Sunday, July 05, 2015

Chinese Kung Pao Shrimp

Chinese Kung Pao Shrimp 1

A few days after making Chinese Kung Pao Chicken, I got a craving again for the spicy, slightly sour taste of the dish. And while kung pao chicken is my preference, it takes a little longer to cook than shrimp. Plus, I had frozen shrimp on hand so any recipe that avoids having to leave the house wins hands down. But since it was late at night when I originally made the recipe, the photos weren't the best. I made it again several months later, but this time my celery supply was a bit low, so I added in a zucchini. I have to say, if you love zucchini as much as I do, it worked really well in a kung pao stir-fry.

While I love the crispness of a deep-fry, in this case, lightly coating the shrimp in cornstarch before pan-frying gave it a nice crunch. Toss in the vegetables, chilies, sauce, and toasted peanuts and the dish comes together in minutes. The key to the flavor is Chinese black vinegar and rice wine, which are much milder than their Western counterparts, but if you need to substitute with what you have on hand, taste and adjust seasonings accordingly.

Pho Burger with Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Spices

Pho Burger with Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Spices 1

After Keizo of Go Ramen moved to Japan to pursue his ramen dream, he apprenticed at several ramen shops before moving back to the United States and inventing the ramenburger. The ramenburger! Seasoned meat sandwiched between ramen noodle "buns." Needless to say, the ramenburger instantly caught the country by storm. I haven't been to New York City to taste the ramenburger from Keizo himself, but it got me thinking...

What if, instead of a ramenburger, I made a Pho Burger with Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Spices? I could grind star anise, cinnamon, and cloves, add some minced garlic and ginger, to ground beef. The pho noodle "buns" would be a bit of a challenge, but as rice noodles tend to clump anyway, I could go use that to my advantage. Topped with basil, cilantro, scallions, and bean sprouts and a couple of squirts of sriracha and hoisin sauce. It was literally Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) in a burger.

The only problem was while I got the rice noodles to clump into "buns," they fell apart when holding them to eat like a burger. Pan-frying the noodle "buns" held them together, but was greasy. My brother and his wife and kids came over to test my experiment. They liked it! They liked it! My brother said I was overthinking. I already had good flavors, why didn't I just do the obvious and put the pho-spiced meat in a hamburger bun? Of course! I had also spiced some sliced beef, to see if ground beef or sliced beef was better, and he suggested making a Banh Mi Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Sandwich), but that's saved for another post.

I've included directions for making the pho noodle "buns," but ordinary hamburger buns work just fine for this recipe.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Pho-mplings (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup-Spiced Dumplings)

Pho-mplings (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Dumplings) 1

You guys! Why did this not occur to me sooner? A couple of years ago, I had the bright idea of making Pho Burgers, by grinding the spices I used for making Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup) and adding them to ground beef. You'd figure that after making Pho Burgers with Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup Spices and Banh Mi Pho Bo (Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup-Spiced Sandwiches), it would have dawned on me that I could use the spiced meat to make dumplings too...

But it wasn't until last fall when I stumbled upon this Gothamist article about Phumplings in Brooklyn that the pho-spiced dumplings started to take shape. Phumplings are larger and filled with soup, closer to xiao long bao (Shanghai soup dumplings). A bit too much work for lazy old me. Not that I probably won't try that at some point.

Instead, I decided to make regular dumplings with pho spices. I had a rather lean cut of beef, but if you use fattier ground beef, you can get juicier dumplings. I used the same proportion of spices and aromatics as my Pho Burgers -- pureed onion, garlic, and ginger with ground cinnamon, cloves, and star anise spices. Then topped the dumplings with green onions (actually, chives from the garden) and basil, small squirts of Hoisin Sauce and Sriracha, and squeezed a bit of lime. With all the components in place, it was like eating pho in one bite.