So appetizers are one of those concepts that’re
kind of tough to translate between cultures. Italian Antipasto is different from Korean
Bonchon which is in turn different from the American massive plate of shared fried stuff. To us, there’s two different Chinese concepts
that could be thought of as appetizers: first, in a traditional Chinese banquet there’s
lengpan… cold dishes… which would include something like Cantonese white cut chicken,
or drunken crab up in the Shanghai region, that kind of thing. Then there’s kaiweicai, which you can see
served in one form or another at like almost every Chinese restaurant… these are basically
just a small bowl or two of little snacks you can munch on along with tea or beer before
the meal starts. So, we wanted to show you how to make those
snacks. These can be different in different regions,
but some of the most common would be some sort of fried peanut or peas, one of the multitude
of Chinese pickles, which we’ll show you with some quick pickled daikon, or a liangban
cold dish, which we’ll show with mu’er wood ear mushroom… but. Also give you a recipe for an all-purpose
liangban sauce that you can top over pretty much anything. That said, if you did come here looking for
something that would fit as a larger American-style appetizer, honestly… feel free to use basically
like any Chinese dish. Because most Chinese food’s meant to be
shared, if you look at recipes online tons of Chinese dishes that decidedly aren’t
appetizers here tend to be categorized and tagged as appetizers, so… go nuts. But today, we wanted to focus on stuff that
was actually true Chinese kaiwaixiaocai. …
First up, liangban cold dishes. We’ll be using mu’er wood ear mushrooms
for this, but know that you could really use whatever vegetable you want – smashed cucumber,
slices of kelp… so totally get creative. This dish relies on this sauce, which is an
all purpose liangban sauce. It can be made well in advance, so… let’s
start there. At its core, this sauce is four parts light
slight sauce, so here four tablespoons, two parts or two tablespoons dark Chinese vinegar,
one part oyster sauce, one part sugar, and two tablespoons worth or about four cloves
of garlic, finely minced. We’ll also be tossing in one fresh Heaven
facing chili, sliced into half centimeter pieces, and feel free to sub in Thai bird’s
eye… and also about two springs of cilantro. We’ll be using half of that in the sauce
and eyeball the remaining quantity to top off the final dish. So just mix together the soy sauce, vinegar,
and the oyster sauce… then mix in that tablespoon of sugar and season with a quarter teaspoon
salt and an optional but recommended sprinkle of MSG. Then toss in the garlic, the chili, and half
of your chopped cilantro… top it off with a half a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil…
mix well, and that’s it. Wrap it up, toss in the fridge and use anytime
in the next couple days. Now we’ll be mixing that with 30 grams of
mu’er wood ear mushrooms… which’s one of my personal favorites for liangban dishes. This stuff is almost always sold dried, either
loose like this or compressed in a tiny little box. So reconstitute those with cool water… you
can get away with soaking those for as little as 30 minutes but they’ll end up fluffier
if you go for longer, so we went three hours in all. After that time, thoroughly rinse your mushrooms. Now, depending on how large your mu’er is
you might want to rip the mu’er into more bite sized pieces. Most of ours were basically bite size as is,
but you do want to check for some larger pieces like this, and tear them once or twice. Then, to a pot of boiling water, toss in the
mushrooms. Blanch those for three minutes, then transfer
over to a bowl of cool water to stop the cooking process. Now we’ll be refrigerating this, but the
timing’ll be totally up to you – I personally like my liangban dishes quite cool so I would
keep it in there for at least three hours. But you could go as little as 15 minutes or
at the other extreme up to a day… so drain that, and toss in the fridge. Assembly then is as easy as you think it would
be, but obviously if you’re using this sauce for some other vegetable you’ll need to
eyeball it and see what feels right. Generally speaking, you’ll want enough so
there’s a slight pool of sauce at the bottom of the bowl, and usually it’s better to
add too much than too little. So then just sprinkle on some more of your
chopped cilantro for extra soapiness… and your liangban mu’er is done. So right, fried peanuts. If you did a comprehensive survey of restaurants
in China I’d probably guess the most common appetizer would be either these guys or fried
peas. The fried peas are generally purchased in
bagged form… I really did want to figure out how to make
these from scratch for you but unfortunately there’s not a lot of information out there
because again, restaurants usually just purchase the bag. The fried peanuts might seem less interesting
at first blush but the technique that’s used is.. really quite cool. Those peanuts rely on some seasoned salt though,
so, let’s start there. So toss two tablespoons of salt to a pan and
heat that up over a medium flame. We want the salt to be hot enough that it’d
be uncomfortable to touch… so still not hot enough yet… but about two minutes ended
up doing the trick on our stove. Then shut off the heat and add in a teaspoon
of five spice powder. Quick mix, then take it out. For the peanuts then… I see a lot of people soak these in hot water
first, but they really don’t need it. The key is to start the peanuts in a cool
wok with cool oil. You want enough oil that it’ll submerge
the peanuts, so for our 250 grams of peanuts that was a touch over a cup of oil for this
wok. Now swap the flame to a low heat and let that
slowly come up to temperature. At first this won’t need too much maintenance…
just stir every three or four minutes to make sure none of the peanuts are scorching at
the bottom. Then, after about ten minutes or so, you should
see a more a hefty bubbling from the peanuts, which means that the oil’s up over 100 celcius
and that the peanuts are expelling their moisture. At this point try to be a bit more active
here… keep a watchful eye, slowly stir more or less constantly, and after a few minutes
start to taste them. The peanut’ll still be soft, you’re just
looking for something that tastes ‘cooked’. Getting there took about eight minutes more
with this batch, so transfer those over to an oven sheet and spread those out. Sprinkle over some of your seasoned salt – apologies
that we won’t be using up all of that, it’s just really awkward to make small batches
of the stuff… and let it sit until crunchy and cooled down completely. So then just transfer over to a bowl, ideally
more elegantly than I did, and you’ve got yourself some fried peanuts… just like they
make at the restaurants. Lastly, pickles. Now before we get started we… didn’t want
this to be our pickle video. See, most pickles in China are the lacto-fermented
sort… you toss some vegetables in a big jar like this and let them ferment over weeks
or even months. We will get to that eventually, but in the
meantime wanted to show you a quick 24 to 48 hour pickle… and I’ll leave some links
to the lacto-fermented sort down in the description box. We do quite like this Cantonese pickle though…
it’s completely dead easy, and makes for a great kaiweixiaocai. So, we’ll be using half of a Daikon for
this. So first peel your Daikon, then slice that
hot dog style and cut them into half centimeter semi-circles like so. Now, you could stop there, but to let the
pickling juice infuse into them better, make little cuts into the daikon, slice that in
half, then continue with the rest. This cut is called comb-shape in Chinese cooking…
and another benefit is that it looks like it takes way more impressive knife skills
than it actually does. So then just toss those in a bowl and sprinkle
over about a half teaspoon of salt. This process’ll purge some of the excess
moisture just like it does coleslaw, and it’ll also remove some of the harsh raw taste of
the Daikon. So let that sit for five minutes, and after
time you should see a little puddle of water in the bottom of the bowl. Then transfer over to a strainer, thoroughly
wash the salt off, then spread that all in one even-ish layer. Let that dry for at least two hours. Now for the pickling liquid. To a box first add in 250 grams of sugar and
dissolve that with 250 grams of distilled water. This is going to feel like a lot of sugar,
but the type of quick pickle we’re making is actually a sweet and sour sort. Mix until dissolved, then add in 50 gram of
dark Chinese vinegar, 50 grams of rice vinegar, 40 grams of light soy sauce, 30 grams of dark
soy sauce for color, and optional but recommended teaspoon of fish sauce… which does make
a rare cameo in Southern Chinese cooking. Then toss in about two cloves worth of minced
garlic, an inch and a half of minced ginger, and an optional but recommended one fresh
heaven facing or Thai bird’s eye chili. So once your daikon slices are dry on the
surface, toss them in the pickling liquid and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. To get a sense of what they’ll look like,
this was a batch from yesterday – they’ll’ve obviously deepened in color and taken most
of the flavor of the liquid. So with that, just toss in a bowl and serve…
whether as a snack, or of course, as an appetizer. So what we did in the video is restaurant
appetizers. Like many families in the West, Chinese families
often don’t have appetizers. Mine doesn’t… but some of my friends from
Jiangnan, Shanghai, and Nanjing region will have boiled Peanut and Edamame to munch before
and during the meal. We also see people pickles lying around, so
this totally just depends on the family or the restaurant. So right! Check out the Reddit link in the description
box for a detailed recipe… a big thank for to everyone that’s supporting us on Patreon…
and of course, subscribe for more Chinese cooking videos.

Tagged : # # # # # # # # # # # #

Methew Wade

38 thoughts on “Real Chinese Appetizers (开胃小菜)”

  1. Okay, Those Chinese appetizers looks so good, I wonder what it's tastes when I try it out. Great video and thanks for telling all about it! 😉

  2. I’m American we will eat burgers for dinner with sliders as the appetizer before and on the sliders normally have are small serving of pickles.

  3. So there was a Strictly Dumpling video a while back where he got an appetizer of peanuts in dark vinegar at a Chinese restaurant in Japan. Would you just do the same thing here and add them to dark vinegar or is that a totally different kind of app?

  4. Hey guys, a few notes:

    1. That sauce is literally called “liangban sauce” – it’s what you’ll generally get when you order a cold dish here. That said, there’s… a mountain of different sauces that go with liangban dishes. Sesame, chili oil, etc etc

    2. One of the reasons we didn’t end up going with ‘cold dishes’ as our translation for ‘appetizer’ is that while it’s always served near the beginning of a banquet it’s never THE starting dish. For example, in Guangdong the structure goes (1) simple savory appetizers, like here then (2) a savory soup and then (3) cold dishes. In a traditional Sichuanese banquet, meanwhile, the process would go (1) dried fruit/nuts and then (2) a specific kind of sweet soup (whose purpose is a ‘warm up exercise’ to start drinking liquor) then (3) cold dishes. So while cold dishes are the closest thing we could think to a Western-style appetizer, even in a banquet they’re probably coming third (in a normal restaurant they’d just come out along with all your other food).

    3. Ok, so random Chris ramble. Appetizers seem particularly beloved by us Americans, don’t they? It seems a little strange that before I eat my burger we’ll have a ‘starter’ of mini-burgers, yeah? Hell, even Chinese takeout joints in America had to adapt, take a page from Tiki restaurants and serve ‘Pu Pu platters’. The question – why? In my personal opinion, I believe Americans have a deep seeded desire to eat family-style. The beauty of the appetizer tray is that there’s no order-regret: everyone at the table’s eating the same thing. Even at a higher end restaurants, there’s something about a shared appetizer that feels relaxed, casual, and correct. And it’s precisely this reason why, while I do love Western food as well, I vastly prefer the Chinese restaurant experience – when all the dishes are shared, it makes the whole thing more… communal and fun? This is why I always roll my eyes a little bit when I see high end ‘modernized’ Chinese restaurants mimicking the structure of a Western restaurant in order to chase that Michelin star. If anything, I’d be much more interested in the roles flipped: I’d love to see Western food served in the same style as Chinese food is. Imagine a restaurant with a round table, a lazy susan, little ‘ganbei’ cups for beer, all serving a variety of large American-style appetizers. That’s what I want right there…

    4. The peanuts were 18 minutes total for us. The timing range can vary depending on your pot and the oil quantity (and of course your flame). Sometimes took as much as a half an hour. Definitely make sure the oil temperature doesn’t get up too high though – for reference, in the video and all of the tests I never surpassed 130C.

    That's all I can think of for now. I'll sure I'll edit some more in later!

  5. I made the sauce for my Chinese wife a few years ago and I got a (very) rare compliment: "This reminds me of my grandma's kitchen!! Make this again!" There are many variations but if you have more or less the same stuff it'll taste great anyway.

  6. CHRIS, STEPH, THIS IS TOO SMOOTH FOR YOUR VIDEO I AM CONFUSED.

    That aside, liangban with wood-ear mushroom sounds interesting.

  7. Totally apropos to nothing here but I bought a bag of dried "Vietnamese black fungus" on a rampage at Hong Kong Market recently, would these be a reasonable 1-to-1 for Wood Ear mushrooms in dishes like Liangban or Hot&Sour soup?

  8. A comment on the fish sauce, interestingly, when I was in Qingdao over the summer, the family I was staying with like to use fish sauce for their cold dishes, as well as dressing for seafood. I've yet to have the experience of having fish sauce in my many times in Shanghai, Zhejiang, and Beijing, so it was very interesting. I wonder how common it is, they were a perfectly local Shangdong family, so I was not expecting it at all.

    And yes, oh my god, fried peanuts, fried peanuts everywhere.

  9. Off-topic but your video kinda reinforce the idea; someone just pointed out to me that Chinese food doesn't really have raw vegetable, the closest is pickled or marinated veggie, just like what you have shown. Looking through your vids, the closest I found was Ningmeng Sa which had raw veggies in there. So, is it true that Chinese food doesn't really eat raw veggie? Is there any reason behind it?

    By the way, by raw veggie, I don't mean it need to be salad but any dish that has a substantial amount of raw veggies at all. Ex. in Thai food we eat 'Nam Prik' which are variety of relishes eaten with raw veggies.

    On the other hand. I really like to know how to make the boiled peanuts you mentioned though. Found them in restaurants in Singapore. There's a whiff of five spices to them and the peanuts are so tender, but with a little texture from the skin. Mmmm.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *