From the U.S. to Germany to China with love
January 2nd, 2019in food
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We recently traveled to Germany to throw a party for my parents and their friends to celebrate my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary.

One of my favorite childhood memories is my parents spending hours in the kitchen on Sundays chopping veggies and making Chinese food in a big wok, so cooking a banquet of Chinese food struck me as a fitting choice for their anniversary party.

As mains we served lemon chicken (my dad’s favorite), Taiwanese popcorn chicken, and red braised pork. As sides we made some (partially failed) fried rice, sauteed bok choy, and smashed cucumbers in sesame oil.

It worked out pretty well and folks wanted to know the recipes, so below are some short-hand write-ups of how it came together. We put out roughly 3x to 5x of each recipe below.

Note that we’ve only ever executed the recipes in their US/volumetric measurements so the conversions to SI/weight measurements are untested. That said, the conversions aren’t of tremendous precision either because we pretty much just wing it anyhow.

Finally, note that we use kosher salt rather than table salt since its larger grains make it easier to dispense in a controlled fashion.

Lessons learned

  • It’s amazing how readily available global food ingredients are basically everywhere.
    • My parents found an Asian store in Fulda, about a half hour away from their town, and we were able to get everything we needed.
    • While it wasn’t cheap like, say, Uwajimaya in Seattle, it’s still amazing to be able to bring Szechuan peppercorn and tapioca starch to Smallsville, Germany.
    • Boy howdy those tiny bottles of gluten-free soy sauce are expensive there.
  • Working in someone else’s kitchen (in our case, a villa of sorts we’d rented) can be quite challenging.
    • Working on someone else’s cooktop (especially under-powered induction plates) can be deeply frustrating when you’re used to 25K BTU open-flame gas burners.
    • Bringing in your own equipment (I ordered a 35 deep fryer off amazon.de) is actually pretty dope and saved the day.
    • Why doesn’t everyone own a rice cooker?
  • Missing equipment can have colorful workarounds.
    • e.g. we needed to make a spice blend but didn’t have a spice or coffee grinder so I ended up putting the spices into a pepper grinder and cranking it by hand for an hour.

Lemon chicken

Sauce

Combine

  • ½ Tbsp loosely packed lemon zest
  • ½ cup (120ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup (50g) sugar
  • ½ cup (120ml) chicken stock

…and bring to a boil.

Then dissolve 1 Tbsp (12g) cornstarch in cold water, add it to the sauce, bring to a brief boil again, and let it reduce slightly.

There’s a lot of flexibility in the above and I adjusted it from a combination of a variety of different sources; the only important thing is to make sure the lemon juice is freshly squeezed.

Chicken

Use roughly ¼” (6mm) thick chicken or turkey breast or thigh (we used turkey breast). Dredge consecutively in a mix of flour/salt/pepper, then beaten eggs, then breadcrumbs; then immediately deep fry at about 350F (175°C) until golden brown.

Plating

Slice chicken, then plate, drizzle with some sauce (but allow end user to apply sauce separately for the most part so it doesn’t get too soggy). Drizzle with sliced green onions, white sesame seeds, and lemon zest. Serve with a side of steamed rice.

Taiwanese popcorn chicken

This is a fantastic fried chicken recipe and it’s even gluten-free, though you wouldn’t know it just from tasting it.

Chicken, part 1

Take three chicken breasts and cut them into strips or squares. Marinate them for several hours in a mix of:

  • 1 Tbsp (15ml) of soy sauce
  • ½ tsp (2.5g) of salt
  • tsp (0.5g) of five spice
  • ¼ tsp (1.5g) of freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp (1.5g) of ground white pepper
  • 2 smashed gloves of garlic

Spice mixture

Grind together

  • 1 Tbsp (15g) of salt
  • 1 Tbsp (15g) black pepper
  • 1-½ Tbsp (22g) white pepper
  • ½ tsp (2.5g) five spice
  • ¼ tsp (1.5g) Szechuan peppercorn (roughly double for un-ground Szechuan peppercorn)
  • tsp (0.5g) of MSG (monosodiumglutamate) (skip if you can’t find it but it’s nice)

Breading mixture

Combine

  • 1-½ cups (200g) of tapioca starch
  • 1-½ Tbsp (22g) black pepper
  • 1-½ Tbsp (22g) white pepper
  • 1 tsp (5g) salt
  • 2 tsp (10g) garlic powder

Chicken, part 2

Remove chicken pieces from marinade; mix in a beaten egg, then toss in breading mixture. Make sure everything is evenly coated. Let rest of thirty minutes so the tapioca starch can hydrate.

Chicken, part 3

Fry chicken in deep fryer at 350F (175°C). After frying a batch of chicken, deep fry herbs like shiso, thai basil, or sage. Drizzle spice mix over fried chicken, then cover with fried herbs.

Red braised pork

Combine

  • 2 lbs (1kg) of skinless pork belly, pre-sliced into ½” (1cm) slices
  • 1 cup (250ml) soy sauce
  • 1 cup (250ml) mirin
  • 1 cup (250ml) sake or shaoxing
  • 3 inches (8cm) of ginger, cut into ¼” (0.5cm) pieces
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut in half

…in a braising pan. Don’t worry about fully covering the pork belly with the braising liquid. Cover braising pan with lid or foil and bring to a boil on the stove, then transfer to oven at 300F (150°C) for 2-½ hours. The pork belly should be tender but not pull apart.

Serve with hoisin sauce drizzled over it and some extra on the side.

Keep the braising liquid (we freeze it) for the next time you make this and it’ll be even better.

This is really intended as a filling for steamed buns (gua bao), we just ran out of time to make the buns.

Fried rice

Make steamed rice a day or two ahead of time, then spread it on a sheet pan and place it in the fridge without covering it - it should be able to dry out some.

In a large saute pan, heat oil, gently saute some chopped green onions and finely diced ginger and garlic until fragrant; add the rice and fry until crispy; add egg; add frozen peas and whatever else makes you happy.

This requires a cooktop with enough oomph to bring the rice up to temp fast enough that it doesn’t turn mushy. We did not have access to such a cooktop for our meal, regrettably.

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