Most authentic Chinese restaurants are geared toward large groups. The idea in most of these places is to order a variety of dishes to share. The sort of dishes that give a true picture of the level of a restaurant, that is, the dishes that aren't famous and popular like mapo tofu and cashew chicken (or, in Japan, shrimp in sweet and hot chili sauce), are usually not geared toward the solo diner. One of my favorites out of these dishes is baby bok choy and dried shiitake mushroom.
This is simple to make.
The first step is to soak the dried mushrooms. This can be done in cold water, but if you're in a hurry, just go ahead and start preboiling right from the start.
Once they're relatively soft, cut off the tip of the stem. Watch out for burns, as they're still hot. Don't toss out the water in the skillet, because mushroom water yields umami.
Once you've chopped up the mushrooms, add garlic, cooking sake, sesame oil, five spice, and mixed Okinawan spice and boil them some more. Notice I say "boil." Be sure to add some more water. While you're boiling the mushrooms, wash and chop the baby bok choy.
Pile the baby bok choy on top, and put on the lid. Once the greens are somewhat wilted, you're done. If you want, you can simulate a glaze by adding arrowroot powder dissolved into cooking sake, but if you're planning on packing this dish into a lunchbox, I wouldn't advise it. This dish is not soggy, so you won't have a sticky, drippy lunchbox.
The brown thing in the middle of the photo is tofu teriyaki, which makes a nice vegan steak.
If you swap out the baby bok choy for komatsuna, you can call this dish "a la japonaise." For a Japanese flavor, season with cooking sake, a little soy sauce, and fish stock (or mushroom stock, for a vegan alternative).
Many years ago, when I was an exchange student in Taiwan, there was a little Cantonese restaurant near my dormitory. I loved that restaurant, especially the bok choy, tofu, and dried scallop stir-fry. After my return to Japan, I came up with my own version. Fake crab makes a cheap and colorful alternative to scallops, but fake scallops are a good choice as well. I make this dish a lot.
I happened to have chopped scallions on hand, but these are optional.
First, wash and chop the bok choy. This is easier if you soak it.
The seasonings are sesame oil, five spice, and Okinawan mixed spice. Start by adding the garlic, tofu, and fake crab to the skillet with the seasonings.
Pile the scallions and bok choy on top, put on the lid, and steam on low heat. It's done when the bok choy starts to wilt. If you want to simulate a glaze without the oil and the calorific guilt, suspend arrowroot powder into some cooking sake, and keep stirring the dish in the skillet to get that glazed look and feel. This kind of fake glaze looks and tastes like the real deal while it's hot, but as soon as it cools down it tends to congeal into sad lumps. Just like Cinderella and her midnight curfew. OK, maybe not.
The sauce tends to be runny, so this dish does not work well for packed lunches, but if you put it over rice, you get a sort of semi-chop suey that does nicely for dinner.
I have beaded for about 23 years now. When I first started I looked at pattern diagrams, but over time my hands started to take chage. I only have a vague notion of what I'm going to make when I start. I cut a suitable length of wire, and let my hands take over the rest. I don't make much jewelry; what I make are figurines.
St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland. Sold into slavery as a young aristrocratic boy, he became a priest after gaining his freedom and returned to Ireland as a missionary. His use of the shamrock to explain the Trinity is especially well-known. He is photographed here among the shamrocks.
Believe it or not, he does have legs inside his robe.
A fairy and a leprechaun. Fairies are not usually malicious but they can be very self-centered. If they find their own babies lacking in charm, they think nothing of exchanging them for human babies, and though it's magnaminous of them to include humans in their ceilidhs, they neglect to warn human dancers that one song can last three centuries. If you see a ring of toadstools, you are witnessing the aftermath of a delightfully wild fairy dance party.
Leprechauns seem to actually enjoy tricking humans with their promises of the pot of the gold at the end of the rainbow. Perhaps because there are no female leprechauns, they do not multiply. Hardly an infestation. Although they are generally immortal, they have two known downfalls: alcohol; and human disbelief. The latter in particular appears to be taking a toll on their population numbers in recent years.
Stir-fried bean sprouts is a classic Chinese dish. It's surprisingly expensive if you order it in a restaurant, but when you are in the vegetable section of the grocery store you will probably notice that the bean sprouts themselves, along with meng beans, are some of the cheapest veggies around. This is a mystery. Bean sprouts are easy to cook and rich in vitamins, so it's smart to cook them yourself at home.
The star of the show.
You might as well go all the way and add thinly-sliced wood ears for authenticity.
Be sure to cut the bean sprouts so that they can sprout again from the root.
Start to cook the garlic, Chinese five spice, Okinawan mixed spice, sesame oil, cooking sake, and wood ears first, before you add the bean sprouts.
See, it looks just the way it does in restaurants, without that oily glaze!
It's typically not drippy so it works well in a lunchbox. No leakage.
After you cut the bean sprouts, you can regrow them, yielding twice the fun. If you try to regrow them again, you will also end up growing some serious mold, so the chances of success are not in your favor. As you can see, all you have to do is put the roots in a bowl, add water, and put them on the window sill. Jack's magic beanstalks will sprout of their own accord.