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Gary Soup

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  1. Socratic dialogue? Although we have an abundance of hemlock up here, could you really endorse a guy who ordered it for his last meal? Sorry Gary, but in these parts, when a big Pacific storm rolls over the coast we're much more favourably disposed to Nietzsche--someone we can really sink our teeth into when it's dark outside too. Besides, shouldn't we cast the net wider and ask the question as to precisely when Greater Vancouver displaced the Bay Area as the west coast's pre-eminent culinary destination? I'd warrant that it was about three years ago, six months after the tech-wreck but while we were still more than 30% happier to see you. ← Heck, I grew up across the river from the Ontario-Quebec border and used Kierkegaard to keep me warm in the winter when it was -40 F (which also happens to be -40 C). I'm not to the "when" yet, but the still working on the "if". I'm sure Vancouver has many gems of Chinese Restaurants, but getting information is kind of like LA and Mexican food; if you ask the non-Mexican locals for recommendations, they always come up with the same three restaurants. Three years and six months ago was about the time when the $1 US was $1.62 CAN and I was on the verge of buying a condo in Richmond, sight unseen, as a retirement hedge. Now that's 30% less likely, and my standards for good Chinese food in Van/Rich have gone up 30%. However, my meager retirement income would go a long way at the Richmond Public Market food court.....
  2. Let's not forget here that crabs and lobsters are essentially giant primeval insects, related to cockroaches.
  3. Joan, you give up too easily . Just trying to start a little Socratic dialogue, and hopefully draw out the Vancouver folks to defend/discuss the gems of Chinese cuisine in Vancouver/Richmond. There doesn't seem to be much of a knowledge base on this or the other message board about it.
  4. The Fruit Chan movie "Dumplings" had a great scene where the protagonist's wayward husband peeled and ate a third trimester balut as he fondled the leg of a young housemaid at poolside. That was one of the less provocative food-related images from the film.
  5. Boy, you're definitely going to have to go back to Vancouver, because I think it's safe to say that the SF Bay Area canNOT hold a candle to Vancouver in this area. ← I'll put that down to your LA snobbery (inferiority complex?) vis-a-vis the Bay Area coming through again. I'm guessing that Vancouver's Chinese food is Hong Kong-based, which makes it already Cantonese once removed. I avoided the pricey places in HK (and boy were they pricey!) in the three months I was there, but the affordable food in HK was nothing to write home about.
  6. I agree that the soy sauce and five spice overshadow the taste of tea leaves. However, I believe green tea is too "weak" to be used in making tea eggs. You need to use a strong flavor tea leave, such as Pu Er, to obtain the tea flavor. ← Maybe I'm being parochial here. My wife hails from green tea country, where people seldom even have black or red tea in the house. Also, I recall reading somewhere that tea eggs originated in Suzhou, and were originally made with biluochun tea.
  7. It sounds like you went to the left-most (non-halal) Xinjiang place. We had the same dish, only with beef instead of lamb. Oddly, our noodles seemed to have been cooked a bit too long. [Edited to say: Oops, I overlooked the fact that you said Xian, not Xinjiang. The soup we had at the Xinjiang place also came in a ceramic bowl and had lots of cilantro in it; it also came with a lamb option.]
  8. What do you mean by this? What are typical Shanghainese flavours? ← Sorry for being cryptically terse (I found my post already rambling more than I intended). I was referring to the Shanghainese tendency to prefer strong individual flavors rather than subtle melded ones. Along the same lines, Shanghainese chefs adhere religiously to the northern tenet of only two ingredients in a stir fry, and tend to extend it further by having one clearly primary and the other secondary. "Happy family" type dishes are generally eschewed, especially ones in a medium which allows flavors to mingle. The stuffed "youmian jing" as prepared by Shanghainese would have them resting in a bit of nearly neutral broth, or familiar "red" broth with the flavors of the ground pork, wheat gluten and red sauce easily parsed by the palate. The preparation at Chen's had them deep in a soup which had a lot of things going on in it, and presented a confusion of tastes which resulted in some furrowed brows in our party.
  9. A couple of comments: It's probably dawned on you that tea is one of the ingredients for "tea eggs" that you forgot to list. It doesn't matter a lot, since the tea flavor is overpowered by the soy sauce and spicing, but I believe green tea is traditional rather than black tea. Also, 5-spice is often used instead of just star anise. There's nothing more satisfying than grabbing a couple of hot tea eggs from a street vendor at the train station when you're rushing for a train at dawn on a chilly day!
  10. We haven't seen Shanghai or our apartment in two years (not to worry, it's busy collecting rent for our retirement nest egg). My view, though, reinforced by a weekend trip to Vancouver (see my report on the Canada board), is that if you know the culinary landscape you don't HAVE to go to China to get good restaurant food (localized street food is another matter). Ever since the Cultural Revolution trashed high cuisine, China has been playing catchup with Chinese food in the diaspora. Over the weekend, there was a story in the Globe and Mail's excellent series on "China Rising" about the current status of restaurants in China which contained this amazing assertion: I guess what the reporter is saying is that you can actually find better Chinese restaurants in Beijing than in Toronto
  11. I've just returned from a long weekend in Vancouver with my wife, S-I-L and S-I-L's husband in tow. I'm embarrased to admit that it was my first visit there after 42 years of living in California, but I shall return! If you read the Chinese food forum, you may know that I get a steady diet of home-cooked Shanghainese food, and am the self-appointed snapping turtle of xiaolong bao orthodoxy (I even registered to domain name xiaolongbao.com). Our whole party was jonesing for Shanghainese food and I in particular for xiaolong bao (sometimes referred to as "soup dumplings"). We were surprised at the number of Shanghainese Restaurants, Shanghainese people and Mandarin-speaking people we encountered. (Yes, we neglected the excellent Cantonese fare, but the SF Bay area can probably hold a candle to Van in that department, and we did have an agenda.) Two of our three dinners were at purportedly Shanghainese Restaurants, Shanghai Shin Ya in one of the Asia West malls (I still haven't got the geography straight) and Chen's Shanghai Restaurtant on Leslie Rd. Shanghai Shin Ya won our affections. The food, while not stellar, was as authentic as you can get for family-style Shanghainese food, and all of the staff and probably all of the customers except me were speaking Shanghainese (though I'll modestly allow that I can curse and order food in the dialect). They had a great version of yan du xian, the national soup of Shanghai, as it were, a dish so home-y that it's seldom even found in restauarants. We also had an even harder to find hashed doufu gan and garlic chive dish, a passable kaofu dish, a red-cooked fish dish and a falling-off-the-bone pork hock (tipang) which was blessedly not overly sweetened with rock sugar. Chen's Shanghai Restaurant, on the other hand, was one of those places that tries to be all things to all people, despite its name. Some dishes had characteristic Shanghainese ingredients, like the stuffed youmian jing, but were delivered in unfamiliar preparations without the stark flavor profiles of Shanghainese cuisine. The spicy fish slices, a familiar Sichuanese-with-Shanghainese-characteristics item on menus in Shanghai, was also delivered in a stock that was a muddle of flavors. I also got to sample three different xiaolong bao offerings, and was pleased to find that the xialong bao served at the Bejing-Shanghai Delicacies stall in the Richmond Public Market food court ranked with the best I have found in North America in the 12 years that I have been in the hunt. By unanimous decision of the three contentious Shanghainese in my party and myself, we returned for more a second day. The next stall over from the BJ-SH stall, "Tian Jing Food" also offered xiaolong bao and had an elegant picture of same on their sign, so my journalistic curiosity made me purchase a small order for side-by-side comparison, contrary to the advice of my fellow travelers (the goubuli from there had already bombed in our trials). TJ food's xiaolong bao were a disaster, with thick, brittle wrappers, a chewy, tasteless filling and no "soup". Chen's Shanghai Restaurant also offered xiaolong bao with dinner (Shanghai Shin Ya, like most restaurants in Shanghai, didn't have it on the dinner menu). The XLB at Chen's were something that a New York soup dumpling maven would love, being overly large, flabby, and souped up like the ones at Joe's Shanghai. They were flavorful enough, but far from the smaller, tightly constructed and delicately skinned model for xlb. Overall, I'd probably have to say that the Richmond Public Market was probably the highlight of the three days for our frugal bunch. The food court was simply amazing, with vendors of specialties from Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Xi'an, Xinjiang (2, including one halal), Taiwan, Chongqing, Guangdong, Singapore, and Hong Kong, that I can recall. At the produce stalls on the main floor, my wife and her sister were both ecstatic at finding White Bamboo, something they have never found locally. I'm not sure if it's a proscribed foodstuff, but I can now safely report that they both were succesful at "smuggling" a small supply into the US.
  12. I hear you on that. The beauty of the crab feasts is that they do all the work for you on most preparations. Of course, they also include one whole crab dish. A true Shanghainese wouldn't be denied the labor of love involved in cleaning the tiny creature of every edible morsel.
  13. You'll be in Shanghai at the height of the Shanghai "Hairy Crab" season. An absolute must, IMHO, is to partake of this noted freshwater delicacy, particularly at one of the major crab fests. Here's a descripton of four of them, culled from the listings at That's Shanghai, a good resource in itself. I couldn't find the current pricing, but they are typically quite reasonable by Western dining standards (and compared to what you may encounter in HK). Hairy Crab Menu The "Full Crab Menu" features from steamed hairy crab, chin chow cold crab to fried crab with pepper & salt, and special created stir-fried vegetarian crab roe with bean sprouts, many more. 11am-2.30pm, 6.30pm- 10.30pm, Dynasty, Renaissance Yangtze Hotel (62750000 ext 2282) Hairy Crab A Plenty Chef Sam and his team prepare the season's menu featuring crabmeat soup with green vegetables, baked clam with hairy crabmeat, stir fried crab roe, sauteed prawns with soft crabmeat, crabmeat stuffed and baked in eggplant, braised with asparagus, stewed with minced pork ball and in noodle soup. Prices start from RMB 38+ onwards. 11.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-10pm, Si Ji Xuan, Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai (6256 8888 ext 1280) Hairy Crab Festival Apart from the popular steamed hairy crabs, new creative dishes such as stuffed hairy crab meat in the whole orange; stuffed marinated hairy crab meat, onions and mushrooms in crab shell, stir-fried hairy crab claw meat are also available. A la carte menu. 11am-2.30pm, 5.30-10.30pm, Jade Coral Chinese Restaurant, Regal International East Asia Hotel (6415 5588 ext 2760) Hairy Crabs Feast Indulge you to new crab dishes like steamed crab meat, deep-fried crab meat balls, sauteed shark's fin with crab meat and steamed dumpling with crab meat. 11.30am-2pm, 5.30-10pm, Banquet Hall, Central Hotel Shanghai (5396 5000) The last listed is the most famous by far. It's prepared by Wang Bao He, Shanghai's most venerable restaurant. In case you have the misfortune of missing the crab feasts in Shanghai, Wu Kong (my favorite Hong Kong Shanghainese restaurant) will probably put on a good spread.
  14. Amoy is also manufactured in Hong Kong. Does the GM prohibition extend to HK?
  15. PBR=Pabst Blue Ribbon (gosh, where've you been?) PRB=Pearl River Bridge (established up-thread.)
  16. So, spill the beans, already! My theory is that if their are dueling pronunciations of a place name derived from a foreign language, the locals most likely use the less "correct" pronunciation. If not, there would be no contention. It's the outsiders who rely on models. It's Paso RoBULLS, San PEEdro, TuLAYre, St. HelEEna, etc.
  17. My wife, being Shanghainese, puts most of her marbles on the "lao" soy sauce. Kikkoman is her PBR of soy sauces, if not her PRB. I think it also saves her money on salt.
  18. My wife has adopted Kimlan, especially for her "lao" soy sauce, and Kikkoman as her "light" soy sauce (probably because the big plastic jugs at Costco are so cheap). She doesn't seem to have much use for flavored (mushroom or other) soy sauces. Pearl River Bridge is by far the most ubiquitous in Chinatown, but there are quite a few other options. For a while, Ju Ju was sending me out for an obscure brand that was only available at one shop that happened to be in the furthest reaches of Chinatown from us, but their supply fortunately dried up.
  19. More on "Shanghainese Ma La Doufu"...... Tonight I complimented Ju Ju on the better-than-usual ma la doufu she made for dinner. "It's not ma la doufu," she said. "It looks like and tastes like ma la doufu to me." "It's not Shanghainese ma la doufu," she clarified. "It's American ma la doufu." "Why is it American ma la doufu?" "Because I didn't use the [McCormick's Mapo Doufu Seasoning Mix] from Shanghai." "What did you use?" "Lao Gan Ma la jiang." "Lao Gan Ma is Chinese, isn't she?" I countered. "Yes." "So, how does that make it American?" "Because I bought it in America."
  20. There were more dishes coming, definitely a soup and an obligatory noodle dish, and I think more hot dishes (My SIL and MIL were also chipping in on kithcen duties). They may have been shooting for "8 Cold Dishes and 8 Hot Dishes". From the fuzzy picture (taken with my trusty old 0.8 megapixel Fujifilm DX-10) and my fuzzy sexagenarian memory), the dishes were, beginning with the outer circle, clockwise from bottom left: - Cantonese roast duck (store-bought) - Spring Rolls - Kaofu - Soy sauce chicken (duck?) wings - ?? Crystal Shrimp? - Jellyfish salad - lap cheong - Shanghai "egg rolls" - Pork and bamboo shoot slivers (maybe "yuxiang" flavor) Inner circle, clockwise from bottom: - Dungeness crab (steamed, probably ginger-scallion or ginger garlic prep) - "White-cooked" Chicken - Steamed fish One of the dipping sauces was for the chicen, the other for the crab.
  21. Shanghainese will serve any number of veggie or veggie and dried tofu dishes as cold dishes, though the veggies are generally parboiled. I guess these could be called "salads," as would jellyfish "salad." Raw shelled soybeans or fava beans, tomato slices, and cucumber are also served as kinds of salads. Raw leafy greens, never. The only dish I have heard referred to as "sala" (no "d") in Shanghainese is a form of potato salad, very similar to, and probably inspired by, Western potato salad.
  22. Yeah, the 60th is important and ominous, IMHO. I'd completed a complete life-cycle (12 animals X 5 elements) and began living on borrowed time. Here's part of the meal Ju-Ju tried to dispatch me with on my 60th:
  23. I'm also 62, but considered unadoptable. I'll be 63 before you get to Manitoba though. That's 63 in American years, but in Chinese reckoning I'd be 65. I've got Ju Ju trying to explain that to the Social Security and Medicare people. So far, nothing doing.
  24. Not necessarily my favorite but #1 in the hearts of Shanghainese is yan du xian, which is desribed well in this article. My wife omits the bacon, and often throws in bean thread and egg dumplings (dan jiao), which may be a reflection of her Wuxi origins. (Wuxi New Year's soup contains bean thread, egg dumplings and whole poached eggs in a rich chicken stock.) Not mentioned in the article, but another favorite of Shanghainese is Yellowfish Soup, which contains simmered whole carp. I happen to also be fond of Shanghai "Russian" soup (luosang tang), which is about as un-Chinese as you can get, containing beef, (Western) cabbage, tomatoes, potatoes, and a shot or two of ketchup as a secret ingredient.
  25. You read that right. It's her cheat, and it's her mother's cheat, too. McCormick's sells a lot of the stuff in Shanghai. Mapo doufu, which Shanghainese usually (and ironically) call mala doufu is, after all, outside the Shanghai cuisine tradition, and the dumbed-down version is exotic enough for them. I don't think Ju-Ju knows what a Sichuan peppercorn is.
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