Normandie Kitchen

Shared food in a share house

Month: January 2016

Pork and mustard greens (aka Wendy soup)

Wendy soup (or canh cải chua) is one of the simplest, most delicious soups you can make in winter. It’s pretty much nothing more than cải chua (fermented mustard greens), and soup-cut pork ribs. The bones make a flavourful stock, the pickles balance the richness, and the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. As you can tell from the name, Wendy grew up eating it, and introduced it to the Normandie house. It’s in pretty heavy rotation, when the days get short. In this version, we take advantage of something that’s usually a negative — unripe, green tomatoes are common in winter, and are perfect in this soup.  Otherwise, daikon is more traditional.

Canh Cải Chua

Wendy
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Red-braised pork belly

We’re only allowed to make braised pork belly twice a year. After all, you can only fly so close to the sun, before you fall to earth. It’s glorious. Chunks of unctuous meat layered with tender fat, simmering in a sweet-and-savoury-sauce, until they come to sticky, slippery, soft perfection; bathed in a “sauce” of glistening oil. pork_belly

Ulli and Thomas
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Ulrike Steindl

Ulli, having lived and travelled in China, over the last 6 years (and speaking the language) is the Normandie resident Sino-gastrologist — interpreter and Sherpa. She has led us on intrepid expeditions to eateries far and wide, in search of hand pulled noodles, and jianbing.

ulli

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Sesame sauce noodles

This versatile recipe might sound like an absurd, five-year-old’s invention — spaghetti with peanut butter. But you can make this remixed Sichuan dish with little more than those two ingredients. In Chinese, the original is called cold noodles with chicken slivers (雞絲涼麵), and, accordingly, it’s usually made with chicken. But if you’re happy to bastardise it, this recipe works with whatever happens to be in the fridge (I love cucumber, eggs, and tomato; but leftover chicken, celery, bean sprouts, tofu or mushrooms would work). Infinitely flexible, infinitely delicous, this is a staple meal, for Brad, Wendy, and Joyce. Thomas suspects it might be the perfect, post-zombie apocalypse dinner. Master it now, before the walking dead appear.

chicken sliver noodles

Brad, Wendy, Joyce

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Five spice poached chicken

Poaching chicken is a quick, and easy, way to prepare meat for salads or noodles; or just to eat with a dipping sauce. It’s also a nice way to infuse chicken with a lot of flavour — although you can do pretty much the same thing, without the aromatics. If you want to use skinless, boneless chicken breast, for some sort of “healthy” alternative to food, feel free. But your best bet is to use a whole chicken, or at least a mix of bone-in, white and dark meat, for maximum flavour.

poaching_chicken

Brad

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Black vinegar cabbage (shou si bao cai)

Black vinegar cabbage is ridiculously simple, and ridiculously good. It’s little more than cabbage, vinegar and oil — but the texture of the tender-cooked leaves and fragrance of the vinegar combine to make a mouth watering side dish. We get it almost every time we go to a Chinese restaurant, and make it almost every time we cook Chinese food.

sho si bao cai

— Thomas and Ulli

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Chopping garlic

The method for chopping or mincing garlic is very similar to the way you chop, or dice, any vegetable. But there are a couple of little tricks that it’s worth learning, because garlic is so common in Asian, American, and Mediterranean food. You can buy bottles of pre-chopped garlic, but they aren’t nearly as good. You can use garlic powder, but that is vile. You can use a garlic press, but to be honest, they don’t actually make things any quicker or easier — and they’re a bastard to clean. Get a sharp knife, and learn how to use it.

finely chopped garlic

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Char siu bao

This is one of the best winter foods — sweet, fluffy bread, wrapped around a savoury, fragrant filling — especially when served with spicy chinese mustard. There are a lot of different kinds of bao (or mandu, or niku man, or banh) but the barbecue pork one is the archetype. They’re best eaten right away, but are good reheated, too, for breakfast or lunch. This recipe is a little bit labour intensive (sorry, not sorry), so if you want to make char siu bao, grab a bunch of friends, and start stuffing.

stuffed_buns — Brad, Wendy

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