Guest Post: Dr T’s Nian Gao 年糕


I’m very pleased to my sister Dr T on as my first guest ever! Dr T is currently a PhD candidate and writes about her life as a graduate student. You can hop onto her blog here.
Happy Lunar New Year!
2015 is the year of the Ram! Chinese New Year’s is a holiday centered on food, fortune, and metaphors. The traditional foods that are eaten in celebration of the New Year’s are meant to bring prosperity and fortune to all. Chinese is a rather poetic language, replete with homophones and many of the dishes are a play on words. My favorite thing to eat and make at New Year’s is niangao, which translates as year cake. This dish is meant to represent the coming of an auspicious year; the two words figuratively translate as “high year”. I love making red bean niangao, but this year I was adventurous and made my own savory niangao too. Continue reading


Red Braised Pork and Eggs (Hong Shao Rou)

紅燒肉(hong shao rou) was one of my childhood staples. About once a week, my mom would make a wok full of soy sauce braised pork belly, hard boiled eggs, and squares of bean curd. Like most braised and stewed foods, the flavor gets better the second or third day. So when my mom made it last weekend, I took avid notes. Like many home cooks, she doesn’t measure and she eyeballs everything, adjusting seasonings by taste.
Continue reading

Dumplings Revisited

ADAPTED from my mom via a Skype conversation

INGREDIENTS: 500 grams of ground pork, 200 grams of chives, 500 grams of napa cabbage, 1-2 teaspoons of xiaoxing wine, salt, sugar, 2-3 teaspoons of soy sauce, a dash of sesame oil, 1 kilo of wonton wrappers

DIRECTIONS: First rinse the ground pork and use a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture. Then place the ground meat on the cutting board and run it through with a knife several times until the meat begins to stick to the knife. The texture should change and the color will become more pink. Place the meat in a large mixing bowl and add a few teaspoons of wine and half a teaspoon of salt and a quarter cup of water. Let the meat marinate for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile set a pot of salted water on the stove to boil. Remove tough outer leaves of the napa cabbage and cut off the base. Rinse the leaves in water. Then briefly dunk the leaves a few at a time into the boiling water. Let the leaves cool in a colander.

Chop the chives, discarding the tough bottoms, and add them to the meat mixture. Finely chop the napa cabbage and squeeze the excess water out. Add the napa to the dumpling filling and add soy sauce, sesame sauce, sugar, and salt. Microwave bits of the filling and taste, adjust seasoning accordingly.

Start wrapping.

NOTES: This will take your entire afternoon. This version also makes a meatier version than what I’m used to. You can increase the veggies by a third if you like, but I think winter dumplings should be heavier.

Furthermore, always freeze dumplings on a layer of saran wrap. Do not freeze on a bare surface like a ceramic plate, because it will need a consider use of brute force to remove them.

Steamed Chicken

ADAPTED from my mom (she should start her own blog)

INGREDIENTS: 1 small fresh chicken (3-4lbs), salt

DIRECTIONS: Rinse and pat dry chicken. Rub skin and body cavity with a few teaspoons of salt. Set on a plate and steam in a double boiler for twenty minutes. This means that you put the chicken in the double boiler when the water is still cold so not to burn your face and hands. Start the time once you see steam.

Break down the chicken and serve with soy sauce.

NOTES: Don’t know how to break down a chicken? Watch this.

Want to play the finger dance? Try to beat this guy’s 18 second record.

Egg Custard

BORROWED from my mom

MAKES one large bowl of deliciousness to mix with rice or eat straight up.

INGREDIENTS: 3 eggs, 3 cups of chicken stock, a pinch of salt, a dash of soy sauce

DIRECTIONS: Beat eggs in a large, heat proof bowl that will fit into a double boiler. Add a pinch of salt and chicken stock. Mix and steam for 10-15 minutes. Garnish with soy sauce.

NOTES: I like my custard soft boiled, for something stiffer steam for longer. The custard will crack in the cooking process, and if you want to avoid it, you must periodically lift the lid. But frankly, who are you trying to impress with steamed eggs? It looks like cottage cheese when you mix it with your rice, which is unappealing to say the least.

Stir Fried Cauliflower

ADAPTED from my mom

SERVES a hungry family of 4 for 1 dinner and leftovers

INGREDIENTS: 1 head of cauliflower, 5 dried shitake mushrooms, 1 cup of hot water, 1-2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp of corn starch, 1 tbsp of vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS: First soak the shitake mushrooms in hot water for an hour. This is something you can do before you leave for work. Meanwhile, chop the cauliflower into small florets and mince garlic. Roughly chop the rehydrated mushrooms, reserve the water, and stir fry with garlic with vegetable oil until lightly browned. Add the cauliflower and season with salt and a teaspoon of soy sauce. Stir fry for a minute.

Add half a cup of the shitake water and cover with the lid. Let it steam for 1-2 minutes. Taste before adjusting seasoning if necessary. Mix the remaining water with a teaspoon of corn starch and pour it into the cauliflower mix. This will thicken the liquid into a sauce. Cook for another minute or two until cooked through but still crisp.

NOTES: All times and measurements are eyeballed by yours truly. My mom does not measure, scoffs at measuring, and believes in experience. If the cauliflower comes out mushy, the fault lies somewhere between you and me, not her.

Is gluten-free if you use gluten-free soy sauce.