Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spicy Stewed Mock Beef

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Happy Chinese New Year! On Sunday night, VB said that he wanted to have a proper Chinese New Year dinner banquet. I panicked a little on the inside. Chinese New Year dinner is like Thanksgiving dinner -- it often takes days of prep and should include traditional dishes. A typical Chinese New Year dinner should include a noodle dish for longevity, dumplings to symbolize wealth, fish for surplus, apples for peace and safety, and sweets. So, you can see why I panicked a little.

I managed to make 3 dishes for Chinese New Year dinner, way short of the typical 8 to 10 course fare. I also didn't manage to make any of the typical dishes, except the dumplings. Well, at least it was Chinese food. I originally intended to put this spicy stewed mock beef over some noodles... then I got lazy and just decided rice will do.

For this spicy stewed mock beef, you'll need:
  • 2 slices ginger
  • 1 black cardamom pod (草果) or 2 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1 star anise pod
  • 2 Thai chilies (adjust for your heat level)
  • 3 tablespoons Szchuan chili paste in chili oil (I use LaoGanMa brand)
  • 1 teaspoon Szchuan peppercorn
  • 3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Chinkiang vinegar (black Chinese vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 cups Shaohsing rice wine
  • sliced green onion for garnish (optional)
  • 1 cup braising liquid reserved from seitan recipe, below
  • 1 portion seitan, recipe below
For the seitan, you'll need:
  • 1 cup of wheat gluten
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 3/4 cup of ice water
  • 1/4 cup of soy sauce
  • 6 cups of water
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • 2 slices of ginger
Mix wheat gluten with garlic powder and ginger powder. Mix 2 tablespoons of soy sauce with ice water. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Mix well. Knead by hand for 10 to 15 minutes. In the meantime, boil water, remaining soy sauce, sliced onion and sliced ginger in a large pot. Allow seitan to rest for 5 to 10 minutes and then knead it a few more times. Tear seitan into small thumb-sized pieces. Seitan will swell to more than double its uncooked size, so take that into account when portioning seitan. Add seitan into the boiling water. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Strain cooked seitan and reserve 1 cup liquid.

In a heavy non-stick medium pot fitted with a lid, heat up canola oil or peanut oil until hot. Stir in star anise pod, black cardamom, Thai chilies, ginger slices and Szchuan peppercorns. Fry until spices blacken lightly, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in cooked seitan. Allow seitan to brown slightly on all sides, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Do not worry if seitan breaks apart slightly. De-glaze pot by adding cooking wine and scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add braising liquid, water, soy sauce, and vinegar. Bring mixture to simmer. Cover with lid slightly ajar. Allow seitan to stew for 30 minutes. Serve over noodles or rice. Garnish with sliced green onions.

I will feature other dishes that I made for Chinese New Year over the next few days, so come back for more!

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