strawberry cinnamon rolls egg salad california poke roll strawberry shrub

copyright jennifer yu © 2004-2014 all rights reserved: no photos or content may be reproduced without prior written consent

archive for chinese

learning and teaching

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Recipe: chinese turnip pastries

A small pulse of winter weather delivered some snow to our local hill last week. Three inches does not a powder day make, but we had a lovely time nonetheless because the air was completely calm. Our typically scoured high peaks were all sporting beautiful blankets of snow that morning. Snowflakes floated through the air, glistening in the sun. I love me a sun shower, but sun snow is one of the best things ever.

the view from my favorite run at eldora (muleshoe)

sun snow!

Trent mentioned that he was taking his 3-year old to the local hill for her first ski day this past weekend and asked if we were planning to go. Jeremy and I are what you would call spoiled brats. We don’t go to ski resorts on weekends unless there is a foot of fresh powder. But… I thought it would be nice to offer our moral support and it’s been a while since I’ve brought my camera (as opposed to my iphone) with me to the slopes. We rode the magic carpet (I’ve never ridden the magic carpet with skis before), we skied the bunny hill, and we shouted encouragement to little Paloma. It’s a lot for a little one to take in – all of the commotion, this strange form of travel (skis), people yard-saling it left and right, potty breaks, snacks, and trying to learn to ski on top of all that. She did so well! I have to say that Trent gets major points for being so patient, caring for his little girl in this new-to-her environment while teaching her the fundamentals of skiing, and ensuring she has fun.

trent teaching pizza (wedge) while paloma goes straight to french fries (parallel)

proud dad watches as she takes off on her own

skiing is FUN!

Watching my friends interact with and teach their children is fascinating. It simultaneously impresses and terrifies me. Impresses, because my friends are amazing parents with infinite patience and dedication. Terrifies, because I don’t know what to do with kids outside the realm of “fun auntie”. They cry and I immediately surrender. And because it’s so much work, it makes me realize all the more how wonderful my parents and grandma were to me in my youth.

As Chinese New Year approaches, I’ve been thinking a lot about Grandma. I sure do miss her and all of the little special things about our visits together. She had a friend who made these delectable savory turnip pastries, and whenever I came to see Grandma in California, she’d have bought several of these pastries for me. My aunt and I tried to analyze and reverse engineer how to make them on one visit and Grandma waved her hand at us and said, “It’s quite complicated.” But after making the egg custard tarts, I decided to give the savory turnip pastries a go.

start with chinese sausages

salt, daikon radish, chinese sausage, sesame oil, pepper

**Jump for more butter**

chinese new year recipe round up

Friday, January 24th, 2014

Chinese New Year (or the Lunar New Year) is a week away! It will be the Year of the Horse, which is special because my sister was born in the Year of the Horse and would have been 48 this year. I’m busy cleaning the house, prepping special foods, and doing those things that are supposed to bring luck in the new year. Maybe you are a traditionalist or perhaps the lunar new year doesn’t have any significance to you, but you want to make a celebratory meal or throw a Chinese-themed party. Either way, I’ve got a recipe round up for you!

traditional dishes

These are the dishes I make year after year. They symbolize luck, fortune, health, happiness, promotion.

Cellophane noodle soup: It’s a big pot of goodies – sort of a catchall for lucky things. The cellophane noodles (bean thread noodles or glass noodles) represent long life – so for goodness’ sake, DON’T CUT THE NOODLES. Meatballs and fish balls are round, which the Chinese like and their meaning is reunion.

Chinese dumplings and potstickers: Theoretically you are supposed to make dumplings (boiled or steamed), but I always make potstickers because I’m a crunch-junkie. My mom always told us that eating dumplings meant more money in the new year because they are shaped like gold ingots. Then I found out later that dumplings also symbolize having sons. I’m sticking with the money story.

Chinese egg dumplings: The Chinese have a thing for dumplings, because they are like purses, and purses hold money. These egg dumplings typically go in the cellophane noodle soup, but they are wonderful eaten on their own too.

Lucky ten ingredient vegetables: Lucky lucky lucky! Ten is a lucky number. Don’t make this with nine or eleven ingredients – you’ll screw up the new year! Also, don’t use hollow vegetables (green onions, water spinach – these are hollow and bad luck). Tofu is okay, but no meat is allowed in the dish.

Stir-fried rice cakes: These rice cakes are sticky, chewy disks of rice flour. The name of the rice cake, nian gao, sounds like “higher year”. Eating the rice cakes is good luck for a promotion or toward greater prosperity.

Stir-fried soybean sprouts: These are my favorite and plentiful in most Asian markets this time of year (because everyone wants luck!). Eating soybean sprouts (or bean sprouts in general) ensures a good start to the new year.


There’s something you should know about tofu. It’s a big deal. Fu is “luck” in Chinese. So tofu is pretty popular in the new year festivities because everyone wants lots of luck. The thing is, you shouldn’t eat white tofu because white is bad – it’s the color of mourning/death. That’s bad luck. But don’t fret, there are a bazillion ways to eat tofu: fried, dried, marinated, sheets, pressed.

Bean curd rolls: You can find bean curd sheets or tofu skin in Asian grocery stores. They are either dried or frozen. This tofu skin roll is filled with savory pork and vegetables, and then braised til soft. I order it at dim sum all the time.

Chinese tea eggs: Eggs represent fertility, but I just love the subtle flavor of the tea infusion as well as the delicate crackle pattern on the peeled egg.

Fried shrimp wontons: Terrific nibbles with the added bonus that shrimp symbolize happiness and good fortune.

Pickled Chinese cabbage: Served cold, this sweet, salty, sour, spicy, crunchy pickled cabbage wakes your mouth up in the best way possible. I could snack on a bowl of this all by myself. Cabbage means money, prosperity.

Scallion pancakes: One of the best savory snacks, ever. I’m not sure if it has any symbolism, but it’s delicious!

Shrimp toast: More shrimp goodness (happiness and fortune).

**Jump for more butter**

up, down, all around

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

Recipe: chinese egg custard tarts

Last week was a roller coaster of sorts. It began with a dry cough which led to various cold symptoms including me sounding like Kathleen Turner. As my cold progressed from my throat to my nose, we noticed that Kaweah was limping again. She seemed quite down and depressed, so we made a followup appointment with the vet. Then on Wednesday, Boulder Glass came up to replace our cracked window. That’s when things went to hell in a big ass hand basket.

The individual who came up to replace the window dropped the cracked 3×6 foot double pane window from 8 feet up in our great room when a gust of wind blew. There was glass EVERYWHERE and dozens of deep gouges in our floors (because why would any professional think to lay protective covering under scaffolding when doing work like this? He was rather cavalier about everything…). Winter was blowing into our house for an hour until the majority of the big pieces could be cleared away and the replacement window was installed. The fellow kept offering to pick up a replacement blind for us, to come and fix our floors, on and on. No. Please, JUST GO AWAY. I never want to see you (Boulder Glass) again. EVER.

We’ve been spending the last four days clearing out slivers and specks of glass from every possible corner, rugs, book cases, couch cushions, to make it safe enough for Kaweah. We were both feeling very low Wednesday night because Kaweah wanted to come out of the office (the only place that was guaranteed free of glass on the main floor), but had to remain there all night while her nemesis, the vacuum, did its job.

Thursday, we took Kaweah to the vet who looked at her still-swollen toe. I try to be realistic, so I was bracing myself for the worst-case scenario at the vet. He carried her to the back for an x-ray to see if the bone was spongy or broken. We waited in the room while we heard him tell her, “Well, you’re being such a good girl. Just hold still for one second while we take your picture.” In five minutes, he brought us back to see the x-ray. It was neither broken nor cancer! Doc Newton prescribed a round of beef-flavored chewable antibiotics to help Kaweah’s toe heal and he gave her several extra treats.

kaweah’s pawpaws

Kaweah has been quite spunky ever since Thursday, with more energy and mobility than she’s had in a month. Sometimes I’m convinced that it’s not medications she needs, but a visit with Doc Newton and a handful of generic dog biscuits to buoy her health and well-being. Whatever it is, I’ll take it.

As my cold and the week wound down, I attempted a recipe that I wanted to test drive before Chinese New Year. The lunar new year falls on January 31st, which means a lot of celebratory dishes will be prepared and consumed on the 30th (the eve) and the 31st (the new year) in our house. If you’ve ever been to dim sum, you’ve likely encountered the Chinese egg custard tarts next to the mango jello and fried sweet sesame balls. These are a childhood favorite and an occasional adulthood indulgence for me. Egg custard tarts come in two forms – the first has a short crust pastry and the second has a flaky layered pastry. I like both, but I prefer the flaky pastry, so that’s what I set out to make.

water dough: water, salt, shortening, flour

fat dough: shortening and flour

custard: hot water, sugar, salt, evaporated milk, vanilla, eggs

Making the flaky pastry is a little like making puff pastry from scratch, except shortening or lard are used instead of butter and the process involves two doughs rather than the d├ętrempe (water dough) and fat (butter). And instead of creating a large sheet of puff pastry, here we roll out each individual tart pastry.

make the fat dough: cut the shortening into the flour

the blended fat dough

mix the water dough ingredients

knead until smooth

**Jump for more butter**