Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Authentic Chinese (Page 1 of 3)

Braised Bamboo Shoots

Hi friends! I am here to share with you an easy, authentic Chinese recipe – braised bamboo shoots. It only contains three ingredients and four spices, and takes ~15 minutes to cook. A quick weekday night dinner indeed.

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There are two types of bamboo shoots – Spring bamboo shoots, and winter bamboo shoots. Both work with this recipe. While fresh bamboo shoots are hard to come by, Asian stores almost always have frozen ones. We came across fresh bamboo shoots randomly and I just have to get it. And braised bamboo shoots is my favorite way to cook them.

So here are the three ingredients I used: a bag of pre-skinned bamboo shoots (a little over a pound), a few cloves of garlic, and a thick slice of Chinese bacon. Some people use ginger instead of garlic, and I would have used a couple slices of ginger if I had any. Not everyone cook this dish with garlic either. I personally love the taste of cooked garlic so I always try to include some whenever possible.

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Chinese bacon usually taste sweet and salty, which is how you want braised dish to taste like. The fat also cooks out, which is absorbed by the bamboo shoots and makes them extra tasty. You can totally skip the meat to make this dish vegan though. The bamboo shoot will still taste great!

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The three main spices to make braised anything are sugar, Shaoxing wine, and soy sauce. Traditional Chinese dishes always use rock sugar, and it is usually melted in hot oil in order to coat whatever ingredient you wish to braise. I do not have rock sugar, so I used raw sugar. You can use any sweetener, including maple syrup or honey.

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The first step is to cut the bamboo shoots into bite size and the meat into small bits. Someone once asked me how Chinese people eat meat without knife and fork. The truth is, almost everything in transitional Chinese dishes has been cut to bite size before cooking, so one can use chopsticks to pick a piece up, put it into one’s mouth, and chew it with one’s mouth closed. Except noodles, which you are supposed to slurp in order to effectively cool the noodle down to prevent mouth burn.

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I cut a few slit into each garlic cloves but kept them whole. You can cut the garlic however way you want. I generally keep my herbs – such as ginger, pepper, green onion, and garlic whole, so I can pick them out before serving. In terms of green onion, I usually tie a bundle of them into a knot, so they release their flavor but do not disintegrate. This is particularly important when cooking soups, so the soup remains clear and debris-free.

Second, heat up some oil and brown the garlic. I used only one table spoon of oil because I knew the Chinese bacon will release some.

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As soon as you can smell the garlic (30 seconds to a minute), add meat. In my case, the Chinese bacon has been cured so it only takes minutes to cook though. Whatever meat you are using, just make sure that it is seared before adding the bamboo shoots.

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Once the bamboo shoots is added, stir everything so all the bamboo shoot pieces are coated with oil. Cook the whole mixture for another 3 minutes or so, until the bamboo shoots become brown on their edges.

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Now it is time to add Shaoxing wine (1 tablespoon), soy sauce (2 tablespoon), and a bit sugar/sweetener (1 teaspoon). I also added 1 tablespoons of water.

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I did not use much sugar because the Chinese bacon was already sweet. If you are cooking this dish with non-flavored meat, make sure you double the amount of the sugar/sweetener. Now give everything a quick mix and cover for another 5 minutes.

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When the bamboo shoots turns brown, it is time to open the lid and give the whole thing another stir. There should not be much liquid left at this point. If there is, do not panic. Just turn up the heat to reduce the liquid. Salt to taste (I did not add any salt because the Chinese bacon was already salty).

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And here it is! It is great with steamed rice.

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Enjoy!

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A Quick Green Onion Stir Fry

I have to give myself a pat on the back because I finally finished the new employee training today! As a scientific researcher, especially one who does animal research, there are tons of training I have to receive when I start working in a new institute. Even through I have been handling mice/rats for 15 years, done thousands of surgeries, and received similar training from institutes I worked for in the past. During the last three work days, I had to sit through dozens of online classes and go through quizzes!

Starting tomorrow, I will be taking bus to work, which hopefully will make my day much easier. What I will be taking is an express bus that have no stop between the park-and-ride next to my home and my work, and it will be running on the highway I used to drive to work. So it will take exactly the same time as driving!

I manage to start cooking again this week. I am the veggie cook in the family. So when I cook dinner, we eat mostly vegetables. I think it is important! Besides, we enrolled veggie and mushroom share from a local CSA so there has been much veggie every week. We HAVE to cook 2~3 different veggies every meal to not waste any.

For example, this week, we got a few turnips, four zucchini, four cucumber, half a dozen green pepper, two boxes cherry tomato, two heads of different cabbage, two eggplants, a dozen medium-size potato, some chard, and garlic and green onions. We have been cooking 2~3 different kinds of veggies every night! If you have not tried CSA program, you really should check it out, see if there is any near you. And here are why we love it:

  1. The veggies are more tasty: No matter what we get, leafy greens, or root vegetables, they are in season and properly ripen. The ones we buy from grocery stores are often picked prematurely, so they do not taste nearly as good. my veggies even make my car smell good! Once you taste a locally grown, picked at the right time, CSA cabbage, trust me, you will never want to eat store cabbage again!
  2. The veggies are fresh: The veggies we get are picked on the same day, so even being ripen, they last the entire week without looking sad.
  3. These veggies are grown organically. Regardless if the CSA farm is certified organic (ours is not because the paperwork is too much), the growing practice is usually very organic.
  4. The farms you get CSA veggies from are usually small and family owned. The farm we get our mushrooms from has been there for five generations! We would like to support local economy and small business owners like these farms.
  5. They are cheaper than grocery store veggies! Our veggies shares are for family of four (we prefer eating a lot so we got a double share) is 600 for the entire summer, that means for 20 weeks from June to October, we barely need to go to grocery store for veggies. Now we just go to Costco once a week for milk, cheese, meat and fruit, which cut down our grocery bill a lot. When we did vegetable shopping in grocery stores, we definitely pay more than 30 bucks per week, and we do not get nearly as much.
  6. Buying local cut down food waste in long-distance transportation. So you are not only cutting down your own grocery bill, but also save for the society.
  7. Getting CSA veggie is a great way of socializing with people in your local community! We talk to other CSA members and the farm owners all the time. And every time we get some valuable information about our community, food culture, events, and gardening pointers. Slav even helped out to write grants for some farms back in NC. He did it for free to help out because that particular CSA has a really good cause and we made some really good friends there.
  8. And more importantly, getting CSA shares force us to eat a lot more veggie than we otherwise would! We purposely ordered a double share so we eat more veggies, and it has worked so well for us. We are not vegetarian by any means – when we cook cabbage, potato and green peppers on grill, you bet there is a sausage link or two next to them. But we eat primarily vegetables, and I think it made us healthier.
  9. Last but not the least, CSA subscription forces us to try new recipes. Because you might get something you do not normally buy from the store. At the beginning of the season we got so much turnips, so we tried stew, cold salad, and grilled turnip, and they were so good! This week we got more than enough green onion, so I came up with this:

A green onion + mushroom stir-fry

1. Gathering green onion and mushroom (I got several kinds from our CSA mushroom share so I just throw all of them together regardless strains). Green onion really shrinks after cooking so you want to use lots of them. I also have a few pieces of BBQ pork left from Chinese take-out (they always give toooo much meat), so I decided to throw them in there too.

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Speaking of adding meat in stir-fries, it was the main way my family consumed meat when I grew up. We rarely eat a whole chicken or a big piece of ham cooked by themselves. A little bit meat in stir-dries, such as a little bit ground pork, a couple slices of sausage or shredded leftover rotisserie chicken – can add so much flavor and make the whole dish richer, yet the veggies still dominates the taste of the dish.

2. Cutting everything to bite size:

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3. Hot pan, cold oil, throwing green onions in and frying for a minute:

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4. Adding the mushrooms:

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and cooking a couple minutes until the mushroom softens. You can see how much the green onion has shrank:

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5. Throwing in the cooked meat and turn off the heat. Notice that I have not added any salt at this point. If the cooked meat is plain (which is never the case nowadays, everything is soooo salty!), add a bit salt to taste. The BBQ pork I used was salty and so I did not add any spice to the dish.

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It should go really well with some steamed rice. Enjoy!

Chow Bing Beijing Style

Chow Bing Beijing Style

We love and cook all different kinds of food at home, Polish, Mexican, Chinese, American, Greek, Thai, Indian, Vietnamese…you name it. But when I am super busy, I always go back to authentic Chinese for its simplicity and flexibility.

My family lives in Beijing so I grew up with food in Beijing Style, or “京味儿” in Chinese. Beijing style can be achieved with just a handful of spices: Sichuan pepper, garlic, sesame oil, rice vinegar, and a bit salt.

Home cooking in China is also very intuitive – I make a stir fry with anything leftover from my fridge. As long as you know how each ingredient behaves, anything can pair together and create a beautiful dish.

Like today, we only have half Napa cabbage and some onion in the fridge. We always have flour tortilla in the pantry, which is similar to “Bing”, aka onion cake. So I decided to try to make “Chow Bing” with it. “Chow Bing” means “onion cake stir-fry”, just like Chow Mein, but instead of noodles, you fry strips of Bing with vegetables and meat.

This dish is on the starchy side so I want to add some salty bits in it. I found some leftover pickled mustard greens, aka Sui Mi Ya Cai. But any pickled dry vegetable should do.

Step one – Gather the materials:

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  • 4 flour tortilla, cut into thin stripes (I do not think corn tortilla works for this dish).
  • Half cabbage (Napa or regular), also cut into thin stripes.
  • Onion, stripes.
  • Pickled mustard greens, minced.
  • Garlic, smashed (I like eating them cooked but hubby does not. So I usually smash the cloves to get the flavor out, but leave them in one piece for easy separation).
  • Cooking oil.
  • Vinegar. I used rice vinegar one for the color – or the lack of – you can use any vinegar.
  • Pepper – I like this dish a bit spicy, so I used a pinch of Sichuan pepper. You can leave it out, or use red pepper for spicy flavor. Red pepper works really well with this dish.
Step two – Fry the spices: peppers, garlic, and onion

Heat up the wok, pour a tbsp oil in, before it gets too hot, add peppers until it is fragrant. Add garlic, fry 30 seconds

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Add onion, fry until soften.

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Step three – Cook the cabbage.

Add all the cabbage and mix it well with the spices. keep stirring for a few minute. Napa cabbage and young cabbage both contain some water and should not stick to the wok. But if you are using regular cabbage, add a tbsp of water will not hurt.

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Cook until the cabbage is reduced to half in size, add a bit vinegar, which will balance the sweetness of the cabbage.

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Step four – Tortilla time.

Add tortilla stripes and pickled mustard greens, mix well. Add a bit water or stock into your wok. It not only prevents the tortilla from sticking to the wok, but also releases the salty flavor from the pickles and bring it into the tortilla and the cabbage.

I also threw in some leftover steak from my Mexican lunch. You can add any pre-cooked meat into this dish at this point. It is really flexible.

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Stir and cover for a couple minutes until the tortilla is soft and its color darkens a bit.

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Step five – Final spice.

Open the lid and give it a good stir. Let the tortilla absorb all the juice, and add salt to taste. I did not need to add any salt because my pickled veggie is salty enough.

Enjoy!

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