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Found 290 results

  1. 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.
  2. Today is 元宵 yuán xiāo, the Lantern Festival marking the 15th day of the first lunar month and the last day of the Spring Festival (春节 chūn jié) which begins with the Chinese New Year on the 1st of the lunar month. Today is the day for eating 汤圆 tāng yuán, sweet glutinous rice balls. I was invited to take part in a celebration ceremony this morning in what is considered to be the city's most beautiful park. I half agree. It lies in the south of the city, surrounded by karst hill formations, but for me, the park itself is over-manicured. I like a bit of wild. That said, there are said to be around 700 species of wildlife, but most of that is on the inaccessible hills. There are pony rides for the kids and some of the locals are a bit on the wild side. Park Entrance Karst Hill Although the park has beautiful flower displays and great trees, what I love most is the bamboo. Such a beautiful plant and so useful. They had also hung the traditional red lanterns on some of the trees. The main reason for us to be there was to be entertained by, at first, these three young men who bizarrely welcomed us with a rendition of Auld Lang Syne played on their bamboo wind instruments - I forget what they are called. They are wearing the traditional dress of the local Zhuang ethnic minority. Then some local school kids sang for us and did a short play in English. Clap, clap, clap. Then on to the main event. We were asked to form groups around one of four tables looking like this. Appetising, huh? What we have here at top is a dough made from glutinous rice flour. Then below black sesame paste and ground peanut paste. We are about to learn to make Tangyuan, glutinous rice balls. Basically you take a lump of dough, roll it into a ball, then flatten it, then form a cup shape. add some of each or either of the two pastes and reform the ball to enclose the filling. Simple! Maybe not. Some of us were more successful than others These are supposed to be white, but you can see the filling - not good; its like having egg showing all over the outside of your scotch eggs. Modesty Shame prevents me telling you which were mine. At least one person seemed to think bigger is better! No! They are meant to be about an inch in diameter. Sometimes size does matter! Finally the balls we had made were taken away to be boiled in the park's on-site restaurant. What we were served were identically sized balls with no filling showing. They are served in this sweet ginger soup. The local pigs probably had ours for lunch. The orange-ish and purplish looking ones are made in the same way, but using red and black glutinous rice instead. Fun was had, which was the whole point.
  3. The Kitchen God

    Today is 小年 (xiǎo nián) which literally means 'little [new] year', but is something more. It takes place approximately a week before Chinese New Year (February 16th this time round - Year of the Dog) and is the festival for the Kitchen God In traditional animist Chinese thought, there is a god for everything and the kitchen god is responsible for all aspects of, you guessed, the kitchen. Once a year (today), the kitchen god pops back to report to the god of heaven on the happenings of the last 12 months. Therefore we have to placate him so he makes a good report. My neighbours are busy preparing offerings of sticky rice and assorted sugary confections for the god, so that when he eats them, his teeth and lips will stick together and he will be unable to report any bad behaviour. An alternative theory suggest the sugary stuff will sweeten his words. Then we'll be OK for another year! This is the fellow
  4. Dining with the Dong

    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.
  5. Munching with the Miao

    Last week, Liuzhou government invited a number of diplomats from Laos, Malaysia, Indonesia, Myanmar/Burma, Poland, and Germany to visit the city and prefecture. They also invited me along. We spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday introducing the diplomats to the culture of the local ethnic groups and especially to their food culture. First off, we headed two hours north into the mountains of Rongshui Miao Autonomous County. The Miao people (苗族 miáo zú), who include the the Hmong, live in the mid-levels of mountains and are predominantly subsistence farmers. Our first port of call was the county town, also Rongshui (融水 róng shuǐ, literal meaning: Melt Water) where we were to have lunch. But before lunch we had to go meet some people and see their local crafts. These are people I know well from my frequent work trips to the area, but for the diplomats, it was all new. So, I had to wait for lunch, and I see no reason why you shouldn't either. Here are some of the people I live and work with. This lovely young woman is wearing the traditional costume of an unmarried girl. Many young women wear this every day, but most only on festive occasions. Her hat is made from silver (and is very heavy). Here is a closer look. Married women dispense with those gladrags and go for this look: As you can see she is weaving bamboo into a lantern cover. The men tend to go for this look, although I'm not sure that the Bluetooth earpiece for his cellphone is strictly traditional. The children don't get spared either This little girl is posing with the Malaysian Consul-General. After meeting these people we went on to visit a 芦笙 (lú shēng) workshop. The lusheng is a reed wind instrument and an important element in the Miao, Dong and Yao peoples' cultures. Then at last we headed to the restaurant, but as is their custom, in homes and restaurants, guests are barred from entering until they go through the ritual of the welcoming cup of home-brewed rice wine. The consular staff from Myanmar/Burma and Malaysia "unlock" the door. Then you have the ritual hand washing part. Having attended to your personal hygiene, but before entering the dining room, there is one more ritual to go through. You arrive here and sit around this fire and wok full of some mysterious liquid on the boil. On a nearby table is this Puffed rice, soy beans, peanuts and scallion. These are ladled into bowls. with a little salt, and then drowned in the "tea" brewing in the wok. This is 油茶 (yóu chá) or Oil Tea. The tea is made from Tea Seed Oil which is made from the seeds of the camellia bush. This dish is used as a welcoming offering to guests in homes and restaurants. Proper etiquette suggests that three cups is a minimum, but they will keep refilling your cup until you stop drinking. First time I had it I really didn't like it, but I persevered and now look forward to it. L-R: Director of the Foreign Affairs Dept of Liuzhou government, consuls-general of Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos. Having partaken of the oil tea, finally we are allowed to enter the dining room, where two tables have been laid out for our use. Let the eating, finally, begin. In no particular order: Steamed corn, taro and sweet potato Bamboo Shoots Duck Banana leaf stuffed with sticky rice and mixed vegetables and steamed. Egg pancake with unidentified greenery Stir fried pork and beans Stir fried Chinese banana (Ensete lasiocarpum) Pig Ears This may not look like much, but was the star of the trip. Rice paddy fish, deep fried in camellia tree seed oil with wild mountain herbs. We ate this at every meal, cooked with slight variations, but never tired of it. Stir fried Greens Our meal was accompanied by the wait staff singing to us and serving home-made rice wine (sweetish and made from the local sticky rice). Everything we ate was grown or reared within half a kilometre of the restaurant and was all free-range, organic. And utterly delicious. Roll on dinner time. On the trip I was designated the unofficial official photographer and ended up taking 1227 photographs. I just got back last night and was busy today, so I will try to post the rest of the first day (and dinner) as soon as I can.
  6. We are all used to unami now. Maybe it's time to consider gan. Particularly found in teas, but also in other foods. An interesting article from a great magazine. Going, going gan
  7. Celtuce and Its Tops

    I’m an idiot. It’s official. A couple of weeks back, on another thread, the subject of celtuce and its leafing tops came up (somewhat off-topic). Someone said that the tops are difficult to find in Asian markets and I replied that I also find the tops difficult to find here in China. Nonsense. They are very easy to find. They just go under a completely different name from the stems – something which had slipped my very slippery mind. So, here on-topic is some celtuce space. First, for those who don’t know what celtuce is, let me say it is a variety of lettuce which looks nothing like a lettuce. It is very popular in southern mainland China and Taiwan. It is also known in English as stem lettuce, celery lettuce, asparagus lettuce, or Chinese lettuce. In Chinese it is 莴笋 wō sǔn or 莴苣 wō jù, although the latter can simply mean lettuce of any variety. Lactuca sativa var. asparagina is 'celtuce' for the technically minded. Those in the picture are about 40 cm (15.7 inches) long and have a maximum diameter of 5 cm (2 inches). The stems are usually peeled, sliced and used in various stir fries, although they can also be braised, roasted etc. The taste is somewhere between lettuce and celery, hence the name. The texture is more like the latter. The leafing tops are, as I said, sold separately and under a completely different name. They are 油麦菜 yóu mài cài. These taste similar to Romaine lettuce and can be eaten raw in salads. In Chinese cuisine, they are usually briefly stir fried with garlic until they wilt and served as a green vegetable – sometimes with oyster sauce. If you can find either the stems or leaves in your Asian market, I strongly recommend giving them a try.
  8. “… and so it begins!” Welcome to “Tales from the Fragrant Harbour”! In the next couple of days I am hoping to take you to a little excursion to Hong Kong to explore the local food and food culture as well as maybe a little bit more about my personal culinary background. I hope I can give you a good impression of what life is like on this side of the globe and am looking very forward to answering questions, engaging in spirited discussions and just can share a bit of my everyday life with you. Before starting with the regular revealing shots of my fridge’s content and some more information on myself, I’d like to start this blog and a slightly different place. For today's night, I ‘d like to report back from Chiba city, close to Tokyo, Japan. It’s my last day of a three day business trip and it’s a special day here in Japan: “Doyou no ushi no hi”. The “midsummer day of the ox”, which is actually one of the earlier (successful) attempts of a clever marketing stunt. As sales of the traditional winter dish “Unagi” (grilled eel with sweet soy sauce) plummeted in summer, a clever merchant took advantage of the folk tale that food items starting with the letter “U” (like ume = sour plum and uri = gourd) dispel the summer heat, so he introduced “Unagi” as a new dish best enjoyed on this day. It was successful, and even in the supermarkets the sell Unagi-Don and related foods. Of course, I could not resist to take advantage and requested tonight dinner featuring eel. Thnaks to our kind production plant colleagues, I had what I was craving … (of course the rest of the food was not half as bad) Todays suggestion: Unagi (grilled eel) and the fitting Sake ! For starters: Seeweed (upper left), raw baby mackerel with ginger (upper right) and sea snails. I did not care for the algae, but the little fishes were very tasty. Sahimi: Sea bream, Tuna and clam ... Tempura: Shrimp, Okra, Cod and Mioga (young pickled ginger sprouts). Shioyaki Ayu: salt-grilled river fish. I like this one a lot. I particularly enjoy the fixed shape mimicking the swimming motion. The best was the tail fin Wagyu: "nuff said ... Gourd. With a kind of jellied Oden stock. Nice ! Unagi with Sansho (mountain pepper) So, so good. Rich and fat and sweet and smoky. I could eat a looooot of that ... Chawan Mushi:steamed egg custard. A bit overcooked. My Japanese hosts very surprised when I told them that I find it to be cooked at to high temperatures (causing the custard to loose it's silkiness), but they agreed. Part of the experience was of course the Sake. I enjoyed it a lot but whether this is the one to augment the taste of the Unagi I could not tell ... More Unagi (hey it's only twice per year) ... Miso soup with clams ... Tiramisu. Outside view of the restaurant. Very casual! On the way home I enjoyed a local IPA. Craft beer is a big thing in Japan at the moment (as probably anywhere else in the world), so at 29 oC in front of the train station I had this. Very fruity … When I came back to the hotel, the turn down service had made my bed and placed a little Origami crane on my pillow. You just have to love this attention to detail.
  9. Golden fried Cauliflower?

    The best Chinese food restaurant I have ever been to is a place called the Imperial Buffet in Aberdeen SD. Their General Tso's is unlike the Tso's anywhere else. The closes comparison I could make is the Orange Chicken at the Panda Garden only 3x better. Their Lo-Mein Noodles are done with the skill of a master Italian pasta chef & perfectly seasoned. They also used to do a mean fried squid. I say used to because they had it when I lived in Aberdeen from 02-04 but didn't when I visited in 15'. One of their other discontinued specialties was a dish advertised as 'Golden Fried Cauliflower'. Note, this was NOT a breaded product. The cauliflower was cooked as though it had been boiled perfectly. It was not greasy as I recall but was a golden orange color as was the sauce it was evidently cooked in. I never could identify the flavors in that sauce. I wish I could describe it better but it has been well over a decade since I had it. Is anyone familiar with it or something similar? I can't seem to find anything like it online & all my searches just bring up links to breaded deep-fried crap.
  10. eG member @Carolyn Phillips has just published her ten-year-long-gestated Chinese cook book, All Under Heaven. 500 pages on China's 35 cuisines. Gathering rave reviews. I've ordered my copy. Can't wait. Simultaneously, her "Dim Sum Field Guide is published. She hasn't posted much here recently, but who would or could while writing two books at the same time - one of them a huge tome? Congratulations Carolyn.
  11. Haunting Hunan

    Introduction I spent the weekend in western Hunan reuniting with 36 people I worked with for two years starting 20 years ago. All but one, 龙丽花 lóng lì huā, I hadn’t seen for 17 years. I last saw her ten years ago. One other, 舒晶 shū jīng, with whom I have kept constant contact but not actually seen, helped me organise the visit in secret. No one else knew I was coming. In fact, I had told Long Lihua that I couldn’t come. Most didn’t even know I am still in China. I arrived at my local station around 00:20 in order to catch the 1:00 train northwards travelling overnight to Hunan, with an advertised arrival time of 9:15 am. Shu Jing was to meet me. When I arrived at the station, armed with my sleeper ticket, I found that the train was running 5 hours late! Station staff advised that I change my ticket for a different train, which I did. The problem was that there were no sleeper tickets available on the new train. All I could get was a seat. I had no choice, really. They refunded the difference and gave me my new ticket. The second train was only 1½ hours late, then I had a miserable night, unable to sleep and very uncomfortable. Somehow the train managed to make up for the late start and we arrived on time. I was met as planned and we hopped into a taxi to the hotel where I was to stay and where the reunion was to take place. They had set up a reception desk in the hotel lobby and around half of the people I had come to see were there. When I walked in there was this moment of confusion, stunned silence, then the friend I had lied to about not coming ran towards me and threw herself into my arms with tears running down her face and across her smile. It was the best welcome I’ve ever had. Then the others also welcomed me less physically, but no less warmly. They were around 20 years old when I met them; now they are verging on, or already are, 40, though few of them look it. Long Lihua is the one on the far right. Throughout the morning people arrived in trickles as their trains or buses got in from all over China. One woman had come all the way from the USA. We sat around chatting, reminiscing and eating water melon until finally it was time for lunch. Lunch we had in the hotel dining room. By that time, the group had swelled to enough to require three banqueting tables. Western Hunan, known as 湘西 xiāng xī, where I was and where I lived for two years - twenty years ago, is a wild mountainous area full of rivers. It was one of the last areas “liberated” by Mao’s communists and was largely lawless until relatively recently. It has spectacular scenery. Hunan is known for its spicy food, but Xiangxi is the hottest. I always know when I am back in Hunan. I just look out the train window and see every flat surface covered in chilis drying in the sun. Station platforms, school playgrounds, the main road from the village to the nearest town are all strewn with chillis. The people there consider Sichuan to be full of chilli wimps. I love it. When I left Hunan I missed the food so much. So I was looking forward to this. It did not disappoint. So Saturday lunch in next post.
  12. I just bought these greens from the neighborhood Asian grocery. Had them once in China as a salad, and they tasted exceptional - a bit peppery like arugula, yet much more subtle and fresh, with hints of lemon. Store lady (non-Chinese) could not name them for me other than "Chinese greens". Any help identifying them is greatly appreciated
  13. China's plan to cut meat consumption by 50% I wish them well, but can't see it happening. Meat eating is very much seen as a status symbol and, although most Chinese still follow a largely vegetable diet out of economic necessity, meat is still highly desirable among the new middle classes. The chances of them willingly giving it up, even by 50%, seems remote to me.
  14. Chinese Bow Ties

    I have been asked to make Chinese Bow Tie desserts for a function. However, I have never made them, but using Mr Google, there are a number of different recipes out there. Does anybody have a decent recipe which is tried and tested? - these are for deep-fried pastry which are then soaked in sugar syrup.
  15. My son married a lovely young lady from Yakeshi, Inner Mongolia, China. Mongolian: ᠶᠠᠠᠠᠰᠢ ᠬᠣᠲᠠ (Ягши хот); Chinese: 牙克石; pinyin: Yákèshí We had a wedding in the US but her family also wanted to have a traditional wedding in China. DH and I have never being to China so this was an exciting opportunity for us! We spent a few days in Beijing doing touristy stuff and then flew to Hailar. There is only one flight a day on Air China that we took at 6 in the morning. Yakeshi is about an hour drive from Hailar on a beautiful toll road with no cars on it. I wish we took pictures of free roaming sheep and cows along the way. The original free range meat. The family met us at the airport. We were greeted with a shot of a traditional Chinese spirit from a traditional leather vessel. Nothing says welcome like a stiff drink at 9 AM. We were supposed to have a three shots (may be they were joking) but family took pity on us and limited it to one only.
  16. Peanut oil...who knew? FYI

    DH and I make Chinese dishes for our lunches quite often. He does the 'mises' and I do the cooking and get ready the odds and sods, like the tea, setting the table, putting out the condiments, etc. Truth be told, his job is more work than mine...but then he gets to have Chinese food quite often which is what he likes. And we use peanut oil, most of which we buy at our local Asian grocery store. And until yesterday, neither one of us never looked at the "Ingredient list" for peanut oil. Peanut oil would contain only peanut oil...one would think. Apparently not so. Our current container which is titled "Peanut Cooking Oil" has the following ingredient list (in order): Soybean Oil, Sesame Oil, Peanut Oil. Who knew? Yesterday we bought peanut oil at a regular grocery store, a Loblaws brand (Canadian brand), and it contains...wait for it...100% peanut oil. Hooray!
  17. Chinese Noodle Joints

    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
  18. I'm hearing rumours of a new book from Fuchsia Dunlop, this time on Zhejiang cuisine from the east of China around Hangzhou and Ningbo, south of Shanghai. No date or title - or confirmation yet.
  19. http://www.smartshanghai.com/articles/dining/the-man-who-spent-a-year-studying-xiao-long-bao
  20. The new Michelin Guide to Hong Kong has a Street Food category for the first time. More here.
  21. China Menus

    I'm often asked to translate menus for my local restaurants. Usually by foreign customers; less often by the restaurants. I thought I'd post some here. Copyright isn't an issue as they are just lists of dishes. They may be of interest. First up is a small restaurant which I visited yesterday. Their menu is on the wall and they specialise in sand pot dishes. These are (almost) all in one meals with the dish of your choice served over rice cooked in a clay (sand) pot. They do come with a side of stir-fried cabbage and a bowl of thin soup (more like water). This is Chinese work/student canteen type food. Cheap and cheerful. At the bottom of the main menu is a variety of soft drinks plus beer, which I haven't translated. Most are unavailable outside China, although Coca Cola and Sprite are there. The smaller menus on the right are for rice porridge. I haven't translated these either Sand Pots 莲藕肉片饭 Lotus Root and Sliced Pork Rice 10 豆腐肉片饭 Tofu and Sliced Pork Rice 10 时菜肉饼饭 Seasonal Vegetable Pork Pie Rice 10 茄子肉末饭 Eggplant with Ground Meat Rice 11 鱼片煲仔饭 Fish Sandpot Rice 11 姜汁鱼尾饭 Ginger Fish Tail Rice 12 鸡杂砂煲饭 Chicken Giblets Sandpot Rice 12 冬菇骨鸡饭 Dried Shiitake and Chicken Rice 12 香辣牛肉饭 Spicy Beef Rice 16 酸甜排骨饭 Sweet and Sour Spare Ribs Rice 16 香芹腊味饭 Celery Cured Meat Rice 13 豉椒排骨饭 Salted Beans and Pepper Ribs 13 冬菇田鸡饭 Dried Shiitake Frog Rice 13 蚝油牛肉饭 Oyster Sauce Beef Rice 14 红烧带鱼饭 Red-cooked Belt Fish Rice 14 干妈五花饭 Pork Belly in Chilli Sauce Rice 14 美味叉烧饭 Tasty Char Sui Rice 14 鲜虾煲仔饭 Fresh Shrimp Sandpot Rice 14 红椒黄鳝饭 Red Chilli Ricefield Eel Rice 14 黑椒猪肚饭 Black Pepper Tripe Rice 15 肥肠煲仔饭 Pig's Intestines Sandpot Rice 15 柠檬鸭仔饭 Lemon Duck Rice 15 加菜每份 (以最高价) Extra Vegetable Portion (by highest price) 4 打包盒 Take Away Box 1 Soups 紫菜蛋花汤 Seaweed Egg Drop Soup 8 枸杞猪肝汤 Goji Berry Pig's Liver Soup 10 车螺芥菜汤 Clam and Leaf Mustard Soup 15 西红柿蛋花汤 Tomato and Egg Soup 8 Vegetables etc. 炒油菜 Fried Rape 8 西红柿炒蛋 Scrambled Egg with Tomato 12 鱼腥草 Lizard's Tail 5 凉拌皮蛋 Cold Dressed Century Egg 10 凉拌黄瓜 Cold Dressed Cucumber 5 煎蛋 Fried Egg 2 Prices are in Chinese Yuan (1 Yuan = $0.15 USD / £0.10 GBP as of September 15, 2015) This is number 4 on the menu
  22. These have been mentioned a couple of times recently on different threads and I felt they deserved one of their own. After all, they did keep me alive when I lived in Xi'an. Rou jia mo (ròu jiá mò; literally "Meat Sandwich") are Chinese sandwiches which originated in Shaanxi Province, but can be found all over China. Away from their point of origin, they tend to be made with long stewed pork belly. However in Xi'an (capital of Shaanxi), there is a large Muslim population so the meat of choice is more usually beef. In nearby Gansu Province, lamb or mutton is more likely. When I was living in Xi'an in 1996-1997, I lived on these. I was living on campus in North-West University (西北大学) and right outside the school gate was a street lined with cheap food joints, most of which would serve you one. I had one favourite place which I still head to when I visit. First thing I do when I get off the train. What I eat is Cumin Beef Jia Mo (孜然牛肉夹馍 zī rán niú ròu jiá mò). The beef is stir fried or grilled/BBQd with cumin and mild green peppers. It is also given a bit of a kick with red chill flakes. Here is a recipe wrested from the owner of my Xi'an favourite. So simple, yet so delicious. Lean Beef Fairly lean beef is cut into slivers Sliced Beef Chopped garlic I use this single clove garlic from Sichuan, but regular garlic does just fine. The beef and garlic are mixed in a bowl and generously sprinkled with ground cumin. This is then moistened with a little light soy sauce and Shaoxing wine. You don't want to flood it. Set aside for as long as you can. Mild Green Chilli Pepper Take one or two mild green peppers and crush with the back of a knife, then slice roughly. You could de-seed if you prefer. I don't bother. Chopped Green Pepper Fire up the wok, add oil (I use rice bran oil, but any vegetable oil except olive oil would be fine) and stir fry the meat mixture until the meat is just done. Frying Tonight Then add the green peppers and fry until they are as you prefer them. I tend to like them still with a bit of crunch, so slightly under-cook them In with the peppers You will, of course, have prepared the bread. The sandwiches are made with a type of flat bread known as 白吉饼 (bái jí bǐng; literally "white lucky cake-shape"). The ones here are store bought but I often make them. Recipe below. Bai Ji Bing Take one and split it. Test the seasoning of the filling, adding salt if necessary. It may not need it because of the soy sauce. Nearly there Cover to make a sandwich and enjoy. You will see that I have used a bunch of kitchen paper to hold the sandwich and to soak up any escaping juices. But it should be fairly dry. The final product. Note: I usually cook the meat and pepper in batches. Enough for one sandwich per person at a time. If we need another (and we usually do) I start the next batch. Bread Recipe 350g plain flour 140ml water 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast Mix the yeast with the flour and stir in the water. Continue stirring until a dough forms. Knead until smooth. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and leave to rise by about one third. (maybe 30-40 minutes). Knead again to remove any air then roll the dough into a log shape around 5cm in diameter, then cut into six portions. Press these into a circle shape using a rolling pin. You want to end up with 1.5cm thick buns. Preheat oven to 190C/370F. Dry fry the buns in a skillet until they take on some colour about a minute or less on each side, then finish in the oven for ten minutes. Allow to cool before using.
  23. China Shopping

    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:
  24. Chinese Cookbooks

    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
  25. Sichuan (Szechuan) Hot Pot Recipe

    In this cold winter, there is nothing better than sharing a spicy Sichuan hot pot with your friends and family. For the uninitiated, Chinese hot pot, a.k.a. huo guo (火鍋), is a group dining activity where a pot of boiling broth is shared. Friends and families cook the raw ingredients of their liking in this communal pot of broth while chitchatting, laughing, and enjoying each other’s company by the table-side. This recipe is for a popular regional hot pot from Sichuan (Szechuan). The broth is infused with lots of aromatic spices, fiery chili oil and tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorn so it is very fragrant and spicy! This is a make from scratch recipe that I first posted on my blog. If you like to learn visually, I'd recommend you to visit my blog (link in my profile) for the step by step pictorial recipe. Enjoy! Ingredients: For Master sauce (adjust to your own spiciness) 3 tbsp Sichuan Spicy Bean Paste 5 Dried chili, soaked until soft. 1 tbsp Chinese Black Bean 4 slice Ginger, 4 glove Garlic ½ cup Cooking Wine 1tbsp Rock Sugar Dry Spices: 3 star anise, 1tbsp Sichuan Peppercorn, 1 black cardamom, 4 green cardamom, 2 sand ginger, 1 piece cinnamon stick, and 1 tbsp fennel seeds For the stock: 2 lb Beef or Pork or Chicken bones. 3 slice Ginger 2 Scallion 3 Bay leaf 1 gallon water Instructions: The recipe is for half of a 12 inch special pot. Adjust the amount accordingly. 1. Make the base stock by combining beef or pork bones or chicken skeleton with water, ginger, scallion, bay leaves. Broil and simmer for 3 hours. Can be made in advance. 2. The master sauce is the soul of Sichuan hot pot (and is guarded by restaurant owners as top secret but today you’ll get it for free). I recommend making this in advance. To make the aged-spicy paste: chop the Sichuan Spicy Bean Paste, soaked dry chili, ginger, garlic, and black bean. Combine 4 tbsp of oil and all the chopped ingredients, cook in low heat for 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Add the rest of the dry spices and cooking wine and sugar to the paste. Continue to cook in low heat for another 30 minutes then turn off the heat. This is your aged-spicy taste and can be made in advance. 3. Before serving the hot pot, combine the aged-spicy paste with base stock and bring to boil. Add additional ginger, dried chili, and salt to taste. 4. To make the special peanut butter sesame dipping sauce, combine the peanut butter, sesame paste, and fermented bean curd. Mix into a paste. Add oyster sauce, sugar, chopped chive flower and mix well.
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