Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Simple Chinese Dinner

Although I lived in China for two years, I am always embarrassed to admit that I didn't learn to cook many Chinese dishes while I was there. There were too many delicious and cheap restaurants to make cooking and washing dishes even vaguely appealing. However, I wanted to make sure I had some favorites under my belt, so I arranged for our ai-yi (housekeeper) to show us how to make some classics: eggs with tomatoes and baby bok choy with mushrooms and oyster sauce. These recipes are simple and quick, as well as perfect for the student budget. The only crazy ingredient involved is the oyster sauce, which can be found at Whole Foods or an Asian market. It's also delicious drizzled on steamed broccoli or stir fried bean sprouts with a fried egg on top. In a pinch, you can omit the oyster sauce and season the vegetables with a little soy sauce and sesame oil to taste. My best advice to you is to eat the dishes hot hot hot -- Chinese food just doesn't do well when served cold. The quantities below serve two people. You might also want to make some rice to go along with everything. I recently discovered that Trader Joe's sells brown rice frozen that cooks in 3 minutes in the microwave.

A special thanks to my friend Chrissy for being a wonderful Chef #2 last night!

Egg and Tomato

Staples: salt, pepper, vegetable oil (peanut or canola). Olive oil is OK too in a pinch.
  • 4 eggs, whisked with a fork
I usually opt for 4 egg whites and 2 yolks to tame the cholesterol.
  • 1 t dry vermouth
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 1 c chopped tomato, about 2 plum tomatoes
  • optional: MSG
Whisk vermouth into eggs. Set aside. Heat a large frying pan (or wok, if you have one) over high heat. Add 2 T oil and heat. When oil is hot and shiny, but not smoking, pour in eggs. As soon as eggs begin to set, push them to the side of the pan and pour the tomatoes into the empty space. Sprinkle on sugar and MSG, if using. Give the tomatoes a few stirs and then fold into the eggs, flipping over once or twice to fully cook. If not using MSG, season with salt now. Remove eggs and tomatoes to a bowl and cover with a plate to keep warm.

Baby Bok Choy with Mixed Mushrooms in Oyster Sauce

Staples: vegetable oil (peanut or canola). Olive oil is OK too in a pinch.
  • about 8 baby bok choy, washed well and cut in half or into quarters wedges
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 lb mixed mushrooms, I used a combination of oyster and button
  • 1 1/2 T oyster sauce
Rinse out the pan used above and wipe down with a paper towel. Return to heat and over high heat again add 2 T oil. When oil is hot and shiny, but not smoking, add garlic and stir for about 30 seconds until fragrant. Add baby bok choy and reduce heat to medium, stirring to incorporate garlic. Cover and cook for about 2 minutes, checking to make sure nothing is burning. Now add the mushrooms and stir a couple of times. Cover again and cook until baby bok choy is tender and the mushrooms have released their moisture. Remove from heat and pour on oyster sauce. Serve immediately.

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