Tag Archives: Chinese cuisine

Spice Up Your Rice – Simple Rice Recipe for Every Day

Is it weird that I love plain white rice?  When I say plain, I mean rice boiled – that’s it.  I like the taste of good quality rice.  I’m not talking about Uncle Ben’s boil in bag, I’m talking a good basmati or Thai jasmine rice. When it’s cooked well, they’ve got a very unique flavour that is amazing. I know that rice nutrition is next to zero but I would eat it every day if I could.

My husband thinks it’s weird that when I finish a meal at a Chinese restaurant, I actually take a spoon and eat the remaining rice from the bowl.  If there’s no more rice left, I’ll order a bowl of plain rice just for me to eat.  OK, I recognize this is a bit weird but hey, that’s me.

Rice, although it seems simple, is notoriously hard to get right.  My friend Gail, who is the queen of microwave cooking once taught me how to make rice in the microwave (yeah you can actually do that).  She made it seem absolutely simple until I actually tried it.  The one step she neglected to share with me was that you’ve got to turn the microwave to 50% power (really important step).  When I opened the microwave, I had a bowl of hard, black, glassy goo.  Not only did I discover that it is possible to char food in the microwave, but I also learned that burnt rice really stinks and the smell doesn’t go away for months.  Needless to say, I never tried that again and I perfected making rice on the stove.

So here are a few ways with rice because, although I love plain rice and can eat it everyday, I’m probably the only non-Asian person that can say that.

Close-up of grains of jasmine rice

Close-up of grains of jasmine rice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Plain Rice

Serves 4

Preparation: 1 minute

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 cup white rice

2 cups water

Method

Rinse rice under cold running water until the water is no longer cloudy.  Add rice and water in pot and place on high heat.  Once rice is boiling, stir, cover pot tightly with lid and reduce heat to low. Do not remove the lid and allow to cook for 15 minutes (this is a good time to get other parts of your meal started).  At 15 minutes check to see if the rice is cooked and water is absorbed.  If the rice appears wet, place the cover back on pot and continue to cook for 5 mints more.  At this point, if there is still water waiting to be absorbed, remove the pot from the heat and remove lid and let stand.  The rice will continue to absorb the water and any excess will begin evaporating.

 

Rice and Beans Recipe

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 17 minutes

Category: side

Yield: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 – 2 tsp butter (or 1-2 tsp olive oil)
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1 cup white rice (rinsed)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 10oz can of beans (kidney beans, black beans, gungoa peas are good options)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/8 tsp dry)

Instructions

  1. Drain the beans over a measuring cup that can hold at least 2 cups of liquid. In this same measuring cup, add chicken broth until the total liquid measures 2 cups (if you’re a little short, add additional chicken broth or just plain water). Set the liquid and beans to the side for a moment.
  2. Heat the butter on medium high heat in a small pot (with a lid).
  3. Once the butter is melted, add onions and garlic and cook until onion is clear and shiny (being careful not to burn the garlic).
  4. Add rice to the pan and stir to coat with butter/onion mix.
  5. Add beans and liquid to the pot, stir and drop thyme sprigs on top.
  6. Increase heat to high and bring the mixture to a boil.
  7. Once boiling, cover and reduce heat to low.
  8. Cook for 15 without removing the lid.
  9. If the rice appears wet, place the cover back on pot and continue to cook for 5 minutes more.
  10. Turn off heat and let sit with lid on for 2-5 minutes
  11. Serve immediately
https://blackgirlcooks.com/2013/08/14/rice-and-beans-recipe/

Fued at the Chinese Buffet

OK, I have a secret. I’ve been asked to leave a Chinese buffet. No, I didn’t go flying Nikes over head like when Jazz annoyed Uncle Phil on Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  It was more like Martin pushing  Pam out the front door “Get to steppin’” I’m not proud of my gluttony but I really like Chinese food.

You see, at the buffet I have a process, first round, scope out the offering.  Then I have to devise the plan of action because you can’t just mix everything on your plate.  I’ve got to get the flavour ratios just right and, note to Dad, sweet and sour sauce can’t go on everything. A proper balance of sweet and salty and sour, bitter and savoury has to be attained and I’ve got to try everything.

So, on my fifth or sixth plate (I mean full plate not just a little spoonful of this and that) the waitresses began to hover, circling like wolves ready to pounce on a defenceless baby deer. One by one every few minutes they’d come to the table, eyes rolling, to ask in thickly accented English “You finished yet?” (Annoyed translates well in any language.) To this question I happily  answer, “No” and continue savouring ever morsel of Chinese goodness while receiving the evil eye from a pack of angry silk clad waitresses. Then the next comes huffing, hands on hips to try to budge me.

The serious buffet waster (aka my two plates only Mom),  who had finished eating  30 minutes before the army began to descend, finally whispered to me “I think they want you to leave.” But I hadn’t even had dessert yet!

So, to avoid more embarrassing moments at the buffet, I’m learning to make my own Chinese at home. My teacher and best friend (in my imagination) is Ching-He Huang, host of Chinese Food in Minutes in the UK and Easy Chinese – San Francisco in the US.  Here is one of my favourites from Ching plus a one of my own to show just how easy and quick Chinese food can be.

Spicy Chicken and Cashews

Adapted from Ching-He Huang‘s Chilli Chicken & Cashews

Serves 2
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook in: 5 – 7 minutes

TOOLS

Wok or heavy guage frying pan that will hold heat

Wooden spoon or spatula

Small bowl for mixing cornstarch and marinating chicken

INGREDIENTS
1 tsp corn starch/cornflour
1 tbls cold water
3 boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1″ chunks

½ tsp Chinese five-spice powder
2 tbls peanut or sunflower oil
1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns
1 tsp chilli bean paste
1 red chilli chopped and seeded (keep seeds if you want it really hot)
1 tbls  Shaohsing rice wine
1 small pack of  roasted salted cashew nuts (you can substitute peanuts)
1 tbls light soy sauce
1/2 lime

METHOD

I suggest preparing all ingredients and lining them up near the wok.  This dish goes really quickly so it’s important to have everything right at your fingertips.
Mix the water into the cornstarch (the water has to be cold and it has to be added to the cornstarch not the other way around to avoid lumps).  Season with the 5 spice powder and set aside.

Heat a wok on high heat until it starts to smoke.  Add the oil and when it begins to smoke add the peppercorns, chilli bean paste and chilli.  Lift the wok off the heat and toss the mix around for 10 – 15  seconds.  Place the wok back on the heat for another 10  – 15 seconds so the wok can heat back up and then add the chicken.  Let the chicken cook for a minute before stirring then add the rice wine.  Mix it all together and then let the chicken cook until it turns white (about 4 – 5 minutes).

Add the cashews and cook for another minute.

Once chicken is cooked through, turn off heat add soy sauce and lime juice.

Serve with steamed rice and Pak Choi in Oyster Sauce.

Pak Choi in Oyster Sauce

Created by S. Cottom

Serves 2

Prep in 5 minutes

Cook in 3 minutes

INGREDIENTS

1 tbls oil (peanut, vegetable or sunflower)

4 bulbs pak choi (stalks separated from leaves and cleaned)

1 garlic clove chopped

1 tbls soy bean paste

2 tbls oyster sauce

METHOD

Separate the stalks of the pak choi from the leaves. Heat oil in a wok or heavy gauge frying pan until smoking.  Add garlic and fry for 2 -3 seconds, add stalks of pak choi and stir fry.  Splash with water to create steam to cook stalks (repeat if necessary). Stir fry for 1-2 minutes then add leaves, soy bean paste and oyster sauce.  Stir fry for 20-30 seconds until slightly wilted.

Smoked Chicken 1 – Black Girl 0

There are times in my life when I become a bit obsessive compulsive.  Like my never-ending quest for an afro (I refuse to believe that I can’t have a big round afro like every other girl I know and that one day that patch of completely straight hair will turn curly).  Or when I decided to learn how to knit and proceeded to knit everyone that I know with a head a hat.  I get that way sometimes. When I decide I’m interested, I become an expert and  won’t stop until I’ve conquered this week’s epic challenge.

Well my most recent OCD adventure was tea smoked chicken.  Yes, for some odd and unexplainable reason I decided to turn my kitchen into a smoker because if they can do it at Cha Cha Moon (my favorite Chinese restaurant), by golly, so can I. I was going to smoke anything that might remotely taste interesting.  Like with my other OCD attacks I turned to the best resource for learning any vague and obscure craft – the internet.  I spent days scouring the net for method, ingredients, marinades and all things tea smoked chicken because I would be the next tea smoked chicken master chef.

All the blogs touted how simple tea smoking at home could be.  A simple concoction of tea, rice and sugar was all I needed to turn plain old chicken wings into a smoky sensation.  I am a pretty good cook so how hard could it be?  I started off by lining my wok with aluminum foil.  If I hooked that thing to my TV I could probably watch the evening news in Beijing.   I added in the amazing smoking agents:  uncooked jasmine rice, jasmine tea, and some sugar. Note:  No one in the blogosphere knows what the sugar does, everyone thinks it’s pointless but every recipe called for it so I too drank that Kool-Aid too.

We were super excited when the contraption started to smoke.  We added the wire grate and quickly covered the contraption with foil.  Smoke began seeping out of everywhere. We frantically covered all the gaps with sheet upon sheet of foil and  the exhaust fan was struggling to keep up.  All that could be heard was the metallic crunch of foil as we tried to pinch the seams of our smoke leaving ship. Luckily  we had a rare 60 degree day in London so we opened the window to keep from suffocating.  After the frantic ripping of and scrunching of foil, we finally plugged all the holes.  Who knew cooking could be so harrowing.

After 20 minutes of smoking and 30 minutes of resting, the milky white, slimy skin of the chicken, that we nearly asphyxiated ourselves to make, underwhelmed us. I was, however,  prepared for this becuase many of the bloggers warned that a tan in the broiler might be necessary.  I put the sickly looking things in the “grill” (at this point I must add a side note on the “grill” which is supposed to be the broiler but since we don’t have gas ovens in the UK, it’s just the electric heating element of the oven getting extra hot and red and pretending to really do something) for 30 minutes.  This did nothing but put a little beige on them.  They went from pale white to “light skinneded” which wasn’t much better.  But every cook knows that it’s not what it looks like, it’s how it tastes that’s important.

Survey says…ehhh.  A big fat X.  They were horrible! I ate two (the second one only to confirm that they were actually as bad as I thought).  I tried to rationalize it but in the end, I decided I’d be better off with leftovers.  No flavor (despite marinating in soy sauce, ginger, garlic and rice wine for two hours) and the skin was still slimy despite being broiled (I told you that “grill” thing doesn’t work). Yes, I know I made them look tasty but the verdict – EPIC FAIL!  I took the photo before I actually ate them and this proves that you can’t even believe what you see sometimes.  The other lesson is that even the best of us have a bad dish every now and then…even little miss OCD.  Tea smoked chicken has won this round but I’m going back to my corner to regroup and next time, I’ll come back swinging.  This story isn’t over yet.

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