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DUNLOP March Cookbooks of Month: Appetizers

Post all appetizer recipes from BOTH books here.

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  1. So, we tried a meal of Traditional Dan Dan Noodles (LOP, page 87), Dry-Fried Green Beans I (LOP, pg 289), and Cold Chicken with Fragrant Rice Wine (LOP, page 183), the former two because they are some of my favorite dishes from a Sichuan restaurant in town and the latter because we had some leftover cooked chicken to use up.

    I have to say, my take-away lesson is all about making sure you read the recipe carefully and understand the ingredients, even when you think you already have. (I know, duh, right?) With the Cold Chicken with Fragrant Wine, I didn't realize until too late that the "fragrant wine" was not the "Shaoxing Rice Wine" Dunlop refers to in other recipes in the book, but, instead a wine you have to ferment yourself from long grain glutinous rice and a "wine yeast ball", which takes a couple of days (she refers you to page 60.) She does say that the Shaoxing Rice Wine is an acceptable substitute because it has similar culinary functions, but notes that it has a different taste, so I used it anyway.

    I still think this is a super easy recipe, and a great way to use up leftovers, but we didn't love it. It almost tasted like perfume. I think I might like to try it with the wine you ferment yourself, which is and see if I like that better.

    Sorry, the photo feature doesn't seem to be working. I'll discuss the dan dan noodles and the green beans in the noodles http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49466... and vegetables http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49466... threads.


    10 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      I've got enough to do in a small NYC apt. without starting to ferment my own rice wine! But, you made it your own dish. I am jealous!

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Posting a photo--I guess the other one was too large. This one's a little dark.


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          TDQ: Speaking of pre-preparing your own ingredients (Fragrant Rice Wine, salted chilis, etc.) does anybody remember (or has anybody cooked from) the China Moon Cookbook by Barbara Tropp (now unfortunately deceased)?

          When I first started to making something from that book, I skimmed the recipe a little too fast and didn't notice all one had to do before beginning to prepare ANY of the recipes.

          She had flavored oils and spice mixes and so on. I made a friend years later because he said something about the book and I said "Yes, but did you prepare all the sauces and oils and spice mixes?" He cracked up and we ended up talking for about an hour about our trials.

          1. re: oakjoan

            I remember China Moon Cafe in San Francisco, late 80's, I loved that place. But, no way would I have ever tried making all of those oils and spice mixes and so on at that time of my life, in my itty bitty studio apartment with my $20 cookware set. I wonder how that cookbook would compare to Dunlop's if we looked at it now? Or would it seem really dated?


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              It doesn't seem dated recipe-wise. The font and general design scream
              late-80's/early 90's. Barbara Tropp was definitely in her own world vis a vis recipe micromanagement, but the recipes themselves read fairly authentic.

              I much prefer Dunlop's books however, wherein she guides the reader through Asian markets the better to purchase sauces, etc rather than expecting the home cook to make them from scratch. A great companion to Dunlop as far as markets go is Bruce Cost's Asian Ingredients. I've treated each of Dunlop's prefaces as refreshers to Cost's primer.

              1. re: aelph

                YES! Bruce Cost's Asian Ingredients book is great! I picked it up on a whim quite a few years ago and was very glad I did.

                1. re: aelph

                  Again and again, folks complain about the impracticality of the China Moon book, but I've used it for a dozen years and have a couple of take-aways:

                  1) I've made many very tasty recipes without having all the special oils. The depth of flavor wasn't what you get when you do the whole thing by the book, but the recipes are good enough that you can substitute commercial chili oil, for example, for CM's "Orange Chili Oil" and so forth.

                  2) Most of the oils, vinegars, and spice mixes are NOT difficult to make. An hour or two here and there over a couple of weeks (I used to get off work in the afternoon, and spend an hour a day, for maybe a week or so making one or two recipes) and you've got a pretty well-stocked pantry.

                  3) The oils and vinegars are great in other non-CM recipes--I like them to spice up my ramen, store-bought potstickers, plain rice, etc.

              2. re: oakjoan

                Ten (fifteen?) years ago I made 3 or 4 of the oils and even tried making my own pickled ginger. I was a graduate student with little money and looking for an excuse to get out of the lab. What I made from that book was delicious - but I didn't cook from it often enough to use very much of the oils. My pickled ginger, by the way, was pretty inedible. Couldn't cut it thin enough - ugh - I shudder to think about it now. I recently pulled the book from my shelf and shook my head at the thought of taking 2 days to make those recipes - oh, to have that kind of time again!

                1. re: jvozoff

                  I have made the pickled ginger and find it superior to any commercial version I've tried. The trick is having a mandoline to slice it very thinly.

            2. Smacked Cucumbers (Hunan, p. 63)

              Well, my cucumbers weren't very "smacked" - I think I'm going to buy a cleaver (as well as a wok), but this was a pretty quick and easy dish. I made version one, and used a little less (purchased) salted chiles (I think that is what they were) and just a v. little bit of chile oil, figuring if we wanted it more spicy, we could add more. Refreshing, and not too spicy.

              9 Replies
                1. re: MMRuth

                  Looks beautiful, MMRuth--thank you for reporting on this one. From June-August we get about 6-8 cucumbers a week from our CSA and are always looking for new recipes for cucumbers. This one looks like it could be a winner with a few tweaks!

                  I don't have a cleaver or a wok, either. Maybe I, too, should think about that. They aren't that expensive, it's just making room for them in a small kitchen that worries me!


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Yes - the making room issue was my concern, but since I now have three bags full of new ingredients that don't have a home, what's a wok!

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      HA! I know what you mean. We now have a "Dunlop" box of ingredients we cart up and down the stairs (between our spare fridge) and the kitchen. I think, when it turns April, I might have to sit down and cull through the box and figure out which things absolutely need refrigeration and which ones can just be stored on a shelf in our very cool basement. For now, I like having them all together, but it is creating a definite space issue in our fridge.


                  2. re: MMRuth

                    MMRuth, I found that in smacking my cukes - some of them scattered all over the counter! Think I'll just cut them the next time as that would seem to work just as well.

                    1. re: scoopG

                      Maybe that's why I didn't smack hard enough with my knife!

                    2. re: MMRuth

                      Smacked Cucumbers (RCC, pg. 62)

                      Another really great cucumber recipe. I don’t know if I like this better than the LOP version. There different recipes and it’s not fair to compare them.

                      These cucumbers have to be smacked with a cleaver – HARD until the cukes split open. Then you chop. C happened to walk in as I made my initial smack and the look of horror on his face was just priceless. He exclaimed, are those the cucumbers that we grew with love? As if they were kids or kittens. I just started laughing and smacked some more.

                      Anyway, another easy and fast recipe. I chose this version because of the simplicity and I was cooking three other dishes. The smacked cucumbers are salted for about half an hour and then drained. Add salted chiles, garlic, rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt. Lastly add sesame and chile oil. I just realized I forgot to add the chile oil but it didn’t detract from the dish at all.

                      These were very pickley and held up well the next day as leftovers as well. A really nice tang and crunch to the cukes themselves.

                      Next time, I’m trying version 2 which is similar to above but you add hot oil to it.

                      1. re: beetlebug

                        Smacked Cucumbers, version 2 (RCC, pg. 62)

                        I found these bland. After you salt and drain the cukes, you add garlic and vinegar to them. Sprinkle dried crumbled chili pepper and then add hot peanut oil. Enh. I thought it was a waste of my delicious home grown cukes.

                        Version 1 is better, but really the best are the cucumbers with Sichuan pepper from LOP.

                        1. re: beetlebug

                          Smacked Cucumbers, Version 2 Pg. 62, RCC

                          Not only did I make Dunlop's version but included my own additions so certain vegetables would be used up before shopping day. I followed the recipe faithfully but chopped a couple of organic vine tomatoes and marinated a chopped red onion in the rice vinegar before continuing with the recipe.

                          We liked the finished salad and thought the hot oil at the end brought a nuance that room temperature doesn't. The key here is to let the cucumbers (salad) sit a while so the flavors blend before adding the hot oil. Anyway, it was a good side for the ginger chicken on page 131.

                    3. Roasted Peppers with Preserved Duck Eggs (Hunan, p. 60)

                      This was our favorite of the three dishes last night. Since there were just two of us, I roasted two peppers, cut down the ingredients in the dressing accordingly, and used two duck eggs. I'd never tried these eggs before and was a bit leery of them but they were wonderful - the whites are like aspic! And the combination with the peppers was perfect. BTW - the eggs smelled like ammonia when I unwrapped them, but there was no lingering taste of it in the eggs. My nicely arranged plate was disarrayed when I set it down to take the picture - hungry husband, no time to fix!

                      PS - Turns out I did have some leftover light soy sauce in the bowl, and I'm glad I did, as the dark one is thicker and, well, darker - I think if one needs to substitute dark for light, I'd dilute it a bit. We also discovered that Norfolk Terriers like preserved duck eggs!

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: MMRuth

                        FYI, the preserved duck eggs are delicious with a fresh block of soft/silken tofu. I slice a couple of eggs with one block that's been sliced into cubes. Add, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and sometimes fish flakes and/or dried fried scallions/shallots/onions. This is a dish served cold and as a side and goes really well with rice porridge. If the tofu is really cold, I may warm it up in some simmering water.

                        I've seen and ordered this dish in a number of northern chinese restaurants and I love it's a staple for my northern dim sum. It's interesting, because every restaurant has a different version and sometimes it changes depending on who is in the kitchen.

                        Of course, I've heard howls of protest from other hounds, but that just means more for me.

                          1. re: beetlebug

                            Tofu with preserved duck eggs.

                            An inartfully presented picture of the dish. I forgot that I was going to eat this as well and hastily cut up half a block of tofu, sliced up the egg and drizzled some soy paste with it. Very basic and tasty.

                          2. re: MMRuth

                            That looks wonderful MM. No wonder your DH was in a hurry to eat!

                            1. re: MMRuth

                              Wow! That looks glorious! I've had my eye on that recipe...and am inspired to make it. beetlebug's recipe sounds tasty, too.


                            2. Spring Rolls with Three Silken Threads, p. 50, RCC

                              I'd bought spring roll wrappers, as well as the bamboo shoots and chinese chives in the am, and wanted to give these a try in a my newly seasoned wok. Making the filling was pretty quick after I got everything slivered, and putting the spring rolls together was easier than I thought - though I must not have sealed some of them well enough as some of the corners "popped up". As Dunlop suggests, I did the first fry during the afternoon, and then reheated the oil for the second fry at dinner time. My husband ate three of them! One thing that wasn't good - though, surprisingly, it didn't taste bad, was that there was some undercooked dough inside, as you can see from the photos. Also, the dough is like wonton wrapper dough, and that of what I think of as "egg rolls" rather than spring rolls. I think I prefer the Vietnamese rice wrappers. I also have some bean curd sheets that I bought, and wonder if they would work. The dough did look and taste a bit heavier to me than the dough looks in the photos.

                              I made a dipping sauce from another book that I have, using light soy sauce, minced garlic and ginger, hot chili oil, a little rice wine vinegar, salt and sugar. The first photo is post first fry. Oh - and I cut the recipe in half, but used a bit more than half the bacon, and was glad I did, because I think I'd have run out of filling otherwise.

                              7 Replies
                              1. re: MMRuth

                                They certainly look good!

                                I used to make spring rolls quite a bit, but not in a long time. I was hoping Dunlop would have a spring roll recipe that appealed to me as least as much as the recipe I used to make, but they didn't so I figured I'd pass. Anyway, the cookbook I used to use ("Mrs. Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook," by the way) has this to say about spring roll wrappers: ". . . although genuine spring roll skins, sometimes called "Shanghai spring roll skins," are produced commercially in America, they are not always available even in Chinese markets. They usually come in plastic bags containing about 30 skins. Since they are so hard to find, we usually buy several bags at a time; they freeze well."

                                I used to be able to find these skins at Kam Man, but haven't looked for them recently. They are indeed much thinner than the wrappers and, if you can find them, sound like what you're looking for.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Thanks - I bought mine at Kam Man and they were called "spring roll wrappers" - I'll look for the other ones. Just had the last one, and that reaffirmed my thought that they had too much "wrapper"! I did like the filling though.

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    You could also use more filling so there would be "less" wrapper, at least in relation to the filling.

                                    Also, what's the difference between spring rolls and egg rolls? I've always thought they were the same. The Vietnamese (and also Chinese, as demonstrated at our last Chowhound Picnic last October by a wonderful cook who goes by the nom de Chow of "Yimster") raw ones are also delicious.

                                    I'm awaiting your do-over of the spring rolls, MMR

                                    1. re: oakjoan

                                      oakjoan, spring rolls are lighter with a more flakier and crsipier skin when fried. Less meat/vegie filling as well. Egg rolls are heavier and larger, and can take more filling. Both, I'd venture to say are vaguely Chinese. I lived in Asia (China, Hongkong and Taiwan) for 10 years and rarely ever saw them!

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        They were pretty big as it was ... but I'll give it another try!

                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                          There are many types of spring rolls and egg rolls but they have one thing in common. They rolled up style of sheet pasta with a filling both meat and meatless.

                                          The term egg roll may have come from a presentation of spring roll back in the forty and fifty of the spring roll being dipped egg batter then deep fried.

                                          There is also a type of thin pasta sheet wrapping a filling then deep fried. This the most common presentation at this time.

                                          Still one more presentation is a cooked pasta sheet that wraps a filling and served as is. Not deep fried at the normal presentation.

                                          The rice noodle roll I made for the picnic is a rare presentation for one area of Southern China. There "fresh" rolls in Vietnam and Phillipines too.

                                          I have had a super egg roll the size of a burrito which maybe a egg roll of the Mexico.

                                          1. re: yimster

                                            YIMSTER! Long time no read!

                                            Interesting info as usual about "wraps".

                                            The rice noodle roll he describes was delicious and refreshing. He made it for the local SFBay Area Chowhound picnic last fall.

                                  2. A wonderful appetizer from RCC is Spicy Corriander Salad (p. 59.) Instant hit around my home. The first time I made it, my salted chilies were not ready so I substituted a small bit of the Lan Chi brand Chili Paste.

                                    Only 8 ingredients and easily assembled.

                                    In subsequent efforts I've added a bit more sugar than what Dunlop calls for. I like the hot, sweet, sour taste it provides.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: scoopG

                                      So refreshing and unusual. Good use of coriander that is about to spoil.

                                      1. re: equinoise

                                        I am amazed at how much mileage the March 2008 COM gets!

                                        1. re: scoopG

                                          I'm such a fan of Sichuan food now, especially since once you buy the key ingredients, most keep well int the pantry and are inexpensive. I use to enjoy some favorite Sichuan restaurants in Boston, but since moving to Phoenix, haven't been to one as there aren't as many. Now I'm wonderinng home dishes will compare to the ones I've learned on Dunlop.

                                          I agree - I love that coriander salad (report and pics linked below). Simple, but delicious.

                                          Coriander Salad

                                          1. re: Rubee

                                            I think you will do just fine! I really got into that month's cooking.

                                      2. re: scoopG

                                        I made the Spicy Coriander Salad last night to go with Dry Fried Chicken. This salad is wonderful - spicy and refreshing at the same time. I used sriracha instead of the salted chiles (I'm out of them right now), and it worked wonderfully, although my husband thought it was a tad on the spicy side for his tastes. Not for mine. I loved it.

                                        1. re: LulusMom

                                          Glad to hear this! It's become a staple around here. Still amazed at how extensive this COTM has been!

                                          1. re: scoopG

                                            I return to Dunlop at least once a month, and often more than that. The quality of the recipes is high, and usually the labor is pretty low. I rave about these books to anyone I know who loves to cook. Same with the Vietnamese books (especially Pham).

                                      3. Yueyang Hot-Dry Noodles, p. 67, RCC

                                        First - all purists step away from the board! I had it in my head to make these, even though I don't have the preserved mustard tubers (pickled mustard greens, preserved mustard greens, but no tubers), so I just omitted those. I had a bag of fresh "Shanghai" noodles per the bag, and cooked them in the water leftover from blanching the pork belly earlier. I mixed the sauce in a bowl, but when I went to add the tahini in place of the sesame paste, I noted that it said not to use after September, 2006. Decided to heed that advice and added - gasp - chunky natural peanut butter instead, and a little sesame oil. Well - these were delicious. I only made 6 oz of fresh noodles, added about a quarter of the sauce, then a little more. It was awfully hard to toss, so I added a dash of light soy sauce and some more sesame oil. We ate this while I got the rest of the dinner ready, and my husband kept adding sauce to it. Quite spicy, and he's told me this morning that he can't take too much Chinese any more, because the chilis are killing his stomache (though he is the one that piles on the extra chili products on everything). So, I'll probably be ratcheting back my participation this month a bit! Definitely a dish I'll make again.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: MMRuth


                                          I made these with substitutions, too. I thought they were great. Posted about them, I think, in the Noodle chapter. Realized they were in the Apps. chapter.

                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                            I was craving those noodles all day long - restrained myself from making them again for lunch, since there were no leftovers. Will check out your post on the other thread.

                                          2. re: MMRuth

                                            Yueyang Hot-Dry Noodles, p. 67, RCC

                                            I've been wanting to make this for a while because of all the good reports, and today was the day. I used a half of a package (8 oz) of my favorite Chinese fresh noodles (wheat flour and egg white), but almost the full amount of sauce. I prepped this for lunch today and toasted the sesame seeds, sliced the scallions, and made the sauce last night - sesame paste, crushed garlic, light soy, and chili oil with flakes. Today I boiled the noodles (they only take about 20 seconds) and tossed with chopped salted chilis (p. 283) and the sauce, and topped with sliced scallions, toasted sesame seeds, and sliced pickled mustard greens (instead of preserved tuber). Nice lunch today, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the leftovers heat up tomorrow with a little extra sauce.

                                          3. Daikon Slivers in a Spicy Dressing - liang ban luo bu si (LOP, p. 158)

                                            This is another winner from the book - I liked the texture (it reminded me of a Thai som tum/papaya salad), and lots of flavor with plenty of heat.

                                            I used a Benriner mandoline to shred the daikon and then salted and drained for 30 minutes. I tossed it with a dressing of sugar, black vinegar, fresh-ground pickled chili paste, garlic, chili oil, and chopped scallions and cilantro. Good stuff! I served it as a side dish to "Hot-and-Numbing Crispy Shrimp", p. 280

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. Hot-and-Numbing Chicken Slices - ma la ji pian (p. 141)

                                              I was looking for a nice easy dish to serve with some leftover daikon salad and this fit the bill. I used a store-bought roasted chicken instead of simmering a whole chicken with ginger and scallion (Cooked Chicken for Sichuanese Appetizers, p. 139). I shredded both white and dark meat, and then tossed it with the dressing (sugar, light soy, chili oil, sesame oil, and ground roasted Sichuan pepper) and scallions as she suggests. It made a tasty, spicy chicken salad, which I served with white rice and the Daikon Slivers in Spicy Dressing above.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Rubee

                                                Wow! Thanks Rubee for posting these and the wonderful photos. Two more to add to my list now - amazed at how the March cookbook still lives!

                                                1. re: scoopG

                                                  Dunlop FOREVER! Is my motto. I just discovered some leftover fresh noodles. Am going to use them tonight!

                                                  I agree about the Rubee photo! Great.

                                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                                    Oh, thanks guys!

                                                    "Dunlop Forever" heh heh - good motto. After posting the above, I of course got Sichuan cravings AGAIN. I just stir-fried a batch of ground beef with soy, chili peppers and Sichuan peppercorns for XLB's dan dan noodles to snack on this week, and checked and I have a few more dumplings left in the freezer. Sooo.... guess what's for dinner tonight! I also took some boneless chicken breast out of the freezer so I can finally try the Kung Pao chicken recipe this week.

                                              2. I made the chicken chunks in red oil sauce last night with half a leftover roast chicken. The dressing was super-easy (soy sauce, sugar, chilli oil) and was absoutely delicious when mixed with the chicken and some sliced spring onions. Served with steamed rice, and some broccoli stir-fried with sichuan chillis and peppercorns. A really lovely and quick dinner.

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                  Chicken Chunks in Red-Oil Sauce (hong you ji kuai) LOP p. 141

                                                  I made this today, also using leftover roast chicken, and it was a great lunch served with steamed rice and Stir Fried Cabbage with Chopped Salted Chiles (RCC, pg. 216). I agree, delicious and quick. I really like this section of the book with a variety of no-cook sauces to use with cooked chicken. I used 4 Tb of chili oil, 2 tsp sugar, 1 tsp sesame oil, and 3 Tb of regular soy instead of light soy since I had run out.


                                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                                    Made the Chicken Chunks in Red Oil Sauce - delish! Used leftover breast meat from a Costco roast chicken. This is a non-sesame paste recipe, which I definitely prefer.

                                                  2. Spicy Coriander Salad (liang ban xiang cai - RCC, p. 59)

                                                    Wow, this is great!. We LOVED this salad and the dressing I think would be good on anything. I decided to finally buy RCC because I made the Hunan salted chilis and wanted recipes to use it in. They are definitely a key ingredient in this delicious salad. The dressing is pretty simple - mix 2 tsp rice vinegar, 1/4 tsp sugar, and salt to taste to dissolve sugar. The rest of the ingredients are 1 Tb chili oil (link below), 1 tsp sesame oil, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 2 Tbs chopped salted chilis (link below), all tossed with one bunch of cilantro (about 3-1/2 oz).

                                                    I was going to serve it with some frozen dumplings and leftover ma po tofu, but E decided he wanted fish tacos and OH WOW what a combination. I had planned on serving it as a side salad, but it was killer as a garnish for the tacos - crunchy from the stems, spicy and tart - so good. I can see many uses for this simple but unique salad, and will be making it a lot this summer. For lunch, I had the little bit of salad leftover (still good wilted) with some leftover ma po tofu over rice (LOP, p. 313). If you've made the salted chilis, be sure to try this salad!

                                                    Chili Oil - LOP, p 55

                                                    Salted Chilis

                                                    Pock-Marked Mother Chen's Bean Curd - LOP, p 313

                                                    Salad last night, and leftovers today:

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Rubee

                                                      Spicy Coriander Salad (RCC p. 59)

                                                      Not much to add, but this is a delicious way to use up copious amounts of cilantro. We were both surprised at how tasty this was and finished the whole dish in one sitting. I think it's because the cilantro has such a great crunch and the flavor complements the dressing perfectly. And, it's pretty to boot.

                                                    2. Lotus Root "Sandwich" Fritters (jiao zha ou jia), RCC, p. 44

                                                      She mentions that eggplant fritters are common in Sichuan, but that the use of lotus "gives this dish a Huanese stamp". When I saw a package of pre-sliced lotus at a local Asian market, I remembered seeing this recipe. It calls for fresh lotus root sliced into "fairly thin" slices; mine were thicker. The stuffing is made with ground pork, shaoxing wine, ginger, scallion, and egg. The frying is in two steps, and I did the first batch earlier in the day. The batter is made with egg, potato flour and AP flour with enough water "to make a batter that is thick but still fluid". They are first fried at 300 degees until the meat is cooked but they are still pale. Before serving, they are crisped and fried until golden at 350 degrees.

                                                      I liked these, especially sprinkled with ground Sichuan pepper as she suggests. I think I'd like them more, however, with thinner crisp lotus slices sandwiching the pork filling. My slices were a bit too thick and starchy.

                                                      Edited: I made these two days ago, and just reheated some of these in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes, and they crisped up great. This would be a good do-ahead appetizer for an Asian dinner party, maybe with a variety of dipping sauces.

                                                      1. Cold Pork in Hot and Garlicky Sauce (suan ni bai rou), LOP, p. 147

                                                        She says this sauce "is also commonly used for fresh cucumber", so that's how I served it - with a sliced fresh Armenian cucumber. If you already have a batch of Aromatic Soy Sauce (p. 76), just mix that with chili oil, crushed garlic, and sesame oil. I liked the sauce by itself, but tossed with the cucumbers, I thought it needed some acid. After the addition of a little bit of rice wine vinegar, I thought it was perfect.

                                                        1. Spicy Cucumber Salad (LOP, pg. 185)

                                                          This was excellent. A great way to use farm fresh from the garden cucumbers. You have to prep this a bit ahead of time. The book recommends anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours or more. I prepped the cukes before work and finished them when I got home. The prep is just cutting, seeding and salting. Before you are ready to cook the cukes, drain the liquid and dry with paper towels.

                                                          The recipe is ridiculously easy and fast. Heat peanut oil in a wok, throw in snipped dried chilis and Sichuan pepper (instead of whole, I use ground toasted) and sauté until fragrant. Quickly add the cukes and stir for about 10 seconds. Dunlop also added sesame oil at the end, but I forgot. I don’t think it needed it.

                                                          This was delicious. The cucumbers remained salty and there was a really nice bite and fire from the peppers. I added too much salt in the am so my cukes were a bit salty. This didn’t stop us from finishing the dish though.

                                                          1. Strange-Flavor Chicken (guai wei ji si). Also known as Bang Bang Chicken (bang bang ji si). LOP, p. 145.

                                                            One of the things I've been doing for lunch is cooking a few chicken breasts, and then making one of the four appetizer sauces on p. 140-143 for lunches during the week. They're quick and easy, no cooking involved. I didn't do the complete recipe for this dish, but simply made the sauce to serve over shredded cooked white-meat chicken. DELICIOUS. Over the years I've tried different cold sesame or peanut sauces, but this one is a winner Just the perfect balance of, as Dunlop says, "salty, sweet, sour, nutty, hot and numbing". Ingredients are sugar, salt, light soy, Chinkiang black vinegar, Chinese sesame paste, sesame oil, chili oil with chili flakes, and ground roasted Sichuan pepper. I tossed the chicken and dressing with a couple sliced scallions and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Another great recipe from this book that will go into the regular lunch rotation.

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Rubee

                                                              That sounds lovely - thanks. I saw that book over the weekend and it made me want to add it to my shelves!

                                                              1. re: Rubee

                                                                I really liked this as well. And it's something that I should have made earlier. Taking Rubee's advice, I poached a couple of chicken breasts so I could make a few different sauces to go with them. these flavors were so tasty and so varied. Great for a too hot summer night.

                                                                Sorry about the blurry photo. I have no idea what happened.

                                                                1. re: Rubee

                                                                  I made this for dinner last night and made a few changes to lighten it a bit (and forgot the sesame seeds, darn it). Delicious!!! http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7828...

                                                                2. Chicken Slices in Sichuan Pepper and Sesame Oil Sauce (LOP pg. 143)

                                                                  This was excellent. I *might* even like this better than the bang bang chicken, but it’s a tough call. So easy too since you just soak whole Sichuan pepper in hot water, slice a poached chicken breast and slice scallions. In a food processor (this didn’t work for me so I used a mortar and pestle), combine the scallions, Sichuan pepper and salt. Lastly, combine some chicken stock, garlic, scallion paste and sesame oil and drizzle it over the sliced chicken.

                                                                  This had so many flavors going on that it was complex and addictive. The cold chicken just soaked in the flavors. I just loved the contrast of the Sichuan pepper with the scallions and garlic.

                                                                  11 Replies
                                                                  1. re: beetlebug

                                                                    So glad you posted about this--and even happier I just happened to stumble across it. It wasn't a recipe I had marked to try so it had sort of escaped me. I have a couple of poached chicken breasts in the fridge and was debating what to do with them. Now I know.

                                                                    1. re: JoanN

                                                                      Poaching chicken breasts has become so easy using the Nguyen method of bringing the water to a boil then turning off the heat and letting the chicken sit in the water for - what is it - 30 minutes? What a great suggestion to have these all ready to accept the sauce later on.

                                                                      1. re: Gio

                                                                        Yes, it's true. That's exactly what I had done thinking I might use one of Nguyen's sauces. But beetlebug's review was too good to pass up and I'm ready for a bit (but only a bit!) of break from Vietnamese anyway.

                                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                                          Do you just add water to cover? And are they boneless or bone-in breasts? Thanks!

                                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                                            Yes, MM , water just to cover and a pinch of salt for good measure. I used boneless, which IIRC is what she recommends.

                                                                            I agree about all those flavors! Sounds intoxicating.....

                                                                          2. re: Gio

                                                                            I got the poaching numerous breasts idea from Rubee. the funny thing, I don't even like white meat all that much, but I thought the dark meat would be too strong for these sauces. And, surprisingly, I found myself really liking both chicken dishes.

                                                                            I haven't tried Nguyen's or Dunlop's version of poaching. I used the poaching method from the big yellow Gourmet cookbook. There is a poached chicken breast recipe with ginger (I think). I used that recipe because it gave the times for a single breast. But, the method is the same, simmer and then sit.

                                                                            Lastly, I can't say why the FP method for the sauce didn't work. The scallions, sichuan pepper and salt just stuck to the sides and they never really chopped. I even used a small one so there was less space for the scallions to fly around. Hence, the mortar and pestle method. But, it was worth it.

                                                                            1. re: beetlebug

                                                                              A last week was the first time in a Very long time I used chicken breasts for Anything! I have been cooking the thighs and legs only, and sometimes the whole chicken. So, I was surprised at how juicy and tender and tasty those breasts were after Nguyen's recipe. They were ultimately pulled and used as one of the components of a Spicy Cabbage and Chicken Salad.

                                                                              Sometimes the M & P is the Only way to get just the right consistency of paste and/or mash!

                                                                        2. re: beetlebug

                                                                          Tried the Chicken Slices in Sichual Pepper and Sesame Oil Sauce early last week and just getting around to posting about it now. I’m totally on board with not particularly caring for chicken breasts, but I find myself eating a lot of them when I’m trying to keep the calories down so finding new ways to make them edible is an ongoing mission.

                                                                          I shredded the chicken instead of slicing it thinking it might sop up more of the sauce and took beetlebug’s advice and used a mortar and pestle after not being totally successful making a paste in my immersion blender attachment. Next time I make this I’ll follow Dunlop’s suggestion to grind the Sichuan pepper first and then sift it since my sauce ended up being a bit gritty from the pepper husks and stems. And I didn’t realize, until after I’d made it and reread beetlebug’s post, that she’d added garlic to the recipe. I would have liked that and have penciled that in on the ingredients list. As mirage mentioned with the Bang Bang chicken, my sauce seemed to “glop” more than beetlebug’s. I’ll have to work on that, because this was really good, but after all the raves about Bang Bang I’m eager to compare them.

                                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                                            The funny thing is that I assumed that garlic went into the recipe. I checked it this am after reading your post and realized I added to the recipe. Regardless, I think it's a good addition.

                                                                            I didn't see Dunlop's suggestion. do you think she means to grind and sift and then soak it in water? Or soak in the water, and then grind and sift.

                                                                            I think my sauce wasn't as gloppy is because I added more chicken stock. when I attempted to use the FP and it didn't work well, I added the chicken stock, hoping it would help with the FP. It didn't, hence the mortar and pestle.

                                                                            Overall, I really like these

                                                                            1. re: beetlebug

                                                                              Her copy is just s bit confusing, isn't it? I took it to mean that if you're going to "follow the traditional Sichuanese method," you wouldn't soak the peppercorns at all. You'd grind and sift the peppercorns and then use a cleaver to mash the scallions, salt, and pepper to a paste.

                                                                              The soaking of the peppercorns seemed odd to me anyway. I used to do quite a bit of Sichuanese cooking and don't offhand recall any other recipe that recommends soaking the peppercorns first.

                                                                              I might also have had a bit of a problem with my peppercorns not being first rate (too much husk and stem pieces). I bought them in London's Chinatown a few years back during the time they were banned from the US. Perhaps it's time to ditch them and buy new ones.

                                                                          2. re: beetlebug

                                                                            Ok, I'm a bit late to the party. Just tried Chicken slices in Sichuan Pepper and sesame oil sauce , LOP, page 143. It's too bad I did not read the previous posts before making this, as it would surely have helped. My mini processor would not grind the green onion and the Sichuan pepper at all - no doubt because there was not enough material to grind. Despite a lot of whirring the peppercorns were still in large chunks and the mixture was not a paste. Next time, I will definitely use the dedicated spice grinder.
                                                                            In any event, I added the broth/soy/oil mixture and just blended everything together in order to
                                                                            facilitate better 'grinding'. As a result the final result was not the most appetizing color. The flavor was complex and definitely had the potential to be delicious but had an unpleasant bitter edge. Not sure if the culprit was my scallions or the use of the full teaspoon of the Sichuan peppercorn (the fully
                                                                            allowable amount). Next time (and there will be a next time), I'll start with only the minimum amount,
                                                                            and perhaps blanch the green onions first. The bitterness may have been from the hard husks which
                                                                            remained unpulverized, so will definitely use a strainer next time around . I've made a note in pencil at
                                                                            the very top of the recipe, because straining was only mentioned at the end of step 4. My fault for not
                                                                            going over the whole recipe a couple times before starting.

                                                                            After reading the above posts, garlic sounds like it would work well in this recipe - a great idea for a future attempt.

                                                                          3. Strange Flavor Chicken - Land of Plenty, p. 144

                                                                            Like other posters, I loved this. I do not usually like/eat chicken breasts, but had poached some to include in a salad for friends who only eat breasts, and made sure to poach an extra pound for this recipe. Funny, I have been using Dunlop's method for poaching chicken for many, many moons - learned it from Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet!!

                                                                            Anyway, I used about 3/4 tsp ground, roasted Sichuan pepper and will probably boost that up to a full tsp next time. Love the way this pepper hits after you've already tasted the flavors in the dish. I mixed the chicken directly into the sauce, because we weren't eating it right away. The recipe called for the sauce to be "poured" over the chicken. Mine wouldn't have poured, so much as glopped. Another reason to mix the chicken into it. Did other people have a pourable consistency? I did mix everything together, instead of slowing mixing the sesame paste in, so that is probably why it was so thick.

                                                                            We served it with cucumbers instead of scallions.

                                                                            Oh, and I loved hitting the meat with the rolling pin (in my case the 2x4 I keep to pound meat) before shredding the meat with fingers - so much easier than shredding it with a fork!!

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: mirage

                                                                              Good, isn't it? My sauce was pretty thick too.

                                                                            2. Fish Fragrant Chicken Sliver (LOP, pg. 142)

                                                                              Another winner from this book. This recipe was a bit more work, only because I used whole pickled peppers so I had to grind them up. With that and a pre-poached chicken, this was great for dinner. The sauce consists of ginger, scallions, garlic, soy sauce, black vinegar, sugar, chili oil, sesame oil and chili paste.

                                                                              Absolutely delicious.

                                                                              1. Sweet and Sour Red Peppers (LOP, pg. 154)

                                                                                Surprisingly, I liked this dish. I used green peppers because I have been getting a ton in my CSA box. It’s been a struggle, because I’m not the biggest fan of green peppers. But, between RCC and LOP, I’m coming around.

                                                                                The peppers are steamed and she suggests peeling. That was not going to happen. But, even with the skins, the steamed peppers had this amazing silky texture to it. Other than that, the sliced peppers are tossed with sugar, rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. An amazingly simple and delicious prep.

                                                                                1. Hot-and-Numbing Dried Beef - ma la niu rou gan (Land of Plenty, p. 163)

                                                                                  Dunlop describes these as "dark, chewy strips of beef...bursting with the flavor of Sichuan", and I agree. These are addictive! There are a lot of steps though (blanching, simmering, marinate, fry, simmer again, and then toss with dressing), so I wish I had made a double batch. All the steps contribute to so much flavor, so is definitely worth it.

                                                                                  I used flap steak for the recipe and it worked out great. The blanching step is optional, but since the next simmering stock is later used again, I did this first step to "remove some of the bloody juices". Next it's simmered with star anise, cassia, and cao guo/'false cardamom" to make a stock. This smelled so good simmering on the stove. The beef is then sliced and marinated with crushed ginger and scallions with salt and Shaoxing rice wine for about 30 minutes. I actually did up to this step the day before so let it marinate overnight.

                                                                                  Next, fry the meat until "red-brown and crispy". Simmer in the previously made stock with ginger, scallion, sugar, salt, and dark soy until all the liquid has evaporated. Finally, toss with a spicy dressing - sesame oil, chili oil, ground Sichuan peppercorns, and ground Sichuan chiles. I didn't have sesame seeds, so garnished with scallions.

                                                                                  I wish I had made more. It was a delicious snack, and also made a nice lunch served with some steamed white rice. Next time - double batch!

                                                                                  Simmering spices, and finished dish:

                                                                                  4 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: Rubee

                                                                                    Wow, looks and sounds wonderful. Was this like a beef jerky? That's what the chinese name says to me but your picture doesn't look like chinese beef jerky. At least not the kind that I've bought in the past.

                                                                                    1. re: beetlebug

                                                                                      Yes, exactly - like a Sichuan jerky. I did cut the strips thicker than she says, however. In the book she says 1/2 inch slices, and then cut those into 1/2 inch strips.

                                                                                      Here's a better picture:

                                                                                      1. re: Rubee

                                                                                        Must try this. Would suggest that you make 2 batches, not double the recipe, as things of this nature can sometimes go kablooey when you double them (take much longer to reduce the liquid, etc.).

                                                                                    2. Land of Plenty, Sweet-and-Sour Spare Ribs, page 171

                                                                                      Our local Asian shop had some lovely spare ribs, we were in full wok-withdrawal, and this fit the bill. If I had read the recipe a little more closely before beginning, I might have hesitated but I forged ahead.

                                                                                      First the ribs are cut into 1 inch pieces using a cleaver. Boil the ribs pieces, with some aromatics, until cooked, then let cool in a marinade of ginger, scallion, Shaoxing rice wine and salt [omitted] for 30 minutes.

                                                                                      Next step is to deep fry until brown and crispy, about 4-5 minutes, but mine were finished at 2 minutes. [She did say screaming hot oil! Mine was 380º] And finally finishing in the work with a glaze of some of the pork boiling water, more ginger and scallion, dark soy, sugar [I reduced to 3 tbl] and Chinkiang vinegar. Cook until the sauce is syrupy.

                                                                                      The final step is to garnish with sesame oil and optional toasted sesame seeds and to let it come to room temperature. I skipped the oil, and used the full two tablespoons of toasted sesame seeds. And we didn't let it come to room temperature. It was 8, and we were hungry.

                                                                                      Served with Breath of a Wok Spicy Garlic Eggplant [http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7567... and Martin Yan's Green beans.

                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: smtucker

                                                                                        Did you like them and was it worth the work and wait?

                                                                                        1. re: beetlebug

                                                                                          Oh, I left that out. Yes.... these were so tasty! I wouldn't hesitate to make these again. And now that I know they are to be served closer to room temperature, I would make them ahead of time.

                                                                                          And to buttertart, Hong Kong Market didn't have them already cut that day.... and the cleaver someone else's job. He is getting pretty good at it too!

                                                                                          1. re: smtucker

                                                                                            Shoot (on the ribs)...next time grab some for the freezer!

                                                                                            1. re: smtucker

                                                                                              Does your cleave handler use a meat cleaver or just a regular cleaver? A couple of weeks ago I was looking for cut up ribs and couldn't find them at three different butcher shops. Brought home some lovely ribs about four inches long and did my damnedest to try to cut them up. Wasn't gonna happen. Even whacking at them with my cleaver from quite a distance above the cutting board didn't cut through them. Finally gave up. Was actually thinking of getting a specialized meat cleaver. But I really wouldn't use it all that much. Maybe a cheap saw?

                                                                                              Any tips your cleaver wielder would like to pass along?

                                                                                              1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                This is a meat cleaver. We originally bought it to destroy chicken bones for stock making. It is heavy and the balance is all wrong for my small hands, plus I am too short to get decent leverage with our tall counters. When I have to use it, I stand on a stool to get enough energy behind the cleaver. This sight would make toddlers run in fear.

                                                                                                I would love to own the "other" kind of cleaver that seems to be more for prep work, but I am often reminded that I have a lot of knives already.

                                                                                          2. re: smtucker

                                                                                            Buy the already-cut ribs in Chinatown next time (they sell them in about 1 1/2 in strips). I'm comletely paranoid about using a cleaver on bones of that sort and would never do this myself.

                                                                                          3. Sweet and sour red peppers

                                                                                            We loved this (although it didn't really go with the other dishes I'd chosed, from Stir-Frying from the Sky's Edge). It's very simple to make - steam red peppers until just done, then skin them and slice. The dressing is made from sugar, dissolved in white vinegar, and sesame oil.

                                                                                            I used the pointy Spanish peppers (ramiro) and I was amazed by how sweet they were. It almost tasted like they'd been roasted. This would be really yummy as part of an appetiser plate, rather than a side dish which is what I made it into. It's almost fusiony in flavour - like marinated roasted red peppers but with an Asian twist.

                                                                                            1. Tea Smoked duck, pg. 180

                                                                                              This whole project, and yes this recipe is a major project, started when Mr. QN came home from a farmer's market fetch mission with everything on his list plus a duck. In high summer a duck of all things! What to do with it? In retrospect my logic seems dubious, but somehow Tea Smoked Duck sounded more seasonally appropriate than running an oven for four or five hours to roast the duck.

                                                                                              Succinct description of the stages of this recipe are: marinate in wine and spices for 12 hours, scald with boiling water, air dry for 6 hours, smoke for an hour, steam with ginger and scallion for an hour, cool for an hour or so, deep fry for 8 minutes. I followed all of these steps. I did deviate from some of the specifics, in the following ways:

                                                                                              1) Marinade calls for saltpeter, I didn't have it & didn't feel like tracking it down, so I skipped it; to no ill effect as far as I could tell. 2) The marinade should include both shaoxing and fermented rice wine. I hadn't planned ahead enough to make the fermented rice wine, so I used shaoxing plus a little vodka. It worked swell, but the sweetness of the fermented rice wine would be a wonderful addition to the flavor, and next time I would try to use that. 3) FD gives detailed instructions on how to smoke this thing in a wok on the stove; but with a perfectly good Weber kettle grill on the porch, I smoked my duck on the grill using a mixed heat source of charcoal and mixed hardwoods, plus pine cones, some cedar and of course lots of tea. It worked wonderfully well. 4) The recipe calls for Jasmine tea, but neither of us likes Jasmine, so I used a combination of Pu-erh and Lapsang Suchoong.

                                                                                              And after all that, this was without question the BEST duck I have ever cooked, and totally worth the effort.

                                                                                              14 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: qianning

                                                                                                  In humble awe. And picture perfect. How did you serve it and would you serve it that way again?

                                                                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                    Thanks! You guys are making me blush. In fact FD's directions are as usual spot on, and the actual hands on cooking wasn't tough. I did, though, have a moment getting some un-cooperative charcoal going when the term "Long March" floated through my brain.

                                                                                                    As for serving, Mr. QN took his cleaver to it and chopped it up on the bone, similar to the way they cut up a duck or chicken at Cantonese BBQ joints. This approach might not work for guests, but since we like high grapple factor food it was fine by us. The accompaniments were the meng bean jelly salad (the sauce on the jelly was also from FD, from her "Spicy Noodles w/ Soft Tofu" recipe in LOP) which is in the picture above, and not in the picture simple cucumber spears dressed with rice vinegar/sesame oil. Everything went well together.

                                                                                                    1. re: qianning

                                                                                                      Gorgeous! Love the high grapple factor foods thing too. Did you make or buy the mung bean jelly? I love that stuff.
                                                                                                      The only such thing i've done is made xiang su ya (probably Nina Simonds' recipe) which has you deepfry the sucker in a wok, very nervewracking. Have only made it once.

                                                                                                      1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                        you are so right, the deep frying was the nerve-wracking part. I opted for using a large deep (12" dia. x 3.5" deep) skillet rather than a wok.

                                                                                                        The meng bean jelly was home-made. After many failed attempts using the directions that came on the package, I finally found these two recipes:


                                                                                                        They work! I've been having fun trying various sauces on the jelly this summer. Haven't found a "go-to" version yet, but maybe by Labor Day!

                                                                                                        1. re: qianning

                                                                                                          I must try that.
                                                                                                          One of the most interesting things I ever ate was Lijiang doufu (in Beijing, at the internet-booked "Beijing Hotel" that turned out to be named "Hua qiao da xia" [Overseas Chinese Mansion] in Chinese -- and was one of the Ten Big Projects that were built to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Liberation, we found out just recently.
                                                                                                          I think it was a taro starch jelly, it was a bit on the mauve side, with pork, the usual suspects ginger garlic scallion etc, and a chili sauce -- and bits of pidan [100-yr eggs]) -- viz.:

                                                                                                          Sorry pic is rather blurry, no doubt me snapping with one hand and picking up my kuaizi with another.

                                                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                            Fuzzy or not, it looks good to me!

                                                                                                            Seems to me at one point the Huaqiao Dasha had a good Manchurian restaurant, but it has got to be ten years ago that I last ate there. Great location anyway, I've never been in the rooms, were they any good?

                                                                                                            1. re: qianning

                                                                                                              It was, we had it twice in 4 days. The other 2nd floor restaurant was a steakhouse in 2007! (The Chinese one was an odd hybrid, Cantonese roast meats and Hunan dishes served, with a nod to Guilin. We had soast goose breast each time too...)
                                                                                                              The rooms were fine, like a Holiday Inn type, comfy beds. And two gigantic armchairs a la Zhou Enlai having a sitdown with the Chairman.

                                                                                                    1. re: qianning

                                                                                                      Wow! The picture looks like it came right out of Land of Plenty!

                                                                                                      1. re: BigSal

                                                                                                        Mr. QN's the resident photographer, he was tickled pink by your comment!

                                                                                                      2. re: qianning

                                                                                                        Wow! Gorgeous. I sincerely wish I had been your guest (high grapple factor is just fine with me).

                                                                                                        1. re: qianning

                                                                                                          Adding my ooohs and aaahs, Q. Masterful ...!
                                                                                                          "high grapple factor food"... Love it.

                                                                                                          1. re: Gio

                                                                                                            wish I could take credit for the term "high grapple factor food", but read it someplace, and its been in use around here ever since. Really describes those bone-in or shell on & etc dishes so well, doesn't it?