Today kicks off Chinese New Year 2018 and the Spring Festival will be celebrated through March 2. It’s the Year of the Dog. Don’t just order take-out, why not try cooking at home. Grab your wok and a copy of Chinese Soul Food: A Friendly Guide for Homemade Dumplings, Stir-Fries, Soups, and More by Hsia-Ching Chou. If you want to jump right in you’ll find three of her classic recipes below; Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao), Red-Braised Pork Belly and Dry-Fried Green Beans.
Hsiao-Ching Chou is an award-winning food journalist, cooking instructor and author. Chinese Soul Food is a collection of 80 classic recipes that Chou grew up eating in her home, her family made at their restaurant and that are straight-forward and easy to make at home. According to Parade Magazine, Chinese food is the MOST craved food in the world with more than 76% of Americans eating it regularly.
Ms. Chou has shared with us three of her soul food recipes that are ideal for a home cook no matter what their skills. Don’t those dumplings look scrumptious!
(Xiao Long Bao)
MAKES ABOUT 40
For the gelatin:
2 pounds unsmoked, skin-on pork hock (see note, page 109)
½ pound pork skin (recommended, but optional)
1 pound chicken carcasses, if available, or parts such as drumsticks and wings
2 stalks green onions, cut into 3-inch segments
3 slices fresh ginger
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup Shaoxing wine or dry Marsala wine
3 quarts water, plus more as needed
1 (¼-ounce) envelope Knox gelatin (optional)
For the dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
½ cup bread flour
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water (150 to 160 degrees F)
For the filling:
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 stalks green onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated or finely minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon white pepper powder
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Black Vinegar with Chili-Garlic Sauce (recipe follows), or black vinegar and finely julienned fresh ginger, for serving
- To make the gelatin, put the pork hock, pork skin, chicken carcasses, onions, ginger, soy sauce, wine, and salt to taste in a stock pot. Add the water, adding more as needed to make sure it covers all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 2 to 3 hours, or until the broth is reduced by at least half and the consistency has thickened
- from the collagen; it will resemble a slurry. You will have to check it from time to time and gently shift the hocks and chicken to prevent any sticking. After 2 hours, add additional salt to taste. Let cool slightly and strain the broth into a 2-quart glass baking dish (or other similar heatproof container). Let the broth cool to room temperature, cover, and then chill in the refrigerator overnight. The gelatin should be quite firm. If it’s not, it will make your filling too damp and very challenging to use.
- If, the next day, the gelatin still jiggles when you shake the pan, here’s how to correct it: In a pot over medium heat, melt the gelatin. Add the Knox gelatin into the broth gelatin, and stir to dissolve. Transfer to the baking dish and chill until firm.
- Cut the gelatin into ¼-inch dice and place in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in the refrigerator.
- To make the dough, put the flours in a large bowl, and stir to combine. Gradually add half the water while stirring with a spatula or a pair of chopsticks. As the dough comes together, add more water. You may or may not need all of the water. Press the dough together; if you can form a ball, you can stop adding water. Form a ball and knead the dough for about 4 minutes, or until smooth. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let the dough rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- To make the filling, in the bowl of a food processor, put the pork, soy sauce, onions, ginger, and pepper. Pulse about five to six times to mix the meat and to create a fluffy texture. Add the oil and the gelatin. Pulse two to three times just until the gelatin becomes incorporated. Do not overprocess or the filling will become too pasty. Transfer the filling to a medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Line the steamer baskets with perforated parchment paper and set up the steamer.
- On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough again for 2 minutes, or until smooth. Divide the dough into two portions. Cover one half with a damp towel. Roll the other half into a rope about 1 inch in diameter. Cut rope into pieces about 1 inch long or about 10 grams each. With a Chinese rolling pin (dowel), roll out each piece of dough into a 3.-inch round. Place about 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of the wrapper. Gather the edges and twist into a “topknot” above the center of the dumpling. Place each dumpling in the steamer basket, leaving about 1 inch of space between dumplings. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. If you don’t have enough steamer baskets, place the sealed dumplings on the lined baking sheet.
- Steam the dumplings (see page 65) over high heat for 6 to 8 minutes, depending on the size of the dumplings. When done steaming, the dough will transform from opaque to slightly translucent.
- Serve immediately, straight from the basket, with the chili-garlic sauce.
Black Vinegar with Chili-Garlic Sauce
MAKES ABOUT ½ CUP
½ cup Chinese black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chili bean sauce
2 large cloves garlic, finely minced or crushed
1 teaspoon soy sauce
- In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, bean sauce, garlic, and soy sauce. You can store this sauce in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
HOW TO EAT A SOUP DUMPLING
You have to eat a soup dumpling while it’s still steaming hot. You need a pair of chopsticks, a sauce dish with black vinegar and ginger, and a Chinese soupspoon or other deep spoon. Gently use your chopsticks to lift the soup dumpling by the topknot. Be careful not to puncture the skin to avoid spilling out the melted gelatin, which is now the eponymous soup. Quickly dip the dumpling in the vinegar-ginger sauce and then place it in your spoon. Take a small bite from the top of the dumpling and suck out the soup, being cautious of the potentially scalding temperature. Then eat the rest of the dumpling. Some people take a bite first and then spoon in some dipping sauce. It’s up to you. Personally, I prefer to put the entire soup dumpling in my mouth so that when I bite into it, the soup and dumpling create the perfect bite. That, however, takes skill to keep from burning your tongue.
Red-Braised Pork Belly
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
1 pound skin-on pork belly
7½ cups water, divided
¼ cup Shaoxing wine or dry Marsala wine
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon plus 1½ teaspoons rock sugar
2 stalks green onions, cut into 3-inch segments
3 to 4 large slices fresh ginger, cut on the bias (about 3 inches long and
¼ inch thick)
3 to 4 cloves garlic, gently smashed
1 star anise
- Position the pork belly with the skin side down. Using a sharp knife, cut the pork belly into roughly 1½-inch-square pieces. The skin will take a little extra pressure to cut through, so be careful. Combine the pork and 3 cups of the water in a 4- or 5-quart pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes to release some of the scum. Turn off the heat and, using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the pork to a medium bowl. Discard the water and carefully rinse out the pot.
- Return the pot to the stove over high heat. Add the pork belly, 4 cups of the water, the wine, soy sauce, sugar, onions, ginger, garlic, and star anise, bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 1 hour, checking occasionally and stirring to make sure all the meat pieces spend some time submerged in the braising liquid. After an hour, if the sauce seems overly salty, add the remaining ½ cup water. Check the tenderness of the largest piece of pork belly with a fork. If there’s any resistance, the pork will need to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes more. As the pork simmers, the sauce will continue to reduce, intensify in flavor, and become a caramel. After 10 minutes, repeat the fork test. Once the pork belly is tender, increase the heat to medium to speed up the reduction process. Stir constantly to prevent sticking and to ensure that all the pork belly pieces are evenly coated with the caramel. When nearly all of the liquid has reduced, remove the pot from the heat. Arrange the pork belly on a serving plate or bowl, and serve with steamed rice.
Dry-Fried Green Beans
A former coworker once scoffed at the idea that my dry-fried green beans could beat his broccoli salad at an office potluck party. Let’s just say that I left the office with an empty dish, and he didn’t. This recipe is Sichuanese in origin and involves blistering the green beans using a shallow frying method called gan bian, or “dry-frying.” Ya cai, the fermented stems of a type of Chinese mustard green, is traditionally used to season the beans. I omit this ingredient because it’s not widely available and because what is available isn’t always the best quality. You can leave out the pork to make this dish vegetarian.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
¾ pound green beans (haricots verts or regular)
⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
4 ounces unseasoned ground pork or ground beef (about ¼ cup)
1 stalk green onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 large clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more as needed
1 tablespoon water
1½ teaspoons sugar
- Trim the green beans and cut them in half. Line a baking sheet with a few layers of paper towels. Set aside.
- Preheat a wok over medium-high heat until wisps of smoke rise from the surface. Add ⅓ cup of the oil and heat for 30 to 60 seconds, or until it starts to shimmer. In batches, add the beans to the oil in a single layer. Quickly stir-fry the beans, gently swishing them around in the oil. The skins of the beans will start to blister. Once you see that most of the beans look lightly wrinkled but not necessarily browned, about 1 to 2 minutes, using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to the prepared paper towel–lined baking sheet to absorb the residual oil. Repeat with the remaining beans. Use a wad of paper towels to absorb any residual oil in the wok and brush away any charred pieces.
- Return the wok to the stove over high heat, and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the pork and, using a spatula, break up the pork. Stir-fry for 1 to 2 minutes, or until brown and cooked through. Add the onions, ginger, and garlic, and stir and toss for a few seconds to combine. Add the soy sauce, water, and sugar, and stir to combine.
- Add the beans, and stir and toss for a few seconds to combine. If it doesn’t taste salty enough, add an additional splash of soy sauce, and stir to incorporate. Serve with steamed rice.
Hsiao-Ching Chou is a member of the James Beard Foundation cookbook committee and Les Dames d’Escoffier. She lives with her family in Seattle. To learn more go to http://mychinesesoulfood.com/.
Recipes (c)2018 by Hsiao-Ching Chou. All rights reserved. Excerpted from My Rice Bowl by permission of Sasquatch Books.