Friday, November 25, 2011


Here it is, barely twenty four hours after you feasted on turkey with a number of other things - too much food, your stomach feels a wee bit stressed - and you're wondering what you can do to make some of the left-overs disappear.
And how to be kind to your stomach (see previously mentioned stress).

It's a valid question.

You can make cheung fan.


Cheung fan (腸粉) are soft fresh sheets of rice flour batter steamed till set with a little filling - shrimp, beef, pork, or whatever - then folded over, drizzled with a little soy sauce and sesame oil, minced scallion to garnish.
Cut into segments of folded roll and dipped in a little hot sauce, mmmm, tasty!
Very heaven.

In commercial establishments, a sheet of cloth is tightly stretched over a rectangular steamer and wetted. Then the rice flour batter is shplooped upon it, smeared flat, a little bit of filling material is strewn over one side, and within mere moments the cloth is lifted with the skin adhering and another put in place and wetted. Meanwhile a deft hand with a spatula separates the already steamed skin, dexterously jiggling it into a loosely folded wedge or roll. It is sliced across into segments, garnished, and promptly served.

At home it is not made thus, because you do not have a large rectangular vat of fiercely boiling water with a perforated metal plate on top.

But you have a steamer.

So what you can do is use pie pans instead of taught wetted cloth, either lightly oiled or with a little Pam sprayed on. The steaming time is a little longer, because your cheung fan will be thicker. And instead of nice sharp-edged rectangular rolls, yours will be a little thicker around the middle.
If no pie pans, salad plates will also do - the result will be cute little cheung fan, quite suitable as a mid-day snack.


One cup plain rice flour.
Quarter cup tapioca flour.
Two TBS cornstarch.
Two TBS oil.
Half a teaspoon salt.
Cold water.

Sift dry ingredients together. Slowly stir water into it, add the oil, and keep adding more water while stirring till you have a batter that looks like heavy cream - approximately 1¾ to 2¼ cups water in all.
Let it stand an hour, re-stir. It is now ready for use.

Grease a pie pan, ladle in enough batter to thinly cover the bottom, and place in the steamer. After about a minute to a minute and a half, add the filling along one side. Steam for another four to six minutes, depending on how thick your layers are. Remove the pie pan from the steamer, and prepare a second pan while the first one cools.
As soon as you have added a filling to the second cheung fan, separate the first one from its pan with a flexible spatula, rolling as you go. Proceed in this manner till all the batter is used up. There should be about eight or nine cheung fan stacked on the plate when you're done. Drizzle a little sesame oil over for fragrance, slash into segments to show the filling, and garnish with minced scallion.


Well, yesterday was Thanksgiving, so some minced cooked turkey comes to mind. Even though very few Chinese people would think of that - more on what Chinatown folks would do with left-over turkey later.
The traditional fillings are thin slivers of of beef (remember to rinse a bit, or soak in a little rice wine briefly to remove that charnel-house fragrance that adheres to the meat), or very fresh shrimp, peeled and veined, or even minced fresh cilantro, which will lend a soft fruity-herby-floral tone to the noodly sheets.
Chopped char-siu or rehumidified dry shrimp also can.

But you could experiment. I often use dried mushroom and codfish silk jerky re-humidified and chopped, with an equal amount of lap cheung (臘腸), and a bit of finely minced of ginger.
The filling should be slightly savoury, slightly sweet, nicely fresh tasting, and not too much. Only a tablespoon or two per noodle sheet.

NOTE: The amount of tapioca flour can be reduced, replaced with a quantity of glutinous rice flour, or it may even be increased slightly. It depends on the mouthfeel that you wish to achieve. An all rice flour batter yields a noodle that isn't very interesting and lacks the tacky toothsomeness that you like. The oil which is added to the batter sweats out slightly during steaming, thus making it easier to lift the cheung fan off the cooking surface.

The same batter can be used for Teochew-style char kwee teow ('fried cake noodle': 炒粿條). Just steam the sheets without any fillings, peel them off the surface, and cut them into broad strips. After cooling they may be used for stir-fried rice noodles with clams, shrimp, and oysters, and bean sprouts. Use pork fat to fry it for that authentic Teochew flavour. Add minced scallion (or chives) and a thin omelette cut into strips, plus some sweet soy sauce and chili paste, and serve it hot from the pan.


Last night you probably dumped turkey carcass bits and bones into a cauldron with a stalk of celery and an onion to simmer. If you left it on the stove for a few hours you now already have a respectable broth, with ONE minor problem: a certain cloudiness. For a nice clear soup, strain it well. There is no orthodox way to do so.
I use the regular strainer, leaving the solids in the pot, then carefully repeat the process with a tea strainer - the same process also works for bacon grease, by the way.

Rice flour noodles, whether the thin rice stick (mai fun 米粉), or the thick kind (ho fun 河粉) which are called 'river noodles', need very little preparation. All that is really required is a rinse, and brief period in boiling water, and draining, after which they can be dumped in a bowl. Then you inundate them with hot broth.

The key thing is that what you then add to them is simple, flavourfull, and clean tasting. On the day after Thanksgiving, naturally you would use chunks and thick ripped shreds of bird, with cilantro (yuen sai 芫茜) and chopped scallion (ching tsong 青葱). Lots of cilantro - it's good for the stomach.
Some very finely minced ginger is also a splendid idea, as well as one or two grinds of white pepper.

Why rice noodles instead of wheat, egg, or Italian pasta noodles? Because like the sheet noodles mentioned above, they comfort the stomach.
You need this; you ate too much yesterday.


Jook (粥), also called congee, is rice porridge. Simple, yet satisfying. But just like the two previous items, it is best to combine everything right before serving - merely jumbling stock, rice, meat scraps, and whatever into a pot and praying for a tasty outcome doesn't work - doing so may make excellent cat food, but not stuff that a human should eat.

Prepare the stock separately, strain, and simmer down to concentrate the flavour.

Then measure out the rice: between a twelfth of the volume of the liquid, to as much as one eighth. Less rice in proportion will yield a thinner soup, more will give you a thicker porridge.
Rinse the rice thoroughly, put it in a heavy pot on high with water to cover, and cook till the grains have swollen and look like roiling clouds (and this explains why you needed to concentrate the stock - you're using plain water to precook the rice, some of the liquid will be taken up).
Drain off the excess water, then place a heat diffuser between the bottom of the po and the flame, add the turkey stock, and turn it low.
Stir regularly to keep the porridge from burning.
You must it cook till the grains have partially fallen apart and the jook is smooth, which will take a few hours.

A totally unorthodox shortcut is to turn off the heat immediately after the rice has swollen and become soft. Let it cool to a temperature for comfortable handling, then whirr it in the blender till reasonably smooth. After which proceed as usual.
It will require far less stirring and simmering, and the chance of burning the bottom of the pot is enormously lessened.

In either case, add large boneless scraps of turkey, plus a few pieces of chopped carrot, about half an hour before the end.

To serve, bowl it up, and put some chunks of bird with the nicely roasted skin on top, plus a little chopped scallion for colour.
Add a few drops of Chinese sesame oil (ma-yau 麻油) for fragrance, and perhaps a dash of soy sauce.

NOTE: There are many yummy additions to plain jook that you will find in Chinatown - pork slivers and preserved egg (pei dan sau yiuk juk 皮蛋瘦肉粥), pork and dried oysters (ho-si sau yiuk juk 蠔豉瘦肉粥), or fresh sliced raw fish that poaches perfectly in the heat of the porridge (yi-pien juk 魚片粥), blanched chicken curls porridge (gai kau juk 雞球粥), slivered pig liver (chu gon juk 猪肝粥), even cooked beef bits.
For a paradoxically luxurious quick lunch, try abalone and chicken jook (bao yu kwat kai juk 鮑魚滑雞粥), jook with roast duck (fo ngaap juk 火鴨粥), or fresh shrimp jook (sang gwan ha kau juk 生滾蝦球粥).

All of these are perfect cold weather or late night soup.

Further note: 生滾 (sang gwan), meaning ' fresh boiled', indicates that the shrimp, fish, or pork is cooked in the heat of the porridge.


If you were wondering what to do while your mom and all your aunties go shopping-crazy down in Union Square today - something that actually bores you rigid - now you know.
Prepare something delicious, and leave plenty for them when they return.
It will fool them into thinking that you can cook, actually really well too! Perhaps they can find a man crazy enough to marry you even if you did major in Mediaeval Studies (history of the First Crusade, thesis on Arabic borrowings into the Lingua Franca, emphasis on terminology for Frankish cannibalism at the siege of Maarrat en-Nouman)!

And while you've got them snookered, you plot your escape.
Hmmmm, saved-up funds, job lined up in the Romance Language Department of a college somewhere in Kansas, sleeping bag, books shipped overland, and that nice dashing short intellectual with the goatee and the sad mysterious past.........

You'll have to know how to prepare tasty food anyway, there's nothing good to eat in Kansas.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the recipes!
I was wondering what to do with all that meat, I'll try some of these this weekend!

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