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I have just returned home to China from an almost two week trip to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam. To get there I first travelled by train to the provincial capital, Nanning. The local airport only does domestic flights, whereas there are direct flights from Nanning. The flight time required that I stay overnight at the Aviation Hotel in Nanning, from which there is a regular direct bus to the airport.
The trip to Nanning is about an hour and a half and passes through some nice karst scenery.
After booking into the hotel, I set off for my favourite Nanning eating destination. Zhongshan Night market is a well known spot and very popular with the locals. I had forgotten that it was a local holiday - the place is always busy, but that night it was exceptionally so.
It consists of one long street with hundreds of stalls and is basically a seafood market, although there are a few stalls selling alternatives.
Filled myself with seafood (and some of that blood sausage above), slept soundly and, next morning, flew to Ho Chi Minh City.
The rest of my trip can be seen here:
By Lisa Shock
Years ago, when I visited Tokyo, I ate in a small but fascinating restaurant called 'It's Vegetable' which is now, unfortunately, closed. The chef was from Taiwan, and he made Buddhist vegetarian and vegan dishes that resembled meat. During my visit, several monks wearing robes stopped in to eat dinner. The dishes were pretty amazing. I understood some of them, like using seitan to mimic chicken in stir fry dishes, others used tofu products like yuba, but, others were complex and obviously difficult. One very notable dish we enjoyed was a large 'fish' fillet designed to serve several people. It had a 'skin' made of carefully layered 'scales' cut from nori and attached to the surface. Inside, the white 'flesh' flaked and tasted much like a mild fish. Anyway, apparently Buddhist fake meat meals are very popular in Taiwan and many places, cheap through to fine dining serve them. Yes, if I worked on it for a while, I could probably refine one or two dishes on my own, but, I am wondering if there's a Modernist Cuisine type cookbook for skillfully making these mock meats from scratch? (I have heard that some items are commercially made and available frozen there, much like soy-based burgers are in the US.) I am willing to try almost any offering, even if it's entirely in Chinese. And, I know how to use remailers to purchase regional items from the various local retailers worldwide who do not ship to the US.
Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and lead us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
Then into lunch:
The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
Stir fried lotus root
Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
Beef with Bitter Melon
Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
And here they are:
After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
Today is 小年 (xiǎo nián) which literally means 'little [new] year', but is something more. It takes place approximately a week before Chinese New Year (February 16th this time round - Year of the Dog) and is the festival for the Kitchen God
In traditional animist Chinese thought, there is a god for everything and the kitchen god is responsible for all aspects of, you guessed, the kitchen. Once a year (today), the kitchen god pops back to report to the god of heaven on the happenings of the last 12 months. Therefore we have to placate him so he makes a good report. My neighbours are busy preparing offerings of sticky rice and assorted sugary confections for the god, so that when he eats them, his teeth and lips will stick together and he will be unable to report any bad behaviour. An alternative theory suggest the sugary stuff will sweeten his words. Then we'll be OK for another year!
This is the fellow
These have been mentioned a couple of times recently on different threads and I felt they deserved one of their own. After all, they did keep me alive when I lived in Xi'an.
Rou jia mo (ròu jiá mò; literally "Meat Sandwich") are Chinese sandwiches which originated in Shaanxi Province, but can be found all over China. Away from their point of origin, they tend to be made with long stewed pork belly. However in Xi'an (capital of Shaanxi), there is a large Muslim population so the meat of choice is more usually beef. In nearby Gansu Province, lamb or mutton is more likely.
When I was living in Xi'an in 1996-1997, I lived on these. I was living on campus in North-West University (西北大学) and right outside the school gate was a street lined with cheap food joints, most of which would serve you one. I had one favourite place which I still head to when I visit. First thing I do when I get off the train.
What I eat is Cumin Beef Jia Mo (孜然牛肉夹馍 zī rán niú ròu jiá mò). The beef is stir fried or grilled/BBQd with cumin and mild green peppers. It is also given a bit of a kick with red chill flakes.
Here is a recipe wrested from the owner of my Xi'an favourite. So simple, yet so delicious.
Fairly lean beef is cut into slivers
I use this single clove garlic from Sichuan, but regular garlic does just fine.
The beef and garlic are mixed in a bowl and generously sprinkled with ground cumin. This is then moistened with a little light soy sauce and Shaoxing wine. You don't want to flood it. Set aside for as long as you can.
Mild Green Chilli Pepper
Take one or two mild green peppers and crush with the back of a knife, then slice roughly. You could de-seed if you prefer. I don't bother.
Chopped Green Pepper
Fire up the wok, add oil (I use rice bran oil, but any vegetable oil except olive oil would be fine) and stir fry the meat mixture until the meat is just done.
Then add the green peppers and fry until they are as you prefer them. I tend to like them still with a bit of crunch, so slightly under-cook them
In with the peppers
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.
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.
350g plain flour
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.
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