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Burmese Days

Burmese Days

Ladies and gentlemen, ... It arrived!

 

I ended my last post reflecting on all the effort it took to find this book. I acknowledged that in all likelihood, this book would not be worth the work. I'm happy to say I was wrong. This book is a wonderful find, and I hope all of you get the chance to enjoy it one day.

 

The most interesting part of all is this the recipe layout. I've never seen such cleanly outlined recipes. For the sake of an example, here's the Mapo Tofu recipe from the book. As the colloquial Sichuan dish in the West, it should be a good point of reference for many that read this post.

 

Here's a transcription - 

Ingredients

300g tofu, 60g stir-fried beef mince, 20g baby leeks (chopped into sections), 80g

cooking oil

Seasonings A

25g Pixian chili bean paste, 10g ground chilies, 6g fermented soy beans

Seasonings B

3g salt, 5g soy sauce, 1g MSG

Seasonings C

1g ground roasted Sichuan pepper, 200g everyday stock, 30g cornstarch-water

mixture

Preparation

1, Cut the tofu into 1.8cm3 cubes, blanch in salty water, remove and soak in water.

2. Heat oil in a wok to 120°C, add Seasonings A and stir-fry to bring out the aroma. Add

the stock, fried beef mince, season with Seasoning B, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes;

add the leeks and thicken with cornstarch-water mixture; Transfer to a serving

bowl and sprinkle with Seasoning C.

 

So a lot to go through here. I'm going to split up my comments and critiques into two categories. One that critiques the recipe and one that critiques the recipe layout/choices.

 

Comments on the recipe

Beef

Everything about the beef was a little strange in this dish. They called for the beef pre-cooked and didn't go over the cooking step at all. While this would normally be fine all though a little strange, in mapo tofu, it's bad. The whole point of the beef is to use the fried beef oil as the base for the dish. The mince itself is tertiary. Because the recipe never outlined cooking the beef, the average home cook would most likely not realize that they needed to save the oil for cooking the Pixian bean paste.

 

Aromatics

The first thing I noticed when I read this recipe was that it had no aromatics besides the Sichuan pepper powder if you count that. No garlic. Not even the white portion of the green onion. This struck me as strange till I looked a little deeper at what the hell "baby leeks" are in this context.

Welcome to the wacky world of obscure vegetables and aromatics. Where scientific names are never listed, and regional names differ wildly.

  • Were they calling for Dacong, aka welsh onion (Allium Fistolum)? It's very often used across Northern China
  • Is it talking about actual leeks (Allium ampeloprasum)?
  • Or perhaps it meant Chinese chives, aka garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). No, this has nothing to do with garlic, garlic scapes, or green garlic besides the fact that its an allium.
  • Speaking of garlic, it could be green garlic; immature garlic pulled before the bulb has matured (Allium sativum). It looks quite like a large scallion.
  • Possibly it's garlic scapes, the immature flower stalks of garlic (Allium sativum). They're often removed by farmers to focus all the garlic's energy into bulb growth. Because of this, they're plentiful and cheap across China.
  • I can come up with at least five more, but I think you get the point

The characters listed for it are "蒜苗节20克". From my limited google skills, I've come to the conclusion that they're suanmiao, aka green garlic. A good sub if you can't find any in your area is... well... garlic. I'd add it right after you finish frying seasonings A but before you add the stock. 10-15 seconds should be enough time for it to cook. While you'll miss a lot of the pleasent textural aspects, and the garlic flavor will be more homogeneous in the dish, it should work pretty well as far as subs go.

If you take anything away from this, know that dacong are not leeks, no matter how often they're translated as leeks in the West. They both taste similar, but dacong is tender and soft while leek can be tough and crunchy. Dacong closer to a scallion than an onion in flavor, unlike leek. Also, Chinese leek can refer to dacong, leeks, and Chinese Chives - so be careful with that term.

 

This is why sources like liuzhou's Chinese Vegetables Illustrated thread are so important. 

 

So after that detour, back to the recipe.

 

Critiques of the recipe layout and recipe choices

Seasoning categories 

The seasonings categories are a brilliant idea. It's the linchpin of what makes these recipes so concise and neat. It makes perfect sense when you think of most wok cooking. A basic fried rice or stir-fry are cooked very fast. The timing between adding different types of ingredients is crucial and can be a surprisingly narrow range. Take a look at this basic gailan stir-fry.

I've listed estimated cooking times for each step.

  1. Quick fry of the beef and remove ~45 seconds
  2. Fry the garlic and ginger~ 10seconds
  3. Throw in onion and chili ~30 seconds
  4. Splash of Shaoxing wine
  5. Toss in the (mostly) cooked beef ~15 seconds
  6. Add soy sauce
  7. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  8. Add cornstarch slurry
  9. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  10. Add blanched gailan
  11. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  12. Drizzle with some toasted sesame oil

You can see that once you start, it's a very fast process. This leaves the cook with very little time to fiddle with their recipe books and even less time to deliberate over what to do. Compare that to this version of the recipe, which consolidates each ingredient type into categories.

 

Ingredients - Beef slivers, blanched gailan

        Seasonings A - ginger, garlic

        seasonings B - onion, chili

        Seasonings C - soy sauce, cornstarch slurry

  1. Quick fry of the beef and remove ~45 seconds
  2. Fry the seasonings A ~10seconds
  3. Throw in seasonings B ~30 seconds
  4. Splash of Shaoxing wine
  5. Toss in the (mostly) cooked beef ~15 seconds
  6. Add Seasoning C
  7. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  8. Add blanched gailan
  9. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  10. Drizzle with some toasted sesame oil

While it may arguable be a longer recipe, it feels neater. It takes steps away from the frantic parts of the cooking process and places them at the start, where you have all the time in the world. It forces the cook to create a form of mise en place. Of course, a good cook can use both recipes perfectly well and make great food. But to someone like me, who does not prepare well enough ahead of time while cooking, the second recipe is inarguable better.

 

While the idea may be brilliant, the execution is less than perfect. For example, 2 out of three of the ingredients in seasonings C are used before seasonings C is called for. There is no need for a whole category when you're just going to list for the ingredients individually anyway.

 

Measurements

As you can see, the measurements are all given in grams. I can't count how many cups vs. grams arguments I've read on forums, but I can tell you this is the first truly grams only cookbook I own. Instead of a teaspoon, it calls for things down to a single gram's worth.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I greatly prefer grams to cups, but for sums smaller than 5 grams~ volume just seems better. I'm willing to be wrong, though, and I'm excited to try this book out. I might need to get a scale with better resolution.

 

Conclusion

I'm very excited to use this book more. I showed the mapo tofu recipe as a point of refrenece for everyone, but this book has much more to it than just mapo tofu. There are so many interesting recipes that I'm excited to try. I'll update this thread if I make anything else fro the book.

Burmese Days

Burmese Days

Ladies and gentlemen, ... It arrived!

 

I ended my last post reflecting on all the effort it took to find this book. I acknowledged that in all likelihood, this book would not be worth the work. I'm happy to say I was wrong. This book is a wonderful find, and I hope all of you get the chance to enjoy it one day.

 

The most interesting part of all is this the recipe layout. I've never seen such cleanly outlined recipes. For the sake of an example, here's the Mapo Tofu recipe from the book. As the colloquial Sichuan dish in the West, it should be a good point of reference for many that read this post.

 

Here's a transcription - 

Ingredients

300g tofu, 60g stir-fried beef mince, 20g baby leeks (chopped into sections), 80g

cooking oil

Seasonings A

25g Pixian chili bean paste, 10g ground chilies, 6g fermented soy beans

Seasonings B

3g salt, 5g soy sauce, 1g MSG

Seasonings C

1g ground roasted Sichuan pepper, 200g everyday stock, 30g cornstarch-water

mixture

Preparation

1, Cut the tofu into 1.8cm3 cubes, blanch in salty water, remove and soak in water.

2. Heat oil in a wok to 120°C, add Seasonings A and stir-fry to bring out the aroma. Add

the stock, fried beef mince, season with Seasoning B, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes;

add the leeks and thicken with cornstarch-water mixture; Transfer to a serving

bowl and sprinkle with Seasoning C.

 

So a lot to go through here. I'm going to split up my comments and critiques into two categories. One that critiques the recipe and one that critiques the recipe layout/choices.

 

Comments on the recipe

Beef

Everything about the beef was a little strange in this dish. They called for the beef pre-cooked and didn't go over the cooking step at all. While this would normally be fine all though a little strange, in mapo tofu, it's bad. The whole point of the beef is to use the fried beef oil as the base for the dish. The mince itself is tertiary. Because the recipe never outlined cooking the beef, the average home cook would most likely not realize that they needed to save the oil for cooking the Pixian bean paste.

 

Aromatics

The first thing I noticed when I read this recipe was that it had no aromatics besides the Sichuan pepper powder if you count that. No garlic. Not even the white portion of the green onion. This struck me as strange till I looked a little deeper at what the hell "baby leeks" are in this context.

Welcome to the wacky world of obscure vegetables and aromatics. Where scientific names are never listed, and regional names differ wildly.

  • Were they calling for Dacong, aka welsh onion (Allium Fistolum)? It's very often used across Northern China
  • Is it talking about actual leeks (Allium ampeloprasum)?
  • Or perhaps it meant Chinese chives, aka garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). No, this has nothing to do with garlic, garlic scapes, or green garlic besides the fact that its an allium.
  • Speaking of garlic, it could be green garlic; immature garlic pulled before the bulb has matured (Allium sativum). It looks quite like a large scallion.
  • Possibly it's garlic scapes, the immature flower stalks of garlic (Allium sativum). They're often removed by farmers to focus all the garlic's energy into bulb growth. Because of this, they're plentiful and cheap across China.
  • I can come up with at least five more, but I think you get the point

The characters listed for it are "蒜苗节20克". From my limited google skills, I've come to the conclusion that they're suanmiao, aka green garlic. A good sub if you can't find any in your area is... well... garlic. I'd add it right after you finish frying seasonings A but before you add the stock. 10-15 seconds should be enough time for it to cook. While you'll miss a lot of the pleasent textural aspects, and the garlic flavor will be more homogeneous in the dish, it should work pretty well as far as subs go.

If you take anything away from this, know that dacong are not leeks, no matter how often they're translated as leeks in the West. They both taste similar to spring onion, but dacong is tender and soft while leek can be tough and crunchy. Dacong closer to a scallion than an onion in flavor, unlike leeks. Also, Chinese leek can refer to dacong, leeks, and Chinese Chives - so be careful with that term.

 

This is why sources like liuzhou's Chinese Vegetables Illustrated thread are so important. 

 

So after that detour, back to the recipe.

 

Critiques of the recipe layout and recipe choices

Seasoning categories 

The seasonings categories are a brilliant idea. It's the linchpin of what makes these recipes so concise and neat. It makes perfect sense when you think of most wok cooking. A basic fried rice or stir-fry are cooked very fast. The timing between adding different types of ingredients is crucial and can be a surprisingly narrow range. Take a look at this basic gailan stir-fry.

I've listed estimated cooking times for each step.

  1. Quick fry of the beef and remove ~45 seconds
  2. Fry the garlic and ginger~ 10seconds
  3. Throw in onion and chili ~30 seconds
  4. Splash of Shaoxing wine
  5. Toss in the (mostly) cooked beef ~15 seconds
  6. Add soy sauce
  7. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  8. Add cornstarch slurry
  9. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  10. Add blanched gailan
  11. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  12. Drizzle with some toasted sesame oil

You can see that once you start, it's a very fast process. This leaves the cook with very little time to fiddle with their recipe books and even less time to deliberate over what to do. Compare that to this version of the recipe, which consolidates each ingredient type into categories.

 

Ingredients - Beef slivers, blanched gailan

        Seasonings A - ginger, garlic

        seasonings B - onion, chili

        Seasonings C - soy sauce, cornstarch slurry

  1. Quick fry of the beef and remove ~45 seconds
  2. Fry the seasonings A ~10seconds
  3. Throw in seasonings B ~30 seconds
  4. Splash of Shaoxing wine
  5. Toss in the (mostly) cooked beef ~15 seconds
  6. Add Seasoning C
  7. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  8. Add blanched gailan
  9. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  10. Drizzle with some toasted sesame oil

While it may arguable be a longer recipe, it feels neater. It takes steps away from the frantic parts of the cooking process and places them at the start, where you have all the time in the world. It forces the cook to create a form of mise en place. Of course, a good cook can use both recipes perfectly well and make great food. But to someone like me, who does not prepare well enough ahead of time while cooking, the second recipe is inarguable better.

 

While the idea may be brilliant, the execution is less than perfect. For example, 2 out of three of the ingredients in seasonings C are used before seasonings C is called for. There is no need for a whole category when you're just going to list for the ingredients individually anyway.

 

Measurements

As you can see, the measurements are all given in grams. I can't count how many cups vs. grams arguments I've read on forums, but I can tell you this is the first truly grams only cookbook I own. Instead of a teaspoon, it calls for things down to a single gram's worth.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I greatly prefer grams to cups, but for sums smaller than 5 grams~ volume just seems better. I'm willing to be wrong, though, and I'm excited to try this book out. I might need to get a scale with better resolution.

 

Conclusion

I'm very excited to use this book more. I showed the mapo tofu recipe as a point of refrenece for everyone, but this book has much more to it than just mapo tofu. There are so many interesting recipes that I'm excited to try. I'll update this thread if I make anything else fro the book.

Burmese Days

Burmese Days

Ladies and gentlemen, ... It arrived!

 

I ended my last post reflecting on all the effort it took to find this book. I acknowledged that in all likelihood, this book would not be worth the work. I'm happy to say I was wrong. This book is a wonderful find, and I hope all of you get the chance to enjoy it one day.

 

The most interesting part of all is this the recipe layout. I've never seen such cleanly outlined recipes. For the sake of an example, here's the Mapo Tofu recipe from the book. As the colloquial Sichuan dish in the West, it should be a good point of reference for many that read this post.

 

Here's a transcription - 

Ingredients

300g tofu, 60g stir-fried beef mince, 20g baby leeks (chopped into sections), 80g

cooking oil

Seasonings A

25g Pixian chili bean paste, 10g ground chilies, 6g fermented soy beans

Seasonings B

3g salt, 5g soy sauce, 1g MSG

Seasonings C

1g ground roasted Sichuan pepper, 200g everyday stock, 30g cornstarch-water

mixture

Preparation

1, Cut the tofu into 1.8cm3 cubes, blanch in salty water, remove and soak in water.

2. Heat oil in a wok to 120°C, add Seasonings A and stir-fry to bring out the aroma. Add

the stock, fried beef mince, season with Seasoning B, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes;

add the leeks and thicken with cornstarch-water mixture; Transfer to a serving

bowl and sprinkle with Seasoning C.

 

So a lot to go through here. I'm going to split up my comments and critiques into two categories. One that critiques the recipe and one that critiques the recipe layout/choices.

 

Comments on the recipe

Beef

Everything about the beef was a little strange in this dish. They called for the beef pre-cooked and didn't go over the cooking step at all. While this would normally be fine all though a little strange, in mapo tofu, it's bad. The whole point of the beef is to use the fried beef oil as the base for the dish. The mince itself is tertiary. Because the recipe never outlined cooking the beef, the average home cook would most likely not realize that they needed to save the oil for cooking the Pixian bean paste.

 

Aromatics

The first thing I noticed when I read this recipe was that it had no aromatics besides the Sichuan pepper powder if you count that. No garlic. Not even the white portion of the green onion. This struck me as strange till I looked a little deeper at what the hell "baby leeks" are in this context.

Welcome to the wacky world of obscure vegetables and aromatics. Where scientific names are never listed, and regional names differ wildly.

  • Were they calling for Dacong, aka welsh onion (Allium Fistolum)? It's very often used across Northern China
  • Is it talking about actual leeks (Allium ampeloprasum)?
  • Or perhaps it meant Chinese chives, aka garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). No, this has nothing to do with garlic, garlic scapes, or green garlic besides the fact that its an allium.
  • Speaking of garlic, it could be green garlic; immature garlic pulled before the bulb has matured (Allium sativum). It looks quite like a large scallion.
  • Possibly it's garlic scapes, the immature flower stalks of garlic (Allium sativum). They're often removed by farmers to focus all the garlic's energy into bulb growth. Because of this, they're plentiful and cheap across China.
  • I can come up with at least five more, but I think you get the point

The characters listed for it are "蒜苗节20克". From my limited google skills, I've come to the conclusion that they're suanmiao, aka green garlic. A good sub if you can't find any in your area is... well... garlic. I'd add it right after you finish frying seasonings A but before you add the stock. 10-15 seconds should be enough time for it to cook. While you'll miss a lot of the pleasent textural aspects, and the garlic flavor will be more himoginous in the dish, it should work pretty well as far as subs go.

If you take anything away from this, know that dacong are not leeks, no matter how often they're translated as leeks in the West. They both taste similar to spring onion, but dacong is tender and soft while leek can be tough and crunchy. Dacong closer to a scallion than an onion in flavor, unlike leeks. Also, Chinese leek can refer to dacong, leeks, and Chinese Chives - so be careful with that term.

 

This is why sources like liuzhou's Chinese Vegetables Illustrated thread are so important. 

 

So after that detour, back to the recipe.

 

Critiques of the recipe layout and recipe choices

Seasoning categories 

The seasonings categories are a brilliant idea. It's the linchpin of what makes these recipes so concise and neat. It makes perfect sense when you think of most wok cooking. A basic fried rice or stir-fry are cooked very fast. The timing between adding different types of ingredients is crucial and can be a surprisingly narrow range. Take a look at this basic gailan stir-fry.

I've listed estimated cooking times for each step.

  1. Quick fry of the beef and remove ~45 seconds
  2. Fry the garlic and ginger~ 10seconds
  3. Throw in onion and chili ~30 seconds
  4. Splash of Shaoxing wine
  5. Toss in the (mostly) cooked beef ~15 seconds
  6. Add soy sauce
  7. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  8. Add cornstarch slurry
  9. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  10. Add blanched gailan
  11. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  12. Drizzle with some toasted sesame oil

You can see that once you start, it's a very fast process. This leaves the cook with very little time to fiddle with their recipe books and even less time to deliberate over what to do. Compare that to this version of the recipe, which consolidates each ingredient type into categories.

 

Ingredients - Beef slivers, blanched gailan

        Seasonings A - ginger, garlic

        seasonings B - onion, chili

        Seasonings C - soy sauce, cornstarch slurry

  1. Quick fry of the beef and remove ~45 seconds
  2. Fry the seasonings A ~10seconds
  3. Throw in seasonings B ~30 seconds
  4. Splash of Shaoxing wine
  5. Toss in the (mostly) cooked beef ~15 seconds
  6. Add Seasoning C
  7. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  8. Add blanched gailan
  9. Quick mix ~10 seconds
  10. Drizzle with some toasted sesame oil

While it may arguable be a longer recipe, it feels neater. It takes steps away from the frantic parts of the cooking process and places them at the start, where you have all the time in the world. It forces the cook to create a form of mise en place. Of course, a good cook can use both recipes perfectly well and make great food. But to someone like me, who does not prepare well enough ahead of time while cooking, the second recipe is inarguable better.

 

While the idea may be brilliant, the execution is less than perfect. For example, 2 out of three of the ingredients in seasonings C are used before seasonings C is called for. There is no need for a whole category when you're just going to list for the ingredients individually anyway.

 

Measurements

As you can see, the measurements are all given in grams. I can't count how many cups vs. grams arguments I've read on forums, but I can tell you this is the first truly grams only cookbook I own. Instead of a teaspoon, it calls for things down to a single gram's worth.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. I greatly prefer grams to cups, but for sums smaller than 5 grams~ volume just seems better. I'm willing to be wrong, though, and I'm excited to try this book out. I might need to get a scale with better resolution.

 

Conclusion

I'm very excited to use this book more. I showed the mapo tofu recipe as a point of refrenece for everyone, but this book has much more to it than just mapo tofu. There are so many interesting recipes that I'm excited to try. I'll update this thread if I make anything else fro the book.

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      Method

      First, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and marinate in 1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce, 3 teaspoons of Shaoxing and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside for about twenty minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

      Heat the wok and add three tablespoons cooking oil. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns and chiles. Fry on a low heat for a  minute or so. If they look about to burn, splash a little water into your wok. This will lower the temperature slightly. Add the chicken and turn up the heat. Continue frying until the meat is nicely seared, then add the potatoes and carrots. Stir fry a minute more then add 2 teaspoons of the dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the light soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the Shaoxing wine along with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium. Cover and cook for around 15 minutes until the potatoes are done.

      While the main dish is cooking, cook the noodles separately according to the packet instructions.  Reserve  some of the noodle cooking water and drain.

      When the chicken and potatoes are done, you may add a little of the noodle water if the dish appears on the dry side. It should be saucy, but not soupy. Add the bell peppers and cook for three to four minutes more. Add scallions. Check seasoning and add some salt if it needs it. It may not due to the soy sauce and Shaoxing.

      Serve on a large plate for everyone to help themselves from. Plate the noodles first, then cover with the meat and potato. Enjoy.
       
    • By liuzhou
      Clam Soup with Mustard Greens - 车螺芥菜汤
       

       
      This is a popular, light but peppery soup available in most restaurants here (even if its not listed on the menu). Also, very easy to make at home.

      Ingredients

      Clams. (around 8 to 10 per person. Some restaurants are stingy with the clams, but I like to be more generous). Fresh live clams are always used in China, but if, not available, I suppose frozen clams could be used. Not canned. The most common clams here are relatively small. Littleneck clams may be a good substitute in terms of size.
       
      Stock. Chicken, fish or clam stock are preferable. Stock made from cubes or bouillon powder is acceptable, although fresh is always best.

      Mustard Greens. (There are various types of mustard green. Those used here are  芥菜 , Mandarin: jiè cài; Cantonese: gai choy). Use a good handful per person. Remove the thick stems, to be used in another dish.)

      Garlic. (to taste)

      Chile. (One or two fresh hot red chiles are optional).

      Salt.

      MSG (optional). If you have used a stock cube or bouillon powder for the stock, omit the MSG. The cubes and power already have enough.

      White pepper (freshly ground. I recommend adding what you consider to be slightly too much pepper, then adding half that again. The soup should be peppery, although of course everything is variable to taste.)

      Method

      Bring your stock to a boil. Add salt to taste along with MSG if using.

      Finely chop the garlic and chile if using. Add to stock and simmer for about five minutes.

      Make sure all the clams are tightly closed, discarding any which are open - they are dead and should not be eaten.

      The clams will begin to pop open fairly quickly. Remove the open ones as quickly as possible and keep to one side while the others catch up. One or two clams may never open. These should also be discarded. When you have all the clams fished out of the boiling stock, roughly the tear the mustard leaves in two and drop them into the stock. Simmer for one minute. Put all the clams back into the stock and when it comes back to the boil, take off the heat and serve.
    • By liuzhou
      Beef with Bitter Melon - 牛肉苦瓜
       

       
      The name may be off-putting to many people, but Chinese people do have an appreciation for bitter tastes and anyway, modern cultivars of this gourd are less bitter than in the past. Also, depending on how it's cooked, the bitterness can be mitigated.
       
      I'll admit that I wasn't sure at first, but have grown to love it.

      Note: "Beef with Bitter Melon (牛肉苦瓜 )" or "Bitter Melon with Beef (苦瓜牛肉)"? One Liuzhou restaurant I know has both on its menu! In Chinese, the ingredient listed first is the one there is most of, so, "beef with bitter melon" is mainly beef, whereas "bitter melon with beef" is much more a vegetable dish with just a little beef. This recipe is for the beefier version. To make the other version, just half the amount of beef and double the amount of melon.

      Ingredients

      Beef. One pound. Flank steak works best. Slice thinly against the grain.

      Bitter Melon. Half a melon. You can use the other half in a soup or other dish. Often available in Indian markets or supermarkets.
       

       
      Salted Black Beans. One tablespoon. Available in packets from Asian markets and supermarkets, these are salted, fermented black soy beans. They are used as the basis for 'black bean sauce', but we are going to be making our own sauce!

      Garlic. 6 cloves

      Cooking oil. Any vegetable oil except olive oil

      Shaoxing wine. See method

      Light soy sauce. One tablespoon

      Dark soy sauce. One teaspoon

      White pepper. See method

      Sesame oil. See method

      Method

      Marinate the beef in a 1/2 tablespoon of light soy sauce with a splash of Shaoxing wine along with a teaspoon or so of cornstarch or similar (I use potato starch). Stir well and leave for 15-30 minutes.

      Cut the melon(s) in half lengthwise and, using a teaspoon, scrape out all the seeds and pith. The more pith you remove, the less bitter the dish will be. Cut the melon into crescents about 1/8th inch wide.

      Rinse the black beans and drain. Crush them with the blade of your knife, then chop finely. Finely chop the garlic.

      Stir fry the meat in a tablespoon of oil over a high heat until done. This should take less than a minute. Remove and set aside.

      Add another tablespoon of oil and reduce heat to medium. fry the garlic and black beans until fragrant then add the bitter melon. Continue frying until the melon softens. then add a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine and soy sauces. Finally sprinkle on white pepper to taste along with a splash of sesame oil. Return the meat to the pan and mix everything well.

      Note: If you prefer the dish more saucy, you can add a tablespoon or so of water with the soy sauces.

      Serve with plained rice and a stir-fried green vegetable of choice.
       
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