Archive | June, 2010

Shanghai Bok-Choy Rice (上海菜飯)

21 Jun

The origin of Shanghai bok-choy rice is similar to the one of cippino, as it was first served as a fast and easy-to-make meal  for the port laborers.  For me, it is a fast and yummy way to dress up the otherwise ordinary steamed rice.

You will need: Bok choy, chopped; dried shrimp, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes and chopped; 2 gloves of garlic, chopped; 3 cups of rice.  Cook rice in the rice cooker (I prefer jasmine rice because of the fragrance, but any long grain rice will do).  Heat up oil in a pan, stir-fry garlic and dried shrimp to bring out the aroma.  Once the garlic starts to brown add bok choy and saute for 5 minutes.  Season with salt.

Bok choy

Dried shrimp

Before the rice is about done (it usually takes 15 minutes to cook 3 cups of rice in the rice cooker)— so about 3 minutes before the switch jumps from “cook” to “keep warm”— add the stir-fried vegetable to the rice and mix  thoroughly.  Continue to cook the rice until it is done.  Open the lid and let the steam air out for 5 minutes.  Then close the lid and switch the cooker back to “cook” again.  This extra step will make the rice absorb the liquid from the vegetable.

Once the switch jumps to “keep warm” again, it’s ready.  This rice can be a nice substitute for the regular steamed rice, eaten with other dishes, or served alone.  


Must Have Soup: Chicken and Shiitake Mushrooms

20 Jun

Another simple soup:  All you need are 4 chicken thighs, about 20 dry shiitake mushrooms, a small piece of ginger, and 1/4 cup of Chinese rice wine.

First, heat up a pot of water high enough to cover the chicken thighs.  When it comes to a boil, drop the chicken thighs in and let them cook for 5 minutes.  This will force out all the bloody, marrowy mess.

The foamy mess you don't want in your soup

After most of the mess is out, dump the muddy soup and fill it up with another round of water.

A clear pot of broth. That's what you want

So when the clear pot of water comes to a boil, add the rice wine and ginger, and turn down the heat.  Let simmer for 2 hours.  During the time the soup is stewing, reconstitute shiitake mushrooms by soaking them in hot water.  When the soup is all nice and milky by the end of the second hour, turn the heat up and drop in the mushrooms.  When the soup comes to a boil, you have yourself chicken soup with shiitake mushrooms, my favorite comfort food.

Ghetto Grill 2.0

17 Jun

On a lazy Wednesday night (which goes for most of the weeknights, as the operative word here is “lazy”), M.B. decided to give our ghetto grill a new look.  Although I say “our” grill, I really can’t claim much credit since all I got to contribute was a series of “oooohs” and “ahhhhs” and some minor coloring.

The grill is now ghetto fabulous

On the same night, simultaneously, the show “Work of Art” debuted on Bravo.  In between commercial breaks I would pop my head out to see Godzilla and the SF skyline coming to life, then back on the couch to see a bunch of self- important phonies trivializing art by competing like they were in a sporting event.

China Chow went from the IT girl of early 90s to the host of this pompous, cringe induced "art" show... My deepest condolence.

Thank you but no thank you.  I’ll take Mothra on the mural of a yakitori grill over some over exposed incompletely screen printed death portrait of a live person playing possum ANY DAY.

Ingredient: Sichuan Peppercorn (花椒)

9 Jun
Sichuan peppercorn

So what makes Sichuan cuisine so delicious?  The answer lies with its unique use of a special spice that produces a tingly, numbing effect, combined with spiciness, creates a singular taste no other regional cuisine can match.

Sichuan peppercorn, also known botanically as the outer pod of the tiny fruit from a plant called Zanthoxylum, used to be banned for import by the US government as it may carry a certain bacteria that is harmful to native citrus crops.

The ban has since been lifted, and I am happy to say that I just ordered a bag from an online spice shop. 

 Depending on its potency, I’d recommend all the first-time handlers with this spice to be cautious, as “a little (can go) a long way.”

The Story of a $3.00 Grill

6 Jun

In this episode of The Little Kitchen That Could, we are switching the gear a bit.  And it’s literally “we,” as I actually have a contributor in this special edition— my boyfriend.

So M.B. decided that he was craving some yakitori, the Japanese grilled chicken on a skewer over hot charcoal, and instead of yelping for a yakitori restaurant in San Francisco, he would like to make them himself.

After hours of diligent research on the internet, a crazier idea was born— “we should just build our own grill.”

A trip to the hardware wonderland, Home Depot, opened my eyes to the world of grills and barbecues.  Maybe it would be easier to just buy one.  There is a long aisle of fancy grills priced up to $400, doing whatever a chef’s heart desires.  As we temporarily set our minds on a $24.99 tabletop grill— the price seemed to justify skipping the whole shebange of building one— we learned that it was a gas only grill.

One of the things that makes yakitori so tasty is the charcoal and omitting that would make this whole project pointless.  So back to building one ourselves, which is a way cooler idea anyway.

Here is our $3.00 grill.  To assemble it, put one cinder block on top of another:

2 cinder blocks, $3.00. Fire extinguisher, $19.99.

Starting the grill was a bit challenging.  The cinder blocks do not have holes in them, which does not allow air to pass through.  But once the fire gets going, it is going (which took about 45 minutes and lots of liquid charcoal lighter):

We used lump charcoal, which is natural and burns much cleaner than briquette

Our assortment of skewers:

Beef, yakitori skewers, and mushrooms

Giant fresh water prawns

And we grilled and grilled…

And we ate and ate…

So the story of a $3.00 grill is a successful one.  Not only we had a feast of grilled kebabs, we are damn proud of our ghetto grill.  As obsessed as America is with grilling, from Bobby Flay’s face all over TV to that dancing commercial for Weber (took me some time to figure out what they were selling.  Cool commercial, though, I ain’t hatin’), has anyone wondered, how did people do it back in the day?  Like, how did people cook their meat before titanium was discovered, before propane gas was available?  And in every fancy backyard, there need be an equally fancy grill.  To Americans, a grill is a symbol of status.  An attitude to life.  An opening line to brag.

To me, it’s just food.  Good food.  And helluva lot of fun.

Must Have Soup: Clams

5 Jun

The Chinese clam soup is one of the easiest soups to make.  Ingredients: 1/2 lb of manila clams, 1 small piece of ginger, finely sliced, 1/2 cup of Chinese rice wine.

Clams soaked in water, ready to make soup


First, soak the clams in cold water for half an hour with a few drops of sesame oil.  The fragrance of sesame oil will help the clams spit out dirt.  In a pot, heat up 3 cups of water.  When the water comes to a boil, drop the clams in.  When the clams start to open up, pour in the rice wine.  When the soup comes to another boil, drop in the giner and season with salt.  That’s it.  Very simple, and very delicious. Bon appetite!

Stir-fried Water Spinach with Fermented Bean Curd (腐乳通菜)

1 Jun

Water spinach

It always makes me happy to see water spinach in season.  Sometimes known as the “hollow stem” spinach or Ong Choy, this popular vegetable among the working class, especially peasants, in Southeast Asia back in the old days is now widely enjoyed by mostly everyone.  It is common in Cantonese cuisine to fry this leafy vegetable with fermented bean curd. 

So what is fermented bean curd?  The same question was asked in Jackie Chan’s movie Armour of God (1987), to which Chan answered: “It’s Chinese cheese.”  (Please don’t ask me why I remember random sh** like that).   Similar to the process of making cheese, bean curd is exposed to aerial bacteria and fungal spores to achieve the status of fermentation, for preservation purpose and its damn good taste.  

Chinese fermented tofu. Can be found in most Chinese supermarkets and grocers

So to make this dish: 

Wash the vegetable thoroughly and cut it into roughly 2-inch segments, leaves and stems.  Heat up oil in a wok/frying pan.  When the oil is hot enough, drop in 3 cloves of chopped garlic and 2 cubes of bean curd.  Stir-fry the garlic and bean curd for 2 minutes.  Drop in the spinach.  Stir-fry for 2-3 minutes and pour in a tablespoon of the brine from the bean curd.  Taste to see if it’s salty enough— if not, add salt.  Depending on the brand of bean curd you get, you may get varying degrees of the fermented taste/saltiness.  

Cut and washed