Terrific Broth

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

Category: Eat Green (Page 2 of 7)

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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Evergreen Sunroom Garden

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The growing season in west Colorado is pretty short. Evergreen, where we currently live, is in zone 4b. The last frost is in late May, and the first snow fall is usually in September. Compared to central North Carolina, which is zone 7b, the growing season is cut down to half. And the plants and vegetables we can grow in the mountains are very limited.

To extend the growing season and get more fresh vegetables, many people here have green houses. As you might remember from this video tour, we have a pretty large sunroom included in our rental. The tenant who lived here for 14 years built a big rock flower bed in the sunroom and maintained a very successful garden.

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The sunroom can accumulate a lot of heat. It only takes a couple hours of sunshine for the inside of the sunroom to reach 70 degrees. Therefore, I have never seen the water in the dog water station freeze. I have never had a green house before, so I am pretty shocked by the magic a simple structure can do to change the course of nature. Or look at it in another way, how amazing is the sun, that we just need to steal a little bit of its wonder to sustain our living.

As soon as I returned from my oversea trip, we brought back a bag of soil, gathered the egg shells we had been saving since moving in, and grabbed some herbs from a local nursery.

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This rental is a temporary stay for us (we have found another place in Evergreen – cannot wait to show you the pictures!), so we decided to plant herbs instead of vegetables. We picked out lavender, basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, chives, stevia, and a couple annuals to mix in some color.

Almost all of these plants require full sun. But I do not want to under-estimate the power of a few pieces of glass windows. Without proper ventilation, the sunroom can get to 90 degrees in a couple hours. To make sure that these tender plants are ready for hot and dry afternoons, I left them at their designated spots, and watched them for a few days.

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The new soil was worked in, and the eggshells are grounded and added into the soil as well. The herbs got a good nice drink every morning. After a few days, almost all of them showed new growth, as if they were saying,”we like it here!”

Planting a garden is always a precious moment. Holding young, tender plants in my hands, just like holding a new baby, brings gratitude, a sense of new hope, and excitement. Regardless how well they may grow in the future, at this moment, it is good. After planting, the scent of lavender and mint lingered on my figures for hours. Mixed with the smell of fresh, wet soil, it is really the happiest perfume in the world.

The first I planted is the mint. We had such a wonderful mint garden back in North Carolina and it reminds me the happy days there.

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I never had stevia before and am excited to try it out.

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Lavender, basil and chives

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Rosemary

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Sage

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Thyme

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A couple weeks have passed after planting. We since had a couple snow storms, but the herbs are doing very well. Here are them today:

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They have shown quite some new growth and the flower seeds I planted right after moving-in sprouted as well. We might not be here long enough to enjoy all the fresh herbs and flowers, but I am glad that we made this place a bit sweeter than that we came to.

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