Family recipes are great, especially if they’re not from my own. Having said that, my food-obsessed relatives are sure to disown me, so I’m going to explain myself in case my grandmother finds this while googling my name in search of my Twitter account.
I’ll never get tired of the foods of my childhood and will always have a Ratatouille moment each time I have Pinakbet. The thing is, I’ve had such dishes so many times already and would rather have something completely new. It’s like having that first awkward bite of sushi and thinking, “Where have you been all my life?” Thinking that wasabi was some sort of minty candy, my first memories of sushi actually involved shooting white nostril heat and gushing tears, but you know what I mean.
Regardless of cultural provenance, other people’s family recipes will always be appealing to me because it’s often a confluence of several good things:
- It will be easy to make
- It will be easy to like
- It will be affordable
Take this recipe for steamed lemon chicken, for instance. From Eileen Yin-fei Lo’s The Chinese Kitchen, my favorite thing about the book is the wide array of family recipes in addition to well-known regional Chinese classics. She points out that this specific preparation will not be found anywhere else, yet one look at the ingredient list and it seems instantly familiar and accessible.
recipe adapted from Eileen Yin-fei Lo’s The Chinese Kitchen
Steamed Lemon Chicken
Ling Mung Jing Gai
makes 4 servings
4 chicken leg quarters
For the marinade:
one-inch slice of fresh ginger, peeled
1 tablespoon Chinese white rice wine
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
a pinch of ground pepper
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch (optional)
scallions, thinly sliced
lemons, thinly sliced
- Cornstarch can turn into a gluey substance while in the steamer so I listed it as an optional ingredient. I can’t recommend adding it to the marinade.
Rub the chicken leg quarters with kosher salt. Rinse under cold running water then dry thoroughly with paper towels. Squeeze the lemon juice over chicken legs and set aside.
Grate or finely mince the fresh ginger. Press it through a fine strainer to extract the juice, about one teaspoon. In a bowl, add the ginger to the rest of the marinade ingredients and whisk until the salt and sugar are thoroughly dissolved. Let the chicken and marinade rest for at least 30 minutes.
Place the chicken legs in a steam-proof dish. Stir the marinade briefly before pouring over the chicken. Using the steaming implement of your choice, steam the chicken legs over high heat for about 30 minutes.
Lemon chicken steaming in an aluminum steamer
Garnish with the sliced scallions and lemons. Serve with cooked rice.