Thursday, July 9, 2009

Cooking Chinese in Chinatown

Even though Significant Eater and I live within walking distance of literally dozens of Chinese restaurants, I often prefer cooking "Chinese food" at home rather than going out for it. Mostly it's because of the dozens of restaurants that we might walk to, in general they suck. They're slophouses for the masses - inexpensive food prepared from less than the highest quality ingredients. It's a shame really, because Chinese food, when prepared properly from high quality ingredients, is great cuisine.

Now, don't get me wrong...when I want a bowl of hand-pulled noodles or perhaps some roasted duck wonton noodle soup, I'm heading out and spending the under $10 that it'll cost me (Great NY Noodletown, if you must know). Dim sum - you'll see us at Chinatown Brasserie, where the dim sum is masterful. There's no getting around that, and I can't really reproduce that stuff at home - at least not without a fair amount of procurement, time and work, and it still won't be as good as what I get by heading out for that walk.

However, there are certain things (a lot of things, actually) that I make just as well as, if not better than, that which can be found in restaurants in Chinatown. The other day for lunch I did just that - and I started with my trusty old clay (or sandy) pot...

This sandy pot is a great little pot for preparing slow cooked, stove-top braises, as well as for some damn tasty rice dishes - and I did just that, taking a few varieties of Chinese sausage (duck and pork liver), along with a couple of soaked, dried shitake mushrooms, a bit of garlic, ginger and scallions along with a cup and a half of medium grain rice, 2 cups of water (chicken stock is even better, or maybe some of that mushroom soaking liquid) and cooking it all together. I did start by first frying the sausage and aromatics and then adding the rice and didn't look like much at the outset...

but after you've brought it to a boil, covered it, lowered the heat and let it simmer for about 18 minutes, it looks really tasty, don't you think?

Of course, man...and certainly not Significant Eater, does not live by rice alone - even if it comes with 2 kinds of sausage, mushrooms, etc. And no self-respecting Chinese person would ever just eat rice for a meal, now would they?

So, to go along with the rice, I happened to have a piece of poached pork butt, which is perfect for twice-cooked pork, a Szechuan specialty. Earlier that morning, I had walked up to the corner to buy some fruit and veggies (that's the real plus about living at the edge of Chinatown), and I had picked up some beautiful baby bok choy for the low, low price of $1 a pound. Along with a bright red pepper, and using ingredients that I always have on hand ( a few kinds of soy, chili paste with garlic, Shaoxing wine, the aforementioned ginger, garlic and scallions), my twice-cooked pork and fancy steamed rice were on the table in under an hour. And SE and I thought they were both much better than we could have gotten at any restaurant in Chinatown!


  1. Great post! I'm really hungry now, TT. One thing, does no one serve/sell bok choy anymore? Are the babies that much cuter? Save the baby bok choy!

  2. @ Danny...the babies are so much cuter! Slaughter them. And the Mets, too, while you're at it.

  3. I think Shanghai baby bok choy may be the greatest vegetable in the universe.

    I am also prone to hyperbole.

  4. Ah, hyperbole, one of my favorite foods ;-)


  5. @ Rebecca - there are so many kinds of baby bok choy that I can barely keep track of 'em all...we should walk to Chinatown one day and see how many we can find.

    Yes Chas, I'm thinking of blogging about hyperbole myself.