Hunanese Chopped Salted Chiles: and Fuchsia Dunlop's recipes

When I first made these chopped salted chiles from Fuchsia Dunlop's book Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province, I didn't have much of an idea of how I'd be using them. But salting and preserving food is always a good idea, so off I went. At the very least, I figured, this is a great way to keep "fresh" chiles on hand. Without salting, chiles would mold and rot. The salt allows you to hold them for months.

A few weeks later, they were ready to go, and so was I. Back into Fuchsia's book to see which recipes call for them. Apparently, a bunch do!

Salted red chilesAbout 1 pound of spicy chiles

They've come to be indispensable around here. I made yet another 1 pound batch, since I was going through the initial batch so quickly. A tablespoon here, a few tablespoons there. Months? This jar won't last weeks.

Here are a couple of dishes from the book that were stupid easy (they're all pretty easy), super delicious, and used these salted chiles. You should cook these:

Red braised fish

Red-braised bream (red snapper, in this case)


Fishermans shrimp

Fisherman's Shrimp with Chinese Chives


Home style bean curd

Home-style Bean Curd

Red-braised Chinese: Pork

Red braised chinese pork belly

One of my first experiences with real Chinese cooking was at the highly-regarded China 46 in Ridgefield, NJ. This restaurant, which specialized in Shanghainese cooking, was knocking it out of the park during its run from 2001-2007. We had countless meals here, each more memorable than the last.

The owner, Cecil, was always very helpful in steering me in the right direction, often offering us little samples of some of the more interesting stuff. One time, as I rattled off our order of dishes, he abruptly interjected "NO! Too much MEAT."  He was right. I was ordering like a gluttonous American.

China 46 was our go-to place for big groups of friends and family. For those well-attended meals, we'd look forward to ordering a monster of a dish called Superior Ruby Pork, with a magnificent description: "A giant pork shoulder with mixed herb simmered for hours. Served very tender as melt in your mouth." I just love that. I don't recall much in the way of herb, but it was certainly flavorful, and no doubt tender as melt in your mouth. And it was red. And braised.

With little understanding of that type of cooking at the time, I had no idea what one would have to do to make this type of dish. It was mysterious. It was magical. But now, I occasionally buy and read books, and as the folks who follow this blog (and its Facebook page) may have noticed, I'm really into Chinese cooking these days. And I've been relying on books from Fuchsia Dunlop pretty much exclusively. So when I saw a recipe for "Chairman-Mao's Red-Braised Pork" in Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook: Recipes from Hunan Province , well I just had to give it a whirl.

Ms. Dunlop was apparently nice enough to share a version of this recipe with, so you can view it here. It does differ a bit from the version in Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, but I suspect the results will be very similar. Two differences are that the version from Revolutionary Chinese cookbook calls for par boiling (for 3 minutes) the pork belly, and caramelizing the sugar as the first step to create some color and flavor. I think both are probably good ideas.

This dish is incredibly easy to make and requires no special skill or equipment (other than a braising pot).  Ingredients-wise, there's the pork belly, and a few basic items that you should have in your pantry anyway:

Continue reading "Red-braised Chinese: Pork" »

Burger Land: Travel Channel

A few months back, Travel Channel aired two episodes of Burger Land, a great show on hamburgers hosted by George Motz.  I figured that was it for the show, but they've restarted with some additional episodes.

George is an affable character with some admirable sideburns and a real passion for burgers.  He did, after all, write the book on the subject.  The show is shot and edited well, and is a real pleasure. Don't miss it.

After catching the third episode, "Hollywood Hamburgers," which featured a place called Pie 'n Burger, I knew what was happening for lunch. 

The Pie 'n Burger cheeseburger consists of two four ounce patties, smashed down with a can of tomato juice, cooked on a flat top, with pickles, cheese, and a Thousand Island style dressing.  It also has lettuce, which I generally skip when making burgers. This style of burger is right up my alley.

Here is what my version looked like.  For some reason four ounce patties on TV are much smaller than they are in my kitchen. I wouldn't recommend eating a burger this rich more than once a week.  Or, whenever you catch Burger Land on TV.