Chinese/Lunar New Year Dinner: Just Make These Hot or Cold Sesame Noodles


If you’re wondering how the French cooking class turned out, see the post before this one; I added a few pics from the class so you could be part of it all.  Cook that meal!! It was such a fun day. Many thanks to a great group of students.   Come back soon.

A tip-top Asian cook, I’m not. Dave has always been the wokker in our kitchen. (Is “wokker” a word? I fear not. Maybe it’s “wok man?”)  But in recent years, as his work load keeps increasing, he often defers to me for a little blast from China, Viet Nam, Thailand, etc., or a reasonable melange from a couple different lovely Eastern cuisines.  He and daughter Emily always insist they must go out for a Chinese lunch alone because “Mom doesn’t like Chinese food.”  (Whatever the reason, daughters and dads should have lunch alone.)  There’s nothing farther from the truth.  I just don’t like greasy Chinese food or huge bowlfuls of deep-fried whatever the nugget it is covered in slimy-sweet orange sauce.  Now I’ve really got your tastebuds going, right? I’d just rather make it in my own kitchen unless I’m near a fabulous restaurant I’m sure of.  (In Colorado Springs, I’ve been to really few, but am partial to Saigon Cafe downtown or Bhan Thai on Centennial.)


If I have to say what my favorite Asian dishes are, I’d have to go with noodles or soup… or soup with noodles even.  The comforting heat and fresh herby fragrance wafting up from the plate make me swoon.  This combo noodle-chicken-vegetable dish arrived on our table after I’d seen a very popular, though couple-year old BON APPÉTIT recipe for Sesame Noodles with Chili Oil and Scallions and was dreaming about something scrumptious for Chinese New Year Dinner.  At first I didn’t pay close attention to the amounts of Szechuan pepper plus crushed red pepper, nor did I (silly girl) read the COMMENTS, which indicated a “too much vinegar” feeling. (Not at all for us.)  No tears here, I loved the idea, knew we couldn’t stomach all that heat once I read the recipe thoroughly, and wanted a much more rounded dish at any rate.  Here’s what I came up with…  We ate it warm for dinner, and then ate off it for a couple of days cold. You could have very happy lunches. Heaven.  (above: Rosie and Tucker hoping  for a piece of chicken) Continue reading

Shrimp Fried Rice and Sesame-Ginger Chicken Meatball Lettuce Wraps–Game Food Worth Winning For


EASY FRENCH 3-COURSE MEAL FOR VALENTINE’S DAY AT HOME:  2-HOUR COOKING CLASS @  SHOUSE APPLIANCE- THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5:  5-7PM.  INTRODUCTORY OFFER 2 FOR 1.  $50.00 for two students–includes food, recipes and ideas for wine pairing. Email me or leave me a message. Can’t wait to cook with you!  (Will repeat class at home 2/14 10a-12p–1 opening left.) Ok, now on to football food…

I have this sad, old, worn-out, and tired collection of game food recipes.  I nearly hate football; I take the Sunday New York Times to Super Bowl Parties and only look up when the food’s served or people are screaming at such a pitch that I’m frightened out of my reverie.  Anyway, because it’s just not my thing, I make whatever someone asks me to (once I made gorgeous gingerbread cupcakes-see below ), or if we’re home, I make Dave’s -GAG- hot sausage dip (recipe at bottom) followed by a very-healthy-indeed-chili with a six-pack of beer and call it done.  Last year, our son Sean was home and made a half-dozen gorgeous rah-rah dishes including some sort of really hunky stuffed potato skins; he loves football and he’s an ace in the kitchen.  Breathe out. This year he’s in his own home and I’m up to bat all alone. Ok, not up to bat; I’m up to the goal line all by myself. Yuck.


So  I decided this week to figure out a couple of fun and healthy game day picks ahead of time. I tried out two of them today and I have to say they make me want Sunday to come.  No, not really. This  Sunday there are football games all afternoon and all evening.  (I’ve saved a new Louise Penny book for the long haul.) I’ll say the thought nearly makes me want Super Bowl Sunday to arrive (one game only), which, if you don’t know, is February 1.  I had to look it up. Honest.  But I absolutely cannot wait to cook and eat this meal again. Continue reading

Chinese New Year Stir Fry with a Minnesota-Thai Accent

Dave likes to say, “You don’t like Asian food.”  It’s not true and he actually knows it.  What I don’t like is food from a greasy “Chinese” take-out place.  What I don’t like are limp vegetables and high-fried protein mixed in a shiny, gelatinous sauce full of sweetness and calories I neither need nor want.  I adore the real deal anywhere and, if I’m at home,  pull out the Barbara Tropp when I need inspiration, instigation, or education. What he doesn’t say out loud is that he’s the better Asian cook; he’s just too often too busy to make dinner.  I do love to see him in the kitchen.  Yep.

Here he is helping cook a gorgeous Chinese feast last year…with friend Jim.

or here…all by his handsome lonesome in our Colorado kitchen:

Sometimes, like everyone else, I just wing it or take a basic recipe and ad lib.  Nothing ventured, no dinner. This fine, quick meal is a sort of Szechuan-Thai-Minnesotan fusion as it combines the garlic, ginger, and peppers of a Szechuan meal with the fish sauce, fresh basil, and lime of Thai food tradition, and finishes off with the northern American (Minnesotan) winter staple, walnuts. 

The walnuts were awesome in this dish; don’t skip them.

I made jasmine rice because that’s what’s in the pantry and also because I adore its nutty, fragrant presence at the table. Set the table (plain mats, small bowls for rice, cups for tea, chop sticks), brew the tea, start the rice, and make the stir fry; it should come out fairly even.  Add a little Chinese music off the internet, if you like.  Here’s a youtube I enjoyed.

This is what I do for my Asian meals–just a simpler feel. Nothing fancy.  I include silverware as well as chopsticks.

 Try this; you’ll be happy you did. If you’ve been dissatisfied with your attempts at stir fry before, use my method and see what you think.  Don’t buy any pre-made sauces and, no, you don’t need soy sauce here.  Next time, switch it around with your favorite vegetables or use tofu or pork instead of chicken….

chicken-vegetable stir fry with walnuts
 serves 4 people generously

  • 1/2 cup chopped or halved walnuts, toasted in a pan on the stove on low for 5 minutes
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
  • Fresh ground black pepper, kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
  • 1 tablespoon each grated fresh ginger and minced garlic
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1  – 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup cabbage, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned (matchsticks)
  • 3/4 pound haricots verts or regular green beans cut into 1-inch pieces on the diagonal*
  • 4 ounces sliced button mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 lime (use 1 tablespoon juice while cooking and the rest for garnish at table)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup basil, julienne (sliced in thin ribbons)
  • 2 tablespoons red or green onion, minced

1.  Before making stir fry:   Set table. Make tea or pour wine.  Set aside toasted walnuts.  Make rice:  combine 1 1/2 cups dry rice with 1 3/4 cups water with two good grinds of black pepper and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to simmer, cover and cook (a tiny plume of steam should be escaping) for 20 minutes.  Turn off heat. Fluff with fork.  Let sit until needed.
2.  In a medium bowl, stir together salted and peppered chicken pieces with 2 tablespoons of the fish sauce.  Heat the oil over high heat in a wok or a large, deep skillet and add the garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper.  Let cook a minute before adding chicken.  Let brown well, turn, and brown on the other side until cooked through.  Remove to a clean bowl.
3.  Add onions, cabbage, carrots, green beans, and mushrooms to the wok.  Cook, stirring, until vegetables have just begun to barely soften, about two minutes.  Remove vegetables from wok and add to the bowl with the chicken.
4.  Pour into the wok the chicken broth and 1 tablespoon lime juice, along with the cayenne, and simmer for a minute or two to reduce before adding back in the chicken and vegetables.
5.  Stir in the other tablespoon of fish sauce, let heat through; turn off heat.  Taste and adjust seasonings.   If too dry, add a little more chicken broth; you want some sauce here for your rice. Sprinkle with reserved walnuts, basil, and onions.  Serve hot with rice and lime wedges.

*If you have older or thicker regular green beans, slice them lengthwise in addition to cutting into 1-inch pieces.

Cook’s Note:  If you don’t like spicy food (and this isn’t terribly spicy), leave out the crushed red pepper and try just a tiny pinch of cayenne in the sauce to give the meal a little edge.



  Basil Chicken Fried Rice

 Ham Fried Rice

Tofu Stir Fry

 Sing a new song,

Chinese "BBQ" Pork, Five Heap Noodles, and Wine-Explosion Soup for Chinese New Year

Set your table before you begin cooking.

While I missed blogging Barbara Tropp a couple of weeks ago for “50 Women Game-Changers in Food” from Gourmet Live, it didn’t stop me from making some of her incredible food in honor of a good friend’s birthday and Chinese New Year.

I started out by spending a bit of cozy time with one of Barbara’s books, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, just to see what I thought I’d like to make.  The choices were myriad and luscious… but I couldn’t make all of them.  I did, however, want to keep reading forever; she wrote beautifully.  I decided on three separate dishes:  one a soup for a starter and the other two as a main course that could be eaten together, but that would also provide some great leftovers.  HA!  There were hardly any leftovers.  Do make extra pork; it’s a perfect cold snack.

Here’s the menu:

Soup:  Wine-Explosion Vegetable Chowder (page 452)–a filling soup silky strands of egg whites
Meat:  Northern-Style Chinese Roast Pork (page 205)–requires a day’s marinating, but worth it.
Noodles:  Five Heap Noodles (p 361)–I changed this up, but used the basic idea.

If you’re not familiar with Barbara Tropp, take a little detour and read this.  Sadly, the world lost a top-flight Chinese scholar and chef way too early in life. Those who cook her recipes continue to share and pass on a bit of the knowledge of a cuisine to which she was forever lovingly enthusiastic and dedicated.  The patience of tone and inventive spirit in Barbara Tropp’s writing are unmatched and well worth the purchase of her books, the other of which is China Moon Cookbook.

Not having the time to blog the entire meal, I chose to write about the velvety and intriguing soup.  It’s the easiest to make and perhaps the most versatile.  I do encourage you to look up the pork and noodle recipes; the pork was so very fun and was unlike any I’d ever cooked. Cook’s Note:  In the pork recipe link, the oven temperatures are Celsius.   Here are some photos of the cooking pork and my noodle toppings:

Recipe called for hanging the pork from “S” hooks; I chose to use a rack over a rimmed baking sheet with water.  Sliced thinly, it can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold.

The noodles (first photo) had a light sauce stirred in a couple of hours before the meal, and then were served with variety of toppings at the table (see below), as well as extra sauce–a kind of DIY-Asian-Noodle Salad.  Barbara’s Five Heap Noodles are served at the center of a large platter/bowl, with the heaps dotting the edges of the serving  platter.

Cilantro, cucumber, radishes, grated and sliced carrots, steamed chopped green beans and asparagus–I chose my own vegetables.

Wine-Explosion Vegetable Chowder–rewritten a bit for my use

3/4 -1# fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped, retaining liquid
7 large white mushrooms, cleaned well and sliced very thinly (keep stems)
2 ounces (1/2 cup) fresh green beans (or sugar snaps) sliced thinly on the diagonal into 1 1/4″ 
2 T peanut oil
2T sherry
5 1/2 cups chicken stock*
15 oz can creamed corn
4T cornstarch dissolved in 6T cold chicken stock
1 large egg white (I misread this and used a whole egg; it was delicious)
sugar and salt (yes, you might need them both)
2 oz good, sweet and smokey ham, coarsely minced

I had all of the soup ingredients prepped and in the frig that morning. 
*Including Chinese chicken stock I made in an hour from rotisserie chicken, ginger, onions, and pepper.

Making the soup:  Read everything well before starting!!

About 15 minutes before serving, assemble all of the ingredients within easy reach of the stovetop, and put individual soup bowls in a low oven to warm.

This is good practice for all Asian cooking.  Have everything cut, ready to go, and plates/bowls warmed or set on table. 

Heat a heavy non-aluminum stockpot over medium-high heat until hot enough to evaporate a bead of water on contact.  Add the oil, swirl to glaze the bottom of the pot, then heat until a bead of wine added to the the pot “explodes” in a sizzle.  Add the wine, allow only 1 second for it to explode in a fragrant hiss, then immediately add stock to capture the wine essence.  Bring to a boil, add tomatoes, mushrooms, and corn. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until mixture returns to a boil.  Do not increase the heat or stop stirring; it can burn. Reduce heat to maintain a steady simmer and add vegetables (beans.)  Simmer about 2-3 minutes for snow peasor 4 minutes for beans, stirring constantly until the vegetable is cooked but quite crisp.  It will cook more while you serve.

Taste the soup and add salt or sugar. (Store-bought tomatoes may need a bit of sugar or soup will be flat…”do not hesitate” to add it.)  Reduce the heat to low.  Stir the cornstarch mixture to recombine, then add it to the pot in a steady stream, stirring slowly for about 2 minutes until soup turns glossy and thick.  (This will be very obvious.)  Turn off heat.

Using a fork or chop sticks, beat the egg white with quick, light strokes just to break the gel.  It will froth a bit, but do not beat to a foam.  Holding it about 6 inches above the surface of the soup, add the egg white in a very thin, steady stream.  Stir gently once midway, and again when finished to bring the lacy threads to the surface.

Serve immediately, garnishing each bowl with a sprinkling of ham.  Or cover and serve the soup 1-4 hours later, when vegetables are no longer crisp, but the soup is deeper in flavor.

Leftovers keep well for a 4-5 days, refrigerated, or may be frozen.  Reheat in a heavy pot over medium heat, stirring frequently.

Cook’s Note:  With just a few variations (vegetable stock, no ham or egg), this makes a lovely and satisfying vegan soup.  As the noodles are totally vegan, if you put the two together, you’ll have a great vegetable meal. I am unable to find a link for Barbara’s noodles, but will continue to try to find one. I made Whole Foods 365 whole wheat linguine (instead of using Asian noodles) and made Barbara’s Five Heap sauce-with a bit of a twist- out of:  1T crushed sesame seeds,1T sesame oil,  2T peanut oil heated with  chopped green onions, crushed red peppers and ginger, 2T water, 2T soy sauce, 2T rice vinegar, 1/4 t chili oil.  After adding the vegetables, I added toasted sesame seeds as garnish.  We liked the extra sauce at the table.

Loving kitchen helpers..

Two Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood

Been a wee bit chilly around here….I’ve been making lots of soup and long-simmering dishes.  You’ll hear about some of them soon.

Snuggle time in St. Paul


Upcoming… Alyce’s Lamb Shanks on Mashed Rutabaga 

Also upcoming this Friday:  Sullivan’s Island Shrimp Bog 


 If you liked this, you might like:

  Basil Chicken Fried Rice

 Ham Fried Rice

Tofu Stir Fry

 Sing a new song,

Happy Chinese New Year 2011-A Repeat Post

Friday Night Chinese in One More Snowstorm 

Green Onion Pancakes .. or you could call them Spring Onion Pancakes.

Last summer, before I went away to school for two months, I picked up a little book called QUICK & EASY CHINESE by Nancie McDermott; photography by Maren Caruso (San Francisco:  Chronicle Books, 182p., 2008, $19.95).  I had every good intention of using the summer, where I’m cooking away from my own kitchen (and need easy recipes),  to drum up some great Asian dishes.  I thought I’d increase my Asian cooking skills, which are nil, and also make great use of the St. Paul, Minnesota Farmer’s Market.  A little extra in the way of vegetables wouldn’t hurt us.

Well, the book came along for the ride, packed with my music books and one Ina Garten cookbook.  What I didn’t know was that the courses I had chosen would take over my whole life and I would be lucky to eat at all. Ha.  Of course, Dave and Emily pitched in when they saw me working night and day, but we didn’t get to the Chinese. More’s the pity.  Back home came the book in August.  Boohoo.  Dave loves Asian food and I am so stuck in French and Italian (or other Mediterranean) meals.

Occasionally, I’d grab the book off the shelf and start to whip something up only to find I had no Black Bean Sauce or fresh ginger.  You must make a commitment to Asian food in your pantry as well as in your cookware.  Though, truthfully, the cookware can be fudged. Ginger can’t.  A few months went by before recipes began to be chosen, the appropriate condiments purchased and  stored, and we finally began to cook from the sweet little book.  I should say that I shopped and Dave cooked.  He is, after all, great at chopping and using a wok.  Among many other things.

Meantime, this week we have taken a few days off for “spring” break.  Even went out to The Summit at the Broadmoor (another blog–how wonderful).  Snow just kept arriving every other day or so, despite plans for a trip to Denver, to the movies, etc.  So, we just stayed home and warm…cozy up on the mesa.  What a spring.  Obviously time to try another great Chinese meal.  All the time in the world as the snow flew and the wind and the dogs howled.

So here is the menu (this is the second or third one he’s tried) and then some pics from Dave’s  Friday night foray into QUICK AND EASY CHINESE… I’ll put in one recipe at the end, with appropriate credit to Nancie McDermott.  Thanks a lot….  Check out her book.

  I love Chinese in the snow.

Egg Flower Soup, page 38
Green Onion Pancakes, p 39-40
Broccoli with Ginger and Garlic, p 127
Almond Chicken, p 49 (Cook’s note:  We added a bunch more vegetables here because we had them.)

wine:  dry riesling (German)
dessert:  none

                                                                      (Two-Dog Ktichen Above!)

Green Onion Pancakes (Taiwan street-food flatbreads)

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c water
About 1 T vegetable oil, plus 3T for frying
1T salt
1/2 c thinly sliced green onion

*Med bowl:  combine flour and water. stir well to mix and turn into soft dough.
*Lightly flour work area and your hands, and then scrape the dough onto the floured work surface.  *Knead the dough for 5 minutes, turning and pressing to form it into a soft, smooth dough.  Cover the dough with the bowl and let rest 5 min.
*Divide the dough into 3 portions, cutting it apart with a butter knife or pastry scraper.  Leaving the other two portions covered while you work, place one portion on the floured work surface, and roll it out into a big, round pancake, 6-8 inches in diameter.
*Use about 1t of the oil to lightly and evely coat the surface of the pancake.  Sprinkle it with 1t of the salt, and then scatter about 1/3 of the green onion over the pancake.
*Starting with the far edge and pulling it toward you, carefully roll up the pancake into a plump log.  *The soft dough will need a little coaxing, and it won’t be perfectly even, but that is just fine.
*Shape the log into a fat spiral, turning the righ end toward you to make the center and curving the remaining log around it.  Tuck the loose end under and gently but firmly press to flatten it into a big, thick cake.  Using your rolling pin, roll it gently into a 7-in pancake.  The green onion will tear the dough and poke out here and there, but that’s not a problem.
*To cook, heat a heavy, medium skillet over medium-high heat until hot.  Add about 2 t of the oil and turn to coat the bottom of the pan evenly.  When a pinch of the dough and a bit of green onion sizzle at once, place the pancake in the hot pan and cook until handsomely browned and fairly evenly cooked on one side, 2-3 minutes.
*Turn and cook the other side for about 1 min., until it is nicely browned and the bread is cooked through.  Use the remaining dough to roll out, season, shape, and cook two more pancakes.  Use additional oil as needed.  Cut into quarters, and serve hot or warm. (QUICK AND EASY CHINESE, by Nancie McDermott.)

Cook’s note:  This is a bit salty in a good way…If you are watching your sodium intake, you should cut the salt accordingly.  Dave cooked these 1/3-1/2″ thick and they were done and chewy like fat flatbread.  If you’d like a tender, more quickly cooked pancake, roll them out thinner and cook quickly.  I thought they might have been good with a soy-ginger sauce for dipping…a la Asian dumplings.  These are a little time-consuming, but not much.  Might be fun to take somewhere as an appetizer…They are fine at room temp and could be transported all-ready-to-go cut in a cloth-lined basket.

Also, some people call green onions “scallions,” and some call them “spring onions.” 

Sing a new song; eat green onion pancakes,
note:  orginially posted in March of 2010….