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Dec 31, 2010 07:46 PM

January 2011 Cookbook of the Month: BREATH of a WOK

Welcome to our January COTM: THE BREATH of a WOK

Please use this thread for review and discussion of recipes from BREATH of a WOK. Give us the name of the recipe along with the page number. Photos are welcomed.

The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. Chicken with Sichuan Peppercorns (page 68)

    Cubed skinless, boneless chicken thighs are mixed with rice wine, cornstarch salt and white pepper. Add to wok with dried red chilies (I used Thai), stir fry for a minute or two, and remove to a plate. Stir fry sliced ginger, sliced garlic, roasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns, and chopped scallions for 15 seconds. Dump back in the chicken and add a sauce of black soy sauce, Chinkiang vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, chili oil, chicken broth, rice wine and salt and stir-fry just until chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened slightly.

    I made this as directed, except . . . . I always have ginger in the house. Always. I didn’t have ginger in the house. The recipe only called for 1 teaspoon, sliced, but the flavors in this dish were rather subtle and very well balanced and I’m sure the addition of the ginger would have made it even better than it was. The meat was wonderfully juicy and the ma and heat played off each other in a delightful but not at all assertive way. Young says in the headnote that she’s kept this medium hot and that you can increase the heat if you want by adding more chili oil. When I first tasted it, I thought I might want more Sichuan peppercorns. But by the time I finished dinner, I’d decided I wouldn’t change a thing.

    The isn’t replacing Dunlop’s Dry-Fried Chicken for me. But then, damned few recipes would.

    5 Replies
    1. re: JoanN

      Reading through your report I wondered how it would compare with Dunlop's Dry Fried Chicken - thanks for adding that comment at the end. Wish I'd been a guest at your place the past week - sounds like you've been doing some wonderful cooking.

      1. re: JoanN

        I believe the Chinese name for this dish is La Zi Ji. If it is, you simply must try it.

        SO GOOD. SO, SO GOOD.

        1. re: JoanN

          We had this for dinner tonight and we quite liked it. Even though I went to the store to buy ginger, I bought everything BUT that. So, like JoanN, we had this without ginger. Even so, I liked the gentle spiciness and the fragrance of the dish.

          1. re: JoanN

            I made this tonight. Broke down a chicken yesterday and saved one breast and one thigh for tonight. This amount of chicken was only 8.25 oz so I tried to reduce the other ingredients by the correct amounts, but it is possible that 2/3 of a 1/4 teaspoon didn't come out perfectly. :-)

            I really liked this dish, though once again, though I threw in an extra dried pepper and a little extra peppercorns, this dish wasn't at all fiery. Will make this again as a fast and easy weeknight dish. Served with the sweet/sour cabbage reviewed below.

            1. re: smtucker

              After a week in Portugal, I was craving something spicy, and also some vegetables that wasn't salad! Also needed something quick and easy, the ingredients for which could be picked up on my way home from the airport. After checking this thread, I decided this would fit the bill and it did. Delicious flavours from the peppercorns and chillis and the chicken was beautifully tender.

              Served with the stir-fried shitakes and sugar snaps from SFTTSE.

          2. Stir-Fried Shrimp with Garlic Sauce (page 106)

            Terrific . . . and really easy. Like so many other recipes from these two books that I’ve tried so far, the flavor is subtle and beautifully balanced.

            She recommends soaking shrimp in saltwater for five minutes to give it a crisper texture. Maybe that was why the shrimp seem so perfectly a point? Not the least over or underdone following her timing. Just perfect.

            The soaked shrimp is patted dry, stir-fried for about a minute before minced garlic and ginger is added, then you add a mixture of chicken broth, Shao Hsing rice wine, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar, and ground white pepper and stir-fry for less than a minute until shrimp are “just cooked through” and sauce has thickened slightly. Stir in chopped scallion.

            This would be an especially good dish to make for a multi-course meal not just because it’s so good but because it’s so speedy ingredients to serving.

            22 Replies
            1. re: JoanN

              Golly JoanN, you've been busy! I can see this recipe is going straight to the top of my must try list! Very interesting about the saltwater tip.


              1. re: JoanN

                One of the Vietnamese cookbooks recommends a similar thing for shrimp - I think you toss the shrimp with salt, let sit for a bit, then rinse in cold water. I've been doing that ever since, regardless of what I'm using the shrimp for.

                1. re: JoanN

                  "She recommends soaking shrimp in saltwater for five minutes to give it a crisper texture. "

                  Funny, I've been doing that on my own for a while now. I generally keep a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer, and when I want some for dinner, I just toss them in a bowl of cold water to thaw. A few years ago, it occurred to me that I could do a sort of 'quick brine' on them by salting the water that they're thawing in. It definitely firms them up.

                  I'm looking forward to making this dish too.

                  1. re: JoanN

                    One of my Thai cooking teachers said that the saltwater "wakes up" the shrimp, even if they've been beheaded and deveined (sounds kinda barbaric now!).

                    When i take the time to do this, even with frozen shrimp, it always seems to make a difference.

                    1. re: JoanN

                      So you think it would be possible to substitute calamari for the shrimp with the same technique? One of my local Chinese places has the BEST Salt and Pepper Calamari, and I would love to try this at home.

                      1. re: smtucker

                        I think you can sub. I'm going to try at some point. The squid will cook really quickly.

                        What Chinese place are you referring to?

                        1. re: beetlebug

                          Wang's. This is one of the dishes they do really well, and I crave them. :-)

                          1. re: smtucker

                            Wang's is breaded right? This will be different but the flavor should be similar. I'm going to look at JoanN's reference as well. But right now I am eating another batch of popcorn.

                            1. re: beetlebug

                              I had more popcorn yesterday. :) Did you change the proportion of oil to popcorn at all? (I didn't. I'm still worried about my patina.)


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                You can use less oil (2t) and more popcorn (2/3 c) with no problem. Your wok patina will really come along.

                                1. re: beetlebug

                                  That's 2 teaspoons? Pretty awesome. I saw in the other thread you used Dunlop's swirl and dump method of seasoning first. Excellent!


                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    Yup, teaspoons. It may have been less. The swirl and dump method really heats up the wok so less oil is needed. Plus, more popcorn (twice the recipe amount).

                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                        OK ladies, enough with the popcorn. i'm getting really jealous. One of my very favorite snack foods.

                              2. re: beetlebug

                                I like the idea of no breading to be honest, but sadly, no calamari at the Reliable today, so this project will have to wait.

                            2. re: beetlebug

                              Actually, I just realized that you were talking about a different dish. I made a salt/pepper shrimp on the other thread. Those are the flavors that you may be seeking - also unbreaded.

                            3. re: smtucker

                              I think this recipe (Stir-Fried Shrimp with Garlic Sauce) would work with squid, but if you're looking for a recipe for salt and pepper calamari, this isn't it. At least, this dish wasn't anything like salt and pepper squid or shrimp that I've had in restaurants. There is a recipe in the book for Lee Wan Ching's Sizzling Pepper and Salt Shrimp. Perhaps you were thinking of adapting that recipe?

                              1. re: JoanN

                                Joan, you are right! I am looking at the recipe on page 104...not page 106.

                                I am going to give it a try! Why not? We can always order from Wang's if this is a total disaster.

                            4. re: JoanN

                              The Chinese hate shrimp that has a mushy texture. The quick salt cleaning is a popular technique that transforms the texture giving the shrimp a "crispness" or bite. I hope that explanation clarifies the salt wash.

                              1. re: graceyoung

                                Ms Young, thank you so much for your explanation. We love the recipes we've cooked from your books this month.

                              2. re: JoanN

                                Stir-Fried Shrimp with Garlic Sauce, Pg. 106

                                We made this recipe last night and Loved it. It was 1/3 of an abbreviated meal for the Lunar New Year. JoanN described the prep and direction so well that I really don't have anything to add. We followed the exact recipe even to the brining of the shrimp which were wild Florida gulf shrimp. These beauties have a such a wonderful flavor on their own and this recipe did them justice. The other two dishes were stir-fried snow peas and steamed Jasmine rice.
                                Gung hay fat choy, everyone...

                                1. re: Gio

                                  Gung hay fat choy, Gio. I love the shrimp brining tip. I've used it all year long, even with non Chinese recipes!


                              3. David Camacho’s Stir-Fried Shiitake Mushrooms (page 144)

                                There’s a new vendor at my local farmers market selling the most beautiful mushrooms so I bought a pound of shiitakes and decided this simple recipe would be a marvelous way to show them off. It was.

                                Stir-fry minced ginger for a few seconds, add trimmed and halved mushrooms and stir-fry less than a minute more. Add a sauce of chicken broth (she calls for homemade, but I cleaned out my stash over Thanksgiving so used Dunlop’s Everyday Stock instead), Shao Hsing wine, and soy sauce and shake the covered pan as if making popcorn for 4 to 5 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. (Does she really mean to shake the continuously? Wasn’t gonna do that. I sort of shook it every 30 seconds or so.) My sauce was gone in 4 minutes and I caught it just before the mushrooms were going to stick badly. You need to keep an eye on it. Not easy to do when there’s a lid on. To finish, swirl in some sesame oil (she calls for a tablespoonful, I used 1-1/2 teaspoons) and add a bit of salt.

                                I liked this a great deal. Especially as a side dish accompanying something with a sauce and a bit of a kick. I served it with some leftover Chicken with Sichuan Peppercorns and it was a terrific combination. But next time I make it I’ll use button mushrooms. I’ll have you know that’s $16 worth of mushrooms, two not-all-that-generous servings, sitting in the bottom of the wok.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: JoanN

                                  Oh, small $8 servings of mushrooms will not go over well in my house! Button button who's got the button.
                                  But my wok arrived today, soon I'll try/fry too.

                                  1. re: blue room

                                    Yeah. Glad I tried it once. But unless I find Shiitakes at greatly reduced prices, it'll probably cremini or button for me, too.

                                2. Millie Chan’s Chili Shrimp p. 105

                                  We really liked this one. We only made a half recipe for the two of us and wished we’d made a full batch. I was tempted to use less oil than called for, but am staying true to the recipes until I break in my wok.

                                  Brine shrimp in salt water for an hour. I noticed JoanN reported on Stir-Fried Shrimp with Garlic Sauce that also calls for brining, but hers was only 5 minutes. Stir fry shrimp (that was patted dry) until pink for about 1 minute, swirl in Shao Hsing then set shrimp aside on a plate. Add minced ginger, scallions and mild chili pepper (I prefer it spicy, so I used a jalapeño) to wok until fragrant, then add mixture of soy sauce, sugar and chili bean sauce, and add shrimp until cooked through. Garnish with sprigs of cilantro. We really enjoyed this dish. It came together quickly, loved the flavors (fragrant and a little spicy) and we ate it at room temperature with brown rice and Lee Wan Ching's Chinese Broccoli with Ginger Sauce.

                                  Lee Wan Ching's Chinese Broccoli with Ginger Sauce p. 140

                                  This is a much subtler dish and it paired well with the spicier Chili Shrimp. Stir fry ginger slices until fragrant, add broccoli stalks (cut in 2” pieces) until bright green, and then broccoli leaves until limp. Next, one stirs in a mixture of chicken broth (I made the one from SFTTSE), cornstarch, salt, sugar and ginger juice and cook until thickened slightly. A nice, simple treatment for the crunchy Chinese broccoli.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: BigSal

                                    Millie Chan's Chili Shrimp

                                    This is yet another recipe that I made because of a rave review on TDQ's COTM/easy weeknight dinners thread, and wow, was it ever a hit. My husband ate his whole plate without commenting (which had me slightly nervous) and then looked at me and said "Phenomenal." Lulu also cleaned her plate and said it was great. I used frozen shrimp and because of the packaging had to go with 1 1/2 lbs of shrimp instead of 1 lb, so upped the other ingredients accordingly. I had hoped we would have plenty of leftovers - but only enough for Lulu to have it for dinner during tomorrow's date night - Lucky Lulu! Really really loved it, and it was so incredibly easy. I served it with jasmine rice and roasted broccoli. The whole thing was fantastic. Thank you Big Sal!

                                    eta: because I had extra chopped green onions and no cilantro I garnished with the extra chopped green onion. We loved it that way. I have a feeling this will be made often this coming summer when I won't have as much time to cook (because of having Lulu around the house more, or having to run her to daily camps).

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      I'm so glad to hear this was a hit with the family!

                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                        So here it is summer, and just as I expected this recipe came in handy. Lulu had camp until noon, then some errands, then a playdate here from 2:15 until I drove her friend home at 4:45. I did all the prep work, got the sheet pan of broccoli ready for roasting, pre-boiled the water for the rice, and then when I got home it was super quick to put together Millie Chan's Chili Shrimp. Now, I *did* forget about the whole salting thing, so it probably only got about 15 minutes worth of salting, but not a problem, still absolutely delicious and we all agreed that we could easily eat this once a month (or more). Restaurant worthy, and quick and easy too. I don't think you could ask for much more than that.

                                    2. Dammit - these reports are making me want this book too. I hate you all.

                                      * Sits on hands and switches off internet *

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                        The reports are insanely compelling, aren't they. But, I can't hate the messengers so I've chained myself to the chair... for today anyway. I'll do a Google search to find recipes from BOAW on-line. But if I can't find much, I can't be held responsible for my next course of action. Can I?

                                        1. re: Gio

                                          Hey! If you chain yourself to a chair you should toss the key across the room so you can't just unpadlock yourself whenever you have one of these book purchase frenzies.

                                          So I guess that now greedygirl has turned off her computer we can talk about her behind her back, eh? mwahahahahahaa! Anyway, she should talk after luring me into spend big bucks getting both Ottolenghi books.

                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                            Ah, but those Ottolenghi books made you a better person, didn't they.