Cookbook Club - Every Grain of Rice

Cooking at home and sourcing ingredients
User avatar
Skillet Doux
Posts: 3437
Joined: 7 years ago
Contact:

5 years ago

Oh, man, I need to get going on this.

I finally got into the book this morning, doing some menu planning for the week, and I hope the recipes do these justice, because thumbing through it's like, "Yes, this is the kind of stuff we ate all the time in China."

What to make, what to make, what to make...
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
User avatar
Skillet Doux
Posts: 3437
Joined: 7 years ago
Contact:

5 years ago

Something not spicy, something not spicy, something not spicy...

...screw it. I'll make them cashew chicken and make something spicy for myself :-)
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
User avatar
BarbaraToombs
Posts: 1471
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Chandler/Tempe, Arizona

5 years ago

Skillet Doux wrote:Something not spicy, something not spicy, something not spicy...
The General Tso's Chicken was pretty spicy! Even for Mark, who can take a lot of heat (but then again, he was eating the chili peppers in there, and I may have left in a seed or two... [emoji6] )
User avatar
Lunchbox
Posts: 1073
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Gilbert
Contact:

5 years ago

BarbaraToombs wrote: The General Tso's Chicken was pretty spicy!
Is General Tso's Chicken a "real" Chinese dish?

I defer you to this trailer:




:mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
-- LBX

Instagram: @zachary.garcia

Twitter: @zach_garcia
User avatar
BarbaraToombs
Posts: 1471
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Chandler/Tempe, Arizona

5 years ago

Yeah, I've heard that argument before and have seen this...it's awesome!! :). But hey, I didn't make this cookbook!!
User avatar
Skillet Doux
Posts: 3437
Joined: 7 years ago
Contact:

5 years ago

The General Tso's seems an odd choice for a book that's theoretically all about simple Chinese home cooking... but hey, she notes the actual origins of the dish!

Anyway, I finally got into the book last night, and gave her Gong Bao (aka Kung Pao) chicken a try. First some cashew chicken for the family, followed by the gong bao for me :-)

The meez:
gongbaomise.jpg
gongbaomise.jpg (180.32 KiB) Viewed 3903 times
Chicken marinating on the top left with salt, light soy, shaoxing, and cornstarch (didn't have potato flour on hand). I omitted the water she calls for. I like to get some color on the chicken when it first hits the pan, and it seems to me that water would work contrary to that. Incidentally, Scott, I don't think precise marinating time is critical here. "While you prepare the other ingredients" is just about right, in my experience. The most important thing, I think, is to let it come up to room temperature as much as possible without leaving it out long enough that it's unsafe. The enemy of stovetop stir-fry is anything that drops the heat in the wok, and 12 oz. of cold chicken is precisely that. Anyway, scallions, ginger, and garlic on the top right, roasted peanuts on the bottom right, dried chiles and Sichuan pepper center bottom, and the sauce on the bottom left, comprised of sugar, cornstarch, dark soy, light soy, Chinkiang vinegar, sesame oil, and a little chicken stock.

I differed from Dunlop's stir-fry technique a bit, again, using bits and pieces figured out here and there to adjust for a typical stovetop. First, I got the wok as hot as was humanly possible, and while she cautions not to burn the chiles and pepper -- which is important -- it means that it's a very narrow window. Like, a few seconds from the time the chiles hit the oil until they need to be scooted aside and the chicken dropped in. Once the chicken's in, they're safe -- that cools off the wok a bit. Anyway, I immediately spread out the chicken and let it sit undisturbed for at least 30 seconds, maybe a minute, to get some color. I think this really helps the end product when you don't have a massive wok burner. I did the rest as she instructs, the only deviation being that I nuked the sauce for about 15-20 seconds to get it nice and hot before adding it to the wok -- again, to avoid cooling the wok down. Nuking the sauce before adding it to the wok is an idea I'm especially proud of. The quality of my stir fry took an enormous leap when I started doing that.
gongbao.jpg
gongbao.jpg (81.3 KiB) Viewed 3903 times
Oh, yeah... that's the stuff. Note, American restaurants: not simply chile oil. Sweet and sour and spicy and fragrant all at once. That's how the dish should be.

One note of caution: For those who have just seasoned their woks, there's a hefty dose of sugar in this sauce (1 Tbsp). I don't recommend doing this one until you have at least half a dozen oily dishes under your belt. If memory serves, nothing strips a freshly-seasoned wok of its shiny new patina like a sugary sauce.
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
User avatar
Skillet Doux
Posts: 3437
Joined: 7 years ago
Contact:

5 years ago

FYI, I just posted what I think would be our first Cookbook Club event:

Home Stir-Fry Lunch - Thursday 11/6 @ 11:30 AM
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
Lamus
Posts: 4
Joined: 5 years ago

5 years ago

Looks good, Dom. I'm going to try the sauce nuking trick.

Re: the potato flour, when I first got the cookbook I accidentally bought potato starch at Lee Lee's vs. the potato flour. After I used all of the starch (which worked great) I noticed the "mistake" and switched to flour. I found the starch much better. The flour was gummy.

Interested in anyone else's experiences.
anonman
Posts: 44
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Washington, DC

5 years ago

So, question: pros/cons potato flour. I have cornstarch. In her other books, she uses cornstarch. Here, she uses them interchangeably, with preference for potato flour. Can anyone explain what differences I might encounter between the two of them and whether these are material?

I'm cooking a fried tofu dish out of the book this weekend as my first entry. Wish me luck. Love the book.
User avatar
BarbaraToombs
Posts: 1471
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Chandler/Tempe, Arizona

5 years ago

I had never heard of potato flour prior to this, and had used cornstarch in the past. I don't know...can't really EXPLAIN the difference, but potato flour seems to produce a less "gummy" result, to me anyway.
anonman
Posts: 44
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Washington, DC

5 years ago

So, I did my first two recipes this weekend. Started by doing some shopping at the local Asian mega-marts to get some staples which I don't have at home normally and a few ingredients. So, kid wanted Wonton Soup. I didn't really feel like making it, but I do love dumplings. So we did the dumplings that start at 292. Pork, half an egg, some stock, ginger, scallion. I'll say the mixture looked really watery when I was done, so I was concerned they would fall apart. Nope. Maybe it's her technique of boiling, then putting in cold water and bringing back to boil keeps them from getting blasted apart. Kid (6 year old) was meticulous, and they all stayed together. Covered mine with the chili oil mixture and gave her some light soy. Here's the picture. I'm not a good food photographer, but I think these dumplings looks pretty good given the family togetherness part of their construction.
Dranesville-20141026-00372.jpg
Dranesville-20141026-00372.jpg (104.24 KiB) Viewed 3732 times
One criticism: her description of preparing the dipping sauces is a little hard to follow, and I feel like the amount of oil in the recipe is overkill; or maybe I didn't do it right. Otherwise, though, a huge success.

Next up: Pipa Tofu. Made the tofu mixture and fried up the nuggets; pretty straight-forward. I ate one, and they were crunchy, but kind of flat tasting. Wasn't encouraged at that point. The recipe is a little vague on how time sensitive the nuggets are after frying, and frankly, I got pulled away doing other things. They probably say 30-45 minutes after frying, but were still crunchy, if lukewarm. Stir-frying the sauce was really easy. Nuggets softened up in the sauce, which I guess is to be expected. They still had a nice texture, so I'm assuming that's what the desired effect was. Not very spicy, unless you ate the red chili pieces in the sauce. Kid pronounced it good, but also pronounced herself full of dumplings. Wife liked it too.
IMG-20141026-00374.jpg
IMG-20141026-00374.jpg (97.6 KiB) Viewed 3732 times
All and all, a not too bad first attempts here.

Special note: Our wok hadn't been used in some time, and the first thing it did was have its handle break off. Since I was in a bind and needed to get started, I used a stainless steel (I know, I know) "Chef's Pan" from All-Clad (I know, I know) and it worked fine. Not ideal, but it did work. New Wok being ordered. Next dish will probably be veggies; perhaps Bok Choy and Mushrooms.
User avatar
Tim H
Posts: 280
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Gilbert, AZ

4 years ago

I made Xiao Laoban's Dan Dan Mian on page 279, but like Barbara had trouble finding the ya cai (preserved mustard greens) at Lee Lee's. Andrea Nguyen has some notes on finding it and mentions that it brings "an incredible umami funk and depth" to the dish. So I decided to throw in a few teaspoons of fermented chili tofu and black bean chili sauce in hopes of achieving some of that flavor.

Did it work? We each ate every bite of two large bowls and liked it a lot, but it's probably safe to say that the fermented tofu is an acquired taste (and, again, not even called for in the recipe). Definitely going to keep looking for ya cai to try this again. I doubled the amount of sichuan peppercorns called for in both the sauce and the stir fry and got a nice heat, but I'd use even more next time.

The sauce is simple and tasty, and the dish is well worth trying even without the ya cai.
Attachments
Dan Dan Mian (1024x768).jpg
Dan Dan Mian
Dan Dan Mian (1024x768).jpg (114.74 KiB) Viewed 3419 times
There is nothing either good or bad but gravy makes it so. - Kevin Hearne
User avatar
Skillet Doux
Posts: 3437
Joined: 7 years ago
Contact:

4 years ago

FWIW, Fuchsia Dunlop mentions Tianjin preserved vegetable as an okay substitute for ya cai, though she notes it's definitely different. I've gotten it at both Mekong and Super L. It's in a really funny-shaped earthenware crock -- kind of like a giant brown, flattened turnip.
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
davej
Posts: 57
Joined: 4 years ago

4 years ago

Ever tried using tapioca starch instead of potato? I think that's what I seen people use growing up.
User avatar
Tim H
Posts: 280
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Gilbert, AZ

4 years ago

Found the ya cai (I think) at Mekong Plaza. Tasty right out of the jar: briny, herbal, almost floral. Reminded us both of a flavor we'd experienced at Miu's Cuisine, but we're not sure if it's the mustard greens themselves or some addition to the brine. At any rate, good stuff.

I more than doubled the Sichuan peppercorns this time and got that mouth-numbing heat. Other than that, followed the recipe exactly. Great dish for very little work.

(Edit: I associated ya cai with preserved mustard greens because of Andrea Nguyen's post I linked to above, but Fuschia Dunlop appears to distinguish between them. So this may be the wrong thing. But delicious nonetheless.)
ya_cai.jpg
ya cai?
ya_cai.jpg (106.02 KiB) Viewed 3284 times
Attachments
dan-dan-mian.jpg
Xie Laoban's Dan Dan Mian Noodles (p. 279)
dan-dan-mian.jpg (90.57 KiB) Viewed 3284 times
There is nothing either good or bad but gravy makes it so. - Kevin Hearne
davej
Posts: 57
Joined: 4 years ago

4 years ago

Question with regards to the sichuan pepercorn. Are you suppose to toast them and grind them up or leave them as is?
User avatar
Skillet Doux
Posts: 3437
Joined: 7 years ago
Contact:

4 years ago

davej wrote:Question with regards to the sichuan pepercorn. Are you suppose to toast them and grind them up or leave them as is?
You always want to toast them, but generally speaking, leaving them whole or grinding them up is a matter of preference.
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
User avatar
Tim H
Posts: 280
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Gilbert, AZ

4 years ago

I'm really enjoying this cookbook. Making some great food and learning a lot.

I'm so glad we had the Bok Choy with Fresh Shiitake (p. 180) with just some brown rice, because the delicate flavors would have been lost along with more assertive dishes. The shiitakes especially were lightly perfumed with ginger. What a great little weeknight meal for a mushroom lover.

But the Hangzhou Breakfast Noodles (p. 278) were even better. My wife selected (and prepared) this dish just to do something simple for me. She's not into cooking as a project. She just wants some basic, healthy food on the table. But Fuchsia pulled one over on her. This dish is awesome. Hot noodles topped with scallions, drizzled with hot oil and soy sauce, with a runny egg stirred in. Come on!! The hot oil brings out the aroma of the scallions, and the oil, soy sauce, and egg yolk combine to form a sauce -- a get-down-on-your-knees-and-give-praise kind of sauce. Officially the new breakfast of champions in the H household. And I want it for dinner too.
hangzou_noodles.jpg
Hangzou Breakfast Noodles
hangzou_noodles.jpg (87.19 KiB) Viewed 3108 times
Had some disappointing dumplings lately? Try the Sichuanese Wontons in Chili Oil Sauce (p. 292). The sweet aromatic soy sauce (p. 322) is a perfect counterpoint to the chili oil (which I did not make, but now really really want to). The pork filling was tender and juicy, and I took some care to season it perfectly. I did use the three tablespoons of homemade chicken stock called for in the recipe because I happened to have some in the freezer; I like to think this made a difference :). Haven't had dumplings this good since our trip to LA.
sichuan_dumplings.jpg
Sichuanese Wontons in Chili Oil
sichuan_dumplings.jpg (65.1 KiB) Viewed 3108 times
Sweet aromatic soy sauce, where have you been all my life?
There is nothing either good or bad but gravy makes it so. - Kevin Hearne
User avatar
Skillet Doux
Posts: 3437
Joined: 7 years ago
Contact:

4 years ago

I need to get back into this book now.

BTW, it looks like what you've got in the jar there is it, Tim, but just in case, I definitely found it at Mekong... in kind of a weird spot.
yacai.jpg
yacai.jpg (243.34 KiB) Viewed 3101 times
It's at the far end of the produce section, right by the cooler with the sake and beer in the back. Just a pile of open boxes at the end of one of those big industrial warehouse racks. There were a few different packets. I'm not sure if all of them were ya cai, but at least two of them were clearly labeled as such. I bought those two, and I'll report back when I break them open.
Dominic Armato
Dining Critic
Arizona Republic | azcentral.com
User avatar
Tim H
Posts: 280
Joined: 7 years ago
Location: Gilbert, AZ

4 years ago

We're still cooking lots of the simpler recipes with great success. First time I've seen my wife as excited about a cookbook as me.

Twice-Cooked Pork (p.96). I thought this would be more complicated than it is. The pork belly is simmered for 20 minutes. Then it's chilled, sliced thin, and stir fried. The pork is chewy, but good. The real standout for me was the Chinese leeks. I also liked the bell peppers in this application; the other flavors are assertive enough that it doesn't dominate the dish.

But I didn't love this dish because of one flavor. The recipe calls for sweet fermented sauce, and the closest we could find was "sweet bean sauce." I think it's the right stuff though. Tastes like sweet fermented boot polish. This is what bugs me about using jarred ingredients -- it may just be a crappy brand. So while I liked the dish overall, this aftertaste niggled at me.
pork_mise (1024x768).jpg
I don't know about that sweet bean sauce.
pork_mise (1024x768).jpg (105.5 KiB) Viewed 3002 times
twicecookedpork (1024x768).jpg
Twice-cooked pork
twicecookedpork (1024x768).jpg (122.99 KiB) Viewed 3002 times
Stir-Fried Oyster and Shiitake Mushrooms with Garlic (p. 232). Lee Lee was out of oyster mushrooms, so we used the little brown ones along with the shiitakes. It's dead simple, but the homemade stock really makes this dish.
mushrooms (1024x768).jpg
Stir-fried mushrooms
mushrooms (1024x768).jpg (89.33 KiB) Viewed 3002 times
Stir-Fried Greens with Dried Shrimp (p. 172). Good, but I thought the dried shrimp was too strong. My wife loved it. Actually, she made it; she probably added extra.
cabbage (1024x768).jpg
Stir-fried greens
cabbage (1024x768).jpg (120.93 KiB) Viewed 3002 times
Basic Noodle Soup (p.283). The first amazing thing I ate as a kid was my grandmother's homemade chicken noodle soup. I was 7 or 8, and had no idea food could taste that good. This is the Chinese version of that dish. Again, the homemade stock makes all the difference. Extra lard or oil is added to each dish. We did the mushroom variation. Fantastic. Every kid on the planet should have a bowl of this soup at an impressionable age. World problems: solved.
noodlesoup (1024x768).jpg
Life Changing "Basic" Noodle Soup
noodlesoup (1024x768).jpg (97 KiB) Viewed 3002 times
Edit: My wife has a comment on this post. "I cooked everything but the pork! While you were playing World of Warcraft!"
There is nothing either good or bad but gravy makes it so. - Kevin Hearne
Post Reply