I don’t know if you have the upscale Chinese chain called P.F. Changs near you, but in 90’s Los Angeles, it was the chi-chi place to eat…a place to see and be seen, where the skinny, tall and deeluscious hung out waiting to be discovered by producers and sugar daddies. Me? I was an awkward, pimply-faced frog. That was an evening when I had a major case of “why can’t I look like them?!”
You see, I was born with thick, bushy eyebrows….thanks to my direct ancestors who probably had a great use for them. Thousands of years ago, those eyebrows protected my neanderthal ancestors from predators. All they would have to do wrap those thick cable brows around their head, do one of those primal yells and wave arms like an orangutan in heat. Predators would be scared shitless and skamper off. Of course unwrapping the brows proved quite complicated, as they had yet to invent the eyebrow pick or Paul Mitchell conditioner.
The next evolution of use was in the hot summer heat, those brows prevented forehead sweat from dripping down into the pot of horse stew quietly simmering on the outdoor firepit. My great-great grandfather probably was a world-class mah-jong player and his bushy brows shielded him from other players’ discovering his “mah-jong tells” My great-grand auntie most likely used her brows for fanning the hot porridge. My Mom’s second-cousin’s daughter even hung salted fish to dry on her brows.
And now the trait has passed on down to me. Obviously those eyebrows are destined for some great, honorable use, and I just totally ruined thousands of years of family legacy with a an innocent tool called the Tweezerman. I can blame it on that night when I thought what separated me from the sea of gorgeous models were my brows. How wrong I was. I had forgotten about family trait number two. I’m five-foot-two and fifteen pounds overweight.
While I never figured out how to grow an extra 6 inches, I did figure out how to re-create the flavors of P.F. Chang’s dish, Minced Pork Lettuce Cups. I’ve made a similar filling with ground chicken, flavored by Hoisin (Chinese BBQ sauce) and Oyster Sauce…a little sweet…a little salty and requires no tweezing.
Chinese Pastries with Hoisin Chicken
- 1/2 pound ground chicken
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
- 1/4 cup minced green onion
- 1/4 cup minced onion
- 1/4 cup minced canned bamboo shoots
- 1/4 cup diced Chinese black mushrooms (soaked overnight in cold water, stems removed)
- 1 tablespoon Oyster Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Hoisin Sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic-chili hot sauce
- 1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
- 1 egg + 1 tablespoon water (egg wash)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Marinate the chicken in the soy, wine, sesame oil, cornstarch and sugar for 15 minutes at room temperature.
- In a wok or large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add onion. Fry until onions are softened, about 1 minute. Add the green onions, garlic and ginger. Fry another minute until fragrant. Turn heat to high.
- Add the marinated ground chicken, mushrooms and bamboo shoots. Fry until the chicken is about 80% cooked through. Add Oyster, Hoisin & hot sauce. Stir through. Taste…need more salt? (add soy or Oyster) need more sweet/salty? (add more Hoisin) heat? (hot sauce) Spread out on plate to cool. Tip the plate to one side and discard excess juice.
- Take your thawed puff pastry and cut each sheet into 4 squares. Spoon filling onto one side, brush egg wash on the edges and bring over to fold into a triangle. Pinch to seal tightly, place on baking sheet. Brush egg wash on the tops of the pastry. Repeat with remaining.
- Bake 350F degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve with some hot sauce on side!
**Note on Chinese black mushrooms
I always have a stash of dried mushrooms in my pantry. If I know I’ll be using them the next day, I’ll just throw a few in a bowl with water and leave to soak overnight.
If I’m pressed for time, I’ll use hot water and also microwave for 10 minutes (timing really depends on how thick your mushrooms are)
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