At the beginning of this month, I imagined myself visiting countless (actually, okay, I estimated a very countable 4-5 places) Chinese restaurants, slurping down noodles, trying a few dim sum places, and ordering Dan Dan Mian in. This never happened. Not really. Once, I took Jordan to Chinatown’s New Town Bakery, since we needed to go to T&T Supermarket anyway.
I also nearly lost motivation mid-month. I was attacked by the North American palate cravings. All I wanted was a nice broccoli and potato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side. We did break from Chinese food for a night of pesto pasta, but I attribute that to the fact that I found myself swimming in free basil on one occasion. A day later, I found the motivation I needed, thankfully.
What kept me motivated during this slump? This delightful read by Ann Mah: kitchen chinese. It’s like a food memoir mixed up into a rom com. It was fun to read and taught me a bit about Chinese food and culture.
Blogs, per usual, were another source of inspiration. Those that inspired me to try new recipes when I was feeling lazy and wanted to me reposer sur mes feuilles de lauriers* include Steamy Kitchen and the Woks of Life. Neither steered me wrong. Both provided way more recipes than I needed to fill my month and typically came with enough stories and explanations to make me excited enough to get off the couch, even after work, to cook a nice meal.
I didn’t make my way through all the recipes on my to-cook list, but we did much better on the cooking side of the project as compared to making our way to Chinese restaurants. I still need to make Chinese tea eggs and have some quality sweet and sour ribs. I have no doubt that sometime in my near future, these things will happen.
But I digress. Concentrating on what we didn’t eat is so not the point. Especially when we tried some very fun new things.
The month had some hits. It also had some misses.
I had two favorite nights. Night 1 was when we invited a friend over for supper (yep, I call it supper–that’s what we call it in my neck of the woods, and I simply
won’t can’t break the habit). Jordan and I (heavy on the I this go round) had spent a good 2 hours braising our pork belly and prepping the spicy Ma Yi Shang Su, also called Ants Climbing a Tree. When the lovely guest of ours came over, we spent some time together making our dumpling filling and shaping dumplings to go into the bamboo steamer. We ate and sipped a nice Argentine red and ate and chatted and ate. Earlier in the day, Jordan and I had gone to New Town Bakery to stock up on some egg tarts, almond cookies, and sesame balls. I have since decided that if I one day have a child, he or she will be fed Chinese sweets from a young age so that he or she won’t have to learn to appreciate them as an adult. Still, a fun end to the evening, even if the desserts weren’t our taste.
Favorite Night 2 was Peking duck night. I picked my duck up at Jackson’s Poultry (the staff there is always so friendly!), bought a sackful of plums, and stocked up on five spice. For the most part, we followed recipes a la Jamie Oliver for our duck and our plum sauce, then spent some time rendering the fat and saving the legs for confit (the legs had a big less five spice, just for the record), and finally using all those randoms bits for a stock. It was really quite the production, but fun all the same. And technically, since those confit dug legs are still in waiting–and thus, some of the rendered fat as well–we’re still enjoying that duck. The bird that keeps on giving. As for the plum sauce, gruyère and plum sauce grilled cheese wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I was craving grilled cheese, but it’ll definitely do the trick.
Other notable experiences include the hot and sour soup, which I believe may have warded off a cold, braised oxtail, and all Schezuan-influenced dishes. I think we’d add the hot chili oil to anything if we’d only be able to find a way to claim that it was supposed to be a part of the dish. We had Mapo tofu and also a Schezuan fish stew which we definitely enjoyed.
My biggest disappointment of the month? The breakfast congee. I had the best of intentions to dry my own orange peels, never did it, and found myself using other ingredients around the pantry to flavor the rice porridge. It ended up being a far cry from anything traditional, and it certainly wasn’t anything that left the husband eager to eat ride porridge in the mornings. (He might have mixed peanut butter and honey into his). I had envisioned it as a much more comforting breakfasty morning, but it ended up being one of those Cassie-is-trying-something-and-it-is-not-great-but-I-won’t-complain sort of things. But when Thai food rolls around, I’ll give it another go, maybe try savory instead of sweet congee.
After a month of ginger, soy sauce, black vinegar, cloud ear mushrooms, dumplings, and Schezuan peppercorns, what do we have to show for ourselves? Other than our new bits of food knowledge, only one single photo. We were apparently too busy eating to snap any decent photos of our creations.
The photo of the oxtail above is the only one from the entire month’s worth of home cooking.
So instead I’ll leave you (and my future self when I return to this page with a hankering for Chinese food) with a list of the recipes that we tried at home this month.
- Dan Dan Main (noodles)
- Ants Climbing a Tree
- Chinese braised oxtail
- Shanghai-style Pork Belly
- Pork potstickers
- Veggie potstickers
- Hot and Sour Soup
- Egg drop soup
- Vegetable Lo Mein
- Buddha’s Delight-Round 2
- Peking Duck
- Homemade Plum Sauce
- Shanghai Noodle Bowls
- Breakfast Congee
- Egg Foo Yung
- Kung Pao Veggies (Sweet Potatoes)
- Vegetable Chow Mein
- Mapo Tofu
- Schezuan Fish Stew
The month of April? All about Mexican. We’ve already prepped our habañero hot sauce and revamped some of our favorites. Can’t wait!
Happy cooking and happy eating!
*There is a pun to be had here in English, too, I’m sure, but I just can’t seem to make it work. It works so much better in French since bay leaf is feuille de laurier and to rest on one’s laurels is se reposer sur ses lauriers. Since a bay leaf is often used in a type of cooking I am much more familiar with, using that bay leaf seems like resting on my laurels, not stretching my repertoire, etc. Does it work, does it work?!