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MENU PLANNER

A Hong Kong Nostalgia Lunch

August 24, 1995|JULIANNE RYAN

While most of Hong Kong remained asleep another hour, the lights of our restaurant peeked through covered windows. Outside, the morning mist still covered the mountainous peak, and in nearby parks small groups of Chinese elders practiced their tai chi "shadow dancing" exercises, their arms floating through the air as business people began arriving for work.

Although I landed in Hong Kong with a degree in English and two years of advertising experience in Chicago, it was an interest in cooking and a sense of adventure that got me a job in a newly opened restaurant there.

Two days after accepting the position, I was julienning vegetables, shopping at the local markets and testing recipes. It was a long way from creating advertising campaigns, but an open door to the culinary world of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong houses layers of different worlds, many of them starkly contrasting. My favorite excursions were to the indoor-outdoor markets winding through narrow alleys with wooden tables sagging under the weight of colorful displays of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs, meats, poultry, fish and mysterious-looking dried ingredients. In addition to food, merchants hawk handmade bird cages and delicate egg shell bowls with porcelain sides so thin they are almost translucent.

Learning the names and purposes of Chinese ingredients was a feat, especially because traditional cooking is passed down through generations in the home, not in cookbooks. While observing a friend prepare the popular rice porridge congee, I noticed that she added a dried orange rind along with the dried scallops. She explained that these two items were the yin and yang of the dish. As do the early morning tai chi exercisers, Chinese cooking reflects a desired balance in life. This menu is inspired by the memories of those days.

Menu

Dried Scallop Congee

Cold Rainbow Noodles with Sesame Sauce

Ginger Poached Plums

Jasmine Tea

STAPLES

Sugar

Salt

Egg

Chicken stock

Vegetable oil

Short-grain rice

Rice vinegar

Soy sauce

Sesame oil

Brown sugar

Dijon-style mustard

Chile oil

SHOPPING LIST

1 dried scallop

1 dried orange rind

1 (7-ounce) package salted turnip

1 (8-ounce) jar sesame paste

1 (9-ounce) bottle oyster sauce

1 (7-ounce) package fried tofu

4 dried black mushrooms, 1 (6-ounce) package

1 (8-ounce) jar salted peanuts

6 green onions

1 (28-ounce) package fresh Chinese egg noodles

2 carrots

1 bunch celery

1/8 pound bean sprouts

1 mango

1 red Thai bird or tepin chile pepper

8 plums

1 (5-ounce) jar crystallized ginger

4 pods star anise

1 lemon

1 bunch mint leaves

Jasmine tea

Game Plan

Day Before: Clean, slice and cook noodles and vegetables for noodles. Slice tofu and mango. Prepare egg pancakes, cool and slice. Prepare sauce and refrigerate. Poach plums and refrigerate.

Morning of Lunch: Make rice soup; keep warm. Remove plums from poaching liquid and peel. Set aside.

30 minutes before: Assemble noodles. Slice plums and arrange garnishes.

DRIED SCALLOP CONGEE

Dried scallops and salted turnip are available in many large supermarkets and Chinese grocery stores. Dried orange rind can be purchased in Chinese herb shops.

1 cup short-grain rice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 dried scallop

1 dried orange rind

1 cup warm water

5 cups cold water

2 1/2 cups chicken stock

Salt

1/2 cup salted peanuts

6 green onions, chopped 1/4 cup chopped salted turnip

Combine rice, vegetable oil and salt in bowl and let sit for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, place scallop and orange rind in bowl with 1 cup warm water and soak until softened, about 20 minutes. Remove scallop and orange from water, place in center of 1 (6x6-inch) piece of cheesecloth, bring up edges to form bundle and secure with string.

Combine oiled rice with 5 cups cold water in saucepan and bring to boil. Turn heat down to medium, cover loosely and simmer about five minutes. Stir, add cheesecloth pouch, cover tightly and simmer about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and gradually adding chicken stock until rice has creamy consistency. Remove pouch, season with salt to taste, ladle into bowls and serve with peanuts, green onions and turnips.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

345 calories; 1,235 mg sodium; 2 mg cholesterol; 13 grams fat; 45 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams protein; 1.16 gram fiber.

COLD RAINBOW NOODLES WITH SESAME SAUCE

This colorful noodle salad is one of the dishes I made when I worked at the Joyce Cafe in Hong Kong. It can be made ahead and arranged on a platter or on individual plates. Serve extra sesame sauce on the side. Fried tofu is available in the refrigerated section of most Asian supermarkets, usually in the same case with the fresh egg noodles, which are long like linguine.

SEASAME SAUCE

1/3 cup sesame paste

1/2 cup rice vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup sesame oil

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons Dijon-style mustard

1/4 teaspoon chile oil

Combine sesame paste, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown sugar, mustard and chile oil in bowl and set aside. (May be made ahead and refrigerated in jar.)

NOODLES

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