I finally had enough time on my hands today to take on one of my never-used cookbooks, from the Shun Lee restaurant in NYC. I was really intimidated by this, and by Chinese cooking in general, but I psyched myself up and went for it. Most of the ingredients were easy enough to find, and when I couldn't find certain items, I substituted as best I could. They recommend balsamic vinegar for black Chinese vinegar, for example, and that worked. In one case, I couldn't find Schezewan pickled vegetable, but from the description (basically pickled mustard greens) I figured I could get by with pickled ginger, which I had for another recipe. In another case I couldn't find dried Chinese black mushrooms, so I used dried porcini and they were fine. I'm not sure I have the right spicy bean paste, but that also worked with what I had. There was lots of prep work to have all the ingredients ready before cooking started, but nothing particularly complicated. Even dumpling making turned out to be easy to master.
So the menu was:
Fried pork dumplings (so much easier than I had imagined, and the recipe made 30, so I froze 20 of them for later use). The store didn't have round gyoza wrappers, so I used a cookie cutter to cut rounds of square wonton wrappers. Served with a dipping sauce of soy, balsamic vinegar, and sesame oil.
Cold Tofu Salad. Soft cubed tofu dressed with sesame oil/soy/sherry/vinegar/sugar/spicy chili bean paste and sprinkled with cashews, minced scallion and the pickled ginger in lieu of the Schezewan vegetable.
Duck Breast with Pickled Ginger. Stir fried with sliced garlic, water chestnuts, scallions, and the ginger. The meat was beyond tender, and the sauce tangy and delicious.
I will definitely do this again. There is a braised tofu and a braised pork belly I really want to try. And now we have leftovers to reheat tomorrow. No cute little cardboard take-out boxes, though.