The Laowai Chef
Today I went to another local laoban that we frequent to order some pidan zhou – Which I have already written about in this blog before, a few weeks ago. Unfortunately they were sold out of the zhou, so we had some chaomian (炒面) instead. Chaomian are high heat wok fried noodles with eggs, pork, and vegetables added along with some spices.
These people are very nice and we frequent their establishment at least a few times a week. Today I asked if we could film them cooking and if they would do a little quick sit down interview with us. They agreed.
Chaomian can be hit or miss in China. I have had great chaomian, and totally lousy chaomian. Of course you can guess that this particularly lady does the chaomian just the way I like them – with 2 eggs, pork, and vegetables added. The end result is an absolutely delicious dish you would very rarely find back home in America, and no, Panda Express does not cut it. Check out the video below to see the cooking, tasting and interview with the laoban.
Sometimes, I end up missing foods from home. There are usually ways to replicate these foods by cooking at home, but usually you can’t get things 100% spot on due to a lack of ingredients here in China. I love a good Philly Cheesesteak, which is the steak sandwich from Philadelphia with steak strips, green peppers onions and cheese on a bun. Now, using all those ingredients except the bun (Which I replaced using shou zhua bing, a common Chinese flatbread here) I decided to make what I call a Chinese Philly Cheesesteak.
The ingredients are as follows:
- 200-300g of beef sliced into strips.
- A red onion, sliced
- A green pepper sliced into strips.
- Shredded cheese
- 2 shou zhua bing flatbreads
- Salt (Optional)
To make this is actually a very easy recipe. First, start buy slicing your onions and green peppers. Next, heat up a pan with some olive oil and add in the peppers and onions. Stir to coat in olive oil. Let them cook for 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, slice the beef into strips. After the vegetables have cooked a few minutes, add in the beef and stir it in. Let the beef fully cook, at least 5-7 minutes. After it is fully cooked, separate the piles of meat and vegetables in piles of half. sprinkle shredded cheese over each half and cover the pan, after turning the heat off. Let the cheese melt. Next, cook the shou zhua bing in a pan. Heat for 2-3 minutes on each side. Next, spoon the beef and vegetables and cheese mixture onto the shou zhua bing. Wrap, eat and enjoy! Check out the recipe from my YouTube channel here:
Today while walking around Dafen my girlfriend Maggie and I stumbled upon a restaurant from Chongqing, a city about 1500 kilometers northwest of Shenzhen. The laoban was serving Authentic Chongqing noodles so we decided to have a try. I ordered ma la xiao mian (麻辣小面, pungent and spicy noodles) and Maggie ordered paigu xiao mian (排骨小面, pork rib spicy noodles)
The laoban was a very nice guy. He allowed us to film him cooking the noodles and even sat down with us and had a quick chat. In the video, he boils the noodles and adds them to the soup broth. He then adds a number of things. He adds some chili powder, lajiao, a little more broth, green onions and cilantro. Maggie ordered paigu which has meat in it, so he added some pork ribs to the dish as well.
Upon trying these noodles for the first time, here are my thoughts. The noodles were not too chewy, which I really like, very easy to eat. The sauce and dish overall is pretty spicy. You can taste a lot of chili oil in there and the bite you get from the lajiao is not a normal spicy. It has almost a citrusy sour flavor to it. It sort of reminds me of hot pot, but it’s not really the same thing. The greens (green onions and cilantro) do a lot to enhance the look and flavor of this dish as well.
That’s all for today’s entry but be sure to check out the video for this afternoon’s lunch on my YouTube channel:
Today is Sunday, our day of rest. Of course for me, it’s always a day of cooking, too. Using my new Canon G7X I filmed a recipe for tudou niurou, 牛肉和土豆, or beef and potatoes.
The recipe itself is very simple, and the ingredients are few:
- 5-6 medium potatoes with the skins included
- 350-500g cubed beef
- Garlic powder
- Red pepper
- 1 whole onion chopped
- Cilantro (optional)
- 2 teaspoons Chinese lajiao (拉脚) OR
- 2-3 red chili peppers chopped with seeds
Directions: Cut the potatoes in cubes and cut the beef into smaller cubes, like the size of what you would see in a Mexican style burrito. Add olive oil to pan and let it heat up for 10-20 seconds. Add potatoes, stir to coat in oil, then leave for 10-12 minutes minimum. While the potatoes are cooking, slice the beef and the whole onion. Also, add 2 teaspoons of lajiao or 2-3 chopped red chili peppers at this time. After potatoes have been cooking for 12 minutes, add the beef and spices. Stir, and allow to cook for 5 minutes more. After 5 minutes goes by, add the onion and some more spices if desired and cook for 3-5 moe minutes. Add in chopped cilantro at the end and stir it in. Serve and enjoy!
Check out the recipe on my cooking channel below!
Today my girlfriend Maggie and I did an authentic Chinese recipe for 猪肉包子, or pork steamed buns. If you recognize the name, baozi, the first article on this blog was written about niurou baozi from the streets. We decided to make some at home, but with pork.
The recipe was quite a bit of work, but the end result was well worth it. Here is the recipe:
- 1 large leek (chopped)
- 1 kilogram ground pork (You can use less, this is enough for about 30 baozi
- Salt (About 1 tsp)
- Soy sauce (2 cap fulls)
- 1 onion chopped
- 3 cups of flour
- 1 cup of water
That is everything for the baozi, but we also made a nice pungent dipping sauce to go with it which is very easy to make and only has 3 ingredients:
- 2 pieces of garlic chopped
- Soy sauce
- White vinegar (1 tsp)
To see how to make this recipe, check out the video on my cooking channel!
This morning I felt like going down the street to my local laoban (The boss of an establishment in China, in this case the boss of a restaurant) and ordering a bit of Chang fen.
Chang fen (肠粉) is a very common breakfast in China. It is made with rice paste (Rice ground up in a machine and mixed with water) eggs, meat, and vegetables. The way they cook it is by steaming it in a multirack steamer. They crack an egg on a cooking tray, mix in the rice paste, spoon in some ground pork, a couple vegetables and send it in the steamer for a very short time.
When it comes out of the steamer, they pour on top a sauce which is a mixture of soy sauce, oil and water and garlic. When served, I recommend adding a dash of chinese chilis, lajiao (辣椒) to give it a little more kick and flavor. When I came in the restaurant with my girlfriend this morning, the laoban gave us 2 complimentary drinks of dou jiang, 豆浆, or hot soybean milk!
The soybean milk is probably the most common drink at breakfast for Chinese people. It can be served hot and cold, and is very refreshing either way.
When you bite into chang fen for the first time, it might seem a bit plain. It is a breakfast food that can be done very poorly, or very graciously! I have had terrible chang fen, and mind blowing chang fen. This restaurant is up there with high quality, but not quite the best. However, the cost is just amazing. One order of chang fen at most places in the city runs for about 4 ￥, or ~.64 USD! I got two eggs with mine, so mine was 5￥, about .80 cents. For the two of us it was only 9￥ total, ~$1.50! The soybean milk was complimentary but normally costs around 2￥, .32 cents.
To describe the taste, think of rice. The base of this dish is a rice paste, so think of rice but in sheets instead of rice grains. The texture is different, but the flavor is a bit plain and the same as eating white rice. This is why they have the sauce served with it to give it more flavor, and also adding lajiao or cilantro on top is a good way to bring out the flavor.
Overall I definitely recommend trying chang fen if you are in China, or even recommend it as a daily breakfast if you live here. It is cheap, delicious, and relatively healthy compared to most foods on the street. I’ll leave you with a recipe for two bean spicy beef chili, which is episode 5 on my cooking show (The lighting in this episode is not very good, I apologize for that, but in all episodes after the lighting issue is fixed 🙂
Yesterday I went down to Wuhe, an area near the Bao’An district in the city of Shenzhen. Wuhe is a cool place, there are a lot of street food and restaurants there and the area has a very homey feeling to it. Instead of opting for ultra-cheap street food which I have done in the last couple articles, I thought we would kick it up a notch and go to more of a full service Guangdong restaurant. This was nothing fancy by any means but we had a number of dishes and the total bill was still only 57 RMB (A little less than $10 USD)
While looking at the menu, my girlfriend propositioned me and told me that I should try a century old egg, also known as a pi dan, 皮蛋. I was very intimidated and worried that the food was unsafe to consume. After doing relatively thorough research on whether the food was safe to eat, I discovered that despite its various nicknames, it is not actually one hundred or a thousand years old. The eggs are preserved and fermented using ingredients such as wood and ash for weeks, or months. After confirming that the food was “perfectly safe” to eat, we decided to order that and some other dishes as well. Here is the picture of the entire, modest meal.
So let me describe the rest of the dishes for you. On the far right is zhu rou zheng mi fen, 豬肉蒸米粉, which is a steamed rice noodle dish with pork covering the top. Directly next to that is jian jiao (煎餃子) also known as fried dumplings. These particular dumplings were filled with mushrooms and pork. In the smaller dish to the left of the jian jiao is the pi dan (The century old egg I was just talking about) and above that dish is tang cu yu kuai (糖醋魚塊) which is fried and battered fish covered in a sweet and sour sauce. Not pictured here is ji zhua, also known as chicken feet (鸡爪) as the waitress was taking a long time and hadn’t served that dish yet. I guess I forgot to capture the picture when it finally did come. Oh well. However, you can definitely see it in the new video I just uploaded to my YouTube channel talking about this very lunch! Check it out here:
The steamed pork noodles were good – the noodles were sort of chewy and the meat was nice and fatty. No complex flavors, but it’s also not a very complex dish. The fried dumplings were great, as they always are, and I love how when dumplings are fried, though it isn’t good for you, it always makes the outer part of the dumpling nice and crispy. Coupled with that lajiao that had vinegar in it turned it into a wonderful, sour yet spicy flavor. I am not a huge fan of chicken feet because of the bones but this chicken feet was very good. It was also covered in pickled peppercinis, a feature I really enjoyed. The fish was the only lacking dish out of the rest. The fish was full of bones when they told us there weren’t any (Pretty typical in China, though) the fish wasn’t crispy at all, and honestly didn’t have that much flavor. It wasn’t terrible, but not very good. And finally, the moment of truth came when I would sample my first pi dan, the century old egg!
I was more nervous than anything to take my first bite of this aged egg. I felt better when I learned that it is not actually years old but only weeks to months. When I took my first bite (Video linked to my YouTube channel!) I was pleasantly surprised. What I tasted was much more pleasant than I had ever believed it would be. It tastes a lot like a salted duck egg but (Thankfully) not nearly as salty. I also noticed it had a very creamy texture, that is actually very delicious. It sits in a broth with soy sauce and vinegar and is covered in diced red chiles, and sliced green onions. The sauce gives quite a bite to the egg overall. In conclusion, I was very surprised that I didn’t wince at the first bite!
That’s all for today, but I’d also like to leave you with Episode 4 of my cooking show, The Laowai Chef. On episode 4 I made some Mexican food, Steak Nachos with Guacamole. Check it out!