Saturday, August 10, 2013

Stir-Fried On Choy with Beef and Fermented Bean Curd

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I was at the grocery store recently and came across On Choy (空心菜, 通菜) that was on sale for a great price, so I decided to make On Choy with Beef for dinner.  Having homemade meals certainly is much more healthy than eating out all the time, and it also helps save money when especially seasonal ingredients are used.  There are several variations of On Choy that I have on this site, but this is the first recipe that will be combining a meat and wet bean curd as the sauce.  To those who are new to some of the ingredients in this recipe, here is a picture of the major ingredients used.

There are two types of On Choy that can be found at the local Chinese grocer.  There is a white variety and a green variety.  I personally prefer the green variety because it's more crispy, while the white one tends to release a lot of water during the cooking process.  On Choy translates to hollow vegetable, because the stalks are hollow along its length.

The following ingredients will be needed to make On Choy with Beef:
  • Wet fermented Bean curd (jar pictured earlier)
  • Sirloin steak (or other cut of beef that can be thinly sliced)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced (divided in 1/3 equal portions)
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 large bundle of Green On Choy
  • 1 tsp. Sugar
  • Cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. Soy sauce

Before we cook the On Choy, we will need to do some preparation:
  1. Take a serving portion of beef and slice thinly.  Be sure to trim off excess fat beforehand and always slice perpendicular (90 degrees) to the grain of the muscle fibres.  If the blade of the knife follows the muscle fibres, be prepared for some chewy meat.
  2. Add the soy sauce, 1 tsp of cornstarch, 1/3 of the garlic to the beef.  Mix the ingredients around evenly using your hand, and let it sit for an hour in the refrigerator to marinate.
  3. Cut each stalk of the On Choy so that long stems are trimmed to manageable biting portions (roughly 5 inches long).  Also remove the non-leafy stems at the bottom of each stalk.
  4. Rinse the On Choy using water after trimming them and place to one side.
  5. Spoon out 3 small cubes of the wet bean curd to a small  bowl, and add 1 tsp of sugar.  Mash up the bean curd with a dessert spoon and mix well with the sugar to form a paste.  Wet bean curd will give off a lot of water as it sits in the sugar, so there should be no rush to add water to form the paste.
To cook the On Choy with Beef:
  1. Heat up a wok on medium high heat
  2. Toss in the 1/3 of the garlic, wait 10 seconds, then toss in the On Choy.  Stir the On Choy around a little, then cover the wok with the lid.
  3. Every 2-3 minutes check on the On Choy, it will shrink considerably as it cooks.  Once cooked, remove from the wok.
  4. Empty the wok of all excess water, and add oil again to the wok.
  5. Toss in the bean curd mixture, and let it simmer for 1-2 minutes in the wok.  It will bubble quite a bit, but we are in effect concentrating the flavours.
  6. Carefully toss in the On Choy, but DO NOT pour in the excess water that has collected on the plate that held the On Choy.  Save this water in a small bowl and keep to one side.
  7. Stir around the On Choy in the bean curd sauce and then remove from the wok onto the serving plate.
  8. Again, empty the wok, and add some oil again.  Toss in the remainder of the garlic and add the beef to wok and stir fry.
  9. Make a thickened sauce for the beef by adding the On Choy water from earlier, 1 tsp of cornstarch and pouring it with the beef.
  10. Once the sauce has thickened, remove the beef from the wok and place over top the On Choy.
  11. Serve hot.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Stir Fried White Radish Cake with XO Sauce

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Stir fried white radish cake is a recipe that has different regional variations.  Sometimes it's made using plain white radish, other times it uses a flavourful and savoury white radish cake.  When stir frying, a plethora of accompanying ingredients can be added such as bean sprouts, chives, green onion, eggs, and the list goes on.  Leading to even greater variation is the use of sauces such as XO sauce, soy sauce, oyster sauce, or whatever other sauce is needed to adjust the flavour to taste.

My personal favourite is to use a savoury white radish cake.  You can find the recipe for that here: Savoury Turnip Cake (Daikon), or just purchase it at the Chinese grocer.  We will also be using a teaspoon of XO Sauce.   You can buy it in the grocery store, but if you prefer, make your own ahead of time using this recipe: XO Sauce Recipe

The great part about this recipe is that it is a quick meal on a weekend!  You'll find that it pairs extremely well with Congee!

To make Stir Fried White Radish Cake you will need:
  • Serving portion size of white radish cake, chopped into half inch cubes
  • XO Sauce
  • 1 Egg
  • Vegetable oil

Cooking the Stir Fried White Radish Cake:

  1. Lightly oil the wok on medium high heat. 
  2. Pour in the cubes of white radish cake (Daikon cake)
  3. Stir fry the cubes until lightly browned on most sides.  Be careful not to be overly zealous with the stir-frying, the cubes may break apart!

  4. Crack a whole egg into the wok and stir-fry some more so that the egg becomes scrambled up in between the cubes of radish cake
  5. Toss in a teaspoon of XO Sauce, stir fry to mix evenly, then remove from heat.
  6. Plate and serve hot.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Homemade XO Sauce

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XO Sauce is considered the emperor of all sauces.  Many professional chefs have their own versions of this sauce and the recipe is usually guarded in secrecy.  A small teaspoon of this sauce can take any stir-fry dish and transform it!  This is a sauce that is not very well known of in the supermarket.  I think that this is because XO sauce is typically very expensive.  It is not uncommon for a small jar to sell for upwards of $30.

This recipe of mine will allow you to make our own for a fraction of the cost!  Note that traditionally XO sauce is typically also made with dried chili peppers to provide a spicy kick.  However, my family prefers a non-spicy version which we have affectionally called OX sauce.  Feel free to add dried chili peppers to the recipe if desired.

To make my XO Sauce you will need:
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 4-5 small onions (or 1 large onion), finely diced
  • 90g medium-sized dried prawns
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 6 pieces of dried scallops, shredded
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce

The steps to prepare Homemade XO Sauce:

  1. In a food processor separately process the dried scallops, dried prawns, and diced onions.  The goal isn't to turn the ingredients to a fine powder, it's just to make them a little finer.
  2. Heat up small pot on high heat and put in the shredded scallops.  We are bringing out the flavour of the scallops.  Do so for about another 3 minutes and then add in the shredded prawns.
  3. Keep stirring the dry mixture around to prevent burning.  Once you can start to smell the full flavour of the scallops and the prawns, you may add in the 2 cups of oil to the pot.  You may need to add a little more oil because the goal is to just have enough oil to reach the top of the mixture.  Gently stir and bring to a boil.
  4. Continue stirring and now add in the garlic and onions (If using dried chili now is the time to add them).  Lower the temperature to medium and continue to cook for about 15 minutes.  The mixture should be constantly bubbling but NOT burning.  Add in the dark soy now as well as a pinch of salt towards the end of the 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat after the 15 minutes and transfer the contents to a glass bowl.  Allow it to cool to room temperature, then transfer to a mason jar.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Asian Style Lettuce Wraps

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Lettuce wraps are very popular at Asian restaurants.  Perhaps you may have seen on the menus Peking Duck serve in two ways.  The first presentation is crispy duck skin wrapped in a soft tortilla-like shell.  The meat of the duck is then minced and stir-fried with vegetables and is wrapped with lettuce leaves for the second presentation.  Lettuce wraps can make both a great appetizer and a great main dish, and any dishes that you assemble yourself makes a meal that much more fun!

The cooking time for this dish is minimal, however the most time consuming aspect is the chopping of all the ingredients.  This recipe can be easily adapted to use other meats and vegetables to reduce the chopping time  The important aspect of making lettuce wraps is that it's best to use ingredients with varying colours, flavours, and textures to make the dish appealing to the visual and taste palate.

I've chosen to use for the stir-fry portion of the lettuce wraps:
  • Carrots, finely chopped
  • Pea pods, chopped (may substitute with celery)
  • Shallots, finely chopped
  • Water chestnuts, finely chopped
  • Quail meat grounded or finely chopped
  • Oyster meat finely chopped
Other ingredients you will need are:
  • Hoisin Sauce or Oyster Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Vermicelli noodles (optional)
  • 1 head of Iceberg lettuce or Romaine lettuce leaves

To prepare the lettuce wraps:
  • Lightly oil a wok on high heat.  Add each of the ingredients of the stir fry in one by one.  I start with the shallots, then water chestnuts, followed by the carrots.  After 2 minutes or so, add in the meats.  Normally I would put in the meat first when stir-frying but in this case the quail meat and oysters cook quite quickly.  I want to bring out the flavours of the water chestnuts and carrots, which is why they went in first.
  • Stir Frying
  • Stir fry until everything is fully cooked.  Add in oyster sauce and soy sauce to taste, and stir to mix the sauce in evenly.  Turn off the heat and add the pea pods and stir one last time.

To Serve:
  • I chose to have the stir fry resting on a bed of fried vermicelli noodles.  To fry vermicelli noodles simply break the sticks of vermicelli into short 1 to 2 inch segments.
  • Heat up a small pot of oil and once it's boiling, add the vermicelli noodles to the oil.  The vermicelli cooks extremely quickly and if it turns white and expands, it is ready.
  • Remove the vermicelli noodles from the oil, and place the stir-fry over it
  • Spoon a small amount of the stir-fry into a leaf of lettuce.  Roll it up and enjoy!  If you have guests over then have your guests wrap their own Lettuce Wraps! Be sure to have extra hoisin sauce and hot sauce on the side in case your guests may want to add additional flavour to the wraps.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Glutinous Rice Balls with Black Sesame Filling (Tong Yuan)

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Happy New Year of the Snake!  I can't believe I didn't mention this on my last post, so I've decided to apologize by posting a recipe for Glutinous Rice Balls filled with a Black Sesame Filling (Tong Yuan). Tong Yuan is very popular during the Winter Solstice, but I decided to figure out how they are made so I could have them for the Lunar New Year.  There are many variations on how to make Tong Yuan.  They can be found in a myriad of variations from being different colours, from unfilled to filled, and even the filling itself can vary!

This recipe is for Tong Yuan that's filled with a black sesame filling.  It is a little harder to make than the unfilled ones, but it's definitely worth a try.  The reason it's harder is because the goal is to make the outer shell as thin as possible without it breaking during the cooking process.  After all, black sesame filling all over the outside of a white Tong Yuan isn't as visually appealing.

The serving will also require us to make a syrup for the Glutinous Rice Balls.  This too can have different variations, but I prefer making a brown sugar syrup instead of a clear one.  The reason why I like using sesame powder in my recipe is that it provides a different texture than the outer later of the rice ball.  Eating glutinous rice balls is an experience!  You first start by nibbling at the outside edges because it may be very hot.  Once you're absolutely sure that the filling inside won't burn you, you bite down and release a torrent of sesame flavour.  Enjoy this recipe and don't forget to tell me how the glutinous rice balls turn out!

I use sesame powder to make a black sesame filling.  Feel free to substitute it with lotus paste or red bean paste from your local Chinese grocer.  To make the Glutinous Rice Balls with Black Sesame Filling gather the following ingredients:

For the filling (may substitute with store bought Lotus Paste or Red Bean Paste):
  • 3 teaspoons black sesame powder
  • 1 teaspoon lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

For the dough:
  • 1 cup glutinous rice flour
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil

For the syrup:
  • 2 sticks of brown sugar
  • Small piece of ginger
  • Water

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Basa Filet Fish Congee

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It's Saturday, so I decided that I would make fish Congee today for a good heart-warming lunch.  This recipe uses the recipe for plain Congee as the starting point.  Any type of Congee simply uses the plain Congee recipe and builds upon it.  The recipe for plain Congee can be found here: Plain Congee Recipe.

The ingredients you will need are:
  • 2 large Basa filets
  • A small piece of Ginger, julienned
  • 1 heaping teaspoon of cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

To make Basa Filet Fish Congee:
  1. Prepare a pot of plain Congee.
  2. Take the Basa filets out from the refrigerator and ensure that they are thawed.  Using frozen Basa filet without proper thawing will result in a very fishy tasting Congee.  Drain off any excess water and pat dry the filets.
  3. Slice the Basa filets into bite sized pieces.  When you slice try to do it at a 45 degree angle.  This provides more of an area for the Congee to cook the fish, and it also makes it more visually appealing.
  4. Add the filets, ginger, cornstarch, and salt to a mixing bowl and mix all of these ingredients together using your hand.
  5. Place the plain Congee on the stove and turn it on high heat.  Once the Congee begins to boil, add the fish to the pot.  Stir continuously to prevent the Congee from burning on the bottom of the pot.  The fish is fully cooked when you can no longer see pink.  This is why we sliced the fish diagonally earlier.  Once the fish is cooked, turn off the stove and remove from heat.
  6. Ladle the Basa filet fish Congee into a bowl and serve.  At this point you may garnish with green onions, peanuts or cashews, or even diced pickled cabbage.  Notice how flaky the fish is in my picture.  The cornstarch helps greatly as a binding agent and also adds some texture to the fish.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Savoury Turnip Cake (Daikon) Dim Sum Style (Part 2: Serving)

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In this segment I will teach you how to serve the Turnip Cake (Daikon Cake) that I posted here: Savoury Turnip Cake (Part 1: Steaming).  As I mentioned in the first segment serving the Turnip Cake is quick compared to the steaming of the Turnip Cake.  This is the perfect lazy weekend lunch and pairs extremely well with Congee.
To serve the Turnip Cake:
  1. Take the Turnip Cake out of the refrigerator
  2. Slice the Turnip Cake into rectangular sections.  I recommend you slice them about 1 cm thick.

  3. Heat up a non-stick pan on medium-high heat.  Pan Fry the slices of Turnip Cake until they're golden brown on each side.
  4. Plate and enjoy.  To accompany the Turnip Cake I like to have some Hoisin Sauce.  Hoisin Sauce translates to seafood sauce, but the English label will likely say either Hoisin Sauce or Oyster Sauce.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Savoury Turnip Cake (Daikon) Dim Sum Style (Part 1: Steaming)

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This recipe is to make a savoury Turnip Cake in the Dim Sum Style.  Pronounced in Cantonese it is "lor bak gou"(蘿蔔糕) .  The first part here that I'll be teaching is to make a large portion that can be stored in the refrigerator.  When you decide to serve it you only need to slice however large a portion and heat up that amount.  For the perfect brunch meal at home that's simple and quick, having some Turnip Cake will definitely be the key!

The basis for this recipe is mainly Rice Flour and Daikon.  To be honest I'm confused at this point because I've seen the labels at the grocery store for Daikon Radish, but others refer to this vegetable as a turnip.  Perhaps one of my readers can shed some light on this.  For the rest of this recipe I will refer to the turnip as Daikon though.  The other ingredients such as Chinese pork sausage, dried prawns, and mushrooms serve to bring some colour into the dish, making it visually appealing.

Gather the following ingredients:

  • One 400g bag of rice flour.  Look for "粘米粉" on the label to make sure it's the correct type of rice flour.
  • 3 medium sized Daikon (or 2 large ones)
  • Several links of Chinese pork sausage
  • Several Shiitake mushrooms
  • A small amount of dried prawns
  • A couple shallots
Notice that my ingredients here are very approximate, because there is no set amount to use, simply because it's not necessary to be exact.

To make the Savoury Turnip Cake:

  1. Peel the Daikon and using a cheese grater, grate the Daikon on the largest holes.
  2. Place the shredded Daikon in a large pot.  Add 1 cup of water, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt, then boil on high heat for 5-10 minutes.  This will soften up the Daikon.  Let it cool down for 10 minutes afterwards.  The Daikon has a very strong smell at this point, so I like to have the kitchen fan hood turned on the highest speed.
  3. Dice the Chinese pork sausage, Shiitake mushrooms, dried prawns, and shallots.  Add these ingredients to a pan and panfry them until about cooked.
  4. Once the boiled Daikon has cooled, add the rice flour little by little.  If the boiled Daikon is too hot, it will cook the rice flour immediately and will lead to clumping.  The whole bag of rice flour doesn't need to be used.  You only need to add enough to so that it's slightly more viscous than muffin batter would be.  The key is that it should not be runny at all, so if your mixture is runny when you tilt the pot, add more rice flour!
  5. Once your Daikon has been mixed with the rice flour to a smooth consistency, add in the cooked ingredients from the pan and mix evenly.
  6. Oil a casserole dish that is about 2-3 inches deep.  Scoop the Daikon and fill the dish 70% full to the top.  Put some oil on your hand and lightly pat down the top to make a smooth texture.
  7. Prepare a double boiler and steam for 1 hour.  You will know the Daikon Cake is fully cooked when a wooden chopstick inserted into the middle comes out clean, and no Daikon Cake sticks to it.
  8. Remove the Daikon Cake once it's cooked.  You may sprinkle some sesame seeds on top at this point if you want.  Now let the Daikon Cake cool down.  You may leave it overnight, but whatever you do, do NOT attempt to dump it out of the casserole dish until it has fully cooled.
  9. Once cooled, you may dump out the Daikon Cake and store it in the refrigerator for a future meal.
Notice that this recipe is in fact very similar to the Savoury Taro Cake.  Turnip Cake tends to be softer in texture and accompanies Plain Congee very well.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Winter-cured Meat (Step 3: Cooking and Serving)

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So it's now the middle of winter and you are feeling like making a quick and simple meal.  Now is the time for you to enjoy the fruits of your labour.  Take a strip of the winter cured meat out from the refrigerator and prepare it as follows:

  1. Rinse the meat with lukewarm water to wash off some of the excess salt that helped marinate the meat during the preparation phase.
  2. Prepare a rice cooker with rice and water like you would usually when cooking your evening portion of rice.  Place the strips of winter-cured meat flat on the uncooked rice.  Press the on button to cook the rice.  What will happen is that as the rice cooks, the natural oils from the winter-cured meat will infuse the rice with all of its flavours.  I decided to also make some pork sausages at the same time.
  3. Once the rice is fully cooked, you can take out the strips of winter-cured meat.  Slice them into 0.5cm thick slices and serve

Winter cured meat (Step 2: Curing the Meat)

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The next step once the meat has taken on colour of the marinade is to hang the meat and cure it using the cold dry winter air.  Cut or poke a hole through the end of each strip of meat and thread a piece of string through.

Hang the strips of meat outside from the rafters of your deck.  If you live in an apartment you can also hang them off the balcony.  There isn't a specific length of time to hang the meat, but the goal is to dry out the meat.  Having said that, I tend to let the meat cure for at least 7 days (I have even tried 3 weeks on occasions).  On those days where the weather isn't cold enough, you can bring the meat back indoors and place the meat in the oven at a very  low temperature (ie. the oven is just barely on).  The meat will not spoil even if you do leave it outside since there is a high alcohol and sodium content in the meat.  I only do it just in case there may be insects when the winter season is just beginning.

The winter cured meat shown in the picture is nearing the end of the curing process.

Continue to Part 3 of this recipe:
Winter Cured Meat Part 3: Cooking and Serving.html