This drawing is now closed. Anyone who ever reads my blog knows what a big fan I am of The Chinese Takeout Cookbook. A few of the recipes have turned into my go-to standards, such as the cold sesame noodles. So I'm really happy to be holding a drawing for a copy of the book, open to anyone who lives in the US or Canada and posts a comment below by midnight on April 29th. A random winner will be chosen (thanks to the publisher for the book). About this recipe, it's the Sichuan Dry-Fried Beef, another winner. Of course I turned it gluten-free, but it was easy this time because I just had to substitute in some gluten-free soy sauce. Okay, so I also spiced it up a lot with several more dried chilies than what author Diana Kuan calls for. But besides that, it's fun to make and super easy, and of course it tastes better than anything you're going to get at your local Chinese take-out restaurant. Just don't forget to make a big bowl of white rice to go with it.
I never would have guessed one of my favorite cookbooks would be a low-sodium one. I've said it before... I'm a salt lover, like so many foodies. But when I try the recipes from Jessica Goldman-Foung's Sodium Girl's Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook, all I can think is how good they are. The absence of salt never crosses my mind. I almost wish this was an exaggeration -- the Chinese Five-Spice Plus One Chicken Salad recipe in the book is one of the best dishes I've ever cooked at home.The trick is the chicken. You use thighs which stay tender when you roast them. They're coated in sesame oil, salt-free Chinese five-spice powder, and garlic powder. What comes out of the oven is magical.Seriously, at this point I was all set. I just wanted to eat this chicken right off the cutting board, it's that good.But of course this is a complete recipe with a really yummy dressing and roasted almonds, served over fried mai fun noodles (so fun doing that). And don't worry too much about the greens. She calls for iceberg lettuce and Savoy cabbage, but I swapped out the cabbage because I couldn't find it in my local vegetable market. I should mention the varied textures are a big part of the success of this recipe -- crispy, soft, crunchy, and chewy, all combined into one. I'll be making this regularly.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- go buy The Chinese Takeout Cookbook by Diana Kuan. Now about cold sesame noodles, I used to have them at a place back when I was around 21 years old. That set the gold standard for me, and I've never been quite satisfied since. I gave up on trying to find a good version in restaurants, but I do try every recipe I can find. Some recipes are too heavy on the sesame, some too much on peanut butter, some too salty, and some too sweet. Often they're too gloppy. Then I tried Diana's recipe. It's just right, and maybe more important, it's easily adaptable. Of course I used gluten-free soy sauce and some very good ride noodles. But I've made this recipe several times now (the perfect combination of sesame and peanut butter in the sauce, not too salty, not too sweet), and I wing it every time. The real recipe with cucumber and carrots is great for texture and highly recommended. Here I added tofu. I've even made it with Thai chicharonnes on top. (Darn, forgot to take a real photo of that, but here it is on my Instagram feed -- you follow me on Instagram, right?) This recipe is now a staple in my house and one more reason why I love this book. And if by chance you're celebrating, happy early Chinese New Year!
I've never been one to make Chinese fried rice at home. Sure it's a good way to use up leftover rice, but it just wasn't my thing. Then I found out about Korean-style kimchi fried rice. Using a real recipe isn't that important. You need kimchi and rice -- that's for sure. The rest is best when you improvise. Generally I'll start with bacon (or pork belly if I'm lucky). Korean red pepper paste is also pretty important, but probably not required if the kimchi has a lot of extra juice to add for that gorgeous red color. I tend to improvise with a little soy sauce (gluten-free of course) and vinegar. I might throw in some fresh ginger and scallions if I have them. And in this case, as you can see, I fried a bit of tofu and served it with a sunny-side-up egg on top. This is how I like to cook, tasting along the way. Just don't ask me for a recipe.
The funny thing about making the kung pao chicken from Diana Kuan's new The Chinese Takeout Cookbook is that I never order kung pao chicken at restaurants. Heck, I didn't even know what it was exactly, but the photo in the cookbook got me excited to try it out. Of course like the last recipe I made from Diana's book, this one had to be adapted a bit. I used gluten-free soy sauce in the marinade and sauce, so that was easy. The tricky part is the hoisin. It seems a bit odd to me, but hoisin sauce almost always contains wheat starch. I've heard there are some gluten-free brands, but I haven't come across them yet. The recipe called for just a teaspoon of hoisin, but I had to improvise because it seemed important to the overall flavor. At the risk of making Diana cringe again, I substituted this San-J sweet and tangy sauce -- that brand is very good about marketing to gluten-free people, and so I'd recently stocked up on their products to try them out. I can't say for sure that it tasted just like Diana's recipe, but it seemed to work really well.I did try to find Sichuan pepper at my local markets, but I had no luck. I'm sure I can get it in Chinatown, but that was a bit too out of my way. I'll be curious to try this recipe again with it. I made one more switch by using some regular onion instead of scallion whites -- it's hard to explain, but I'd used scallion whites earlier in the day and just had the greens left over, which I used here for garnishing. I think the rest of the recipe was pretty much as Diana said. It's funny how soupy it looks in this skillet photo, because it didn't seem that way when I plated it. But who cares how it looks... it tasted so great. This is going to be a new go-to recipe at my house.