Deep frying is something I seldom do at home - maybe once or twice a year. For these onion rings, I used beer for the batter and added some Tabasco sauce and salt for flavour. I cooked them in corn oil in a pan that had been used to fry several batches of hamburgers. I would have liked to fry them in beef fat, but wasn't sure how to go about finding and rendering beef fat in China so using the drippings from the hamburgers was the next best thing. They were amazing with ketchup.
Mix together 3/4 cup beer with 3/4 cup flour. Mix in one tablespoon of Tabasco sauce and one teaspoon of salt. Slice three medium onions into 1 cm slices and separate into rings. Meanwhile, heat oil til a drop of batter sizzles when dropped in. Coat onion rings in batter and drop into oil in one layer, turning once, til the onion rings are brown. Eat while hot.
This stew began as another recipe, stopped before the last step – it was going to be a version of the spinach soup, but using xue pi cai instead of spinach. (The name of the plant means ‘snow skin vegetable’ and I know I have seen it back home but could not find an English name; it has many leaves radiating out of a base with pale stems and dark green leaves.)
I was trying to make the soup with my last ¾ cup of chicken broth, making it very thick. When I lifted the lid to check the greens just before blending, the potatoes and greens looked and smelled so good just like they were that it suddenly seemed like a waste to use and clean the blender.
Rough knife work aside, the stew was amazing just like this, and reminded me of how good vegetable stews can be in the summer. They come together much more quickly than meat based stews which often need long, slow simmering. They are often better served closer to room temperature, rather than hot. They are full of the flavour of summer without being heavy.
For this one, dice one small onion and four cloves of garlic (less if you want) and sweat with a little oil and salt over med heat until tender. Add ¾ cup chicken broth and two medium diced potatoes, cover and boil til potatoes are tender, adding more liquid if necessary. Meanwhile, chop one and a half cups of sturdy greens like bok choi or
The variety of foodstuffs available in China is glorious and bewildering at the same time. Two more familiar things I am glad are available here are bacon and butter. The bacon here is very dense and does not shrink much when cooked, a quality I have come to appreciate. This dish relies on the contrast between chewy pieces of bacon, juicy cooked greens, and soft grits. It takes a little planning ahead to make the grits but the combination has a very high return of satisfaction for a little cooking effort, and the colours are very appealing.
Slice about half a cup small pieces of bacon. Saute bacon til fat is mostly rendered and add 3 cups chopped Shanghai bok choi to the pan (can use any sturdy green like chard or cabbage). When greens are wilted but not limp remove from pan and drizzle with a tablespoon of vinegar (I used black). Serve over grits. Serves 2.