Years ago my mother sent me a cookbook on Chinese cooking called Yan-kit’s Classic Chinese Cookbook and I read it in one sitting. Not only did this slim volume have great pictures and easy to read recipes (always a must in my cookbooks) but the introduction included both explanations of traditional ingredients and key techniques. I even was able to adapt several of the meat recipes to tofu or seafood since I was a pesco-vegetarian at the time.
Turns out this is one of the best cookbooks out there on Chinese cooking according to many food experts and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in trying to cook this wonderful cuisine. Yan-kit demystifies sauces and cooking techniques, and her recipes demonstrate the rich array of regional cooking that is misleadingly called “Chinese.” It turns out my personal affinity for the garlic-ginger-soy sauce-sesame oil stir fry is what makes a dish traditionally Szechuan, rather than the spice of a hot pepper as I had previously supposed.
If you are at all interested in tofu and its various forms I would make this book high on your list to seek out (and you’ll probably have to do it online through a used book venue). As a lover of tofu (even raw) I was thrilled to find how diverse its preparation can be. If you are fortunate enough to live near a sizeable Asian population (either in a big city or most often University towns) seek out an Asian specialty grocery store to browse these wonderful ingredients.
This dish was one I made from some leftover vegetables from making hand rolls a few days earlier. I made a slightly sweeter sauce then usual and added some extra chili oil to balance it all out. It paired so well with the scallops!
Sweet and Spicy Scallop Stir Fry (serves 2-4)
1/3 lb scallops (bay scallops are small but more flavorful, if you use others, cut in half or quarters
1/4 cup of cooking oil (peanut, safflower)
1/2 head Chinese cabbage, shredded
1 baby bok choy, ends trimmed, and shredded
3 scallions, chopped, greens and whites separated
1 stalk of broccoli, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine (mirin)
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon flour
Combine all of sauce ingredients and mix well. In large wok or deep skillet (5-6 inches) heat oil until smoking. Add garlic, ginger and white parts of scallions and cook 1 minute until garlic just begins to color. Add broccoli and bottom portions of bok choi and toss and cook for 1 minute. Add eggplant and red pepper and cook another minute, continuously stirring. Add cabbage and bok choi greens. Cook another minute and add a couple tablespoons of water to wok keep vegetables from sticking. Stir sauce well and make a well in the middle of the vegetables and pour sauce into wok and allow to cook 1 minute. Fold sauce into vegetables and add scallops. Cook another 2-3 minutes until scallops are cooked. Add green parts of scallions and serve.