Recipes

Best Lamb Dumplings January 26, 2017 21:48

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! As part of a traditional New Year’s celebration, we cook and eat dumplings on New Year’s Eve. This is a northern Chinese custom and family has been practicing it for generations. This year, we’re cooking lamb dumplings to celebrate the year of the rooster!


A few things to note:
Choose a tender cut of lamb with 20-30% fat. This will keep the filling tender and moist.
Sichuan peppercorn is a must. It brings out the greatness of the lamb.
Cook the carrot beforehand, so it will be tender and release a sweet flavor.
Do NOT squeeze the water out of the zucchini. We will utilize its moisture to create a soupy filling.
Blend in the zucchini at the end. The zucchini will start to lose water and make the filling watery if mixed in too early.
Wrap and cook (or freeze) dumplings as soon as possible. The moisture will start to seep into the dough, which will cause the dumplings to fall apart during cooking. If you are cooking a big batch of dumplings, you can wrap the dumplings in small batches and freeze them immediately after wrapping. You can cook them whenever you want, before serving the meal.
Take extra care to seal the dumplings tightly if you’re planning on boiling the dumplings. Refer to this post to get more information on how to deal with boiled dumplings.


INGREDIENTS
500 grams (1 pound) ground lamb leg
4 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
4 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
10 grams (about 1 tablespoon) minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn powder
(Optional) 1/4 teaspoon salt (*see footnote 1)
1 small (80 grams) zucchini
1 small (200 grams) carrot
80 grams (1 cup) chopped green onion
80 pieces homemade dumplings wrappers

INSTRUCTIONS

To prepare the lamb filling

  1. Combine ground lamb meat, Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce in a large bowl. Mix well until the mixture becomes a sticky paste. Add ginger. Sprinkle evenly with Sichuan peppercorn powder and salt (if you’re using it). Mix thoroughly. Add peanut oil and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside (or in the fridge if you’re not planning to make dumplings within an hour).

     

  2. (option) If you are making your own dumpling wrappers, mix the ground lamb with the seasonings first, and set aside at room temperature for up to 1 hour (or in the fridge for up to a day). Do not add any vegetables to the meat at this point, because the veggies will be dehydrated by the salt, and the filling will become watery.

  3. Right before you wrap the dumplings, prepare the vegetables. To mince the carrot and zucchini, you can use a mandoline to slice them into strips first, then chop them into small bits. You can also use a food processor to mince them.

      

     

  4. Cook carrot. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok (or a nonstick skillet) over medium high heat until warm. Add carrot, stir, and saute until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

     

  5. When you’re ready to start wrapping dumplings, add green onion, zucchini, and carrot into the ground lamb. Mix well.

     

To wrap dumplings

  1. {If you are using fresh homemade wrappers} Scoop about 1 tablespoon (or slightly less) of the dumpling filling and place it in the center of the wrapper. Hold the dumpling with one hand and start sealing the edges with the other hand 

      

  2. {If you are using pre-made wrappers from the store}Scoop about 2 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon, depending on the size of the wrapper) of the lamb filling and place it in the center of the wrapper. Gently press the mixture into a round shape, so it will be easier to wrap. Wet your finger or a pair of chopsticks with water and gently brush water onto the edge of the wrapper. Fold the wrapper into a half moon shape.

     

  3. If you have trouble sealing the dumplings, reduce the amount of filling until you can seal it easily.

  4. Place the dumplings on the working surface, one finger’s width apart. Work with the rest of the wrappers in the same manner.

  5. You should wrap the dumplings in small batches, 20 to 25 at a time. After the dumplings are wrapped, cook or freeze them within 30 minutes. Otherwise, the dumplings will start to lose moisture. For more information on cooking frozen dumplings.

To boil dumplings

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

  2. Carefully add dumplings into the water, one at a time. Use a big ladle to stir the water gently and continuously, until the water starts to boil again, so the dumplings won’t stick to the bottom, for about 1 minute. Adjust the heat so the water is at boiling point, but isn’t bubbling too fiercely.

  3. When the dumplings float to the surface, continue boiling until the dumplings are filled with air and swollen, and the dough starts to become transparent, about 1 minutes. Immediately transfer all the dumplings to a plate.

     

  4. Be careful, the dumplings cook quickly and you should always stand beside the pot throughout the boiling process. When the dumplings are cooked, they will start to fall apart within seconds, so transfer them as soon as possible.

To cook potstickers

  1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When oil is hot, place potstickers in the skillet, pleat side up.

  2. Swirl 2 tablespoons water in the skillet, cover immediately, and turn the heat to medium. Cook covered until the water is evaporated and potstickers are cooked through, about 3 minutes.

  3. Remove the cover and flip one pot sticker to see whether the bottom side is charred. If not, turn to medium high heat and cook until the bottom side turns golden brown.

     

  4. Transfer the pot stickers to a plate.

To freeze dumplings

  1. If you plan to store dumplings or won't serve them immediately, always freeze them uncooked. It won’t affect the texture or flavor of the dumplings.

  2. Dust the bottom of a big airtight box with a thin layer of flour. Place the dumplings, one finger’s width apart. Store in the freezer for up to 2 months.


1855 Beef — Quality Recognized Around the Globe September 18, 2016 21:20

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Mid-Autumn Festival August 19, 2016 22:27

The Mid-Autumn Festival falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, usually in October in Gregorian calendar.

The festival has a long history. In ancient China, emperors followed the rite of offering sacrifices to the sun in spring and to the moon in autumn. Historical books of the Zhou Dynasty had had the word "Mid-Autumn". Later aristocrats and literary figures helped expand the ceremony to common people. They enjoyed the full, bright moon on that day, worshipped it and expressed their thoughts and feelings under it. By the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Mid-Autumn Festival had been fixed, which became even grander in the Song Dynasty (960-1279). In the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, it grew to be a major festival of China.

Folklore about the origin of the festival go like this: In remote antiquity, there were ten suns rising in the sky, which scorched all crops and drove people into dire poverty. A hero named Hou Yi was much worried about this, he ascended to the top of the Kunlun Mountain and, directing his superhuman strength to full extent, drew his extraordinary bow and shot down the nine superfluous suns one after another. He also ordered the last sun to rise and set according to time. For this reason, he was respected and loved by the people and lots of people of ideals and integrity came to him to learn martial arts from him. A person named Peng Meng lurked in them.

Hou Yi had a beautiful and kindhearted wife named Chang E. One day on his way to the Kunlun Mountain to call on friends, he ran upon the Empress of Heaven Wangmu who was passing by. Empress Wangmu presented to him a parcel of elixir, by taking which, it was said, one would ascend immediately to heaven and become a celestial being. Hou Yi, however, hated to part with his wife. So he gave the elixir to Chang E to treasure for the time being. Chang E hid the parcel in a treasure box at her dressing table when, unexpectedly, it was seen by Peng Meng.

One day when Hou Yi led his disciples to go hunting, Peng Meng, sword in hand, rushed into the inner chamber and forced Chang E to hand over the elixir. Aware that she was unable to defeat Peng Meng, Chang E made a prompt decision at that critical moment. She turned round to open her treasure box, took up the elixir and swallowed it in one gulp. As soon as she swallowed the elixir her body floated off the ground, dashed out of the window and flew towards heaven. Peng Meng escaped.

When Hou Yi returned home at dark, he knew from the maidservants what had happened. Overcome with grief, Hou Yi looked up into the night sky and called out the name of his beloved wife when, to his surprise, he found that the moon was especially clear and bight and on it there was a swaying shadow that was exactly like his wife. He tried his best to chase after the moon. But as he ran, the moon retreated; as he withdrew, the moon came back. He could not get to the moon at all.

Thinking of his wife day and night, Hou Yi then had an incense table arranged in the back garden that Chang E loved. Putting on the table sweetmeats and fresh fruits Chang E enjoyed most, Hou Yi held at a distance a memorial ceremony for Chang E who was sentimentally attached to him in the palace of the moon.


When people heard of the story that Chang E had turned into a celestial being, they arranged the incense table in the moonlight one after another and prayed kindhearted Chang E for good fortune and peace. From then on the custom of worshiping the moon spread among the people.

People in different places follow various customs, but all show their love and longing for a better life. Today people will enjoy the full moon and eat moon cakes on that day.
The moon looks extremely round, big and bright on the 15th day of each lunar month. People selected the August 15 to celebrate because it is a season when crops and fruits are all ripe and weather pleasant. On the Mid-Autumn Festival, all family members or friends meet outside, putting food on tables and looking up at the sky while talking about life. How splendid a moment it is!


Zongzi 粽子 (zòngzi) June 02, 2016 19:03

Ingredients

  1. 40 large dried bamboo leaves (2 for each zongzi).

  2. 20 long strings (for binding leaves) .

  3. 1 kg (2.2 Ib) long grain sticky rice.

  4. 2 kg (4.4 Ib) pork belly, sliced into 3 cm (1") cubes.

  5. 10 salted duck's egg yolks.

  6. 40 small dried shiitake (black) mushrooms.

  7. 20 dried, shelled chestnuts.

  8. 10 spring onions, cut up into 1 cm (1/2") lengths.

  9. 500 g (18 oz) dried radish.

  10. 100 g (3.5 oz) very small dried shrimp.

  11. 200 g (7 oz) raw, shelled peanuts (with skins).

  12. 1/2 cup soy sauce.

  13. 1/4 cup rice wine .

  14. 1/2 Vegetable oil.

  15. 5 cloves of garlic, roughly crushed.

  16. 1 teaspoon black pepper.

  17. 1-1/2 teaspoons sugar.

  18. 2 star anise.

  19. 1 teaspoon five spice powder.

Method

Prepare and cook ingredients

  1. Soak rice in water for three hours, drain.

  2. Stir-fry pork for a few minutes. Add chestnuts, soy sauce, rice wine, ground pepper, 1 teaspoon of sugar, star anise and five spice powder, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Remove pork and chestnuts from liquid and set aside.

  3. Boil peanuts until tender (30 minutes to 1 hour).

  4. Soak mushrooms until soft. Clean and trim stalks. Cut into 2 or 3 pieces. Stir-fry with a little liquid from pork stew.

  5. Halve duck egg yolks.

  6. Chop up dried radish finely and stir-fry with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and garlic.

  7. Stir-fry spring onions until fragrant.

  8. Stir-fry shrimp for a few minutes.

  9. To a large wok or bowl, add rice, peanuts, radish, shrimp, spring onions, a little liquid from the stew mixture and 2 tablespoons of oil. Mix well.

Wrap zongzi

  1. Soak bamboo leaves in warm water for 5 minutes to tenderies, before washing thoroughly in cold water.

  2. Wet strings to make them more pliable.

  3. Take 2 leaves with leaf stem or spine facing out. Overlap them lengthwise in inverse directions (pointed end of one leaf facing the rounded end of the other).

  4. With both hands hold leaves about 2/3rd of the way along their length. At that point bend them so that they are parallel lengthwise and also overlap. This should produce a leaf pouch that you cup firmly in one hand.

  5. Add a small amount of rice mixture, compressing with a spoon.

  6. Add 1 piece each of pork, chestnut, mushroom, duck egg yoke.

  7. Add more rice until you have nearly a full pouch. Compress firmly with a spoon.

  8. Fold leaves over the open top of Zongzi, then around to side until Zongzi is firmly wrapped. Zongzi should be pyramid shaped with sharp edges and pointed ends. Trim off any excess leaf with scissors.

  9. Tie up Zongzi tightly just like shoes laces with a double knot. Normally they are tied to a bunch of Zongzi.

  10. *Steam for 1 hour, unwrap and serve.

Notes: Chinese groceries should stock most of these ingredients. They will almost certainly have the wrappers and strings in the lead up to the Dragon Boat Festival. Eat zongzi plain or with a sauce of your choice. Wrapped tightly in plastic, zongzi freeze well. To reheat, thaw, and without removing the bamboo leaves, steam (best option), or microwave. Before micro-waving, poke a very small hole in the wrapping and pour in 1/4 of a teaspoon of water to help prevent the zongzi drying out. To test for doneness, plunge a sharp fork into the centre of the zongzi. If the fork is hot, so is your snack.

*People in southern Taiwan prefer to fry the rice after soaking it. They also boil rather than steam zongzi.


Chicken drumsticks barbecue May 08, 2016 14:57

 Ingredients

  • 250 mL (1 cup) packed brown sugar
  • 250 mL (1 cup) ketchup
  • 125 mL (½ cup) white vinegar
  • 60 mL (¼ cup) olive oil
  • 1 poblano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 mL (1 tsp.) cumin seeds
  • 5 mL (1 tsp.) salt
  • 2 mL (½ tsp.) ground black pepper
  • 16 skin-on chicken drumsticks

Method

  1. Whisk together all ingredients except the drumsticks in a bowl. Place drumsticks in a large re-sealable plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Marinate in refrigerator for 6 hours.
  2. Preheat the barbecue to medium-high and oil the grill well.
  3. Reduce heat to medium. Remove drumsticks from marinade and set marinade aside. Grill drumsticks, turning frequently, for 20 to 25 minutes, until meat pulls away easily from the bone or the internal temperature reaches 77°C (170°F).
  4. Meanwhile, pour reserved marinade into a small saucepan and heat until boiling. Boil for 1 minute and then reduce heat. Simmer sauce until serving time.

Chef’s secret

For a little more heat, add hot pepper seeds to the marinade.


Puffed rice Easter eggs March 23, 2016 20:39

 Ingredients

  • 45 mL (3 tbsp.) butter or margarine
  • 1 L (4 cups) marshmallows
  • 2 mL (½ tsp.) vanilla extract
  • 1.25 L (5 cups) puffed rice cereal
  • 250 mL (1 cup) dark, milk, or white chocolate, melted
  • To taste, candies for decorating

Method

  1. Melt butter or margarine in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add the marshmallows and stir until they are melted and mixture is smooth.
  3. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.
  4. Add cereal and stir until well coated.
  5. Using a greased spatula, press the mixture into a rimmed, greased, 40-cm x 27-cm (16-in x 10½-in) baking sheet. Let cool 4 or 5 minutes.
  6. Using an oval cookie-cutter, cut puffed rice mixture into egg shapes.
  7. When well chilled, dip the largest ends in the melted chocolate and then decorate with candies, to taste.

Chef’s secret

It's best to cut the eggs when the puffed rice mixture is still slightly warm. If you don't have an oval cookie cutter, use various shapes! Be sure the pieces are well chilled before dipping them in the chocolate.


Chinese New Year Food February 04, 2016 07:36

Chinese New Year Food: Top Lucky Foods and Symbolism

Certain dishes are eaten during the Chinese New Year for their symbolic meaning. Lucky food is served during the 16-day festival season, especially New Year’s Eve, which is believed to bring good luck for the coming year. The auspicious symbolism of these foods is based on their pronunciations or appearance.


Not only do the dishes themselves matter, but also the preparation, and ways of serving and eating mean a lot.

The most common Chinese New Year foods includes dumplings, fish, spring rolls, and niangao.

Fish 鱼 Yú /yoo/
steamed fish
In Chinese, "fish" sounds like 'surplus'. Chinese people always like to have a surplus at the end of the year, because they think if they have managed to save something at the end of the year, then they can make more in the next year.

Fish can be cooked in various ways such as boiling, steaming, and braising. The most famous Chinese fish dishes include steamed weever, West Lake fish with pickled cabbage and chili, steamed fish in vinegar sauce, and boiled fish with spicy broth.

The Meaning of Various Fish

What fish should be chosen for the New Year feast is based on auspicious homophonics.

  • Crucian carp: As the first character of ‘crucian carp' (鲫鱼 jìyú \jee-yoo\) sounds like the Chinese word 吉 (jí /jee/ ‘good luck'), eating crucian carp is considered to bring good luck for the next year.
  • Chinese mud carp: The first part of the Chinese for “mud carp” (鲤鱼 lǐyú /lee-yoo/) is pronounced like the word for gifts (礼 lǐ /lee/). So Chinese people think eating mud carp during the Chinese New Year symbolizes wishing for good fortune.
  • Catfish: The Chinese for “catfish” (鲶鱼 niányú /nyen-yoo/) sounds like 年余 (nián yú) meaning ‘year surplus'. So eating catfish is a wish for a surplus in the year.
  • Eating two fish: one on New Year's Eve and one on New Year's Day, (if written in a certain way) sounds like a wish for a surplus year-after-year.
  • If only one catfish is eaten: eating the upper part of the fish on New Year's Eve and the remainder on the first day of the new year can be spoken with the same homophonic meaning.
  • Happy Chinese New YearFish is an auspicious Chinese New Year symbol
  •  
  • How a Fish Is Eaten Matters a Lot


    The fish should be the last dish left with some left over, as this has auspicious homophonics for there being surpluses every year. This is practiced north of the Yangtze River, but in other areas the head and tail of the fish shouldn't be eaten until the beginning of the year, which expresses the hope that the year will start and finish with surplus.

    There are some rules related to the position of the fish.

    The head should be placed toward distinguished guests or elders, representing respect.
    Diners can enjoy the fish only after the one who faces the fish head eats first.
    The fish shouldn't be moved. The two people who face the head and tail of fish should drink together, as this is considered to have a lucky meaning.
    These customs are observed in a lively and light-hearted spirit, full of laughing and banter.

    Lucky Sayings for Eating Fish

    年年有余 (Niánnián yǒu yú /nyen-nyen yo yoo/): May you always have more than you need!
    鱼跃龙门 (Yú yuè lóngmén /yoo ywair long-mnn/): Success in your exam! ('A fish leaping over the dragon gate' implies successfully passing a competitive examination.)


  • Grilled Asian Chicken July 30, 2015 20:28

    Ingredient

    • Original recipe makes 4 servingsChange Servings
    • 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 4 teaspoons sesame oil
    • 2 tablespoons honey
    • 3 slices fresh ginger root
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

    Method

    1. In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the soy sauce, oil, honey, ginger root, and garlic. Heat in microwave on medium for 1 minute, then stir. Heat again for 30 seconds, watching closely to prevent boiling.

    2. Place chicken breasts in a shallow dish. Pour soy sauce mixture over, and set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.

    3. Preheat a grill for medium-high heat. Drain marinade from chicken into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Set aside for basting.

    4. Lightly oil the grill grate. Cook chicken on the prepared grill 6 to 8 minutes per side, or until juices run clear. Baste frequently with remaining marinade. Chicken will turn a beautiful golden brown.