Pot-Stickers

Whenever I make dumplings, which is around once every two weeks, I prefer to eat them boiled as they are freshly made. But once they have been frozen, my favorite way is to eat them as pot-stickers.

[100% organic, shrimp from Thailand]

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Pork Belly Steamed Buns

Whenever I go back to Hong Kong/China, I always want a nice bowl, or two, of dongpo pork (东坡肉) after the jet lag wears off. It’s the best thing in the world, better than bacon! Dongpo pork is served in a little porcelain bowl with a lid.

I made these steamed buns with my family’s dongpo pork recipe and quick pickled cucumbers. I made this in class for part of the charcuterie buffet but it did not turn out good because I’ve never done mass quantity (buffet) servings before and I had to cook everything so far in advance, it was difficult to gauge. Also, the pork had to sit in the braising liquid for a week so it was really salty, even though I diluted it lots of water.

I wanted to make these because I wanted to prove to myself that I CAN make these taste heavenly. And I did. It just took one afternoon. I thought I could eat 6 or 7 (because that’s how many buns I steamed) but I could only stuff 5 into my face.

[100% organic]

For the Pork Belly

  • 2 lbs pork belly
  • Canola oil, as needed
  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1½ cups Shaoxing/Chinese rice wine
  • 1 cup light soy sauce
  • ½ cup dark soy sauce
  • 3 pieces star anise
  • 1 piece cinnamon bark
  • 6 scallions, chopped into thirds
  • 3 thick slices fresh ginger
  • 2 TBS whole Sichuan peppercorns

In a heavy-based pot, add the sugar, Shaoxing wine, soy sauces, star anise, cinnamon, scallions, ginger, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer, while you sear the pork belly.

Cut the pork belly into cubes or small rectangles. Tie tightly with butcher’s twine – the pork will shrink so make sure to tie them very tightly.

In a pan, heat some oil for searing. Sear each side of the pork belly and remove from pan. Place them into the pot and add water to cover pork belly. Bring to a boil and then lower to a low simmer. Simmer for 3-4 hours. Flip the pork every hour and add water if necessary (because you don’t want the soy sauces to over reduce and get really salty).

When ready, turn off heat. Remove pork pieces from braising solution and ladle some braising liquid over the pork belly pieces to prevent it from drying out.

Optional: skim off fat and reduce braising liquid, and add a slurry to thicken it, if you want to use it as a sauce.

For the Pickled Cucumbers

  • 1 English cucumber
  • ½ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1½ cups water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 TBS salt
  • Salt, as needed

Slice the cucumber very thinly or use a mandoline. Sprinkle salt over the sliced cucumbers and let them drain for 15-20 minutes.

In a saucepan, boil all the ingredients and then simmer for 5 minutes. Cool over an ice bath. The pickling solution has to be cold before you put the cucumbers in.

Rinse the salt off the cucumbers and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Put the cucumbers in the pickling solution; they should be completely covered by the brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Drain before serving.

*Adapted from Aquavit.

For the Steamed Buns

  • 1 TBS + 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1½ cups water, at room temperature
  • 4¼ cups bread flour
  • 6 TBS sugar
  • 3 TBS nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 TBS salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • Rendered pork fat (for shaping the buns)

Combine the yeast and water in a bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook. Add the flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and mix on the lowest speed possible for 8-10 minutes.

When the dough turns into a ball, lightly oil a medium mixing bowl, put the dough in it, and cover the bowl with a dry kitchen towel. Put it in a turned-off oven with a pilot light or other warmish place and let it rise until the dough doubles in size, for 1.5 hours.

Punch the dough down and turn it out onto a clean work surface. Using a bench scraper, divide the dough in half, then divide each half into 5 equal pieces. Gently roll the pieces into logs, then cut each log into 5 pieces, making 50 pieces total. They should be about the size of a Ping-Pong ball. Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the little dough balls with plastic wrap and allow them to rest and rise for 30 minutes.

Cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper. Dip chopstick with the rendered fat.

Flatten one ball with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 4-inch-long oval. Lay the greased chopstick across the middle of the oval and fold the oval over onto itself to form the bun shape. Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and put the bun on a square of parchment paper. Stick it back under the plastic wrap and form the rest of the buns. Let the buns rest for 30 to 45 minutes: they will rise a little.

Set up a steamer on the stove. Working in batches so you don’t crowd the steamer, steam the buns on the parchment squares for 10 minutes. Remove the parchment. You can use the buns immediately or allow to cool completely, then seal in plastic freezer bags and freeze for up to a few months. Reheat frozen buns in a steamer for 2 to 3 minutes, until puffy, soft, and warmed all the way through.

*The steamed buns recipe makes around 50 and I know that’s a lot but you can always store them in the freezer and eat them with other things, like Peking Duck!!!

**Steamed Buns recipe from Momofuku’s Noodle Bar.

TO ASSEMBLE

Open each steamed bun and place 2-3 slices of pickled cucumbers on the bottom layer, place a slice of pork belly, and top with more slices of cucumbers, then close the bun. If using, serve with the braising sauce.

Steamed Bun (Baozi, 包子)

Spicy Diced Chicken

This post was going to be 辣子鸡丁, a very traditional Sichuan dish, but since I don’t have a wok, it didn’t really work. This dish is supposed to be smokier and spicier but the flat pan didn’t allow me to get it right. However, this was still very tasty so I’m calling it spicy diced chicken.

[100% organic]

For the Marinade

  • 2 TBS dark soy sauce
  • 2 TBS Shaoxing/Chinese rice wine
  • 2 tsp Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Marinate the chicken for at least 15 minutes at room temperature, no more than 30 minutes.

For the Sauce

  • 2 TBS chili garlic sauce
  • 1 TBS soy sauce
  • 2 TBS water

Mix together the ingredients for the sauce and then set aside.

For the Chicken

  • 1 lb chicken breast, diced into cubes
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-inch ginger, minced
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup corn starch, sifted
  • 2 TBS whole Sichuan peppercorns
  • 10 dried red chili peppers
  • Canola oil, as needed
  • Salt, as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
  • Freshly ground Sichuan peppercorn, as needed

In a ziplock bag, sift the corn starch in and add a generous amount of salt, ground black pepper, and ground Sichuan peppercorn. Strain the chicken from the marinade. Add the chicken to the ziplock bag and shake vigorously and toss around to make sure that all sides of the diced chicken are coated with cornstarch.

Heat 1 cup of oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to smoke, work in batches and fry the chicken until golden brown on all sides. Transfer to a cooling rack when fried.

In a pan over medium-low heat, add 2 TBS canola oil. Add the dried chili peppers and the whole Sichuan peppercorns; let them fry until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Then turn heat to medium-high heat, add in the scallions, garlic, and ginger until fragrant. Stir in the sauce and simmer until slightly thickened. Add the fried chicken, toss to combine, and remove from heat. Serve immediately with rice!

Braised Abalone with Sea Cucumber, Dried Shiitake & Dried Scallop Broth

This dish or soup took my mother 7 days to make. The dried abalone takes 5 days to completely soak through then it takes a day to cook the abalone for the broth and then another day to actually make the dish.

[100% organic & wild]

I’m not a big fan of abalone anymore ever since my colleagues told me about what the shape resembles. As for the taste, it is said that the texture of the dried abalone is cooked to perfection when it resembles a thousand-year-old-egg. I like sea cucumber though. Not so much of a fan of dried shiitake mushrooms because I think they smell when soaked and when cooked. I like dried scallops. And the broth was DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy Chinese New Year!!! 新年快乐, 恭喜发财! This is my first Chinese New Year since 1999!!

Hand-Pulled Chicken

手撕雞

The Chinese literally translates to “Hand-Pulled Chicken”. I’m not sure if this is Cantonese cuisine because I’ve had it in so many different Chinese restaurants; Shanghai, Hangzhou, Hunan, and Sichuan to name a few.

When I was in Yangzhou and Shanghai last week, I can’t say how many times I’ve had this with relatives at home and in restaurants.

[100% organic]

  • 3 chicken drumsticks
  • 3 scallions, julienned
  • 2-inch ginger block, julienned
  • 1 cucumber *
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt (for marinading cucumber)
  • 2 TBS juice from grated ginger
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing wine
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground white pepper
  • Corn starch
  • Canola oil
  • Big bowl of ice water & ice cubes
  • 1 TBS sesame oil
  • 1 TBS chili sauce
  • 1 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 TBS Shaoxing wine

Marinade the chicken drumsticks with the 2 TBS of ginger juice, 1 tsp Shaoxing wine, ½ tsp salt, and white pepper for 30 minutes.

Before cutting the cucumber, slice off half an inch on both ends of the cucumber and then rub them against the stem in circular motions for about half a minute. You’ll see white foam. This makes the cucumber less bitter to the taste. Rinse off the foam and cut cucumber into thin strips. Marinade the cucumber strips for 5 minutes in the coarse sea salt. Then rinse off with clean water and pat dry.

In a steamer**, oil a plate for steaming the drumsticks. Before steaming the chicken, coat them with corn starch. Place drumsticks flat on the oiled plate and then cover them with the julienned ginger and scallions. Steam for 15 minutes over high heat.

After steaming, drown the chicken in the ice water for 5 minutes. This stops cooking the chicken and it seals the juices in the chicken. Pull the meat like long shreds from the chicken.

Put cucumber strips on a plate, then place the chicken shreds on top. Chill them for 3 hours. When ready to eat, mix the sesame oil, chili sauce, soy sauce, and 1 TBS Shaoxing wine and then pour over chicken.

*Use a bigger cucumber for bigger drumsticks, and a smaller cucumber for smaller drumsticks.

**My steamer is a huge wok.

Chili Dried Shrimp over Steamed Eggplant

I love eggplant. I didn’t use to but it’s one of those things that you acquire on your own. Just like cilantro. I used to hate cilantro as a child but when I started cooking in college, I experimented with it and liked it.

[100% organic]

  • 1 eggplant
  • 2 TBS dried shrimp, soaked and drained
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1½ TBS oyster sauce
  • 1½ TBS soy sauce
  • 1 TBS chili sauce – I used a very very very very very spicy shrimp chili sauce
  • Dash of pepper
  • 5 TBS water
  • 1 TBS corn starch, mix with 4 TBS water
  • 1 TBS canola oil
  • ½ tsp sesame oil

Cut eggplant into half-inch strips that are 3-inches long and soaked in saltwater. Drain the eggplant strips and place on a plate for steaming. Steam it over high flame for 5-6 minutes.

Heat the canola oil in a wok on high heat. Cook garlic until aromatic. Add dried shrimp and fry it for few minutes. Stir in the sauces and bring to a boil. Add the corn starch mixture until the sauce is thick. Turn off heat and mix in the sesame oil.

Pour the sauce over the steamed eggplant. Add some green onions for garnish and serve with rice.

Chilled Pork Tenderloin

First post back! Sorry if it looks a bit lame and simple but it’s really good! I love eating this. It doesn’t get any more Chinese than this…

[100% organic]

  • One medium sized pork tenderloin
  • 3 whole star anise
  • ¼ TBS Sichuan peppercorns
  • 2 TBS brown sugar
  • 3 slices of ginger
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • Water

Cut the tenderloin into 3-4 pieces. Sauté the tenderloin in hot oil in a wok for a few seconds until the outside layer changes color. Then add the anise, peppercorns, sugar, ginger, soy sauce, and enough water to cover the pork.

Cook on medium-low heat for an hour, turning over the meat ever 20 minutes. Make sure the water is boiling at a low heat; add water if it dries out.

After cooking, place pork and leftover juices in a plate, cover, and put in refrigerator for at least 2 hours or until chilled. Slice meat thinly and then pour juices over meat.