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Burmese Days

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  1. I'm pretty late to the party but while doing my seed shopping for the upcoming spring I believe I've solved this little mystery. Garlic is... well garlic. It's the bulb of the Allium sativum plant. Garlic Shoots aka Green Garlic is the immature garlic plant pulled out of the ground. The white part of the shoot is the garlic bulb that was planted. If left in the ground it would eventually grow a whole head of garlic. Garlic scapes are the flowering part of the garlic plant. It's normally picked from the plant to increase garlic bulb yield. In that sense garlic scapes are a delicious byproduct.
  2. Here's a list of some resources that may be worth a shot. A classic encyclopedia of antique hallmarks. Mostly antique hallmarks only. https://www.925-1000.com/ Guide to identification with a massive Maker's mark lookup table. Very well organized. Mostly antiques. https://www.kovels.com/marks-identification-guide/identification-help/silver-identification-guide.html If all else fails, reddit communities are always worth a shot. You never know what type of experts are waiting around for a post like this. Here's the subreddit for hallmarks. https://www.reddit.com/r/Hallmarks/
  3. In North American, Sichuan peppercorn can have a vast amount of seeds and stems. It really can vary. I've seen packages where 50% of the peppercorns still had their pits. Other times I've seen packages with less than 25%. Either way, it's clear. North America has bad Sichuan peppercorns. If less than, let's say... 25 percent? of your peppercorns, have their seeds - there's no problem grinding them. It's hard to tell the difference in quality from 5% pits and 10% pits. It's when theirs an exorbitant amount of pits that the "gritty" texture comes about. But if peppercorn producers aren't drying the peppercorns right, then there's probably a lot of other corners they're cutting. Often people attribute Sichuan peppercorns atrocious quality in the US to a ban on Sichuan peppercorns in America by the USDA. This is false. The ban was lifted in 2005 with the caveat that they must be pasteurized at "140 degrees Fahrenheit or above for 10 minutes or longer" to kill off any citrus canker bacteria that may be present. So it goes, this "pasteurization" is what's causing the low-quality peppercorns in the US. But how does that explain the massive amount of stems? All of the seeds in the bag? And can heating peppercorns to 140f really cause the peppercorns to lose so much flavor? I don't think so personally. This is substantiated by Taylor Holiday, an exporter of high-quality Chinese ingredients. "There is little discernible difference between those Sichuan peppercorns that had been heat-treated for export and those that hadn't... There's no excuse for the inferior, lowest-priced product, packaged years ago, sitting on US shelves besmirching Sichuan pepper's good name." I think it's fair to say that the US is getting the worst of the worst exported to us. There must not be enough demand for quality Sichuan peppercorn. Most of the time, the quality doesn't matter. As long as your bag doesn't have massive amounts of seeds and stems, you'll be okay. You may need to add more peppercorn to get the same numbing hit. Though, If you genuinely care about good Sichuan peppercorns, I'd recommend picking them up from Épices de Cru or perhaps The Mala Market. The downside is they are pricey. Save the good quality ones on a dish where the mala flavor profile is being fully utilized. For example, if you're making kou shui ji, you should definitely use the good stuff. If you're just adding some Sichuan peppercorns to a red oil or to cut the gamey-ness of meat in a quick marinade, use the cheap ones.
  4. Minor correction. That's not leek, it's dacong, aka welsh onion. Leeks are Allium ampeloprasum. Dacong are Allium Fistolum. Leeks are more onion-y while dacong functions mostly as a large scallion. They're often the preferred to scallion in northern china where it is used in a similar way as the south uses scallion. Here's a photo comparing (in order from left to right) dacong, leeks, and scallions. Source
  5. I agree that the ingredients aren't easily accessible and can be pricey. But that was never the goal of this book. It's not made with an American grocery store in mind. And neither is it the reason I bought the book. I wasn't trying to get a Chinese cookbook adapted for an American audience; I was trying to get a Chinese cookbook. One day soon I'll pick up one of Fuchsia's books, and I'm sure I'll love it. But my goal was the see what Chinese recipes looked like with no compromises or substitutions. For that purpose, Sichuan Cuisine has been a great book.
  6. If we're talking about hand pulled noodles, I can't help but plug mthmchris's great noodle pulling guide The guide goes into extreme depth for the average cook - Consider yourself warned But the biang biang noodle recipe is surprisingly easy and makes a great lunch.
  7. How interesting. I would assume it's closer to Latiaozi because it doesn't have any alkaline? It must take a huge amount of skill to pull them thin without any type of dough conditioner. How thin can he make the noodles?
  8. As silly as it is, I actual don't own any of Fuchsia's books. I've just started to get into cooking seriously so I haven't managed to build up my cookbook collection. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.
  9. Ladies and gentlemen, ... It arrived! I ended my last post reflecting on all the effort it took to find this book. I acknowledged that in all likelihood, this book would not be worth the work. I'm happy to say I was wrong. This book is a wonderful find, and I hope all of you get the chance to enjoy it one day. The most interesting part of all is this the recipe layout. I've never seen such cleanly outlined recipes. For the sake of an example, here's the Mapo Tofu recipe from the book. As the colloquial Sichuan dish in the West, it should be a good point of reference for many that read this post. Here's a transcription - Ingredients 300g tofu, 60g stir-fried beef mince, 20g baby leeks (chopped into sections), 80g cooking oil Seasonings A 25g Pixian chili bean paste, 10g ground chilies, 6g fermented soy beans Seasonings B 3g salt, 5g soy sauce, 1g MSG Seasonings C 1g ground roasted Sichuan pepper, 200g everyday stock, 30g cornstarch-water mixture Preparation 1, Cut the tofu into 1.8cm3 cubes, blanch in salty water, remove and soak in water. 2. Heat oil in a wok to 120°C, add Seasonings A and stir-fry to bring out the aroma. Add the stock, fried beef mince, season with Seasoning B, and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes; add the leeks and thicken with cornstarch-water mixture; Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with Seasoning C. So a lot to go through here. I'm going to split up my comments and critiques into two categories. One that critiques the recipe and one that critiques the recipe layout/choices. Comments on the recipe Beef Everything about the beef was a little strange in this dish. They called for the beef pre-cooked and didn't go over the cooking step at all. While this would normally be fine all though a little strange, in mapo tofu, it's bad. The whole point of the beef is to use the fried beef oil as the base for the dish. The mince itself is tertiary. Because the recipe never outlined cooking the beef, the average home cook would most likely not realize that they needed to save the oil for cooking the Pixian bean paste. Aromatics The first thing I noticed when I read this recipe was that it had no aromatics besides the Sichuan pepper powder if you count that. No garlic. Not even the white portion of the green onion. This struck me as strange till I looked a little deeper at what the hell "baby leeks" are in this context. Welcome to the wacky world of obscure vegetables and aromatics. Where scientific names are never listed, and regional names differ wildly. Were they calling for Dacong, aka welsh onion (Allium Fistolum)? It's very often used across Northern China Is it talking about actual leeks (Allium ampeloprasum)? Or perhaps it meant Chinese chives, aka garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). No, this has nothing to do with garlic, garlic scapes, or green garlic besides the fact that its an allium. Speaking of garlic, it could be green garlic; immature garlic pulled before the bulb has matured (Allium sativum). It looks quite like a large scallion. Possibly it's garlic scapes, the immature flower stalks of garlic (Allium sativum). They're often removed by farmers to focus all the garlic's energy into bulb growth. Because of this, they're plentiful and cheap across China. I can come up with at least five more, but I think you get the point The characters listed for it are "蒜苗节20克". From my limited google skills, I've come to the conclusion that they're suanmiao, aka green garlic. A good sub if you can't find any in your area is... well... garlic. I'd add it right after you finish frying seasonings A but before you add the stock. 10-15 seconds should be enough time for it to cook. While you'll miss a lot of the pleasent textural aspects, and the garlic flavor will be more homogeneous in the dish, it should work pretty well as far as subs go. If you take anything away from this, know that dacong are not leeks, no matter how often they're translated as leeks in the West. They both taste similar, but dacong is tender and soft while leek can be tough and crunchy. Dacong closer to a scallion than an onion in flavor, unlike leek. Also, Chinese leek can refer to dacong, leeks, and Chinese Chives - so be careful with that term. This is why sources like liuzhou's Chinese Vegetables Illustrated thread are so important. So after that detour, back to the recipe. Critiques of the recipe layout and recipe choices Seasoning categories The seasonings categories are a brilliant idea. It's the linchpin of what makes these recipes so concise and neat. It makes perfect sense when you think of most wok cooking. A basic fried rice or stir-fry are cooked very fast. The timing between adding different types of ingredients is crucial and can be a surprisingly narrow range. Take a look at this basic gailan stir-fry. I've listed estimated cooking times for each step. Quick fry of the beef and remove ~45 seconds Fry the garlic and ginger~ 10seconds Throw in onion and chili ~30 seconds Splash of Shaoxing wine Toss in the (mostly) cooked beef ~15 seconds Add soy sauce Quick mix ~10 seconds Add cornstarch slurry Quick mix ~10 seconds Add blanched gailan Quick mix ~10 seconds Drizzle with some toasted sesame oil You can see that once you start, it's a very fast process. This leaves the cook with very little time to fiddle with their recipe books and even less time to deliberate over what to do. Compare that to this version of the recipe, which consolidates each ingredient type into categories. Ingredients - Beef slivers, blanched gailan Seasonings A - ginger, garlic seasonings B - onion, chili Seasonings C - soy sauce, cornstarch slurry Quick fry of the beef and remove ~45 seconds Fry the seasonings A ~10seconds Throw in seasonings B ~30 seconds Splash of Shaoxing wine Toss in the (mostly) cooked beef ~15 seconds Add Seasoning C Quick mix ~10 seconds Add blanched gailan Quick mix ~10 seconds Drizzle with some toasted sesame oil While it may arguable be a longer recipe, it feels neater. It takes steps away from the frantic parts of the cooking process and places them at the start, where you have all the time in the world. It forces the cook to create a form of mise en place. Of course, a good cook can use both recipes perfectly well and make great food. But to someone like me, who does not prepare well enough ahead of time while cooking, the second recipe is inarguable better. While the idea may be brilliant, the execution is less than perfect. For example, 2 out of three of the ingredients in seasonings C are used before seasonings C is called for. There is no need for a whole category when you're just going to list for the ingredients individually anyway. Measurements As you can see, the measurements are all given in grams. I can't count how many cups vs. grams arguments I've read on forums, but I can tell you this is the first truly grams only cookbook I own. Instead of a teaspoon, it calls for things down to a single gram's worth. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I greatly prefer grams to cups, but for sums smaller than 5 grams~ volume just seems better. I'm willing to be wrong, though, and I'm excited to try this book out. I might need to get a scale with better resolution. Conclusion I'm very excited to use this book more. I showed the mapo tofu recipe as a point of refrenece for everyone, but this book has much more to it than just mapo tofu. There are so many interesting recipes that I'm excited to try. I'll update this thread if I make anything else fro the book.
  10. I looked pretty well but couldn't find any recipes which include any licorice-esque flavors. The closest I found was this spiced ma lai gao but it's spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. It might be helpful to know where you heared of this type of ma lai gao? Did you try it somewhere or read about it?
  11. Hello everyone, This is my first post, so please tell me if I've made any mistakes. I'd like to learn the ropes as soon as possible. I first learned of this cookbook from The Mala Market, easily the best online source of high-quality Chinese ingredients in the west. In the About Us page, Taylor Holiday (the founder of Mala Market) talks about the cookbooks that inspired her. This piqued my interest and sent me down a long rabbit hole. I'm attempting to categorically share everything I've found about this book so far. Reading it online Early in my search, I found an online preview (Adobe Flash required). It shows you the first 29 pages. I've found people reference an online version you can pay for on the Chinese side of the internet. But to my skills, it's been unattainable. The Title Because this book was never sold in the west, the cover, and thus title, were never translated to English. Because of this, when you search for this book, it'll have several different names. These are just some versions I've found online - typos included. Sichuan (China) Cuisine in Both Chinese and English Si Chuan(China) Cuisinein (In English & Chinese) China Sichuan Cuisine (in Chinese and English) Chengdu China: Si Chuan Ke Xue Ji Shu Chu Ban She Si Chuan(China) Cuisinein (Chinese and English bilingual) 中国川菜:中英文标准对照版 For the sake of convenience, I'll be referring to the cookbook as Sichuan Cuisine from now on. Versions There are two versions of Sichuan Cuisine. The first came out in 2010 and the second in 2014. In an interview from Flavor & Fortune, a (now defunct) Chinese cooking magazine, the author clarifies the differences. That is all of the information I could find on the differences. Nothing besides that offhanded remark. The 2014 edition seems to be harder to source and, when available, more expensive. Author(s) In the last section, I mentioned an interview with the author. That was somewhat incorrect. There are two authors! Lu Yi (卢一) President of Sichuan Tourism College, Vice Chairman of Sichuan Nutrition Society, Chairman of Sichuan Food Fermentation Society, Chairman of Sichuan Leisure Sports Management Society Du Li (杜莉) Master of Arts, Professor of Sichuan Institute of Tourism, Director of Sichuan Cultural Development Research Center, Sichuan Humanities and Social Sciences Key Research Base, Sichuan Provincial Department of Education, and member of the International Food Culture Research Association of the World Chinese Culinary Federation Along with the principal authors, two famous chefs checked the English translations. Fuchsia Dunlop - of Land of Plenty fame Professor Shirley Cheng - of Hyde Park New York's Culinary Institute of America Fuchsia Dunlop was actually the first (and to my knowledge, only) Western graduate from the school that produced the book. Recipes Here are screenshots of the table of contents. It has some recipes I'm a big fan of. ISBN ISBN 10: 7536469640 ISBN 13: 9787536469648 As far as I can tell, the first and second edition have the same ISBN #'s. I'm no librarian, so if anyone knows more about how ISBN #'s relate to re-releases and editions, feel free to chime in. Publisher Sichuan Science and Technology Press 四川科学技术出版社 Cover Okay... so this book has a lot of covers. The common cover A red cover A white cover A white version of the common cover An ornate and shiny cover There may or may not be a "Box set." At first, I thought this was a difference in book editions, but that doesn't seem to be the case. As far as covers go, I'm at a loss. If anybody has more info, I'm all ears. Buying the book Alright, so I've hunted down many sites that used to sell it and a few who still have it in stock. Most of them are priced exorbitantly. AbeBooks.com ($160 + $15 shipping) Ebay.com - used ($140 + $4 shipping) PurpleCulture.net ($50 + $22 shipping) Amazon.com ($300 + $5 shipping + $19 tax) A few other sites in Chinese I bought a copy off of PurpleCuture.net on April 14th. When I purchased Sichuan Cuisine, it said there was only one copy left. That seems to be a lie to create false urgency for the buyer. My order never updated past processing, but after emailing them, I was given a tracking code. It has since landed in America and is in customs. I'll try to update this thread when (if) it is delivered. Closing thoughts This book is probably not worth all the effort that I've put into finding it. But what is worth effort, is preserving knowledge. It turns my gut to think that this book will never be accessible to chefs that have a passion for learning real Sichuan food. As we get inundated with awful recipes from Simple and quick blogs, it becomes vital to keep these authentic sources available. As the internet chugs along, more and more recipes like these will be lost. You'd expect the internet to keep information alive, but in many ways, it does the opposite. In societies search for quick and easy recipes, a type of evolutionary pressure is forming. It's a pressure that mutates recipes to simpler and simpler versions of themselves. They warp and change under consumer pressure till they're a bastardized copy of the original that anyone can cook in 15 minutes. The worse part is that these new, worse recipes wear the same name as the original recipe. Before long, it becomes harder to find the original recipe than the new one. In this sense, the internet hides information.
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