Thursday, September 20, 2018

Adventures in China

In addition to our favorite picture books about China, we're enjoying our school books, too.  Classics like "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon", "Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze", "Lu Lin, Lad of Courage", and "House of Sixty Fathers" have been on our shelves for years.  This year, since we're living in America, we took advantage of our local library.  We found some fun books like "Leaving China:  An Artists Paints His World War II Childhood" by James McMullan and "Building the Great Wall of China:  An Interactive Engineering Adventure (You Choose Engineering Marvels)"

By far, our favorite books were the cookbooks:  "The Food of China" by Tamra Orr and "The Cooking of China" by Matthew Locricchio.  Katherine chose five recipes (she has been working to hone her kitchen skills!) and started cooking her feast at 2:00 p.m. so it would all be ready in time for supper.  She did almost all of the work herself, and it was a very late meal by the time every dish was ready, but so worth it!  My favorite recipes were Velvet Corn Soup (Yu Mi Geng) and Lion's Head (Shi Zi Tou).

Velvet Corn Soup (Yu Mi Geng) from "The Cooking of China" 
Serves 4 to 6

1 medium size boneless skinless chicken breast (about 4 ounces)
1/4 pound smoked ham or Smithfield ham
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups creamed corn
4 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with 2 tablespoons water
2 green onions, finely chopped

Place the chicken breast in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes.  Partially freezing it will make it easier to cut.  Slice the ham into long strips, then into 1/2-inch cubes, and refrigerate.  Slice the chicken into long strips, then into cubes slightly larger than the ham.  Using an electric hand mixer, beat the egg whites until they are almost stiff.  Add the chicken cubes and salt to the egg whites and refrigerate.  Wash the beaters of the hand mixer.  Beat the creamed corn with the electric mixer for about 30 seconds, or until smooth.  

Aaron helping assemble the egg rolls

In a 4-quart pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil.  Line up these ingredients on your countertop:  chicken mixture, creamed corn, cornstarch mixture, ham cubes, green onions.  Add the chicken mixture and creamed corn to the chicken stock.  Slowly bring the soup back to a boil.  This will take 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir the cornstarch and water mixture to recombine.  When the soup boils, stir in the cornstarch mixture.  Add the ham cubes and cook for another minute, stirring, to finish the soup.  Serve hot, with the chopped green onions sprinkled on top, and pass the soy sauce at the table.

Lion's Head (Shi Zi Tou) from "The Cooking of China"
Serves 4

6 green onions (scallions)
1 inch thick slice of ginger
1 pound ground pork
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 large egg
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 medium size head of boy choy, or Chinese or napa cabbage
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil

Wash the green onions.  Remove the root end and any dark leaves.  Finely chop them, both the white part and about 3 to 4 inches of the green sections, into small pieces and add to a large bowl.  Peel the skin from the ginger.  Cut the ginger into thin slices, stack the slices on top of each other and slice them into strips.  Finely mince the ginger strips and add them to the bowl along with the green onions.

Add the ground pork to the bowl, with the cornstarch, egg, rice wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, salt, and pepper.  Using your very clean hands or a large spoon, mix the ingredients together until combined.  Shape into four meatballs and lay them on a clean plate.  Wash your hands with lots of warm soapy water and dry.  Lightly cover the meatballs with wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate.


Cut off the root end of the bok choy and discard.  Wash the stalks under cold water to remove any dirt.  Separate the stalks, lay them on a cutting board, and cut each one in half, lengthwise.  Slice the stalks crosswise into 3- or 4- inch pieces.  Continue with the rest of the bok choy.  You will need about 4 cups of sliced bok choy or cabbage.  In a wok or 12-inch frying pan or skillet, heat the canola oil over medium heat until hot but not smoking.  If using a wok, brown the meatballs one at a time for 2 to 3 minutes on each side until they are lightly browned and crispy.  If using a frying pan or skillet, brown the meatballs, two at the same time until they are lightly browned and crispy.  Remove the browned meatballs to a clean plate.

Lay 2 cups of the sliced bok choy in the bottom of a 3- to 4- quart heavy-bottomed heatproof covered pot or casserole, with a lid.  Place the browned meatballs on top of the bok choy.  Cover the meatballs with the remaining bok choy.  Add the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce to the chicken stock and stir to combine.  Carefully pour the stock and soy combination into the pan.  Bring the pan to a boil over medium-high heat.  This will take 3 to 4 minutes.  Once it boils, cover the pan with the lid slightly ajar, reduce the heat to low, and simmer to 50 minutes.  After 25 minutes baste the bok choy with some of the cooking liquid.  To serve, place the meatballs in a serving blow with some of the bok choy leaves, and some of the cooking liquid spooned over the top.  Serve hot.

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