Tonight’s dinner was jiaozi (gee-aw-za, dumplings). This was a weekday meal so I did not make them myself. Jiapzi making is a major operation. The rolling out of dozens of little bits of dough becomes a social activity for a gathering (it is not really possible to make just a few jiaozi). To the Chinese, it is very similar to Mexicans and Christmas tamales, an activity that brings people together. For an everyday meal the Chinese cook will run down to the corner, where a jiaozi seller has parked their bicycles truck, and pick up enough for their meal.
In America we have frozen dumplings in every Asian market. My preferred brand is Wei-Chuan, as a good balance of wrapper and filling. Wei-Chuan dumplings are sold as “potstickers,” because they have already been partially cooked. Dumplings do not become “potstickers” until they have been first boil or steamed and then fried. And I always have bags of chicken and pork & leek in my freezer for days when I need a quick meal. I put 30 dumplings into the bamboo steamer and in 15-20 minutes they are hot and ready. (Yes, that is a lot for three people, but you can’t make potstickers without leftover dumplings).
While jiaozi have some vegetables in the filling, Jan does not think they are a complete meal. I always have to make a vegetable dish to go with them. One vegetable that we learned to like in China is chive stem. This is the flower stem of Chinese chives (garlic chives), picked just before the flower opens. The flowers are edible or you can trim them off. Make sure the chive stems are firm and fresh, not dried out and wilted. Chive stem have a diamond-shaped cross section, so they are easy to identify.
Another vegetable I like is Sichuan pickle. In China, they would give me a hard time about liking it, because many foreigners don’t like it. It is mustard stem pickled with chili paste, salt, sesame oil and anise seed. One of the restaurants we like, Hand Pulled Noodle House, adds Sichuan pickle to their “Dry cooked String Bean.” I decided it would make a good addition to my stir-fry.
Karl’s Spicy Chive Stem and Giant Bamboo Stir-fry
1 lb. Chinese chive stems
1 Tbs. spicy bean sauce
1 Tbs. Hoisin sauce
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp. ginger, minced
½ cup giant bamboo
1 small red bell pepper
3-4 green onions
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbs. Sichuan pickle
1 Tbs. peanut oil
1. Measure the first 6 ingredients, put them in a small cup and set it aside.
2. Rinse the stem, cut the bottom 1/8 inch off of each stem and chop into 2 inch pieces.
3. Slice the bamboo, red pepper and garlic and set them in piles on a large plate.
4. Trim the green onions and chop them into fine pieces.
5. Put the peanut oil into a skillet or wok and bring it up to a high temperature. Add the chive stem and toss the vegetables about every 30 seconds for two minutes. Do not stir constantly.
6. Add the bamboo pile to the pan and continue stir-frying for two minutes.
7. Add the red pepper, green onions, garlic, and Sichuan pickle. Continue stir-frying for one minute.
8. Pull the vegetables to the sides of the pan and pour the sauce mixture into the open space. Mix the sauce together for about ten seconds and then toss the vegetables to coat them with the sauce.
9. Remove to a bowl and serve immediately.