Seafood and Garlic Chive Lo Mein

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I work near San Francisco’s Chinatown and every day is an uphill (literally and figuratively) battle to resist the delicious noodle dishes beckoning at every corner. My favorite are the bustling Hong Kong-style shops that line Chinatown’s alleyways, serving chewy egg noodles tossed with fresh vegetables and seafood.

This dish is an homage to those restaurants that I adore so much. It’s worth it to seek out garlic chives as they impart a uniquely herbaceous flavor, although a combination of regular chives and minced garlic can be substituted. I use scallops and squid here, but any shellfish will work just fine.

Seafood and garlic chive lo mein

Ingredients:

1 pound fresh thin Chinese egg noodles
3 teaspoons sesame oil
6 squid (about 4 ounces), cleaned
3/4 pound sea scallops, halved
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon oyster-flavored sauce
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 pound yellow garlic chives, cut into 2-inch lengths
4 green onions, cut into 2-inch lengths

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Add 2 teaspoons sesame oil and toss to coat.

2. Cut off squid tentacles. Cut squid bodies in half lengthwise with a knife and score the inside diagonally in a cross-hatch pattern. Combine squid tentacles and bodies, scallops, cornstarch, and salt in a bowl. Stir to coat; let stand for 10 minutes. Combine chicken broth, soy sauce, oyster-flavored sauce, and remaining teaspoon sesame oil in another bowl to form sauce.

3. Soak dried mushrooms in warm water to cover until softened, about 20 minutes; drain. Discard stems and thinly slice caps.

4 Place a wok over medium-high heat until hot. Add vegetable oil, swirling to coat sides. Add mushrooms, ginger, garlic chives, and green onions; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add scallops and squid; stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add sauce, stirring, until it boils and thickens. Toss in noodles, mix well, remove from heat, and serve.

Spicy Anchovy Banchan

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This side dish is meant to be a banchan, or one of the small dishes served alongside cooked rice in Korean cuisine. I love it so much that sometimes I eat it on its own, too. It’s chewy, salty, fishy, and perfect with a cold drink. Spicy anchovy banchan, or myeolchi-bokkeum, keeps for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator and can be served at room temperature, making it great for a picnic. This version is adapted from the always wonderful maangchi.com.

Anchovy banchan

Ingredients:

1 cup of medium-small dried anchovies
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 clove minced garlic
1 tablespoon gochujang (hot fermented pepper paste)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1. Make the sauce: mix the gochujang, sugar, garlic, and 1 tablespoon water in a bowl and set aside.
2. Heat a pan over medium-high heat and add anchovies, stirring for 1 minute. Add olive oil and stir-fry for another minute.
3. Push the anchovies to the edge of the pan away from the heat and add the sauce to the cleared spot in the middle of the pan. Simmer until the sauce is shiny, about 30 seconds.
3. Mix the anchovies with the sauce in the pan and then remove from heat. Add sesame oil and sesame seeds and serve.

Crab Rangoon

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I’m not even going to pretend like these have any semblance of authenticity to them. Say “crab rangoon” and all I can think of is a 1980s Chinese take-out menu in Anytown, USA. But crab rangoon are also delicious. Cheesy, seafoody, and deep-fried: what’s not to love?

I serve these with a sweet chili dipping sauce but a soy-vinegar sauce would also do well and cut through these crab puffs’ richness.

Crab Rangoon

Ingredients:

8 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons minced ginger
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup chopped green onions
8 ounces shelled crab
1 egg
About 40 square wonton wrappers
Vegetable oil for frying
Soy sauce mixed with rice vinegar and chili oil, and sweet chili sauce

1. Whirl cream cheese, ginger, garlic, and soy sauce together in a food processor until smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in green onions and crab.

2. Whisk together egg and 1 tablespoon water in a small dish. Lay wonton wrappers flat. Brush with egg wash, covering completely with a thin layer. Spoon a scant 1 tbsp. crab mixture onto center of each wonton. Pull up corners so all four meet in the center, pressing edges together to seal. Set on a rimmed baking sheet.

3. Fill a wide pot with 2 in. oil. Heat over medium heat to 350° on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in batches, fry rangoons, turning as needed, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer rangoons to a plate lined with paper towels. Let cool slightly before serving with dipping sauces.

Sushi rolls

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I’ve just returned from a trip to Tokyo and jet lag aside, it was everything my sushi-laden dreams are made of. I’m no early riser, but I even had sushi for breakfast one morning at Tsukiji fish market. The sushi was as good as I remembered it from my last trip a few years ago, and I’ve been craving it at home since I returned.

Thankfully, good sushi is within reach at home. For me, the toughest part is making the vinegared rice. I haven’t mastered it yet but I’ll keep trying until I get it right. It’s a great excuse to eat more sushi.

Homemade sushi

Homemade sushi

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups sushi rice
1 2/3 cups water
1 4-inch piece of kombu seaweed
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 to 15 toasted nori seaweed sheets
any assortment of the following filling ingredients: sliced sashimi-grade tuna, sliced sashimi-grade salmon, salmon roe, sea urchin, crab, barbecued eel, egg omelet, shiso leaves, takuan pickled daikon radish, sesame seeds, sliced cucumber, sliced avocado, green onions, soy-simmered shiitake mushrooms, umeboshi plums, soy-simmered kampyo gourd strips, cooked spinach

1. Make the vinegared rice: soak the kombu seaweed in the water for about one hour to make the stock. Wash the rice 30 minutes prior to cooking and drain on a sieve. Put the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot and heat slightly until dissolved. This completes the vinegar dressing. Place the rice and stock into a rice cooker and cook according to cooker instructions. Transfer the rice to a large bowl and sprinkle with the vinegar dressing. Using a flat wooden spoon, toss the rice with horizontal cutting strokes while cooling the rice with a hand-fan. When tossing is completed, cover the rice with a clean cloth moistened with water.

2. Place a nori seaweed sheet on a maki-su bamboo mat. Put the vinegared rice lightly on the nori sheet and spread over the sheet, leaving 3/4-inch at the top and bottom uncovered.

3. Place filling ingredients of your choice horizontally on top of the rice.

4. Lift the edges of both the bamboo mat and nori sheet nearest you and bring over to meet the far edge of the sheet.

5. Gently but firmly press the bamboo mat around the roll to shape it. Push both ends of the rolls towards the center firmly a few times using a cloth or plastic wrap.

6. Cut in sixths or eighths crosswise. Clean the knife with water between cuttings. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger.

Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

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I make these light and healthy spring rolls all the time, especially when the weather begins to warm up. (Or when it never cools down, as is this case with this year’s endless Bay Area summer.)

Even though I usually make them with shrimp, you can substitute with shredded chicken, fresh crab, or any kind of protein. The herbs are interchangeable too: I prefer a mix of romaine lettuce, mint, and basil, but anything goes. Sometimes I substitute shredded carrots with cucumbers or avocado instead. You get the picture.

Don’t make these too ahead of time, as I’ve learned the hard way that refrigerating fresh spring rolls results in a stale wrapper. Don’t worry, though. These are so good you won’t have any left over.

Shrimp spring rolls

Ingredients:

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons chile-garlic sauce
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
24 medium shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled (or shredded chicken)
4 ounces dried bean thread (glass) noodles
16 round rice paper wrappers
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
1 bunch mint leaves, removed from stems
1 bunch basil leaves, removed froms tems
1 Persian cucumber, peeled and julienned
1 bunch romaine lettuce, ribs removed

1. To make the peanut sauce, whisk the first 8 ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.

2. To make the spring rolls, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook until pink and opaque, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and run under cold water until cool. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and place on a cutting board. Holding your knife parallel to the cutting board, halve each shrimp horizontally. Set aside.

3. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and pour over bean thread noodles in a heat-proof bowl and cover for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4. Place a clean, damp kitchen towel on a work surface. Fill a medium frying pan or wide, shallow dish large enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with hot tap water. Working with 1 wrapper at a time, completely submerge the wrapper until it is soft and pliable, about 15 seconds. Remove the wrapper from the water and place it on the towel.
Working quickly, tear off a piece of lettuce that is roughly half the size of the wrapper and place in the center of the wrapper. Add 3 shrimp halves in a row, cut side up, just above the center of the wrapper, leaving about 1 inch of space on each side. Layer 1/4 cup of the noodles over the shrimp, followed by a spoon of carrot, a few mint leaves, and a few basil leaves. Place 2 of the cucumber sticks on either side of the noodle pile.

5. Fold the bottom and top halves of the rice paper wrapper over the filling. Holding the whole thing firmly in place, fold the sides of the wrapper in. Then, pressing firmly down to hold the folds in place, roll the entire wrapper horizontally up from the bottom to the top. Slice in half.

6. If not serving immediately, keep the summer rolls tightly covered with plastic wrap at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Serve with the peanut sauce for dipping.