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nakji

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

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wish someone would give ME a pig leg

Somebody did give me a leg of wild boar once...in a plastic bag, with skin and hair attached...e careful what you wish for!

Upside down luck - that sounds like my kind of luck, for sure.

China or not, that coffee and white beer look very good indeed.

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Erin, I'm really enjoying the blog. I've always admired your adventurousness and how you approach every different culture that you end up living in, I think that's an amazing quality.

I'm envious of a supermarket that sells 36 kinds of tofu!

Oh, and about the mole: did you have any left over? In my experience mole tastes SO much better the next day. It becomes more balanced, and the heat level changes (it becomes spicier). I never make mole and serve it the same day. The best mole I ever tasted had lived in my fridge for 4 days or so.

And the tofu is all quite excellent, although I'm most partial to the fried cubes.

The mole was all gone last night! We were fairly greedy. But I'll remember that trick the next time, and try to make it a day ahead. I think most dishes like that benefit from a sit to gel the flavours, don't they?

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wish someone would give ME a pig leg

Somebody did give me a leg of wild boar once...in a plastic bag, with skin and hair attached...e careful what you wish for!

Upside down luck - that sounds like my kind of luck, for sure.

China or not, that coffee and white beer look very good indeed.

Upside down luck! An excellent way to look at it.

:biggrin:

There was still hair on the hoof of that one tied to the banister.

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Tonight, to make up for our earlier sloth, we tackled a Xinjiang-style restaurant - a Halal restaurant that specializes in the cuisine from the majority-Muslim Xinjiang province. Although there have been political tensions between Beijing and this province, they have not seemed to affect the popularity of this cuisine - there are several restaurants that feature this kind of cooking within short cab-rides from my flat.

Right away, you can tell you're not in a Han Chinese place, as the tables are rectangular; the waitresses are in minority dress, and the decor calls to mind a silk road caravan tent. There are even goat skulls on the wall, which I unforgivably forgot to take pictures of.

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The emphasis is, of course, on lamb and mutton dishes. They cook up all parts of the animal, and the lamb ribs are particularly fine. You can also get skewers of lamb heart; kidneys; and other offaly bits.

We ordered skewers, which are cooked on an open-air grill on the street over charcoal; and dusted with cumin and chili. The meat is interspersed with chunks of pure lamb fat.

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They also make their own yogurt in-house, so we got a bowl of that to cut some of the chili heat, along with some Xinjiang black beer. I actually had a pomegranate juice instead, since I don't like dark beers.

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Dry fried beans, which are usually made with ground pork, are instead dressed with Sichuan peppercorns to give flavour, along with the requisite ginger-chili-garlic mix.

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Broccoli - it's strangely delicious here. We reckon it's doused in a rich chicken broth and sprinkled with MSG. It tastes better than broccoli has a right to.

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We got some nan bread to soak up the sauces from the braises:

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The braises being big-plate chicken, spicy with dried and fresh chilis and a hint of anise:

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And cinnamon anise beef and potatoes:

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I like to break up my nan, poke it into the sauce in pieces, and come back several minutes later to pluck it out with chopsticks.

My friends and I often come here, but usually separately. It was fun to all order our favourite dishes and discover new menu gems. There is an English menu, but the translation is such that it offers you no more clue to the component parts of the dishes than do the Chinese characters. So when someone shows me a new good one, I take a moment to memorize the name. This one was a suggestion from my friend:

Fine-chopped mutton with carrots and peppers; served with thin wheat pancakes for wrapping. We doused it in yogurt to excellent results.

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And my favourite: chopped noodles. These are noodles that have been pulled, then cut into little pieces, almost like gnocchi. They're served with a thick lamb ragu.

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And because we hadn't had enough potatoes: deep-fried potatoes in caramel.

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Hmm, looking at all these pictures, it's been a very meat-centric day. I'll have to rein that in tomorrow.

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Wow- that meal looks totally incredible. I wouldn't even know where to begin, and I mean that in the best possible way. The noodle dish does look very special, I can't recall having anything like it before.

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Ohmygosh, that looks incredible. I want that noodle stuff right now!

I must try my hand at naan. It looks like a fluffier tortilla. What does it taste like?

Do you ever take leftovers home out of that restaurant? I would order extra just so I could. :biggrin:

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...

And because we hadn't had enough potatoes: deep-fried potatoes in caramel.

...

OK. Now *those* words together are just magic-sounding. Crazy, but magical....

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...

And because we hadn't had enough potatoes: deep-fried potatoes in caramel.

...

OK. Now *those* words together are just magic-sounding. Crazy, but magical....

Count me in as well. How do you think they were prepared? Was it meant to be a dessert item or is the line mushy? Also those noodle bits are calling me - toothsome is that the word when they are a bit chewy? Oh my- I have some recon to do because I know I can get just a little little bit close here in Los Angeles.

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Following avidly, and thoroughly enjoying this taste of a culture of which I know so very little. Also intrigued by the potatos in caramel....

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Apologies all - I wanted to show you some pictures of the teashops along the canal, but - I brought my camera WITHOUT the memory card. s-m-r-t. I managed to snap a few pictures on my husband's iPhone, though.

It's okay, though, because after three days of frantic activity and cooking, I decided to kick back and enjoy the warm weather we had. We ended up back at the Bookworm, one of the teashops along the canal on Shi Quan Jie, since pretty much every Chinese place was shut. It was nice enough to spend the whole afternoon on the patio, so we did. So much for my walk!

I, uh, had the burger.

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And a coffee.

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And, my breakfast beer of choice:

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Tonight, we're going to go out to dinner to a local Chinese Muslim place called Yakexi. And I will bring a memory card.

You can get a burger but not a blueberry muffin? And: is beer for breakfast common? Sort of like having a bloody mary?

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Here's a video on making lagman noodles. These ones were chopped into pieces, and probably - but I'm not certain - wok fried with the lamb sauce. They are rather toothsome, and I find them very comforting to eat. I believe Alford and Duguid have a recipe for making the long noodles in "Beyond the Great Wall", a book I have but don't pay nearly enough attention to - it focuses on the minority cuisines of China.

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...

And because we hadn't had enough potatoes: deep-fried potatoes in caramel.

...

OK. Now *those* words together are just magic-sounding. Crazy, but magical....

Count me in as well. How do you think they were prepared? Was it meant to be a dessert item or is the line mushy? Also those noodle bits are calling me - toothsome is that the word when they are a bit chewy? Oh my- I have some recon to do because I know I can get just a little little bit close here in Los Angeles.

I think the potatoes in caramel follow the same principles as apples in caramel, another common dish? There's a recipe in Yan Kit-so's Classic Chinese cuisine. The sugar hardens as you eat it, making it quite difficult to pry the pieces apart. Even my group, with its mad chopstick skills, was left fighting the potatoes across the table to pick them up. The resaurant cat was waiting nearby to get any splashback.

If this cuisine looks interesting, try looking for Uigyur or Uzbekistani restaurants.

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I actually had a pomegranate juice instead

Do they make this in house? Is it pink or dark red? All the pomegranates I can find here have pink juice, instead of like, for example, Pom brand which is as dark as red wine. The pink stuff just doesn't have as rich of a taste. I made some into a grenadine but it was not nearly as good as the stuff I made back in America.

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Nah - I wish. It was bottled, and it was a light pink. It wasn't bad, but you're right - it's not a patch on the dark red pomegranates.

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Ohmygosh, that looks incredible. I want that noodle stuff right now!

I must try my hand at naan. It looks like a fluffier tortilla. What does it taste like?

Do you ever take leftovers home out of that restaurant? I would order extra just so I could. :biggrin:

The nan is hard to describe. It doesn't taste like Indian nan, nor does it taste like a flour tortilla. It doesn't have much flavour at all, really, and it's usually fairly hard. I've never gotten it when it's been fresh made, though. I think they make it in the morning, then it's stacked behind the lamb grill outside until you order it.

My husband and I often order extra from restaurants for lunch the next day - saying "wrap it up" was one of my first phrases in Chinese.

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You can get a burger but not a blueberry muffin? And: is beer for breakfast common? Sort of like having a bloody mary?

The chef at the Bookwork is British, and the menu has quite a few classics like full English breakfast, and bacon sandwiches and the like. One thing I noticed after moving overseas is that North American baking items - like muffins, chocolate chip cookies, layer cakes - are less popular for bakery items than French. So often it's quite easy to get things like (badly made) croissants and pain au chocolat; sables; or mousse cakes, but not a breakfast muffin. Starbucks will stock things like muffins, but they're usually adjusted to the local market - like black bean or green tea flavour. And I don't get to Starbucks very often, either.

The beer for breakfast was just for the holiday! Hoegaarden tastes faintly of oranges and coriander, so I had it instead of orange juice.

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....

I must try my hand at naan. It looks like a fluffier tortilla. What does it taste like?

...

The nan is hard to describe. It doesn't taste like Indian nan, nor does it taste like a flour tortilla....

Shelby, Indian naan is, I think, best described as a cross between as you call it a "fluffy tortilla" and pita bread. Its softer than pita, and thicker than a tortilla, with a poof in the middle between the top and bottom layers. The taste is similar to pita, unless you mix spices or garlic into the dough, which is very common.

It's very easy to make, as is pita.

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...

The beer for breakfast was just for the holiday! Hoegaarden tastes faintly of oranges and coriander, so I had it instead of orange juice.

*THERE'S some excellent logic ! :wink::cool:

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Breakfast today was considerably less alcoholic: oatmeal.

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My Scots granny taught me to always salt it well, although I can't resist a bit of brown sugar and butter, either. I also stirred in some excellent green Xinjiang raisins, which are sweeter than brown California raisins, I think.

Oatmeal is quite popular in the supermarkets - you can even get bags of it in the convenience stores. Unfortunately, not steel cut oats! I can't even find them in Shanghai.

I wonder if locals use the oatmeal in savoury applications instead of rice - like congee?

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My husband is leaving for a trip in Vietnam today, so we had lunch together before he went to catch his train.

I had wanted to go to a dumpling place that does a good wonton soup and even better fried/steamed dumplings, but they were shut for the New Year. Our plan B: Mongolian hotpot at the "Little Sheep" chain.

Decorated for the holidays:

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The menu - you tick off what you'd like. My husband is fairly decent with characters, so we manage. One thing I love about restaurants - and I assume this is a China-wide thing, but correct me if I'm wrong - is that the wait staff will stay patiently with you through the ordering process; telling you what's fresh; fielding questions; telling you what's not in today (the menu lists all possible options, but there's always the chance a dish is finished for the day - or was never started. It's important to never have your heart set on anything and have a plan B. If you don't have a plan B, the waiter will help by suggesting a replacement.) I've seen people in restaurants take upwards of ten minutes with the staff, asking about every dish on each page, and they never bat an eyelash.

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The implements:

Wet wipes, chopsticks, toothpick (a necessity!), and tissues.

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We ordered the split pot: soup for the indecisive. On the red side, you can see chilis, leek, and Sichuan peppercorns, along with a more orange dried chili - anyone know what that is? On the white side, there's ginger slices, goji berries, Chinese cardamon, dried longans, and some other sort of nut - anyone? Both sides have a scoop of peeled garlic cloves that will cook down and become meltingly tender later on.

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Because I had so much meat yesterday, we ordered a lot of vegetables:

Winter melon and lotus root:

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Greens:

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Cilantro. I tear the leaves off for a dipping sauce for the meat, then throw the stems into the soup.

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Quail eggs - they're delicious, and excellent dexerity tests; using chopsticks to pluck them slick with chili oil over a molten pot is no game for n00bs.

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Oh, and , uh, hmm...some more beef. How did that get ordered?

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I like to make a sauce/salad to receive the hotpotted items - mixing chili oil with sesame paste, and tossing it with the cilantro leaves. It goes excellent with the beef.

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The eggs and greens are nice enough on their own, with just the broth clinging to them.

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We ordered some noodles at the end to take advantage of the thickened broth: these were called "Mongolian Silver Noodles" on the menu, and I suspect they're made with some sort of bean, as they were listed on the bean products page. Anyone?

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At this point, the garlic cloves were at the perfect stage, and mushed up nicely on the noodles, melding with the chili broth. I found it hard to eat them, because my lips were so numb at this point, it was hard to manipulate them into my mouth.

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Miraculously, I managed to eat several bowls without spraying myself with red.

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The weather has just been spectacular - 15 degrees and sunny, so I took a wander down the alley that runs along Shi Quan Jie to my favourite tea shop.

The doors in the alley are all decorated - this one had rabbits. Trivia: I've just heard that in Vietnam, the year of the Cat is celebrated instead of year of the Rabbit.

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The streets is lined with shops and restaurants that look over the canal.

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Tucked down an alley, there's a Buddhist temple that also operates a cafe - perhaps doing traditional vegetarian cuisine?

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Looks like they're serving bibimbap, actually. Huh. I don't know how chili sauce jives with temple cuisine.

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They've set tables up in their courtyard - too bad I was still full from lunch.

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More decorated doors:

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There are quite a few teashops in this alley.

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My favourite tea shop actually fronts on to Shi Quan Jie, though. San Wan Chang is a Suzhou tea merchant that got going in the Qing Dynasty. It's rather posh, but I really enjoy the fine quality teas there, despite their jaw-dropping prices.

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I had a brief chat with the manager, and most of their green and wulong teas come from Anxi or Zhejiang provinces. The bi luo chuns are from Suzhou, and the long jings come from Hangzhou. There are a few keemuns from Anhui, as well.

Bi Luo Chun:

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Long Jins:

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Oolongs:

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An unusual tea in "sticks":

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I bought 50 g of a Fujian Oolong, and 50 g of a Zhejiang "lu cha".

They also keep some jars of flowers and goji berries for herbal teas.

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I'm a sucker for nice jars.

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I should add: prices are for a jin of tea - 500g.

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