Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Uncle Henry's Chow Mein

My cousin Shirley Quan recently put together a Young family cookbook and photo album. What a treasure! My late Uncle Henry, Shirley's father, was quite a cook. He learned mostly from his aunt who had both a Chinese restaurant in Woodland Hills called House of Kwong, and a Mexican restaurant near Olvera Street.

Uncle Henry used to make chicken chow mein for family birthday dinners (noodles are a traditional Chinese birthday meal) and big gatherings. Shirley continues the tradition by making the dish for Young family meals at Thanksgiving and Easter. It would be perfect to celebrate Chinese New Year this month, a lucky start to the auspicious Year of the Dragon. You should be able to find the ingredients at popular Chinese grocery store 99 Ranch Market with locations in Mountain View, Cupertino, San Jose, and more.

Uncle Henry's Chow Mein

2 lbs. fresh or dried noodles (preferably Quon Yick small noodles)
1 lb. chicken, sliced (chicken is optional; if using, you'll also need 1 T soy sauce, 1/2 T wine, 1/2 T fresh ginger shreds, and 1 T cornstarch)
1 medium onion, sliced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
3 stalks celery, diagonally sliced
6-8 dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked, cleaned and sliced
1 small can of sliced bamboo shoots
6-8 sliced water chestnuts, preferably fresh but canned will do
2 cans chicken broth
1 bunch bok choy, cleaned and cut into pieces, about 2 lbs.
1 lb. char shiu (bbq pork), sliced thin in slivers
2-3 lbs. fresh bean sprouts, cleaned, washed and drained
2-5 T oyster sauce (old style like Lee Kum Kee)
1 1/2 t sesame oil
green onions as garnish
oil for frying
2 T cornstarch

1. Parboil noodles till limp but not cooked all the way. Rinse and let drain in a colander.

2. Heat 1/4" thick layer of oil in a wok or cast iron frying pan until ripples show on the whole surface. Grab a handful of noodles and distribute in an even 1" layer in the pan. Press down with a spatula. Cook for about 5-10 minutes on each side til evenly brown, stirring or pressing occasionally so it browns evenly.

3. Drain noodles on paper towels. Continue to cook all the noodles into round cakes. When cool, break into pieces and set aside in a large pot. Noodles may be prepared a day ahead.

4. If using chicken, marinate with 1 T soy sauce, 1/2 T wine, 1/2 T fresh ginger shreds and 1 T cornstarch for about 15 minutes. Stir fry in oil until lightly brown and remove from wok. Set aside.

5. In large pot or wok, add about 1 T oil. Sprinkle salt in oil and heat til almost smoking.

6. Add onions and garlic, quickly stirring until soft.

7. Add celery, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and water chestnuts. Add half the chicken broth, adding more as needed, and cook about 5 minutes.

8. Add bok choy and continue cooking about 5 more minutes.

9. Add char shiu and chicken if using. Add bean sprouts. Cook just slightly so vegetables stay crisp. Season with oyster sauce and sesame oil. Taste and add more oyster sauce if needed.

10. Make a mixture of 2 T cornstarch and about 2 T water and add to wok, cooking until slightly thickened. Mix everything with noodles. Garnish with green onions.

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Splendid Salads

This year I resolve to eat more salads. Fortunately many restaurants nearby offer delicious, healthy, and satisfying medleys. 

Some of my favorite, reliable local salads include:

Lulu's on the Alameda Chopped Salad: Mixed lettuce, napa cabbage, chicken, bell peppers, corn, tortilla chips with a cilantro dressing. I love the lime flavor in the dressing, and the crunchiness of the tortilla chips and peppers. I've also been to parties where this is served to wide applause.   

CPK BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad:  Sweet corn, black beans, jicama, cilantro, basil, tortilla strips, and Monterey Jack in a homemade ranch dressing. Topped with BBQ chicken, tomatoes and scallions, I always like to add avocado for a creamy balance. It's a go-to salad meal for me and my daughter Valerie (photo above). Yum.  

Amici's Artichoke Panzanella Salad: Classic Tuscan Bread Salad with artichoke hearts, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, romaine, basil, capers, extra-virgin olive oil, and red wine vinegar. We always order this when getting Amici's incredible New York style pizzas and bread sticks with Ranch dipping sauce. The common ingredient is Amici's soft and chewy bread: you gotta love the big, chewy croutons and wonderful melding of salad crunch and tangy dressing.  

Michael's at Shoreline Chinese Chicken Salad: They mix it all up for you in a big bowl. The crunchies and dressing meld together nicely with the chicken and vegetables. You can eat it outside with a view of the golf course after a relaxing walk along the baylands.  

Sprout Cafe has lots of great salads. Two of my favorites are the Farmhouse (red leaf lettuce, orange, roasted red beets, goat cheese, shaved fennel, cherry tomatoes, red onions, roasted red bell peppers, balsamic vinaigrette) and Somen (Japanese somen noodles, mixed greens, caramelized shallots, kaiware sprouts, carrots, bean sprouts, fresh herbs, crispy wonton strips, roasted chopped peanuts, chili lime vinaigrette). You can also create your own, but why bother when Sprouts has already designed such delectable and sometimes unexpected combinations?     

Whole Foods offers several great salads packaged up and ready to go. A favorite is the Sonoma Chicken Salad. You can even try making it at home from this recipe

I have a feeling this is a New Year's resolution that will be easy to stick to. Let me know if you have other favorite salads--I'd love to try some new ones too!