Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wok Wednesdays: Velvet Orange Scallops

Happy New Year 2014!! It is also the Year of the Horse in the Chinese zodiac. The Chinese New Year is all about tradition, superstition, and symbolism. An appropriate recipe to make in the beginning of the new year.  Both scallops and oranges (gold) are both symbolic of prosperity....I say,  double fortune in 2014!

2014 is also a year of good health for our family.  Since the cookbook, Stir-Fry to the Sky's Edge, arrived on my doorstep in late November, 2013, I have stir-fried my way into the new year, embracing a  life style of healthy living.  My kids are enjoying a variety of vegetables in these quick meals.  My husband easily lost five pounds just by eating stir-fries for lunch and/or dinner in the last two months. Both vegetable bins in the fridge are full of carrots, bok choy, celery, red peppers, bunches of scallions and ginger roots.  Quite unheard of in our kitchen.  In the past, I would end up throwing away unused, soggy vegetables. Consequently, I rarely bought much vegetables other than the usual salad items.

Not only has this cookbook demystify the unusual ingredients in the local Asian grocery and bring a variety of vegetables to the dinner table, but it has made me prepare favorite foods in the most unusual ways. 

Velveting scallops is a new technique for me. I love scallops and the only way I have prepared them in the past is to quickly sear them in a hot skillet with butter, and serve them in a bed of greens. In this recipe, velveting provides the silkiness and smooth texture in scallops by marinating them in a mixture of cornstarch, egg whites, and rice wine. Placing the scallops uncovered in the fridge will remove the excess moisture in their defrosted state and keep them at a safe temperature. 

The main ingredients in this recipe are few and simple. Scallops are very delicate in touch and with a flavor of sweetness; therefore, combinations are kept to a minimal.  Hints of heat from the pepper flakes blend nicely with the delicate flavors of ginger/garlic, along with the light flavors of rice vinegar, rice wine and soy sauce. 

 I interpreted shredded scallions as shredded carrots as well. Oh my, I may need to wear my reading glasses more often. Needless to say, I was quite pleased with the results.  The delicate scallops lay serendipitously on a bed of shredded carrots, resembling eggshells in a bird's nest.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Wok Wednesdays: Stir Fried Rice with Chinese Sausage and Shitaake Mushrooms

Rice is truly our comfort food!  It's been the main staple growing up in my family.  And it's one of the first foods that I made for the kids when they were little.  Rice with scrambled eggs.  My daughter craves for two foods: rice and pasta.  Rather than potato, she prefers jasmine rice with her grilled rib eye steak.  Needless to say, this recipe has been a favorite!  

Using a day old, cold rice is the trick to a delicious stir fried rice. Other ingredients include Chinese sausage, shitaake mushrooms, scallions, and soy sauce. The fact that it's chopped up in tiny pieces, my daughter gobbles up the mushrooms and scallions, whom I usually have to encourage to eat vegetables.  Shhh.

The Chinese sausage really makes the white rice taste savory. I've eaten the Filipino version of fried rice which is made with Chinese sausage and eggs.  The other day, I threw in a handful of bean sprouts which gave a nice flavor and crunch! 

Photo Gallery: Istanbul Culinary Tour

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Wok Wednesdays: Chinese Trinidadian Chicken with Mango Chutney

Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge is not only a cookbook that teaches a cooking technique, filled with delicious recipes, but it's also a bundle of personal stories, journal, and a history lesson. My limited knowledge of Chinese history has been from a novel, Hawaii by James Michener, who describes how the seafaring Polynesians were the first to inhabit the islands of Hawaii.  Over centuries, the population would increase.  Chinese laborers (which I learned from the cookbook that many are Hakkas) were among the many to populate the Hawaiian Islands followed by the Japanese, and the Philippines.   Pineapple and sugar plantations was a booming industry which were run mostly by the rich, mainly American whalers and English missionaries.  The laborers arrived to escape poor living conditions in their country, and others came to work plantations in order to send money home to their families. (Interesting how times have not changed, America remains the land of opportunity for many immigrants).

Grace talks about the Hakkas, a group of gypsies, in the Northern province of China who were forced to migrate to the south provinces. By the mid-1800s, a mass exodus fled to North, South America and as far places as India.  Far from home, the immigrants maintained traditions which included cooking traditional dishes that will remind them of home. 

Naturally, these traditional dishes will be infused with foods that are indigenous to the area.  This week's recipe, Chinese Trinidadian Chicken with Mango Chutney blends the island influence of mango chutney with the Asian flavors of soy sauce, ginger and garlic.

Growing up in the Philippines, much of the culture have been influenced by the Spaniards and Chinese which include the culinary tradition. Noodles (pancit), egg rolls (lumpia) and soy sauce are some of the Chinese influence that comes to mind.   

Trinidad's heritage include influences of Creole and Indian, hence, the spiciness of Scottish bonnet peppers and use of mango chutney.

The sweetness of the mango chutney and savory taste of the soy sauce and aromatics blended nicely together which the whole family enjoyed.

Main ingredients include the usual aromatics (garlic and ginger), dark soy sauce, onion, cilantro and Scotch Bonnet peppers.  I substituted fresh Thai red chills for the bonnet peppers.