Thursday, November 7, 2013

Cooking: Chinese Dinner for Birthday Girls

It brings me immense joy to cook for my loved ones. So every fall when Mrs. Pattis Magician and Ms. Pastry Chef's birthdays come along, I volunteer to cook them a Chinese dinner. And to my delight, they agree. They usually let me decide the menu but I still like to ask them for favorites to make sure those are included.

First up, lo mein. The long strands of noodles represent a long life. So do not cut them! Some companies even make an entire package with just one noodle strand. Impressive but that's really difficult to share. This version of lo mein is vegetarian using a variety of mushrooms like shiitake, enoki, chanterelle, and king oyster mushrooms. The sauce is mainly soy sauce and oyster sauce. You can use a mushroom based oyster sauce and eggless noodles to keep this vegan if your prefer. I went a bit overboard with the sauce and the dish came out a bit salty. Oops! I need to remember that people don't love salt as much as I do.
And the a large plate of vegetables is always a must with this group. My local supermarket wasn't selling yu choy tips which is the more tender branches of this common leafy vegetable. Instead, they sold the full grown adult version. Still edible but much more fibrous. A quick blanch in salted boiling water and a douse of oyster sauce finishes it off.
Fried rice. My fried rice to be exact. I put a lot of care and effort into this baby and it tastes a million times better than what a lot of restaurants call fried rice. First and foremost, I cook it using fresh ingredients. Many fried rice dishes from restaurants are using leftovers or scraps. I think that's where it originated; a vehicle to use leftover food. For my version, I use Chinese sausage, shrimp, shiitake mushrooms, eggs, garlic, peas, and scallions. The picture is kind of blurry below but you get the idea.
I can't have a Chinese feast without dumplings. They're kind of my specialty. I've been making dumplings by hand for decades now. So yeah, it's in my blood. The only thing I don't do is the wrapper. I don't make that from scratch mainly because I'm making these in mass quantities and freezing them. A fresh wrapper would lose its appeal quickly when it's being frozen. Anyway, the dumplings below are beef and Chinese chives served with sweet soy sauce.
My mom always said you had to eat chicken on your birthday. I'm sure it had some kind of meaning but I forget what. Anyway, I made steamed chicken served with ginger scallion sauce. I overcooked the chicken a bit so it wasn't the most appealing texturally. However, I doused it in the sauce which is a big hit with my family.
And last savory dish of the night: honey walnut shrimp. I candy the walnuts then batter and fry the shrimp which is tossed in a sweetened kewpie mayo sauce. This dish is so super easy that I can't believe I waited this long to make it. It's a favorite of Mrs. Pattis Magician.
And what's a birthday without cake? Unfortunately this cake was being very temperamental and came out kind of ugly. It didn't work out as I pictured it. The cake base is yellow cake with nutella swirl which tasted great on its own. Then I tried stacking it and then frosting it. The frosting was too loose and sweet, while the cake was too soft. In hindsight, I should have cut the cake into smaller circles and served them individually. Oh well, practice makes perfect.
The dinner was a success (even with my mishaps) and left everyone really full and also left us with lots of leftovers. In fact, there was enough food left that Mr. M&P and I had lunch for the following week. Dinners like these make me really happy. I'll definitely be hosting more often in the future. I still need to work on timing.

1 comment:

  1. Such a great-looking meal. Lucky family members!!

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