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These lovely beans are found all over China, but this particular variety is mostly found in Yunnan and neighboring Guizhou. Their local nickname is 猫眼豆, and they are actually the immature version of a type of soybeans 大豆。When boiled with seasonings they become a terrific summer appetizer or snack. Hadn't really planned to make them, but when I went to the wet market for other things yesterday, these were unavoidable, plentiful, and cheap. This is another of those vegetables that's very seasonal, with short availability: the young pods are ready to be picked 5 or 6 weeks after the plants flower. After that, it's too late. These were so fresh that some vendors even offered them with leaves and roots still attached. A far cry from what's available in the frozen food aisle of the supermarkets in my home town back in Texas. Let me show you one good way to cook them up at home. Not much trouble and tons of flavor. This was a little over two big handfuls of beans; the cost was 4 Yuan. Wash them well and even scrub the bean pods a bit with your fingers, a vegetable brush or a clean dishcloth. Let them soak a while in salted water while you get your spices ready. 洗干净，浸泡盐水。 Fennel seeds are at 6 o'clock on this spice palette, with dry red chilies at 7. Star anise at 10 o'clock and cassia bark at noon. Bay leaves at 2 and Sichuan peppercorns at 5. You can use a little more or less of any of them as desired. Put the spices into a pot of water and let them boil to release the flavors while you cut off both ends of the beans with a pair of scissors. This will let the seasonings enter the pod as they cook. Add a couple teaspoons of salt, a tablespoon of light soy sauce, and several drops of salad oil into the pot. (I used olive oil.) Put the beans in and turn the flame down to medium-low. Let them cook, uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes. Towards the end of that time, you will notice that some of the pods begin opening. Turn them off and let them cool down in the pot for another 10 to 15 minutes. Cooking time can be shorter if you like yours crunchy. Dredge them out and put them in a serving bowl. In restaurants they let them cool to room temperature or they even chill them. I never manage to wait that long, and actually prefer them warm. When you eat these 毛豆, don't eat the husk, just work the beans out with your fingers and teeth. It's not difficult. They go great with beer, especially if shared with friends at a wooden table outdoors in the evening.
Inspired by some other recent threads, I made time during my most recent visa stamp run (must exit China every 60 days) to buy a new cooking knife at the famous Hong Kong Chan Chi Kee knife store 陳枝記刀莊。 Was staying in Wanchai 湾仔 after returning from a visit to Macau to see the Dragon Boat Races 赛龙舟。Took the Star Ferry across to Tsim Sha Tsui 尖沙嘴 in Kowloon 九龙。The ferry is efficient and inexpensive. Taxi from the ferry terminal 码头 to the knife store, on Shanghai Street, took about 10 minutes and cost 45 HKD. Address: 香港九龍上海街 316-318. Bought their Number 2 knife, a thin-edged slicer with wooden handle, for 320 HKD. It's suitable for cutting up vegetables and meat, but not for chopping through bones. Got back to my hotel room and unwrapped it for photo purposes, only to find that I had somehow dinged the leading corner of the blade. It's not clear from the photo, but the damage was on the sharp edge, not the spine. Have no idea how it happened. I wasn't juggling lots of parcels or slinging it around carelessly. Had not dropped it or bumped it perceptibly. After lunch, I turned around and went right back. Rode the ferry across again; this time being easier because I knew the way. The man at the store swapped it for a new one, no questions asked. They were busy with other customers, and there was no chance to discuss it further or try to guess what had happened. He had earlier given me a short curb-side tutorial on how to sharpen it. Only 5 to 10 degrees of angle on a medium to fine whet-stone; making lots circles instead of changing sides too much. Sharpening the second side, he said, would only require a few strokes. The process didn't need to be symmetrical. I hope this blade does not prove too fragile. I definitely won't abuse it back in my Kunming kitchen, but I'm also unwilling to baby it. I like the fact that it is very, very sharp; should not take much effort to slice cleanly through tender things without tearing them up. The store was on a street with many other kitchen supply stores. I bought an instant-read thermometer which I will install ceremonially in a sleeve pocket on my white chef's smock along with a long tasting spoon (Only kidding; My kitchen has zero Michelin stars.) I've wrapped the knife very well, padding the entire edge with some styrofoam-type plastic that I found beside a trash bin on the street outside. It will travel back to Kunming in my checked suitcase, not in my carry-on, thank you very much. Will let you know how it works out. Related threads: https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53912-chinese-cleaver-cai-dao-桑刀-or-菜刀-–-carbon-or-stainless-steel/ https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53947-hong-kong-residents-help-to-clarify-if-the-store-chan-chi-kee-陳枝記-still-exist/ https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54134-show-your-cai-dao-wok-and-other-kitchen-equipment/
Let's say you arrived in China earlier this year either for work or for study and don't have a lot of time, money or language skills at your disposal. And, though it was fun at first, eating out all the time has become problematic. Yes, it can be cheap, but it isn't the healthiest of options and it isn't always as convenient as just whipping up something simple at home. Several of us old timers will try our best to give you a few hints and tips as to how to make some of your meals at home without much in the way of tools or materials. These won't be gourmet feasts, but they will keep body and soul together without costing an arm and a leg and without cutting too deeply into your busy schedule. This thread is intended to provide a forum for discussion, comments, questions and answers. We hope it can serve as a useful starting place for your China cooking and eating adventures. You will find that once you try cooking for yourself over here, it will also make it easier to order when you do go out since you will have some familiarity with Chinese ingredients, seasonings, and preparation methods. You will know what those words mean when you see them on a menu. A personal digression, to be up front and get it out of the way. I first came to China in 2006 and fell in love with the people, the food, the way of life. I was still working full time back in the US at the time, but took progressively longer and longer vacations. Am an ER doctor, and was senior enough to have the luxury of being able to schedule generous unpaid time off as long as I did it well in advance. Spent most of my China time learning the language and immersing myself in China's rich history and culture. Have traveled to every province with the exception of Tibet and Xinjiang. Lived in Zhuhai, far south, and Harbin, far north. Spent time in Dalian and Beijing as well. Tried Shanghai. Eventually retired and settled in Kunming, where I now spend most of each year. Go back to Texas for a couple months annually. At every stop along the way I have either stayed in a dorm or rented a small apartment, with a short lease of 6 months or less at a time. Never wanted to invest in purchasing top-notch tools or appliances since I knew I would have to soon leave them behind. So I have, by now, equipped six or eight small kitchens, and have done it frugally. Have had a chance to correct beginner mistakes and do things better the next time. Learned tons from my Chinese friends and shamelessly copied their methods. Dorm cooking is similar to bachelor cooking in a bare-bones efficiency apartment. It assumes not much room, not much money, not much time. Let's start today with the basic durable items that will make it possible to prepare at least some of your own chow. You will need something to cook in, such as a flat-bottomed wok. The one shown is a real good one; but a no-name "starter wok" will cost under 100 Yuan and is adequate when beginning. Wok is 炒锅。Mine, illustrated here, is ASD brand 爱仕达。That's a good label; 苏泊尔 Supor is another reliable one. Some woks are round on the bottom, and only work well when cooking on gas. My old one was that kind, pictured below. Flat bottom wok is 平地炒锅 though that can also mean a western-style skillet with strait walls. Please see this earlier article for more about selecting a wok plus how to season it and care for it. https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/51217-wok-and-chopsticks/#comment-392506 Woks almost always come with a lid. It shouldn't cost extra. Lid = 盖子。Here are my two lids, the one with a glass center and a convenient "stand up" attachment. The old plain one is lying down beside it. Here, below, is a wok I saw in the store yesterday for peanuts (19 Yuan and 80 Mao.) You want one that can be used on an electric hot plate 电炉, such as the one pictured above. Electric hot plates can be purchased for between 100 and 200 Yuan. Expensive ones have a larger heating area and put out more intense heat. Sometimes they are also programmable, a feature you won't need. An alternative to a wok plus hot plate is an all-in-one electric skillet 电炒锅。These can be bought for as little as 100 Yuan. I would suggest spending around 200 Yuan instead because they cook more evenly. The very cheapest ones have hot spots and cold spots that makes it difficult to cook food without parts of it burning. Best to buy a major brand. Two which are dependable are 美的 and 九阳。Supermarkets like Walmart 沃尔玛 and Carrefour 家乐福 carry them. Appliance stores such as 苏宁电器 are also a good bet. Prices will be the same across the board, unless you hit a special sale or promotion 活动。 I don't have one of these, so cannot tell you for sure first hand, but I've heard that they don't cook as fast as a wok on a hotplate. Arguably, none of these electric skillets do as good a job of 炒菜 frying, but they are satisfactory for less demanding tasks, such as boiling broth for hot pot 火锅 or for 涮菜, useful tasks in a minimalist kitchen. A knife and cutting board 菜板 are essential. This cutting board can be of bamboo or plastic. Either option only costs 10 or 15 Yuan. The square Chinese "cleaver-like" 菜刀 is great for most tasks and one can be had for a song, well under 50 Yuan. A paring knife, known here as a fruit knife 水果刀 can also be useful. The ones on the left, above, are mine. But here are snapshots from a recent shopping trip to the corner store showing a knife and cutting board for 10 Yuan each. Not a very large investment. You need something with which to stir the food and eventually scoop it out. A special stir-fry spatula or 锅铲 may even be included with your wok at no extra charge as a bonus or "sweetner" to clinch the deal. This is the single most important hand tool. A ladle 汤勺 and a coarse strainer 滤网 are also handy. Furthermore, you would be smart to buy some chopsticks 筷子。Knife 刀, fork 叉子 and spoon 勺子are optional but suggested. A supermarket is where to shop for these. Useful "extras" include something with which to handle a hot dish or hot pan. You could, of course, just use a rag instead. Something on which to set a hot pan to keep it from burning the table also is handy, but once again, you could improvise with a magazine or one of last-year's textbooks. The third item in this category of "nice to have" doodads is a steamer stand so that you could place a dish of food in your wok and let it steam over simmering water (with the lid on, of course.) Dishes from which to eat are always discounted in one or another supermarket, and typically cost between 5 and 10 Yuan each. The essentials are a rice bowl 饭碗 and a soup bowl 汤碗。A flat European-style soup dish is also useful, in that it can be used for steaming as well as for eating at the table. You can also find paper plates and paper bowls to use some of the time. I will stop here for discussion before moving to the next section, which will be about essential perishable/disposable items that need to be in your cabinet, such as oil and salt. Please pitch in with your own experiences and ideas. Feel free to offer additions and corrections. Matters of this kind have no absolute right and wrong; lots depends on one's personal preferences and perspective. Thanks!
The idea behind pulling this information together into one place is to make it more useful to people who are looking for recipe ideas or wondering about dishes they have seen on Chinese menus. Some of these articles have more information than others and not all were done with the same degree of care. My hope is that they still might serve as a starting point for someone who, for example, wants to know what to do with all that fine eggplant they are suddenly seeing in the market at a very low seasonal price or all those great looking wild mushrooms that became available after the summer rains started. Additions are more than welcome: This is not intended to necessarily be a one-person show. If you see something here which is incomplete and that sparks your interest, please fill in the gaps. For example, "Oh, he talked about tomatoes, but didn't even mention the way we always ate them in Chengdu. They were so yummy that way." Please share those tips and secrets with the rest of us by starting a new thread. I'll be glad to index it here and credit you with its creation. It seems that lots of the people who have posted here about food since about 2010 have just visited once or twice as a way to drive traffic to their personal blog sites or to stimulate attention for their YouTube videos. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it has kept the food and drink forum from growing as robust as it otherwise could have. This is a work in progress, so if you see problems with it or have ideas on making it easier to use, please don't hesitate to speak up. I will update the thread as more articles are written over the coming months. Asparagus and tomatoes stirfry -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58373-asparagus-and-tomatoes-番茄炒芦笋/?tab=comments#comment-453422 Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich -- BLT -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58309-chinas-best-blt-and-other-extravagant-claims/?tab=comments#comment-452823 Bamboo shoots -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48192-adventure-eating-early-season-bamboo-shoots/ Bamboo shoots and ham -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41586-yunnan-bamboo-shoots-%E4%BA%91%E5%8D%97%E7%AB%B9%E7%AC%8B/ Beans -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52065-cheap-eats-for-the-end-of-the-month-beans-and-rice-tofu-and-sprouts/ Beef -- Mint-beef rice noodle soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57044-mint-beef-rice-noodle-soup-薄荷牛肉米线/ Beef stew -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57290-yunnan-top-shelf-beef-stew-牛肉炖山药/?tab=comments#comment-444476 Beefsteak -- Discussion of how to order it cooked in a restaurant -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/32348-eating-steak-in-china/ Bitter melon -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56911-taming-bitter-melon-苦瓜炒牛肉/ Stuffed bitter melon -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57137-stuffed-bitter-melon-酿苦瓜/ Broccoli -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/46802-broccoli-and-yunnan-goat-cheese-%E8%A5%BF%E5%85%B0%E8%8A%B1%E7%82%92%E4%B9%B3%E9%A5%BC/ Cashews -- Cashew chicken -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/50226-chinatown-supper-at-home-cashew-chicken-%E8%85%B0%E6%9E%9C%E7%82%92%E9%B8%A1%E4%B8%81/ Cauliflower -- Dry fried organic cauliflower -- 干煸有机花菜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57449-dry-fried-cauliflower-干煸花菜/?tab=comments#comment-445668 Cauliflower and tomatoes -- 番茄炒花菜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59249-seasonal-eats-cauliflower-time-番茄炒花菜/?tab=comments#comment-461065 Century eggs -- Century egg rice porridge -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53530-century-egg-rice-porridge-皮蛋瘦肉粥/ Celery -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48872-summer-veggie-feast-yunnan-style/ Celery stir-fried with smoked tofu -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59341-celery-with-cured-tofu-西芹菜炒豆腐干/?tab=comments#comment-461940 Cheese -- Yunnan goat cheese -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/46802-broccoli-and-yunnan-goat-cheese-%E8%A5%BF%E5%85%B0%E8%8A%B1%E7%82%92%E4%B9%B3%E9%A5%BC/ Chicken -- Yellow Braised Chicken 黄焖鸡 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57780-yellow-braised-chicken-with-rice-黃燜雞米飯/ Chicken thigh (dark meat)– http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/50226-chinatown-supper-at-home-cashew-chicken-%E8%85%B0%E6%9E%9C%E7%82%92%E9%B8%A1%E4%B8%81/ Chicken breast (white meat) -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52008-using-a-chinese-recipe-corn-and-chicken-stir-fry-%E7%8E%89%E7%B1%B3%E7%82%92%E9%B8%A1%E8%82%89/ Chicken breast or thighs -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59150-the-many-faces-of-kung-pao-chicken-宫保鸡丁/ Chicken wings -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57186-chinese-cola-chicken-wings-可乐鸡翅/ Salt baked chicken thighs in a rice cooker -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57244-salt-baked-hakka-chicken-in-a-rice-cooker-电饭煲焗鸡/ Chicken curry -- Chinese chicken curry -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57573-chinese-chicken-curry-咖喱鸡肉/ Condiments -- Lufu -- 卤腐 and 腐乳 -- (second part of this post) https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56777-crazy-for-pickles-泡黄瓜/?tab=comments#comment-439918 Corn and chicken stirfry -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52008-using-a-chinese-recipe-corn-and-chicken-stir-fry-%E7%8E%89%E7%B1%B3%E7%82%92%E9%B8%A1%E8%82%89/ Chilled Cucumber mint soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58454-chilled-cucumber-mint-soup-黄瓜薄荷凉汤/?tab=comments#comment-454016 Cucumber pickles -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56777-crazy-for-pickles-泡黄瓜/?tab=comments#comment-439918 Cucumber Rickey (drink) -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58295-the-kunming-cucumber-rickey/ Cucumber salad -- Smashed cucumbers -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53783-another-simple-classic-smashed-cucumber-拍黄瓜/?tab=comments#comment-412400 Curry -- Chinese chicken curry -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57573-chinese-chicken-curry-咖喱鸡肉/ Dim Sum -- Cantonese dim sum -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54982-enjoying-dim-sum/ Dao, Caidao 菜刀 -- selecting a kitchen knife -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53912-chinese-cleaver-cai-dao-桑刀-or-菜刀-–-carbon-or-stainless-steel/ (And more knife talk here) -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54134-show-your-cai-dao-wok-and-other-kitchen-equipment/#comment-415832 Dao, Caidao, Hong Kong cooking knife -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54306-my-new-hong-kong-knife-菜刀/?tab=comments#comment-416849 Dormitory cooking -- Minimalist Chinese food -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53539-survivor-china-minimalist-dormitory-cooking/ Duck -- Roast duck mango salad -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56489-roast-duck-mango-salad/ Edamame Chinese style -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54585-spicy-chinese-edamame-毛豆/ Egg and tomato soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58408-egg-and-tomato-soup-番茄鸡蛋汤/ Eggplant – Cold food -- Steamed eggplant and tomato salad -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/44902-summer-food-%E5%87%89%E6%8B%8C/ Eggplant –Steamed eggplant with lufu -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41554-eggplant-%E8%8C%84%E5%AD%90/ Eggplant -- Red cooked eggplant -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48252-hongshao-qiezi-%E2%80%93-an-eggplant-mistake-set-right/ Eggplant -- Hongshao qiezi 2019 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59126-red-cooked-eggplant-红烧茄子/ Eggplant -- Fish flavored eggplant -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/50126-yuxiang-qiezi-%E9%B1%BC%E9%A6%99%E8%8C%84%E5%AD%90-a-cultural-bridge/ Eggplant and tomatoes stirfry -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48872-summer-veggie-feast-yunnan-style/ Steamed eggplant with garlic -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56568-steamed-eggplant-with-garlic-vinaigrette-蒜蓉蒸茄子/ Scrambled eggs and tomatoes -- 番茄炒鸡蛋 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53734-the-basics-tomatoes-and-eggs-番茄炒鸡蛋/?tab=comments#comment-412117 Ercai -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59430-a-simple-winter-supper-儿菜蒸香肠饭/?tab=comments#comment-462513 Ersi -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48526-yunnan-simple-%E7%82%92%E9%A5%B5%E4%B8%9D-stir-fried-ersi/ Lu Ersi -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55635-yunnan-special-卤饵丝-a-rice-noodle-dish/ Fennel -- Fennel mashed potatoes -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53803-grandmas-fennel-potatoes-茴香老奶洋芋/?tab=comments#comment-412551 Fennel and tofu soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57547-fennel-tofu-soup-茴香豆腐汤/?tab=comments#comment-446386 Fensi glass noodles -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54529-chinese-glass-noodles-红薯粉条/ Fish -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51433-yunnan-spicy-fish-%E9%85%B8%E8%8F%9C%E9%B1%BC%E7%89%87/ Fried rice -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58742-turning-leftovers-into-fried-rice-剩菜变成炒饭/ Fried rice encore -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59434-fried-rice-with-what’s-left-炒饭/ Garlic -- Single-clove garlic -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/44552-kunming-tomato-season/ Garlic -- The anatomy of garlic; a key Chinese cooking ingredient -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58189-the-anatomy-of-garlic-a-key-chinese-cooking-ingredient/ Garlic stems and Yunnan ham -- 蒜苔炒火腿 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58187-gift-ham-and-garlic-bolts-蒜苔炒火腿/ Goose -- cured goose -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/52192-yunnan-mountain-mushrooms-and-nearly-wild-goose/?tab=comments#comment-402198 Huotui -- Yunnan cured ham -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52376-using-prime-local-ingredients-yunnan-huotui-%E8%8A%B9%E8%8F%9C%E7%82%92%E7%81%AB%E8%85%BF/ Green beans -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57072-liang-ban-凉拌-the-chinese-equivalent-of-salad-四季豆杏鲍菇凉拌/?tab=comments#comment-442671 Green beans 水煮四季豆 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57216-too-much-feasting-水煮四季豆，小瓜，茄子/?tab=comments#comment-443779 Long green beans and eggplant -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58702-long-green-beans-and-eggplant-四季豆炒茄子/ Ham -- Yunnan Huotui -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52376-using-prime-local-ingredients-yunnan-huotui-%E8%8A%B9%E8%8F%9C%E7%82%92%E7%81%AB%E8%85%BF/ Hongshao Rou (red-cooked pork belly) -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/44461-your-favorite-version-of-红烧肉/?page=2 Huotui -- Yunnan ham -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56709-improving-a-classic-火腿蒸乳饼-steamed-yunnan-ham-and-mountain-cheese/ Jiucai 韭菜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56328-chinese-chives-韭菜-two-or-three-ways/ Jiucai griddle cakes 韭菜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56335-chinese-chives-griddle-cakes-韭菜煎饼/?tab=comments#comment-435506 Jam -- Discussion of sweet fruit jam in China -- including pomelo honey 柚子茶 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59248-chinese-jam/?tab=comments#comment-461100 Kimchi fried rice Yunnan style -- 酸菜炒饭 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56195-a-yunnan-take-on-kimchi-fried-rice-泡菜炒饭/?tab=comments#comment-433973 Kucai 苦菜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54191-stir-fry-chinese-greens-with-ham-苦菜火腿炒饭/?tab=comments#comment-415700 Kucai tofu clear soup -- 苦菜豆腐汤 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58219-a-dead-simple-week-night-soup-苦菜豆腐汤/ Liang ban -- Salads -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57072-liang-ban-凉拌-the-chinese-equivalent-of-salad-四季豆杏鲍菇凉拌/?tab=comments#comment-442671 Lily bulbs -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58750-fresh-lily-bulbs-in-season-荷兰豆炒鲜百合/?tab=comments#comment-456828 Limoncello -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55547-middle-kingdom-limoncello/ Loofa gourd -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57103-loofah-gourd-for-supper-丝瓜炒火腿/ Lotus root – lotus root and shrimp -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51357-spring-flavors-of-china-lotus-root-and-shrimp-%E8%99%BE%E4%BB%81%E7%82%92%E8%8E%B2%E8%97%95/ Lotus root salad -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/49345-hot-weather-eats-lotus-root-salad-%E8%97%95%E7%89%87%E5%87%89%E6%8B%8C/ Lotus root sweet and sour -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58478-sweet-and-sour-lotus-root-糖醋藕片/ Lotus seeds -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/49425-lotus-seeds-%E8%8E%B2%E5%AD%90/ Mango -- Roast duck mango salad -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56489-roast-duck-mango-salad/ Market in early summer -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56632-heres-the-backstory-in-photos-market-early-summer/?tab=comments#comment-438195 Mint, cucumber, and yogurt soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58454-chilled-cucumber-mint-soup-黄瓜薄荷凉汤/?tab=comments#comment-454016 Mint -- Mint-beef rice noodle soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57044-mint-beef-rice-noodle-soup-薄荷牛肉米线/ Mint -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51575-early-kunming-summer-mint-soup-and-mangoes/ Mushroom hotpot -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41836-mushroom-hotpot/ Mushrooms -- Wild mushrooms -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41537-wild-mushroom-time-again/ Mushrooms -- Wild pine mushrooms -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/49597-%E6%9D%BE%E8%8C%B8%E8%8F%8C-the-worlds-most-expensive-mushrooms/ Mushrooms, cultivated 香菇 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56622-spicy-green-peppers-and-mushrooms-香菇炒青椒/ Navigating the local wet market -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51465-a-trip-to-the-local-wet-market-%E8%8F%9C%E5%B8%82%E5%9C%BA/ Nangua squash -- Nangua zhou -- 南瓜粥 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55430-chinese-comfort-food-南瓜粥-pumpkin-porridge/?tab=comments#comment-427201 Noodles -- Stir-fried noodles -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58853-stir-fried-noodles-炒面/ Pea shoots and tofu soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/47614-wandoujian-toufu-soup-豌豆尖豆腐汤/ Peaches -- Poached peaches -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58514-local-peaches-poach-them-please-煮熟桃子/?tab=comments#comment-454606 Pears -- steamed pear with rock sugar -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51906-chinese-medicine-that-tastes-good-%E5%86%B0%E7%B3%96%E7%82%96%E9%9B%AA%E6%A2%A8/ Pear porridge -- Snow pears 雪梨 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57682-pear-porridge-for-winter-cough-雪梨粥/?tab=comments#comment-447385 Peppers -- long green peppers 尖椒 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55164-triple-cut-red-云南红三剁/ Pickled pears 泡梨 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57682-pear-porridge-for-winter-cough-雪梨粥/?tab=comments#comment-447528 Pickled vegetables -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52065-cheap-eats-for-the-end-of-the-month-beans-and-rice-tofu-and-sprouts/ Pickles -- Pickled cucumbers -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56777-crazy-for-pickles-泡黄瓜/?tab=comments#comment-439918 Pipa fruit 枇杷果/loquat -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58106-spring-fruit-hits-the-stands-糖水枇杷果/ Peppers, long spicy green peppers 青辣尖椒 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56622-spicy-green-peppers-and-mushrooms-香菇炒青椒/ Steamed pork ribs -- 粉蒸排骨 (+土豆) very simple dish (By DavyJonesLocker) -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57260-粉蒸排骨-土豆-very-simple-dish/ Potatoes -- mashed potato pancakes -- 头豆泥煎饼 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54917-too-many-potatoes-土豆泥煎饼-mashed-potato-pancakes/?tab=comments#comment-423551 Yunnan potato pancakes -- 云南洋芋丝干 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54060-yunnan-potato-pancake-云南洋芋丝干/?tab=comments#comment-414600 Potatoes and fennel -- 老奶洋芋 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53803-grandmas-fennel-potatoes-茴香老奶洋芋/?tab=comments#comment-412551 Pork loin -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41497-adding-meat/ Pickles -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56777-crazy-for-pickles-泡黄瓜/ Pork tenderloin -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/47975-suancai-chao-rou-%E9%85%B8%E8%8F%9C%E7%82%92%E8%82%89/ Quail tea eggs -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54342-quail-tea-eggs-鹌鹑茶叶蛋/#comment-417368 Quick food outside (快餐) -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41498-best-kept-dining-secret-%E5%BF%AB%E9%A4%90%E5%BA%97/ Recipe, written in Chinese -- How to use a Chinese recipe -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52008-using-a-chinese-recipe-corn-and-chicken-stir-fry-%E7%8E%89%E7%B1%B3%E7%82%92%E9%B8%A1%E8%82%89/ Red chili sauce, home-made -- 红油 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55120-making-your-own-chili-sauce-自制红油/ Rice noodles -- Mint-beef rice noodle soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57044-mint-beef-rice-noodle-soup-薄荷牛肉米线/ Sandwich using steamed bun -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58309-chinas-best-blt-and-other-extravagant-claims/?tab=comments#comment-452839 Local sandwiches using salted duck eggs and lufu -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58327-unlikely-local-sandwiches-salted-duck-eggs-咸鸭蛋-and-lufu-卤腐/?tab=comments#comment-453127 Shanyao and beef stew -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57290-yunnan-top-shelf-beef-stew-牛肉炖山药/?tab=comments#comment-444476 Seasonal vegetables -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56355-kunming-spring-bounty-seasonal-eats/?tab=comments#comment-435691 Shrimp -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51357-spring-flavors-of-china-lotus-root-and-shrimp-%E8%99%BE%E4%BB%81%E7%82%92%E8%8E%B2%E8%97%95/ Skillet shrimp without much oil -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59090-skillet-shrimp-without-much-oil-少油煎虾仁/?tab=comments#comment-459584 Spicy Chinese twice-fried shrimp -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58622-spicy-chinese-fried-shrimp-油炸虾仁/ Sigua 丝瓜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57103-loofah-gourd-for-supper-丝瓜炒火腿/ Smoked pork -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55235-hani-twice-smoked-meat-烟熏肉/ Smoked tofu - https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56990-addictive-smoked-tofu-青椒豆腐干/?tab=comments#comment-441718 Snow peas -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41474-chinese-vegetarian-cooking/ (post #7) Sprouts -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52065-cheap-eats-for-the-end-of-the-month-beans-and-rice-tofu-and-sprouts/ Strawberries -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51173-strawberry-season-kunming-%E8%8D%89%E8%8E%93/ Suancai with meat -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/47975-suancai-chao-rou-%E9%85%B8%E8%8F%9C%E7%82%92%E8%82%89/ Suancai with fish -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51433-yunnan-spicy-fish-%E9%85%B8%E8%8F%9C%E9%B1%BC%E7%89%87/ Stir-fry -- making a stir-fry -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54191-stir-fry-chinese-greens-with-ham-苦菜火腿炒饭/?tab=comments#comment-415700 Sweet potato/hongshu 红薯 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57307-honey-steamed-sweet-potato-蒸蜂蜜红薯/ Taiwan night market snacks -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54703-taiwan-night-market-snacks-台湾夜市小吃/#comment-421567 The Three Fresh Treasures 地三鲜 -- Eggplant, potato, green pepper -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57487-the-three-fresh-treasures-地三鲜/ Termite mushrooms of Yunnan -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58735-yunnans-termite-mushrooms/ Tofu -- Sichuan Mapo Doufu -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55081-sichuan-fire-mapo-tofu-麻婆豆腐/ Tofu -- Tofu and ham -- Shiping tofu and Xuanwei ham sauteed with spring onion -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55009-tofu-and-ham-火腿香煎豆腐/?tab=comments#comment-424232 Tofu from Shiping Town -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54450-getting-the-most-from-shiping-tofu-香煎石屏豆腐/#comment-418192 Tofu and eggs -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56975-sunday-brunch-tofu-and-eggs-豆腐炒鸡蛋/ Tofu in Kunming -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57002-neighborhood-tofu-a-short-practical-tour/ Tomatoes and eggs -- 番茄炒鸡蛋 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53734-the-basics-tomatoes-and-eggs-番茄炒鸡蛋/?tab=comments#comment-412117 Tomato and egg soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58408-egg-and-tomato-soup-番茄鸡蛋汤/ Tomatoes and green beans -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/44552-kunming-tomato-season/ Toon, Chinese Toon -- Xiang Chun -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53919-wild-china-spring-香椿煎蛋饼/?tab=comments#comment-413601 Wild mushroom wholesale market -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58788-kunming-behind-the-scenes-wild-mushroom-wholesale-market-木水花野生菌批发市场 /?tab=comments#comment-457176 Wild mushroom soups and stews -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58794-wild-mushrooms-for-supper-野生菌炖汤/?tab=comments#comment-457240 Wo Sun 莴笋 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54904-chinese-stem-lettuce-莴笋炒豆腐/ Wok -- Selecting and seasoning a wok -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51217-wok-and-chopsticks/ Yangmei -- Seasonal fruit -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54402-yang-mei-season-杨梅-the-chinese-bayberry/ Yogurt -- Chilled cucumber mint soup (made with yogurt) -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58454-chilled-cucumber-mint-soup-黄瓜薄荷凉汤/?tab=comments#comment-454016 Zhacai -- 涪陵榨菜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58408-egg-and-tomato-soup-番茄鸡蛋汤/ Zhou -- Chinese pumpkin porridge -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55430-chinese-comfort-food-南瓜粥-pumpkin-porridge/?tab=comments#comment-427201 Zhou -- Chinese rice porridge -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53530-century-egg-rice-porridge-皮蛋瘦肉粥/ Zhou/Pear Porridge -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57682-pear-porridge-for-winter-cough-雪梨粥/?tab=comments#comment-447385 Zucchini -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54552-when-its-too-hot-to-cook-小瓜蒸红椒/
This dish found its way across the ocean to just about every Chinatown 唐人街 in the West, but is also still alive and well here on the China Mainland. One of the nice things about making restaurant food at home is that you can put in more of your favorite items than you might get by ordering trusty old Number Four at China Star Café and Buffet at the corner of Main Street and Vine. Case in point is cashew chicken. Cashews are a relatively costly ingredient and are often sparse in the finished dish when you order it out; but you can easily add more when you are in charge of the process at home. Let’s start from the beginning, and that would be the chicken. When cooking at home you can use better ingredients throughout. For example, I used fresh free-range chicken instead of bulk-pack, industrial frozen. Two ways to go in selecting the meat, and the decision is entirely yours. Leg meat is dark and has more flavor than light breast meat, but it takes a little more effort to prepare. Today I had time, and opted for leg. In Kunming I haven’t seen chicken thighs for sale separately, either in the wet market 菜市场 or in the Walmart/Carrefour type super stores 超市。Have to buy a whole leg, including the drumstick, which is not ideal. But doing what you can with what you’ve got is part of the China experience. First off, disjoint it at the knee; make a long slit and then work your knife along the bone of each piece while pulling at the same time. Takes a little concentration at first, but no sweat once you get the hang of it; eventually goes fast. It is beyond the scope of this humble article to turn anyone into an expert poultry butcher, so here’s a link to a good video which clearly shows the how-to. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWMMm1D4zYQ If you are in China and your VPN is too slow for YouTube, don’t despair. Use Baidu to search “鸡腿怎么去骨头” to find some good “deboning chicken” tutorials. It won’t stay a mystery long. I bought 4 fresh (not frozen) good-sized legs that weighed 900-odd grams, just shy of a kilo. They yielded about a pound of meat, cut into pieces no larger than the tip of your thumb. It’s important not to make these pieces too large; they need to cook fast and get golden brown. I did the meat prep just before starting the rice, because the meat has to marinate half an hour, and that’s how long it takes the rice to cook. Left, above, is the raw chicken. Right, above, is the chicken after mixing with the marinade. Note that it isn’t soupy. Marinate the cut chicken cubes in a combination of: Cooking wine, 黄酒 （绍兴酒）-- 1 Tablespoon Light soy sauce (酱油) – 2 Tablespoons Sesame oil (着麻油）-- 1 teaspoon Corn starch (小粉) – 1 teaspoon White pepper (白胡椒) – a generous dash, maybe two While you have these ingredients out, go ahead and prepare a sauce to be added to the stir fry later, near the end of cooking. It serves both as seasoning and as a “binder,” bringing diverse flavors together. Chicken stock – ¼ cup. If you don’t have it, add some chicken bouillon or ji jing 鸡精 to a quarter cup of hot water. (Do be aware that most brands of ji jing contains some salt and MSG.) Soy sauce – 1 Tablespoon – a light soy sauce works best. Look for one that has 生 in its label name, such as the 生抽 pictured below. Sesame oil – 1 teaspoon – can be light or dark. Dark has a stronger flavor. White sugar – 1 teaspoon Corn starch – 1 teaspoon – 小粉 or a comparable starch is fine. White pepper – a generous dash or two. Prepare some garlic and ginger, minced fine, a generous tablespoonful of each. Next, prep the vegetables. Every recipe seems to have a different assortment of vegetables. The classic combination is red bell peppers, onion and celery; not too much of them. This leaves 腰果炒鸡丁 being mainly a meat dish, and as such it requires a side dish of vegetables to make it into a full meal. Personally, I like to add some other vegetables with the aim of turning it into a one-dish stir-fry meal. The guiding principle should be that they are all things which cook quickly and go well together. Best to avoid veggies with an overly strong flavor, since you don’t want to eclipse the gentle chicken and cashews; they should have star billing. I used red bell peppers, green mildly-spicy Chinese peppers 虎皮椒, some onion 洋葱，and an ear of young corn. This choice was partly dictated by what I had on hand. They also look nice together. A tip about cutting up peppers. First slice off the stem, and set the pepper on its broad end, tip in the air. Slice from the apex towards the base, leaving a central core of seeds. After that, I julienned the flesh, shiny side down on the cutting board. I sliced the tender corn off the young cob. Prep completed, now heat the wok over high flame until you can sprinkle a couple fingertips of water into it and they immediately skitter and disappear. Then you know it’s hot enough to add oil. Add only a tablespoon of oil, and stir fry the cashews. It takes about half a minute, and they become crispy, changing hue from pale to golden. Scoop them out into a pan and set aside. No seasoning needed. No need to clean the skillet or wok between steps. Just add another couple scant tablespoons of oil and toss in roughly half the ginger and garlic. Ginger goes in first because it requires a little more heat to fully develop its flavor. Fifteen seconds later, add the garlic. (I was fiddling with the camera and almost waited too long.) Now add half the chicken cubes and stir fry 3 or 4 minutes. They need to become slightly golden. Best not to crowd the pieces together or else they will stew instead of sauté. The pan should be hot enough that the chicken cubes can dance around and cook very quickly. Scoop them out when done. Add the rest of the ginger and garlic with a little more oil, and stir fry the remaining chicken. Scoop it out into a bowl and set it aside. See how nicely the color has developed by the end. Wok tip: When you are stirring a small-cut ingredient like this quickly, I think it helps to use two utensils, as pictured above. Gives better control of the process. If you prefer to just shake the wok with one hand like a celebrity chef, go for it. Now you are ready for the vegetables. They should be all lined up and ready. A couple more scant tablespoons of oil, and put them in. I like to add the onions first, but these vegetables all have about the same cooking time, so it doesn’t really matter. If some took longer than others, you would add them first and give them a slight head start. Cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring briskly. Now for the last part. Photo below shows the chicken, the sauce, and the cashews, lined up right to left in the order in which they will be added to the pan. Add the chicken and the pre-made sauce. Stir for a minute or so. Then in go the cashews. Stir on the flame another few seconds, and it’s ready to serve. A side bowl of steamed rice, and time for a big smile. Dig in. When people write cooking articles like this, they sometimes have a hidden agenda. Maybe it’s “eat more chicken,” or “buy more cashews.” In my case, what I’m trying to do is show you that you can make delicious food at home with limited tools and limited time. I’m hoping you will realize that it’s quite feasible to make a favorite restaurant dish on your own. Odds are that you can do it better in your kitchen than if you bought take out from China Star. Less salt, less oil, and so on. In the interest of explaining a little more about how to do that, let me take you behind the scenes and show you a couple of personal tricks that help me when cooking for one. Sometimes I have guests, and that's always more fun, but most of the time I cook and eat solo. When I serve my plate, directly from the wok, I put the remaining food in a microwave-safe plastic container. If I have a guest, the same principle applies, serve two plates and “serve” my storage container at the same time. The left over rice goes into something similar, ready to be popped in the fridge once it’s cool. Leftovers are easy to reheat for a quick lunch. (The cashews do lose their crunch.) Also, I’ve been washing the prep dishes as I go along, grabbing a few non-critical seconds here and there. The wok and a few dishes are all that is left; the others are already clean and drying in the rack. Let the wok soak while we eat. After the meal, scoop out the left over rice, and let the rice-cooker pot soak a while. Wipe down the stove and I’m done. There is no huge pile of dirty dishes to make me wish I had visited China Star instead of cooking at home. In my opinion, it's a huge disincentive to to have to return to the kitchen and tackle that chore once you put down your chopsticks. An approach such as described here allows you to triumph over that obstacle. You can have your cake and eat it too; or in this case you can have your cashew chicken and eat it too.