Chicken, Green Pepper, and Mushroom Stir Fry


One of my greatest self-professed weaknesses as a cook is that I have a hard time tasting any big difference between the allegedly “flavorless” fryer chickens in American grocery stores and their vastly more expensive, free-ranged counterparts. I mean, god damned everybody runs around talking about how flavorless your overfed, hormone pumped fryers are compared to the free rangers, but I can’t taste it. To me, even regular chicken breasts, which are the most flavorless parts of any chicken, can be flavorful enough if you season it with enough salt and pepper, marinate it in wine for a while, and avoid overcooking it.

This time around we are making a simple home style stir fry using the “flavorless” chicken breasts. This is a fast dish that takes mere minutes to assemble and is great for a summer lunch. The three main ingredients are chicken breasts, green bell peppers, and mushrooms. It is a light yet flavorful combination that draws influences from both traditional Chinese cuisine and Western style Chinese cuisine.

Ingredients

More ingredients than you can shake a stick at? I don’t think so. You can shake a stick at all of them if you wanted to.

Prep/Cook time: 15 minutes, plus ~2 hours hydration/marination time
Serves 2-3

2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 green bell peppers
7-8 button, brown, or shiitake mushrooms*
Chinese cooking wine**
salt
pepper***
1 garlic clove (optional)
cooking oil
1 tbsp corn starch or 1 1/2 tbsp flour

*In the picture I had some hydrated shiitakes and a few leftover button mushrooms. You can use all of one type, a mixture, or however you like. Of course, shiitakes and mushrooms aren’t exactly cheap. If you’re on a shoestring budget you can omit mushrooms altogether.
**The brown kind. If you buy Chinese cooking wine from an Asian goods store it should be far cheaper than the cheapest grape wine you can find. Otherwise, substitute the cheapest white wine you can find.
***White or black pepper can work. White pepper is quite expensive in Western supermarkets for whatever reason, you can probably find it cheaper in the same Asian goods store you buy the Chinese cooking wine.

Cooking

This time we’ll start with the cooking first and move on to the prep later! Just kidding. We always prep first.

At least two hours before you make the dish, cut your chicken breasts into about 3/4 inch (2 cm) pieces. Season them with about half a teaspoon of salt and douse with 5-6 tablespoons of wine. Set the breasts in the refrigerator until cooking time. If you are using dried shiitakes, use this time to submerge them in some water as well (cold water if soaking overnight, warm if on the same day). Both marination and soaking can be done up to a day ahead of time.

These days chicken farmers are obsessed with large breasts.

Just before you are ready to cook, chop your mushrooms and green peppers into bite-sized pieces, also roughly 3/4 inch (2 cm). Mash your clove of garlic. If you plan to serve this dish with rice, you should start on it roughly 10 minutes after the rice has started cooking to ensure that both items finish at the same time.

NOTE: If you are using rehydrated shiitakes, squeeze the excess juice out of them after removing from the soaking liquid. This is a very mild dish and the strong flavor of shiitake can easily overpower everything else.

If you know karate, feel free to chop the vegetables by hand.

Now we are ready to cook. Pour 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil into a pan and turn heat to high (if on an electric range) or medium/medium high (if on a gas stove). Dump your chicken minus the marinating fluid into the pan. Season with pepper and cook until just before done, about two minutes. Stir the chicken often to keep it going and cook all sides evenly. Do not worry about browning; it is not required for this dish.

The French will tell you this is poulet and the Chinese will tell you it’s ji, but they’re all lying. It’s actually just chicken.

Dump all of your vegetables into the same pan. Season with salt and cook until almost done, which should take about three minutes. The non-shiitake mushrooms should soften but the green peppers should stay firm and crisp. While you are stir frying, prepare about 6 tablespoons of cold water mixed with 1 tablespoon of cornstarch (or 1 1/2 tablespoons of flour).

What if it’s possible to become fungitarian and not eat meat or vegetables?

When the vegetables are almost done, add both the chicken and flour/water mixture into the pan. Taste for seasoning. Cook for about a minute or two until the the sauce thickens and coats all the pieces of meat and vegetables.

To Westernize the dish further, add six cups of heavy cream and beat in four sticks of butter.

Serve hot with steamed short-grained rice. Although the dish is mild, it pairs well with other, strong-flavored dishes such as chilled kimchi for contrast.

The Result

Kimchi is like Wheaties for Starcraft.

4.5 / 5 Pretty good for a quick, fast meal. The crisp green bell peppers provide a contrast in texture from the juicy mushrooms and chicken. The chicken breasts are tender and juicy, not tough or overcooked. As you can see, I have a small side bowl with some kimchi topped with a bit of chopped scallions to balance out the flavors for the meal.

Conclusion

Unlike Western cooking philosophy, which considers a wide variety of flavors in terms of gauging a dish, Chinese cuisine prioritizes two main factors when determining how tasty a dish is: aroma and umame (or savoriness). For this reason, you will often find many dishes in true Chinese cuisine which are rather one-dimensional in flavor, but presents the flavor in an extremely assertive way. This is a dish that follows such a philosophy: both chicken and mushrooms are heavily umame-flavored and serve to enhance each others’ flavor in this dish. The overall taste is simple and direct. That is why it is good to have a small side of kimchi for palate cleansing if this is the only dish you plan to serve with rice.

Pan Fried Noodles


Welcome one and all to the 16th installment of Food in Mind! That’s right, sweet sixteen, the age at which teens start causing road accidents in the United States and three more installments than the number of times Square-Enix has misunderstood what the “Final” part of “Final Fantasy” actually means. We’ve almost reached the point where the Food in Mind blog will catch up with The Ghetto Cook in terms of entries.

This installment is not to be confused with the fourteenth entry, spicy fried noodles. Unlike spicy fried noodles, this is a dish where the noodles and the vegetables and meats are cooked separately from one another. Following these instructions, you should end up with a colorful stir fry nested in a bed of crispy noodles. Let’s move on to the cooking!

Ingredients

Ingredients

There are six ninjas in this picture. They are not ingredients in this dish.

Ingredients listed are for a single serving. Multiply amounts as you need.

Some Noodles*
Salt
Pepper
Sugar
Thai Peanut Satay Sauce**
Cooking Oil
1/2 green bell pepper
1/3 large onion
2 oz bamboo shoots
2 sprigs green onion
2 oz carrots, thinly sliced***
3 oz pork, cut into bite-sized strips

*READ THIS: Use a “soft noodle”, as in not an Italian pasta. Most noodles in an Asian market would work. I used angel hair pasta more as a proof of concept. It works, but is not ideal. You can even use instant ramen noodles. Instant ramen noodles have already been fried once, so this will be like twice-fried noodles. It has a nice rich crunch to it, almost like butter cookies.
**Any type of flavorful sauce would do, but this is nice. You can also use oyster sauce, hoisin sauce, a bunch of other sauces.
***Again, the varieties of vegetables can be changed depending on what you have on hand. Try to use crispy things.

Build Order

At least two hours before cooking, slice your meat into strips and marinate in Thai Satay Peanut Sauce, or whichever sauce you have on hand.

Marination in progress.

Granted, you could fish out something that looks like this from your nearest sewer grate, but it wouldn't taste nearly as good.

Fill a pot with water and a dash of salt, then bring the water to a boil. Cook noodles until al dente and drain.

In a separate sauce pan, pour out about three tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Salt noodles lightly and place them into the pan with oil. Let noodles sit.

Back when I was your age we had to walk barefoot knee deep in snow six miles up a steep hill carrying the baby brother on one shoulder and backpack on the other shoulder just to get to school, and we ate our noodles plain, like this.

These noodles will need to cook for at least ten minutes. If you have a ghetto assed stove like mine where the heating coil isn’t even level, you might need to rotate the pan every now and then to get even heat and oil coverage. Otherwise, do not touch or stir the noodles. They will start to get golden brown and crispy on the bottom (we’re only going to crisp up one side).

Meanwhile, slice and dice your vegetables into bite-sized pieces.

I'm guessing colorful vegetables only matter if you're not colorblind, or blind. You could technically use green beans, green onion, green bell pepper, asparagus, and snap peas and achieve a similar effect.

When the noodles are nice and crispy and golden brown on the bottom, remove and place somewhere where it can rest and be drained of oil. I used a plastic colander, but you can use anything, such as a cooling rack with something below it or a bed of paper towels (although the towels might stick to the noodles). There should still be oil left in the pan. This oil will be used for the stir fry.

Crank the heat up to as high as it can go. Stir fry carrots, onions, and bamboo shoots first for about five minutes. Add pork, salt, pepper, and sugar (about one tablespoon) to taste, and stir fry for about four more minutes. Finally, add green pepper and green onion. Stir fry for about one more minute, then remove from heat.

Taste the rainbow

Plate your noodles and heap the stir fry on top. Serve hot.

The Result

FRIED ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE

Much thanks to r.Evo from teamliquid.net for the re-touched photo!

4.5 / 5 First off, pasta really sucks in pan fried noodles. They dehydrate too much and become a bit too hard. Use Asian noodles. Hell, you can even use instant ramen, which works surprisingly well in this role. Second, the flavor is pretty good though: nice, rich, and oily. The noodles go great along with a flavorful stir fry.

Conclusion

This is a pretty easy dish to make. Pan fried noodles take very little work and stir fries are very easy to make. If there’s any dish that is easy to make yet still decently healthy, this is it. I highly recommend trying this dish if you are interested in Asian cuisine.

Spicy Fried Noodles


It’s good to eat spicy things during the cold winter months. Legend has it that before Mao Zedong (AKA Chairman Mao) crossed a series of snowy mountains with his ragtag band during the Long March, he made his troops each consume a bowl of hot chili pepper soup. The heat in your mouth distracts you from the cold outside, at least in theory. With this in mind, I bring you a simple and fast spicy Asian dish: fried noodles.

Fried noodles is a very simple dish with many variations and cooking methods. Some fried noodle dishes call for using a mixture of corn starch and water to create a thick sauce. For this particular dish, my vision is to create a light, dry fried noodle dish that concentrates all the flavors and aromas in the ingredients.

Ingredients

Which cuisine reigns supreme? THE HEAT WILL BE ON! (kudos if you get the reference ;0)

Listed ingredients are approximations for a single serving. Multiply as needed.

5-6 oz noodles*
1/2 tbsp Garlic chili sauce
1/2 tbsp Spicy black bean sauce
Garlic**
Cooking oil
Cooking wine
Salt
Pepper
Coriander***
2 oz ground pork
half an Onion, cut into strips
2 oz bamboo shoots****

Optional*****:
2 oz bean sprouts
green onions, cut into strips

*This wouldn’t be a TGC installment without impromptu substitutions. I use angel hair pasta. Italian pastas are fantastic in general because they are cheap, easy to find, and very sturdy (as in they do not tear/congeal easily). If you look in your nearest major Asian goods store you should be able to find a wide variety of noodles suitable for stir-frying. These noodles often come raw and have a nice bouncy texture. If in a pinch I think you can even use instant ramen noodles. I don’t recommend you use actual ramen noodles, however.

**I didn’t have any, but they are nice. Garlic powder is an acceptable ghetto substitute.

***Coriander is nice but it can be annoying to get the little seeds stuck in your teeth. If this is a problem for you, pour a teaspoon of coriander seeds onto your cutting board. Place the flat of your knife over the seeds and apply pressure with your hand to crack open the seeds. Soak in 1/4 cup of warm water at least half an hour beforehand. Strain the seeds out and use the coriander flavored water when necessary.

****Kind of optional, but they definitely fit my vision for this dish. Bamboo shoots are great vegetables because they maintain their crispy texture even after being cooked for a long time. You can try substituting artichoke hearts, asparagus, or just adding more onion.

*****These are ingredients I did not use, but feel free to experiment. Add them if you want your fried noodles to have a bit of light, refreshing counterbalance to the heavy spiciness.

Make sure your bamboo shoots are from the Porn Coconut Company. I'm certain this is somehow important to the outcome of your dish.

Cooking

About an hour before cooking, slightly marinate your ground meat by flavoring it with salt, pepper, and a dash of cooking wine. Refrigerate.

Start by preparing your pasta. Fill a large pot with water, add a dash of salt, and bring to a boil. Cook your pasta/noodles as per the directions on the box for al dente, minus one minute (cook for 1 minute less than instructed on the box). Drain the pasta, then dump it into a container. Toss the pasta with about a tablespoon of cooking oil to prevent it from sticking. Set aside.

Pouring oil all over your mother's body. I mean your mother's boobs. I mean the noodles. THE NOODLES.

While the pasta water is boiling, slice your half-onion and drain your bamboo shoots. On the off chance you’re using fresh bamboo shoots (yah right), slice them into slivers.

It's not the onions. I'm teary eyed because Thorzain isn't winning the IGN proleague SXSW votes. *sniff*

Now it’s time to really start cooking. I recommend using either a large non-stick pot or a wok. Crank the heat up to medium-high and add about a tablespoon of cooking oil. When the oil starts to smoke, add garlic (if you have it), onions, and ground meat. The key is to lightly brown your onions and ground meat. Do this by refraining from stirring too often. Stir the mixture a bit, let it sit for 30 seconds, then stir it again. This will let the pan-side of the onions and meat become slightly burnt (brown), resulting in a ton of flavor.

Here be onions and pork in a pot

Meat, onion. Onion, meat.

Once this mixture has been cooking for a few minutes, add your chili garlic sauce and spicy black bean sauce. Adjust to your taste. If you like very spicy, add more sauce, but also remember that the sauces add salt as much as they add spiciness. With the amount of sauce I added (1/2 tablespoon of each) I only needed a very small pinch of additional salt. Cook the mixture for about a minute while cranking the heat up to high.

Add your noodles and bamboo shoots at the same time. Stir vigorously. I recommend using chopsticks for this stage since it can be hard to toss noodles about with a spatula. Salt and pepper to taste at this stage.

The most important thing about frying the noodles is that they shouldn’t stick to the bottom of your wok. If they do, then either the heat isn’t high enough, you’re using the wrong type of pot/pan, or you aren’t stirring often enough.

The noodles should also be very dry. Once you’ve cooked the noodles for about a minute, it should be safe to add the coriander water. Continue to cook until all the liquid has dried. If you are also using green onions and/or bean sprouts, add them two minutes before the dish is done. Plate and serve hot.

Result

This is like, what would happen to the flying spaghetti monster if he ever gets caught in China

4.5 / 5 I’m fairly satisfied with this dish, although I do feel that something is missing. I’m not quite sure what, but I’ll be sure to re-explore this dish in the future. It’s quite good in its current form. The dryness of this dish allows the individual ingredients to stand out and speak for themselves, when otherwise the might be buried under a heavy sauce.

EDIT: I figured out what was missing! Five-spiced bean curd, sliced into strips. They are a type of aromatic soy product with a texture similar to extra-firm tofu. Not exactly the most obvious of ingredients to be “missing”, but they should complete the flavor of this dish. Here is a photo (courtesy of Google) of what it looks like:

Five spice bean curd

They can be found in your nearest Asian supermarket and come in blocks packaged with laminated plastic. These should be added to your dish at the same time as the bamboo shoots. Be careful while stirring though, since bean curd can easily fragment if handled roughly.

Ma Po Tofu


The 11th installment! 11 in decimal to be sure, because in binary 11 would just be the third installment. Anyways… this installment sees me reverting back to my roots with a classic Chinese tofu dish, ma po tofu. I’ve eaten at quite a few Chinese restaurants across the United States, but I don’t ever recall eating a single ma po tofu dish that I found satisfactory. Here I will present my own take on ma po tofu. I’m not an expert on the dish and I actually don’t know what is the “real” traditional way to cook the dish, but that didn’t deter all those phony Chinese restaurants, that won’t deter me, and it should definitely not deter you either.

Ingredients

A quick note before we begin. This recipe features many distinctly Chinese ingredients that may be unfamiliar to many non-Chinese readers. I will provide descriptions for these ingredients and point out the important characteristics of these ingredients that you should look for. Also, this is a vegetarian variation of this dish I’m making for a friend. The meat counterpart will be mentioned but not photographed.

If you're not Asian, a little extra shopping may be in order

1 Package tofu, preferably soft/medium
3-4 ounces ground meat (chopped mushrooms pictured)
Fresh Garlic (I only had garlic powder, still works)
Flour/corn starch
Chili garlic sauce*
Chili black bean sauce**
Coriander***
Cilantro****
Cooking oil
Chinese rice wine
Chinese black vinegar*****
C-C-C-COMBO BREAKER

Rice on the side to serve with the dish.
Check out this Food in Mind installment if you need help with your rice.

*This is your standard chili garlic sauce. It should be quite common and can be found under many different brands in your local Asian goods store.
**Look for a chili sauce that specifically contains black beans. These strongly flavored black beans will be like burrowed banelings of flavor in your dish.
***Not a typical ingredient in ma po tofu, but I think it’s just grand.
****Most ma po tofu dishes call for scallions, but IMO cilantro just provides a far more poignant contrasting flavor. Use scallions if you want.
*****Again, a very traditional Chinese ingredient. If you don’t use this regularly, you probably don’t want to buy an entire bottle just to make this dish. Substitute regular vinegar or anything else sour.

Here’s a closeup of that bean sauce, note the black specks:

According to the camera, this is one of a few select foods that looks similar when going in as it does going out

Here’s a picture of the Chinese brown vinegar:

There probably have been less helpful pictures, but not many

Prep

Tofu is delicate shit. Don't work with it if you are either currently angry, or have just lost three very close games in a major tournament and will soon have to play a game that doesn't matter. (Sorry Naniwa)


If you are using minced meat, you do not have to work with it too much. Stick it in a small bowl and pour a little cooking wine over it and let it steep. If you are using mushrooms, slice them into bite-sized pieces.

Rinse the small bunch of cilantro (probably 1 1/2 tbsp?) and chop into 1/2 inch segments. Set aside.

Take your package of tofu, make a slit in the package and drain the water. Gently remove your tofu block from the package and rinse it over with water. Cut the block of tofu into roughly 1/2 inch pieces. My block of tofu yielded 3x4x6 blocks.

Also, you may wish to pre-emptively open all the cans/bottles you will use at this point in time. I found it rather annoying wiping my wet hands every other minute to open bottles while trying to prevent shit in the pot from burning during the cooking process.

Cooking

Crank the stove heat up to medium-high. Pour about a tablespoon of oil into the pot, let it sit until it begins to smoke. Add your mushrooms/minced meat. You want to saute the mushrooms and brown the meat. The mushrooms will turn a lovely light brown color as it cooks.

It's actually browner than it looks. No, I didn't throw a flashbang grenade just as I took the picture, I just don't know how to control the camera flash correctly.

Once the mushrooms/meat has been sauteed/browned, add about half a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce and half a tablespoon of the black been chili sauce. Also add a splash of cooking wine and a splash of vinegar, and let the ingredients cook together for a few minutes. Taste the sauce at this point and add salt if needed (you probably won’t). At this point in time, you are basically cooking the sauce to evaporate all of the alcohol.

Meanwhile, it’s now time to whip out dat coriander. Take about a teaspoon of coriander and place it on your cutting board. Lay the flat of your knife over the coriander and press down with your hand to crush the seeds. This will allow the flavor in the seeds to leak out faster. Dump this into your pot.

Heart of the Sauce, expansion pack to Wings of Riberty by Brizzard

After a few minutes you can finally dump tofu into the pot. Gently fold it into the sauce and let it simmer in the sauce. On the side, dissolve about a teaspoon of flour/corn starch in a small bowl of water, and pour it over your tofu. Gently stir everything together with a spatula (don’t wreck those tofu cubes) and cover the pot. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Pour your tofu out onto a plate and spread cilantro over the dish. Serve hot with rice.

The Result

Christmas colors by complete happenstance

4.4 / 5 I have to admit I kind of fucked up when I was cooking this (lol). I added some salt before adding the chili sauces, which made the dish wayyyy too salty. That’s why I recommend you add the sauces first then check to see if you need to add more salt. Otherwise, it’s a pretty fucking tasty dish. Don’t fuck up like I did and it’ll come out great. Like, better than 4.4 out of 5 great.

Conclusion

And thus the dish “ma po tofu” passed into the annals of Food in Mind history. It’s a fairly easy dish to make, and very customizable to boot (pretty much every restaurant I’ve eaten at has a different take on this dish).

Basil Eggplant


It is important for a cook to maintain a passion for all foods, ingredients, and cuisine. That is how a cook grows and improves. With that in mind, it’s time to switch it up. In Chinese home-style cuisine, eggplant and basil go hand in hand wonderfully well. This is a nice savory dish I’ve adapted with a few nifty tricks of my own. It looks nice, smells nice, and is pretty tasty to boot if you like eggplant, which you should. The vegetable has a great texture and absorbs flavors very well. The dish is also great served with rice, which I will show you how to make as well.

Overall time to make the dish is roughly 1 hour, of which ~40 minutes is waiting time.

Ingredients

New phone with better camera! Fuck yeah!

1 Eggplant*
1 Stick green onion, finely chopped
~3 oz Ground meat**
Basil ***
~1/2 tsp Salt
1 tbsp Soy Sauce****
1 tbsp White granulated sugar
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
Minced Garlic (optional, or garlic powder)
Red Chili Pepper Flakes (optional)

*1 medium sized western eggplant, or 2 Asian type skinny eggplants
**Chicken is pictured, pork or beef preferred. I will discuss the difference in cooking approach for the different meats later.
*** Fresh is best, though for some reason I couldn’t find fresh at my grocery store. About half a teaspoon dried is fine.
**** This is regular soy sauce. If using dark soy, only need about half as much. If you don’t know the difference, look on your bottle. If it doesn’t say “dark” it’s regular or light.

If you are also making rice, make about enough to serve two.

Procedure

Part A: The Rice

First, this is a dish that goes well with rice. So I’ll go into making the rice first. Generally you want a medium or short-grained rice to go with Asian dishes. I use Calrose rice, which is a medium-grained rice grown in the West Coast United States. It’s a nice sticky rice with good texture. A lot of Asian restaurants are cheap and use Jasmine rice, which has a noticeably crappier texture. It’s still passable, but try better quality rice some time and you will notice the difference.

Anyhow, pour out about 1 1/2 cups of rice, which is roughly enough for two people. Wash and rinse the rice once, pour out the water, then fill to about 50% higher than the depth of the rice in your pot. The amount of water varies with rice amount and mostly comes with experience, so it’s actually hard for me to say. Here’s an unhelpful picture (the only one I took):

Uhh, yeah... just like that.

If you have a rice cooker, just use the rice cooker. If you don’t, here’s how you make it properly on the stove: first, turn heat on to simmer on one of the side stoves (the lowest it will go), and place the pot on the stove. Let the rice soak on the lowest heat for about 10 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to make sure nothing gets burnt or cooked on the bottom. Then, turn heat up to medium and cook for about 20-25 minutes. Take rice off the heat after this amount of time, and let sit for about 10-15 minutes before serving.

Part B: Main Course

Anyone who has stir-fried with eggplant before knows that eggplant soaks up liquids fantastically well, including oil. Eggplant can soak up a LOT of oil, which also alters the way it cooks. The first step to this dish is overcoming this problem. Cube your eggplant into 1/2 inch pieces. If you’re using Asian eggplant, you can slice it into fancy 1-inch triangular pieces by slicing diagonally starting from the head, then rotating at odd angles while lopping off more pieces. Dump the eggplant into a pot or pan large enough to hold it all. Then, sprinkle your 1/2 tsp of salt over the eggplant. Shake the pot around to coat all pieces, like this:

Cutting into the raw flesh of an eggplant and then salting all the wounds. What do you vegetarians think about that, huh?

Let the eggplant sit for about 40 minutes. This allows the salt to bring the moisture in the eggplant out onto the surface. This slick layer of water then prevents oil from being soaked into the eggplant. Nifty, right?

When your eggplant is ready, put your pot onto the stove and crank the heat up to highest. If you’re using a non-stick pot you should temper the pot at medium heat for about 5 minutes before cranking the heat way up. Add oil. When the oil turns viscous and you can roll it around easily in the pot, you’re ready to cook.

IF YOU ARE USING GROUND CHICKEN: Dump chicken into the insanely hot oil and flash-fry it for about 5 seconds, then remove from heat. This allows you to infuse the oil with the flavor of chicken but not overcook the chicken. Fry the minced garlic next if you are using that. If not, dump your salted eggplant into the pot and skip the next paragraph.

IF YOU ARE USING GROUND PORK OR BEEF: Fry minced garlic first for about 30 seconds first. If you are not using garlic, dump eggplant and meat into the pot at the same time.

All shiny, unlike your pokemon.

Stir fry the eggplant for about a minute to coat it all in oil. Then, pour the soy sauce in. Stir fry until soy sauce is dry, and add the sugar and dried basil (only if you are using dried! If you are using fresh basil you add it in the end). Continue to stir fry until the eggplant is soft and almost (but not completely!) mushy. That’s when it is completely cooked through. Add chicken, fresh basil, and green onion in the end. Toss for 10-15 seconds, plate, and serve with rice.

You rike?

Through the entire cooking process, your pot should be relatively dry. All moisture is either absorbed into the eggplant or evaporated by the heat. If there is any moisture, then either you put in too much soy sauce or the heat is not high enough. As you cook the eggplant will take on a lovely sheen like you see in restaurants.

The Result

Sorry, this was taken before I bumped up saturation settings on the camera.

4.8 / 5 I really wanted to try this with fresh herbs, but it still turned out really nice. This is one of the rare dishes that I’m able to perfect by adapting a few tricks from other dishes I know. The meat in the picture is still white because I didn’t put any soy sauce in the chicken. If you are using beef or pork, that meat should turn brown because you are cooking it alongside your eggplant. If you wish to make a more visual impact, do not cook the green onion at all, but instead sprinkle it onto the eggplant after plating as a garnish.

Pan Fried Buns Part 2


Hello and welcome to the conclusion of the first two-part installment of Food in Mind. In the first part of the installment, I followed some lady’s recipe for pan fried buns to unsatisfactory results. For this installment, I have done some research online and pieced together a recipe that will show you how to make REAL, tasty pan fried buns. These buns are soft and fluffy on the outside, juicy and meaty on the inside, and 100% authentic Chinese food to boot.

This walkthrough will be divided into two sections initially, one for the dough and one for the filling. You will need approximately 3 hours to make this dish.

Part A: The Dough

From these humble beginnings, awesomeness pours forth.

Ingredients:
Flour
Sugar
Yeast*
Water**

You will also need: a container with a lid, a spoon, another deep container/pot with a lid, some way to measure flour and water.

*This is just to rant about how fucking expensive yeast is where I live. That tiny bottle, 4 oz, costs $7, which goes completely against my cheap-ass instincts. The only semi-redeeming factor is that it’ll last for 4 months and can make all the bread you’d ever want to eat in that period of time. But jesus fucking christ, if you buy the little individual packets it’s even more expensive ($40+ per pound), you’d think some fucking gangster had figured out extorting home bakers is far more profitable than selling crack to hobos.
**Must be warm water between 110-120F, or something like 40-45C. This is VERY IMPORTANT to kick start your yeast.

Procedure:

Begin by pouring about 1/3 teaspoon of yeast into your liddable container. Dump 1/3 teaspoon of sugar on top of that, and wiggle your container around to mix the two. This step is to proof your yeast, and to start up your dough. Proofing the yeast is to test it to see if it works.

Sub crack cocaine and yellow sand for yeast and sugar if the latter is not available.

Now, add 3/4 cups of warm water between 110-120F to this mix and cover the lid. Let sit for 5 minutes. What I did was to simply guesstimate the temperature of tap water compared to body temperature. However, this is very risky and not very accurate. If you use water too cold the yeast won’t start, and if you use water too hot you will kill the yeast cells, so try to be accurate.

At the end of five minutes, uncover the lid. There should be some foam floating above a cloudy yellow liquid. If there is no foam, that means you fucked up on the water, and you should restart the proofing process. If you don’t, your dough won’t rise and you’d just be wading further up shit creek without a paddle.

If you do see foam floating on the liquid, your yeast works. Gradually dump and mix 1 5/8 cups of flour into the liquid. Use your fingers to work the dough into a cohesive lump, then move it onto a large, flat, floured surface to knead the dough.

What kneading in progress looks like. Look ma, no hands.

To knead the dough, grab the lump of dough on two ends and gently pull the ends away from each other about 1-2 inches. Be careful not to tear the dough. Then, fold the ends together so you again have a single lump, and push the ends together. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and repeat the process. Continue to knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, and you will discover the dough becomes smoother. After 8-10 minutes, shape the dough into a smooth ball.

Now, get yourself a deep container or pot, and lightly oil the bottom. Place the ball of dough into the container and roll it around a bit until it is covered in oil, like so:

Frosty the Snowman's left testicle. Or a ball of dough.

Place a lid on that container and let sit for 90 minutes. Meanwhile, you will have time to start on the

Part B: The Filling

Sorry, no ingredient spread picture You'll have to settle for in medias res.

Ingredients:
Pork, preferably already ground ##
Chinese rice wine*
Salt
Bouillon, optional
Scallions, minced, optional
Soy Sauce
1 Egg

*I didn’t have any, but this ingredient is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

## If you don’t have any ground pork, you can ground your own. The pork I used was a pork chop. Simply debone, and cut into 1-inch pieces. Group them together single layer on your cutting board, and rapidly chop away. Rearrange the pieces on the board every so often and change the direction of chopping. After about 10-20 minutes,

Meat

becomes

Mo Meat

Pork is tougher to hand-grind than chicken, so you’ll have to keep at it. Anywho, onwards.

Procedure:

Mix ground pork, Chinese rice wine, minced scallions, 1 tsp bouillon, about 1 tsp salt, a splash of soy sauce, and the egg together in a container. You’ll get something that looks like this:

It's an orgasm of flavor that keeps coming and coming.

Set the mixture aside and wait until your dough has finished rising.

Part C: The Final Showdown

If you’re at this step, your dough might look something like this:

Insert crass Incontrol joke here

Gently punch the dough down to deflate it, then roll it into a long log on a flat surface. Cut the dough into 12 equal shapes. Use your hands to individually flatten each piece into a circle, and place a generous portion of filling in the center. Wrap the dough completely around the filling and seal with your fingers. The yeast-risen dough should be very flexible and elastic, so you don’t have to be afraid of the dough breaking. If the dough is a bit too sticky to work with at this point, don’t flour it, but instead lightly grease your hands with oil.

Dough meets filling, one wrapped around the other like star-crossed lovers ready to be fried then devoured.

Once all the buns have been made, let them sit somewhere room temperature for another 20-30 minutes. At the end of that time, pre-heat a nonstick pot at medium heat, and pour in about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil. Place all of your buns into the pot, packed all together.

Just imagine the buns as terrified little sentient beings about to be torn apart by your gnashing teeth.

Cover the lid and let the buns fry at medium heat for about 6-10 minutes. *DO NOT* open the lid at any point in time in these initial 6-10 minutes because you want to build up heat and steam. The buns will only be browned on one side, so the steam is absolutely essential to cook the top of the buns. After the first 6-10 minutes, pour 1/3 cup of cold water into the pot and cover the lid once more.

More unhelpful pictures in which you aren't sure what the fuck is going on

Cook until the water is all gone (you will begin to hear the sizzle and pop of oil again), which should take about 5 minutes, then cook with the lid uncovered for a couple more minutes. Sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds and chopped scallions on top if you have any. Plate and serve hot. The buns should be browned and crispy on the bottom, while light and fluffy on top.

I recommend Chinese brown vinegar combined with chili paste as a dipping sauce.

The Result

What victory looks and tastes like.

4.5 / 5 Only because I had no Chinese rice wine D: To be completely honest though, this stuff is pretty cheap street food in my hometown of Shanghai, but it’s damn good. I’ll probably continue to make this in the future to hone my skills further.

Additional thoughts and tips:
-Try to use pork with a moderately high fat content. The higher the fat content, the juicier the buns.
-Chinese rice wine, if you can get it, makes this dish go from awesome to holy fucking shit awesome.

Conclusion

These pan fried buns are completely more awesome than the ones in the previous entry in every way possible. Use this recipe.

Pan Fried Buns Part I


Hello all, and welcome to the fifth installment of Food in Mind the series where I show you how to make edible dishes using dirt cheap ingredients. The original item I was planning to make for this installment isn’t coming along very well during my practice runs, so now we have this.

A warning before we begin: Unlike previous installments, this installment roughly follows an existing online recipe for pan fried buns. This blog details my first attempt at this recipe. It was actually qa bit more difficult than anticipated, and did not turn out as well as I liked. So if you wish to follow this recipe, I recommend you follow the original. If you insist on following what I did, make sure to read to the end where there will be a “lessons learned” section where I list what I did wrong.

About This Dish

Recently I’ve been going through a lot of flour very fast experimenting with the huge number of things one can make with it. I thought about returning to my Chinese roots to see if there are any good recipes for pan fried buns. I came across this recipe, which intrigued me because it doesn’t actually use baking powder or yeast or anything to actually fluff the bun wrapping.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have any meat base on hand with which to make the filling. So I decided to go a vegetarian route. I also decided to play around with the wrapping, since the wrapping in the original recipe is completely unflavored.

Ingredients

A little bird flew by my window, chirping "cheap cheap"

1 5/8 cups flour*
6 tablespoons water at 80C (176F)
3 tablespoons cold water
Sugar
Salt
Soy sauce
1/2 onion, sliced into strips
Carrot, sliced into strips
1/4 small cabbage, sliced into strips
Scallions, sliced into strips
Vegetable oil

*If you checked out the original recipe, you’d notice some of the measurements are in metric and some are in the English system. Kind of retarded. 180 grams of flour works out to about 1 5/8 cups.

You will also need: 1 non-stick pan, 1 small pot for boiling water, a rolling pin OR a handleless glass. A tablespoon and a half-cup measuring cup is also recommended, but eyeballing the amount is also possible. 1 tablespoon = 1/16 cup.

Procedure

The initial theorycrafting behind my method was to achieve a somewhat sweet bun wrapping with a strongly flavored salty/sweet filling, something that tastes good by itself but can also be dipped into various sauces.

A) The Wrapping

Measure out 1 5/8 cups (or 180 grams) of flour. On the side, partially fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. Take the water off the heat for a while, then dump 6 tablespoons of this stuff (roughly 80C, don’t exactly have a thermometer to measure) into the flour, mixing to combine with a spatula. Then, add 3 tablespoons of water one tablespoon at a time while kneading the flour together. During this process, I also added 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt to my dough to flavor it, which is a departure from the original recipe. Knead until you have a coherent ball of dough.

The more you fondle it, the smoother it gets. Think heterosexual thoughts.

Put a lid/plastic wrap on that thing and set it aside for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, you can start work on your

B) Filling

For the filling, I decided on the three cheapest vegetables one could buy: cabbage, carrots, and onions. If you have ever eaten egg rolls from western style Chinese take-out, you know that cabbage is an ideal vegetable that stays crispy in fried items. Slice all the ingredients into strips, and heat up a pan to medium high with a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Dump the carrots into the oil first to kill the aroma, then dump all the other vegetables in except for the scallions.

Take out the onions, dump in some mayonnaise and you've got your basic coleslaw

Add salt, sugar, and soy sauce to this mix. Cook just enough to wilt the vegetables. Add scallions during the last 30 seconds of cooking, stir it around, then take the pan off the heat. You want the vegetables to still be crispy at the end of all the cooking, and they’ve still got a ways to go.

The silicone to a pair of fake tits, in a manner of speaking.

C) Stuffing Dem Buns

Bring out your dough, and create a floured surface. Roll the dough out into a strip and then cut it into 10 pieces. One by one, roll the pieces of dough out into flat, thin discs. Place a small amount of filling in the center of the disc, then close the edges around the filling until you get a bun-shaped item.

Stuff the shit out of that shit but don't break the dough. Isn't American slang great.

In hindsight, you should keep the dough pieces covered with something damp to prevent them from drying out while you make the buns. This process may take a while depending on your manual dexterity and experience with pastries. I found it useful to use chopsticks to poke the filling into place while pinching the dough together. You can also do the same with the handle end of a fork/spoon.

Pics of my impotence to make you feel better about your own sorry buns.

Now you’re almost done! Time for the easy part. Heat up a non-stick pan to medium, and also bring a small pot of water to boil (again) on the side. You may wish to wait for the water to come to (or near) a boil before starting to fry your buns. If you have a big pan that can fit all the buns, place 2 tbsp oil into the pan. If you have a small pan, place 1 tbsp of oil and half the buns into the pan. Fry the buns on both sides until golden.

The only step in the process that I haven't failed in some way LOL

Now, pour 1/2 cup (a bit less if you’re frying only 5 at a time) of *BOILING* water into the pan and cover with a lid.

If you listen closely to the buns, you can hear "mmmph! mmmmmph!"

Cook until the water is all gone, then flip the buns to fry the other side for 15 seconds, and plate. Serve immediately. My personal recommendation for dipping sauce is chili paste mixed with Chinese rice vinegar (the brown kind).

The Result

You look like a genius with those buns

3.8 / 5 Partly my fault, partly the recipe. The bun wrapping without any fluffing agent just tastes kind of… flaccid, to be honest. This isn’t exactly the recipe I was looking for, and can definitely be improved. I also screwed up on the sugar content in this recipe, as well as a couple of other handling areas. Overall edible, but with much room for improvement.

Lessons Learned

1) Flour has its own sweetness, especially when fried. The dough doesn’t need sugar, and can most likely do without salt.
2) The filling is probably better off without sugar. A purely savory filling would go better with dipping sauces and contrasts better with the sweetness of the dough.
3) Vegetables in the filling were a bit too soft. The ideal preparation for this type of filling is probably to simply soak the vegetables beforehand while raw in salt and soy sauce. This will wilt the vegetables without cooking them.
4) Be careful while filling the wrappings. Make sure that the wrappings are evenly rolled out to prevent leakage.

Conclusion

Well, this installment was certainly more of a misadventure than an adventure. However, this is only part one of TWO for the 5th TGC. In the next installment, I will chronicle how I learned from these mistakes while experimenting a little with yeast in the wrapping.

Fake Fried Rice


Welcome one and all to another installment of Food in Mind. This was originally the fourth installment of The Ghetto Cook, an ongoing series from www.teamliquid.net where I show my poor fellow bastards of the world how to use budget ingredients to make actually edible food. This installment is all about fried rice, possibly the quickest, dirtiest, and cheapest dish to be featured yet. But the question you might be asking yourself now is, why is it fucking fake?

The answer, my friends, is that real fried rice is fairly complex. You absolutely need a large wok and a gas stove (for the high heat that electric ranges cannot produce) to begin with, and then you’d need some expert wrist techniques to stir the fried rice to boot. So if you have those three things, feel free to skip my walkthrough and read the one in the link instead.

What I will be showing you is how to fake your fried rice using an electric range and a non-stick pot. I guarantee it will be delicious, and even partially simulate that smoky wok flavor you’d get from real fried rice.

Ingredients

Fried rice can be made from a myriad of ingredients. There is almost no wrong combination. The ingredients I used are for a very basic fried rice. Feel free to swap out and experiment with whatever you have on hand. Common additional ingredients are cubed chicken, pork, beef, shrimp, sausage, or some other protein source. Drained canned tuna also makes a mean fried rice.

Fried rice. Srs bsns.

Leftover rice*
Onion, diced
Carrots, diced
Scallions, chopped
1-2 eggs, beaten
Frozen green peas
Salt**
Vegetable Oil***
Soy Sauce****

*Leftover, cold rice is traditional and produces the best results. You want to use a medium or short grain rice (Calrose rice is pictured) cooked slightly on the dry side. Don’t use sticky or (for fuck’s sake) long grain rice, this isn’t sushi or pilaf.
**I used salt only. Black pepper is not traditionally paired with salt in Chinese cuisine, but you can use it if you must.
***Peanut oil is preferred, use that if you have it.
****Optional, for color only

Procedure

NOTE: I highly recommend that you have a mise en place set up with all your ingredients ready and chopped in bowls before you start, so you can dump them into the pot in rapid succession during cooking.

Begin by placing your non-stick pot on the stove and pre-heating it at medium heat for a few minutes. This is to temper the pot so you don’t ruin its non-stick surface. Then crank the heat up to high (yes, even with fake fried rice you want your heat as high as possible) and pour out about 1 1/2 tbspĀ  (about 8 grams) of cooking oil into the pot. Let sit for another minute, then dump the carrots into the pot first.

Bloom effect just like in your xbox

This step is necessary to kill a lot of the aroma of these carrots, which would otherwise overpower everything else in the dish. Fry the carrots solo for 2-3 minutes and then dump the beaten eggs into the pot. If you aren’t using carrots, dump eggs into the pot first. The eggs should cook almost instantly. Stir it around for 10 seconds for it to somewhat solidify.

Then, in quick succession, add rice, chopped onions, and a small amount of soy sauce (just a splash, or 1-2 teaspoons). The onions do not need to be pre-cooked. They will reach perfect texture by the end of cooking. Break the rice up as well as you can with your spatula and constantly stir the pot.

Looks like shit now, but just you wait

You do not want the stuff near the bottom of the pot to burn. When the rice is heated up a bit, you can mash blocks of rice against the side of the pot to break it up easily. Stir constantly while breaking up the rice until the soy sauce has been evenly distributed among the rice and there are no more clumps of rice. Add salt to taste and then stir; the dish is almost done. Once the salt is incorporated, add the frozen peas and scallions.

like peas in a pot

When the peas are cooked through, plate the dish immediately and serve hot.

NOTE: if you are using any additional protein sources or other ingredients your fried rice procedure will differ slightly. Try to time it so that everything is cooked perfectly by the end. This generally means that any chicken, beef, shrimp etc. should probably be pre-cooked and added towards the end.

The Result

Your steaming pile of reward

4.5 / 5 Folks, this is as close as you can get to the real deal on the electric range. This recipe is the culmination of dozens of trial-and-error attempts to make better fried rice with inferior equipment. It is also a sad reminder that most kitchens in the US aren’t fucking equipped to properly make real food. Fuck that shit, America.

Thus concludes this installment of Food in Mind. As always, questions and comments are welcome, especially if you know how something can be improved.