At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Thursday, November 04, 2010


If I get home early tonight, I’ll make dinner. I feel like cooking. Besides, I’ve got a big ….
Bag ….
Of dried oysters!

You’re all excited. I can tell.

Actually, the problem is that some Chinatown ingredients are sold in minimum quantities that far exceed the needs of a normal two-person household. And seeing as Savage Kitten and I never eat together anymore, since we broke up, I seldom cook for more than one person. It's a quandary.
Perhaps you could move in? I promise the senior teddy bear won’t object (though the one-legged monkey might), as long as you are small, clean, and intelligent.
Savage Kitten probably won’t mind either, as you will undoubtedly improve my mental and moral state. Provided you’re small, clean, and intelligent.

Anyhow, big bag of dried oysters. Gotta use them somehow. Everything I’ve cooked in the past two weeks has, remarkably, included dried oysters.

Which is why this dish is chicken.


One pound of chicken, chunked large for chopstick grabbing.
Half a dozen big dried mushrooms (冬菇 dong gu).
Half a dozen dried oysters (蠔豉 ho si).
One clove garlic, smashed and minced.
One and a half TBS sherry.
One TBS soy sauce (豉油 si yau).
One TBS ginger juice.
1½ Tsp. cornstarch.

Shredded ginger, dark sesame oil (芝麻油 jee ma yau), minced scallion, sugar.

[You knew I was going to use dried oysters in this, didn't you?]

Soak the dried mushrooms and dried oysters for about forty five minutes in warmish water with a pinch of sugar. Rinse and drain. Add a drizzle of plain cooking oil and turn to coat. This maintains their integrity during the steaming that will follow.

Marinate chicken chunks with the soy sauce and sherry, plus the ginger juice, a generous pinch of sugar, and the cornstarch. Same length of time as the soaking of the dried ingredients. You might want to rub the cornstarch into the surface of the chicken chunks.

Combine the chicken, oysters, mushrooms and garlic in a broad shallow bowl, with a little of the marinade and a dash of the dry-ingredient soaking liquid. Place in the steamer, and steam for between twelve and fifteen minutes over fiercely boiling water. Remove carefully (hot!).

Drizzle a little sesame oil over for fragrance, strew the scallion and shredded ginger on top. Serve with rice and a vegetable.

A saucer of chili paste on the side, of course. I hope you like picant? You don't have to touch it if you don't want to.


For the vegetable dish, I propose Chinese mustard green (油菜 yau choi) quick-blanched, stirfried with chicken fat and garlic in a hot wok, then splashed with chicken stock or sherry to flash-cook in the suddenly released steam.

["Oil vegetable" (油菜 yau choi) is the Cantonese name of a variety of brassica juncea. It is a very close relative of red-in-snow (雪里紅 suet lei hong), which is more often pickle-salted for use as a flavouring ingredient. Yau choi has stems of a pleasing apple-green, leaves slightly darker, and a crisply bitter taste. It is very good.]

NOTE: If you huiver at the idea of using dried oysters, you could substitute a few thick slices of Chinese sausage (臘腸 lap cheung). Or even something else. The key to this dish is the chicken - hence the name: 蒸滑雞.
It is slick (滑 gwat), because of the steaming, the cornstarch in the marinade, and the use of oil.

FURTHER NOTE: Ginger juice can be made by pressing chopped ginger in a garlic press, or mashing minced ginger with a little water in a mortar. The first method yields a stronger flavour than the second - adjust your quantities accordingly.

EVEN FURTHER NOTE: Really, I have far too much dried oyster for one man. Even the high quality Japanese dried oysters are quite cheap, especially when compared to some of the rarer Chinese dried ingredients. Dried oyster is a bargain. But I don't necessarily advise you buying any - you might not use them all in a reasonable amount of time. So tell you what: if you are small, clean, and intelligent, I'll give you some.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

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