The Chinese New Year is the perfect time to look back on a spicy year.
Greetings from bitterly cold and blustery Chicago. Currently the city is buried under two feet of snow, and battling some of the coldest temperatures in years. Though it seems like everyone is putting a post about where to eat Chinese food tonight in honor of the Chinese New Year, I decided to take the time and talk about what it has been like to cook Chinese dishes at home. I fell hard for this mighty cuisine in 2010, cooking it nearly every week, and craving it when I couldn't. Yet I still feel like I’ve only scratched the surface. So while I feel like this roundup isn't as perfect as it could be, I still think this is an interesting look at discovering a new cuisine.
As I explained during a post on recreating mapo doufu, falling for Chinese cuisine is actually kind of surprising considering it used to be one of my least favorite cuisines. But once I started venturing down to Chicago’s Chinatown, I noticed a cuisine full of flavors and textures I’d never really experienced before. I became addicted. I shunned Italian pasta for nearly five months, as I delved into the birthplace of noodles. I discovered the power of the Sichuan peppercorn, the umami punch of fermented black beans, and the myriad of uses for tofu. Here are my 10 favorite Chinese dishes I’ve made at home this year.
- Mapo Doufu
There is no doubt what my number one was going to be. This faithful recreation of mapo doufu was one of the best things I ate all year. I dream often about this fiery Sichuan dish.
- Hong Kong Style Pan Fried Noodles
The one dish I made more often than any other this year was this simple noodle dish. It’s been a lunch standard for months.
- Bon Bon Chicken
One of the most surprising dishes I made all year. Really balanced and clean.
- Fried Rice with Ham, Shrimp and Bacon
I love fried rice, and have made loads of different version, but none have been this perfect.
- Dry Fried Chicken
The perfect way to get initiated into Sichuan cuisine. It’s spicy, smokey, and really delicious.
- Sichuan Style Chicken Noodle Soup
This simple soup comes together quickly, but still has all the hallmarks of Chinese cuisine.
- Spicy Noodles with Tofu (Dou Hua Mian)
Another surprisingly simple noodle dish that can be whipped up in seconds.
- Dongting Stir Fried Duck Breast
Duck dishes don’t always have to be sweet and syrupy.
- Hunan Beef with Cumin
Whole cumin seeds add a distinct punch to each bite.
- Fish Fragrant Eggplant
There is no fish to be found, but just shows you the versatility of Chinese cooking techniques.