It’s almost Thanksgiving in US. While everyone is getting ready for the big turkey dinner, I could really care less about having any turkey. LOL. It took me couple of days to prepare for the Thanksgiving dinner. I got my shopping list, I had to make sure I got to the grocery store at least a week ago to get a good size turkey, ie, whatever smallest one I could get. LOL. I had to defrost the bird a couple of days before. I had to get up early to start cooking the bird, the stuffing, the side dishes, the pies, … And guess what? Everyone ate a couple of pieces of turkey, a little bit of everything. There were just too much leftovers after that. It would be a waste to throw them out, and yet no one wanted to see or hear anymore turkey after Thanksgiving. See, too much stress. I really can skip turkey if I could. I prefer the Chinese gathering food instead, something like hot pot. There is nothing like hot pot in my opinion. Besides a lot of varieties of food, it is really the atmosphere that I missed. Friends and family gathered around the table, we each make our own food, we eat a little bit, we talk more, we drink more. It would be a relaxing dinner. I would forget about crazy work or stress. We dedicated a few hours to spend with each other, and catching up. That is truly wonderful. The best part is that whatever leftover, we can cook it for only one more meal and it would be gone forever, not like the turkey dinner leftover that I had to convert it into countless meals like turkey soup, turkey sandwich, turkey pot pie, … You know what I mean. LOL.
The weather is getting warm in NY. I played a round of golf on Sunday, and the humidity was just too much, and I sweated like crazy. Of course, it would be nothing compares to the humidity in Asia in summer. I think the hot weather was making me lose my appetite. I decided to make something more refreshing instead of having steaks or something too heavy. I made Winter Melon Soup. I haven’t made this soup for years. Winter melon has a very mild taste, almost like none. Usually they are sold in pieces or portions because the whole winter melon is so big that no one would buy the whole thing. Winter melon looks similar to a water melon except it is more elongated in shape. I added some dried scallops and dried shiitake mushrooms to add some taste to the soup. Both dried scallops and dried shiitake mushrooms have strong taste. I only used a few of them. I had a big bowl of soup for dinner on Sunday night. It was light and refreshing.
Ingredients (serves 2):
- Winter melon, about 1.5 pounds
- Dried scallops, 3 pieces
- Dried shiitake mushrooms, 3 pieces
- Shrimps, about ¼ or 1/3 of a pound
- Scallions, 2 stalks
- Chicken stock, 6 cups (or you can use 6 cups of water and 1 tsp of chicken powder)
- Cornstarch, 1 Tbsp
- Salt, a dash
- White pepper, a dash (optional)
- Soak dried shiitake mushrooms and dried scallops in warm water for at least 2 hours. You can soak them overnight in the refrigerator as well. Then cut shiitake mushrooms into small strips, then dices. For dried scallops, tear it into really small pieces with your hand. See picture. Put these aside.
- Trim off the green rough skin of the water melon, discard it, only use the white meat. Cut the white part into 1 inch cubes. Put them aside.
- Cut scallion into small pieces. Put it aside.
- Cut shrimp into small pieces (I cut each shrimp into 3 pieces). Put them aside.
- Use a big pot, add 6 cups of chicken stock (or water and 1 tsp of chicken powder) and water melon cubes, dried mushrooms, and shredded dried scallops. Bring it to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer for 45 minutes.
- Add cornstarch in a small bowl, mix it well with 3 tablespoon of water. Add the mixture to the soup. This will thicken the soup a little bit.
- Wait until the soup boils. Add chopped shrimps to the pot. Let it cook for 3 or 4 minutes until the shrimp is cooked. Taste the soup, add a pinch of salt and white pepper if needed.
- Add chopped scallion. Mix it well. Turn off the heat. Serve hot.
Someone I know at work was posting a bunch of pictures of veggies on facebook. He has started a detox diet. I was like ok, that sounded good. But I don’t really like uncooked veggie or salad much. I’m not a rabbit. LOL. But I could make something with no meat for a change. I could skip meat for breakfast and lunch, and that would be my own detox diet for now 🙂 I had a piece of whole wheat bread for breakfast with a little bit peanut butter and a tea. For lunch, I made Fried Tofu Cellophane Noodle Soup with Chinese bok choy. I used to get this from a Shanghai style restaurant in the morning, and that was one of my favorite breakfasts growing up. It was simple and comforting. It’s amazing how the combination of the ingredients turns out to be yummy. Fried tofu doesn’t have much taste. Cellophane noodle (or clear noodle) does not have any taste either. Same thing for the bok choy, almost tasteless. All these things just absorb whatever the taste of broth or soup. It’s a very subtle dish. I added a few dried shrimps to add some taste. It was yummy. If you skip the dried shrimp, that’s totally vegetarian. Besides, the cellophane noodles have lower calories than egg noodles. I’m going to try this no-meat-breakfast-and-lunch for a week, and see if I look leaner. LOL. Oh I forgot to mention that this is super easy to make. It only takes about 15 mins or so, can’t beat that!
Ingredients (Serve 1):
- Cellophane noodle, 1 small pack
- Fried tofu, 2 pieces
- Dried shrimp, a small handful (about 2 tablespoons)
- Chinese bok choy, 2 or 3 leaves
- Scallion, 1 stalk
- Water, 3 cups (you can use chicken stock and skip the chicken powder)
- Chicken powder, ½ tsp
- Fish sauce, 1 tsp
- Cut Chinese bok choy into edible sizes. Put it aside.
- Cut scallion into small dices. Put it aside.
- Add water to the pot. Add cellophane noodle, dried shrimp, and fried tofu to the pot. Use high heat. Let it cook for 10 minutes or until the noodle soften and is tender. The more you cook the cellophane noodle, the more it absorb the water.
- Add chicken powder, fish sauce and boy choy to the pot. Let it cook for couple of minutes. Taste it. Add more water or salt if needed.
- Turn off the heat. Add scallion. Serve hot.
I’m getting stressed out with the amount of work I have to deliver this week. It’s not even funny. Plus I got a final exam next week. Back in my college days, we made Ginseng Chicken Soup all the time. We were all foreign students. Our parents all gave us Ginseng and made sure that we had ingredients to make some Ginseng Chicken Soup once in a while. Ginseng has the power of rejuveation and reduce fatigue. So whenever our exams were approaching, we would make Ginseng Chicken soup to get the last minute energy boost. One of my friend tried Ginseng Chinese Soup for the very first time, and he said he was wide awake the whole night, and he wasn’t tired. So he couldn’t fall asleep. I’m totally the opposite now. I can fall asleep anytime. My brain is so tried. I certainly can use a little bit of energy boost for this coming week. I don’t even know if I would survive these few days. I looked at the soup mix that mom gave me. Besides Ginseng, she also put fish maws in it. Fish maws are some funky stuff that Chinese cherish. It’s basically gas bladder of large fish. It sounds pretty crazy just thinking about it. But it is one of those expensive delicacies. It is high in collagen. If you can afford making fish maw for daily consumption for two weeks or so, you can definitely tell the difference in your skin. So combining the Ginseng and fish maw, this soup can boost your energy while keeping you pretty. LOL.
- Ginseng, a handful
- Fish maws, 3 or 4 pieces
- Chicken, 1.5 pounds, I used about 6 chicken drumsticks.
- Dioscorea Opposita, a big handful (Optional, these are japanese dried yam, white in color, you can get them from Chinese grocery stores at the soup mix aisle)
- A lot of water
- Pre-soak the dried fish maw over night first.
- Add ginseng, fish maws, chicken in a crock pot. Add hot water in it. Leave about 1 inch room on top. Don’t over fill the water.
- Turn the heat to be high.
- Set your timer. After 6 or 7 hours, the soup is done. Note I put all the ingredients in the crock pot, and then went to bed, and the soup is done the next day when I woke up.
- Add a pinch of salt for taste.
I had lunch with my buddy the other day. He retired and I haven’t seen him for a while. It was great that we got a chance to catch up with each other. He told me all the good stuff that he has been doing since he retired. And I told him all the crazy life, school and this Chicken blog. He didn’t know about this blog. I told him I put some of the pictures of the dishes on Facebook sometimes. Then he said, “Oh. That Chicken Soup doesn’t look too good”. OH thanks!!! Of course, he can be frank with me, we are friends. And I responded that Gogi berries Chinese Soup is very traditional Chinese soup. It may not be attractive to non-Chinese, but it is certainly good stuff, trust me. Anyway, I felt that I should put something here that looks more edible. HAHHAHAHA.. I presented to you my Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup tonight. It’s so easy to make, you can’t screw up. You can use chicken breast meat, or ground chicken. BTW, have you ever wonder why it is not easy to find ground chicken in American grocery stores? They sell ground beef, ground pork, ground turkey but not ground chicken. Oh well… the Hong Kong Style Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup uses ground chicken meat instead of shredded chicken meat. You can still use shredded chicken meat if you prefer. It’s not gonna change the taste of the soup. LOL.
Ingredients (Serves 2):
- Chicken breast or ground chicken, about less than 1/2 pound. I used 4 chicken finger sized meat.
- Sweet corn cream style, 1 can
- Egg, 1
- Chicken bouillon cube, 1 or chicken powder, 1 tsp
- Cornstarch, 1 Tbsp
- Water, 4 cups
- Scallion, 1 (optional)
- Salt, a dash
- Beat an egg. Put it aside.
- Mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 2 tablespoon of cold water. Mix it well. Put it aside.
- Chop some scallion for garnish. Put it aside.
- We’ll poach the chicken first. Put chicken breast meat in a large saucepan. Add 2 cups of water. Use medium high heat. let it cook for 3 mins on one side. Flip the chicken strips over to the other side, cook it for another 3 mins. Turn off the heat. Remove the chicken from the pot. Put them aside. Save water in the pot.
- Let the chicken cool a little bit. Then shred them with your hands. If you like them really in small pieces, you can coarsely chop it after it is shredded. That’s what I did. Put it aside.
- Add a can of cream corn to the pot. Ya, just add it to the water there. Add 2 more cups of water to the pot. Mix it well. Use medium high heat and let it cook until it boils.
- Add chicken meat and the cornstarch mixture and chicken bouillon or chicken powder to the pot. Let it cook until it boils. The soup should be thickened. Add a dash of salt.
- Add the beaten egg to the pot. Stir the soup a little bit while you add the egg. Let it cook for a minute. Turn off the heat. Put chopped scallion as garnish.
I looked around at people I know, everyone works like crazy to make a living in this economy. I know I age fast with the stress I have. I used to pluck my white hair whenever I see it. Now, I got so many that I don’t even care. My vision is getting worse. I do feel my body is getting old. Can I do something about it? Yes, I can exercise more to keep my mind and soul young. But it’s just hard to find time. Also diet is important. One thing I know I’m missing all these years in my diet is soup. Soup is a very important part of Chinese diet. I’m not talking about Wonton Soup or Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup. I’m talking about traditional Chinese soup like Ginseng Chicken Soup that takes a few hours to make. All the good flavor and nutrients of the ingredients are released in the water after the cooking process. Growing up, my mom made soup almost every day. We would have a bowl of soup at the end of each meal. It was like taking daily supplement in an organic way. All these years, mom has been telling me that I need to make soup, but I kept telling her I have no time. She said I can cook it in a crockpot and it didn’t take much effort. I felt guilty that I have not done anything with the soup mix that she packed for me. I promised her that I would do so. After I hang up the phone with her on Saturday night. I put a soup mix package that she gave me with Gogi Wolfberries in a crock pot. I added some chicken drumsticks in it. I filled up the pot with hot water. I put the lid on. I turned the cooking temperature to be high. And I went to bed. 6 hours later when I woke up on Sunday morning. The soup was ready! I just made the soup while I was sleeping!!! How cool was that! Mom was right again. It was effortless. The soup was delicious. I ate everything including the Gogi berries. Gogi Wolfberries are getting more traction these days as Westerners recently discovered the nutritious values of these little guys. Gogi berries have amazing anti-aging power, improve your vision and boost your immune system. They are packed with tons of antioxidants. I will put Gogi Chicken Soup as part of my regular meals instead of wasting money on buying anti-aging creams that don’t work. LOL.
Chinese Soup Mix:
You can get a pack of Chinese soup mix from a Chinese grocery store that contains Gogi Wolfberries. They are inexpensive. Or you can buy separate ingredients from the store. I would suggest to include these 3:
- Gogi Wolfberries – They are tiny dried berries, red in color. They are great for anti-aging and vision
- Dioscorea Opposita – It’s a kind of Japanese Yam, white in color. Use the dried ones here. They are also pre-sliced. They are good for the immune system.
- Dried Logan fruit (aka dragon eye fruit) – They are dark brown in color when dried. They are rich in Vitamin A and C. Good stuff for improving vision and immune system.
- Dried Gogi Wolfberries, 2 Tbsp
- Dioscorea Opposita, a big handful
- Dried Logan fruit, a small handful
- Chicken, 1.5 pounds. I used 7 drumsticks, or you can put 1/2 a chicken, or breast meat or dark meat. Or pork, if you prefer that.
- Boil a big pot of water.
- Put soup mix in a colander or strainer. Rinse it under water.
- Add the soup mix in a crock pot.
- Add chicken to the crock pot.
- Add hot water to the pot. Leave about 1 inches room on top.
- Put the lid on. Turn the temperature of the crock pot to be high. Set your timer to 5 or 6 hours or so. The soup will be done. You don’t have to do anything while it cooks.
- Add a pinch of salt for taste when it is done.
Mom used to make plain congee (rice soup) for breakfast. To make plain congee, all you need is to put the rice in a big pot of water, and cook it for an hour until it turns creamy, and it’s done. You can imagine how no taste it is. Mom would fry some peanuts in a wok, and then added some salt on them. That or some chinese pickled vegetable would be our side dishes that went along with the no-taste congee. Yup, that was my breakfast when I was a kid. I never understood back then why we couldn’t put some meat or whatever in the congee to give it some taste. Of course, looking back I would understand that it was because we were poor. We couldn’t afford fancy breakfast. Every time I asked her “Plain congee again?”, she would say “it cleanses your stomach.” Now that I’m not that broke and I could afford meat. I never make plain congee.
As mom said, congee is good for the digestive system. So whenever I don’t feel like eating anything, or may be feeling sick, I would make congee. I would also have it for a good detox. Forget about those detox pills or tea, try having congee for 3 whole days (breakfast, lunch and dinner), it really cleanses your digestive system.
This is my very-close-to plain congee that I made this morning. If you can afford meat, feel free to add some. But if you are really trying this out for detox, skip the meat!
Ingredients (make 2 servings):
- Uncooked rice, 1.5 cup (or cooked rice, 2 cups)
- Dried whole shiitake mushrooms, 2 (or dried sliced shiitake mushrooms, 8 slices)
- Oatmeal, 1 Tbsp (optional, it gives more detox function)
- Scallion, 2 stems
- Fish sauce, 1 Tbsp
- Salt, a pinch
- Water, 9 cup
- If you are using dried whole shiitake mushrooms, soak it in warm water for 30 mins. When it gets soft, chop it finely, put it in a big pot. If you use driced sliced shiitake mushromms, you can easily break them into small pieces by hand, put it in a big pot.
- Add rice and water to the pot. Use high heat, bring it to a boil.
- Let it boil for couple of minutes. Turn the heat to medium. Add a tablespoon of fish sauce.
- Let it simmer for 50 mins until the rice expands and blends well with the water. The rice should look kind of creamy. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Add more water if it is too thick for you.
- This is an optional step. If you have any leftover cooked chicken, or whatever meat. I like to add leftover steamed Chinese Chicken pieces. Cut them into small pieces. Add them to the pot. Cook it for 5 minutes.
- Add chopped scallion to the pot.
- Add a pinch of salt according to your liking.
MUST serve while it is hot.
I didn’t really feel like making anything fancy for tonight. I wanted to make a simple meal, non-fattening, and yet fill me up. And the most important thing, I didn’t want to wash a lot of dishes and utensils. LOL. American Idol was on tonight, I had to make sure I got dinner and finished cleaning before the show started. Plus, I have to do school work after that. My assignment is due tomorrow and I haven’t even started. I got some frozen shrimps that I cleaned the other day, udon noodles, veggies and some dried mushrooms. I could pull off a simple meal.
Ingredients (serves 2-3):
- Shrimp, shelled and devined, 1 pound
- Chinese bok choy, 4 leaves
- Dried (or fresh) Shaiitake mushrooms, whole or pre-sliced, a handful
- Udon noodles 3 packs (1 pack for regular serving. Guys may need 1.5-2 packs each). Each pack of udon should come with a seasoning pack.
- Dried seaweed, a handful.
- Scallion, 2 stems
- Water, 9 cups
- Shell, devine shrimp. Put it aside.
- If you are using whole dried shaiitaki mushroom, soak it in warm water for 20 minutes or so. Then slice it thinly. If you are using pre-sliced dried mushroom, no soaking is needed as it is pretty thinly sliced. If you are using whole fresh mushroom, slice it in thin pieces.
- Cut bok choy into bite size pieces. Put it aside.
- Cut scallion into small pieces. Put it aside.
- Squash or squeeze each pack of udon noodle while it is in its package. This could help to separate the noodle before you cook it.
- Use a big pot, boil 8 cups of water. Use high heat.
- When the water boils, put the shrimp in. Cook it for 2 mins or until it is cook. Don’t over cook the shrimp, or it would get rubbery. Remove the shrimp from the pot. Leave the water in the pot. This would be great stock for the soup.
- If you are using dried mushrooms, add them to the pot and let them cook for 5 mins.
- Add noodles to the pot. When the water boils, let it cook for another 2 mins. Turn off the heat.
- Remove the noodles from the pot. Distribute them into serving bowls.
- Put scallion pieces into each serving bowl.
- Turn the heat back on to high, bring it back to a boil. Add bok choy, seaweed and the seasoning pack that come with the udon. Cook it for another 2 minutes.
- Taste it. Add a dash of salt if needed. Or add more water if it is too salty for your taste.
The first time I tried Beef Sukiyaki at a Japanese restaurant years ago, the waitress asked me if I would like it cooked in the kitchen or at my table. I chose the latter. I just wanted to see how it was done. She brought the gas stove, a shallow pan, a large plate of raw ingredients to my table. I saw her cooked the whole dish. My mouth was watery just watching it. It was delicious. I got hooked on Sukiyaki since then. So whenever I tried out any new Japanese restaurants, I would order Sukiyaki, and I could tell if they serve authentic Japanese food or not. You know, a lot Japanese restaurants are opened by Chinese, and they put fake stuff in it. LOL. For example, instead of putting good cut of beef, they have London broil. Instead of thinly sliced beef, the meat is like half an inch thick. Instead of thick Japanese cellophane noodles, they put the skinny Chinese cellophane noodles. Instead of using Japanese fresh shaiitaki mushrooms, they use Chinese dried shaiitaki mushrooms…. Ya, you can tell I have tried a lot of bad sukiyaki. These days, I don’t go out to eat often, I started to make my own sukiyaki. It probably costs me $25 or so to get all the good ingredients from a Japanese grocery store, but it’s all worth it. I got the thinly sliced ribeye, tofu, mushrooms, veggies and Konnyaku noodles. Konnyaku noodles are also called Shirataki noodles or miracle noodles. It has zero calories. I highly recommend Konnyaku noodles to anyone like me who craves noodles, and yet worry about the calories.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3):
- Thinly sliced ribeye, 1 pound
- Tofu, 1 pack
- Fresh Shaiitaki Mushrooms, 1 pack
- Enoki Mushrooms, 1 pack
- Chinese Bok Choy, 3 leaves
- Carrots, 3 sticks
- Onion, 1
- Garlic, 1 clove
- Scallion, 3 stems
- Konnyaku noodles (aka Shirataki noodles, or miracle noodles)
- Soy sauce, 1/2 cup
- Mirin, 1 Tbsp
- Sugar, 2 Tbsp
- Saki or Chinese Cooking wine, or white wine, 1 Tbsp
- Chicken Stock or water, 1 cup (chicken stock would make it tastier)
Note: If you don’t like beef, you can use other kind of meat like pork, or chicken. You can also use all sort of other kinds of leafy veggies.
- Cut carrots, Chinese bok choy into bite size pieces. Put it aside.
- Cut onion into thin strips. Put it aside.
- Cut the root part of the enoki mushrooms, then break them into small chunks. Put them aside.
- Cut tofu into big cubes (like 2 inches). Put them aside.
- Cut scallion into strips. Put it aside.
- Finely chopped the garlic. Put it aside.
- Use a large shallow pan, or a frying pan. Use high heat. Spray cooking oil on the pan. Lay beef slices in the pan. Let it cooked for a minute or so on each side. They cook fast since they are so thin. Take it out from the pan when it is cooked. Put it aside.
- Note that from this point onwards, you can put everything into the pan and cook them all at equal amount of time, or put them in at separate time like I did.
- Put onion and garlic in the pan. Stir fry it for couple of minutes.
- Add carrots to the pan. Add soy sauce, cooking wine and chicken stock to the pot. Lower the heat to medium low. Put a lid on. Let it cook for 10 minutes. If you don’t have a big lid, just cover it with a piece of aluminum foil. That would work too.
- Add shaiitaki mushrooms, tofu and sugar to the pan. Cover it and let it cook for 5 minutes.
- Add noodles, and Chinese bok choy, mirin to the pan. Add the beef on the top. Cover it and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes.
- If the sauce gets too dry, you can add more water. Taste it. Add more soy sauce if needed.
It’s all my coworker’s fault, he got me thinking about comfort food for two days now. I really miss my mom’s cooking. Besides Steamed Chinese Chicken, she also makes super expensive stuff like Shark Fin Soup, Fish Maw and Bird Nest Soup. My mom has her funny philosophy. She could be feeding us cheap meals most of the time while we were kids, and yet once in a while (a very long while) we would have an expensive meal. If you have ever been invited to a Chinese banquet, you probably have tried Shark Fin soup there. If you order the soup at some fancy Chinese restaurant, it is very expensive. I may have tried it less than a handful of times in some Chinese banquets when I was a kid. I have never ordered it in a restaurant myself. I know it would never be anything as good as or even close to mom’s. Besides, I’m cheap, I’m not going to pay US$300 or so for a bowl of soup. It’s expensive because it is rare, and the process of making the soup is complicated. In mom’s version, she put Shark Fin, shredded Chicken and sometimes fish maw in it. It is high protein, and high collagen. Last time I visited her, she fed me Shark Fin soup and Bird Nest Soup for breakfast. I couldn’t even tell you how expensive this two would be if you order them at a restaurant. That was the most expensive breakfast I ever had in my whole life. It was like a one time experience.