Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lowe Family Potstickers

I taught a cooking class today for the first time in a long time and it was really fun! The dish that they most wanted to learn how to make was Potstickers. They are so much easier than people realize. No one in the class had ever made them before. Shaping them is actually the hardest part and when you use store-bought wrappers, it goes really fast. They are also much less expensive to make at home than when you buy them frozen. Plus these freeze so well that you can make a lot at one time and then save some for later. And the are so delicious!

These are my grandfather, Kingway Lowe's recipe for Potstickers. I made them nearly every weekend of my life (while I was learning about face reading and hearing family gossip) so I've probably made thousands.... I can wrap them so fast and without looking, so I had to remember how to get people over their fear of wrapping them. If you mess one up, scoop out the meat, throw away that wrapper and start again. It's just takes a little practice to master wrapping Potstickers and if they don't turn out perfectly shaped, they still taste great!

So here are the Lowe family secrets for perfect Potstickers:

1. Season the meat a lot so that the Potstickers can be eaten alone without sauce and they will still taste good. You are not supposed to drown them in dipping sauce. It will also make the mixture moist enough to form into a meatball. (See photo below).

2. Chop the Napa Cabbage very finely. And, be sure to remove most of the large white ribs in the center of each leaf unless you chop it really well. They tend to poke out and make holes in the wrapper. I save them and slice them into soup or make a stir fry out of them.

3. Don't overfill the wrapper. Use a regular kitchen teaspoon and overfill it or use a Tablespoon and only fill it about 2/3 of the way with filling. If you put too much on the wrapper, just remove some with the side of the spoon. Trying to close an overfull wrapper makes a big mess.

4. Panfry on two sides. Most restaurants just brown the bottom, but we turn them to one side and brown that one too. It improves the taste.

5. Use chicken broth as your steaming liquid. It permeates the wrapper and gives it so much more flavor and this is the most important secret!

So, the recipe is below the pictures. I really hope you try to make them. You can use the same filling for wontons; just be sure to buy square wonton wrappers instead and use less filling (see below). You can also make these into meatballs and cover them with uncooked rice (I use medium grain) and steam them to make Pearl Balls, which is a good gluten free option.

Lowe Family Potstickers

1 pound ground pork (or chicken)
½ head Napa Cabbage, large part of white stalk removed, chopped very fine
4 - 5 green onions, minced fine
4 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
2 Tablespoons Sesame Oil
1 - 2 Tablespoons oil per pan of Potstickers
¼ cup chicken broth (for a small pan) for cooking - for a larger pan use 1/2 cup
2 packages of round wrappers - usually called Gyoza wrappers (I like the thick kind best)

Mix together all ingredients thoroughly with your hands in a large bowl. Place about 1 scant Tablespoon of filling in the center of a Gyoza wrapper. Wet the entire round rim of the wrapper with water and bring the two sides together. Pinch to seal in the center. Then, pinch the dough on the side of the dumpling closest to you in by pushing in with your index finger and then folding it towards the center to make a pleat and pinch slightly, then do that agian with two more pleats and pinch all of them on that side firmly to seal. Repeat on the other side and stand the Potsticker on a wax paper covered tray so that the ends of the pleated side curve in slightly. Repeat until all Potstickers are filled. They can then be put in the freezer on the tray or plate – freeze until firm and then put in plastic bags for use later (no need to unthaw – just cook a few minutes longer with a little extra broth) or if you are cooking them immediately:

Put oil in a 10 inch frying pan (or 2 Tablespoons for a really large pan) and add just enough Potstickers so that none are touching. Cook until the bottom is browned, then turn them over to another side (use your fingers to grab the top - they won't be hot). When that side is browned, pour in chicken broth and cover (do not lower heat). Cook until broth evaporates. Take the cover off, push them around the pan a bit to crisp them back up and then put on a plate to serve. Repeat with next batch.

Dipping Sauce:

Equal amounts soy sauce and seasoned rice vinegar with either a little minced green onion in it or a little minced fresh ginger. If desired, mix in a small amount of chili oil or Chili Garlic Sauce (about 1/2 - 1 teaspoon) to spice things up. Sweet Thai Chili Sauce is also good as a dipping sauce.

Note: this recipe can also be used for filling wontons. Use square wonton wrappers and seal as a triangle. Then bring together the two pointed ends and pinch them together. Put wontons into soup (made with chicken broth – see post for Chinese Chicken Soup on 4/21/2011) or water and cook for 5 – 7 minutes. If serving boiled, mix into a chili sauce (like Lee Kum Kee Chili Garlic Sauce or soy vinegar sauce above).

Five Element Analysis

The main ingredients of Potstickers are pork, which is a Water Element food and Napa cabbage, which belongs to the Earth Element. The wrappers are made of Wheat, which is part of the Wood Element and if you use ground chicken you add even more. The chicken broth contributes a bit more of the Wood Element too. The green onions represent the Metal Element and the soy sauce and sesame oil increase the Water Element contribution. Only the Fire Element is missing, so be sure to add some chili oil to your dipping sauce or serve another chili sauce on the side to make this a balanced snack!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lea's Chinese Chicken Salad

I love Chinese Chicken Salad and could probably eat it every day. I make it a lot, but I keep forgetting to take a picture of it so I can post the recipe properly. And, finally I remembered to ask my friend who was visiting to shoot a photo, because photography is not one of my talents. 

I'm sure you have all had many variations of Chinese Chicken Salad - they are even selling it premade at Costco and most grocery store deli counters. But, this recipe is the family favorite. My mother was the one who first made it and I've tweaked it over the year adding mustard as it helps the dressing emulsify and the garlic, which I think adds depth of flavor. It has since been the number one requested dish that I am asked to bring whenever there is a family gathering and the most requested recipe every Chinese New Year when I serve it to my friends for good luck. 

As you can see from the photograph, I make it kind of like a chopped salad as it is much easier to eat if everything is in little pieces. This recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd. Be sure not to toss it with dressing until right before you eat it if you are using iceberg lettuce. But if you are using Napa Cabbage, it needs at least 15 minutes to let the cabbage absorb the flavors and stays fairly crisp even the next day. So, if it is going to be sitting for awhile, be sure to use the Napa Cabbage. It's full of other good things too - cucumber, pea pods, Mandarin oranges, red pepper, green onions. And, it can be topped with almonds, peanuts and/or sesame seeds. You can also add fried rice noodles or Won Ton wrappers cut into strips and deep fried although they both get soggy fast. You can also store bought crispy Chow Mein noodles or even broken up uncooked Ramen noodles if you want. But I have to admit that I don't add any of the noodles to my salad. This is a great salad recipe and I hope you try it.

Lea's Chinese Chicken Salad

1 large head iceberg lettuce, torn into small pieces (can also use ½ head of Napa Cabbage, chopped into small pieces)
1 small red pepper (or ½ big one) cut into small pieces (about the size of a nickel)
1/2 pound chicken breast, simmered in boiling water for 2o minutes, cooled and then cut into small chunks
1 11 oz. can Mandarin Oranges, drained (can also use a cut up Navel Orange or large tangerine)
A handful of blanched snow pea pods (strings removed) cut in half
1 cucumber, peeled, cut in half, deseeded with a spoon and cut into ¼” wide half moons
¼ - about 4 - 5 chopped green onions cut up into small pieces
1/2 cup cilantro leaves

Garnish with 1/3 cup finely chopped peanuts or almond and/or 2 - 3 Tablespoons of toasted Sesame Seeds

Optional: 2 cups crispy rice noodles or deep fried Won Ton wrappers cut in strips (either or both fried in hot oil and drained beforehand) or Crispy Chow Mein Noodles from a package.


5 tablespoons Soy Sauce (or Tamari)
3 Tablespoons Seasoned Rice Vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons toasted Sesame Oil
2 Tablespoons Safflower Oil
1 scant teaspoon Chinese Mustard (can also use Dijon)
1 clove garlic, minced
Fresh ground pepper - about 1/4 teaspoon


In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar, sugar, sesame oil and safflower oil, garlic and mustard. Taste and adjust seasoning and flavoring as desired. This makes 3/4 cup of dressing or enough for a big salad! Dressing keeps for up to one week in the refrigerator.
In a large bowl, toss together the lettuce, chicken, cucumbers, green onions, Mandarin Oranges, pea pods and red pepper pieces along with the cilantro leaves. Add half the dressing, tossing to lightly coat. Taste, and toss in additional dressing as desired. Sprinkle with peanuts or almonds and sesame seeds. Serve immediately if using lettuce. For Napa Cabbage, dress, toss and let sit for at least 15 minutes to let the cabbage absorb the flavors.

Five Element Analysis

Salads are always part of the Fire Element and this becomes a very Fiery dish if you use lettuce and the red pepper brings in even more Fire. The chicken contributes the Wood Element along with the Mandarin Oranges, pea pods and vinegar. The Water Element is represented by the soy sauce sesame oil and sesame seeds. The Earth Element is served by the sugar, cucumbers, Napa Cabbage, and the peanuts or almonds. The cilantro and green onions makes sure the Metal Element is covered too. Guess what? This is a balanced meal all by itself!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Salsa Ranchera

The tomatoes at the grocery store looked really anemic today and I was in the mood for salsa. So, I made the kind our Mexican housekeeper used to make when I was growing up. It's a sauce I love. She used canned tomatoes and doctored them up with chiles, cilantro, garlic and onion. It's been a really long time since I made it and when I did, it brought back memories of how often I ate this salsa when I was pregnant. For some reason, it really helped with my morning sickness. And, I didn't make it for myself when I was pregnant (one of the few times in my life when I found it hard to cook). I had my then husband go and pick it from the local restaurant just about every day. I would eat hot flour or corn tortillas buttered, salted and dabbed with salsa - it was divine. 

For those of you who don't know, most Mexican restaurants save money by making their salsa with canned tomatoes and unless you are getting Pico de Gallo, where you can see the chunks of fresh tomato, this recipe is a good approximation of what you are actually getting. And frankly, good canned tomatoes are much better than pale, starchy ones that they offer in the middle of winter. Not only that, cooked tomatoes actually contain more lycopene, which is a phytochemical that is really good for you - some studies even suggest that it may prevent cancer. But I like canned tomatoes because they taste so good and they are really versatile. So here's my recipe for Salsa Ranchera. The secret is a bit of sugar and a little oil to smooth out the sauce and don't skimp on the lime juice - the sauce needs that flavor to make it taste bright. It's so easy to whip up as it can all be done in the food processor or blender and it's so good - especially on tacos and quesadillas or with lots of tortilla chips.

Salsa Ranchera

1 can whole or chopped tomatoes (14.5 oz)
1 Serrano or Jalapeno chili, stem, membrane and seeds removed cut in rough pieces
1/2 small onion (white, yellow or red ) diced
2  green onions, trimmed and cut into small pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup cilantro leaves (1 handful)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
Juice of one large lime
1/2 - 1 teaspooon salt (depending on the saltiness of the canned tomatoes)
Optional:  1 to 2 fresh Tomatoes

Put all ingredients in the food processor or blender and mix until nearly smooth. Taste for salt and add the second 1/2 teaspoon if you like. If you don't have a food processor or blender, everything can be chopped fine and then mixed together. It will be chunkier, but still good.

Serve with tortilla chips, quesadillas, tacos or tostadas. It's good on top of broiled fish or chicken too.

Five Element Analysis

I wouldn't expect that a sauce would be balanced, but salsa actually has an interesting combination of elements. The tomatoes and chiles make it a Fiery sauce, but the cilantro, onion and garlic add the Metal Element. The lime juice brings in the Wood Element and if you use flour tortillas, the wheat will add more Wood. The Earth Element also only has a tiny part to play, but if you serve the salsa with tortilla chips, the corn adds more and serving beans during the meal would make sure this element is fully covered. The only element that needs a boost is the Water Element as the small amount of salt is not enough for balance, so I vote serving this with fish tacos or Carnitas (pork) burritos!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bacalao Mexicana

I had all these plans at Christmas to make some traditional Mexican specialties like Tamales and Bacalao (a Salt Cod Salad) both usually served on Christmas Eve and other special occasions - like at Lent as a non-meat dish. Then, I ended up getting ready to move and with all that packing, I had to make things that were a bit simpler. But, I had already gone to Pike Place Market to buy the Salt Cod, which luckily keeps forever since that is why fish is salted in the first place!

I first had Bacalao at my friend Alicia's house. Her mother makes the best I've ever eaten and I wanted to try to replicate it. You have to soak the salt cod for a long time to remove all that salt. Then you cook it briefly to get it to shred and then mix it with a tomato/onion/garlic sauce (that's cooked) along with some pre-cooked potato chunks, some cut up green olives stuffed with pimento, some capers and some almonds for crunch. Some people add pickled jalapenos and pickling juice, but I put some chili in the sauce and like using a bit of lime juice (or lemon juice) instead. Some people also add parsley, but I am partial to Cilantro - but use it mostly as a garnish. The colors of this dish mirror the Mexican flag. I didn't make that much, but this recipe can easily be doubled and while it didn't taste exactly like the one I had in Mexico City, it was still delicious!

Bacalao Mexicana

1/2 pound piece of dried Salt Cod

¼ cup Olive Oil
4 large Plum Tomatoes, cored and diced
½ medium Onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 Bay Leaf
1/4 teaspoon Thyme
1 small Serrano Chili, deseeded and minced fine
1/3 cup Blanched Almonds, chopped
¼ cup Pimento Stuffed Olives, cut in half
1 ½ Tbsp Capers
½ pound small Red Potatoes, peeled, diced and cooked in boiling water for 15 minutes
2 Garlic Cloves minced
Juice of 1 Lime (or 1/2 lemon)
1/3 cup Cilantro Leaves
Fresh ground Black Pepper

Put Salt Cod in a bowl of cold water and leave for at least 8 hours up to 24 hours, changing the water at least 3 - 4 times. When ready, drain the water and put the Salt Cod in a small pot, cover with water, bring to a boil and cook for 5 - 8 minutes or until tender. Drain, cool and shred.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan and add in onion and garlic cooking until the onion becomes translucent. Add in the diced tomato and Serrano Chili along with the Bay Leaf and Thyme and cook until the tomatoes start to break down into a sauce - about 10 minutes. Add in the Cod and potatoes and stir it thoroughly to mix in the tomato sauce. Cook until the mixtures starts to become a little dry - about another 5 to 10 minutes. Add in the olives and pimentos, the capers and the almonds. Put in lime juice and toss thoroughly to mix. Set aside and cool to room temperature. Sprinkle with the Cilantro Leaves and fresh ground black pepper. If eating later, Bacalao can be refrigerated and reheated slightly in a frying pan before serving.

Five Element Analysis

Fish belongs to the Water Element and salted fish makes this dish even more Watery. The olive oil, olives, lime juice and capers contribute the Wood Element. The tomatoes, chili and black pepper bring in the Fire Element whereas the almonds and potatoes make sure that the Earth Element has a presence. The Metal Element is represented by the garlic, onions, cilantro, bay leaf and thyme. This is a completely balanced dish!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Vietnamese Pan Seared Lemongrass Pork

I bought a lot of Lemongrass at Uwajimaya the other day so I had to use it up before it got too dry so I decided to make my usual Vietnamese Caramelized Pork recipe (since I didn't have any chicken in the freezer) and add Lemongrass to it. It was wonderful and I will use the Lemongrass in it from now on. For those of you who haven't tried Caramelized Pork, it is what is grilled and served on top of Bunh, or a Vietnamese noodle salad with Nuoc Cham as the salad dressing. It is often served as whole pork chops, but I personally like the pork or chicken cut into slices and I serve it with lots of white rice and some stir fried vegetables. It's quite easy to make and since I don't have a barbecue, I cooked it in a very hot pan to get those slightly burnt edges that add so much to the flavor. It's got a lovely combination of savory flavor with sweetness that I think you will really like.

Pan Seared Lemon Grass Pork (or Chicken)

1 pound thick cut boneless pork chops, cut into ¼ inch slices (or boneless chicken thighs sliced)
1 Tablespoon Sugar
3 medium garlic cloves, minced fine
½ small shallot, minced fine
1 stalk lemon grass, rough outer grass removed and upper part of stem removed, minced finely – it will equal about ¼ cup
1 teaspoon Sweet Soy Sauce – Kecap Manis
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce
1 Tablespoon Oil
½ teaspoon Black Pepper
2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil

Put sugar, garlic, shallot and lemon grass in a mortar and using a pestle, process to nearly a paste, but where there are still some chunks. Add Kecap Manis, Fish Sauce and pepper and stir to combine. Place meat in a large bowl and add marinade. Coat well and let sit at room temperature for at least ½ hour to 1 hour or in refrigerator up to overnight.

Heat oil in frying pan until smoking. Add in pork in with marinade and straighten pieces out until they lay flat. Cook until completely browned on one side, moving them occasionally so they don’t’ burn. You will see the meat turning white up over the sides when they are. Then turn the pieces over and brown on the other side. Put onto a plate and serve with rice and vegetables.

Five Element Analysis

Pork belongs to the Water Element and the Kecap Manis and fish sauce bring in even more. The Lemongrass belongs to the Wood Element, but this element needs support, so it is important to serve this dish with some green vegetables. The sugar contributes just a bit of the Earth Element, but you need a bit more of that too. But, the garlic, shallots and rice contribute enough of the Metal Element. The Fire Element is missing except for a tiny amount of black pepper and the char on the meat, so be sure to bring that element into the meal with something that contains hot chilies or you could have a salad as an accompaniment and an Earthy fruit for dessert to round out and balance the meal.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thai Style Coconut Chicken Soup


I have a friend visiting me right now and she loves Thai food. As she has been very jetlagged, I decided to make her some Thai Coconut Chicken Soup - Tom Kha Gai - to make the transition easier. It's really easy to make and easy to digest and has those lovely Thai flavors. It is easily made from ingredients on hand except for the Lemongrass, which I bought earlier from my local Asian market, Uwajimaya and keeps in the refrigerator for a while.

Thai Coconut Soup is a lovely creamy, citrusy bowl of comfort. I used cut up chicken breast for a little extra protein and also added already cooked rice for more texture and substance. It comes together incredibly fast and I think it is even better the second day - if you have any leftovers!

Thai Style Coconut Chicken Soup

1 14 oz can Coconut Milk
2 cups chicken broth
5 slices of ginger (or galangal if you can get it)
2 small or 1 large Lemongrass stalk, outside layer removed, top 2/3 cut off and minced finely (if tough - put in mortar and crush to a paste like consistency)
1 Tablespoon grated lime zest
1 chicken breast, cut into small chunks
4 Tablespoons of Thai Fish Sauce
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon Thai Red Curry Paste
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Thai Chili Oil (can also use Sriracha or Chili Garlic Paste)
1 Serrano Chili, deseeded and finely minced or cut into rings (if you want to remove them)
1 handful (about 1/2 cup) Cilantro Leaves
Cooked and hot white rice - about 1/2 cup per bowl

In a large pot, combine the Coconut Milk with the Chicken Broth, ginger, Lemongrass and lime zest and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and add in the chicken pieces, the fish sauce, the Serrano Chili and the sugar. Cook for 5 minutes or until chicken pieces are cooked and are white. Put in curry paste and chili oil and cook for another 5 minutes. Add in lime juice and ladle into a bowl that has 1/2 cup of cooked hot rice in it. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves.

Five Element Analysis

Soup is a Watery method of cooking and the added Fish Sauce contributes even more. Coconut Milk is an Earth Food so that element is covered whereas the Metal Element is benefitted by the ginger and serving the soup with rice and cilantro. The chicken, the chicken broth, the Lemongrass and the lime all contribute the Wood Element and the Serrano Chili, the Red Curry Paste and Chili Oil bring in Fire. Guess what? This is a balanced soup!