Let’s face it… I lived in Taiwan for four years. There are days where I am just CRAVING Chinese food. Real Chinese food. Fried in a huge, black wok and smothered in soy sauce and MSG. Some nights I just want to go down to the night market crowded with teenagers and order myself some Sweet Potato balls, tien-bu-la, and hot, steamed dumplings. There are days I want to watch my noodles be shaved into a boiling pot of water and served in a cardboard box in front of a blaring television.
Ok… maybe not the television part.
But I miss real Chinese food so bad I can taste it.
Let’s face another fact… takeout Chinese is expensive. Delicious? Yes. Lasts three or four meals? Usually. Expensive? Absolutely. It’s harder for my husband and I because we lived in SE Asia and we’re used to getting a huge bowl of rice, a platter of dumplings (at LEAST 10 each) and two or three plates of meat and vegetables for the price of a Big Mac value meal. So ordering takeout Chinese is almost blasphemous. And I won’t even go into Thai food. (shedding tears over here, it’s so darn expensive)
Needless to say, since we’ve moved back to America and accepted the fact that we are not going to get sticky rice and som tum for $1.00 anywhere on this side of the ocean, I’ve tried my best to find decent alternatives.
The problem is, my favorite dishes often take time or a special trip to the Asian market. I’d give anything to sit around with a group of friends and make my dumpling wrappers and fill them up and steam them. It’s really easy and inexpensive, but it takes forever! And the last time I tried to make my own wrappers, it was disastrous. And dinner took two hours.
What’s a girl to do?
I found the answer in the frozen food section. So far, these are the best frozen dumplings I have found in America. (it’s just a coincidence that the brand is called Taipei *smiley*) They are easy. They are yummy. They only take about 10 minutes. And in the end, you get a fairly authentic flavor without all the mess and hassle. Plus, at 2.00 a box, we can afford to indulge in a favorite without hurting our budget. (note: the soy sauce that comes with these is extra salty, so I’d recommend using your own low-sodium soy sauce and throwing in some chopped garlic for authenticity)
They only have 7 per box, which we could usually eat about 10-15 each… so I try to supplement our dumpling meals with some stir fry or fried cabbage. Mmmmm…
Thankfully, stir fry nowadays is easier than ever! While I prefer to use fresh vegetables, it’s not always in the best interest of time to chop and chop and chop. So I am thankful for the the new bagged frozen veggie blends. We buy a bag of the Oriental Stir Fry vegetables, throw them in the pan, and boom. Stir fry! I usually make my own sauce with soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, honey… whatever I’m feeling that day. But some stir-fry bags come with their own sauce.
As for rice, I NEVER NEVER NEVER use minute rice. I have finally found the secret to perfect rice on the stove (if you have a rice-cooker, even better). I will share my tricks in a later post.
In the end, for about 5 bucks, we have a huge, delicious Chinese meal that is easy on our wallet and good for our hearts…
…which still linger a bit in SE Asia.
What’s your favorite way to do homemade Chinese food?