Editor’s Note: Chi Newman is a frequent contributor to Just One Opinion. She is our expert on all things Asian, especially Chinese food and culture, because she was born and raised there. Chi wrote this article for her own website at Chi-Newman.com and offered to let us publish it here. I bet you’ll have a craving for Chinese food that will last for days!
It’s been several months since I contributed an article to my website and here at Just One Opinion. I’ve been really busy lately, but I felt like writing and sharing some of my Chinese recipes with you. These are not banquet dishes, these are family dishes.
In China, family dishes are called “shia fan,” which literally means dishes that make the rice go down. For common people this type of food can be quite inexpensive, but the ingredients are cooked with so much flavor by the adding of hot peppers, garlic, ginger and onions, that sometimes these “shia fan” dishes taste better than banquet dishes.
You do not need a big piece of meat. One chicken breast, a few shrimp, a pork chop or small piece of steak would be enough to feed a whole family. To these ingredients we add a little bit of this and a little of that – ingredients that are already in your refrigerator. You might have half a green pepper or red pepper, a carrot, some celery sticks, green onions – or some nuts like cashews, almonds or peanuts. Include ginger, garlic, hot pepper sauce, or flakes. Add these to the meat you have to make a very healthy and flavorful meal that will feed the whole family. Chinese hosts always serve rice on the side.
Once you know the art of stir frying, you can always find some things to make a beautiful dish. The actual cooking time is very short, but the preparation and cutting can take time. You’ll need many little bowls to keep each ingredient separate. Marinate the meat in the sauce you will have prepared, but each vegetable should be stir fried separately to retain its color and consistency.
Even in cooking we never forget to practice the “Yin-Yang” philosophy. There is never a Chinese dish that is all white or all dark. There are always contrasting colors and textures in keeping with our philosophy of balance and opposites.
2 egg whites, unbeaten
2 Tbs.of good white wine
1 1/2 Tbs cornstarch
Mix the above ingredients, and toss into the chicken breasts, let stand
2 slices of ginger, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
3 cloves crushed garlic
1 cup of cashews, or peanuts
1/2 green pepper (cut into squares)
1/2 red pepper (cut into squares)
5 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in boiling water till soft. Squeeze dry and cut into squares. (Any kind of fresh mushrooms can be used.)
2 stalks of celery, cut into cubes
Oil (preferably vegetable or peanut oil for frying)
1 1/2 Tbs red wine
1 1/2 Tbsp ketchup (for color)
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 Tbsps soy sauce
1 Tbsp Hosing sauce (can be bought at any supermarket)
2 Tbsps of hot red pepper sauce (can be bought at any supermarket) I like the Sambal Oilek (ground fresh chili paste, it is made in the USA) (optional)
1 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1 Tbsp water
Cut chicken breast into squares and mix with unbeaten egg whites, wine and cornstarch. Let stand.
Heat enough oil to fry nuts, season and remove to bowl. Heat oil to fry green pepper, red pepper and celery till cooked but still crisp, season and remove to bowl. Heat oil to fry mushrooms, season and remove.
Heat 6 Tbsp oil till very hot, add ginger, green onions, garlic, till very hot and fragrant, add chicken till it turns white, then add the premixed sauce. Stir till completely mixed. Add the cornstarch and water to chicken to thicken. Now add vegetables and nuts to blend. Remove immediately to platter. Serve with white rice on the side.
Note: This dish has all the ingredients to make a healthy meal. You can exchange the vegetables to broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or any other vegetables. Remember to keep the vegetables crisp and colorful in contrast with the dark meat. Also note how inexpensive it is to serve a whole meal that is not only healthy but delicious with just a few things you have at home.
HOT AND SOUR SOUP
This is an exciting soup full of contrasting flavors and texture, and a perfect example of the Yin-Yang that I talked about. It ranges from soft bean curd to chewy bamboo shoots. The pork blends well with the smoky shitake mushrooms, and the hot and sour taste is perfect for a cold winter day.
Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes:
5 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 Tbsps soya sauce
5 pre-soaked Chinese shitake mushrooms sliced, or any other mushroom of your choice
1/2 cup of bamboo shoots sliced into strips
1 cup pork sliced into thin strips
2 cakes of firm bean curd cut into cubes (well drained)
2 Tbsps fresh ground pepper
3 Tbsps rice vinegar, or any vinegar of your choice
3 Tbsps cornstarch mixed with some water to thicken
When soup comes to a full boil add 3 beaten eggs slowly to the broth. To serve add a few drops of sesame oil in each bowl for flavor and sprinkle some chopped coriander leaves.
SWEET AND SOUR PORK
1 big yellow onion, cut into squares
1 big carrot, quartered
Enough oil to fry carrot and onion till cooked.
1 medium size can pineapple chunks, drained.
6 Tbsps sugar
4 Tbsps soya sauce
1 Tbsp red wine
2 Tbsps vinegar
4 Tbsps catsup
2 tsps pickle relish
a few drops of Tabasco sauce
1 Tbsp of cornstarch, mixed with 1/2 cup water.
Cut pork into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Mix well with A ingredients, except oil. Heat oil till very hot, and fry till golden brown. Turn out on a plate.
Heat about 4 Tbsps oil and stir fry carrots and onions till cooked. Add pineapple and remove to plate
Mix C ingredients in a large pot, except for the cornstarch. Add A and B ingredients. Let it come to a boil, add cornstarch mixture to thicken, remove immediately and serve.
6 pickling cucumbers, or 3 English cucumbers (unpeeled, or peeled if you wish)
3 slices of ginger, cut into thin strips
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
2 green onions, cut into small pieces
Mix well and add enough salt to coat. Cover and let stand for an hour or so. Drain well and wash with cold water. Pat dry completely.
Mix above ingredients and place in a serving bowl.
2 Tbsps soya sauce
2 Tbsps rice vinegar (or any vinegar of your choice)
2 Tbsps toasted sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp hot pepper sauce.
1 Tbsps white sesame seeds
Mix above ingredients, and pour over cucumbers. Mix well and place in refrigerator. Serve with the above dishes.
I hope you enjoy these dishes and if you have problems, contact me through my website.