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Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook by Fuchsia Dunlop


nakji
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I picked up this book before moving to China in hopes of having a few recipes I could turn out for dinner during the week. While there are several more ambitious dishes included (the yolkless egg with shiitake mushrooms comes to mind), I was happy to find lots of easy dishes with clear instructions. I've tried Mao's red-braised pork a couple of times, such that the page is completely spattered with brown sauce and grease from having been too close to the burner when the water went in the caramel. On Sunday, I made beef with cumin from page 102 - an exceptional success, and not more than thirty minutes from prep to plate. Alongside, I made the coriander salad from page 59 - fresh, simple, and green, adjectives which perhaps not a lot of people associate with Chinese food. Perfect home-cooking, however.

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While the design and the intros to recipes in the book give a real sense of place, it does suffer from something that a lot of other Chinese cook books do as well. [minor rant] The Chinese characters used in the recipe titles are traditional, and are accompanied by pinyin without the tones. So if you can't read the characters, you can make sounds in Chinese that have no meaning to Chinese people, but are pronounceable by anglophones? Why bother putting in pinyin without any guidance to the tones? I'm sure, of course, that this book is not meant to be used as a language source, but it's frustrating for me to try and describe either what I've made (to my Chinese friends) or what I'm trying to make(to the butcher or shop owner, while trying to get an ingredient) and have an incomplete set of information to work from.[/minor rant] I'm not hugely bother by this, and it's a point that can be gotten around by bringing the book to the market with me (tedious) or having my husband copy out the characters (useful only to the extent he knows them), but it's worth showing my support on paper, if you will, for the use of proper, toned pinyin in Chinese cookbooks. We wouldn't expect to see a French cookbook leaving off the accents aigu and grave, why lose the tone markers on pinyin?

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will have to get this book! thanks for the heads up!

agree about not including tone markings along with the pinyin.

i also find it annoying when i get a book in english for ethnic cuisine and they only use transliterations. i suppose costs have something to do with this as well as just how many people will actually use it? but why always bow down to the lowest common denominator?

"Bibimbap shappdy wappdy wap." - Jinmyo
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Erin, I have a few other comments about this book.

While everything I've made from Revolutionary has been solid, there are a few other items lacking in terms of the cookbook editing (including better translations/transliterations). The index is horrid, and terribly incomplete. Several recipes call for "salted chiles." Well, there's a mention in the ingredient section, with a reference to a recipe for said salted chiles at toward the end of the cookbook. Nowhere in the index do I find an entry for "salted chiles." And, when she gives the recipe for this condiment, she merely says "1 lb. very fresh red chiles." What kind of chiles? How hot? I don't think she's talking red bells, nor is she talking about red Anaheims (and yes, they can turn red).

You mentioned a coriander salad. You can't find this in the index under cilantro or coriander. You need to go to the "S's" for Spicy Coriander salad.

Off my index and ingredient soapbox. The recipes I have done have been solid, and I do think many of the longer-cooking ones can be done in a crock pot.

Oh, and if you're going to do the Tangerine Island Dry-Braised Fish, be warned. If you are serving it to kids, you will spend the entire meal picking out bones. But, this recipe also worked very well with chix thighs, and the beef recipes translated very well to venison.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I love this book something fierce.

Three of my favorite meat/seafood recipes are the Fisherman's Shrimp with Chinese Chives ("Yu Jia Chao Xia Qiu"), p. 177, [you'll hang me for this one, but it's a more authentic version of] General Tso's Chicken (Changsha version)("Zuo Zong Tang Ji"), p. 122, and Beef with Cumin ("Zi Ran Niu Rou"), p. 102.

Once you figure out the salted chilis (I use the small, Thai ones, which are plenty hot), try the Stir-Fried Chinese Leaf Cabbage with Chopped Salted Chilis ("Duo jiao chao ya bai"), p. 216. Whenever I have leftover cabbage, this recipe makes lunch.

Fooey's Flickr Food Fotography

Brünnhilde, so help me, if you don't get out of the oven and empty the dishwasher, you won't be allowed anywhere near the table when we're flambeéing the Cherries Jubilee.

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Oh, and if you're going to do the Tangerine Island Dry-Braised Fish, be warned. If you are serving it to kids, you will spend the entire meal picking out bones. But, this recipe also worked very well with chix thighs, and the beef recipes translated very well to venison.

Kids should learn how to pick out their own bones. That's how I (and every kid in China) grew up. It's a valuable skill to learn; I can eat a bony chicken or fish much faster than Americans raised on fillets.

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Indeed, people in Asia seem to enjoy extracting their meat from bones, while most of my friends and family in North America generally find this task tiresome and prefer fillets, breast meat, etc. I won't attempt the fish recipe here, as I don't think the quality of local fish is very nice. I was raised on ocean fish from the Grand Banks, and river fish from Northern Labrador, so I'm pretty picky when it comes to fish I like. I haven't had much in Asia that I thought was to my taste, except for the odd fish pulled out of a rice paddy in Northern Vietnam. And there, I suspect, it was my hunger that made it so delicious!

It's funny you mention the index, Susan, as I don't think I'd even glanced at it once - I take sticky tabs to my new cookbooks, and tab the recipes I want to try right off. If I don't like the recipe, I strip off the tab; otherwise, the recipes stay tabbed. The salted chilis I can buy in the grocery store here, so I hadn't even thought about trying to find a recipe for them. One thing I did notice, however, is that it's probably not a cookbook I'd give to a beginner. I bought this book last July when I was visiting Canada, and my parents requested that I cook the General Tso's chicken for them. You're right Fooey, it was excellent - it's not normally the sort of cooking I like doing at home, since I hate deep-frying, but that's what they wanted. Anyway, the instructions for frying the chicken were pretty basic -

Heat enough oil for deep-frying to 350-400 degrees. Add the chicken and deep-fry until it is crisp and golden...

-with following instructions on draining the chicken and the oil. Now, I know what she means by deep-fry the chicken, and enough oil, but if I handed this recipe to my husband to cook from, I'd be called back into the kitchen every five minutes from the start of cooking until the dish was done to consult on each step. It's not really meant to be a beginner's book, though, so I don't really have a problem with that. But it's worth keeping in mind before choosing the book.

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. . . One thing I did notice, however, is that it's probably not a cookbook I'd give to a beginner. I bought this book last July when I was visiting Canada, and my parents requested that I cook the General Tso's chicken for them. You're right Fooey, it was excellent - it's not normally the sort of cooking I like doing at home, since I hate deep-frying, but that's what they wanted. Anyway, the instructions for frying the chicken were pretty basic -

Heat enough oil for deep-frying to 350-400 degrees. Add the chicken and deep-fry until it is crisp and golden...

-with following instructions on draining the chicken and the oil. Now, I know what she means by deep-fry the chicken, and enough oil, but if I handed this recipe to my husband to cook from, I'd be called back into the kitchen every five minutes from the start of cooking until the dish was done to consult on each step. It's not really meant to be a beginner's book, though, so I don't really have a problem with that. But it's worth keeping in mind before choosing the book.

To me, that's not about cooking skills, but about reading comprehension--specifically how to read recipes. It could have been written more clearly, but if you've got decent reading comprehension, you could figure it out. It could also be about comfort-level in the kitchen, but again, that's not about actual cooking skills.

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I think "enough oil" is pretty vague, and is hard to determine by a closer reading of the recipe. If you'd never deep-fried before, how would you know how much is enough? You could infer that you'd need a greater volume of oil than the one given for chicken, say, but I don't think it would have been difficult for a general quantity of oil for frying to be specified, either.

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I think "enough oil" is pretty vague, and is hard to determine by a closer reading of the recipe. If you'd never deep-fried before, how would you know how much is enough? You could infer that you'd need a greater volume of oil than the one given for chicken, say, but I don't think it would have been difficult for a general quantity of oil for frying to be specified, either.

Deep-frying is pretty clear in meaning to me--the oil is deep, so it should be deeper than the chicken. How much oil you need will depend on the vessel you're frying the chicken in, and the size of your chicken. As long as the oil is deeper than the thing being fried, for all intents and purposes, you're deep frying. Figuring that out isn't about skill, in my opinion.

Even an instruction like "julienne the spring onions" doesn't require great skill to understand. You don't even have to be able to do it, you are just required to you know what "julienne" means, and if you know what it means, you can probably figure out how to do it. I've never julienned a thing, but I could probably do it, and I'm really not that skilled a cook.

I've always said that if you can read, you can cook.

I have RCC and like I said, I'm not that skilled a cook. If you put me in a professional kitchen or in a cooking class, people would think I were a beginner in terms of my actual skill level. But I'm pretty good at figuring out instructions, and more importantly (in my opinion), I'm not afraid of the style of food or cooking in this book (and I'm pretty familiar with a lot of it).

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Dear Nakji,

May I comment on your "minor rant"?

I agree that the characters should be the simplified ones and that, if the pinyin is given, it should have the tones. Giving the characters is useful, for example for ordering in a restaurant or especially for buying ingredients.

But I have my doubts about the pinyin, even if the tones were given since there are also the different pronunciations of vowels and consonants. Would tones really enable someone to pronounce the sounds understandably, even if there were a one-page note on transliteration as in her "Land of Plenty", p.10? I wish it were that easy!

I wonder if others have similar reactions? Or opposite ones!

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It's a good point. When I start my Shanghai restaurant blog I'm going to include the tones.

But it is almost universal to leave out the tones. Even the street signs in China and Google Maps do not have them. That's pretty annoying for trying to tell a taxi driver where you want to go.

The only English publication I've seen that has them is the Lonely Planet guide for Shanghai (presumably the Beijing guide would have them too). They have tones for everything including "Shanghai" itself -- which seems a bit overdoing it.

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Personally, I don't think the tones are particularly useful for anyone that doesn't have a solid grasp of any of the Chinese languages (or tonal languages, for that matter). Even if you know what the diacritics mean, you may not be able to approximate the tones well enough for people to understand what you're saying.

Copying the characters is a far more reliable way to communicate when you don't speak the language well. Even in Japan where there language isn't tonal, a lot of Japanese people still have "foreigner block", and if a non-Japanese person speaks Japanese, they still don't understand you.

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I find I can communicate reasonably well, and am understood using standard pinyin pronunciation of Mandarin. My point is, I guess, that if you don't need the proper tones, having tones won't interfere with your pronunciation any less than not having them. And if you are trying to speak Mandarin correctly, they make it possible to communicate accurately. Surely I'm not the only person in China using English-language Chinese cook books to try and cook local dishes, while studying the language? There are many flaws with pinyin, I'm sure, but it's the romanisation system we've got - why not use it, rather than some random version of the publisher's choosing? I could argue that the accents on French aren't useful to anyone who hasn't studied French, or may interfere with their pronunciation, but a serious French cookbook would still include them. For those who can speak it, and do know what they mean.

Copying the characters is a far more reliable way to communicate when you don't speak the language well.

An excellent suggestion; however, the publisher has chosen to use traditional characters to "illustrate" the recipes, rather than the simplified versions common to mainland China. In a book about mainland China. Many people would recognize both, I suppose, but my argument is that if there's a system to make a language available to non-native speakers, why don't we expect it to be used in a cookbook about that cuisine?

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All of that being said, I do quite enjoy the recipes. Last week I tried the farmhouse stir-fried pork with green peppers, p. 85. The green peppers at my local market are quite thin-skinned and have mild heat, and fried up to a nostril-twitching crackle. I didn't have pork belly on hand for the two kinds of pork, so I subbed in smoked pork instead. The smoke and heat made for a great dish, and it wasn't more than twenty minutes from cleaver to table. This will go into my rotation of pork fried with ______ dishes, which I usually hit once a week or so.

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Last week I tried the farmhouse stir-fried pork with green peppers, p. 85.

Nakji, that pork stir-fry is a family favorite and yours looks delish. For tonight's dinner, we made other family favorites from RCC:

Beef with cumin (zi ran niu rou). Using Thai chiles from the garden provided plenty of zip to go with the lovely flavors. Jasmine rice to tame the chile heat.

Stir-fried peppers with black beans and garlic (qing jiao suan cai rou ni). We used a mix of red bell peppers and Poblano chiles from the garden, deep-frying the peppers in the hot oil used to deep-fry the marinated beef. Not sure if this was why, but the peppers turned out particularly well.

CuminBeef09-10.jpg

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh, wow, those peppers look great. There's a wide variety of peppers available in my local market, but I have no idea what they are. The green peppers I used for my this were small and thin-skinned, not bell peppers. I'll try this recipe with some of the red ones available. What else have you made that you liked?

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What else have you made that you liked?

Thank you, Erin. Besides the two dishes mentioned above (cumin beef, and Farmhouse stir-fried pork with green peppers), here are our favorites from RCC:

Liuyang black bean chicken (p. 124): absolutely delicious.

Slow-braised beef with potatoes (p. 106): absolutely delicious. I lowered the oven temperature to 275F to keep the meat tender.

Farmhouse stir-fried pork with green peppers (p. 85): a quick family favorite

Tangerine Island dry-braised fish (p. 158): excellent with Thai basil instead of purple perilla leaves.

Fragrant-and-hot tiger prawns (p. 175): delicious!

Fisherman’s shrimp with Chinese chives (p. 177): very good, easy. Might add ginger next time.

Red-braised bream (p. 156) Good with tilapia.

Stir-fried mixed mushrooms (p. 211): very good.

Stir-fried water spinach stems with black beans and chiles (p. 219): I have never seen water spinach in the store, but this is excellent with spinach or similar greens.

Red-braised winter-cold mushrooms (p. 231)

Stir-fried peppers with black beans and garlic (p. 201): a family favorite, works with many different vegetables.

Also good:

Yellow-cooked salt cod in chili sauce (p. 160): good, but watch the salt

Chicken with ginger (p. 130): not bad, quite easy.

Quick-fried lamb (p. 107)

Stir-fried green peppers with ground pork and preserved greens (p. 200): We usually make this with yard-long beans or green beans, and occasionally Mexican chorizo instead of minced pork.

Hand-torn cabbage with vinegar (p. 217): vinegary, simple, and pretty good.

Chicken soup with cloud ears and ginger (p. 248)

Not-so-successful recipes (always possible that I goofed something up, of course):

Steamed chicken with chopped salted chiles (p. 123): I found this very one-dimensional, but perhaps my chopped salted chiles were the wrong type.

Numbing-and-hot chicken (p. 127): Relatively labor intensive, tasted like a not-fully-committed Sichuan dish.

Stir-fried bitter melon with Chinese chives (p. 208): yowza, bitter!

Purple seaweed and egg “flower” soup (p. 242): didn’t do it for me.

Edited to fix goofed-up quote

Edited by C. sapidus (log)
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Wow! A comprehensive list. I'm steering away from the fish dishes, because I'm not happy with the quality of fish I can get here. But the pork and vegetable dishes are looking good. I think I'll make the Liuyang black bean chicken next. I made the ginger chicken a couple of weeks ago, and forgot to post it here. It was quite delicious, especially with the really fresh, thin-skinned ginger I had available. I used a trick I developed in Japan, which is to serve ginger-y things with a creamy salad, and served steamed broccoli with creamy sesame dressing as a side.

2009 10 24 008.JPG

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Erin, I've also done the tangerine braised fish with chicken thighs, leaving them covered until almost done, then uncovering! Fabulous.

That's a stroke of genius that I just may copy. As soon as I find some tangerine peel. I know there's got to be some around somewhere, I just don't know where. If the trees in my garden are any indication, though, we're coming into tangerine season, and then I can dry my own, is that correct?

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If the trees in my garden are any indication, though, we're coming into tangerine season, and then I can dry my own, is that correct?

Yes, we have done this (but not with tangerines from our own garden - lucky you). According to Fuchsia Dunlop in Land of Plenty, you can dry the peel of mandarin oranges or tangerines by . . .

. . . scraping the pith out from strips of fragrant orange peel and drying them in an airy place. When the strips are bone-dry, place them in an airtight jar and they will keep for ages.

Anyway, tonight’s main course was from RCC:

Slow-braised beef with potatoes (p. 106): A beautifully marbled piece of chuck roast finished meltingly tender. I removed the dried chiles at the 90-minute mark when capsaicin levels reached the family’s tolerance. Baby red potatoes were sliced in half, fried in a mix of peanut oil and bacon grease, and then added to the braise for the last 30 minutes or so.

I cannot think of a more delightful aroma than beef braising with ginger, cassia cinnamon, star anise, and chiles. Served with a crusty baguette (for sopping up the sauce) and a Thai stir-fry of yard-long beans with sliced pork loin and egg.

RCCbraisedBeef09-10.jpg

LongBeanEgg09-10.jpg

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Nice, very nice. I may have to try this with a cut of pork, since a "well-marbled piece of chuck roast" is also not to be had from my local supermarket. What do you think - pork shoulder?

The tangerines are technically my land-lady's but I sure if I ask nicely I can get a bag. Thanks for the tip.

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The slow-braised beef with potatoes is one of my family's very favorite dishes, hands down. Actually, I should say "slow braised venison" or slow braised chicken" as I've only done it once with beef. The venison I have is not very well marbled, and this dish still comes out meltingly good, as it does with chicken thighs.

Bruce, I didn't notice if you've done the beef and cilantro? Another favorite here.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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I have just come back from my local independent bookshop, where I learned Ms. Dunlop had a book signing in March. I can't believe I missed her! She also held a private dinner at a local Sichuan restaurant, for which tickets were available. Nuts! I did manage to snag a copy of her memoir, signed, however.

Bruce, I didn't notice if you've done the beef and cilantro? Another favorite here.
Does this differ much from the beef with cumin? I have some beef strips I could put to use this week. Susan, it's heartening to hear you've used venison with success, that's usually quite lean, isn't it. I'll have to try my luck. I did find a source that sells Korean beef, which is much richer than the Australian product my supermarket carries.
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Bruce, I didn't notice if you've done the beef and cilantro? Another favorite here.
Does this differ much from the beef with cumin? I have some beef strips I could put to use this week. Susan, it's heartening to hear you've used venison with success, that's usually quite lean, isn't it. I'll have to try my luck. I did find a source that sells Korean beef, which is much richer than the Australian product my supermarket carries.

Erin, to answer your questions:

The beef and cilantro does differ from the beef and cumin (which I'm making tonight with venison and cumin seed since I seem to be out of the ground stuff -- how that happened I'll never know!). The beef with cilantro calls for a LOT of cilantro -- almost half a pound, sans tough stems. I include the tender stems and ust use my kitchen shears or hands to rip it up into hunks. So, there is a lot more veg.

Venison. Yes, it's very lean. I sub it all of the time for beef, especially in braised dishes. I'm sure it's not as melting as chuck, but we love the taste, and since I get two deer every year, it is cheap meat!

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Nice, very nice. I may have to try this with a cut of pork, since a "well-marbled piece of chuck roast" is also not to be had from my local supermarket. What do you think - pork shoulder?

Erin, thank you. I would expect pork shoulder to be delicious in that recipe.

Susan, I have not yet tried the beef and cilantro. The recipe looks great, but we would need a meal when both cilantrophobic boys were safely elsewhere.

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      A note on my use of ‘Sichuan’ rather than ‘Szechuan’.
       
      If you ever find yourself in Sichuan, don’t refer to the place as ‘Szechuan’. No one will have any idea what you mean!

      ‘Szechuan’ is the almost prehistoric transliteration of 四川, using the long discredited Wade-Giles romanization system. Thomas Wade was a British diplomat who spoke fluent Mandarin and Cantonese. After retiring as a diplomat, he was elected to the post of professor of Chinese at Cambridge University, becoming the first to hold that post. He had, however, no training in theoretical linguistics. Herbert Giles was his replacement. He (also a diplomat rather than an academic) completed a romanization system begun by Wade. This became popular in the late 19th century, mainly, I suggest, because there was no other!

      Unfortunately, both seem to have been a little hard of hearing. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked why the Chinese changed the name of their capital from Peking to Beijing. In fact, the name didn’t change at all. It had always been pronounced with /b/ rather than /p/ and /ʤ/ rather than /k/. The only thing which changed was the writing system.

      In 1958, China adopted Pinyin as the standard romanization, not to help dumb foreigners like me, but to help lower China’s historically high illiteracy rate. It worked very well indeed, Today, it is used in primary schools and in some shop or road signs etc., although street signs seldom, if ever, include the necessary tone markers without which it isn't very helpful.
       

      A local shopping mall. The correct pinyin (with tone markers) is 'dōng dū bǎi huò'.
       
      But pinyin's main use today is as the most popular input system for writing Chinese characters on computers and cell-phones. I use it in this way every day, as do most people. It is simpler and more accurate than older romanizations. I learned it in one afternoon.  I doubt anyone could have done that with Wade-Giles.
       
      Pinyin has been recognised for over 30 years as the official romanization by the International Standards Organization (ISO), the United Nations and, believe it or not, The United States of America, along with many others. Despite this recognition, old romanizations linger on, especially in America. Very few people in China know any other than pinyin. 四川 is  'sì chuān' in pinyin.
    • By liuzhou
      An eG member recently asked me by private message about mushrooms in China, so I thought I'd share some information here.

      This is what available in the markets and supermarkets in the winter months - i.e now. I'll update as the year goes by.
       
      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.
    • By liuzhou
      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.
       

       

    • By liuzhou
      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.
       
       
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