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Cooking Sichuan with "Land of Plenty" by Fuchsia Dunlop

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#31 C. sapidus

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 04:39 PM

Dinner from Land of Plenty tonight, served with jasmine rice. Thanks to Erin for the inspiration!

Chicken with chiles (la zi ji): Marinate chicken with Shaoxing wine, dark and light soy sauce, and salt. Deep fry the chicken, and then stir-fry with Sichuan pepper, dried chiles, scallions, a little sugar, and lots of sliced garlic and ginger, finishing with sesame oil.

Zucchini slivers with garlic (chao nan gua si): Very simple and very good, especially when stir-fried in the same wok as the chicken. Zucchini, garlic, salt, and oil -- that's it.

Elder son and I loved the meal; younger son and Mrs. C would have preferred less chile heat. Clearly, I need to spend some time building up their chile tolerance (again). :raz:

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  • SichChixChiles10-10.jpg


#32 nakji

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Posted 12 October 2010 - 08:41 PM

Glad to have inspired you - and it looks like you got an excellent meal out of it. I made the mapo doufu recipe on Sunday, but took no pictures. I'm fairly sure that mapo doufu is the dish that inspired Prawncrackers's signature. Honestly, I think I prefer the method in our own mapo doufu topic.

Ms. Dunlop's method asks for you to cut the Chinese leek or spring onions into "horse ears' shape, but then only has you add the onion towards the very end of the preparation. I think this method works fine when using spring onion, which is thin enough to cook quickly at the end. I used thin leeks, however, and they remained uncooked past the point where the tofu was beginning to break up even from the gentle simmer I had it on. Since the leek remains white, and doesn't add a colour element like spring onion does, if I followed this method again, I'd add the leek the same time as the pork.

#33 Chris Hennes

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 09:46 PM

I got a copy of the book for Christmas this year, so on Christmas day I made the potstickers, and tonight I made the Dan Dan Noodles (wow, I dunno how Westernized this recipe is, but it was mighty fiery!)...

Dan-dan noodles.jpg

ETA: those are Xie Laoban's Dan Dan Noodles, not the other ones.

Edited by Chris Hennes, 26 December 2010 - 09:47 PM.

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#34 nakji

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 10:14 PM

What kind of noodles did you use, Chris?

#35 Chris Hennes

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 10:28 AM

I have no idea. The package was labeled "Fresh Chinese Noodles" in English, no other info. The ingredient list had egg in them, and I think wheat flour.

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#36 hzrt8w

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 02:09 PM

Looks good! Though most of the Dan Dan Noodles I had were soup-based and meatless.

Did they use crushed peanuts?

Edited by hzrt8w, 27 December 2010 - 02:14 PM.

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#37 Will

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 02:32 PM

Ms. Dunlop's method asks for you to cut the Chinese leek or spring onions into "horse ears' shape, but then only has you add the onion towards the very end of the preparation. I think this method works fine when using spring onion, which is thin enough to cook quickly at the end. I used thin leeks, however, and they remained uncooked past the point where the tofu was beginning to break up even from the gentle simmer I had it on. Since the leek remains white, and doesn't add a colour element like spring onion does, if I followed this method again, I'd add the leek the same time as the pork.

Are the leeks you're using actual leeks? I don't have the book here with me, but if she said Chinese leeks, I am assuming she means garlic chives (韭菜; jiǔ caì / gow choy); probably the standard green variety, which doesn't have any white part.

#38 nakji

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 03:55 PM

The leeks I used were negi - Japanese leeks. Her recipe calls for three "baby leeks or spring onions". I don't think she meant garlic chives - but in any case, mine were too strong. Next time I'll use spring onions instead or add the leeks earlier.

#39 Chris Hennes

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 04:29 PM

Did they use crushed peanuts?

No, no peanuts in this one, though it had sesame paste to get a nutty flavor to it.

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#40 Will

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 07:56 PM

ETA: those are Xie Laoban's Dan Dan Noodles, not the other ones.

I don't find them that spicy using her method. However, there are some slight differences between the version of that exact recipe between her memoir and the cookbook... mostly in the quantity of sesame paste, and maybe the quantity of dark soy sauce? The memoir is newer, so I've been assuming that's the correct one. I was going to email her to ask about it, but didn't want to bug her.

A few notes:
1) Dunlop doesn't say anything about this, but based on the dan dan mian I eat and like at restaurants here, I think that adding a little pasta cooking water helps give a better texture and flavor. When using fresh noodles, I use a pretty short cooking time (30-40 seconds), or the noodles get too soft.

2) Probably doesn't apply to you, but just a general note for folks who are interested... make sure to use Chinese sesame paste. Tahini (whether raw or roasted) is not a substitute.

Edited by Will, 28 December 2010 - 07:59 PM.


#41 Chris Hennes

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Posted 28 December 2010 - 09:38 PM

I don't find them that spicy using her method. However, there are some slight differences between the version of that exact recipe between her memoir and the cookbook... mostly in the quantity of sesame paste, and maybe the quantity of dark soy sauce?

For me it was the two tablespoons of hot chili oil that contributed the most to the spiciness. There is also a LOT of Szechuan peppercorn in there, plus a few dried chilies for good measure. Of course, this is all with the caveat that I am a Westerner, so my tolerance for spice is not up to Szechuan standards!

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#42 Big Joe the Pro

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 03:32 AM

Are the leeks you're using actual leeks? I don't have the book here with me, but if she said Chinese leeks, I am assuming she means garlic chives (韭菜; jiǔ caì / gow choy); probably the standard green variety, which doesn't have any white part.

I don't have the book so perhaps this is a bit out of context but I would like to state that the only Garlic Chives I've seen in Beijing are sold at Metro and are imported from Spain. I would imagine it's the same in Sichaun (except maybe no Metro).
Chinese Leeks are similar to western ones except the diameter is smaller and the white part extends further up. There are several types of Spring Onions in common use here, smallish ones that look like Chives (but they have white onion at the bottom, maybe about 4") and slighty larger ones (which are less common, perhaps seasonal?).
If you want and can give me some time I could take a photo. I'm not a paying member (yet) but I think I could post it.
Ok, hope that helps!

Edited by Big Joe the Pro, 02 January 2011 - 03:35 AM.

Maybe I would have more friends if I didn't eat so much garlic?

#43 nakji

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 08:23 AM

Really? I see jiǔcài all the time at the street markets in Jiangsu - the dark green kind and the pale yellow kind. Aren't they commonly used in jiaozi making?

#44 Big Joe the Pro

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 03:19 PM

Oh sorry, yeah I didn't read the pin yin (and definitely not the characters!), I just read 'garlic chives' and thought about the ones we normally use in the west (and are often bottled by the spice merchants). Is that how 'jiu cai' is translated, garlic chives?
Anyway, if she says 'Chinese leeks' then I would substitute leeks, don't you think?
Maybe I would have more friends if I didn't eat so much garlic?

#45 nakji

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 06:45 PM

I have the UK version of the book, which calls for "baby leeks". It may be different in the US version, but I interpreted "baby leeks" to mean ones the size of negi.

I just read 'garlic chives' and thought about the ones we normally use in the west (and are often bottled by the spice merchants). Is that how 'jiu cai' is translated, garlic chives?


All I have to go on is the Wikipedia entry, where they also seem to be called "Chinese leeks". Confused yet? :biggrin:

#46 Will

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 10:06 PM

Oh sorry, yeah I didn't read the pin yin (and definitely not the characters!), I just read 'garlic chives' and thought about the ones we normally use in the west (and are often bottled by the spice merchants). Is that how 'jiu cai' is translated, garlic chives?
Anyway, if she says 'Chinese leeks' then I would substitute leeks, don't you think?


I don't think there's really a good translation, simply because (AFAIK) jiucai isn't common outside of Asia. "Chinese leek" usually means jiucai, at least in regards to English recipes for Chinese cooking. I usually say "garlic chive", just because I think that to people in the West, "leek" usually implies something more like the leeks we're used to, and jiucai is really more like a big chive than like a leek. The Wikipedia page has "garlic chives" as the main translation.

http://en.wikipedia....i/Garlic_chives

Interestingly, "Breath of a Wok" by Grace Young seems to imply that jiucai, jiuhuang (韭黄), and the flowering kind (don't know the name, mabye 韭花?) are all separate plants (at least, she only recommends using the standard one for wok seasoning). My understanding was that they were all the same thing, just with certain differences, with jiuhuang being covered to prevent sun exposure, and the flowering chives just had been let grow long enough to flower. Would love to hear some authoritative information about whether or not they're all the same thing.

What are the other things you're talking about? Is it just green garlic? We can get that here in the US when it's in season, but I believe that is an actual young garlic stalk.

Edited by Will, 02 January 2011 - 10:08 PM.


#47 nakji

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Posted 02 January 2011 - 10:16 PM

Maybe we need an Asian green taxonomy topic.

#48 jsager01

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Posted 03 January 2011 - 01:31 AM

My understanding was that they were all the same thing, just with certain differences, with jiuhuang being covered to prevent sun exposure, and the flowering chives just had been let grow long enough to flower.


That's also my understanding. Dont bother with g young.

韭菜 – the green kind, probably the most common and cheapest?
韭黄 - the yellow kind, aka 韭芽, grown very much like asparagus, and has a yellowish tinge.
韭菜花 - the green kind, but harvested only when a flower bud appears at the tip.

As far as i am aware there are many translations but no standardised or agreed upon translation into English. I personally prefer the translation into 'garlic chive', as it looks more like a 'western chive' than either leek or whatever, but has a more garlicky flavor than a western chive flavor.

I believe it is native to China or at least in that part of Asia, and is grown in many (almost all?) different parts of China, including Sichuan and Guangdong.

#49 poppalarge

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 02:20 PM

Can I ask what weight of chicken you usually use? A smallish Chinese one, or a western roaster?

Is it just me, or do you find colour an unreliable indicator of temperature? Whenever I roast my chicken, I'm always careful to bring it up to 155 at the thickest part, but there's still some pinkness on the bone and in the juice. The flesh is so delicious at this point that I always eat it anyway, to no ill effect so far.


I had this exact dilemma yesterday.

I'm still alive. :)

#50 Chris Hennes

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 05:26 PM

Dry-Fried Chicken (gan bian ji) (p. 243)

I think this is the best version of gan bian ji that I've ever had: at least, the best I've ever made. The layering of flavors and spiciness was excellent. I'm still adapting to the texture of whole Szechuan peppercorns, however: I love the flavor blast when you bite into one, but some of mine still had the little black bead in the middle. Do you all pick through and remove those beads before using them? This was also the first I've used the chili bean paste, apparently (the jar was still sealed): that is a great flavor as well. My only question about the dish was regarding cooking time... admittedly I cut my chicken smaller than the recipe suggests, but 5 minutes of stir-frying over high heat and then 15 minutes over medium seems like a really long time to cook chicken. My wife loved it, but it was definitely a bit dry for my taste. How long do you all find yourself cooking this style of dish? Is the chicken supposed to remain moist, or is its dryness part of the dish?

Dry-Fried Chicken.jpg

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#51 C. sapidus

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Posted 10 January 2011 - 06:37 PM

Chris, dry-fried chicken is one of our favorites from the book, and yours looks gorgeous.

I'm still adapting to the texture of whole Szechuan peppercorns, however: I love the flavor blast when you bite into one, but some of mine still had the little black bead in the middle. Do you all pick through and remove those beads before using them?


Yes, I take the time to pick out the hard, black seeds. And you are right about chile bean paste - it definitely makes the world a better place. :smile:

How long do you all find yourself cooking this style of dish? Is the chicken supposed to remain moist, or is its dryness part of the dish?


Did you use thighs or breasts? We always use thighs, and I have not had them dry out. With breasts, you might need to shorten cooking time and / or lower the heat a bit. When cooking from this book, I rely less on cooking times and more on Ms. Dunlop’s instructions – cook until “the chicken is dry, toasty, and fragrant.” The chicken is cooked “past done” in this recipe, so no harm tasting a piece if you think it might be ready.

Standard caveat: I have never been to Sichuan, so as always I stand ready to be corrected by those with direct experience of the cuisine.

#52 CFT

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 03:46 AM

Just thought I'd spam this thread in a good way. Fuchsia Dunlop extols the virtues of the Chinese cleaver on this BBC Radio 4 programme: http://www.bbc.co.uk...gramme_Gadgets/

Sheila Dillon, with the help of some famous food lovers (including Giorgio Locatelli, Cyrus Todiwala, Fuchsia Dunlop and Bee Wilson) hears about their favourite kitchen gadgets. From a 300 year clockwork roasting spit to a 21st century thermal blender, what are the must-have qualities of these kitchen necessities? And how do you choose from the ever increasing plethora of expensive all-singing-all-dancing gizmos on sale in large kitchenware departments.


Giorgio Locatelli - Crustastun
Cyrus Todiwala - Thermomix
Fuchsia Dunlop - Chinese cleaver
Bee Wilson - swivel peeler
Best Wishes,
Chee Fai.

#53 rarerollingobject

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 08:24 PM

Posted this pic in the Dinner thread a couple of days ago, but this is the Red Braised Pork dish from Land of Plenty. I prefer to the recipe for the same in her Hunanese book, since you don't make a caramel at the beginning but basically just throw everything in together. I usually double the ginger and green onions though, because I love chewing on the spent bits of both along with the pork. :smile:

pork.jpg

#54 nakji

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 09:58 PM

Ah, I've only made the one from Revolutionary Cooking. Do you find they differ much with the caramel step? I usually make a caramel if I'm making Vietnamese Caramel Pork, but never thought about it for red-braised.

#55 rarerollingobject

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 10:51 PM

Sorry if I didn't phrase it clearly - the one where you start with caramel IS from Revolutionary Cooking. The Land of Plenty recipe is just chuck it all in the pot and you're good.

I didn't think they tasted that much different, to be honest, so if I'm looking at two recipes that taste basically the same, and one involves faffing around with a caramel and one doesn't, I'll take the latter!

I also have a slight (irrational) bias against the Revolutionary Cooking recipe because the accompanying photo just isn't all that appetising to me..even though the two recipes turn out similarly, the sauce in the RCC photo looks thin and watery, not the luscious, syrupy, treacly and sticky reduction I'm usually looking for with red braised pork.

#56 nakji

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 11:39 PM

Which goes to show you the last time I read that recipe carefully! Since I now dump everything into the pot, sans faff. Although it probably explains why that page is covered with brown splotches and sticky patches.

#57 Chris Hennes

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 05:34 PM

Fish-Fragrant Pork Slivers (yu xiang rou si) (pp.196–198)

It's finally warmed up enough to use the wok again (mine is an outdoor model) so I am hoping to tackle a few more recipes from this book this week. First up is a pork stir-fry flavored predominantly with pickled chili paste, shaoxing wine, chinkiang vinegar, and soy sauce. I really enjoyed these flavors, and thought that overall the dish was very successful. I could take or leave the cloud ear mushrooms, though. They were OK, but not thrilling.

Fish-fragrant pork slivers.jpg

Edited by Chris Hennes, 12 February 2011 - 05:44 PM.
Corrected typo

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#58 nakji

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 07:29 PM

They're usually meant as a textural contrast, I think. Looks good! Is that a pickle on the side?

#59 Chris Hennes

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Posted 12 February 2011 - 08:43 PM

No, just a quick squash saute. A pickle would have been more appropriate, but I have none on hand.

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#60 Chris Hennes

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Posted 13 February 2011 - 05:08 PM

Traditional Dan Dan Noodles (dan dan mian) (pp. 87–88)
Dry-Fried Green Beans 2 (gan bian si ji dou) (pp. 290–291)

Tonight I made the other version of Dan Dan Noodles in the book, the one she calls "Traditional": it's still nothing like what hzrt8w mentions uptopic: it's got ground pork in it, and is not at all soup-like. This one has ya cai in it, but is otherwise fairly similar to the "Xi Loaban's Dan Dan Noodles" recipe I posted about earlier. Very spicy, very delicious. To go with it I made some green beans: they were also pretty good, though they would probably have been better if the green beans were younger.

Traditional Dan Dan Noodles.jpg

Dry-fried Green Beans 2.jpg

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