Siu Mai

Siu Mai

My Brother in law Mike, who is a very knowledgeable home cook, loves traditional Chinese food. So much so that my niece and nephew, although having fewer than a dozen years between them, can order all the tastiest dim sum by name. We tend to eat out quite a bit and he always recommends the finest food and restaurants whether we are craving American, Japanese, or Chinese food. Getting take-out or a seat at most places is not usually a problem, but whenever we try to get in at Kirin Seafood Restaurant, we are always too late. Known by many as having the best dim sum in Vancouver it’s the reason why getting a reservation without planning weeks ahead is so difficult. When my wife and I planned our wedding though, it finally afforded us the perfect opportunity to make a reservation for a day when we knew we’d be in town. We had been served dim sum before, but it was at Kirin that we were introduced to it in a formal way.

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Siu Mai, otherwise known as shumai, shaomai or by various other spellings, is a traditional Chinese dumpling originating from Mongolia. The most popular Cantonese version of this dish is prepared with pork, shrimp, and mushroom. We will be using pork and shrimp for this recipe in addition to some Shaoxing cooking wine, sesame oil, ginger, and white pepper. We are omitting the mushrooms this time because we are also making Korean mandus at the same time with pork and shrimp and wanted to use mushrooms in that recipe instead so the two dishes would taste quite different.

We start with the pork. The best cut of pork for this recipe is probably shoulder. It has a sufficient amount of fat to balance out the leanness of the shrimp (and mushrooms when used) but even still, some recipes call for the addition of pork back fat in order to make the dumplings extra succulent. We cut the pork into cubes and then used a food processor to mince into our desired consistency. It’s nice to have pork that’s a little chunky compared to regular ground pork for this recipe as it provides a bit of bite. We blitz the peeled shrimps to the same consistency.

Next after combining the meats we are adding rice wine, sesame oil, ginger, white pepper, and tapioca starch. You can use corn starch if you’d like but we prefer tapioca starch as it has the same binding effect but a silkier texture.

After the siu mai filling is thoroughly mixed up, it’s time to form the dumplings! it’s best to use round dumpling wrappers for these as they come out prettier. To form a dumpling, make a ring with your thumb and middle finger and push a round wrapper down into it, as shown below. Then use a fork or spoon to fill the depressed wrapper. As you press the filling into the wrapper, apply pressure with your thumb and middle finger to make a ‘curve’ so there is more filling at the bottom and top compared to the middle. It should take on the shape of a beautiful woman from the side while the top will appear a bit like a flower. Garnish each with a pea or a carrot flower if you want them to be extra fancy. The photos shown here are unfortunately only from our test recipe somehow we seem to have misplaced our main post photos 🙁 but you can make carrot flowers by peeling your carrots and carefully cutting ‘V’s all around the sides before slicing them the normal way very thinly.

After you’ve formed all your dumplings it’s time to steam them. We could only find one bamboo steamer basket so we are trying to be a bit resourceful here by using our stainless steel pressure cooker basket as well which we first sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. It takes about ten minutes to steam each batch of approximately six-seven dumplings… far too long to wait between batches when you’re hungry as far as we’re concerned so you will want to use at least two bamboo steamers if you have them.

Although not a traditional step, we took the recipe one step further and browned the bottom of each steamed dumpling on a hot cast iron pan so they came out the texture of crispy potstickers and served them with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, garlic, scallions, sugar, and rice wine vinegar. This was heaven on a plate and well worth the time spent. We hope you enjoy your own dumpling making adventures!

Philadelphia and California Roll Dinner

Philadelphia and California Roll Dinner

Kim and I love sushi. When we are down in Vancouver one of our favorite places to order from is Maguro at 5241 Ladner Trunk Road they’ve got some of the freshest and best tasting sushi in the Lower Mainland and a warm and cozy atmosphere in which to enjoy it. Around here though there isn’t a sushi restaurant in a fifty-mile radius, so if we want to eat sushi, we have to make it ourselves. It’s no matter though as with a bit of patience and practice just about anyone can make some great tasting and great looking sushi rolls. Sourcing the tools and ingredients may be a bit tricky, but many of the items such as bamboo mats, sushi nori, kombu, ajinomoto, powdered wasabi, and pickled ginger can probably be found at your nearest Asian supermarket.

The core requirement for sushi is vinegared rice. If you don’t use the proper rice or follow a good recipe then the quality of your homemade sushi will really suffer. Rice is typically categorized by grain length and starch content. in this case, you will want to select either a premium sushi rice like calrose or in absence of that, another short grain rice such as arborio. Short grain rice contains a higher amount of starch compared to other types which is responsible for the stickiness of sushi rice or the creaminess of risotto.

Sushi Rice

2 cups short grain rice

3 cups water

2 tablespoons sake (optional but makes the rice taste better. If you use it, remove two tablespoons water)

small piece of Kombu (dried seaweed) or pinch of Ajinomoto

Sushi Rice Seasoning

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 tablespoons sugar (to taste. Some like it sweeter – up to 5 tablespoons)

pinch salt

Wash rice thoroughly with water until it runs clears to remove excess starch. This will help to keep the grains of rice individual and not stick together as much. Add rice to a medium saucepan and add kombu (Ajinomoto), sake, and water and turn on the heat. I like to boil my water in a kettle first before I put it in so I don’t have to wait as long to set my timer. Once the water just starts to bubble and boil put on a tight fitting lid, reduce heat to low, and set timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes remove from heat and let sit for five minutes or so. Carefully transfer the rice from the pot into a mixing bowl or a rimmed sheet pan… I just invert the pot. You don’t want to damage the rice grains by smashing or cutting them as this will affect the presentation of your sushi rolls. Now this is the part where it’s good to have a kitchen assistant 🙂 Using a large flat spatula, gently turn the rice over to cool it and add seasoning mixture slowly while your assistant fans the rice. The fanning will help dry it out so it achieves its final sticky texture. Once the rice has absorbed the seasoning, feels sticky, and doesn’t seem wet, allow it to cool while you are preparing the ingredients.

Now, sushi can contain any ingredients your heart desires such as fish, vegetables, fruit, or whatever but for this recipe we are going with America’s favorite, the California roll. Named after the most populous US State this recipe was actually created by Chef Hidekazu Tojo near my home town in Vancouver. He is well known as the owner of Tojo’s Restaurant, a high-end sushi bar located on West Broadway near 12th ave. The typical recipe is an inside-out roll containing crab or imitation crab with cucumber and avocado and often garnished with flying fish roe. As crab and flying fish roe are hard to find where we are (and canned crab is just plain bad) we will be substituting these ingredients with imitation crab and sesame seeds. The star of this particular recipe is the imitation crab filling. The cucumber and avocado are simply sliced very thinly and sometimes we use carrot peelings to add a bit of color but in this case we didn’t.

Morgyn’s Imitation Crab Filling

3/4 package imitation crab, cut into chunks

1/2 cup mayonnaise

5 spring onions. just the ends, thinly sliced

half a lemon, juiced

one rasher of cooked bacon, cut into bits

1 tablespoon real brewed soy sauce

splash of fish sauce (optional, but makes the recipe better)

pinch of salt to taste

Add all the above ingredients as described to a food processor and blitz to desired consistency. Let filling sit for a half hour or so for flavors to mingle a bit.

Now for the Philadelphia rolls… these are also inside-out sushi rolls that take after a popular NYC favorite… bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese. They are of course named after the most popular brand of cream cheese out there. Typically these rolls are very similar to California rolls in the way that they also contain cucumber and avocado. We are fortunate that we are able to obtain wild smoked sockeye salmon at our ‘local’ Superstore… about an hour and a half away in Kamloops. You could probably substitute raw sockeye salmon in a pinch, but without the smoked salmon this recipe would just not be the same. There is little advanced preparation involved with this recipe other than cutting up the cream cheese into long strips and preparing cucumber and avocado in the same fashion as for California rolls.

With all the prep work done it’s time to roll! Inside-out rolls have rice on the outside so they require a two-mat process and one mat should be covered in plastic wrap so that the rice doesn’t stick. You start by placing a piece or nori on the uncovered mat and covering evenly with rice. It helps to wet your hands with water before you start and periodically as you go along. The water helps to keep the rice from sticking to your fingers. Many people just cover the whole sheet of nori with rice, but I like to keep a small ‘flap’ at the top free of rice. This flap can be tucked in when you perform the roll as shown in the video and makes it so that the fillings are defined within a circle in the middle of the roll instead of the nori making a spiral shape. The rolls are much prettier this way when done properly.

After covering the nori sheet with rice, shake on some sesame seeds (for California rolls) cover it with the cling-film covered mat and flip over vertically. This will place the ‘flap’ close to you and will be in the right position for tucking/rolling; Now it’s time to add your filling. California rolls have imitation crab, cucumber, and avocado, and Philadelphia rolls have smoked salmon, cream cheese, avocado, and cucumber. Once you have added your fillings bring the bottom flap up and over them and tuck/squish it in underneath, then bring the top of the nori sheet down to rest on the flap and squish the rice edges together. This can take some practice but once your technique is perfected you will be rewarded with some amazing looking sushi rolls!

 

 

Now that your California roll is holding together you can optionally garnish it with some fanned out avocado slices or in the case of Philadelphia rolls, the thinly sliced smoked salmon. Cutting the rolls is a bit tricky, but it helps to have a very sharp knife and a wet towel to wipe it on before you make each cut. I like to cut them in half, place the pieces side by side, and then finish cutting them two pieces at a time. Once you’re done you’re ready to garnish (optionally) with some hot sauce or spicy mayo.

 

Serve with soy sauce, wasabi, and pickled ginger. Enjoy!

Lemon Chicken with Vegetable Chow Mein

Lemon Chicken with Vegetable Chow Mein

Let me tell you a bit of a story… I used to have a favorite Chinese restaurant and at this restaurant they served a variety of your typical Chinese take out dishes but also some incredible Indian food and a fusion of everything in between. Now this restaurant is basically located a world away from us as we live in Abbotsford and it’s in Surrey about 50km away or so…. needless to say getting take-out is pretty much out of the question.

Every year around my birthday I get asked where I’d like to eat out. Usually this is done not only to celebrate my birthday but also to facilitate a meeting of family all of whom are scattered about here and there in the Lower Mainland near Vancouver.  Having been introduced to this restaurant by a Sri-Lankan friend of mine as resident of Surrey in the early 2000’s, the place quickly became my new favorite Chinese restaurant and go-to for ‘ethnic’ cuisine. Naturally, we held family gatherings there at least once a year.

The food was always amazing and consistent. The dishes were spectacularly presented; served with an abundance of brightly colored vegetables and meticulously garnished. The vast and seemingly endless array of menu items, each with a perfect balance of sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors, always left us something to talk about and look forward to again the next time. My most talked about dish? Chilli fish.

Until something happened. It had been a couple years since Kim and I had been there but the cravings were still strong. I often spoke of going there, but the idea always seemed so far off because of where we live… but at that particular point in time we were hungry, and passing close by on our way home from Vancouver. Now normally this place is packed full to the brim on a Friday night but when we arrived we were greeted by an unusually empty parking lot. Similarly, the dining room was nearly as empty. Being only a party of two Kim and I decided to order just three dishes, settling on a few of our favorites… chilli fish, lemon chicken, and beef chow mein.

The chilli fish was always amazing. Small bite-sized pieces of fish, deep-fried, tossed in a tangy sweet sauce , served Szechuan style sweat-inducingly hot, with an abundance of fresh chillies. This time it may have well been called ‘fish’ because there was a curious absence of any chillies, and as such the flavors fell flat and were not well balanced. Granted, I get that we are a couple of ladies and I didn’t specifically tell them I want it ‘Thai spicy!’ but when we sit down and very purposefully order ‘Chilli Fish’ you’d think we know what we want to eat.

Now up was the lemon chicken. A great looking dish, pleasantly marinaded and deep fried chicken served with a fresh lemon sauce and garnished with lemon slices, sesame seeds, and chives. It was okay but not quite what I remember.

Next arrived the beef chow mein. Now this stuff is usually the food of the gods and a visual treat but this time there was an overwhelming amount of onions. It’s like they put nearly a whole medium sized onion in this dish… underlying that, however, was a distinctly odd, old taste, and not in a good way. I was trying to work out exactly what item was responsible for this speculating it was the noodles, or beef, but didn’t get very far into that due to it being disgustingly bad. This dish was basically inedible and at the cost of $13.95  we figured instead of throwing it out we’d let the chef know politely on our way out and give the food to the dogs when we got home. We don’t normally let anyone attempt to make a dish again for us after having received even worse food back again the second time, but after mentioning that we are normally big fans of the food and there was something different about the chow mein this time as we were walking out the door the waiter insisted that we wait a moment for them to make it better. And we trusted them. We reluctantly stayed for another few minutes until the dish was made for us fresh again and put in a take-out dish.  We thought… what could we have to lose?  this dish was going to be for the dogs.

When we got home we were greeted with the usual sounds of affection! Three Corgi crosses with stubby legs and a Jack Russell Terrier… all hungry from being at home alone all day. We are thinking about how exciting it will be to share the beef chow mein with them! First, though, we figured we should try the new dish to see what it tastes like (and pick out the onions.) Opening the container, though, we are greeted with… even more onions?! Scraping our way through the dish to the actual chow mein-y bits yielded us an even lesser reward. The onions have been mixed all through! Probably in an attempt to cover up the bad taste. Yep, when we try the actual chow mein it has the same dank, disgustingly old flavour although now it has been fully and completely permeated with an overwhelming raw onion flavor. The dish reeks…

As the dogs and our excitement quickly fades, the revised beef chow mein, unsalvageable and inedible even to our dogs, was reluctantly and surreptitiously hucked into the trash.

TLDR; Restaurant changed hands/recipes but retained same menu and name. The food is now nothing like it used to be.

And so the pining and lamenting about my old favorite Chinese restaurant begins… but the cravings are still very real. Perhaps the only way I’ll get over them is to recreate their dishes!!

Here’s my take on their lemon chicken and their old vegetable chow mein! Enjoy the photos and recipe below!

 

Quick Pickled Onions

Fresh Ginger Garlic for Chow Mein

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Celery for Chow Mein

Spring Onions

Selecting Cilantro

Chicken Marinade

Corn Starch Batter

Frying the Chicken

Ginger Garlic for Chow Mein

Adding Chow Mein Noodles

Adding Soya Sauce and Beef Stock

Adding Celery, Carrot, and Broccoli

Adding the Quick Pickled Onion

Thickening up the Lemon Sauce

Chicken After Deep Frying

Finished Lemon Chicken and Vegetable Chow Mein

Serving up Lemon Chicken and Vegetable Chow Mein

Finished Lemon Chicken

 

Chinese Take-Out Style Lemon Sauce

 

2 large lemons, juiced and zested or about 2/3 cup juice and zest

(optional) 1 lemon, sliced.

nearly one cup sugar

2 cups chicken or beef stock (as pictured above)

1/3 cup corn starch

1/3 cup cold water

 

Bring two cups stock and sugar nearly to a boil. Add lemon juice and zest (optionally, half the sliced lemon.) Add water to corn starch to make a slurry then add to lemon sauce. Stir until thickened then then remove from heat. Serve food immediately garnished with remaining lemon slices.

 

Chicken Coating

 

3/4 cup corn starch

1/3 tsp baking powder

2 tsp salt

 

Thoroughly mix together ingredients. Marinade and/or dip chicken pieces in an egg mixture before coating with this. Deep fry dredged pieces as soon as possible at 350 degrees F until golden brown.

 

Chinese Style Marinade for Chicken

 

2 large skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces

1 extra large egg, beaten

2 tblsp Shoaxing cooking wine

1 tblsp dark soy sauce

1 tblsp sesame oil

 

Mix all ingredients together. Marinade chicken pieces for about half an hour.

 

Pulled Chicken Gyros

Pulled Chicken Gyros

This dish features simple ingredients but when they all come together it’s magic. As such, there are countless regional variations; In Canada there are donairs,  in Greece there are gyros, in Pakistan there is Shawarma, and in the UK there are doner kebabs.  Popular variations in North America are Greek style (pictured below) and Hawaiian, which typically feature pineapple and sweet and sour sauce on top of the standard lettuce, onion, tomato, and creamy sauce. We cheated and used store bought pitas this time but the five other components we made from scratch. If I could have changed one thing about this dish I would have browned up the pulled chicken a bit in a cast iron before adding the sauce so it would have been crispier in the pita but other than that this was late-night culinary perfection! Enjoy the photos and recipes below!

 

Fresh Vine-Ripened Romas from our Greenhouse

Cutting up the Tomato for Salsa

Making the Tomato Salsa

Fresh Cilantro

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Browning the Chicken

The Secret Braising Ingredient - Concentrated Chicken Stock

Adding Concentrated Chicken Soup Stock

The Browned Chicken

The Seasoned Chicken Ready for Pressure Cooking

30 minutes in the Pressure Cooker

Finished Chicken

Pulled Chicken

Reduced and Finished Gravy

The Gravy

Finished Seasoned Pulled Chicken

Romaine Lettuce

Start with Lettuce

Dressing up the Gyros with Pickled Onions

Dressing up the Gyros with Tzatziki

Adding Fresh Tomato Salsa

Letting the Ingredients Fall in

Pulled Chicken Gyro

Tzatziki Sauce

Spicing it up a bit

Morgyn's Finished Gyro

Adding Chicken to Gyro

Finished Gyro

 

 Pita Breads

 

~3 cups flour

1 1/4 cup warm water

2tsp salt

1 pkg yeast

2 tblsp oil

 

Mix one cup flour, oil, salt, and the warm water together in a stand mixer along with the package of yeast. Allow yeast to bloom/form a sponge if necessary. Turn on your mixer and add flour until the dough just pulls away from the inside of the bowl. Knead for three to five minutes. Cover and allow dough to rise until it doubles in size. Remove from bowl to a floured surface and divide into eight equal pieces. Roll each into a ball and set on a covered baking tray to rise again for another 20 minutes or so. Preheat a cast iron skillet to medium heat while you roll out the dough balls to about 1/2″ height. Cook each pita bread until slightly brown on each side before flipping. If done correctly, your pitas will start to rise shortly after you flip them over so they will be hollow in the middle. Allow to cool before stuffing. Enjoy!

 Pita Breads on the Rise

 

Tzatziki Sauce

375 mL 3% yogurt, or use Greek style yogurt if you want it thicker

1/2 small lemon, juiced

4 large garlic cloves, minced (add more if you like garlic!)

1/3 English cucumber, shredded

1 tsp finely chopped dill

1/2 tsp salt to taste

1/2 tsp ajinomoto

Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Allow flavors to mingle for at least twenty minutes.

Enjoy!

 

Tzatziki Sauce

Bacon Tuna Melts

Bacon Tuna Melts

We topped our Mama’s Homemade Bread with a tantalizing mixture of tuna salad and bacon to produce this mouth-watering meal. Enjoy the photos and recipe below!

 

Bacon Tuna Salad



Bacon Tuna Salad on Mama's Homemade Bread


Adding the Finishing Touch


Morgyn's Dinner

 

Mama’s Homemade ‘No Hunger’ Bread Recipe Here

Bacon Tuna Salad

1 can drained tunafish (try chunk you may be pleasantly surprised)

1/2 package bacon, crumbled

1 celery stalk, diced into small pieces

1 sprig dill weed, chopped

3 tblsp mayonnaise

1 tblsp tsp yellow mustard

juice from 1/2 lemon

pinch salt

pinch garlic powder

Mix all ingredients together and enjoy!

Mama’s Homemade Bread

Mama’s Homemade Bread

Your heart will be warmed when the aroma of this magnificently simple, traditional bread permeates your kitchen and home and when your friends and neighbors taste it they will beg you for more! This isn’t that ‘baker’s fluff’ that you buy from the supermarket that can barely support it’s own weight. When you eat this, you are satisfied and it’s a satisfaction that lasts… it’s the veritable ‘no hunger’ bread. Perfectly paired with a slice of vine-ripened heirloom beefsteak tomato and smothered in peppered mayonnaise this recipe is a real summer hit! Enjoy the recipe below!

 

 

Mama’s Homemade Bread

1 pkg yeast

~4 cups white flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups warm water

1/4 cup neutral tasting oil (or use butter for added flavor)

1 tblsp sugar

1 tsp salt

 

Proof yeast if necessary with a bit of sugar in warm water. Add all ingredients except white flour to a stand mixer and knead for about two minutes. Add two cups of white flour and knead again for another minute. Keeping adding white flour slowly until dough just pulls away from the bowl. Knead for another two minutes before removing. Remove dough temporarily and gently oil the insides sides of the bowl before placing the dough back in. Cover with a cloth or plastic wrap and place in a 110 degree F oven to rise until doubled in size. Remove dough to a floured surface and cut into six equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball and place into two greased bread pans, 3 in each. Cover and allow these to nearly double in size while your oven preheats to 350 degrees F. Bake for approximately 35 minutes… we need to turn ours half way but mileage may vary based on your oven. Bread is done when tops and bottoms are golden brown and each loaf gives a hollow thud when rapped with a spoon. Remove breads from pans and put on racks to cool. When bread has cooled but is still a bit warm you must cut off one of the ends, smother with butter, and enjoy immediately. Hide a portion or two so there will be some later if necessary. Enjoy!

Tomato Cucumber Sandwich

 

Bacon Tuna Melt

 

Sturdy enough for a burger!

 

 

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Am I even going to be able to fit this into my mouth??

Am I even going to be able to fit this into my mouth??

Pulled_Pork_and_Smoked Meat_on_Homemade_Bread