The BF got Land of Plenty, a cookbook full of Sichuan recipes. He made some fish-fragrant eggplants (yu xiang qie zi / 鱼香茄子 ) for dinner a few days ago which were such a success that I felt we were finally ready to take the next step: make Chinese dinner for my parents this weekend. Chinese parents are notoriously critical of everything, so I was nervous about cooking dinner from the motherland for them.
Of course, we couldn’t just cook one dish, so we decided on two more: dry-fried green beans (gan bian si ji dou / 干煸四季豆) and Sichuan-style steamed fish (qing zheng xian yu / 清蒸鲜鱼).
We added some freshly fried tofu to the eggplant dish to give it more substance which wasn’t that much more work since we already had oil from deep-frying the eggplant. The fried tofu was a good addition, but we should have made the sauce stronger or more salty because the tofu soaked up a lot of the liquid from the sauce and the dish ended up being a bit more bland than it was the last time the BF made it.
The dry-fried green beans were also easy to make thanks to the oil we already had. Flash-frying it first in oil really does make a lot of difference in the texture of the beans. We also added some finely chopped shiitake, pieces of fried tofu, and salt-preserved mystery Chinese veggies to the dish to give it more savory bits.
before & after
For the fish course, I bought two whole bass (small ones) from the market. They were washed and then marinated in some xiaoxing wine, then stuffed with Chinese bacon (even though the recipe called for ham, I think it really meant Chinese bacon), slices of shiitake, and dried shrimp. Then the whole thing was put into a big bowl with boiling broth poured over it, and then steamed for about 10 minutes. I went too long with the steaming so the fish was slightly over-done, but the flavor of the fish was fantastic. The Chinese bacon really does add a lot to the dish. I usually don’t cook meat other than for my parents when we do dinner, so I’m pretty happy that they seemed to like the fish.
My parents seemed to enjoy dinner, which was a relief. It’s ironic that I had to look up Chinese recipes in a cookbook written by a white British woman, but I have to admit that the dishes we chose were hit.