Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs

Posts Tagged ‘Chinese

Savoury and sweet pastizzis at The Original Maltese Café in Surry Hills Sydney.

Coffee art at Strand Arcade in Sydney.

Sardinian cooking class with Pilu at Freshwater‘s Giovanni Pilu at Accoutrement in Sydney.

Bacon and egg breakfast sandwich at Mr Stuzzichini in Hunters Hill Sydney.

Burrata and beet salad at Pendolino in Sydney.

Spectacular vista at Café Harbour View at Taronga Zoo in Mosman Sydney.

A country lunch at Grazing in Gundaroo.

Milanese cuisine at Balla by Stefano Manfredi in Pyrmont Sydney.

Pastries at Bécasse Bakery in Westfield Sydney.

Malaysian hawker food at Sassy’s Red by Chinta Ria in Westfield Sydney.

Regional Chinese fare at Spice Temple by Neil Perry in Sydney.

Scones at The Old Bakery Tea Rooms in Berrima.

Vegetarian cooking class with Poppy‘s Jerry Traunfeld at PCC West Seattle.

Lunch at Vessel in Downtown Seattle.

Dungeness crab, seaweed noodle, spicy red curry and crème fraîche at Revel in Fremont.

Chocolate tasting at Northwest Chocolate Festival.

Chinatown-International District. I’m sceptical about this hyphenated neighbourhood in Seattle. It was eerily quiet on Chinese New Year (農曆新年) last year. The streets were devoid of people and absent of colour. There were no red lanterns, no auspicious posters and no lion dances. It was a forlorn hour as I wandered up and down King Street.

In contrast we were greeted by a cacophony of sounds at Dragon Fest last month. Dull drums and sharp cymbals reverberated through the crowds as the nimble lion pranced and leaped. We were there for the $2 Food Walk to sample the multicultural eateries. Sea Garden (一定好) was last on our list and their salt and pepper chicken wings were a highlight.

I return for weekday lunch the next week and shared four items between the three of us. The walls were painted a drab olive green, and the dining room was furnished with laminate tables and wooden chairs.

Thickened by corn starch, morsels of tofu and shiitake mushrooms were suspended in the savoury bowl of complimentary soup.

A tangled mess of egg noodles were crispy on the bottom and topped with brown sauce. The pork and bean sprout chow mein (肉絲炒麵) was a hearty and toothsome dish.

A neon orange, the sweet and sour pork (咕嚕肉) was sticky and bold. Chunks of tender pork were tossed in a sugary and vinegary syrup.

These six crescents were deep fried prawns (炸蝦球). Similar to beer battered fish, the prawns had an airy coating and were dipped in plum sauce.

Last was eggplant Sichuan style with minced meat (魚香茄子). Silky and spicy, its richness was tempered with plain rice.

The Chinese name of Sea Garden aptly translates to ‘certainly or definitely good’.

I have a fading memory of my uncle making dumplings (餃子). I don’t remember where or when the family gathering was and I don’t recall eating them but there is a faint image of his nimble fingers deftly pleating the wrapper, patiently making dozens for the dinner party. An exchange of emails with my father confirmed my uncle’s dumpling skills.

The lovely Kimberly was my companion at the Handmade Asian Dumplings class at The Pantry at Delancey. I had intended on snacking on a Jersey salad at Delancey prior to the cooking class but had forgotten the restaurant is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Instead we perched on the azure stools on the deck at The Pantry and chatted.

Located behind Delancey, The Pantry has a herbs and vegetables garden.

A custom made timber table is the centrepiece. The space is practical and welcoming, a celebration of countryside kitchen and communal dining.

Blushed tulips in a mason jar, bottles of olive oil in a vintage crate and local jams, preserves and jellies (Deluxe Foods) were some of the provisions for sale.

Dumplings mise en place prepared by the volunteers.

A glass of sparkling Rosé was a refreshing apéritif.

We munched on crispy wonton skins and spongy tofu cubes (豆腐泡) as appetisers.

In America via Malaysia and Australia, Kathleen Khoo was our teacher. She was an affable lady with an cheerful persona. On the menu were ‘water dumplings’ (水餃), Japanese gyoza, deep fried wonton (炸雲吞) and siu mai (燒賣).

Kathleen demonstrated how to make a basic dough and an egg dough. ‘Just like pasta’, a dumpling dough is formed with flour, water, egg and a pinch of salt. Once combined, the dough was kneaded quickly and firmly until silky and pliable. The dough was then rested before flattening into wrappers.

We paired up to make a basic dough and an egg dough.

Kathleen explained some of the Asian ingredients such as shredding only the green parts of the Napa cabbage as the whites have a high water content.

A tray of condiments included hoisin sauce (海鮮醬), mirin, sake, sweet chilli sauce, sesame oil (芝麻油) and Shaoxing wine (紹興酒). A splash is enough as the condiments are pungent.

As our dough rested, we emptied the various containers of the mise en place and stirred the components together for each of the fillings.

You can buy packets of dumpling wrappers from Asian grocery stores and supermarkets but it is easy, economical and healthier to make fresh ones.

Water dumpling wrappers can be made in a tortilla press. We learnt to do it by hand with a narrow rolling pin. The egg dough was rolled in a pasta machine.

Being organised is essential to successful dumplings. The surface should be lightly floured, spoons or chopsticks to portion out the fillings, corn starch for dusting the wrappers, a basin of water to seal the dumplings, and cotton tea towels to cover the wrappers and dumplings to prevent them from drying out. The rested dough was rolled into a sausage shape and cut into inch wide lumps.

A vibrant green, sprigs of coriander were roughly chopped as garnish.

Sauces in earthy shades were poured.

My first handmade dumpling!

The water dumplings were crescent parcels of minced pork, shredded Napa cabbage, aromatics and seasoning. They were boiled, tossed in a store bought spicy dumpling sauce and adorned with coriander. Thick and doughy, the slippery dumplings were meaty.

The crimped edges of the Japanese gyoza were fun to make. These sturdy morsels of minced pork and prawn chunks were seared in a non-stick pan and steamed in stock. Golden bottomed and translucent, the juicy and robust gyoza was my favourite.

Wontons were folded into nurse’s caps, deep fried and served with sweet chilli dipping sauce. I prefer wontons boiled in a broth ladled over noodles.

Siu mai, an open dumpling that is a staple dim sum (點心) at yum cha (飲茶), were a dexterous challenge. Traditionally made with twelve pleats, I maxed out at seven! The siu mai were plump bites laced with the distinct flavours of shiitake mushrooms.

Bunches of Chinese cabbage were quartered and steamed as a side. The first bamboo basket was too wilted but the second was just cooked, the stalks crunchy and the leaves tender.

Dumpling making is the perfect rainy weekend activity!

Listed alphabetically by state, Joe’s Shanghai (鹿鳴春) was in the New York section of CNN’s ‘50 best Chinese restaurants in the United States‘. In the same block as Momofuku Má Pêche and Momofuku Milk Bar in Midtown, Joe’s Shanghai is a double storey ‘centre of exotic specialties’.

I signalled a table for one and was ushered upstairs. Bronze deer and potted bamboos decorated the bay window. A tiered sparkling gold and crystal chandelier was suspended above the vestibule.

A curious specials menu included New Zealand mussels, T-bone steak and rack of lamb.

A mound of cold egg noodles was drizzled with sesame dressing, topped with julienned cucumber and served in a scallop shell shaped dish. I slurped the cold sesame noodles (芝麻冷麵), a simple but appetizing celebration of Chinese carbs.

The traditional trio of ginger slivers, soy sauce and vinegar were stirred in a bowl for dipping.

Joe’s Shanghai is famous for their soup dumplings. Six crab and pork xiao long bao (蟹粉小籠包) were on a bed of shredded Napa cabbage (黃芽白) in a steaming bamboo basket. The delicate morsels were juicy and meaty, although the skin was a little doughy.

Noodles and dumplings were requisite sustenance for shopping in Manhattan!

I have lamented the lack of authentic Chinese food in Seattle. I was pleased with Chiang’s and love the consistency of Din Tai Fung but I really miss yum cha (飲茶), the traditional Cantonese lunch of dim sum (點心). I was adamant that Seattleites have to travel north to Richmond in Vancouver for variety and quality until Shirley introduced me to Jade Garden (翠苑酒家).

Regal in red, a festive cartoon dragon (龍年) denoted the Lunar New Year (農曆新年).

A school size chalkboard listed the daily specials in calligraphy (English) and scrawl (Chinese).

As with many Chinese restaurants, the interior is austere. Drab walls, plain tables, sturdy chairs, chipped china and Lazy Susans are the standard! Jade Garden is a labyrinth of dining rooms. When I was directed to our table at the back I thought I had to walk through the kitchen!

A card was stamped to record orders from the carts.

The condiments (醬油) tray consisted of salt and pepper shakers, soy and vinegar bottles, and a mysterious stainless steel container.

Shirley explained that it’s the homemade chilli sauce (辣椒醬) which was a well blended paste.

Stacked high with steaming bamboo baskets, ladies (and it’s always ladies) wheeled carts to hawk their dumplings. First were pork and prawn dumplings (燒賣). Minced pork, prawn and shiitake mushroom (冬菇) are lumped in a thin wrapper and dotted with roe. These were a tender version of the meaty morsels.

The other classic was prawn dumplings (蝦餃). Translucent and pleated, the starchy wrapper encased chunks of succulent prawns. The skin was a little thick and I doused these in the homemade chilli sauce.

These beige blobs were deceptive in appearance. We happily slurped the fragrant broth of the soup dumplings (小籠包).

Tinged with green, the prawn and chive dumplings are a variation of prawn dumplings.

Similarly, the prawn and crab dumplings had mounds of shredded crab on top of the wrappers.

Fried food was next. These awkward objects were taro dumplings (芋角). The puffed taro outer shell was crispy, crumbling at each bite, contrasting with the porky texture inside.

Golden and football shaped, these mochi like dumplings (鹹水角) had a glutinous, sticky coating. Its sweetness contrasted with the salty filling.

The final savoury selection was stir-fried noodles (炒麵). Curly thin noodles were tossed with bean sprouts and chives, a homely vegetarian dish.

Rolled in sesame seeds, these mochi balls with lotus seed paste (蓮蓉煎堆) were nutty and chewy.

And finally my favourite Chinese dessert, custard tarts (蛋撻). Traditionally baked in a flaky crust with an intense, creamy set custard, these are best savoured fresh from the oven.

The more the merrier for yum cha!

I miss Asian food. I still cook stir-fries and curries at home but we’ve rarely eaten Thai, Chinese, Indian or Malaysian, all favourites in multicultural Sydney. I’ve been feeling dejected about having to cross the border to sate my love for these cuisines. With the exception of Din Tai Fung, the American palate for Asian food seems sweet.

Naomi gathered a group of intrepid food lovers on a weekday evening for a family style dinner at Chiang’s Gourmet (敘香園).

Located on Lake City Way with plenty of parking, Chiang’s had a bright and spacious dining room. Chinese watercolour paintings and calligraphy decorated the walls. To go orders were brisk business as we perused the Chinese and American menus. I giggled at the American menu of sweet and sour pork, and lemon chicken.

Tea was poured as we chatted and the lazy Susan was full of dishes as the waiter shuffled plates and bowls. An apt name, the spicy hot fish fillet on Romaine lettuce (水煮魚) was fiery and appetising. Succulent white fish fillets were doused in a saffron coloured sauce, its heat tempered by crunchy cos leaves.

Flatbread filled with minced green onions, the green onion pancake (蔥油餅) was light and crispy.

The enoki and black mushrooms wrapped in bean curd (素黃雀) was plain in appearance. I could eat half a dozen of these flavoursome, wrinkly parcels.

Served in a basket lined with aluminium foil, there were equal qualities of chicken and chilli in the five star spicy hot chicken (辣子雞). Similar to popcorn chicken, the morsels were coated in a spiced batter and despite the amount of chilli, were surprisingly mild.

The requisite mound of sautéed green vegetables was refreshing.

Tender and earthy, pieces of tea smoked duck (精緻樟茶鴨) were wedged in steamed buns and eaten by hand.

A platter of homemade pan fried noodles Shanghai style (上海粗炒麵) was rustic comfort food. Dense noodles were tossed with slivers of pork and spinach.

A literal translation, steamed tofu of strong odour (蒸臭豆腐) was a bubbling crimson pot. You can smell the fermented tofu before you see it and it is a traditional street food of Hong Kong.

From Xinjiang, an autonomous region of northwest China, the spicy hot lamb with cumin flavour (新疆羊肉) was pungent. Slices of lamb, onions and chilli were homely and warming.

And lastly, a side of steamed corn bread bun (窩窩頭). Steamed in bamboo, the cone shaped corn bread was hollow for scooping up sauces.

Our delectable feast concluded with fortune cookies from Tsue Chong. I will have an opportunity!

Sincere thanks to Naomi for introducing me to Chiang’s Gourmet!

Yum cha (飲茶) is a symbolic meal for me. In Cantonese the literal translation is ‘drink tea’. Families and friends gather at round tables for a casual lunch, sharing pots of tea, and selecting bamboo steamers and plates of dim sum (點心) from carts. An old couple read the newspaper in silence. Children eat barbecue pork buns (叉燒包) with their hands. Extended families spin the Lazy Susan laden with dishes. It is a tradition cherished in Chinese culture.

First on our Dim-sum-couver schedule was Vivacity (名都). Located in Richmond, a neighbourhood of Vancouver with the highest immigrant population in Canada and the majority is of Chinese heritage.

We were seated in a separate room where we were the only patrons. The menu doubled as a ordering form as Vivacity did not have carts. There were more than a hundred items on the menu! After some deliberation we marked our morning tea with a pencil.

First was deep fried pork dumplings (鹹水角). Golden and oval shaped, the slightly sweet and mochi like dumpling encased a savoury pork and vegetables filling.

Steamed rice rolls with Chinese doughnuts (炸兩) topped with pork floss (肉鬆) were a textural contrast. Light and crunchy Chinese doughnut (油炸鬼) were wrapped in slippery noodles and served with soy sauce, peanut sauce and hoisin sauce.

Pan fried radish cakes (蘿蔔糕) are one of my favourite dim sum comfort food. Squares of shredded radish were studded with Chinese sausage (臘腸), glutinous morsels with a seared edge.

Three globes of steamed beef balls (牛肉球) were on a curious mix of corn kernels and peas. The usual garnish of tofu skins was absent. Scissored in half, the tenderised meat was dipped in tangy Worcestershire sauce (喼汁) to accentuate the beef flavour.

Fried crispy milk custards (炸脆奶) were nuggets of delight. The batter crumbled with each bite and melded into the silky custard.

Last was steamed buns with egg custard (流沙包). Deceptively plain in appearance, the bland dough was the vessel for creamy saffron coloured custard.

I can count how many times I’ve been to yum cha this year and I’ve really missed it.


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