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  1. Chinese food must be among the most famous in the world. Yet, at the same time, the most misunderstood. I feel sure (hope) that most people here know that American-Chinese cuisine, British-Chinese cuisine, Indian-Chinese cuisine etc are, in huge ways, very different from Chinese-Chinese cuisine and each other. That's not what I want to discuss. Yet, every day I still come across utter nonsense on YouTube videos and Facebook about the "real" Chinese cuisine, even from ethnically Chinese people (who have often never been in China). Sorry YouTube "influencers", but sprinkling soy sauce or 5-spice powder on your cornflakes does not make them Chinese! So what is the "authentic" Chinese food? Well, like any question about China, there are several answers. It is not surprising that a country larger than western Europe should have more than one typical culinary style. Then, we must distinguish between what you may be served in a large hotel dining room, a small local restaurant, a street market stall or in a Chinese family's home. That said, in this topic, I want to attempt to debunk some of the more prevalent myths. Not trying to start World War III. When I moved to China from the UK 25 years ago, I had my preconceptions. They were all wrong. Sweet and sour pork with egg fried rice was reported to be the second favourite dish in Britain, and had, of course, to be preceded by a plate of prawn/shrimp crackers. All washed down with a lager or three. Yet, in that quarter of a century, I've seldom seen a prawn cracker. And egg fried rice is usually eaten as a quick dish on its own, not usually as an accompaniment to main courses. Every menu featured a starter of prawn/shrimp toast which I have never seen in mainland China - just once in Hong Kong. But first, one myth needs to be dispelled. The starving Chinese! When I was a child I was encouraged to eat the particularly nasty bits on the plate by being told that the starving Chinese would lap them up. My suggestion that we could post it to them never went down too well. At that time (the late fifties) there was indeed a terrible famine in China (almost entirely manmade (Maomade)). When I first arrived in China, it was after having lived in Soviet Russia and I expected to see the same long lines of people queuing up to buy nothing very much in particular. Instead, on my first visit to a market (in Hunan Province), I was confronted with a wider range of vegetables, seafood, meat and assorted unidentified frying objects than I have ever seen anywhere else. And it was so cheap I couldn't convert to UK pounds or any other useful currency. I'm going to start with some of the simpler issues - later it may get ugly! 1. Chinese people eat everything with chopsticks. No, they don't! Most things, yes, but spoons are also commonly used in informal situations. I recently had lunch in a university canteen. It has various stations selling different items. I found myself by the fried rice stall and ordered some Yangzhou fried rice. Nearly all the students and faculty sitting near me were having the same. I was using my chopsticks to shovel the food in, when I noticed that I was the only one doing so. Everyone else was using spoons. On investigating, I was told that the lunch break is so short at only two-and-a-half hours that everyone wants to eat quickly and rush off for their compulsory siesta. I've also seen claims that people eat soup with chopsticks. Nonsense. While people use chopsticks to pick out choice morsels from the broth, they will drink the soup by lifting their bowl to their mouths like cups. They ain't dumb! Anyway, with that very mild beginning, I'll head off and think which on my long list will be next. Thanks to @KennethT for advice re American-Chinese food.
  2. According to the 2010 census, there were officially 1,830,929 ethnic Koreans living in China and recognised as one of China’s 56 ethnic groups. The largest concentration is in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin Province, in the north-east bordering - guess where – North Korea. They have been there for centuries. The actual number today is widely believed to be higher, with some 4 to 5 thousand recent refugees living there illegally. Anyway, what I have just taken delivery of is this Korean blood and glutinous rice sausage from Yanbian. I am an inveterate blood sausage fiend and always eager to try new examples from as many places as possible. I'll cook some tomorrow morning for breakfast and report back.
  3. I have looked for years for a black steel wok with a flat bottom it had to be thick steel to stop it from warping on the induction cooktop 3500W Burner. Well I found it made by the French company Mauviel it is 12.5" diameterwith 3mm thick steel the flat bottom is 4 1/2 inches, although it has a flat inside too it cooks wonderfully. The weight is 5lbs heavy but manageable .The cost is $100 considering there is no alternative it's cheap.Here is my review. I know there are people looking for a good wok for induction so I hope some find this post good information.I do have a JWright cast iron wok that I've used for 5 years and it too is great but it's discontinued. This M Steel Wok is much better. Posted some images of the seasoned wok so you can see it . This is after oven season @500 Degrees.Turning black already non stick .Happy ! Mauviel M'Steel Black Steel Wok, 11.8", Steel If you have any ?? please post i'll do my best to answer.
  4. Ma Po Tofu (麻婆豆腐) Ma Po Tofu is a Sichuan specialty. There are many versions of the Ma Po Tofu recipe. This pictorial is my interpretation of it. Dedicated to SuzySushi. Picture of the finished dish: Serving Suggestion: 3 to 4 Preparations Main ingredients: (From upper right, clockwise) 1/2 to 3/4 pound of ground pork, 2 stalks of green onions, 4 to 5 cloves of garlic, 5 to 6 small dried red chilies, ginger (about 1 inch in length), Sichuan peppercorn powder, 2 packs of silken (soft) tofu, 16 oz each. Note: You may use ground beef in place of ground pork, or use pressed tofu if you are a vegetarian. I like to use silken tofu for its soft and smooth texture. You may use firm tofu or regular tofu if you like. Roasting and grinding whole sichuan peppercorn is the best if you have time. I use Sichuan peppercorn powder for convenience. Marinating the ground pork: Use a mixing bowl. Add the ground pork. Add 1/2 to 1 tsp of ground white pepper, 1 tsp of sesame oil, 1 tsp of corn starch, 1 tsp of light soy sauce, and 1 tsp of ShaoHsing cooking wine. Mix all the ingredients. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking. Meanwhile, trim off the ends of the green onions. Finely chop. Peel and mince the garlic. Grate the ginger. Cut up the dried red chilies into 1/2 inch pieces. Open the tofu packages. Use a small knief to make roughly 3x4 cross cuts. These silken tofu will break apart during cooking. No need to take them out of the box for cutting. Cooking Instructions: Use a wok/pan, set stove to high temperature. Wait until pan is hot. Add a generous 3 to 4 tblsp of cooking oil. Velvet the ground pork until cooked, about 5 minutes. Use the spatula to cut up the lumps of the ground pork. Try to break up the pork as much as you can. Remove the pork and drain the oil with a strainer. Start with a clean wok/pan, set stove to high temperature. Add 2 to 3 tblsp of cooking oil. Wait until oil starts fuming. Add cut dried red chilies. They will turn black very quickly. You need to act fast. Add minced garlic and grated ginger. Add 2 tsp of chili bean sauce, 4 to 5 tsp of hoisin sauce, perhaps 1 to 2 tsp of brown bean sauce too. Stir. Dash in 2 tsp of ShaoHsing cooking wine and 1 tsp of white vinegar. (Optional: add some chili sauce if you like it hot and spicy. No need to add salt because the chili bean sauce and chicken broth are already salty, or you may add a pinch of salt to taste.) Stir well and let the sauce/garlic/ginger cook for 10 to 15 seconds under high heat. Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth, 2 tsp of sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil. Fold in corn starch slurry (suggest: 1 to 2 tsp of corn starch and 1/8 cup of water) to thicken the sauce to the right consistency. Add the 2 packages of tofu. After you put in the tofu, minimize the stirring. Silken tofu breaks apart very easily. Wait until the mixture boils again. Finally, re-add the ground pork. Add the chopped green onions. Add 1 to 2 tsp of ground Sichuan peppercorn powder. Stir and mix. Cook for another 2 minutes or so. Finished. The finished dish. The quantity of food made in this recipe is about twice the portion shown in this picture.
  5. 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. In 2016, a purple variety of napa cabbage was bred in Korea and that has been introduced to China as 紫罗兰白菜 (zǐ luó lán bái cài) - literally 'violet cabbage'. Purple Napa (Boy Choy)
  6. Congratulations are due to Fuchsia Dunlop, whose "Food of Sichuan" has just been published in a Chinese language version - a rare honour here. I've ordered a couple of copies as gifts for local friends who loved the Engish version, but struggled with some language issues. 《川菜》, 中信出版社。
  7. I've recently become aware of the existence of this chain of Xi'an restaurants in NewYork. Are there more elsewhere? They were recenty referenced in a BBC article about biang biang noodles.
  8. Following my posting a supermarket bought roast rabbit in the Dinner topic, @Anna N expressed her surprise at my local supermarkets selling such things just like in the west supermarkets sell rotisserie chickens. I promised to photograph the pre-cooked food round these parts. I can't identify them all, so have fun guessing! Rabbit Chicken x 2 Duck Chicken feet Duck Feet Pig's Ear Pork Intestine Rolls Stewed River Snails Stewed Duck Feet (often served with the snails above) Beef Pork Beijing Duck gets its own counter. More pre-cooked food to come. Apologies for some bady lit images - I guess the designers didn't figure on nosy foreigners inspecting the goods and disseminating pictures worldwide.
  9. Yesterday, an old friend sent me a picture of her family dinner, which she prepared. She was never much of a cook, so I was a bit surprised. It's the first I've seen her cook in 25 years. Here is the spread. I immediately zoomed in on one dish - the okra. For the first 20-odd years I lived in China, I never saw okra - no one knew what it was. I managed to find its Chinese name ( 秋葵 - qiū kuí) in a scientific dictionary, but that didn't help. I just got the same blank looks. Then about 3 years ago, it started to creep into a few supermarkets. At first, they stocked the biggest pods they could find - stringy and inedible - but they worked it out eventually. Now okra is everywhere. I cook okra often, but have never seen it served in China before (had it down the road in Vietnam, though) and there are zero recipes in any of my Chinese language cookbooks. So, I did the sensible thing and asked my friend how she prepared it. Here is her method. 1. First bring a pan of water to the boil. Add the washed okra and boil for two minutes. Drain. 2. Top and tail the pods. Her technique for that is interesting. 3. Finely mince garlic, ginger, red chilli and green onion in equal quantities. Heat oil and pour over the prepared garlic mix. Add a little soy sauce. 4. Place garlic mix over the okra and serve. When I heard step one, I thought she was merely blanching the vegetable, but she assures me that is all the cooking it gets or needs, but she did say she doesn't like it too soft. Also, I should have mentioned that she is from Hunan province so the red chilli is inevitable. Anyway, I plan to make this tomorrow. I'm not convinced, but we'll see. to be continued
  10. Two of my family members are pescetarian, one of whom is my picky daughter who only likes a few types of fish cooked in very specific ways so to all intents and purposes is mostly vegetarian. Many Chinese soup recipes involve meat or fish, or at least meat broth, so I'd love to find a few more recipes that would suit my whole family (I also don't eat much pork as it doesn't always agree with me, and a lot of soups involve pork so this is also for my benefit!). Vegetarian would be best, or pescetarian soups that are not obviously seafood based (I could get away with sneaking a small amount of dried shrimp in, for instance, but not much more than that!). Any kind of soup will do, although I'd particularly like some simple recipes that could be served alongside a multi-dish meal. But I'm always interested in new recipes so any good soup recipes would be welcome! Any suggestions?
  11. 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?)
  12. 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.
  13. I know a few people here know her already, but for those that don't, she is simply the best creator of Chinese food and rural life videos. It's not what you will find in your local Bamboo Hut! It's what Chinese people eat! Here is her latest, posted today. This is what all my neighbours are doing right now in preparation for Spring Festival (Chinese New Year to the Lantern Festival 15 days later), although few are doing it as elegantly as she does! Everything she posts is worth watching if you have any interest in food.
  14. 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.
  15. It sometimes seems likes every town in China has its own special take on noodles. Here in Liuzhou, Guangxi the local dish is Luosifen (螺蛳粉 luó sī fěn). It is a dish of rice noodles served in a very spicy stock made from the local river snails and pig bones which are stewed for hours with black cardamom, fennel seed, dried tangerine peel, cassia bark, cloves, pepper, bay leaf, licorice root, sand ginger, and star anise. Various pickled vegetables, dried tofu skin, fresh green vegetables, peanuts and loads of chilli are then usually added. Few restaurants ever reveal their precise recipe, so this is tentative. Luosifen is only really eaten in small restaurants and roadside stalls. I've never heard of anyone making it at home. In order to promote tourism to the city, the local government organised a food festival featuring an event named "10,000 people eat luosifen together." (In Chinese 10,000 often just means "many".) 10,000 people (or a lot of people anyway) gathered at Liuzhou International Convention and Exhibition Centre for the grand Liuzhou luosifen eat-in. Well, they gathered in front of the centre – the actual centre is a bleak, unfinished, deserted shell of a building. I disguised myself as a noodle and joined them. 10,001. The vast majority of the 10,000 were students from the local colleges who patiently and happily lined up to be seated. Hey, mix students and free food – of course they are happy. Each table was equipped with a basket containing bottled water, a thermos flask of hot water, paper bowls, tissues etc. And most importantly, a bunch of Luosifen caps. These read “万人同品螺蛳粉” which means “10,000 people together enjoy luosifen” Yep, that is the soup pot! 15 meters in diameter and holding eleven tons of stock. Full of snails and pork bones, spices etc. Chefs delicately added ingredients to achieve the precise, subtle taste required. Noodles were distributed, soup added and dried ingredients incorporated then there was the sound of 10,000 people slurping. Surrounding the luosifen eating area were several stalls selling different goodies. Lamb kebabs (羊肉串) seemed most popular, but there was all sorts of food. Here are few of the delights on offer. Whole roast lamb or roast chicken . Lamb Kebabs Kebab spice mix – Cumin, chilli powder, salt and MSG Kebab stall Crab Different crab Sweet sticky rice balls Things on sticks Grilled scorpions Pig bones and bits Snails And much more. To be honest, it wasn’t the best luosifen I’ve ever eaten, but it was wasn’t the worst. Especially when you consider the number they were catering for. But it was a lot of fun. Which was the point.
  16. 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 which is sometimes called 白玉 菇 bái yù gū. 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, Infundibulicybe gibba. 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.
  17. China's favorite urinating “tea pet” is actually a thermometer.
  18. Big Plate Chicken - 大盘鸡 This very filling dish of chicken and potato stew is from Xinjiang province in China's far west, although it is said to have been invented by a visitor from Sichuan. In recent years, it has become popular in cities across China, where it is made using a whole chicken which is chopped, with skin and on the bone, into small pieces suitable for easy chopstick handling. If you want to go that way, any Asian market should be able to chop the bird for you. Otherwise you may use boneless chicken thighs instead. Ingredients Boneless skinless chicken thighs 6 Light soy sauce Dark soy sauce Shaoxing wine Cornstarch or similar. I use potato starch. Vegetable oil (not olive oil) Star anise, 4 Cinnamon, 1 stick Bay leaves, 5 or 6 Fresh ginger, 6 coin sized slices Garlic. 5 cloves, roughly chopped Sichuan peppercorns, 1 tablespoon Whole dried red chiles, 6 -10 (optional). If you can source the Sichuan chiles known as Facing Heaven Chiles, so much the better. Potatoes 2 or 3 medium sized. peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces Carrot. 1, thinly sliced Dried wheat noodles. 8 oz. Traditionally, these would be a long, flat thick variety. I've use Italian tagliatelle successfully. Red bell pepper. 1 cut into chunks Green bell pepper, 1 cut into chunks Salt Scallion, 2 sliced. Method First, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and marinate in 1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce, 3 teaspoons of Shaoxing and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside for about twenty minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Heat the wok and add three tablespoons cooking oil. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns and chiles. Fry on a low heat for a minute or so. If they look about to burn, splash a little water into your wok. This will lower the temperature slightly. Add the chicken and turn up the heat. Continue frying until the meat is nicely seared, then add the potatoes and carrots. Stir fry a minute more then add 2 teaspoons of the dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the light soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the Shaoxing wine along with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium. Cover and cook for around 15 minutes until the potatoes are done. While the main dish is cooking, cook the noodles separately according to the packet instructions. Reserve some of the noodle cooking water and drain. When the chicken and potatoes are done, you may add a little of the noodle water if the dish appears on the dry side. It should be saucy, but not soupy. Add the bell peppers and cook for three to four minutes more. Add scallions. Check seasoning and add some salt if it needs it. It may not due to the soy sauce and Shaoxing. Serve on a large plate for everyone to help themselves from. Plate the noodles first, then cover with the meat and potato. Enjoy.
  19. Beef with Bitter Melon - 牛肉苦瓜 The name may be off-putting to many people, but Chinese people do have an appreciation for bitter tastes and anyway, modern cultivars of this gourd are less bitter than in the past. Also, depending on how it's cooked, the bitterness can be mitigated. I'll admit that I wasn't sure at first, but have grown to love it. Note: "Beef with Bitter Melon (牛肉苦瓜 )" or "Bitter Melon with Beef (苦瓜牛肉)"? One Liuzhou restaurant I know has both on its menu! In Chinese, the ingredient listed first is the one there is most of, so, "beef with bitter melon" is mainly beef, whereas "bitter melon with beef" is much more a vegetable dish with just a little beef. This recipe is for the beefier version. To make the other version, just half the amount of beef and double the amount of melon. Ingredients Beef. One pound. Flank steak works best. Slice thinly against the grain. Bitter Melon. Half a melon. You can use the other half in a soup or other dish. Often available in Indian markets or supermarkets. Salted Black Beans. One tablespoon. Available in packets from Asian markets and supermarkets, these are salted, fermented black soy beans. They are used as the basis for 'black bean sauce', but we are going to be making our own sauce! Garlic. 6 cloves Cooking oil. Any vegetable oil except olive oil Shaoxing wine. See method Light soy sauce. One tablespoon Dark soy sauce. One teaspoon White pepper. See method Sesame oil. See method Method Marinate the beef in a 1/2 tablespoon of light soy sauce with a splash of Shaoxing wine along with a teaspoon or so of cornstarch or similar (I use potato starch). Stir well and leave for 15-30 minutes. Cut the melon(s) in half lengthwise and, using a teaspoon, scrape out all the seeds and pith. The more pith you remove, the less bitter the dish will be. Cut the melon into crescents about 1/8th inch wide. Rinse the black beans and drain. Crush them with the blade of your knife, then chop finely. Finely chop the garlic. Stir fry the meat in a tablespoon of oil over a high heat until done. This should take less than a minute. Remove and set aside. Add another tablespoon of oil and reduce heat to medium. fry the garlic and black beans until fragrant then add the bitter melon. Continue frying until the melon softens. then add a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine and soy sauces. Finally sprinkle on white pepper to taste along with a splash of sesame oil. Return the meat to the pan and mix everything well. Note: If you prefer the dish more saucy, you can add a tablespoon or so of water with the soy sauces. Serve with plained rice and a stir-fried green vegetable of choice.
  20. Stir-fried Squid with Snow Peas - 荷兰豆鱿鱼 Another popular restaurant dish that can easily be made at home. The only difficult part (and it's really not that difficult) is preparing the squid. However, your seafood purveyor should be able to do that for you. I have given details below. Ingredients Fresh squid. I tend to prefer the smaller squid in which case I allow one or two squid per person, depending on what other dishes I'm serving. You could use whole frozen squid if fresh is unavailable. Certainly not dried squid. Snow peas aka Mange Tout. Sugar snap peas can also be used. The final dish should be around 50% squid and 50% peas, so an amount roughly equivalent to the squid in bulk is what you are looking for. De-string if necessary and cut in half width-wise. Cooking oil. I use rice bran oil, but any vegetable cooking oil is fine. Not olive oil, though. Garlic. I prefer this dish to be rather garlicky so I use one clove or more per squid. Adjust to your preference. Ginger. An amount equivalent to that of garlic. Red Chile. One or two small hot red chiles. Shaoxing wine. See method. Note: Unlike elsewhere, Shaoxing wine sold in N. America is salted. So, cut back on adding salt if using American sourced Shaoxing. Oyster sauce Sesame oil (optional) Salt Preparing the squid The squid should be cleaned and the tentacles and innards pulled out and set aside while you deal with the tubular body. Remove the internal cartilage / bone along with any remaining innards. With a sharp knife remove the "wings" then slit open the tube by sliding your knife inside and cutting down one side. Open out the now butterflied body. Remove the reddish skin (It is edible, but removing it makes for a nicer presentation. It peels off easily.) Again, using the sharp knife cut score marks on the inside at 1/8th of an inch intervals being careful not to cut all the way through. Then repeat at right angles to the original scoring, to give a cross-hatch effect. Do the same to the squid wings. Cut the body into rectangles roughly the size of a large postage stamp. Separate the tentacles from the innards by feeling for the beak, a hard growth just above the tentacles and at the start of the animal's digestive tract. Dispose of all but the tentacles. If they are long, half them. Wash all the squid meat again. Method There are only two ways to cook squid and have it remain edible. Long slow cooking (an hour or more) or very rapid (a few seconds) then served immediately. Anything else and you'll be chewing on rubber. So that is why I am stir frying it. Few restaurants get this right, so I mainly eat it at home. Heat your wok and add oil. Have a cup of water to the side. Add the garlic, ginger and chile. Should you think it's about to burn, throw in a little of that water. It will evaporate almost immediately but slow down some of the heat. As soon as you can smell the fragrance of the garlic and ginger, add the peas and salt and toss until the peas are nearly cooked (Try a piece to see!). Almost finally, add the squid with a tablespoon of the Shaoxing and about the same of oyster sauce. Do not attempt to add the oyster sauce straight from the bottle. The chances of the whole bottle emptying into your dinner is high! Believe me. I've been there! The squid will curl up and turn opaque in seconds. It's cooked. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of so of sesame oil (if used) and serve immediately!
  21. Clam Soup with Mustard Greens - 车螺芥菜汤 This is a popular, light but peppery soup available in most restaurants here (even if its not listed on the menu). Also, very easy to make at home. Ingredients Clams. (around 8 to 10 per person. Some restaurants are stingy with the clams, but I like to be more generous). Fresh live clams are always used in China, but if, not available, I suppose frozen clams could be used. Not canned. The most common clams here are relatively small. Littleneck clams may be a good substitute in terms of size. Stock. Chicken, fish or clam stock are preferable. Stock made from cubes or bouillon powder is acceptable, although fresh is always best. Mustard Greens. (There are various types of mustard green. Those used here are 芥菜 , Mandarin: jiè cài; Cantonese: gai choy). Use a good handful per person. Remove the thick stems, to be used in another dish.) Garlic. (to taste) Chile. (One or two fresh hot red chiles are optional). Salt. MSG (optional). If you have used a stock cube or bouillon powder for the stock, omit the MSG. The cubes and power already have enough. White pepper (freshly ground. I recommend adding what you consider to be slightly too much pepper, then adding half that again. The soup should be peppery, although of course everything is variable to taste.) Method Bring your stock to a boil. Add salt to taste along with MSG if using. Finely chop the garlic and chile if using. Add to stock and simmer for about five minutes. Make sure all the clams are tightly closed, discarding any which are open - they are dead and should not be eaten. The clams will begin to pop open fairly quickly. Remove the open ones as quickly as possible and keep to one side while the others catch up. One or two clams may never open. These should also be discarded. When you have all the clams fished out of the boiling stock, roughly the tear the mustard leaves in two and drop them into the stock. Simmer for one minute. Put all the clams back into the stock and when it comes back to the boil, take off the heat and serve.
  22. I just got back from Vancouver, and had an experience that reminded me of Titus Wong's query about cooking ong choy--back on the favorite chinese veggies thread. Titus said his ong choy was always tougher than what he remembered, and a bunch of us shared our cooking tips. Well... As many of you know, Vancouver is considered one of the best places for Chinese food in North America and you can easily find Chinese food stuffs there that are still unusual in the U.S. So, we were at an upscale Hong Kong style seafood restaurant and ordered ong choy. When it came, the stems were yellower than I was used to, plus they were flatter. My mom perked up and told me that it was "water" ong, not the usual ong choy I've always eaten. I pressed my mom and my dad for more info. They said that the "water" ong is actually grown in water, unlike the ong choy I get in the Bay Area, which is of a species grown in soil. I was very puzzled, since I always thought that all ong choy was grown in water, but they insisted that that was the case. The "water" ong choy is thus more crisp instead of crunchy (does that make any sense?), and indeed was the case. It was a subtle difference, but the choy was definitely less fibrous and more delicate and giving. So, Titus, now I'm wondering if what you were talking about had nothing to do with cooking techniques at all but everything to do with the kind of ong choy you were comparing your efforts to?
  23. 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?
  24. Hey everyone. So im looking for the most affordable chocolate shaking table that actually works.. does anyone have experience with the ones from AliBaba or china in general? i bought a $100 dental table from amazon but i guess its not the right hrtz cause it kinda works, but not well enough. im looking in the $500 range or under.. any advice? Thanks
  25. I noticed the recipe for the regular mooncake crust asking for “lye water.” I also found it as a component of the dough for char chiu bao. As far as I know, only chinese (or chinese influenced) recipes require this ingredient and only those recipes that involve rice or wheat flour. In indigenous Filipino cooking, it only shows up in two items, both of them kueh-type snacks and appears to be as flavouring. A few drops is also used to release the flavour/colour of achiote (anatto) seeds. My question is, what exactly is the role of lye water in Chinese cooking?
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