Thursday, April 26, 2018

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup, Beancurd Rolls and Fish Congee...

At last week's community kitchen culinary session, I was so excited to share and cook some of my all-time absolute favourite recipes from my Chinese heritage-- those I loved growing up in my family household, namely Pan-Fried Vegetarian Stuffed Beancurd RollsChinese Hot and Sour Soup and Fish Congee!

Pan-fried stuffed bean curd rolls are hands-down my favourite thing to nosh on at Chinese dim sum. They are so good I can crave it all parts of the day. They are filled with crunchy vegetables such as shredded cabbage or bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, black mushroom fungus and carrots, and when pan-fried the tofu skin takes on a crispy aromatic flavour that is savoury with every bite served with a dip of Worcestershire sauce or Thai chili plum sauce.

Pan-Fried Stuffed Vegetarian Beancurd Rolls
Makes about 12 rolls

3 cups shredded cabbage or bean sprouts, blanched
1 garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled into strips with a vegetable peeler
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated in water for at least four hours, rinsed, drained and thinly sliced
1 cup black mushroom fungus strips, rehydrated in water for two hours, rinsed and drained
1 cup can bamboo shoots, well-drained
3 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
sugar, salt and ground white pepper
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. chicken seasoning powder
1 Tbsp. oyster sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water (make twice- once to thicken the vegetable mixture, and another bowl to use to seal the seams of the wrapped rolls)
1 package dried bean curd sheets, found in freezer section
Worcestershire sauce and/or Thai chili plum sauce for dipping

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a skillet/wok over medium-high heat. Add half of the garlic and sauté with the shiitake mushrooms until fragrant about one minute. Season with a little salt, ground white pepper and sugar. Toss. Add remaining garlic ,cabbage, carrots, mushroom fungus and bamboo shoots. Stir-fry for two minutes with salt, pepper. Add water, chicken seasoning powder and toss for one minute, cover for two. Taste and adjust seasoning- you can add 1 Tbsp. oyster sauce for a rich flavour. Stir cornstarch mixture into the vegetables. Let heat through to thicken and remove onto a plate to cool before wrapping.

For step-by-step photos on how to wrap and roll see my post.

Prepare the bean curd sheets by cutting into twelve ample-sized pieces for wrapping. Mix 2 tsp. cornstarch with 1 Tbsp. water to use to seal the seams. I add a few drops of soy sauce.

Place 2 Tbsp. of filling on the bottom of the skin. Fold up to encase the filling and fold in the sides. Dip your index finger in the cornstarch mixture and run it across the upper seam; tuck the filling in the wrap with the top of your fingers and roll up to seal.

Heat 2 Tbsp. of oil in a pan over medium heat, pan fry both sides with the seam side down first until golden brown about four minutes each. Sprinkle a little water half way through when cooking both sides to ensure wrapper cooks or else it will be tough and chewy. Drain the rolls on a paper towel-lined plate to soak up any excess oil. 

Pan-Fried Vegetarian Stuffed Beancurd Rolls

Hot and sour has always been one of my all-time favourite comfort soups- a tasty harmony created from spicy and sour notes. My father and his brother owned a Canadian Chinese take-out restaurant when I was in my teens and my uncle made the best version of this soup ever! Every time, I made it over the years for friends, family and colleagues, it has never been short of rave reviews. The delicious secret... toban djan- a specialized Szechuan sauce blending chillies and fermented beans, and adding two vinegars-- rice vinegar for tang and chinkiang black vinegar for sweet (I discovered this addition years later and it takes on such a nice flavour). Put them together-- wham bam boom for your taste buds.

Chinese Hot and Sour Soup
Makes 4 Servings

5 cups of chicken broth or homemade stock by cooking chicken bones
1/4 cup dried black mushroom fungus strips, hydrated in water for at least two hours, drained
6 dried shiitake mushrooms, hydrated in water for at least four hours, drained, sliced into strips
1/3 cup can bamboo shoot strips, well-drained
1-2 Tbsp. toban djan (chili bean sauce)- the brand I use is Lee Kum Kee
1 Tbsp. each rice vinegar and black vinegar (Chinkiang vinegar)
2 tsp. soy sauce
250 g soft tofu, cut into cubes (if possible strain for half hour to extract water; drain-- this will give the tofu more flavour and not dilute your broth)
1 large egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. cornstarch, mixed with 2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil
sliced green onions and cilantro leaves for garnish
NOTE: Add chopped chicken or pork if desired (optional)

Bring the broth to a boil in a medium sauce pot; add both mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Cook for two minutes then add the seasoning: toban djan, both vinegars and soy sauce. Return soup to a boil then add the tofu and cook for two minutes. Add the cornstarch and stir to thicken soup. Remove from heat. Slowly drizzle egg into the broth in a thin steady stream. Let egg set for 15 seconds, then stir gently to incorporate. Season to adjust flavours to taste and drizzle with sesame oil.

TIP: Make it a meal with udon or another thick Asian noodle to complement the hearty soup base.

Simple, uncomplicated comfort food such as congee rice porridge "jook"; has always been my go-to meal to make when anyone is under the weather, and something most Chinese kids grew up on eating for the same reason or for breakfast. You can cook it plain with water and serve a few salty side dishes to eat with it, or concoct a variety of rice porridges by adding meat, vegetables, mushrooms, herbs or eggs. I've always loved the classic flavour combination of pork, salted duck eggs and a thousand year old black eggs. But for something different in this session, we made fish congee-- super simple by making a stock with dried anchovies, then cooking the rice in it and adding basa fish pieces at the end.

Fish Congee (Rice Porridge)
Makes 4 to 6 servings

1-1/2 cups uncooked short-grain rice
12 to 15 dried anchovies (in frozen fish section of an Asian supermarket)
2 basa fish fillets, frozen, thawed, patted dry and cut into small pieces
salt to taste
white pepper, ginger sliver, sliced green onions, chopped cilantro for garnish

Wash the rice and soak in water to cover for a half hour. Drain. Add 1 tsp. oil into the rice and mix evenly. (Oil can help the rice cook quicker and also make the congee smoother and softer in texture). Meanwhile, remove and discard the head and gut portion of the anchovies and rinse their bodies to remove excess skin and debris. Place them into a pot of boiling water about 10 cups. Add 1 tsp. salt and cook on medium heat for 20 minutes.

Remove the cooked anchovies, and skim the broth surface. Place rice into the broth. Give it a stir; bring to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring often until the rice becomes very tender. Add the basa fish pieces, stir and simmer for 5-7 minutes. Serve hot with white pepper, ginger slivers, onions and cilantro at the table.

Always a pleasure cooking with you lovely ladies... great conversations and happy eatings at the end.

Mom Athira took home some extra beancurd sheets, and look at these uniform rolls she made with shredded chicken and the same recipe vegetables. She tells me her family adores them. YAY!

Wow... Pan-fried Perfection! From our community kitchen to yours.... thank you Athira! :D

It's all about bright, refreshing lemons to enliven our senses at our next workshop!

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