Amidst the hectic pace and chaos of modern life, we often forget the importance of family. Whether it is the family we are born into or one we build for ourselves, it is love that keeps us together. We must continue to cultivate this relationship if we were to maintain a healthy balance in life. Mid-Autumn Festival is an opportunity for Chinese families to reunite, and my family never fails to celebrate it with a feast. This year, with the upcoming first anniversary of the publication of my cookbook, Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees: Essential Techniques of Authentic Chinese Cooking, I’m expanding my celebration with a virtual feast to include my fellow North American bloggers, friends and food enthusiasts whom I consider as family.
Mid-Autumn Festival is observed on the night of the Harvest Moon, which this year happens to fall on September 15th. The festival is traditionally celebrated with a feast, often served outdoor under the full moon to better enjoy the bright night sky. Moon cakes with all their regional variations are never absent from the meal. Brightly colored lanterns hang from tree branches and eaves, while children parade with handheld lanterns chanting verses and singing songs recounting the many legends of the Harvest Moon. It is with this spirit of family festivity that I invited my blogger friends to gather and cook from Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees.
One year ago I fulfilled my dream of publishing a Chinese cookbook with a focus on cooking techniques. My goal was to create a book that not only offered practical recipes but also empowered readers with knowledge that would allow them to be creative. Since the publication, Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees has received many accolades. However, it was from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) that it received the highest recognition: the 2016 Julia Child First Book Award.
Cookbook and Anolon Cookware Giveaway
To share this success with the readers of my blogger friends, my publisher Clarkson Potter has kindly offered to give away copies of the book. And to cook the feast, Anolon cookware has generously offered their woks and braisers for the U.S. bloggers. But they did not stop there. They are also offering the same cookware to their U.S. readers! (Sorry Canadian readers, you are not eligible for Anolon’s giveaways.) So visit their blogs and find out how you can enter to win the giveaways. There are different deadlines and eligibility for U.S. and Canadian readers.
Anolon Nouvelle Copper Stir-Fry Pan
The Blog Feast
For this virtual feast we’re cooking up some of the iconic dishes from the book. We’re cooking Red Cooked Pork, Cucumber Salad with Garlic, General Tso’s Chicken, Stir-Fried Beef with Black Pepper and Mapo Tofu.
Red cooked pork is my signature dish and is always a crowd pleaser. Pork belly had not always been a favorite of North American diners. But since David Chang of Momofuku popularized this cut of meat, it has taken over the American restaurant scene by storm. My version is based on my family recipe and can be served with rice or steamed buns. I’ve also included the cucumber salad with garlic recipe to accompany this pork. Stephanie Stiavetti of Fearless Fresh chose to make this dish and she ended up also learning Chinese knife techniques as well as culinary history from the book. Taylor Holliday of Mala Project made this dish and posted drool-worthy pictures. I wish I could be there to sample it. Alexandra Stafford of Alexandra’s Kitchen was able to scout out proper ingredients in her home town near Albany, NY to make this dish. Lynda Balslev of Taste Food was inspired to make this pork belly version after tasting the red cooked chicken earlier this year at an event I help presented. Laura Tabacca of The Spiced Life found that the sauce is more appealing than the meat. I love to soak my rice with this gravy too! In Canada, Hilary Morden of Cocoa Bean, the Vegetable cooked pork belly for the first time and loved it. She also used light soy sauce resulting in a much lighter version of the dish.
Upholding its reputation, General Tso’s Chicken is the most popular dish among the bloggers. The version I presented in the book is one that is closer to the original created by Chef Peng Chang-Kuei of Taiwan. It has a more pronounced vinegar flavor and is less sweet. Meggan Hill of Culinary Hill and Lora Wiley of Diary of a Mad Hausfrau both made this dish with excellent results. And Nik Sharma of A Brown Table shared his incredibly beautiful pictures of this dish as well as his appreciation for the original flavor in this version. Jane Evans Bonacci of The Heritage Cook show you how to cook this dish with tips for making it gluten free. Being a Chinese immigrant, Maggie Zhu of Omnivore’s Cookbook was skeptical of making this dish until she tried this version. Betty Ann Besa Quirino of Asian in America made this dish for the first time at home and will not order it from a Chinese takeout anymore. Matt Lardie of Eat, Write, Go was on the road in Albuquerque and managed to sourced all the ingredients for this dish. General Tso’s Chicken is also popular in Canada, where Kelly Kwok of Life Made Sweeter, Emily Wight of Well Fed, Flat Broke, Loreto Nardelli of Sugar Love Spices, and Meaghan Carey of Un Assaggio all enjoyed the dish.
Unlike in Western cooking, black pepper is commonly used in Chinese cooking as a flavoring agent instead of a seasoning. Inspired by the classic Steak au Poivre, Stir-Fried Beef with Black Pepper is a version of Cantonese stir-fry that gives black pepper central role. Yi of Yi Reservation made this dish and thought it was a “perfect marriage between Western style peppery flavor and Asian stir-fry.” Jordan Hamons of Hungry Traveler made this dish and paired it with the cucumber salad. Diana Kuan of Appetite for China chose to make this stir-fry instead of the red cooked pork simply because the weather in New York City is still summery. In Canada Liliana Tommasini of My Cookbook Addiction and Chef Heidi Fink loved this dish.
As the classic dish of Sichuan cooking, Mapo Tofu is spiciness defined. In fact, Chef Heidi Fink needed to tone down the spiciness to suit her taste. Still others such as Amanda Cortens of Peppers and Pennies and Jason Sandeman in Canada loved the dish.
Brian Samuel of A Thought for Food is a pescatarian and he chose to adapt the Shrimp and Asparagus Fried Rice recipe in the book and make his version of Seafood Fried Rice. Learning the stir-fry technique allowed him to be creative, which is precisely the goal of the book.
My Family Celebration
Here in Harlem for my family reunion I am making a few dishes from the book including Red Cooked Pork with steamed buns, Steamed Chicken Legs with Goji Berries, and Steamed Stripe Bass. Other dishes are variations of recipes in the book including Salt and Pepper Prawn based on Salt and Pepper Fried Fish Fillet, and Red Cooked Mushrooms and Vegetables inspired by Red Cooked Tofu.
As the second most important holiday in China after Chinese New Year, travel pandemonium often breaks out as millions attempt to return home for family reunion. Fortunately, with our virtual feast I can celebrate this festival with my blogger family without leaving my dining room.
Participating U.S. Blogs
Taste Food by Lynda Balslev
The Heritage Cook by Jane Evans Bonacci
Hungry Traveler by Jordan Hamons
Culinary Hill by Meggan Hill
Mala Project by Taylor Holliday
Appetite for China by Diana Kuan
Eat, Write, Go by Matthew Lardie
Asian in America by Betty Ann Besa Quirino
A Thought for Food by Brian Samuel
A Brown Table by Nik Sharma
Alexandra’s Kitchen by Alexandra Stafford
Fearless Fresh by Stephanie Stiavetti
The Spiced Life by Laura Tabacca
Diary of a Mad Hausfrau by Lora Wiley
Yi Reservation by Yi
The Omnivore’s Cookbook by Maggie Zhu
Participating Canadian Blogs
Un Assaggio by Meaghan Carey
Peppers & Pennies by Amanda Cortens
Chef Heidi Fink
Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen by Bernice Hill
Life Made Sweeter by Kelly Kwok
Cocoa Bean the Vegetable by Hilary Morden
Sugar Love Spices by Loreto Nardelli
My Cookbook Addiction by Liliana Tommasini
Well Fed, Flat Broke by Emily Wight