A Family Dinner

August 29, 2012 § 1 Comment

Here are some photos of a dinner I cooked for my family before I left for school. It was a traditional Chinese meal.

Some highlights:

Stir-fried Chinese greens with olive oil and garlic. I forgot the exact name of the vegetable, but you can find it in any Asian grocery. This was very simple to make – just heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a wide pan or wok until it starts sizzling, and toss in diced garlic. After about a minute, add to the pan the chopped and washed greens. You can add the whole bunch of greens – as they cook they really wilt down into a tiny pile. Stir-fry the greens until they cook down, maybe three or four minutes. Add salt to taste right before you remove the greens from the pan. It is delicious and healthy.

This next dish, butterflied shrimp, is a little bit more tricky. You need to use fresh jumbo shrimp with the heads still on in order to achieve the freshest and most flavorful dish. Again, you can find this in most large Asian groceries in the meat and seafood section in the back. Do not peel the shrimp, but use a sharp knife to slice a slit down the back. This lets the flavor in and allows you to remove any of the intestines (little black strips). Marinate the shrimp in a mixture of salt, green onion, and sliced ginger for about half an hour. Then stir-fry in a wok in olive oil, just until both sides turn an opaque pink. This simple preparation really highlights the delicious savoriness of the shrimp.

Lastly, tofu with vegetables. Slice up a large block of extra firm tofu, and fry up the slices in a wok covered with olive oil. Flip the pieces over once, making sure both sides are a crispy golden brown. Add seasonings of your liking – I believe I added salt and soy sauce. Then toss some bok choy and sliced fresh mushrooms into the pan with the tofu. You may need to add a bit of water to the pan in order to maintain moisture in the dish. Cover the wok for about five minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through.

Along with these dishes we had some leftovers from dinner the night before, as well as a pot of white rice. It was a pretty typical dinner for us – lots of green vegetables, some tofu, and seafood.

Restaurant Review: Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot

June 26, 2012 § 1 Comment

My parents visited me this past weekend and we decided to venture into the suburbs of Northern Virginia for a trip to Uncle Liu’s Hot Pot, a Chinese restaurant located on a shopping strip in Falls Church. On the outside the place looks like a hole-in-the-wall but it is surprisingly large once you enter. Though the restaurant has a lunch buffet as well as a ordering menu, we obviously had to try out the hot pot. We were seated at a large round table with a heating element in the middle for the pot. There are several options for your choice of broth. We chose to order half clear broth and half spicy broth, and these came together in a large pot divided down the middle. The mild broth contained green onion stalks, tomatoes, and goji berries, while the spicy broth had chili oil and dried peppers.

The menu offers an assortment of ingredients to cook in the hotpot, most about $5 for one portion. We ordered some meats (sliced beef, fish balls), vegetables (mushrooms, greens, lotus root), glass noodles, tofu, and fish.

The slices of beef were fatty and chewy, yet tender – the most delicious, especially cooked in the spicy broth. I also enjoyed the fish, which was sliced up and marinated in some sort of cornstarch mixture. The fish balls were standard. The clear broth at first was rather bland, but over the hour it slowly absorbed the flavors of all the ingredients and gained more depth and a more savory taste. The spicy broth was pretty hot, even for Chinese standards, so beware! Overall the ingredients were fresh though the portions were pretty measly, especially for the leafy greens. Those cook down so quickly so even a large bunch of raw leaves turn into a small pile of cooked vegetables.

Our meal came out to about $80, including a big communal bowl of white rice. I would expect a greater quantity of food for this price, though in the end we just about finished everything. The service was very fast, and the restaurant was actually pretty empty for lunch on a Sunday – though admittedly we did have a rather late lunch, around 1:30.

They say you find the best ethnic foods not in the city but in the suburbs, since that is where all the immigrant families settle down, and because the rent is much lower out here. It’s true that this place would probably be better and cheaper than anything I would find in D.C. So if you are passing through the area, this is not a bad place to check out. My family also enjoys the dishes on their normal menu, which I have not tried yet.

Restaurant Review: Full Kee Restaurant

June 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

I haven’t eaten out since brunch on Sunday, so I figured that it would be okay to do a night out in Chinatown. I have heard that the Chinatown in D.C. is pretty underwhelming, and this is accurate. There are two blocks of various Chinese restaurants and one street of American businesses that have additional signs with Chinese characters. Most of the restaurants in the area also have mixed reviews. We decided to try to Full Kee Restaurant on H Street. It seemed pretty authentic based on appearance – there were ducks hanging in a display case near the window, the waitstaff were all Chinese, some of the patrons also were Chinese, and it had a slightly dingy hole-in-the-wall look to it. It was a little past seven on a Tuesday night and the place was a little less than half full.

We saw on Yelp that the shrimp dumpling soup is highly rated. This is a bit confusing because the main menu book does not include the noodle soups or congee – these are listed in a separate laminated menu page that is propped up by the condiments. The soup comes with your choice of noodles and you can add vegetables or meat for an additional price.

I chose the shrimp dumpling soup, Hong Kong style, with vegetables. We actually all ended up getting variations of this dish. It came about to be about $8 per person. The piping hot bowls came out from the kitchen in about 10 minutes. My bowl had eight large wonton-style dumplings, and vegetables were bright green and lightly cooked.

I really enjoyed the dumplings. They were of ample size, full of large pieces of juicy, firm shrimp, and wrapped in a thin and tender skin. The broth could have been better – it wasn’t too salty, which was a plus, but I felt that it was too thin and needed a bit more body. It probably also had MSG, but then again it’s rare to find a Chinese restaurant that does not use this omnipresent condiment. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy.

The waitstaff were pretty good. They spoke English really well and were polite and helpful with our orders. They even helped us calculate our individual portions of the check. I might go back – the prices are reasonable and the rest of the menu is huge – there is seafood, chicken, beef, pork (all the average menu items), as well as some “gourmet” delicacies like pig’s blood and black mushroom.

Chinese-Style Butterflied Shrimp and Vegetables

December 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

This delicious dish is a fine example of what I have learned to make from my parents. It’s fairly quick, healthy, and delicious as long as you use the freshest ingredients. The flavor is light and delicate, and the shrimp’s succulent taste infuses the crisp greens, highlighted by a touch of garlic and ginger. As with most Chinese dishes, the exact proportion of the ingredients depend on the individual’s preferences.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 pound of fresh, unpeeled, raw shrimp
  • Some type of Chinese green such as napa cabbage or bok coy
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • 1 stalk of green onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

First, butterfly the shrimp by slicing down the middle with a sharp knife. Remove the intestines.

Place all the shrimp in a bowl and mix with a generous sprinkle of salt.

Dice the green onion, garlic, and ginger.

Heat up a large wok on the highest setting, pour in olive oil to coat the surface. Wait until the oil starts to sizzle and throw in the garlic and ginger.

After about a minute, the flavors of the garlic and ginger have been released. Put the shrimp into the pan and gently stir until they turn from translucent to opaque. Just after the shrimp have turned the faintest pink, throw in the vegetables and green onions.

Stir everything together briskly until the vegetables turn tender. Depending on the type of vegetable, this may take 1-5 minutes. Then immediately remove from heat and plate. It’s very important to not overcook the shrimp or they will be rubbery instead of tender.

Making this dish well really depends on the freshness of the ingredients as well as the timing of every step, which relies upon the cook’s intuition. With practice, you will be able to whip up this beautiful, sophisticated stir fry in 30 minutes. I definitely had to have a lot of coaching from my mom and dad, but now they trust me to execute all the steps on my own.

Merry Christmas Eve everyone! Hope you are enjoying the holidays with your loved ones.

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