• Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create an account.

  • product-image-quickten.png.a40203b506711f7664fc62024e54a584.pngDid you know that these all-volunteer forums are operated by the 501(c)3 not-for-profit Society for Culinary Arts & Letters? This holiday season, consider a tax-deductible Quick Ten Bucks to support the eG Forums and help us remain completely advertising-free. Thanks to all those who have donated so far!

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
Toby

Various Chinese cuisines

190 posts in this topic

A famous saying in China goes: "A perfect life is possible if one is born in Suzhou (home of the most beautiful women), dressed in Hangzhou (finest silks), dies in Luzhou (best willow wood for coffins), but eats in Guangzhou (Canton, capital city of Guangdong province and home of classical Cantonese cuisine)." Cantonese food was considered the most delicious by the Chinese themselves.

Non-Chinese diners in the U.S., familiar with Cantonese-style restaurants, might disagree with this assertion. Typical Cantonese food in the U.S. has been altered, sometimes beyond recognition, by circumstances; it's Cantonese in concept but not execution. Chinese workers from the districts of Toi San And Sun Tak (near Canton) were among the first Chinese immigrants to the West in the 19th century. U.S. immigration policy at that time seriously limited the number of Chinese women allowed in -- the idea was that when the railroads were built, the Chinese would go home. The laborers cooked for themselves, as best they could, and when the railroads were built, they settled in American cities and some opened restaurants. They cooked the food they knew -- village-style, home cooking -- and were further limited by climate, available ingredients, and distance from tradition, as well as their practical need to please Western palates. And so we got yucky Chinese food -- cloying sweet and sour pork with canned pineapple, awful chow mein and chop suey, eggy sticky shrimp with lobster sauce, tasteless brown sauces thickened with cornstarch, msg headaches.

The 1970s was a golden age for Cantonese cuisine in the U.S. because of changes in immigration policies that allowed many more Chinese from Hong Kong into the U.S. Huge dim sum restaurants opened, and many chefs from Hong Kong arrived. I was lucky to be studying Chinese in New York at the time, and got invited to many Chinese banquets, as well as wonderful family restaurant meals where I ate food much closer to the classic Cantonese repertoire. My best friend's mother often took me on day-long eating and food shopping expeditions in Chinatown. At that time, the meat, seafood and produce were exceptionally fresh, because people demanded it. I was amazed at how so many of the Cantonese people I met were obsessed with food (on an eGullet level). I watched people order what they wanted without even consulting the Chinese menu. They simply wrote down the dishes they wanted on a piece of paper and handed it to the waiter. Everyone seemed to know the best places to go to as soon as they appeared.

Guangdong province is in the south, with a long coastline and several large rivers down which produce can be shipped from the interior. The climate is semi-tropical; two rice crops are harvested a year. More than in many areas of China, there was usually enough food, and a great variety of ingredients. These factors shaped a delicious cuisine whose underlying philosophy is absolute freshness and a concurrent desire to preserve the essential nature and sweet flavor of each ingredient. Various techniques are employed to achieve this.

One method is to cook food for short periods of time, or to use very mild forms of cooking. Food is poached in boiling water and then removed from the fire to finish cooking in the slowly cooling liquid. White cut chicken is an example of this method, as is soy sauce chicken (both are the chickens you see hanging in restaurant windows). For these dishes to work, the chicken has to be absolutely fresh. (The Cantonese prefer chicken slightly undercooked to Western tastes, leaving a little blood near the bone.) The delicate flavor of the white cut chicken is set off by a dipping sauce of soy sauce, chicken broth, ginger, scallions and sesame oil. Shrimp are also cooked with this method -- boiling water is poured over very fresh shrimp in their shells, left to stand for a few minutes and then drained. More boiling water is poured over, drained again, and the shrimp are then eaten with a dip of tangerine juice, minced scallion, soy sauce and shredded ginger root in vinegar. Brief steaming is another method that preserves the fresh, sweet taste. Whole fish such as sea bass, bream or carp are steamed until just cooked and served with a thin sauce of soy, chicken stock, ginger, scallions and wine. A little oil can be heated just before serving and poured over the fish. Greens of all kinds are blanched to preserve the natural flavor.

The Cantonese even have a dish similar to sashimi -- a live carp is pulled from the water, knocked on the head and stunned, split, gutted, scaled and filleted and eaten immediately with a dipping sauce of ginger, soy, boiled peanut oil, scallion and white pepper.

Stir-frying also is designed to retain the pure flavors of ingredients. Only a small amount of oil is used and the food is quickly whisked through the oil under very high heat in a manner described as "flame and air."

The savory quality of Cantonese food is often achieved by combining seafood flavors with meat. Oyster sauce, shrimp sauce and shrimp paste are widely used (similar to the use of fermented fish in Southeast Asian cooking). Shrimp shells and heads are boiled in meat or chicken stock to add depth of flavor to soups and sauces. Sometimes meat is added to seafood dishes to enhance the savoriness. An example is the classic Lobster Cantonese, in which minced or shredded pork is stir-fried with onions, garlic, ginger and soaked, mashed salted black beans together with lobster (or crab). Chicken stock and wine are added at the last minute, creating a little explosion in the wok, and then again in your mouth.

The Cantonese specialize in crispy foods, where the skin of pork and poultry is crisp and crackling, such as Crispy Skin Roast Pork (belly pork). Here the crunchiness of the skin is set off by the plain white rice served with it. Chicken is prepared as Crispy Deep-Fried Steamed Stuffed Chicken or Twice-Marinated Crispy Skin Splash-Fried Chicken. Pigeon is also deep-fried. A Cantonese specialty comparable to Peking Duck is Suckling Pig, served with the deep brown, crisp skin (that's brushed with a marinade before roasting) peeled off, cut into squares and served, with the tender meat, with small steamed Lotus Leaf Buns, scallions and hoisin sauce. Cantonese- (or Hong Kong) style Chow Mein is cooked using more frying oil than in other regions. The noodles are pressed down into the pan to make them crisper, and then turned and fried on the other side, to create a sandwich of crisp outer noodles with tender noodles inside.

Home cooking features slow-cooked dishes in earthenware casseroles, among them beef stew braised with daikon radish and star anise (the beef cut is similar to flanken), fish head in casserole, and red braised pork knuckle or belly. Congee is also a common snack food in Canton.

For spiciness, fermented black beans and small amounts of chiles are used. Subtle scents and flavors are introduced by adding drops of sesame oil or by wrapping food in lotus or bamboo leaves, such as lotus leaf sticky rice with duck, roast pork, dried mushrooms and chestnuts, and aromatics. I've always been fascinated by the array of dried foods and preserved meats in Chinese stores -- pork sausage, duck liver sausage, bacon, dried fish maw (air bladder), dried scallops and squid and shrimp, all the different dried mushrooms, deep-fried and then dried squares of bean curd which are stuffed with savory meat or seafood minces and then steamed, and the salted preserved vegetables in earthenware jugs, and fermented bean curd (the latter often added to quickly wilted greens such as watercress).

Textural foods, such as bird's nest, tree fungus, beche-de-mer, fish maw, and shark's fin, are Cantonese in origin, and are mostly found in banquet cooking. Great Assembly of Chicken, Abalone and Shark's Fin is an extravagant banquet dish, in which the shark's fins are cooked separately for over 7 hours and then gently cooked together with lean pork meat, pig's feet, ham, onions and a hen for another 4 hours. The pork, feet, ham, onion and chicken are then removed and put aside for other uses. A young chicken is then quartered, parboiled and left to simmer with the shark fins for another half hour. Abalone and soy sauce are briefly added. The chicken and abalone are cut into thin slices and arranged at the bottom of a deep, ceramic cooking dish. The liquid in the pot is strained and returned to simmer with the fins for another 30 minutes. The fin pieces are then arranged on top of the chicken and abalone. Some of the sauce, now thickened, is poured over to moisten and the pot is steamed for 5 minutes and then served. The shark fins are there primarily for their texture, but that's the point of the whole time-consuming process.

My friend's mother used to make a medicinal soup using the double pot method of cooking. She put blanched squabs inside a pot with chicken stock, ginger, scallions, ginseng root, and rice wine. The pot was then covered and placed inside a bigger pot filled with water, which was then covered and cooked for a long time.

And then there's dim sum, which epitomizes all of the savory deliciousness and love of eating found in Cantonese cooking and among Cantonese people.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Double wow. Waaa. Thanks, Toby.


"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The last Chinese banquet I attended was in 1985 when my aunt Dorothy married her husband. Classic banquet with 12+ courses. That post brought back memories...

SA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And then there's dim sum, which epitomizes all of the savory deliciousness and love of eating found in Cantonese cooking and among Cantonese people.

That's a setup for the sequel, I hope. Superb post, Toby - thanks.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, Toby. I've always heard that Cantonese food was considered to be the best by Chinese people, but nobody would believe me when I passed on the factoid. Now, you have backed it up with some solid information. I hope you post more about Chinese cooking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Good Lord. Somebody please hand me my tastebuds, crying over there in the corner.....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Toby, in the future please refrain from such posts unless you're prepared to serve all of us actual food to back them up.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Toby, in the future please refrain from such posts unless you're prepared to serve all of us actual food to back them up.

Please do refrain!

Seriously, WOW!

Thanks Toby.

I can well imagine how much effort you put into it. Not what you did with your knowledge, but also of your time and patience.

You are very kind. :biggrin:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you Toby!

"If it flies but it is not an airplane, swims in the water but is not a boat, has four legs but is not a table, the cantonese will eat it"


M

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, the original statement was about Wilfrid, but yes it's true of the Cantonese too.

I wish we had the expanded menu from Grand Sichuan International Midtown in New York City. It has some uproarious discussions of regional Chinese cuisine. Has anybody stolen a copy? If so let's post some quotes.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great post Toby. I will now trash all my Chinese cookbooks--except the one by Virginia Lee.

PJ


"Epater les bourgeois."

--Lester Bangs via Bruce Sterling

(Dori Bangs)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice post. It's always been my understanding that Cantonese food, at it's best, offers a cuisine that is arguable the finest of all Chinese foods in terms of finesse and range. I'd take issue only with what you say about western food, when you said "The Cantonese prefer chicken slightly undercooked to Western tastes, leaving a little blood near the bone." Traditionally the French have liked their roast chicken a little bloddy near the bones. It's Americans who like it well done.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very wow. Thanks for the post Toby. And best of all, being a 2.5 generation descendant from a small village outside Toi San (keywords: VERY SMALL VILLAGE), I can affirm what Toby's posted as being the truth with good translations too :)

No, I didn't have a 12+ course chinese banquet at my wedding. We had a buffet at a Golf and Country Club with dancing afterwards... after all, it's supposed to be a party, not a damned stuff your face and complain that the chinese dishes weren't done right / not high quality enough for a Wedding.... but that's another story. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Great Assembly of Chicken, Abalone and Shark's Fin is an extravagant banquet dish, in which the shark's fins are cooked separately for over 7 hours and then gently cooked together with lean pork meat, pig's feet, ham, onions and a hen for another 4 hours. The pork, feet, ham, onion and chicken are then removed and put aside for other uses. A young chicken is then quartered, parboiled and left to simmer with the shark fins for another half hour. Abalone and soy sauce are briefly added. The chicken and abalone are cut into thin slices and arranged at the bottom of a deep, ceramic cooking dish. The liquid in the pot is strained and returned to simmer with the fins for another 30 minutes. The fin pieces are then arranged on top of the chicken and abalone. Some of the sauce, now thickened, is poured over to moisten and the pot is steamed for 5 minutes and then served. The shark fins are there primarily for their texture, but that's the point of the whole time-consuming process

A soup with half the complexity of the one described above, in SIN,HKG or even YVR can set you back approx USD130/head with a minimum of two persons needed for the restaurant to consider such an order. We have had

ChuiChow (sp?) redition of Abalone & Chicken Soup, which I must say was very good and quite expensive. The problem is that in NYC (and many other cities in the US --- I'd presume) many non-orientals are unwilling to accept let alone pay top dollars for a complex and delicately prepared oriental dishes {chinese, malay,thai,vietnamese}


anil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
We have had ChuiChow (sp?) redition of Abalone & Chicken Soup, which I must say was very good and quite expensive.

In Chinese Kitchen, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo says, "Though they are referred to as Chiu Chau, Ch'ao Chou, Chaozhou, Teochiu, or Teochew, depending on where they are, they refer to themselves as Chiu Chow, at home and in Hong Kong, where they live by the millions."

I've been eating noodle soup and Chiu Chow duck at a Chiu Chow place in NY for 25 years. (I think they refer to themselves as Chaozhou.) There was a Chiu Chow restaurant upstairs in a corner builidng on Stockton (I think) in San Francisco where I once ate their goose preparation. But I don't know of any places that do such elaborate dishes in the U.S.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No, I didn't have a 12+ course chinese banquet at my wedding. We had a buffet at a Golf and Country Club with dancing afterwards... after all, it's supposed to be a party, not a damned stuff your face and complain that the chinese dishes weren't done right / not high quality enough for a Wedding.... but that's another story. :)

It wasn't a "stuff-your-face-and-complain-that-the-chinese-dishes-weren't-done-right" affair. Au contraire, my aunt married into a Cantonese family, and so had to learn Cantonese (she speaks Mandarin, Tagalog and English -- her in-laws prefer Cantonese), and as I said, it was a classic banquet with the usual cold plates, soup courses, palate cleansers, certain suspects like shark's fin soup, bird nest's soup, red bean soup, steamed fish, noodles, etc.

And it was rather high quality, given the size of the dinner party, the number of guests and where it was held (some place in Chinatown that I can't remember).

*shrug*

SA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I apologize in advance for the off topic remark, but I can't think of a better way to party than with a really great sit down dinner. Fortunately I had the pleasure of a daughter (and future son-in-law) who agreed.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi everyone, I'm Skie's wife. I'm more of a lurker than a poster on the message boards, since I'm fairly new to the intricacies of the culinary world (I can cook, but the range is not too varied).:) I'm picking up a lot of things from my fellow members here.

I wanted to clear up any confusion about Skie's statement about the Chinese banquet. It was mainly meant as a joking statement, and not a commentary on banquets in general. The reason we chose not to have one at our wedding is that our guests were a fairly diverse group (I'm half Puerto Rican and American Mutt, mainly South Georgian - and we have friends from other backgrounds), and not all of them would be happy with traditional Cantonese fare (especially my Maid of Honor, who has an aversion to nearly everything seafood, and some of the Georgia folks, who aren't used to non-Americanized Chinese food). Therefore, we consulted my in-laws about the best selection to please all the various palates, and it was decided that a buffet (chosen from several different menus the Country Club offered) would be the best option.

Neither of us has an aversion to the banquet, though. :smile: A nice, sit-down dinner is indeed an excellent way to celebrate, and many members of my husband's family (some of whom were born in China) have had the Cantonese Chinese wedding banquet. It just wasn't suited for what we wanted to do.

Hope this clears up any confusion. Now, back to lurking and enjoying everyone's informative (and often very amusing!) posts. :biggrin:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What a wonderful post. It brought back a lot of great memories for me...I spnet 10 days in Guanzhou in July of 2000. The food was spectacular, especially the fish selections and hard shelled crabs. In Guanzhou, I was wiht large groups of Americans who were finalizing their adoptions, having just come from the province of their daughter's birth...but all agreed that the Cantonese food was the freshest tasting, most diverse, and skillyfully prepared than soem of the other cuisines. Plus, since Guanzhou is a larger city, there are wonderful Sechuan and Mandarin rests. if you seek them out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I wanted to clear up any confusion about Skie's statement about the Chinese banquet.  It was mainly meant as a joking statement, and not a commentary on banquets in general.  The reason we chose not to have one at our wedding is that our guests were a fairly diverse group (I'm half Puerto Rican and American Mutt, mainly South Georgian - and we have friends from other backgrounds), and not all of them would be happy with traditional Cantonese fare (especially my Maid of Honor, who has an aversion to nearly everything seafood, and some of the Georgia folks, who aren't used to non-Americanized Chinese food).  Therefore, we consulted my in-laws about the best selection to please all the various palates, and it was decided that a buffet (chosen from several different menus the Country Club offered) would be the best option.

Thanks for the note. Sorry about my reaction...everything's clear in that context.

I was speaking about MY personal experience at such an occasion, having had the honor of attending only one banquet in the past. Sorry for the confusion. (And if anything, there wouldn't have been any criticism of the dishes...well maybe perhaps, but only in private. I am of Chinese/Filipino ancestry...)

I remember the occasion vividly enough, but not the details. Among other things, it was an occasion of firsts for me: having more food to eat than your typical restaurant meal; eating jellyfish for the first time and remarking on the texture and near blandness; red bean soup (!)/soup as dessert. My eyes were certainly opened that day.

:blink::blink:

SA

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Toby, I'm sorely remiss in being so tardy with this, but I enjoyed what you wrote so much, and look forward to subsequent chapters.


Priscilla


Writer, cook, & c.


● observing #TacoFriday since 2010 ● preoccupied with road trippin' ● always ISO of the next #truckgram


Twitter Instagram  Orange Coast Magazine

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For the record, my daughter is also half Puerto Rican and I'd rather eat than dance.

:biggrin:

Come to think of it, there were quite a few cooks and very few family. No wonder I had a good time.

:laugh:


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, everyone, for your nice comments. I'd be glad to write up some other regions; Cantonese food is what I actually know most about, but I could do some research on other regions and write them up. Or other people who know about other regions could do it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been eating noodle soup and Chiu Chow duck at a Chiu Chow place in NY for 25 years.  (I think they refer to themselves as Chaozhou.)

Where, Toby, Where?????!? (A real pleasure to read you, Toby).


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0

  • Similar Content

    • By liuzhou
      An old friend from England contacted me yesterday via Facebook with a couple of questions about Five Spice Powder.

      Thought there me be some interest here, too.

      Is there anything more typically Chinese than five spice powder (五香粉 - wǔ xiāng fěn)?
       
      Well, yes. A lot.
       
      Many years ago, I worked in an office overlooking London’s China town. By around 11 am, the restaurants started getting lunch ready and the smell of FSP blanketed the area for the rest of the day. When I moved to China, I didn’t smell that. Only when I first visited Hong Kong, did I find that smell again.
       
      In fact, FSP is relatively uncommon in most of Chinese cuisine. And if I ever see another internet recipe called “Chinese” whatever, which is actually any random food, but the genius behind it has added FSP, supposedly rendering it Chinese, I’ll scream.

      I get all sorts of smells wafting through the neighbourhood. Some mouth-watering; some horrifying. But I don't recall ever that they were FSP.
       
      But what is it anyway? Which five spices?
       
      Today, I bought four samples in four local supermarkets. I would have would have preferred five, but couldn’t find any more. It's not that popular.
       
      First thing to say: none of them had five spices. All had more. That is normal. Numbers in Chinese can often be vague. Every time you hear a number, silently added the word ‘about’ or ‘approximately’. 100 km means “far”, 10,000 means “many”.
       
      Second, while there are some common factors, ingredients can vary quite a bit. Here are my four.

      1.


       
      Ingredients – 7
       
      Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Orange Peel, Cassia Bark, Sand Ginger, Dried Ginger, Sichuan Peppercorns.
       
      2.
       

       
      Ingredients – 6
       
      Cassia Bark, Star Anise, Fennel Seed, Coriander, Sichuan Peppercorn, Licorice Root.

      3.
       

       
      Ingredients – 15
       
      Fennel Seeds, Sichuan Peppercorns, Coriander, Tangerine Peel, Star Anise, Chinese Haw, Cassia Bark, Lesser Galangal, Dahurian Angelica, Nutmeg, Dried Ginger, Black Pepper, Amomum Villosum, Cumin Seeds, Cloves.

      4.
       

       
      Ingredients – 6
       
      Pepper (unspecified – probably black pepper), Sichuan Peppercorns, Star Anise, Fennel Seeds, Nutmeg, Cassia.
       
      So, take your pick. They all taste and smell almost overwhelmingly of the star anise and cassia, although there are subtle differences in taste in the various mixes.
       
      But I don’t expect to find it in many dishes in local restaurants or homes. A quick, unscientific poll of about ten friends today revealed that not one has any at home, nor have they ever used the stuff!
       
       
      I'm not suggesting that FSP shouldn't be used outside of Chinese food. Please just don't call the results Chinese when you sprinkle it on your fish and chips or whatever. They haven't miraculously become Chinese!

      Like my neighbours and friends, I very rarely use it at all.

      In fact, I'd be delighted to hear how it is used in other cultures / cuisines.
    • By liuzhou
      For the last several years Cindy's* job has been to look after me. She takes care of my residence papers, my health insurance, my travel, my housing and associated repairs. She makes sure that I am supplied with sufficient cold beer at official banquets. And she does it all with terrific efficiency and great humour.
       
      This weekend she held her wedding banquet.
       
      Unlike in the west, this isn't held immediately after the marriage is formalised. In fact, she was legally married months ago. But the banquet is the symbolic, public declaration and not the soul-less civil servant stamping of papers that the legal part entails.
      So tonight, along with a few hundred other people, I rolled up to a local hotel at the appointed time. In my pocket was my 'hong bao' or red envelope in which I had deposited a suitable cash gift. That is the Chinese wedding gift protocol. You don't get 12 pop-up toasters here.
       
      I handed it over, then settled down, at a table with colleagues, to a 17 or 18 course dinner.
       
      Before we started, I spotted this red bedecked jar. Shaking, poking and sniffing revealed nothing.
       
       
      A few minutes later, a waitress turned up and opened and emptied the jar into a serving dish. Spicy pickled vegetables. Very vinegary, very hot, and very addictive. Allegedly pickled on the premises, this was just to amuse us as we waited for the real stuff to arrive.
       
       
      Then the serious stuff arrived. When I said 17 courses, I really meant 17 dishes. Chinese cuisine doesn't really do courses. Every thing is served at roughly the same time. But we had:
       
      Quail soup which I neglected to photograph.
       
      Roast duck
       
      Braised turtle
       
      Sticky rice with beef (the beef is lurking underneath)
       
      Steamed chicken
       
      Spicy, crispy shell-on prawns.
       
      Steamed pork belly slices with sliced taro
       
      Spicy squid
       
      Noodles
       
      Chinese Charcuterie (including ducks jaws (left) and duck hearts (right))
       
      Mixed vegetables
       
      Fish
       
      Cakes
       
      Fertility soup! This allegedly increases your fertility and ensures the first born (in China, only born) is a son. Why they are serving to me is anyone's guess. It would make more sense for the happy couple to drink the lot.
       
      Greenery
       
      Jiaozi
       
      There was a final serving of quartered oranges, but I guess you have seen pictures of oranges before.
       
      The happy couple. I wish them well.
       
      *Cindy is the English name she has adopted. Her Chinese name is more than usually difficult to pronounce. Many Chinese friends consider it a real tongue-twister.
    • By liuzhou
      A few days ago, I was given a lovely gift. A big jar of preserved lemons.
       
      I know Moroccan preserved lemons, but had never met Chinese ones. In fact, apart from in the south, in many parts of China it isn't that easy to find lemons, at all.
       
      These are apparently a speciality of the southern Zhuang minority of Wuming County near Nanning. The Zhuang people are the largest ethnic minority in China and most live in Guangxi. These preserved lemons feature in their diet and are usually eaten with congee (rice porridge). Lemon Duck is a local speciality and they are also served with fish. They can be served as a relish, too. They are related to the Vietnamese Chanh muối.
       
      I'm told that these particular lemons have been soaking in salt and lemon juice for eleven years!
       

       

       
      So, of course, you want to know what they taste like. Incredibly lemony. Concentrated lemonness. Sour, but not unpleasantly so. Also a sort of smoky flavour.
       
      The following was provided by my dear friend 马芬洲 (Ma Fen Zhou) who is herself Zhuang. It is posted with her permission.
       
      How to Make Zhuang Preserved Lemons
      By 马芬洲
       
      Zhuang preserved lemons is a kind of common food for the southern Zhuang ethnic minority who live around Nanning Prefecture of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in China. The Zhuang people like to make it as a relish for eating with congee or congee with corn powder. This relish is a mixture of chopped preserved lemons, red chilli and garlic or ginger slice in soy sauce and peanut oil or sesame oil.
       

       
      Sometimes the Zhuang people use preserved lemons as an ingredient in cooking. The most famous Zhuang food in Guangxi is Lemon Duck, which is a common home cooked dish in Wuming County, which belongs to Nanning Prefecture.
       
      The following steps show you how to make Zhuang preserved lemons.
       
      Step 1 Shopping
      Buy some green lemons.
       
      Step 2 Cleaning
      Wash green lemons.
       
      Step 3 Sunning
      Leave green lemons under the sunshine till it gets dry.
       
      Step 4 Salting
      If you salt 5kg green lemons, mix 0.25kg salt with green lemons. Keep the salted green lemons in a transparent jar. The jar must be well sealed. Leave the jar under the sunshine till the salted green lemons turn yellow. For example, leave it on the balcony. Maybe it will take months to wait for those salted green lemons to turn yellow. Later, get the jar of salted yellow lemons back. Unseal the jar. Then cover 1kg salt over the salted yellow lemons. Seal well the jar again.
       
      Step 5 Preserving
      Keep the sealed jar of salted yellow lemons at least 3 years. And the colour of salted yellow lemons will turn brown day by day. It can be dark brown later. The longer you keep preserved lemons, the better taste it is. If you eat it earlier than 2 years, it will taste bitter. After 3 years, it can be unsealed. Please use clean chopsticks to pick it. Don’t use oily chopsticks, or the oil will make preserved lemons go bad. Remember to seal the jar well after picking preserved lemons every time.
    • By liuzhou
      Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China, where I live, is sugar central for the country. Over two-thirds of China's output of sugar is grown right here, making it one of the largest sugar production areas on the planet. I have a second home in the countryside and it is surrounded by sugar cane fields.

      Much of this is produced by small time farmers, although huge Chinese and international companies have also moved in.
       
      Also, sugar is used extensively in Chinese cooking, not only as a sweetener, but more as a spice. A little added to a savoury dish can bring out otherwise hidden flavours. It also has medicinal attributes according to traditional Chinese medicine.
       
      Supermarkets have what was to me, on first sight, a huge range of sugars, some almost unrecognisable. Here is a brief introduction to some of them. Most sugar is sold loose, although corner shops and mom 'n pop stores may have pre-packed bags. These are often labelled in English as "candy", the Chinese language not differentiating between "sugar" and "candy" - always a source of confusion. Both are 糖 (táng),

      IMPORTANT NOTE: The Chinese names given here and in the images are the names most used locally. They are all Mandarin Chinese, but it is still possible that other names may be used elsewhere in China. Certainly, non-Mandarin speaking areas will be different.

      By the far the simplest way to get your sugar ration is to buy the unprocessed sugar cane. This is not usually available in supermarkets but is a street vendor speciality. In the countryside, you can buy it at the roadside. There are also people in markets etc with portable juice extractors who will sell you a cup of pure sugar cane juice.


       
      I remember being baffled then amused when, soon after I first arrived in China, someone asked me if I wanted some 甘蔗 (gān zhè). It sounded exactly like 'ganja' or cannabis. No such luck! 甘蔗 (gān zhè) is 'sugar cane'.
       
      The most common sugar in the supermarkets seems to be 冰糖 (bīng táng) which literally means 'ice 'sugar' and is what we tend to call 'rock sugar' or 'crystal sugar'. This highly refined sugar comes in various lump sizes although the price remains the same no matter if the pieces are large or small. Around ¥7/500g. That pictured below features the smaller end of the range.


       
      Related to this is what is known as 冰片糖 (bīng piàn táng) which literally means "ice slice sugar". This is usually slightly less processed (although I have seen a white version, but not recently) and is usually a pale brown to yellow colour. This may be from unprocessed cane sugar extract, but is often white sugar coloured and flavoured with added molasses. It is also sometimes called 黄片糖  (huáng piàn táng) or "yellow slice sugar". ¥6.20/500g.
       


      A less refined, much darker version is known as 红片糖 (hóng piàn táng), literally 'red slice sugar'. (Chinese seems to classify colours differently - what we know as 'black tea' is 'red tea' here. ¥7.20/500g.


       
      Of course, what we probably think of as regular sugar, granulated sugar is also available. Known as 白砂糖 (bái shā táng), literally "white sand sugar', it is the cheapest at  ¥3.88/500g.



      A brown powdered sugar is also common, but again, in Chinese, it isn't brown. It's red and simply known as 红糖 (hóng táng). ¥7.70/500g


       
      Enough sweetness and light for now. More to come tomorrow.
    • By Dejah
      [Host's note: This topic forms part of an extended discussion which grew too large for our servers to handle efficiently.  The conversation continues from here.]
       
       
      Supper: Yeem Gok Gai:

      Mock Fried Rice - grated cauliflower

      Baby Shanghai Bok Choy and ginger

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.