PORK SPARE RIBS IN LOTUS LEAF

These tender steamed ribs, infused with the delicate herbal musk of the lotus leaf, are the creation of Henry Chang, owner and chef of Chang’s Garden in Arcadia, CA. Chang was trained from childhood in an old-school apprenticeship in Taiwan, a place where all China’s cuisines are represented. As a result he is adept in the cooking of every Chinese province. Lately the cuisine of Hangzhou has captured his creative attention, and he has opened this restaurant to showcase the subtle literary-themed dishes of that city. One clue to his success: while the English name of the place is Chang’s Garden, nobody calls it that in Chinese. In Chinese it’s Lou Wai Lou, the name of one of the most famous and venerable of Hangzhou restaurants.

These have to steam a long time, but are easy to make.

1 lb pork spare ribs
Seasonings: 2T chopped scallion; 1 T chopped ginger;

2 dried lotus leaves
Seasonings: 1T each soy sauce, oil, sugar, soybean paste

rice powder scented with 5-spice
Seasonings: 1/2 T sesame oil

Cut spare ribs into pieces 1 1/2 inch wide, 2 inches long, then marinate in seasonings 1/2 hour. Cut lotus leaves into eight pieces and soak in hot water 20 min. Remove marinated ribs and discard scallion and ginger. Add rice powder and thoroughly mix with rib pieces. Divide ribs into eight small portions. Place each on a soaked lotus leaf, fold and roll to make a package. Place with the smooth side down in a bowl or deep plate. Steam over high heat for two hours until tender. Put a serving plate face down over the bowl and turn over. Serves 4.
– courtesy Henry Chang

NOTE: I think Henry does something to de-fat his ribs before he begins. At the very least I would trim every speck of visible fat off, because the rib is cooked in an enclosed package.

Also, in the last few years, Henry’s method for this dish has evolved in his own restaurant. These days, he is using a little more sticky rice around the rib, and has also taken to adding some red pepper flakes.

 

SNOW CABBAGE WITH BEAN SHEETS

An amazing example of a vegetable dish which is completely virtuous and utterly delicious at the same time, Snow Cabbage with Bean Sheets was originally created by Taiwanese chef Henry Chang for his restaurant Juon Yuan in San Gabriel, CA. Juon Yuan is no more, but luckily he has kept this marvelous dish on the menu at his current restaurant, Chang’s Garden, which showcases the cuisine of Hangzhou. The ‘bean sheets’ look and taste like wide, flat noodles but are actually tofu skins, a by-product of the tofu-making process. They have more protein and less carbohydrate than pasta. ‘Snow cabbage’ is mustard greens which have been very lightly salted. While this delicately flavored dish sounds like something which is merely good for you, most people find it impossible to stop eating once they have taken a bite.

4 oz ready-soaked tofu skin *
4 oz preserved and salted mustard greens
4 oz fresh braised soybeans *
scallions
salt, pepper, dash of cooking wine

* Bean sheets (also called tofu skins) and lightly preserved/salted mustard greens (‘snow cabbage’) can be bought in many Asian grocery stores. Bean sheets must be soaked in water before use. If salted mustard greens cannot be found, you can buy mustard greens and macerate them yourself. For fresh braised soybeans, use shelled edamame, which are widely available fresh and frozen. Dry sherry is a reasonable substitute for Chinese cooking wine.

Cut soaked tofu skins into strips like wide noodles. Heat peanut oil in wok and cook scallions until fragrance rises. Add tofu ‘noodles’ and mustard greens. Season with salt, pepper and cooking wine. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes. After five minutes of cooking add fresh soybeans and stir until liquid is absorbed, then serve.
– courtesy Henry Chang

NOTE: Thanks to the reader who e-mailed me to point out that the saltiness of the mustard greens should be checked before proceeding with the dish! If the greens are too salty, washing throughly in cold water and patting dry will help.