Tuesday, May 21, 2013

My One Chinese Recipe for the Year

Since I have about 8 followers, most of you know we have had an exchange student living with us this year, and it's hard to believe he is leaving NEXT WEEK.  It has been a great experience for us (hopefully for him, too).  I'm sure he was in a little bit of culture shock coming to live in a 1600 square foot house where 5 kids shared the room next to him and also shared his bathroom.  I'm sure it was also weird not having TV.  Although I'm pretty sure he watched his fair share of movies in his room on his computer.  He probably thought he was coming to live in a progressive environment, not one trying to go back in time.  At least we let him name one of the chickens.  I even told him he could take it home with him, but he didn't seem too excited about it.  As R. pointed out right before Jin Li got here, most Americans would probably have culture shock coming to live with us let alone a 16 (now 17) year old Chinese boy. 

Soon after he moved here, I took him to the Asian market to try to get him some food that might be a little familiar to him and help with any homesickness should there be any. We got a few things, but I quickly learned that he did not know how to cook anything (he told me this) and that he had tried to cook at home once and his mother told him that whatever he had prepared was gross.  So I asked him to show me something he liked, and I would ask the grocery store lady how to fix it.  He showed me these: 

Rice cakes.  I have never seen a recipe for them, or seen them on a menu anywhere. The grocery store lady (if I talk about her again, I'm going to abbreviate that gsl) gave me a very simple and tasty recipe for making them.  Everyone in my family loves them, except the babies (who used to not count because they ate everything I put in front of them and also dog food, but now don't count because they eat nothing I put in front of them, but still eat dog food).

You have to boil them for a couple minutes or so, but not too long because they'll get mushy.  So maybe 2-3 minutes tops.  While you are waiting for the water to boil, take a little oil and stir fry about 1 Tbsp each minced garlic and minced ginger

And don't let it burn or fry, just wait about 30 seconds or so and then add in a small head of napa cabbage all chopped up.

Just cook this until it starts to wilt.  It will release some liquid while cooking.  Incidentally, you can also make this with bok choy, but Jin Li prefers napa cabbage, and after having made it with both I think I prefer it that way, too.   Then sprinkle a packet of this over it.

This sort of goes against my "all natural" mentality, but there really isn't a way that I have found yet to do this with Asian food in general.  I mean, I buy naturally fermented soy sauce (which is very salty, but seriously good), 

and use arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch.  But I'm not at a place in my life (and don't at this point foresee ever being there) where I'm going to make my own oyster sauce or black bean sauce or chili sauce or fish sauce, etc.  And since they all have msg and sugar in them (as does the above pictured packet of bouillon in addition to food coloring), I just sort of cross my fingers and pick recipes that don't have a ton of pre-made sauces in them.   But the reason I use bouillon instead of using chicken broth, is that I use a whole packet of it, so I would have to reduce my broth to practically nothing, otherwise it would be soupy.  This isn't supposed to be soupy.

Finished product:

It is not meant to be a single, main dish - serve it family style, with something like this: