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nakji

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

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The firecrackers have started in earnest now! I feel like I'm in a war zone. A happy war zone. Breakfast was more no-knead bread - in toast format; the pinnacle of bread consumption. I feel a good piece of properly browned toast of good quality bread, not cowardly with the butter, is the best start to my day. I use Lurpak on special occasions; is it the best butter available internationally (wide distribution category)? Or is President better?

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First off: massive ***k-up on my end: I thought today was New Year's Eve, but actually, it's tomorrow. What an idiot! It does explain why my cleaning lady looked at me funny today when I told her to go home because it was a holiday. *sigh. Anyway, people are still coming round for dinner, and I have most of the prep done. So: Happy Early New Year!

But first: Carrefour.

Carrefour is French supermarket chain that has expanded throughout Asia. I've shopped in them in Korea and Vietnam, although not in Japan. I think they were there, but closed down.

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There's lots of e-bike parking:

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(And a shuttle bus service for seniors. Six variety routes to serve you!)

Let's look at today's specials, shoppers:

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Useful for our daily life!

Up the escalators:

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And into candy! I picked up some White Rabbit originals.

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Dried Goods:

Bulk rice, and even bulkier oil:

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Seriously, people seem to go through A LOT of oil. You can tell a lot about a cuisine by wandering through a supermarket, which is why a visit to one is always tops on my list when I visit a new country, even on holiday.

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For the ma lovers:

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Ooooh, flavoured oils. I hadn't noticed those before...oooh, Sichuan peppercorn oil, like rarerollingobject has. When I brought these over to the basket, my husband raised a brow and said, "What are you going to do with THOSE?"

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I will find a use, dear heart.

Let's wander into the New Year's gift set area, shall we?

A leg of...ham? for 400 kuai. Nothing says, "I love you," like the gift of pork.

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Posh wines and maotai sets:

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We steered clear and picked up a decent bottle of Bordeaux for our landlords instead. Stick with what you know, I say.

I did pick up a nice bottle of Shaoxing for me, though.

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Ok, let's go down to fresh food.

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Down we go:

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The dried spices, meat, and other dried goods are waiting at the bottom. They contribute a lovely xiang fragrance to the atmosphere.

A dried chicken looks at me with studied disinterest, much like the staff.

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Dried duck pieces:

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I bought some duck sausage.

Dried sea products, for Helen. Much like you see in Japan, I think.

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Sides of salt pork:

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Bulk spices - more peppercorns!

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Only a small slice of the preserved egg selection:

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At this point in the trip, I usually start to get mentally tired, trying to process everything. How can it all be turned into different dishes? Is there someone who knows what to do with each and every one of these things? The mind boggles.

Into vegetables, then.

Some sort of lily shoot? Have at it, botanists.

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Controversy abates - actual lily buds.

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Mushrooms:

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Elegant knots of long beans:

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Pods of things, and things in pods:

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"Celtuce": not just a basketball team in Boston:

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Garlic scapes:

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My camera battery started to die at this point, so I didn't go into fruit.

On to protein!

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Thirty-six kinds of tofu: I could cook tofu every day for a month, I think, and not scratch the surface.

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There's also blood for soups and such.

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The cold dish area will do cold noodles up for you with toppings like crushed peanuts, cilantro, chilies...

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Or you can buy pre-made cold dishes, like a deli:

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Fishies! Better to look at than to eat, I think.

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These looked considerably more genki than the ones from Sunday, I think.

You can lucky-dip your own. Lucky for us; not so lucky for the fish, I expect.

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The meat department specializes in on-the-hoof:

Leg of lamb:

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Sides of pig:

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Pieces of pork. In no particular combination:

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There's a large staff who'll cut to order for you, too:

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Going to Carrefour always exhausts me, like I said, because of the information overload. I try to get there for bulk purchases like oil, seasonings, rice, and the like.

We got out today with about 400 yuan damage - not bad considering that included several bottles of Duvel and that Bordeaux. I'll show the haul later.

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Dumplings for lunch at a local dumpling house. I got the mixed fried plate, which somes with pork-cilantro; egg and chive; and pork and chive. Fried with chili-vinegar dipping sauce - perfect. While we ate we watched the children torment the tank crabs.

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"Assume defensive positions!"

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When I got home, there was a pig leg tied to our bannister. Hmmm. Wonder if they'd notice if I nicked it?

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Wow - I'm late to the party, but LOVING this foodblog. Carrefour is amazing - I took a hugely long taxi ride in Shanghai specifically to check one out, and am still getting over the full shark's head they had in the seafood case there, and the totally flattened pig's head in the butcher section - round and flat as a plate, and complete with bulging eyeballs!

Thanks for blogging, nakji, can't wait to see the rest!

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Wow - I'm late to the party, but LOVING this foodblog. Carrefour is amazing - I took a hugely long taxi ride in Shanghai specifically to check one out, and am still getting over the full shark's head they had in the seafood case there, and the totally flattened pig's head in the butcher section - round and flat as a plate, and complete with bulging eyeballs!

Thanks for blogging, nakji, can't wait to see the rest!

Yeah, Shanghai Carrefours have even more stuff, as I figured out looking for the Rhum Agricole that Kent says he can get at his Carrefour. Sadly ABSENT from ours. Alas.

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Thanks, Erin, for clearing up the debate on the lily bulbs. :laugh: The lotus roots, I saw them for the first time acouple of weeks ago in the city. Those are the long tentacles that reach into the water along side of the well formed lotus root that we see and use. Not sure how they'd be used...stir-fried? Soup? I'd be interested to know.

The long beans you showed are certainly more worthy of eating than what we get here. Ours are very dark, skinny, and often woody by the time they get into my wok. I love them, but end up buying regular green beans instead.

Do you know how they use the dried chickens? I've never seen those before...


Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Some sort of lily shoot? Have at it, botanists.

gallery_41378_6890_701423.jpg

I bought these once and asked my ayi (maid) how to cook them—that's my usual strategy with strange Chinese vegetables. She wasn't sure but believed it was more of a medicinal thing and you brew them like tea. I tried it; didn't taste great, a little bitter, like a lot of traditional Chinese medicine.

"Celtuce": not just a basketball team in Boston:

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I love these (Wikipedia article). They're called wosun in Chinese. They're a bit of a pain to cook because you have to peel the outsides of the stem (the leaves are discarded). I usually get my ayi to do it, or when I buy it from the wet market they'll do it for you. But it's a fresh crispy green vegetable, usually just stir-fry it. They're really nothing like either celery or lettuce.


Edited by Kent Wang (log)

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Dinner!

Despite figuring out I was doing the equivalent of preparing a full turkey dinner on December 23rd, I pushed ahead with my Chinese New Year Feast.

And by "feast" I mean, a small selection of dishes I felt comfortable putting out for a group of five.

With me in the kitchen was Ms. Dunlop, the person who I feel really writes recipes about the food I see being eaten here and now on the mainland.

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The Take from Carrefour:

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A good cookbook author, especially one who is writing about ethnic cuisines for non-native audiences, gives clues and hints along the way to novices. Ms. Dunlop is in this group. I had chosen to do chili cucumbers and crystal snow lotus root from the cold dishes section - for the lotus, she suggests a 400g portion of root, saying that that's the portion normally found in the supermarkets. Sure enough, when I looked at the packaged root at Carrefour, every one was in or around 400g.

I got a selection of mushrooms; leeks; tofu; daikon; pickled green onion ends; pickled chili cucumber pickles; lotus root; qing cai (tatsoi?); cucumbers; chili peanuts; duck sausage; and some golden tomatoes. Not pictured are a chicken breast and pork mince.

Can you guess the menu?

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Eh, I won't make you guess.

First, I put the greens in the sink to soak. Does anyone have a truc for getting the grit out of Asian greens? I feel like I spend half my life at the sink trying to get them clean.

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Then I started the red-cooked pork recipe from Sichuan Cookery:

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Stir-frying to start:

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Someone, somewhere recently posted that they prefer this recipe for RCP to the one provided in Revolutionary Cuisine: I agree - this one came out the best I've ever done. Although I also used palm sugar, which may have made a difference.

Then arranged nicely in the pot. Chefs at restaurants here seem to get it in one continuous layer, but I can't.

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It then went on to braise for two hours.

In the meantime, I put the lotus root into soak. Ms. Dunlop often uses ginger-flavoured water to infuse things - here it's the root, but writes about the same technique for her baozi. Could this technique be used for other vegetables, do you think?

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Sometimes I forget I'm reading a book meant for UK audiences, so the direction to cut the cucumbers into batons "the size of potato chips" gave me a pause for a minute before clicking through the "translate" button. Right. THOSE kind of chips.

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I chose this dish because the cucumbers are salted first, then drained, and then, instead of being thrown away as per Samuel Pepys, they're stir-fried with Sichuan peppercorns. If only he'd known. It can be done ahead of time, and sit happily at room temperature, which helped me.

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While that was going, I prepped some mushrooms and the arrowroot for a soup. Fortunately I had some good chicken stock in the freezer. Together with a bit of ginger and some chicken breast, I figured I could cobble together a Chinese-style soup.

After soaking, the lotus root gets coated in a sweet-sour syrup. This kind of lotus is very popular in Jiangsu, although it's usually purple instead of white. I think this is a definite case for food being plated on non-white dishes - this would have been lost on a white plate.

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I pulled the pork off the hob once it was ready - it was very hard to not to pull apiece out for myself. But I was good.

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While I waited for the guests to arrive, I enjoyed some chili peanuts.

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Pickles go quite nice with beer, so I like to set them out along with nuts as par of my cold dish/appetizer table while guests wait for me to finish the last-minute dishes.

Helen asked to see some as well. Here are some rakkyo, where were quite a bit cheaper than you'd get in Japan, I think. 250g for 50 yen?

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Some salt-chili cucumbers:

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Meanwhile back in the kitchen, the prep for map doufu. (Is there a Chinese word for mis en place? There must be.) We have an excellent pictorial for mapo doufu here, from our own hzrt8w, and there are at least two recipes, I think, in Sichuan cookery. But I go my own way with this dish, I've made it so many times. I couldn't even say how I make it, other than I do most of it to taste. The one thing I do do is marinate the meat as per hzrt8w's instructions. It makes a perfectly thickened sauce every time. (Funny that most of the bottled sauces are Lee Kum Kee!)

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In the back, you can see some julienned daikon. I tossed that in the wok with some duck sausage and chili powder and sugar for a quick side dish.

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Before the final dish - the muckiest and hardest one to clean out of the wok - I did the greens. Although greens cool faster than mapo doufu would, it's harder to rinse the pan out after that. So I did the greens first.

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And finally, almost the final dish to the table:

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Last dish to the table (after quite a few shots of yellow wine - hence the blurry photo, sorry.) - the chicken soup. Actually, I think it came off okay. But, yeah, I didn't really enjoy the arrowroot that much. It reminded me of sato imo. A textural thing, I guess.

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And now: Fireworks.

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Thanks, Erin, for clearing up the debate on the lily bulbs. :laugh: The lotus roots, I saw them for the first time acouple of weeks ago in the city. Those are the long tentacles that reach into the water along side of the well formed lotus root that we see and use. Not sure how they'd be used...stir-fried? Soup? I'd be interested to know.

The long beans you showed are certainly more worthy of eating than what we get here. Ours are very dark, skinny, and often woody by the time they get into my wok. I love them, but end up buying regular green beans instead.

Do you know how they use the dried chickens? I've never seen those before...

Oh, heavens, no. No idea with the dried chickens. But please, if anyone does know...

Maybe they're for soups?

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Some sort of lily shoot? Have at it, botanists.

gallery_41378_6890_701423.jpg

I bought these once and asked my ayi (maid) how to cook them—that's my usual strategy with strange Chinese vegetables. She wasn't sure but believed it was more of a medicinal thing and you brew them like tea. I tried it; didn't taste great, a little bitter, like a lot of traditional Chinese medicine.

"Celtuce": not just a basketball team in Boston:

gallery_41378_6890_354891.jpg

I love these (Wikipedia article). They're called wosun in Chinese. They're a bit of a pain to cook because you have to peel the outsides of the stem (the leaves are discarded). I usually get my ayi to do it, or when I buy it from the wet market they'll do it for you. But it's a fresh crispy green vegetable, usually just stir-fry it. They're really nothing like either celery or lettuce.

I need to start getting my ayi to weigh in on kitchen matters. Maybe I'll ask her about the salted chicken.

As for the roots - well, I guess it's better to "drink bitter" than to "eat bitter" :biggrin: (吃苦!)

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Where do you get the duck sausage? Is it with all the other sausages? I've always thought they were all pork.

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OMG all of that food looks so good!!! The pork....droooooling....

:biggrin: That's why I was so confused about the time difference there...I kept trying to calculate why New Year's there was so much earlier than here :laugh: :laugh:

Well, you were one up on me.

Shelby, I didn't see any more of those Lemon Iced Tea chips today, although I will admit - I didn't look too hard.

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Where do you get the duck sausage? Is it with all the other sausages? I've always thought they were all pork.

This bit was with the other sausages, yeah - but I'm just inferring that it was duck because it was shelved under a duck sign. I could have been in the wrong place. Or the sign could have been different - when you can only read one character out of twenty, it's a bit of a guessing game.

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