Singaporean Chili Crab

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I haven’t been to Singapore (yet), but it’s one of the countries (well, city-states) that I really want to visit. With one of the most diverse cuisines in the world, it’s a street food heaven offering Malay, Indonesian, Indian, and Chinese flavors and there really is something for every palette. If that doesn’t sound enticing, well, then I might be judging you.

One of my favorite Singaporean dishes is chili crab and it’s also one the most popular dishes in Singapore’s ubiquitous hawker stalls. The best time to make this in the Bay Area is when local Dungeness crab is in season; buy two or three because these will go fast. Chili crab is messy, spicy and saucy, but well worth the trouble.

Singaporean chili crab

Ingredients:

3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 Dungeness crabs, cooked and cleaned
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 red jalapeno chili, seeded and minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 green onion, thinly sliced

1. Mix chicken broth, ketchup, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, rice vinegar, and sugar in a bowl and set aside.

2. Twist off the claws and legs from the crabs and crack them with a cleaver or mallet. Cut the body into 4 pieces.

3. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add oil, swirling to coat sides. Add garlic, ginger, and chili; cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add crab and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

4. Add the sauce and reduce heat to low; cover and simmer, stirring once, until crab is heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in egg and cook until it begins to set, about 1 minute.

5. Arrange crab pieces on a serving plate. Pour sauce all over and garnish with green onion.

Gyoza

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Gyoza, or Japanese potstickers, differ from their Chinese counterparts in that they have a thinner wrapper. They have a richer garlic flavor too, and are usually served with a soy-based rice vinegar and chili sauce. Sometimes I make a double batch as I’m wrapping the gyoza and stick the extras in the freezer – they make for a quick, delicious meal later on, and they’re much healthier than the store-bought frozen version.

Gyoza

Ingredients:

2 cups finely chopped cabbage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground chicken or turkey
1/2 cup chopped water chestnuts
4 green onions, minced
3 tablespoons sake
1 tablespoon oyster-flavored sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 package potsticker wrappers
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup chicken broth

1. In a bowl, toss cabbage with salt; let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and press cabbage to extract excess moisture. Add ground chicken, water chestnuts, 3 minced green onions, sake, oyster-flavored sauce, 1 tablespoon ginger, garlic, and cornstarch; mix well.

2. In another bowl, combine rice vinegar, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, sesame oil, remaining minced green onion, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon of minced ginger to create dipping sauce. Set aside.

3. To shape each potsticker, place a teaspoon of filling in center of one wrapper. Brush edges with water; fold wrapper over filling to form a half-moon. Press and pleat edges to seal. Set filled potsticker down firmly, seam side up, so that it will sit flat.

4. Place a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat sides. Add half of potstickers, seam side up, and cook until bottoms are golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup broth, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until dumplings are tender and liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.

5. With a spatula, remove potstickers from pan and place them on a serving platter. Repeat to cook remaining potstickers. Serve warm with dipping sauce.

Braised Mushrooms and Tofu

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This is one of the first Chinese dishes I learned to make. I was still a kid and had just picked up Martin Yan’s Culinary Journey Through China, and though I didn’t really care for tofu at the time, I wanted to acquire a taste for it. This is the dish that did it.

Browning the tofu long enough to create a crispiness on the outside and spongy texture on the inside is key, so don’t rush this stage of the recipe. If you do it right, the browned tofu absorbs the savory, salty black bean sauce perfectly.

Braised tofu and mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 package extra firm tofu
2/3 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons black bean garlic sauce
2 teaspoons oyster flavored sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1 green onion, sliced
1/2 pound white or cremini mushrooms, halved
1/4 pound oyster mushrooms, halved
6 shiitake mushrooms, halved
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1. Cut tofu in half horizontally to make 2 pieces. Slice each of these halves into six rectangular pieces to make a total of 12 slices of tofu.

2. Combine the chicken broth, black bean garlic sauce, oyster flavored sauce, sugar and sesame oil in a bowl to make the sauce.

3. Place a wok over high heat until hot. Add 1 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat sides. Add the tofu and cook, turning once, until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove tofu and set aside.

4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, swirling to coat sides. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the sauce, reduce heat to low, and cover, then simmer until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch solution and cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens.

5. To serve, arrange the tofu in a circle around the edge of a serving plate. Place the mushroom mixture in the center and garnish with green onions.

Chinese Chicken Salad

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I know, I know. Chinese chicken salad is about as unauthentic as an ethnic dish can get. Even though it’s been done time and time again, this version that I adapted from Martin Yan’s Chinatown Cooking has become one of my favorite recipes. It’s healthy, fresh and most importantly, delicious. I usually make a double batch and store the dressing separately so that I can have leftovers the next day. Don’t be deterred by the long ingredient list; it’s actually very straightforward to make.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Ingredients:

1 skinless chicken breast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1/4 rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons plum or hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon chili garlic sauce
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for deep-frying
2 heads romaine lettuce, thinly shredded
2 green onions, thinly sliced
8 wonton wrappers, cut into 1/4-inch wide strips
1 ounce dried bean thread noodles, broken into 2-inch long pieces
1/4 cup chopped roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds.

1. Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Rub the chicken breasts with the salt and five-spice powder. Lay the chicken on a baking sheet and bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Cool the chicken on a rack until cool enough to touch, then shred the meat and set aside.

2. Make the dressing: Whisk the rice vinegar, honey, plum or hoisin sauce, sesame oil, mustard, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, ginger and vegetable oil in a bowl until well blended. Set aside.

3. Pour enough vegetable oil into a wok to come to a depth of 1 inch. Heat over medium-high heat to 350F. Carefully slip a few of the wonton strips into the oil and fry until light golden brown, about 20 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining strips.

4. In the same wok, deep-fry the bean thread noodles in small batches, stirring them gently to separate the strands, until they puff and expand, about 10 seconds. Remove and drain on paper towels.

5. Place the lettuce in a large salad bowl and top with the green onions. Scatter the chicken on top, pour the dressing over the salad, and toss together. Scatter the wonton strips, fried bean thread noodles, chopped peanuts, and sesame seeds over the top.

Zucchini ‘Pappardelle’ with Tomatoes and Feta

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Contrary to what the name suggests, this dish does not include any pasta. Instead, thin strips of zucchini are created with a mandoline and then lightly broiled to create translucent, pasta-like sheets. Mixed with tomatoes and feta cheese, result is a healthy melange of vegetables tossed in a light citric dressing. This recipe is adapted from an old issue of Food & Wine, one of my favorite food magazines.

If you don’t own a mandoline, a vegetable peeler will work well to create the thin slices of zucchini. Once out of the oven, handle the slices with care so that they don’t tear.

Zucchini 'Pappardelle' with Tomatoes and Feta

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
salt and pepper
4 1/2 pounds zucchini
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tomatoes, chopped
6 ounces feta cheese, cut into small dice
3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped

1. Preheat the broiler. In a bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the lemon juice, mustard, honey and lemon zest and season the dressing with salt and pepper.

2. Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, slice the zucchini lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick “pappardelle,” turning the zucchini and slicing on 4 sides only until the seeds in the central portion are reached.

3. In another bowl, combine the garlic with the thyme, rosemary, crushed red pepper and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Spread the zucchini slices on a large rimmed baking sheet and brush them with the garlic and herb oil. Broil for about 3 minutes, or until the zucchini is browned on top.

4. Spread the tomatoes on another baking sheet and broil for about 1 minute, or until they are lightly browned on top.

5. Add the tomatoes, olives and feta to the zucchini and drizzle with the mustard dressing. Toss the vegetables well and transfer to plates or a platter.