Stir-fried nian gao

Adapted from The Woks of Life

Ingredients:

  • some marinated meat (I used leftover chicken dumpling filling)
  • 1 pound rice cakes (I had frozen from my aunt)
  • 8 ounces baby bok choy
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 3 scallions, cut diagonally in 2.5 cm pieces
  • shiitake mushrooms (I had fresh! from SkyFoods)
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt, to taste

Directions:

  1. Marinate the julienned protein with light soy sauce, sesame oil, white pepper, vegetable oil, and cornstarch for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Rinse the rice cakes and drain. If using fresh or frozen rice cakes, you do not have to soak or thaw them. Only soak (according to package instructions) if using dried rice cakes.
  3. Thoroughly wash the baby bok choy. Drain, shaking off excess water. If using baby bok choy, separate into individual leaves. Also prepare the garlic and scallions.
  4. If using fresh mushrooms, slice them thinly. If using dried shiitake mushrooms, save the soaking liquid.
  5. Place your wok over high heat until it begins to smoke lightly. Add the vegetable oil to coat the wok, and add the pork and garlic. Cook until the pork turns opaque. If using mushrooms, add them now and stir-fry for 1 minute.
  6. Stir in the scallions, bok choy/cabbage, and Shaoxing wine. Stir-fry for 30 seconds, and move everything to the center of the wok to create an even “bed” of vegetables and meat. Distribute the rice cakes on top (this prevents them from sticking to the wok).
  7. Add water (or mushroom soaking water for extra flavor). Depending on how hot your stove gets, you can add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup. Cover, and cook for 2 minutes to steam the rice cakes and cook the vegetables.
  8. Remove the cover, and add the sesame oil, dark soy sauce, light soy sauce, oyster sauce, white pepper, and sugar. Stir-fry everything together for 1 minute over medium heat. Taste, and season with additional salt if necessary. Continue stir-frying until the rice cakes are coated in sauce, cooked through but still chewy. Plate and serve!

Apparently, stir-fried rice cakes are known in Chinese as “chao niángāo” (炒年糕), which is different from the sweet nian gao “cake” that is also traditional New Year’s fare. We substituted with ground chicken because of dietary preferences in the party, and we had some leftover carrot matchsticks from the summer rolls. This would have been an even more elaborate dish to make, but thankfully there was a real wok! And thankfully there were multiple hands on deck to help with the preparation. No one had ever tried something like this before, so it was a fun experiment! ^_^

~Jessica

Chicken zucchini dumplings

Adapted from The Woks of Life

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium zucchini, seeds removed and shredded
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 1/2 pound ground chicken
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 2 packages dumpling wrappers (see recipe from Pork dumplings)

Directions:

  1. Take the shredded zucchini, put it in a clean kitchen towel, and squeeze out as much water as you can. Add it to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. In a wok over medium low heat, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and the minced ginger. Allow the ginger to fry in the oil until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add to the bowl of zucchini.
  3. To the bowl, add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, ground chicken, ½ teaspoon white pepper, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine. Mix well, stirring vigorously in one direction for about 5 minutes, until it resembles a paste.
  4. Wrap the dumplings and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, so that the dumplings are not touching each other. You can fry them right away, or cover the dumplings with plastic wrap and freeze them on the tray. Once frozen solid, you can transfer them to freezer bags and store for up to 3 months.
  5. You can boil them, steam them, or fry them. Frying tastes best, boiling is quickest (especially if you have many hungry mouths to feed), and we tried steaming with Napa cabbage leaves and sesame oil in a metal steamer.

Serves 6. Would love to whip out the bamboo steamer next time! Don’t forget some chili oil for dipping sauce (preferable over black vinegar, in my opinion).

~Jessica

Chinese pork dumplings

Adapted from The Woks of Life and this version!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. green leafy vegetable (we used Napa cabbage)
  • 1 pounds ground pork (or ground chicken, fattier the better)
  • 1 egg
  • ⅔ cup Shaoxing rice wine
  • ½ cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper

Dumpling Wrappers:

  • 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups water

Directions:

  1. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the water to the flour and knead into a smooth dough. This process should take about 10 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for an hour.
  2. Wash the vegetables thoroughly and blanch them in a pot of boiling water. Transfer them to an ice bath to cool. Ring out all the water from the vegetables and chop very finely. You can also add a little bit of salt to get more water out! Wring it well with a towel after!
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the vegetables, meat, wine, oil, sesame oil, salt, soy sauce, white pepper, and ⅔ cup water. Mix for 6-8 minutes, until very well-combined and almost paste-like in texture.
  4. Begin assembling the dumplings! The best way to do this is to divide the dough into manageable pieces and then rolling each piece into a rope. Cut them into small pieces (in a size similar to if you were cutting gnocchi, or about the size of the top part of your thumb).
  5. Roll the pieces out into circles, and add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling to the center (it helps if you have an assembly line going, with one person cutting out the dough pieces, one person rolling it out, and one person filling/folding).
  6. Wrap the dumplings: dampen the edges of each circular dumpling wrapper with some cornstarch-water slurry. Put a little less than a tablespoon of filling in the middle. Fold the circle in half and pinch the wrapper together at the top. Then make two folds on each side, until the dumpling looks like a fan. Make sure it’s completely sealed. Repeat until all the filling is gone, placing the dumplings on a baking sheet lined with parchment so they aren’t touching.
  7. If you’d like to freeze them, wrap the baking sheets tightly in clean plastic grocery bags and put the pans in the freezer. Allow them to freeze overnight. You can then take the sheets out of the freezer, transfer the dumplings to freezer bags, and throw them back in the freezer for use later.
  8. To cook the dumplings, boil them or pan-fry them. We steamed!
  9. Serve with Chinese black vinegar, chili sauce, or your favorite dumpling sauce! (I’ve never been a fan of black vinegar dipping sauce.)

MAKES 8-10 DOZEN. If the wrappers start to dry out, wrap them in a damp kitchen towel and put them in a sealed plastic bag for a couple hours to soften back up. 2 cups chopped shiitake mushrooms (with minced ginger, onion, carrot) can also make vegetarian dumplings! We could have alternatively used other greens like baby bok choy, but I was putting that in a stir friend nian gao dish. And originally I wanted to use Chinese chives, but didn’t because they were $5/lb!!

The chicken and zucchini version from Woks of Life

~Jessica

Scallion ginger shrimp

Adapted from The Woks of Life

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound shrimp (450g, peeled and deveined)
  • 4 scallions (cut into 2-3 inch lengths)
  • 10 thin slices fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or canola or vegetable oil)
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing Wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon white pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 dash soy sauce (optional but we added)

Directions:

  1. Defrost your shrimp (I had them in the refrigerator) and give them a quick rinse, checking them for any veins. After they are defrosted and clean, place them into a colander to drain well. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
  2. Cut the scallions into 2 1/2 inch pieces and slice the ginger to about 1/8 inch thickness. Heat the oil in your wok over medium heat and spread the ginger across the wok. Let it fry in the oil for about 20 seconds to infuse the oil with all that great flavor, and immediately turn up the flame to the highest setting.
  3. Next, add the scallion ends and the middle green parts of the scallion. Give everything a quick stir and add the shrimp. Let the shrimp sear for 20 seconds and add the wine, sesame oil, salt, white pepper, and pinch of sugar.
  4. Add the remaining green portion of the scallions and stir-fry until the shrimp is just cooked through. Add in the dash of soy if using, and give everything a final toss. Plate and serve immediately.

I wanted to practice run through this recipe before using it for Lunar New Year next weekend. It was so quick, once your assemble all your seasonings, almost as quickly as making these ramen noodles, whose sauce is better than the original ramen recipe I tried myself. Jesse’s review: “They’re tasty.”

~Jessica