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An Evening in China Recipes

A note about Szechuan Pepper: You cannot substitute it with regular black pepper. It has a very distinctive taste that is not replicated with another ingredient. However, Szechuan pepper is easy enough to get. I ordered mine online for our China event. Any good spice house should have it. It's a worthwhile purchase, since it is really delicious!


Hot and Sour Soup


Ingredients:

1 block of firm tofu
2 tablespoons oil
2 cans drained bamboo shoots
1 package black fungus
1 tablespoon of chopped ginger (optional, but good if you have a cold)
4 cups chicken broth and 4 cups water (or any combination thereof)
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar (more if you are using a lot of chicken broth)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 Tbsp cornstarch dissolved in 1/3 cup water
2 eggs, beaten
2 green onions, finely chopped (the green in rings, the white in fine dice)
White pepper to taste (approximately 1 tablespoon)

Hot chili paste to serve

Hot and Sour Soup Directions:

To reconstitute the fungus, soak in hot water for 15 minutes. Rinse, and cut into thin pieces. Meanwhile, drain tofu and cut into small cubes. Drain canned bamboo shoots, rinse and pat dry.

In a soup pot, heat the oil and add bamboo shoots and sliced mushrooms. Toss around for a minute until they sizzle. Then add the broth/water and bring to a boil. Stir. Add the tofu. Bring back to a boil. Stir in the salt, soy sauce, and vinegar.

Mix the cornstarch and (cold) water. Slowly pour the cornstarch mixture into the soup, stirring while it is being added. Let the broth come back to a boil. Turn off heat and let it rest. Add the white pepper to taste and stir in.

Beat the eggs well with the sesame oil. Drizzle the egg into the very hot broth, slowly stirring in one direction while doing so. Add the green onions.

Test the broth and adjust the taste (salt, heat, acid).



Steamed Dumplings with Dipping Sauce


Ingredients

Pizza Dough (store bought [2 packages of Pilsbury i.e] or make your own yeast dough)

¾ pound ground Turkey
¼ Napa Cabbage very finely shredded – eliminate a lot of the white ribs
5 Spring Onions – cleaned and sliced thin – white and green parts
3 cloves Garlic - minced
1 inch of Ginger – peeled and finely minced
3 Tbsp Soy sauce or to taste
2 tsp Sesame oil

Filling Preparation

Put 2 tbsp. oil in a hot wok and swirl it around. Add the chopped ginger and garlic and stir just until fragrant – do not burn the garlic! Add the ground turkey and stir, breaking it up into tiniest bits as it cooks. Have the heat fairly high. When it is all broken up, add the finely shredded napa cabbage and soy sauce. Stir until the cabbage is wilted. Add 2 tsp sesame oil and the green onions. Taste for salt and add more soy sauce if necessary. Remove from wok and set aside to cool.

To Assemble

Pat the dough into a square. Cut the square into 1 ½ inch strips and then cut the strips into 1 ½ inch bits. Use your thumbs to make little even pancakes out of them - about 4.5 inches in diameter.
Lay the dough disks on an oiled platter and separate layers with plastic wrap if necessary.

Put a spoonful of filling in the middle of each disk and bundle the dough up around it so it is pleated at the top. There needs to be a bit of an opening at the top. Make dumplings until you run out of filling or out of dough. You should get about 60 out of these ingredients. Place them on an oiled platter as you finish them.

Cover the prepared dumplings with a tea towel and let them rest for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring a few inches of water to a boil. Lay some cabbage leaves at the bottom of the steam basket. Rip them if necessary – they should lay flat and are there to keep the dumplings from sticking to the bamboo.

Fill the steam basket with enough dumplings to allow for breathing room between them. Place lid on top and put the whole basket over simmering water. The basket should not touch the water. Make sure it is steaming enough. Steam the dumplings for 10-12 minutes – check for doneness.

Repeat with the next batch of dumplings.

Keep the cooked dumplings warm in the oven on a greased baking pan.


Dipping Sauce for Dumplings

Combine 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1 Tbsp honey (or more), 1 tsp sesame oil and 1 finely sliced green onion.



Szechuan Fried Chicken with Roasted Salt/Pepper


For our meetup, I used leg quarters, but you can use a whole chicken. The original recipe is called 8-Piece Jewel Chicken.

For sake of this recipe, let’s say you are using leg quarters – 4 quarters will feed 4 people as part of a meal.

Separate drumstick and thigh. Cut the spine part away from the thigh. With a kitchen hatchet, cut each piece of chicken in two. (careful not to lose any fingers in the process)

Make a marinade from

¼ cup soy sauce
4 cloves garlic
1-2 inches ginger, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons sesame oil.

Combine and pour over the cut up chicken, tossing to coat. Marinate at room temperature, covered, for about 2 hours.

Remove chicken from marinade and pat dry. Discard marinade. Toss the chicken in a mixture of ½ cup of corn starch and ½ cup of flour, seasoned with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper.

Heat 750 ml (one bottle) of vegetable oil in a wok or heavy pot. When it is rippling and almost smoking, it is hot enough. Carefully place the lightly floured chicken pieces in the hot oil – just as many pieces as will comfortably fit. Fry on one side until nice and brown, then flip and fry the other side.

Remove chicken and place on a double layer of paper towels in the warm oven. Repeat with the next batch of chicken until all of it is fried.

Serve with roasted Szechuan salt and pepper for dipping.


Roasted Szechuan Salt and Pepper


In a dry cast iron pan roast over high heat:

5 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons Szechuan pepper corns
1 tablespoon black pepper

Stir constantly. When the salt starts to turn color, remove from heat. With a mortar and pestle, smash and grind the mixture until it is fine. Sift the salt/pepper mixture through a sieve and discard the remaining pepper husks.

Serve this with the fried chicken and dip your chicken pieces in it.



Stir-Fried Chinese Vegetables


Ingredients

5 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges, layers separated
3 heads baby bok choy, trim the bottoms and cut across in ½ inch slices – separate white from green
½ pound snow peas, ends snipped off and cut in half diagonally
6 scallions, trimmed, 5 cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces, 1 thinly sliced and reserved separately
¼ - ½ head Napa cabbage, leaves cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips
1 1/3 cups good-quality chicken stock, heated
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in 4 tablespoons cold water
2 tablespoons chopped peanuts

Directions

• Heat a large wok over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil. When the oil is hot, add the ginger, and garlic, and stir-fry just until they are aromatic, about 30 seconds. Scoop out the aromatics and set them aside.

• Add the remaining oil to the wok. When it is hot, add the onion pieces and stir-fry until they turn glossy and bright, 1 to 2 minutes.

• Add the bok choy whites and the snow pea pieces. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes more.

• Add the bok choy greens and the 1-inch scallion pieces. Continue stir-frying until they are bright green and glossy, 1 to 2 minutes more.

• Add the Napa cabbage along with about 1/2 cup of the hot stock and the reserved aromatics. Continue stir-frying until the vegetables are all tender-crisp, about 2 minutes more.

• Add the remaining stock, soy sauce, and cornstarch mixture and stir-fry until the vegetables all look lightly glazed with sauce, about 1 minute more. Check for seasoning. Add more soy sauce if necessary.

• Transfer the stir-fried vegetables to a heated serving dish. Garnish with the sliced scallions and peanuts and serve immediately.

The trick with this dish is to keep the wok really hot. If it is not, the vegetables will draw too much liquid and you will have a soggy, overcooked mess.



Dry Fried Szechuan Beef
Cut this recipe in half for a lesser amount

2 pounds beef (we used chuck roast for this event)
4 - 5 carrots
2 tablespoons minced ginger
4 green onions
2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
6 teaspoons chili paste
15 tablespoons oil for stir-frying, or as needed
1/2 teaspoon salt or more as needed
2-3 tablespoons wine (any wine will do)
2 teaspoon roasted Szechuan peppercorn (Roast in dry pan. Smash with mortar and pestle. Run through sieve to separate the husks out,)

Preparation:

Cut the beef julienne style, across the grain into thin slices less than 1/4-inch thick and 2 1/2 - 3 inches long. Julienne the carrots into thin strips about 1/8 inch thick and 2 inches long. Peel and mince the ginger. Cut the green onions into lengths about 2 inches and then lengthwise into thin shreds.

In a small bowl, combine the hoisin sauce and chile paste. Set aside.

Preheat the wok on medium high heat for at least 30 seconds. (The wok is ready when you can feel the heat when holding the palm of your hand 2 - 3 inches above the wok's surface).

Add 3 tablespoons oil to the preheated wok, drizzling down the sides. When the oil is hot, add the julienned carrots. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, stirring in the salt. (Do not brown the carrots). Remove from the wok.

Fry the beef in 2 batches. First, heat 6 tablespoons of oil in the wok over medium high to high heat. When the oil is hot, add the beef. Stir-fry for approximately 10 minutes, until the beef is crispy and dark brown and chewy (you will hear the beef sizzle as it dries out). Splash the beef with ½ the wine during the later stages of cooking. Remove from wok and repeat the second batch of beef.

Push the beef up to the sides and drain all but 2 tablespoons from the wok. Add the first batch of beef back into the wok, and add sauce mixture. Stir-fry for a few seconds, then add the ginger and scallions. Stir-fry for a few seconds, until aromatic, and then return the carrots to the wok.

Stir in the roasted Szechuan peppercorn. Taste and adjust seasonings (salt) if desired.

Serve hot with rice and the stir fried vegetables

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