Monday, September 15, 2014

Hot Competition

My family is very competitive.  Over anything.  Sports.  Games.  Planking.  Even at the dinner table.  Over hot sauce.  A typical point of contention at a Sunday dinner at my parent’s house would be over who could handle the most hot sauce.  For some reason, a tolerance for spiciness has been equated with level of machoism.  Even my husband has been brainwashed by this mentality.  In defense of any questioning over his manliness, his Caucasian palette for spiciness has matured over the years, and he has developed quite a tolerance for heat.  He’ll take a heaping spoon of hot sauce, and before dumping it on top of my mom’s already-spicy Kung Pao chicken, he’ll beckon over to my sister with a grin on his face:  “Hey Catherine….look!”  She’ll re-act with a patronizing eye-roll, and respond with a deadpan: “Okaaay, John. Cool!”  

My brother, who is known to always stir the pot, will impose preposterous hot sauce challenges to his nephews and nieces.  A typical dare:  “I’ll give anyone $50 if you eat this huge spoonful of straight hot sauce.”  The kids’ eyes will widen, and right before they’re about to accept his stupid offer, he’ll add at the last second: “And you can’t drink any water afterwards for 24 hours.”  Mayhem unleashes.  “Crazy!  Unfair!  You can’t do that!”  We’ll spend the rest of the dinner debating if he could technically add on that stipulation at the very last minute, and then we’ll analyze if your body could physically survive all that hot sauce intake without water for 24 hours….and the dinner would just digress from there.

So when I say “hot sauce”, I don’t mean the green-topped bottle of Sriracha.  That’s not hot sauce; that’s like ketchup.  My mom developed her own hot sauce recipe because she was always left with a surplus of serrano peppers every time she made Kung Pao chicken (see 12/21/09 recipe post).  She would only need four or five peppers for that.  But when the Chinese supermarket sells a package with 10 times more than you need, you figure out what to do with the rest.  Chinese people do NOT like to waste anything.  Ever.  That is why we eat cow tongue, pig stomach and chicken feet.  Heaven forbid that you throw anything away.  You simply add some soy sauce and sesame oil, and call it a “delicacy”.  Voila!  Suddenly, the most disgusting animal part is disguised into something “edible-y delicious.”

In the spirit of not wasting a perfectly good cow tongue, why waste a bounty of serrano peppers when you can make something with them (coincidentally, with soy sauce and sesame oil)?  This recipe is very easy and very spicy.  Store your jar of hot sauce in the refrigerator, and it will last forever.  Okay, maybe not forever.  But it’s so spicy, a little goes a long way.  Just remember to stir the jar well each time before use to distribute the pepper seeds evenly.  It will enhance everything you eat.  Even cow tongue.  Maybe I'll challenge my brother to eat a whole cow tongue at our next Sunday dinner.  Without water, OR hot sauce.


Serrano peppers are sold by the package at my local Chinese grocery for just $1.99.  About 2 cups of whole peppers will reduce to about 1 1/3 cup when finely chopped.

Caution: Pepper seeds will start popping everywhere, but refrain from touching them with your bare fingers (or wear gloves).  Tip: (assuming you’re right-handed):  while holding the stem of the pepper steady on the cutting board with your left hand, start cutting from the opposite end of the pepper.  With this method, you will never need to touch any seeds. That’s how mama Dragon Lady taught me how to do it!

MAKES approx. 3 1/3 cups of hot sauce

2 cups whole serrano peppers
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 cup sesame oil

Finely chop serrano peppers (discard the stems).  Place chopped peppers, including all the seeds (about 1 1/3 cup), in a large, sealable jar or glass container.  Add soy sauce and sesame oil.  Mix well.  Store in refrigerator.  

Caucasian people make homemade jam; Chinese people make homemade hot sauce.  Basically, you need to add equal part of soy sauce and sesame oil – just enough to cover the peppers with liquid.  This recipe yields more hot sauce than an average family would consume in a year.  So I divide mine into three containers:  keep one; give two.  Share your spicy personality!  (Makes a unique hostess gift.)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Hot and sour, hold the fungus

This soup starts out just a little bit spicy.  Pass around the white pepper so each person can turn up the heat with just a flick of a wrist.

When I was growing up, my mom would make us a huge pot of hot and sour soup only on special occasions, like for a big dinner party.  Yummm – I would get so excited because this didn’t happen often.  I think it’s because each pot required a lot of work, and a lot of Chinese delicacies.  Delicacies, such as “cloud ear fungus” (“moo-ar”, in Chinese).  Yes, I agree --- in English or Chinese, it sounds equally gross.  But when you’re 7 years old, you have no idea that the black, curly, rubbery leafy thing in your soup is fungus.  And if I did question it, my parents would just say, “Eat it. It’s good for you.”  So down the hatch it went.  Anyhow, the soup was so tasty, it just didn’t matter.

I dragged the Dragon Lady back into the kitchen with me this week to adapt the recipe to be more user-friendly, and more appetite-friendly (hence, no fungus).  All the ingredients we use in this recipe can be found at your local grocery store, so you don’t have to venture out to any specialty stores (or rain forests or caves) to find any mysterious "delicacies".  Also, no monosodium glutamate (MSG) here either.  Often times, when I’ve had hot and sour soup in Chinese restaurants, I have instantly felt my heart start beating faster because of that unhealthy, magical powder.

So now we can all make hot and sour soup any time we want.  No special occasions necessary.  No MSG necessary.  No fungus necessary.  Unless you want it, of course.  Because I’m sure it really is good for you.


No adventurous ingredient-hunting required:  everything for
 this recipe can be found in your regular grocery store.

Slice the pork tenderloin and tofu into very thin strips, about 1/8” thick.
Serves 8-10
½ pounds pork tenderloin, sliced into thin strips (about 1/8”)
1 ½ teaspoons + 6 tablespoons corn starch, divided
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cooking wine (or red or white wine) optional
64 ounces chicken broth (2 cartons) I prefer Swanson’s
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon white pepper
¾ cup white vinegar
5 ounce can bamboo shoot strips, drained
8 ounce can straw mushrooms, drained, coarsely chopped
14 ounces fresh tofu, sliced into thin strips (about 1/8”)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon Sriracha hot chili sauce

In a small bowl, combine pork tenderloin strips, 1 ½ teaspoons of the corn starch, and the soy sauce and wine.  Mix well and set aside. 

In a large soup pot, combine chicken broth, white pepper and vinegar.  Reserve ½ cup of broth mixture; set aside.  Over medium-high heat, bring the pot of remaining broth mixture to a simmer.  Add bamboo shoots, mushrooms and tofu.  Increase heat to high.  When mixture is boiling, add pork tenderloin; stir constantly to separate the small pieces of pork.  Reduce heat to simmer.

Mix the remaining 6 tablespoons corn starch with the ½ cup broth reserve, add to soup pot. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until soup starts to thicken, about 3-4 minutes. Continue to stir the simmering soup while simultaneously adding the beaten egg in a thin, steady stream.  Stir in Sriracha hot chili sauce. 

Serve hot.  Pass additional white pepper to make it extra-spicy, if desired.
*Note:  Have more time on your hands?  Dried shiitake mushrooms can be substituted for the straw mushrooms.  Pre-soak the shiitakes the night before, and slice into 1/8” strips.

Have less time?  Ground pork can be substituted for the thin strips of pork tenderloin.

Monday, May 23, 2011

How to use your noodle

What do “The Real Housewives of New York” and Top Ramen have in common?  They’re both on my list of guilty pleasures --- neither is any good for you, but once you get a little taste, you just keep wanting more.  I could probably eat a bowl of Top Ramen every single day, if it wasn’t for that wicked packet of magical msg flavoring that makes it taste “oh so good”, but is “oh so bad for you.” 

My penchant for soup noodles stems from my childhood when my mom made gia-normous pots of beef soup for noodles all the time, mostly on the weekends. A hearty bowl full of noodles with a rich and salty broth, and super-tender beef was a typical Saturday afternoon lunch.  Ever since, “noo-roe-mein” (“beef soup noodles” in Chinese) had “coming home” written all over it.  Back in the day, when my parents hosted poker parties or mah-jong marathons at our home, a favorite “shao-yeh” (“midnight snack” in Chinese) was a round of noo-roe-mein for all the gambling guests.  Kind of like a Dick’s burger for my generation.  In college, coming home on a Saturday afternoon to do laundry while slurping down a bowl of noo-roe-mein was a common ritual.  In more recent years, a festive morning of tearing open Christmas presents with the extended family at my parents’ house has often culminated into 16 bowls of noo-roe-mein to round out the holiday.  And when my husband, kids and I return from a family vacation, there’s no better homecoming than when my dad picks us up from the airport and tells us that a pot of noo-roe-mein is just a phone call away:   “Hi mom!  On our way.  Start boiling the pot of water!”

Just last weekend, my mom and I were watching my son’s baseball game at the neighborhood park.  It was late-afternoon, I hadn’t had lunch, and at the top of the last inning, mom casually mentioned, “I made a pot of noo-roe-mein.  Want some?”  Yummmm…I started counting down the strikes to my 1½ block walk to another noodle homecoming at mom’s. It was then that I decided this had to be my next recipe.  

The Dragon Ladies, at the baseball field last week, right before going home for some beef soup noodles!

One of my sisters, who always has a crazy entrepreneurial scheme up her sleeve, has always wanted to channel her love for noodles into dollar signs.  One re-occurring fantasy involves starting a Chinese noodle cart at Seattle Mariner’s games or other sporting events.  “Lo-mein noodles, noo-roe-mein…people would just love it, don’t you think?  We would do so well,” she has repeated.  I don’t doubt this, but my sister tends to often wear rose-colored (albeit Chanel) glasses, and underestimates the amount of time and energy that a “great idea” requires to pull off.  And guess who would end up doing 98% of the work?  Yup, yours truly.  So, dear Catherine, I fully support your noodle cart business…from afar.  Here’s the recipe to get you started, and I’ll look for you at the next Mariner’s game.  In the meantime, who knows….maybe some Dragon Lady Kitchen followers will try this recipe, fall into our noodle spell, and step up to invest.  Now that’s using your noodle!

Beef Soup Noodles

Two pots are better than one:  Cook up your soup and beef in one pot; then boil your noodles in another.  Store any leftover beef soup separately from the cooked noodles.  They’ll keep better that way, and will make a quick meal in seconds!  Simply prepare a single portion in a bowl and zap in the microwave

Whole star anise plays a key role in slow-cooked Chinese dishes. The licorice aroma may smell strong, but the wonderful flavor subtly enhances the meat and broth.   I found them in the bulk shelf in the spice aisle at my local supermarket.  A handful cost only 19¢.

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ½ pounds beef chuck (pot roast)*, excess fat trimmed, cut into 2” cubes
1 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons wine (red, white or cooking wine)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 large beefsteak tomato, cut into wedges
2” piece fresh ginger, peeled
2 whole star anise  
6 cups water

1 pound Chinese noodles (found in Asian food aisle in most supermarkets)
4-6 heads baby bok choy, washed, ends trimmed
Sriracha Hot Chili

In a large, enameled cast iron pot or stock pot, heat oil on high heat.  Add beef; stir to sear all sides, about 3-4 minutes.  Add soy sauce, wine, sugar, tomato wedges, ginger and anise.  Cover and bring to boil; reduce to simmer for 1 hour.  If any foam accumulates while simmering, skim off with a small spoon and discard.

Add water, cover and return to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 30-40 more minutes, or until meat is fork tender.  Discard star anise and ginger.  Remove from heat.

To cook vegetables and noodles, bring 5 quarts water to boil in a large pot.  When water boils, add bok choy; cook for one minute, then remove and set aside (do not drain water from pot).  Add noodles to same pot of water and cook until done (about 5 minutes; do not overcook).  Drain noodles in a colander.

For each portion, place 3-4 ounces of cooked noodles (about 2 cups) into a large soup bowl.  Add approximately one head of cooked baby bok choy.  Ladle 1 ½ cups of beef soup and beef pieces into bowl, serve immediately.  For spicier palates, add Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce to taste.

*Note:  do not substitute a ‘beef stew’ meat for this recipe.  Beef chuck has the perfect amount of fat content to remain tender and flavorful.  Beef stew meat will become too dry.  Mom traditionally uses beef shank, which has a lot more fat and tendons (a Chinese delicacy for some, but usually a less desirable cut of meat for most).  I have adapted to appeal to the masses.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meat and Potatoes, Chinese Style

Saucy curry chicken with big chunks of potatoes, over rice.  So comforting on a rainy Seattle day.  Even though the calendar says “goodbye winter”, the Seattle weather forecast for spring always says “lots of curry chicken days ahead”! 

A Chinese recipe with potatoes?  There aren’t many.  But here’s one that fulfills my occasional need for some meat and potatoes comfort food.  It’s hearty, but light, because it uses chicken, basking in a flavorful, golden curry.   The sauce is so plentiful, it’s almost like a stew.  As a kid, I remember how the exotic aroma of curry would infuse the whole house when my mom made this.  I would smash up the softened potato chunks with my fork, and let the puddles of spicy curry gravy soak right in.  Even though there are potatoes in this dish, we always ate this with steamed white rice.  A bit of a carbo overload, I know, but remember my dad’s rice addiction?  (Never a complete meal without rice!)  Old habits die hard, so I still like this over rice.  Once you taste the sauce, you’ll understand why.

Mom used to make this dish with a homemade concoction of curry powder, coconut milk and spices.  However, she recently discovered an incredible packaged Golden Curry Sauce at the Chinese grocery that cuts the preparation time in half, without sacrificing a drop of flavor!  Go to “99 Ranch Market” (22511 Highway 99 in Edmonds, WA 98026) and stock up.  You could probably find this at Uwajimaya, too (just take the photo of the box, pictured below, with you).  Note:  the  photo on the box does not reflect how the sauce will look – it’s not brown, it’s golden (like in my photos).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Curry Chicken with Potatoes

The Golden Ticket:  “S&B Golden Curry Sauce Mix”.  As you can see, it’s not really a “mix”, but looks like chocolate squares.  Each 8.4 ounce box has 8 pre-portioned squares with “break lines” that just need to be cut through.  This recipe calls for half the box, which is the section you see here.  Simply cut down the ridges on a cutting board with your kitchen knife.  Note:  this mix comes in “hot” or “mild”.  I use “hot”, but it is not very spicy.  (If you do want it spicy, just add some red pepper flakes.)
If you make this one night ahead, refrigerate and re-heat, this will be extra flavorful!  The meat and potatoes will just soak in all that curry flavor.  So leftovers will taste better the next day, too.

Serves 6-8
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic cloves, minced
1 large yellow onion, halved and cut into ¼ slices
5 – 5 1/2 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, legs and breasts, cut into 3” length pieces
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups cold water
4 squares (about 1 oz. each) Golden Curry Sauce Mix/Hot (found in many specialty Asian grocery stores), divided
2 ½ lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut an angle into 2” chunks

Fresh cilantro leaves
Steamed white or brown rice

Your chicken will stay more tender if you use bone-in pieces, but you need to cut them into smaller pieces, about 3” long.  Mom takes a huge cleaver and expertly whacks off the ends of the chicken legs, and cuts up the thighs and breasts as well.  Ask you butcher to do this if you're concerned about about losing a finger!  You could also use boneless pieces of chicken, but just remember to reduce your cooking time.  Also shown above are some of the prepped potatoes and onions, to give you an idea of size and scale.

In a large, enameled cast iron pot or stock pot, heat oil on medium high heat; add garlic, sauté for 30 seconds.  Add onions and continue to sauté for 2 minutes, until the onions sweat but don’t brown.  Increase heat to high; add chicken,  sprinkle with salt and black pepper.  Stir and continue to sauté until the exterior of all the pieces of chicken begin to cook and change color, about 3-4 minutes.  Add water and 3 squares of the curry; stir to submerge the curry pieces into the water.  Cover with lid; when pot starts to boil, stir thoroughly to evenly distribute curry, then reduce heat to simmer.  Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until chicken pieces are 75% cooked, about 25 minutes. 

Add potatoes and remaining 1 square of curry mix.  Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are soft and chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes.

Serve over steamed white or brown rice; garnish with fresh cilantro leaves, if desired.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dragon Lady Lo-Mein, The Sequel: Extra Secret Revealed!

Dragon Lady Lo-Mein made with fresh noodles.  The dried noodle recipe is good, but the fresh noodle version is great -- a little lighter, and more flavorful.

Happy new year!  Thank you for all your nice comments and emails on the Dragon Lady Lo-Mein.  So glad you like it!  Now that you have the basic recipe down, I have one more secret to divulge.  To make this dish taste extra special, try making them with fresh noodles, not dried.  The original version calls for dried because I try to post recipes that use ingredients you can find easily (ie:  “in the Asian food aisle of your local supermarket”).  But if I think it’s worth the effort, I will occasionally incorporate an “ancient Chinese secret” that requires you to go off the beaten path to find.  So time to get out of your bubble, go beyond the ‘hood, and head to the International District, to seek out:  “the noodle jail.”

I buy my fresh Chinese noodles at Tsue Chong Co., 810 South King Street (206-623-0801) in Seattle’s International District, aka “Chinatown”.  This is the same place where you can order

Dragon Lady Lo-Mein with Fresh Chinese Noodles

*NOTE:  This recipe is slightly different from the original Lo-Mein recipe, which calls for 1 pound of dried Chinese noodles.  Since the fresh noodles come in 2 pound packages, I adjusted the recipe accordingly.  Also, since the fresh noodles are thinner, softer and therefore absorb more flavor, they don’t need as potent of a sauce mixture.  Cooking instructions for the noodles differ, as well.  Pay attention, or you will end up with soggy noodles!

This is what the package of fresh noodles looks like.  Find it in the refrigerated case at Tsue Chong Co., aka “the noodle jail.”  If you don’t see them, just ask.  
Oodles of noodles!  After you separate and untangle the vacuum-sealed package of noodles, your mound of noodles will look twice as big.

Serves 8
2 2/3 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon corn starch
5 tablespoons +3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce, divided
2 tablespoons + 6 tablespoons oyster sauce, divided (in Asian food aisle of most grocery stores)
½ cup sesame oil (in Asian food aisle of most grocery stores)
2 pounds asparagus, rough ends trimmed; cut at an angle into 1 ½” pieces
2 pounds fresh Chinese noodles (I use Rose Brand, available at Tsue Chong Co. in Seattle’s International District)
2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided

Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce
Hot Chili Oil

Trim off excess fat from chicken thighs, and cut meat into 1/2” pieces.  Place in a shallow bowl.  Sprinkle corn starch on chicken and turn to coat.  In a small bowl, whisk together 5 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons oyster sauce.  Pour over chicken and turn to coat.  Set aside. 

In a large stock pot, bring 5 quarts of water to boil.  While waiting for water to boil, open package of noodles and carefully separate and untangle the noodles(when they are vacuum sealed, the noodles tend to clump and stick together).  Your pile of noodles should look twice as big as when they were in the package.  Gradually add noodles to boiling water handfuls at a time; stir carefully (preferably with wooden chopsticks) every 20-30 seconds, and cook 4 minutes (water will not re-boil).  Do not overcook!  Drain noodles in a colander, and rinse thoroughly with cold water.  Shake out excess water completely.  Transfer noodles to a large, deep dish.   In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons soy sauce, remaining 6 tablespoons oyster sauce and sesame oil.  Pour over noodles and toss to coat evenly.  Set aside.

In a large wok or sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat; add chicken and marinade juices, stir-fry until 90% done (about 5 minutes).  Remove chicken from wok into a clean bowl and set aside.  Add remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to wok; add asparagus, sprinkle lightly with salt; stir-fry until heated through (about 1 minute).  Add chicken and juices back into wok.  Continue stir-frying for 2 more minutes, or until chicken is completely cooked.  Pour over noodles, toss gently and serve with Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce or Hot Chili Oil on the side.

NOTE:  *This recipe can be made in advance and refrigerated.  To re-heat, cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake at 350◦ for 15-20 minutes. 
**You can also vary the toppings.  Instead of chicken and asparagus, you can substitute the “Stir-Fry Beef and Broccoli” or “Shrimp and Peapods” recipes from my other postings.  Just prepare the noodles as indicated in this recipe, and pour the alternate stir-fry recipe on top of the noodles.

Monday, November 29, 2010

"T'is the Season for Lo-Mein Noodle Stories"

Hands down, my mom’s most universally appealing signature dish is her lo-mein noodles.  If there’s a big, extended-family potluck, by popular demand, mom always brings her noodles.  For family holidays, even if we have a traditional Easter brunch with egg casseroles and cinnamon rolls, we must have a pan of mom’s noodles.  And best of all, when my siblings or I host big parties with a hearty cocktail buffet, we can rely on mom to whip up a huge platter of her noodles.  Even if I hire a caterer, I still ask mom to make her noodles to round out the menu.  When my dear friend from NYC visits over the holidays, we host an intimate cocktail party for her and her husband.  She always anxiously asks, “Is your mom going to make her noodles?”  Yup, even the finest restaurants in New York can’t match the Dragon Lady!

The best part of my mom’s noodles is that she always makes a huge mound.  (My family gets really nervous if we don’t have piles of at least twice as much food as we need.)  So if you’re

Dragon Lady Lo-Mein

Dragon Lady Lo-Mein, aka the ultimate party noodles:  double (or triple) the recipe, make ahead, then cover with aluminum foil and re-heat in the oven at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  Also very buffet-friendly because it also tastes great at room temperature.  Offer plenty of hot sauce on the side!

 Serves 4
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons corn starch
3 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce, divided
2 tablespoons + 4 tablespoons oyster sauce*, divided
¼ cup sesame oil*
1 pound asparagus, rough ends trimmed; cut at an angle into 1 ½” pieces
1 pound Chinese noodles*
1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided

Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce*
Hot Chili Oil*

* in Asian food aisle of most grocery stores

Trim off excess fat from chicken thighs, and cut meat into 1/2” pieces.  Place in a shallow bowl.  Sprinkle corn starch on chicken and turn to coat.  In a small bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons oyster sauce.  Pour over chicken and turn to coat.  Set aside. 

In a large stock pot, bring 5 quarts of water to boil.  Add noodles and cook until done (about 5 minutes).  Drain noodles in a colander, and rinse with cold water.  Shake out excess water completely.  Transfer noodles to a 9x13 Pyrex dish (or large platter).   In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce, remaining 4 tablespoons oyster sauce and sesame oil.  Pour over noodles and toss to coat evenly.  Set aside.

In a large wok or sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat; add chicken and marinade juices, stir-fry until 90% done (about 5 minutes).  Remove chicken from wok into a clean bowl and set aside.  Add remaining tablespoon of oil to wok; add asparagus, sprinkle lightly with salt; stir-fry until heated through (about 1 minute).  Add chicken and juices back into wok.  Continue stir-frying for 2 more minutes, or until chicken is completely cooked.  Pour over noodles, toss gently and serve with Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce or Hot Chili Oil on the side.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Chinese Baby Back Ribs

Get ready to say “hands off” when you make this one!  My oldest sister whipped up these ribs for my dad’s birthday celebration last weekend, and they barely made it to the dining table.  While the glistening racks of baby backs were resting on the cutting board, my other “not-so-helpful” sister (what a surprise) snuck in and hacked off a rib to sample.  After that, the flood gates were open and five or six others followed suit (including myself!).  Even the younger kids were reaching for the carving knife to kipe a juicy rib.  When my mom makes these, she uses country style spare ribs, but I prefer the baby backs.  Either way, it’s ridiculously easy.  And your house will smell incredible!
The sugar in this marinade creates a rather tasty charred edge!

Serves 4
2 pounds pork baby back ribs (about 1 rack)
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons cooking wine or sherry
2 teaspoons salt

Cut rack of ribs into two equal halves to fit into a gallon-size re-sealable plastic bag.  (Use two bags if both half-racks don’t fit into one.)  Whisk together sugar, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, wine and salt.   Place ribs and marinade in plastic bag, seal and turn to coat the ribs evenly.  Refrigerate overnight, for up to 48 hours, flipping bag 2 to 3 times to re-distribute marinade.

Take ribs out of refrigerator 20 minutes before baking.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in middle.  Line a 17” x 12” x 1” baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil.  Place ribs on pan meat side down; pour remaining marinade from bag onto ribs.  Bake for 35 minutes.  Turn ribs over; baste top of ribs with pan juices, bake for 40 more minutes, until meat is browned nicely and edges start to char.

Let ribs stand for 15 minutes.  Transfer to work surface and cut racks between bones into individual ribs; serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stir-Fry Tomato Beef

Mom's best friend, my "Aunt Suzanne" (she's not really my aunt, but in our Chinese world, every close family friend is called "Aunt-something" or "Uncle-something") taught her how to make this dish.  And then my mom taught me.  This recipe is a family favorite in both our Chinese households.  Aunt Suzanne's son (who I guess is my "cousin", but not really), makes it at least once a week.  I especially love it because the natural juices from the tomatoes create a luscious, rich sauce with the marinated flank steak.  I'd put this one in the "comfort food" category, for sure.  Once again, fire up loads of steamed rice  because the gravy is to die for!
Wedges of red, ripe beefsteak tomatoes give this dish a flavorful and saucy personality!

Stir-fry some baby bok choy or make Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce (both previously posted) to complete this meal.

Serves 4
1 lb. flank steak
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 beefsteak tomatoes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 /2 teaspoon salt

Cut flank steak into three equal sections by slicing into thirds lengthwise.  Take each 1/3 section and cut at a 45 degree angle, against the grain, into 1/4 inch slices.  Put the slices of flank steak into a shallow dish. Whisk together soy sauce and sugar; add to flank steak and turn pieces to coat evenly.  Sprinkle cornstarch on flank steak; turn pieces to coat evenly.  Drizzle sesame oil on flank steak and continue to turn pieces to coat evenly; set aside.  (Flank steak can be prepared up to this point, covered and refrigerated several hours. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking.)

Core and slice tomatoes into wedges, about ½” each (or 16 wedges per tomato).  Heat vegetable oil in a large wok or large sauté pan over high heat.  Add the flank steak to the wok and stir-fry until the meat is cooked halfway (the meat will look half brown-half red), about 2 minutes; remove meat from wok.

Add tomatoes and stir-fry until soft and tender, about 3 minutes.  Return the flank steak and all its juices back to the wok; add salt; stir-fry until meat is cooked through and sauce starts to thicken, about 2-3 minutes.  Serve with steamed white rice or brown rice.  

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


That’s what my friend Kristy said when I told her about the plans for my next posting: Rice Paper Spring Rolls with Shrimp.  It’s another light, healthy favorite that makes for a unique finger food any time of year, but is really just the ultimate dish for summer!

In my Rice 101 posting, I told you all about my dad’s obsession with rice.  Well the apple doesn’t fall far from the rice paddy because I love all the by-products of rice…rice candy, rice crackers, (Rice Krispy treats!), but most of all, rice noodles and rice paper spring rolls.  There’s something about the translucent appearance and light texture of them that I just can’t get enough of.  (I just polished off five of these rolls, and could have easily downed a sixth!)  Generally, rice noodles or the rice paper wraps alone don’t have much flavor, so the key is to combine them with fresh, fragrant ingredients that add texture, plus a phenomenal sauce for dipping. 

Fill a beautiful platter for a striking hors d’oeuvre at your next party.  Or serve with a green salad for an elegant luncheon or light dinner.  Just don’t forget to pass the sauce…it is equally important as the roll itself!  
Working with rice paper rolls may seem tricky, but it’s very similar to wrapping a burrito.  The key is to make sure all your ingredients are prepped and within reach, then work quickly.  The rice paper wrappers are actually very forgiving to work with.  Each time you roll one, it will get easier, I promise!

Makes 12 rolls
4 small bundles of Chinese vermicelli rice noodles (usually comes in a 10.5 ounce package with 8 small bundles), *found in Asian food aisle of most grocery stores
12 dried rice paper wrappers (8” each), *found in Asian food aisle of most grocery stores; I prefer Banh Trang Vietnam Spring Roll Wrappers
1 cup cilantro leaves, stemmed
2 cups romaine lettuce, julienned
½ cup baby carrots, julienned
36 large, cooked shrimp, peeled/tailed and cut in half (31-40/lb. size)

Chili Soy Dipping Sauce:
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. Sambal Oelek chili paste, *found in Asian food aisle of most grocery stores
3 tsp. rice wine vinegar

In a small sauce pan, bring 5 cups water to boil.  Add the 4 bundles of rice noodles; simmer for about 2 minutes until noodles are cooked (do not overcook); drain in colander; rinse thoroughly with cold water until completely cool.  Set aside.

Fill a bowl (at least 9” wide and 2” deep) with warm water.  Fully immerse one rice paper wrapper in the warm water for five seconds; shake excess water and place on cutting board.  Place approximately 1/4 cup rice noodles on bottom third of wrapper, leaving at least 2” border around the edges.  Place six pieces of shrimp on noodles, then sprinkle on 1 tablespoon cilantro, 6 carrots, 8 pieces of lettuce.  Fold over the right and left sides of the wrapper.  Roll the wrapper from the bottom (closest to you) towards the top to cover the pile of ingredients,; continue to roll upwards while keeping the ingredients tightly tucked inside.  Place on a large platter, seam side down.  Immediately cover with cold, wet paper towels.  Repeat with remaining ingredients.  Keep spring rolls completely covered under the wet paper towels, then cover with plastic wrap, until ready to serve.  Can be refrigerated up to 3 hours before serving.

Whisk together the three dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.  Pour into a small serving pitcher.  Cut spring rolls in half, at an angle.  Serve with dipping sauce on the side.  Pour a small amount of sauce into the sliced-open end of the roll before eating.