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liuzhou

Sugar in China

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On ‎10‎/‎11‎/‎2016 at 11:34 PM, andiesenji said:

By the way.  I make my own "icing sugar" by putting granulated sugar in a blender (or my Thermomix) and blending it until it is a powder.

That way there are no "additives" which are common in commercial XXXXX sugar in the U.S.

 

I use my Cuisinart for the same purpose.

 

Now if any one could tell me how to deal with rock solid "brown sugar", it would be appreciated.

 

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5 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

I use my Cuisinart for the same purpose.

 

Now if any one could tell me how to deal with rock solid "brown sugar", it would be appreciated.

 

 

The microwave for a short time in a lidded glass casserole might help. If that didn't do it, I might sprinkle a little water and try again. Eventually it should work to loosen it up again, I think.

 

I have pounded brown sugar in the plastic bag with the flat side of my cast aluminum meat mallet to good effect, but that was not for the "rock solid" you describe.

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I was sitting on an express coach this evening returning home and reading on the internet via my cell phone that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, when from somewhere in the lost part of my mind came the realisation that I know how sugar is used in Chinese cooking - or at least one example. What the connection between that, Dylan or Nobel prizes is remains a mystery.

 

Red-cooked dishes use rock sugar! How could I have forgotten.For those who don't know, it is a Shanghai style of cooking and is basically braising in soy sauce and SUGAR with ginger, star anise, and tangerine or orange peel. Pork belly is the usual choice, but I've also had duck, fish and even vegetable dishes. The technique is known in Chinese as 红烧 hóng shāo.which means red-braised.

When I got home I chatted with a friend in Shanghai. She is from Hunan originally, but has lived there for many years and is married to a Shanghai man. She tells me that she uses granulated sugar rather than rock sugar in the dish.

She also mentioned that she uses sugar in her tomato and scrambled egg dish (番茄炒蛋  fān qié chǎo dàn) - the dish every Chinese kid learns to cook first.

Oh! Just remembered. The last time I saw Dylan was in Shanghai! Maybe that was the subconscious connection.

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8 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

Now if any one could tell me how to deal with rock solid "brown sugar", it would be appreciated.

 

 

If you don't need it immediately, put a slice of bread in with it, and re-seal the jar or bag. That's what I do with mine, and it works beautifully. By the next day, your sugar (unless you have a very large container) should be soft and moist again. If it isn't, remove the now-dry piece of bread and replace it with another. In my experience two successive pieces of bread will remoisten up to 4kg of sugar (about 4 1/2 lbs). 

 

A piece of apple is another suggestion I've seen in the past, but I find it makes the sugar taste like apple. Not that this is inherently a bad thing, but I prefer to choose which flavors I introduce. 

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1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

I was sitting on an express coach this evening returning home and reading on the internet via my cell phone that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, when from somewhere in the lost part of my mind came the realisation that I know how sugar is used in Chinese cooking - or at least one example. What the connection between that, Dylan or Nobel prizes is remains a mystery.

 

Red-cooked dishes use rock sugar! How could I have forgotten.For those who don't know, it is a Shanghai style of cooking and is basically braising in soy sauce and SUGAR with ginger, star anise, and tangerine or orange peel. Pork belly is the usual choice, but I've also had duck, fish and even vegetable dishes. The technique is known in Chinese as 红烧 hóng shāo.which means red-braised.

When I got home I chatted with a friend in Shanghai. She is from Hunan originally, but has lived there for many years and is married to a Shanghai man. She tells me that she uses granulated sugar rather than rock sugar in the dish.

She also mentioned that she uses sugar in her tomato and scrambled egg dish (番茄炒蛋  fān qié chǎo dàn) - the dish every Chinese kid learns to cook first.

Oh! Just remembered. The last time I saw Dylan was in Shanghai! Maybe that was the subconscious connection.

Perhaps I am channeling you! My first thought for breakfast this morning was some tomato and scrambled egg that was just after I read the headlines and checked the date to make sure it wasn't April Fool's Day.  I seem to remember many times when a recipe for the tomato and scrambled egg calls for a pinch or two of sugar.   Tomatoes themselves often benefit from a few grains of the sweet stuff.

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10 hours ago, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

I use my Cuisinart for the same purpose.

 

Now if any one could tell me how to deal with rock solid "brown sugar", it would be appreciated.

 

If you have time, put it in a container that seals tightly.  Put a saucer or a piece of foil on the top of the sugar block.

Wet a clean sponge, squeeze till it is just damp and set it on the saucer or foil. put the cover on tightly (one of the reasons I use Cambro containers or the click and seal type)  the next day it will be fine.

 

You can soften small amounts in the microwave but only do 5-10 seconds at a time, it can go from rock to lava quickly.

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Your mention of a friend originally from Hunan triggered a memory for me.

When I lived in Reseda, CA in the 1980s, there was a restaurant, Hunan House, just two blocks from my home and I often walked up there - going in thru the back door because it was a lot shorter than going around the block to the front.

 

Two of the sons had been patients of the orthopedic surgeon for whom I worked so we also knew each other that way.

And in fact, it was in their kitchen that I learned about steaming mature ginger to get it tender enough to candy or crystallize.

 

On one occasion I was walking through the kitchen and saw Peter's grandmother with a large basket of fresh lotus.

She was removing the seed to candy them - in "rock sugar syrup" for Chinese New Year.  They did a lot of "feast day" specials in the restaurant, including the Christian holidays - they were Catholic and had escaped China just before the "revolution" in 1949, helped by the Church and they had been dedicated to paying back for 30+ years.  

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50 minutes ago, andiesenji said:

Your mention of a friend originally from Hunan triggered a memory for me.

When I lived in Reseda, CA in the 1980s, there was a restaurant, Hunan House, just two blocks from my home and I often walked up there - going in thru the back door because it was a lot shorter than going around the block to the front.

 

Two of the sons had been patients of the orthopedic surgeon for whom I worked so we also knew each other that way.

And in fact, it was in their kitchen that I learned about steaming mature ginger to get it tender enough to candy or crystallize.

 

On one occasion I was walking through the kitchen and saw Peter's grandmother with a large basket of fresh lotus.

She was removing the seed to candy them - in "rock sugar syrup" for Chinese New Year.  They did a lot of "feast day" specials in the restaurant, including the Christian holidays - they were Catholic and had escaped China just before the "revolution" in 1949, helped by the Church and they had been dedicated to paying back for 30+ years.  


Interesting. I lived in Hunan for a couple of years and frequently revisit. Just a couple of months ago, as documented here.

By lotus and your mention of seeds, I take it you mean lotus pods as opposed to the much more common lotus roots or leaves.

 

I wrote about lotus seeds a while back here, but I've never seen them being candied. I know they are candied; I've just never seen.

Anyway, I think I prefer them un-candied, just as they come out the pod. Unfortunately the season is over.

I just have a very un-sweet tooth.!

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1 hour ago, liuzhou said:


Interesting. I lived in Hunan for a couple of years and frequently revisit. Just a couple of months ago, as documented here.

By lotus and your mention of seeds, I take it you mean lotus pods as opposed to the much more common lotus roots or leaves.

 

I wrote about lotus seeds a while back here, but I've never seen them being candied. I know they are candied; I've just never seen.

Anyway, I think I prefer them un-candied, just as they come out the pod. Unfortunately the season is over.

I just have a very un-sweet tooth.!

Here in the U.S. I think they make the candied seeds to include in little gift boxes of candied fruits and nuts for the lunar new year.

I know there are lychees and plums, melon and coconut, ginger and mandarin orange, pineapple and the lotus seeds. I think there has to be eight.  I have one of the "candy boxes" someone gave me years ago and it has 8 sections.  

 

The lotus pods were grown by a "specialty grower"  who was in the '80s, down near Fallbrook, CA and Peter or his brother Ji would drive down to buy them. The grower actually grew them for florists who used the dried pods in flower arrangements or wreathes, but grew some without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides for the ethnic communities who used them for food.  

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5 hours ago, andiesenji said:

Here in the U.S. I think they make the candied seeds to include in little gift boxes of candied fruits and nuts for the lunar new year.

I know there are lychees and plums, melon and coconut, ginger and mandarin orange, pineapple and the lotus seeds. I think there has to be eight.  I have one of the "candy boxes" someone gave me years ago and it has 8 sections.  

 

The lotus pods were grown by a "specialty grower"  who was in the '80s, down near Fallbrook, CA and Peter or his brother Ji would drive down to buy them. The grower actually grew them for florists who used the dried pods in flower arrangements or wreathes, but grew some without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides for the ethnic communities who used them for food.  

 

Yes, eight would be right. Eight is the luckiest number in Chinese thinking. I've seen the dried pods used that way here, too.
 

It is interesting that people give candied seeds and nuts. Round here they prefer them au naturel.

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A few years ago, there was a sudden craze for coffee drinking in China. Coffee bars opened left, right and centre; shops appeared selling more and more esoteric equipment for getting the perfect beverage; coffee bean shops appeared, also selling the relevant equipment.

 

The only problem was that no one knew what good coffee should taste like. Most of the coffee bars were awful, although you did get the entertainment of watching the staff taking about 45 minutes to produce each cup of mud. I'm sure all those coffee makers have been deposited at the back of cupboards never to be troubled again. There are only a few coffee bars remaining and few places selling beans - roasted or un-roasted.

Of course the coffee needed sugar - usually a lot to take away the taste of bitter maltreated beans. At first, the height of elegance was to use cube sugar (方糖  fāng táng)) and that is still available.

 

cube.jpg

 

The equivalent of around ¥12/500g

 

Of course, that wasn't good enough for some people. The brain dead decided in their wisdom that they really needed special "coffee sugar" and so it was supplied. One local department store, notorious for its insanely high prices for stuff you can buy elsewhere at a fraction of the price, still carries stuff like this.

coffee sugar.jpg

 

The white boxes on the left cost ¥170 for 900g (¥94/500g). It's the same old sugar you can buy for 1/10th of the price in any supermarket. No shortage of fools with too much money in the world.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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One thing I found in one of our Asian stores that I haven't seen elsewhere is cubed brown sugar.  My husband used to use it when he made a coffee with rum as a change from our usual Danish coffee.  I like to keep it on hand for when I only need a tablespoon or so of brown sugar or when my bag of brown sugar has solidified. 

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1 minute ago, Anna N said:

One thing I found in one of our Asian stores that I haven't seen elsewhere is cubed brown sugar.  My husband used to use it when he made a coffee with rum as a change from our usual Danish coffee.  I like to keep it on hand for when I only need a tablespoon or so of brown sugar or when my bag of brown sugar has solidified. 

 

Interesting. That's something that I've never seen. Do you know where it comes from? Picture of the packaging?

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24 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

Interesting. That's something that I've never seen. Do you know where it comes from? Picture of the packaging?

Sorry. Packaging long gone. I keep the cubes in a jar in the cupboard. Will take a look next time I am in an Asian store.  

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4 hours ago, Anna N said:

One thing I found in one of our Asian stores that I haven't seen elsewhere is cubed brown sugar.  My husband used to use it when he made a coffee with rum as a change from our usual Danish coffee.  I like to keep it on hand for when I only need a tablespoon or so of brown sugar or when my bag of brown sugar has solidified. 

Is it in a box with a parrot on it?  

La Perruche is carried at all the Hispanic markets here.  And in the health food stores. It comes in "rough-cut" cubes and "small" cubes.  The Middle Eastern market has a couple of different brands - one is made in Turkey.

You can also get cubed Demerara sugar cubes - Roland is a common name and is in all the Asian shops, the India shop and one supermarket (Von's) has in in with the teas as well as in the sugar aisle.  

Another brand is Gilway Demerara sugar.

Saint Louis Comptoir Du Sud raw sugar cubes from Martinique are sold online in a 1-kilo box.

And even Domino has a product that in "gourmet shops" - Williams Sonoma used to have it.  Comes in a brown box and I can't remember the product name offhand. 

Amazon carries the La Perruche and the Roland products.

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The package I have from the Middle Eastern store is a Golchin product - they produce a lot of food items, spices and such.

 

This link is to a page of images of sugar products.  They produce sugar cubes with saffron, with cinnamon, and with cardamom.

Golchin sugar products.

 

The folks there have told me that these sugars are taken with tea - holding the piece of sugar between the teeth while sipping the tea.  

(They also carry an impressive number of teas that are popular in the middle east)


Edited by andiesenji (log)
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I have Taikoo brown sugar cubes in my cupboard.  I use it for Old Fashioneds. Makes a much tastier drink than white cubes.

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One other common Chinese dish is tomatoes, cut into wedges and then sprinkled with sugar. Served immediately, you get the crunch of the sugar against the tomatoes but if left for 15 minutes, the sugar draws out the juices and you get a tomato syrup. In the west, tomatoes are treated like a vegetable and paired with salt but in China, it's more often thought of as a fruit and paired with sugar.

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1 hour ago, Shalmanese said:

One other common Chinese dish is tomatoes, cut into wedges and then sprinkled with sugar. Served immediately, you get the crunch of the sugar against the tomatoes but if left for 15 minutes, the sugar draws out the juices and you get a tomato syrup. In the west, tomatoes are treated like a vegetable and paired with salt but in China, it's more often thought of as a fruit and paired with sugar.

This is also done in the U.S. south, at least is used to be - when I was growing up there in the 1940s.

In western Kentucky, one of the "summer salads" was similar to the "Tuscan" Panzanella - just toasted bread was used instead of a rustic bread.  The tomatoes were cut into chunks, sugared, often with brown sugar, and set aside to "weep" - just before serving the toast cubes - about 1 inch, were tossed with the tomatoes and chopped scallions were sprinkled over the top.

It was delicious.

I remember the first time I was served Panzanella - and I mentioned the tomato salad, they didn't believe it.  

 

During the winter, canned tomatoes were often layered with saltines, sprinkled with sugar and baked.  This dish was called "scalloped tomatoes" and I loved it.  

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Andie, I might need to try doing that. I bet it would also be good this time of year, with the last of the fresh tomatoes.

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5 hours ago, Shalmanese said:

One other common Chinese dish is tomatoes, cut into wedges and then sprinkled with sugar. Served immediately, you get the crunch of the sugar against the tomatoes but if left for 15 minutes, the sugar draws out the juices and you get a tomato syrup. In the west, tomatoes are treated like a vegetable and paired with salt but in China, it's more often thought of as a fruit and paired with sugar.

 

I've been living in China for twenty years and have never seen that. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but it isn't common.

 

Regular tomatoes are always sold in markets and supermarkets in the vegetable areas, However, cherry tomatoes are sold by the fruit vendors.

 

BTW, as I'm sure you know, tomatoes are fruit however they are sold or served!

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I do, however, remember making some chips/French fries for a bunch of Chinese friends and then finding them happily sprinkling them with sugar!

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19 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

I've been living in China for twenty years and have never seen that. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but it isn't common.

 

Regular tomatoes are always sold in markets and supermarkets in the vegetable areas, However, cherry tomatoes are sold by the fruit vendors.

 

BTW, as I'm sure you know, tomatoes are fruit however they are sold or served!

 

The Chinese name for the dish is 糖拌西红柿. Might be more of a Northern thing or maybe it's one of those homestyle snacks that everyone knows how to make but they wouldn't think to serve or talk about it to a guest?

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2 hours ago, Shalmanese said:

 

The Chinese name for the dish is 糖拌西红柿. Might be more of a Northern thing or maybe it's one of those homestyle snacks that everyone knows how to make but they wouldn't think to serve or talk about it to a guest?

 

You may be right about it being a Northern thing. As to it being something everyone knows, I have asked a few Chinese friends and no one has heard of it.

I do, however, vaguely recall one drunken night with a group of friends in Beijing in 1997, sitting at a sidewalk table outside one of the many cheap but simple restaurants. At another table, another foreigner was trying to order tomato soup (not an easy thing to find) and his awful Chinese was interfering with his ordering ability (as was the alcohol). I remember that he was served something which in retrospect could have been your tomato dish. It certainly wasn't soup. (Soup and sugar are both "tang", only the tones are different - tāng and táng.)

 

The only other thing I remember about that night is that there were two waitresses who were beautiful identical twins, something I didn't realise at the time. I though it was just one girl who worked very hard. Apparently, I proposed to them both, still thinking it was only one, and both humoured me by accepting. That's sweet.

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      You will, of course, have prepared the bread. The sandwiches are made with a type of flat bread known as 白吉饼 (bái jí bǐng; literally "white lucky cake-shape"). The ones here are store bought but I often make them. Recipe below.
       

      Bai Ji Bing
       
      Take one and split it. Test the seasoning of the filling, adding salt if necessary. It may not need it because of the soy sauce. 
       

      Nearly there
       
      Cover to make a sandwich  and enjoy. You will see that I have used a bunch of kitchen paper to hold the sandwich and to soak up any escaping juices. But it should be fairly dry.
       

      The final product.
       
      Note: I usually cook the meat and pepper in batches. Enough for one sandwich per person at a time. If we need another (and we usually do) I start the next batch. 
       
       
      Bread Recipe
       
       
      350g plain flour
      140ml water
      1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

      Mix the yeast with the flour and stir in the water. Continue stirring until a dough forms. Knead until smooth. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and leave to rise by about one third. (maybe 30-40 minutes).
       
      Knead again to remove any air then roll the dough into a log shape around 5cm in diameter, then cut into six portions. Press these into a circle shape using a rolling pin. You want to end up with 1.5cm thick buns. 
       
      Preheat oven to 190C/370F.
       
      Dry fry the buns in a skillet until they take on some colour about a minute or less on each side, then finish in the oven for ten minutes. Allow to cool before using.
    • By Chris Hennes
      I just got a copy of Grace Young's "Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge"—I enjoyed cooking from "Breath of a Wok" and wanted to continue on that path. Does anyone else have this book? Have you cooked anything from it?

      Here was dinner tonight:

      Spicy Dry-Fried Beef (p. 70)

      I undercooked the beef just a bit due to a waning propane supply (I use an outdoor propane-powered wok burner), but there's nothing to complain about here. It's a relatively mild dish that lets the flavors of the ingredients (and the wok) speak. Overall I liked it, at will probably make it again (hopefully with a full tank of gas).


    • By liuzhou
      We are all used to unami now. Maybe it's time to consider gan. Particularly found in teas, but also in other foods. An interesting article from a great magazine.
       
      Going, going gan
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