Stir-fried Beef with Bamboo Shoots and Pickled Peppers

中文菜谱: 泡椒春笋炒牛肉

Bamboo shoot has been an important part of Chinese cuisine for thousands of years.  The best season to eat it is late winter and early spring.   The ones sold in winter are more tender, juicer and a lot expensive because they have to be dug out from underground by hand.  

Bamboo shoot hunt in spring time is very fun.  I went on a few such trips with my family when I was little.  We hiked into high mountain area where wild bamboos grew into a forest.   A couple days’ spring rain may expedite bamboo shoot growing.  At the right timing, we could harvest between 60 to 80 lbs bamboo shoots on one single trip.  

Good old times...

And now my family is still doing their traditional annual bamboo shoot hunt in spring for fun.  I do mine too, here in China town O(∩_∩)O~

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Pickled vegetable is an old traditional way to preserve food when food was scarce.  There is a pickle jar in my kitchen which I brought back from China so that I can make my own pickled peppers and other vegetables at home. 

They taste great straight out of the pickle jar.  Sometimes I sauté pickled peppers with pork or beef.  The combination is amazing! 

Ingredients for beef marinating:

200 g beef chuckeye roast
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 teaspoon rice cooking wine
1 to 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 to 3 tablespoons water/ chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon sugar

Ingredients for stir fry:

200 g bamboo shoots (sold in most Asian grocery stores, fresh & frozen)  
a handful pickled red chili peppers
1 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 gloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
salt to taste
vegetable oil for cooking

 

Directions:

Thinly slice the beef

Add the beef to a bowl, along with soy sauce, ground ginger, corn starch, oyster sauce, oil, rice cooking wine, ground white pepper, sugar, chicken stock/ water. 

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Mix everything together.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

Thinly slice the bamboo shoots.  Blanch them in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds.  Drain well.

Homemade pickled chili peppers straight out of the pickle jar

Heat a cast iron wok over high heat.  Add oil, along with pickled peppers, garlic and Sichuan peppercorns.

Add marinated beef

Stir fry the beef just until they turn colors.

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Add bamboo shoots, along with soy sauce, oyster sauce, dark soy sauce and salt.

Continue stir frying for another couple minutes.  Remove from heat and serve hot immediately.

Pickled chili peppers are essential to the dish.  They add a surprisingly nice delicate flavor to the beef; spicy, a little bit savory and sour.  It well balances the richness of beef flavor.  Love it! O(∩_∩)O~

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Walnut Chocolate Butter

中文菜谱: 核桃巧克力酱

I stock up nuts and chocolate lately.  Someday it just occurred to me why not make a batch of chocolate nut butter?  It would be awesome for breakfast or a quick nutritious afternoon snack. 

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Ingredients:

2 cups of raw walnuts
1/3 to 1/2 cup dark chocolate
1/4 to 1/3 cup honey / syrup

*****Tips:  

·         The darker chocolate is, the more smoothly it will melt.  I use 85% cacao chocolate.  They are available at Whole foods, Sprouts and Texas local Central Market.  The one I am using here is bought from Sprouts. 

·         If you don’t want to roast raw walnut at home, buy the dry roasted walnuts.  And make sure they are not salted or seasoned.  *****

 

Directions:

Preheat a toaster oven to 375F/ 191C

Bake the raw walnuts for 8 to 10 minutes, or just until they turn slightly golden brown. 

Add roasted walnut, honey and dark chocolate in a vitamix blender.

  I use a dry container instead of regular container because it is more convenient this way.

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Turn on the machine and grind at medium low speed.  

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In a few minutes, walnuts are crushed and chocolate melts. 

You would need to pause several times in between to stir the mixture with a wooden spoon. 

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Keep grinding at low medium speed. 

It is getting silkier and smoother.

It is kind of shiny now.

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Continue grinding for another couple minutes.

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Wo-la, it is done!

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Transfer the walnut chocolate butter to a glass jar.  Seal and store at room temperature. 

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It goes great with a lot of things: bread, cookies, crackers, fruits, crepes, and even salad! O(∩_∩)O~

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Pan-fried Mini Potatoes with Bacon and Spices

I always have a special enthusiasm for potatoes, especially the mini ones.  When I was living in Michigan, we always visited the local farmers market twice a week to buy some freshly roasted coffee beans and newly harvested potatoes.  Those were two highlights during the week.  

If you have ever tried the freshest potatoes dug out the soil the very same day you cook them, it would be really hard to go back to the ones sold in super market stores.  They are so fresh, starchy, hearty, and earthy with a nutty aroma and super creamy texture.  

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One of my favorite ways to cook mini potatoes is to pan fry them with bacons.  The fat rendered from bacons would add a rich porky fatty flavor to the potatoes, which is exactly why they taste so amazingly good.

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Ingredients:

1 lb mini rainbow potatoes
6 to 8 slices of bacons, cut into small pieces
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
white sesame seeds
chopped green onion
spicy chili dry mix *

 

Directions:

Rainbow mini potatoes are sold in most grocery stores.  If you can’t find them, the yellow or red mini ones will be almost equally tasty too.

Rinse the potatoes under running water.  Add to a pot of boiling water along with a couple teaspoons of salt in it.  Cook the potatoes over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes or until you can easily piece them in the center with a fork.

BTW, the potato skins can help them to stay in shape. I like to leave them on the potatoes.  

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Cut every potato into two halves.

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Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

Add bacons. 

Sauté the bacons until slightly golden brown.

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Add potatoes

Reduce the heat to medium low.  Flip the potatoes occasionally.  Keep cooking over medium low heat until they are golden brown.

Season with salt and black pepper

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Sprinkle with chopped green onions, white sesame seeds and spicy chili dry mix.

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Continue to cook for another couple minutes.  Remove from heat and serve hot immediately.

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It is so true that bacon makes everything taste better! O(∩_∩)O~

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*  Chili spice dry mix is available in Asian grocery stores.  I love to make my own at home.  It is quite simple to do so.  Separately dry roast chili peppers, Sichuan pepper corns, sesame seeds, cumin and peanuts.  And then grind them together into fine powder with a coffee grinder or vitamix.

The mix can be used in sautés, BBQ, grilling or salads. 

Go ahead play with the spices.  It is easy to make some simple mix with big flavors! 

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Candied Pecans and Walnuts

中文菜谱: 琥珀桃仁

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Candied pecans or walnuts are very popular in China.  They can be served as appetizer, side dish or dessert.  Most of time, they are also a great snack to go with coffee or tea. 

They are sweet, crunchy, and super nutritious.  Who doesn’t love them? O(∩_∩)O~

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Ingredients:

1 cup raw walnuts / pecans
1/3 firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
toasted white sesame seeds

Directions:

Some people prefer pecans, and a lot of people prefer walnuts.  As for myself, I use more pecans then walnuts because pecans have a more delicate texture and flavor than walnuts.

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Preheat a toaster oven to 375F/ 190C  

Bake the pecans / walnuts in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. 

Please do remember to adjust the baking time accordingly because every toaster oven is different from one another.  Pecans and walnuts are so easily to be over baked.  Keep a close eye on them when baking.  Remove from oven when they turn slightly golden brown.  They will continue to cook even after being taken out the oven. 

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Light or medium color brown sugar will be fine.  Don’t use the dark brown sugar.  Otherwise, the color would be too dark.

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While the pecans/ walnuts are baking in the oven, prepare the syrup. 

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.  Add brown sugar and water. 

Brown sugar melts quickly and the syrup will very soon become bubbly.

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Keep cooking the syrup until it darkens a little bit.  Bubbles get bigger too. 

There is a trick to test if the syrup is ready.  Drop a couple drops of syrup into a cup of cold water.  if it turns  hard and firm, the syrup is done.  If not, just keep cooking for a bit longer. 

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Add toasted pecans/ walnuts into the syrup, along with some roasted white sesame seeds. 

With a spoon, gently toss everything together.  

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Line up a plate or cast iron pan with parchment paper.  Spoon the pecan / walnut mixtures onto the parchment paper.   Spread them as evenly as possible. 

You have to do it very fast and quickly, because the candy syrup will begin to harden once removed from heat.

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Wait for the candied pecans/ walnuts to completely cool down to room temperature.  They will be super crunchy and tasty. 

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Mini Goledn Egg Dumplings with Pork Filling

Febrary 4th is the date for traditional Chinese New Year in 2019.  On this day, most Chinese families get together from all over the places to celebrate the beginning of a new year.  It is kind of like Thanksgiving in America, but longer and more festival. 

On the last evening of lunar year, it is also a tradition to make serve a marvelous feast which could take up to weeks’ preparation.  

Now since we are living in the United States, we still celebrate Chinese New Year, just on a smaller scale.  I still make some traditional Chinese food on this day.  Egg dumplings are one of them.

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Egg dumplings are a must for New Year’s feast.  The beautiful golden color resembles gold and more money incoming in the New Year.  The shape of flower means good luck and blessing in the New Year too. 

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Ingredients:

180 g ground pork
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 to 2 teaspoons rice cooking wine
1/2 teaspoon oyster sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 cup chicken stock/ water
5 large eggs
salt to taste
vegetable oil for cooking

Directions :

Add ground pork to a medium bowl, along with ground ginger, rice cooking wine, oyster sauce, soy sauce, ground white pepper, and salt.  Whisk clock-wise with a pair of chopsticks.

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While whisking, add a tablespoon chicken stock/ water.  Whisk until the liquid is absorbed before adding more.

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Add a pinch of salt to the eggs and beat them until smooth.

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I use a cast iron pancake puff pan to make egg dumplings.  It is super efficient because I can make 7 of them at a time. 

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Heat the pan over medium low heat.  Spray with oil.  Add a couple teaspoons of beaten eggs to each hole.  Swirl around a little bit.

Add teaspoon ground pork filling to each of them.

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Fold them over.

Once egg dumplings can hold their half moon shape, remove from pan. 

Repeat the process until all done.

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Assemble all egg dumplings in a plate like a big flower. 

Add to a steamer.  Steam dumplings over high heat for about 6 minutes.   The steaming time may vary with dumplings’ sizes and shapes.

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They can be served hot or cold.  Aren’t they pretty?

The rest of our New Year feast also includes boiled free range chicken with dipping sauces.

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med bass with ginger and oyster sauce

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Purple daikon salad

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Cucumber salad

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Spinach and tofu salad

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Steamed sweet rice with nuts and red beans paste

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