Around the World in 12 Plates: China

Chinese Feast

Anyone who followed along when I made a new cookie every week for a year knows I love projects and themes. Partly because because it satisfies my mild OCD and also because it makes me cook more at home.  Despite having a food blog I struggle every week to cook at least 5 nights out of 7. My husband is an extremely picky eater and atrocious cook and the same dishes get rotated day after day.  And it’s boring. Really f$%@ing boring.  Which is why I’m more of a restaurant profiler than home cook nowadays. And as tempting as it is to order in or go out instead of cook it’s expensive and unhealthy. 

When I stumbled across Gabby Peyton’s blog post about her Around the World in 12 Plates adventure (read more about it here) I couldn’t have been at a more dejected place in my home cooking.  Could a challenge like this help me get back into the kitchen more and feel better about my talents? Whether I accomplish either of those things to the smallest degree I know I’m a step further than I was before. 

China is a perfect start. Or so I thought. At first glance you think you know all about Chinese cuisine.  Sadly what we really attribute to their culture has been westernized out the wazoo. What is assumed to be one style of cooking is actually broken down into eight modern cuisines based on where in the country you happen to be. Those are further broken down by towns and counties with unique ingredients and flavours that highlight both the dishes background and geography. It’s almost overwhelming when you think of the possibilities. 

Erase all ideas you have about what is “authentic” Chinese food.  A quick google search will educate you that you are in fact thinking about American-style.  Traditional dishes are not full of sweet, sticky sauces or oily, deep fried battered things. It’s fresh vegetables, quick cooking techniques and family style plates. It’s vibrant flavours and biting spice. 

Scallion Pancakes

Rumoured to be a favorite dish of Marco Polo and a possible inspiration for pizza (a loose rumour to be noted), scallion pancakes are a unleavened fried dough consisting of five simple ingredients; flour, water, salt, oil and scallions.  What can set this flatbread apart from others is your choice of dipping sauce. I used this foolproof recipe from The Kitchn and a simple mixture of teriyaki, soy sauce, honey and rice vinegar to create a sweet and sour dipping sauce. These savoury pancakes are perfect for sopping up sauces from main dishes and are extremely addictive.

General Tso Chicken

In my research to find some dishes to try I was surprised to see one dish, General Tso Chicken as being loosely authentically Chinese.  While North America has adopted it and adapted to our more basic tastebuds it is still a very simple dish to pull together at home. It has long been argued how this recipe came to be; whether it was named for a Hunan General or by a chef in one of the many municipalities in the country. Either way it is a wonderfully spicy dish using ingredients that are easy to find and may already be in your cupboard. I used the recipe from The Kitchn and substituted chicken instead of tofu and by not deep frying the chicken and bumping up the vegetables you have a flavourful and healthy dish.

I am not the only one who was drawn to this intriguing challenge.  Not knowing the next country until it is announced  at the beginning of each month obviously sparked the adventurous side of some other great bloggers as well.  Check out their links below and see what they discovered on their voyage through China.  And I look forward to you guys following along each month as I discover my inner culinary traveller.

Dish ’n’ the Kitchen: https://dishnthekitchen.wordpress.com/2017/01/31/chinese-red-cooked-beef-around-the-world-in-twelve-plates/ 

My Organic Diaryhttp://my-organic-diary.com/2017/01/crispy-tofu-rice-bowl/

All Things Nice! https://lifeisaboutallthingsnice.blogspot.ca/2017/01/asian-stir-fry-quinoa.html 

SugarLovesSpiceshttp://www.sugarlovespices.com/eggplant-asian-salad/ 

Korena in the Kitchen: http://korenainthekitchen.com/?p=9409 

The Food Girl in Town: http://thefoodgirlintown.com/2017/01/30/around-the-world-in-12-plates-china/  

The Canadian Food Experience Project: My Canadian Food Hero

I grew up in a blue collar, working class family and dinner was always on the table at 5 o’clock sharp and would be one of six or seven standard meals my mom would make.Going out to eat was always a treat and usually to the same two or three local restaurants.There was a little room for experimenting. One thing I remember was that my dad would on occasion go outside our neat and tidy box.  He worked most of his life at CN railways in Vaughan and was fortunate enough to be surrounded by staff from all over the world .  Some days on his way home to our house in Barrie he would stop and  pick up something from a deli near his work, something we would never had tried to make ourselves or even bought in our local grocer.  My brother and mother were picky eaters so the food was usually left just for me and dad to try.  I loved when these days happened.

My dad

My dad also started me on a love for cooking shows.  Back when I was growing up one of the most famous and I think one of the pioneers of cooking shows focusing on pure entertainment was Stephen Yan from Wok with Yan. He usually came on just as I got home from school and each episode I hoped he would making “exploding noodles” as I called them (later I realized it was only rice noodles that expanded when they hit the hot oil but to a young kid this was so cool.)  I was fascinated by his ability to create fast and fresh meals in under 30 minutes and I openly envied the special guest who had that episodes spot at the dinner table. While most of his jokes clearly went over my head, I still laughed along with his studio audience and couldn’t wait to see what his apron would say next.

My dad was also a huge fan of Pasquale Kitchen Express salivating over all the amazing dishes he would create while singing opera to his audience.  Dad would lovingly joke to my mom that his next wife would be Italian since she hardly ever cooked us pasta. And as I got older and was allowed to spend time in the kitchen experimenting with recipes I always had my dad in mind.  I knew whatever I made he would be the first to try it and love it (whether it was any good or not).

Even now when I cook I think about whether or not he would have enjoyed it.  I know he would be my biggest fan, softest critic and most eager taste tester.

So here’s to my food hero; my angel, my dad.  The man who helped me see that there was so much more out there to eat, to try and to enjoy.

And here is my try at Stephen Yan’s Beef and Broccoli. I used broccolini and red onion for my interpretation and served it with a simple fried rice.

Yields 2

Beef and Broccoli
Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 package broccolini or 1 head of broccoli, chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 flank steak, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 clove garlic

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl combine the steak, soy sauce, sesame oil and cornstarch.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add 2 tsp salt. Heat up your wok.
  3. Place broccoli in boiling. While the broccoli is cooking add the oil, garlic and onion to your wok. Cook 15 sec then add your beef.
  4. Cook until beef is no longer pink then add your carrots and using a slotted spoon your broccoli.
  5. Cook for 1 minutes then serve.
Recipe Type: Main Dishes
7.6.4
279

 

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The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7 2013. As we (participants) share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Please join us.   I hope you enjoy my experiences and stories with Canadian food and hope you get a chance to check out the other bloggers involved. Please leave a comment below about your own experience based on the monthly theme.