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Posts posted by chengdude

  1. Tomorrow night, many Chinese are going to prepare tong yuan in celebration of the winter solstice(I think). For those who celebrate, how do you usually prepare them?

    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. Nicks Ice cream for incredible Tre Sclini, a choc ice cream.

    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.

    I am struggling but I think it was something like Uncle Tai's Hunan Yunan or something like that.

    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.

    There used to be a high end Japanese place off Westheimer as I remember with a pond in the middle with fish swimming.

    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. Re detecting counterfeit PRB, for a while they had a hologram sticker on some bottles here in HK, not sure if that happened everywhere or if they're still doing it.

    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. Did I hear somewhere that they bought Mrs. Baird's? Or am I making that up?

    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.

  7. 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.

  8. Tea is such an integral part of the diining experience at Chinese restaurants, that they should taking serving tea seriously.

    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.

  9. From the Chronicle, dated May 2, 2004:

    Believe it or not

    Restaurateur Joe Mannke is closing his venerable Rotisserie for Beef & Bird after 26 years at the helm of the west side's premiere sophisticated eatery. But he's not dropping the apron or the toque. Mannke will continue to serve up French tradition at his Bistro Le Cep.

    Two restaurants were one too many for Mannke, who says it's time to write a book, travel more and enjoy the fruits of his long career.

    Rotisserie for Beef & Bird is open through May 22 with the traditional Mother's Day brunch still on for Sunday.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. I am curious as to why everyone thinks that certain types/regional Chinese cuisines have to be so "hot" as to be inedible. Chinese food is, above all else, supposed to harmonious, flavourful and nuanceful. You can't get those characteristics with an overpowering, taste bud numbing presence of capsaicin

    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.

  13. thanks. i see that it's true, but exactly when did it happen? was it to secure access to the yangtze river?

    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.

  14. 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.

  15. Does the Lin book actually tell you how to make noodles or just how to cook them?  We're gearing up to try and perfect Cantonese mein, I have a bottle of kan sui (I think it's just potassium carbonate) that we're going to play around with to get a nice firm texture, but a head start from a book would be great.

    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.

  16. Some notable selections from the shelves:

    Coffee-Table/Picture Books:




    International Culinary Society THE GREAT BOOK OF CHINESE COOKING


    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:



    Wei Chuan Editions CHINESE SNACKS


    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.



    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.





    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).


    Anderson THE FOOD OF CHINA



    Simoons FOOD IN 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:


    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:


    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.

  17. 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.

  18. Well as long as we're on the topic ... I really like "Mrs. Chiang's Sichuan Kitchen (or Cooking?".  Food out of that book comes closest to the simple yet amazingly tasty home-style cooking I've had in Sichuan. It may be out of print though....

    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???).

  19. The Chinese Dumpling Festival (also known as the Dragon Boat Festival) is celebrated on the 5th day of the 5th lunar month - which falls on 4th June this year.

    What is your favourite Chinese dumpling? Do you like the sweet or savoury ones?

    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...

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