Monday, April 24, 2017

Taiwanese pineapple buns

Food52 just published an article I wrote on six indispensable mother sauces from China, and I have to say, this one turned out gorgeous. Not that I can take much credit for it... This site has the most beautiful photography, and the layout so gorgeous, and the readers so friendly. Makes my heart glad.

Check out the fish fragrant sauce, or maybe chile oil, or the sweet soy sauce. They happen to be just as delicious as they are lovely!

You'll also want to see my recipe for scallion pancakes on the James Beard Foundation website. This really surprised and delighted me. 

How come food people are always the nicest folks around? Must be the food...

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Today's delightful pastries are an inescapable part of any good Chinese bakery’s landscape. They also confuse the heck out of people who try them for the first time because there is absolutely no pineapple in there. 

Pineapple buns get their name from the scored surface, which, you have to admit, does look more than a bit like a pineapple’s skin. 

I’ve loved these ever since I first moved to Taiwan and figured out through repeated tasting trips that they were remarkably good even though no fruit was involved.

It’s really a genius pastry: a crunchy cookie coating hides a soft raised bun, and that’s about it. When done right, the flavors are also super simple, as you taste little more than good butter, sugar, and yeast.
A thing of beauty
I’d like to give Taiwan all the credit for this, but I can’t. I am also unable to tell you that this was the invention of some clever Japanese pastry chefs, even though this bread wound its way to Taiwan via Japan. No, this is a variation on the Mexican concha. Next time you go to a Mexican market, check out their bakery, as you will find all sorts of buns with airy toppings there. Most of them will be shaped like shells, which is what concha means, of course.

Anyway, good things to eat have a way of finding new and appreciative audiences, and these conchas eventually came to look more like little pineapples.

What I like about making these myself is that I get to taste really good ingredients in here instead of too much sugar, cheap fats, and poor quality flour. Since there really are not that many things in here, the best eggs, butter, and flour will turn these into wonderful pastries.

The soft cookie dough
I’ve also put more cookie on top than is usually called for. I mean, a commercial bakery is probably going to cut corners, but when you make these yourself, you should emphasize whatever aspects of that recipe genuinely appeal to you, and that crunchy topping is definitely something that makes me smile.

To be honest, I’ve tried and tried to make these, but they never turned out right. Then, one time I figured out that cake flour had to be used in the bread, rather than all purpose, even though it was a yeast dough. The results were perfection: soft and light, yet just tensile enough to rise into light bubbles, almost like a brioche.

But the cookie dough threw me another curve ball, since I found that bread flour was needed to give this paste enough body to work with it without it falling apart.

None of this makes any sense, if you have much experience as a baker: cake flour for the bread, bread flour for the cookie part. And yet it works. Go figure.
Cookie dough on top of bread dough
So, throw these together soon. They don’t take much time, and if you give one to a Chinese friend, your reputation as a great baker will become a thing of legend.

Pineapple buns
Bōluó bāo 菠蘿包
Taiwanese cuisine
Makes 16

Bread dough:
1 package (2½ teaspoons) bread yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons (30 mL) warm water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup (240 mL) very warm water
¼ cup (25 g) powdered milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Around 4 cups (560 g) unbleached cake flour
1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened, to grease the bowl

Cookie dough:
2 sticks (1 cup | 120 g ) unsalted butter, softened
6 tablespoons (80 g) sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Foamy yeast = live yeast
1½ cups (240 g) unbleached bread flour

Water, as needed
1 large egg, lightly beaten, for the egg wash

1. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the 2 tablespoons warm water and let the yeast soften and bloom while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Stir the yeasty water after about 10 minutes – it should be foaming at this point, which shows that the yeast is still alive. If nothing is going on in the cup, get some new yeast.

2. Stir the softened butter and salt into the cup of very warm water until the butter melts, and then stir in the powdered milk. Place 3 cups (320 g) cake flour in a medium work bowl and then stir the yeast mixture and the egg to form a sticky dough. Add more flour until it is manageable, and then turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough, adding more flour as needed, until it is soft and tensile. Clean and dry the work bowl, then smear the teaspoon of butter inside. Form the dough into a smooth ball and place it in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place until it is double in bulk. Punch it down, turn it over, and cover again until it is again double in size.
Scoring the top

3. As soon as the bread dough is given a chance to rise, make the cookie dough, since it needs to chill for at least an hour. Use a stand or hand mixer to beat the butter and sugar together until light. Add the egg and flour, and then mix until smooth. Scrape the cookie dough into a smaller container, cover, and chill for at least an hour.

4. Line two baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper. Divide the bread dough into 16 even pieces and roll these into balls. Set 8 balls on each lined sheet. Let the dough rise while you work on the cookie dough.

5. Arrange two racks in the oven toward the center and then heat the oven to 350°F (170°C). Prepare 2 sheets of plastic wrap and set them on your work surface. Divide the cookie dough into 16 even pieces and roll these into balls. Try to use only your fingers and the heel of your hand, rather than your palm, as these will not warm up the dough. Place a ball of cookie dough on a sheet of plastic wrap, cover it with the other piece, and press down on the dough with the heel of your hand to form a wide disc about 3 inches (7.5 cm) wide. Drape the disc over one of the balls of bread dough and pat the edges against the bread. Repeat with the other buns on that sheet.

6. Dip a plastic pastry scraper in flour and make 4 even lines across the top of a bun, then crisscross these with 4 diagonal lines. Wipe your scraper often on a wet towel and dip the edge in flour, as otherwise it will stick and make raggedly edges. Repeat this with the rest of the buns. Use a pastry brush to dab water over the cookie topping on each bun. Let the buns rise for about 20 minutes.
A water + an egg wash

7. Just before you place them in the oven, brush that last beaten egg over the top of each bun, hitting the whole cookie, so that it will brown evenly. Bake the buns for about 30 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through the cooking time, until the tops are a golden brown. Slide the sheets with the buns onto a counter so that they stop cooking on the bottom, and nudge them free once they have cooled. Eat warm or cooled. They are wonderful with a pat of butter in the middle, too. Store in an airtight container.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Flourless almond cookies chez Huang

Are you going to be in Manhattan this coming Sunday afternoon, April 23? Then stop by and meet me and the husband!

We are going to be speaking at MOCA-NY (Museum of Chinese in America - New York). J.H. Huang will be presenting a MOCAREADS talk on The Art of War (aka Sun Tzu, or Sunzi, or Sun-tzu). 

J.H.'s book was rereleased by Harper Collins as a Harper Perennial Modern Classic, and it has received accolades from many military legends, such as Norman Schwarzkopf and Colin Powell. 

I come up after him with a chat about The Dim Sum Field Guide and how to write about food. I'll even give you a totally free temporary dim sum tattoo. (P.S., I never knew before I took this picture that our three books were so color coordinated.)

This should be fun. I'll be in town for the Beard Awards. Hope to see you there!

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I have been a sucker for Chinese almond cookies since probably forever. They were one of the few things I always had to have as a child whenever my family visited San Francisco Chinatown, infrequent a treat as that might have been. My perennial wish list always included almond cookies, dried lychees, coconut candy, and some sort of Chinese doll.

But as I grew older, the appeal of those traditional almond cookies started to pale. Maybe it was age, maybe they weren’t made the same way, or maybe my memory was just playing tricks. I couldn’t really tell you. They tasted like little more than sugar and fat and flour, and aside from the almond stuck on the top, I couldn't find much in the way of a nutty flavor. They were, in short, boring.

I wanted to make my own version of Chinese almond cookies, so as I tried to figure out what it was that I really loved and why, a couple of lofty goals were formed:

First, the cookie couldn’t be too sweet. I wanted to taste the toasty flavor of almonds above anything else in there. It had to be the dominant flavor, period.
Fresh almonds provide pizazz

Second, the less flour, the better. In fact, if I could 86 all the flour, that would be perfect. This cookie wasn’t going to be 100% healthy no matter how hard I tried – after all, this was a cookie – but if healthy almonds were the main ingredient by far, I would be able to snack with relative abandon.

Third, it needed a salty edge. These had to be cookies for grownups, and salt was the ticket. Done right, these taste like little bar snacks, in a way, and in fact I’d heartily recommend that you serve these with beverages that would benefit from a nice almond snack, like whiskey.

So, one day I was perusing Emeril Lagasse’s wonderful children’s cookbook, There’s a Chef in My Soup!, and a flour-free peanut butter cookie recipe grabbed my attention. I made it and it tasted great – though way too sweet – but I could definitely glimpse the promised land.

I played with this recipe many, many times, and this rendition is my favorite. It’s not too sweet and is is quite crunchy once the cookies cool off. By the next day, though, the cookies will turn chewy, which is also a very good thing in my book.

The super dark sugar in here gives these a slightly caramelized edge, and of course caramel is one of my favorite things ever. Lots of chopped almonds punctuate each bite with even more nuttiness, while the egg binds everything together. A wisp of good flaked salt completes the picture and nicely balances the sweetness.
Crisscross the tops with a fork

Super easy to make, super cheap, and super tasty, this recipe is a keeper.

Super delicious almond cookies chez Huang
Huángjiā chāoxiāng xìngrén sū 黃家超香杏仁酥
Nouvelle cuisine
Makes 30

1 cup (275 g) natural almond butter, crunchy or creamy, salted or unsalted
¾ cup (140 g) black or dark brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1¾ ounces (50 g) whole almonds, coarsely chopped (about 50 whole almonds)
Good flaked salt, like Maldon

1. Arrange two racks in the oven toward the center and then heat the oven to 350°F (170°C). Line two baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper.

Flaky salt makes all the difference
2. Mix together the almond butter, sugar, and egg (a stand mixer is easiest, but use whatever you have). Stir in the chopped almonds.

3. Roll the dough into nuggets about the size of Ping-Pong balls. Place them on the lined baking sheets about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Lightly flatten each cookie and then press a fork into the top to form hatch marks. Sprinkle each cookie with the salt. (You don’t need a whole lot of salt on each cookie, but there should be enough so that both the eye and the mouth notice it.)

4. Bake the cookies for a total of 12 minutes, rotating the sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through the cooking time. Slide the sheets with the cookies onto a counter so that they stop cooking on the bottom, and nudge the cookies free once they have cooled. Store them in an airtight container.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Tropical breakfast bread

Last week I had you make a batch of caramel syrup. This week I’m going to show you one of the many spectacular ways in which you can enjoy this divine ingredient.

Bananas reign among my husband’s five major food groups (the others being peanuts, ice cream, potatoes, and more ice cream). 

So, I usually don’t have much opportunity to make banana bread unless they were on sale somewhere and J.H. bought way too many in an excess of enthusiasm.

Nevertheless, this breakfast bread should be on constant rotation in my (and your) house and is an excellent excuse for bringing too many bananas home and allowing them to ripen past the fresh-eating state. This isn’t your mom’s banana bread, though, as I’ve mixed this traditional recipe up a bit and introduced more tropical, almost Taiwanese flavors into one of our favorite breakfast pastries.

Worthy of Chartres
Finely diced, fresh mango is fabulous here, not only for its flavor, but also because when you use a fluted Bundt pan like this one here (see the Tips), you get a little stained glass action going in the ridges, and that makes the morning a whole lot better.

The usual massive amount of sugar found in most banana breads is swapped out here so that you can taste other, more naturally sweet things, like chewy Medjool dates and toasted cashews. 

That fact and the whole wheat flour here might suggest that this is a very healthy meal and almost worthy of health food status, but I wouldn’t take that at all too seriously, since the final caress of caramel makes this look and taste totally luscious and bumps up the sugar quotient quite nicely. 

Serve with hot coffee or some warm milk for the perfect breakfast, brunch, afternoon snack, or late night kitchen run. J.H. wants me to add that ice cream would go very well with this, too.

Smells like Hawaii, too
Tropical breakfast bread chez Huang
Serves 8

Pan and dry ingredients:
Spray oil
2 cups (300 g) whole wheat flour, plus a little more for dusting the pans
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon sea salt

Fruit and nuts:
2 large, very ripe bananas (about 13 ounces / 370 g total)
1 ripe but firm mango (around 10 ounces / 280 g)
6 Medjool dates
1 cup toasted cashews
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
Cake with caramel puddle

The rest:
½ cup (125 g) unsalted butter, softened
⅓ cup (65 g) dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup or more caramel syrup, or confectioner’s sugar as needed

1. Set the rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat it to 350°F (175°C). Prepare a medium-sized (6 cup / 1400 mL) Bundt pan or a 9 x 5 inch (23 x 13 cm) baking pan by spraying it with oil and dusting it with flour (see Tips).

2. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a work bowl. Peel and mash the bananas in a medium work bowl. Peel and seed the mango before cutting it into ½ inch (1 cm) dice. Pit the dates and cut into ¼ inch (5 mm) slices. Chop the cashews very coarsely, since you want them to retain some personality. Add the mango, dates, cashews, and grated ginger to the bananas.

The ice cream fiend
3. Using a stand or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the eggs and beat until the mixture is light and creamy. Stir in the fruit and nuts, and then gently mix in the flour mixture only until everything looks evenly combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, level off the top a bit, and then bake the bread until it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the thickest area comes out clean (around 45 to 55 minutes). Lightly cover the pan with foil during the last 20 minutes if it is browning very quickly.

4. Cool the bread in the pan for about 10 minutes, as this will make it easier to dislodge the bread. If you are using a Bundt pan, carefully run a thin knife around the edge of the bread to loosen it, and then turn it out onto a plate; if you’re using a loaf pan, just loosen the bread, but leave it in the pan. Immediately brush the caramel all over the bread, letting it soak in and drizzle down the sides. After at least 10 minutes, you can serve it warm. Or, cool it down completely and refrigerate. Powdered sugar may be used instead of the caramel; in that case, sift the sugar over the cooled cake just before serving.


My new favorite pan
Get a gorgeous Bundt pan if you want to change up your cake game without too much effort. I mean, look at this cake. It doesn’t need frosting to make a statement. In fact, the frosting would hide its intense beauty. This particular one is called Nordic Ware Heritage and is the 6-cup size, which is relatively small and half the size of a regular (10 to 12-cup pan).

One thing you have to be sure to do when working with a fancy pants pan like this is to oil and flour it properly. Spray oil or butter work fine. BUT be sure work the oil into all of those little fissures, or else you will have a dickens of a time removing that cake.

What I do is spray oil all over the inside of the pan and then run a pastry brush up and down each ridge. Don't overdo it with the oil - you don't want it to puddle in the pan - but be sure that it completely coats the surface. Then, sprinkle a tablespoon or two of whatever flour you are using inside the pan. Rotate and shake the pan to cover every scintilla of the surface with flour, and the knock out the excess by tapping it with your hand. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Eat dim sum with me and Les Dames in Oakland! Plus...

Photo by goop
Dim sum aficionados, awake! Lots of delicious news out there, so let's get started:

Gwenyth Paltrow’s beautiful weekly lifestyle magazine, goop, just published a dim sum article that features me as your hostess into this delicious world. 

The fine folks at goop also offer some lo-cal recipes for homemade dim sum, and they definitely look good enough to eat.

You will find guides in this article to eating dim sum like a pro, as well as suggestions on some super places to dine, everywhere from here in the Bay Area and all the way to Paris. Check it out.

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The latest issue of the culinary world’s oldest and certainly finest academic journals, Gastronomica, includes my study on modern dim sum history, a personal pet project I’ve been working on for, oh, a couple of years.

Modern History as Reflected in a Teahouse Mirror is about the special ways in which contemporary life was echoed in Guangdong’s dim sum parlors between 1880 and 1949.

It’s strange when you think about it too much, but the massive changes in Chinese society nevertheless became ensconced in these dainty morsels, making a dim sum brunch an excellent opportunity not only to dine exceedingly well, but also to understand Guangzhou’s fascinating modern history during those seventy tumultuous years.

Plus, you get new dim sum drawings!

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And if all that wasn’t enough, how about actually sitting down and having dim sum with me and a bunch of other food lovers while I natter on about how much I love teahouse snacks?

Join me with some of the more illustrious members of the San Francisco branch of Les Dames d’Escoffier for a dim sum luncheon on Saturday, May 6, 2017, from 12:30 to 3:30 at Peony Seafood Restaurant in Oakland Chinatown.

This is a celebration and fundraiser for the LDEI Karola Saekel Craib Excellence in Food Journalism awards. I will be in conversation with the lovely and talented Sarah Fritsche of the San Francisco Chronicle, and I’ll also lead you through a delightful luncheon featuring fine teas and a wide range of savory and sweet dim sum treats.

You want a tea master? We have a tea master. You want live zither music? We’ve got you covered. You want to meet some of the fine people who are present and past awardees of this honor? Look no further. I’ll even give you a free, very hip, and totally temporary dim sum tattoo. I mean, this will be Christmas in May.

The party is open to everyone, not just Les Dames members, so check out this link for tickets and more information.

Illustrations copyright (c) Carolyn Phillips, 2017. Do not reproduce without prior written permission.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Red-cooked chicken chez Huang

This is without a doubt one of my husband’s favorite things to eat. 

He will get this really wistful look on his face at times, and I know what’s coming down the pike: a reminiscence about how much he loved this dish as a child. Red-cooked chicken was one of the few dishes his mother made well, and when I see that look, he will be sitting there, remembering a great meal he once had at home, getting hungrier with each passing minute. And I know what I'll have to make for dinner.

But even although this called “red-cooked chicken,” it’s not the chicken that makes him so deliriously happy here – although he certainly loves it – it’s the potatoes. Lots of potatoes soaking up lots of sauce is his personal idea of heaven. Again: Mom.

Red-cooked anything is a specialty of the Jiangsu-Zhejiang-Shanghai area. These two culinary goldmines that circle around the mouth of the Yangtze River are home to many savory delights, but red cooking is one of the most famous.

Potatoes, mushrooms, & chicken
You will require excellent soy sauce here (get Taiwan’s Wan Ja Shan or Kim Lan brands, if you can, as the flavor is excellent), as well as rock sugar, Shaoxing rice wine, ginger, and green onions. Everything else is optional.

The potatoes are courtesy of his mother, who hailed from the port city of Tianjin, which is further north along the coast near Beijing. Spuds are a much bigger deal there in Hebei than in the Yangtze area. They also turn this into a more stick-to-your-ribs dish that people in colder climes love, meaning that this is a bit of a crossbreed. But it’s a family dish that really knocks it out of the park.

Anyway, about those little tricks that make this casa de Huang dish extra special:

First, I like to caramelize the rock sugar. This is a whole lot easier than it sounds, since all you need to do is basically simmer the lumps of sugar in some oil and water until they melt and turn a golden brown. What this does is change the chemistry of the sauce – most importantly, the texture. Caramel turns thin sauces into unctuous robes that cling to meat and vegetables rather than run down to the bottom of the dish. It then combines with the soy sauce and rice wine to become a seasoning unto itself, something with great depth, delectable flavor, and divine mouth feel.

Caramel lends foods a satiny gloss that is almost impossible to duplicate. Your diners will be instantly seduced by the appearance, even before those first enticing whiffs reach across the table and grab them by the nose.

Caramel has this slightly bitter undercurrent that also cuts through the intense sweetness of the sugar, while the toasting of the sugar lends a slight taste of toffee that will echo around your mouth.

I am going to have you make more than you will need for this recipe, since it should end up changing your life, or at the very least making your food a whole lot better. A touch of vinegar in the mix amps up the acidity a notch, which will help discourage mold, since caramel syrup keeps for a couple of weeks if you stash it in the refrigerator. The little slick of oil in there also helps to tamp down colonization by foreign bodies (see Tips). I tend to store it in a covered glass bottle so that I can microwave it or set it in a pan of hot water to loosen up.
Amber goodness

There are lots of directions here for the caramel, but don’t get discouraged. It is super easy to make – you’ll see that for yourself the first time you actually do it – but it’s also so incredibly hot that I want to ensure that you don’t get burned, hence the detailed steps.

In addition, note the directions on covering the pan and not using your spoon to stir the sugar – these two steps will keep the sugar from seizing up and forming crystals in your otherwise silky caramel. You don’t want that.

If you’re short on time, go ahead and use plain old rock sugar or, if you absolutely must, regular white sugar. Rock sugar is infinitely preferable, since it will lend silkiness to the texture, and also won’t leave behind a sour aftertaste.

I toss in black mushrooms for their meaty aroma and incredible perfume. Lots of green onions and ginger add considerable zip to the dish, and the potatoes soak up all of these interesting elements. The chicken – it turns out – ends up being more of a supporting character here, as it tosses its meaty flavors and butteriness into the ring, but it’s not the star of the show. Not as far as my husband is concerned, at least.

Serve this with lots of hot steamed rice and a green vegetable. Expect applause.

Red-cooked chicken chez Huang
Huángjiā hóngshāo jī  黃家紅燒雞
Jiangsu, or thereabouts
Serves 4 to 6
Marinating chicken

Caramel syrup:
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 cup (more or less) yellow rock sugar, preferably in relatively small chunks
1 cup (240 cc) water, divided in half
1 tablespoon rice or apple cider vinegar

Chicken and vegetables:
Around 1½ pounds (700 g) chicken wings, cut into sections (or thighs, preferably with the skins on)
3½ tablespoons regular soy sauce
½ tablespoon dark soy sauce
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
10 thin slices fresh ginger
5 green onions, trimmed and chopped into 1-inch (5 cm) pieces
8 dried black mushrooms, soaked until supple, trimmed, and cut into quarters (strain the soaking liquid)
½ cup (120 cc) Shaoxing rice wine
1 cup (240 cc) boiling water,
2 medium Yukon Gold or baking potatoes (or up to 6, if you are feeding someone like my husband)

Green onions from the garden
1. To make the caramel syrup: use a medium-sized stainless steel saucepan for the caramel since it’s non-reactive (meaning it will not cause a chemical reaction, like aluminum will) and its light color will help you notice when the sugar is turning amber. Pour the oil into the pan and add the rock sugar. Heat these together over medium-low heat, gently shaking things around occasionally. The hot oil will soon start to open up the fissures between the crystals, so use a wooden spoon to lightly tap on the sugar as it heats up. When the lumps start to noticeably crumble, whack them a bit harder to encourage them to dissolve into a wet sand. (If a couple of large lumps remain, don't sweat it – they will break down later in Step 2.) Put your spoon to one side and don’t use it anymore.

2. Pointing the pan away from you so that you don’t get splattered, add half of the water. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, cover it for a few minutes to wash down any sugar crystals in the pan and give the rest of the lumps a chance to dissolve, and then uncover. Add all of the vinegar and bring the liquid back to a full boil without stirring.

3. Briskly boil it for around 10 minutes, swirling it now and then, until it starts to turn amber and caramelize. When the syrup is an even golden brown, lower the heat to medium-high and – while again directing the pan away from you – carefully add the rest of the water. The syrup will boil furiously at this point, but the water will serve to immediately lower the heat and prevent the sugar from burning. When it subsides, swirl the hot caramel around until it is smooth. Pour this into a heatproof measuring cup to cool. Makes 1 cup (240 cc).
Way too many/still not enough potatoes

4. Wipe the chicken parts with a paper towel and place them in a small work bowl. Pour the two soy sauces over them, toss well, and let the chicken marinate while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

5. Add the oil to your wok and set it over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and half of green onions (reserve most of the chopped green leaves for garnish in this very brown dish), and stir these around until they brown. Scoot them up the side of the wok. Add the chicken to the wok, but reserve the marinade. Brown the chicken on all sides, getting a little caramelization going if you can (revel in the amazing aroma while you're at it), and when the chicken is browned on all sides, add the mushrooms, their strained soaking liquid, the rice wine, about ¼ cup (60 cc) caramel syrup, and enough boiling water to barely cover the chicken. Simmer the ingredients over medium heat until the meat can be easily pierced through the thickest part with a chopstick, around 15 minutes for wings, 25 minutes for thighs. (You can make the dish ahead of time up to this point. Let the chicken rest in the sauce for up to 3 days, which will only make it taste more amazing.) Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the wok to a large work bowl. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with more soy sauce or caramel or rice wine as desired.

6. While the chicken is cooking, peel the potatoes, if you like, and cut them into 1-inch (2 cm) cubes. Add these to the sauce left in the wok, add the cup (240 cc) of boiling water, stir, and simmer the potatoes until they are barely tender. Raise the heat to high, add the chicken, and rapidly boil the sauce down until only around a couple tablespoons remain and a fine gloss robes each piece. Sprinkle on the green onions, toss one final time, and serve.


If you would like a more standard dessert-type glaze with no oil, either melt the rock sugar in half of the water and caramelize it as directed above before adding the second half of the water, or else follow these directions for the caramel recipe I made to go with moon cakes.