Posts tagged ‘chinese’

March 7, 2012

Corn and Egg Flower Soup

My mom used to make this corn and egg flower soup for me when I was growing up. It would show up on the dinner table on hectic evenings and when someone was feeling under the weather. Although I loved it, I never tried making this soup. But then, a chilly day drew out the memory of sweet-savory corn and egg soup from the far reaches of my mind. I had to have it. As a child, I never knew the simplicity of the soup. All I knew was that it was tasty and warm, and made me feel like I was snuggling with my favorite blanket.

I have recollections of my mom over a hot stove, stirring creamed corn into simmering chicken broth. Then, she would add chopped ham and occasionally some peas. Lastly, she would turn off the heat and mix in some lightly beaten eggs. With a few gentle, swift strokes, the eggs would turn into beautiful flower petals. Really, this recipe is Betty-Crocker simple, but it yields very satisfying results. My mom used to garnish the soup with chopped scallions and white pepper, but I leave out the onions because the kids don’t like it. However, those scallions would have brightened up the picture some.

S asked me last night: “How come you’ve never made this before?”

Just to be clear, this beats the socks off the bland egg drop soup you find at virtually every Chinese-American restaurant.

Corn and Egg Flower Soup

Ingredients

6 cups chicken broth, homemade or low-sodium

2 cans cream-style corn

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry (optional)

salt and black or white pepper, to taste

3/4 cup deli-style ham, thinly sliced

3 – 4 TB cornstarch, dissolved in 1/4 cup water (more cornstarch makes for a thicker soup)

3 eggs, lightly beaten (or you could just use the egg whites)

3 green onions, finely chopped for garnish

Method:

1. Bring chicken stock to a boil. Stir in creamed corn and simmer for another 3 minutes.

2. Stir in the ham, sugar, sesame oil, rice wine or sherry and salt and pepper. Return to a simmer for another couple of minutes, bringing it back to a boil.

3. Stir the cornstarch-water mixture until well mixed and then pour into the boiling soup. Stir soup until it thickens. Turn off heat.

4. Pour the lightly beaten eggs into the soup and stir gently but quickly until they form thin shreds.

5. Garnish with scallions.

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January 25, 2012

Chinese New Year – Making Tea Eggs

I have memories of my mom making these eggs for me when I could barely peer over the stove. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t see the hard-boiled eggs bubbling in the pot, because I could smell them. The aroma of anise, cinnamon, orange peel and black tea would waft through the house as the eggs simmered hour after hour. I’d be so excited when she turned off the heat, but I would have to continue to wait. And as you know, waiting is not a children’s game. The eggs had to steep in the tea overnight, so the dark caramel color could penetrate the egg’s cracks and create a beautiful marbled effect. This takes coloring eggs to another level—and without the food coloring. Bonus: they’re incredibly easy to make.

In the morning, I would be the first one down the stairs because I wanted dibs on the eggs.  I’d examine all the tea-stained shells and find the one with the most cracks—but small, fine cracks, without large pieces of shell broken off. Those were usually the most beautiful inside. Then, I would carefully peel off the shell to reveal the art beneath. Egg after egg after egg, the anticipation never wore off. My brother and I would compare eggs, and like a typical boy he didn’t care that I had the prettier egg. But I did.

Now, I get to pass on the tradition to my kids. I watched this morning as S painstakingly removed the shell of her tea egg. Her excitement mounted with each fragment of shell that came off. She was so pleased with herself when she was finally done. After admiring the intricacy of the design, she gobbled it up and asked me, “Can I take one to school, so everyone else can see what tea eggs look like?” After C peeled his egg, he asked me repeatedly, “How’d you do that?”

I love that the kids love tea eggs, and not just because I have such fond memories of my mom making them. Eggs are high in choline, which is essential brain food for growing children. Plus, the high quality protein in the eggs keep them full longer, gives them more energy and makes them more alert. Sure beats a handful of crackers or Pirate Booty.

Note: These do taste different from regular hard-boiled eggs, but it’s subtle. However, the fragrance of all the spices is pretty strong. When you bring that egg to your lips, you’ll get a nice whiff of anise, cinnamon and tea.

Chinese Tea Eggs

Ingredients:

12 eggs

4 TB of black tea leaves (or 4 tea bags)

1/2 cup soy sauce (or tamari, if you’re gluten-free)

2 tsp salt

1 TB sugar

1 cinnamon stick

4 star of anise

1 tsp. Szechwan peppercorns (optional)

3 strips of dried mandarin orange peel (optional)

Directions:

Gently place the eggs in a medium pot and fill with water to cover the eggs by 1 inch. Bring the pot to a boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the eggs, but leave the water in the pot. Cool the eggs under running water. Using the back of a small spoon, or the surface of a hard counter, tap the eggshell to create cracks all over. You want to tap hard enough to make the cracks, but not so hard that pieces of shell start to fall off.

Add the remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Gently add the eggs back into the pot and simmer on low for three hours. Turn off the heat, and let the eggs steep in the tea overnight. Peel, admire beauty and eat.

January 20, 2012

Chinese Noodles with Pork & Peanut Sauce

“Oww!!! Stop it!” S yelled.

“Give it back then,” C said.

“It’s mine!” S retorted.

“Aaaaargh! Give it now!” C screamed.

Sigh. I had lost count of the number of times I had heard this type of dialogue all day. All I wanted was to sit in a quiet room with a glass of Chardonnay and a big bowl of carbs. Carbs are so comforting. And really, any carb would do—pasta, mashed potatoes, a crusty French baguette. But with Chinese New Year just a few days away, I decided that noodles, which represent longevity, would be perfect. I love noodles! But I needed it to be easy and quick, because I wasn’t sure both kids would make it in one piece to dinner.

Williams-Sonoma has a simple and delicious Chinese noodle recipe that requires just a few staple ingredients. You brown some ground pork, add some green onions, garlic and ginger, followed by 2 TB of peanut butter, and then a mixture of chicken broth, hoisin sauce and soy sauce. The sauce thickens as it simmers and after it has reached the right consistency, you toss it with some cooked egg noodles (you could easily substitute spaghetti noodles). Dinner is done! I had set aside some beautiful baby bok choy to go with the noodles, but the battle between S and C had made its way into the kitchen and two little bodies were flying around me. There was no time to cook a separate vegetable. So, I reached for a bag of frozen peas and dumped half of it into the pot of boiling water which was cooking the noodles. I drained all of it in a colander and voila, it was a one-dish meal!

The recipe calls for some chili oil, but I just top my own heaping of noodles with it.

The craziness continued through dinnertime, between the kids taking bites of noodles. But I ignored the insanity and soothed myself with two servings of warm pasta and my long-awaited glass of wine. It was almost like being in a soundproof room.

There was plenty for S’s lunch the next day.

Chinese Noodles with Pork & Spicy Peanut Sauce (Williams-Sonoma)

Ingredients

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1/ 4 cup hoisin sauce

2 TB soy sauce

1 TB peanut or canola oil

3/4 lb. ground pork

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 cup minced green (spring onions), white and tender green parts

1 TB minced garlic

1 TB peeled and grated fresh ginger

2 TB creamy peanut butter

1 lb. thin fresh Chinese egg noodles

1 tsp hot chile oil

Make the sauce

1. In a small bowl, stir together the broth, hoisin sauce, and soy sauce; set aside. Place a 12-inch frying pan over medium heat and add the peanut oil. When the oil appears to shimmer, add the ground pork and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring frequently, until the meat is crumbly and the color changes from pink to gray. Add 1/2 cup of the green onions, the garlic, and ginger to the pan and mix well with the pork. Add the broth mixture and peanut butter, stir well, and cook until small bubbles form on the surface. Cook until the peanut butter smelted and the sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat.

Cook and drain the noodles

2. Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles all at once, stir gently, and cook until the noodles are tender, but still slightly chewy, about 2 -3  minutes. While the noodles are cooking, reheat the sauce in the pan over medium-low heat. Pour the noodles into a colander to drain, then shake the colander to remove excess water. Don’t let the strands get too dry, or they will stick together.

Toss the noodles with the sauce

3. Add the drained noodles to the pan with the sauce. Using 2 wooden spoons or spatulas, toss the noodles until they are evenly coated with the sauce and the pork is evenly distributed. Add the remaining 1/2 cup green onions and the chile oil and toss to distribute evenly. Serve right away.

January 6, 2012

My Favorite Noodle Dish—Ever

This is that dish. Which dish? That dish. The one you pine for when you’re away at camp for the very first time. The one you want every time you visit home. The one you crave at midnight when you’re seven months pregnant. Yes, that dish. The one that makes everything in the world right again, because it’s comfort and home wrapped in a warm bowl. For some of you, it might be lasagna, chicken pot pie or your mom’s fried chicken. For me, it’s this Chinese noodle dish, better known as “wat tan hor” or “char hor fun” in Cantonese. I grew up with it in Singapore and Malaysia, where you could get it at every hawker center in town. Even though my mom never cooked it, it holds a special spot in my heart—and, well, my gut. A delicious egg gravy with seafood and vegetables is poured over pan-fried rice noodles to create gastronomical bliss. It’s something you wish you could bathe in. Before fluids were outlawed on airplanes, I used to have my mom buy the dish from a little hole-in-the-wall in Atlanta and bring it to me when she came to visit.

      

In my family, we’ve renamed it Fat Noodle, after the thick, flat rice noodles that are in the dish. For years, I resigned myself to only getting to eat it whenever I visited home or went overseas. But then, one day I decided I had to try to make it myself. The first few times, it was embarrassing. Yes, it was edible, but nothing like the real deal.

      

After tinkering with a little more rice wine here and and a tad more oyster sauce there, I created something close to the perfect combination. I learned along the way that the secret to a good egg sauce is to turn off the heat immediately after cracking the eggs into the wok. Then you stir quickly, but with just a few strokes to break up the egg. If you leave the heat on, the sauce curdles and gets lumpy.

In my recipe I use shitake mushrooms, which is not traditionally in the dish but I think it adds a nice butteriness. Admittedly, my version of Fat Noodle is not as good as what you get in the streets of Penang, but it’s more than a respectable substitute. And definitely good enough to make you blow your low-carb diet. Added bonus: it’s gluten-free. Yes, the kids love it, too—especially as leftovers in their lunchbox.

The recipe follows the photo. If you don’t like seafood, try chicken, pork or beef.

Wat Tan Hor (Pan Fried Rice Noodles with Egg Gravy and Seafood)

Ingredients

Noodles

1 package of fresh rice noodles

1 1/2 TB light soy sauce

1 1/2 TB dark soy sauce

1 1/2 TB peanut oil

Seafood

1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 lb. large scallops

2 tsp. sesame oil

1 tsp. garlic, minced

1/2 TB peanut oil

Gravy

1 1/2 TB garlic, minced

1 cup carrots, sliced 1/4″ thick on the diagonal

6 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced

1/2 lb. baby bok choy, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 TB oyster sauce

1 TB soy sauce

1 TB Shao Hsing rice cooking wine

1 tsp sugar

3 1/2 TB cornstarch

3 large eggs

Separate the noodles into individual strands and place them into a bowl. Heat 1 TB peanut oil over medium high heat in the wok or pan and put in a third of the noodles. Sprinkle 1/2 TB light and dark soy sauce over the noodles. Stir-fry to keep the noodles from sticking. Remove the noodles after they turn a light brown color. Make sure they’re heated all the way through but not overcooked, otherwise they’ll get mushy. Repeat with the next two batches of noodles and add peanut oil as necessary. Set aside and cover with foil. Wipe out wok.

Toss the shrimp and scallops with the sesame oil and minced garlic. Heat 1/2 TB peanut oil in wok over high heat and stir-fry shrimp and scallops until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. Wipe out wok.

Stir 1 cup chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and cornstarch in small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 TB peanut oil over medium high heat in the wok. Add the garlic and stir-fry quickly for 15 seconds. Add carrots, mushrooms, stems of baby bok choy and stir-fry for 1 – 2 minutes. Add the bok choy leaves. Pour in three cups of chicken broth. Bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and scallops back into the wok. Stir chicken broth-oyster sauce mixture and pour into wok. Wait for it to simmer and thicken into a gravy. Crack the three eggs into the wok, turn off the heat and stir quickly with just a few strokes to mix the egg into the gravy. Do not overcook the eggs or the gravy will turn lumpy.

Put a helping of noodles on a dish and ladle the warm gravy over it. Indulge.

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