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Tag: Chinese

Faster than Delivery: Spicy Mapo Dofu in a Hurry

Oh my lord. Some days you feel like a nut, some days you feel like tofu. Amirite? No? Well, fine, be that way. There are, however, days you want a quick and tasty dinner for the absolute minimum effort. For some, that means calling the pizza guy or rummaging around the depths of the freezer for a Marie Stouffer-Totino’s Lean Pocket Something Something. But that isn’t how we roll here at PassionFruit Enterprises, is it? Mais non!

Thus this slightly hacked riff on mapo dofu, one of my favorite Chinese dishes. The soft, yielding tofu gets a major flavor upgrade thanks to several somewhat surprising ingredients and the singular numbing zing of Sichuan peppercorns ties it all together. The latter can be kind of hard to come by–until recently they were banned from the U.S. over citrus canker fears–but there’s literally nothing else in the world that remotely tastes like it. By that reason alone, you should go get some.

The dish itself is super easy–procuring your pepper is probably the most complicated part–and it can be ready to eat by the time your rice is done. On a harried weeknight, what could be better? Most dishes benefit from freshly minced garlic, just-grated ginger, and other fiddly a la minute additions. Not so this… all that and more is already in the bottles chilling out on your refrignerator door. Just cube that tofu, mix up that sauce, and you’re ready to go. Let’s get to it…

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Recovery Sunday: Chinese Scrambled Eggs with Tomato

So, after a week in New Orleans, a barbeque cocktail party, and a delicious Persian dinner (khoreshte aloo esfenaj–my faaavorite), I found myself in need of some recuperative sustenance. I often turn to rice in such dire times, and what better accompaniment than a super simple scrambled egg and tomato stirfry? A fond memory of my long-ago studies in Beijing, 番茄炒蛋 is an ur-food in China. You’d never see it on any menu, but I’d wager that every even vaguely Chinese person on the planet holds it close to their hearts. It’s such a cultural touchstone that it was used to describe the (somewhat unfortunate) red and yellow uniforms the Chinese Olympic team wore…

I learned this by watching the cooks in the cafeteria every morning. It’s pretty basic, and while you could add ginger or garlic (or “magic taste powder”, ahem), I like this fairly unadorned–particularly perfect after a week of partying. It’s a comfort food for, like, 1.3 billion people; how bad can it be?

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Red Roast Cornish Game Hens

rrhen1These burnished little birds are quite fancy. And we like fancy. Scented exotically, if subtly, with soy, ginger, chile, and anise,  they are first poached and then finished off with a blast of dry heat to crisp up the skin. My version is inspired by the Ginger Duck in Amanda Hesser’s lovably twee Cooking for Mr. Latte, but gets nudged back towards its Chinese roots with some judicious additions to the poaching liquid.

Though somewhat time-consuming, most of the work is both dead easy and night-before do-ahead. A la minute, the birds demand only a little baste before a quick spell in a hot oven to rewarm and crisp them up.  This frees up time to fiddle with more complicated sides, but I generally forgo any Herculean efforts as the hens are quite elegantly at home atop a bed of gingery mashed sweet potatoes and a tangle of quickly-sauteed greens or snuggled up with some roasted potatoes and shredded parsnip and carrot.

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