My Social Bites: Old School Chinese

Last week I participated in Social Bites’ “DinnerPartyYVR” event…in my own home! Social Bites, if you have not heard of it, is run by Annika Reinhardt and organizes competitive dinner parties. Or rather, dinner parties with a competitive edge. It’s a bit like the TV show “Come Dine With Me” – two sets of diners eat a competing dinners and they all get together at the end of the night to compare notes and judge. The great thing is…the dinners are at the hobby chef’s home! So you get the enjoyment of having a homecooked meal in cozy home. DinnerPartyYVR was a twist on this: stripped of the competitive element, 30 (yes, 30!) Hobby Chefs opened their doors and sold seats at their dinner, of which the entire amount is donated to charity. My chosen charity was the SPCA. I hosted 4 guests and served an “Old School Chinese” menu:

  • Poached Shrimp with Dipping Sauce
  • Dumpling Trio (Steam-Fried Pork Dumpling, Vegetable Dumpling and Shrimp and Pea Tip Dumpling)
  • Hainanese Chicken with Oiled Rice, Served with Ginger-Onion Relish and Oyster Sauce
  • Red-Braised Beef Ribs Served on Pea Tips
  • Braised Tofu, Mushrooms and Vegetables
  • Bonus Dessert: Black Sesame Ice Cream Sprinkled with Kinako

Social Bites Old School Chinese Menu

Ha, as my guests pointed out – I missed a course on my menu! 

All the Hobby Chefs were allowed to have a ‘Sous Chef’ assist them – mine was my friend Ruby!

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And the trusted ‘Clean Up Crew’ & ‘Entertainment’:

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As mentioned, I had 4 guests. Actually 5! My friend Patty and her husband Fred came to the dinner along with their adorable son Evan – who only had eyes for Koi, haha. I also had two guests, who won tickets on social media to the event. I believe they haven’t really tried this kind of cuisine (or rather, very traditional Chinese food) so I was happy to give them a taste of the world of Chinese cuisine outside of sweet ‘n sour chicken.

We started with:

Poached Shrimp served with Dipping Sauce

Chinese Poached Shrimp with Dipping Sauce

This dish was served a la Shrimp Cocktail style. I have these beautiful drink saucers that I never use – and they looked and worked amazingly. The shrimp is poached in water scented with rice wine, ginger and green onion. It’s served with a distinctively ‘umami’ soy-based dipping sauce, flecked with cilantro, green onion and jalepeno.

Next up:

Dumpling Trio

Chinese DumplingsI made three different dumplings to show off varieties in fillings and wrapper. On the bottom – the puffy ones are a yeast-dough wrapper with a pork filling. These are some of my favourite dumplings. The dumplings are steamed and fried: you fry them briefly before adding about 1/3 cup of water to the pan and steam with the lid on. They come out crunchy on the bottom, yet pillowy soft. The dough is slightly sweet too. The filling is from Anita Lo, and I haven’t found one to beat it yet. The other two are wrapped with generic dumpling wrappers bought from a store. You can’t get that translucent thickness by hand! The fillings were shrimp with pea tips & cilantro and a vegetarian.

Followed by:

Hainanese Chicken served with Oiled Rice, served with Ginger-Onion Relish and Oyster Sauce

Red-Braised Beef Ribs served on Pea Tips

Hainanese Chicken Red Braised Beef Ribs

Hainanese chicken is such a lovely, subtle and under-recognized dish. A chicken is gently poached in water with aromatics such as ginger, garlic and green onions. You boil the chicken for about 15 minutes and then with the lid on, let it poach (heat off) for about an hour. Then you plunge the bird into an ice bath which firms up the skin. The result is a silky smooth chicken that has a delicate flavour and texture. Really really amazing. Then you use the broth to make the rice! You also cook the rice with additional oil – thus the “oiled rice”. It’s served with a ginger-onion relish which is basically heavily salted grated ginger and finely chopped green onions mixed with hot oil (relish served at room temp). The freshness of the ginger and onion really kick up the chicken and add a different contrast in flavour and texture. The contentious point between Ruby and I was whether it was served with oyster sauce or not. She said no. I said yes. As the Hobby Chef – I won the debate, haha.

I paired it on the plate with the red-braised beef ribs. Unfortunately I couldn’t source shortribs on the day of – so beef ribs it is! They were braised on my stovetop with red wine, soy sauce, star anise, cinnamon, ginger and green onions. They were cooked until fork tender and then the sauce was reduced. They were taken off the bone, cut into pieces and served on a bed of sauteed pea tips.

Two very different items sharing a plate – very much yin and yang!

Final savoury:

Braised Tofu, Mushrooms and Vegetables

Braised Tofu Mushrooms Vegetables

 

I thought I would end the meal (well, almost) on a lighter note. I braised together deep fried tofu, silken tofu, rehydrated shiitake mushrooms and mixed fresh mushrooms. They were lightly fried and then immersed in a liquid of leftover Hainanese chicken stock and the liquid from rehydrating the mushrooms. I added the familiar elements of soy sauce, oyster sauce and rice wine and let the tofu and mushrooms simmer away. And simmer they did. The end texture was amazing – the deep fried tofu was so soft and the mushrooms soaked up the flavours of the broth. The mixture of fresh mushrooms was a great addition. I just grabbed a prepackaged mix – the different mushrooms delighted my guests. The vegetables were added at the end while I was reheating and steamed on top of the mixture for a few minutes – leaving them tender with a bit of crunch. The stock is supposed to be thickened with cornstarch at the end, but it didn’t thicken enough. However I really liked the loose broth – Patty served some of it to Evan mixed with white rice….yum!

And to finish…of course:

Black Sesame Ice Cream Sprinkled with Kinako

Black Sesame Ice CreamIce cream, of course! I love black sesame ice cream. First of all, the color is dramatic. Second of all, it’s unusual. Third of all, it tastes amazing. It’s not too sweet, it’s subtle and has an oddly comforting element. From my ancestors, I suppose? Anyway, this lovely creaminess was topped with kinako or toasted soy bean flour (tastes kinda like peanut butter).

As you can see in this picture, we had some fun drinks. I had Ruby play bartender and mix up some fun concoctions. I laid out a spread of club soda, lychee juice, mango juice, ginger beer, ginger syrup and a plate of fresh mint, cucumber and limes wedges. Guests were able to have hand-muddled Asian-inspired mock-tails to accompany their dinner. But! We also had red wine provided to us by Serendipity vineyards and beer from Granville Island Brewery. Many thanks to Urban Fare for the $50 gift card! (other sponsors include Modo & Chimp)

Overall – I had a great time. I missed entertaining and loved being able to break out the tablecloths, lanterns and extra table to introduce my guests to some Old School Chinese…Thanks Social Bites!

 

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Tags: , ,

Categories: Chinese, dinner, dumplings, goma, ice cream

Author:bainvancouver

Communications specialist by day, baker/cook/triathlete/dog-owner by night. I blog about my adventures inside and outside my kitchen. Come take a look - no big whoop!

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One Comment on “My Social Bites: Old School Chinese”

  1. mizzjblog
    October 26, 2013 at 4:57 am #

    Wow this all sounds like an amazing night! The braised vegetables has my mouth drooling. Nothing says comfort Chinese cooking like a good brothy soup.

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