With the Year of the Rooster set to start cockadoodledoo-ing on Jan. 28, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m craving Chinese food even more so this week.
But what a great excuse to try a recipe from the new “China: The Cookbook” (Phaidon). The cookbook, of which I received a review copy, was written by Hong Kong-based culinary experts Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan.
This door-stopper of a book is 720 pages. It contains recipes from the 33 regions and sub-regions of China, most of them surprisingly concise. That’s because this book is really about home-cooking. That’s why you won’t necessarily find Peking duck in here, but instead “Braised Duck with Won Tons” and “Duck with Mushrooms and Ham.” There’s all manner of congee recipes, too, including “Congee with Frog Legs.” And simple but more unusual desserts such as “Smoked Plum Soup.”
Leafing through this rather encyclopedic book, many recipes caught my eye, especially “Rice and Lamb Casserole” because it’s fairly effortless even on a weeknight. It also incorporates cumin, which really works well with lamb’s slight gaminess.
The lamb pieces, rice, carrot, onion, garlic, ginger and cumin all cook together in a Dutch oven on the stovetop, infusing the grains. Even with 1 tablespoon cumin in the recipe, the flavor is still fairly subtle. You could always add more, if you like.
The recipe calls for long-grain rice. I used jasmine rice, which is a long-grain variety. Next time, I might decrease the stated 2 cups of water by maybe a quarter cup, though, as I found the rice came out a little soggy, even if it was flavorful.
This is real home-style dish. It doesn’t look fancy. It’s not made with luxury ingredients. But there’s just something so comforting about tucking into a dish like this. I can’t guarantee you’ll grow more courageous — one of the traits of those born in the Year of the Rooster — after eating this. But it will sustain you so well that you just might want to take on the world afterward.
Rice and Lamb Casserole
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 ounce ginger (about 3/4 inch), peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic chopped
11 ounces boneless lamb, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, diced
1/2 tablespoon rice wine
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 scallions, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin or more to taste
Soak the rice in a bowl of cold water for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the ginger and garlic, and stir-fry for 1 minute until fragrant. Stir in the lamb and fry for 2-3 minutes until browned. Add the onions and carrot, then stir in the wine, white pepper, salt, and soy sauce. Mix well and remove from the Dutch oven.
Add the rice and 1 3/4 cups water, then bring to a boil over high heat. Return the lamb and vegetables to the Dutch oven, reduce to low heat, and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, or until the lamb and rice are cooked through. Mix in the scallions and cumin. Serve in the Dutch oven.
Adapted from “China: The Cookbook” by Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan
More Chinese Recipes for The New Year: Baked Char Siu Baos
And: Red-Cooked Pork
And: Almond Jello