Adventures in homemade, budget aware cooking.

Posts tagged “Authentic

Potstickers

Yesterday, my husband and I had a friend over for Mexican food.  We got to talking about food.  What else do you talk about when you’re eating after all?  My husband attempted to explain about all the ethnic foods I am introducing him to, but he got stuck on “Tzatziki.”  I don’t really blame him.  Finally, he abandoned searching for the word and instead brought up the potstickers we enjoyed a few days prior.  But our friend was baffled at our considering potstickers ethnic, because to him, they are a “Utah thing!”  Potstickers, as it turns out, are a Chinese thing.  I am happy they are accessible here though!

Most people eat these at Chinese food restaurants (My mum, for one, loves them).  If people do attempt to make them at home, they generally use the store-bought wrappers.  I made mine from scratch, using a recipe from “Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch” and they are so easy (and CHEAP) that I will never buy them again.

Potsticker Wrappers:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup water

Combine flour and water in a medium bowl.  Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface.  Knead the dough for 3-4 minutes until it appears smooth.  Form the dough into a 9 inch cylinder with your palms.  Cut the dough in half lengthwise.  Dust both pieces with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let them rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile make the filling.

There are a million fillings that you can use for potstickers.  I used the traditional ginger pork filling adapted from “Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea Lunch”

  • 8 oz finely shredded napa cabbage (or regular cabbage)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 8 oz ground pork
  • 2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 scallion (green onion) finely sliced
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp rice wine (apple juice)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil (you NEED this to make it taste Chinese!)

Toss the cabbage with the salt in a large bowl and let it stand 30 minutes to remove excess water.  Rinse the cabbage, and squeeze out all the water you can.  Preheat the oven to 200F (this is so you can keep batches of cooked potstickers warm while you cook the rest).  Mix the pork, ginger, scallion, soy sauce, apple juice, sugar and sesame oil in a large bowl.  Mix in the cabbage.  Refrigerate anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

To assemble the dumplings, roll the cylinders out to 12 inches each (one at a time).  Cut out 3-3 1/4 inch circles.  Put a tsp of filling in the center of the dough.  Bring the top and bottom of the dough to the center of the filling and pinch shut forming a lip.  On one side of the dumpling, pinch 4 1/4 inch pleats in the dough along the lip.  When you have 10 or so ready, heat 1 tsp of oil in a skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is almost smoking, drop in the dumpling.  Fry for 2 minutes (only on one side).  Add 1/2 cup of water to the skillet.  Cover and let the dumplings cook for 5 minutes.  When the water is just about gone, remove the lid and let the potstickers cook until they are light brown and stuck.  Repeat until all the dumplings are cooked.  Serve hot with Soy Vinegar Dip.

Soy Vinegar Dip

  • 1/8 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar

Heat ingredients with 1 tbsp water over low heat for 1 1/2 minutes.  Remove from heat and spoon into small dishes.  Top with a scallion sliced paper-thin if desired.

ps. The Spring Rolls were mediocre so I will not give you the recipe here.  Do you have a delicious spring roll recipe?

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Dim Sum Honey Buns

I promise, I’m almost done with my Chinese cravings… (Tonight we’re having Mexican – see?)  These dessert “Honey Buns” are so good and it took me forever to work out the recipe, so enjoy it!  The husband said about these soft, sweet filled buns “You should make these for my family so they see the delicious things you make for me!”  The recipe makes 24 buns (which is a ton!) but you can freeze them for 3 months.

Baked Bao Dough (traditionally, these are steamed, but I don’t have a steamer.  When I get one, you will get the steamed dough recipe!)   adapted from “Dim Sum: The Art of Chinese Tea”

  • 3 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 sugar
  • 1/4 shortening
  • 1/4 cup plus 1/4 cup lukewarm water, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk

Combine 2 cups of flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl.  Cut in the shortening (with a pastry knife or two knives).  In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup lukewarm water and yeast.  Leave 5 min.  Put milk and 1/3 cup water in a saucepan.  Heat to 110F (warm).  Remove from heat.  Stir in the yeast.  Add liquid mixture to the flour mixture.  Mix.  Add the remaining flour.  Turn dough onto a floured surface.  Knead 5-8 min.  Put in a greased bowl.  Turn to grease the top.  Cover.  Let rise 2 hours.

Make the filling.

Honey Bun Custard Filling (there is no honey involved here…)

  • 2 1/2 oz butter (6 tbsp)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp yellow food colouring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt the butter.  In a medium bowl, Beat the eggs and the sugar until the sugar dissolves.  Stir in the butter.  Stir in the cornstarch.  Add the milk, vanilla and food colouring.  Heat in a saucepan until gently boiling.  Whisk constantly until thickened.  Remove from heat.  If the custard is lumpy, add more milk and stir well.  Cool to room temperature.

Make the Rolls.

Oil 2 baking sheets.  Punch down the dough.  On a floured surface, pat it into a 8 x 12″ rectangle.  Cut it into 24 squares.  Using one square at a time, flatten the dough into a 2 1/2″ circle.  Fill by placing a heaping tsp of the filling in the center of the dough.  Gather the edges together and pinch shut.  Place pinched-side-down on a baking sheet.  Let the buns rise another 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Brush the rolls with a beaten egg.  Cook for 20-25 minutes.  Serve warm.


Sweet and Sour Pork

Lately, Orem has found itself in the midst of a week-long thunder storm.  One night, the storm got so loud and the lightening got so near, I confess I fell asleep to visions of our apartment burning down.  In addition to this electrical storm, it felt like we were living inside a waterfall.  It rained sheets.  I think it was this sudden down-pour that got me craving Chinese food.

Let me explain, in Victoria, we ate authentic Chinese food all the time.  It also rained all the time.  So there you go.  I decided to attempt Sweet and Sour Pork.  The last recipe I used for sweet and sour chicken was very disappointing.  It wasn’t really sweet, it wasn’t really sour, and it wasn’t red.  It was a letdown.  This recipe however, from a cookbook I got second hand for fifty cents, is deliciously sweet, sour and red.  It was a success.

Sweet and Sour Pork (adapted from “Chinese Home Cooking”)

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin (cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp five-flavor spice (optional, this gave the meat a kind of cinnamon-flavor)
  • 4 tbsp cornstarch
  • Oil for deep frying
  • 3 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 green bell peppers, cut into 1 inch pieces (you can use red peppers too, I just don’t like them!)
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp ketchup
  • 5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1/2 cup water
  • 3 slices pineapple, cut into 1 inch pieces

Put the pork in boiling water for 2 minutes.  Remove and pat dry.  Mix the egg yolk, salt, soy sauce and five-flavor spice.  Marinate the meat in this mixture for at least 15 minutes.  Coat the pork in cornstarch.  Heat oil to med-high in a skillet.  Deep fry pork until light brown.  Remove and drain on paper towel.  Heat 3 tbsp oil and stir-fry garlic, onion, and green peppers, on high heat for a few minutes.  Add sugar, ketchup and vinegar.  When just boiling, add the cornstarch mixture and stir until thickened.  Add pork and pineapple.  Stir.  Serve with white rice.


Pozole

My friend Hilary eating some real PozoleI have a t-shirt that says “Hecho en Mexico.”  While some Mexicans are pasty white and have ocean blue eyes, I am not one of them, at least not by birth.  Growing up, Tex-Mex Tacos constituted my repertoire of Mexican food.  After a year and a half in Southern California, my culinary and cultural boundaries were blown to pieces.

I loved the traditional sopes, enchiladas, burritos, taquitos, tostadas, arroz con leche, horchata, carne asada, pozole, etc.  I lived those 18 months in bliss, food heaven.  However, when I came home, I was in shock.  I initially tried to survive by dosing everything in Tapatio (Hot Sauce).  Eventually, I realized that I was going to have to learn how to cook authentic Mexican food or suffer for the rest of my life.

A few days ago I found a recipe for Pozole for a crock pot (two of my favourite things! Yipee!)  It was delicious!  The husband’s response says it all: “You should keep that recipe!” Before we get to the recipe part, let me share with you some disgusting history of the soup/ stew Pozole.

Apparently, “pozole was made to be consumed on special events. The conjunction of corn (usually whole hominy kernels) and meat in a single dish is of particular interest to scholars because the ancient Mexicans believed that the gods made humans out of cornmeal dough. According to research by the National Institute of Anthropology and History and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, on these special occasions, the meat used in the pozole was human. After the prisoners were killed by having their hearts torn out in a ritual sacrifice, the rest of the body was chopped and cooked with corn. The meal was shared among the whole community as an act of religious communion. After the conquest, when cannibalism was banned, pork became the staple meat, as it “tasted very similar”, according to a Spanish priest.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Posole)

While that little tidbit of information might be unappealing, Pozole certainly is not.

Pozole for the Slow Cooker

  • – 2 lbs shoulder chuck pork, fat trimmed, and chopped in 1/2″ pieces
  • 2 tbsp oil olive
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can oven roasted chilies (7 oz)
  • 2 cans white hominy (15 oz)
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a skillet on medium-high.  Brown meat in portions.  Add to the slow cooker.  Add all ingredients through cumin.  Stir.  Heat on low for 5-6 hours.  Add salt, pepper and cilantro.  Cook for another hour. Laddle soup into bowls.  Serve with shredded lettuce, chopped onions, cilantro, lime wedges and heated corn tortillas.  (Sometimes it is served with radishes too, but I don’t like radishes.)

(It is red or green depending on whether you use red or green chilies)


Chicken Pad Thai

I love green, and red, and orange, and yellow.  Utah is a brown-blue kind of place.  It is dry and hot, or dry and cold.  It is drab.  Sometimes this depresses me.  I just want to see dark turquoise water, and tall evergreen trees stretching towards the sun.

I escape to my kitchen (which is also brown) and cook something colourful and ethnic, something that brings me back to a different place.

When I was in high school, I spend a summer visiting my well-traveled aunt in Cambodia.  Cambodia is one of the most colourful, most vibrant places I’ve ever been.  The food is similar to Thai food, though not as spicy and with distinctive French influences.  I ate coconut chicken served in a bowl made out of half a pineapple, noodles, fresh baguettes, frogs’ legs, and the most tropical fruit you can imagine.

Yesterday’s dinner of Chicken Pad Thai rescued me in my colourless stupor and brought me back to that place.

Chicken Pad Thai (adapted from Better Homes)

  • 8 oz rice noodles (or other Chinese noodles)
  • 1 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup salted peanuts, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp Asian garlic chili sauce
  • 41/2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • oil for cooking
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 2 cups bean sprouts
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • green pepper, sliced
  • cilantro leaves to garnish

In a large bowl, cover the noodles with hot water and let sit for 15 minutes.  In a small bowl, combine peanuts and lime zest, set aside.  In another small bowl, combine the sauce by mixing the fish sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, chili sauce and vinegar.  Stir to combine, set aside.  In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp oil on medium-high heat.  Add chicken and garlic.  Cook until the chicken is no longer pink.  Remove chicken from skillet.  Cook the egg.  Remove it from the skillet and chop.  Add more oil to the skillet.  Heat on high heat.  Drain the noodles.  Add the noodles and the bean sprouts to the skillet and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes.  Add the chicken and sauce.  Cook for another minute.  Garnish with egg, green onion, cilantro, and peanut topping.  Enjoy!


Arroz Con Leche

A few years ago, I spent a year and a half in Southern California serving a mission for my Church. I spend that time with the Hispanic population in the area, and came to love their culinary traditions (well, some of them).
I could never quite fall in love with Menudo (a traditional soup made from cow stomach) or anything that involved tongue – but this sweet rice and milk dessert gained a favourable place on my palate. I love the thick, hearty porridge-like consistency and the way the raisins soften as though they are slowly transforming back into grapes.

Rice is such a huge staple in Latin American cooking, but that doesn’t make it easy for us gringos to get right. Growing up, I remember joking about the fact that Mum’s rice was usually soupy. And perhaps to counteract that, my first endeavors to make rice resulted in hard, crunchy grains that my husband and I both pretended were fluffy and, well, cooked… Arroz con Leche scared me for a long time. My food cravings eventually overcame my food fears, and, I’m happy to report it turned out well!

Arroz Con Leche (rice with milk)
– 1/2 cup rice (short-medium grain)
– 4 cups milk
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 1/2 cup brown sugar
– 1/2 raisins
– 1 tsp vanilla
– 2 tbsp butter
– ground cinnamon to garnish

In a saucepan, combine rice, milk and cinnamon stick. Heat on medium-high just until milk starts to boil. Lower heat to low and let mixture simmer, stirring often (scraping sides and bottom of pot) for 45 min. Add the sugar and the raisins and continue cooking on low for another 15 min. Stir in the vanilla and the butter and cook another 5 min. Garnish with ground cinnamon. Serve hot or cold.

I like to eat some when it’s hot, refrigerate the rest and eat it cold the next morning for breakfast. Sabe muy rico!


Szechwan Beef Stir-Fry

I grew up on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada.  One of the things I miss most about my homeland is the ethnicity and multiculturalism that abound therein.  Downtown Victoria houses a small Chinatown.  There are lions guarding the entrance and an ornate red gate.  It’s a marvelous sensation when you walk down the normal city streets and turn to enter the vibrant and always crowded Chinatown.  

Growing up, we would often head to Don Mee’s Dim Sum (Chinese Brunch) and sit there for hours as tiny dishes stacked on carts made the rounds of the restaurant.     While the authentic Chinese meal involved things I would never touch in a million years (especially during my stunt as a vegetarian), it was a special time for my family.  You have to wait for the carts to bring you what you want instead of ordering it.  You have to wait.  Waiting what felt like hours for the delicious honey buns, I learned to equate eating with a much greater purpose.  Eating became a chance to spend time with those I love.

Sometimes here, cooking for my husband, who tends to devour his meal in 2 minutes flat, I forget the truths I learned on a small, living street in Chinatown.  I forget that cooking and eating are about so much more than food.

While yesterday’s dinner, Szechwan Beef Stir-Fry, really isn’t something they serve at Don Mee’s, it still had an authentic and fresh air about it that superseded any of the Panda Express-like Chinese food that is easy to find in Orem.  It took me back to that red and green and yellow street with dragons and small boutiques and street markets.  It took me back to a place where food equals family and friends and important moments with them.

Szechwan Beef Stir-Fry (sorry, no pictures… but I assure you it’s both beautiful and delicious)

(adapted from Better Homes and Garden)

  • 16 ounces sirloin steak cut into thin strips (cut along the bias for tender pieces)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 bell pepper (I like green)
  • 1 can cut baby corn

For the sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp orange juice
  • 3 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp water
  • 2 Tbsp Hoisin Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/8 – 1/4 red pepper flakes

In a large skillet or a wok, heat oil to medium-high heat.  Add carrot and cook for 2 minutes.  Add pepper and corn.  Cook another 1-2 minutes, or until the veggies are tender-crisp.  Set aside.  Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the sauce.  Add beef to the skillet.  Heat until it is mostly cooked through, about 4 minutes.  Add the sauce to the middle of the skillet and heat, stirring until the sauce thickens.  When the meat is cooked through and the sauce is thick, add the veggies back to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes until all the flavours meld.  Serve over steamed rice.