Chinese Soul Food
Chinese Soul Food

 

Hsiao-Ching Chou writes about simple Chinese cooking and life as a working mom.

She also teaches cooking at Hot Stove Society in Seattle. Upcoming classes include:

July 8 – Weeknight Wokking

July 15 – Red Braising

Aug. 14 – Pu Pu Platter

Aug. 22 – Soup Dumpling Love – and Potstickers, too

Sept. 2 – Weeknight Wokking (registration not open yet)

Oct. – Potstickers and Fried Spring Rolls (date to come)

 

 

Wednesday
Jul012015

KUOW Radio Interview: 'What's Fresh' at the Farmers Market

I had the opportunity to take KUOW 94.9 (NPR) host Ross Reynolds on a quick tour of the Pike Place Market Thursday market at the Amazon Plaza in South Lake Union. He asked me what was fresh and I talked about the lovely rainbow Swiss chard. I also shared a recipe for making a stir fry of fresh rice noodles with chard and leeks. Listen to the interview...

Tuesday
Jun302015

Stir-Fried Fresh Rice Noodles with Rainbow Chard & Leeks

 

This is such a satsifying dish – and the result of shopping in the fridge. I had one bunch of rainbow chard and a leek from the farmers market that had been in the fridge a couple of days too long. I also had a package of fresh rice noodles that also had been in the fridge a couple of days too long and thus had hardened. The good thing is, all of these ingredients still could fulfill their potential together as a gorgeous and quick dinner for the family.

The rice noodles were from Rose Brand, made by local noodle and fortune cookie company, Tsue Chong, that has a factory in the International District. When the noodles are fresh, they are silky soft. You usually can find them in Asian groceries fresh. If the noodles feel hard, then it means they've been sitting around longer than a day. They also harden once stored in the refrigerator. But they are still useable, because they'll reconstitute in the sauce. They just won't be as pliable.

I visited the Tsue Chong factory and watched them make the rice noodles:

If you find yourself in the ID, you can visit the retail shop to get fresh rice noodles. They store them behind the counter, so you'll have to ask for the noodles. They come in sheets or pre-sliced. For this dish, get the sliced. The factory address is 800 S. Weller St., but the retail shop is located on the corner of South King St. and 8th Ave. S. The storefront is covered in bars and does not look like a welcoming retail shop. But if you see the giant bags of fortune cookies on the shelves, you know you're at the right place. The best part, one package of noodles is less than $2.

 

STIR-FRIED FRESH RICE NOODLES WITH RAINBOW CHARD AND LEEKS

1 package fresh rice noodles, pre-sliced (I suggest Rose Brand, which comes in a 2-pound package.)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 bunch rainbow chard, chopped

1 medium leek, halved and sliced

2 1/2 cups water

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

Salt to taste

 

Separate the noodles and set aside. Heat the wok over high heat. Add the vegetable oil and heat for a few seconds. Add the chard and leeks and stir fry for 1-2 minutes until soft. Add the water, soy sauce and hoisin. Stir to combine. Quickly taste the sauce to see if it needs more salt and add as needed. (The sauce needs to be slightly over-seasoned to accommodate the noodles.) Add the noodles and stir fry gently but quickly and thoroughly until all the noodles have been coated with sauce. Serve immediately.

Tuesday
May052015

Heirloom Recipes for Mother's Day on Food52

From our May 2, 2015, potsticker cooking class at Hot Stove Society in Seattle. Photo/Hien Duong.

It was so cool to be asked to submit a post for Food52's celebration of heirloom recipes for Mother's Day.

I have been making dumplings at my mother’s side for the past thirty years. I first learned how to fill the wrappers and pleat them shut when I was in grade school. In my teens, I learned how to make the dough and roll the skins. Before I graduated college and left home for my first job, I had to be able to make a batch of potstickers (pan-fried dumplings) from beginning to end as a test of my skills—and to reassure my father that, some day, when I met my future husband, I would be able to feed him. They weren’t pretty in the beginning, but my technique evolved over the years; thousands of dumplings taught my fingers the nuances of the dough.

Read more...

 

Monday
Mar162015

On the Fly Stir Fry: Chicken with Fresh Chickpeas and Orange

The beauty of cooking is that if you learn the method, you can take any set of ingredients and transform them into a great dish without a specific recipe. Many nights, dinner is the result of choosing a method – in this case, stir fry – and the available ingredients that make the most sense together. Or, sometimes, I experiment.

I had some chicken breast meat and some fresh chickpeas. I knew those two ingredients would work together well. My usual m.o. is to add green onions, garlic and soy sauce. Easy, quick and a sure thing. But I wanted a twist tonight.

I had two blood oranges and wondered what would happen if I sliced them thinly and flash fried them. So I tested one slice and the pulp disintegrated and the rind charred – which is a waste of a blood orange. I decided to try charring the slices in a dry, hot wok to see what would happen.

Then I added the chickpeas, some green onions, a couple of cloves of smashed garlic.

I added some water and soy sauce to cook the chickpeas and create a sauce. I squeezed the juice from the second orange into the sauce and added some freshly cracked black pepper. I added the chicken and continued to stir fry. (I had sliced the chicken into slivers and then marinated with a dash of soy sauce, blood orange juice, crushed garlic, and a touch of corn starch. Then I oil blanched the chicken and set it aside while I cooked the chickpea mixture.)

I tasted the dish and decided that there wasn't enough orange flavor. So I added the juice another whole orange (I had one navel orange left, so I used that).

Tasting notes: I liked this dish. But if I were to make it again in order to write an actual recipe, I'd eliminate the sliced oranges and go straight to adding the juice to the sauce. Or, my initial instinct was to segment the oranges and add the flesh to the stir fry. That may have been the better call, especially since that would have  featured the dramatic quality of the blood orange color. I also would have punched up the garlic. This would work with regular peas, snow peas, sugar snaps, pea vines, etc.

It was fun to play.

Wednesday
Mar112015

Braised Beef Noodle Soup

Growing up in my family's Chinese restaurant, I remember frequently seeing the giant commercial wok bubbling with a rich braise of beef shanks. Once chilled overnight, the shanks could be sliced thinly, drizzled with soy sauce and sesame oil to be served as an appetizer. What I enjoyed most was the beef noodle soup that mom would make with the braising broth. But it wasn't just the homemade version that I liked. When we'd travel and find ourselves at the local Chinese restaurant in far-flung places, if braised beef noodle soup – especially with hand-shaved noodles – was an option, it would end up on our table. The anticipation of a steaming-hot bowl of broth, the flavors coaxed from the beef and spices, was almost as thrilling as the first bite. There wasn't always a satisfying payoff, but, to this day, I am ever the optimist that I'll find the ideal bowl of braised beef noodle soup at a restaurant that serves Taiwanese food.

I have not written this recipe before. Cooking has always been about the method and not specific recipes. Each time I make a dish, it may vary slightly according to the types or amounts of ingredients, and what my taste buds tell me might be an interesting addition or twist. Sometimes, steps happen out of proper order. So to write this recipe, I had to make the soup while measuring and recording, tasting, adjusting. The next time I make it, I may want to tweak the recipe – which is to say that you will probably see this again in a future post. I definitely want to make this again soon and serve it with handmade noodles, which have great body and texture to match this broth.

A note about the ingredients: Many recipes call for the addition of a spicy bean sauce in the broth. You may do that. Because my family has varying degrees of tolerance for spice, I leave the chili sauce to each individual to add to his/her bowl.

Making this soup isn't difficult, but the aromas will test your patience.

 

BRAISED BEEF NOODLE SOUP
Serves 4 with plenty of leftovers

Ingredients:

About 4 pounds of boneless beef shank

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

5 stalks green onions, cut in thirds

6 large cloves garlic, or to taste, lightly smashed

3 large slices of fresh ginger, cut on the bias, about 1/4-inch thick and 3 inches long

1/2 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns

1 cinnamon stick

4 star anise

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/2 cup dry white or red wine (whatever you have on hand)

1 chunk of rock sugar about the size of a golf ball

2 1/2 quarts water

Sesame oil

 

Directions:

Cut the beef shank into 3- or 4-inch chunks. In a large, heavy pot, heat 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Brown each piece of beef on all sides and set aside. Do this in batches as needed and set aside. Once you're finished browning the beef, add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pot to heat. Add the onions, garlic and ginger, and stir fry for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add spices, soy sauce, wine and rock sugar. Stir ingredients to combine. Let the soy sauce mixture simmer for about 1 minute. Add the water. Bring liquid to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 2 hours or until beef is just fork tender.

There will be a layer of rendered fat at the surface of the soup, and spices and other bits that are ideally strained out. I like to take a few extra steps to make the soup more pleasant. First, I remove the beef chunks and set aside in a bowl. In batches, I use my OXO fat separator to remove the layer of rendered beef fat. Once the broth has settled and the oil has risen to the top of the fat separator, I pour the broth through a small fine-mesh strainer to catch any "debris." Once all the broth has been defatted and strained, combine it and the beef back in the pot. Add a drizzle of sesame oil, about 1 teaspoon. Keep warm while you prepare the noodles to serve. Or, if you are working in advance, the soup can be chilled and then reheated the next day.

While these steps aren't imperative, I think it makes for a better eating experience – especially, in my case, for my children, who haven't quite mastered how to pick out such things from their food.

To serve:

1 pound your favorite Asian-style noodles (can be Chinese noodles or Japanese udon, for example), cooked according to the instructions on the package

Baby bok choy, blanched

Pickled Chinese mustard greens, chopped

Cilantro, optional

Chopped green onions, optional

Your favorite chili sauce

 

Portion noodles into large bowls. Add broth and chunks of beef. Serve with your choice of condiments.