Posts Tagged ‘Sichuanese’

* Ba Bao Cha

Posted on November 20th, 2012 by Linda. Filed under Chinese, Sichuanese, Sides.

Sichuan ba bao cha – eight treasure tea – is a wonderful experience both for the eyes, palate and soul.  It is a combination of 8 different ingredients – the selection varies by personal preference – and is brewed in a cha wan, a tea brewing cup.  It’s sweet, bitter, “gam” (umami is not the right word, but it’s close – a lingering sweetish licorice like flavor) all at the same time.  And through the several cups of tea flights, the flavor transforms.  The most fun part of ba bao cha is to watch the acrobatic skills that the tea master has in pouring hot water from 6-8 feet away.  Yes, that’s “feet”, and is not a typo.  He has a special tea kettle with a yard long spout, and from a far, sometimes in a yoga warrior pose with kettle to the back, he would aim and shoot the almost boiling water to your teacup in a parabolic fountain.  When the water reaches your teacup, it’s cooled down to the optimal 185F which is perfect for green tea brewing.  You can imagine, as a foreign diner in a Sichuan restaurant, your almost instant reflex will be to spring up and shield yourself from the shooting hot water!  Through my many dozen cups of ba bao cha experience, I have never seen the guy missed.

Chef’s tip: If you have been counting the number of ingredients in the picture, there are only 7 because I am using an Indian masala container to store my tea treasure for ba bao cha.  It’s perfect for hosting as guests can assemble their own.  The missing ingredients, which I usually use is walnuts, which I place in an airtight container for freshness.  But some folks substitute walnuts for ginseng slices for more of that “gam” flavor.  Clockwise from the top:

Dried chrysanthemum, jasmine, rose buds or osmanthus flowers
Dried tangerine peel
Green tea like jasmine or silver needle
Goji berries
Dried longans
Dried red jujube dates
Whole Walnuts or Ginseng
Rock sugar

Hot water

Place a scant teaspoon of each ingredient into a tea cup, pour 185F hot water (boiling water poured into a teapot, then left to sit about 5 minutes) into the cup.  Let steep 2 minutes.  Serve with all ingredients in cup.  Enjoy.  You can refill hot water into the tea cups for several more times.

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* Seared Broccoli Stems with Smoked Tofu

Posted on November 18th, 2012 by Linda. Filed under Appetizer, Chinese, Cuisine, Sear, Sichuan Peppercorn, Sichuanese, Sides, tofu, Vegan, Vegetarian.

This has been my lucky week –  not only did I get to see my very awesome friend, Angie Koong, I was bestowed with some fresh smoked tofu from Chengdu and a sachet of green Sichuan peppercorns when she swung by San Francisco for two days.  Angie is my foodie friend from Hong Kong, and needless to say, we get along very well because we both so love to eat and cook all kinds of foods – from Malaysian to Sichuan to foie gras and the stinkiest of cheeses!  Here we are, last night at Prospect SF, between glasses of wine, lobster gnocchi, dungeness-stuffed calamari and more, taking a sniff at a little ziplock bag of the citrusy peppercorn and inhaling the hickory-like aroma of the smoked tofu. Angie had just had a foodie weekend at Chengdu a few days before where she scored these treats for me.  I, in turn, handed the ever-the-foodie some ice foam packs to keep her five balls of burrata cool for her flight back to Hong Kong!

Today, I created this dish using the smoked tofu where I paired it with the naturally sweet and crunchy broccoli stems (yes, they are edible!) and some of my Sichuan red oil.  And finished it with a sprinkling of crushed green Sichuan peppercorns.  As Angie warned me, the green ones are more potent in the numbing department, so it made a good finishing salt.

If you ever wanted to explore undiscovered China through “guided driving journeys into hidden China and beyond“, Angie’s husband, Peter Schindler, leads amazing, chance of a lifetime trips, through the land of Shangri-la.  One day, I will take time off and do this life-altering trip – food, culture, photography, and good friends.  It’s on my list of 10 things to do before I die.  If you ever need to be inspired by nature, go to On the Road in China.  Peter is also an inspirational speaker, and an entrepreneur and so maybe you might be able to get your company to pay for your trip!

Chef’s tip: Don’t throw out the broccoli stems!  It’s just as nutritious as the crowns, and is delicious….almost a different vegetable altogether.  Just use a peeler or a paring knife to remove the hard outer layer of the stem to expose the pale and crisp stem.  See my other post on Sichuan red oil for recipe.

6 broccoli stems, trimmed, yielding 2 cups baton
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoons rice bran oil

2 pieces smoked tofu (do fu gan), cut into thin strips
1 leek, sliced at a diagonal thinly
1 Fresno chile, seeded, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon ginger juice
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 Tablespoons Sichuan red oil

1 teaspoon green Sichuan peppercorn
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

1. Heat a cast iron skillet on high.  Ad a little oil.  When it starts to smoke, sear in small batches, the broccoli stem batons.  Remove when the stems are slightly wilted, and still crunchy.  Repeat for remaining batches.  Toss seared stems with salt.
2. Sear the smoked tofu.  Add to reserved broccoli stems.
3. Next sear, leeks and chile.   Add to broccoli-tofu mix.
4. Add ginger juice, vinegar, soy sauce, salt and Sichuan red oil.  Toss to mix.  Let sit for 20 minutes for flavors to come together.
5. Muddle green Sichuan peppercorn with salt.  Just before serving, sprinkle mix on.

Serves: 4

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* Mi Zheng Rou – Rice-crusted Tender Pork Belly and Pumpkin

Posted on November 15th, 2012 by Linda. Filed under Butternut Squash, Cinnamon, Cuisine, Entree, Glutinuous Rice, Pork, Sichuan Peppercorn, Sichuanese, Sides, Star anise, Steam.

For my 36th birthday and oh my, that seemed such a long time ago (and sadly, is), I gathered a few good friends to a dinner at an “underground” Sichuan restaurant in Hong Kong, Sichuan Da Ping Huo.  That was a memorable meal – ten courses of traditionally prepared Sichuan dishes in ascending crescendo in spice, “la” heat and “ma” treatment.  The restaurant serves as an art gallery for the husband and wife team.  The husband is the artist and the maitre-d, the wife is the chef and she finishes each evening with a operatic soprano performance for the dinner guests.  How anyone can sing like that after cooking all night still baffles me.

About course 7th or 8th into the meal was a heavenly pork belly and pumpkin dish.  Steaming hot, melt in your mouth slivers of pork belly and soft pumpkin.  Comfort food at its best.  Here’s an attempt to make this classic Sichuan steamed meat dish.  I think it’s pretty darn good – even without the opera drama.

Chef’s tip: Pork protein needs to cook till a certain temperature when it suddenly breaks down and becomes melt in your mouth.  So you can’t really rush this dish!

1 cup glutinous rice
1 Tablespoon Sichuan peppercorn
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 lotus leaves, soaked in hot water to rehydrate, about 30 minutes,  hard parts near the stem removed

1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ginger juice, grated and squeeze out juice
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorn, ground finely
1 star anise, ground finely
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon five spice powder
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 Tablespoons water

2 lb pork belly, skinned, cut into 4X 2X ½ inch slices
1 small butternut squash, peeled and sliced into 4X 2X ½ inch thick (or pumpkin of choice)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

  1.  Prepare rice crusting. Using a skillet, dry toast the rice with the Sichuan peppercorn, star anise and cinnamon till rice is golden brown.  Cool, remove star anise and cinnamon, and grind the spices finely.  Then add rice and Sichuan peppercorn and grind till coarse meal forms.  Mix in salt
  2. In a bowl, mix together all the marinade ingredients.   Marinade pork slices in marinade – use an instant marinator or let sit in refrigerator overnight.  Remove meat from marinade, then crust the pork slices with the rice meal, pressing to make the rice meal adhere.
  3. Toss butternut squash slices with salt.
  4. Snip off the hard stem of the lotus leaf.  Lay a lotus leave half on a flat surface.  Make a small overlap fold in the center to cover the snipped stem.  Perpendicular to the fold (as in picture bel0w) alternate 3 slices of pork slices in between butternut squash slices.  Bring the base edge to the center, then fold in the two side edges, and roll up to make a rectangular packet.  Lay the packet, with the edge side down on a steamer.
  5. Steam the packets: In a large wok, set up a steaming rack over some boiling water.  Place lotus parcel on the steamer, pack closely together, cover and steam 2 hours over medium slow fire. Add additional water to the pan periodically so that wok is not dried out.  Transfer the lotus parcels to a large flat plate.  Unfold at the table.

Serves: 6



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