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Beijing, China — Zhu Dandan is an amazing, happy wife of a great husband and mother of two cute kids. For her, cooking is not a tiring obligation. Rather, it is her passion. One Saturday, Zhu Dandan expresses her passion by cooking an impressive feast for the ShowShanti team. While cooking she shares stories of love and food passed from one generation to the next.
Yuánbǎo ròu (元宝肉, braised egg and pork) is a time-consuming dish, so Zhu Dandan prepares it first. This dish is typically called hóngshāo ròu (红烧肉), but made with hard-boiled eggs. Instead of using dark soy sauce for color, she uses rock sugar, which is a normal way for Chinese to braise meat for appetizing color and taste. It is a common southern dish in China. Yuánbǎo originally refers to the shape of money in ancient China, symbolized by the eggs. Southern Chinese usually prepare Yuánbǎo ròu on lunar new year’s eve, wishing the best for the next year’s fortunes.
Ròu sī tǔdòu sī (肉丝土豆丝, stir-fried shredded potato and pork) reflects both Zhu Dandan’s thoughtfulness and consideration for varying palettes in her family. She and her kids love the spicy-sour, stir-fried potato, but her husband does not like vinegar. After considerable thought how to make the potato dish a favorite amongst everyone in her family she discovers a way upon eating a delicious version of ròu sī tǔdòu sī at a restaurant, without vinegar! After returning home, she figures out how to make it successfully and the entire family falls in love with her agreeable, tasty ròu sī tǔdòu sī! Get the recipe.
Another simple dish Zhu Dandan teaches is Xīhóngshì dùn dòufu (西红柿炖豆腐, tofu stewed with tomatoes). Just stew tomatoes, tofu and very common condiments such as dark soy sauce, salt, scallion, and white sugar together. Done! It’s that easy! Zhu Dandan’s inspiration was a meal from a Xinjiang restaurant.
From Zhu Dandan’s stories, it becomes obvious that her grandmother is one of the most important people in her life. She was a village woman from Shanghai, illiterate but very capable and industrious. After she moved to Beijing to live with her son’s family, she learned to make many recipes using wheat flour, a staple in northern China. Grandmother was a quick learner despite cooking despite rarely using wheat flour prior to relocating in Beijing. Rice is the staple of southern Chinese.
Grandmother’s life with her son’s family in Beijing were the lean years so she tried her best to make every meal vary. Under grandmother’s affectionate teaching, Zhu Dandan began cooking in junior middle school. Since then, she has fallen in love with cooking and also continues attempting new dishes just as her grandmother once did. Zhu Dandan inherited her grandmothers’s habits, passion, and creativity in cooking. She enjoys cooking a variety of dishes daily for her family.
The simple dàn jiǎo (egg dumplings) echoes a love spanning several generations in Zhu Dandan’s family. She not only learned how to make food, but also how to love her family. Both food and wisdom are carried in this dish from grandmother to granddaughter. Get the recipe.
Suànmiáo chǎo dǔ sī (蒜苗炒肚丝, stir-fried pork stomach with garlic shoots) is an easy dish. Toss the parboiled pork stomach, garlic shoots with some usual flavors! This is a Hunan-style dish she learned from a restaurant. The necessary ingredient is dry red chili peppers for sure!
Dōngběi lā pí (东北拉皮) is a cold dish. Combine lā pí, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, and sesame oil. Zhu Dandan says her children love this dish very much. It is nutritious as it contains all kinds of vegetables. In this dish, the main ingredient lā pí is a specialty from Dongbei (northeast China), known to specialize in cold dishes. It is like a noodle, shiny and transparent, chewy and tender.
Tā làjiāo (塌辣椒, wilted peppers) is the last dish. “Wilted peppers” are achieved by frying the peppers in a lot of oil, enough so they wilt. Zhu Dandan encourages us to eat this with rice as she suggests it a tasty combination. She has a house with a vegetable garden in the suburbs, growing all kinds of vegetables such as beans, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more. Her family usually spends the weekends for an escape to nature. Their home-grown peppers are spicier than those bought from markets. The latter usually grow in greenhouses or grow too fast aided by chemicals.
We stay nearly a whole day. From morning to early evening, Zhu Dandan remains energetic and spirited. She is absolutely worth the name coined by her husband — ‘iron woman‘! According to her husband, although they are busy during the work week, they always have dinner parties on weekends with friends or families. Sometimes all the adults cook together (usually more than 10 dishes) and socialize, while the children play. That is to say, today’s big feast is somewhat typical for Zhu Dandan’s family.
I can almost sense the treasure passed from the grandmother and Zhu Dandan’s family to us, near strangers in their home — the treasure being their hospitality, kindness, open-minds, and compassion. People who love cooking know how to love while enjoying a happy and healthy life.
Tagged with: blogs • braised egg and pork • Chinese food • Dàn jiǎo • Dōngběi lā pí • egg dumplings • food • Juling He • noodle salad • Ròu sī tǔdòu sī • Shanti Christensen • ShowShanti • stir-fried pork stomach with garlic shoots • stir-fried shredded potato and pork • Suànmiáo chǎo dǔ sī • Tā làjiāo • tofu stewed with tomatoes • wilted peppers • Xīhóngshì dùn dòufu • Yuánbǎo ròu • 东北拉皮 • 元宝肉 • 塌辣椒 • 肉丝土豆丝 • 蒜苗炒肚丝 • 蛋饺 • 西红柿炖豆腐