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Perhaps the food-related question I get asked most through my blog is “What's it like for vegetarians and vegans in China. The same question came up recently on another thread, so I put this together. Hope it's useful. It would also, be great to hear other people's experience and solutions.
For the sake of typing convenience I’m going to conflate 'vegetarians and vegan' into just 'vegetarian' except where strictly relevant.
First a declaration of non-interest. I am very carnivorous, but I have known vegetarians who have passed through China, some staying only a few weeks, others staying for years. Being vegetarian in China is a complicated issue. In some ways, China is probably one of the best countries in which to be vegetarian. In other ways, it is one of the worst.
I spent a couple of years in Gorbachev-era Russia and saw the empty supermarkets and markets. I saw people line up for hours to buy a bit of bread. So, when I first came to China, I kind of expected the same. Instead, the first market I visited astounded me. The place was piled high with food, including around 30 different types of tofu, countless varieties of steamed buns and flat breads and scores of different vegetables, both fresh and preserved, most of which I didn't recognise. And so cheap I could hardly convert into any western currency. If you are able to self-cater then China is heaven for vegetarians. For short term visitors dependent on restaurants or street food, the story is very different.
Despite the perception of a Buddhist tradition (not that strong, actually), very few Chinese are vegetarian and many just do not understand the concept. Explaining in a restaurant that you don't eat meat is no guarantee that you won't be served meat.
Meat is seen in China as a status symbol. If you are rich, you eat more meat. And everyone knows all foreigners are rich, so of course they eat meat! Meat eating is very much on the rise as China gets more rich - even to the extent of worrying many economists, food scientists etc. who fear the demand is pushing up prices and is environmentally dangerous. But that's another issue. Obesity is also more and more of a problem.
Banquet meals as served in large hotels and banquet dedicated restaurants will typically have a lot more meat dishes than a smaller family restaurant. Also, the amount of meat in any dish will be greater in the banquet style places.
Traditional Chinese cooking is/was very vegetable orientated. I still see my neighbours come home from the market with their catch of greenery every morning. However, whereas meat wasn't the central component of dinner, it was used almost as a condiment or seasoning. Your stir fried tofu dish may come with a scattering of ground pork on top, for example. This will not usually be mentioned on the menu. Simple stir fried vegetables are often cooked in lard (pig fat) to 'improve' the flavour.
Another problem is that the Chinese word for meat (肉), when used on its own refers to pork. Other meats are specified, eg (beef) is 牛肉, literally cattle meat. What this means is that when you say you don't eat meat, they often think you mean you don't eat pork (something they do understand from the Chinese Muslim community), so they rush off to the kitchen and cook you up some stir fried chicken! I've actually heard a waitress saying to someone that chicken isn't meat. Also, few Chinese wait staff or cooks seem to know that ham is pig meat. I have also had a waitress argue ferociously with me that the unasked for ham in a dish of egg fried rice wasn't meat.
Also, Chinese restaurant dishes are often given have really flowery, poetic names which tell you nothing of the contents. Chinese speakers have to ask. One dish on my local restaurant menu reads “Maternal Grandmother's Fluttering Fragrance.” It is, of course, spicy pork ribs!
Away from the tourist places, where you probably don't want to be eating anyway, very few restaurants will have translations of any sort. Even the best places' translations will be indecipherable. I have been in restaurants where they have supplied an “English menu”, but if I didn't know Chinese would have been unable to order anything. It was gibberish.
To go back to Buddhism and Taoism, it is a mistake to assume that genuine followers of either (or more usually a mix of the two) are necessarily vegetarian. Many Chinese Buddhists are not. In fact, the Dalai Lama states in his autobiography that he is not vegetarian. It would be very difficult to survive in Tibet on a vegetarian diet.
There are vegetarian restaurants in many places (although the ones around where I am never seem to last more than six months). In the larger cities such as Beijing and Shanghai they are more easily findable.
Curiously, many of these restaurants make a point of emulating meat dishes. The menu reads like any meat using restaurant, but the “meat” is made from vegetable substitutes (often wheat gluten or konjac based).
To be continued
Here's where I'm at with baker's percents:
150% Salted Butter
58% Trader Joe's 72% Belgian Chocolate (I don't enjoy super chocolate-y brownies)
100% All Purpose Flour
Melt butter with chocolate (I take it to 170F). Mix in everything but eggs. In separate bowl, whisk eggs and then add eggs to everything else until just incorporated.
Bake at 275F for 70 minutes
My goal is Two Bite Brownies. I'm looking for an end product that's chewy and a bit dry with a homogenous texture. I don't want any fudgyness- at all, and, right now, even with 70 minutes at 275, my end product has a super fudgy crumb and a crispy exterior. I don't want a cakey texture either. This is the territory that I'm shooting for:
These are not exactly Two Bites, but, if you look at the beginning, you'll see that the crumb is pretty dry. The only major difference I'm seeing between their process and mine is that they add the flour last, while I add the egg last. They don't show the flour being mixed in, but they do show the batter being dispensed into the baking pans and it definitely looks a bit thick- not cookie dough thick, but definitely not batter-y either.
The goal is a brownie with more of a cookie texture, which might mean less eggs, but, before I take that direction, I wanted to see if anyone here had some thoughts on this.
By Nn, M.D.
I'm very excited to share with you all a recipe that I developed for a double crust apple pie. I had been inspired a few weeks ago to come up with a series of 3-ingredient recipes that would focus on technique and flavor but still be simple enough for the unseasoned chef. I decided to make an apple pie as a challenge to myself--never having made one before--and as a way to show those who might find pastry intimidating how easy and adaptable it can be.
Basic Shortcrust Pastry
- 300g flour
- 227g salted butter, cold
- 2 lemons, zested with juice reserved
1. Cut butter into small chunks. Beat butter, zest of the 2 lemons, and flour together with an electric mixer OR combine with pastry blender OR rub together with fingers OR blitz in a food processor until it resembles sand.
2. Add just enough water to bring the mix together into a dough (about 20g for me). You'll know your pastry is ready when you can press it together and it stays in one piece.
3. Divide dough in two and wrap tightly with plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
4. When ready to use, roll out each portion to 13 inches in diameter. (I do this between two sheets of parchment paper. Don't worry too much if the parchment sticks to the pastry. I periodically placed mine in the freezer to help keep everything cold, and the butter will separate from the parchment when frozen.)
5. Take 1 portion of rolled dough and place it in a 9-inch tart tin with a removable bottom. Gently press into the sides to ensure even coverage. Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. Freeze the other portion of dough in-between the parchment pieces.
Apple Filling (and Assembly)
- 1 kg apples (I used about 7 apples for this recipe.)
- 220g dark brown sugar, divided
- 1 egg, separated
Making the apple butter:
1. Cut and core 500g of your apples, but do not peel. Add cut apples, juice of the one lemon, about 100g or so of water, and 170g of sugar to a large saucepan.
2. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer and cover. Let the apples cook for 20-30 minutes or until tender.
3. Remove from heat and blend until smooth.
4. Return puree to saucepan and simmer uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, for an hour. Color should deepen and the mixture should thicken slightly, but do not allow it to scorch.
5. Remove from heat and refrigerate until cool.
1. Peel, quarter, and core the remaining 500g of apples. Slice on a mandolin to about 1/8th inch thickness. Place sliced apples in a large bowl of cold water while slicing remaining apples.
2. Once apples are sliced, drain water and add the juice from the remaining lemon, as well as the remaining 50g of sugar, over the apples. Stir to coat.
1. Remove pie base from the freezer. Dock with a fork and brush on egg white. Place back in the freezer and allow to set for for about 5-10 minutes.
2. Pour the entire recipe of apple butter into the pie base and even out with an offset spatula.
3. Arrange apple slices over the apple butter.
4. Remove remaining pie dough from the freezer and cut designs in while still cold. Transfer to the surface of the pie and seal overhanging edges. Trim excess dough.
5. Brush top pastry with egg yolk (beaten with any remaining egg white) and bake in a 365˚F oven for 60-70 minutes. Crust should be shiny and golden brown.
6. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from tin.
The reason for using salted butter is I think the flavor incorporates a little better into the mix than if I were to use unsalted butter and added salt. That being said, you could do that instead, though your recipe would then have 7 ingredients The addition of apple butter here takes the place of the normal apple pie filling, which is usually thickened with cornstarch and is typically quite sweet. By using the apple butter, I push the flavor of apple forward beyond what you would find in a typically apple pie. Also, the apple butter acts as a glue of sorts so that my slices are always clean, so no need to resort to adding thickeners or extra sweeteners. I'm always looking for a way around blind baking, and using an egg white seal has worked out very well for me. The egg white creates a water-tight layer between the crust and the filling, so no matter how wet my filling is, the crust will always bake crispy and won't get soggy for as long as the pie is around. Feel free to change this up as you see fit. Obviously you can spices to this (I recommend cinnamon, clove, and cardamom) but the beauty of this pie is that it's really not necessary. Although at first blush it may seem one-noted, the harmony between the flaky, almost savory crust and the bright and refreshing filling is one that doesn't need any help, in my honest opinion.
So there you have it! My 6-ingredient apple pie, sure to become a go-to for me, and hopefully for you as well!
Posted 6 hours ago Dear EGulleters,
ResearchBunny here. I've just found you today. I've been lolling in bed with a bad cold, lost voice, wads of tissues, pillows, bedding around me. I spent all of yesterday binge-watching Season 2 of Zumbo's Just Desserts on Netflix from beginning to grand finale. I have been a hardcore devotee of Rose Levy Beranbaum since the beginning of my baking passion -- after learning that she wrote her master's thesis comparing the textural differences in cake crumb when using bleached versus unbleached flour. I sit up and pay attention to that level of serious and precision! While Beranbaum did study for a short while at a French pastry school, she hasn't taken on the challenge of writing recipes for entremets style cakes. That is, multi-layer desserts with cake, mousse, gelatin, nougatine or dacquoise layers all embedded in one form embellished with ice cream, granita, chocolate, coulis. After watching hours of the Zumbo contest, I became curious about the experience of designing these cakes. Some of the offered desserts struck me as far too busy, others were delightful combinations. I was surprised that a few contestants were eliminated when their offerings were considered too simple or, too sophisticated. So I'd like to hear from you about your suggestions for learning more about how to make entremets. And also, what you think about the show. And/or Zumbo.
ps. The show sparked a fantasy entremet for my cold. Consider a fluffy matzo ball exterior, with interior layers of carrot, celery, a chicken mince, and a gelatin of dilled chicken broth at its heart!
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