Monday, May 6, 2019

Chinese style hummus

Hummus is very popular around our place. My husband and I are usually busy writing whenever lunchtime rolls around, and so I’m always happy to find something easy for those days when we are both famished and too busy to fuss with anything too complicated, but still long for something delicious. And that’s why hummus so easily fits the bill. 

But one day I started thinking about hummus (I’d never really given that much thought about it before, to be honest) and realized it could be made even more tasty – in my humble opinion – if it were given a Chinese twist or two. 

So, out with the tahini and in with the toasted sesame seeds. Rice vinegar takes the place of lemon, and fish sauce subs in perfectly for salt. Garnish it with your favorite chile oil (really, you want something with crunchy stuff here), toasted sesame seeds, and scallions or cilantro or both, and suddenly you have the best of both worlds.

Crunch, flavor, & nuttiness
I love this so much that I often make a breakfast sandwich by slathering way too much hummus between two slices of toast. Come lunchtime, and I’m more in the mood for vegetables, so out come the carrots, jicama, cucumbers, and whatever else is hanging around in the fridge.

This makes a lovely gift, too, and since you’ll have about five cups of the stuff, you might be able to bear parting with a cup or so if you’re feeling generous. If not, I totally understand.

By the way, the Chinese name for garbanzo beans – or chickpeas – is literally “raptor’s beak beans.” Check out the little beaks on these guys… they remind me more of parakeets (or budgies) than eagles, but I wasn’t the one in charge of handing out names that day.

Chinese hummus chez Huang
Huángjiā yīngzuĭdòu níer  黃家鷹嘴豆泥兒
Makes about 5 cups | 1200 g

Hummus:
Definitely parakeets
1½ cups | 300 g dried chickpeas (see Note)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Water, as needed
8 ounces | 225 g toasted sesame paste
¼ cup | 60 ml pale rice vinegar
6 cloves garlic
½ cup | 125 ml cool water
2 tablespoons fish sauce

To serve:
Homemade chile oil, preferably with crispy bits
Chopped scallions and/or cilantro
Cucumber spears, carrots sticks, or what have you

1. At least one day before you plan to serve this, place the dried chickpeas in a medium work bowl and cover with cool water by at least 2 inches | 5 cm. Soak the beans overnight, drain them well, rinse, and place them in a medium saucepan.

Ginger & garlic - lots of it
2. Cover the beans with fresh water, add the baking soda, and bring them to a boil. As they get ready to boil, a massive cloud of foam will rise up, and you need to stir this down, scoop it off, or remove the pan from the heat – it doesn’t matter which you choose to do, as long as it doesn’t flood your stove and make a horrible mess. Lower the heat and simmer the beans until they are tender, about 5 minutes for relatively fresh beans.

3. Drain the beans in a colander and rinse. Place them in a food processor with the sesame paste, vinegar, garlic, water, and fish sauce. Pulse the beans until they are a fine paste, stopping the processor every once in a while to scrape down the sides. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Scoop the hummus into a container and refrigerate it if you are not using it right away. 

4. To serve, mound the hummus in a low bowl and drizzle it with chile oil. Garnish it with the scallions and/or cilantro and the sesame seeds. Serve it with whatever you like.

Note:

Fresh beans are a must hear  They cook up almost instantly that way, and they have a wonderfully creamy texture as a result. Garbanzo beans - aka chickpeas - are best bought in bulk, where they are cheapest. Just be sure to buy them from a place with a busy turnover, like a health food store or a Middle Eastern grocery.