Smacked Cucumber in Garlicy Sauce

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There’s this cucumber appetizer at Z&Y Restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown that I love: piquant, garlicy, and salty, it’s perfect in its simplicity yet a challenge to recreate. Until now. This is as close as I’m going to get to achieving this cooling cucumber that’s perfect alongside a meal of spicy dishes.

Resist the urge to make smacked jokes: the smacking refers to whacking the cucumber to help it absorb the flavors of the sauce. Try not to crush it into a million pieces!

Smacked cucumber in garlicy sauce

Ingredients:

1 English cucumber
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese black vinegar (or substitute balsamic vinegar)
1 tablespoon chili oil

1. Lay the cucumber on a chopping board and smack it a few times with a rolling pin. Cut the cucumber lengthwise into 4 pieces. Cut the cucumber on the diagonal into 1-inch slices. Place in a bowl with the salt, mix and set aside for 15 minutes.

2. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

3. Drain the cucumber, pour over the sauce, stir, and serve.

Steamed Eggplant with Chili Sauce

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I love eggplant but I hate frying them but I love their buttery texture when they’re fried. First world problems, amirite? I’ve tried grilling, I’ve tried baking, I’ve tried broiling eggplant to recreate that fried buttery texture, but to no avail.

Until I tried steaming them.

Whatever magical alchemy is happening under the steamer results in a smooth, creamy texture reminiscent of fried eggplant but without, you know, gobs of oil. This simple dish is enlivened with a fiery chili sauce and pairs perfectly with some jasmine rice.

Steamed eggplant with chili sauce

Ingredients:

4 Asian eggplants
salt
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon black Chinese vinegar (or substitute with balsamic vinegar)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon chili oil with chili flakes
1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Trim the eggplants, cut them in half lengthwise, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Leave for at least half an hour to draw out the bitter juices.

2. Steam the eggplants over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes or until tender, preferably in a bamboo steamer fitted over a wok. Leave to cool and then cut into 3-inch pieces.

3. Combine the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Mix in the oils and pour the sauce over the eggplant on a serving platter.

Hot and Spicy Numbing Chicken

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If you don’t like spicy food, please keep scrolling. The warning is in the name of the dish here: it is hot and it is spicy and thanks to a generous sprinkling of Sichuan peppercorns, it is numbing. But in an oh-so-good way.

Adapted from a Fuchsia Dunlop recipe, this Sichuan-style appetizer is perfect for making ahead of time since you start with already cooked chicken and the final dish is served at room temperature. Make sure you use good quality chili oil here, preferably homemade. It makes all the difference.

Hot and spicy numbing chicken

Ingredients:

1 pound cooked chicken breast
2 green onions
2 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons chili oil with chili flakes
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ground roasted Sichuan pepper

1. Cut the chicken evenly into slices and set aside. Thinly slice the green onions diagonally, 1 1/2 inches long.

2. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, soy sauce, chili oil, and sesame oil.

3. Place the green onions on a serving platter and then add the chicken. Sprinkle the chicken with the ground Sichuan pepper and drizzle with the sauce. Serve at room temperature.

Charred Shishito Peppers with Furikake

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♪ It’s the most wonderful time of the year ♪: shishito season. Come summertime, I am all about putting shishitos in everything: in salad, in stir-fries, and simply by themselves. I usually give them a quick toss in a miso sauce after blistering them on the stovetop, but this quick and easy version inflected with lime and furikake is one of my new favorites. It’s the perfect summer app and comes together in about ten minutes.

Charred shishito peppers with furikake

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 pound shishito peppers
2 teaspoons furikake, plus more for garnish

Juice of 1/2 to 1 lime
1 teaspoon soy sauce

salt

1. In a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil. Add half of the peppers and cook over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until charred and tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining oil and peppers. 


2. Add the furikake, the lime juice and soy sauce to the shishitos and toss to combine; season with salt. Transfer to a seving plate and garnish with more furikake.

Flowering Chives with Turkey and Black Beans

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I was missing Taiwan and the cornucopia of food I ate during my trip last year, so I made this spin on what’s colloquially known as “fly’s head,” but is really more like Chinese chives with minced pork and salted black beans. Except my version uses ground turkey instead of pork (I stay halalifying Chinese recipes on the regular).

Try to seek out the flowering chives jiu cai here, as opposed to the flat, leafy ones. These stalks are light and crisp and will make all the difference in the final dish, which is perfect alongside a simple bowl of steamed rice.

Flowering chives with turkey and black beans

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/4 pounds ground turkey
3/4 cup mirin
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 1/2 pounds flowering chives, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
3 Thai chiles, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons dried fermented black beans, rinsed and drained

1. Heat oil in a wok over high. Add turkey and stir-fry while breaking up the pieces, until almost cooked through but with some remaining pink spots, about 3 minutes. Add mirin and soy sauce and simmer, continuing to press down on the turkey to break into small pieces, until liquid is reduced by half and meat looks slightly glazed, about 8 minutes. Add flowering chives, garlic, chiles, sesame oil, and black beans. Cook, tossing, until chives are just tender and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Serve over rice.