Monday, July 21, 2008
Even before I lived in Beijing I loved Chinese food. Living there only increased my fondness for the cuisine as it is so much more varied and interesting than what we are used to being served in American-adapted Chinese restaurants in this country. Chinese food is far more flavorful and vegetable-filled and far less heavy, fried and saucy than we are led to believe based on what is available here.
Up until recently, I seldom cooked Chinese food for lack of a good cookbook. I now have one that I love thanks to my dad who found The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco by Cecilia Chiang (complete with an Alice Waters foreword). The cookbook is full of stories from the author’s childhood, which, I will admit, I’ve only skimmed, as I have been completely focused on the wonderful recipes and beautiful photos that accompany them. The recipes are well written with clear explanations of any out-of-the-ordinary ingredients or procedures that make them virtually foolproof. The book covers all of the expected categories including soups and noodles. There’s a great chapter on street food that contains one of my personal favorites: Zha Ziang Mian.
Zha Ziang Mian is a noodle dish topped with ground pork cooked in a soy-bean-hoisin-garlic sauce. It’s completely irresistible if not too photogenic. I made a little adaptation and used thinly sliced pork tenderloin instead of ground pork and added a few extra toppings for color. But if you stick to the original, you can’t go wrong either.
Zha Ziang Mian (adapted from The Seventh Daughter: My Culinary Journey from Beijing to San Francisco by Cecilia Chiang)
2 Tbs bean sauce
2 Tbs hoisin sauce
2 Tbs soy sauce
3 Tbs peanut oil
1 Tsp minced garlic
½ lb coarsely ground pork shoulder (pork butt) or ½ lb pork tenderloin, sliced thinly
1 Tbs Shaoxing wine
1 Tsp peeled, minced fresh ginger
1 Tbs minced green onions
½ pound fresh 1/8-inch-wide Chinese noodles
½ English cucumber, partially peeled, cut into 2-inch-long julienne pieces (about ½ cup)
Combine sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
Have remaining ingredients pre-measured and standing by as cooking the pork takes just a few minutes.
Boil water for the noodles.
Heat a large wok over high heat, add oil and swirl to coat pan. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly golden, about 10 seconds. Add pork and stir constantly to break the meat apart. Cook pork until just a bit of pink remains and it begins to brown (about 2 minutes). Add wine and ginger and continue to stir for a few second more. Pour in the reserved sauce, bring the liquid to a boil, and stir to thoroughly coat the pork. Add the green onions and toss to combine well. Remove pan from the heat.
Cook the noodles until tender (about 2 minutes). Immediately drain. I like to put the noodles in individual serving dishes, top with the sauce, and garnish with the cucumber, allowing each person to toss their own noodles to combine them with the sauce.
Serve warm, cold or at room temperature as desired.