Banana Bread香蕉蛋糕xiāng jiāo dàn gāo

coverOverall, this is a SUPER easy recipe for classic banana bread. The batter takes about 10 minutes to throw together, the bread stays moist for days, and nothing beats the smell of fresh banana bread in the oven!

Makes 1 loaf,

  • ½ stick or 60g salted or unsalted butter, melted in the microwave and cool it off
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 3 large-size or 4 medium-size overripe bananas熟透的香蕉
  • 2 cups        all-purpose or plain flour中筋面粉
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda小苏打
  • 3/4 cup    brown sugar. Adjust the volume of sugar to your taste). You can use caster sugar but the smoky flavor of the brown sugar balances well with the fragrance of the banana.

IMG_6213

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F or 175℃. Melt the butter in the microwave. Cool it off.
  2. Lightly grease the loaf pan with a brush and a bit of melted butter.IMG_6214
  3. Whisk the flour, baking soda and brown sugar together in a large bowl.
  4. Combine melted butter and beaten eggs. Add into peeled banana. Mash the banana.
  5. Combine above dry ingredients (Step 3) and wet ingredients (Step 4). Fold well. Make sure no dry flour seen in the batter.Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Once done, let the loaf pan sit a 1-2 minutes before moving to the oven.
  6. Place the loaf pan into the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 60-65 minutes. You can insert a toothpick into the center of the bread. The bread is done if the toothpick comes out clean. Remove the loaf pan from oven and allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes. Then enjoy.IMG_6228

Tofu Sheets (Soy Skin) With Chili Pepper井冈山豆皮jǐng gāng shān dòu pí

cover (2)The dish can be quickly put together by using the ingredients possibly already existed in your pantry. And you will hardly have the chance to fail! The thin sheets of soy skin (tofu sheets) absorb the smokiness of the bacon and sweet and savouries of the cooking wine and soy sauce, making it a perfect comfort meal to go with a bowl of rice. The tofu sheets, pliable yet soft, contrasts beautifully with the crunchiness of the peppers and garlic sprout.

 Serve 2-4

  • 100g     2-3 Big sheets Tofu sheets (soy skin), cut into pieces in a dimension of 12cm. 豆腐皮剪成方块状 (make sure you get the plain one not the salty one. The plain one needs to be stored in the fridge or freezer.)
  • 1 tablespoon  cooking oil
  • 3 strips      bacon, cut into bite size
  • 3 cloves, garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 1 big  green chili pepper, cut into bite size
  • 2 small  red chili pepper, cut into bite size
  • 1/2 tablespoon   light soy sauce生抽
  • ½ tablespoon     dark soy sauce老抽
  • 1.5 tablespoon    good quality Chinese cooking wine (click here for homemade Chinese cooking wine)
  • 1 garlic sprout, you can substitute it with spring onion or simply skip it if you do not have it in your kitchen, separate white and green parts青蒜苗, cut into bite size
  • Salt to tasteIMG_6180

Method

  1. Place the cut tofu sheets in a colander. Wash under the running water. Or quickly wash them in the bowl. The sheets will turn soft immediately. Drain.
  2. Place cooking oil in a clay pot (or any frying pan) over medium heat. Add into sliced bacon and cook till fragrant and bacon starts shrink. Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add green and red chili pepper and fry for 2 minutes. Add white part of the garlic sprout and fry for another 1 minute.
  3. Add soy sheets in the pot. Mix light soy sauce, dark soy sauce and Chinese cooking wine in a small bowl and pour into the pot. Mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes till the sauce is almost absorbed by the soy sheets.
  4. Serve hot with a bowl of rice.

Air-dried Chicken Thigh风干鸡腿fēng gàn jī tuǐ

cover1Curing and preserving meat is actually less daunting than you would think of. In this Chinese air-dry chicken recipe, all you need is inexpensive cuts of meat, salt, seasonings and fresh air. The result? A completely changed texture and flavor of the meat and delicious food that surprises and pleases you.

As it dries naturally it the open air, there is only certain time of the year which is ideally for sausage-making. In China, people start the preparations of air-drying meat or other charcuterie-making after the winter solstice when the highest temperature won’t reach 10C°.

A very important food safety note – this air-dried chicken needs to be cooked before consumption. To cook it, you can easily steam them over high heat for 25 – 30 minutes. Once they are cool off, then cut them into thin slices.

To store the sausages, place them in the fridge for up to 10 days and freezer for 3 months.

Yield about 2kg

  • 5kg bone-in chicken thigh鸡腿
  • 5 bay leaves香叶
  • 5g Star anise八角
  • 20g Sichuan peppercorns花椒
  • 75g Sea salt (3% of the total amount of chicken)粗海盐
  • 25ml Chinese liquor高度白酒IMG_6043

 Method

  1. Wash the chicken thigh under running water. Pat dry with kitchen towel.
  2. Place a frying pan over low or low-medium heat. Fry all the dry seasoning ingredients of bay leaves, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns and salt. Stir from time to time to cook evenly. Fry about 10 minutes until aromatic and salt turns pale yellow. Turn off the heat. Move the pan aside and let it completely cool off.
  3. Use a big bowl. Place one layer of chicken in the bowl. Then sprinkle some seasoning ingredients on the top. Drizzle it with a bit of Chinese liquor. Place another layer of chicken on the top of the first one. Sprinkle seasonings and drizzle with Chinese liquor. Repeat the process until chicken, seasoning ingredients and liquor are used up. Cover the bowl. Leave it in the fridge overnight or about 12 hours.
  4. Hang the chicken in the open air. And let it dry up for about 4-5 days.

 

Spring Pancakes or Peking Duck Pancakes春饼chūn bǐng

cover1Have a bite of Spring! Let’s celebrate the beginning of the spring with these warm, soft and chewy pancakes, or Chunbings春饼 in Chinese. They look like a healthy take on burritos, with bits of carrot and cucumber poking out the end, and they’re flanked with a sign that urges you to “bite into spring” (咬春yǎo chūn). Spring pancakes traditionally serve on Lichun (立春), an occasion that falls on any day between 3rd to 5th of February, and marks the beginning of spring. It’s believed that once you “bite into spring,” you won’t feel tired for the rest of the season!

In keeping with their healthy, low-fuss character, chunbings are easy to make: simply mix flour, hot water, roll out the dough, and steam for 15 minutes. And you’re done! The pancakes are pliable and chewy, providing a toothsome contrast to the crunch of fresh, seasonal vegetables. Like other bings, chunbings can also be julienned and stir-fried to makechaobing (炒饼, fried pancake). Peking Duck pancakes are just a bit smaller version of the Chunbings. The wrapped and filled pancakes can also be fried and become spring rolls春卷.

 Makes 15 pancakes and fillings

  1. Pancakes
  • 170g   all-purpose flour 中筋面粉
  • 95g   hot water (70C°)
  • 5 tablespoons cooking oil

2. Filling – Fried pork

  • 250g  pork loin or any lean part of the meat, julienne, thinly sliced into strings瘦猪肉切丝
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch淀粉
  • 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce生抽
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cooking oil
  • ½ tablespoon ginger, minced姜末
  • 1 spring onion minced葱花
  • 2 tablespoons sweet bean paste甜面酱
  • 1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce老抽
  • 1 teaspoon caster sugar, optional. Sugar helps balance the salty taste in case the sodium level in your store-bought sweet bean paste is too high.
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch + 1 tablespoon water to make water starch to help thicken the meat sauce水淀粉

3. Filling – eggs and veggies

  • ½ tablespoon,+ 1/2 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten + 1/3 teaspoon, salt
  • 100g, green bean sprout绿豆芽 + 100g chive韭菜 +1/3 teaspoon salt
  • ½ carrot 半根胡罗卜, thinly sliced
  • ½ cucumber半根黄瓜, thinly sliced

Dipping sauce

  • Sichuan chili oil 红油, optionalIMG_6108

Method

  1. Place 170g all purpose-flour in a mixing bowl, gradually add 95g hot water and mix by using chopsticks until you see small flour bits搅成棉絮状. Then use your hand to mix the dough well. Knead the dough for about 5-6 minutes till smooth. Cover the dough and let it rest for 30 minutes. You can take a break or start slicing and preparation work for the fillings.
  2. Let’s make the pancakes now. If you have made homemade Chinese dumplings wrappers 饺子皮before, this would be easier for you as the techniques are pretty much the same. Roll the dough into a long ‘snake’ and divide it into 15 equal pieces. Simply use your hand to pick up each piece and pound in into the floured surface to make a small disc. Then use a rolling pin to smooth out each disc until it’s about 10cm in diameter – this would be a bit bigger than your dumplings wrappers.
  3. Brush a thin layer of cooking oil on both sides of each piece then stack them together. Remember you will want to the dough piece is entirely coated with oil. Do not miss a tiny part of it. Otherwise, your pancakes will be stuck together later. Use your palm to gently press down the dough stack to make sure they stick together nicely. Then place your rolling pin in the middle of the dough stack and gently smooth out the dough towards outside to make it bigger till about 18cm in diameter. Remember to work on the dough stack with even strength so your pancake will be consistent in thickness.
  4. Place the dough stack in a cheese cloth or parchment paper lined steam basket. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cover the basket and cook over high heat for 15 minutes. Once it is done. Turn off the heat or keep it to very low heat so the pancakes stay warm.
  5. In the meantime, let’s make the fillings. This is quite straightforward. Marinate pork slices with cooking wine, salt, soy sauce and corn starch. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Add cooking oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. Cook minced ginger and spring onions for 1-2 minutes, then pork slices. Fry the pork till it is pale, or almost cooked. Add 2 tablespoons of sweet bean paste, fry for a minute. Season the pork with dark soy sauce and caster sugar. Add water starch (by mixing starch and water in a small bowl). Stir fry for another 1 minute. Then move the pork in a serving bowl.
  6. Get another small clean frying pan over high heat, place ½ tablespoon of cooking oil. When the pan is really hot, pour into the beaten eggs. Tilt your frying pan or move around your frying pan to help the egg liquid evenly spread in the frying pan. Turn to small heat. Cook for a few minutes. Then flip it and cook the other side till done. Your egg sheets 蛋皮are ready. You can move them out and cut them into small strings when ready to serve.  Add another ½ tablespoon of cooking oil in the same frying pan and stir fry chives and green bean sprout till done. Set aside.
  7. Now it is time to enjoy your spring pancake! Simply peel off one pancake (be a little gentle) from the pancake stack in the steam basket then wrap it your options of fillings. Remember that you always serve pancakes hot or at least very warm.

 

Dry-braised Fish with Sichuan Bean Paste Sauce豆瓣全鱼dòu bàn quán yú

coverDry-braising, literally translated from the term gan shao (干烧) in Mandarin, refers to a method in Chinese cooking that uses relatively less braising liquid at the start, and reduces most of the liquid towards the end of cooking.  The result? A perfectly braised fish imbued and draped with rich and concentrated sauce. This is a great way to cook any type of fish that has firm and mild-tasting flesh, such as fresh-water-fish tilapia used in this recipe. There are many sauce variations for the fish. But none of them beats this simple yet very satisfying sauce seasoned with Sichuan bean paste, doubanjiang, 豆瓣酱. By quickly stir-frying it in, doubanjiang’s beautiful red brown color and rich complex umami flavours are created and imparted to the golden and crispy Tilapia.

Serves 3-4,  

  • Whole tilapia (or seabass and red snapper), about 850g, scale and gut (roughly 1kg before scale and gut)罗非鱼,红鲷鱼或者海鲈鱼任一种,去鱼鳞及内脏. If you use smaller fish, please reduce the seasoning sauce below  proportionally
  • 1 tablespoon   Chinese cooking wine
  • ½ teaspoon    salt
  • 1 cup       canola oil or any vegetable oil
  • 4 slices      ginger, thinly sliced生姜

For the seasoning sauce

  • 2 tablespoons      Sichuan fermented bean paste豆瓣酱
  • 2 spring onions, white parts only, cut into small pieces青葱
  • 3 to 4 small dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated. This is optional. But the mushroom certainly helps enrich the umami flavor for the dish. 香菇
  • 2 teaspoons                 caster sugar白砂糖
  • ½ tablespoon    light soy sauce生抽
  • ½ tablespoon    dark soy sauce老抽
  • 2 cups          water
  • 2 tablespoons    corn starch淀粉
  • 1/4 cup   water
  • Salt to taste

 

  • 1 Red chili or 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced, for garnishing
  • 1 sprig       fresh cilantro, 香菜, for garnishingIMG_6083

Method

  1. Scale the fish, discard the guts and clean well (I found a chain Korean grocery store called H-mart in my area which sells live Tilapia from fish tank in the store with free service of scale and gut). Pat dry the fish with kitchen paper towel. Slice the ginger. Slash the fish on both sides of the back to allow your seasoning to penetrate  evenly later.IMG_6084
  2. Place the fish in a big bowl. Sprinkle evenly the half teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of cooking wine on both sides of the back of the fish. Use your hand rub the cooking wine and salt into fish.IMG_6089
  3. In the meantime, heat up the 1 cup of cooking oil in a wok or frying pan over high heat. Remember your frying pan should be big enough to allow the entire fish touch the surface of the pan. This takes about 2-3 minutes. Place the ginger slices in the oil. You will see ginger sizzling when oil is hot enough. When the ginger becomes wrinkled, very carefully place the entire fish in the drying pan. Turn the heat to medium high. Cook one side for 6 to 7 minutes till skin golden and crispy. During this 6-minute cooking time, do not try to use spatula to move it too much. Otherwise you may break the fish skin. You may gently shake the pan handle to keep the fish from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Then use your spatula to gentle flip the fish. Fry over medium-high heat for another 6 to 7 minutes till golden and crispy.
  4. Remove the fish from the pan and place in a big plate or just your serving plate. Line the plate with kitchen towel to help absorb the oil.
  5. Now let’s make the sauce. Keep only about 2 tablespoons of the residual oil in the frying pan and get rid of the rest. Turn up the heat and place 2 tablespoons of Sichuan fermented bean paste. Fry over medium heat or about 2-3 minutes till fragrant. Add into sliced spring onions and cook for another 2 minutes. Add minced shiitake mushroom and cook for 1 minute. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar and ½ tablespoon of light soy sauce and ½ tablespoon of dark soy sauce, add into 2 cups of water. Bring it to a boil.
  6. Return the fish into the frying pan and let the fish simmer over medium-low heat for about 10-12 minutes. Flip the fish half way through. In the meantime, mix corn starch and water to make water corn starch.
  7. Remove the fish out of the pan again and place it in a serving plate – be very careful. The fish is now very soft and needs careful attention to avoid breaking.
  8. Add the water starch into the frying pan to thicken the sauce. Taste the sauce. Add salt if needed. Pour the sauce on top of the fish. Garnish the fish with cilantro and red chili slices.
  9. Serve hot with a bowl of rice!

 

 

Simply Roasted Chicken with Jalapeno-Shallots-Garlic Sauce

coverI tried to give this unadorned but deeply flavorful roasted chicken with an Asian touch by using a vibrant sauce of shallots, garlic, jalapeno and soy sauce.  The chef Jonathan Waxman created the Italian version at Barbuto, then-Italian restaurant in the West Village, New York City.  One important thing I also learned that the magic to this legendary crispy-skinned roast chicken is to baste.

 Serve 4

  • I whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds or about 1.5 kg – 2kg
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper

For the sauce

  • 5 to 6 jalapenos or any long green pepper, minced
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 small shallots minced
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • ½ teaspoon or to taste cooking salt
  • 2 tablespoons                    light soy sauce
  • ½ tablespoon   caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup     water
  • ½ tablespoon    freshly squeezed lime juice

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 425F°/210C°. Wash the chicken in hot water and dry with paper towels. Coat the chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Season the chicken with generous amount of sea salt and fresh black pepper. Dab an earthenware or metal baking dish with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and place the chicken inside it. Roast for 30 minutes.
  2. Then basting it every 7 to 8 minutes. Do the basting for 3 to 4 times. Basting is a culinary technique for moistening the surface of roasting meat, poultry, or other foods with pan drippings, stock, butter, or some other liquid. In addition to contributing moisture, basting adds flavor (as long as the basting liquid is flavorful) to the surface of the meat. What you need to do is gradually pouring the liquid at the bottom of the pan, in which the meat is being cooked, over the chicken, spoon by spoon. You will hear the beautiful ‘cracking’ sound after the hot liquid on the chicken skin. Just to be extremely careful, the oven is very hot. You will want to wear heavy baking gloves.
  3. Rotate the pan during basting to allow for even cooking. Bake the chicken till golden. How long does it take to cook a chicken? Generally, it takes between 10 minutes to 12 minutes per pound. The chicken is done when the juices from the thigh run clear (about 165 F°). A 3 to 4 pounds chicken would need to cook about 60 minutes in the oven of 425 F°. Move the chicken out of the oven. Let the chicken to sit for about 15 minutes.IMG_6025.jpg
  4. In the meantime, you can start make the sauce. Place a sauce pan over low medium fire, add cooking oil and minced shallots and garlic, fry for about 3 minutes till soft, then add into minced jalapeno, add into soy sauce, sugar and salt, cook for another 2 minutes, add water. Place the sauce in a small sauce bowl. Drip into the freshly squeezed lime juice.IMG_6011.jpg
  5. Use a knife roughly cut the chicken into big pieces, pour onto 80% of the sauce. Save the rest of 20% to bring it to the dining table for sharing. Ready to serve.

 

Chinese Long Squash (‘Opo Squash’) 瓠子hù zǐ

cover.jpgOpo Squash, or “Chinese Long Squash’ or 瓠子hù zǐ,  is a native Chinese and Southeast Asian squash similar to a zucchini. Belonging to the gourd family, it has pale green skin, white flesh and very mild flavor. The humble vegetable is a great source of fiber and provides rich vitamins and minerals. It  can be seasoned with a variety of items, and generally absorbs the flavors of other ingredients when it is used in a stir-fry, soup or stew.
Serves 2-4

500g to 600g     one big long squash瓠子

6 – 8            small dry shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and minced

2               spring onions, white and green parts separated, chopped

1.5 tablespoons   cooking oil

2 tablespoons       light soy sauce 生抽

¼ cup            chicken stock or water

1 tablespoon       sesame oil (optional)IMG_5915

 Method

  1. Place dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl filled with warm water. Let it rehydrate for about 20-30 minutes till soft. Mince the rehydrated mushrooms and chop the spring onions. IMG_5923
  2. Peel the squash, trim the end pieces, then cut the squash into half-inch small pieces. Use the tip of your knife to cut the criss-cross shape on the top for both sides for all the squash pieces. This will help the squash quickly absorb the seasoning sauce later. Place all the squash pieces in a bowl and microwave over high heat for 3-4 minutes till softened.
  3. Add 1.5 tablespoon of cooking oil in a frying pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, place the squash pieces, pan fry for 3-4 minutes till golden, flip the pieces to fry the other side, place minced mushrooms and white parts of the spring onion pieces and cook for another 3-4 minutes. In the meantime, mix the soy sauce and chicken stock. Pour the mixture evenly onto the squash. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle the chopped spring onion greens. Drizzle with sesame oil but this is optional.
  4. Ready to serve.