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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dishes from Mostly Scratch

I've discovered that I'm not so good at cooking from scratch, but I'm not bad at sprucing up instant stuff to make it into a meal.  You've all seen my handiwork with the udon noodles.  Now, I will show you what else I cooked a couple weekends ago.  They are all dishes from my childhood.1

Chinese people love soup, and my family especially love it.  So, I made a lotus root, red and white carrot soup2 with jujubes (a.k.a. dried Chinese dates or "hung tsoh") in chicken broth.  I also just blanched some watercress in the soup after it was done.  For the meat dish, I made spicy chicken steamed with preserved mustard (Chinese: tzah tsoi) and chili sauce.  For the soup and the steamed chicken, I asked Wah Toh for advice.  I followed her instruction exactly for the soup but I messed up on the chicken.  She told me twice: "Don't over-steam the chicken."  TWICE.  So what did I do?  I over-steamed the chicken.  Anywho, the dinner came out not bad.  The soup was delicious (sweet from the jujubes, but chock full of veggies).  The over-steamed chicken was tough so I didn't finish it.

An observant person would ask, "Where's the rice??"  And, I would have to answer, "I jacked that up, too.  Too much water in my newly bought $12 rice cooker."  But, I really loved the soup.  That made up for everything.  I was so full from the soup that I didn't have room for dessert.

Instead, I had the dessert for breakfast the next day.  I had gluten rice balls filled with black sesame and peanut (each rice ball is filled with sesame or peanut, not both), in a brown sugar and ginger sauce.  Super super good when accompanied by some hot jasmine tea.  The rice balls come frozen3 and you just drop them into a pot of boiling water.  When they start to float, they are nearly done.  The harder part (but not that hard) is the sauce.  You have to get the "slice sugar" (Chinese: peen tong) that is sold at Chinese stores--the packaging said "brown sugar."  You put the sugar into a sauce pan with a little bit of hot water and melt it over medium heat.  Then, you add some more hot water and a few slices of ginger.  All of this is to taste, so you would use more/less sugar and water as you see fit and based on the consistency you want.  Also, if you want more ginger taste then add more ginger.  Anywho, when the rice balls are done, you take them out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon, put them into a bowl and poor the sugar ginger sauce over it.  Like this!  I had the same dessert that night after dinner.

Okay, now, the last dinner that I made.  I chose something that was easily made and that required almost no work at all, and then a dish that required a little bit of work.  First, the easily made dish was steamed Chinese sausage.  This comes in a vacuum package and my favorite brand is Kam Yen Jan.  I have only a pic of the "white fat" variety but there's another variety that has a yellow pagoda stamp on it and it has duck liver in it as well.  I know, I know, the health conscious folk are slitting their wrists right now, but this stuff is REALLY GOOD.  You just prepare your rice and stick a few sausages in the rice and pop the whole thing into the rice cooker.  When it comes out, cut into smaller pieces and then drizzle with a little soy sauce.

Second, I made stir fried Chinese broccoli with beef.  Just cut into bite sized pieces, separating the stems from the leaves because the stems have to go in first.  Heat oil with chopped garlic and ginger, and then add the stems.  Season with salt and fairy dust4, and then add the leaves.  Now, you add a splash of rice wine.  (The ginger and the rice wine is what makes this dish.)  At the very end, add the sliced beef, preferably marinated lightly with salt, pepper, and soy sauce.  After plating, add some white pepper5 on the top.  You're done!

I supplemented with the soup from the night before and this time the rice came out great.  A complete meal!

1When I was growing up, my chores were food prep and clean up. I never was assigned with cooking, so, unlike my older sisters, I never really developed the cooking skill. This is why I'm way better at sprucing up stuff than I am at from scratch cooking.

2White carrot is also called daikon.

3I Mei is the best brand for sesame and peanut tong yuen.  You'll be sorry if you get another brand.  You'll end up with an "old pastry" taste in your mouth and the sesame is course.
Note:  Mr. Nonny Nu will likely have a comment about the phrase, "[t]he rice balls come frozen."


5Ground white pepper is not the same as black pepper.  It's finer and therefore is better at melding with the food.  While black pepper tends to give off its flavor, white pepper tends to melt into the food itself.  I like white pepper better because I never "bite into" a piece of pepper and get an unbidden explosion of spiciness in my mouth.  I got the Chinese white pepper with the wooden lid this time.


  1. I am proud of you......... not bad ..... but I have my own way easy and faster ( original Shanhai way ) to cook the rice balls. I boiled hot water slice gingers into it cook for 5 to 7 min. and place the rice balls into the ginger water ( all in 1 pot) I like it because the plaint ginger water goes good with the sweet rice balls.

  2. For the Chinese sausages I sometime after steam on the rice I will place them on a pan (without oil) and roll them until they are little brown it is realy good after the additional 10 min. it is worthed

  3. I hope you can practice more on your home cooking so that you will have healthy meal. All of these you can take them to work the next day.

  4. Whoa, I am impressed. Your veggies are nicely cooked with that BEAUTIFUL green, not overdone (good for you)! Next time, I will show you how to cook a whole-duck soup (chuen ngap tonk) - the kind mom cooked on New Year's eve. Jolly cooking...

  5. so how long did it take you to eat all those? did you make a silver needle as your utensil? if you feel like eating tom yum chicken soup noodle let me know. it is easy and very satisfying with lots of Rau (vn mixed mints and beansprouts). sol pa sing

  6. Wow, looks really food, Nonny! I'm actually learning to make Thai cuisine,myself. I am making one of my favorites, Pad Thai, for the first time tomorrow. I checked out a Thai cookbook from the library and have been on a roll ever since. It's taken me some time to accumulate all of the spices,etc that I need for Pad Thai but I finally have everything. I made Thai chicken wings and fried rice a couple weeks ago and also some coconut chicken soup. Came out great!

  7. Hi, ogunsgirl! I LOVE Thai food. I have to say it's my favorite. I very much enjoy the savory curries with the rice and the spicy soups and salads. How did your Pad Thai turn out? OMG. I want to come over and eat.

  8. ogunsgirl now known as Siddharta's GirlDecember 10, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    Hey! It came out great! I got the recipe from a Thai cookbook called Simply Thai by Wandee Young. It took me some time to roung up all the ingredients, since there are no asian markets nearby, but I ended up finding everything at various grocery stores over time. I really love Thai food, too because of the addition of HEAT to the dishes. It's almost like a fusion of Chinese and Indian spices,IMO. I love all the chilies and cilantro. Yum! I am cooking something else in the wok tonight,but don't know what yet.Flipping through

  9. Thank you for announcing the name change, Sidddharta's Girl!! It makes me think back to your email to me about the story behind that and I am once again struck with pride and love for my dear friend.

    I will make a note of the name change in the Friends of the Warren list. Wow, this is the third time a Warren Citizen has changed their names. But, I think your change is the most profound one so far.

    About the food. Now. You MUST send photos! I will post them on the blog! I know you're far away and I can't really come over to eat it, but I would love to just see the photos themselves.

    *sets table in rabbit mind*

  10. Siddharta's girlJanuary 4, 2011 at 7:41 PM

    Hey, sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Sure, I will send some photos the next time I cook something new. I just made my first homemade wonton soup the other day and it turned out great! I was so proud of it and I know I snapped a photo of it with my cell as soon as the wontons rose to the top of the wok. I hope I didn't delete the pic already but if I did,I'll have an excuse to make some more! :)

    And yes, I am loving not only the name change but also a whole new way of life and outlook on the future. I feel like a new woman, truly, and have peace for the first time in many years.

  11. I’ve been trying to exercise and drink more tea everyday. With and these flowering teas, it’s been a breeze!

    Up til now, Jasmine Flower is my favorite!