Thursday, May 22, 2014

Recipes from Jiangsu Province, China

You would think that my kids would be used to this by now. They’re not. To them, blog night is still all about the dessert, even though they’re usually disappointed that the dessert in question isn’t the cream and sugar-filled festival of processed fats that their American palettes are used to.

But this week, no dessert. They were pissed.

I actually don’t think I’ve ever done a dessert for any of the Chinese provinces I’ve covered for this blog, because to be honest the idea of Chinese desserts is sort of off putting. Water chestnut cakes, grass jelly and sweets made from glutinous rice–I mean, I’m not as addicted to the sugary, fatty processed stuff as my kids are but jeez, Chinese desserts just don’t sound very delicious. Add to that those weird, typically-stale cream puffs and strangely-textured cakes they give you at Chinese buffets and, um, no thank you.

I should probably try doing a dessert for one of the Chinese provinces at some point, but it’s not gonna happen this week.

Anyway, this week’s province du jour is Jiangsu, China. Jiangsu is an eastern coastal province, and it has the happy distinction of having the highest GDP per-capita of any of the Chinese provinces–in fact the GDP for Jiangsu alone is more than half the GDP of the entire nation of India. This is largely because of electronic equipment manufacture and export, as well as export of chemicals and textiles.

Zhouzhuang, Jiangsu Province, China. Photo by Jakob Montrasio.
Jiangsu also sounds like a cool place to visit–it’s the home of the world’s largest Buddha statue, the Ming Dynasty city wall and gates and the water-town of Zhouzhuang, “an international tourist destination with Venice-like waterways, bridges and dwellings.” It doesn’t stop there, either; I’m pretty sure you could spend at least a month in Jiangsu before you would start to feel bored.

Jiangsu cuisine (also just called “Su” cuisine) is one of the eight culinary traditions of China. Because of its proximity to the sea, Jiangsu cuisine is often seafood based. Many if the dishes are braised or stewed, and presentation is particularly important, which I’m sure you’ll find quite humorous when you see the photos from this week.

I chose three dishes this week, and here they are:

Wuxi Sweet and Salty Pork Spareribs
(from Chinese Food Recipes

  • 1 1/2 lbs spareribs
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1 to 2 tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 5 slices of ginger
  • 1/2 onion, sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 stalks spring onion
On the side:

Yang Zhou Fried Rice
(from Chinese Food Recipes)
  • 1/2 cup shelled and deviened shrimp
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 thin slices ginger
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups cooked rice, cold
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 to 2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 cup Chinese barbecued pork
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 3 stalks green onions, chopped
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil
And also:

Immortal Eggs
(from Flavor and Fortune)
  • 6 eggs, hard-boiled
  • 1/4 pound finely chopped pork
  • 2 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup corn oil
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp cold water
Let's start with the pork. First mix the sugar with the dark soy sauce and Shaoxing wine. Pour over the spareribs and let marinate in the fridge for 2 hours.

Now heat the oil in a pressure cooker and then fry the ginger, onion and garlic until fragrant. 

Add the spareribs and the remaining ingredients (except the spring onion). Cover the pressure cooker and set to high. When the cooker reaches the right pressure, reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let the pressure release.

Take the lid off and turn the heat back on. Let simmer until the sauce thickens, then sprinkle green onions over and serve.

Now for the rice:

Mix the shrimp with the salt and sugar and let sit for 20 minutes. Now heat the oil over a medium flame and add the garlic and ginger. Cook for a minute and then add the shrimp. Cook until the shrimp turns pink, then transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the eggs to the pan and scramble a little.

 This is the sauce for the rice: a little goes a long way.
Now add the rice, salt, soy sauce, sugar and pepper, adding a little bit of water if needed to soften up the rice. Fry for a minute or two, then add the pork and peas. Cook for a few more minutes or until the rice becomes fragrant. Now add the scallions and remove from heat. Toss and serve.

Finally, the eggs. First peel the eggs and cut them in two, as if you're making deviled eggs. Take out the yolks and put two of them in a bowl. Mash the two egg yolks and then mix with the pork, wine, soy sauce, ginger and cornstarch.

Now heat the oil until bubbles rise around the non-stirring end of a wooden spoon. Shape the yolks into balls and deep fry until golden. Drain on paper towels and cool slightly, then use to stuff the sliced eggs. Now heat the chicken stock over a medium flame and quickly whisk in the cornstarch/water mixture. Pour over the eggs and serve.

Um, they look a little bit like someone sneezed on them.

So I never met a fried rice I didn't like, and that was by far my favorite part of this meal. It really wasn't hugely different from any other fried rice, but it was fried rice so I was happy. I did like the pork, too, and so did my kids. I have to confess that I made them with country style ribs though, because the way my husband is about fat and bone actual spareribs might have made his head explode. And the eggs, well, they were weird. I had serious texture issues with them, I think because of the egg yolk. Even though I went OCD with my meat thermometer to make sure they were cooked, they really didn't seem cooked when I bit into them. The egg yolks gave them a sort of mushy texture that was kind of alarming. Martin said he didn't notice, because he didn't know there were any egg yolks in the mix. But I noticed, and it was weird.

So no dessert but even if we really were missing something delicious, that's probably not such a bad thing. We've had four birthday parties in the last four months, so I've kind of had my fill of dessert anyway.

Next week: Jordan

1 comment:

  1. Actually there is quite a few nice Chinese sweet things too. Try looking for egg tarts, mango pancakes, steamed cakes,Chinese style Swiss rolls, that's just a few things that come to my mind that should please American taste buds. I'm not so good at matching things with provinces though.


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