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Cooking Sichuan with "Land of Plenty" by Fuchsia Dunlop


Lochina
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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.

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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/iplayer/episode/b00x8f2n/Food_Programme_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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 4 weeks later...

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
Corrected typo (log)

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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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

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Twice-Cooked Pork (hui guo rou) (pp 194–196)

Fish-Fragrant Eggplant (yu xiang qie zi) (pp. 285–287)

Dinner was kind of a bust tonight, neither of these dishes was very successful. The pork I just though was one-dimensional: it tasted like fermented black beans and little else. The eggplant tasted great, but I overcooked them. No fault of the book's of course, I just let them deep fry too long, they wound up a mushy mess on the plate. The eggplant I'll be trying again, but the twice-cooked pork is probably not going to make my list. Does anyone have a better recipe for this? The writeup in the book makes it sound like a real classic dish.

The pork:

Twice-cooked Pork.jpg

The eggplant:

Fish-fragrant eggplants.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Those aubergine slices look very small. I've always done this as half an aubergine long. They shrink a bit when you cook, and they are slightly unweildy, but as I read it this is "correct". Or use whole slender aubergines, which I suspect may be more correct. Might also be why they came out over mushy?

My green beans tend to look a lot more marked and wrinkled after cooking than yours. No idea which it's supposed to be. I prefer the version without the minced pork, and loads of szechuan peppercorns, chilli and garlic.

I reckon I must have gone through about 90% of this book now, and the twice cooked pork is probably my least favourite, but then belly pork without crackling always seems a disappointment to me!

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I agree about the green beans: I had some timing issues trying to get the noodles and beans on the plate at the same time, and so undercooked the beans (unnecessarily, it turned out, because the noodles took much longer to deal with than I expected).

Re-reading the eggplant recipe it seems like it does call for larger pieces of eggplant, but I'm not sure that's the change I'll make next time. I liked the size of the pieces, I just need to cook them less.

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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Chicken with Chiles (la zi ji) (pp. 240-241)

From the recipe:

The first time you encounter this dish, it appears terrifyingly spicy, the cubes of chicken surrounded by improbably quantities of blood-red chiles. But in fact, it's not particularly hot.

Lies! Lies, I say! Holy crap this was spicy. When you throw 2 oz (over 50 grams!) of dried chiles and a tablespoon of sichuan peppercorns into a hot wok it's like getting hit with pepper spray. And that heat does NOT stay in the chiles, contrary to Dunlop's assertion in the writeup. No, this dish was insanely spicy, no two ways about it. The taste was fabulous, but this is definitely not designed for the western palate. I can't make it with this level of chiles again: maybe a quarter as many would be more reasonable.

Chicken with Chiles.jpg

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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looks gorgeous, but chilies can play tricks on one for sure! And it seems that even the same kind of chili can vary in hotness quite a bit. I've had dishes like this in restaurants where my first reaction was "where's the hidden camera, this must be a joke!" but they were not really all that spicy, even the chilies could be eaten w/o much pain. I don't think you can cook away much heat from chilies, can you? Maybe try a piece of one first, then adjust the quantity to something that seems reasonable.

But it's funny what is considered spicy in different cultures. There is (was?) an excellent Thai restaurant in the tiny town of Volcano on the Big Island, they told us that "hot" means "hot for Thai people hot" and that was very nice of them, as what we ate would have been completely inedible to me - and I like things spicy!

At the farmer's market there's a Mexican guy who eats Jalapenos like apples, one after the other. I'd be sweating blood and tears in no time :laugh:

I really need to tackle this book, I'm in an Asian mood lately!

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Well, spicy is a spectrum here. It is still a Sichuan dish. It's not so spicy if it doesn't feel like your face is going to fall off while you're eating it. Whenever I've had the lazi ji, the chilies have been cut into pieces, and have thus had a lot of their seeds knocked out of them before being cooked. This may make a less spicy dish. What kind of chilies did you use?

I've made the twice cooked pork a couple of times and quite liked it. This dish has so few ingredients, though, that you need good quality black bean sauce and rich, fatty pork belly.

Also, these dishes aren't meant to stand alone; they should be balanced by other dishes at the table. I find providing a pickled vegetable along with the rice and a fried green helps balance the flavours/spice.

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Chicken with Chiles (la zi ji) (pp. 240-241)

From the recipe:

The first time you encounter this dish, it appears terrifyingly spicy, the cubes of chicken surrounded by improbably quantities of blood-red chiles. But in fact, it's not particularly hot.

Lies! Lies, I say! Holy crap this was spicy. When you throw 2 oz (over 50 grams!) of dried chiles and a tablespoon of sichuan peppercorns into a hot wok it's like getting hit with pepper spray. And that heat does NOT stay in the chiles, contrary to Dunlop's assertion in the writeup. No, this dish was insanely spicy, no two ways about it. The taste was fabulous, but this is definitely not designed for the western palate. I can't make it with this level of chiles again: maybe a quarter as many would be more reasonable.

This is one of our family's favorites, so I am sorry it did not work out for you. You may want to try again with milder chiles - we use an un-named red chile from the Indian market that has a nice mix of flavor and heat.

And, as Nakji says, this stuff is designed to be eaten with lots of rice.

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Those aubergine slices look very small. I've always done this as half an aubergine long. They shrink a bit when you cook, and they are slightly unweildy, but as I read it this is "correct". Or use whole slender aubergines, which I suspect may be more correct. Might also be why they came out over mushy?

I use the small Chinese eggplants, but I still slice them fairly small. There are a number of different ways to cut the eggplant for this dish, and I don't think any of them are necessarily "correct". But most methods I've seen do involve fairly small slices.

The big disadvantage of small slices for doing this at home is that the deep frying can take longer; if you're at a restaurant or own a deep fryer, this is obviously less of a problem.

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I think I may just have the wrong kind of chiles: I know it's supposed to be a bit spicy, but that writeup sure sounds to me like it should be bearable, and probably less spicy than many of the other things I've made so far. I wouldn't really say the dish was a failure: as I mentioned, the taste is fantastic, Bruce I can understand why it would be a favorite. It was just that the spice got to be overwhelming.

So tonight, a totally different meal...

Sweet and Sour Pork (tan cu li ji) (pp. 210–211)

Not a chile in sight. I've made a number of "non-Westernized" versions of sweet-and-sour X, and I think this is my favorite so far. Too much sauce, but that's mostly because I foolishly dumped it all on there instead of adding a bit at a time. A really nice flavor combination, in my opinion. I served it with white rice (obviously) and a stir-fried cabbage based on her recipe for "Stir-fried potato slivers with chiles and sichuan pepper (qiang to dou si)" on page 297: the textural contrast was just right in this case, a good combination if you ask me.

Sweet and Sour Pork.jpg

Stir-fried cabbage with sichuan pepper.jpg

Chris Hennes
Director of Operations
chennes@egullet.org

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Just avoid the dried Thai ones (I think Dunlop has a note about that in the book) -- they look similar, but are a lot hotter. Chaotianjiao ("Facing Heaven" peppers) are probably most appropriate, but I think they're a little hotter than the normal Chinese or Mexican dried red chilis, and harder to find. They are fairly spicy, but also have a pleasant flavor.

I usually do take some of the seeds out, especially when cooking for people who aren't big spicy food buffs. You know you're not supposed to eat the chilis, right?

Having tasted a fair bit of reasonably authentic Sichuan food, I think it's fair to say that Dunlop's book already tends to err a bit on the side of toning down the spice for the Western audience, and the dish is pretty much just chicken and hot peppers, so there are probably better dishes to try if it's too hot. I don't eat meat, but when I see this dish in restaurants, there are a lot of red chilis on the plate.

For what it's worth, your experience with the fumes is not unique. I have a pretty powerful range hood, but when those hot peppers are in the wok the fumes can get pretty toxic.

Edited by Will (log)
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Stir-Fried Pork Slivers with Sweet Fermented Paste (jing jiang rou si) (pp. 215–216)

I love the taste of sweet bean paste, so this dish was totally successful for me. I served it with "Tiger Skin Green Peppers (fu pi qing jiao)" (page 288), but my green peppers turned out to be flavorless crap, so that dish was a wash, though obviously no fault of the recipe's. I'll try it again when my garden starts producing peppers later this year.

Sir-fried pork slivers with sweet fermented paste.jpg

Chris Hennes
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chennes@egullet.org

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And, as Nakji says, this stuff is designed to be eaten with lots of rice.

Agreed. Also I think when we put some of these recipes onto a traditional American plate of protein, veg and starch the balance may be off. Much of the cuisine is meant to be eaten in small amounts with lots of other flavor balancing dishes in quantities much smaller than the standard Western serving size. Makes it hard when you are just cooking for yourself and spouse as you are not about to put out a ton of dishes. I wonder if the cookbook authors consider this.

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