There’s been a bout of homesickness
here at My Crappy Apartment as of late, exacerbated by the fact that Portland, for all its charms, just does not have the same quality and variety of Chinese establishments that the San Francisco Bay Area has. When I’m stressed, when I’m tired, when I’m emotionally drained, all I really want is some nice, savory, saucy Chinese food. The other day, during out weekly grocery-day ritual of food-related ennui, Yean said to me, “I want to either make something Chinese, or go out and get something Chinese.”
Reader, I was stumped. There was no restaurant I could think of that I really wanted to go to, but I was SOOOO TIRED OH GOD I DID NOT WANT TO COOK. What I really wanted to do was get on a plane, fly into SFO, and drop by Tam’s in Pacifica for takeout on my way to my Mommy’s house. “Yep,” I thought,”that would really hit the spot.”
So after ten minutes of weeping quietly on the floor, I put on by Big Girl Pants and started scanning the ol’ internet for something easy to make. Enter the amazing Jen Yu of Use Real Butter, a blog I’m addicted to both for the recipes and the gorgeous photography. Silly me, scouring cheapie Chinese restaurants all these months and expecting a match to a comforting food memory. I should have just made one of Jen’s recipes all along.
We made two dishes, the stir-fried shrimp and snow peas, which was exactly as tasty as I remember it being at Tam’s, and the scallion pancakes, which were BETTER than anything I’ve ever tasted in any restaurant, ever.
The only stinker in my execution of the recipe might have been the water chestnuts. I like the crunch, but protip: don’t get the cheapest, saddest little can of water chestnuts in the “Asian Foods” aisle of the grocery store. They will, of course, be tiny and sad in your stir-fry. And then we needed to go to the Asian market anyway because Safeway didn’t have Shao Xing wine, and they had all kinds of nice shit, including fresh bamboo shoots, so boo on me for attempting one-stop shopping. I also added in a bit of ginger, because we had it.
I was a bit afraid to stir fry on my crappy electric stove, which has exactly two settings: off and burning. It turns out burning works great for stir-fry! Score one for apartment dwellers!
Shrimp and Snow Peas
recipe by Jen Yu of Use Real Butter1 pound raw shrimp (we bought frozen, peeled, tail-on, and defrosted at home) 2 tsp. cornstarch 3 Tbsp. shao xing cooking wine 2 cups snow peas 1 cup water chestnuts 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 tsp. ginger, minced 4 green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces salt to taste
Toss the shrimp in a bowl with cornstarch, wine, and some salt. In a large sauté pan, over very high heat, cook the snow peas and water chestnuts in a few tablespoons of oil. When they are just underdone, remove the veggies to a bowl. Heat a bit more oil in the pan and add the garlic, ginger, and green onions. When the onions begin to wilt, about one minute in, add the shrimp mixture and sauté very quickly, tossing the pan frequently. When the shrimp are almost cooked add the veggies back into the pan and cook until everything is done, tossing to coat the veggies in the sauce. Season to taste and remove from heat. Serve with rice.
Recipe by Jen Yu of Use Real Butter*2 cups flour 1/2 cup warm water 1 bunch scallions, finely chopped vegetable oil salt
In a bowl, mix the flour with the water until completely incorporated. I found I needed all of my water, and then a bit more, to get the proper consistency, but you might want to go easy and mix a few tablespoons in at a time. The dough should be firm and silky, and just a tiny bit sticky to the touch. If your dough seems dry and rough try leaving it on the counter with plastic over it for about 5 minutes to let the water absorb into the flour. Knead the dough about 20 times until it is super smooth and firm, then cover again and let rest 15 minutes. After resting, divide the dough into six equal parts and roll each part into a ball. On a floured surface, roll out each ball very thin, about 1/16″, the spread a small spoonful of oil over the surface. Salt the oiled pancake generously, then spread a few tablespoons of the scallions over the surface.
Starting from the back, roll the pancake up like a cigarette, then roll the whole thing up into a snail-like coil. Pinch the end of the coil so it doesn’t come unrolled, then flatten it with the palm of your hand. Put a little more flour on your work surface and roll the pancake out to 1/8″ thickness. Set aside and repeat with all the balls of dough.
To fry the pancakes, heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Fry the pancakes one at a time, flipping when they are golden brown and crispy and adding more oil as needed. Cut into quarters and serve immedieately.
*There’s a picture step-by-step guide of Jen doing this on her site. It’s easier than it sounds!