Originally posted on KCET. See the full post here.
Mapo tofu is a classic Sichuan dish. It’s soft tofu cubes, swimming in a wonderful sauce of garlic-infused chili and ground pork. The secret ingredient is the Sichuan peppercorn — a spice that will numb your tongue and produce a citrusy aftertaste. Like with any dish, there are an infinite number of permutations to the order and ingredients. My recipe is inspired by Theresa Lin — dubbed “the Julia Child of Taiwan” by Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee.
Lin was the food stylist for the Oscar-nominated movie “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman;” a former television personality back in her Taiwan days; and the author of 16 cookbooks. Today, she resides in Rancho Cucamonga and is the host of a Sunday morning Chinese radio program where she doles out cooking tips to eager listeners. I spent an evening at her home, where she made mapo tofu for me and broke down the process step by step.
The dish took her ten minutes to whip up, but take your time with this. Feel free to adjust the peppercorn amount if you can’t take the heat. Do all the prep beforehand, fire up some white rice, and get a wok ready.
This recipe was inspired by Theresa Lin. Serves 4.
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp ground Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks green onion, minced
1/4 ground pork
3 tbsp sambal sauce (I use the Huy Fong brand)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp vinegar
1 block soft tofu, drained and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp peppercorn chili oil
Heat up the wok to high heat and then add oil. Put in the 1 tablespoon of peppercorns, and let it sit for about one minute. Take the peppercorns out, leaving only the oil.
Turn the heat down to medium. Add minced ginger, garlic, and a pinch of the green onions. These are the three basic aromatics of Chinese cooking. Sautee for a couple of seconds, then add ground pork.
Throw in the sambal sauce and soy sauce. Add a teaspoon of vinegar, but to the side of the wok.
Add in the tofu, fold gently and be careful not to break the pieces.
Next, add the sugar and sesame oil, then 1/4 cup chicken stock. Bring to a boil.
Add corn starch and stir for 20 seconds until the mixture is thickened, then add peppercorn chili oil. Turn heat off.
Garnish with the remaining green onions. Serve over white rice.
Originally posted on KCET. See the full article here.
Chinese New Year is winding down. In fact, this year, February 14 marks the last day of the 15-day festival. While the Western world celebrates Valentine’s Day, the Chinese are saying goodbye to festivities with the Lantern Festival — also known as yuanxiao jie 元宵节.
These sweet rice balls are the hallmark dessert of the New Year celebration, specifically the last night. They’re the sugary equivalent of a dumpling, often infused with black sesame, red bean, or ground peanuts. It’s an auspicious dessert because the round shape of the delicacy signifies unity within the family.
It’s usually simply served the water it was boiled in, but can also be boiled in a sweetened syrup flavored with ginger, fermented sweet rice, or red bean.
Stuffed Red Bean Glutinous Rice Balls
Here’s a recipe, adapted from Annie Lin from the Taiwanese American Professionals chapter in Los Angeles.
1 cup glutinous rice flour, plus more to dust
1/3 cup lukewarm water
Red bean paste (can be purchased at most Asian grocery stores)
Food coloring (optional)
In a mixing bowl, add 1/3 cup of lukewarm water to the glutinous rice flour, gently stirring with a spoon as you slowly pour in the water.
Gently knead the dough with to form a ball. If a dough ball does not easily form, add a teaspoon of water at a time and continue to knead until a dough ball forms and is the consistency of soft putty.
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Pinch off a 1-inch round piece of dough and flatten into a disk with the palms of your hand and place the dough into the boiling water. Once the dough floats, remove it with a sieve.
Add the boiled dough to the rest of the dough, and knead until it becomes uniform in consistency. You can divide the dough and add a few drops of food coloring if you want colored glutinous rice balls.
Roll into a 1-inch thick log and break into equal pieces of the desired size.
Roll each piece of dough into a sphere with the palm of your hands. Press your thumb into the center of the dough to form a little nest. Place the red bean filling in the middle of the dough, gently draw the edges of the dough up around the ball, seal, and roll into a sphere. Place on a plate lightly dusted with glutinous rice flour, and cover with a clean kitchen towel to prevent them from drying out while you finish making the rest of the stuffed glutinous rice balls.
Place the rice balls in boiling water, gently stir, and wait for them to float to the surface. Lower the heat to a simmer and wait for the rice balls to slightly expand before gently scooping them out with a sieve and placing in the soup/liquid you will be serving them in. Feel free to add rock sugar, ginger, boiled red beans, or fermented sweet rice to the soup.
Although I was born and raised in Los Angeles, I grew up in a very Taiwanese household. Holidays aren’t my family’s forte. In fact, we haven’t properly celebrated one for decades. Family gathering are rare and if they occur at all, they’re usually business-centric.
But in a true turn of events, this year I was lucky enough to spend the festivities up in the Bay Area with a warm, wonderful bunch with all-American traditions: an old fashioned Christmas tree, a gift-exchange session, a formal dinner, extended family visits — the whole shebang. It was delightful to be able to partake in all the regular holiday traditions.
I was so excited, I decided to contribute with a homemade Dutch crumb apple pie for Christmas dinner. Start with the crust, then core and cut the apples. After that, it’s all really just putting the ingredients together. We prepped and assembled pre-party and popped it in the oven when all the guests had arrived. Nothing builds up an appetite more than the smell of an apple pie baking in the kitchen.
Here’s the recipe:
Pie Dough [Adapted from Smitten Kitchen]
Makes enough dough for one single-crust pie.
1 ¼ cups flour
1 ½ teaspoons (½ tablespoons) sugar
½ teaspoon table salt
1 stick unsalted butter, very cold
Gather your ingredients: Fill a one cup liquid measuring cup with water, and drop in a few ice cubes; set it aside. In a large bowl — whisk together 1 ¼ cups flour, 1 ½ teaspoons of sugar and ½ teaspoon of salt. Dice one stick of very cold unsalted butter into 1/2-inch pieces. Get out your pastry blender.
Make your mix: Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with your fingers. When all of the butter pieces are the size of tiny peas — this won’t take long — stop. Yes, even if it looks uneven.
Glue it together: Start by drizzling ¼ cup of the ice-cold water (but not the cubes, if there are any left!) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together. You’ll probably need an additional 1/8 cup (30 ml or 2 tbs) of cold water to bring it together, but add it a tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and get your hands in there (see how that big bowl comes in handy?). Gather the disparate damp clumps together into one mound, kneading them gently together.
Pack it up: Let the dough chill in the fridge for one hour, but preferably at least two, before rolling it out.
Dutch Crumb Topping:
1 – 9″ pastry pie crust
3 lbs apples (I use Granny Smith)
6 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp cinnamon
a pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
Prepare a single pastry pie crust in a 9″ glass baking dish. (When rolling the flour out, add flour accordingly until the crust is easy to roll.)
Preheat your oven to 425*.
Peel, core and slice your apples and place in a large bowl filled with water. We like to cut our apples into small chunks. In a large pot, melt butter. Add in sugars and stir to combine. If the mixture is dry, add in 1 Tbsp water to make it a liquid. Add in remaining ingredients and mix well. Drain the apple slices and add to the butter and sugar mixture. Gently mix the apples with the sauce being sure not to break up the apple slices. Pour mixture into your prepared pie shell.
For the topping:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp butter or margarine, melted
Combine the dry ingredients. Add in melted butter or margarine and mix until mixture is crumbly and thoroughly combine.
Evenly spread the mixture onto the pie, making sure it is all the way to the edges.
Place pie in oven and bake for 15 minutes and turn heat down to 350*. Put aluminum foil over the pie and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes. You’ll know it’s ready when you can smell the aromatics from a couple feet away.
During our last winter evening in Lijiang this year, my family ventured into a coffee bar in the olden city. Dim lights, acoustic guitar and just enough warmth to be comfortable. We ordered something titled “Eternal Beauty Tea” in English and after a long wait, a very unassuming tea pot was delivered to our table.
The moment I tasted it, I immediately opened the lid of the pot. There it was: a melody of snow white fungus, boiled pears, dates and various herbs.
Not a single tea leaf.
It’s not tea. It’s a dessert soup with great warming and throat soothing qualities. One sip and you’ll taste the spiced blend of poached pear mixed with the sweetness of white fungus soaked in rock sugar.
The dates add a dimension of tartness but the tastes are all blended so well that it trumps all other winter drinks. It’s sweet and terribly addicting.
Here’s the recipe:
Two pears (I used Bosc, but any would do)
Three clumps of white fungus
1/4 cup of dried lotus seeds
One tablespoon of rock sugar (adjust sweetness to your liking)
Five cups of water
1. Soak the white fungus and dried lotus seeds in hot water for 20 minutes.
2. Cut the pears into cubes
3. Separate the white fungus into smaller pieces. Toss out any yellowing parts or hard sections.
3. Boil water in a slow cooker
4. Once water is boiling, add pears, then white fungus. Add lotus seeds and turn the cooker to high.
5. Wait 30 minutes then add dates.
6. Wait another hour and add sugar to your liking.
You want to soak the white fungus and dried lotus seeds in hot water first because when you buy them, they’re dehydrated. The hot water will allow the fungus and seeds to soften and open up.
This dessert soup takes a while to make because you want the white fungus to “烂,” which means, to decompose and get softer. A slow cooker is ideal but if you don’t have one, you can do this all over a fire.
Don’t add the dates in too early or else the soup will become too sour. The key is to get it to a mild sweetness.
Everything in this dessert soup is edible. So while others prefer just to drink the soup, you can eat the all the ingredients. I personally love munching on the fungus.
I had a really good interview with Stephen Li of the Hong Kong Street Cart who shared with us his recipe for a Chinese classic.
Salt and Pepper Shrimp
12(large 16-20 count) shrimps shelled and deveined
2 tablespoon fried garlic bits
1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seed
3 pieces green scallion (white part only julienned)
5 pieces dried red chili peppers chopped
1 ½ quart soybean oil or corn oil for frying shrimp
1 pinch salt & pepper seasoning (see salt & pepper recipe)
Fried taro (cut to strip) optional for garnish
Cilantro for garnish
For Shrimp Batter
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cup potato Starch for dredging
½ tablespoon soybean Oil or Corn oil
Salt & Pepper Seasoning Recipe
(This makes about 2 pints) scaled down from original restaurant recipe
You can save seasoning for all type of dishes, such as crispy paperskin chicken
3⅓ cup Salt
1 tablespoon Chinese 5 spice powder
1 teaspoon Szechuan powder
½ teaspoon Ginger powder
Toast the salt in a frying pan until hot about 15 minute. Toss constantly. Set aside to cool down, then add 5 spice powder, Szechuan powder, Ginger powder and mix well.
Shrimp Batter Procedure:
Rinse shrimp and pat dry.
Marinate the shrimp with a pinch of salt and work through the shrimp with your hands until it’s a little pasty.
Add cornstarch, mix well.
Add oil, mix well.
Put the potato starch in mixing bowl and dredge the shrimp in potato starch.
Squeeze the shrimp with palm of hand so the starch sticks to the shrimp.
Heat soybean oil in wok or deep pan.
Fry shrimp 2-3 minutes until golden and transfer to paper towel to drain.
In a separate frying pan, on high heat, place the fried shrimps and add fried garlic bits, toasted sesame seed, dried red chili peppers, scallion and toss.
Sprinkle with a heavy pinch of salt and pepper season while tossing.
Garnish plate with cilantro and fried taro stripes and place the shrimps on top.
Maple Black Sugar Cookies
Yield: Around 32
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2/3 cup sugar
6 ounces black sugar
8 tablespoon maple syrup
4 tablespoon water
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
7/8 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon of espresso powder
1 tablespoon of Kahlua
Combine the espresso powder and Kahlua into a bowl and stir until the
espresso powder is dissolved.
Add powdered sugar to the creamed butter.
Add the coffee mixture into the butter-and-powdered-sugar mixture. Keep mixing
until well combined.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a pot, place black sugar, maple syrup, and water on low heat. Mix
for about five minutes, until the black sugar has dissolved into the syrup and
water to create a syrup-like liquid. Note: Do not let the mixture harden or burn, so keep it on low heat.
In a medium-size bowl, cream butter and sugar until well mixed.
Add the egg and mix incorporate into mixture.
Into another small bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
First, mix one-third of the dry ingredients into the butter-and-sugar mixture. Then, add
the black sugar liquid into the batter. Make sure the batter is constantly
being mixed as the warm black sugar is poured.
Slowly add the remaining flour mixture into the butter-and-sugar mixture. The
dough should not be wet but rather should feel sticky.
Place tablespoon-size scoops of dough onto a pan, with one-inch separations
between each scoop.
Bake for 12 minutes and let cool for five minutes.
Once the cookies have cooled, spread a layer of the coffee cream on one side
of a cookie and place another cookie on top of it to create a sandwich.
I caught up with Bian Dang creator Thomas Yang to chat about his new ventures and Taiwanese food. After our conversation, he was kind enough to give me a recipe for a delicious tasting pork belly bao. Full article at Village Voice.
5lbs pork belly, skin on
13 fl oz soy sauce
5 cloves garlic, with skin off
3 – 4 pieces star anise
2.5 tablespoons sugar
cilantro, to serve
Wash the pork belly and pat dry.
Cut into 1 inch cubes.
Spread the cubes out on an oven tray and place under the grill to quickly brown all sides.
Put the pork belly and soy sauce in a large pan over high heat.
Stir thoroughly until the pork belly absorbs the soy sauce evenly (about 2 minutes). Then add enough water to just cover the meat, followed by the scallions, garlic, star anise and sugar.
Bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 – 50 minutes without the lid on and stir constantly.
Serve in a bowl and garnish with cilantro.