till fragrant. Add fermented soy beans and stiry fry for another minute.IMG_7117.JPGIMG_7118.JPG
  2. Place the cauliflower and fresh red chili. Use chopsticks to mix them well. Add light soy sauce. Mix again to make sure the cauliflower is evenly coated with left on the bottom of the pot. Cook for about 2 minutes. Cover the pot and cook for another 1 minute. Remove the pot from heat. Uncover the pot. Use chopsticks to move around the cauliflower again. Place onto the spring onions.IMG_7121.JPG
  3. Serve with the clay pot.