Braised mushrooms for the holidays

Braised mushroomsLooking for sides for your holiday dinners? Consider braised mushrooms. This versatile side will complement almost any holiday headliner such as turkey, prime rib, or roast pork.

I tasted this dish in Luodai, an easily accessible Hakka village, just outside of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province in China. About 90 percent of the twenty three thousand residents are Hakka. The town is home to several large guild complexes, built with donations from Hakka from different provinces of China. These guilds serve as social halls with restaurants and meeting rooms. We dined at huge Hakka feasts at these guilds. Mushrooms appeared in all our meals. Hakka chefs briefly braised the local mountain mushrooms in a rich broth to emphasize their natural umami essence.

 

 

Braised Mountain Mushrooms

Use an assortment of mushrooms. Your farmers’ market or Asian grocery store will likely have a good selection.

Makes 4 to 6 servings as part of a multi-course meal

12 ounces assorted fresh mushrooms (oyster, king oyster, shiitake, button, beech, or enoki (limit enoki to 2 to 3 ounces)

1 small leek

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons thinly sliced garlic

8 thin slices fresh ginger, lightly crushed

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) or dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

 

1. Trim off and discard the ends and any soft of discolored portions from mushrooms. If mushrooms are fairly clean gently brush off any debris. Otherwise lightly rinse mushrooms, drain well, and pat dry. Remove and discard stems of shiitake mushrooms. If the oyster and shiitake mushrooms are wider than 3 inches, cut in half through the caps. Slice the king oyster and button mushrooms lengthwise about 1/2-inch thick. If desired, cut the long king oyster mushrooms in half crosswise. Separate clumps of beech and enoki mushrooms into clusters about 1/2 inch wide and leave whole. Trim off and discard root end and tough dark green top from the leek. Cut leek in half lengthwise and rinse well under water, separating layers to remove any grit. Thinly sliced the leek crosswise.

2. Place a 14-inch wok or 12-inch frying pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, after about 1 minute, add the oil and rotate the pan to spread. Add the garlic, ginger, and leek, stir-frying until leek is limp, about 30 seconds. Add the mushrooms (except enoki) and stir-fry until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth, wine, soy sauce, salt, and white pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring often until mushrooms are limp, 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the water and cornstarch. Add cornstarch mixture to pan and stir until sauce boils, about 30 seconds. Stir in enoki mushrooms, (if using). Transfer to a serving bowl.

Chinese New Year long life noodles

roosterHappy New Year! Khiung Hee Fat Choy! 恭禧發財!  On January 28, 2017 we celebrate Chinese New Year. This year will be the Year of the Rooster.

Food plays an important element of this celebration. Many traditional New Year dishes using ingredients with auspicious symbols and meanings appear on the new year’s table. Many family favorites also appear at the dinner.

I adapted this noodle recipe for the family potluck. The noodles symbolize long life. These noodles can be made ahead, served at room temperature, and are highly transportable. The easy sauce that dresses the noodles is adapted from Fresh Ginger-Onion Sauce on page 66 of The Hakka Cookbook. I have used the zesty sauce on noodles and added a few crunchy vegetables to make a room temperature side dish. This sauce is often served with Steeped Chicken (pages 22, 23), Salt-Baked Chicken (page 64), or Salt-Poached Chicken (page 226). For a festive meal, serve the noodles with one of these Hakka chicken preparations.

Fresh Ginger-Onion Long Life Noodles

If desired, add 2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar (Chinkiang) or rice vinegar to the sauce for a slight tang.

Makes 6 to 8 side-dish servings

Noodles:

1 pound dried Chinese wheat noodles

3 or 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced on the diagonal

1 red bell pepper, cut in thin slivers

Fresh Ginger-Onion Sauce

1/3 cup minced peeled fresh ginger

3 tablespoons minced green onions, including green tops

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

 

1. For the noodles: In a 6 to 8 quart pan over high heat bring about 3 quarts water to a boil. Add noodles, stir to separate and cook until noodles are barely tender to bite, 5 or 6 minutes. Drain and rinse with water well. Drain well and place in a large bowl. Add celery and red pepper.

2. For the ginger-onion sauce: In a 1 1/2 to 2 cup heatproof bowl, mix the ginger, onion, and garlic. In a small pan over high heat cook the oil until it ripples when the pan is tilted and is very hot, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the hot oil over the ginger mixture (it will bubble vigorously) and mix well. Add 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3. Pour Ginger-Onion Sauce over noodles and mix well. Add more soy sauce and salt to taste, if desired. Serve warm or cool.

 

Chinese New Year

IMG_7650Khiung Hee Fat Choy! Wishing you a prosperous new year! Welcome to the Chinese year 4714 on the lunar calendar which begins on February 8, 2016. This is the year of the monkey.

Last night, I gave the first of four presentations for the San Mateo County Libraries on Chinese New Year and Hakka Soul Food (click here for event schedule). In my talk, I showed slides of many foods eaten during the two-week celebration.

Many dishes served for the Chinese New Year dinner have ingredients with auspicious meanings or symbolism. The Chinese word for fish sounds like abundance. Spring rolls look like gold bars and kumquats resemble gold coins. Green vegetables suggest growth in business. Noodles symbolize long life.

taro abacus beadsI also included photos of Hakka new year specialties such as Taro Abacus Beads (芋 頭 算 盤 子 Hakka: wu tiuh sun pan jue) that I tasted in Malaysia and Singapore. These chewy disks made from mashed taro and tapioca flour are shaped to resemble the counting beads on a Chinese abacus. Boiled and stir-fried they likely represent wealth. In Hong Kong, the popular multi-course banquet layered in a wash basin known as Basin Feast (盆 萊 Hakka: puhn choi) represents unity.

Last year I conducted an informal survey in Facebook Hakka groups and found many people serve humble family favorites such as Steamed Minced Pork with Egg or steamed fish. Others opt for more labor intensive Hakka specialties such as Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Green (扣 肉 梅 菜 Hakka: kiu ngiuk moi choi).

I am still planning my menu.  What are you cooking for Chinese New Year Dinner?

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The second Hakka cooking party

A couple of years ago, my high school friend Karen suggested we organize a cooking party around The Hakka Cookbook. We had such a good time she wanted to repeat it again. I suggested we try different recipes this time.

I planned a menu with six recipes trying to choose ones that would not suffer when cooked in a larger quantity. I suggested each cook claim one recipe and bring it to the party ready-to-eat or completely prepped and ready to cook. In this organized potluck, the work and expenses are shared which makes it much less stressful for the host.

We numbered thirteen. The men opted out of the cooking and were happy to drink beer and socialize outside. The six women, longtime childhood friends, gathered in the kitchen to catch up, laugh, and get the meal on the table. Since we served two dishes at a time, usually only two people were at the stove, while others watched and learned.

Our crew cooked and ate the meal at a leisurely pace in three courses, serving two dishes at a time, buffet style. We spent the whole afternoon cooking, talking, and eating. It’s an easy party plan to duplicate for your own Hakka cooking party. This party also pushes you to explore the cookbook more deeply. Enjoy—cook, learn, and eat!

First courses:

Ruby and Chicken MorselsSoy Glazed Chicken Morsels (p. 199). Ruby doubled the recipe, cooking it in two batches at home, shortly before the party. She served the chicken at room temperature over a bed of lettuce. The chicken can also be served hot.

Mustard Green and Pork Soup (p. 26) Nancy brought a double batch of the broth with the pork. Shortly before serving, she reheated the broth and added the cut-up mustard greens.

Second courses:Phyllis and Shrimp

Poached Shrimp and Ginger Broth (p. 103) Phyllis brought a double portion of shrimp and seasonings. Once the water boiled, it only took minutes to cook the shrimp.

Barbara with Squash and Peas

 

 

 

 

Ginger Scented Squash and Peas (p. 52) Barbara pan-steamed a double portion of this colorful vegetable medley in my 14-inch wok. She used shallots instead of lily bulbs.

Third courses:Melanee and Spinach

Steamed Black Bean Pork (p. 165) The day before I cooked a double batch of this recipe and chilled it overnight. The next day, I reheated the two bowls in my stacked steamer.

Spinach and Peanuts (p. 56) Mel stir-fried two double batches of spinach just before serving.

Hot Rice

Potluck Desserts

Wine, Beer, Hot Tea, and  Sparkling Wine and Water

 

 

 

 

Indo-Chinese fusion cuisine

Cumin BeefLast night I made one of my husband’s favorite recipes in The Hakka Cookbook, Stir-fried Cumin Beef (page 183). This recipe is a delicious example of creations from Hakka chefs from India. They invented a cuisine that merges Chinese techniques and ingredients with Indian spices. The result is fiery fusion that appeals to their Indian customers and made Chinese food so popular in India. Although it is not traditional Chinese Hakka food, I love the vivid, bold, spicy flavors.

The editor of Flavor and Fortune, Jacqueline Newman, first introduced me to this exciting cuisine at Tangra Masala, a restaurant owned by the Lo family in Elmhurst, New York. The flavors exploded in my mouth.

Later in the Toronto area of Canada, I discovered a large community of Hakka. Many of the chefs from India owned restaurants serving this Indo-Chinese fusion cuisine. Anthony Lin, owner/chef of the Danforth Dragon shared some of his recipes with me. I often make his cumin beef. Stir-fry thin beef strips and season with soy sauce, onion, garlic, ginger, and lots of spice, including cumin seeds and three forms of chile: chopped fresh chiles, dried chile flakes, and chile sauce. It is dry stir-fry without sauce, just lots of seasonings clinging to the meat.

For specifics follow the recipe on page 183 of The Hakka Cookbook. Or create your own version, tailoring the spice and heat level to your taste. Once I added slivers of red bell pepper to my cumin beef which added a shot of bright color. You can substitute chicken thigh for the beef.  Eat with lots of rice. Enjoy this culinary merger created by the Hakka chefs from India. You will love it!

 

What’s cooking for Chinese New Year

Basin Feast (Puhn Choi)Khiung Hee Fat Choy! (Hakka dialect) May you have a prosperous New Year!  Chinese New Year arrives January 31 and families will gather for a special meal over the next two weeks.

Many will eat traditional meals filled with foods that sound like fortuitous words or whose shape or color symbolizes prosperity, unity, wealth, fertility, family harmony, or good fortune. Oranges, mandarins, and kumquats resemble gold. Lettuce signifies prosperity. Whole fish symbolizes prosperity. Spring rolls, with their shape of a gold bar, represents wealth. Shiitake mushrooms, a symbol of longevity, also relate to seizing opportunities. Whole chickens with head, tail, and feet indicate completeness. Green vegetables represent close family ties. You will find many recipes that use symbolic ingredients throughout The Hakka Cookbook. However, if you want to try something new, consider these special dishes I discovered in my travels for the cookbook.

Basin Feast (puhn choi, page 82)

We gasped when the waitress set a huge metal basin filled with a mountain of food before us. We were at Chung Shing Restaurant in In Tai Po, New Territories of Hong Kong, The pan was literally a wash basin layered with a multicourse feast. This one-pan feast is popular for family gatherings such as Chinese New Years and weddings because everyone eats from one dish which symbolizes unity. Guests gather around the basin and literally eat from top to down, working their way through the courses.

Vegetable Tea  (choi cha, page 113)

During the first ten days of Chinese New Year Loy Sye Moi makes Vegetable Tea  (page 113) which is basically an artfully presented healthy vegetable soup. She arranges eight different stir-fried greens in each bowl to create a pretty kaleidoscope of greens. Eight is a lucky number and represents good fortune. Each vegetable contributes a different flavor and texture. She pours a clear broth carefully over the vegetables and garnishes with spoonful of ground peanuts and sesame seeds.

Savory Pounded Tea Rice (lui cha fan, page 119)

A heartier variation of vegetable tea is made by the Ho Po clan, a Hakka subgroup  who serve it for Chinese New Year. This version includes rice and a pounded herbaceous tea. I first tasted this healthy rice bowl in Singapore and later Amy Wong from Malaysia shared her recipe with me. A bevy of vegetables, tofu, and peanuts blanket a bowl of garlic rice. Pour a tea, made from pounding fresh green herbs, dry tea leaves, nuts, and seeds, over the rice and mix together for deliciously wholesome rice bowl. It’s a healthy and energizing way to start the new year.

 Taro Abacus Beads (wu tiuh pan jue, page 125)

In Singapore I encounter Taro Abacus Beads. Their name comes from their shape which resembles the pierced disks on a Chinese abacus, an ancient, low-tech adding machine. Hakkas often cook this dish for Chinese New Years to bring wealth in business. These chewy pasta disks resemble a springy, sticky version of Italian gnocchi. Taro replaces potato and tapioca starch replaces wheat flour typically used in Italian gnocchi. The Hakka version has a nuttier flavor and chewy texture. Stir-fry the boiled taro abacus beads with vegetables or cloak with a mushroom pork sauce.

Whatever you cook, Khiung Hee Fat Choy! May you have a delicious, prosperous, and happy new year!

Chinese Thanksgiving

If you live in America, you know that Thanksgiving is the greatest food holiday for Americans. Of course, if you are Chinese, you get a second chance with Chinese New Years. Since I am both Chinese and American, I celebrate both.

Chicken stuffed with Preserved Mustard Greens at the Hakka Restaurant

Chicken stuffed with Preserved Mustard Greens at the Hakka Restaurant

Ever since I ate the Chicken Stuffed with Preserved Mustard Greens (moi choy gai)  at The Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco, I always thought it would make a great Thanksgiving alternative to traditional turkey. The chicken is stuffed with a savory blend of preserved mustard greens (moi choy), pork, and mushrooms, then braised in broth. After cooking the chicken, the broth is reduced and thickened to make a luscious gravy. If you are lucky to live nearby, you can order the chicken from the restaurant. Otherwise, with a little effort, you can make it. Another alternative to a centerpiece bird would be salt-baked chicken.

If you want to celebrate Thanksgiving with a Chinese feast, consider this menu culled from recipes from The Hakka Cookbook. It is just right for a group of six adventurous diners. For a cooperative effort, ask some guests to bring the appetizer and makings for the side dishes. They can quickly finish them off in your kitchen.

Hakka Thanksgiving Ginger-Scented Squash and Peas

  • Shrimp and Chive Fritters (p. 212) or Salt-Baked Shrimp (p. 62), optional
  • Braised Chicken Stuffed with Preserved Mustard Greens (p. 233) or Salt-Baked Chicken (p. 64)
  • Ginger-Scented Squash, Peas, and Lily Bulbs  (p. 52)
  • Fresh Bamboo Shoots and Mushrooms (p. 159) and/or Chinese Broccoli in Sweet Rice Wine (p. 230)
  • Fragrant Rice (p. 59) or Steamed Rice Bowls (p. 270)
  • Ginger Soup with Sweet Rice Balls (p. 117) or Tangerines, Fuyu Persimmons, and Crystallized Ginger Slices

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Hakka cooking party

Linda, Nancy, and Ruby proudly display the dishes they cooked.

Gong Hee Fat Choy!  Happy New Year!  Chinese New Year is almost here. It arrives this Sunday, February 10. In the next couple of weeks family and friends will gather to share food and good wishes. In The Hakka Cookbook, you will find many recipes for specialties served for the New Year celebration.  Look under the Hakka Classics for recipes such as Salt-Baked Chicken or Steamed Pork Belly and Preserved Mustard Greens. But if you’re short of time or inexperienced in Chinese cooking, there are many other easy dishes you can cook for a festive meal. For me, the most important part of the celebration is getting together and reaffirming family unity and friendship.

Here are two suggestions for easy Chinese parties that anyone can manage. In the February 2013 issue of Sunset Magazine, look for Build your own bowl by Amy Machnak, pages 84 to 87. The easy noodle buffet party is based on recipes adapted from The Hakka Cookbook.

The second option is a cooking party. It started when a friend suggested we get together and cook from The Hakka Cookbook.  Last weekend, eleven of us gathered at Karen and John’s home in Paradise, California, where we cooked and ate a multicourse meal from the book. I designed the menu using seven easy recipes from the book.  I proposed instead of trying to cook all the dishes at one time, that we would cook and eat the dishes in several courses, as they were ready. Less stressful for the cooks. People could claim one recipe to make or we could take turns cooking. Karen volunteered to shop and prep most of the ingredients. I would bring ingredients she could not locate and a couple of woks for stir-frying.

You could easily duplicate this plan for your own party. This menu works well for six to eight people.  We increased the amounts for a few dishes for our larger group, or you could add more dishes. We cooked rice in a rice cooker, which kept the grain hot throughout our leisurely meal. There was plenty beer, wine, and tea to sip throughout the afternoon. The meal ended with tangerines, cookies, Chinese sesame candy, and candied coconut.

We gathered around noon. It soon became evident, only the women were interested in the cooking as the guys settled outside with beers. Didn’t matter, we gals had a great time reminiscing about old times (we’re known each other since kindergarten) as we cooked our way through the menu.

The Hakka Cooking Party

Melanee serves steeped chicken to wrap in lettuce leaves.

First course: Steeped Chicken (p. 22) with Fresh Green Onion-Ginger Sauce (p. 66).  Or use this adapted recipe at specialfork.com  Melanee claimed this dish. The chicken and sauce could be up to a day made ahead and brought to the party, ready to eat on demand. She served the moist shredded chicken with lettuce leaves, as a pick-up appetizer.

Second courses: Cumin Beef  (p. 183)  We had extra beef so we doubled the recipe. However, because it is important not to overload the wok when stir-frying thin meat slices, I cooked the beef in three batches (6 to 8 oz. each) so the slices would brown, rather than stew in its juices. After the initial stir-frying, I returned all the cooked beef to the pan with all the seasonings for a final blending of ingredients.

Stir-fried Snow Peas and Tofu (p. 48).  This mild flavored vegetarian stir-fry offers a contrast to the spicy cumin beef. It’s a study of contrasting textures with crisp peas, spongy tofu, and crunchy black fungus.

Third course: Cauliflower and Beef in Black Bean Sauce (p. 27) Phyllis took a turn at the wok and stir-fried this easy meat and vegetable dish. Ruby said she was surprised she liked it because she usually doesn’t like cauliflower. The black bean sauce really adds flavor to this rather bland vegetable.

Karen cuts cauliflower for stir-fry.

Fourth courses: Braised Pork Spareribs in Bean Sauce (p. 203). Since the ribs took longer to cook than most of the other dishes, I cooked them the night before and brought them ready to reheat. I increased the recipe by half since it was just as easy to make more. The savory sauce was delicious over rice.

Chinese Broccoli and Sweet Rice Wine (p. 230). This simple vegetable dish takes only minutes to cook. Ruby learned to cut the vegetables so all pieces are the same size.

Shrimp with Fried Garlic and Chiles (p. 78). Nancy fried bits of garlic and spicy chiles to top stir-fried shrimp.

We ate from noon to five, cooking, eating, and drinking. I directed the cooking and gave hands-on lessons on stir-frying, woks, and ingredients. We found when there’s a lot of cooks, it’s best to have all ingredients prepped ahead of time. Then cooking moves quickly without too much concentration. Everyone agreed they learned a lot, ate well, and would do it again.

To design your own cooking party, follow this easy plan. Have each person or couple be responsible for one dish. The dish could be completely made ahead ( if it works for that dish), or prepped for cooking on site. You can use this menu or design your own based on your own tastes. People take turns cooking and serving their dish. It is sort of like a cooperative home-style Chinese banquet.  Enjoy and have fun!  Gong hee fat choy!

 

 

 

Mustard greens are in

Last week, I gave a presentation at the ACCT dinner in San Francisco. They wanted a small taste of a recipe from the book. When I heard 180 people were attending, I turned to one of the easiest recipes in the book, Pickled Mustard Greens (p. 147). I have used this recipe often for book signing events, because it can be made ahead, served cold, and provide a small taste to great many people.

Use broad-stemmed mustard greens for pickles.

The key to the recipe are the mustard greens. The ones used for pickles have big broad leaves and thick wide stems are generally most available in cool weather months. Sometimes they are called dai gai choy. Since they are sold mostly for pickles, sometimes the leaves are trimmed off. The heads and stems may be straight, but are often curved into a semiclosed heart.

Just a week before the dinner, I was surprised to find these greens at the San Mateo Farmers Market where I shop every Saturday. The Hmong farmer was so pleased that I bought six big heads, that she brought them again the following week. She said that although she grows them, she didn’t usually bring them to this market because she didn’t think people would buy them. She also pickles them to eat at home. If you can’t find them at the farmers’ market, most Asian markets carry them in the winter.

This recipe comes from Hawaii resident Margaret Lai who grew up in Tahiti where the Hakka made up the majority of the Chinese population. Her easy pickles have a strong sweet-sour punch and are far crisper than purchased pickles.

Pickled Mustard Greens

Makes 3 to 4 cups

3/4 to 1 1/4 pounds broad-stemmed Chinese mustard greens

2/3 cup rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt or table salt

1. Pull apart the mustard greens and separate the stems. Cut the stems and thicker part of the leaves into 1-inch pieces to make 4 to 5 cups. Wash and drain the greens. Reserve leaves for soup or other stir-fries.

2. In a 3- to 4-quart pan over high heat, bring about 1 1/2 quarts water to a boil. Add the mustard greens to the boiling water. Stir to separate. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool.

3. In a bowl, mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the mustard greens. Cover the bowl and let stand at room temperature overnight. Transfer the mixture to a smaller container. Cover and chill until the pickles are yellowish-green and sweet and tangy, 2 to 3 days. Store in refrigerator up to 2 to 3 months.

 

A party for The Hakka Cookbook

Susan Yan, Linda L. Anusasananan, and Martin Yan

A few days ago, my good friend Jerry DiVecchio hosted a book party for me. I worked with Jerry for more than three decades at Sunset Magazine. She taught me how to write and develop recipes, a skill that came in handy when writing a cookbook.

We invited a lot of old friends, many in the media, some from Sunset Magazine, and some fellow Les Dames members. Joyce Jue who wrote some generous words for the book jacket came. Martin Yan, who wrote the foreward for the book, and his wife Susan arrived during the latter half of the party. With his busy travel schedule and the opening of his new restaurant, M.Y. China, I’m lucky he could attend.

Jerry suggested I cook several recipes from the cookbook for the party. What do you serve to celebrity chef Martin Yan?  I struggled with the menu, because it had to meet so many criteria. The menu needed to be no maintenance, meaning I didn’t have the time to fuss with the food during the party. I had to make the food completely ahead and transport it. The food had to hold up for a few hours. Preferably there would be little last minute cooking. We scheduled the party during dinner hours, so it needed some substance. We expected about forty people. This is what I came up with. Follow along with your cookbooks.

Hakka Walk-Around Party for 30 to 40

Pickled Mustard Greens and Pickled Cucumbers (p. 147, double recipes)

Pickled Carrots and Radishes (p. 60, double recipe)

Garlic-Chile Eggplant Sticks (p. 56, double recipe)

Chef Soon’s Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens (p. 45, optional)

Steeped Chicken Breast (p. 22, cooked 3 lb. chicken) with Fresh Ginger-Onion Sauce (p. 66, triple recipe) in Lettuce Leaves or on a bed of shredded Chinese Cabbage

Hakka Pork Sliders (adapted from Steamed Black Bean Pork p. 165, slider recipe follows)

Sesame Cookies (purchased) and Orange Wedges

The Game Plan:

Pickled cucumbers, radishes and carrots, and mustard greens

The pickles could be made several days ahead. The eggplant could be also made a day ahead; allow to warm to room temperature for serving. Shortly before serving, sprinkle with cilantro. I had some pickled red chiles and sprinkled them over the top for a pop of color; you could also use chopped red bell pepper.

The pork belly is not essential, but I had food professionals as guests, so I aimed to impress. It takes time to make so I spread the work over several days. I steamed it completely the day before the party, then reheated it in the steamer until hot in center, 30 to 45 minutes, at the party site. If you were doing the party at home, you can also just assemble the dish ahead, then steam a couple of hours before serving. This dish needs to be served hot so set it on a warming tray. Serve with sliced small buns or rolls for sandwiches, if desired.

I cooked and shredded the chicken and made the ginger-onion sauce a day ahead. The morning of the party, wash and crisp the lettuce leaves as directed on p. 201. Mix the chicken with the zesty ginger sauce. However, for the next party, I skipped the lettuce cups and placed the chicken on a bed of shredded Chinese cabbage or lettuce.

The sliders were adapted from Steamed Pork with Black Beans (p. 165). Since I needed to keep it hot for a few hours, I thought a crock pot would be the perfect solution. I doubled the recipe and cooked it in the slow cooker for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. It worked beautifully. You can cook it up to 3 days ahead, cool, remove fat, transfer to smaller containers, cover and chill. Reheat the meat in the slow cooker, covered over high heat until hot and bubbly, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Then reduce heat to warm setting. Serve with split baked rolls and people can assemble their sliders throughout the party.

Hakka Pork Sliders

Follow recipe for Steamed Black Bean Pork (p. 165) except double the ingredients, Cut the pork into about 3-inch chunks and brown meat, in batches, if needed. Transfer the meat to a 6-quart slow-cooker. Add the black bean mixture to pan and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Pour black bean mixture over pork. Cover the slow-cooker and cook at high heat until very tender when pierced, 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Skim off and discard fat. With forks, break pork into coarse shreds or chunks. Serve in small baked rolls. Makes 5 to 6 dozen small sandwiches.