Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wok Wednesdays: The Breath of a Wok | Liang Nian Xiu's Snow Peas, Tomatoes, and Chilies



As I mentioned in my last post, we have finished cooking our way through Grace Young's Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, and so we begin a new odyssey with her book The Breath of a Wok, an IACP Cookbook Award winner.



Most people think of only stir-frying when they see or hear of woks; but there is so much more that can be done in this amazing vessel which we are soon going to discover - such as steaming, braising, boiling, poaching, deep-fat frying, pan-frying, and yes, even smoking in the wok, proving that the wok is quite the versatile pan to have in your kitchen arsenal.

Oh, and it makes great popcorn too!

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Bacon, ginger, garlic, chili
Bowl 2: Snow peas
Bowl 3: Tomato
Bowl 4: Salt, sugar


We started with a simple vegetable stir-fry of crisp snow peas, sweet tomatoes, and smoky bacon - what a wonderful fusion of flavors.

This makes a great side dish or even a light lunch served alongside some rice.

The recipe can be found on page 132 of The Breath of a Wok, which you may just want to pick up at your local bookstore for it is more than just a cookbook, it even has a whole chapter dedicated from finding the perfect wok to seasoning and caring for your treasured pan - a wok manual of sort and is filled with personal stories and gorgeous photos from Grace's travels during her research in wok cooking and culture, which sadly is becoming a lost art; but hopefully there will be a resurgence in authentic wok cooking thanks to Grace and her books, and the Wok Wednesdays group which is just shy (and by shy I mean 6) of 2000 members as of this posting.


We have been asked not to post the recipes on our blogs, so why don't you grab the book and join in on the fun and become a Wok Wednesday member yourself! Come check us out on Facebook.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli | SFTTSE Finale!

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young



Wow. I can't believe it has been four-plus years that we began cooking through this incredible cookbook. We have had many a fine meal thanks to Grace Young and her recipe contributors.


And what better way to bring this journey to a close, then with the ever classic beef and broccoli.

Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Garlic, fermented black beans
Bowl 2: Flank steak, ginger, soy sauce, dry sherry, cornstarch, salt, pepper, sesame oil
Bowl 3: Onion
Bowl 4: Broccoli
Bowl 5: Chicken broth, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, dry sherry




I am proud to say I have cooked all but three recipes in the book, including the supplemental recipes listed at the back, one of which should not be missed - Chinese Barbecued Pork - it is sooo good.

It's still my intention to post two of the three missed recipes; as for the third (Singapore-Style Stir-Fried Lobster) - I just can't bring myself to plunge a live lobster into boiling water or the alternative (Google it - it's not pretty).

Grace Young, I salute you! Without your books and this group, Andy & I would probably still be eating over-salted, oily, gloppy food that is passed on as Chinese food here in the Western hemisphere. Thank you for sharing your most delicious, authentic Chinese recipes with the rest of the world to enjoy; and Matt Lardie, thank you for starting Wok Wednesdays, which has become filled with fun and witty members that can put a smile on one's face even at the most dismal of times. 

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this journey comes to an end, but fear not, we start anew with Grace's other masterpiece, Breath of a Wok. Here we will learn new techniques: steaming, braising, boiling, poaching, deep-fat frying (this does wonders for the patina), pan-frying, and even smoking! in our wok.

And so we embark on another exciting culinary adventure. I hope you continue following along or better yet, join us!

I have received permission to share with you this week's recipe. Wok on my friends!


Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli
Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish with rice.

12 ounces lean flank steak
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon Shao-Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons chicken broth
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
12 ounces broccoli florets and stems, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fermented black beans, rinsed and mashed (I like to add extra beans left whole as well)
3/4 cup thinly sliced onion

1. Cut the beef with the grain into 2-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip across the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. In a medium bowl combine the beef, ginger, soy sauce, 2 teaspoons of the rice wine, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Stir in the sesame oil. In a small bowl combine the chicken broth, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, and the remaining 1 tablespoon rice wine.

2. In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan bring 1 quart water to a boil over high h eat. Add the broccoli and  cook, stirring 1 minute or until the broccoli is bright green and the water almost returns to a boil. Drain in a colander, shaking out excess water.

3. Heat a 14-inch flat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, add the garlic and black beans, then, using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until the aromatics are fragrant. Push the garlic mixture to the sides of the wok, carefully add the beef, and spread it evenly in one layer in the wok. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the beef begin to sear. Then stir-fry 1 minute, or until the beef is lightly browned but not cooked through. Transfer the beef to a plate.

4. Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil into the wok, add the onions, and stir-fry about 30 seconds or until the onions are just translucent. Add the broccoli and stir-fry 15 seconds or until just combined with the onions. Return the beef with any juices that have accumulated to the wok. Swirl the oyster sauce mixture into the wok and stir-fry about 30 seconds or until the beef is just cooked through. (The sesame seed garnish was my personal touch - add a sprinkle if it suits you.)

Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge | Grace Young


If you want to join us, look us up on:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/wokwednesdays/  (for real time discussions)

Wok Wednesdays Blog:

https://wokwednesdays.wordpress.com/ (mainly the recipe schedule)

And for all your wokking needs contact:

Tane or Randy at the Wok Shop, located in San Francisco. Tane has been selling woks for over 45 years! She and Randy will fit you with the perfect wok for your current situation (gas cooktop, electric, induction, etc. )

If you cannot visit the Wok Shop personally, give them a call! They also have a website to order online. I have personally purchased a few woks and other items from them; they are so very helpful!

The Wok Shop
718 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA 94108
(415) 989-3797
http://www.wokshop.com/

This is one store you don't want to miss visiting if you have the opportunity! Here is a peak inside the store, and Tane's heartfelt story of how her wokking career began.





Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wok Wednesdays | Vinegar Glazed Chicken & Shanghainese-Style Stir-Fried [Lima] Beans

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young



Vinegar Glazed Chicken


I feel the saying "you had me at . . ." is way overused and I have avoided it (I think) - until now. The title alone had me wanting to make this immediately!! And why there isn't a photo in the book is beyond me - it is a most gorgeous looking stir-fry.


Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Scallions, ginger, garlic, dried red chili peppers
Bowl 2: Chicken, dark soy sauce, soy sauce, dry sherry, sugar, cornstarch, Sichuan peppercorns, salt
Bowl 3: Sesame oil, dark soy, soy sauce, dry sherry
Bowl 4: Balsamic vinegar

This dish is traditionally made with red chili peppers that I have used here, however in the book, red pepper flakes are called for to make things easier. I only used three peppers for this recipe, I easily could have added more for there was not much heat - not sure how old my dried peppers were. When using whole peppers, make sure to snip one of the ends off so that the seeds of the pepper disperse throughout the stir-fry.

Grace calls for Chinkiang vinegar, which she says adds a great depth of flavor, but balsamic (which I used) she says is a great alternative.


The accidental plating. Lucky for me the sauce splattered this way! (Well, there was a blob on the other side as well, which I wiped clean.) I couldn't have made it happen this way if I tried. 

Not only does this look good, but it tastes good too. To me, it even had an inkling of barbecued flavor to it at first bite. Another member of our group mentioned her hubby thought it tasted slightly like bacon!

This . . . is another winner folks.

Shanghainese-Style Stir-Fried [Lima] Beans

 
I was feeling this needed a little flair - in the end it probably didn't really need anything at all. But my idea of adding a little Pickapeppa sauce sounded like a good idea at the time. As you can see, the sauce started to "bleed" into the beans almost immediately. Hmmm, maybe two or three slices of cherry tomato on top would be cute - or nothing - depending on how you serve it up - molded and chilled, or warm, straight from the wok.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Pickled cabbage
Bowl 2: Lima beans
Bowl 3: Chicken broth
Bowl 4: Sugar, salt

This is an odd stir-fry to say the least. It wasn't easy stir-frying mashed beans - they just wanted to stay in one big clumpy mass and stick to my chuan (wok spatula). I just had to keep scraping the beans off and pressing down and dragging the chuan across them to incorporate everything.


I found the pickled cabbage at a store in Oakland's Chinatown (wish I can remember which one - it was the last store I was going to look at before giving up). Of course I tried to find them at my local stores, even 99 Ranch, our local Asian grocer to no avail - the other stores may have had this - but if they had the Chinese label showing, I would have had no clue. At least now I know what to look for.


The recipe calls for fresh fava beans - which here in California do not come into season until late January (if you're lucky) or February according to the vendor at the farmer's market. I may have been able to find frozen fava beans at 99 Ranch, but I never made it over there.

We actually enjoyed this. Andy liked it a lot actually - he said it made him feel like he was eating clean; "clean" eating can be a put-off for some - but this was tasty - not knock-your-socks off tasty like I'm accustomed to with recipes from this book, but it was good. Andy says he would even eat this a couple times a week.

I'm glad I purchased two cans of the pickled cabbage, for I will definitely make this again when fresh fava beans are in season come next year.



These two recipes can be found on pages 136 & 227 of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge.


 

We as a group have agreed not to post the recipes on our blogs. 

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Shiitake Mushrooms with Dried Scallops

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young



This special occasion dish received high marks throughout our group; here are a few words from our members describing this stir-fry: intense, special, rich flavor, decadent, a umami bomb!


Dried scallops are considered a delicacy in China.


The scallops get a soaking for about an hour or more until they are softened and easily shredded.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Shallots
Bowl 2: Shiitake mushrooms
Bowl 3: White pepper
Bowl 4: Chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, reserved scallop liquid
Bowl 5: Scallops


This stir-fry is the specialty of Grace's friend George Chew, who serves this at his New Year's Eve celebrations.

As I mentioned, this was a big hit amongst our members; not so much for us though. Sorry Grace and George!! At first bite I thought it had really good flavor, then a fishy aftertaste kicked in which lingered . . . all night long.

Maybe it was the quality of the scallops? Just how does one tell what they are getting as evidenced below.



A word of caution:



Susan, a fellow wokker recommends avoiding this brand like the plague. She purchased these at an Asian market near her for $12.99 for six ounces (the price may have been a clue - for dried scallops can easily go for up to and more than $100 a pound!) She said they never softened as they should after soaking, and they had a rubbery texture and nasty taste. So beware!

If you go to a Chinatown as I did, you will find shops with scallops in very large jars filled to the rim in assorted sizes and prices. The good thing in making a special trip, you can purchase the quantity needed so there is no waste.

We even have a member, Bob, who dried his own! That is one way to make sure you're getting top quality. Want to know how to make your own dried scallops? Join or FB page and type in "scallops" in the search box and scroll through until you come upon Patti's (Bob) post for drying scallops, or just do a Google search. :)



This recipe can be found on page 215 of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge.


 

We as a group have agreed not to post the recipes on our blogs. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy with Sichuan Pepper and Salt

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young


 Such a simple and beautiful stir-fry.

 Baby bok choy.

Shanghai baby bok choy (source).

Shanghai baby bok choy is most commonly found in our grocery stores. It has smoother, lighter green leaves and pale green stalks. The bok choy I used, I found at my local Asian market.  Either variant will work in this stir-fry.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Ginger
Bowl 2: Carrot
Bowl 3: Baby bok choy
Bowl 4: Salt, Sichuan peppercorn
Bowl 5: Chicken broth, dry sherry, cornstarch

This stir-fry takes all about three minutes (if that) to cook; stir-frying continues to amaze me.

The ginger slices are sautéed first, then the carrots are added and given a quick swirl around the wok. Next up is the bok choy, salt and peppercorns, these are stir-fried for about a minute before the broth is swirled in and the mixture briefly steamed, and I do mean briefly - for a whole thirty seconds! Then the vegetables are stir-fried for a short time more - just until the bok choy is crisp-tender. And there you have it!



I actually made this twice. The first time I found it too oily. I should have went with my instinct to not add the remaining oil at the time the bok choy went in. My wok still had a good sheen of oil going on at this point.

The second round, the wok started to look a bit dry shortly before the bok choy was ready, so I added a few sprinkles of oil (maybe a teaspoon?) at that time. Much better result for me.

This recipe can be found on page 189 of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge.


 
We as a group have agreed not to post the recipes on our blogs. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Eggs with Velvet Shrimp

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young




My original plan was to make this for breakfast; but who am I fooling - there is no time in the am for the whole photo shoot bit. So dinner it was! And just as well, for Andy said he would not want this for breakfast. Me, I would; and I just may make it again for my breakfast the next time he is out of town.

Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Ginger, scallion
Bowl 2: Shrimp, egg white, cornstarch, dry sherry, salt, oil
Bowl 3: Peas
Bowl 4: Egg, dry sherry, salt, white pepper

I love a good stir-fry that uses minimal dishes and cooks in under three minutes! (Take note: there is half an hour of hands-free time for the shrimp to marinate (refrigerated), and to come to room temperature.)



I should have let my shrimp cook a little longer before adding the egg mixture. My eggs were not as creamy as they should have been because I was concerned the shrimp was not cooked all the way through, and cooked them a bit longer than instructed. The eggs were delicious anyhow - loved the flavor the white pepper and dry sherry lent to the eggs - I'm going to have to add these two ingredients to my normal scrambled eggs from now on - so good.


I was a bit concerned this was not going to be enough for the two of us, being there is only a quarter-pound of shrimp being used. In the end it turned out to be the perfect amount served alongside some jasmine rice.


The recipe can be found on page 127 of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, and I also found it over on Cookistry's website.


 

We as a group have agreed not to post the recipes on our blogs. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Edamame with Pickled Cucumbers

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young




Soybeans . . .  considered to be one of the five sacred grains of China; featured here in a most delicious side-dish. The recipe, courtesy of the influential Florence Lin, cookbook author and former teacher in Chinese cooking.

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Ginger
Bowl 2: Edamame
Bowl 3: Pickled cucumber
Bowl 4: Chicken broth
Bowl 5: Salt

The ginger gets a quick stir around the wok, then the edamame is added and stir-fried for a minute or two, at which time the cucumber is added and continues to cook for a short time more. Next the broth and salt are added and everything is mixed together until combined.

(For the complete recipe, see page 234 of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge.)


This recipe uses Chinese pickled cucumber - different from our Western-style pickles; these are cucumbers that have been pickled in a mixture of sugar, water, soy sauce, and monosodium glutamate (MSG) - depending on the brand, you may be able to find it without the MSG.

If you do not have access to the Chinese pickled cucumber, Florence says you can sub in the Western pickle, as long as it was not pickled in vinegar - and Grace, she will toss them in some soy sauce and sugar to help replicate the flavor of the Chinese version.



This effortless and tasty stir-fry comes together in mere minutes. I loved the deep, slightly spicy flavor and crunch of the pickled cucumbers, which made a nice contrast to the sweet, tender edamame. Grace mentions in the book that this can be served hot, room temp, or chilled - me, I preferred it straight from the wok, though chilled was good too.

Thank you Grace and Florence for such a delicious recipe! This will be one I hope to repeat time and time again; and I'm off to a good start - for I have already made it once more - for my lunch the following day.

If you are interested, here is a lovely article with Florence Lin and Cecelia Chiang (another grande dame in Chinese cooking).


The recipe can be found on page 234 of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, by Grace Young.

 

We as a group have agreed not to post the recipes on our blogs. 


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Wok Wednesdays | Chicken Chow Fun

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young


 

I had way better success with this recipe than I did when I made the Beef Chow Fun, where I had unfavorable results with the noodles. It certainly helps to have the right stuff. :)

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Salt
Bowl 2: Fresh rice noodles
Bowl 3: Ginger, garlic
Bowl 4: Chicken, garlic, ginger, dry sherry, oyster sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch, pepper
Bowl 5: Dry sherry
Bowl 6: Bok choy, shiitake mushrooms
Bowl 7: Chicken broth, sesame oil, oyster sauce, soy sauce, cornstarch

The recipe calls for a one pound sheet of rice noodles to be cut into half-inch-wide strips.  I was fortunate enough to find them pre-cut.

The noodles are stir-fried in salted oil - salt that is added to the oil in the wok - this disperses the salt more evenly than if you sprinkled it over the noodles, says Raymond Leong who taught Grace this recipe; as well as requiring less salt by doing it this way, according to Joyce Jue, a Southeast Asian chef.

The noodles are cooked just until they achieve a crusty layer, then they are removed from the wok and set aside while the rest of the ingredients are stir-fried.


The noodles can be plated and topped with the vegetable mixture as Mr Leong does, or as I did - adding the noodles back to the wok and mixing all together; this way all the noodles are sure to get coated with some of the sauce.



This recipe can be found on page 277 of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, by Grace Young.


 

We as a group have agreed not to post the recipes on our blogs. 


 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wok Wednesdays | Stir-Fried Squid with Black Bean Sauce

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young


I'm beginning to think I need to change the title of my blog to Wok This Way or something, for the last ten posts have been a WW recipe. One day I'll get back to cooking from the many cookbooks that I own. Maybe.




There is an ongoing joke amongst the WW members about snow peas. This is the second recipe from Chef Danny Chan where he has specified an exact amount of snow peas to use (twelve for this recipe), rather than by weight.

Using extra snow peas (as I have done here, and I know your counting them Bob - to clarify, I halved the recipe) or deviating from a recipe in other ways, has earned a member or two (or three), the chastening of wearing their wok on their heads, and the embarrassment (or not) of posting a photo of such on our group FB page.

 (photo used with permission )

The above photo reflects the punishment for a dried chili infraction; though he has also been placed on probation for a snow pea violation.

I'm thankful Danny did not make us count out the frozen peas he uses in his Hong-Kong-Style Silky Stir-Fried Minced Beef recipe. They're may have been even more of us wearing the wok!

 Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Garlic, scallion, fermented black beans
Bowl 2: Onion, ginger
Bowl 3: Red bell pepper
Bowl 4: Salt, pepper
Bowl 5: Dry sherry
Bowl 6: Squid (blanched), snow peas
Bowl 7: Chicken broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, dark soy sauce
Bowl 8: Sesame oil, cornstarch, chicken broth

The blanched squid.

I think I like cooking squid more than I like eating it. It becomes so artistic looking after its bath.



Here is a photo from an older post - showing what cleaned squid looks like, before prepping it for a stir-fry.


You need to set aside a little extra time to prepare the squid for stir-frying. If you are unable to get pre-cleaned squid as I did, here is a great tutorial on Food52 on how to clean it yourself.

After the squid has been cleaned, the tentacles are cut into bite-size pieces (I just left them whole, myself), and the bodies are cut in half lengthwise and gently scored with a crosshatch pattern on the inside, then cut into 1 1/2-inch squares. The squid is quickly parboiled for ten seconds, just until it curls; now it's ready for stir-frying.

Once the squid is prepped, this stir-fry is quick to get on the table. The beans, scallion and garlic are added to the wok first and stir-fried just until fragrant. Add the ginger and onions, stir until the onions start to wilt, then the bell pepper, and s&p is added and cooked until they start to soften. The rice wine is added and stirred in, then the squid, snow peas, and soy sauce mixture is added and tossed until the peas turn bright green. Swirl in the cornstarch mixture and stir until the squid is just cooked.

Be careful as to not overcook the squid, for it can become tough if you do. 



This was enjoyed by other members of our group, though not so much by me; sorry, Grace (said with a scrunched face). The squid came out tender, and I loved the texture of the vegetables; the flavor just did not wow me - which surprised me, for I love the taste that fermented black beans lend to a dish (as in the Stir-fried Chicken with Black Bean Sauce), and the sauce components... broth, oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil - and garlic and ginger! I don't understand... maybe my taste buds were off this evening; or even it could have been the fact I hadn't tasted it until after it was reheated. I made it early on (an hour or so) for the best possible lighting. I reheated it ever so gently in the wok, as to not overcook the squid - I'm guessing that may have had an effect on the taste.

As I said, this was enjoyed by others in our group - if you would like to give it a go yourself, the recipe can be found at  The Global Gourmet or on page 170 of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, by Grace Young.

I think we have only eight more recipes before we are done wokking our way through Sky. But stay tuned, for there's talk about moving on with one of Grace's other books. So you can still join in on the fun ~ it's quite the lively bunch over at Wok Wednesdays.



 

We as a group have agreed not to post the recipes on our blogs.



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wok Wednesdays | Yangchow Fried Rice

WW wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young



This is my new favorite. Unbelievably simple, healthy, and delicious! 

Mise en place.

Bowl 1: Shrimp
Bowl 2: Rice, peas
Bowl 3: Ham, scallions
Bowl 4: Salt, white pepper


I was skeptical while making this stir-fry - with no seasonings other than salt and white pepper - and as hard as it was, I did refrain from adding that little bit of garlic, and soy sauce that is typical of fried rice recipes. 

This took me by surprise - it really was full of flavor - no other seasonings are needed, and the white pepper added the perfect amount of heat. No wonder in China, Yangchow fried rice is prized for its clean and fresh flavors (perfect description btw). I have said before, simple can be best, and it rings true with this recipe.



This was so simple to prepare: the shrimp is stir-fried in a small amount of oil just until it turns color, add a little more oil, and the rice and peas, stir until heated through, throw in the ham, scallions, and seasonings, mix all together, and it's done. A most delicious meal in mere minutes.

This also would be utterly delicious made Catonese style, with Chinese barbecued pork in place of the ham. 

Do give this recipe a try; you'll be missing out if you don't.

We as a group do not post the recipes on our blogs, but lucky for you, the recipe is published on Fine Cooking's website, and of course, you can always find it on page 259 of Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge, by Grace Young.