Who's the Baketard?

Why Baketard? Love to cook, hate to bake. Despite having gone to cooking school and working in some top kitchens, I never learned the baking side of things. I'm building my baking and photography skills, while sharing recipes that rock my world in the mean time.

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Entries in fuchsia dunlop (3)

Tuesday
May122015

Chef Chen Dailu's Spicy Sesame Noodles (Chen Shifu Hong You Su Mian)

I’m trying again to get my act together and share some recipes. After a couple months of chaos (we sold our house and bought a new one, moved, took three weeks of vacation, and have been back in the new house for two weeks today) we’re finally starting to get unpacked, settle in and get back to a more normal routine. As normal as it can be in our lives.

As I’ve unpacked infinite boxes of kitchenware, struggled to find everything I’m looking for, and coordinated the events moving has involved I’ve had little time for real cooking. While I’m not typically the “Dinner in 30 minutes or less” guy on the weekends, during the week it’s imperative. To be honest, we eat out far too much when we’re together because by the time we get home we’re fried and don’t feel like hassling with anything. On the nights David works, I’m ALL about simple. Like my single days, I don’t want to mess with cooking for one so my go-tos tend to be making a vat of chili, tacos, puttanesca, burritos, or a bigassed salad. Occasionally I’ll throw together some type of Asian noodle dish if I feel like I can justify the lack of nutritionally redeeming gorging I know I’ll do in a slithery, fatty plate of carbs. Last night was one of those nights.

I doubt I need to tell anyone who knows me what a Fuchsia Dunlop fan I am. I’ve posted some of her recipes in the past, and her books are the reason I went to the Sichuan Culinary Institute a few years back. I stumbled across her Spicy Sesame Noodles recipe when I was looking through Every Grain of Rice recently, and knew I had to make it. Start to finish, it took 10 minutes.

The only adaptations I made were based upon all the noodles I’ve inhaled in various trips to china, and the barrage of questions I asked the chefs and noodle shop owners during my culinary trip. You don’t need to modify this—it’s all to taste. I just added what I like, including a sprinkling of msg, about ½ tsp of sugar, 3 Tbsp chopped ya cai (Chinese pickled vegetables), the amount of garlic called for in the recipe--doubled, and I used both ground Sichuan pepper and a tiny drizzle of the oil.

 Enjoy this. If you have the ingredients on hand, it’s effortless.

Chef Chen Dailu's Spicy Sesame Noodles (Chen Shifu Hong You Su Mian)

From: Every Grain of Rice by Fuschia Dunlop

"This is a recipe taught by chef Chen Dailu of the wonderful Chengdu snack restaurant Long Chao Shou," she says. "I was interviewing him for a feature for Saveur magazine and I asked him to tell me about his favorite food. To my surprise, he came up with this scrumptious but blindingly simple vegetarian recipe."

Makes: 2 servings

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons sesame paste

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

½ teaspoon dark soy sauce

½ teaspoon Chinkiang vinegar

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

Good pinch of ground, roasted Sichuan pepper, or a dash of Sichuan pepper oil

1 ½ tablespoons chilli oil with sediment

7 ounces (200g) Chinese wheat or buckwheat noodles

Handful of pea shoots, green bok choy or choy sum leaves (optional)

1 tablespoon finely chopped spring onion greens

Preparation:

1. Combine all the ingredients - except for the noodles, greens, if using, and spring onions -- in a serving bowl and mix well.

2. Cook the noodles. If you are using the greens, toss them into the cooking water for the last minute to blanch them. Drain the noodles and greens and add to the serving bowl. Scatter with spring onions, mix well, and serve.

Thursday
Sep192013

Sichuan Smoky Eggplant with Garlic (Huo Shao Qie Zi)

Again, I’ve been remiss in posting updates to Baketard when we’ve had new dishes I felt were keepers. I could blame work, a constant flow of houseguests this summer, some work and vacation travel, or my own damned laziness. I think you know which one of the above is to blame as well as I do. Hopefully this dish will help make it up to you. I am in LOVE with this cold appetizer.

I’ve posted a few items describing my latest trip to China and the time I spent at the Sichuan Culinary Institute in Chengdu, and I’ve put up a couple of recipes (with permission) while trying to honor the requests from the heads of the program not to publish what they teach at the school (Because if I did, why would anyone go and have that amazing experience for themselves). I completely respect their wishes.  This said, I still have some Chinese dishes to share. 

This summer, we have thrown a few Sichuan-themed dinner parties, taking what I learned during the program and adding in bits and pieces from cookbooks I’ve acquired abroad, notes from colleagues who are always willing to help me look up and translate cool dishes I’ve had when traveling, and of course, Fuchsia Dunlop’s published recipes. This eggplant dish is one of hers, and it’s a regular at our table. Cool, smoky, spicy, slightly sweet, creamy….it’s got it all, is relatively simple to make and I think it’s a stunning dish. I always double this recipe. Always.

The only modification I’ve made is to use Chinese thin-skinned eggplant (which require a greater number as they yield less flesh), and at the end I roughly chop the mixture rather than leaving them in strips. I also don’t bother with removing the seeds. If you do that with Chinese or Japanese eggplant, there isn’t much left over to work with.

Enjoy this one. It’s fantastic.

Ingredients:

2 eggplant (about 1 ¼ lb/600g)

2 tsp light soy sauce

2 tsp Chinkiang Vinegar

2 Tbsp chile oil with its sediment

1-2 tsp finely chopped garlic, to taste

½ tsp sesame seeds

2 Tbsp finely sliced spring onions

Instructions:

Prick each eggplant a couple of times with a fork, then lay them on a very low gas flame and allow them to soften and char, turning from time to time for even cooking (this can take up to an hour, so its best done when you have other chores in or near the kitchen).

When the skins have blackened and the flesh is soft and pulpy within, remove them from the stove and allow to cool.

Strip away the burned skin and tear the eggplant into strips, discarding the seeds as far as possible. Pile on a serving dish and pour or scatter over the other ingredients. Mix well before eating.

Click here for a link to the book: Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking

Friday
Sep142012

Guo Kui - 锅盔 

I am obsessed with Chinese food. Especially “real” (authentic) Chinese food. Not that I don’t love the Americanized Chinese food, fried and covered in globby sauces bragging neon colors not found in nature. Come on, admit it, you like it. You don’t want to admit it, but you do. My friend Henry says, “Even bad Chinese food is better than no Chinese food at all.”  I completely agree.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in China over the years thanks to a job that has enabled me to manage business relationships in Southeast Asia. Of all the places I’ve been lucky enough to experience, China is the place that feeds my passion. I love visiting the big cities like Shanghai and Beijing. Seeing the Great Wall for the first time, shopping in the food and hawker markets, trying to bargain for the perfect souvenirs to take home—all of these are so different than what I had in my mind as my “normal.” I just couldn’t get enough. Getting outside of those cities to see daily life in more rural areas is absolutely stunning.

A few years back, David and I decided to take a trip with an Australian tour company called Intrepid Travel and explore the country for a few weeks. They had tours tailored for 4-star dining and foodies all the way down to “Roughing It” packages. These packages were significantly cheaper, guaranteed you “Chinese 4-star” hotels and had a higher physical rating. We opted for this both to save money and to experience as much of the real deal as we could. We’d never done an organized tour before and feared the visual we had in our heads of blue-haired grannies with oxygen tanks being carted from tacky tourist spot to tourist spot in an air-conditioned bus. The tour was NOTHING like we expected. We had the time of our lives and made some life-long friends. In spite of the hotels being a bit rougher than we expected, they were clean. We navigated the language barrier and had a good laugh staying in places where we were forewarned about getting a call at 10:30 p.m. from downstairs asking if we wanted “special massage.” Tempting as that is for some, we passed on the opportunity to have our Happy Ending.

One of my favorite stops was Xi’an, home of the famous Terra Cotta Warriors. The warriors are magnificent, but it was the street outside the Muslim mosque area that completely grabbed my attention. This was Chinese street food unlike anything I’d ever tried: Crispy pastries filled with lamb, Sichuan peppercorns, chiles and aromatics. Mutton soup with hard crumbs of bread soaking in and absorbing all that richness. Hand-made noodles in the most aromatic and comfort-food-happy broths. I was in heaven.

This past year, I had the opportunity to return to Xi’an for a work meeting and I was determined to learn to make some of the dishes I kept talking up to my friends and the team. I arranged for us to take a private dumpling and hand-pulled noodle making lesson at our hotel with the chefs from their main restaurant. I bargained my way behind the counter of one of the street food stalls to learn to make the dish I loved.

I bought every English-translated cookbook they had at the city’s main bookstore -- and a few Sichuan and Hunan cuisine books that weren’t translated. (The advantage of having a bunch of bossy Chinese women in your life is that they’ll gladly help with translations and will even MORE gleefully tell you how and why everything you are doing with the recipe is WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!!!!!) The problem is, there aren’t many English recipes for the street food dishes I loved the most. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know what my absolute favorite was called until I read about it in Fuchsia Dunlop’s memoir, “Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper,” chronicling her time at the Sichuan Culinary Institute in Chengdu. I’m re-reading the book now, because I’m heading there in a couple of weeks for an intensive two-week cooking course at the same school.

I mentioned this dish, “Guo Kui,” to a Chinese colleague who lives in Singapore and lamented that there are no English recipes out there for the version I remembered. He offered to check some Chinese language websites and sent a few links (with pictures) to me to see whether any of them linked up with my memory of the dish. One did, so I copied the recipe and sent a plea for help to my bossy ladies. My friend Kairu offered to assist and had her mother translate the recipe for us, taking great glee when her mother asked if I knew what it meant to “fluff meat.” No, really, it’s an English translation of a real cooking technique. “Bitch, please,” I replied with an instant eye-roll. “I know how to do BOTH versions of that expression.”

Last weekend we gave it a try, made a few tweaks and came up with a version pretty identical to that which I remember. There are many versions of Guo Kui in china. Some are thicker and doughier, served as a large heavy roll to accompany dishes. Some are cut and filled with braised meats or vegetables, making a “Chinese Hamburger.” This version is the one I remember most fondly though, and is the one Fuchsia Dunlop references in her book (I checked with her on twitter and she was kind enough to confirm). TRY this dish. It’s very simple and quite delicious and I guarantee you’ve never had anything like it before.  And if you like this type of food, don’t miss the opportunity to try more authentic Chinese cuisine from Fuchsia Dunlop’s other books. They’re some of the most used and most referenced books in my collection.

锅盔 Guo Kui  

Ingredients:

Flour – 2 cups, plus more for dusting/rolling

Water – 3/4 cup (may need a little more, depending on your dough)

Lamb, ground – 1 lb.

Sichuan Peppercorn Powder – 2 tsp

Garlic – Minced - 1-2 Tbsp

Ginger, minced – 1 Tbsp

Ground cumin – 2 tsp

Dried Hunan (if you can find them) Chiles, or red chile flakes – 1 Tbsp

Chile Oil – 2 tsp

Scallions – 1 bunch, green and light green parts, thinly sliced into rings--as thinly as you can slice them.

Salt – 1 tsp

Soy Sauce – 2 Tbsp

Peanut oil, for frying and as needed

Lard (optional), as needed

Instructions:

Finely chop ground lamb with a cleaver for 5 minutes (or if grinding your own, use the finest setting and then chop with a cleaver until uniform).Add sichuan peppercorn powder (you can make this by lightly toasting sichuan peppercorns in a hot dry pan for 2-3 minutes until they pop, and blitzing in a strong blender or food processor. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to avoid the hulls) minced garlic, ginger, cumin, chiles and chile oil, scallions, salt, soy sauce and a teaspoon peanut oil to the chopped lamb.

Mix well with chopsticks, and toss meat against the side of the bowl for 2-3 minutes to “fluff” it, and create a lighter texture. (If you’re unsure how to do this, ask your mom. I can guarantee she’s a champion meat-fluffer from WAY back).

Mix flour and water in a stand mixer with a dough attachment (My lazy white man way) or mix by hand. You want the dough to come together and it should be quite soft. We used just over 3/4 cup of water for 2 cups flour. Knead until very soft and pliable. Add another tablespoon oil (or if you want to be authentic, a tablespoon of lard. Trust me--the flavor is great), knead again until the fat is incorporated into the dough, place in a bowl and cover with a warm towel. Let it rest for 30 minutes.

Knead the dough one more time, roll into a log about 2 ½ inches thick and cut into segments. The segments should be about 2 1/2-inches around and about an inch thick.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees Farenheit.

Lightly flour or oil your work surface and roll the dough into a rough rectangular or tongue shape. Brush with oil or lard and about a tablespoon of the lamb mixture. Starting at the short end, roll the dough down the length of the “tongue” until you have a small rolled bundle. Turn the bundle on its end and press it down flat. Roll into a thin pancake. (Don’t sweat it if some of the meat breaks through. You can dust with a little flour and when you cook it there will be no problem).

 

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and once hot, add about 3 Tbsp cooking oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the guo kui one at a time, flipping the pancake after about 2 minutes. It should be lightly golden brown on both sides. Transfer to a rack and place in oven to crisp and drain for 3-5 minutes.

Serve guo kui on its own or if you’re a chile freak like we are, with some chile oil on the side.