Category Archives: chinese food

New York City summer heat waves have begun and I made these in an attempt to keep cool while cooking for a large group. I also happened to be craving some good old Chinese zha jiang mien. Super tasty and refreshing on a hot summer day.

Cold Sesame Noodles

  • 1 pound spaghetti, soba or Chinese egg noodles
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sesame paste, almond butter, or peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon or more chili-garlic sauce
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 cup shredded cucumber
  • 1 cup thinly sliced bell pepper 
  • 1/2 lb shredded chicken
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 6 sprigs cilantro, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Cook the noodles until tender yet firm. Drain the noodles and shock in ice-cold water. Drain again.

In a large bowl whisk together the vinegar, sesame paste, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, and chili-garlic sauce until smooth. Add the noodles along with the shredded chicken and chopped vegetables, and toss well to distribute the sauce evenly throughout. Garnish with the scallions and cilantro and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.


What a fun name to say and to write! The recipe I adapted for my steamed fish suggested serving it with snow peas, which inspired me to make Moo Goo Gai Pan for our next meal. I never realized how much I actually liked Moo Goo Gai Pan, until I moved to New York and no longer got to eat it every now and then with my parents, and I don’t even think we ate it that often. Anyway, now I get cravings for this dish maybe about twice a year. At first I was a little worried that my version wouldn’t taste right, because the sauce was a light brown rather than the cloudy white that you see at restaurants. But, everything turned out wonderful – this was super good!

Moo Goo Gai Pan

The original recipe has water chestnuts and bamboo shoots, which we did not have during the hurricane, so I just added celery and onions instead. This dish definitely needs something crunchy, so celery was a good option.

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms, halved
1 cup snow peas, sliced into thirds
2 cups broccoli, chopped
1 can (8 oz) sliced bamboo shoots (optional)
1 cup onion, chopped
1 can (8 oz) sliced water chestnuts and/or 1 cup celery, chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into strips
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
1/4 cup chicken broth

Saute vegetables with vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat until broccoli is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in the wok until it begins to simmer and stir in the garlic and cook until it turns golden-brown. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned on edge and no longer pink in center, about 5 mins.

Stir together the cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine and chicken broth in a small bowl. Pour over the chicken and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for about 30 seconds until sauce thickens and is no longer cloudy. Return vegetables to wok and toss with sauce.

 


I decided to buy hake fillets (on sale) from the grocery store and was at a loss with what to do with them. Suddenly I got the idea to attempt to steam them Chinese-style. The only problem was that we don’t have a steamer, so I improvised and decided to make my own using a pot, ramekin and plate (I had once seem Noah do this in a wok, so don’t think that I thought of this on my own). I’ve always longed to be able to make a simple steamed fish, but the lack of a steamer had always stopped me. Anyway, the result was great and it’s so easy to make! Next time I think I’ll cut the liquids in half, the fish was almost swimming in the juices.

Chinese Steamed Hake

2 6 oz hake (or other white fish) fillets
salt and pepper
1 tbsp chinese rice wine or sherry
1 1/2 tsp minced ginger
1 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp chopped green onions and/or cilantro

Place small cake rack or ramekin (upside down) in large skillet or stock pot. Pour enough water into skillet/pot to reach depth of 1 inch. Place glass pie pan or plate (preferable with edges) on rack (my plates were actually pretty small so Noah lay two chopsticks across the first plate and then stacked another one on top of it). Put fish in dish, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle wine, ginger, garlic and soy sauce over fish.

Bring water in skillet/pot to boil. Cover skillet/pot and steam fish until just opaque in center, about 1o minutes. Transfer fish to plates, top with juices from dish and sesame oil (optional), cilantro and/or green onions.


Amy, the one bonafide Chinese mom in our church group makes the best zhong zhes (basically, Taiwanese tamales). So, I had asked her if she would teach me how to make them and after several months, she willingly obliged. Lucky for me, her lesson happened to fall on the day of Noah’s birthday and zhong zhes are one of his favorite foods, so he got to come home to my first ever freshly-made zhong zhes for his birthday meal.

There are a lot of components to making zhong zhes, so I broke it down into the following parts…

Amy’s Zhong Zhe Recipe

Marinated Pork

1 lb pork, cut into ½” thick slices (2-3” long)
1 tbsp rice wine
1 tbsp soy sauce
chopped scallions
minced ginger
chicken broth
sugar, to taste
pepper, to taste

Marinate pork overnight.

Soaked Rice
sweet glutinous rice
water
soy sauce
chicken broth
sugar, to taste

  1. Wash and rinse rice.
  2. Place rice in a bowl and fill the bottom with water, soy sauce and chicken broth. Add a little bit of sugar to the mixture.
  3. Turn the rice to combine with liquid. If desired, add black sesame seeds and scallions to the rice.
  4. Taste the liquid to see if it tastes right, and make any adjustments.
  5. Soak and refrigerate overnight.

Folding & Filling Zhong Zhes

Bamboo or Reed leaves, 2 per zhong (try to find the freshest, greenest ones)
Soaked Rice (see above)
Marinated Pork (see above)

  1. Soak leaves in water.
  2. Cut off the tip on one side of each leaf, creating a straight edge, about 3 inches down from the tip. Discard tips.

Folding Zhong Zhes…

  1. Take two leaves and overlap them, so that the smooth sides of each leaf face you and so that the back/bottom leaf lays about ½”-1” to the right of the front/top leaf. Straight edges should be at the top.
  2. Fold the straight edges down about 2-3”.
  3. Place your thumb just inside the first layer of leaves from the left and push the remaining layers to the right about ¾ of the width of the leaf, creating an opening. Crease the leaves along the length to the right, about ¾ of the width of the leaves. You should now have created a corner pocket with your leaves.
  4. Place the corner pocket in the palm of your left and use your hand to keep the shape of the corner pocket while you fill your zhong zhe.

Filling the Zhong Zhes…

  1. Fill the pocket with the rice mixture. Use your finger to push the rice to fill the corner pocket. Make a bed/indentation in the rice for the pork.
  2. Take one slice of pork and lay it on top of the rice.
  3. Take another scoop of rice and cover the pork.

Sealing the Zhong Zhes…

  1. Take the bottom of your leaves and fold them over the rice, to enclose the rice and pork.
  2. Make a crease in the leaves at the bottom right to create your third corner. Continue that crease along the right length of the zhong zhe, folding over the length of the leaves around the curve of the zhong and holding them in place with your hands.
  3. Push the left length of the zhong zhe to secure the rice in place and then crease your fourth and final corner at the bottom left. Continue the crease along the left length of the zhong zhe, folding over the length of the leaves around the curve of the zhong zhe and holding them in place with your hands.
  4. Use a string and wrap it around the zhong zhe at least 5-6 times, remembering to leave some string at the start to tie off the zhong zhe.
  5. Tie the string tightly in place.

Cooking the Zhong Zhes


  1. Place zhong zhes in a large pot. Fill pot with water until zhong zhes are just covered. Add soy sauce and a bit of salt to the water.
  2. Turn heat to high until water boils. Reduce heat to low and simmer for two hours.
  3. Turn zhong zhes so that any exposed parts are now submerged. Add 2 more cups water, boil and then reduce heat to low and simmer for one more hour.
  4. Enjoy and freeze any leftovers for later.


Any Taiwanese kid who grows up and then moves away from home at some point yearns for a bowl of their mom’s niu rou mien or Taiwanese beef noodle soup. This was actually my second (successful) attempt at niu rou mien, but sadly the first time was before I started this blog and therefore I didn’t quite remember everything I did. I think the first time was better, but that was because a) Erin came over and made hand-made noodles and b) I hiked it all the way to Chinatown to get mustard greens and beef shank & tendon. This time I used store-bought noodles, did without mustard greens, and settled for just beef chuck. It tasted right and was still good, but was just missing the extra things that make it truly like mom’s. So here’s what I did, next time I might even try to make it in a slow cooker (which would make the chuck more tender), and will make sure to have mustard greens and tendon.

Niu Rou Mien (Beef Noodle Soup) – adapted from here

  • 3 lbs boneless beef shank or chuck
  • 1.5 – 2 lbs beef tendon
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 2 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 1/3-inch-thick rounds, each smashed with flat side of knife
  • 3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili bean paste (Sichuan hot bean paste; dou ban jiang)
  • 1/2 cup (or more) soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) salt
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 2 1 1/2-inch cubes Chinese yellow rock sugar (about 2 1/2 ounces) or 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • Freshly ground white pepper or black pepper
  • 1 pound eggless Chinese wheat noodles (Shandong la mian)
  • Chopped mustard greens
  • 3 baby bok choy, each halved lengthwise, bottom 1 1/2 inches trimmed, rinsed
  • Chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish)
  • Chopped green onions (for garnish)

Directions:

If using shank: Bring large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add beef shank; return water to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer until beef is brown on outside, turning occasionally, about 8 minutes; drain. Rinse beef under cold water until cool; cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes. Wipe out pot.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in pot over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic. Sauté 1 minute. Add chopped onions; sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add chili bean paste; stir 30 seconds. Add 12 cups water, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 2 tablespoons salt, star anise, and sugar. Mix in beef. Bring soup to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Gently simmer uncovered 1 hour, adjusting heat to avoid boiling.

Continue to simmer soup until beef is very tender, 45 to 60 minutes. Adjust seasoning, adding more soy sauce by tablespoonfuls and more salt, if desired. Season with pepper.

Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions. Drain well.

Divide noodles among large soup bowls. Add some bok choy and mustard greens to each. Ladle soup and meat over. Garnish with chopped green onions and cilantro.


We had a little bit of leftover marinated ground chicken and pork from our homemade dumplings. While we were folding our dumplings, Noah kept complaining about the inefficiency of the dumpling making process and really wanted to make one giant dumpling – I suppose that would sort of be like a Chinese pot pie? The other idea he had was to make a Chinese meatloaf, so with the leftover meat, I let him have at it.

Chinese Meatloaf (using leftover dumpling meat)

1. To the dumpling meat, Noah added eggs and breadcrumbs. Then he put it into an oven safe bowl (we used a small  pyrex storage bowl) and baked it at 350 degrees for 30 mins.

appetizing, huh?

2. Combine ketchup and teriyaki sauce. Cut the meat into slices and serve with the sauce on top. Garnish with cilantro.

this picture is much more appealing

Result: Pretty good! I was actually extremely scared of this dinner, but pleasantly surprised. The sauce was genius and really made this dish. Not something I would make from scratch, but if we ever have leftover dumpling meat, I just might make this!


Noah and I stayed in New York for Christmas this year, and we brought dinner over to a friend’s on Christmas Eve. Since it needed to be transportable, I decided a Chinese Christmas dinner of nuomi fan (Chinese sticky rice) and homemade dumplings would be perfect! This was a perfect opportunity to learn how to make nuomi fan, as it is one of Noah’s favorite dishes. Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take any pictures, so you will have to do with just words.

Nuomi Fan: The original recipe uses a wok and then a large pot, I just cooked everything into our slow cooker pot over the stove. Also, remember to soak your rice and mushrooms overnight, or at least an hour before.

Dumplings: My friend Lillian always makes great homemade pot stickers, so I borrowed her recipe, however to save time and work I substituted chicken instead of shrimp.

Sticky Rice with Chinese Sausage (Nuomi Fan)

  • 3 cups Chinese or Japanese short-grain sticky (“sweet”) rice*
  • 1 cup Chinese dried black mushrooms* or dried shiitake mushrooms (1 1/2 oz)
  • 5 Chinese sausages* (6 to 8 oz total)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallion (white and pale green parts only; from 1 bunch)
  • 1 1/2 cups bottled peeled cooked whole chestnuts (from a 14- to 15-oz jar), drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup Chinese rice wine or medium-dry Sherry
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

Directions:

Cover rice with cold water by 1 inch in a large bowl and soak at least 2 hours. Drain in a sieve and rinse well under cold running water.

Soak mushrooms in warm water 30 minutes, then drain, squeezing excess liquid back into bowl, and keep liquid. Rinse mushrooms to remove any grit, then discard stems and coarsely chop caps. Quarter sausages lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Heat a 4-6 quart heavy pot over high heat until just smoking. Add peanut oil and heat, swirling in wok, until just smoking. Add ginger and scallion and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add sausage and stir-fry 1 minute, then add mushrooms and stir-fry 1 minute. Add chestnuts and stir-fry 1 minute. Stir in rice wine, soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, salt, and white pepper and remove from heat. Add drained rice and stir to coat.

And add broth (broth will not completely cover rice) and drained mushroom liquid. Bring to a simmer, stir once, then reduce heat to low. Cover and cook 25 minutes more, then remove from heat. Stir from bottom to distribute ingredients and let stand, covered, 10 minutes before serving.

Homemade Dumplings (Lillian’s family recipe)
Makes between 125-150 dumplings depending on how full and plump you fill them.  If you want to make less, just halve or quarter the recipe.  Any leftovers are great for freezing and eating/cooking later.

Ingredients:
  • 3 packs of dumpling wraps (it’s usually about 50 wraps per package)
  • 2 lbs of ground chicken
  • 2 lbs of ground fatty pork
  • 12 oz canned water chestnuts, diced
  • 3 cups chopped scallions (roughly 3 bunches depending on how large they are and how many per bunch)
  • Soy sauce
  • Sesame Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Flour (not much needed)
Directions:
1. Combine the ground chicken with the water chestnuts (dice), and scallions (chop) and mix in a big bowl along with the fatty pork.  You want to evenly distribute the ingredients as best you can.
2. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and pepper.  I don’t measure how much.  I just add a lot – for flavor. Mix it all up.
3. Cover bowl tightly with saran wrap and put it in the fridge to “marinate.” So I usually let it sit over night so 10 hrs-ish (as long as the meat is fresh and that I know I’ll have the time to fold, cook or freeze the dumplings the next morning).  But if you’re pressed for time, I would recommend letting it sit in the fridge for 30 min-1hr.
4. Fold the dumplings.  I usually use a little water or beaten egg to help seal the dumplings.  Make sure whatever surface you place the folded dumplings on is lightly floured
5. Fry or boil to eat.  Whatever’s leftover, freeze. Dumplings may stick together once frozen, so try to freeze them in smaller zip loc bags for meal-size portions.

Thoughts: Yum and Yum! I thought everything was pretty straightforward as far as preparing these dishes. I had some trouble trying to fry potstickers since I don’t have a non-stick pan, but on the 3rd attempt learned to just put lots of oil and constantly move them around.