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Feb 29, 2008 10:33 PM

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 and vegetables 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).