A lack of Chinese!

I don’t know about you, but for us Highland Parkers, there is a dearth of good Chinese in the North Shore.  Our local resources are mediocre at best, and it is a disappointment, as I love Chinese food.  The best local Chinese food is from my own kitchen!  Now, I can make beef and peapods in my sleep, using a modified Martin Yan recipe, and we have a tried and true recipe for stir fry spicy chicken that never fails to please.  In addition, I’ve got a great shrimp dish that works as well.  Plus, a no fail hot and sour soup.

Now, you might be wondering what prompted me to do this post. We went to lunch today at a Chinese restaurant that was on Check Please last year–Silver Seafood. Just north of Lawrence on Broadway, it is not the most visually appealing place, but it was clean and the food was excellent. The menu is almost as extensive as that of Lao Sze Chuan in Chinatown, and you can read my review posted today on the http://www.checkplease.com site. It also reminded me that we had a good meal (albeit somewhat one dimensional) in Highwood at Dynasty (in the old Shrimp Walk space), but on a return visit, there was an unpleasant smell to the restaurant as we walked in, and the food was not good.  I still think the hot and sour soup at the Pineyard in Evanston is the city’s best,but the rest of the food there is just a little bit better than just average.  {Update note:  Dynasty and Pineyard are both gone, and the owner of Pineyard has a takeout place in west Wilmette, but the hot and sour soup is not great anymore}
I would welcome any thoughts as to where you think the best Chinese food is to be had anywhere in the city (but especially in the North Shore).

In any event, here are the promised recipes:

Beef with Peapods

Recipe By Martin Yan with modifications by SDR

4        tablespoons  soy sauce
1         tablespoon  dry sherry — or Shao Hsing Wine
2        tablespoons  cornstarch
1½    tablespoons  sesame oil
2        pounds  flank steak — thinly sliced across the grain, then cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

1        cup  beef broth
4        tablespoons  peanut oil — for str frying
1        tablespoon  garlic — minced
1        tablespoon  ginger root — minced
1        can  water chestnuts — sliced
1        bunch  scallions — sliced on the diagonal, 1 inch long, including green tops
1        tablespoon  cornstarch — mixed with cold water to form a slurry
1        pound  mushrooms — shitake, button, etc

Combine marinade ingredients in a medium bowl.  Slice refrigerated flank steak in thin oblique slices, then cut slices into 1 inch pieces.  Add to marinade, and refrigerate for 3 to 24 hours.  Cook trimmed pea pods in wok with a little peanut oil, removing to a plate after short exposure to heat.  Cook the mushrooms in either oil or butter.  You can use dried shiitake after soaking in water for 30 minutes.  Remove mushrooms to a plate.Add 2 tbs peanut oil to wok.  Add the marinated steak and chow (lift and flip with the wok shovel) until the steak is cooked to just beyond rare.  Remove from wok to bowl.  Add 1 tablespoon oil to wok, and cook the scallions until they start to brown.  Add the garlic and the ginger.  Cook for about a minute, then add the water chestnuts.  Cook for another minute, then add the beef broth, deglazing the pan with the broth using the shovel to break up and dissolve the “fond” brown bits.  Cook until the sauce is boiling, then add the beef back to the wok.  Thicken the sauce as needed with some of the cornstarch slurry.  Reduce heat and serve over white rice.

This recipe is a modification of Onion Beef, from “A Wok for All Seasons” by Martin Yan

Here is an excellent shrimp dish:

“Salt and Pepper Shrimp (courtesy of Tyler Florence)”

  • 2 pounds extra-large shrimp, shells on
  • Peanut oil, for frying
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup chilled club soda
  • 3 cups cornstarch ( or even better, potato starch {SDR})
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 serrano chilies, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sake


With kitchen shears, cut through the shell of the shrimp down the back to the tail. Remove the vein and rinse them well. Butterfly the shrimp by cutting almost all the way through the shrimp with a knife. Pat dry and set aside.

Heat 2 inches of peanut oil in a wok or deep skillet to 375 degrees F.

While the oil is heating, whisk the eggs and club soda together in a large bowl. Whisk in 2 cups cornstarch making sure to get out any lumps. The batter should be the consistency of heavy cream. Season generously with salt and pepper – remember it is called Salt and Pepper Shrimp!

Put the remaining cornstarch on a platter and season it well with salt and pepper. Working in batches, dredge the shrimp in the cornstarch and shake off any excess. Dip the shrimp in the batter and let the excess batter drip off. Slide the shrimp into the hot oil and cook about 3 minutes until golden brown, turning them once during cooking. Remove and drain on paper towels. Scoop out any floating bits of batter from the oil, they will burn. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper while they’re still hot and put them onto a serving platter.

When all the shrimp have been cooked, carefully pour out all but 2 tablespoons oil into a safe container. Add the chilies, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Take the wok off the heat and pour in the soy sauce and sake. Cook for 1 minute, then pour this mixture over the fried shrimp. Garnish with cilantro.

I think you will like it.

For hot and sour soup lovers, here is an excellent recipe:

Martin Yan's Sizzling Rice Hot and Sour Soup

4              dried  black mushrooms
5               cups  chicken broth
1               half  chicken breast — skinned, boned, and cut into matchstick pieces
¼            cup  slivered bamboo shoots
½            cup  rice vinegar
2              tablespoons  soy sauce
1              stalk  green onion — cut into 2 inch slivers including top
1              teaspoon  cilantro — finely chopped
1              teaspoon  hot pepper sauce
½           teaspoon  salt
½           teaspoon  white pepper
3             tablespoons  cornstarch — mixed with 1/4 cup water
1             large  egg — lightly beaten
vegetable oil for frying
8            2 inch square  rice crusts
Soak mushrooms in warm water to cover for 30 minutes; drain.  Cut off and discard stems and thinly slice caps.  Set aside.
Bring broth to boil over medium-high heat in a large pot.  Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes.  Stir in mushrooms, bamboo shoots, vinegar, soy sauce, green onion, cilanto hot pepper sauce, salt, and white pepper.  Return to a boil.  Add cornstarch slurry and cook, stirring,luntil soup thickens slightly.  Pemove pot from heat and slowly
drizzle in egg, stirring constantly.  Keep warm while preparing rice crusts.

Set wok in wok stand and add oil to a depth of 2 inches.  Over high heat, bring oil to 375 ° F.  Add rice crusts, half at a time, and cook. turning constantly, for 15 seaconds or until puffed.  Lift out and drain on paper towels.  Cook remaining rice crusts.  Pour hot soup into a warmed serving bowl and carry to the table.  Bring hot fried rice crusts to the table and carefully slide into the soup.

For rice crusts:
Combine 1 cup medium or short grain rice and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes.  Turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes.  Spread cooked rice in a 1/4 inch layer in a greased, shallow baking pan.  Cut into 1 1/2 inch to 2 inch squares with a wet knife.  Bake in a 350 ° F oven for 50 minutes or until rice squares are firm and dry.  Rice crusts can be
stored in an airtight contained at room temperature for up to 6 months.

Steve’s note:  when I tried to make the rice crusts, I did everything as above except I pressed the rice into 2 inch rounds using an egg ring.  After baking, the rice rounds did not hold together, and they did not puff up in the frying oil.  I found a recipe for baked sizzling rice at chinesefood.about.com and put it in the archive.  It is as yet untested.

Spicy Stir Fried Chicken with Peanuts (adapted and modified from a recipe printed in the Chicago Tribune's Food Section)

2      tablespoons Soy sauce
3      tablespoons Rice wine
1      tablespoon Cornstarch
1      teaspoon Sesame oil
2     pounds chicken, boneless, skinless
1¼ pounds Spinach (2-10 oz bags)
1½ teaspoons Garlic, minced
¼   teaspoon Salt
1     scoop Sesame seeds
1     teaspoon Sesame oil
3     tablespoons Green onions, minced
3     tablespoons Garlic, minced
2     tablespoons Ginger, minced
½   cup Chicken broth
¼   cup Soy sauce
3     tablespoons Rice wine
2½ tablespoons Sugar
1½ tablespoons Cornstarch
2     teaspoons Chekong rice vinegar
1½ teaspoons Sesame oil
2     teaspoons Red wine vinegar
6     tablespoons Peanut oil
2     tablespoons Chili paste
1½ cups Water chestnuts
3/4 cup peanuts, dry-roasted, cashews can be substituted
1.     For chicken:  Mix 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 3 tablespoons rice wine, 1  tablespoon corn- starch and 1 teaspoon sesame oil in small bowl. Add diced chicken. Toss to coat well.  Marinate 30 minutes.
2.    For Spinach: Place washed and trimmed spinach in large sauce pan. Cook over medium heat. Stir 2-4 minutes until it begins to wilt.  Transfer to colander and rinse under cold running water.  Squeeze out moisture. Mix spinach with 1½ tsp garlic, salt, 1 tsp sesame oil in small bowl. Arrange spinach around edges of serving platter, sprinkle with sesame seeds.

3.    For Sauce:  Mix green onions, 3 tbsp garlic, and ginger in a small bowl. Mix chicken broth with soy sauce, 3 tbsp rice wine, sugar, 1½ tbsp cornstarch, vinegar and 1½ tsp sesame oil in separate bowl.  Place the two mixtures, chili paste and water chestnuts (that have been blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds, drained and cut in half) near stove. Heat wok over high heat. Add 3 tbsp peanut oil and heat until very hot. Add chicken mixture.   Stir fry until pieces separate and change color. Transfer to a plate. Add 3 tbsp peanut oil to wok, heat until very hot. Add green onion mixture, stir once or twice. Add chili paste, stir fry 30 seconds. add water chestnuts, stir fry rapidly for another 30 seconds. Stir broth mixture, add it and the chicken to wok, cook about 3 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken. Add the peanuts, stir fry for 30 more seconds. Mound mixture in middle of platter with spinach surrounding, and serve.


About trustforce

A well trained amateur chef, I have learned by taking some master classes and doing a lot of reading and experimentation. I cook and enjoy many different cuisines. The fun is getting it right, with great taste and presentation. The smells and appearance add to the pleasure of eating well. I can enjoy a great Chicago style hot dog or an Italian beef sandwich, or have equal pleasure from haut cuisine. All my recipe postings are extensively tested by me unless I state otherwise. I will sometimes post a recipe that sounds like it should be good before I actually make it myself, but I will always come back and revise the "untested" recipe after I've made it, with valid comments to keep old posts accurate and current. If I am not the originator of a recipe I will always correctly attribute the source author, even if I have modified the recipe. I will occasionally post reviews of local restaurants on the site. The big problem that I have with eating out is that I know too much about restaurants and I find it hard to ignore or forgive sloppy technique or bad ingredients. I pull no punches in my restaurant reviews!
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