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Broc and Roll: Adventures in Chinese cooking

By web

Section: Arts

January 22, 2010

Sunday evening, a few friends and I decided to make a pilgrimage to H-Mart in Burlington. H-Mart is an Asian grocery store the likes of which I had never seen. It is a cross between a massive supermarket, food court and weird mall. If you’re so inclined, you can get dinner at the food court, buy groceries and then stock up on North Face jackets and cosmetics. And they have 36 locations in 13 states across the country.

Upon entering, shopping carts ahead of us, we encountered a formidable produce department. It extended row upon row–easily four times the size of the Waltham Hannaford. The standard supermarket fare was there—apples, oranges, pears, spinach, broccoli —along with more unusual fruits and vegetables like Asian bitter melon, bok choy, Chinese eggplant (it’s long, thin, bright purple and delicious), and Chinese broccoli (thinner than the standard broccoli with leaves instead of florets and slightly bitter) to which we shall return later.

Along with their amazing produce and amazing produce prices (39 cents a pound for bananas!), H-Mart has a great selection of tofu, fresh noodles, sauces and dried fish. But what really took the cake for me was the endless array of frozen food items. Now I’m not big on frozen pre-packaged food. I really enjoy cooking and, if I’m tired or strapped for time, I prefer a can of Progresso soup to a Lean Cuisine. Although, I must say, I anticipate the inevitable rushing and exhaustion of the semester by cooking once and eating twice, sometimes even thrice. That said, the endless cases of frozen dumplings made me too excited to pass over. They had dumplings of every sort—seafood, pork, chicken and vegetable. I grabbed a promising-looking bag of vegetable dumplings that can be boiled, cooked in the microwave or fried. Obviously, I chose to fry them, and I have not been disappointed. I wish I could tell you the brand, but alas, it is written in characters I do not recognize.

With my dumplings and vegetables in hand, I decided to have a go at putting together a meal. So here is my first foray into cooking Chinese broccoli with dumplings. There is certainly room for improvement but this is where I started and, overall, I’m quite happy with it.

Instructions:

First things first, cut off the ends of the broccoli stems. Then use a pairing knife to cut or peel away any especially tough skin. I left my broccoli stems long but they would certainly have been faster to cook had I chopped them into smaller pieces. After trimming the broccoli, wash it thoroughly. Mine wasn’t gritty but it definitely needed a good rinse. I used a colander for this but a salad spinner would be great if you have one.

While the broccoli is draining, pour enough Canola oil into the bottom of your pan to coat the bottom. Then turn to medium. While the oil is heating, dice the garlic and measure the hot pepper and ginger. The oil should be hot but not bubbling. You can tell that oil is hot if you tilt the pan and you see the oil change texture. Then throw in the garlic and spices and stir. Cook for one to two minutes. We want the garlic and spices to infuse the oil but we don’t want it to burn. Add the broccoli and stir. We want the broccoli to get a nice sauté flavor before adding our liquid.

Let the broccoli sit in the hot pan for a moment while you mix the soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar, turn up the heat on the broccoli just slightly and add the mixture. Cover the broccoli and let steam for 5 to 10 minutes. You should be able to stick a fork in the stems without them being mushy. While the broccoli is steaming, prepare your dumplings according to the package directions. If you choose to boil them, you will want to put a pot of water on to boil when you begin heating the oil for the broccoli.

When the broccoli and dumplings are finished, plate them. I laid the broccoli over the dumplings so the soy sauce and vinegar mixture would serve as a sauce for the dumplings as well as the broccoli.

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