I recently blogged about a new recipe book by Yanhong Wheeler called Kitchen Delight. It’s the perfect cook book, if you want to broaden the range of meals your ayi can prepare for you and your family. The recipes are kid friendly, nutritious, and very tasty. My ayi is enjoying working her way through the recipes, yesterday was the chicken and broad bean stew. So when she started showing me photos on her phone earlier today, of kung pao chicken, and sautéed beef with peppers, I was ready for her to plead no more western dishes. On the contrary, she was in fact setting me the challenge of cooking some traditional Chinese dishes. She had already shopped for the ingredients and, knowing my somewhat limited ability to read Chinese, had got her son to write the recipes in English for me. This was clearly a challenge to be taken seriously, so I donned an apron, got chopping and began my attempt at a few classic Chinese dishes, as per my ayi’s own recipes.
Kung pao chicken (gōngbǎo jīdīng) is that popular spicy stir-fry dish made with chicken, peanuts, vegetables, and chili peppers. This classic dish originated in Sichuan Province and includes Sichuan peppercorns. Lots of Sichuan peppercorns. Although the dish is found throughout China, there are regional variations that are typically less spicy than the Sichuan serving. I was glad the quantity of peppercorns that ayi had allocated for this dish, meant it wouldn’t be quite as numbing as those I’ve eaten in some Beijing restaurants. I guess she’d amended the quantity of peppercorns to suit my very British palate. The end result was pretty good, if I say so myself. Maybe a little oilier than I would have liked, and whilst the chicken was very tender, it wasn’t quite as soft as ayi’s.
Next up was sautéed beef with green Hangzhou pepper. First off ayi made it very clear that the beef needed to marinate for a while before cooking. So I cut the beef into slices in the direction of the grain, and then cut pieces into strips against the direction of the grain. I then added black pepper, starch, rice wine, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger powder to the beef strips. Poured some oil on the top and marinated the lot for 30 minutes. I guess it worked, as the beef was incredibly tender and this dish was a real hit. I love the texture and crispness that the peppers lend to the dish, and as they are mild it’s a great dish for kids too. Although there was the odd pepper which packed a bit of punch.
To accompany the chicken and the beef, yes this was a whole day spent cooking, ayi had chosen a Chinese New Year favorite, stir-fried broccoli, black mushrooms, and fresh ginger. The sautéed broccoli combined with the full, rich, complex flavors of the mushrooms was perfect. I had done this dish several times before, but it had never tasted quite as good as this. Ayi was impressed with my efforts, although somewhat disappointed with how long it took me to dice and slice everything. She asked if I wanted more of her recipes. Of course, I said, as long as none of them involve chicken feet or tripe.
beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent Sally Wilson moved to Beijing in 2010 from the UK with her husband and son. Her daughter was born here in 2011 and both her kids keep her happily busy. In her spare time, Sally loves to stroll through Beijing’s hutongs and parks. She is a (most of the time) keen runner and loves reading: books, magazines, news, and celeb websites – anything really. Sally is also a bit of a foodie and loves trying out new restaurants.
Photos: Sally Wilson