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Traditional Chinese Family Favorites


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Re- thread on "favourite Chinese cookbook": There is much discussion on what is authentic, recipes that are not found in any of today's Chinese cookbooks. Muichoi suggested starting a collection in eGullet. This may be a way for all of us to start actually recording recipes that have been passed down through generations.

Muichoi requested a recipe for dried bak choi soup. I am sure there are many "recipes" for this favourite. I can recount the different ingredients, but not the amounts - just a bunch of this, a few of those, etc. :laugh:

Start your engines, folks, and let's get posting!

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Choi Gon Tong per Dejah's Mom - Choy Family

It's best to grow and dry your own choi gon. My Mom used to take the large outer leaves from the bok choi grown in her garden. These were blanched, then hung out on the clothes line to dry. I like it best when she pulled the whole young plant and dried them with the root-end intact. This was always great to chew on. This practice is carried on with many of the Chinese elders in my city. We are often gifted with choi gon from relatives and friends upon return from visits to China. These are often considered best because it was produced in China, thus authentic. :wink::laugh:

To get the soft yet chewy texture from choi gon, it is best to soak and wash the choi gon the night before. (soak a handful of hung yun too ) Next morning, rub them gently as if you were washing clothes by hand.

Quickly blanch pork neck bones, breast bones, whole chunk of pork butt, or pork hocks with skin intact, then set the bones in clean water to boil and simmer with a couple of slices of fresh ginger.

About 2 hours before serving the soup, I cut up the choi gon with scissors, add them to the stock, along with hung yun, whole peeled waterchestnuts, and dried honey dates. If I remember, I also add a couple of wind-dried duck feet.

This is left to simmer for a couple of hours, then season with salt and enjoy!

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Dejah- this sounds like a great idea. I wish I had a bunch of folks from my culture that cared enough. Perhaps it would make this more accessible if you gave english names for some of the items. For example your lovely soup with the dried bok choy used the term "hung yun"- no clue about that. I am a big fan of keeping home cooking alive so I am eagerly awaiting more posts.

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... For example your lovely soup with the dried bok choy used the term "hung yun"- no clue about that. I am a big fan of keeping home cooking alive so I am eagerly awaiting more posts.

I believe she was refering to:

dried olive kerneis (南北杏)

Here is a picture of a package of olive kerneis:

gallery_19795_2213_11852.jpg

Or it could be regular almonds?

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Fish filet cilantro soup

My father made this very well. He used a small piece of fresh fresh-water fish (usually "Wan Yue" in Cantonese, not sure what the English name is). Cut the fish into very thin slices (about 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch). Marinate the fish filets with just salt, ground white pepper and sesame oil for about 30 minutes.

Boil a pot of hot water (serving is about 3 to 4 Chinese bowls). Add the fish filet and 2 bundles of cilantro. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes or so. Done. (The thin fish filet cooks very quickly.)

This combination seems to work really well together: cilantro, fresh fish filet, sesame oil, ground white pepper.

I don't think this was his original recipe but I will bet this cannot be found in any Chinese cookbook. (Well... at least those published in the USA.)

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I don't think this was his original recipe but I will bet this cannot be found in any Chinese cookbook.  (Well... at least those published in the USA.)

I did some searches on the web with the Chinese name:

芫荽魚片湯

Quite a few pages came up. So this apparently is quite a common home-cooking soup. Some add thousand-year-old eggs in the soup... hmmm... interesting.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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One of my favorites is foo juk (bean curd skin) soup. I remember Dejah showed a photo of her version, and the one my mother makes is very similar. I don't know her exact recipe, but it's contains chicken stock, foo juk, pork stomach, dried oysters, salted turnip, gingko nuts, and if it's around Chinese New Year she adds some hair seaweed.

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One of my favorites is foo juk (bean curd skin) soup. I remember Dejah showed a photo of her version, and the one my mother makes is very similar. I don't know her exact recipe, but it's contains chicken stock, foo juk, pork stomach, dried oysters, salted turnip, gingko nuts, and if it's around Chinese New Year she adds some hair seaweed.

OH YES! Love pig stomach in this soup. This is my daughter's favourite WITH dried oysters. Dried oysters are a must in foo juk tong for Chinese New Year.

On the hung yun: google says" apricot kernels" toxic unless they are blanched or roasted before consumption.

Grace Young in The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen says:

. However, there is no substitute for the Chinese almonds (which are actually not almonds at all but apricot kernels). Nom hung almonds are from Southern China and are known for their sweetness. Buck hung are from the north and are slightly bitter, but they bring out the flavor of the nom hung almonds.

Ah Leung: I wonder if your father knew that cilantro is good for reduction of high blood pressure?

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Ah Leung: I wonder if your father knew that cilantro is good for reduction of high blood pressure?

I don't think he did. He, like many others in that generation or before, was not that health conscientious. He insisted on eating duck fat when he was 80, despite our dismay.

He's strictly after the taste and simplicity. :raz:

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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One of my favorites is foo juk (bean curd skin) soup. I remember Dejah showed a photo of her version, and the one my mother makes is very similar. I don't know her exact recipe, but it's contains chicken stock, foo juk, pork stomach, dried oysters, salted turnip, gingko nuts, and if it's around Chinese New Year she adds some hair seaweed.

Sheetz your term "exact recipe" is what I was trying to stress in the cookbook thread. There are no exact recipes in traditional home cooking. Remember 2-3 generations ago, most women in the villages were illiterate and being so deprived, they learned to improvise by approximation and taste and in doing so after a few times they (hopefully) would achieve the taste that their predecessor...mother, aunt, mother in law, produced. This obsession with exact recipes is the greatest encumbrance to creativity in the Chinese kitchen.

The list of ingredients forfu juk soup is very complete...a little bit of this and a pinch of that and season with the other thing...adjust for taste and PRESTO, you have a real honest to goodness, bona fide, authentic and traditional genoo-wine Chinese dish.. :laugh::raz::rolleyes: Aren't recipes fun???

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EXCELLENT thread Dejah! Really what I've been hoping for so thank you! :biggrin:

Hmm I'm not all that familiar with pig's stomach (well my parents have eaten it before if I remember correctly although we've never cooked it at home) although my mum has made a soup using fish's stomach. The texture is rather gelatious...I need to get back to my mum on what else she uses for the soup.

Musings and Morsels - a film and food blog

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Sheetz your term "exact recipe" is what I was trying to stress in the cookbook thread. There are no exact recipes in traditional home cooking. Remember 2-3 generations ago, most women in the villages were illiterate and being so deprived, they learned to improvise by approximation and taste and in doing so after a few times they (hopefully) would achieve the taste that their predecessor...mother, aunt, mother in law, produced. This obsession with exact recipes is the greatest encumbrance to creativity in the Chinese kitchen.

I think that sheetz meant exact quantities when the term "exact recipe" was used. The list of ingredients yes, but not how many cups of this, that. I mean, how can you describe "yut jat" choi gon (one bundle dried bak choi)? Now of course one can buy prepackaged choi gon in Asian stores.

The women 2 or 3 generations and more ago learned not by recipes but by being taught by the elders. I know my Mom learned from watching and doing with her grandmother, mother, mother-in-law, and other elder females.

Pig stomach is definitely different from fish stomach. :laugh:

I have also been taught and still being taught by my Mom sitting and directing from her chair. :laugh: I am trying to record some of her instructions as she is 99. At least my kids will have some kind of recipe to follow.

Edited by Dejah (log)

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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It is very true that in past generations, cooking methods and recipes were passed down verbally. Not only that, you really have to watch how the elders (masters) did it in order to learn. I mean... how can you write down on a piece of paper how to wrap a joong? - with one bamboo leave! Or how to tilt the wok and dash in the rice wine to ignite a flame? Or how the heck you plead a har gow?

And my nephew... he couldn't cook *anything* unless the specific quantified measurements are recorded and printed on a piece of paper in front of himm with photo illustrations. Spoiled! Spoiled!

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I don't know if it's accurate to say there are no recipes in traditional home cooking, just that they are known instinctively rather than written on paper.

And even though ingredients will vary depending on circumstances, the method of preparation is always exactly the same.

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Well you're right sheetz, I'm fairly sure that those traditional home recipes are normally passed down by word of mouth, rather than paper. Although me having the memory of a goldfish and also being relatively young, I'd love to learn more about these recipes that I haven't been exposed to and my only way is to actually record them!

I'm actually writing my own personal collection of traditional Chinese recipes :)

Then I've got another even more personal one for family recipes :)

Edited by Ce'nedra (log)

Musings and Morsels - a film and food blog

http://musingsandmorsels.weebly.com/

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Coming from a culture of women who cook by instinct rather than recipe, I totally understand the fact that a standard recipe may not exist. However, I think we are all loving the descriptions and the proportions that give us a sense of the home style items. Thank you for your efforts.

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Ah Leung: I wonder if your father knew that cilantro is good for reduction of high blood pressure?

I don't think he did. He, like many others in that generation or before, was not that health conscientious. He insisted on eating duck fat when he was 80, despite our dismay.

He's strictly after the taste and simplicity. :raz:

I think if your father made it to at least 80, he did quite well, despite not watching his diet.

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Duck fat is extremely healthy, I understand. Thanks everyone for this great thread. Of course traditional cookng does not deal in exact quantities, but in general it does deal with a very small repertoire. When those who cook everyday and care about food prepare only say 50-100 dishes in their lifetimes, great cooking happens! It's all about repetition.

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My absolute favorite soup is pig stomach with white peppercorn. It's just whole peppercorn cracked w/ your cleaver, and pig stomach. Cooked until the pig stomach is tender and yummy.

With salt to taste. It's simple, the soup is spicy, it's great for a cold day, and it just somehow reaches comfort level for me. Even though the first time I had it, i thought it was gross (before I took my first bite)!

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Dejah, I make choy gon tong the same way you do (without the duck feet) though and with those little white olive kernels ?.

But I have never tried drying my own bok choy that would be interesting! I have only used the ones you buy commercially and you have to reconstitute, wash and drain those quite a few times or else it'll have that sour taste in the soup.

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No ginger with the pig stomach?

Not in my mother's dish, but there's nothing preventing you from adding it...if it suits your fancy and tickles your palate.

I might add ginger AND chun pei (rehydated tangerine peel).

I think the need for ginger and chun pei may depend on how well the pig stomach was cleaned, whether there is any strong piggy odour remaining.

The addition of pepper is also used to get rid of "sang mai/fishy taste" as with rehyrdated oysters in foo juk tong, or "sou mai" as in pig stomach.

I was taught to sautee the oysters in a bit of oil and white pepper before adding them to soup.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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I don't know if it's accurate to say there are no recipes in traditional home cooking, just that they are known instinctively rather than written on paper.

And even though ingredients will vary depending on circumstances, the method of preparation is always exactly the same.

You are correct in your above statement sheetz. There IS definitely a "recipe" in terms of what ingredient must go with/or compliments each other. There is much thought given when combining certain "elements" - in the correct combination = for an ailment or as a tonic; in the wrong combination, causes problems with one's health; using complementary ingredients = delicious food.

For myself, I am aware of what ingredients go into, for example, soups, but only because I was raised on and loved that "recipe" and not really conscious of the health factor, etc. That's just a side benefit. :smile:

How many of you make the tonic soup called "Sai mai". Do you know the English names of the ingredients? Please post your lists so I can compare with mine. :smile:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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How many of you make the tonic soup called "Sai mai". Do you know the English names of the ingredients? Please post your lists so I can compare with mine. :smile:

"Sai mai" as "West Rice"? That is used in dessert more, and it is tapioca pearl. But I don't think that's what you were refering to.

Did you mean what in Cantonese it is called "Yee Mai"?

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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