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DUNLOP March Cookbooks of Month: Noodles, Dumplings and Rice

There are chapters in each book on Noodles and Dumplings and Rice. Land of Plenty adds "Other Street Treats" and those recipes should be part of this thread.

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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.

    Here's the most important thing for you to know about the dan dan noodles. YOU MUST REMEMBER TO RINSE THE TIANJIN (AND SQUEEZE IT DRY) BEFORE YOU USE IT otherwise your recipe will be way way too salty. Dunlop mentions this on page 27 of RC, but I haven't found a similar warning in LOP. We made a number of substitutions in the recipe so I could count it as "core" for Weight Watchers. We used whole wheat spaghetti (instead of Chinese noodles), we used lean ground beef (instead of pork, mostly because I had some I need to use up), and we used only a tsp (instead of a TBSP) of peanut oil. We thought the texture was pretty good--not as slippery as it should be, I don't know if that's because of the noodles we used or the reduced oil or both-- and it looked gorgeous, but, alas, because we did not rinse the tianjin, it was really hard to make a fair assessment of the dish because salty was the predominant flavor. Boo hoo. We are absolutely going to try this one again. I have high hopes. And, it wasn't that hard.

    The photo feature doesn't seem to be working right now, sorry. I'll discuss the chicken and the green beans in the appetizers http://www.chowhound.com/topics/494661 and vegetables http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49466... threads.

    ~TDQ

    23 Replies
      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        I've tried her traditional dan dan, too. I did rinse the preserved vegetable in a strainer under the faucet, but this seemed a hair shy of what I felt I wanted. I do plan to make it again, though. This time I will soak/submerge the stuff first. Also, I will chop it smaller than it comes out of the crock. We had a few overly large pieces in the dish. The preserved vegetable does taste good, just it is very salty.

        I've tried it with "fresh" linguine from the refrigerator case and with dried Chinese noodles. Both worked well.

        I felt that perhaps the dish could use a stronger chili oil than my homemade. With a stronger oil, you could use less to get a chili effect. But my homemade is from regular old dried whole red chili (cayenne?), and then about 6 months old. I would have liked to reduce the chili oil by a teaspoon or two, so the noodles would be less slippery. But I'd want a slightly stronger chili oil maybe to do that. Not super strong, though. I've only made chili oil a couple of times, so it could just be that I don't heat the oil enough.

        1. re: saltwater

          saltwater--funny that your dan dan noodles were too slippery and mine weren't slippery enough. It seems, perhaps, that the optimal quantity in oil would be somewhere between what I used and what you used/what the recipe calls for. I'm glad you've had good luck with linguine--it makes me think that using my whole wheat pasta won't be too problematic.

          I agree that the tianjin could be chopped smaller and I will try to SOAK it not just RINSE it next time...

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Share how it goes if you get the chance. :-) I've found it difficult to place whole wheat pasta with things. Though, I've made fresh pasta from half white and half wheat and liked it well with piccata.

        2. re: The Dairy Queen

          Couldn't help noticing your bold lettered sentence: ...YOU MUST REMEMBER TO RINSE THE TIANJIN (AND SQUEEZE IT DRY) BEFORE YOU USE IT...

          I'm not sure how it's stated in the cookbook, but Tianjin is the name of a city in Northern China. Yes, the preserved vegetable is usually named Tianjin preserved vegetable, but...please don't squeeze the Tianjin! :) Squeeze the veggie. In general, if you see that there is particles of salt on those dried or semi-dried preserved veggies, or even on some of those dried pickled radishes, you'd be safer rinsing it first to wash out dirt or little rocks, chopping it into small bits, and then RINSE IT AGAIN, and then wring dry. I'm thinking of the Mei Gan veggies where some particular brands are really sandy, and you don't want those griddy stuff after all the hard work that went into, say, Mei2 Gan1 Kou4 Rou4 (braised pork belly with preserved vegetable)!

          1. re: HLing

            Ah, I wish I'd read your post before I tried the green bean dish again, which I will post about in the bean curd and vegetable thread. I did, indeed, rinse and wring dry the preserved vegetable (not the city) and chopped it into small bits. I did not, however, RINSE IT AGAIN.

            But, that's a good tip for next time, HLing, thank you!

            ~TDQ

          2. re: The Dairy Queen

            Ok , it's four years past this original post and I tried Dan Dan noodles for the first time. Searching for the necessary ingredients was a task in itself. Nearby Foster City has a large Asian population along with grocery stores. For the second time this month I approached clerks in Ranch 99 for help with ingredients. And a lady in line also helped. The clerks informed me that preserved vegetables are usually made at home - and usually consist of cucumbers, cabbage or carrots. The lady in front of me in line actually makes Dan Dan noodles for her family, on occasion. She advised me to just use fresh veggies - as these 'taste better'.
            So, I took her advice. Made these noodles according to the recipe, but subbed thinly sliced Persian cucumbers for the preserved veggies. End result was quite tasty - and probably would have been too salty if I had used preserved veggies ( had I ever found them!!).
            Anyhow, there are plenty of leftovers. And it was tasty. Next time, will try soy or turkey instead of pork. The lady in front of me recommended light brown tofu with a soft texture, but thus far, I lack the 'gumption' to go back and wade thru myriad products to find this.
            However, I suspect it was good advice, so will report back when I try this with tofu.
            I relied on the kindness of strangers and was rewarded... With such a tasty dish.

            1. re: Blythe spirit

              How strange. I'm from Hong Kong and we always have store-bought preserved vegetables. I think cucumbers and carrots are usually lightly pickled so it's easy to do at home. But I have no idea how to do the Tianjian that's called for, for example. The chinese supermarket here has a whole wall of preserved vegetable as well. I'm wondering if the asians at ranch 99 aren't chinese, or are they all Women's Institute type.

              But I'm glad you get good result from the noodle.

              1. re: lilham

                There seemed to be a brief description of how to do the Tianjin at the beginning of LOP, but the directions seemed vague to me. And since I'm not familiar with how the outcome should taste, am a bit reluctant to attempt. You are correct that our local Asian population is not mostly Chinese. The noodle section alone had Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese and Philipino choices. The good news is, each time I make another recipe, the ingredients become more familiar.

              2. re: Blythe spirit

                Glad you liked the results!

                Living on the east coast Ranch 99 is unfamiliar territory to me. But something that can help in the search for unfamiliar ingredients is having the name of the ingredient in Chinese characters. FD's appendices in both LOP & RCC are really helpful for this, and perhaps worth photo copying to take along with you on your forays into Chinese groceries.

                1. re: qianning

                  Thanks Lilham and Quianning :-)That's a great idea to bring the book.I came armed with the supposedly correct pronunciation (ya cai) ... and bless those poor clerks for listening patiently as I repeated it several times to blank stares. There was some recognition finally (despite my lack of familiarity with Chinese). They did know what I was asking about (after a while) but this store did not carry the product. And they informed me that these pickles are usually just made very simply at home.
                  There were many jars of (to me) mysterious and unfamiliar looking vegetables on the shelves but none looked quite right. I need to ask one of my Chinese friends to come with me next time to help me pick out the best tasting tofu and quality noodles. The ones I made for the Dan Dan noodles were already cooked and ready to stir fry - and slightly gummy to my taste. Perhaps I'll be brave enough to try making my own tofu one of these days.

                  1. re: Blythe spirit

                    Have you got the new Dunlop book, Every Grain of Rice? There are even pictures of what the items 'should' look like, in addition to the names. Some of the pictures are the items inside the jars and bottles, for example, chillies, black beans. The ones of bottles and jars will probably be less useful in the US. But she's using the same brands as me for almost everything! (I'm in the UK).

                    And Qianning is definitely right about bringing the book. The pronounciation might not be most helpful if they aren't mandarin speakers. A lot of overseas communities are cantonese, for example. And I struggle to place even romanised cantonese to the written characters because they just don't sound anything alike sometimes. But the written chinese names are almost the same across regions, and most shop keepers do know the alternative names too. (For example, soy sauce has a different name in Taiwan than in HK. Not sure what the mainland chinese call it).

                    1. re: lilham

                      Having a picture glossary sounds very helpful! I've just begun to explore LOP, but have been very close to buying Every Grain of Rice. It's always easier to justify yet another cookbook purchase if someone else tells me I *need* it :-).
                      Even with all the language differences, it sounds like this resource would be very useful. Off to Amazon....

                2. re: Blythe spirit

                  I'm in Southern California, but my local 99 Ranch definitely carries Tianjin preserved vegetables. In case it's helpful, here are a couple pics of the brand I bought there...I've also seen it in other, smaller Asian grocery stores, so seems pretty widely available once you figure out what you're looking for -- that was the hard part for me. I haven't used it a lot, but I have made the Dan Dan noodles and I think the effect would be significantly different with fresh vegetables.

                   
                   
                  1. re: mebby

                    Mebby, thank you so much for the photos. Without a picture , finding these ingredients seems a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack :-)
                    I will take a closer look at the Ranch 99 in Mountain View next time I'm there - they have a larger Chinese population and might carry it. Looking forward to tasting the flavor.

                    1. re: Blythe spirit

                      I'm pretty sure Mountain View carries it, though they don't seem to have a wide variety of preserved vegetables. Dunlop's newest book references about 4 kinds -- I did find a huge selection of them at Marina Food in Cupertino.

                      What I can't figure out is why every Chinese market I visit carries exactly one type (and one brand) of dried red chile... and no Facing Heaven Chiles.

                      1. re: emily

                        Thanks Emily. There is a Marina Foods in Foster City but I stopped going there because they never seemed to have what was needed - so have to go back and give them a second chance.
                        I know what you mean about the chilis... All the Asian markets near me just have Mexican chilis - suppose that's because they're local. I wonder if there is a significant enough taste difference between the Asian and Mexican varieties.I suspect that the Mexican chilis may be hotter because I had to cut the amount by about half when doing the Kung pao chicken.

                      2. re: Blythe spirit

                        Yeah, I stared at that shelf for an eternity before I found it way down on the bottom shelf...somehow wasn't envisioning that little brown crock. Good luck and look forward to hearing what you think about the difference in Dan Dan Mien with these vs. fresh.

                        1. re: mebby

                          I don't know about Mexican chillies as I have to mail order those here. But my local Chinese market has Thai red and facing heaven. Thai red is significantly hotter. Facing heaven is fairly mild and I can use the full amount specified in the recipes. I don't very hot myself.

                          1. re: lilham

                            Where are you getting the facing heaven chillies from, lilham? You're in London, right?

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              I'm in Hampshire. The chillies didn't say facing heaven on the bag. But they look exactly like the fat ones n the glossary in Every Grain of Rice, and also what I found on the web. I just assume they are facing heavens!

                    2. re: Blythe spirit

                      I'm sorry, blythe spirit, that I didn't see this of yours from so long ago, but I just came into this thread to see what substitutions people have used for the tianjin preserved vegetable and am thrilled by the persian cucumbers recommendation!

                      I notice there is also a pickled vegetables recipe on page 71 on LOP that I might try. I'm not sure if anyone has reported on that yet...not sure where to find it if they did.

                      F.D. says that the method used for the tian jin preserved vegetables is similar to that used for kim chee. Has anyone tried using rinsed and chopped kim chee in lieu of tianjin preserved vegetable in the dandan noodles or dry fried beans?

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Hi Dairy Queen :)
                        It's been a while since I've had time to cook - and since I've cooked from Dunlop! But I remember that the cucumbers were a fresh, crisp (and unsalty!) complement to the Dan Dan noodles.

                  2. Noodles with Fresh Shrimp and Baby Greens (Hunan, p. 269)

                    This was my favorite of the three items I made today, and really is a meal unto itself. Several thoughts:

                    1. The shrimp - my shrimp stuck to my pan, and I think I'm going to get a wok next weekend. Some of them did end up with a little "coating", but once the shrimp were added to the broth, it kind of disappeared. So, for those who are being calorie conscious (sp?), I think you could either steam the shrimp, or saute them quickly in a little oil, rather than in the cup of peanut oil with the coating, without losing much flavor.

                    2. The bok choy - I bought baby bok choy, and decided to par boil it per the general noodle soup directions earlier on. She doesn't say anything about cutting them up, so I decided to quarter them.

                    3. The broth/stock for the shrimp and for the noodles - I'd not made any yet, but "scored" when I realized that I had lovely pork flavored water from steaming bacon for another recipe. Added some water to that, some chicken Better than Bouillion, scallions and sliced ginger - simmered for 45 minutes - it was a lovely broth.

                    The chinkiang vinegar added a wonderful depth for the dish, but if you can't get it, I'd suggested just the tiniest bit of sherry vinegar, or even a little white wine or sherry.

                    Looking forward to having this for lunch tomorrow.

                     
                     
                    11 Replies
                    1. re: MMRuth

                      Ohhhh--another gorgeous dish, MMRuth! Shrimp is very weight watchers friendly, so, I always keep bags of them in our freezer for quick meals. It looks like we'll have to put this recipe into our rotation.

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I just realized this morning, by the way, that I put in Chinese cooking wine at the end, not vinegar! No wonder I thought sherry would be a good substitute. Too many bottles of new things on my counter!

                      2. re: MMRuth

                        This looks luscious. The bok choy perfectly bright and the shrimp plump and juicy. Nice job! So craving this. Were there noodles?

                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          There were - you can't see them as much as in Dunlop's photos. I used a flat rice noodle that I found at the Chinese market in the fridge section - no idea if authentic or not - had stocked up on a couple of kinds of noodles from there, and those looked most like those in the photo!

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            I see you are and DQ are really enjoying this cookbook. I don't really know anything about this author. I have so many Asian Cookbooks, what about this particular one is it that you're enjoying?

                            You must get a wok, if space is a challenge, they make a small version in carbon steel and they really do a fine job.

                            I am really enjoying your photos!!! (as always!)

                            I'll need to check this book out...

                            1. re: chef chicklet

                              I've not cooked much from Asian cookbooks, other than HSSS, so a lot of it is the challenge of working with unfamiliar ingredients etc.

                              1. re: chef chicklet

                                Most of my Asian cooking experience is with Thai food, so I can't really compare to other similar cookbooks either, though, I would say the challenge of hunting down the ingredients for the Dunlop books is about the same as for when I need to hunt down Thai ingredients.

                                The fantastic thing, though, with cooking out of these two books for the entire month, is that once you make 1-2 of these recipes, you've pretty much got all of the essential "specialty" ingredients to make many of the other recipes. Your Dark Soy Sauce, Shiaxing (sorry, spelling from memory here...) Wine, peanut oil, fermented beans, etc. You've got 'em, might as well use 'em!

                                The primary driver for me is I've been on this diet (weight watchers core plan) for about four months now and I really, really miss my favorite Sichuan restaurant, so, this is giving me an opportunity to experience some of those flavors and foods in a setting where I can control the ingredients, mostly the fat content.

                                And the other thing is that I never do anything half-way, and this is my first COTM, so I have a lot of pent-up enthusiasm. I've been wanting to do COTM for awhile but for one reason or another, none of the cookbooks seemed right for me, particularly over the past four months (since starting my diet). Prior to that, I was really focused on cooking specifically with the overwhelming amount of produce that came with my CSA...which never seemed a good fit with any of the COTM choices at the time because I didn't need 1 or 2 recipes for dealing with cucumbers--I needed MANY such recipes... And for tomatoes... And for carrots... etc. ~TDQ

                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                  Yes I know what you mean, not doing the core, but the points.
                                  I do okay with Asian, Thai, Filipino..... I know what you mean about learning one or two, and then taking off.

                                  You can certainly tell you're enjoying this month's cookbook!
                                  Keep up the good work!

                                2. re: chef chicklet

                                  chef chicklet, Dunlop is special for two reasons.

                                  She studied Chinese at college in the UK (Oxford and the London School of Oriental and African Studies) then went on for further study at Sichuan University in 1994. While there she discovered the Sichuan Institute of Higher Cuisine and managed to talk her way into studying there. This resulted in her first cookbook, "Land of Plenty."

                                  The woman knows China: its people, the language, the culture and cuisine. Her 2nd cookbook, RCC is the direct result of her hanging around Hunan for a good spell.

                            2. re: MMRuth

                              I made this dish--Noodles with Fresh Shrimp and Baby Greens from pg 269 of Revolutionary Chinese, except that I used frozen shrimp (instead of fresh), stock from a box that I'd simmered with scallions and ginger (instead of every day stock), 1/2 tsp of sesame oil, (instead of 1 tsp), and 7.5 tsp of canola oil (instead of 1 cup of peanut oil for deep frying.) Dunlop gives you the option of using salted chiles or fresh--I opted for fresh, and I don't have any Chinkiang vinegar (optional for seasoning at the table), so we skipped that, though I did try a dash of black rice vinegar near the end of my bowl to see if I liked it (wasn't especially helpful, but I was awfully conservative in adding it.) I followed the "Soup noodles" instructions from pp 260-261 of RC--except that I did not add the dash of peanut oil, I used stock from a box that I'd simmered with scallions and ginger (instead of every day stock), and I used soba noodles.

                              My problem was that I ended up with quite a bit of eggs whites stirred in with my shrimp (I think you can see it in the photo), which was unappealing to look at but didn't seem to be a factor in taste, really. I don't know if it's because I used too little oil or didn't drain off enough of the egg mixture or what.

                              Anyway, this is pretty healthy dish, especially with the oil cut down, and would be glorious with homemade stock. Takes off the chill of a cold evening.

                              ~TDQ

                               
                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                TDQ, your noodles look glorious and very pro. I also made a noodle/soupish dish last night and wrote about it. I did a lot of cheating.

                            3. Steamed Pork and Pumpkin Dumplings (LOP p. 110)

                              I had some leftover kabocha squash so I decided to give these a shot. Bought the dumpling wrappers and a fatty ground pork in Chinatown and prepared the dumplings as directed. She doesn’t mention it in the recipe, but the only way I could get a seal on the dumpling wrappers was to wet the edges of the wrapper with water before filling and sealing them. Her description of how to seal them wasn’t exactly clear to me. She just says to seal with “a series of pinches.” I’m not sure just what that meant, and there’s no picture of these in the book, so I just went ahead and made tucks on one side of the wrapper—more or less as she describes for the Crescent Dumplings on page 100.

                              I didn’t realize until I was well into making the dumplings that she neither recommends nor gives a recipe for any kind of dipping sauce. I can’t imagine that the intention is to just eat them plain without anything. But the only sauce mentioned in the whole section on dumplings is a sweet sauce to accompany the Crescent Dumplings. I didn’t think that would work for these so I made a dipping sauce recipe from another Sichuan cookbook that I’ve made before for homemade spring rolls. That’s the sauce you’ll see in the photo. Bad decision. I ended up just dipping them in light soy sauce. But I wish she’d at least addressed the issue.

                              The filling was very, very tasty. Although I’m guessing the recipe was developed with our low-fat pork in mind, because with the fatty ground pork I was able to buy in Chinatown there was far more fat/oil in the dish than necessary. If I were to do it again I’d either use lean pork or cut way back on the amount of peanut oil in the recipe.

                              I really liked the filling. The pork with pumpkin was a surprisingly flavorful combination. But the dumpling wrappers weren’t the light, ethereal, almost not-there wrappers I’ve had in better Asian restaurants. They were a bit heavy and, particularly where the edge was pleated, rather unpleasantly chewy. Any dumplings makers here who can help me out? Was it the purchased wrappers? Did I not steam them long enough? I used to have Chinese steamer baskets but didn’t use them much so got rid of them for space reasons; I used one of those steamer inserts in an 8-quart pasta/stock pot; could it be they were too far from the steam?

                              The recipe says it makes 25 to 30 dumplings with a teaspoon of filling in each dumpling. I used a quite rounded teaspoon of filling in each and ended up with 31 dumplings. I steamed about 8 and froze the rest, so I’d appreciate any advice anyone can give me on how to cook these frozen dumplings (do I just steam them from frozen adding a bit more time?) and if there’s anything I can do, like steaming them longer than called for, to make the wrappings more tender.

                               
                               
                              32 Replies
                              1. re: JoanN

                                Wow, those turned out beautiful! I agree that a recommendation about a dipping sauce would have been helpful. Hopefully, someone else can recommend one! Sorry I can't help with any of your questions...

                                ~TDQ

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  JoanN -- I'm so glad you shared your results on a dumpling recipe. One of the recipes I really want to try this month is for the Spicy Steamed Pork Buns from Revolutionary Chinese (p. 72). Interestingly, after reading the recipe, I had exactly the same concerns that you expressed -- i.e. I would really have liked to see a graphic of how to stuff and seal the dumplings, and I also wondered about a dipping sauce. There isn't one in the index, nor is there one listed under any of the dumpling/spring roll recipes in the book. I'd love to hear from others if they have an actual recipe for a dipping sauce for dumplings!

                                  My college roommate, who was from Taiwan, used to make a dipping sauce that involved soy sauce, rice vinegar (regular, not seasoned), chopped garlic, chopped ginger, and a few drops of sesame oil and/or hot pepper oil, which is what I do now when I want a dipping sauce. I don't have a recipe with exact proportions of soy sauce to vinegar, though, I just make it to taste.

                                  When I get around to trying the dumpling recipe, I think I'm going to use my Irene Kuo book (The Key to Chinese Cooking) as a reference on the dumpling making process, as her book has a visual aid :-)

                                  1. re: DanaB

                                    Actually, those are almost exactly the ingredients I used for the dipping sauce--all except the ginger. But it was a little too strong for these dumplings, which were rather subtle in flavor. Also, because I was in a big hurry, I dumped all of the ingredients into my mini-processor and just let 'er rip, so the texture of the sauce was thicker than it should have been.

                                    I'll be waiting to hear how yours turn out. I'm still not sure what to do with my frozen ones. There must be a bunch of dumpling makers on this board, but they may just not be following COTM. Maybe I'll post a separate message.

                                    1. re: JoanN

                                      My mom always just made a very very simple dipping sauce out of soy sauce and sesame oil. There weren't food processors back then .. she just floated a bit of oil on top of the small, shallow dish of soy sauce. My dad always liked to have some Chinese hot sauce (not as hot as sriracha -- it was a Hong Kong brand: Koon Yik Wah Kee) for dipping too.

                                    2. re: DanaB

                                      DanaB: You say you want to try the Spicy Steamed Pork Buns from Rev.Chinese but then talk about them as if they're dumplings. I thought that buns were spongy, bready things and not dumplings. Actually, I'm too lazy to go to the other end of the house to check out the recipe. ;+)

                                      Plz clarify for my small-capacity brain.

                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                        The ones I want to make are buns (i.e. bao), not "dumplings" per se, but I always thought of the latter as including the former. Maybe I should have stuck with Irene Kuo's more generic term, "Dough Stuffs," from her book The Key To Chinese Cooking, which includes both buns and dumplings :-)

                                    3. re: JoanN

                                      Re: the dipping sauce, I was reading through the book last night, and she does mention one for the crescent dumplings - "soy sauce, vinegar, and perhaps a little sesame oil or chili oil", and then a more traditional Sichuanese dipping sauce that she gives a recipe for on p. 102 using aromatic soy sauce (recipe on p. 76). Maybe this can be used for other dumplings?

                                      (Edited to add, as DanaB pointed out below, this is from Land of Plenty)