I love Chinese food, I miss Chinese restaurants and Dim Sum; I haven’t eaten Dim Sum in 3 years, I used to eat it every 2-3 weeks (probably not the healthiest thing to admit, but it’s in the past 🙂 ). My Grandmother is Chinese, making me one-quarter, but I’m fairly sure I would love and miss this delicious cuisine just as much if I hadn’t grown up with my Chinese connection.
I have wonderful memories of various Chinatowns: snooping through all the treasures, the inexpensive and delicious groceries, the mysterious candies with only Chinese characters on the packaging… San Francisco (the oldest Chinatown in North America and a must for tourists), Vancouver, Victoria (second oldest), Calgary, Montreal, Toronto, it doesn’t matter where I am, when I see lion statues and red gates electricity and excitement run through my body. The smell of pork buns, bbq’d duck, sesame balls with bean paste and egg tarts all ignite my childhood flashbacks and then it hits me: I can’t eat any of it. My trips to Montreal’s Chinatown have dropped drastically since my diagnoses and when I do go, I run in and out like there is a fire. (It’s the best place to buy pork, 3 lbs. of ground pork for under $6 can’t be beat)
I decided it’s about time I reconnect. Time to take a trip down there without a grocery list and just make my way through the memories. Let the scents of Chinatown be the calorie free way to enjoy Chinese, then go home and make something inspired by the things I find on my trip.
We had a cabbage, carrots and bok choy from our veggie basket, so I decided to make spring roll insides (we make this when we don’t feel like frying) and some kind of bok choy dish on the side. I bought 3 lbs. of pork, ginger, Thai basil, 4 chopstick rests, vermicelli noodles, dried shiitake mushrooms and green onions for about $15! I also found WASABI PEAS!!! In individual, single serving packets no less! I’ve seen Wasabi peas around, but they always contain wheat flour. Not these babies! And they pack as much punch as I remember! This little pack of peas has renewed my faith in the gf revolution! Even Chinatown is going GF! I have a renewed sense of Chinatown purpose! A raison d’être, a whole new game plan in Chinatown my friends! GF is so trendy.
Spring Roll Insides
You may think this is weird, but this dish came from the excessive amount of leftover filling I had the first time I made spring rolls with my new deep fryer (Shout out to Jonathan!). We made enough filling to feed a small army, eventually I had to stop frying and eat. The leftovers were amazing and ever since, if I don’t feel like frying, I just make the insides with a bit less noodle and serve them over rice or more noodles. Don’t judge, try them and you will see what I mean.
This recipe is inspired by Martha Liao’s recipe. Martha Liao is married to Hao Jiang Tian an opera singer from Beijing and I happened to catch them being interviewed on Martha Stewart. Apparently Martha Liao prepares her famous Peking duck feasts at the end of Hao Jiang Tian’s runs all over the world. She is also known for her dumplings and spring rolls. You can find the unaltered recipe and watch a clip of these two cooking with Martha here. This recipe yields 40-50 spring rolls, you can see why I had so much leftover filling! She also uses spring roll wrappers which contain wheat flour, I use rice flour wrappers and I’m just as content.
What you’ll need (for the spring roll insides, in case you forgot, because I blabbed a little):
1 pack skinny rice noodles, 1 small shredded head cabbage, 4 or 5 grated carrots, canola oil, 2 lbs. lean ground pork, 2 tbsp. chopped garlic, 2 tbsp. chopped ginger, 3 tablespoons gf soy sauce (I use BRAGGS), 1 tbsp. Shao Xsing (Chinese cooking wine pictured below), 1 tsp. sugar, 1 tbsp. cornstarch, 5 chopped green onions, 1 tsp. sesame oil and rice vinegar *this is a lot of filling, cut it half if you want*
Wok or large skillet, 2 big bowls, big spoon
Left to right: my cheeky red rice cooker, Chinese cooking wine, rice vinegar and sesame oil
Cook your rice noodles according to the directions on the packet, this usually involves soaking in hot or boiling water. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp. oil in a wok with a lid over medium-high heat. Add cabbage and carrots and cook, stirring, until coated with oil. Season with salt and cover; cook until cabbage mixture is soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer cabbage mix to a large bowl; set aside.
Add enough oil to lightly coat bottom of skillet. Add pork, garlic, and ginger; stir to combine. Add soy sauce, wine, and sugar. Whisk cornstarch together with 1/4 cup water until well combined. Add to skillet and cook, stirring, until mixture is thickened and pork is cooked through.
Drain rice noodles, pull out half the noodles and chop them up a little, stir into pork along with the green onions and sesame oil. Transfer pork mixture to bowl with cabbage; toss to combine.
Serve over the rest of the noodles or rice with rice vinegar and soy sauce!
Spring Roll Insides
Bok Choy and Shiitake mushrooms
What you’ll need:
3 or 4 Bok Choy cut into bite size strips, dried or fresh shiitake mushroom, chopped up garlic and ginger, gf soy sauce, sesame oil, s&p
Wok and spoon
If you are using dried mushrooms, soak them according to the package.
I used the same wok I had made the pork filling in, so it was already seasoned with oil, throw in the bok choy, ginger, garlic and soy sauce steam until the thick parts start to soften. Slice the mushrooms and throw them in to heat.