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21 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

 

The sauce is made fresh in the wok each time, using the ingredients individually. Fermented black beans or 豆豉 (dòu chǐ ) are easily found, cheap and keep for months.

 

835164615_Fermentedblackbeans2.thumb.jpg.b8a1a9426ff5a352f345cea44b6eb1b2.jpg

 

They are fried along with the main protein or vegetable. Garlc, ginger, soy sauce, etc are also incorporated - i.e all the things in LKK's bottle except the "caramel color, modified corn starch, xanthan gum."

 

 

These I keep in my pantry in a Ball jar.  Do you, or do they in China, soak them before use? Obviously, the dried ones I get in Chinese groceries are pretty salty.

 

Can you talk about the numerous  types of, and ways to use, dried shrimp? 

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7 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

It is almost always home made - usually daily. I've only ever seen it once in a supermarket.

So...does every stir fry taste porky? I'm used to using peanut oil exclusively. For a stir fry sauce I might add a bit of pork or ham broth or chicken broth depending on what's in the wok. 

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16 minutes ago, Katie Meadow said:

So...does every stir fry taste porky? I'm used to using peanut oil exclusively. For a stir fry sauce I might add a bit of pork or ham broth or chicken broth depending on what's in the wok. 

Definitely not, but the veggies typically have an addictive savoriness about them that you wouldn't know was pork, but just tastes amazing. No wonder why I love the veggies in Asia...

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6. The Chinese don't do dairy!

 

Ha! Ha! Ha! They most certainly do! Every supermarket in town's largest amount of aisle and floor space  is full of dairy products. Milk (牛奶 - niú nǎi or 乳汁 - rǔ zhī), yoghurt (酸奶 - suān nǎi), cheese (奶酪 - nǎi lào or 芝士 - zhī shì). You name it. Here are some pictures of the dairy section in just one of the supermarkets.

 

BH1A1179.thumb.jpg.a0e979c401958922400d074858f8ae04.jpg

 

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Now, why would the supermarkets dedicate so much valuable space to stocking something no one wants? They aren't that stupid. Who is buying it all? Millions of lactose intolerant people?

 

Historically, most Chinese people didn't do dairy (although some did, especially in Inner Mongolia and Yunnan provinces where they have had their own cheeses for centuries). About 20 years ago, it changed dramatically. Health and medical authorities started promoting dairy for its perceived health benefits, including raising calcium levels. It really took off.

 

Pizzas arrived and became hugely popular despite some weird toppings on top of  the cheese.

 

Many will remember the China milk scandal in 2008 which resulted in Hong Kong having to ration foreign-produced milk powder to mainlanders who were close to rioting to get the stuff.

 

It is often claimed that most people in China are lactose intolerant. Nearly all who claimed to be so were self diagnosed and actually just weren't used to dairy or didn't like it. Lactose intolerance is a diagnostically detectable medical condition, not a fashion!

 

to be continued

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wow. I knew that dairy had become a thing there, while historically not being so, but that is just crazy!  When in Beijing, I thought it was interesting all the stores selling the yogurt in those little clay pots that were returnable, but I had never seen the supermarkets there!

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Dairy continued.

 

Also hugely popular in recent years in milk tea (奶茶 - nǎi chá). All these outlets on just one street are selling it! They are very busy in the evenings, but I took these pictures early in the morning, so not many customers in sight.

 

BH1A1211.thumb.jpg.c4606bae61b320e7db57753c66a6cba6.jpg

 

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and of course, still on the same street, Micky D gets in on the act selling milk teas and ice cream (also dairy!) from two kiosks.  Here is one.

 

to be continued.

 

 

 

 

BH1A1224.jpg

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More dairy. A roundup.

 

I never buy the yoghurt on offer. It is oversweet and very watery, but that's how they like it. I make my own.

I buy this fresh milk from a local bakery. It is from cows raised in Liuzhou.


milk.thumb.jpg.ea3881af70045fedd0e933b4fac52ac4.jpg

 

 

The milk is rather low in fat, so I add some

 

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When I'm too lazy to go to that bakery, I buy this instead from a local corner shop.

 

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I failed to mention that there are also a number of hawkers selling milk products on the streets, especially in the mornings. This one hangs around outside the Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital. She has been there for years, so must be making some kind of a living. All she sells is milk and bottled water.

 

BH1A1209.thumb.jpg.36ebf670d800b849be312da5eb0e9d56.jpg

Maybe finally (probably not), my cheese platter a couple of Christmases past. All bought in China.

 

cheeseboard.thumb.jpg.737776941170270c29064038c5025ed7.jpg

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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7. Five Spice Powder is the most used spice product in China

 

No!  It aint!

 

Spend some time going through Chinese recipes or YouTube videos on the internet, as I did earlier today, and you will see that about 90% insist that you need 5-spice powder. That will come as a huge surprise o the 90%+ of the Chinese population who never or very seldom use it. Sure, it used in some specific dishes, mostly (but not exclusively) Cantonese.

So,  I thought rant and vent about FSP, but suddenly got this feeling of déjà vu and realise I'd done so already - on this topic. So, instead, I'll mention what are the most common spices.

 

In alphabetical order:

 

Cardamom

 

Used in most hot pots and stewed type preparations.

 

cardamom.thumb.jpg.87d40b9d66237ebaf483cb7d0d1cbfe3.jpg

 

Cassia Bark

 

Also used in most hot pots and stewed type preparations.

 

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Cloves

Used in many situations. Usually ground

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Cumin Seed

I'm going to say this is the most common. Used all over China from Xinjiang to Hunan. Especially in Xinjiang style lamb kebabs, sold in night markets and restaurants everywhere.

 

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Fennel Seed

Mainly used in spice mixes, but also in hotpots etc.

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Sichuan peppercorns

 

Of course, used in many famous Sichuan dishes, but also further afield, such as in Xinjiang's Big Plate Chicken and in may Hunan dishes.

 

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Star Anise

Used extensively for umami in hotpots, stews etc. I use it in ragus and other western dishes, too.

 

star anise 1.jpg

 

White Pepper

China's go to pepper. Black pepper is less common. The main source of heat in Sichuan, Guizhou, Hunan before the introduction of chillies in the late 16th century, although their use did not become popular until the 18th century. Still today, the heat of Sichuan hot and sour soup comes from lashings of ground white pepper.

 

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Several of these are used in 5-spice powder, but probably more often on their own.

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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On 11/14/2020 at 10:08 PM, liuzhou said:

Dairy continued.

 

Also hugely popular in recent years in milk tea (奶茶 - nǎi chá). All these outlets on just one street are selling it! They are very busy in the evenings, but I took these pictures early in the morning, so not many customers in sight.


God bless the store name translations (a huge source of entertainment upon visiting 12yrs ago) - 1st place to Cat Forest, honorable mentions to Lucking Tea and Chic Tea.  Love this thread, thanks.   

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That wasn't chicken

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Thanks for the spice images and explanations.  The 5 Spice Powder reminds me of how for years here in the US a sprinkle of generic "curry powder" made a dish allegedly South Asian.

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I love this topic! I noticed that garlic and ginger were not on your list. I assume that means they are not used as often as we/westerners imagine ?????????

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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3 minutes ago, Naftal said:

I love this topic! I noticed that garlic and ginger were not on your list. I assume that means they are not used as often as we/westerners imagine ?????????

 

I assumed @liuzhou was addressing dried spices in his last post

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Thank you. That makes a lot of sense!!!

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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I think Heidi's right in comparing five spice to generic "curry mix" - it's easier for those unfamiliar to a cuisine to just take a single blend and use it to color it all, it might taste good, but it will all taste the same. It applied to other cuisines as well - French is not all meat, butter, potatoes, wine and cheese. Italian ain't just tomatoes, cheese, oregano and garlic (actually, it's usually light on the garlic), Thai is not all coconut and curry pastes. Most are aware of this, but it's still easy to fall into sticking to the easy and familiar.

That said, it should be noted that five spice is particularly easy to abuse because it's A) delicious and B) most good blends don't have a dominating note, meaning that it's hard to ruin a dish with. So if a recipe would usually call for (e.g.) anise and peppercorns, using five spice instead would probably still taste good, it's just taste like any other dish you'd use it for.

I like using it as an easy way to add a bit of spice-complexity to dishes that may already have some of its ingredients in it.

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6 hours ago, Naftal said:

I love this topic! I noticed that garlic and ginger were not on your list. I assume that means they are not used as often as we/westerners imagine ?????????

 

Garlic and ginger are in everything! I just don't class them as spices. Garlic powder and ginger powder is not used, only fresh.

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8. The Chinese eat wild animals and other strange things.

 

Let me separate the two. First, wild animals. Yes some Chinese people eat wild animals, but very, very few people do so. No more than other countries and in some instances a lot less. Once upon a time, everyone ate wild animals until they hit on domestication! Today, wild animals are eaten in almost every country. Hunting is a favourite sport among many people and members here regularly eat and hunt wild animals. I eat wild fish and seafood. The only wild meat I've  seen in supermarkets has been rabbit. Not so strange.

 

When people complain about China in this way, they probably mean "exotic" wild animals. That is rather meaningless. Exotic just means different, foreign. Chinese people think we eat exotic food!

 

Most of the people who do eat these meats are elderly folk who remember Mao's Great Famine in which between 18 and 45 million died (estimates vary) in the late 50s/early 60s. To survive they had to eat anything they could find or catch.

 

Also, Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM) considers many animals to have medical benefits. Most of these are nonsensical, but the elderly and uneducated often believe them.

 

Following the SARS pandemic in 2003, a long list of animals was compiled and they were made illegal to eat. Qingping market (青平市场 - qīng píng shì cháng) in Guangzhou (Canton) was notorious for the number of "exotic" animals it sold. Now it doesn't, depending on what you consider to be "exotic". Similarly, this year a further list was issued, admittedly too late.

 

BH1A1059.jpg

 

Then I must come to dog meat (狗肉 - gǒu ròu). One thing to be said is that, despite popular myth, the dogs sold are not stolen pets - the vast majority are farmed specifically for food. The annual dog meat festival in Yulin (near here) was originally just a lychee festival, the area being famous for that fruit. Some dog farmers and restaurants decided to attach themselves to the event and thanks to PETA, the extremist animal rights group, which gave them worldwide free publicity with their usually fake propaganda. Today, the dog side of the event is no longer so popular. I have several friends from Yulin - none of them eat dog.

 

There are a few dog restaurants here in town. I pass this one almost every day.

 

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Its clientele seems to mostly middle aged men in large groups getting drunk. In the morning, the car park, which I walk through as a shortcut to the market, is littered with tart cards, suggesting that it's all rather seedy. I've never been inside the place!

 

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The market I'm going to doesn't have dog meat or anything out of the ordinary. Others do. I've never encountered the meat in any supermarket.

 

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Today, there is a huge, new middle class tendency towards pet ownership, with an accompanying disquiet or even revulsion at dog-eating, with the result that it is becoming less common.

Once again, I must point out that dog meat is common in many other countries, some much more so than in China. You never hear about people criticising Switzerland for it, do you? Why not?

 

One last thng to say about dog meat is that I see no moral difference between eating dog meat as compared to eating pigs, sheep or cows etc. Any objecions are usually emotional. I have eaten it, but would never go looking for it - the truth is it just isn't very palatable. Carnivores never are.

 

Moving on a bit, cat meat (猫肉 - māo ròu) is sometimes eaten but that is even more rare. I've only every encountered one restaurant openly selling catmeat, although I have seen cats being sold for food in markets.

 

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Restaurant selling lamb and cat meat

 

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I have never eaten cat and never knowingly would - an emotional decision. I have seen cats butchered on market stall counters. I'm not directly posting a picture here out of respect for some people's feelings but one scan of a picture I took in Guangzhou in 1996 is here.

 

to be continued

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Strange food contined.

 

Probably the strangest (to me) thing I have seen in a supermarket in China was this. 鳄鱼 - è yú - alligator. I have eaten alligator steaks as people do in many places and liked them, but I'd never seen the beast like this. You'll notice the butcher is removing the head. This is considered medically beneficial and is the most desirable (and expensive) part.

 

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They only ever had two, then went back to selling pork, beef and lamb. Alligator is now on the banned list.

 

Another popular meat in restaurants here is snake meat (蛇肉 - shé ròu). Again not for sale in supermarkets, but often in farmers'markets.

 

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Snake Soup

 

This is often served at wedding banquets as it's thought to be an aid to fertility! It's also delicious. Again, snake is not only eaten in China, but everywhere there are people and snakes. However, the largest snake breeding project in the world is right here in Guangxi. Snake meat is not on the banned list.

 

to be re-continued after I have a rest!

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I think the TCM element is what starts the "hate" - rhino horns etc but that exotic trade has nothing really to do with everyday Chinese food does it? I legally traded in exotics (not for food) - but do not anymore. Though repopulating Bali Mynahs was a high point.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bali_myna We have the wonderful luxury on this site of people who hunt like @Shelby- responsibly. Many here follow Hank Shaw That is different responsible food. Cool if we can https://honest-food.net/  Dispelling goofy myths is also responsible. Thanks @liuzhou

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other strange things

 

I also think some of China's misplaced reputation for weird food is that it is very much a head-to tail-cuisine. As are most other countries. Again, for China, this largely rises from food scarcities in the past and a culturally ingrained abhorrence of food waste. Waste not; not want.

 

So the butchers' stalls are going to have things that in the some western countries are only used in pet food, if at all.

 

Pigs are used from face

 

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to feet

 

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taking in their intestines part way. I've spared you the eyes.

 

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Chickens are eaten from cocks' comb

 

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to feet

 

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taking in testicles in passing

 

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Cattle are eaten not just for steak or other flesh cuts, but also the udders, penises and other parts the animals never knew they had are eaten.

 

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Ox Penis

 

This combines with a healthy lack of squeamishness and an easy acceptance that meat is from animals, unlike the plastic packed, anonymous looking meat in many western supermarkets, which bear as few signs of animal as possible.

 

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I'm not posting these images to shock anyone, although I realise they may do some people, but rather to suggest that this is actually more normal than not. It isn't Chinese food that is weird; it is western food.
 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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to sum up

 

Eating certain animals will attact penalties ranging from having your leftovers confiscated (the police will take them home and eat them) to life imprisonment for killing and eating a tiger. Eating a panda will get you the death penalty. It has happened.

 

Also a lot of the myths are caused by visitors misunderstanding what they see, by the media and by racists setting out to denigrate.

 

One visitor a few years back wandered away from me and saw a stall set out with dead rats. She rushed back and said, "How disgusting! They eat rats". The stall was selling rat poison and the dead rodents were beng used as testimony to the poison's efficiency. The rats were not for sale. She still went home and told the tale the way she saw it.

I think that's it. I'm off to eat a nice stewed Sichuan style braised rabbit head.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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    • By liuzhou
      Wowotou buns ( 窝窝头 wō wō tóu), also known more simply as wō tóu are originally from northern China. The name means "nest" and they come in many forms. These are the ones I use. As you can see, they are usually stuffed with whatever the cook decides. These are stuffed with spicy pork and pickled greens, but I've also served them with a seafood stuffing.
       

       
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      Stir-fried Squid with Snow Peas - 荷兰豆鱿鱼
       

       
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      Wash all the squid meat again.

      Method

      There are only two ways to cook squid and have it remain edible. Long slow cooking (an hour or more) or very rapid (a few seconds) then served immediately. Anything else and you'll be chewing on rubber. So that is why I am stir frying it. Few restaurants get this right, so I mainly eat it at home.

      Heat your wok and add oil. Have a cup of water to the side. Add the garlic, ginger and chile. Should you think it's about to burn, throw in a little of that water. It will evaporate almost immediately but slow down some of the heat.
       
      As soon as you can smell the fragrance of the garlic and ginger, add the peas and salt and toss until the peas are nearly cooked (Try a piece to see!). Almost finally, add the squid with a tablespoon of the Shaoxing and about the same of oyster sauce. Do not attempt to add the oyster sauce straight from the bottle. The chances of the whole bottle emptying into your dinner is high! Believe me. I've been there!

      The squid will curl up and turn opaque in seconds. It's cooked. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of so of sesame oil (if used) and serve immediately!
       
    • By liuzhou
      Big Plate Chicken - 大盘鸡
       

       
      This very filling dish of chicken and potato stew is from Xinjiang province in China's far west, although it is said to have been invented by a visitor from Sichuan. In recent years, it has become popular in cities across China, where it is made using a whole chicken which is chopped, with skin and on the bone, into small pieces suitable for easy chopstick handling. If you want to go that way, any Asian market should be able to chop the bird for you. Otherwise you may use boneless chicken thighs instead.

      Ingredients

      Boneless skinless chicken thighs  6

      Light soy sauce

      Dark soy sauce

      Shaoxing wine

      Cornstarch or similar. I use potato starch.

      Vegetable oil (not olive oil)

      Star anise, 4

      Cinnamon, 1 stick

      Bay leaves, 5 or 6

      Fresh ginger, 6 coin sized slices

      Garlic.  5 cloves, roughly chopped

      Sichuan peppercorns,  1 tablespoon

      Whole dried red chiles,   6 -10  (optional). If you can source the Sichuan chiles known as Facing Heaven Chiles, so much the better.

      Potatoes 2 or 3 medium sized. peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

      Carrot. 1,  thinly sliced

      Dried wheat noodles.  8 oz. Traditionally, these would be a long, flat thick variety. I've use Italian tagliatelle successfully.    

      Red bell pepper. 1 cut into chunks

      Green bell pepper, 1 cut into chunks

      Salt

      Scallion, 2 sliced.
         
      Method

      First, cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and marinate in 1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce, 3 teaspoons of Shaoxing and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cornstarch. Set aside for about twenty minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

      Heat the wok and add three tablespoons cooking oil. Add the ginger, garlic, star anise, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, Sichuan peppercorns and chiles. Fry on a low heat for a  minute or so. If they look about to burn, splash a little water into your wok. This will lower the temperature slightly. Add the chicken and turn up the heat. Continue frying until the meat is nicely seared, then add the potatoes and carrots. Stir fry a minute more then add 2 teaspoons of the dark soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the light soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of the Shaoxing wine along with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to medium. Cover and cook for around 15 minutes until the potatoes are done.

      While the main dish is cooking, cook the noodles separately according to the packet instructions.  Reserve  some of the noodle cooking water and drain.

      When the chicken and potatoes are done, you may add a little of the noodle water if the dish appears on the dry side. It should be saucy, but not soupy. Add the bell peppers and cook for three to four minutes more. Add scallions. Check seasoning and add some salt if it needs it. It may not due to the soy sauce and Shaoxing.

      Serve on a large plate for everyone to help themselves from. Plate the noodles first, then cover with the meat and potato. Enjoy.
       
    • By liuzhou
      Clam Soup with Mustard Greens - 车螺芥菜汤
       

       
      This is a popular, light but peppery soup available in most restaurants here (even if its not listed on the menu). Also, very easy to make at home.

      Ingredients

      Clams. (around 8 to 10 per person. Some restaurants are stingy with the clams, but I like to be more generous). Fresh live clams are always used in China, but if, not available, I suppose frozen clams could be used. Not canned. The most common clams here are relatively small. Littleneck clams may be a good substitute in terms of size.
       
      Stock. Chicken, fish or clam stock are preferable. Stock made from cubes or bouillon powder is acceptable, although fresh is always best.

      Mustard Greens. (There are various types of mustard green. Those used here are  芥菜 , Mandarin: jiè cài; Cantonese: gai choy). Use a good handful per person. Remove the thick stems, to be used in another dish.)

      Garlic. (to taste)

      Chile. (One or two fresh hot red chiles are optional).

      Salt.

      MSG (optional). If you have used a stock cube or bouillon powder for the stock, omit the MSG. The cubes and power already have enough.

      White pepper (freshly ground. I recommend adding what you consider to be slightly too much pepper, then adding half that again. The soup should be peppery, although of course everything is variable to taste.)

      Method

      Bring your stock to a boil. Add salt to taste along with MSG if using.

      Finely chop the garlic and chile if using. Add to stock and simmer for about five minutes.

      Make sure all the clams are tightly closed, discarding any which are open - they are dead and should not be eaten.

      The clams will begin to pop open fairly quickly. Remove the open ones as quickly as possible and keep to one side while the others catch up. One or two clams may never open. These should also be discarded. When you have all the clams fished out of the boiling stock, roughly the tear the mustard leaves in two and drop them into the stock. Simmer for one minute. Put all the clams back into the stock and when it comes back to the boil, take off the heat and serve.
    • By liuzhou
      Beef with Bitter Melon - 牛肉苦瓜
       

       
      The name may be off-putting to many people, but Chinese people do have an appreciation for bitter tastes and anyway, modern cultivars of this gourd are less bitter than in the past. Also, depending on how it's cooked, the bitterness can be mitigated.
       
      I'll admit that I wasn't sure at first, but have grown to love it.

      Note: "Beef with Bitter Melon (牛肉苦瓜 )" or "Bitter Melon with Beef (苦瓜牛肉)"? One Liuzhou restaurant I know has both on its menu! In Chinese, the ingredient listed first is the one there is most of, so, "beef with bitter melon" is mainly beef, whereas "bitter melon with beef" is much more a vegetable dish with just a little beef. This recipe is for the beefier version. To make the other version, just half the amount of beef and double the amount of melon.

      Ingredients

      Beef. One pound. Flank steak works best. Slice thinly against the grain.

      Bitter Melon. Half a melon. You can use the other half in a soup or other dish. Often available in Indian markets or supermarkets.
       

       
      Salted Black Beans. One tablespoon. Available in packets from Asian markets and supermarkets, these are salted, fermented black soy beans. They are used as the basis for 'black bean sauce', but we are going to be making our own sauce!

      Garlic. 6 cloves

      Cooking oil. Any vegetable oil except olive oil

      Shaoxing wine. See method

      Light soy sauce. One tablespoon

      Dark soy sauce. One teaspoon

      White pepper. See method

      Sesame oil. See method

      Method

      Marinate the beef in a 1/2 tablespoon of light soy sauce with a splash of Shaoxing wine along with a teaspoon or so of cornstarch or similar (I use potato starch). Stir well and leave for 15-30 minutes.

      Cut the melon(s) in half lengthwise and, using a teaspoon, scrape out all the seeds and pith. The more pith you remove, the less bitter the dish will be. Cut the melon into crescents about 1/8th inch wide.

      Rinse the black beans and drain. Crush them with the blade of your knife, then chop finely. Finely chop the garlic.

      Stir fry the meat in a tablespoon of oil over a high heat until done. This should take less than a minute. Remove and set aside.

      Add another tablespoon of oil and reduce heat to medium. fry the garlic and black beans until fragrant then add the bitter melon. Continue frying until the melon softens. then add a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine and soy sauces. Finally sprinkle on white pepper to taste along with a splash of sesame oil. Return the meat to the pan and mix everything well.

      Note: If you prefer the dish more saucy, you can add a tablespoon or so of water with the soy sauces.

      Serve with plained rice and a stir-fried green vegetable of choice.
       
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