Category Archives: Recipes

My Father’s Island Paradise

Steamed Crab with Ginger Vinegar Sauce

gulangyu-crab-sauce

Across a very narrow strait from the downtown waterfront of Xiamen (廈門) sits the island of Gulangyu (鼓浪嶼), a hilly outcrop smaller than Central Park in New York City and dotted with colonial-era European style buildings. Warren and I took the short five-minute ferry ride to this island last month while we were in Xiamen. Gulangyu occupies a very special place in my heart because my father spent his formative years there attending the Anglo-Chinese Middle School in the 1930’s.

Also posted in Seafood, Steaming | Tagged , , , | 3 Responses

The Enduring Flavors of Jinjiang

Seafood-Flavored Sticky Rice

Seafood-Flavored Sticky Rice

Growing up in Singapore I often chatted with my grandfather about Jinjiang (晉江), our ancestral hometown in Fujian (福建) province of China. The stories he told painted a picture of a fishing village with a thriving commercial center where our ancestors lived and worked as merchants and traders. So imagine my surprise when I learned that Jinjiang is now a city with a population of one million.

Still a busy fishing port, Jinjiang has become the largest center of underwear and swimsuit production in all of China, and by extension the whole world. That is the product of economic liberalization over the last three decades. But what interested me the most was investigating the local foodways. Would I be able to find the comfort foods of my youth in Jinjiang? Would the different kinds of flavored rice, fish balls, angel hair noodles and fresh spring rolls be the same?

Also posted in Rice Dishes | Tagged , , , | 7 Responses

Exploring My Roots in China’s Fujian Province

Oyster Omelet

Oyster Omelet

Two weeks ago Warren and I left Shanghai’s Hongqiao International Airport bound for Xiamen (廈門), a major southern port city of Fujian (福建) province where my ancestors are from. The first thing I noticed onboard our Xiamen Airlines airplane was that the pre-flight announcement was in the Southern Min (閩南) dialect that I spoke with my grandparents. During my travels in China over the last decade I’ve never heard any local dialects used in such official announcements. So this was surprising to me since China’s central government pretty much dictates people’s life including the language used for official or business purposes. I knew then that I was about to witness a very different independent minded part of China. This spirit probably helps explain their unique culture and cooking customs as well.

Also posted in Seafood, Snack Food | Tagged , , | 11 Responses

Beijing Cuisine Beyond Peking Duck

Temple of Heaven

Temple of Heaven

Mention Beijing cuisine and Peking duck immediately comes to mind. It conjures the image of sumptuous palace fare and complex cooking techniques. This dish is considered the ultimate of Chinese cooking wisdom and knowhow. Perfectly roasted duck with a lacquer-like glaze covering the skin is the definitive Beijing delicacy prized by connoisseurs. But one would be hard pressed to find another dish from Beijing cuisine that stands out like the duck.

Also posted in Cold Dishes, Fish | Tagged , , | 9 Responses

A Love Affair with Pan-Fried Noodles

Hong Kong Style Pan-Fried Noodles

My family is originally from the coastal Chinese province of Fujian. Traditionally our noodles are cooked in soup, boiled unadorned except for seasonings, or stir-fried in a wok with a thin sauce. When I was about ten years old my family went to a Cantonese dim sum house in Singapore, which at that time was an exotic excursion for a family accustomed to mostly eating Fujianese food. We were served a pan-fried noodles dish of delicious seafood vegetable sauce dripping all over thin golden brown crispy noodles. That was the beginning of my life long love affair with Hong Kong pan-fried noodles.

Also posted in Chicken, Moist Stir-fry (滑炒), Noodles, Techniques | Tagged , , | 9 Responses

Strengthen Your Kidneys with Mountain Yam and Fox Nuts

Herbal Pork Soup in a Ladle

Herbal Pork Soup in a Ladle

For millenniums the Chinese prepared their meals with the express purpose of maintaining a healthy constitution. In fact the earliest texts of Chinese cookery read more like a pharmacologist’s guide than recipe book. It is not surprising that this practice has become a formalized discipline known as food therapy, and making herbal soup one of its best-developed aspects.

Also posted in Pork, Soup | Tagged , | 13 Responses

Diana Kuan’s General Tso’s Chicken and the American Admiral

General Tso's Chicken

General Tso's Chicken

In 1953 Admiral Arthur W. Radford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Taiwan for talks with President Chiang Kai-Shek. The presidential palace chef, Peng Chang-Kuei (彭長貴), was asked to create a banquet to entertain the illustrious guest. After planning some traditional Hunan dishes, he decided to create a few new dishes for the menu. One of them was General Tso’s Chicken. Thus the world’s most famous Chinese dish was born.

Also posted in Chicken | Tagged , , | 20 Responses

Short Order Lunch with Fried Eggs

Fried Eggs Over Rice

Fried Eggs Over Rice

Writing a book is a fulltime job. This I discovered last fall once I started to earnestly concentrate on completing my cookbook. What with my commitments in restaurant consulting and teaching, I have no time at all to prepare lunch. To utilize my time efficiently I buy commercial cold cuts, sliced cheeses and wheat bread to make sandwiches. But I yearn for the occasional comfort Chinese lunch that invariably sooths my anxiety about writing the book. So I need a new lunch plan.

Also posted in Deep-Frying, Snack Food | Tagged , | 7 Responses

Jellyfish: To Eat or Not To Eat

Jellyfish and Wood Ear Mushroom Salad

If you feel that this has been a very hot summer then you’re right. In fact this last twelve-month period is the warmest ever recorded in the U.S. according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. To escape the heat of July and August, residents of overcrowded cities throughout the Northern hemisphere abandon their homes and flock to the nearest beach resorts. Over the last several years something else has been gathering to welcome the tourists: the jellyfish.

Also posted in Cold Dishes, Seafood | Tagged , , | 8 Responses

ZhaJiang Mian Alternative: Shrimp Sauce

Have you ever gotten into a situation where two friends you’ve invited for dinner have different dietary constraints? One doesn’t eat red meat, but another would eat just about everything except liver. And you’ve been planning to serve your signature beef Wellington to dazzle your guests. Being the good host that you are you put on your creative thinking cap and accommodate them by changing the menu.

Also posted in Noodles, Seafood | Tagged , | 10 Responses
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