I must have told you about this little farm stand behind my house. That was one of the hidden jewels I discovered when we moved here. Although I do not necessarily like the apartment that we are living in right now but changing it would mean moving farther from my farm stand and that will make me sad! But anyway, the other day I stopped by the place to pick up a few things and found these little cuties. At first I was not sure what they were but when the lady told that they are bell peppers and I was surprised. They sure looked like miniature bell peppers and definitely tasted 10 times better than the gigantic ones I get from the super market.
Since then I have roasted them, baked them, stir fried them and have used them for several recipes from Bee from Rasa Malaysia's book Easy Chinese Recipes. Out of all those Homestyle Chow Mein Noodles and Black Bean Sauce Chicken has been our family favorite. And by family favorite I mean the little picky eater in the family cleans up the plate in 15 minutes if that's for dinner so you can imagine it must be good. Its very easy to cook as well, or maybe its the way Bee has explained everything in the book that it looks super easy.
Growing up in India I was more used to Indo-Chinese food (yes, a cuisine like that exists and I will get to that some other time). The real Chinese food (or that's what I believe) I ate when we moved to the US. But still it was mostly limited to take outs or once in a while, a nice splurge at this fancy Chinese restaurant that we would go to. Then an year later we went to Hong Kong on a trip and I think that's when we really got to know more about the whole cuisine and the rich history and culture behind it. Then fast forwarded a few more years and I started food blogging. I remember those were the first couple weeks of me being a blogger that I discovered Rasa Malaysia and I said to myself, "this is how you make a foreign cuisine look not so foreign to everyone!". In the past year and half I got to know more of Rasa Malayasia and became friends with Bee.
I don't think I need to say anything about Rasa Malaysia because the whole world knows that it is one of the most popular Asian food blogs but I sure want to say about Bee as a person. She is warm, always supporting of others and she knows a hell lot about Asian cuisine! Bee recently came out her first cookbook Easy Chinese Recipes. As the name suggests and as Bee's background tells that with this book she has tried to get the terror out of Chinese cooking.
I like that there's no seemingly scary recipe with a bucket list of ingredients that atleast scares me away from trying the recipe. All the recipes are very simple, with steps broken down to make them easier to understand and uses some basic Chinese ingredients many of which I could find at a normal grocery store. Some recipes were new to me and had a couple ingredients that I was reluctant to try but when I anyways tried them, really liked them and made again. I specially liked the beginning of the book where Bee in a beautiful way tells her readers about what it is like to grow up in a traditional Chinese family. That is followed by some very useful tips and techniques of cooking which might seem simple to a seasoned cook but can be very helpful to someone starting. She also in a very elaborate way explains things like basic tools and utensils used and also several sauces and spices which are an integral part of Chinese cooking.
All in all I really liked the book and guess what, almost all the photography in the book is done by Bee as well which again is gorgeous and adds to the whole homey feel of the book. So I can say that she has put in a lot of effort into the book and it clearly shows through its each an every page. If you are someone like me who likes a good Chinese food but tongue twisting and intimidating names of techniques and ingredients kept you from doing so then you should buy this book. It will help you!
Well Bee is helping make it a little easier for you because she is giving away a copy of her book to one lucky Indian Simmer reader. All you have to do is just leave a comment below and share your experience with Chinese food or cooking and get a chance to win a free copy of Easy Chinese Recipes. Entries to the giveaway will be open til next Friday, 25th Nov. and I will announce the winner in my Saturday, Nov. 26th post. Giveaway open to US residents only.
Now the recipe for Black Bean Sauce Chicken:
Ingredients: Serves 2
8 oz (250gm) skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine or sherry
1 tsp cornstarch
2 1/2 tbsp oil
One 1 inch (2.5cm) piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced into thin pieces
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tbsp fermented black beans (douchi), rinsed and coarsely chopped
1/2 small green bell pepper, deseeded and cut into pieces
1/2 small red bell pepper, deseeded and cut into pieces
1 red finger- length chili, deseeded and cut into pieces
1/2 small onion, quartered
Salt to taste
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp sesame oil
3 dashes white pepper
2 tbsp water
1 tsp cornstarch
Tenderize chicken according to the tips on "how to tenderize meat' section in the book. (This works!)
Marinate the chicken with the rice wine or sherry and cornstarch. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Mix all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl. Set aside.
Heat 1/2 tbsp of the oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the chicken and stir-fry until half-cooked or the surface turns opaque. Dish out and set aside.
Heat the remaining oil in a wok or skillet over high heat. Add the ginger and garlic, stir fry until they turn light brown. Stir in the fermented black beans, peppers, red chili , and onion. Stir0fry until aromatic, about 1-2 minutes.
Return the chicken to the wok or skillet, stir and blend well with all the ingredients in the wok, about 1 minute. Add the sauce and continue stirring until the chicken is cooked through. Add salt to taste. Dish out and serve immediately with steamed rice.