As I’ve gotten older and more food-obsessed, I’ve started to have flashbacks of these tasty dishes that my mom used to make and gradually has phased out ever since my brother and I grew up.
- 饅頭 (Man tou)
- 蘿蔔絲餅 (Luo buo si bing)
- 牛肉餡餅 (Niu rou xian bing)
- 芝麻大餅 (Zhi ma da bing)
- 百頁 (Bai ye)
- 素雞 (Su ji)
- 韭菜盒子(Jui cai he zi)
- 飯糰 (Fan tuan)
- 粽子 (Zongzi)
Where oh where have you gone from my life?
My dad always has the best memory about these long-forgotten dishes but my mom seemingly phases out (e.g. ignores) his pleas for her to make them again. But when I randomly remember tasty goodness, my mom is more inclined to make them. We’ll say it is one of the perks of being a daughter, not a husband.
Some of the dishes from my childhood are seemingly hard to find on the Internet, most likely because I’m typing in pinyin (romanization of the Chinese language) as opposed to the Chinese characters itself. Getting re-directed to a Chinese website is daunting, even with trusty Google translate. For now, I’ve taken it upon myself to document the ingredients and technique for creating some of these dishes so I can share the recipes with the rest of you.
First up? Taiwanese chicken rolls (ji juan). There’s not an ounce of chicken in this recipe but it is supposed to mimick chicken. The tofu skin represents the skin, the carrots and mushrooms the bones (and give the dish more texture), and of course, the fish paste and pork mimick chicken meat. I’d actually prefer to eat this over chicken, unless it’s fried, or boiled tender and served with garlic ginger oil. Oh who am I kidding, I can eat pounds of this stuff along with chicken. I’m versatile.
What are some of these ingredients and where can I find them? Your trusty Asian store will have these ingredients. You can find fish paste in the fresh seafood section and bean curd sheets in the frozen section. I’ll be posting pictures soon of these ingredients once I make my next trip to 99 Ranch!
- 6-7 dried shiitake mushrooms
- ½ medium onion, chopped fine
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ lb ground pork
- ½ lb fish paste
- 2 tbs fried shallots
- ¼ cup water chestnuts, chopped
- 2 green onions, chopped (use both green and white parts)
- ½ tsp white pepper
- 1 tbs soy sauce
- 1 tbs oyster sauce
- 1 tbs cooking wine
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tbs sesame oil
- 2 medium carrots
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- 1 package of bean curd sheets
- Cilantro for garnish
- sweet chili sauce
- Ziploc bag
- Steamer (or a makeshift one – big pot + any metal stand + lid (I use a 2 thick cookie cutters to prop up the plate)
Prepare: Place dried mushrooms in a bowl of cold water. Let them sit for at least 1-2 hours. While using hot water to rehydrate the mushrooms is quicker, the mushrooms lose a lot of their flavor when soaked in hot water.
Cut the carrot into 3inch x .5 inch slivers. Boil a pot and water and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Meanwhile, chop green onions finely.
Heat 1 tsp of oil in a small pan over medium heat, saute onions until tender (about 2-3 minutes). Add the garlic and stir until fragrant, another 1-2 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and remove from heat.
In a medium bowl, combine ground pork, fish paste, onions, garlic, fried shallots, water chestnuts, green onions, white pepper, soy sauce, cooking wine, sugar, sesame oil, and a dash of salt. Mix until thoroughly combined. Transfer mixture into a heavy duty ziploc bag and whack the bag against the countertop for 5-10 minutes, depending on how angry you are! Do be sure to make sure the ziploc bag does not break in the process – I’ll leave the amount of force up to your discretion. Place mixture in fridge.
Bean curd sheets normally come in round circles. Cut the sheets into a large rectangle by trimming off the rounded edges. Be sure to keep the scraps.
The mushrooms should be “hydrated” by now. Cut into thin slices about ¼ inch. Remove mixture from fridge and stir in remaining 2 tsp of cornstarch
Assemble: Think of this like rolling a burrito, see picture below– it’s simple so pardon my horrible directions on how to roll these! On a baking sheet or counter top, place one rectangular been curd sheet and place one bean curd scrap a couple inches from the bottom on top of the larger sheet. Place about ¾ cup of the mixture on the scrap sheet, flatten slightly into a rectangular shape and place a 2-3 slivers of carrot and a couple mushrooms slices in the center. Now roll like a burrito! Roll once, tuck the sides in, and continue rolling from the bottom to top. Place seam side down on plate. Repeat until mixture runs out (feel free to use more of the mixture to create larger rolls) This should make about 5-7 rolls.
Cook: Fill the pot about 1/4 full with water and bring to boil. Place metal stand in the water. While water is boiling, place several rolls on a plate that is microwave safe (do not stack the rolls and make sure there is a small gap between each roll). Place the plate in the steamer, cover with lid, and steam for 7-10 minutes. Continue process until all rolls are steamed. The outside of the rolls will turn wrinkly.
In a large pan, heat 2-3 tbs of oil on medium heat. Carefully remove the rolls from the plate and pan fry each side until tofu sheet becomes crispy and golden brown (each side about 2-3 minutes). Do not overcrowd the pan as this will slow down and prevent proper browning.
Set aside rolls to cool slightly. Slice into 1 inch slices, garnish with sweet chili sauce and cilantro.