Terrific Broth

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

Category: Authentic Chinese (Page 1 of 2)

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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The World’s Simplest Red Curry

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Happy Memorial Day weekend! I would like to greet you with the simplest red curry recipe in the world. I’d admit that I had not had Thai food or any type of curry before I moved to the US. But I immediately fell in love with Thai curries and started to cook them at home. Over the years, my recipe gets simpler and simpler – it is reduced to the most basic 5 spices that gives you the “Thai” taste. But in my opinion, simpler spice combination really makes the ingredients shine. When you use different proteins and veggies, the curry is supposed to taste different. And this recipe is just that.

This is a really simple dish that takes only 20 minutes to cook. It can be paired with rice or pasta, and can be cooked with whatever you can find in the fridge. It is a perfect Thursday night dinner when all left in the fridge is half an onion, a few leaves of lettuce, and half block of Tofu. That is when this recipe comes to rescue! Do not worry about proportions at all – it taste good regardless if it is protein heavy, veggie heavy, or no protein at all!

Step one: Cook your rice/pasta

This recipe pairs great with rice. It is flavorful, comes with lots of juice, and can be reheated many times. If you like your curry on rice too, remember to cook the rice first, before you start cropping and preparing for this dish.

Step two: Prepare your protein source

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I had half bag of frozen shrimp today, so it is what I used. I have used slices of beef, chicken, duck, pork, fish and tofu. Shrimp and fish are easy to cook through. So if you are cooking curry with shrimp and fish, there is no need to pre-cook them. But if you are interested in trying this recipe with sliced beef, pork, duck or chicken, or Tofu, I recommend pre-sear the protein very fast in a very hot wok with a tablespoon of oil. You can leave the oil in the wok for the next step.

Step three: Gather your veggies

I like to use pepper, snow pea, bamboo roots, and mushrooom in my curry. Today I used celery because it is the only veggie I had in the fridge.  It paired with shrimp surprisingly well!

Rinse and crop your veggies to the size that is slightly smaller that your sliced meat/a single shrimp. I recommend cropping them thin to save cooking time.

Step four: Gather your spices

Crash a few gloves of garlic, grate some ginger (optional), and crop some onion. If you want to eat onion directly, crop them into big slices. Crop the onion fine if you want them to disappear.

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To make something Thai you really only needs a few things: coconut milk, red curry sauce, fish sauce, and some kind of sugar. Palm sugar is the classic choice of sugar for Thai food, and using other form of sugar does impact the taste a little bit. But using brown sugar or raw sugar will still be pretty close. We only have raw sugar in the house (Costco)  – that is what we use in backing, coffee, and cooking. So that is what I used.

As for the coconut milk, you can use any brand in your local grocery store. I got mine from Amazon and it is my add-on items, so I stick to the Thai kitchen brand. But really any coconut milk will do. If the milk has separated in the can, just stir it during the cooking and it will be fine. No fuzz.

What influence the taste of a Thai curry the most to me, is the fish sauce. The best one I’ve had, recommended by a Vietnamese friend who cooks very well, is the three crabs fish sauce – that is why it is so expensive! Squid is a decent alternative and much cheaper.

Step five: Throw everything in the wok…

Just kidding. But I’d say that now it comes the easy part: cooking.

00:00 mins – Add one tablespoon of oil into your wok, or use the left over oil from searing the meat. Brown the onion for a couple minutes

03:00 mins – Add garlic and 1.5 table spoon of of red curry paste, give it a quick mix.

04:00 mins – Add 1 can of coconut milk, half a cup of water (or stock if you want it to be richer), 1.5 tablespoon of fish sauce, 1 tbsp of sugar, bring to boil.

08:00 mins – Add veggie. Cover the pot and simmer for 6 mins

14:00 mins – Add pre-seared meat or tofu, or raw shrimp/fish, simmer for another 5 mins until the meat cooks through

19:00 mins – Dissolve 2 tablespoon of cornstarch in 2 tablespoon of cold water, add into the soup. Turn the heat off but leave the wok on the stove, give it a quick stir. The soup will continue to thicken.

20:00 mins – Add the juice from a lime. Taste the soup. The “Thai” taste should be well balanced among fish sauce, sugar, and lime juice, If it is too sweet, add a bit fish sauce. If it is too salty, add more sugar. If it is too sweet and salty, add lime juice.

Enjoy over rice/pasta.

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