Archive for February, 2009

Sushi Night

Sushi isn’t a Chinese dish but I just thought I’d share some techniques and veggie options. So far I’ve only mastered regular maki rolls, but I had a sushi-making night a while back and people were making inside-out rolls and spirals, which are really fun.

The only specialized equipment you’ll need is a sushi mat– they’re pretty cheap (like $1-$3) and you can find them at Asian grocery stores, kitchen stores, or Pier 1/World Market-type places. Sushi rice is also easy to find — I use Kokuho Rose brand or Nishiki brand (both are grown in the U.S., and there’s also organic brands like Lundberg Rice).

I learned how to make sushi while studying abroad in Costa Rica from this girl staying at the same hotel. My favorite combination, mango/avocado/cream cheese, was serendipitously discovered when she made me a roll with the veggie ingredients. Anyways, onto the technique. 2.5 cups of uncooked rice got us about 16 filled inaris and 10 maki rolls (2 dinners and 2 lunches worth), so proportion accordingly.

Basic ingredients:
sushi rice
rice vinegar
seaweed sheets
soy sauce
pickled ginger

Roll Ideas:
Shiitake mushrooms
Avocado/mango/cream cheese (or any combo thereof)
Umeboshi plums* and mint leaves
Inari tofu **
tamago (sweet fried egg patty– hilarious recipe video here)

*available at Whole Foods in whole or paste form, or much cheaper at the Sun Market on Congress
**canned fried tofu skins, also available at Sun Market on Congress
sushi fillings
Prepare rice according to directions but add 1 tbsp rice vinegar to the cooking water for every cup of rice. Cook the rice well in advance so it has time to cool.  If you do it the night before, make sure you cover it with a wet paper towel after it’s done cooking or the rice on top will harden. When your rice is room temp, take your sushi mat and wrap it ALL the way around with cling wrap so no parts of it are even close to exposed.  Cut up your fillings so they are in slices that would fit in a maki roll. Take a seaweed sheet, fold it in half, parallel to the perforated lines (1/2 will fall between 2 of the lines). Tear each sheet in half.
prepping for sushi
Place one of the halves parallel to the grain of your sushi mat. Take a fat spoonful of rice, dump it onto the seaweed, and spread it out on the seaweed, leaving a small trough in the middle for your filling. Keep adding rice until you get a layer of rice about 1/4 inch thick. Put the filling in the middle. avocado/mango/cream cheese

umeboshi and mint leaves

Using the mat, bring the two sides together and mash down gently, forming a loose roll around the filling.

forming the initial roll

Drop the sides of the mat, move the sushi roll to one end of the mat, and roll the mat up tightly, squeezing evenly on both sides. Unroll, and you should have a nice maki roll.
rolling the maki
When you have three or four rolls done line them up next to each other, seam side down. Cut them with a serrated knife. If you want a clean cut, dip the knife in warm water between cuts.
slicing the rolls
cut rolls

Inari tofu pockets: gently pry apart the sides with a butter knife, stuff with rice, and fold the sides back over the rice. Here’s a picture of Elliott filling inari skins so fast his hands are blurry:
filling inari skins




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Siu mai are a traditional dim sum made of ground pork and  shrimp, steamed with an open top instead of sealed like other dumplings.  Unfortunately there’s not much substituting for the taste of shrimp, so I just subbed a mushroom-sausage mixture. I used the same filling for the siu mai and for some pan-fried dumplings. This recipe makes about 20 siu mai and dumplings total.

1 tube Gimme Lean sausage
2 green onions, greens and whites, chopped
3-4 black mushrooms
1 egg
1 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp flour

20 round wonton wrappers
1 tbsp oil if you’re pan-frying dumplings
siu mai ingredients
Optional for the filling:
1 tsp minced ginger
2 tbsp minced water chestnuts
2 tbsp shoa xing cooking wine
1 tsp sesame oil

Dumpling sauce:
2 parts rice vinegar
1 part soy sauce
dab of sambal oelek

Soak the mushrooms for at least 30 minutes and reserve the water. Mix the rest of the filling ingredients, dice the mushrooms really small and add them plus 1/4 cup of the mushroom water to the filling. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate about 30 minutes.

For the siu mai: I found that placing a wide, flat round of filling in the wonton wrapper and then pulling up the edges worked better than putting a big dab in the middle and trying to get the wrapper to stick around it. Do whatever works or makes the prettiest siu mai. They should be cylinders, flat on the bottom and open on top.
making the siu mai

pleating the siu mai

If you’re using a metal steamer, spray the bottom with grease.  Steam each batch for 15 minutes and eat.

For dumplings: keep a cup of water handy. Place a dab of filling right in the middle, dip you finger in the water and run it along the inside edge of the wrapper.  Press the sides together and seal.  Preheat the pan with the oil and pan-fry each side on medium until they are nice and brown. Serve with dumpling sauce.
finished siu mai and dumplings

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Love these pans!

So a combination of things has prompted me to buy new PFOA/PTFE-free cookware:

(1) this article on MSN/Delish recommends not heating non-stick pans > 500 degrees (which apparently is pretty easy to do) and ” replacing your nonstick cookware every couple of years”– seriously?!?! “Couple” as in two? I’ve been using the same griddle since… law school? college? At least 6 years.

(2) awhile back, I found out that you can’t cook with non-stick pans around pet birds, or they will drop dead from the fumes.

(3) my nonstick griddle can’t handle eggs anymore, which probably means I’ve swallowed lots of layers of Teflon. Here’s the wiki on Teflon (PTFE).

(4)  learning that 3M phased out the sale of PFOS-based Scotchguard after the EPA initiated an investigation into contaminated drinking wells where Scotchguard was made. The move cost them $325M in annual sales, which really makes you wonder how bad the damage is. (PFOS is in the same class of compouds as PFOA.)

Anyways, after much research I finally settled on Cuisinart’s Greenware 10-piece set for $150 at BB&B ($120 after 20% off coupon). The description touts:

  • With Cuisinart Ceramica™ ceramic-based non-stick technology, cookware is petroleum free and is applied at a temperature one-half that of conventional non-sticks.
  • Non-stick surface is also PTFE- and PFOA-free for healthier cooking.
  • The aluminum pan construction provides superior heat conductivity which requires less energy to achieve desired cooking temperature.
  • The riveted stainless stick handles stay cool on the stovetop and are made of 70% recycled stainless steel.
  • Oven and broiler safe.

Cuisinart greenware

I’ve had this set for about a month now– no scrapes or chips, as I’ve read happens with some other eco-friendly non-sticks. That or they lose their non-stickness in 1 or 2 uses, which haven’t happened with mine yet. Knock on wood.  The non-stick quality has so far been wonderful, they’re a breeze to clean, and I like the idea that I could, theoretically, move a dish from stovetop to oven (this use hasn’t come up yet though). The only complaint I have is that while the side handles stay cool, the lid handles do NOT stay cool. If I’m boiling something for a long time, I leave an oven mitt on top to remind myself not to grab the lid sans protection.  Aside from that, these pans have been perfect.  Just passing the word along if you’re in the market for new PFOA/PTFE-free cookware.

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Sai yong choi = watercress, tong = soup

Choi, or more accurately tsoi, is the generic term for greens. Sai yong choi is Chinese watercress, a weed that grows in…water.  Not as chock full of nutrient as spinach or kale but still good.

This soup is broth-based and is a little sweet and a little salty… reminds me of kettle corn in that way.  It’s also great because it only calls for 3 ingredients.

6 cups water
1/4 tsp Better than Bouillon
1 bunch watercress (actual amount is not that important)
3 honey dates (muht tzoh, see pic)
sai yong choi tong ingredients
honey dates
Cut the watercress bunch in half so each strand is not too long. Put all ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer. About twenty minutes in, the dates should be soft.  Pick out the seeds from the center (they are really sharp) and then put the dates back in.

take out the seeds

The dates should naturally fall apart after a while– mix them among the greens. Boil for about 45 minutes total, then serve.

sai yong choi tong

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This is a dish I made up during law school, loosely based on my aunt’s samosas.  You can eat it with Indian breads that are pretty easily found in regular grocery stores nowadays (rotis, parathas, naan, etc), or serve over rice.  You can also omit 1/2 the coconut milk and use it as a filling for samosas (which was what I was originally going to post but it was getting late and I was getting lazy). As with most curries, you can tailor the proportions of fillings and spices to your taste.

1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp butter
2 medium potatoes, in small cubes
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp better than bouillon
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 cup peas, fresh or frozen (not canned)
2 tbsp curry powder*
2 pieces of frozen paratha or roti bread

*or you can make your own- I use 1.5 tbsp turmeric, 1/2 tbsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, and a sprinkle of ginger powder.

potato curry ingredients
frozen paratha

Heat a large non-stick pan or wok with the butter and fry the onion and garlic on medium until the onions turn clear or garlic starts to brown. Throw in the water, coconut milk, and bouillon, followed by the potatoes and the curry powder. Cook uncovered, on med-low, until potatoes are cooked- about 35-45 minutes. If it starts looking too dry, put the lid on and/or a splash of water. Add the raisins midway through, about 20 minutes in. Add the peas at the very end, right before you are ready to turn the heat off, so they stay bright green and don’t get mushy. Once the potatoes are soft, pan-fry the rotis/parathas according to directions. Serve the curry potatoes and rotis/parathas with a protein source.
potato curry with paratha

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I hate the term “egg foo young” — I never knew that it referred to fried eggs until I was at one of those god-awful giant Chinese buffets and saw the dish labeled.  Chinese people just call the dish “fried egg.” This recipe is tomato based, so it’s fahn keh (tomato) tzeen dahn (fried egg).

1/2 onion
3-4 eggs
1 medium tomato, any kind
1 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

tzeen dahn ingredients

Preheat a large pan with the oil.  Slice the onion and tomato– any shape is fine as long as it’ll fit in a patty. Fry them together until onions begin to soften (about 5 minutes on med-high), stirring periodically. While that’s frying, beat the eggs well. Once the onions are soft, distribute the onions and tomatoes throughout the pan and sprinkle the sugar on top. Then dump the eggs in the middle, allowing it to spread out into a patty.
making the patty
Lower flame just slightly to medium, and fry it undisturbed and covered about 7-8 minutes. Once the top is solid enough to be flipped, slice the patty into quarters and flip each one. Fry another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if desired, and serve.
fahn keh tzeen dahn

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“I say they should put more meats on a stick, you know? They got a lot of sweets on sticks — popsicles, fudgesicles, lollipops — but hardly any meat.”  — There’s Something About Mary

Lack of meat on a stick is purely a American phenomenon.  The rest of the world is awash in meats on sticks- kebabs, carne en palito, bulgogi, yakitori, etc.  Satay is the Southeast Asian meat on a stick.  I’m not sure what it literally means but it consists of skewered meat, basted with curry, then grilled and served with a side of peanut sauce. In Cantonese it’s pronounced sah deh. Wikipedia has a list of 28 types of satay— from Indonesia alone!

Since tofu is usually too soft to grill, I oven-broil it instead. To get the meaty-chewy texture, this takes 45 minutes to an hour.

1 package extra firm tofu– the plastic tub kind, not the tetra-pak kind
5-6 tsp satay seasoning (see below)
1/4 cup coconut milk
3/4 tsp better than bouillon mixed with 1/4 tsp water
8 tsp peanut sauce mix (depends on the kind of mix)
2 tbsp sesame oil

If using the peanut sauce mix (note: you can find peanut sauce in a jar pretty easily nowadays):
1/3 cup coconut milk
8 tsp peanut sauce mix
curry satay ingredients
I use a mix for the satay seasoning, but you can also use either
(1) 2 tsp sugar, 2.5 teaspoons turmeric, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/4 tsp coriander, or
(2) 1 part sugar to 2 parts curry powder.
But if you can find it, I highly recommend the Lobo brand mix pictured above because it comes with a packet for the satay marinade and a packet for the peanut sauce.

Drain the tofu well– the less water in it, the shorter the baking time. Slice the tofu into pieces about 1/3 to 1/2-inch thick. Place the better than bouillon over the top of the brick and using a butter knife, smear the paste in between the slices (try to do this evenly so not just the end closest to you is basted), and then smoosh the slices back together. Make sure you get the sides on the far left and right too, but you don’t have to baste the bottom, front, or back.
seasoning the tofu

Let that sit for about twenty minutes.  Meanwhile, coat a small pan with the sesame oil. Try to get a pan that is just large enough to fit the tofu, or use only one end of a pan with edges. Mix the curry satay seasoning and 1/4 cup coconut milk. Put 1/2 of the mixture on the bottom of the pan on top of the oil. Once the tofu is done basting, preheat the oven to 425. Place the tofu slices in a single layer on top of the curry sauce, then baste the top half with the rest of the curry sauce, covering any exposed sides of the tofu. Mine was pretty watery because I didn’t let the tofu drain long enough, so aim for something drier and this will decrease your baking time:
marinading in the curry
Bake the tofu until the edges begin to brown and the top blisters, at least 45 minutes. If some of the sauce pools and begins to burn, that’s fine– it’s comes right off and actually tastes really good if you’re not afraid of eating charred food.

I make the peanut sauce with 8 tsp of the dry mix plus 1/3 cup coconut milk. If you’re using the same brand, mix them together and microwave them until it boils (50 seconds for me). Keep a close eye on it– it boils over really quickly. If the sauce hasn’t thickened, microwave it 20 seconds at a time, stirring between each time, until it turns dark orange and thick (I have no idea why this is; it’s just what I’ve discovered after years of using this brand).

Serve the tofu with the peanut sauce on top or on the side.  If serving as an appetizer, you can cut it into strips and skewer it once it’s done baking.

satay tofu

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