Sunday, March 24, 2013

Beef Chow Fun

Gōn cháau ngàuh hó (Cantonese) 干炒牛河 (Mandarin: Gān Chǎo Níu Hé)

Beef Chow Fun has appeared on Chinese menus here and on the mainland almost as long as there has been restaurants.  In spite of this, searching for consistent chow fun recipes is a daunting task.  On the internet, there are as many versions as there are sites, the best being Andrea Nguyen's.  Published cookbook literature by Chinese authors are nearly as varied.  The recipe presented here is the one you'll encounter most often in Hong Kong (a city that rules the roost for Southern Chinese cuisine), and at Dim Sum restaurants, either as "special" item on one of the roving carts, or a menu item traditionally ordered along with the small snacks of dim sum.

Dry rice noodle can be used with acceptable results, but it is highly recommended that you buy fresh rice noodles (Cantonese: ho fun; Mandarin: he fen)these should be available if you live in an area that has a sizable Asian community and grocery stores serving that community. But fresh rice noodles are literally a delicacy: make sure you can purchase them unrefrigerated, or fresh from a noodle maker.  Otherwise, the cold ho fun will often be so stiff and compact, you will not be able to separate the noodles.  Moreover, it's a good idea to use the noodles as soon as they are purchased.  I bought a few pounds of ho fun from a producer on Friday, and by Sunday they were beginning to break down.

Other than the challenges of the noodle, Beef Chow Fun is easy to make, and works well in a vegetarian version, omitting the beef.

1 lb Fresh rice noodles (ho fun, at least 1/2" wide
7 oz Beef Tri Tip, sliced 1/8" thick across the grain, appx 2" x 2 1/2"
1/2 Lb.  bean sprouts
2 tsp fermented black beans, minced
2 lg cloves garlic, minced
1" x 1" pc ginger, minced
3 - 4 green onion, cut into 2" sections, white portion split lengthwise
3/4  small or 1/2 med yellow onion
4 Tab peanut or cooking oil

Meat Marinade

1  Tab soy
2  Tab rice wine
1 round tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
2 tsp cornstarch


2 Tab Soy light
2 tsp dark soy
1 Tab Rice wine
1/2 rounded tsp salt (or to taste)
1 round tsp sugar

Sesame oil and a spring or two of cilantro for garnish

Marinate the meat for at least a few hours; overnight is even better.  Carefully separate the strands of ho fun and set them aside lightly covered with film or damp towel.

On high heat, with 2 Tablespoon of oil, add garlic, ginger, and both kinds of onion; toss a couple of times, then press onion to the wok to facilitate browning.  After half a minute or so, turn the onions and garlic/ginger over and press gently again.  As soon as you observe browning on the onion, move the mixture to the side of the wok.

Add a tablespoon more oil, allow to heat, then add the beef slices.  Separate the slices with a pair of chopsticks or with the wok shovel and press this gently to the bottom.  When the meat is browned, stir fry everything for a few seconds, until the meat is barely cooked.  Immediately remove to a platter. 

Wash wok, reheat on medium high, and swirl in the remaining tablespoon of cooking oil.  When the oil just begins to smoke,  add the rice noodles in a layer and gently press them to the wok.  In about a minute, when they begin to brown, flip the noodles over and repeat the procedure.  Add bean sprouts, gently stir fry for a few seconds, then add all other ingredients, including the sauce, and gently but quickly stir fry and mix the ingredients to combine and heat through.  

Pile on a serving platter and garnish with a little sesame oil, cilantro and slivers of red pepper

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hong Shao Rou

Hong Shao Rou Red Braised Pork

Little known outside the Asian Community, Hong Shao Rou, (红烧肉) literally, red braised pork, is succulent morsels of pork belly simmered in an aromatic, rich soy-based broth until tender.  I first experienced this dish in Macao, where the softened, anise-infused pork was nothing short of a revelation.  Hong Shao Rou belongs to a class of very traditional Asian dishes known as red cooking, which employs a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, vegetables and dou fu (See Fuscia Dunlop's excellent red cooked recipes in her Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook).

Recently, the dish has gained some cache on the Mainland because it is known to be one of the late Chairman Mao's favorite dishes, and according to an article in the Xiaoxiang Morning Herald, he considered it "brainfood."  (see Malcom Moore's article), 

Since the unctuous pork belly has weaseled its way into the Western fine dining scene, Red Cooked Pork should find an enthusiastic audience in the U.S.; however, one will rarely see Hong Shao Rou offered at stateside Chinese restaurants.  This is a bit baffling, since it is very easy to make, and irresistibly tasty. 

2 lbs pork belly, lean and fat, skin on, cut into sections approx 4" x 4"

3 round Tab sugar
3 cups chicken stock, low sodium
2 - 2" x 1/4" pc cinnamon
2 star anise
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 1" x 2" slices of ginger, skin on.
1/3 cup soy
1/4 cup Shao Xing wine or dry sherry
1 TAB dark soy

In enough water to just cover the pork, poach belly in simmering water (“cuan” 汆) for 4 minutes or so, then remove.  When the pork has cooled enough to handle, cut into cubes appx. 1 1/2" x 2" and in two batches, brown in a hot wok or cast iron skillet with 3 or 4 Tab peanut oil or lard.  Be careful, this entails lots of spattering…Remove and set aside.  In the same pan, on med heat, add the sugar and stir until melted and beginning to caramelize.  Add back in the pork belly pieces, and toss until coated and further browned with caramelized sugar.

Transfer the pork and residual oil/sugar mixture to a 3 -4 quart sand pot or sauce pan; add the chicken stock to cover pork pieces, cinnamon, star anise, garlic, ginger, light soy, wine, and dark soy.  Bring to a gentle boil, and simmer for approximately 1 hour, until pork lean layers are tender but still moist.   As soon as meat is done, remove meat and boil to reduce sauce.  When liquid has reduced to desired consistency, turn off heat.  Return pork belly to the pot and mix to coat; serve in sandpot or plate with garnish of cilantro and carrot or red pepper slivers

Monday, March 4, 2013

Suan La Tang

Suan La Tang (literally, "sour hot soup," but known in the West as Hot and Sour Soup)

A riot of flavor and texture, this is the soup your grandmother might make, if your grandmother was Chinese and lived in Northwestern China--the eastern equivalent to "vegetable soup."  And so, you will find a great deal of variation in the ingredients for this healthful dish.  Some published recipes will include such additions as duck blood and sea cucumber.  But, like General Tso's Chicken, which began in Asia as a very different animal, this dish has adapted to Western tastes, and has now evolved it's own traditional preparation in Western Chinese restaurants, especially those billing themselves as regional or Sichuan restaurants.

But even if one ignores the foregoing the sea cucumber and duck blood, Suan La Tang still has ingredients that are unfamiliar to most western cooks: "Cloud Ear Fungus" (云耳; yún'ěr,) and "Golden Needles." huang hua cai 黃花菜.  These inclusions have as much to do with texture as flavor, as you will see, but along with bamboo shoots and Chinese dried mushroom, they are essential to the character of Suan La Tang.

Finally, this recipe is not for the faint of heart.  Hot and Sour Soup is not technically difficult to make, but to be honest, it is time consuming.  Each of the eight main ingredients need at least two stages of prep; soaking, marinating, then carefully slicing and shredding.  But, as with most things in life, the difficulty pays off, and the results are far superior to anything you're likely to find in Western Chinese restuarants.

Prepare the following:

4 Chinese dried mushrooms-- soak in 180° hot water for 40 min; wring out moisture when cool, then julienne.
1/4 oz Cloud ears-- soak in 180° hot water for 40 min; wring out moisture when cool, then julienne.
3/4 oz golden needles, soak in 180° hot water for 40 min; wring out moisture when cool, then cut large pcs in half
1 - 2 oz bamboo shoots, blanched, drained and slivered

MARINATE the above in
1 TAB sweet black vinegar
1 TAB wine
1 TAB soy

2 scallions, diagonally sliced
1-2 tsp chopped dried chili or chili flake if desired
6 oz Pork, Partially frozen to stiffen then julienned; marinate in 1 TAB Light Soy, 1 Tab rice wine or sherry
8 oz firm fresh Doufu; Rinsed, matchstick

In a large sauce pan COMBINE stock:

3 cans low sodium chicken stock  (1 1/2 quarts--Homemade is best)
1 Heap TAB chx boullion paste or powder
12 oz water

In a bowl, COMBINE:

4 TAB rice vinegar
1 Heap tsp Sugar
1 TAB light Soy
1 TAB Black Soy
1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
1 tsp fine white pepper

In a bowl, COMBINE with whisk:

2 eggs + 2 tsp oil + pinch of salt


4- 5 TAB potato starch with 4 TAB water for slurry


1 cup cilantro leaves, no stems


A few cilantro leaves
Sesame oil

Once the preparation of the ingredients is complete, assemble the soup in the following order:   Bring the stock to a simmer with the Chinese mushrooms, Cloud ears, golden needles, and bamboo shoots;  Lower heat to barely a simmer; Add julienned PORK;  Add DOU FU; When the stock begins to simmer again, add potato starch slurry slowly until it thickens per your preference; pour in beaten EGG in a thin stream and do not stir for a half minute or so to set egg; add CILANTRO, then VINEGAR mixture and stir only enough to distribute ingredients.  Remove to a serving bowl.  Garnish w/ Sesame oil, few pieces of cilantro and chili