Archive for the ‘Chinese’Category

‘Stir Crazy’ makes simple, fast, tasty Chinese

Stir Crazy Front Cover US

Rarely does a new cookbook so readily insinuate itself into our weekly menu planning. Stir Crazy by Ching-He Huang (Kyle Books, $24.95) is the latest volume of make-at-home Chinese cooking by the prolific Taiwan-born chef and host of Cooking Channel shows. The subtitle—“100 Deliciously Healthy Stir-Fry Recipes”—speaks volumes. The recipes for two servings include estimated prep and cooking times along with calories and grams of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.

Few dishes exceed 400 calories per serving, yet every one is a satisfying one-dish meal, especially if paired with rice or noodles. It’s no secret how she keeps them in nutitional bounds. Wok cookery uses very little oil, and cooking times are brief. Most ingredients are readily available in most supermarkets.

Once we embraced the book, we did have to change a few habits. First, we stocked up on a few seasonings we don’t usually keep on hand—oyster sauce, fish sauce, toasted sesame oil, and an upgrade to our usual soy sauce. Ching mostly uses peanut or canola oil; we found a grapeseed-canola blend with a little higher smoke point. After trying some wok recipes in conventional frying pans, we relented and bought a good wok at C-Mart in Boston’s Chinatown.

Once we were appropriately equipped, it was surprisingly easy to incorporate some of these recipes into our menus. Ching uses somewhat larger portions of meat than traditional in most Chinese cooking. Beef might be 4 ounces for two servings, chicken is almost always 7 ounces. (We suspect that the original British edition of the book gives those measurements as 150 grams and 250 grams, respectively.) What has so far impressed us is that Ching’s proportions produce perfectly balanced flavors.

Here’s one of our new favorites.

beef and spinach fried rice

BEEF AND SPINACH FRIED RICE


If you have some cooked basmati rice to hand, this dish is incredibly quick to make. If you want to make it carb-free then omit the rice and add some add some broccolini or Chinese cabbage to make the dish go further.

Preparation 20 minutes (includes cooking the rice)
Cooking 6 minutes
Serves 2
cal 429 carbs 43.7g protein 19.4g fat 20.7g

For the beef


4 ounces beef sirloin, fat trimmed off, sliced into thin strips
knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
pinch of sea salt flakes
pinch of ground white pepper
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry

For the fried rice


2 tablespoons canola oil
1 garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped
7 ounces spinach leaves
1½ cups cooked basmati rice (¾ cup uncooked)
1 tablespoon low-sodium light soy sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
pinch of ground white pepper

Directions


Combine all the ingredients for the beef in a bowl, then set aside.

Heat a wok over high heat until smoking and add 1 tablespoon canola oil. Add the garlic and stir-fry for a few seconds to release its aroma, then add the spinach and cook for 5 seconds. Add in the cooked rice and toss with the spinach for 30 seconds.

Push the rice to one side, then heat up the center of the wok and pour in the remaining canola oil. Add the beef and let it brown and sear for 10 seconds, then flip it over. Stir-fry until all the beef has coated the rice, then season with the light soy sauce, oyster sauce, and toasted sesame oil. Sprinkle with some ground white pepper and serve immediately.

CHING’S TIP
Work quickly so the spinach doesn’t become mush.

Reprinted from Stir Crazy by Ching-He Huang, published by Kyle Books. Photography by Tamin Jones.
Here’s the link to buy it on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Stir-Crazy-Deliciously-Healthy-Stir-Fry/dp/1909487678

26

11 2017

Toronto Chinatown awash with flavors

Exterior of King's Noodle in Toronto Chinatown
“Growing up in Chinatown,” said chef and culinary educator John Lee, “was a Duddy Kravitz kind of experience.” He was making a very Canadian reference to Mordecai Richler’s nostalgic novel of the Canadian Jewish immigrant experience. John was showing us around his childhood haunts in Toronto’s Old Chinatown. (It’s not to be confused with at least five other Chinatowns east of Toronto proper.)

Toronto Chinatown street scene The Toronto neighborhood radiating from the corner of Spadina Avenue and West Dundas Street was a Jewish immigrant neighborhood for the first half of the 20th century. As the Jewish population moved north after World War II, Chinese immigrants flooded into the area. Of Korean descent, Lee waxed nostalgic about his Chinese and Jewish friends as well as the old-time Jewish shopkeepers and deli owners.

Fruit stand in Toronto Chinatown Although new money from Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland has poured into Chinatown over the last few decades, the neighborhood retains that bustling edge of striving newcomers. Shoppers crowd the streets. Merchandise seems to spill out of stores packed to the rafters. Street merchants are always ready to haggle. It’s hard to tell whether the neighborhood has more fruit stands selling mangosteens and sweet sops, or more restaurants promising congee and crispy duck.

Taste of Chinatown


John Lee pours tea In such a restaurant-packed neighborhood, it’s useful to have a guide who is in the trade. John’s stories continued over a raft of dishes at the colorful, well-established King’s Noodle Restaurant (396 Spadina Ave., 416-598-1817, www.kingsnoodle.ca). We started with excellent shrimp dumplings—one of the ways to judge the quality of a Chinese kitchen. Side dishes of Chinese broccoli (kai lan) in oyster sauce and a Yeung Chow fried rice (made with barbecued pork bits) set up the main focus of our meal. John took the lead, ordering a barbecue plate with barbecued pork ribs, soya chicken, and crispy pork belly (below). As we left, John confessed that King’s Noodle is one of his reliable fall-backs for great barbecue. Duly noted—we’ll be back.

Barbecue plate at King's Noodle in Toronto Chinatown

24

10 2016

It’s smart to get Luckee in Toronto

Bar area at Susur Lee restaurant Luckee in Toronto
Susur Lee was always my favorite contestant on season two of Top Chef Masters, but it took a while until I got to eat his food instead of watching him make it on TV. This year I finally made it to his jewel box contemporary Chinese restaurant, Luckee, at the Soho Metropolitan Hotel (328 Wellington St. W; 416-935-0400, luckeerestaurant.com). This polished restaurant serves some of the best meals in an already food-obsessed city. Much more than a gastronomic shrine directed by a celebrity chef, it’s flat-out good fun. I’m not the only one who thinks so. On my last visit Will Smith was in town shooting yet another movie where Toronto stands in as a generic North American city. He and his entourage took over a large piece of the bar area to eat and drink the night away. (That’s the bar area above.)

Chef Susur Lee of Luckee restaurant in Toronto In case you’ve been hiding under a rock, Susur Lee (right) is one of the most influential chefs of the last few decades, widely admired for his keen marriage of classical French technique and Chinese fine dining traditions. He is as well known in Singapore (where his restaurant Club Chinois recently changed its name to Tinglok Heen) and Hong Kong (where he started as an apprentice in the kitchen of the Peninsula) as in Toronto. Critics have tried to pigeonhole Lee as a “nouvelle chinoise” or a “fusion” chef, but what they often miss about his food is the reverence for traditional Chinese dishes.

As he put it when we sat down for a few minutes, “Invention happens all the time. Someone had to be the first to make har gow [steamed shrimp dumplings]. Now, maybe centuries later, we all make them, but that doesn’t detract from how good they are.”

Susur Lee makes Luckee Duck Dinner is definitely a treat at Luckee. Lee presents traditional dishes like Hunan wok-fried lotus root and Chinese celery with great panache, and his version of moo shi duck lives up to its name of “Luckee Duck” with deep flavors and a range of textures. (That’s Luckee Duck here on the left.) Lee has a special place in his cuisine for the traditional small dishes of dim sum. He keeps about a dozen on the dinner menu and offers them at all hours in the bar.

To get a full appreciation, though, it’s best to make a reservation for the weekend dim sum brunch, which is arguably even more fun than dinner. And, if possible, it’s even more crowded, so try to book ahead. One of the classic items on the dim sum menu (and the weekend carts) is siu mai, a steamed dumpling filled with meat or fish and vegetables and formed to capture steam inside the wrapper. Lee was kind enough to provide his recipe for Luckee Siu Mai. During brunch, he gilds the lily by placing a slice of scallop on top of each dumpling. You’ll know that you’ve formed it correctly if, when you bite into it, the dumpling exudes a warm fog of flavors similar to the gasp of soufflé when you puncture the top with a fork.

Susur Lee's Siu Mai at Luckee in Toronto

CHEF SUSUR LEE’S LUCKEE SIU MAI

Makes 24 dumplings

Ingredients

454g (16 oz) chicken (a 50/50 mix of white and dark), minced
8g (1 1/2 tsp) salt
16g (4 1/2 tsp) potato starch
360g (12 oz) shrimp, minced
120g (4 oz) wood ear mushrooms (fresh or rehydrated), thinly sliced
16g (4 tsp) sugar
4g (1 3/4 tsp) white pepper
15ml (3 tsp) sesame oil
5g (2 tsp) dried orange skin
24 gyoza wrappers (or won ton wrappers trimmed into rounds)

Directions

Mix chicken meat with salt and potato starch until combined. Add shrimp and mix. Then add mushrooms and mix. Add sugar, white pepper, sesame oil, and dried orange skin. Mix again.

Divide mixture evenly into 24 balls. (They will be about a rounded tablespoon each). Place a ball in center of a wrapper. Moisten the edges of the wrapper and gather up the edges like a purse, pleating around the top and leaving a small opening to vent the filling.

Steam in bamboo steamer for 15-20 minutes and enjoy.

02

12 2015