Sunday, June 23, 2013


Well, I was hoping that I would’ve had my Explorerback from the shop, but it turned out to be this long, drawn-out, highly-unnecessaryfiasco. The first shop closed down for good, so they moved my vehicle to theother shop on the other side of town. Fine, but now I think they’re jackingaround and taking their sweet time getting my vehicle fixed. Ugh, seriously? Ilove my rental car (2012 Kia Soul), but it’s already depleted our savings justto get around. So, once again, I really just needed this meal to go well. Andit certainly did. 
Even with nothing in them, they are nearly perfect. I'm thinking these may also make good mini-sandwiches. 
I started out with the bread: Chinese steamed buns.I love getting these at the Chinese buffet place we go to, and they’re aparticular favorite of my husband. It started out with dissolving the yeast inthe water and then adding a cup of flour, letting it rest for an hour. Then youmixed in the sugar, oil, and the rest of the flour, and let it sit for another2 hours (which I only waited about an hour). After dividing it into twosections to form a log, I cut 12 “rolls” out of it. Each roll was flattenedinto a disk. I brushed some sesame oil onto it and folded it in half, using afork to press the open edges shut. Then it’s time to steam it. My husband and Ihad to figure out the best way to do this since I don’t have a steaming basket:we used a colander hung over the side of a large pot with the lid on top. Itseemed to do the job. At first I was thinking, “Oh, it doesn’t look like theyset up,” but when I tried to take them out, I could tell they were much firmedthat they looked. And the flavor was so wonderful and yeasty. One variation Ikept running into while searching for recipes is to fill these rolls with piecesof meat, such as barbecued pork, but I kept these plain.
As cool as a baby cucumber and shrimp and lo mein. 
Then I made sesame noodles. I used lo mein noodlesfor this and boiled them in 2 cups chicken broth and 2 cups water. The saucethat goes on it was modified a little bit based on whether I could find all theingredients. So, my sauce included sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, peanutbutter, chili powder, salt, and sugar – and a splash of water. The sauce ismixed in with the noodles so that it’s all covered. I mixed in some choppedscallions, baby cucumbers, and sautéed shrimp. This is eaten cold, which sortof concerned me whether the family would eat it, but they certainly didn’t seemto mind. In fact, it’s been so hot lately that it was perfect.
They loved this. Now I know where my new bargaining point is. 
And lastly, we had jiaozi (Chinese dumplings).There are many varieties out there, but I chose ones with ground pork and freshcut chives. The pork-chive mixture is put in the middle of wantons – I boughtalready packaged wantons to save time – and then folded around the filling. Aswe found out, we made 44 dumplings, and it’s really important not to overfillthem. To cook them, we dropped each one in boiling water and when they floated,they were done. I wish everything were so easy to tell if they were done. Therecipe suggested using black vinegar with these to dip them in, but I justpoured a little soy sauce on them. And they were delightful. If I wasn’t sofull, I wanted to eat more. My daughter ate more than me, I think.  (And of course, I had Tsingtao beer toaccompany this fine meal, as it only seems appropriate.)
Life is just a bowl full of dumplings.
Perhaps we are at an advantage that we are alreadyaware of many Chinese foods because we’re inundated with Chinese take-outplaces no matter where you live. And a few people are lucky enough to live nearone of the various Chinatowns. In fact, my husband, a native Chicagoan, took meto the Chicago’s Chinatown on our first date. I’d love to take the kids backthere one day. I kept looking for “authentic” recipes, not Americanized Chineserecipes. But then it left me wondering where we ever draw the line on what isauthentic. It’s used a lot in food advertising. And even in the US, we havedebates over what constitutes as chili or baked beans or cole slaw. Does itreally mean that one is authentic and others are not? Are variations considerednot authentic because it’s outside of the norm? It’s hard to say. So, I madethe food, authentic or not, and it was good. And it tasted just like, if notbetter, than the Chinese food I’ve had here in the States. And maybe one day,I’ll have the opportunity to go to China and try these dishes myself. Authenticor not.
Better than most restaurants.  

Up next: Colombia

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