Monday, March 4, 2013

Hakka in Halifax

I've been enjoying The Hakka Cookbook since I received a copy in the fall from the book's editor, who I am very proud to say is my friend! The recipes are written clearly and with warmth, and everything I've made so far has been delicious! 

The Hakka are a people who have moved over generations from their homeland in southeastern China. The book's author, Linda Lau Anusasananan, traveled to Hakka kitchens around the world to gather recipes for her book. In the places they settled, Hakka cooks incorporated local food cultures into their cooking practices. In India, "Hakka Noodles" are ubiquitous on the menus of Indo-Chinese Restaurants. Indians love Chinese food, and their demand for Chinese dishes like Chilli Paneer, Gobi Manchurian and Chicken 65 are a good reminder that national labels are not always the best descriptors for food or cultures!

I've made Anusasananan's garlic noodles several times, adapting the recipe by replacing the shrimp with tofu, or in this version, with steamed seitan that I made myself. 

I've also been making these noodles with the vegetables that are available here in the winter in Halifax: brussels sprouts, carrots and mushrooms!  The chili is an exotic treat.

This recipe takes a little time, but it's pretty simple.  Just prep the ingredients, and then it comes together really quickly.

I don't have a wok, and my stove isn't great, but I can still make this recipe work. The important thing is to add the ingredients separately in stages so that the pan doesn't lose too much heat.  Start with the mushrooms and get them brown. At the point you think they might begin to burn, add the onions, garlic and chili to cool down the mushrooms.  And keep going with every vegetable. Let me know if you try it out!

Winter Hakka Noodles
Adapted from Linda Lau Anusasananan's Garlic Noodle Recipe in The Hakka Cookbook
Makes 4 servings
Takes 1 hour

2 Tbsp. Shaoxing Chinese Rice wine (great to have on hand in the fridge)
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper (or black)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 loaf seitan, sliced (you could use tofu, or as in the original recipe, shrimp!)
12 oz dried wheat noodles (I used Shanghai noodles) 
about 12 shitake mushroom caps, thinly sliced (save the stems for making stock, or throw them in your next pot of rice)
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 red chili, sliced in two
2 cups sliced brussels sprouts
1 carrot, julienned
3 Tbsp. soy sauce

Mix the wine with the salt and pepper. Toss with the seitan, and let sit to marinate.

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 400 degrees.
Cook noodles according to package directions so they are just firm.  Rinse thoroughly in cold water until cool to touch. Lightly toss with vegetable oil and set aside.

Coat the seitan with oil and toast for 10 minutes on each side, to lightly brown. Let cool on paper towels.

Coat the bottom of a wok or large saute pan with vegetable oil. On high heat, brown the mushrooms, about a minute on each side. Add onions, garlic, and red chili, and saute for about a minute. Add brussels sprouts and saute for one minute. Put a lid on the pan and let steam for one to two minutes.  Add carrots and saute another minute. Turn heat down to medium. Add the seitan, noodles and soy sauce. Toss gently to combine--tongs work really well.


Friday, March 1, 2013

Experiments in Seitan

Like so many things, this post started out as an experiment that did not go according to plan. I was wanting to make Terry Hope Romero's red seitan, but since I didn't have all the ingredients on hand, I needed to make some substitutions. I decided to use some of the quick Really Excellent Marinade to replace the tomato paste Romero's recipe called for.  It produced a very wet dough. 

I am not a very confident seitan maker, and I always wonder just what the consistency of the dough should be, how long it should be kneaded, and the size of the loaves for steaming.  I thought this was a good opportunity to test this out.

I divided the dough in two, I left the wet dough to rest, and with the second half, I added more Vital Wheat Gluten to make the dough the usual consistency I get from following a seitan recipe.  This thick dough was inevitably kneaded more than the wet dough and had that elastic feeling you look for when making bread.

Since I had a bit extra VWG left, I added some chick pea flour, and some water to make a dry, very well kneaded dough.

I then packed them in foil and steamed them according to THR's description.

After steaming, you couldn't really tell a difference between the wet dough and the medium dough. I kept one loaf of each to bake, and there was very little difference between the wet and the medium when they were baked.

The next day, I took one loaf wet and one loaf medium and sliced them to put in a marinade.  The medium loaf was a bit chewier, but only a little.

The big surprise was that on slicing the dry little dough ball, it had these nice little holes in it!  That means it is less dense than your average seitan and would probably soak up flavors more. 

I marinated it in some soy sauce, picka peppa sauce and sesame oil and sauteed it for a sort of reuben sandwich.  So good!

The steamed seitan is just the basis for later cooking. Try it in some Winter Hakka Noodles! But here is the result of my experimenting, a very good basic recipe for seitan.

Steamed Seitan
Adapted from Terry Hope Romero's recipe for Red Seitan
Makes 4 loaves of seitan
Takes 1 hour

1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1 giant clove of garlic grated (about 1 tablespoon grated garlic, maybe more)
3 Tablespoons light soy sauce
2 Tbsp Really Excellent Marinade
2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup chick pea flour
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp dried oregano

Mix together garlic and wet ingredients in a large liquid cup measure. 

In a large bowl, thoroughly combine dry ingredients.

Pour wet ingredients into the dry, and stir until it begins to leave the sides of the bowl.  It will be very wet. In the bowl, knead for 3 minutes. This will be difficult as the dough will be very loose. Persevere!  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Knead again for 1 minute. Divide into 4 pieces, kneading each into a loaf shape.

Prepare a steamer and basket. I use a large stock pot with a wire cooling rack. Bring water to a boil and then turn down to a steady simmer.

Wrap each loaf into a loose foil packet, allowing room for the seitan to expand. Steam seitan for thirty minutes. Can be used right away, but it's better over time. Let cool and refrigerate. Will keep for 1 week.

Stay tuned for recipes on what to do with your seitan!