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Guangxi Gastronomy


liuzhou

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7 minutes ago, Anna N said:

Thanks for this. I had a whole bunch of questions, but I see that they have already been answered. Presumably, they are gutted.  Is there any part of a snake that is considered inedible? Cobra hood perhaps? 

 

Indeed gutted. The skin of most types is at least unappetizing if not actually inedible. I'm sorry but I've no experience of  cobra hoods. The gall bladder is fed to dumb tourists in tourist trap Guilin for a steep price. The locals won't touch it.

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I've eaten rattlesnake. I don't care for it. Tastes a lot like alligator or turtle. Closest thing in everyday stuff, I think, is dark meat chicken.

 

Don't ask. Eat it.

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12 minutes ago, kayb said:

I've eaten rattlesnake. I don't care for it. Tastes a lot like alligator or turtle. Closest thing in everyday stuff, I think, is dark meat chicken.

 

 

I like alligator (but not turtle so much) so I'd probably be happy.

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I had the full program when studying at NTU Taipei, Taiwan. Snake alley.

 

My colleagues pitched together and got me the blood (drawn into a glass of maotai), the gall bladder (squeezed into a glass of maotai), the charcoal grilled flesh (which I found utterly delicious after the first two dishes) and a soup with what I assume was not the same snake. My colleagues were in awe of me eating all that stuff. We had some more filling items at the same night market* and headed back to the university, passing an upper class shopping center.

 

I showed my appreciation of their gesture by buying the most expensive piece of Roquefort I have ever paid for. Chen, a lovely lady in her twenties and my secret favorite during my stay there, threw up on the fake marble floor** …
 

—-

*red-cooked pork parts (cheeks & tails). Soooo tasty !

** She forgave me directly after that, as I introduced her to Crémant d’Alsace from the same shop, which she mistakenly took as champagne (with some intercultural misunderstandings, none of which were to the disadvantage of anyone involved). 

 

 

 

 

 

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10. 鸭杂 (yā zá)


IMG_3766.thumb.JPG.f017da7ab691d6109009591a17059ea4.JPG

 

Duck is the cheapest animal protein round these parts and duck is a huge part of Chinese culture. I’m not talking about the clichés like “Peking Duck”, good as that can be at its best. I’m thinking more everyday duck. The eggs are important. Salted duck eggs are everywhere. 皮蛋 (pí dàn) or century eggs, too are nearly always duck eggs. My boiled egg of a morning is usually a duck egg.

 

Then there is the meat. I'm leaving that for a later post. My title of this section, 鸭杂 (yā zá) literally means ‘duck mixture’ but is also an abbreviation of 鸭杂碎 (yā zá suì) meaning ‘duck offal’. Duck consumption is very much beak to tail, leaving out only the feathers and the quack.

 

Bits of duck I never knew existed (and the duck certainly didn’t) are considered delicacies. All over town there are small shops selling bits of duck.

 

But first lets decide what kind of duck. China has over 30 different duck breeds. Some are thought of as egg layers; others as meat birds; yet others all rounders. Your Peking duck (actually known as 北京烤鸭 (běi jīng kǎo yā – Beijing Roast Duck) is almost always made using the confusingly named pekin duck breed. Yes, the etymology is related. This is the world’s most consumed duck, probably native to SE Asia and first domesticated some 2,000 years ago. The breed was introduced to the UK in 1872 from where it spread to the USA. It is a prolific layer as well as an excellent meat bird.

 

875174807_pekinduck.thumb.jpg.9187daafd27a5b8a31ae5bc8b38b8757.jpg

Pekin Duck in Liuzhou Park

 

However, round here a smaller breed is the first choice. I have attempted to get a positive identification of the breed, but everyone I ask gives me a different answer. The Chinese are not very good at species identification. They don’t even know what species of snail is in their city’s most famous dish (but I’ll return to that). Until I meet a qualified anatine ornithologist this picture will have to suffice.

 

IMG_1197.thumb.JPG.da2194b341fae56005dfb7bee1e4eb8a.JPG

 

Anyway, back to the consumption of the bits. I’ll start with my favourite, then end up at the locals’ favourite (by far).


977112370_duckhearts.thumb.jpg.5c1818c826c190b43f086f340c37f4da.jpg

鸭心 (yā xīn) - Duck Hearts

 

I do like these on toast of a morning. The locals, however, tend to braise them in soy sauce or with 5-spice and eat them as snacks. I can go there, too.

 

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Duck Hearts on Toast
 

Proceeding through the bird at random we have:

 

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鸭脖 (yā bó) Duck Necks

 

These too are braised in soy or 5-spice and are gnawed on.

 

508912692_BraisedDuckNeck.thumb.jpg.7aaacb020264e31a8c03a51a4bb751f6.jpg

Braised Duck Necks

 

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锁骨 (yā suǒ gǔ)- Duck Clavicle (Collarbone)

 

These are braised with Chinese grain liquor (白酒 - bái jiǔ) and dark soy sauce then stir-fried with cumin.  There is very little to chew on, but the locals so love a good gnaw.

 

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鸭胗 - Stewed Duck Gizzards

                              1347939383_duckjaws.thumb.jpg.95b8fbd5cfe08514a623a2807a358bd4.jpg

鸭头 (yā tóu) - Duck Heads

 

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鸭舌 (yā shé)- Duck Tongue

 

These make for surprisingly good beer food.

 

Then the favourite locally. People go ape for these. I've never seen the point.

 

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(yā zhǎng)  - Duck  Feet

 

They are 'eaten' braised  with chilli as pictured or in soups and stews and very often on top of Luosifen (螺蛳粉)

 

1739652618_ducksfeetwithpickles.thumb.jpg.b06f5ddc53690f103ebd43de7b819bac.jpg

Duck Feet with Pickles

 

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Duck Feet with Snails

 

Can't make your mind up? Here is a nice plate of mixed duck offal bits and pieces - (鸭杂 (yā zá)

 

2008787238_duckoffal2.thumb.jpg.cba50713235c1fb1659bf3bcf7259904.jpg

 

Quack.

 

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7 hours ago, liuzhou said:

Duck consumption is very much beak to tail, leaving out only the feathers and the quack.

I know you said you would leave the meat for another post, but what about the liver? The kidneys?

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On 11/1/2022 at 10:43 PM, Anna N said:

I know you said you would leave the meat for another post, but what about the liver? The kidneys?

 

That is indeed quite an omission which I did intend to address, but it ran away from me.

 

Unless you are buying a whole live bird (quite possible), it is likely the liver (鸭肝 - yā gān) and kidneys (鸭肾 - yā shèn) will have already been siphoned off. They aren't that easy to find in the supermarkets or markets. I suspect (without any real evidence) that the livers go away to the restaurant trade or to be sold separately at a premium.

 

The kidneys probably go off to Nanjing in eastern China, from where they are dried and sold internationally as a delicacy and as traditional medicine. I understand this trade is less lucrative than before as several countries have banned their import due to avian flu and other concerns.

 

When I have acquired whole ducks (or occasionally found intact innards), the livers have tended to be rather under-developed. I'm not sure at what age the birds are dispatched, but probably too young to develop the full fat opulence of a fois gras or anything near that.  I can buy duck (or goose) fois gras, French or domestic, at a price.

 

Braised duck livers are sold as snack food, too - relatively pricey snack food. Believe it or not, they are also sold as pet food.

 

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Duck Liver

Image from advertisement at https://www.baopals.com/products/597105992987 - but they don't deliver to me.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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@liuzhou

Thanks. Intriguing. Most of the time when I used to cook duck I would find a liver included. It quickly became the cook’s treat. Sautéed in a bit of butter, seasoned and scarfed right at the stove. 

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7 hours ago, Anna N said:

@liuzhou

Thanks. Intriguing. Most of the time when I used to cook duck I would find a liver included. It quickly became the cook’s treat. Sautéed in a bit of butter, seasoned and scarfed right at the stove. 

 

I certainly did, too in England. Sadly, not usually, here.

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11. 罗汉果 (luó hàn guǒ)

 

1651377381_Monkfruit.thumb.jpg.3a959833bbc6424d8a70c1b46bd34f18.jpg

Dried Monkfruit

 

罗汉果 (luó hàn guǒ), Siraitia grosvenorii*, also known as ‘monkfruit’, is the fruit of a small gourd of the Curcubitaceae family and is nearly all grown in Guangxi. It is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat asthma, bronchitis, coughing, pharyngitis, and sore throats among other ailments. It is believed that it was first used by Buddhist monks some 300 years ago, hence the popular name, which means 'arhat', a Buddhist monk who has attained nivana.

 

The fruit is said to be up to 300 times sweeter than cane sugar, while remaining available to those who are unable to tolerate sucrose for medical reasons such as diabetes etc. It is also very low in calories. It has, so far, proved impossible to exploit fully as a sugar substitute as the plant is difficult to raise and yields are relatively low.

 

Often sold roadside by itinerant vendors, the fruit is nearly always only available dried. The dried fruit has a hard but thin skin, which is easily broken, allowing access to the fruit inside.

I’ve only come across monkfruit fresh the one time. Both fresh and dried are made into a type of tea or tisane. Unlike most Chinese medicine, it is actually not unpleasant, although I find it too sweet, but then I'm notoriously bitter-toothed.

 

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Fresh Monkfruit

 

The flowers of the plant are also very occasionally available and used to make a tisane, although the alleged effects are much weaker than using the fruit. Quite pretty though.

 

1331798675_MonkFruit.jpg.102d8034f4c594fef10300f746ca2603.jpg

 

NOTE: This post refers to medical claims made under the TCM belief system. I must emphasise that these claims are unsubstantiated by modern western scientific analysis and no therapeutic benefit has been satisfactorily established. For this reason, it is advised that caution be applied especially in cases involving children or during pregnancy.

 

* Older resources may refer to it by the outdated name, Momordica grosvenori.

 

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12. 米粉 (mǐ fěn)

 

I’ve said this before, but it seems like every town and city in Guangxi has its own noodle speciality. Eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, midnight snack or whatever, these are almost always rice noodles (米粉 (mǐ fěn)) here in the south. 面条 (miàn tiáo) wheat noodles are more common in northern China.

 

Note: mǐ fěn is pronounced like 'mee fun'.

 

Although rice noodles can be fried (炒粉 - chǎo fěn), the most popular dishes are all soupy noodles. It would be impossible to list every rice noodle dish, but here are the three most common and famous.

 

老友粉 (lǎo yǒu fěn) – Nanning Old Friend Noodles

 

As with many Chinese dishes there is a story behind the name. This differs slightly from telling to telling, but the basics remain the same. It is said that, 100 years ago, there was an old man who was suffering from some ailment (often said to be a bad cold) and was basically withering away as he had no appetite for life, never mind food. All attempts to reach out to him were rebuffed until his oldest friend made him a bowl of noodles using what he happened to have to hand. As soon as the invalid smelled the dish he perked up and asked to try it. He loved the dish and was soon restored to full health. The story and the noodles fame spread and small shacks all over the city started to sell this new dish known as – old friend noodles!

 

Apocryphal as the story probably is (I almost hope it’s true), the noodles remain very popular in Nanning, Guangxi’s capital city where they are available on every corner. Here is one example I ate in a small hole-in-the-wall place near Nanning railway station on my way home from Vietnam in 2018. As with all these places, the diner is free to add whatever condiments they prefer. Depending on the restaurant, you may also be asked what type of noodles you want – round or flat.

 

laoyoufen.thumb.jpg.7ed9d8aeec5cdb1a84770d80ab163861.jpg

 

The rice noodles are served in a broth with pickled bamboo shoots and fried chilli peppers. Additionally, it includes garlic, scallions, fermented black beans and pork or pig offal. For me, what sets it apart is that it also contains tomato, somewhat unusual in a noodle dish. The overall flavour combines a certain tartness from the bamboo with a mild spiciness. And it is something that cuts through the worst cold symptoms.

 

螺蛳粉 (luó sī fěn) – Liuzhou River Snail Noodles

 

There is archaeological evidence to suggest that the local people in Liuzhou were eating snails thousands of years ago. It took until the late 1960s or early 1970s for someone to put them together with the local rice noodles. Precisely who that was is a matter of great argument in the city.

 

Whoever it was, is kind of irrelevant now. The city is awash with places making and selling the dish. In fact, many visitors say the city stinks of luosifen. It is a divisive smell. I liken it to the asparagus pee phenomenon – some people smell it and hate it and some just don’t smell it at all. I just don’t. Either asparagus or luosifen.

 

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螺蛳 (luó sī) - Liuzhou River Snails

 

I’ve written about this dish before, particularly here, so I won’t repeat myself too much other than to say the dish consists of rice noodles served in a very spicy stock made from the local river snails (a type of small Viviparaidae which live in the local river, the Liujiang, as well as in local rice paddies, ponds etc) and pig bones which are stewed for up to 16 hours with black cardamom, fennel seed, dried tangerine peel, cassia bark, cloves, pepper, bay leaf, licorice root, sand ginger, and star anise. Various pickled vegetables, dried tofu skin (you may know this by its Japanese name, ユバ - yuba), fresh green vegetables, peanuts and loads of chilli are then usually added.

 

560578218_CollegeLuoSiFen.thumb.jpg.5f4c5f75b9729c1393b5201ed2b3acdd.jpg

Liuzhou Luosifen

 

Two years before the pandemic, local manufacturers started making ‘instant luosifen’ to be sold in packets (for considerably more than the real thing). None of them are a patch on the dish made in any small Liuzhou restaurant, but appeal to those who cannot otherwise get their kick away from Liuzhou. The noodles became the No 1 seller during the pandemic and the various lockdowns. Ironically, Liuzhou was never locked down.

 

However, a Guangxi friend, a nurse, who now lives in Tennessee, has pointed out to me that the bagged luosifen contains ridiculously high levels of sodium. One bag contains 6,560 mg of sodium. The maximum suggested by the American Heart Association is 2,300 mg and they would like to reduce that even further. The US sellers have relabelled the bags suggesting that a serving only contains 1,640 mg*, but that is based on a serving being a quarter of a bag. The whole bag is clearly labelled as being one serving and who is this cretin who buys a bag of instant noodles and only serves a quarter of it? My friend has given up eating luosifen until she returns to Guangxi for a visit. Save up your cents and come to Liuzhou. Heck, I’ll even buy you a bowl as a welcome!

 

sodium.thumb.jpg.724be92c0708ca9650a99dcdd17c7a9d.jpg

 

*Still above the AHA’s target of 1,500 mg.

 

桂林米粉 (guì lín mǐ fěn) - Guilin Mifen

 

The rather prosaically named Guilin Mifen (literally Guilin Rice Noodles) is the tourist city’s most popular. It is said by some to be around 2,000 years old. Again it is rice noodles in a broth with pork (or beef), fried peanuts, pickled cow peas, bamboo shoots and dried turnips. Chilli powder, green onion, coriander leaf/ cilantro etc are provided for you to add to your own preference. There are Guilin Mifen restaurants all over the city, determined to separate you from your cash.

 

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Guilin Mifen

 

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Guilin Mifen (Closeup)

 

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Guilin Mifen Condiments and Additions. Note: A similar selection is provided for all the dishes here.

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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13. 扣肉 (kòu ròu)

 

Guilin Mifen (above) is well-known to the many travellers who turn up in Guilin every year to be scalped. I have an edition of Lonely Planet China from 1996 which says:

 

Quote

In Guilin it’s always hunting season, and your wallet is the quarry. Whether it’s a fourfold price hike in the cost of a meal, a wildly circuitous taxi ride or extortionate entry fees, almost every traveller can count on having to deal with overcharging.

 

Since then, things have only gotten worse. And it doesn’t help that so many tour groups roll into town in their coaches, ticking off sights and waving their dollars around, tipping left right and centre (China has no tipping culture) and accepting the first price quoted rather than bargaining down to at least a quarter of that – often an eighth. They make it so difficult for those who actually live here. Then there are the backpackers. Been in China ten minutes and they’ve worked everything out and now only want pizza and hamburgers.

 

Yes, the scenery around the city is stunning and worth seeing – once. Yangshuo, the small town on the river where everyone ends up has changed from being a nice if small Chinese town into a hustlers’ paradise, complete with KFC and McDs and rip off hotels. Horrible, horrible place.

 

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Yangshuo 1996

 

And that is where almost everyone (even the pizza crowd) feels obliged to eat the local speciality, not the noodles, but Guilin’s “most popular dish”, Yangshuo Beer Fish. The problem is that few actually do. The dish is authentic OK, but not in most of Yangshuo’s cafés and restaurants. It is heavily adjusted to perceived western tastes. Instead of a whole on the bone fish from the local river, they serve filets as “foreigners are afraid of bones”; they use red bell peppers instead of hot chilli peppers because “foreigners don’t do spicy”. There are a number of “cooking schools” in the town offering to teach you to make the dish – avoid them – what you make will be nothing like the real thing.

 

Traditional Yangshuo beer fish is made with a freshly caught 1 to 1.5 kg carp from the local river, the River Li, perhaps caught by a cormorant – probably not. The fish is gutted, but not scaled and certainly not filleted. It is then fried whole in camellia oil until the scales form a hard crust, then the fish is braised with the local Liquan beer, red and green chilli peppers, garlic, onions, celery, tomatoes, soy, sugar and oyster sauce. Made correctly, and the tomatoes are an unusual addition, it isn’t a bad dish, but far from my favourite.

 

There are recipes on the internet, but they are nearly all hopeless. Check for mention of intact scales – a good sign of authenticity. If you find yourself in Yangshuo, Meijie Yangshuo Beer Fish (梅姐啤酒鱼) is recommended as being authentic. I’ve never been to that venue. I can’t stand the town.

 

So, I’m going to ignore that dish and instead bring you what is probably Guilin’s real most popular dish (and is also popular across Guangxi.) Something tour parties and backpackers rarely, if ever encounter.

 

The odd thing about this dish is that it didn’t originate in Guangxi, at all, but was adopted and adapted to local tastes. It turns up at every festivity from Chinese New Year to weddings. Almost every family dinner I’ve been at, it has made an appearance. In the 15-day long Spring Festival, I’ve been served it 15 times in 15 different homes!

 

The Hakka people, 客家 (kè jiā – the name means ‘travelling people’) in Mandarin, originated in the north of China, but migrated south to avoid persecution. Many now live in Guangdong and here in Guangxi. Like migrants the world over they brought their food with them. One dish in particular, they introduced to the local Zhuang people. That was 梅菜扣肉 (méi cài kòu ròu) which consisted and still consists of fatty pork belly with mustard greens.

 

The Zhuang took this dish and swapped the mustard greens for taro slices and came up with 芋头扣肉 (yù tou kòu ròu), usually just called 扣肉 (kòu ròu) here, as it is now the default. Lipu 荔浦 (lì pǔ) a small county town 100 km / 62 miles south of Guilin is famous for the quality of its taro crop. Incidentally, and irrelevantly, the local hares are the best I’ve eaten, too, but it isn’t famous for that – until now.

 

312789594_kourou2020.thumb.jpg.ac573e0f3515ff9a30687883b7bb1029.jpg

Kou Rou

 

The in 扣肉 is an interesting character. It has several meanings: button up; buckle; place a cup, bowl, etc. upside down; cover with an inverted cup, bowl, etc.; detain; take into custody; arrest; deduct; discount; knot; button; buckle; smash. What we want are the “cup, bowl” references.

 

The pork is blanched then fried to crispen the skin. Then it is sliced and deep fried; the taro also is sliced and fried. The two are then interleaved in a bowl and steamed for over an hour. It is a complicated dish to make, so most people buy it from the local supermarkets or markets. The taro soaks up the excess fat from the pork, becoming rather succulent. A gravy/ sauce is also made from red chilli peppers, garlic, Guilin fermented bean curd (腐乳 - fǔ rǔ), Shaoxing wine, honey, white pepper, star anise and other seasonings. Once everything is ready, the bowl is turned upside down and the meat and taro served pineapple-upside-down-cake-style.

 

IMG_5582.jpg

Ready to Steam

 

For a fuller story of making 扣肉, see this topic about a 扣肉 festival I attended a few years ago.

kou rou 2020.jpg

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13. 全州醋血鸭 (quán zhōu cù xuè yā)

 

A short one today, but one that will have some people reaching for the smelling salts and others, including me, salivating. But first some background.

 

The Yao ethnic minority (瑶族 - yáo zú) number roughly around 3 million in China with a further million in Vietnam, where they are known as the Dao. The Chinese population live mainly here in Guangxi as well as in Guizhou and Hunan provinces. I have a couple of good Yao friends.

 

In the far north-east of Guilin prefecture is Quanzhou County (全州县 - quán zhōu xiàn) which was historically part of Hunan, which it now borders. It has a significant Yao population. Quanzhou has one famous dish, which evolved from a Hunan dish, but now has its own distinct characteristics and can be found all over Guangxi.

 

142196983_QuanzhouVinegarBloodDuck.thumb.jpg.3d9d65877575527ba7573baf8d210105.jpg

全州醋血鸭 - Quanzhou Vinegar Blood Duck

This is 醋血鸭 (cù xuè yā), literally ‘vinegar blood duck’. A young duck is chopped on the bone and stir fried with garlic, ginger, chilli, bitter melon, sesame and peanuts and finished in a rich sauce made from the bird’s blood and vinegar. Served with green vegetables of choice and rice, it makes for a delicious lunch or instead can be served as part of a larger family style meal. The vinegar cuts the richness of the blood, whereas the blood limits the astringency of the vinegar, leaving the duck tender and juicy, but not at all greasy.

 

The locals are not afraid of blood. The local markets and supermarkets happily sell chicken, duck and pork blood, sometimes congealed to a tofu like consistency for hotpots, or still liquid to be added to sauces.

 

I like the dish so much, that writing this led me to ordering some for dinner.

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1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

The locals are not afraid of blood.

So is the bird bled?

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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10 minutes ago, Anna N said:

So is the bird bled?

 

Ducks and chickens are normally bled, yes. The precious blood is saved and either comes with the bird or is sold separately.

 

My neighbours buy live birds and do this themselves, but the markets will do it for you. 

 

Supermarkets sell the blood separately from the birds or bird parts.

 

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26 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

Ducks and chickens are normally bled, yes. The precious blood is saved and either comes with the bird or is sold separately.

 

My neighbours buy live birds and do this themselves, but the markets will do it for you. 

 

Supermarkets sell the blood separately from the birds or bird parts.

 

How long does the blood stay liquid?  I was to understand that the blood coagulates quite quickly and that it has to be ridiculously fresh in order to still be liquid.

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3 minutes ago, KennethT said:

How long does the blood stay liquid?  I was to understand that the blood coagulates quite quickly and that it has to be ridiculously fresh in order to still be liquid.

It does coagulate very quickly. However immediately adding vinegar prevents coagulation. This may account for the invention of this dish. 

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1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

 

Ducks and chickens are normally bled, yes. The precious blood is saved and either comes with the bird or is sold separately.

 

My neighbours buy live birds and do this themselves, but the markets will do it for you. 

 

Supermarkets sell the blood separately from the birds or bird parts.

 

Thanks. I guess I should’ve spent a little more time thinking about this. I would have concluded that of course they had to be bled. But my mind went elsewhere. 
So then I googled how much blood in an average duck. Not so easy to find. But I extrapolated to about 200 to 250 mL. Close?

 


 

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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8 minutes ago, Anna N said:

Thanks. I guess I should’ve spent a little more time thinking about this. I would have concluded that of course they had to be bled. But my mind went elsewhere. 
So then I googled how much blood in an average duck. Not so easy to find. But I extrapolated to about 200 to 250 mL. Close?
 

 

I've never measured it, but I'd say you were close, depending on breed of duck.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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14. 百合 (bǎi hé)

 

In a basket next to the weigh station in the local supermarket, I usually find a bunch of these. They look like the bulbs my mother used to plant in the garden and forget about. And that is what they are. Flower bulbs. But these are for eating and are very popular round these parts.

 

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Day Lily Bulbs

 

What you are looking at is a day lily bulb and day lilies 百合 (bǎi hé) Hemerocallis fulva, are native to east Asia (China, Japan and Korea in particular) and are prized grub for the locals – and for me. They were  first mentioned in China in 656 AD. The crisp bulb, shoots, buds and the bright, mild tasting orange flowers are all edible. The flowers, shoots and buds need no cooking, but the locals don’t do raw. Incidentally, day lilies aren’t true lilies which are a different species, Lilium.

 

The day lily bulb is segmented, a bit like an onion, and the segments are usually stir fried.

 

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Segmented  Day Lily Bulb

 

The flowers are dried and used in soups, hot pots etc.

 

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Dried Day Lily Flowers - 百合干

 

Almost every banquet features a dish of lily bulb with celery and ginkgo or cashew nuts. This mix is briefly fried and comes out more like a salad than a stir-fry. Very refreshing.

 

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Day Lily Bulb, Celery and Cashew

 

I’ve only found fresh flowers once (my friends’ were surprised I’d found them at all – they never have) and they were delicious – half in a soup and the remainder stuffed and fried like we do with squash flowers.


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Fresh Day Lily Flowers - 百合花

 

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Fresh Day Lily Flowers - - 百合花

 

Day lilies can be foraged in most of the places we live, but, as always, be sure you know what you are doing and collecting. Some cultivars are poisonous. Much safer to buy them from a reliable source or grow them yourself.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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15. 海藻 (hǎi zǎo)

 

1221204202_.thumb.jpg.87e5eb2898bd1dcc7cd654f2a907161f.jpg

 

Walk into my local supermarket and in one corner you are met by piles of what appears to be large sheets of distressed leather with a funky smell. This regularly baffles newcomers, as it did me. This ancient cow hide is on sale and there are even people buying it.

 

In fact, this stuff has never been wrapped around a cow. What you are confronted with is seaweed (海藻 (hǎi zǎo), specifically dried kelp 海带 (hǎi dài), literally 'sea belt', one of about 30 genera in the order Laminariales. These grow in the cold seas in the north east of China and is shipped here in various forms.

 

Kelp needs clean water at a temperature between 6 and 14℃ / 43 and 57℉. It takes its nutrition from the sun and so requires clear coastal waters that allow the sunlight to penetrate. Note that not all kelp species have the float bladders found in the North American variety.

 

In ideal circumstances, the kelp forests can grow to 45 metres / 150 ft tall, with some species growing 27 to 60 cm / 10 to 24 inches per day.

 

Not only do the kelp forests provide us with highly nutritional fodder, they offer protection and a diverse ecosystem to the many life forms which shelter within. Algae, fish and shrimp all take advantage, some living there all their lives. Others only use them as nursery areas for their young.

 

So how is kelp used? Much more than you might think. Even if you’ve never knowingly eaten it, you probably have ingested some at some point. It is used in toothpaste as a binding agent. You may have washed your hair with it! And if you are a fan of ranch dressing or common breakfast cereals, you’ve eaten it. It is used as a binder there, too. It is a good source of calcium for us oldies and vitamin K doesn’t go amiss either. It is also low in calories and, most importantly, it tastes good!

 

Kelp forests are under threat from rising sea temperatures and storms like El Nino wreak huge damage. Australia, for example, has been reported as losing more than 60 miles of forest to rising temperatures.

 

Back in the supermarket, besides the sheets of leather we can find kelp in more manageable pieces – both fresh and dried. Short pieces are tied into very popular kelp knots which are used in soups, hotpots, and cooked salads. It is also sold cut into strips like noodles.

 

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Fresh Kelp Knots

 

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Dried Kelp Knots

 

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Kelp Knot Salad

 

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Kelp "Noodles"

 

Kelp is also pickled and sold in small packets as a snack food.

 

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Pickled Kelp

 

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Pickled Kelp

 

But, kelp isn't the only seaweed on offer. We also have 紫菜 (zǐ cài), literally 'purple vegetable'. This is what you probably know as 'nori' - 海苔 or のり, in Japanese or 'laver', in English.  Again there are several varieties, but they all belong to the Porphyra family.

 

Laver is often sold dried in sheets for use with sushi (or just to snack on) but we also get it in its fresh natural state. This is what should be in your seaweed and egg drop soup and in the best Chinese restaurants is your crispy seaweed, although that is nearly always fried cabbage. Here is is often sold dried in these circular packs from which we break off what we need. I always have some in the pantry.

 

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It is also used in a number of manufactured goods such as imported instant soups from Japan,  my favourite crackers and even Lay’s have got in on the act with laver flavoured chips, or to use their correct name, crisps. 😂

 

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Instant Laver Soup from Japan

 

I have been known to crumble dried laver into beer batter for my fish and chips. A very versatile and healthy ingredient. I've also subbed it for furikake, the Japanese rice flavouring, when that has been unavailable.

 

Then we have my favourite of all the sea vegetables (seen in my first picture) . This is 海草 (hǎi cǎo), seagrass. Unlike kelp or laver, which are algae, these are true plants sharing characteristics with land-bound plants. In fact the approximately 60 different seagrasses are the only plants which can survive total, permanent immersion in water. They have flowers, fruit and seeds and form underwater meadows. Seagrass lawns also offer protection for young shrimp and other species. I've only ever seen this sold fresh.

 

I like this with almost everything.  Always with fish, especially sushi or sashimi...

 

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... but even with cheese.

 

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Yet another is locally called 海石花 (hǎi shí huā) in Chinese. That literally translates as 'sea stone flower'. More commonly known as Dragon's Beard (龙须 - lóng xū). A yellowish fawn coloured weed, usually sold dried, but sometimes available fresh.

 

Scientists tell us that future generations may have to rely on seaweed and seegrasses as a food  source, but at the same time tell us the same species are under threat. Seagrasses are also endangered by coastal 'development', by floods which  disturb the sediment and by outboard motors etc. I won't be here to see it and I ain't religious but I pray for sense to prevail.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Thanks for this, @liuzhou.

image.thumb.jpeg.dafdee19c6639149bc333be95c567e35.jpeg

 

I am addicted to this. It is Korean and very good. I buy a large carton of it every two or three weeks.

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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10 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

 

Interesting. The image looks like nori, but it's kelp according to the French.

Except for the seasoning and the size it is the same nori as I use to wrap onigiri. 
image.thumb.jpeg.c6700f9fdf28c2ce08410b3bf107f840.jpeg

 

Edited by Anna N
To add a poor quality photo. (log)

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Cooking is about doing the best with what you have . . . and succeeding." John Thorne

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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