General Tso’s Chicken

1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-cm (1-inch) pieces (*footnote 1)
Marinade
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Sauce (or 1/3 cup homemade General Tso Sauce + 1/3 cup stock)
3/4 cup chicken stock or water
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
(Optional) 1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 and 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (or 2 tablespoons tapioca starch)
1 and 1/2 tablespoon sugar (*footnote 2)
Stir-fry
3 to 4 cups high smoking point vegetable oil for frying
3/4 cup cornstarch (or tapioca starch)
3 tablespoons grated garlic (from 10 cloves garlic) (*footnote 3)
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1/4 cup dried red chilies
(Optional) 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted
2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion

Whisk all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and add chicken cubes. Stir well to coat chicken evenly with spices. Marinate for 20 minutes.

Combine all the sauce ingredients in another bowl, set aside.
Prepare all the ingredients for the stir fry and keep them near your stove. Set a cooling rack on top of a tray (or a large colander on top of a bowl).

Heat vegetable oil in a wok over high heat until it reaches 190 degrees C (375 F). If you do not have a thermometer, test oil temperature by inserting a wooden chopstick into the oil. If the oil starts bubbling rapidly, the oil is hot enough for frying. If the oil bubbles vigorously, then the oil is too hot and needs to cool off a bit. If there are no or very few bubbles pop up, then it’s not hot enough.

Roll chicken pieces in the bowl of cornstarch to generously coat a layer of starch. Shake off extra starch. Fry chicken in small batches until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer the chicken onto the cooling rack to drain extra oil.

Once the chicken is done, carefully remove oil from the wok and transfer to a heat proven container, such as an aluminum pot (Do not use glassware for this step! The high temperature will break the glass and cause an oil burn). Wipe the wok clean with paper towel attached to the front of a pair of tongs.

Add 2 tablespoons oil and turn on medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, stir until fragrant. Add dried chili peppers. Stir a few times to release aroma. Stir the sauce again with a small spoon until the starch is fully dissolved. Pour into the wok. Cook until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Return the chicken to the wok and quickly toss with a spatula. Add sesame oil and give it a final stir, if using.

Immediately transfer everything into a plate. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and green onion.

Serve hot as a main over steamed rice.

NOTES
1. The original recipe calls for a smaller cut of chicken (3/4-inch cubes). I found larger cut (1 to 1 and 3/4-inch) is easier to fry and it generates better mouthfeel.

2. I slightly increased the sugar. If you like your dish sweet, like Chinese take-out, double the sugar amount.

3. Chinese stir fried dishes usually call for finely minced ginger and garlic. Since we are using a large amount of garlic, I found it faster to mince the herbs with a garlic press or cheese grater.

Roasted Cauliflower with Orange Sauce

1 head cauliflower (or 2 pounds frozen cauliflower) (Footnote 1)
(Optional) 1 big onion, sliced
4 and 1/2 tablespoons cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup pre-made orange sauce
Topping options
Chopped parsley, or cilantro, or green onion
Hot sauce (homemade chili oil, or Sriracha sauce)
Roasted peanuts or other nuts

Preheat oven to 280 degrees C (550 F), or the highest setting. Adjust oven rack to the upper level, so a baking sheet will be 2-inch below the broiler.

Separate cauliflower into bite size florets and place onto a large baking sheet. (Read blog post above to see how to cut cauliflower easily) Toss with 4 tablespoons olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper.

When oven is preheated, turn on broiler. Broil cauliflower until the top side is browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Flip and roast until the other side is browned, 3 to 4 minutes. You should set a timer for every 2 to 3 minutes, and keep an eye on the cauliflower during the cooking to prevent from burning.
Heat the homemade orange sauce in microwave for 1 minute or until hot, but not bubbling.

Remove the cauliflower from the oven. Pour sauce over the cauliflower and toss to coat well.

Garnish with nuts, chopped parsley, and serve with hot sauce, if using.

Orange Chicken

1 pound (430 grams) boneless skinless breast (or 2 thighs), cut to 2-centimeter (1-inch) pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup cornstarch
Stir fry
1/3 cup peanut oil (or grapeseed oil, or vegetable oil)
1 cup homemade orange sauce (see related recipe)
(Optional) 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Combine chicken pieces, vegetable oil, and salt in a big bowl. Mix well and let marinate for 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the beaten egg into the bowl with the chicken. Stir to mix well. Add cornstarch. Stir to coat chicken, until it forms an uneven coating with a little dry cornstarch left unattached.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add chicken all at once and spread out into a single layer in the skillet. Separate chicken pieces with a pair of tongs or chopsticks.

Cook without touching the chicken for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the bottom turns golden. Flip to brown the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer chicken into a big plate and remove the pan from the stove. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes.

Whip the extra oil from the pan by using a few layers of paper towel attached in front a pair of tongs.

Add chicken back to the pan and pour in the sauce. Stir to mix well.

Transfer to a plate and serve hot over steamed rice.

Chinese BBQ (Char Siu) Kebabs

For the BBQ sauce:
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
3 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
3 tablespoons honey (4 tablespoons for a sweeter taste)
2 tablespoons light soy sauce (3 tablespoons light soy sauce for a saltier taste)
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
1/8 teaspoon chili flakes
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 thumb ginger, minced
8 cloves garlic, minced

1 kilogram (2 1/4 pounds) meat (options: pork shoulder, pork neck, chicken thigh, chicken breast, wings) (*see footnote 1)

Special equipment:
Bamboo skewers (or metal skewers)

To marinate the meat:
Combine all ingredients for the BBQ sauce except the vegetable oil, ginger, and garlic in a bowl and mix well.

Heat vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat until warm. Turn to low heat. Add ginger and garlic. Cook and stir a few times until fragrant. Add the BBQ sauce. Cook and stir until the texture becomes smooth, 1 to 2 minutes.

Transfer the sauce to a bowl to cool.

Add meat to a ziplock bag and 2/3 of the sauce (*see footnote 2). Press the air out of the bag and seal it. Give the bag a good massage, so that the sauce covers the meat evenly.

Save the rest of the sauce in an airtight container and place it in the fridge. You will use it for the glaze later.

Marinate meat in the fridge for 24 hours.

To prepare barbecue:
(Optional) If using bamboo skewers, soak 8 skewers in water for 15 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a plate and discard the marinade.
If you are cooking pork or chicken skewers, transfer the meat to a cutting board and cut it into bite sized cubes (about 1 inches / 2.5 centimeters). (*see footnote 3)

Thread the meat onto the bamboo or metal skewers.

Add charcoal to one end of the grill and start a fire. When the coals are evenly lit, close the grill and allow it to warm up.
To cook skewers

Place meat skewers on the direct heat (i.e. above the coals) and close the lid to cook, until nicely charred on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Brush glaze on the meat. Turn meat to cook the other side. Close the lid and let cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. If the meat is getting burned, move the skewers to the other side of the grill (the one with no coals under it) and close the lid. Keep cooking over indirect heat until cooked through.

Serve warm.

To cook bigger cuts of meat:
Place marinated pork shoulder or chicken thigh over direct heat and cook until nicely charred, about 5 minutes per side.

Brush glaze on the meat. Move the meat to the indirectly heated side, cover the grill, and allow to cook.

Check on the meat every 5 minutes and brush with glaze. Cook until a thermometer inserted into the center of the meat reads 150 to 160 F degrees (65 to 70 C) for pork, and 165 F (74 C) for chicken, about 30 minutes.

Transfer the meat to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes.
Serve warm.

Save the leftovers in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge or up to 1 month in the freezer.

NOTES
1. For cooking larger cuts of pork shoulder, I used a strip that was about 20cm (8”) in length and 4cm (1.5” in width). It cooked faster than a whole piece and yielded more flavorful meat.

2. Do not cut the meat into small pieces when marinating. It causes the meat to dry out during cooking.

3. You can cook chicken skewers by using boneless skinless thighs, chicken breasts, or wings. For wings, thread onto skewers without cutting.

Chinese BBQ Char Siu

2 pounds boneless pork loin

Marinade:
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce (see related recipe)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry (or Japanese sake, or Shaoxing wine)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon grated garlic
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
(Optional) 10 drops red food coloring

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade in a sauce pan.
Heat over medium low heat. Cook and stir occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove the pan from the stove to cool off.

Cut the pork in half lengthwise along the grain, into 2 strips about 2 inches wide and 1 inch thick.

Transfer the pork to a gallon-sized ziplock bag. Pour half of the marinade onto the pork and save the rest in an airtight container in the fridge (for later use). Seal the bag and press as much as air out as possible. Rub the bag so that the pork is covered well with the marinade. Let marinate at room temperature for 3 hours, or in the fridge overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. After the oven is preheated, turn on broiler.

Place oven rack in the lower third of the oven, about 10 inches from the broiler element.

Add the red food coloring into the remaining marinade.

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil and add 1/4-inch of water. Place a baking rack on top. Drain pork loin and discard the marinating liquid. Transfer pork onto baking rack.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in total, until the internal temperature registers 140 to 150 degrees F (60 to 70 C). Flip pork every 4 to 5 minutes, 3 times, until the surface is cooked.

In the last 5 to 6 minutes, flip the pork every 1 to 2 minutes, and generously brush marinade onto the pork using the remaining marinade we saved earlier.

When it’s finishing up, the pork should be covered with a thick coat of marinade, slightly charred/caramelized, with the inside is still a bit pink (or just cooked through).

Remove the pan from the oven. Tent loosely with aluminum foil. Let rest for 10 minutes.

How to serve char siu

Chinese BBQ char siu can be served warm or cold. The just-out-of-the-oven char siu will be tender and moist. It will be a great main course to serve over some steamed rice with simple veggie dishes. On the other hand, the pork will become even more flavorful if you let it sit overnight. The texture will toughen up, and create this nice crunchy mouthfeel with a sticky coating.

You can serve cold sliced char siu as an appetizer. You can also use it as a topping for ramen noodles. Or use it as filling in dim sum. Or use it as an ingredient in lo mein, fried rice and fried noodles.

This marinade can be used with chicken, too. You can use the same method to marinate and cook bone-in skin-on chicken thighs. To do this, bake at 300 F, skin side down for 40 minutes. Flip and continue to bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the thickest part of the biggest thigh registers 165 degrees F (74 C). Turn on broiler. Cook until the surface turns crispy.

Sichuan Garlic Chili Sauce

30 grams (1 cup) whole dried chili peppers (*see footnote)
15 grams (1 thumb) minced ginger
60 grams (15 cloves) garlic, crushed
1/2 cup peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
2 tablespoons Sichuan peppercorn
4 tablespoons spicy fermented bean paste
1 tablespoon sugar

To cook the sauce:
Use scissors to cut each chili pepper into 4 to 5 pieces. Prepare ginger and garlic.

Add oil and peppercorn to a wok (or small skillet) and heat over medium heat. When the peppercorns start sizzling, continue cooking for about 2 minutes, until they turn dark brown and you can smell a pungent fragrance. If the oil starts to smoke, turn to lowest heat. Remove the peppercorns with a straining ladle or spatula and discard them.

Add chili peppers and cook over low heat until the color darkens. This will happen very quickly, in less than 1 minute, if you’re using a gas stove.

Add ginger and garlic and give it a quick stir. Add chili bean paste and sugar and continue to cook over low heat until everything is mixed well and you can smell a strong garlicky aroma, 1 to 2 minutes. Turn off heat and transfer everything to a large plate to cool off.

When the sauce has cooled, transfer it to a clean jar. You can store the sauce at room temperature for a month or in the fridge for up to 3 months.

NOTES
Depending on the type of chili pepper you’re using, the sauce will have varying levels of spiciness. I prefer to use a less spicy chili pepper, so the sauce will be well balanced and not too spicy. If you’re not sure about the spiciness of the pepper, smell them when you just open the package. If you can smell a strong and pungent aroma, that makes your nose itch, then you should be careful. You can discard the seeds after breaking the peppers. If you don’t smell a very pungent aroma, you can use the whole chili pepper with seeds.

To use the sauce:
Use the master sauce to cook meat, poultry, and/or vegetables
You can add the chili garlic sauce into any stir fried dish at the end of cooking and mix well. The dish will be infused with a pungent and hot flavor just as in authentic Sichuan dishes, as in the following recipe:

Slice or cube half a pound of meat or poultry into bite sized pieces.

Chop 2 cups vegetables.

Marinate meat or poultry with 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine, and 1 teaspoon cornstarch.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet (or wok) and cook the protein until the surface is cooked but is still raw inside. (Skip this if you’re cooking a vegetable dish)

Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in the skillet (or wok) until warm and add minced ginger (or green onion) to infuse flavor. Add veggies and cook until almost cooked through.

Add cooked meat back into skillet. (Skip this if you’re cooking a vegetable dish)

Add 2 tablespoons chili sauce with salty seasoning (about 1/2 salt or 1 spoonful light soy sauce). Mix well and adjust seasoning.

To use the sauce with other seasonings to create a new sauce:

(option 1) Combine the chili garlic sauce with other ingredients such as soy sauce, black vinegar, Sichuan peppercorn powder, spicy fermented bean paste and / or sugar, and then use as a sauce for stir frying. It will create a lot of authentic Sichuan flavor, like that found in yu xiang (literally “fish fragrant”, practically spicy, sweet, and sour), xiang la (sweet spicy), mapo (savory spicy).

(option 2) You can also add it to oyster sauce or hoisin sauce to spice up a comforting American Chinese dish.

Kung Pao Sauce

3 tablespoons peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons Korean chili flakes (*Footnote 1)
1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 large slices ginger, minced

Mix
1/2 cup Chinkiang vinegar
1/4 cup light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry, or water)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt (or 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt)

Combine Chinkiang vinegar, light soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Add peanut oil, chili pepper flakes, and sesame seeds in a sauce pan. Cook over medium low heat until it reaches a gentle sizzle. Turn to medium low heat. Cook and stir until the chili powder turns dark brown (without turning black). If the oil start to bubble fiercely, remove the pan from the heat.

Add ground Sichuan peppercorns, garlic and ginger. Cook and stir for another 30 seconds to release fragrance.

Stir the vinegar-based sauce with a spoon to dissolve cornstarch completely. Carefully add to the saucepan. Cook and stir until the sauce thickens just enough to coat a spoon (the sauce will thicken once cooled down). Transfer to a bowl immediately.

Once the sauce is cooled down completely, transfer to an airtight jar. Store in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks. Store the sauce in the freezer for longer period of time.

NOTES
1. Korean chili flakes are quite mild and are suitable for using in this sauce. If you’re not sure about the heat level of your chili flakes, start with 1 teaspoon chili flakes so your sauce won’t turn out too spicy. Alternatively you can use 1 teaspoon cayenne powder.

How to cook the Kung Pao Sauce with any ingredients

Assuming that you’re going to make 2 servings, you can use 450 grams (1 pound) protein, or 6 to 8 cups vegetables, or 220 grams (1/2 pound) protein and 3 cups vegetables.

You will need 1/4 to 1/3 cup homemade Kung Pao Sauce.

(PS: most of the stir fry starts with fresh aromatics. But since we’re using plenty of garlic and ginger in this sauce, we’ll skip this step.)

(1) Choose and cut the protein.

Recommended Protein

Beef (flank steak or short ribs) – thinly sliced (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick), or cut to strips
Chicken (skinless boneless breast or thigh) – diced to 1-inch pieces, or sliced to 1/4-inch thick
Pork (tenderloin or loin) – thinly slice (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick), or cut to strips
Shrimps – peeled and deveined
Tofu (firm or extra firm) – diced to 1/2 to 2/3 inch pieces

(2) Marinate and prep the protein.

For each pound of meat or seafood, mix with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or peanut oil), 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Let marinate for 5 to 10 minutes.

To create restaurant-style crispy chicken, learn this method so you can achieve the same texture without deep-frying.

For tofu, marinate with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon syrup (or honey) for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and coat with a thin layer of cornstarch. See this post to learn how to cook crispy tofu without deep-frying.

(4) Cut and prep the vegetables.

To make a quick dinner, my favorite way is to only use one type of vegetable. You can use two, but ideally no more.

Recommended vegetables

Asparagus – Chopped to 1-inch pieces
Baby bok choy – Tear off large leaves and halve lengthwise, halve or quarter the rest
Bell peppers – Sliced or chopped
Broccoli (fresh) – Divide into small florets; steam or blanch (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to blanch the broccoli quickly in the same stir fry pan)
Broccoli (frozen) – Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes (depending on the quantity), so the broccoli is thawed and lukewarm, but not hot.
Brussels sprouts – Roasted (see Omnivore’s Cookbook for how to roast Brussels sprouts)
Cauliflower (fresh) – Divide into small florets; steam, blanch, or roast
Cauliflower (frozen) – Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes (for stir fry), or roast (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to crisp up frozen cauliflower in the oven)
Carrot – Sliced into pieces or strips (by using a julienne peeler); or cut into chunks and roasted
Celery – Sliced or diced
English cucumber – Seeded, then sliced or diced.
Eggplant – sliced (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to prep eggplant so it crisps up during stir frying)
Kale – Stalk chopped into small pieces, leaves coarsely chopped
Onion – Sliced
Snow pea
Zucchini – Seeded and sliced

(5) Make the stir fry, or use the stir fry sauce on baked food.
See Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn the basic steps of making Chinese stir fry.

Black Bean Sauce

1 cup fermented black beans
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 white onion, minced
(Optional) 4 to 6 dried chili peppers, torn to small pieces (*Footnote 1)
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry, or Japanese sake) (*Footnote 2)
1/4 cup light soy sauce (or soy sauce, or tamari for gluten-free option)
1/4 cup sugar (or brown sugar)
1 head garlic (8 to 10 big cloves), minced (*Footnote 3)
(Optional) 1 thumb ginger, minced (*Footnote 4)

Rinse fermented black beans with tap water, drain, and coarsely chop them. I like to leave some bigger pieces of the beans, to give the sauce more texture.

(Optional) You can use a food processor to mince all the ingredients. Add black beans, onion, and garlic into a food processor. Blend until both ingredients are minced, but not a fine paste.

Heat oil and dried chili peppers in a saucepan over medium heat until warm. Turn to medium low heat. Cook until the chili peppers turn dark, but not black. Stir occasionally. Scoop out the chili peppers and discard them.

Add the black beans and onion. Cook and stir, until the sauce looks a bit dry. (The beans will absorb oil at first, but release the oil once they’re cooked.)

Add Shaoxing wine, light soy sauce, and sugar. Simmer and stir until the onion turns tender. It takes about 10 minutes or so. The sauce can be easily burned, so make sure to keep the heat low and stir the sauce constantly to ensure even cooking.

Add garlic and ginger (if you’re using these ingredients).

Continue to cook and stir the sauce until the onion turns very tender. You should see oil floating on top of the sauce.
Transfer the sauce to a large bowl to cool off completely.
Store the sauce in an airtight jar in the fridge for 2 weeks to a month.

NOTES
1. Unless you use very powerful chili peppers (such as Thai chili peppers), the sauce won’t become spicy. We only use this step to infuse more aroma to the sauce. If you do want a spicy sauce, consider blending in homemade chili oil to the cooked sauce, or add cayenne powder during cooking.

2. If you do not want alcohol in the sauce, you can skip this ingredient. I would not recommend using stock here because it shortens the shelf life. However, you can use 2 to 3 teaspoons of chicken bouillon powder if you want to add extra flavor to the sauce.

3. You can use a garlic press to mince garlic faster.

4. Ginger is not a must-have ingredient, but if you happen to have it on hand, definitely use it. It adds nice aroma to the sauce.

How to use the sauce

You can use the sauce for cooking, as a marinade, a dipping sauce, or you can use it to make noodle salad. The sauce uses oil to cover the rest of the ingredients, so it will be preserved for longer time in the fridge. To use the sauce, simply scoop out the portion you need with a bit of oil. The sauce has some thickening power from the bean starch, so it’s not always necessary to add cornstarch slurry like other stir fry sauces.

Assuming that you are going to cook 2 servings – you will need about 450 grams (1 pound) protein, or 6 to 8 cups vegetables, or 220 grams (1/2 pound) protein and 3 cups vegetables. You will need 3 to 4 tablespoons sauce.

(1) Pick 1 to 2 aromatics. Prep according to the list below. (Optional)

Since the black bean sauce contains aromatics already, you can skip this step when you’re in a hurry. However, if you have time, some extra aromatic ingredients will always make the dish taste better.

Recommended aromatics

Ginger – 1 large piece minced (yields 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon)
Green onion – 2 to 3 green onions, coarsely chopped
Dried chili pepper – 2 to 4 peppers, torn into 3 to 4 pieces. (Or, keep whole for less spiciness.)
Sichuan peppercorns – 1 to 2 teaspoons. Use it to infuse the hot oil, then discard them before adding other ingredients. (See this recipe to learn how to use them.)
Shallot or onion – 1 shallot or 1/2 onion, thinly sliced or diced
(2) Choose and cut the protein.

Recommended Protein

Beef (flank steak or short ribs) – Thinly sliced (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick), or cut to strips for stir fry.
Chicken (skinless boneless breast or thigh) – Diced to 1-inch pieces, or sliced to 1/4-inch thick pieces for stir fry. Use whole pieces for grilling or baking.
Pork (tenderloin or loin) – Thinly sliced (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick), or cut to strips for stir fry. Use larger cuts, such as pork chops, for baking, pan searing, or grilling.
Shrimps – Peeled and deveined for stir fry or grilling.
Fish fillet – Grilled, baked, or steamed with the sauce.
Tofu (firm or extra firm) – Diced to 1/2 to 2/3 inch pieces for stir fry or braising.

(3) Marinate and prep the protein.

For each pound of meat or seafood (for stir fry), mix with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or peanut oil), 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Let it marinate for 5 to 10 minutes. Skip this step if you’re using the sauce to bake, grill, or pan fry.

For tofu (for stir fry), marinate with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon syrup (or honey) for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and coat with a thin layer of cornstarch. See this post to learn how to cook crispy tofu without deep-frying. Skip this step if you use the sauce (and stock) to braise tofu.

(4) Cut and prep the vegetables.

To make a quick dinner, my favorite method is to only use one type of vegetable. You can use two, but no more.

Recommended vegetables

Asparagus – Chopped to 1-inch pieces
Baby bok choy – Tear off large leaves and halve lengthwise, halve or quarter the rest.
Bamboo shoots – Sliced
Bell peppers – Sliced or chopped
Broccoli (fresh) – Divide to small florets; steam or blanch. (See Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to blanch the broccoli quickly in the same stir fry pan).
Broccoli (frozen) – Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes (depending on the quantity), so the broccoli is thawed and luke warm, but not heated up.
Brussels sprouts – Halved and roasted (See Omnivore’s Cookbook for how to roast Brussels sprouts).
Cabbage (green and red) – Coarsely chopped
Cauliflower (fresh) – Divide to small florets; steam, blanch, or roast.
Cauliflower (frozen) – Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes (for stir fry), or roast (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to crisp up frozen cauliflowers in the oven).
Carrot – Sliced into pieces or strips (by using a julienne peeler); or cut to chunk and roast.
Celery – Sliced or diced
Eggplant – Sliced. (See Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to prep eggplant so it crisps up during stir frying.)
Green peas (fresh or frozen)
Kale – Stalk chopped to small pieces, leaves coarsely chopped
Mustard greens – Chopped
Mushrooms – Sliced or quartered
Okra – Sliced
Onion – Sliced
Spinach – Roughly chopped for larger spinach. No need to chop baby spinach.
Snow pea
Zucchini – Seeded and sliced

(5) Make the stir fry, or use the stir fry sauce for baking, grilling, or steaming

See Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn the basic steps of making Chinese stir fry.

General Tso Sauce (bulk version)

3/4 cup Chinkiang vinegar (or rice wine, or balsamic vinegar) (*footnote 1)
1/2 cup Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry, or Japanese sake, or stock)
1/2 cup light soy sauce (or soy sauce, or tamari) (*footnote 2)
1/4 cup dark soy sauce (or soy sauce, or tamari) (*footnote 2)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Chicken or vegetable stock (Add right before using the sauce)

Mix all the ingredients except the stock in a jar and shake to combine. Every time before you use the sauce, shake well to dissolve all the cornstarch. Pour 1/3 cup sauce into a bowl and add 1/3 cup stock (it can be either chicken stock, vegetarian stock, or water). Mix well again right before pouring into the pan.

You can store the sauce in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 3 months.

NOTES
(1) Chinkiang vinegar is highly recommended in this recipe. But if you do not have it, use rice vinegar or balsamic vinegar instead. If you want to create gluten-free sauce, use one of the alternative too. Chinkiang vinegar contains wheat bran. Wheat bran itself does not contain gluten but has a high risk of cross contamination.

(2) You can use soy sauce to replace the light soy sauce and the dark soy sauce alternatively. Use tamari to create gluten-free sauce.

How to use the sauce

To use the sauce, simply shake it and cook with aromatics until it thickens.

Assuming that you are going to cook 2 servings, that can be 450 grams (1 pound) protein, or 6 to 8 cups vegetables, or 220 grams (1/2 pound) protein and 3 cups vegetables.

You will need 1/4 to 1/3 cup sauce.

(1) Pick 1 to 2 aromatics. Prep according to the list below.

General Tso sauce is very pungent and always benefits from more herbs. Garlic and dried chili pepper are the two common aromatics that are used in most General Tso sauces. You can use the others on the list as well. But adding one pungent herb, such as ginger or garlic, is highly recommended.

Recommended aromatics

Ginger – 1 large piece minced (yields 2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon)
Garlic – 3 to 4 cloves, minced
Green onion – 4 to 6 green onions, coarsely chopped
Dried chili pepper – 2 to 4 peppers, torn into 3 to 4 pieces. (Or, keep whole for less spiciness.)
Shallot or onion – 1 big shallot or 1/2 onion, thinly sliced or diced. (It taste better when combined with another more potent herb, such as ginger or garlic.)

(2) Choose and cut the protein.

Recommended Protein

Beef (flank steak or short ribs) – thinly sliced (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick), or cut to strips
Chicken (skinless boneless breast or thigh) – Diced to 1-inch pieces, or sliced to 1/4-inch thick
Pork (tenderloin or loin) – thinly slice (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick), or cut to strips
Shrimps – peeled and deveined
Tofu (firm or extra firm) – Diced to 1/2 to 2/3 inch pieces

(3) Marinate and prep the protein.

For each pound of meat or seafood, mix with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or peanut oil), 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Let it marinate for 5 to 10 minutes.

To create a crispy restaurant-style chicken, learn this method so you can achieve the goal without deep-frying.

For tofu, marinate with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 tablespoon syrup (or honey) for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and coat with a thin layer of cornstarch. See this post to learn how to cook crispy tofu without deep-frying.

(4) Cut and prep the vegetables

To make a quick dinner, my favorite way is to only use one type of vegetable. You can use two, but no more.

Recommended vegetables

Asparagus – Chopped to 1-inch pieces
Baby bok choy – Tear off large leaves and halve lengthwise, halve or quarter the rest
Bell peppers – Sliced or chopped
Broccoli (fresh) – Divide to small florets; steam or blanch (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to blanch the broccoli quickly in the same stir fry pan)
Broccoli (frozen) – Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes (depending on the quantity), so the broccoli is thawed and luke warm, but not heated up
Brussels sprouts – Roasted (see Omnivore’s Cookbook for how to roast Brussels sprouts)
Cabbage – Coarsely chopped
Cauliflower (fresh) – Divide to small florets; steam, blanch, or roast
Cauliflower (frozen) – Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes (for stir fry), or roast (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to crisp up frozen cauliflowers in the oven)
Carrot – Sliced into pieces or strips (by using a julienne peeler); or cut to chunk and roast
Celery – Sliced or diced
Eggplant – sliced (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to prep eggplant so it crisps up during stir frying)
Green peas (fresh or frozen)
Kale – Stalk chopped to small pieces, leaves coarsely chopped
Onion – Sliced
Snow pea
Zucchini – Seeded and sliced

(5) Make a stir fry (see Omnivore’s Cookbook) or use on steamed or baked food.

General Tso Sauce (meal version)

Sauce:
1/3 cup stock (chicken stock or vegetarian stock, or water)
2 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar (or rice vinegar, or balsamic vinegar)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry, or Japanese sake, or stock)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or soy sauce, or tamari for gluten-free sauce)
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce (or soy sauce, or tamari for gluten-free sauce)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch

Cook:
2 teaspoons oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons minced ginger

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.
Heat oil over medium heat until warm. Add garlic and ginger. Stir a few times to release the fragrance. Stir the sauce again and pour it into the pan. Let it simmer and stir until it thickens.

Now you can pour the sauce over roast vegetables, serve it as a dipping sauce, or use it in your stir fry.

For uses, see bulk version of recipe.

Chinese Orange Sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or grapeseed oil)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced ginger

Sauce mix:
1/2 cup loosely packed dried tangerine peel (or grated orange zest)
1 cup orange juice
3/4 cup rice vinegar (or distilled white vinegar)
1/4 cup light soy sauce (or soy sauce, or tamari for gluten-free)
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine (or Japanese sake, or dry sherry, or chicken stock)
1/2 cup sugar
2 and 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Add dried tangerine skin in a small bowl and add hot water to cover. Let soak for about 20 minutes, or until the tangerine skin softens. Drain and finely slice. Transfer 1/4 cup sliced tangerine skin into a bowl, and save the rest in a airtight container in the fridge for next time. If you do not use dried tangerine peel, grate about four fresh orange skins to make 1/2 cup orange zest.

Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and the rehydrated tangerine skin to a big bowl. Stir until the cornstarch is fully combined.

Heat oil in a saucepan until warm. Add garlic and minced ginger. Cook and stir until you smell a strong fragrance.
Stir to mix the sauce again to completely dissolve the cornstarch. Pour into the pan. Cook and stir until the sauce thickens, just enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Transfer the sauce into a bowl immediately, so it won’t continue to cook in residual heat.

Transfer the sauce in a airtight jar or container once cooled down. Store in the fridge for 1 to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for 2 to 3 month.
Reheat

Microwave sauce (1/3 cup to 1/2 cup) by 30 seconds increments. Then stir it and continue to heat until the sauce just turns hot without bubbling.

If you heat the sauce on stovetop, always use low heat and stir the sauce frequently to prevent scorching.

If you freeze the sauce, some of the liquid might separate and the thawed sauce looks like jelly. Simply stir to mix the sauce together and reheat in microwave or on the stove. You can restore the sauce to the previous consistency.

How to use the sauce

Simply reheat the sauce in microwave, you can add the sauce in stir fry or on roasted vegetables and protein!

(1) Recommended Protein and how to prep for stir frying

Beef (flank steak or short ribs) – thinly slice (1/8 to 1/4-inch thick), or cut to strips
Chicken (skinless boneless breast or thigh) – Diced to 1-inch pieces, or sliced to 1/4-inch thick
Shrimps – peeled and deveined
Tofu (firm or extra firm) – Diced to 1/2 to 2/3 inch pieces
For each pound of meat or seafood, mix with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or peanut oil), 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Let marinate for 5 to 10 minutes.

To create a crispy crust, restaurant-style, see Omnivore’s Cookbook for a method to achieve the goal without deep-frying.

For tofu, marinate with 2 tablespoons soy sauce for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and coat with a thin layer of cornstarch.

(2) Recommended vegetables and how to prep for stir frying

To make a quick dinner, my favorite way is to only use one type of vegetable. You can use two, but no more.

Recommended vegetables

Asparagus – Chopped to 1-inch pieces
Baby bok choy – Tear off large leaves and halve lengthwise, halve or quarter the rest
Bell peppers – Sliced or chopped
Broccoli (fresh) – Divide to small florets; steam or blanch (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to blanch the broccoli quickly in the same stir fry pan)
Broccoli (frozen) – Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes (depending on the quantity), so the broccoli is thawed and luke warm, but not heated up.
Brussels sprouts – Roasted (see Omnivore’s Cookbook for how to roast Brussels sprouts).
Cauliflower (fresh) – Divide to small florets; steam, blanch, or roast.
Cauliflowers (frozen) – Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes (for stir fry), or roast (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to crisp up frozen cauliflowers in the oven)
Carrot – Sliced into pieces or stripes (by using a julienne peeler); or cut to chunk and roast
Eggplant – sliced (see Omnivore’s Cookbook to learn how to prep eggplant so it crisps up during stir fry)
Green peas (fresh or frozen)
Onion – Sliced
Snow pea

Hoisin Sauce

1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon miso paste (OR 1/2 teaspoon spicy fermented bean paste, OR 1/2 teaspoon gochujang + 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder, OR 1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce + 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder)

Combine all ingredients. Store hoisin sauce in an airtight jar in the fridge for up to a month.

Crispy Chicken and Chili Mayo

1/2 cup vegetable oil, or more, as needed
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 large egg
1 tablespoon hot sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup Panko

FOR THE SAUCE

1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Frank’s Hot Sauce

To make the sauce, whisk together mayonnaise, sweet chili sauce, honey and Frank’s Hot Sauce in a small bowl; set aside.
Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, flour, cornstarch, egg, hot sauce, salt and pepper, to taste.

Working one at a time, dip chicken into buttermilk mixture, then dredge in Panko, pressing to coat.

Working in batches, add chicken to the skillet and cook until evenly golden and crispy, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate.

Serve immediately, drizzled with sweet chili sauce.

Biang Biang Noodles

Chili Oil:
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 bulb garlic, grated
2 cups peanut oil (or a vegetable oil with a high smoke point)
1/2 cup Chinese red chili powder (or Korean chili powder)
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
2 star anise
2 dried bay leaves
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
2 tablespoon ground Sichuan peppercorn

Seasoned soy sauce:
3/4 soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon light brown sugar (or white sugar)
2 teaspoon whole Sichuan peppercorn
1 star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
1/3 cup Chinese black vinegar

Tomato sauce (*see footnote 1):
1 tablespoon peanut oil (vegetable oil)
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste

Noodles:
4 servings homemade fresh noodles (or dried noodles)
(Optional) 1 cucumber, sliced
(Optional) 4 small radish, sliced
2 green onions, chopped
(Optional) 1 stalk cilantro, chopped

Make chili oil:

Combine soy sauce and garlic in a small bowl.
Add peanut oil, chili powder, white sesame seeds, star anise, dried bay leaves, coriander powder, and cumin powder into a large skillet (or a wok).

Heat over medium low heat until it reaches a gentle sizzle. Turn to low heat. Stir constantly. Keep cooking until the chili powder turns dark brown (without turning black), 3 to 4 minutes. If the oil starts to bubble fiercely, remove it from heat.

Remove the skillet from heat immediately and add ground Sichuan peppercorn. Gently stir a few times and let cook for 10 to 20 seconds.

Carefully add garlic and soy sauce with a ladle. The oil will sizzle for a while due to the added liquid. When the sizzle dies down a bit, stir gently with a spatula to mix everything well (see footnote 2). Transfer everything to a heat resistant bowl to let oil cool off faster.

When the chili oil has cooled, discard bay leaves and star anise. Let sit for 2 hours, or up to overnight, before using.
Transfer the leftover chili oil to a air-tight glass jar or glass container and store in the fridge up to 1 month.

Make seasoned soy sauce:

Add soy sauce, water, sugar, whole Sichuan peppercorn, star anise, cinnamon stick, and cloves into a small saucepan. Heat over medium low heat until it reaches a simmer. Turn to low heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Strain the sauce and discard the spices. Add black vinegar and mix well. Allow to cool before using.

Make tomato sauce:

Add oil to a medium-sized skillet and heat over medium heat until warm. Add tomato and tomato paste. Chop and stir the tomatoes. Cook until the tomato pieces break down and form a thick sauce, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Assemble noodles:

Boil noodles according to instructions. Drain and run tap water over noodles. Drain again and transfer to servings bowls.
Add tomato paste and seasoned soy sauce according to taste. Add plenty of chili oil with the chili powder (*see footnote 3).
Top noodles with cucumber, radish, green onion, and cilantro.
Serve immediately as main.

NOTES
1. You can serve this dish without the tomato sauce, but I highly recommend you to add it. The tomato sauce helps balancing the spiciness and adds a nice thick mouthfeel to the noodle sauce.

2. When I was taking the step-by-step pictures, I poured the oil into the garlic and soy sauce bowl. Please follow steps in the recipe instead. It’s much safer.

3. I usually start by adding 2 tablespoons of each. And more soy sauce to increase saltiness or more chili oil to increase spiciness. The noodles should able to be evenly coated with sauce. Add more tomato sauce if it becomes too spicy.

This recipe will generate more chili oil and soy sauce you’ll need for one meal (which serves 4 people). However, do make sure you follow the quantities of this recipe to create extra sauce. It’ll become a great solution for cooking quick and delicious lunches.

Option 1 – Create a new version of Biang Biang noodles with different toppings. Such as tomato egg stir-fry (classic Chinese), blanched or grilled chicken, grilled beef, or stir-fried ground chicken. You can top any of these on freshly boiled noodles and drizzle with chili oil and seasoned soy sauce.

Option 2 – Add a quick nutty sauce to make sesame noodles.

Combine peanut butter (or Chinese sesame paste), soy sauce, and black vinegar in a small bowl. The ratio should be 1:1:1. Mix well.

You can create a noodle bowl with:

Freshly boiled noodles + chili oil + seasoned soy sauce + nutty sauce + whatever toppings you prefer (aka whatever leftovers you have in the fridge)

For example, I did this with the only leftovers in my fridge yesterday. I used some carrot, celery and wood ear mushrooms to make a quick stir-fry. I chopped a chicken breast and stir fried it with green onion. I seasoned it with soy sauce and salt without marinating. Then I used the formula above to combine everything together. And bam! Two big bowls of super tasty noodles were ready. Easy!

You can even simplify the process by using sliced cucumber (for a vegan dish), leftover meat, or any blanched veggies that come to mind.

Option 3 – Use the seasoned soy sauce and chili oil to create an awesome salad/side.

You can make cool things, such as red-oil chicken, with blanched chicken breast and these two sauces. Or you can drizzle them on blanched broccoli, smashed cucumber, or other veggies to create a quick side dish.

Sichuan Mala Chicken (La Zi Ji)

Marinade
1 pound (450 grams) skinless boneless thigh (or breast), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce (or soy sauce)

Coating
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon cayenne powder (*Footnote 1)
1 teaspoon ground toasted Sichuan peppercorns (*Footnote 2)
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Spice mix (*Footnote 3)
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, and more to garnish
1 to 3 cups whole dried red Sichuan chilies (*Footnote 4)
2 tablespoons Sichuan chili flakes
1 teaspoon sugar

Cook
1/3 cup peanut oil (or vegetable oil)
2 teaspoons red Sichuan peppercorns
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
4 green onions, roughly chopped
(Optional) 1 cup chopped cilantro for garnish

Combine chicken pieces, Shaoxing wine, and soy sauce in a bowl. Mix well and marinate for 10 to 15 minutes. If you’re planning to marinate the chicken longer, cover with plastic wrap and transfer to fridge overnight.

Add cornstarch, cayenne powder, ground Sichuan pepper and salt in a large sealable bag. Shake to mix well.

Mix all the spice mix ingredients in a big bowl.

Mix ginger, garlic, and green onion in a small bowl.

When you’re ready to cook, drain the chicken pieces and discard the marinating liquid. Transfer the chicken pieces into the bag with the cornstarch mixture, and shake until they are lightly coated.

Heat a wok (or a large deep skillet) over medium-high heat until wisps of smoke start to rise. Add oil. (Or add oil in the pan and heat together if using a nonstick skillet.) When oil is hot, spread out the chicken pieces without overlapping (*Footnote 5). Use a pair of tongs or chopsticks to separate the chicken pieces, and allow the chicken to grill undisturbed. When the bottom of the chicken turns golden brown, flip to cook the other side until golden. Stir a few times to make sure the surface of the chicken is evenly cooked.

Remove your pan from the stove, turn to medium heat, then transfer the cooked chicken to a large plate. This step will let your hot pan cool off a bit, so you won’t burn anything later.

You should still have some oil in the pan. If not, add 2 tablespoons oil.

Add the Sichuan peppercorns. Cook and stir until the color turns dark brown. Remove them from the pan and save for later. (*Footnote 6)

Add the garlic, ginger and green onions. Stir a few times to release the fragrance. Stir-fry vigorously from now on, as you don’t want anything to burn. Add the bowl of spice mix with the peppers. Quickly stir until the peppers just turn a bit darker without turning black.

Add back the chicken. Cook and stir until well mixed. Remove the pan from stove and transfer everything to a plate with chili peppers prominently displayed. Top with cilantro for garnish, if using.

Serve hot (and ‘hot’!) over steamed white rice as a main.

NOTES
1. The original recipe (at MaLa Project) calls for 1 tablespoon cayenne chili powder and 1 tablespoon roasted ground peppercorns, which can produce a very hot dish depending on the product you use. I reduced the amount and the result was great for my taste. Note: you need to increase or decrease both spices, so the flavor of the dish stays balanced.

2. Although many Sichuan recipes suggest dry toasting Sichuan peppercorns and grinding them, I personally prefer to cook them in a bit of oil until turned brown, drain the oil, then grind the Sichuan peppercorns. It eliminates the raw numbing zing and gives it a more rounded aroma. The peppers will be less potent so you can use more to add fragrance.

3. In the original recipe, Taylor followed the authentic way of cooking, adding each spice separately so the different types of peppers are toasted just to the right degree. However I found this process very challenging on an electric stove without burning anything, so I decided to mix the spices and add them all at once.

4. Choose fat and large chili peppers that have a milder taste. If you cannot find Sichuan chili peppers, you can alternatively use Korean chili peppers. Do not use Thai Bird’s eye chili peppers. I know 3 cups sounds like a LOT of peppers if you cook the dish the authentic way. Alternatively you can use 1 cup chili peppers, which affects the dish’s appearance but not the taste.

5. You might need to cook the chicken in two batches if using a smaller pan.

6. In China, whole Sichuan peppercorns are always left in the dish. However you do need to pick them out of the dish when eating because it’s not very pleasant if you accidentally bite into them — I infused the peppercorns in the oil and then removed them. Do not throw away the cooked Sichuan peppercorns; instead, blot the residual oil with paper towels and grind them into powder. Store in the fridge and use in any recipe that calls for toasted ground peppercorns.

Bang Bang Chicken

3 chicken legs (drumstick)
3 green onion, white part
2 dried chili peppers
4 cloves garlic
2 slices ginger

Sauce:
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon Chinese chili oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 red pepper, sliced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped green onion

Add chicken legs, green onion, chili pepper, garlic and ginger to a medium size pot. Add enough water to cover chicken leg. Put on stove at medium heat and cover pot. After bringing to a boil, turn to low heat, simmer until chicken leg is just cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Mix soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
When chicken leg has cooled down, tear the meat from the bone. Discard chicken bones and place chicken meat on a plate.

Before serving, top chicken with red pepper, cilantro and green onion. Pour sauce over chicken leg, mix well and serve warm or at room temperature.

Mapo Tofu

Marinade (*see footnote 1)
120 grams (4 ounces) ground meat (pork, chicken or turkey)
2 teaspoons Shaoxing wine (or Japanese Sake)
1 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger (or 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder)

For braising
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons Sichuan peppercorns (increase to 3 teaspoons if you like your dish extra numbing)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons Doubanjiang (spicy fermented bean paste)
2 tablespoons chopped green onion
1 block (400-g / 14-oz) firm or medium firm tofu, cut into 1.5cm (1/2 inch) squares
1 cup water (or chicken stock)
2 teaspoons Chinese chili oil (1 teaspoon for a less spicy dish)
1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 teaspoon sugar or to taste
(optional) 1 tablespoon green part of chopped green onion for garnish
(optional) steamed rice to serve with

Combine ground pork, cooking wine, soy sauce, and ginger in a bowl. Mix well.

Combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside.

Cut and prep tofu and herbs.

Heat vegetable oil and Sichuan peppercorns in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When the Sichuan peppercorns turn dark brown and crispy, scoop them out with spatula and transfer into a bowl layered with paper towel to soak extra oil. Save to use for garnish the dish.

When oil is hot, add ground meat and Doubanjiang. Stir-fry over medium heat with a spatula, until pork is evenly coated with Doubanjiang. Add green onion and stir fry for another minute.

Spread tofu evenly on top of ground pork (*See footnote 2). Add chili oil, five-spice powder, and sugar. Pour in water and cook until bringing to a simmer. Simmer, covered, over low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until tofu becomes tender and the sauce has reduced to half the original amount. Taste the tofu with some broth (be careful, it will be very hot!). Adjust seasoning by adding salt. If the dish is too spicy, add another teaspoon of sugar. Gently mix well with spatula.

Meanwhile, ground the fried Sichuan peppercorns (you used when heating up the oil) in a coffee grinder or by using mortar and pastel.

Mix cornstarch water again until fully dissolved and swirl it into the skillet. Gently stir a few times with a spatula, until sauce thickens. Turn off heat and transfer everything to a bowl.

Garnish with green onion and a small pinch the ground Sichuan peppercorns, if using. Serve warm over steamed rice or by itself as main.

NOTES
1. You can skip the meat and make this dish a vegetarian one.

2. Do not stir the tofu immediately after adding it into the skillet, in order to keep the pieces from breaking apart. The tofu will get firmer after braising and you can stir it once it’s cooked.

3. The Sichuan peppercorns add a numbing nutty aroma to the dish. The fried Sichuan peppercorns has a more roundup body so it is works great for garnishing the dish or in a salad. You only need a small around in this recipe to finish up the dish. Store the rest in an airtight container no longer than a month.

Sichuan Chicken with Sesame Sauce

700 grams bone-in skin-on chicken thigh (*see footnote 1)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorn
2 green onion, chopped
2 pieces ginger
2 green onion
1/4 teaspoon salt

Sauce
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons black rice vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon Chinese sesame paste (or natural peanut butter)
2 tablespoons homemade chili oil with 1 to 2 tablespoons of its “sediment”
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated roasted Sichuan peppercorn (*see footnote 2)
(Optional) 1 cucumber, sliced into thin strips
(Optional) 1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Turn to medium heat.

Halve green onion. Chop some of the green parts and use them to garnish the dish later.
Add Shaoxing wine, Sichuan peppercorn, white part of green onion, and ginger to the boiling water. Mix well. Add chicken. Cook until bringing to a simmer. Turn to low heat. Continue cooking at a very gentle simmer until the chicken is cooked through, 20 to 30 minutes.
While cooking the chicken, prepare a large bowl of ice water.

(Very important) When the chicken is just cooked, immediately transfer it to the ice bath. Add more ice if necessary. Set aside and let cool completely. This step tightens the chicken skin and firms up the texture.

Combine soy sauce, black rice vinegar, and sugar in a bowl. Mix well until the sugar dissolves.

Add sesame paste to another bowl. Gradually blend in the sauce from last step and mix with a spoon, until the sesame paste is evenly blended and no lumps remain.

Add chili oil, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and Sichuan peppercorn. Mix well.
Right before serving, combine chicken and spicy sesame sauce. Toss to mix well. Spread cucumber over a deep plate. Transfer chicken on top of cucumber and garnish with sesame seeds and green onion, if using. (*see footnote 3)

Serve as a cold appetizer, or as a main over noodles or rice.

NOTES
1. You can use chicken leg or breast, alternatively. If you use chicken breast, shred the meat instead of cutting it. It will yield a better flavor and texture this way.

2. Roasted peppercorns will have a better taste and mouthfeel. To roast peppercorns, add 1 tablespoon peanut oil (or vegetable oil) to a wok (or skillet) and heat over medium heat until warm. Add Sichuan peppercorns. Cook until the peppercorns turn dark and you can smell a very pungent aroma. Transfer the peppercorns to a mortar and grate them with a pestle. The oil can be saved for cooking (for Sichuan food or general stir-fry).

3. Authentic Sichuan recipes require the sauce to be added just before serving, but I found that adding sauce and then letting the chicken marinate for a few hours makes the dish even tastier. It pulls some moisture out of the chicken, but won’t cause a big problem. Add the sauce beforehand or not; it’s totally up to you.

Dan Dan Noodles

INGREDIENTS

Noodle sauce

4 tablespoons Chinese sesame paste (or unsweetened original peanut butter)
4 tablespoons light soy sauce (or soy sauce)
4 tablespoons Chinkiang vinegar
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 stalks green onion, finely minced
2 tablespoons honey (or agave syrup)
2/3 to 1 cup homemade chili oil with flakes, or to taste (*footnote 1)
1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns (*footnote 2)
Pork topping

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound (450 grams) ground pork
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 green onions, chopped
1 and 1/2 tablespoons fermented black beans, rinsed and chopped
1/2 cup Sui Mi Ya Cai (Sichuan preserved mustard greens)
2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine (or dry sherry)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
To assemble

2 cups chicken stock, heated
1 cup roasted peanuts, crushed
10 ounces (300 grams) dried egg noodles (or 1 pound /450 grams fresh noodles)
1 small batch green leafy vegetables, roughly chopped (spinach, baby bok choy etc.)

Prepare sauce:

Whisk sesame paste and light soy sauce until fully incorporated. Add Chinkiang vinegar. Keep stirring until mixed. Then mix in garlic, green onion, and honey.
Add homemade chili oil, 1/3 cup at a time, mix and taste the sauce. Add more chili oil if you want more spiciness.

Add toasted and ground Sichuan peppercorns, 1/2 teaspoon at a time. Taste while you mix, until you can taste the numbingness but can still handle it. The more chili oil you add, the more Sichuan peppercorns you need.

Prepare pork topping:

Heat oil in a skillet or a wok over medium heat until hot. Add pork; cook and stir until the surface is cooked and the meat has turned white. Turn to medium-low heat. Add ginger, green onion, fermented black beans, Sui Mi Ya Cai, cooking wine, and sugar. Cook and stir until all the liquid has evaporated and the pork turns a dark brown color. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Prepare the noodle bowl:

Cook noodles according to instructions.

Bring the chicken stock to a boil.

Briefly blanch the green leafy vegetables, drain, and set aside.

For each noodle bowl, ladle 1/4 cup heated chicken stock into the bowl. Add 1/4 cup noodle sauce and mix with the stock. Add noodles, top with a few spoonfuls of the cooked pork and some of the spinach. Garnish with peanut crumbles and chopped green onion. Sprinkle with a pinch of toasted ground Sichuan peppercorns, if you like the numbing taste.
Serve hot or cold.

Notes:

1. Do add some chili oil even if you cannot eat spicy food, because it will add aroma to the sauce and your sauce won’t end up very spicy.

2. I usually roast the Sichuan peppercorns in a bit oil until they turn dark brown. Then pat dry with paper towel and ground to powder. The oil roasted peppercorns will be less pungent and have a more roundup flavor. I prefer the cooked peppercorns in cold dishes and sauce so it won’t over power the other ingredients.

Chinese Chili Oil

4 tablespoons crushed chili flakes (*footnote 1)
2 teaspoons five spice powder
3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
1 teaspoon ground Sichuan peppercorn
(optional) 2 whole star anise
2 bay leaves
1 cup vegetable oil (or grapeseed oil)
(optional) 1 piece thinly sliced ginger

Combine chili flakes, five spice powder, sesame seeds, star anise, Sichuan peppercorns, and bay leaves in a heatproof ceramic bowl that can hold at least 2 cups liquid. Place the bowl on a heat resistant coaster.

Heat oil in a wok (or a skillet) over medium-high heat. Add ginger. When the ginger starts to wither and turns golden brown, immediately turn off the heat. The oil should reach 370 degrees F (190 C) and no higher than 400 F (200 C) if read with an instant thermometer.
Carefully pour oil or use a ladle to transfer oil into the bowl of mixed spices. The oil will bubble for a few seconds and cook the spices. While the the oil is bubbling, use a metal spoon to stir gently to mix the spices, so they’ll cook thoroughly.

When the oil cools down a bit, scoop out and discard the star anise and bay leaf.
The oil is now ready to use! Its flavor will mature if you let it rest for a day, allowing the spices to infuse into the oil.

The oil can be stored covered at room temperature for two weeks, or up to six months in the fridge in an airtight container.

NOTES
(1) To create chili oil with a beautiful red color without being too spicy, use Sichuan chili flakes. The chili flakes are made with premium peppers that have a vibrant color with fewer chili seeds. Alternatively, if you cannot find the type, use Korean chili flakes. It is possible to use chili powder as well, but this tends to make the chili oil very spicy with a yellowish color.