Category Archives: Chinese Food

Char Siu – Chinese Roast Pork

char siu by The Aimless Cook

Char siu is that famous Chinese red roast pork that you see hanging in the windows of your favourite meat shops in Chinatown. So delicious and savoury with that hint of sweetness from that incredible caramelized marinade. It’s easier than you think to make so let’s get cooking!

 

You will need:

  • ⅓ cup Hoisin sauce
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing cooking wine
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • ½ teaspoon 5-spice powder
  • 1 ½ tablespoons maltose (or honey)
  • 3 lb pork shoulder*

 

*For a great balance of fat and lean, go for shoulder. If you want extra lean, get yourself pork tenderloin. If you want to go for broke, get pork belly.

 

The first thing we’re gonna do is make our marinade. You want to do this the day before so that your pork will have maximum flavour.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine ⅓ cup of sugar with 2 tablespoons of shaoxing cooking wine, 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, a ½ teaspoon of 5-spice powder, and ⅓ cup hoisin sauce. For nostalgia, I’m also adding about 6 drops of red food colouring. Finally, add 1 ½ tablespoons of maltose, which is the secret to that wonderful caramelization that this dish is famous for. You can find maltose in most Asian grocery stores. If not, you can substitute honey.

Maltose is a very thick and very sticky ingredient, so be patient. It will slowly dissolve as you mix it with the other ingredients.

When the marinade is ready, put it into a large ziplock bag and then add about 3 lbs of pork shoulder. These steaks are about 2 inches thick, so for our home recipe, they should cook up fast. Coat the pork evenly and pop into the fridge to marinate overnight. Be sure to turn the bag over every few hours or so.

When the meat is ready, take it out of the bag and keep the marinade in a small bowl. Place the pork in a roasting pan on a rack and put in into a preheated 375F oven until done. You want to baste it with that marinade every 10-15 minutes. Also be sure to flip the pork over halfway through cooking. It will be done when the edges start to caramelize and the surface is glistening red. If you have a meat thermometer, the inside should read about 160F.

Once you know the meat is about done, turn the oven up to broil and briefly hit it with that high heat to caramelize the rest of the surface. Take out of the oven and set aside to rest for a few minutes before slicing.

Char siu is crazy versatile so make lots and keep it handy for whatever you want to use it for. It also freezes well, so you can store it whole or sliced, thaw it and use it whenever you get a craving. Enjoy!

 

What is your favourite dish with char siu?

Silken Tofu – The Aimless Cook at Downtownfood

Silken Tofu with Downtown Food

Silken tofu is incredible when made fresh, and Chef Darren MacLean from Downtown Food shows us how he makes his own tofu in-house daily. This is part 2 of our 3 -part special on soybeans!

You will need:

  • 3 cups fresh soymilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons gypsum powder, available at the Asian grocery

Make a slurry by combining the gypsum powder with a teaspoon of water. Add the mixture to the soy milk and mix well to combine. Put into a ceramic vessel and set aside.

Heat up a steamer on high heat til you have a rolling boil. Lower the temperature to med – med low until you have a gentle steam. carefully place the soymilk into the steamer and cover, leaving it slightly ajar to let extra condensation escape. Steam for about 6 minutes per inch of soymilk in the container.

*The tofu is done when it looks the consistency of custard.

Serve with your favourite toppings and enjoy!

Some of my favourite toppings include green onion, ponzu, mirin and soy reduction, sansai, dashi broth…

How do you enjoy your tofu?

Soy Milk – The Aimless Cook at DTF

Soymilk by The Aimless Cook

On today’s show, I’m with my friend, Chef Darren Maclean from Downtown Food. In this first episode of a 3 part special series, we’re cooking with soy beans!

Soy milk is amazingly simple to make and delicious. In Taiwan, it is enjoyed hot as a traditional breakfast item with freshly fried youtiao (Chinese crullers). In our special series on soybeans, we will show you how to make your own soymilk at home.

You will need:

  • 2 cups dried soybeans, soaked in water overnight

  • 1 litre fresh distilled water (your favourite spring water is also perfect)

 

Drain the soybeans and put them into a blender. Add 3 cups (750ml) of the water and blitz on high until the beans are completely blended.

Pour the mixture into a large pot and gently heat on medium high, stirring occasionally until the mixture reaches about 140F. You will see the mixture start to get frothy on the top. When it comes to tempurature, take off the heat and pour through a couple layers of cheesecloth.

Squeeze the cloth to extract the excess moisture, then open up the cheesecloth. Use the reserved cup of water (250ml) to pour over the soy pulp (okara) and give it another final squeeze.

Return the milk to the pot and give it another gentle heating to 140F. This is important as this will improve the flavour, removing the raw bean taste and breaking down the natural trypsin inhibitors thus improving the nutritional value as well.

When that’s done, strain again and put into a container. Refrigerate and enjoy!


What is your favourite soy product?

Guangzhou-style Fried Chicken

Guangzhou-style Fried Chicken

Inspired from Martin Yan’s China

This chicken recipe was inspired from a street stall in Guangzhou and is featured in Martin Yan’s book, “Martin Yan’s China”. I have never seen a marinade using fermented tofu for fried chicken. It piqued my curiosity for sure!

Marinade:

  • 2 cubes (1 oz) red fermented tofu
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon white pepper

And then:

  • 1 lb chicken thighs, boneless/skinless, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • oil, for deep frying
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • 1 green onion, chopped

In a medium mixing bowl, mash the fermented tofu into a paste with a fork. Add the sugar, salt and white pepper and mix well. Add the chicken, cover and marinate in the fridge for 1 – 4 hours.

Heat 2 inches of oil to 350F in a wok or medium pot. Mix thecornstarch and a couple eggs in another medium bowl with a whisk. Add the chicken and stir to coat evenly. Working in batches, deep-fry the chicken, stirring gently to prevent them from sticking together until golden brown and crisp (about 5 min). Remove and drain on paper towels.

Put into paper cones, garnish with green onion and serve.

What is your favourite stinky food?

Steamed Bao – Chinese Steamed Buns

Steamed Bao by The Aimless Cook

Steamed bao are Chinese buns which are made by steaming a simple bread dough. They can be made plain or have a variety of tasty fillings like custard, meat or bean paste. In this recipe, I make the buns for my favourite Taiwanese style slider, gua bao. Enjoy!

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons milk
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening, melted
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

Combine water and milk in a small bowl. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Slowly stir in the water mixture, and when absorbed, stir in the shortening and vinegar. Turn the dough out to a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Cover the dough and let sit under plastic for 1 hour.

Makes 16 bao.

What is your mealtime staple where you live?

Taiwanese Bubble Tea – Jasmine Milk Tea with Boba

Taiwanese Bubble Tea by The Aimless Cook

Taiwanese Bubble Tea is a flavourful and delicious drink that’s very popular in Asia and North America. Using premium ingredients, I’m going to show you how you can make your own at home for a fraction of the price you pay at the stands. The taste difference is amazing and you’re going to slap yourself when you realize how easy this is to make. This is a great recipe from Andrew Chau and Bin Chen, aka The Boba Guys.

You will need:

• 5 cups water
• 2 tablespoons loose-leaf jasmine tea
• 1/2 cup white sugar
• 1/2 cup brown sugar
• 1 cup cooked boba
• 4 tablespoons honey
• 1 cup half-and-half

Boil 4 cups of the water then let it sit for 1 minute (the temperature should be 170F or about 80C). Add the tea leaves and steep for 8 minutes. Strain and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the remaining cup of water and the white and brown sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer til the sugars are dissolved.

Steep the boba in a small bowl with ½ cup of the simple syrup and the honey. Soak at least 30 minutes. For best results, steep for at least 3 hrs.

To assemble, grab a cocktail shaker and add 4 cups of tea, 1 cup of simple syrup, the half-and-half, the honey-soaked boba, and a handful of ice cubes. Shake till mixed, and pour into a serving glass with a wide straw.

What is your favourite sweet drink?

Gua Bao – Taiwanese Pork Belly Sliders

Gua Bao by The Aimless Cook

Gua Bao are a popular Taiwanese street food. Slider-sized handfuls of slowly braised pork belly, stuffed into steamed buns with red sugar, crushed peanuts and cilantro. These are flavourful and delicious little sandwiches that are sure to bring happiness wherever you bring them. Enjoy!

For the pork you will need:

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 500g pork belly, skin on
  • 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 liter water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 1 ½ bulbs of garlic, (separated to cloves, but you don’t have to peel them)

for the rest:

  • hoisin sauce
  • Taiwanese red sugar, or jaggery
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
  • roasted peanuts, crushed
  • fresh steamed bao (Chinese buns)*

Heat oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven on med high heat. Brown the pork belly on all sides. Add the soy sauce to both sides of the pork after its browned.

Immediately after, add 1 litre of water, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 star anise, 4 cloves, ½ teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder and the cloves from 1 ½ bulbs of garlic. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer covered for about 1.5 hours or until tender.

When the pork is finished, carefully take out and slice into ½ inch pieces. Serve in the steamed buns and garnish with crushed peanuts, red sugar, hoisin and fresh cilantro.

Toppings for this Taiwanese sandwich are gonna be a little different than what you’re used to in a North American sandwich. I’m starting with some hoisin sauce, followed by some Taiwanese red sugar, or in this case, some jaggery. It’s a type of cane sugar that I got from the Indian market. Also I have some roasted crushed peanuts for texture and finally some fresh chopped cilantro. The cilantro is gonna cut the richness of the pork.

*You can find pre-made Chinese buns in your local Asian grocery. If not, you can do what I’ve done before and make them from Pillsbury biscuit dough. Just cut into rounds, fold over and steam for 15 minutes.

Pork belly is very rich and tender when it’s braised. Some people are put off by the fattiness of it. How about you? Are you put off by certain food textures or qualities?

Honey Garlic Scallion Noodles

Honey Garlic Scallion Noodles

Here’s a great recipe that’s really delicious and easy to do. It’s a honey garlic scallion stir-fried noodle that’s sweet, with a touch of spice. If the flavour looks familiar, you’re right. It’s the same sauce from the Hawaiian chicken we did a few months ago. I added fresh chopped scallions for contrast and a splash of colour. You’re going to love this recipe!

You will need:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup mirin
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon chili flake
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 454 g chow mein noodles
  • 1 bunch green onions (scallions) chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped

In a large mixing bowl, combine the soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, Korean chili flakes and sesame seeds. To that, add a couple tablespoons of minced garlic and a tablespoon of honey. Whisk to combine and give it a little taste. Adjust to taste and set aside.

Next, take the chow mein noodles and blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Drain well then set aside.

Heat up a couple tablespoons of oil in a pan or wok on high heat. Add the noodles and a tablespoon of finely chopped ginger and stirfry for a couple minutes. Add half a bunch of chopped scallions and continue cooking for another 30 seconds.

When that’s done, add your sauce and continue to stirfry for another minute or so. Immediately plate up into bowls and garnish with more scallions for colour and fresh contrast. This is a quick dish to make and serve up alone or with grilled meat. Try it at home and enjoy!

 

When was the last time you had green onions?

Sesame Shrimp Toast

Sesame Shrimp Toast

We’re making a popular item from the dim sum cart. You can also find this item if you’ve ever found yourself at a snack house late at night with your friends. I’m talking about shrimp toast, and this Thai version of sesame shrimp toast features the flavours of fish sauce, lemongrass and fresh limes for a bit of a cool twist. Enjoy this as a nice, crispy snack with an ice cold beer or serve as a fancy appetizer for your next party. Your friends are gonna love this one!

You will need:

  • 14 oz. raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon minced lemongrass
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 or 2 red Thai chilies, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 egg
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 8 thick slices of white bread, crusts cut off
  • ½ cup sesame seeds
  • ½ bunch fresh cilantro
  • fresh limes, to garnish
  • oil for frying (canola or peanut)
  • sweet Thai chili sauce, for dipping

Start by putting the shrimp in a food processor. To that, add 1 egg, lemongrass, garlic cloves, Thai chilies, fish sauce, the juice from the grated ginger and a pinch of salt. Process until the mixture forms a thick paste. Check the mix. If it’s too thin, add the cornstarch to tighten up the mixture. When that’s done, set aside.

Cut the crusts off the bread. Spread about a tablespoon of the shrimp mixture on the bread slices and dip the shrimp side into a saucer of sesame seeds.

In a cast iron skillet, heat up a couple inches of oil until you can fry a small piece of bread in about 30 seconds (350F). If it cooks too fast, carefully take off the heat and wait until it’s the right temperature. If the oil is too hot, the shrimp won’t cook. If the oil is too cool, the bread will absorb the oil and you’ll get greasy toast.

When the oil is ready, carefully place the toast in the oil, shrimp side down. Cook for about 30-45 seconds or until its golden brown. Turn over and cook the other side for the same amount of time. When done, gently take it out and drain on a tray with paper towels.

To serve, cut into triangles or sticks, garnish with chopped cilantro leaves and enjoy with Spicy Thai Chili sauce and fresh lime wedges.

Shrimp toast is one of my favourite Asian snacks and I hope you enjoy it too. Take this recipe with you, make it yours and have fun in the kitchen!

What is your favourite dim sum item?

Snack House Soup – Hong Kong Meets Vietnam

Snack House Soup

Hong Kong meets Vietnam in this snack house inspired soup that you can do at home with a couple tomatoes and a few leftovers. This is easy home cooking and you’ll be delightfully surprised at how flavourful this quick broth is.

For the soup broth, you will need:

  • 2 medium, ripe tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 chili pepper, minced
  • 500 ml chicken stock

Start with a deep skillet on medium heat with a little olive oil and add the tomatoes, a clove of minced garlic, a minced shallot and a minced chili pepper. Let that cook for a few minutes while the tomato breaks down then add the sugar and fish sauce. Continue to cook until the tomato is completely broken down and becomes a sauce.

Now at this point, you can serve this sauce on pretty much anything, but let’s keep going. Today I’m making a soup, so I will add the chicken stock and just stir to combine.

Give it a taste and adjust with salt til you get it the way you like it. You probably won’t need much additional salt since you have the fish sauce. I didn’t.

For the rest of this soup, that’s where your creativity comes in. I have some instant ramen noodles here, but you can use whatever noodles you have handy. If you want an authentic Hong Kong snack house experience, use elbow macaroni.

Other toppings you can use:

  • leftover steak or pork chops
  • roasted chicken
  • cold cuts
  • SPAM
  • tofu or tempeh
  • cooked spinach, peas and carrots, green beans
  • eggs (fried, poached, boiled, omelette)

Have fun with this recipe, make it yours and have fun in the kitchen!