Sunday, April 8, 2012

Chinese Food at Home

Dinner: April 1

I went out on a limb last weekend. Not only did I grab a pound of shrimp on sale, but I was ready to try something new. I was particularly inspired by an episode of “Kelsey’sEssentials” on the Cooking Channel recently. She made two Chinese take-out dishes to encourage people to cook them at home instead of ordering from restaurants, and I gave it my best shot.

The first thing I did was the pork dumplings, which looked to be the most challenging of the two recipes I chose. (I used about 1/3 of the recipe.) The dipping sauce portion was rather easy, though:

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • ¾ tablespoon Sriracha sauce
  • Juice of 1 lemon
I simply combined those ingredients and set the sauce aside. The dumplings were the hard part:

  • 1/3 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ¾ teaspoon minced ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 small bunch chopped scallions
  • 4 ounces ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • ¾ teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1/3 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1/3 of beaten egg
  • Dumpling wrappers (used square instead of round, only ones available)
  • Peanut oil
Put garlic, ginger, sesame oil, and scallions in heated skillet for 2 minutes, then removed from heat. Added to bowl of pork hoisin, soy, five-spice, and egg and mixed. Put dumpling wrappers on flat surface with floured surface face down. Spooned filling to center of wrapper, wet the edge of the wrapper with water, then folded in half. The recipe called for pinching one end and working around, but that only made the filling come out the other end for me. So, I folded the sides, then creased the rest of the outer wrapper as best I could. Kept them on lightly-floured baking sheet until peanut oil was heated in same skillet. Put dumplings in skillet until bottoms were golden brown. Poured water into skillet to cover dumplings halfway and immediately covered with lid, leaving only a small crack for steam to escape. Cook until water evaporated, about 5 minutes.

I wouldn’t say this was a success, but it wasn’t an utter failure. The little dumplings did hold together, which surprised me. But the bottoms got burned in the pan as the water evaporated. The process took too long, and the little dumplings burned on the bottom. They actually tasted pretty good, though there wasn’t enough filling in each one and the bottoms marred the taste quite a bit. All in all, though, they were edible, and the sauce was nice and spicy.

Then I moved on to the shrimp lo mein. It’s one of my favorite Chinese food dishes, so I was anxious to see if I could replicate this. With no real fear of burning anything, I just hoped to make a nice lo mein without turning it into a soup.

I kept the recipe whole because Chinese leftovers are good for days, and that’s what I wanted. This was the recipe for the sauce:

  • 1 packet chicken bouillon mix dissolved in 1 ¾ cup hot water
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Sriracha chili sauce
Combined those items into a bowl. Then for the lo mein ingredients:

  • 1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (substituted peanut oil)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 1 small bunch sliced scallions
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 cup white button mushrooms (forgot to buy, dish was fine without them)
  • 2 stalks sliced celery
  • 1 shredded carrot (sliced instead - oops)
  • ¼ head shredded Napa cabbage
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
Cooked noodles in large pot of salted boiling water, drained, and set aside. Heated wok, added peanut oil, half the garlic, half the ginger, and half the scallions. Sautéed for a minute, added the shrimp and cooked until pink. Transferred those items to a plate, then added more peanut oil, rest of garlic, ginger, and scallions to sautée for 1 minute. Added celery, carrots, and cabbage until caramelized. Whisked cornstarch into 2 tablespoons cold water, dissolved, and added to sauce. Added that sauce to the pan, brought to a simmer, and tossed in reserved shrimp, garlic, ginger, and scallions.

This was excellent! There were a few things I’d do differently. First, the noodles began to stick together while I prepared the rest of the dish, and it took some time to pry them apart, and some of them broke. It certainly wasn’t catastrophic, but I would do the noodles at the same time as the other ingredients instead of before. Also, the mushrooms would have been a great addition to the dish. Other than that, it was a very tasty meal! The leftovers were just as good in the days that followed. The dish was a tad spicy because I may have added extra Sriracha, but that’s easy to adjust. Yum!

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