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Everything posted by chengdude

  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.
  16. Chongqing will be the de facto terminus of the huge reservoir created when the Three Gorges Dam is fully operational and is well on its way to being the next, great trade center in China.
  17. No, but I wish I were; it sure would make understanding the dialect a lot easier.
  18. While living in China, I had had one particularly lousy day. I went home to find my girlfriend had made a big bowl of egg and tomato soup with noodles for dinner. We talked and ate together, washed the bowls, made love, and I forgot whatever had made that day so lousy. My top Chinese food experience.
  19. Hmmm, either Foodmart Int'l is openly flouting import laws or they are selling back stock from early 2002, which was I believe, the cut-off date that stores could prove existing inventories and sell legally. If the latter is the case, I'd be curious how these peppercorns rate as they would be at least 2 years old, if not older, factoring in harvesting, processing, and shipping.
  20. I'm not exactly sure what "Cantonese mien" are, nor what you would use potassium carbonate for...seems like enough to start a new thread. I haven't tackled making noodles, but almost all the noodle recipes I've seen are quite basic: flour, water, maybe some oil for the dough, salt, maybe some leavening like baking powder, eggs (if making egg noodles, obviously). One recipe calls for "lye water" to stop/kill odors of dough fermentation after a long resting period. The "magic" that another contributor spoke of is, I believe, in the right combination of those simple ingredients and how the resulting dough is treated (resting...sometimes overnight, kneading, stretching, dusting, cutting, etc.). I believe another factor is getting the flour right for the particular recipe: some call for combinations of bread flour and cake flour. Much of the flour I've seen (and bought) in China is quite heavily processed, thus the attention to this factor would seem to make sense. I've seen lots of la mian (pulled noodles) sellers using some nasty, blue-green chemical liquid in their dough...never determined what it was, although a shortcut to adding flexibility for the pulling would seem to be a logical guess.
  21. Some notable selections from the shelves: Coffee-Table/Picture Books: Mark THE CHINESE GOURMET CHINA THE BEAUTIFUL COOKBOOK Chong THE HERITAGE OF CHINESE COOKING International Culinary Society THE GREAT BOOK OF CHINESE COOKING Hom THE TASTE OF CHINA Tiger/Wolf/Yin CHINA'S FOOD All of these have great photos, CHINA'S FOOD is especially artful with ingredient and culture shots (Eileen Yin Fei Lo is also a reliable source for recipes, but that is not the true emphasis of the book), Ken Hom's book is great for cultural anecdotes and photos (good recipes too), and Elizabeth Chong's book gets special mention for incorporating a lot of history, culture, and fine art in a food context. Dim Sum: Lin THE COMPLETE BOOK OF CHINESE NOODLES DUMPLINGS AND BREADS Yin THE DIM SUM BOOK Wei Chuan Editions CHINESE SNACKS Various CLASSIC DEEM SUM These 4 give the best foundation for frying, steaming, and baking up buns, noodles, flatbreads, dumplings, etc. I have a number of others but these are the best. Get the latest edition of CHINESE SNACKS; the early Wei Chuan books (hardcovers, usually) are disasters. Sichuan: Dunlop LAND OF PLENTY (SICHUAN COOKERY outside the USA) The last word, so far, for all things Sichuan. Good to see, however, that Sichuan hotpot remains as mysterious as ever...her treatment is woefully inadequate and simplistic, so you still have to go to Sichuan to enjoy the special alchemy that goes into making a great vat of huoguo. General: So THE CLASSIC FOOD OF CHINA China Pictorial, eds. CLASSIC CUISINE FROM THE MASTER CHEFS OF CHINA Tropp THE MODERN ART OF CHINESE COOKING Yan-Kit So adds a lot of history and explanatory notes to her recipes and CLASSIC CUISINE has an unbeatable section devoted to ingredients and preparation (characters and Pinyin included). The recipes lean toward banquet fare, however. The late Barbara Tropp was the first Western author to really tackle and demystify Chinese food while thoroughly explaining preparation and techniques. For that, MODERN ART gets a mention, despite the fact that the recipes don't always work and can be a bit fussy (but nowhere near the fussiness of her next effort, THE CHINA MOON COOKBOOK, which has been panned by others already). History/Culture: Anderson THE FOOD OF CHINA Chang, ed FOOD IN CHINESE CULTURE Zee SWALLOWING CLOUDS Simoons FOOD IN CHINA Vol 6 Number 5 of SCIENCE AND CIVILISATION OF CHINA These 5 books are about all the layperson needs to become well-versed in the history and culture of food in China. The Simoons book can get rather dry and technical, but is massive and well-researched. Speaking of massive and technical, the SCIENCE AND CIVILISATION volume (from the Joseph Needham series published by Cambridge) requires a lot of effort to slog through, especially for the academic use of Wade-Giles transliteration, but is pretty much the one-volume reference for the origins of many foodstuffs in China. Eating Out: McCawley THE EATER's GUIDE TO CHINESE CHARACTERS Amazingly expensive for what is essentially a pocket-sized paperback. An idiosyncratic classification system as well, but certainly a thorough guide to recognizing and learning (Traditional) characters on restaurant menus. And one from my Wish List: Hu CHINESE NEW YEAR FACT AND FANTASY Frighteningly rare and exhorbitantly expensive when found, William Hu writes about a lot more than just food, but his explanations of the symbolism and traditions of foods during the Spring Festival make this one a long-term goal. Until then, the library will have to suffice.
  22. Ick, what's all this about "relative sweetness" of sausage? What about the sausage in Sichuan: big chunks of pork and pork fat aggressively seasoned (read:spicy) stuffed into a casing, smoked over some wood until a thin film of creosote covers the links, then air-dried on people's balconies, storefronts, etc. Usually about 6"-7" long and an inch or so in diameter, not these skinny lop cheung thingies. Yum, just don't forget that thorough rinsing before cooking to wash away the black, smoky film.
  23. I wholeheartedly second this recommendation. Fantastic book. I think I saw a re-issue of this in a bookstore (U.S.) not too long ago, but not sure. My copy is over 20 years old. I'll have to check out this other when it appears over here. The title of this book is MRS. CHIANG'S SZECHWAN COOKBOOK and it is indeed out of print. There are, however, shelfloads of used copies available and you shouldn't really pay more than $5.00 for one. Check eBay, Amazon, or Half.com, as well as any used book search engine. It was first published in the mid-70's (1976, I think) and then again in the mid-80's, which makes it one of the first Sichuan cookbooks...along with Robert Delfs's THE GOOD FOOD OF SZECHWAN and Louise Stallard's COOKING SZECHUAN STYLE. Stallard's book was published in 1973 and Delfs's in 1974; I know Delfs relied heavily on Japanese translations of various sources (and was published by Kodansha) and, given the 1973 publishing date, it's likely that Stallard relied on sources far from the Mainland (unless she was a true revolutionary, Little-Red-Book-waving cook). This makes MRS. CHIANG'S the first collection in English sourced from firsthand knowledge. But the eponymous Mrs. Chiang was discovered in Taiwan, where her family had fled after Liberation. So, depending on your philosophy of "authentic," it really wasn't until Fuschia Dunlop's book of 2001 (this year for the US edition) that a collection of recipes was sourced directly from Sichuan. I found MRS. CHIANG's a most annoyingly written book: "Mrs. Chiang says this/that..." "Mrs. Chiang does this/that..." but with some useful recipes for comparison. But there's also fodder for nitpicking, again, given your "authentic" politics...for example, for me, there are no green peppers in Twice-Cooked Pork (dammit, who started that trend, anyway???).
  24. Dumpling Festival? Can someone explain the origin of that term? I thought it was Duanwujie, or the Double Fifth Festival, and sometimes, Dragon Boat Festival. I'd love to take a quick straw poll on where "Dumpling Festival" is used. The dumplings/tamales typically eaten on this day are called zongzi. For my vote, I'll go with sweet...I haven't quite learned to love the salty, fatty meat and glutinous rice combination. However, in baozi, jiaozi, and dim sum, it's a different story...
  25. Liaoning is up Manchuria way...perhaps Liaodong is just a bit east of that.
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