Sunday, July 13, 2008

Learning Chinese

When we finally decided to venture across the country to Portland, I had some misgivings about leaving the food of New York. This is not to say that I didn’t think I would be getting a great deal of amazing food in return, but I was deeply attached to many of the ethnic cuisines that are readily available in NYC - namely Korean, Indian, Middle Eastern, and perhaps most importantly, Chinese.

Court grew up in the New York Chinese restaurant community, and we had spent many a day together going to the different NYC Chinatowns to eat amazing roast chicken, pork, duck, and I can’t even get started on the wonder that is Xiao Long Bao (a.k.a soup dumplings). Up to this point, I had been fairly disenchanted with American Chinese food, mostly stemming from the Chinese food I’d eaten in my youth. This all changed with the forays south of Canal to New Green Bo, Joe’s Shanghai, and of course, Big Wong.

So, in light of our impending departure I gave Court a Chinese cook book for Christmas in the hopes that we would both use it to recreate some of the dishes we loved—though I have to say that I am alone in my love of thousand year old/soy sauce eggs! After much perusing, I settled on Kylie Kwong’s Simple Chinese Cooking both for the simplicity of the recipes and the beautiful images. We have tried a few recipes so far (with mixed results) but both very much enjoyed her “Steamed Shrimp with Ginger and Scallions” so I thought I would share.



First off, I love having frozen shrimp around because it pretty much assures me that I can make a great dinner with just the shrimp and whatever else I have on hand at the time. The steaming worked beautifully, and as always the only real caveat with shrimp is to take care not to overcook!

My complaints here were mostly with the sauce—it quite simply lacked the brightness and balance of flavors that signifies much of Chinese cooking. I have altered the recipe according to my tastes, which are heavier on the garlic, ginger and acid, but I think it is still a very clean, balanced, subtle dish. We served it with steamed rice and devoured the entire thing in one sitting! I also love to slice some Kirby cucumbers and dress them with sesame oil, lots of rice wine vinegar, a generous pinch of sugar and some Sriracha hot sauce. The acid of the crunchy pickles complements the steamed shrimp beautifully!

Steamed Prawns with Ginger and Scallions

Adapted from Simple Chinese Cooking by Kylie Kwong

1 lb large uncooked shrimp
1/3 cup shao hsing wine or dry sherry
2 ½ tablespoons julienned ginger
2/3 cup scallions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar

Sprinkle the ginger, wine and scallions evenly on top of the shrimp in a ceramic bowl or plate.

Carefully transfer the dish with the shrimp to a rack in a skillet (or steamer) and cover tightly, then steam over moderately high heat until they are just cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes.

Combine soy, garlic*, sugar, sesame oil and vinegar in a bowl and drizzle over the steamed shrimp. In a small skillet, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil over moderately high heat, then pour it over the shrimp before serving.

*If you are not as fond of raw garlic as I am, you may want to add it to the shrimp at the same time as the scallions and ginger.

10 comments:

Jill said...

Looks marvelous and I can't wait to try it! Thanks for sharing...

Helen Townes said...

As always, an inspiring, mouth-watering entry . . .

j said...

yum! thanks for the clear explanations - i'll definitely have to give this one a try!

Alyssa said...

Thanks for the recipe; it look really great! I found a place to get more videos and recipes if your interested. I wanted to share a site with you on Chinese cooking. They have a great video how to, tutorials, and instructions on how to prepare great tasting Chinese food. You can get some or their free recipes to try out. If you have problems with proper cooking your food with the recipes, they have instructional videos that take you from start to finish, too. If have a spare moment to take a look at this, visit http://www.youtube.com/wokfusion, or go to them directly at http://www.wokfusion.com.

Ken Albala said...

Can you believe I stumbled on this blog by accident? Been a long time - do you remember me? What ever possessed you to leave NY and Columbia? What do you do now? Hopefully something still food related.

Yours, Ken Albala

ryan said...

More garlic and ginger! A woman after my own heart...

Speaking of fabulous Asian dishes - do you know of a good recipe for something resembling the spicy beef noodle soup (a la Republic in your previous home of NY)?

SOUP OF THE DAY said...

I tell you -- even with an Asian mother-in-law, I STILL can't make good Asian food at home. I can make so-so Asian food, but it just never tastes authentic. I remember a few places we used to go to in downtown Portland that were really authentic (painfully authentic) but unfortunately I've been gone so long I no longer remember where they were. :( My husband (who is Asian) said he used to like to eat at Hunan's, which is also downtown; 515 SW Broadway (entrance is on Park). Maybe check it out?

Juree said...

thanks so much for the restaurant recommendation -- it is near where I work and I will definitely try it!! Chinese food is one of the things we miss most about NYC and I am always looking to try new places...

maggie said...

I know my parents like Sugari Pearl in the pearl district for Portland chinese...

My mother pointed me toward your blog—I hope you continue it in Portland! There seems to be quite an interesting food community there, it's changed a lot since I left.

Maggie (Eve's daughter.)

maggie said...

Sungari pearl, sorry, misspelled.