Honey Sesame Chicken

I am surrounded by delicious, authentic Chinese food and I have lots of local favorites. There is a cabbage dish at a local restaurant that I could literally eat every single day for the rest of my life. I’ve also come to appreciate and love a level of spicy unlike anything I’ve ever had in the US (seriously, not the kind of spicy that makes you sweat, the kind that literally makes your mouth go numb). And there is a green bean dish that I order at every single restaurant that has it. But sometimes….

Well… sometimes I crave American Chinese food. That’s right. I live in China and I crave Chinese food – from America. Food that is sticky and sweet and salty (kind of like the Jack Daniels Glaze). Sad, I know.

I was having one of those cravings a few weeks ago, so I went on the hunt for a recipe. I came across this Honey Sesame Chicken and I knew it would be a winner. This chicken had all of the flavors I was looking for. The recipe originally called for using a crockpot – but I don’t have one here in China, so I just used my dutch oven and cooked it in the oven. It was still very easy and mostly hands off! I’ll include both methods so you can choose!



Spicy Cold Noodles

Last summer when I was just visiting China and no idea I would ever actually live here, I took pictures and made notes of my favorite foods. Some dishes I just had to learn how to make on my own. That’s exactly how I felt about this noodle dish. It’s like a Chinese pasta salad. Cold, refreshing, and spicy all at the same time. It is easily one of my favorite dishes here and Jesse can’t get enough of it either.

Lucky for me I have some pretty great local Chinese friends. Almost exactly a year ago I posted about our friend Mandy teaching us to make dumplings, now she has taught me how to make these cold noodles. My 24×24 party was the first time I made them on my own.  I  have to admit, I was a little nervous making it on my own for a group of Chinese food experts, but this dish was the hit of the party and disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Spicy Cold Noodles 

~12 oz Chinese Noodles*
2 tbsp canola oil
1/3 cup cucumbers, cut into thin matchsticks
1/4 cup green onion, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, plus more for garnish
2 cloves garlic, very finely diced
2 Tbsp very finely chopped peanuts
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dark rice vinegar (white rice vinegar also works)
2-3 tsp chili oil **
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp white sugar

*Noodles can be found in the Asian aisle of your grocery store, may also be labeled Rice Noodles. Thin, spaghetti like, noodles are best, but thicker noodles, like in the photo, also work. My noodles came in a roll and I used 1/2 of the roll, which I guess to be about 12 oz.
**If you can find Lao Gan Ma brand in the Asian aisle or at an Asian grocery store, use that! Or look for a chili oil that has chilies in the oil. 

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the noodles and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally*.  While the noodles are cooking, prepare a cold water bath. When the noodles are cooked to al dente, drain and immediately place in the cold water bath. Let sit for 2 minutes then drain again and place in a large bowl. Toss with 1 tablespoon of oil to prevent from sticking. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and peanuts and cook for just 30 seconds to 1 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant (you’re not trying to cook the garlic, you’re just trying to take a little of the edge off). Immediately remove from heat and add, along with the cucumber and green onion, to the noodles. Set aside.

In a small liquid measuring cup, combine the soy sauce, vinegar, chili oil, sesame oil, and sugar. If you like a lot of spice, add more chili sauce or a pinch of dry red pepper flakes. Pour over the noodles and toss to combine and evenly coat noodles. Can be served immediately or chilled in the fridge for 30 minutes.

 *These noodles cook much faster than Italian style noodles. Keep an eye on them so they don’t turn to mush!

As taught to me by my friend, Mandy

Foodbuzz 24×24: East Meets West

Since moving to China we have been blown away by the kindness and hospitality we have been shown. In the short time that we have lived here, we feel like we have made many life-long friends. Now that we are settled into our apartment, we wanted to have our new friends over to celebrate good friendship and our new home. An East meets West celebration.

The stars couldn’t have aligned more perfectly for this event.  First, I was excited to have my idea chosen by Foodbuzz for this months 24×24*! Second, the weekend we chose for our party also happened to be a holiday weekend in China. So, in addition to celebrating friends and home, we were celebrating Dragon Boat Festival (Duānwǔ Jié 端午节)!
*Each month Foodbuzz showcases 24 food bloggers as they host a meal in the same 24 hours and blog about it on the same day.

My idea for the party was to create a fusion of American/Western dishes and Chinese/Eastern dishes. I supplied all of the Western dishes and, with the help of a friend, two of the Chinese dishes. I was also delighted when guests offered to bring traditional dishes. Here’s what we came up with! Full menu listed below the photos!

The Food


The party
The guests – minus the two people who snuck past my camera!
Guests filling up their plates!
Happy to have been a part of his first chocolate chip cookie
Jesse being shown how to open the traditional Dragon Boat Festival dumpling – 粽子
Sneaking some fruit
Full bellies, enjoying the entertainment

The Menu

Veggies and Ranch Dip
Macaroni and Cheese Bites
Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies
Steamed Pork with Preserved Vegetables* 冬菜猪肉
Braised Duck in Beer* 红烧
Rice Dumplings* 粽子
 Lychee and other assorted fruits
*These items were brought by my guests (and the translation may be rough!)
I think it’s pretty safe to say that the party was a big success! I can’t wait to host my next party!

Beef with Eggplant


I think I told this story in one of my China recaps but it’s something I just can’t stop thinking about. When we took our weekend trip to Beijing I had my favorite meal of the entire trip. My hopes were not high as we walked through the dark alley and into the restaurant through what looked like an apartment kitchen, but I was once again reminded to not judge a book by its cover. Despite the off the wall location the dinner was a-maz-ing. Noodles that seemed nearly endless topped with peppers and eggplant in an amazing sauce.

I was day dreaming about that meal right before I went grocery shopping, so it was no surprise when the bright purple Chinese eggplants were calling me. I decided to also add beef and since I haven’t found “the” noodle recipe yet, I served this over rice. The awesome thing about eggplant is that it really soaks up whatever seasoning your using. Each bite was like a flavor explosion. Until I can perfectly recreate the noodles from the Beijing meal, I will just make this and love every bite of it.

Beef with Eggplant
(Sunny Side Up Original, sauce loosely adapted from Pioneer Woman)

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp red chile sauce (such as Sriracha)
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1 pound flank steak (or other beef steak), very thinly sliced
1 medium Chinese eggplant*, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to season beef
Green onions, sliced diagonally for garnish

* Make sure to look for Chinese eggplant. It is a lighter/brighter shade of purple and longer and skinnier. It’s skin is softer and the taste just slightly sweeter.

In a measuring cup combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, Sriracha, brown sugar and cornstarch. Set aside. Lightly season the beef with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a large wok over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, add half of the beef (so it is not overcrowded) to the wok and cook for 1 or 2 minutes on each side, you want the meat to get pretty brown but it doesn’t have to cook all the way through. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside, covering with foil to keep warm. Repeat with the second half of the beef.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the eggplant and bell peppers (if the pan is dry you can add another drizzle of oil). Saute for a minute or two, then add the sauce. Cook for 4-5 minutes or until the sauce begins to reduce and thicken, stirring occasionally. Return the beef to the pan (along with any juices that collected on the plate) and cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Serve over brown rice and garnish with green onions.