Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day 3: Meal Week at Mountain Mama!

The husband and I LOVE chinese food. You can imagine how disappointed we were when we ate at the town's only chinese place and discovered the food to be less than desired.

We have been spoiled by a great little place tucked into a shopping center where we used to live. Run by a brother and sister, they had the best of everything! Great egg rolls, delicious wonton soup, fabulous garlic beef, excellent cashew chicken.... everything we've tried comes out just perfect! Whenever we make a trip back to our old haunts, we always make a point to have a meal there.

What's a girl to do when she has a craving for chinese and doesn't want to drive 2 hours to get it? Well, learn to make her own, of course!

First, I started buying those kits and mixes at the store. Then I started to experiment with recipes I'd find here and there. Now, I make my own sauces and flavorings almost completely from scratch and I dare say they taste better than the chinese place does!

I'll be sharing 2 recipes for chinese food: Egg rolls and Beef stir-fry. Today will be the egg rolls and tomorrow is the Stir-fry.

Don't be afraid to try this. The most difficult part is the prep-work. Chinese food is all about the chopping and cutting and mincing and dicing and slicing. Once you finish chopping and cutting and mincing and dicing and slicing, the easy part comes next: the cooking!

Here we go!

Your basic egg roll contains 1 cup of grated carrots, 2 cups of finely chopped cabbage (a mandolin comes in handy!), 6 chopped green onions and 2 cups of bean sprouts.

It also contains meat. Usually pork that has been dyed red for color. I don't have access to an international store that carries red-dyed pork so I am using ground chicken. Who wants to eat red dye anyway? Cook until all the pink is gone. This is 2 chicken breasts that have been ground. You could use the dark meat if you prefer.

In a wok or a large pan (you need a LARGE pan!!), add the chopped veggies to the cooked chicken.

You'll also need Oyster sauce and egg roll wraps. I am amazed my little small town grocery store carries this stuff! Amazed I tell you! Add about 2 tablespoons of the oyster sauce to the pan and stir to combine.

The egg roll wrappers are kept in the fruit and vegetable section of the store, mine keeps it near the tofu and organic stuff. They need to be kept refrigerated or they turn black. Trust me, I know.

This is what it'll look like after getting everything mixed in together and it has cooked down a little bit. Your kitchen will start to smell like a chinese restaurant! Inhale deeply and sample the mixture! Go ahead- I won't tell!

Let it cook about 5 minutes then remove from heat and let it cool until you can handle it with your hands. In the meantime, get a pan of vegetable oil warmed up and ready to fry. You could use peanut oil if you like, but I asked the kindly sister that ran the chinese food place what oil they used and she told me vegetable because they didn't want to risk food allergies with peanut oil. So we use vegetable oil 'cause we like her egg rolls.

When the mixture is cool enough to handle, take a single egg roll wrapper and lay it down like a diamond. Place about 2 tablespoons of mixture in the center.

Fold up the bottom...

Fold over the sides... and dip a finger in a bowl of water and wet the top corner.

Fold down the top corner that has been wetted and then put it aside. Repeat until mixture is gone or wrappers are gone, whichever comes first. I like to use up all the wrappers and then freeze the extra egg rolls for another time. If you used up all the mixture and only have 2 or 3 wrappers left, you can cut it into strips and fry 'em for those crispy strips they use for wonton soup. My kids eat them as fast as I can fry them!

When the oil is ready, fry up the egg rolls, 2 or 3 at a time, turning to cook evenly, until golden brown. Can you hear that sizzle?

Drain cooked egg rolls on wire rack or paper towels. You can serve these with any of those chinese dipping sauces-- hot mustard, sweet and sour sauce, or duck sauce. They taste good straight up, too!

Wasn't that easy? I'm telling you, the hardest part is the chopping of the vegetables! I make chinese food often, so investing in a mandolin slicer was worth it for me. You can find them for cheap, as low as $20. Unless you are a professional chef, I don't recommend shelling out big bucks for a mandolin. I also use the mandolin for when I make pickles or for slicing corn off the cob or making potato chips. Be careful, though, those blades are sharp! I've cut myself on them enough to testify to that!

Come back tomorrow for chinese beef stir-fry with mixed vegetables!


DJ Kirkby said...

I've never seen bean sprouts over here, I miss them. I am going to see if I can find the wraps and make an adapted version of this as I think everyone here would love them!

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Jenny!! you're making me hungry. I'm going to pick up some supplies for this recipe the next time I go to town. You make it look so easy.
We were disappointed too, the last time we ate at a Chinese restaurant that used to be good. Now I can make my own. Thanks.

Wendy said...

Oh, my gosh! Those look so scrumptuous! We LOVE Chinese food here, too, and in fact, that's the one type of food where we too often indulge in take out. I was thinking I'd like some Chinese for dinner tonight. I think I'll stop and get some egg wrappers somewhere while I'm out this afternoon and try these. Thanks for the inspiration!

Sparx said...

I'm definitely going to try this - although without the Oyster Sauce. I've never really found a veggie alternative to it though...

Oh - DJ, Tesco do big bags of sprouts, plus you can buy mung beans in Halfords and sprout them yourself if you like... although they never seem to get as fat as the bought ones!

jenny said...

Dj-- I was going to suggest buying your own beans and sprouting them yourself, but looks like Sparx has come to the rescue! Hope you can find them, because they really add to the flavor. I made them once without and it wasn't nearly as good!

Trapper-- Now we're even! You made me drool with that apricot pie you made!! :o) With all your garden veggies, I bet you won't need to buy a single vegetable for this!

Wendy-- Same here! When we go out, we go for stuff we can't make at home which USED to be chinese! My stir fry tastes better than going out now!

Sparx-- See.. this is why I love blogging! You get to help fellow bloggers out and tell them where to find something!

I admit I wrinkled my nose at the oyster sauce, but making it without it was very bland tasting. I look at the ingredients listed and I have everything but the oyster extract. I wonder if I could do without the extract? I see some experimenting in my future!

Connie Brannen said...

Just wnated to say that you have mightily impressed me with your blog and Thank You for this eggroll recipe.I too live on the low income side and wish to order these many times but it,s always maybe next month. Today in Florida it is a light falling spring rain,of the spring gardening to come in March.I can hardly wait till then. .