Tag Archives: eggs

Rebounding with homemade chive and egg jiaozi

After ending relations with our neighbourhood jiaozi lady about a month ago, I’d resolved to quickly find another provider of cheap and delicious (meatless) dumplings. All but four days had passed before Sean suggested that I take matters into my own hands… and so I did.

Making jiaozi is a long-standing Chinese New Year tradition, and seems to be the quintessential culinary activity for anyone wishing to “experience” Chinese culture. And no wonder: jiaozi, with regional variations, are enjoyed by Chinese all over, from Dongbei (Northeast) to Guangdong to Gansu. When I went to Beijing for a two-week Mandarin summer camp in high school, we spent an afternoon making dumplings at a local’s home. Growing up in Canada, I would sometimes help my grandma wrap dumplings, embarrassed by my unpracticed fingers and the awkward, amateur look of “my” batch.

Up until recently, making dumplings for me has only involved the act of sealing a spoonful of filling that someone else has prepared in a skin that someone else has made. The Chinese phrase for making dumplings is 包饺子 (bao jiaozi), literally to wrap dumplings, which somewhat masks all the other tasks involved in creating a batch of jiaozi from scratch — preparing the filling, making the dough, rolling and cutting it into round skins. Making chive and egg jiaozi that day made me appreciate how much effort really goes into the whole process — and why packaged, frozen dumplings are such a big sell.

Anyway, it was a success if the minuscule time spent eating:time spent making ratio was any indication! We split about 3 dozen between lunch and dinner, and followed up the following Sunday with a batch of zucchini-egg-wood ear dumplings (sounds weird, but it works). Not only were our tummies satisfied, but our heartbreak and sense of loss soon turned into smug giddiness: so this was what self-love could feel (and taste) like.

The filling

We lifted the chive-and-egg idea from our ex-dumpling provider, though this really is just a classic combo. Chinese chives (韭菜) are fragrant, even pungent, and mixed with egg and enough salt and white pepper, pack a pound of flavour in each dumpling.

The skin

Even though a basic flour-and-water dough sounds simple enough to make, this was the most time-consuming and labour-intensive part. I won’t hate on home cooks who use store-bought dumpling wrappers, but totally admire those who make their own, as it is a LOT of work… especially when the only rolling pin you can find at the supermarket is a primitive wooden stick, which makes getting the skin sufficiently thin a challenge in itself.

Wrapping time

First batch (Sean’s ones remind me of pierogi, mmmm):

Second batch:

Ready to eat

Results of the first batch (lunch):

The second batch (dinner):

Not too shabby for my first dumplings in a decade and Sean’s very first, eh? And none of them exploded in the water, which was a plus. Now that we’ve made this stuff from scratch, though, we might holler at some pre-made skins in the future — though they seem fairly hard to come by in these parts.

Chive and egg jiaozi

2 cups all-purpose/jiaozi flour
1/2 cup potable water
Extra flour for dusting
1/2 cup lukewarm water for wrapping

1 lb Chinese chives, washed and drained, browned ends and roots (white parts) removed
4 eggs, beaten
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tbsp sesame oil

Dipping sauce
Black rice vinegar
Soy sauce to taste
Sesame oil to taste

Rolling pin (or a large jar if you have nothing else)
Glass or tumbler with diameter of 7-8cm (3in) at the mouth

Dough: Mix flour with water in large mixing bowl until a dough begins to form, then transfer to clean flat surface and knead with hands until dough is soft and pliable (no crumbly or floury parts). Dough will be slightly dry, but resist the urge to add more water unless mixture remains crumbly after a lot of kneading. Separate into two balls, wrap with damp paper towel, and let sit for 20 minutes.

Filling: Add a small amount of oil to pan and “scramble” eggs on medium heat, breaking them up into very small pieces while cooking. Remove from heat and let cool. Finely chop chives and place in large bowl, then add cooked egg, salt, sesame oil, and white pepper and mix well. Set aside.

Skin: With dry and floured hands, take a ball of dough and rework until smooth. Lightly dust chopping board or countertop with flour and roll flat (2mm thick). Using a thin-edged tumbler, cut out circles in the dough, dust with flour, then move wrappers onto another floured surface. Gather unused dough and repeat. Repeat for remaining ball(s) of dough. (There are probably faster ways to do this but this is the way I remember from childhood.)

Wrapping: Put a small spoonful of filling onto center of a skin. Dip finger in water and run wet fingertip along the edge of the skin, stopping halfway. Fold the dry half over and pleat from center outwards, or simply seal the edges tightly, ensuring there are no holes. Dumpling should be plump but not threatening to burst.

Boil a large pot of water. Gently drop dumplings into water, and cook until they float to the top and skin looks translucent. Dish them out with a slotted spoon or spatula, and serve with vinegar (and soy sauce/sesame oil if desired). Test cook the first few for taste, adjusting seasonings accordingly.

Yields approx. 3 dozen large or 40+ medium-sized dumplings. Uncooked dumplings can be frozen on trays then transferred into ziploc bags.

Relevant resources:

  • Recipe for chive and egg dumplings (in Chinese)
  • Where I got the proportions for the skin
  • Youku video on dumpling wrapping
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    Eating in, revisited

    As much as I’m all for making my own meals as much as possible, I have to confess it’s been hard to stop myself from eating out while Sean’s been away these past two weeks: 8 out of my last 15 dinners were had outside the house. Granted, I had family visiting (though we did squeeze in a lunch at my apartment that weekend), but it’s still more than I’m used to, and more than I would like to average on a regular basis. They’ve all been nice social occasions, many of them were great food-wise, and I didn’t even pay for half of them, but a few have not been quite as friendly to the stomach/palate/wallet.

    Last week, in an effort to get back on the health track after 5 straight days of dining out, I cooked five evening meals at home — and not just eggs on toast or instant noodles: whole, if simple, meals with fresh vegetables and eggs or tofu or beans. It felt great, especially knowing I wouldn’t have to fret about lunch the next day. One meal I shared with a coworker who came over for dinner and a DVD — I introduced her to spaghetti with fried eggs (with tomato, onion, and cucumber) and mashed sweet potatoes, and she loved it, if her second and third helpings were any indication.

    What has been hard about living alone has been keeping the kitchen stocked with ingredients for dinner. Sean’s been our resident produce-shopper since I started my full-time job in March, and I’d come to take it for granted that I could come home, pull some things out of the fridge, whip up a meal — and enjoy some fruit afterwards, which I’ve really been missing — and not even have to wash my own dishes (yes, he’s a darling). Coming home from work on my bike, I’m rarely in the mood to stop and pick up food which I’d then have to cook.

    Thank goodness, then, for City Shop, sitting conveniently in the basement of my office building. A lot of their food isn’t exactly wallet-friendly, but a few of their vegetables sell for just a tad more than their veggie market counterparts. After last night’s soulless veggie burger, I needed to reconnect with — to feel loved again by — my food. I hopped down to grab some tomatoes and cucumbers during my afternoon break, and with what I had already sitting in my fridge, spent half an hour creating a refreshing tri-topping rice plate packed with complementary textures and flavours (and nutrients!).

    And there was love in every spoonful.

    As with many things in life, simplicity is key to maintaining a habit of cooking by and for oneself. Tonight I wanted a bit of variety as I’d spent lunchtime dunking white rice in vegetable soup from City Shop, so I combined three very basic but tasty “dishes”:

    Scrambled eggs with tomato and onion: Sauté half an onion (chopped) in olive oil til beginning to brown, add 1 tomato (chopped) and a bit of salt and sugar, cook until not watery and move to outer edges of pan. Whisk 2 eggs and pour into middle of pan. Let cook for a minute, then mix everything together until egg is fully cooked. Season with salt and pepper.

    Rice-loving tofu: Sauté half an onion and a few cloves of garlic (chopped) in olive oil. Open a pack of soft tofu (~350g) and slice into bite-sized cubes before dumping into pan (I usually scoop the whole thing out with my spatula to maximize intactness). Let fry undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, then add oyster sauce (2 tbsp?) watered down with a bit of water. Sprinkle black sesame seeds on top.

    Chopped tomato and cucumber (inspired by my lil sis): Wash thoroughly and dice 1 firm tomato and 2 small, peeled cucumbers. Put on a plate, drizzle with pure sesame oil and sprinkle with salt.

    Scoop these over a plate of brown rice (holla at the dip tau fan) to feed two moderately hungry people (in my case, me and tomorrow’s me). If need be, increase number of eggs, throw some canned kidney beans in the “salad”, and/or make more rice. Be creative!

    Eat-in V$ Eat-out: To figure out whether it’s as economical to eat in in Shanghai as I’ve claimed, I occasionally calculate how much I spend on a meal at home. Here’s the tally for today:

    3/4 cup brown rice: 3 RMB
    1 package soft tofu: 2.3 RMB
    2 large tomatoes: 4.6 RMB
    2 short cucumbers: 3 RMB
    2 eggs: 2.4 RMB
    1 onion & 4 cloves garlic: 2 RMB
    oil & condiments: 1 RMB

    = 18.3 RMB, for two meals.

    9 RMB is pricier than a bowl of soup noodles delivered from Lanzhou Lamian downstairs, but 1 RMB cheaper than the home-style tofu on rice I would normally order from there. Factor in environmental costs (disposable containers become garbage) and health costs (swill oil, toxic food baggies), and the difference becomes a little clearer.

    City Shop (Jing’an Branch)
    1376 Nanjing West Rd., Shanghai Centre (basement)


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    Easter brunch

    Happy Easter! Today was supposed to be the end of our Lenten fast, the day we would be released once again into the world of omnivorism. But we’ve decided we’re not ready to head back yet. I guess you could say we’re still riding the high of our new gastronomic adventure; cooking and eating meatlessly is still interesting enough that we’re motivated to push on. So we’re giving ourselves another month, after which Sean is going to Ireland for two weeks and worries that familial/cultural pressures will make avoiding meat truly difficult. After his trip, we — or at least he — will know whether this resolve is sustainable for the long term.

    So, instead of pigging out on bacon ham and sausage for Easter brunch, we had a satisfying meal of tofu-veggie-egg scramble and sweet potato fries with homemade aioli (garlic mayonnaise). Sean’s been frying sweet potatoes all week while I’ve been at work, so I wanted to get in on the fun too.

    Since we don’t have an oven and I’m wasn’t into the idea of deep-frying our fries, I just pan-fried pre-blanched sweet potato strips with a bit more oil than I normally do.

    In spite (or maybe because?!) of this, the fries didn’t really get crispy :( They were still delicious though, especially with the aioli, and when they were all gone we found ourselves craving more.

    The scramble was great with some ketchup. Usually if I use a whole onion and a green pepper with four eggs the veggies get really overwhelming, but the tofu balanced the textures while giving the dish more substance.

    The kind of tofu I used is called 五香豆腐干 (wuxiang doufu gan, spiced dried bean curd — though it doesn’t actually feel dry), which is much firmer and meatier than regular packaged “white” tofu (even the “firm” kind), and tastes faintly of five-spice powder. They go for around 2.7 RMB/three 5x5x2cm pieces, which is a decent amount for two people — though I could easily eat three squares of these in a meal!

    Sweet potato fries (pan-fried)
    3 sweet potatoes (white or orange)
    1 tbsp paprika
    1 tsp salt, or more as needed
    2 tbsp olive oil

    1 tsp sugar
    Ground red pepper/cayenne

    1. Wash sweet potatoes thoroughly, scrubbing off any dirt. Peel and cut into strips 1-2cm wide. Throw into pot of boiling water and leave for about 3 minutes, or until half-cooked. Remove from heat and drain well.
    2. Toss with paprika (and optional seasonings if used).
    3. Heat oil in non-stick pan with heat on medium-high. Add potato strips and salt. Fry, tossing every 30 seconds until edges begin to turn dark brown (~10 mins). Add more oil as needed.
    4. Serve hot with aioli (see recipe link below).

    **This is not the best recipe if you want crispy fries. If you have an oven or are willing to deep-fry, I’d suggest those methods. I’m considering getting a small oven so I can make these all the time with half the oil!

    Tofu-veggie-egg scramble

    3 squares 五香豆腐干 (spiced dried bean curd) or other firm tofu, diced
    1 small onion, diced
    1 green pepper, diced
    4 eggs
    1 tbsp milk
    1 tsp olive oil
    Salt and black pepper to taste
    1 tsp other seasonings e.g. sesame seeds, basil, chili powder (optional)

    1. Heat oil in pan with heat on medium-high. Add onion, frying until slightly browned. Add green pepper and bean curd/tofu, cooking for another 3-5 minutes. Remove from pan.
    2. Beat eggs with milk. Heat pan again and add eggs, stirring until fluffy and almost fully cooked. Then put tofu/veggie mixture back in, along with salt and pepper, mixing well.
    3. Serve hot with ketchup and/or other seasonings.

    Relevant resources:

  • The aioli recipe I used, plus a sprinkle of basil and dill (just ’cause) and less mayo/lemon juice for more garlic flavour

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    The well-fed poor man: Spaghetti with fried eggs

    I stumbled upon a “minimalist” pasta recipe on NYTimes a few months ago, tried it, and was immediately hooked. It is essentially a healthier version of carbonara, but even without any meat or dairy, this dish is surprisingly rich. Although it’s supposedly known as “poor man’s spaghetti”, we tend to think of this dish as a treat, partly because it uses a fair bit of oil, and partly just because it’s so damn good it feels wrong.

    I’ve always loved cream-based pasta (mmm fettucini alfredo) but have tried to avoid it ever since I realized how fattening it is. So I was happy to find such a simple recipe that gave me that creamy-pasta fix without any cream or butter or cheese. It can’t be mistaken for the “real thing”, that’s for sure, but this leaves me feeling full and light rather than full and heavy.

    Here’s my modified, somewhat healthier take on the recipe posted by Mark Bittman, though I’m sure his is delicious as is. My version uses less oil, more garlic (without wasting it!), and adds a couple servings of vegetables for a well-balanced meal/so I don’t have to eat a salad on the side.

    Spaghetti with fried eggs

    1/2 pound spaghetti (whole-wheat if you like)
    5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 head garlic, lightly smashed and peeled
    4 eggs
    Freshly ground black pepper
    Vegetables of your choice, diced (I like broccoli, onion, green pepper, tomato, carrots)
    Various seasonings

    1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Begin the next step, and start cooking the pasta (and carrots, if used) when the water boils.
    2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in pan; cook vegetables and season. Transfer from pan to serving dish.
    3. Combine garlic and 4 tablespoons of the oil over medium-low heat. Cook the garlic, pressing it into the oil occasionally to release its flavor; it should barely color on both sides. Transfer the garlic to the dish of cooked vegetables or use in garlic bread.
    5. Fry the eggs gently in the oil, until the whites are just about set and the yolks still quite runny. Drain the pasta, and toss with the eggs and oil, breaking up the whites as you do. If the pasta has been sitting for a while, keep the heat while doing this. Season to taste, and serve immediately with vegetables either mixed in or as a side.

    There are lots of other “poor man’s pasta” recipes online but a lot of them ask for bacon or cheese, based on the assumption that you’d have them lying around in the pantry or freezer. That’s kinda bougie if you ask me.

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    The little flat bean II: Lentil curry

    After brunch on Wednesday, we went out to do some shopping in Xujiahui, stopping by Carrefour on our way home. I’d originally intended to make a quick stir-fry with lentils and vegetables, but it ended up becoming a lentil curry, which we ate with some freshly baked Xinjiang nang, for which I’ve briefly professed my love before. Looks like this:

    The soft boiled egg went delightfully with the mild curry — as eggs tend to do with almost everything it seems.

    It was freaking delicious, even if — as I realized in embarrassment the next day at work — maybe a bit of a fibre overload (hah, TMI?). May have to rethink portions/proportions on that one.

    Sean finished off the leftovers with brown rice for dinner the following night (and lunch the day after that) and was nice enough to take a picture for me:

    Lentil curry with chickpeas

    4 cups hot (drinkable) water
    1/2 pound dried green lentils, washed and inspected
    2 small carrots, diced
    1 head garlic, peeled and chopped up
    2 small (or 1 large) onions, diced
    2 green peppers, diced
    2 tomatoes, diced
    1 can chickpeas, washed and drained (replace with other vegetables if you can’t handle the fiber)

    1 tbsp curry powder (adjust according to preference)
    2 tsp cumin
    1 tsp paprika or chili powder
    2 tsp cornstarch
    Olive oil, as needed
    Salt & sugar to taste

    Eggs (1 per diner)
    Nang (1-1.5 per diner), or other carb if unavailable

    1. Put water and lentils in large pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook for 25 minutes.
    2. Add carrots into lentil pot — earlier if you like ’em soft, later if you like ’em harder. (I like mine as soft and bland as possible).
    2. Heat a bit of oil in pan on medium heat. Add garlic and onion, fry until lightly browned.
    3. Add peppers, chickpeas, and seasonings and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.
    4. Add tomatoes, lentils, and carrots into pan. Pour in some of the nutritious lentil/carrot water.
    5. If sauce is too runny, mix cornstarch with a bit of cold/room temp water, and pour into pan. Mix thoroughly until sauce reaches desired consistency. Cook for about 10 more minutes.
    6. While curry is cooking, boil eggs in a small pot (put eggs and cold water in pot, bring to a boil, lower heat and cover for 5-10 minutes depending on desired consistency of yolk).
    7. Serve hot with nang.

    Prep time: ~40 minutes
    Makes 4 servings.

    Where to find…

  • The best nang in Shanghai: outside a small Xinjiang restaurant called 新疆风味 (I think) on 51 Maotai Road (茅台路), between Loushanguan Road (娄山关路) and Zunyi Road (遵义路) in Puxi, 3 RMB each.
  • Dried lentils: City Shop, 14 RMB/454g bag.
  • Canned chickpeas: Carrefour, 6 RMB/can.


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    Mid-week brunch

    Since I accrue a generous 1.75 days of vacation a month, I was “forced” to take a day off before the end of March, which also happens to be the end of the fiscal year. My boss sort of just decided that I’d take it on Wednesday, which was perfect since Sean also didn’t have work that day. So we made brunch, using up all the produce we had lying around:

    Sean usually lets me do my thing in the kitchen, but that morning he joined me and it was fun.

    Chives & eggs (韭菜炒蛋):

    Basically an omelet using the fragrant/pungent Chinese chive. Normally a dish served with rice, we decided this could also be a breakfast food.

    Blueberry-banana-pear smoothie:

    Smoothies are Sean’s specialty. He’s been drinking them almost daily, even in the dead of winter, ever since we bought a blender back in 2009. It’s simple, refreshing, and, as he likes to say, a quick and delicious way to get in multiple servings of fruit. Our 99rmb blender has withstood the abuse pretty well.

    Home fries:

    We don’t eat potatoes as much as we’d like, because it’s a bit of a pain to cook (wash-peel-cut-boil-fry), but we lurve our homefries! We didn’t have onions so we threw in a bit of extra chives for flavour. We also accidentally left the potatoes in the pot too long so they got mushy, but the two of us still gobbled up all six potatoes.

    Chives and eggs

    A handful of Chinese chives (I don’t weigh my food, sorry. A good measure would be as much as you can wrap your fingers around with leaves extended)
    4 eggs
    1/2 tbsp milk
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp cornstarch
    1 tsp salt

    We used a variation of this Chinese recipe.

    1. Wash chives thoroughly, removing any bits that are brown or yellow. Chop into 5cm lengths.
    2. Heat oil in pan, throw in chives and add cornstarch. Fry for about a minute.
    3. Beat eggs and milk in bowl.
    4. Arrange chives in pan into a thin flat layer. Pour eggs evenly into pan, add salt, and let cook for about a minute.
    5. When bottom of egg begins to solidify, flip the mixture (cut it into 3 pieces with spatula first if need be), pressing lightly on egg to force water out.
    6. Continue flipping until both sides are cooked and water has evaporated.

    Fruit Smoothie

    1 cup milk
    2 ripe bananas, peeled and broken into quarters
    1 pear, peeled and cut into medium-sized pieces
    A handful of blueberries (or strawberries), washed

    1/2 cup sweetened yogurt (optional)
    Ice cubes (optional)
    Honey (optional, if fruit isn’t ripe/sweet)

    1. Put fruit and milk (and optional ingredients) in blender.
    2. Blend for one minute (longer if you use ice), or until smooth.
    3. Drink immediately. (You won’t be able to resist anyway!)
    4. Adjust proportions to your preference.

    Makes 2 large glasses.

    You can pretty much use whatever fruit you like in addition to bananas. We prefer berries, (Asian) pears, peaches, and mangoes, whenever they are in season. (We’ve noticed that a lot of fruits only appear in fruit stores at certain times of the year. Thankfully bananas seem to always be in season!)

    Home fries

    4-6 potatoes, peeled and diced
    1 onion (or green onion or chives), peeled and cut
    1 green pepper, peeled and cut
    Olive oil
    2 tsp black pepper
    2 tsp salt
    1 tsp other spices (paprika/chili flakes/basil/dill/cumin/etc.)

    2 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

    1. Boil a few cups of water in large pot. Add potatoes, bring to a boil, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, depending on size of potato pieces.
    2. Heat 1 tsp of oil in pan, put onion in and fry for 2 minutes.
    3. Add green pepper and fry for another 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
    4. When potatoes are almost cooked (before they turn mushy!), turn off heat and drain. Throw them back in pot and add salt, pepper, spices, 1 tbsp olive oil. Toss until evenly coated.
    5. Heat 1 tbsp oil in pan, add potatoes. Move them around every 30 seconds until sides are browned. (If not using non-stick pan, flip them more frequently so they don’t burn!) Add more oil if necessary.
    6. When potatoes are sufficiently browned, pour onion and pepper mixture back into pan. Remove from heat when potatoes are fully cooked.
    7. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve with ketchup.


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    Recreate: the egg and cheese

    I’ve been a fan of McDonald’s sausage and egg mcmuffin for as long as I can remember, but my discovery of the much superior breakfast hoagie began with the $2.50 sausage and egg from Bui’s food truck at Penn. Bui’s sandwiches were known by many as the hangover cure, but for me it was the cure for just about any type of physical or emotional ailment.

    When I started working at a center city office after graduation I moved on to egg and cheeses (with pepper and ketchup, please), partly ’cause it was minimally cheaper and partly due to my unfounded belief that cheese was healthier than sausage. Philly is known for having one of the highest obesity rates in the US, and I was getting ready to join the stats.

    But then I left. When I went back to Philly for two days last November, I made sure to stop at the center city cart to grab one (although I hate the lady who owns it, but that’s another story). There it is in all its soft and chewy, sweet and salty glory:

    And then I came back to Shanghai. And it took until yesterday, when I was at City Shop buying a baguette, mixed greens, and brie for lunch, for me to realize that I COULD MAKE THIS MYSELF! I’d been caught up by the fact that hoagie rolls don’t exist here (that I know of), but baguettes were just as good, if not better.

    So this morning I recreated the egg and cheese using brie and leftover baguette, whipping the egg with a bit of milk and toasting the bread on the pan next to the frying egg. I don’t even know how to describe how satisfying it was, so here’s a picture. (I will get better with food descriptions, I promise!)

    I can’t make this a habit though :(

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