Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ginger Scallion Garnish

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Ginger scallion garnish is a side that goes with steamed chicken. It's a very traditional garnish that can be prepared ahead of time, but it can also be made in less than 5 minutes if you'd like it to be served warm.

The ingredients are:
  • Large piece of ginger (the one photographed is roughly 1" in diameter and 4" long)
  • 1 stalk of scallion, chopped (green onion)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup vegetable oil (olive oil is healthier, but has a lower boiling point)
  • Salt
  • Sugar
The cooking process:
  1. Skin the ginger and place it in a food processor to finely chopped pieces
  2. Use a spoon and place handfuls of ginger into your hand to squeeze the juices out. Save the juices in a reusable container as it can be used at a later date to flavour your dishes! Place the squeezed ginger into a bowl.
  3. Add a flat tsp each sugar and salt on top of the ginger
  4. Place the chopped scallion on top of all the other ingredients in the bowl
  5. Heat the oil on high heat until it's nearly at boiling temperature. You can tell when the oil is ready by the boiling stick test. Use a DRY wooden chopstick (or wooden skewer) and place one end to the bottom of the pot. If bubbles start bubbling up the sides of the stick, the oil is ready.
  6. Turn off the heat, and add 1/4 of the oil. The scallion and ginger will sizzle as you pour the oil in. After adding a bit of the oil, stir the contents in the bowl around, and add 1/4 more of the oil. Repeat the stirring and adding of the oil until all the oil is mixed it, or the consistency is already similar to how it is in my photograph. Serve as a garnish with steamed chicken

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ma Po Tofu

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Tofu is a wonderful ingredient to work with. Tofu is soybean curd, and is an extremely healthy ingredient to be eating. The health benefits of soy-based products is widely recognized now, with the emergence of Soy Milk in just about every grocery store. Tofu is as natural an ingredient as you can get, with little commercial processing. On its own, Tofu really isn't anything special - it has a bland taste and a soft texture. However, paired with the proper accompanying ingredients, it can be turned into a healthy and tasty delight. Ma Po Tofu is a rustic dish that hails from the Szechuan province of China. Szechuan food is known for being spicy, and although my interpretation of it doesn't have any spicy component (more so because not everyone in the household can tolerate it), the recipe can be easily adapted to allow for this.

The ingredients are:
  • 3 packs of Soft Tofu, chopped into roughly 2 cm cubes
  • 1/4 of a large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 to 1/2 pound ground pork (marinated with Soy Sauce)
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Dark Soy, Soy Sauce, Corn starch, Sugar, Oyster sauce (all to make the sauce)
The cooking process is:
  1. Heat up the wok on medium-high heat until you can sense the centre is hot
  2. Add in a splash of vegetable oil, followed by the garlic
  3. After 15 seconds, add in the onions and sautee for about 2-3 minutes
  4. Add in the ground pork. You'll need to break it apart as you cook it. I like to add 1/2 a teaspoon of water to the wok when stirring it as I find it prevents the pork from drying up. The ideal size that I like to break the pork up into is about the same size as the chopped Tofu.
  5. After another 2 minutes or so, add the frozen peas to the wok. Stir around for 30 seconds and cover with wok lid. If you'd like to add hot chili peppers for some kick, now is the time to do so.
  6. While the meat is cooking, prepare the sauce. We're now going to prepare the sauce. In a bowl, add a heaping teaspoon of cornstarch and a flat teaspoon of sugar. The next part takes a bit of experience, but pour a splash of Soy Sauce, Dark Soy, and Oyster Sauce to the cornstarch and sugar. Stir quickly or else the cornstarch will clump up.
  7. After about 5 minutes, check on the meat. If it's fully cooked through and through, then you're almost done. Stir it a couple of times, then add the tofu in. Let the Tofu sit for about 30 seconds, and add in the green onions. Stir again for a minute.
  8. Add in the sauce SLOWLY, 1/4 of it at a time. Add 1/4 of it, and stir around to ensure that the colour is evenly spread out. After the consistency and colour of the dish is a medium brown, add in a small amount (1/4 teaspoon) of Sesame Oil. NOTE: Sesame Oil is very potent. Think of it like the Vanilla Extract of cooking. If you'd like to add chili oil, now would be the time to do it.
  9. Plate the Ma Po Tofu. If you wish, you can sprinkle some sesame seeds on top as a garnish.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Garlic Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choi

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A must have recipe for a simple family meal. This dish is easy to prepare and is a staple for someone who is looking for a quick vegetable fix. Another reason why this dish is perfect is because it's simply very inexpensive on the wallet. Cooking it at home may cost a dollar or two for the Baby-Bok. Yet, eating this at a restaurant might cost you nearly $10! This recipe is also great because the amount of each ingredient used can be easily scaled up or down according to how many people are present. The recipe that I'm presenting roughly feeds four adults. While the amount of Baby-bok I'm using may seem like it's too much initially, once the vegetable cooks, it will shrink considerably.

The ingredients for this recipe are:
  • Baby Bok Choi (approximately one clear plastic bag from a chinese grocer)
  • 3 Cloves of garlic, chopped (feel free to add more if you love garlic)
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Salt
This recipe involves minor prep work, but approximately 15 minutes before cooking, empty the Baby Bok into a kitchen sink filled with cold water. It's very important to wash the vegetable thoroughly because you don't want a gritty taste when you eat it. Sometimes dirt can get stuck on the insides of the stalk connecting the leaves, so feel free to tear apart some larger Baby Boks to get bite-sized proportions. Here's a picture of what the ideal size for the Baby-Bok should be.NOTE: Regular Bok-Choi can be used, but it requires slightly longer cooking time and is not as tasty as using Baby-Bok in this recipe. Let the Baby-bok soak for 15 minutes or so, in order to let the dirt settle to the bottom of the sink. In the mean time, chop the garlic.

To cook the Baby Bok:
  1. Remove the Baby-Bok from the sink and place into a colander to drain off some of the water.
  2. Heat up a wok on medium-high heat. Once the wok is hot (you can sense heat coming from the centre of the wok when you place you lower your hand towards the bottom), drizzle some vegetable oil into the wok. Pick up the wok and swirl it around to coat the wok evenly.
  3. Toss in the garlic into the centre of the wok. It will begin popping and sizzling, releasing it's beautiful flavour.
  4. After about 30 seconds, toss in all of the Bok Choi. Almost immediately, the Bok-Choi will be sizzling. Toss in 3 pinches of salt, and mix the Baby-Bok around for about 15 seconds to make sure they all get a bit of oil and salt. Cover the wok.
  5. Baby-bok cooks very quickly, so after about 1-2 minutes, open the wok and see if the Baby-bok is soft or not. If not, stir around for 15 seconds again, and cover for another 1-2 minutes. The Baby Bok is ready to eat when it's soft. If you find there isn't enough flavour, feel free to add more salt. You'll note in my final photograph that the final product has shrunk considerably from when the Bok Choi was initially placed into the wok.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ginger and BBQ Pork Fried Rice

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Fried rice is always a favorite of mine. It's simple to make, and you can practically toss anything into it and it'll still taste great. The secret to making fried rice is ensuring that you're using overnight rice (that's rice that was cooked the day before and left overnight in the refrigerator).

The ingredients used are:
  • Overnight rice
  • 2 Egg Whites
  • BBQ Pork, diced (1/3 to 1/2 of a piece from a Chinese BBQ Shop)
  • Frozen peas
  • 1 stalk of green onion chopped
  • 1/2 of a 4" piece of ginger finely minced
  • Vegetable oil
  • Oyster sauce
  • Salt
The goal is that after you've measured the ingredients, you'll have roughly ratio of 2 bowls of rice to 1 bowl of ingredients.
The process for frying the rice is as follows:
  1. Heat up the wok on medium-high heat, and add the oil when the wok is hot (you'll be able to feel heat radiating from the centre of it when your hand is put near)
  2. Add vegetable oil so that there's approximately a 0.5 inch thick layer of oil
  3. Pour in the egg whites - it will immediately bubble and cook.
  4. Once the outer edges of the egg is solid (very soon), use your spatula and continuously break the egg apart into pieces. Stir fry continuously.
  5. Add in the rice once the egg is broken up into pieces, and stir fry continuously. Toss in the ginger as well as a dash of salt.
  6. Once the rice is warmed up (you can quickly touch the rice in the wok to gauge is temperature), part the rice to show the centre of the wok.
  7. Place the BBQ pork in the cleared area, then add the peas on top. Let the two ingredients warm up for 2-4 minutes.
  8. Stir the peas and BBQ pork around until the peas are thawed and cooking, and mix into the fried rice. Continue to stir the fried rice for another minute or two. Add 1/2 a teaspoon to a teaspoon of oyster to taste, and continue to mix the rice around.
  9. Turn off the heat, toss in the green onions, and stir for a final minute.