Bek's Chinese Vegetarian/Vegan Extravoganza
I am not a chef, just someone who loves China and its cuisine. The people whom I give directions to on the street get lost, I really hope its not the same with recipes. Lets give this a crack, May the food be with you, Obi Wan Cannelloni.
I am blessed enough to have been able to travel around most of China with my father and step mother, we both have a love of food and over the course of the last 15 years have tried many of the delicious local foods and delicious treats the people and places have to offer. There have been a few standout dishes that have really stuck with me over time, becoming my favourite foods which I crave and miss dearly. I feel very humbled to be able to experience a different culture through marriage, learning about traditions old and new through different generations of my in lawed aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings, cousins, friends old and young I have met along the way. Being welcomed into a culture has been an amazing experience, learning through the hearts of others that have carried on through the tests of time, something I will forever be grateful for.
I will not be one of those westerners who jumps on here and tries to teach you all about a country or the food just because I have lived and frequented there, that’s the ego, I have no right to do or claim that. I am just here to share some food that’s bought my family closer together during gatherings, some of fondest childhood and adulthood memories are sitting at a table with family and friends, tucking into some food. My relatives yelling my order for food and beer across the way, always excited because they knew what dish to order that would bring a smile to my face and my Dads friends teaching me to use chopsticks by relentlessly picking up peanuts some 15 years ago. I am not superior to anyone that has or hasn’t travelled, also does or doesn’t speak the langue etc. I just really miss the food, the people and a crave to make new memories as we all enter a different stage in our lives. I hope later in life I am able to share these experiences with my own partner and family on a noodle tour across the country and back to the cities where I felt I belonged more than my own country of birth.
DISCLAIMER- I’m no Masterchef, more like a Jesterchef. I do not write down my recipes, its all with feel, taste and intuition on what the dish needs and what I know it needs. If directions are too blaze and/or you need more direction there are a few search engines you can use to have a suss. I also suck at giving directions whether it be to do with streets or teaching things, so buckle up for a bumpy ride folks, grab ya woks, grab a beer and a spatula and lets get cooking.
A few delicious food options to try (some will have my own variation of the recipe, some will not have a recipe, sorry. however you should check out and I would 10/10 recommend to put in your gob);
(This is an eggplant dish, you can have with or without meat and there are 2 different types a normal eggplant or Yu Xiang Qiezi which is a fish smelling/tasting variety). I don’t have a written recipe for this as I just go by feel and taste, just make sure after cutting your eggplant into small- med elongated tubes, that you soak them in water to get rid of all the tannins before cooking and consuming.
There are a few good recipes on the search engines for both, try and look for authentic chefs that have grown up eating this dish, not people trying reclaim a traditional dish as their own. I find those recipes are always the best, rather than typical house wife/husband recipes which just aint it and don’t taste anything like the real deal.
Da Bai Cai
This is Bok Choy, this is such a refreshing dish with a nice juicy crunch. This is something I love to recreate with a bowl of rice, its simple and quick. (Yes, Pak Choy can be used aswell). You can use as much or as little bok choy as you like, depending on how many people you are cooking for, or how much you personally want to devour.
-Olive or vegetable
-Garlic (garlic is to taste, I like about 2-3 cloves for this bad boy, go ham on it if you want tho)
- Chilli flakes/Chilli oil
(A really good chilli oil is Lao Gan Ma Chilli *chefs kiss* with the red labelling, was so happy when they started exporting it, available at Asian grocers and normal supermarkets depending where you are in the world. Just make sure you read the label as there are a few different types of the Lao Gan Ma which have identical packaging).
1. Whack a pan down on your stove top, chuck some oil ( 2 Mississippi's worth) in and preheat it to a medium heat
2. Cut some garlic up to put in the heating up pan
3.Wash your Bok Choy
4.Cut the root end off the Bok Choy, leaving stem and leaves in one piece ( you can obviously cut it if you want, live your Ramsey fantasy)
Cooking- 8-12 minutes
1.The pan should be heated up by now, the oil nice and warm ready for the Bok Choy to slide on in.
2. Mix it all around with the garlic
3. Pour some soy sauce over the Bok Choy in the pan and/or and some chilli. I like to have a shallow wadding pool of soy sauce for my Bok Choy to frolic in for about 3 minutes.
4. Cook Bok Choy until leaves are wilted and the stem is starting to become supple or is bendy like Gumby, with a little bit of char (either variant makes the Bok Choy take on a different crunch or texture in the mouth, have a play around with cooking times to see what you like).
And that is it! Easy! If you want rice, make it before and start this dish when your rice has reached the half way point or so. I am not about to tell you how to cook/boil rice because I don’t know shit, give that a google or buy a rice cooker for perfect, simple rice every time.
Guilin Mei Fun
The best thing I love about china is most villages/cities/towns have their own noodle specialty. My favourite noodles are from the city of Guilin. ( I will also use this time to shout out the dude who runs the spicy snail noodle shop in YangShuo, he has been noodling the community for 15 years and collects his snails locally from the river, real noodle MVP).
Unfortunately as I have G-ed you up for this, I have drawn a blank on what I have used and cant source the products from my Asian grocer to jog my brain at this point. I will remake soon to convey my memory, I can publish this recipe when I do, if any of you Jesterchefs would like to try. I have based the recipe off the items at the stand you go after the noodle peeps dish up your bowl of flat rice noodles. Some of these preserves include chilli, bamboo strips, peanuts, seaweed etc. so you can make your own variant at home and have some fun with it.
I have no idea what this dish is called, so I have just made up an abbreviation of the ingredients. After eating it at a family gathering, I asked my step mum on how I could recreate it, so off to the kitchen we went!
-Pack of Black fungus (I prefer the ones in pouches with some mustard plant, not the dried ones in packets, that’s just a preference but you can use any)
-Pack of Dried tofu skin/curd (these look like big crème twirly sticks, available at Asian grocers)
-Garlic (garlic is to taste, I like about 4 garlic cloves, but go off if you want)
-Olive or vegetable oil
-Sesame seed oil
Preparation 5-10 mins ( not including soaking times for tofu skin or if you have bought the dried black fungus, allow 30-45mins for those steps, hour at most for combined prep time)
1. Break up the sticks of tofu (about 5 sticks) and place into a bowl of warm water, when you see the water changing colour, tip out the water and soak again in warm water until the tofu skins have changes colour, to a paler colour all over. This process can take 30-45 min
2. After the tofu skin has changed colour and has become floppy, they are much easier to slice down to a smaller sizes if you wish, I like mine 2-6cms long depending on if I am in a very tofu-y mood, or not. Theres no right or wrong so just go for gold.
3.Tip out water and drain tofu
4. Black Fungus (if you bought the ready to eat ones in pouches there is no prep time, however if you have bought the dried ones go by the directions on the back of the packet). I would sudjest cutting up the dried ones after they have been rehydrated as they can get quite big, like one of those dinosaurs you chuck in water.
5. Slice cucumber into circles and then half the circle, so you have semi circles.
6. Put cucumber slices into bowl, lavish with salt and then soak in cool water for 2-3mins.
7. Then rinse off cucumber and put aside to drain
8. Pre heat your oiled wok/pan (about 4 Mississippi's worth of oil)
9. Chop up your garlic, we want it chunky pieces, not about that minced life. (this actually helps put more flavour into the dish, so my step mum tells me).
1. Chuck your choped garlic into your pre oiled and heated cooking wok/pan
2. After the garlic and oil have had time to mingle (about 30 secs), add in the black fungi
3. Sir-mix-a lot the garlic, oil and black fungi for approx. 1 min
4. Add cut cucumber, stir for about 1 min
5. Chuck in ya floppy tofu skins
6. Give it all a big stir, like you're a kid with some cake mix
7. Add in some sesame seed oil (2 Mississippi's worth)
8. Insert ½ cup of water to the mix and give one last whirl
9. Chuck a lid on it and let it simmer and do its thang for 7-10 mins
And you got served! You can eat as is or serve with rice.
This can serve 1-4 depending, sometimes I will eat the whole wok, other times I will have dinner, a snack and 2 lunches, serving sizes are an illusion. Live your own serving fantasy, its healthy so live your best life.
Thankyou for coming on this wild ride of a train wreck, I don't except refunds of time. However if you can understand these directions and/or try any of these dishes, hope that you thoroughly enjoy and have a great day!
Zai Jian :)