Confessions of a Cowardly Chinese Chef - Episode 1
If you were a friend of mine while I was in elementary school, you’d have known that I counted baking among my hobbies. If you were a friend of mine during high school, you might have known that one time I tried to bake cookies with a friend and we failed miserably. If you were a friend of mine during college, you’d have known that my love for baking had cooled and I realized that cooking and baking are two different things and I was not very good at either. If you are a friend of mine now, you’d know that I don’t cook or bake often at all. I am a big fan of Trader Joe salads.
This past trip to Taiwan, I ate lots of yummy foods – not only at restaurants, but at home as well. Chinese food and tastes will always be my favorite, and there’s lots of dishes that simply just exist without a specific name or a set recipe. Since I’ve been gifted with more time to be at home (although hopefully that won’t last this entire year…), I decided that I will try to learn how to cook 12 different Taiwanese dishes. After making my list and showing it to my mom, we realized that a lot of these are not actually difficult but more a matter of buying the right ingredients. Like, one of the things I want to make literally requires me to just buy a packet of pickled vegetables and chop it up. That’s all. But! The point is to not worry about having to follow a recipe and to just learn as I go, and to get cooking, no matter how intimidated I may be.
So! After that lengthy introduction, here is the first episode – chicken soup in a rice cooker! I’ve never been a super big fan of American chicken soup – I grew up drinking chicken soup as a clear broth, flavored with ginger and maybe a handful of goji berries. (Still not a big fan of goji berries either.) It was the same concept as American chicken soup, as in, “drink chicken soup when you’re sick”, but it was not all yellow and noodle-y. Chicken noodle soup was a soup that I only had at Sweet Tomatoes.
I’ve made different soups before, and used a variety of different chicken broths in cans and cartons – low sodium is icky but regular seems too salty. I still don’t think this is the same sort of chicken broth that could be used as stock in a different type of soup (if I am wrong, then please correct me) but I am happy with the way this turned out as a dish on its own and I feel like this is easily customizable to use whatever I may have in my refrigerator at the time!
This time, I used carrots, oyster mushrooms, and a little bit of ginger. I chopped everything up and threw it into the rice cooker pot along with two chicken breasts and salt. Then I flipped the switch to “cook” on the rice cooker… and assumed that the cooker would stop when the water had boiled to a certain amount, and went to go take a shower.
In my defense (or maybe this makes it worse) I have never used this specific rice cooker before, but previous times when I used a rice cooker that you don’t put water on the bottom (are those still called rice cookers…? Old fashioned rice cookers?) they all automatically stopped at a certain time. And plus there was a “warm” setting on the rice cooker so I assumed that it would just flip to warm when it was done cooking. So I assumed that I would be able to take my time showering and the rice cooker would do all the work for me – and it was a night I had to wash my hair so my shower took longer than usual (I have a lot of hair).
So I panicked a little when I got out of the shower and I could smell… chicken? Maybe burnt? It was definitely A Smell, although it wasn’t bad or anything, just stronger than I expected. And when I went downstairs, the rice cooker was still going! It was bubbling away but still on the “cook” setting. Whoops. Good thing I did not burn the house down. Or burn the chicken.
I added some more salt this time when I checked it (about 30 minutes) and left it for another 10 minutes or so. And that was it! So easy.
It’s nice to know that I can make this without having to babysit it too much, since inevitably I will get bored and wander away and forget that I have something on the stove. Easy as chop, salt, and put it into a pot! Maybe next time with a timer though so I don’t have to worry about accidentally boiling away all the water…