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nakji

eG Foodblog: nakji (2011) - Gong Xi Fa Cai - goodbye Tiger; hello Rabb

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I can't believe it's been a week!

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Last breakfast: yogurt with maple syrup. Very Canadian of me, I suppose. Growing up, I hardly every had proper maple syrup - too expensive! Now I buy it each year for Christmas breakfast, which is always French Toast chez Garnhum. This is the leftover at the bottom of the bottle. If I'm feeling quite productive later today, I'll use the spoon of yogurt left in the bottle to make some more.

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The pickled radish appeals to me.

Does it sound crazy to say that parts of Suzhou look somewhat European? Is there a historical reason for that?

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An early lunch, as I've got another lesson this afternoon to get to. And some homework to finish before that!

I hated fried rice growing up. That brown stuff from the local takeaway? Yuck. My Dad would labour over one on Saturday nights to go with sweet and sour pork and broccoli beef, and I hated that, too. He used prawns, which I wouldn't eat until - oh, I was say 24? I was a picky eater as a kid. I'm making up for lost time, now.

Then I moved to Korea, and discovered kimchi fried rice. Now I probably make fried rice once a week to use up leftovers. I often make it using the dregs of whatever was for dinner, mixed with the leftover rice. It's never the same twice. I put it into our lunch boxes, and top it with a fried egg the next morning. As long as you poke the yoke first, it heats up in the microwave a treat.

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I had some leftover rice from dinner last night, and some of the baozi filling. I don't like my egg scrambled in - I prefer it fried on top and then cut in after, like you find in Korea and SE Asia. Do they ever do that in Chinese cuisines? I don't think I've seen it in Suzhou.

I sizzled the baozi filling in some peanut oil in the wok, tossed in the rice, and fried it all together. The salt from the pickles in the filling is adequate to season it.

A little bit of chili sauce is essential, I feel to finish it off.

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I could have put some of that duck/pork sausage in, but didn't feel like actually chopping anything.

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The pickled radish appeals to me.

Does it sound crazy to say that parts of Suzhou look somewhat European? Is there a historical reason for that?

I thought so, too. For me, though, I think it's just because it's quite old, and I associate old places with Europe. Actual Europeans may feel differently! :laugh: The building limits downtown also mean a lot has been preserved, which I have found is not always true in other Asian countries - especially the ones that are developed.

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Lobak goh is Chinese turnip cake. Glutineous rice flour batter, shredded white radish (lobak), dried shrimp, lap cheung or lap yuk, Chinese mushrooms. Steamed for an hour. Let it cool and slice. Then fry slices up before eating with chili oil.

It's here on my webpage:

http://www.hillmanweb.com/soos/lobakgoh.html

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Ah! I've had that before - at the extremely excellent Crystal Jade in Shanghai. I liked it, but the best part of white radish for me is the crunch. Does that steamed cake freeze well?

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No. I don't think lobak goh freezes well, but it does keep in fridge for a week or so. I've never tried as it disappears quite readily.

There is no crunh in the cake. The turnip is boiled first, then mixed into the batter. It's the flavour from the turnip that makes it so good - blended with all the other ingrdients.

I also use the turnip for the savoury dumpling soup. Love that stuff! :wub:

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Yeah, that's why I almost always pickle mine - although when the cake is fried, it does get a bit of a crunchy crust, doesn't it? Oh, I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it.

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Is the Kwak the one that comes in the big glass with a wooden support?

Yes, a bit of a gimmick, but still a good beer.

I had some leftover rice from dinner last night, and some of the baozi filling. I don't like my egg scrambled in - I prefer it fried on top and then cut in after, like you find in Korea and SE Asia. Do they ever do that in Chinese cuisines?

Not that I know of. I'm not even sure if Chinese ever eat runny yolks; my parents always made it well done.

I do exactly what you do. I'll usually make up a big batch of fried rice and whenever I reheat some I'll fry up an egg (or two if I'm filling decadent) to put on top.

Ah! I've had that before - at the extremely excellent Crystal Jade in Shanghai. I liked it, but the best part of white radish for me is the crunch.

In Mandarin, it's luó​ bo ​gāo (萝卜糕, literally "turnip cake"). It's probably in the top five most essential dim sum dishes. I share your sentiment though, it's not crunchy, and just seems like a big block of starch, which feels you up and prevents you from eating other dim sums. Sometimes it's mixed with some finely diced ham, which makes it a bit better, but I still don't order it often.

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Erin, this blog has been a great insight into another world for me. This was why I got the courage to try bao earlier this week. It actually was part of my little homage to Chinese New Year. I also made won ton soup, and made the wontons from sort of scratch...used purchased wrappers, but the filling and soup were scratch.

Your city is lovely, so different from the mega-sprawl of the LA basin. Living in a culture where anything that's older than 50 years or so is summarily torn down, I can't imagine what it would be like to have so much history at every turn of a corner. It must be magical.

But back to food. I love the idea of putting a whole fried egg on top of fried rice, I must try that next time I make it. And I'm going to try your daikon pickle. I've just recently discovered daikon, and like it...this sounds intriguing for sure.

I did have a question as well. You mentioned that most of the shops/stores/markets are closed for the holiday. Do many native Chinese eat out at restaurants during the holiday period, or is it stictly a home-based celebration? It always amazes me how many Americans are willing to eat out on Thanksgiving and Christmas, which for me, are all about being at home.

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Is the Kwak the one that comes in the big glass with a wooden support?

Yes, a bit of a gimmick, but still a good beer.

I had some leftover rice from dinner last night, and some of the baozi filling. I don't like my egg scrambled in - I prefer it fried on top and then cut in after, like you find in Korea and SE Asia. Do they ever do that in Chinese cuisines?

Not that I know of. I'm not even sure if Chinese ever eat runny yolks; my parents always made it well done.

I do exactly what you do. I'll usually make up a big batch of fried rice and whenever I reheat some I'll fry up an egg (or two if I'm filling decadent) to put on top.

Ah! I've had that before - at the extremely excellent Crystal Jade in Shanghai. I liked it, but the best part of white radish for me is the crunch.

In Mandarin, it's luó​ bo ​gāo (萝卜糕, literally "turnip cake"). It's probably in the top five most essential dim sum dishes. I share your sentiment though, it's not crunchy, and just seems like a big block of starch, which feels you up and prevents you from eating other dim sums. Sometimes it's mixed with some finely diced ham, which makes it a bit better, but I still don't order it often.

A fried egg on top of fried rice - any kind of fried rice - is one of life's great gild-the-lily moments. On my last trip of Malaysia, I made it a bit of a photo project to chronicle all the different varieties of fried-rice-with-egg I saw there.

I'll admit to being dim sum greedy, too. I basically only want to eat really fussy dumplings or fried things when I go; stuff that I'd never make at home. Like xiaolongbao.

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Erin, this blog has been a great insight into another world for me. This was why I got the courage to try bao earlier this week. It actually was part of my little homage to Chinese New Year. I also made won ton soup, and made the wontons from sort of scratch...used purchased wrappers, but the filling and soup were scratch.

Your city is lovely, so different from the mega-sprawl of the LA basin. Living in a culture where anything that's older than 50 years or so is summarily torn down, I can't imagine what it would be like to have so much history at every turn of a corner. It must be magical.

But back to food. I love the idea of putting a whole fried egg on top of fried rice, I must try that next time I make it. And I'm going to try your daikon pickle. I've just recently discovered daikon, and like it...this sounds intriguing for sure.

I did have a question as well. You mentioned that most of the shops/stores/markets are closed for the holiday. Do many native Chinese eat out at restaurants during the holiday period, or is it stictly a home-based celebration? It always amazes me how many Americans are willing to eat out on Thanksgiving and Christmas, which for me, are all about being at home.

Thank you! I'm glad I inspired you to try baozi. They are perhaps my most favourite food in the world - the one that reminds me most of my Dad, who is another baozi fiend. I'm trying to get good at making them this year so when I go back this summer I can make a lot and put them in the freezer for him.

I am also very happy to spread the daikon/lobak/luobo/white radish love. You also might like to try the excellent radish kimchi you no doubt have readily available to you in LA, which goes by "kkakdugi" - if you like spicy things. Ask for it the next time you're at a Korean restaurant. Or, try it in some chicken or pork broth with shiitake mushrooms, seasoned with a bit of soy sauce and a little mirin. It's a subtle and lovely dish. It's the vegetable that keeps on giving. If you get one fresh from someone's garden, you can blanch and eat the greens. Or...(and I could keep going here...) save the peels (well-scrubbed), chop them in strips and stir fry with sesame seeds, chili flakes, a bit of soy and sugar, and finish with sesame oil. You can use every part!

I'm not sure about family vs. restaurant on New Year's Day. It's my impression, based on talking to friends and observing that most restaurants here are now shut, that people stay at home for a meal. But Kent - you said your family goes to a restaurant?

So I'm not sure. But then, I'm a stranger here myself.

It's been a real pleasure showing off my corner of Suzhou to everyone.

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Ok - the "Last Supper", if you will. The market is still shut, so I went foraging back to my vegetable hut again. I got some back alley pictures, but my flash died before I could get the hut.

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Here's the alley next to our complex - When the clothes go up first thing in the morning, I have to run quickly under each pole to avoid being dripped on. The courtyard homes will probably - if things go well for everyone - be converted to galleries and posh coffee shops in ten years. There's no running water, or heat, which in the winter is extremely difficult. Here's the neighborhood well:

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Tonight's vegetable hut take:

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The vegetable selection is getting limper and and browner each day. Hopefully the market will reopen tomorrow.

Spinach, a zucchini, a carrot, some fresh bamboo shoots, and some (unpictured) red chilis.

For my last dinner, I wanted to make a couple of Korean dishes. I had some wood-ear mushrooms and some sweet potato noodles I've been meaning to use for a while, so japchae seemed like the thing to do:

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The prep:

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Japchae is a noodle dish that's a popular home-cooking noodle dish in Korea. It's sometimes served as a side-dish at restaurants, and it's one of my favourites. It's another dish that can be served hot or cold, so it makes great leftovers. It can be made with whatever vegetables you have on hand, but spinach, mushrooms, and carrots seem to be the most common. You can put beef or pork slivers in, but I didn't have any, so I didn't.

I first blanched the spinach in some water with soy sauce in it - a trick I picked up from a Korean friend. Then I cooked the noodles in the same water.

In my wok, I started with some garlic in peanut oil. Then I stir-fried the vegetables, starting from the hardest (carrot) to finally the spinach. Then, I tossed in the noodles, along with a healthy glug of light soy sauce, another healthy glug of sesame oil, about 4 tbsp. of sugar, sesame seeds, and fresh ground pepper.

Using scissors to cut the noodles is the Korean way! And it saves fighting with them.

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The finished noodles:

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And on the side - fried zucchini:

Dredged zucchini slices in seasoned flour; then pan-fried.

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On a plate with some black sesame seeds, Maldon salt, and a Chinese characteristic - sprinkled with black vinegar.

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And that's it. My New Year week in food.

Thanks everyone for coming along for the ride!

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I think most middle class Chinese and up go to a restaurant. I would imagine that all the large restaurants (i.e. not hole in the wall) in most major cities stay open.

In general, Chinese do not entertain much at home as Chinese homes are generally smaller, and dining out is very common.

Fun blog, Erin. Thanks for putting in the work.

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Thanks! I'm going to pour myself a large drink, put my feet up, and relax - and not cook again for a couple of days!

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Thanks, Erin, for a great week! I was happy to see your last meal was japche - reminded me to make use of the packages of sweet potato noodles I have in my cupboard. :smile:

As for lobak goh, I never eat it in the restaurants. Like Kent, I find they are lumps of steamed dough. But when I make it at home, it's full of goodies, just the way my Mom made it. Then it's worth eating. I do like the crusty bits on the surface of slices after pan frying.

I do remember, as a kid, having fried rice with egg. But it was a raw egg, broken over hot fried rice fresh out of the wok. Once the egg is mixed it, it cooks from the heat in the dish - very lightly scrambled egg adding a silky texture to the whole dish. We didn't worry about salmonella way back then...

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Yummmmmmmm your last supper looks soooo good.

Thank you, Erin for showing us a peek into your life! I loved every second!

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Thanks so much for all the great pictures and food! I'm off to dim sum, I've been thinking about it since I started reading this!

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Thanks for a great time! I loved seeing your life there. The alleys are SO charming, then you realize that living there, with no heat, probably little light, and having to carry water, is not so charming.

I am amazed at how modern and clean many of the shops and restaurants are. Of course as tourists the places we were were like that, but I'm impressed that your neighborhood is like that. my bias/lack of understanding I guess.

Great Week!

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Your blog has been at the top of my e-reading list all week. Seeing China through your eyes has made it seem that much more accessible to me. With any luck, I will be joining my husband on a business trip to Shenzhen (and Hong Kong) in a few short months. Thanks to you, I am a bit less terrified at the prospect, and actually quite looking forward to it. As for fried pigeon? Not so much... :unsure:

Thanks for a great week!

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It's been a real pleasure showing off my corner of Suzhou to everyone.

It's really been our pleasure. Thank you, and thank you for all your individual responses, to me and others, from which I learned a lot and got some great ideas.

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Fabulous job, I enjoyed this blog immensely. Thank you so much.

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