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  1. More typically around the Lantern Festival, a couple of weeks after Spring Festival. Cavity-inducing fillings of black sesame paste or peanut-walnut paste and floating/suspended in a soup made from the tang yuan cooking water and lao zao.
  2. El Pueblito is the most dramatic example of the power of a published restaurant review that I have witnessed. Living in the area and attracted by its brightly colored storefront, I ate there the week it opened. No patio, no parking lot, no liquor, no other customers. Ate solo and took friends there 4-5 more times over the next month or so with never more than a few other people in the place. Then Robb Walsh reviewed it in the Press. The Friday after the review, there was a line out the door and around the side of the building. I haven't eaten there since, although that's more just my personal thing. From Day One, it's been all about the fish. As for the Crazy Snapper, it's doubtful they're serving Red Snapper for $6.50, tasty as it is...see Robb Walsh's snapper expose archived somewhere on the Press website.
  3. That would be Neal's Ice Cream, whose little shop on Kirby was the progenitor of gourmet ice cream (and cookies) in Houston. Lines out the door on any given night. Neal's love of a good time and an ill-advised, brand-diluting expansion (including supermarket retail) combined to send the business into the grave. Uncle Tai's Hunan Yuan ("garden"). The owners run Star Laser Video on Bellaire in the Welcome Food Market center. I believe Tai is usually there on Monday evenings if you feel the urge to reminisce. Tokyo Gardens. Renu's The restaurant that begat Thai in Houston. Hamburgers By Gourmet Sadly missed swatch of urban fabric on Alabama just off Montrose. Gyro Gyros Never that great, but more soul and funk missing from an increasingly sanitized Lower Westheimer. Poor Man's Country Club Don't even get me started on what's happened to the Rice Village. San Jacinto Inn Hard to define "legendary" without using this one as a reference, especially in a city as amnesiac as Houston.
  4. Actually, the entire label is holographically printed; just hold and tilt it against the overhead lights in the store. As of the beginning of this year, bottles sold in Houston, Texas featured these labels. Pearl River Bridge isn't ubiquitous in China...it's not sold in Chengdu; the everyday brand with the most shelf space (mostly because of the option of giant plastic jugs) is Amoy. Lee Kum Kee is also available, but Sichuan being Sichuan, I think a lot of folks just reach for one of the many local labels....or at least I do.
  5. For drinking at least, milk and milk products are widely available in China and are hugely popular, be it in UHT boxes, plastic bags, refrigerated cartons, bottles of yogurt, or sold fresh from the back of a motorcycle; one aisle of any given supermarket is given to shelf-stable milk products and one section of refrigerated case is given to their fresh counterparts. There's whole milk, low-fat milk, skim milk, coffee milk, chocolate milk, strawberry milk, peanut milk, walnut milk, and sugary, watery yogurt-milk products; there's also French, New Zealand, Australian, Dutch, Italian, and Danish butters and cheeses, Kraft Philly and New Zealand cream cheeses, and Dannon and local-made yogurts in a range of flavors. There are at least 130 Pizza Huts now open in China's cities, which isn't many numerically (contrast with over 1,000 KFC's), but is a lot considering that small pizzas ("9") are 6-7 dollars and mediums ("12") are 8-10 dollars. I will agree that the "spoiled milk" flavor is the final frontier, though, as yogurts especially are essentially impossible to find without added sugar. Oh yeah, there's ice cream too in a range of flavors and novelties that would put Good Humor to shame...my favorite is Yili's "Ku Kafei" - bitter coffee ice cream dipped in chocolate on a stick.
  6. Hongyou shuijiao and hongyou chaoshou (抄手) are different: chaoshou are huntun/wonton (馄饨) while shuijiao are are boiled jiaozi. Those pictured are chaoshou, square wrappers with just a dab of pork filling....and of course, jiaozi are the much fatter "dumplings" stuffed with any number of things.
  7. I do, circa this minute: no.
  8. No, you heard right; in addition to Mrs. Bairds, Bimbo also owns Thomas' English Muffins, Entenmann's, Oroweat, and Boboli. The name might make for an easy chuckle, but Bimbo is one serious enterprise. Confusingly, there's a different Bimbo in Spain, which like Bimbo in Mexico, is that country's big commercial baker. Bimbo Spain is owned by Sara Lee. Welcome to the Global Supermarket.
  9. Some common Sichuan street foods, separated into low mobility, i.e. available from shops with glass cases facing the street, and high-mobility, i.e. sold from carts, wagons, bicycles, and vendors carrying baskets/buckets on shoulder poles: high mobility- shao kao - meat and vegetables on skewers; you choose, then watch them being grilled or fried with liberal brushings of lao jiao jiang/dou ban jiang (hot pepper sauce/"chili bean paste") and/or liberal seasoning of hot pepper/Sichuan pepper powder. ma hua(er) - crunchy, deep-fried dough twists, slightly sweet. shao bing - oblong bead baked in a coal-fired drum, either with a sugar filling or an seasoned, oil filling jian bing - crepe batter cooked on a griddle with a fried egg and filled with various suan cai (preserved vegetables) bao bing - paper-thin crepes made from rice flour, usually rolled with liang cai (see below). zha tudou tiao - french fries cooked in a wok, usually soft and greasy; a recent development to cash in on the popularity of fast food offerings. yumi hua(er) - popcorn, often sweetened with sugar. mao cai - choose-your-own vegetables and meat on skweres or in piles, then dipped and cooked in a pot of spicy, oily broth and served in a spicy soup. The street-food cousin of hotpot. kao rou chuan - shish kebabs of lamb/mutton cooked over coals by Uighur Muslims. chou doufu - fermented (some would say, rancid) tofu deep-fried in a wok; not for the easily offended. dou hua(er) - tofu pudding served in a small, plastic bowl with lajiao jiang (hot pepper oil), Sichuan pepper, soy sauce, vinegar, a dash of MSG, green onion, and suan cai (Sichuan pickled vegetable) xi gua - watermelon slices bo luo - pineapple quarters on-a-stick low mobility - leng mian - cold noodles mixed with the seller's own take on the soy/vinegar/hot pepper oil/preserved vegetable theme. liang fen - cold starch noodles, sometimes shaved from a block, again mixed with a proprietary blend of hot/sour/salty tastes. liang cai - cold, shredded vegetables mixed fresh with the above-type sauces, sometimes stuffed into guo kui (see below) and sometimes taken home to roll into bo bing. chuanrou bing niurou bing - raised, fried round bread discs stuffed with a beef filling chuan rou bing - coiled pastries stuffed with beef, vegetables, and spices, fried with a lot of oil yumi bing - round, fried cornbread (raised dough), often slightly sweetened congyou bing/da bing/qianceng bing - very large, raised dough fried and cut into wedges, usually layered with green onion and Sichuan pepper or jiu cai and Sichuan pepper. mantou - steamed bread, can be plain, sweetened, or savory with either lajiao jiang, Sichuan pepper, or chives. Usually made from wheat flour or wheat flour mixed with other flours/flavors (cornflour, black sesame powder, etc.) baozi - steamed buns filled with any number of preparations, usually on the savory, ground meat theme.
  10. Says who? Beer, bai jiu, Sprite, and Coke/Pepsi are also an integral part of the dining experience at Chinese restaurants, arguably more so than tea. Tea at a restaurant in China typically means a glass tumbler or ceramic cup slogged with lu cha or hong cha. While nicer establishments might offer a selection of teas and you may find yourself in a place where your ba bao cha is refilled by waiters shooting water halfway across the table from copper kettles with ridiculuosly long spouts, if you're speaking of a ritualized presentation, preparation, and service of tea in restaurants, then the discussion narrows to dim sum houses and the south/southeastern region of China (Guangdong, Hong Kong, etc.). Otherwise, you need to head for a teahouse, but then again, in Sichuan, where folks take tea pretty seriously, crowded outdoor teahouses are nothing much more than (relatively) fresh air, bamboo chairs, the sounds of teeth cracking sunflower seeds, and a bottomless, usually chipped or cracked cup of lu cha, perfect for whiling the afternoon away chatting, playing majiang, discussing business, or just soaking up the atmosphere.
  11. From the Chronicle, dated May 2, 2004:
  12. Sorry for the blatant commercial post, but if anyone is quite desperate for Sichuan peppercorns, I have three 50g packets of whole peppercorns I bought in Sichuan that I would be happy to offer as a lot...for a lot less than what I've seen online. I'm probably going back to Sichuan (and need every dime I can get!), so won't be needing them (nor do I know anyone around me who will use them). They're not market fresh, but probably as good as any you'll find here in the States.
  13. If I'm not mistaken, I called the CMC Company and their stock is the dwindling remains of what they had prior to the official ban on sales...stock on hand was exempted, so from them at least, you will probably be buying pretty old peppercorns.
  14. Wow, what a coincidence: I just listed my copy for sale on Amazon, although if anyone on this forum would like to buy a 1984 paperback edition in great condition (looks unread), let me know...of course, I'd subtract all of Amazon's fees that I used to set the price, making it a relative bargain all things considered. Just to make this more than a gratuitously commercial post, it is indeed a great book, although ideosyncratic in classification and done completely in traditional characters, which is great for everyone but those of us PRC-centric folk ...yeah, yeah, I know, master traditional and simplified becomes an academic exercise, but at my age and with my level of patience, I have enough of a time memorizing simplified characters.
  15. Too academic. I have eaten with folks in Sichuan who ask for small dishes of ground red chili powder in order to dip bites of their food. I've ordered and eaten mapo doufu with a novocaine-like coating of Sichuan pepper over the top. I've eaten hotpots with all sorts of twigs, berries, nuts, and other herbaceous detritus as aromatics, but have been so scorching hot that I have no doubt I missed the flavors they were supposed to impart. Ditto for jiaozi, their subtle flavors almost obliterated by dipping sauces friends have concocted for me. Peoples' palates operate on different planes (as has been stated) so it's also arguable that in order to really appreciate some types of regional Chinese cuisines, you have to develop a tolerance for the "overpowering...numbing presence of capsaicin" to find the other flavors...or maybe find a Cantonese restaurant instead.
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