Chinese dishes are hot and spicy -- both healthy and there is a good reason the Chinese are slender. So enjoy! Cucumber Salad and Beancurd below ...
Chinese dishes are time intensive to prepare, but if you love to cook as I do, and love the spicy taste of Chinese food, the time is well worth it. In contrast to the time for preparation, cooking times are very short, so have everything prepared before you start to cook.
Chinese dishes, especially Szechwan ones, often include a lot of garlic, ginger and hot pepper, and you need to be guided by your own preferences. You may want to start with less of these ingredients - it won't have the authentic Chinese taste, but you may prefer this.
A suggestion - involve everyone in the family, if they like Chinese food, and the preparation becomes a fun and entertaining activity.
Noteworthy - Most Westerners think of Chinese dishes as being served with rice, but this is not the case in China. Rice, and noodles, are more often served after all the other courses, as a "filler" for anyone who is still hungry. If you are trying to cut down on calories and lose weight, I suggest that you serve these dishes without rice.
Here are two of my favorite Chinese recipes (these are based on Mrs Chiang's Szechwan Cookbook by Ellen Schrecker with John Schrecker, published by Harper & Row in 1976 - by far the best Chinese cookbook I have):
Fortunately garlic is good for you so I can feel really great about the Chinese recipes that I really like and that have lots of garlic, like this one.
2 cucumbers, 1 teaspoon salt, 3 scallions, 4 cloves of garlic,
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce, ½ teaspoon sesame oil,
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar, ¼ teaspoon granulated sugar,
¼ teaspoon ground pepper, 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (or to taste)
Seed the cucumbers and cut into strips, 2" by ½", put in a bowl and sprinkle with salt, leave for 10 minutes, drain, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Cut the scallions into 2" pieces and add to cucumbers; chop the garlic finely and add to cucumbers; add all the other ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Note this is quite hot with 1 teaspoon of hot pepper, so you may want to try without first, and gradually add a little bit of pepper sauce to see how much you like.
This dish is great as a snack, as an hors d'oeuvre, or as a salad with a meal. It has virtually no calories but tastes wonderful, and fills you up!
Pock-Marked Ma's Bean Curd
I love the names of some Chinese dishes, and this is a favorite, both for its name and its wonderful taste. The side benefit is that tofu or bean curd is so good for you and beneficial in keeping cholesterol low. What more could you want? Lots of garlic and ginger, also good for the heart and your weight. Thanks Pock-Marked Ma!
¼ cup dried tree ears, 3" piece of fresh ginger, 5 scallions, ½ lb. ground pork or beef, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sesame sauce, 1 tablespoon Chinese Rice Wine, 8 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons corn starch, 6 squares been curd, 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce (or to taste), 6 tablespoons peanut oil, 1 teaspoon sugar, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 ½ teaspoons ground pepper, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, salt to taste.
Cover tree ears with boiling water and soak for about 15 minutes, drain, rinse and mince.
Peel and mince ginger, chop scallions into very small pieces. Add 1 tablespoon of ginger and 1 tablespoon of scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar to the ground meat and set aside for about 30 minutes.
Peel and mince the garlic and combine with chopped ginger and mix together until they form a thick paste.
Mix cornstarch with ¼ cup water, add to meat and mix well.
Cut bean curd into ½ inch cubes.
Heat your wok for about 15 seconds then add 6 tablespoons peanut oil and heat until small bubbles appear, add the garlic/ginger mixture and stir fry for about 30 seconds, add pepper sauce and tree ears and continue stir frying for 30 seconds, add the meat mixture and cook for about 1 minute, then add the bean curd and chopped scallions and stir fry for another minute, add sugar and stir fry for 30 seconds, then add say sauce and ½ cup water, let it come to the boil and cook for two minutes, add pepper, and salt to taste.
Serve immediately as a main course - can be accompanied by the cucumber salad.
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