February 15, 2010

I couldn’t think of a better way to start off the new year with friends or family for a Chinese Hot Pot dinner.  I did it with my coworkers last year. They never had Chinese hot pot before.  It was so much fun.  All you need is a portable stove, a big shallow pot filled with water.  That’s it.  You can have whatever meat, seafood or veggies as you like. You just need to slice the meat or fish, wash the veggie and that’s all for the prepartion.  When the pot of water is boiled. Everyone cooks his own food in the pot.  Since the water doesn’t have any seasoning, everyone needs to make his own dipping sauce. You can imagine this is a super healthy meal, no oil, no fuzz. 

Oh, I need to mention the rules:

  1. You don’t put all the ingredients in the pot.  You cook what you want to eat yourself (ya, don’t worry about your bf or gf) a little bit at a time.  You eat it, you chat more, then you go back to cook more food.  Got it?
  2. Use serving utensils/chopsticks to cook the food. No sticking your own fork or chopsticks in the pot unless no one cares about it.
  3. When you put the food in the pot, you are responsible for keeping an eye on it.  If not, any food left in the pot is in shared pool.  Anyone can eat it. That’s right, you snooze you lose!
  4. Make your own dipping  sauce.  Everyone has different likings. Don’t expect someone will serve you.
Chinese Hot Pot
Chinese Hot Pot

Uncooked Ingredients Serves 5-6 (This is only a suggestion, you can really prepare whatever you like):

  • Thinly sliced beef, 3/4 pound
  • Sliced chicken, 1/2 pound
  • Shrimp, peeled and devined, 3/4 pound
  • Fish filet, 1/2 pound (can be any white fish like tile fish, tilapia, or even salmon)
  • Oyster, 1/2 pound
  • Squid, cleaned, 1/2 pound
  • Dumplings or wontons, a dozen
  • Tofu, 1 pack
  • Fish balls, 1 bag (about a dozen)
  • Japanese Enoki mushrooms, 1 bag
  • Fresh Shaiitake mushrooms, 1 bag
  • Noodles, 2 bag (could use udon noodles, ramen noodles, clear cellphane noodles or  shirataki miracle noodles)
  • Leafy vegetables, a big bunch, washed (can be Chinese bok choy or others, or even regular lettuce)

Preparation (prepare each of them and put them aside):

  1. For all the meat, slice them thinly.
  2. For seafood such as fish or squid, cut them into big chuncks about 3 x 1.5 inches
  3. Wash all the vegetable.
  4. Cut Tofu into big cubes: 2×2 inches
  5. For the enoki mushroom. Cut off the bottom root part of the bunch of mushroom.  For the shaiitake mushrooms, just wash them and keep them as whole pieces.

Setting the table for dinner:

  1. Put the portable cooker (could be gas or electric) in the middle of the table.
  2. Use a shallow pot and fill it up with 70% of water.  Put it on the portable cooker.
  3. Put the food around the portable cooker.
  4. For each person, place a plate and a small bowl (for dipping sauce), two pairs of chopsticks or forks (one for cooking, one for eating, see Rules#2).
  5. Prepare a few ladles for scoping off the food. 

Setting the sauce station on a side table or in the kitchen(These are suggested sauce. You can use whatever). You can have:

  • Soy sauce
  • Oyster sauce
  • Chinese BBQ sauce (very different from western BBQ sauce)
  • Sesame oil
  • Chilli sauce or hot oil
  • Chopped garlic
  • Chopped onion

Dinner time:

  1. Everyone prepare his own dipping sauce first.
  2. Put the tofu and a few fish balls in the pot.  These could be common food that are sharable to start with.  Use high heat of the portable cooker. Boil the water.
  3. When the water boils, that means the fish balls are ready. Everyone can start making his own food. 
  4. Have fun. Remember, you snooze you lose. Keep an eye on your own food!
February 14, 2010

I love dumplings. I can eat thirty of them each time. I’m not kidding.

I used to hang out with a bunch of foreign students when I was in college. One time one guy from Beijing decided to teach everyone to make dumplings. That could be one of those days that we were so bored and had nothing better to do. Anyway, we went out to grab the ingredients like ground meat and some other ingredients, I forgot. But I remember he said something about dumplings. He said people in China were pretty poor when he grew up. They didn’t have much money to buy meat. So in order to make that meat looked bigger, they made it into dumplings. They mixed the meat with some veggies, put it on a wrapper, fold the edges of the wrapper, squashed the meat in the middle to make it look like a pocket filled with stuff, something that symbolizes abundance. Interesting. I never thought of why dumplings are shaped the way they are. That was the day I learned how to wrap a dumpling. I forgot what ingredients or seasonings he used. We probably made more than 100 dumplings that day among the 6 or 7 of us. They were so yummy. I probably ate more than 30 or so as I said.

Dumpling Wrapping
Dumpling Wrapping

 

Dumplings in Soup
Dumplings in Soup

Ingredients (make about 50 dumplings)

Dumplings:

  • Dumpling wrapper (prefer the round ones, the square one are fine as well), 1 package
  • Ground meat (I prefer pork, you can use chicken, beef or even turkey), 1 pound
  • Shrimp, shelled, deveined, 1/2 pound
  • Chinese bok choy, 3 leaves
  • Shiitake mushroom (dried or fresh), 4 or 5
  • Egg, 1
  • Chopped parsley (dried or fresh), 2 Tbsp
  • Oyster Sauce (I only use the brand Lee Kum Kee), 1 Tbsp
  • Soy Sauce, 1 Tbsp
  • Salt, 1/4 tsp
  • Pepper, a pinch
  • Chinese cooking wine (or white wine), 1 tsp
  • Sesame oil, 1 tsp
  • Sugar, 1 tsp
  • Cornstarch, 1 tsp

Soup:

  • Salt, a pinch
  • Oyster sauce, 1 Tbsp
  • Soy sauce, 1 tsp
  • Water, 6 cups
  • Scallion, 1 stem, chopped finely

Steps:

  1. If you are using dried shiitake mushroom, soak it in the water for an hour.  When it gets soft, squeeze out excess water.  Dice the mushroom into very fine pieces.  Put it in a big mixing bowl.
  2. Cut the cleaned shrimp into small pieces (like cut one shrimp into 3 or 4 pieces depending on the size of it).  Add it to the bowl.
  3. Add the following to the mixing bowl: ground meat, chopped parsley, oyster sauce, soy sauce, chinese cooking wine, salt, pepper, sugar, cornstarch and sesame oil. Mix well.
  4. Chopped the bok choy very finely. Add it to the mixture.  Mix well.
  5. Add an egg to the mixture. Mix well.  Let it season for 20 mins.
  6. To wrap the dumplings, prepare a small bowl of water.  Put about a tablespoon of mixture to a wrapper.  Put the mixture in the middle, make sure you leave some space on the edge.  Use your finger or the back of a spoon to dip some water to the edge of the wrapper.  Fold the wrapper in half to make a half moon shape.  Press down the edge to make sure it seals tightly.  This is the easiest way to shape a dumping.  If you are more skillful, you can make some crease on the edge to make the dumplings look fancier. Put all the dumplings aside.
  7. If you are not going to cook all the dumplings, freeze the extra ones in the freezer.
  8. Boil a big pot of water.  When the water boils, add the dumplings.  Boil it for 6 or 7 minutes, or until they float to the top.  Stir occassionally to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.  Drain the dumplings and put them in a serving bowl. 
  9. Use another pot to make soup.  Add water, oyster sauce, soy sauce and salt. Bring it to a boil.  Turn off the heat.  Add chopped scallion.  Pour the soup over the dumplings. 
  10. You can also add some cooked noodles into the soup as well.

Finally the weekend is here. Thank God!  I have time to catch up on my blog. It was such as long week. I started a new job. I was busy meeting up with my new boss, and the people that I needed to talk to for my job transfer.  I also organized an Asian Pot luck lucheon.  Originally, I planned to make some Chinese Chicken Fried Rice or Fried Soy Sauce Noodles.  But I was really running out of time. So I made some pan friend chicken dumplings instead.  Of course, I did not make the dumplings from scratch. I got 3 bags of Chinese Chicken Dumplings from Trader Joe. They are like $3 a bag, and they are pretty decent dumplings.  I made a dumpling sauce with it. It turned out great. Everyone loved it.

Lay Dumplings In One Layer in Pan
Lay Dumplings In One Layer in Pan
Use Aluminum Foil as a Lid
Use Aluminum Foil as a Lid
Pan Fried Dumplings for Pot Luck Party
Pan Fried Dumplings for Pot Luck Party

Ingredients:

  • Frozen chinese dumplings, 1 bag. I used the Trader Joe Chicken Dumplings here. They have thin skins and cook fast.
  • Water, 1.25 cups

Dumpling sauce:

  • Soy Sauce, 2 Tbsp
  • White Vinegar, 2 Tbsp
  • Oyster sauce, 1 Tbsp
  • Worchestershire sauce, 1 tsp
  • Sugar, 1 tsp
  • Water, 2 Tbsp
  • Sesame oil, two drops (optional)

Steps:

  1. Use a large frying pan. Spray non-stick cooking oil to fully cover the surface of the pan.
  2. Lay frozen dumplings flat side down in one layer onto the pan.  Make sure they don””t overlap with each other. NO NEED TO DEFROST the dumplings ahead of time.
  3. Use high heat. Let the dumplings cooked for 2 minutes to make the skin crisp.  DO NOT touch/flap them.
  4. Pour 1.25 cups of water to the pan.  If the dumplings have thicker skins, pour 1.5 cups of water instead.
  5. Cover the pan with a lid, or a piece of aluminum foil.  Let it cooked for 7-8 minutes with high heat or until the water dries up.  The water will give a steamming effect to the dumplings.
  6. Turn off the heat when the water dries up.  Let it sit for 1 minute with the lid on.  Remove the dumplings from the pan.
  7. To make dumpling sauce, put all the sauce ingredients in a small serving bowl.  Mix it well.  Optionally, you can add sesame oil, chopped garlic and ginger to the sauce to make it fancy.