I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog, but I’ve been busy! Today I picked up some fresh tuna from the fish market. Lightly seasoned and quickly seared on all sides, I served it with a lime, wasabi, and soy sauce vinaigrette. Topped off with some scallions and lime zest.
Eggs, water, salt. That’s all of the ingredients in this Chinese steamed egg custard. Sounds easy doesn’t it? While the list of ingredients is short and simple, perfecting this dish is all about having good technique. To this day, my mother still cannot get her steamed eggs to come out correctly. In this article, I’ll show you how to cook the perfect steamed egg custard and reveal my secrets for getting the dense, smooth texture that sets my dish apart from others.
If you read my last post about cooking bitter melon, you saw how I boiled it in salted water and then soaked it in salted ice water to remove some of the bitterness. As an experiment, I tried other methods to make bitter melon less bitter. In this article, I’ll reveal some of my results.
In most cases, whenever someone tells you that something is an acquired taste, that’s usually code for, “it tastes like crap.” I used to think the same thing about Chinese bitter melon, but as I get older, I am finding out that it really is kind of true in this case. I’m not going to lie. Bitter melon is really bitter… hence the name. But, there are some tricks that you can use to tame the beast.
I hate to say it, but I think my favorite Chinese restaurant is kind of racist — culinarily speaking anyway. One thing that has always bothered me about the place (and no, I will not be giving out the name of this establishment) is that they have two menus. The green one is the menu that the hostess/proprietor gives to the non-Asian-looking people and the red is the one that she hands out to the Asians. I’m pretty sure the non-Asians don’t even realize what is going on, thinking that perhaps the red menu is written in Chinese, but that’s not the case at all. In fact, it’s printed in English as well. No, what lurks inside the red menu is the “highly secret” authentic Chinese menu. The green menu is full of typical Chinese-American dishes like sweet and sour chicken, moo goo gai pain, and egg foo young (in other words things most Chinese would never order), while the red menu has authentic dishes like steamed fish, a wide assortment of seasonal Chinese vegetables, and roast duck. I once asked the owner why they had two menus and she replied matter-of-factly that, “white people won’t eat that stuff,” which rubbed me the wrong way. How did she know that Caucasians, African Americans, and other non-Asians wouldn’t like what was on that “secret menu?” After all, they’re never given the chance to taste anything from it unless they’re brave enough to ask for it specifically when being seated. Instead of making the choice for them after giving their skin color a cursory glance, she should give her patrons both menus. Moreover, she needs to get rid of the two-menu system all together and condense the two into one all-inclusive menu. After all, there’s enough dividing us as it is. Does what is served at dinner have to be another sticking point?
I probably should have gotten around to posting this one earlier, but somehow things got lost in the shuffle. For my dad’s 63rd birthday, he wanted me to fix him a lobster. Lobsters in Chinese cooking are often reserved for special occasions just like they are in this country since they are so expensive. Fortunately, my local grocery store had some lobsters that were reasonably priced. The only problem was that they only had one and to feed four people, I needed at least two. As chance would have it, my favorite Chinese restaurant was located next door to the grocery store, so I asked the owner if she would sell me one of the lobsters in their tank uncooked. After a little convincing, she agreed, but I think I might have gotten ripped off. She usually sells the cooked lobster dish for $25 and sold me the raw lobster for the same price. Shouldn’t it have been less? After all, they didn’t have to spend the time cooking it or using any other ingredients to prepare it. But I digress… Back to my Lobster Cantonese…
I think one of the universal laws about food is that if you can wrap it up in something else, it always tastes better. Chicken lettuce wraps or chicken in lettuce cups are a very popular dish that you can find in many restaurants. But, a lot of the time, the ingredients are a little suspect and more often than not, the whole thing is laden with oil and grease. Here I attempted to make a healthier and lighter version of the restaurant classic.
If you haven’t noticed, I have made a separate page devoted entirely to the equipment for Chinese cooking that I feel are essential to own. Includes are the knives, pots, woks, steamers, and other appliances that I use at home and that you see in my videos. I’m not really picky with or devoted to certain brands. I only use the tools that I like.
One thing that continues to amaze me is how reasonably priced dim sum houses are considering the amount of work that goes into making all of those little dumplings. For those of you that don’t know what dim sum is, think of it as the original Spanish tapas. Literally meaning to “touch the heart,” these little dumplings, pastries, and other delicate dishes are popular with diners all over the world.
I’ve been to many dim sum houses throughout the years including in many places across North America including Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and New York to name a few places. Although each city has a few gems (or in the case of Vancouver, a virtual goldmine) each one has its fair share of stinkers too. So how can you tell if you’re going to be in for a treat that truly touches your heart or if you’re going to walk out disappointed?
In my mind, there are two types of dumplings that serve as the litmus test for a good dim sum house. The first dish by which I measure the excellence of the cooking staff is har gow, the small, delicate shrimp dumplings wrapped in a gossamer wheat starch shell. The other barometer of a good dim sum house for me is the quality of their siu mai.
It’s the height of spring, which means that the young, tender gems that are pea shoots have begun to sprout. Pea shoots are exactly as their name describes. They are the stems and leaves of the plant that produces the snow pea. Having a crisp texture and a light pea flavor, pea plant shoots are a favorite vegetable among Chinese. In recent years, they’ve also become more prevalent on Western menus, being featured in salads and as accompaniments to main dishes.