BaoBao, the giant panda cub at the National Zoo, turned one year old over the weekend! And besides the levels of squee something like this elicits, I decided I should make a panda-inspired recipe to celebrate the occasion. Since googling the phrase only turned up cute food-craft ideas of how to decorate desserts to look like a panda, I decided to make some kind of Californian-Chinese recipe, and I decided on trying to make moo shu vegetables. Now, I am totally aware that Californian-Chinese food is not what they eat in China (I was in China last fall and have had a few lectures and delicious foods from a close friend of mine), but that doesn’t make it bad. I treat it as a separate cuisine entirely from Chinese food. And since BaoBao is a Chinese-American panda, making Cali-Chinese food seemed totally appropriate.
Moo Shu Veggies
small knob of ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 large scallions, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage
1 large carrot, shredded
1 small daikon rashish (same size as the carrot)
5-6 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
Prepare all the vegetables – all the chopping and mincing – first. Beat the eggs and cook them as a flat omlette, and set aside. Pour some peanut oil on a large frying pan. Once warm, fry the scallions, garlic, and ginger for a couple minutes. Add the mushrooms, and cook a couple minutes, then add the cabbage, daikon, and carrot. Cook for a couple minutes, and add the vinegar, soy sauce, and a tablespoon or so of hoisin sauce. Mix all together and cook until the veggies are done. Chop up the omlette and add it to the veggies. Heat up some tortillas, smear with a generous dollop of hoisin sauce, add the veggies and eat.
The result was awesome. Super delicious. I used corn tortillas, because I didn’t see any flour ones. And what’s more Californian that a fusion of Chinese and Mexican ingredients? They actually were ‘soft’ corn tortillas, and tasted like a half-way point between corn and flour, and it worked incredibly well. I was out of green tea, so I served this with beer, a saison from a local microbrewery. Wine never really seems to go with Chinese food in my opinion. Song of the week: Ventura Highway by America. I absolutely love this song, and listen to it a lot as a relaxing thing, and it has a cool, very distinctive guitar riff. And of course, Ventura is in California.
Literally the only Chinese I knew for the first 20 years of my life was “Gung hai fat choi,” which is essentially Happy New Years! It’s a phrase everyone learns and is obsessed with in 1st grade where I grew up. One of the many side effects of growing up in California is that I have celebrated Chinese New Year almost as long as I’ve celebrated Hanukkah (keep in mind I am white and was raised a Christian). This year, that means making Chinese food for new years. With one thing and another I didn’t actually get around to it until today, but I figure its all good regardless. I decided to make two recipes – Chinese Marbled Eggs, because all new year celebrations require eggs of some sort as a symbol for new life, and stir-fry noodles because why not?
Stir-fry Noodles: The sir-fry noodles were based off this recipe, because a solid chunk of my life is based on the assumption that BBC knows what its talking about.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small knob fresh ginger, minced
1 carrot, cut into thin strips
½ bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1 ½ cups cabbage, cut into thin strips
Shitake mushrooms, sliced
Egg or chow mein noodles
1 tablespoon soy sauce
½ tablespoon rice vinegar
½ tablespoon stir-fry sauce
Prep all the veggies and spices first. Cook noodles, and then drain and set aside. In theory you should use fresh egg noodles, but I used chow mein noodles. Saute the veggies, ginger, and garlic for about five minutes at medium high heat, then add the noodles. Saute a few more minutes and then add some soy sauce, rice vinegar, and stir-fry sauce. I use Kikkoman’s Vegetarian Stir-Fry Sauce (When in doubt buying Asian foods, Kikkoman is a safe bet for quality and authenticity). Saute a couple more minutes and done!
Marbled Eggs: Unlike the noodles, this recipe takes forever.
1 bag black tea
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
First step: hard boil three eggs. Once they are done and cooled, you crack the shells, gently, with the back of a spoon, but you leave the cracked eggshell on the eggs. Then, you put the eggs back in the pot, cover with water, and add the cinnamon, soy sauce, sugar, and teabag. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for 40 minutes. Once it is done simmering, cover the pot and let it continue to soak for at least 5 hours, preferably overnight. Once, they are done soaking, peel and serve.
The Results: Yummy! More on the lightly flavored side, which is good for Chinese food in my opinion, and often more authentic I’ve discovered. The marbled eggs were pretty, and tasty, but I think in the future I’ll need to soak them for somewhat longer to get a stronger flavor – it was more of a hint of a flavor than anything else. I will say that cooking them made my entire apartment smell amazing for a few hours. The noodles were particularly good, not to mention fast and easy to throw together. They weren’t oily at all (a hallmark of bad American-Chinese food) or overly salty or anything and the vinegar was a good addition. It was actually a reasonably light, healthy meal while being yummy and fun! Serve with green tea, preferably Jasmine green tea.