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  1. An eG member recently asked me by private message about mushrooms in China, so I thought I'd share some information here. What follows is basically extracted from my blog and describes what is available in the markets and supermarkets in the winter months - i.e now. FRESH FUNGI December sees the arrival of what most westerners deem to be the standard mushroom – the button mushroom (小蘑菇 xiǎo mó gū). Unlike in the west where they are available year round, here they only appear when in season, which is now. The season is relatively short, so I get stuck in. The standard mushroom for the locals is the one known in the west by its Japanese name, shiitake. They are available year round in the dried form, but for much of the year as fresh mushrooms. Known in Chinese as 香菇 (xiāng gū), which literally means “tasty mushroom”, these meaty babies are used in many dishes ranging from stir fries to hot pots. Second most common are the many varieties of oyster mushroom. The name comes from the majority of the species’ supposed resemblance to oysters, but as we are about to see the resemblance ain’t necessarily so. The picture above is of the common oyster mushroom, but the local shops aren’t common, so they have a couple of other similar but different varieties. Pleurotus geesteranus, 秀珍菇 (xiù zhēn gū) (below) are a particularly delicate version of the oyster mushroom family and usually used in soups and hot pots. 凤尾菇 (fèng wěi gū), literally “Phoenix tail mushroom”, is a more robust, meaty variety which is more suitable for stir frying. Another member of the pleurotus family bears little resemblance to its cousins and even less to an oyster. This is pleurotus eryngii, known variously as king oyster mushroom, king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom or, in Chinese 杏鲍菇 (xìng bào gū). It is considerably larger and has little flavour or aroma when raw. When cooked, it develops typical mushroom flavours. This is one for longer cooking in hot pots or stews. One of my favourites, certainly for appearance are the clusters of shimeji mushrooms. Sometimes known in English as “brown beech mushrooms’ and in Chinese as 真姬菇 zhēn jī gū or 玉皇菇 yù huáng gū, these mushrooms should not be eaten raw as they have an unpleasantly bitter taste. This, however, largely disappears when they are cooked. They are used in stir fries and with seafood. Also, they can be used in soups and stews. When cooked alone, shimeji mushrooms can be sautéed whole, including the stem or stalk. There is also a white variety. Next up we have the needle mushrooms. Known in Japanese as enoki, these are tiny headed, long stemmed mushrooms which come in two varieties – gold (金針菇 jīn zhēn gū) and silver (银针菇 yín zhēn gū)). They are very delicate, both in appearance and taste, and are usually added to hot pots. Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇 chá shù gū). These I like. They take a bit of cooking as the stems are quite tough, so they are mainly used in stews and soups. But their meaty texture and distinct taste is excellent. These are also available dried. Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 jī tuǐ gū or “chicken leg mushrooms”. These are known in English as "shaggy ink caps". Only the very young, still white mushrooms are eaten, as mature specimens have a tendency to auto-deliquesce very rapidly, turning to black ‘ink’, hence the English name. Not in season now, but while I’m here, let me mention a couple of other mushrooms often found in the supermarkets. First, straw mushrooms (草菇 cǎo gū). Usually only found canned in western countries, they are available here fresh in the summer months. These are another favourite – usually braised with soy sauce – delicious! When out of season, they are also available canned here. Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇 zhū dù gū). These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find. And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳 mù ěr). It tastes of almost nothing, but is prized in Chinese cuisine for its crunchy texture. More usually sold dried, it is available fresh in the supermarkets now. Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the names most commonly around this part of China, but many variations do exist. Coming up next - the dried varieties available.
  2. This arose from this topic, where initially @Anna N asked about tea not being served at the celebratory meal I attended. I answered that it is uncommon for tea to be served with meals (with one major exception). I was then asked for further elucidation by @Smithy. I did start replying on the topic but the answer got longer than I anticipated and was getting away from the originally intended topic about one specific meal. So here were are.. I'd say there are four components to tea drinking in China. a) When you arrive at a restaurant, you are often given a pot of tea which people will sip while contemplating the menu and waiting for other guests to arrive. Dining out is very much a group activity, in the main. When everyone is there and the food dishes start to arrive the tea is nearly always forgotten about. The tea served like this will often be a fairly cheap, common brand - usually green. You also may be given a cup of tea in a shop if your purchase is a complicated one. I recently bought a new lap top and the shop assistant handed me tea to sip as she took down the details of my requirements. Also, I recently had my eyes re-tested in order to get new spectacles. Again, a cup of tea was provided. Visit someone in an office or have a formal meeting and tea or water will be provided. b) You see people walking about with large flasks (not necessarily vacuum flasks) of tea which they sip during the day to rehydrate themselves. Taxi drivers, bus drivers, shop keepers etc all have their tea flask. Of course, the tea goes cold. I have a vacuum flask, but seldom use it - not a big tea fan. There are shops just dedicated to selling the drinks flasks. c) There has been a recent fashion for milk tea and bubble tea here, two trends imported from Hong Kong and Taiwan respectively. It is sold from kiosks and mainly attracts younger customers. McDonald's and KFC both do milk and bubble teas. Bubble and Milk Tea Stall And Another And another - there are hundreds of them around! McDonald's Ice Cream and Drinks Kiosk. McDonald's Milk Tea Ad d) There are very formal tea tastings and tea ceremonies, similar in many ways to western wine tastings. These usually take place in tea houses where you can sample teas and purchase the tea for home use. These places can be expensive and some rare teas attract staggering prices. The places doing this pride themselves on preparing the tea perfectly and have their special rituals. I've been a few times, usually with friends, but it's not really my thing. Below is one of the oldest serious tea houses in the city. As you can see, they don't go out of their way to attract custom. Their name implies they are an educational service as much as anything else. Very expensive! Tea House Supermarkets and corner shops carry very little tea. This is the entire tea shelving in my local supermarket. Mostly locally grown green tea. Local Guangxi Tea The most expensive in the supermarket was this Pu-er Tea (普洱茶 pǔ ěr chá) from Yunnan province. It works out at ¥0.32per gram as opposed to ¥0.08 for the local stuff. However, in the tea houses, prices can go much, much higher!
  3. Today, I was honoured to be invited to lunch in a relatively nearby Miao village, where they were celebrating their good harvest. Before we could eat we were entertained by the some of the villagers. These women sang to us. Some men played their traditional Lusheng instruments. Then they had a tug-of war between the men and the women. The women won (but there were twice as many women as men!) Most people just hung around looking good in their best leisure wear. Finally, we were seated at a table, but before we could eat, we had to toast each other. These were some of my table companions. Old friends. Each table was furnished with two dips. On the left chilli, coriander/cilantro, Chinese chives in soy and sesame oil. On the right, duck's blood with chilli. Kou Rou - Roasted, then steamed pork belly and taro. Chicken If not this chap I had met earlier, then one of his relations. Chicken and duck giblets stir-fried with vegetables. Duck - Note beak on left so you are sure what you are eating. Deep fried carp Steamed Shrimp Water Spinach People watching people eating! Neighbouring Table All very amusing
  4. While there have been other Chinese vegetable topics in the past, few of them were illustrated And some which were have lost those images in various "upgrades". What I plan to do is photograph every vegetable I see and say what it is, if I know. However, this is a formidable task so it'll take time. The problem is that so many vegetables go under many different Chinese names and English names adopted from one or other Chinese language, too. For example, I know four different words for 'potato' and know there are more. And there are multiple regional preference in nomenclature. Most of what you will see will be vegetables from supermarkets, where I can see the Chinese labelling. In "farmer's" or wet markets, there is no labelling and although, If I ask, different traders will have different names for the same vegetable. Many a time I've been supplied a name, but been unable to find any reference to it from Mr Google or his Chinese counterparts. Or if I find the Chinese, can't find an accepted translation so have to translate literally. Also, there is the problem that most of the names which are used in the English speaking countries have, for historical reasons, been adopted from Cantonese, whereas 90% of Chinese speak Mandarin (普通话 pǔ tōng huà). But I will do my best to supply as many alternative names as I can find. I shall also attempt to give Chinese names in simplified Chinese characters as used throughout mainland China and then in traditional Chinese characters, now mainly only used in Hong Kong, Taiwan and among much of the Chinese diaspora. If I only give one version, that means they are the same in Simp and Trad. I'll try to do at least one a day. Until I collapse under the weight of vegetation. Please, if you know any other names for any of these, chip in. Also, please point out any errors of mine. I'll start with bok choy/choy. This is and alternatives such as pak choi or pok choi are Anglicised attempts at the Cantonese pronunciation of the Mandarin! However in Cantonese it is more often 紹菜; Jyutping: siu6 coi3. In Chinese it is 白菜. Mandarin Pinyin 'bái cài'. This literally means 'white vegetable' but really just means 'cabbage' and of course there are many forms of cabbage. Merely asking for bái cài in many a Chinese store or restaurant will be met with blank stares and requests to clarify. From here on I'm just going to translate 白菜 as 'cabbage'. So, here we go. Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis This is what you may be served if you just ask for baicai. Or maybe not. In much of China it is 大白菜 dà bái cài meaning 'big cabbage'. In English, usually known as Napa cabbage, Chinese cabbage, celery cabbage, Chinese leaf, etc. In Chinese, alternative names include 结球白菜 / 結球白菜 ( jié qiú bái cài ), literally knotted ball cabbage, but there are many more. This cabbage is also frequently pickled and becomes known as 酸菜 (Mand: suān cài; Cant: syun1 coi3) meaning 'sour vegetable', although this term is also used to refer to pickled mustard greens. Pickled cabbage.
  5. I love sesame paste, in Beijing its common to put it on nearly everything...well, maybe thats going a bit too far, but it is a near daily necessity for many simple, homestyle dishes like noodles or even just dipping slices of cucumber into sesame paste as a snack. I live in an area where there is an abundance of oriental markets, but whenever I've bought sesame paste from them, I've always been disappointed with the flavor. Even when doctored, the flavor is just too much. I've used a number of different brands and asked friends and family members in China as to what they do to turn the paste into something so wonderfully good and nothing has really helped. So now I turn to the experts of egullet for any tips and tricks that you have to offer. Any suggestions on brands and how you "doctor" the paste will be appreciated!
  6. I posted a similar and apparently provocative question (5 top restaurants in US) a while ago and the thread won't die. For good reason apparently: it's one of the ultimate and basic questions that is close to all our hearts: what is the best? Well, rather than talk about where is the Chinese food better, in Kuala Lampoor or Singapore, I think we should talk about the best Chinese restaurants/meals/foods we have had. Period. Which ones they were, what we ate, why it was so good, and of course where we had them.
  7. I love hot sauces of all kinds, but mainly the Asian types of hot sauce. I am not used to American types of hot sauce, such as Tobasco and the likes, because they are too sour for me. This is unusual for a Cantonese, as we typically avoid eating hot food. This habit only started in my college days. Perhaps that's the result of working in a few Sichuan/Beijing (the so-called "Imperial" style) restaurants. Hot sauces are a little bit like wines, in that there are different types that would go well with different types of food. Some are good with wonton noodle soup, some are good as condiments for stir-fries, some are good with cheung fun, and some are good for cooking only. A recent trip to the 99 Ranch Market, I walked down the isle that showed all kinds of Chinese hot sauces. I thought I was in heaven! Here are some of the hot sauces that are interesting: Ning Chi. This is a Taiwanese made. Chili with black bean sauce on the left. Chili with garlic on the right. These are "hot oil" (La You), mostly hot oil with a bit of garlic and chili. These are hot sauce "paste". Typically used as condiments in Vietnamese food (e.g. Pho and Vietnamese BBQ). Similar hot sauce "paste". Popular with Southeast Asian food. Many Chinese hot sauces. Typically these are quite salty and not suitable to be used as condiment. They can be used for cooking. This hot sauce is typically added to "Cheung Fun" (steamed rice noodles). Similar ones but other varieties: sweet chili garlic sauce, sweet chili sauce. They are hot and sweet. Sichuan hot sauce... in cans! Good for cooking for sure. I wonder if they are good as condiments. The famous Guilin style hot sauce. In Guilin, most use this to accompany their rice noodle dishes. Out of many hot sauces that I have tried, I have come to this conclusion: my personal most favorite brand is: Yank Sing Chili Pepper Sauce and Yank Sing XO Sauce. Yes they are made by the San Francisco famous Yank Sing dim sum restaurant inside the Rincon Center in downtown San Francisco. But I have known them over 20 years ago when Yank Sing was a small neighborhood restaurant selling wonton noodles and stir-fried entrees at the corner of Broadway and Powell. Their hot sauce has not changed much over the years. Before they distributed their hot sauce via the Asian markets, I used to buy half a dozen of them dropping by their restaurant every time I visited San Francisco! I would kill to know how they make their hot sauce. It is full of flavor. Very balanced and not exceptionally hot. (Perhaps that's from MSG? ) The only thing is: they are a bit expensive. Much higher compared to the counterpart. But, I have not seen even a close second. And in case you are wondering: yes, I have bought some of these hot sauces. I am going to post some of my evaluations on different brands and different types of hot sauces.
  8. I have some Lee Kum Kee, hot bean paste (Toban Djan). It seems tierd and whimpy to me; does anyone know of a better brand that is easy to find. I was wondering if anyone has had any of the chin's family recipe hot bean paste that they are always talking about on the Iron Chef? Is it in his book? Do I need to make my own to get the real deal?
  9. I've been on a stir-fry kick lately. The sauce I've been using varies little and is a hodgepodge of whatever I have on hand. Some soy sauce, some garlic black bean sauce, some Shaoxing wine, a little chicken broth, grated ginger and some corn starch to thicken it all up. I need to expand my sauce repertoire and am looking for new from-scratch recipes for stir-fry sauces. Or if you like using a store-bought sauce, what do you recommend?
  10. As Ben Sook requested: How many of you make and indulge in joong in May? Do you know the history behind this tradition? What are your family recipes? This is my joong session from last year: http://www.hillmans.soupbo.com/soos/joongzi.html May is always a busy teaching time for me so I don't have a set date to make mine. I do have my supplies on hand, so I will enter the fray when I can no longer control the drooling! As with all cook-offs, it is never too late to enter! I am still trying to make my siu mai and more attempts with dan tart.
  11. Everywhere around me are noodle places. When I go down town, I see even more. I find them interesting. I am in the south of China where the preference is for rice noodles. In the north, wheat is more common. But that's not the only choice you have to make. Here are a few noodle joints, all within ten minutes walk of my house. There are more (though some are still closed for the New Year holiday). This one specialises in not specialising. They are all rice noodles though. This one give more choice. You can have either rice noodles (粉 fěn) or wheat noodles (面 miàn), but again in a variety of styles Beef Noodles Lamb or Mutton Noodles Guilin Rice Noodles Mushroom Noodles Donkey Noodles Horse Noodles Snail Noodles Snail noodles is THE local dish. There are literally hundreds of shops selling this dish. More on this topic here. More to come
  12. Mid-Autumn festival is still a month away but mooncakes are starting to rear their ugly heads in SF Chinatown. I know people who actually like them, but I suspect most people view them as China's version of the fruitcake. They're for giving, not for eating, and you sort of know that whomever you give them to will give them to someone else. (At least that's my view.) Do you like mooncakes? If so, what style do you prefer, the Cantonese varieties that have everything but the kitchen sink in them, or the more spartan northern style? Meat-filled Jiangsu-style? Ice Cream mooncakes (I kid you not)? Any mooncake memories?
  13. A few days ago, I was given a lovely gift. A big jar of preserved lemons. I know Moroccan preserved lemons, but had never met Chinese ones. In fact, apart from in the south, in many parts of China it isn't that easy to find lemons, at all. These are apparently a speciality of the southern Zhuang minority of Wuming County near Nanning. The Zhuang people are the largest ethnic minority in China and most live in Guangxi. These preserved lemons feature in their diet and are usually eaten with congee (rice porridge). Lemon Duck is a local speciality and they are also served with fish. They can be served as a relish, too. They are related to the Vietnamese Chanh muối. I'm told that these particular lemons have been soaking in salt and lemon juice for eleven years! So, of course, you want to know what they taste like. Incredibly lemony. Concentrated lemonness. Sour, but not unpleasantly so. Also a sort of smoky flavour. The following was provided by my dear friend 马芬洲 (Ma Fen Zhou) who is herself Zhuang. It is posted with her permission. How to Make Zhuang Preserved Lemons By 马芬洲 Zhuang preserved lemons is a kind of common food for the southern Zhuang ethnic minority who live around Nanning Prefecture of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China. The Zhuang people like to make it as a relish for eating with congee or congee with corn powder. This relish is a mixture of chopped preserved lemons, red chilli and garlic or ginger slice in soy sauce and peanut oil or sesame oil. Sometimes the Zhuang people use preserved lemons as an ingredient in cooking. The most famous Zhuang food in Guangxi is Lemon Duck, which is a common home cooked dish in Wuming County, which belongs to Nanning Prefecture. The following steps show you how to make Zhuang preserved lemons. Step 1 Shopping Buy some green lemons. Step 2 Cleaning Wash green lemons. Step 3 Sunning Leave green lemons under the sunshine till it gets dry. Step 4 Salting If you salt 5kg green lemons, mix 0.25kg salt with green lemons. Keep the salted green lemons in a transparent jar. The jar must be well sealed. Leave the jar under the sunshine till the salted green lemons turn yellow. For example, leave it on the balcony. Maybe it will take months to wait for those salted green lemons to turn yellow. Later, get the jar of salted yellow lemons back. Unseal the jar. Then cover 1kg salt over the salted yellow lemons. Seal well the jar again. Step 5 Preserving Keep the sealed jar of salted yellow lemons at least 3 years. And the colour of salted yellow lemons will turn brown day by day. It can be dark brown later. The longer you keep preserved lemons, the better taste it is. If you eat it earlier than 2 years, it will taste bitter. After 3 years, it can be unsealed. Please use clean chopsticks to pick it. Don’t use oily chopsticks, or the oil will make preserved lemons go bad. Remember to seal the jar well after picking preserved lemons every time.
  14. I have just returned home after four days (three nights) in Guilin. This was a business trip, so no exotic tales this time. Just food. Anyway, despite its reputation, Guilin is actually a rather dull city for the most part - anything interesting lies outside the city in the surrounding countryside. I was staying in the far east of the city away from the rip-off tourist hotels and restaurants and spent my time with local people eating in normal restaurants. I arrived in Wednesday just in time for lunch. LUNCH WEDNESDAY We started with the obligatory oil tea. Oil Tea Omelette with Chinese Chives Stir-fried Mixed Vegetables Sour Beef with Pickled Chillies Cakes* Morning Glory / Water Spinach** * I asked what the cakes were but they got rather coy when it came to details. It seems these are unique to this restaurant. ** The Chinese name is 空心菜 kōng xīn cài, which literally means 'empty heart vegetable', describing the hollow stems.
  15. Hello all, I need help figuring out which part of the sichuan peppercorns I bought to use. From what I've read, I think I'm supposed to use the hulls rather than the black seeds. Toast the hulls and grind them up, correct? This is for use in my fave dish, mapo tofu. Thanks for your help! (Well, that didn't work. I guess I don't know how to upload a photo. Nuts. Maybe I don't need a photo? Maybe just tell me whether to use the hulls or the black seeds, or both?)
  16. 潮州小吃 -- Wandering Fujian raw markets, eating street food and crazy seafood banquets, mostly in Cantonese. 鸭血粉丝汤 -- Making duck blood soup. 河南拉面美眉 -- Henan girl whipping the dough. 西安小吃中地回民街 -- Hui Chinese street food in Xi'an. 鱼香肉丝 -- Cooking Yu Xiang Rou Si. etc.
  17. Retirement can do strange things to people I have an uncle who has always been a bit of DIY freak. As he and my aunt get older - they are becoming more and more careful of what kind of food they eat. Now that that they don't have growing kids to feed - they try to eat as much organic food as possible and grow alot it themselves. News reports out of HK last year detailed alot of the lack of quality controls in foods produced in China - so they decided to start making their own soy sauce. I wanted to provide a little update as to how this is done - and I was surprised that it was not as hard as you might think - just a little time and care. My uncle remembers growing up in post war Hong Kong when food was scarce and making ends meet was not easy. The war had left my grandmother virtually broke (from bribing officials to keep her kids safe), widowed, and still having to find a way to feed 8 kids. One easy source of protein was to make miso at home - fermented soy beans that was cooked with a little pickled plum and rock sugar. My uncle said it seemd like the most delicous food at the time. Making soy sauce is simply removing the liquid that the soy beans are fermented in. They still end up with miso that they use as a condiment for cooking things like fish and pork - it gives a plumlike sourness . Now in Vancouver - we don't get as much sun as we would like - so the fermeted soy mash does not cook in the sun for as long as it should - so there is more acidity in it then you would find in industrial soy. Still - its pretty good. Dried organic soy beans are cooked till they are soft and fall apart into a meal when squeezed between your fingers. The soy beans are mixed with flour - ratio that my uncle uses is 16 oz of soy beans (dry weight) is mixed with 12 oz of flour. The beans and flour is kneaded together to make a loaf. My uncle says that from what he's seen, alot of industrial producers skip this step. The loaf is then cut up into disks - and the whole basket is wrapped in layers of towels to promote mold growth. The mold growth part takes about a week - I will take some pictures then if the mold takes hold like it should. The saltiness for the soy sauce will come later when the fremented disks are soaked in a brine that contains 8 oz of salt. It's funny - the salt water has been prepared for a few weeks now. Large containers sitting out in the sun (under plexiglass). I actually don't understand why this needs to be done - but my uncle says that my grandmother would always let the sun cook out the water - sometimes for a whole month. Perhaps this was a way to remove impurities - when tap water was not so safe - and nowadays, it may be good to let some of the chemicals used to treat water, evaporate off. Vancouver is notorious for its use of cholrine. Hopefully the mold will take hold and I will have new pictures soon. BTW - I have no idea what kind of mold takes hold and how my uncle ensures that it is not some killer strain. So - that's my attempt at a legal disclaimer.
  18. It is possibly not well-known that China has some wonderful hams, up there with the best that Spain can offer. This lack of wide -knowledge, at least in the USA, is mainly down to regulations forbidding their importation. However, for travellers to China and those in places with less restrictive policies, here are some of the best. This article from the WSJ is a good introduction to one of the best - Xuanwei Ham 宣威火腿 (xuān wēi huǒ tuǐ) from Yunnan province. This Ingredient Makes Everything Better I can usually obtain Xuanwei ham here around the Chinese New Year/Spring Festival, but I also have a good friend who lives in Yunnan who sends me regular supplies. The article compares it very favourably with jamon iberico, a sentiment with which I heartily agree. Xuanwei Ham Xuanwei Ham more coming soon.
  19. I guess I do about half my food shopping in my local farmers' market and the other half in supermarkets. Today, I went to my favourite supermarket. They have lovely, very fresh vegetables, great fish and well... there isn't much they don't have. Here are a few pictures, beginning with the vegetable section:
  20. Probably a stupid question, but just wondered what Chinese Five Spice Powder is used in? Specific dishes, or everything? Thanks!
  21. A few weeks ago I bought a copy of this cookbook which is a best-selling spin off from the highly successful television series by China Central Television - A Bite of China as discussed on this thread. . The book was published in August 2013 and is by Chen Zhitian (陈志田 - chén zhì tián). It is only available in Chinese (so far). There are a number of books related to the television series but this is the only one which seems to be legitimate. It certainly has the high production standards of the television show. Beautifully photographed and with (relatively) clear details in the recipes. Here is a sample page. Unlike in most western cookbooks, recipes are not listed by main ingredient. They are set out in six vaguely defined chapters. So, if you are looking for a duck dish, for example, you'll have to go through the whole contents list. I've never seen an index in any Chinese book on any subject. In order to demonstrate the breadth of recipes in the book and perhaps to be of interest to forum members who want to know what is in a popular Chinese recipe book, I have sort of translated the contents list - 187 recipes. This is always problematic. Very often Chinese dishes are very cryptically named. This list contains some literal translations. For some dishes I have totally ignored the given name and given a brief description instead. Any Chinese in the list refers to place names. Some dishes I have left with literal translations of their cryptic names, just for amusement value. I am not happy with some of the "translations" and will work on improving them. I am also certain there are errors in there, too. Back in 2008, the Chinese government issued a list of official dish translations for the Beijing Olympics. It is full of weird translations and total errors, too. Interestingly, few of the dishes in the book are on that list. Anyway, for what it is worth, the book's content list is here (Word document) or here (PDF file). If anyone is interested in more information on a dish, please ask. For copyright reasons, I can't reproduce the dishes here exactly, but can certainly describe them. Another problem is that many Chinese recipes are vague in the extreme. I'm not one to slavishly follow instructions, but saying "enough meat" in a recipe is not very helpful. This book gives details (by weight) for the main ingredients, but goes vague on most condiments. For example, the first dish (Dezhou Braised Chicken), calls for precisely 1500g of chicken, 50g dried mushroom, 20g sliced ginger and 10g of scallion. It then lists cassia bark, caoguo, unspecified herbs, Chinese cardamom, fennel seed, star anise, salt, sodium bicarbonate and cooking wine without suggesting any quantities. It then goes back to ask for 35g of maltose syrup, a soupçon of cloves, and "the correct quantity" of soy sauce. Cooking instructions can be equally vague. "Cook until cooked". A Bite of China - 舌尖上的中国- ISBN 978-7-5113-3940-9
  22. It's lotus pod season here in southern China. We get dried lotus seeds all year round and there is nothing wrong with them! But at this time of year, for a few weeks, we get roadside vendors selling fresh lotus pods. The idea is to pop out the seeds and eat them as they are. I've never seen these in supermarkets or even regular markets - always street vendors. Anyway, the two in the picture below cost me a massive 2元 each (31 cents US; 20 pence UK). Here are the popped out seeds But what do they taste like? I can't improve on this: Mulan was sitting on a low chair, picking lotus seeds from a pod in her hand, and looking at the lake through the red balustrades. Redjade, having been brought up in Hangchow, was quite familiar with such things and was working away at the seeds with her nimble fingers, sitting at a high table with Afei and Huan-erh. Mr. Yao lounged in a low rattan chair. Lifu was sitting close to Mulan on the balcony and watching her pick the seeds. He had eaten sugared lotus seeds, but he had never eaten them fresh from the pod, and was staring with great interest. “Do you eat them raw like that?” he asked rather foolishly. “Of course,” said Mulan, and she took one she had just plucked out and gave it to him. Lifu tasted it and said, “It is good, but different from the sugared ones. It is so mild you almost don’t taste anything.” “That is just it,” said Mulan. “We eat it just for its pure mildness and its slight fragrance. That is why a busy man cannot enjoy it. You must not think of anything when you eat it.” Mulan showed him how to pick a seed, and after eating it, Lifu exclaimed with delight. “If you shout, you will lose the flavor again,” said Mulan. “You must chew them slowly, one by one. After a while, take a sip of good tea and you will find a pure fragrance in your cheeks and palate for a long time.” Lin Yutang – Moment in Peking, 1939
  23. Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic. The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and lead us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large". We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong. The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels. By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty. This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window! Then into lunch: Chicken Soup The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious. Stir fried lotus root Daikon Radish Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked. Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable Fried Beans Steamed Pumpkin Chicken Beef with Bitter Melon Glutinous (Sticky) Rice Oranges The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos. After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation. Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil. As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves. And here they are: After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
  24. I have just returned home to China from an almost two week trip to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. To get there I first travelled by train to the provincial capital, Nanning. The local airport only does domestic flights, whereas there are direct flights from Nanning. The flight time required that I stay overnight at the Aviation Hotel in Nanning, from which there is a regular direct bus to the airport. The trip to Nanning is about an hour and a half and passes through some nice karst scenery. After booking into the hotel, I set off for my favourite Nanning eating destination. Zhongshan Night market is a well known spot and very popular with the locals. I had forgotten that it was a local holiday - the place is always busy, but that night it was exceptionally so. It consists of one long street with hundreds of stalls and is basically a seafood market, although there are a few stalls selling alternatives. Filled myself with seafood (and some of that blood sausage above), slept soundly and, next morning, flew to Ho Chi Minh City. The rest of my trip can be seen here:
  25. Years ago, when I visited Tokyo, I ate in a small but fascinating restaurant called 'It's Vegetable' which is now, unfortunately, closed. The chef was from Taiwan, and he made Buddhist vegetarian and vegan dishes that resembled meat. During my visit, several monks wearing robes stopped in to eat dinner. The dishes were pretty amazing. I understood some of them, like using seitan to mimic chicken in stir fry dishes, others used tofu products like yuba, but, others were complex and obviously difficult. One very notable dish we enjoyed was a large 'fish' fillet designed to serve several people. It had a 'skin' made of carefully layered 'scales' cut from nori and attached to the surface. Inside, the white 'flesh' flaked and tasted much like a mild fish. Anyway, apparently Buddhist fake meat meals are very popular in Taiwan and many places, cheap through to fine dining serve them. Yes, if I worked on it for a while, I could probably refine one or two dishes on my own, but, I am wondering if there's a Modernist Cuisine type cookbook for skillfully making these mock meats from scratch? (I have heard that some items are commercially made and available frozen there, much like soy-based burgers are in the US.) I am willing to try almost any offering, even if it's entirely in Chinese. And, I know how to use remailers to purchase regional items from the various local retailers worldwide who do not ship to the US.
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