A celebration! Chinese-ish non-takeout

First things first: this is the fiftieth Dinnr post! Yes, I have now graced you with fifty fine dishes for your dining pleasure. I’m having a great time blogging my dinner so far and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. Do you have any suggestions or ideas? Hit that “suggest-a-dinner” link up top!

Second things second: Last night for dinner I decided to celebrate those fifty posts by making my very favorite Chinese restaurant appetizer, a delicacy that might as well be made of pure unobtainium as far as the greater DC area is concerned. Yes, I made scallion pancakes! For those of you who grew up deprived, scallion pancakes are circles of dough layered, croissant-style, with scallions and sesame oil, shallow-fried, and dipped in that ubiquitous soy/rice vinegar dumpling-dipping sauce, and they are heavenly.

I learned how to make these from a high school friend whose family owned Seven Star Mandarin,* the Chinese restaurant that used to be a block from my parents’ house. The process is very easy: you make dough, roll it out, paint it with oil and sprinkle it with scallions and salt. Then you roll it up like a jelly roll and coil it into a spiral. Then you flatten out the spiral and fry it. Here’s a great recipe with helpful pictures; I don’t bother with the second roll-and-twist iteration. My beloved Ginger loved these, as would any right-thinking human. Godspeed.

Third things third: we did not just eat scallion pancakes for dinner, although that would have been awfully nice. I also made a vegetable stir-fry. The thing about this giant pile of plants and fungi is context. If you ordered it from your terrible local Chinese takeout joint, it would be in the sad “healthy” section of the menu, called something lame like “steamed vegetables in brown sauce,” and ordering it would make you want to cry. That’s a good example of punishment food. By contrast, eating this at home is a joyful experience: this is your dinner of choice, not a depressing backup plan, and there’s no platter of General Gau’s* around to cause jealousy and inferiority complexes. 

Because the recipe comes from Cook’s Illustrated, making this particular stir-fry is a fussy process that creates thousands of dirty dishes. Unfortunately, dirty dishes are the price of any good stir-fry because you really have to cook all the vegetables separately if you want to avoid a mushy amalgam. It’s worth the extra effort, especially if you have a dishwasher. Cook’s starts with portobello mushrooms and then has you choose your own adventure slow-cooking vegetable, fast-cooking vegetable, and leafy green. I picked broccoli, zucchini, and bok choy. Here’s the recipe, neatly typed up for your convenience and mine. I also added a minced scallion with the garlic and ginger because without it the trinity would have been incomplete, a prospect that made me twitchy. There’s nothing worse than a twitchy dinner blogger.

* This friend’s big brother opened a restaurant of his own with a lot of the same dishes (and some new ones that sound delicious). You should go there if you live nearby. 

** “Gau” is a Bostonism; everywhere else the General is named “Tso.” I wish I knew why.