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A pictorial guide to Chinese cooking ingredients


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I'm baffled.

 

This 'ingredients for dinner' selection consists of a chicken breast and a choice of "carb".

 

Screenshot_20240308_192730_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_2522533274614.thumb.jpg.7036221038b26a694f89699a2723192e.jpg

"Carbs" on offer are 紫薯 (zǐ shǔ), purple potato;

 

Screenshot_20240308_192751_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_2439394493897.thumb.jpg.31af35ee0587766fa6b4086b894f947a.jpg

 

南瓜 (nán guā), pumpkin;

 

Screenshot_20240308_192745_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_2456224962124.thumb.jpg.b6faff5c203f8d2faf6d0a25baf687a7.jpg

 

 

S:  黄瓜; T: 黃瓜 (huáng guā), cucumber;

 

Screenshot_20240308_192800_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_2423239177754.thumb.jpg.055a6427094bd63757198639c25f6592.jpg

 

or 玉米 (yù mǐ), porn spelled with an initial 'c' instead of the 'p'.

 

Screenshot_20240308_192739_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_2492745467847.thumb.jpg.5cd0baa76eebe68020406cbcabdcc1c4.jpg

 

Remarkably, the choice you make has no effect on the price, except in the case of the last one I listed. The other chicken and "carb" combos are 19.90元 / $2.77 each but the last is a mere 9.90元 / $1.38.

 

In all probability, they have come to their senses and want rid of the damnable stuff as quickly as possible.

 

Screenshot_20240308_192724_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_2564405012628.jpg.cfd1820117c0dc14309e4473082febcf.jpg

 


 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
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22 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

 

IMG_20240309_160609_edit_73502421285658.thumb.jpg.99d8e403469646cc7800508d8f5e03be.jpg

 

白灼汁 (bái zhuó zhī) translates as 'white burning hot juice' whatever that means.

 

Fortunately, food labelling laws force them to tell me it contains in order: cooking wine, msg, chicken bouillon powder, water, soy sauce, maltose, granulated sugar, salt and potassium sorbate.

 

 

 

 

I just tried some of this (a teaspoonful). 

 

Way too sweet for me. Maltose and 

sugar. It has the umami but the sugar kills it for me. Some may not agree.

 

Drain.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Anyone eaten horse's hooves? If you've eaten Chinese you may have. Unfortunately, in the most of the west, they usually only come in cans and are a poor substitute for fresh hooves.

 

S:马蹄; T: 馬蹄 (mǎ tí) means horse's hoof, but also refers to Eleocharis dulcis or E. congesta, which you probably know better as water chestnuts. The unpeeled tubers (corms) of the aquatic plant are said to resemble horse's hooves. Hmmm. Maybe.

 

Screenshot_20240310_150446_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_154521508062879.thumb.jpg.479590c7528eff7cb2689b36d190845a.jpg

 

If you are able to source fresh hooves, you will know how crisp they are and that they have a mild but definite taste. Canned examples tend to be less crisp and are tasteless. The canned variety come either whole or sliced. The whole ones tend to be a bit crisper. 

 

Screenshot_20240310_150318_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_154542578251417.thumb.jpg.787d22d707795409b8e9bbfab67104de.jpg

 

Of course, texture is as important as taste in Chinese culinary thinking. I've never seen canned water chestnuts in a supermarket here (or any other canned vegetable, for that matter).

 

In the wet markets, they are sold both unpeeled or the vendor will peel them for you - a lot easier if you are going use them today.

 

Keeping peeled fresh in water in the fridge for a day or two is highly recommended.

 

They are eaten raw or used in stir fries, in dumplings or in braised dishes.

 

Trot on!

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
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The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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竹子 (zhúzi) is a type of grass in the Poaceae family, in which there are around 1,700 species of the Bambusoideae sub-family.

 

IMG_20240311_121912_edit_211396234978680.thumb.jpg.5ec398faa7cfca133c96fccebefe20ad.jpg

 

It is a beautiful plant and certainly one of the most useful. It is used to build houses, make clothes, make hats, make rafts, make musical instruments, make fish traps, for mats, as scaffolding and in the manufacture of fireworks. You can buy bamboo keyboard and mouse sets for your computer.

 

It is used to make baskets of all sorts, chopsticks, serving bowls,

 

20171130_140150.thumb.jpg.babf32dd2cc6546f7d4614b7ef5546ac.jpg.ba0ac623755e4173ac7832aa74de9b0d.jpg

 

strainers, storage boxes, cooking implements etc, etc. The list is almost endless.

 

And we eat it. We eat a lot of it.

 

Bamboo 

 

Not all those species are edible. In fact some are poisonous so don't go digging up the first you see unless you know what you're doing.

 

S: 竹笋; T: 竹筍 (zhú sǔn), bamboo shoots are what we eat. They have to be gathered quickly when they appear as bamboo is the fastest growing plant on our planet and will soon be inedibly tough. Some species can grow up to one metre /three feet per day.

 

S: 雷笋; T: 雷筍 (léi sǔn) is collected immediately following spring thunderstorms, the name literally meaning 'thunder shoot'. These are prized.

 

Screenshot_20240311_115917.thumb.jpg.9338433158baaaf741a578839bd3e84a.jpg

Thunder bamboo

 

Also described as S: 春笋; T: 春筍 (chūn sǔn), meaning 'spring bamboo shoots'.

 

IMG_20240311_121402_edit_211486493334395.thumb.jpg.e4abc4a9246f037705173d3e4803b6ed.jpg

Peeled spring bamboo

 

 

S: 冬笋; T: 冬筍 (dōng sǔn), winter bamboo is also gathered and consumed. It is sweet and crisp.

 

IMG_20240311_121421_edit_211444466259401.thumb.jpg.a37d4eab27c6568f5729bf360af79db6.jpg

Winter bamboo

 

Sweet bamboo is often labelled S: 甜笋; T: 甜筍 (tián sǔn).

 

Screenshot_20240310_182332_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_166148738263709.thumb.jpg.f506bf9c4b3801b86829978ca6c4bf19.jpg

Sweet bamboo

 

Bamboo is often pickled and Liuzhou is famous for its S: 酸笋; T: 酸筍 (suān sǔn), fermented bamboo as used in its signature dish, luosifen.

 

IMG_20240311_121324_edit_211705168608320.thumb.jpg.cb1fb05a1c395f46dcc5942fb783ddbf.jpg

Pickled bamboo

 

Another culinary use of bamboo is S: 竹筒饭; T: 竹筒飯 (zhú tǒng fàn), rice etc steamed in bamboo tubes. The bamboo adds a subtle flavour.

 

yuan_44e960d1dac3ea7bc4ad358b334b6c1f.thumb.jpg.ac542ecab1ea8bd16d52fa7fe5fe97a4.jpg

 

 

I've also eaten chicken cooked in bamboo tubes over an open fire.

 

IMG_5584.thumb.jpg.29a3a8a221c09fcaf246514c97b05b6d.jpg.f6be464679b3b9299403ad6ebe8f6806.jpg

 

Leaves from the plant are used to wrap 粽子 (zòng zi), glutinous rice and meat or nuts. I've seen them referred to as Chinese tamales.

 

IMG_20240311_121337_edit_211648876046870.thumb.jpg.4f4235af940764cb2ecbb4a5a179371f.jpg

 

This 丹竹夜 (dān zhú yè), bamboo liquid makes a pleasant thirst quenching soft drink

 

IMG_20240311_121348_edit_211535592631783.thumb.jpg.135d702d3a0c7a19aa28e4dbec7f710e.jpg

 

 

or you may prefer 竹酒 (zhú jiǔ), bamboo wine from a bamboo 'bottle'.

 

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I'm bamboozled..

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
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The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Searching for information on this gets frustrating. S: 鱼豆腐; T: 魚豆腐 (yú dòu fu) means 'fish tofu'. Searching with or without the quotation marks returns many dishes of fish and tofu together.

 

Not necessarily a bad thing: S: 鱼头豆腐汤; T:  鱼頭豆腐湯  (yú tóu dòu fu tāng), fish head and tofu soup is one of my favourite Chinese soups. 

 

You also get fake fish made from tofu for vegetarians, vegans and vagrants.

 

No. What I'm looking at today is fake tofu made from fish. This is occasionally available in supermarkets and used in hot pots, soups, stir fries etc. 

 

Screenshot_20240312_153149.thumb.jpg.5ab4d5506b1c4efb7758f4c7b1926cab.jpg

 

Fish tofu can also be made at home. This recipe is Korean but it's the same as the Chinese version and is the best recipe I've found.

 

https://msshiandmrhe.com/fish-tofu/

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Hainan, 海南 (hǎi nán) is China's tropical island province in the south opposite?the coasts of Guangxi and Guangdong. This is where much of my fruit is grown but is also a major tourist destination for its beaches, especially those in Sanya, a city on its southern tip.

 

But it is to the east of S: 海南岛; T: 海南島 (hǎi nán dǎo), Hainan Island and the city of 文昌 (wén chāng) that we are looking at here.

 

Wenchang is home to what Saveur called the world's best chicken.

 

Screenshot_20240312_175051.thumb.jpg.ae370a3da9feed8e4a96881378c39752.jpg

 

These birds are raised on a diet of banyan seeds for nine months, before being held away from light and fattened on cakes made from peanut bran, shredded coconut meat, caltrops, cooked rice etc.

 

The skin of the Wenchang chicken is thin and yellow, whereas the meat is white and tender.

 

Screenshot_20240312_175114.thumb.jpg.3e93f6b4fcb340aa9c5a6d10fd9ace02.jpg

 

It was these chickens, taken to Singapore by Hainan merchants in the early 1900s, which inspired the Singaporean dish, Hainanese Chicken Rice, although Wenchang birds are rarely actually used there now - too expensive.

 

A Wenchang chicken costs me over 100元 / $14, which is more than double the cost of a regular organic chicken.

 

In Hainan itself, they are used in chicken dishes of all sorts, but are almost always poached. 

 

A favourite dish is Wenchang Coconut Chicken in which the birds are poached with coconut, garlic, sand ginger, green loquat and 'facing heaven' chillies and served with rice. My food delivery people will send me half a chicken and all the ingredients required in this dish for around 60元 / $8.36.

 

Screenshot_20240312_143533.thumb.jpg.c740c36cced38e993733c9f4664c3ce0.jpg

 

Also, broth made from the chicken bones and scraps is mixed with coconut water to form the base of Hainan coconut hotpot, enjoyed all year round.

 

Images from Meituan food delivery app listings.


 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
Mark Twain

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Screenshot_20240313_180447.thumb.jpg.f53632ddef0dceeefa4a3db7f3bc0050.jpg

 

The Chinese shopper takes their Gallus domesticus seriously. You don't just run out and pick up a tasteless, factory-raised, environmentally suspect, frozen, cheap protein. Buying a chicken is, for many people a labour of love. 

 

Markets have the birds live and the shopper will probe, poke and prod the tethered specimens on display in search of the one that most meets their high standards, then go home toting their flapping, shackled choice. (The vendor will despatch and de-feather it if you insist but few do.)

 

The shoppers are also cognisant of the various breeds on offer and which are best for which dish.

 

I mentioned the highly desirable 文昌鸡 (Wenchang chicken) in the last post here. There are others.

 

S: 三黄鸡; T; 三黃雞 (sān huáng jī), 'three yellows chicken' is a breed from the east of China, now raised everywhere. Almost all are raised organically. S:土鸡; T: 土雞 (tǔ jī) are free-range chickens of which 3-yellow is the main breed. The name refers to them having yellowish plumage (羽毛 - yǔ máo), yellow beaks ( - zuǐ), and yellow feet (S:脚; T: 腳 (jiǎo).

 

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Three yellows chicken

 

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Three yellows chicken

 

By far the most common dish  using these and other chickens are simple but deeply flavoursome soups. However, these are most often made with S: 老母鸡; T: 老母雞 (lǎo mǔ jī), old (layer) hens. These birds are between 2 and 4 years old. Most supermarkets' chickens' life span is mere months. Or even weeks.

 

S: 老母鸡煲汤; T: 老母雞煲湯 (lǎo mǔ jī bāo tāng), long-simmered old hen soup is very simple, containing only the bird with Shaoxing wine, garlic, ginger, scallion and salt as its base. Considered medicinal, jujube, going berries, dried mushrooms, ginseng and astralagus, a TCM herb, may be added.

 

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Old hen (老母鸡)

 

Another favourite medicinal soup bird is the flightless silkie - Gallus domesticus Brisson. Although most chickens are pretty hopeless at flying, the silkie can't fly at all; it has the wrong kind of feathers.

 

silkie.thumb.jpg.53d998e1923d322075a0ab1496f6f316.jpg

 

Most silkies are white feathered but black inside: black bones and flesh. They are are high in carnitine which has a reputation for being an anti-aging agent as well as a supplement for athletes. There is zero evidence for this.

 

Screenshot_20240313_174152.thumb.jpg.27ce5567d35fb2cdb59d48d963bf91eb.jpg

 

In Chinese, they have various names, the most common being S: 乌骨鸡; T: 烏骨雞 (wū gǔ jī), black-boned chicken or simply S: 乌鸡; T: 烏雞 (wū jī), black chicken.

 

There is little meat on these, but they make very good stock. Very flavourful. For Chinese people, the soup is the equivalent of 'Jewish penicillin'.

 

Supermarket tend to not to have much in the way of whole birds but have all their constituent parts and I mean all. 

 

There are other breeds, some highly localised. I'll get to those sometime soon.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
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The market for older stewing chicken in the US must have dwindled to just about zero. Making chicken stock here means using a lot of parts from young birds like backs, feet, etc. Too bad. I would love to try making stock from a real stewing chicken. I have never seen Silkies for sale, either, although I know that some folks into raising chickens have them.  Maybe next time I'm in Oakland Chinatown I'll take a closer look at what's available. Typically I buy kosher chicken for eating.

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2 hours ago, Katie Meadow said:

The market for older stewing chicken in the US must have dwindled to just about zero. Making chicken stock here means using a lot of parts from young birds like backs, feet, etc. Too bad. I would love to try making stock from a real stewing chicken. I have never seen Silkies for sale, either, although I know that some folks into raising chickens have them.  Maybe next time I'm in Oakland Chinatown I'll take a closer look at what's available. Typically I buy kosher chicken for eating.

I can get both older stewing chicken and silkies at my usual meat market in Chinatown, but elsewhere, forget it! 

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On 3/14/2024 at 3:00 AM, Katie Meadow said:

The market for older stewing chicken in the US must have dwindled to just about zero. Making chicken stock here means using a lot of parts from young birds like backs, feet, etc. Too bad. I would love to try making stock from a real stewing chicken.

 

I often use chicken feet for making stock, especially when I only want a little. They have so much collagen and the stock gels up - delicious. 

 

If I need a lot, I go the old layer route.

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

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Other types of chickens we get here include some described by habitat.

 

These tend to be local. We get S: 尧山鸡; T: 堯山雞 (yáo shān jī) Yaoshan chicken from, a mountain of that name near Guilin city an hour to the north of Liuzhou.

 

Then there are S: 巴马脆皮鸡; T:  巴马脆雞 (bā mǎ cuì pí jī), Bama crisp skin chicken. Bama is a Yao ethnic minority county to the west of here, famous in China for its being a longevity cluster. It is one of the highest concentration of centenarians in the world. Whether their chickens contribute to this is undetermined. The skin is noted for crimping up more than your average cook. I will not comment on the centenarians' skin.

 

bama_edit_133421547061411.thumb.jpg.ddc706352d54d9f85d7e021d96c3454a.jpg

Bama chicken

 

Another local type is S: 融水飞鸡; T: 融水飛雞 (róng shuǐ fēi jī). Rongshui is a Miao ethnic minority county to the north which I have visited often and documented here.

 

The name of their chickens confused me the first time I heard of it. 飞鸡 / 飛雞  means 'flying chicken', but is also an exact homophone of S: 飞机; T: 飛機 (fēi jī) meaning airplane ✈️. When I was asked if I'd had 飞鸡 🐔 before, I thought I was being asked if I had flown there! Given there is no airport, that would be unlikely.

 

flying2.thumb.jpg.26ec29a683bb34757c092456820e6eb2.jpg

Rongshui flying chicken

 

Another chicken found in the same area is S: 青脚鸡; T: 青腳雞 (qīng jiǎo jī), blue foot chicken, on account of its blue tinged feet.

 

bluefoot_edit_133315078403094.thumb.jpg.f5af787263a6487acf96009657580546.jpg

Blue foot chicken

 
Finally, there is S: 果园鸡; T: 果園雞 (guǒ yuán jī), Orchard chicken which, like all these, are free range birds, these ones raised in yes, orchards. What difference that makes, I'm not sure.

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
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The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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S: 长白; T: 長白 (cháng bái), Changbai is a county in Jilin Province in N.E. China known in full as 长白朝鲜族自治 (cháng bái cháo xiān zú zì zhì xiàn), Changbai Korean autonomous county. It has been home to ethnic Koreans for centuries. 

 

It is also home to S: 长白山; T: 長白山, (cháng bái shān), Changbai mountain. This is an extinct volcano on the border with North Korea. The volcano's crater is now S: 长白山天池; T: 長白山天池 (cháng bái shān tiān chí), Changbai Mountain Heavenly Lake, a major tourist attraction for Chinese visitors.

 

The area is also famous for its S: 人参; T: 人參 (rén shēn), ginseng, Panax ginseng, a herbal root widely used in TCM. The plant is extinct in the wild but still cultivated here. It is expensive as it takes five years to be ready to come to market.

 

Ginseng2.thumb.jpg.2ec68db9e2d48a89c438f16bc49c05e4.thumb.jpg.65e39950a1fb1611fded2de31f34955d.jpg

Ginseng root

 

It is made into tea and is also a common addition to chicken soups, as mentioned above. S: 参鸡汤; T: 參雞湯 (shēn jī tāng), ginseng chicken soup is considered by many people to be healthful. There is little evidence to support this view.

 

Ginsengsoup.thumb.jpeg.c0650f4d590d3cfe75eec36dba354311.jpg.c7246a5f8c5b757bdf38434af658cb0f.jpg

Ginseng chicken soup

 

The US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Care (NCCIH) has a balanced report on ginseng's efficacy or lack of, along with health warnings regarding its use by children and pregnant or breast feeding women at this link.

 

https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/asian-ginseng

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
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The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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10 hours ago, liuzhou said:

Other types of chickens we get here include some described by habitat.

 

These tend to be local. We get S: 尧山鸡; T: 堯山雞 (yáo shān jī) Yaoshan chicken from, a mountain of that name near Guilin city an hour to the north of Liuzhou.

 

Then there are S: 巴马脆皮鸡; T:  巴马脆雞 (bā mǎ cuì pí jī), Bama crisp skin chicken. Bama is a Yao ethnic minority county to the west of here, famous in China for its being a longevity cluster. It is one of the highest concentration of centenarians in the world. Whether their chickens contribute to this is undetermined. The skin is noted for crimping up more than your average cook. I will not comment on the centenarians' skin.

 

bama_edit_133421547061411.thumb.jpg.ddc706352d54d9f85d7e021d96c3454a.jpg

Bama chicken

 

Another local type is S: 融水飞鸡; T: 融水飛雞 (róng shuǐ fēi jī). Rongshui is a Miao ethnic minority county to the north which I have visited often and documented here.

 

5

The name of their chickens confused me the first time I heard of it. 飞鸡 / 飛雞  means 'flying chicken', but is also an exact homophone of S: 飞机; T: 飛機 (fēi jī) meaning airplane ✈️. When I was asked if I'd had 飞鸡 🐔 before, I thought I was being asked if I had flown there! Given there is no airport, that would be unlikely.

 

flying2.thumb.jpg.26ec29a683bb34757c092456820e6eb2.jpg

Rongshui flying chicken

 

Another chicken found in the same area is S: 青脚鸡; T: 青腳雞 (qīng jiǎo jī), blue foot chicken, on account of its blue tinged feet.

 

bluefoot_edit_133315078403094.thumb.jpg.f5af787263a6487acf96009657580546.jpg

Blue foot chicken
 
Finally, there is S: 果园鸡; T: 果園雞 (guǒ yuán jī), Orchard chicken which, like all these, are free range birds, these ones raised in yes, orchards. What difference that makes, I'm not sure.

 

 

Interesting.  I've never heard of chicken breeds varying by location in SE Asia.  Usually, they just discuss "kampung" or village chicken - meaning one that just roams around and eats whatever it wants versus a standard chicken.  The kampung chicken is notably tougher and scrawnier but prized for its flavor.  On a side note, I was buying feet in Chinatown a few weeks ago to make stock and I noticed that some of the feet were a bluish black - looked just like the photo above but didn't realize that they came from a specific breed. I've never seen the whole chicken with the blue feet here, other than the unbelievably expensive poulet de Bresse, imported from France. Next time I'm in that meat market, I've got to do a more in depth look at their whole chickens.

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When seeking chickens, beware of one breed in China: S: 田鸡; T: 田雞 (tián jī, literally 'field chicken').

Tasty as these are, they are not what you may want. 'Field Chickens' are the Chinese edible frog Hoplobatracus rugulosos. 

 

These are sold live in many supermarkets or wet markets but can also be bought post mortem and skinned.

 

IMG_20240126_120314_1_edit_184028723016189.thumb.jpg.c7b3f824ea8bc2b4b0cc8b260ad70f94.jpg

Supermarket live frogs

 

mmexport1710426445483_edit_183934374561516.jpg.69db4a4f22a4ed8fe4aaf56bd8ec738a.jpg

 

Also, (jī, literally 'chicken') is slang for a prostitute. No image for that breed.

 

 

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1 hour ago, KennethT said:

Interesting.  I've never heard of chicken breeds varying by location in SE Asia.  Usually, they just discuss "kampung" or village chicken - meaning one that just roams around and eats whatever it wants versus a standard chicken.  The kampung chicken is notably tougher and scrawnier but prized for its flavor.  On a side note, I was buying feet in Chinatown a few weeks ago to make stock and I noticed that some of the feet were a bluish black - looked just like the photo above but didn't realize that they came from a specific breed. I've never seen the whole chicken with the blue feet here, other than the unbelievably expensive poulet de Bresse, imported from France. Next time I'm in that meat market, I've got to do a more in depth look at their whole chickens.

Blue Foot Chicken Broth! Count me in.

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On 3/14/2024 at 10:13 PM, KennethT said:

Interesting.  I've never heard of chicken breeds varying by location in SE Asia.  Usually, they just discuss "kampung" or village chicken - meaning one that just roams around and eats whatever it wants versus a standard chicken.  The kampung chicken is notably tougher and scrawnier but prized for its flavor. 

 

rural.thumb.jpg.533dac040298b8ad0a5d7d722f6b5618.jpg

 

The equivalent of kampung or kampong chickens here are S: 农村土鸡; T: 農村土雞 (nóng cūn tǔ jī), meaning rural area or village free range chickens (above). Yes scrawny but delicious and great for stocks.

 

rural2.thumb.jpg.3f644e9c7ba62e7686c7a9bbc63c19ee.jpg

 

At the other end of the scale we have S: 清远鸡; T: 清遠雞 (qīng yuǎn jī), Qingyuan chicken from the eponymous county in Guangdong province. Similar to the famed Wenchang chickens above, these tender fleshed, smooth yellow skinned are highly prized and used in poached S: 白切鸡; T: 白切雞 (bái qiē jī), Cantonese chicken, known as "white cut chicken".

 

IMG_20240315_125751.thumb.jpg.f2056ca5be9c2877b012c22725ff8027.jpg

 

20170101_181650.jpg.d66939db299434cb04d7c9efa2c09c64.thumb.jpg.eb281e9f3eae70bae93feb62e801f2a0.jpg

White cut chicken (centre)

 

We can also buy S: 阉鸡; T: 閹雞 (yān jī), capons. 

 

IMG_20240315_125948.thumb.jpg.4f5521b32c096e951301947c1417c7bc.jpg

 

These castrated males are the most expensive on my delivery app, selling for 144元 / $20 each.

 

 

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I'm sure what you fancy for dinner tonight are some "small nonvascular plants with spores and gametophytes"*. Luckily, Chinese cuisine has you covered.

 

.thumb.jpg.fe88e6ab43d5d83f4327f20249d3be20.jpg

 

S: 发菜; T: 髮菜 (fà cài) (Cantonese: fat choy), Nostoc flagelliforme is known in English as long thread moss, edible black moss or hair moss (the literal translation of the Chinese).

 

This terrestrial algae is particularly popular at Chinese New Year, not for any culinary reason but a linguistic one. The names is a near homophone of the last two characters of the New Year greeting 恭喜发财 (Mandarin: gōng xǐ fā cái; Cantonese: gong hei fat choy) meaning 'to become prosperous'. **

 

Until recently, this was harvested in the Gobi Desert and on the Qingdao plateau. Due to overharvesting this has now been banned almost everywhere in China only minimal production being permitted.

 

This has led to price increases and a lot of fake moss being sold although it's not difficult to spot the fakes. The real deal is a dark bluish-green whereas the fakes are pure black.

 

It is also produced in Vietnam, which hasn't banned it, so far as I can determine. In Vietnamese it is tóc thiên (literally 'angel hair').

 

Wherever it comes from, it comes cleaned and dried. When rehydrated, it visually resembles long vermicelli

 

If you do get hold of it, a great way to use it is with dried oysters. A search for 'oysters with fat choy' will turn up recipes.

 

It has an affinity with mushrooms and dried scallops and is used in soups and hotpot.

 

.thumb.jpg.eee5bee285f7a236997b069a60d6f63b.jpg

Dried moss, dried shiitake, dried oysters, dried scallops

 

But perhaps the best known dish for CNY is Buddha's Delight, a dish for which there are as many recipes as there are Buddhists. You could start here:

 

https://www.adayinthekitchen.com/buddhas-delight/

 

* Encyclopedia Brittanica

 

** Actually, this is nowhere near the most common CNY greeting. S: 新年快乐; T: 新年快樂 (Mand: xīn nián kuài lè; Cant: sun nin fai lok, 'Happy New Year!) is by far the most common.

 

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figs.thumb.jpg.abb647d9c8fabc79cdc49fb4cf746485.jpg

 

S: 无花果; T: 無花果 (wú huā guǒ, literally 'no flower fruit'), Ficus microcarpa, figs are somewhat misnamed; although you might not see flowers, they are hiding somewhere there. This article explains.

 

Figs are sold here fresh in season, but also dried year round. They are used in TCM but what isn't? Figs are supposed to be beneficial for grating lung ailments and coughs. Need I add there is little, if any scientific evidence behind the claims?

 

Driedfigs.jpg.9ed3f3cd30e093aa970477546f5dd4a0.jpg

Dried figs

 

The main culinary use apart from as a table fruit is the dried fruit in a fig soup with pork. This is considered to be both delicious but also a healthful tonic.

 

According to this dried fruits should be washed in COLD water before using in the soup to avoid them being sour. Not a problem I've encountered and I don't understand the science behind that.

 

We also get these slivers of dried fig to eat as a snack, but also to add to soups and tonic teas or tisanes.

 

IMG_20240318_173140_edit_469131809675811.thumb.jpg.057d95c65a80fbe59eb89c99d933ed43.jpg

 

 

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On 3/14/2024 at 1:09 AM, liuzhou said:

S: 长白; T: 長白 (cháng bái), Changbai is an county in Jilin Province in N.E. China known as 长白朝鲜族自治 (cháng bái cháo xiān zú zì zhì xiàn), Changbai Korean autonomous county. It has been home to ethnic Koreans for centuries. 

 

It is also home to S: 长白山; T: 長白山, (cháng bái shān), Changbai mountain. This is an extinct volcano on the border with North Korea. The volcano's crater is now S: 长白山天池; T: 長白山天池 (cháng bái shān tiān chí), Changbai Mountain Heavenly Lake, a major tourist attraction for Chinese visitors.

 

The area is also famous for its S: 人参; T: 人參 (rén shēn), ginseng, Panax ginseng, a herbal root widely used in TCM. The plant is extinct in the wild but still cultivated here. It is expensive as it takes five years to be ready to come to market.

 

Ginseng2.thumb.jpg.2ec68db9e2d48a89c438f16bc49c05e4.thumb.jpg.65e39950a1fb1611fded2de31f34955d.jpg

Ginseng root

 

It is made into tea and is also a common addition to chicken soups, as mentioned above. S: 参鸡汤; T: 參雞湯 (shēn jī tāng), ginseng chicken soup is considered by many people to be healthful. There is little evidence to support this view.

 

Ginsengsoup.thumb.jpeg.c0650f4d590d3cfe75eec36dba354311.jpg.c7246a5f8c5b757bdf38434af658cb0f.jpg

Ginseng chicken soup

 

The US National Center for Complementary and Integrative Care (NCCIH) has a balanced report on ginseng's efficacy or lack of, along with health warnings regarding its use by children and pregnant or breast feeding women at this link.

 

https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/asian-ginseng

 

 

 

I recently ordered some Indian ginseng.  I haven't tried it.  How is Asian ginseng different from US ginseng?

 

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On 3/19/2024 at 12:48 PM, JoNorvelleWalker said:

 

I recently ordered some Indian ginseng.  I haven't tried it.  How is Asian ginseng different from US ginseng?

 

 

American ginseng is Panax quinquefolius but, although the chemical composition is different from Asian ginseng in some ways neither have been proved scientifically to have any medical benefit. 

 

They both taste of nothing so no culinary benefit or difference, either.

 

American ginseng is imported to China and is expensive. I know nothing about Indian ginseng.

 

 

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So associated with China is rice, especially in the south, that it would be forgivable to think that's the only grain used. However, it couldn't be more wrong. The grains on offer in any supermarket outstrip anything I've ever seen in any western supermarket.

 

One of the most important is 高粱 (gāo liáng), Sorghum vulgare, sorghum. The name is derived from Latin. There are four main types of sorghum: forage, biomass, sweet sorghum, and grain sorghum. The name 'milo' is often used to refer to sorghum, especially in America but technically only means the last named, grain sorghum, Sorghum bicolor. Grain sorghum originated in Africa and the milo name is derived from the Sotho, mailo.

 

The first two sorghum varieties above are used as animal feed and fuel with only the last two normally being consumed by humans.

 

Sweet sorghum is also called cane sorghum or Chinese sugar cane. It is the source of sorghum syrup aka sorghum molasses.

 

Grain sorghum can be made into a gluten-free flour (sometimes called jowar or jawar flour - from the Hindi name जवार (jawār)).

 

sorghum.thumb.jpg.b8257d452773c10e1d0a2261ec05c2d6.jpg

Grain sorghum

 

In China, sorghum is important in three main applications.

 

1) 白酒 (bái jiǔ).

 

This is China's favourite liquor and the best brands are made from sorghum. China's semi-official national drink S:贵州茅台; T: 貴州茅臺 (guì zhōu máo tái) is a type of baijiu made in the town of Maotai in Guizhou province. It is one of only two products allowed to keep the old pre-Mao  transliteration - Kweichow Moutai. (The other is Tsingtao beer from Qingdao, the modern spelling.)

 

moutai.thumb.jpg.dc944e7f276d0fbcc058778f1fde7aeb.jpg

 

This Maotai baijiu is served at state banquets and gifted to foreign leaders etc. It was used in 1972 by Mao to toast Nixon at their historic summit. A half litre bottle of their premium edition (S: 飞天; T: 飛天 - fēi tiān, flying fairy) will set you back around $350 USD. An aged bottle much more. The record was set in 2011 when a single bottle of a 1935 Kweichow Moutai sold for $1.55 million.

 

Unlike lesser baijiu producers who use a mix of fermented sorghum and wheat, Moutai only uses sorghum.

 

2) 陕西陈醋 (shǎn xī chén cù), Shanxi Aged  Vinegar

 

This black vinegar is China's most popular and is made primarily from sorghum. See above where Chinese vinegars are discussed.

 

628100214_ShanxiVinegar.thumb.jpg.9a6e1d36bf36999d5e6574f594652ad6.jpg.ad0ca1c9519b4d6d69e1f0b2f29b257f_edit_540924905502356.jpg.c201e96dd847a138e1ca8945e3a7cad7.jpg

 

3) Cooked sorghum is eaten directly, usually as 高粱粥 (gāo liáng zhōu), sorghum congee or in mixed grain congee. Only rarely is it served with other dishes as a rice substitute.

 

R-C(1)_edit_541585502012151.thumb.jpg.1ee51b2de286f7f94615be2daaf433c4.jpg

Sorghum congee

 

 

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The next ingredient is an ancient grain. There is archaeological evidence of it being eaten in China in Neolithic times and it was cultivated at least 7,500 years ago. It was eaten even before China stumbled across rice.

 

Husked but uncooked rice is 大米 (dà mǐ) in Chinese with meaning 'large'. Here, I want to look at 小米 (xiǎo mǐ) with meaning 'small'. These sizes are referring to the grain's relative dimensions.

 

Millet.thumb.jpg.a47c2bf3fdd5ab6be1fabd3fda7c4d9e.jpg

 

Millet is a small grained grass of which there are many types. Two main types are commonly harvested in China: broomcorn millet (Paniceum miliaceum) and foxtail millet (Setaria italica), the latter being, by far, the dominant species.

 

Each species comes in two varieties. Besides regular millet, we also have 粘小米 (nián xiǎo mǐ), glutinous millet. Regular millet contains 20% amylose and 80% amylopectin, and glutinous millet contains 100% amylopectin which makes it sticky when cooked. Instead of cooking it, it is mainly used in the making alcoholic beverages including beer.

 

glutinousmillet.thumb.jpg.b1fec8530e6227a8f2c8de77128a1a31.jpg

 

 

The regular millet is, like sorghum, mainly used in congees, either on its own or in mixed grain types.

 

It is also occasionally used in some baked cakes and cookies/biscuits.

 

 

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This grain is not a grain; it's a pseudo-grain in that it isn't a grass but the seed of a flowering plant. It originated in SW China but is now grown around the world. Both its English and Chinese names are somewhat misleading.

 

Buckwheat.thumb.jpg.1007093b4a89d210faf19f8f4ab0536f.jpg

 

I'm talking about buckwheat, which isn't related at all to wheat or to buck in any of its many meanings.

 

The 'buck' part is a corruption of 'beech' and the 'wheat' part is related to 'white'. It isn't beech or white either! It has etymons in most Germanic languages.

 

The Chinese name S: 荞麦; T: 蕎麥 (qiáo mài) also includes the character 麦/麥, meaning 'wheat'. 

 

Buckwheat is a friend to those with celiac disease as it is gluten free, but see the warning below. Should anyone visiting China need to know, celiac disease is S; 乳糜泻; T: 乳糜瀉 (rǔ mí xiè).

 

Two types of buckwheat are grown. Fagopyrum esculentum, common buckwheat, mainly in the north including Inner Mongolia; and F. Tartaricum, Tartary buckwheat, in the southwest including Yunnan and Tibet. The latter is now being called Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat by the wellness wankers and paleo plonkers trying to cash in on the so-called Himalayan pink salt craze.

 

The grains are ground into S: 荞麦面粉; T; 荞麦麵粉 (qiáo mài miàn fěn), buckwheat flour, which is used to make S: 馒头; T: 饅頭 (mán tou), steamed buns

 

Screenshot_20240320_115157_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_53652682307437.thumb.jpg.b7338c630ae8845252564e1ddfd14622.jpg

Buckwheat flour

 

Screenshot_20240320_103434_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_49355475429447.thumb.jpg.ca2ed8b54af16e55fbc8f672bfcb3c5b.jpg

Buckwheat flour

 

Screenshot_20240320_103425_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_49499042182029.thumb.jpg.f80912a03789e49936d43d9a5d7f2bd2.jpg

Steamed buckwheat buns

 

and S: 荞麦挂面; T: 荞麦掛麵 (qiáo mài guà miàn), buckwheat noodles.

 

mmexport1710901830278_edit_48821600592549.jpg.77969cc9bc88b5caef779434d9ea3a72.jpg

Dried buckwheat noodles

 

 

IMG_20240320_123151_edit_56081370106025.thumb.jpg.c0481359d72ec146b598cf7e1185039c.jpg

Fresh buckwheat noodles

 

The noodles are used as any other and can be served in soups or fried.

 

Warning: Be careful. Many brands of buckwheat noodles also contain wheat, so aren't gluten-free. Pure buckwheat noodles are available. Check the  ingredients list. If you see listed without the preceding , then that's almost certainly wheat. If you see S: 小麦; T: 小麥 (xiǎo mài), that's definitely wheat.

 

In Yunnan province, the Yi ethnic minority make a type of buckwheat flatbread called 粑粑 (bā bā). 

 

R-C(1)_edit_51635331623370.jpg.e6a7080f8607775d7bd0a1eca065d268.jpg

Yi ba ba flatbread

 

Do not confuse this with 糖油粑粑 (táng yóu bā bā), a sweet sticky rice snack made from glutinous rice and honey in Hunan.

 

And, again, buckwheat turns up in congee mixes

 

For more on the history of buckwheat in China, see here.

 

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00334-017-0649-4

 

 

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

"No amount of evidence will ever persuade an idiot"
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The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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3 hours ago, liuzhou said:

This grain is not a grain; it's a pseudo-grain in that it isn't a grass but the seed of a flowering plant. It originated in SW China but is now grown around the world. Both its English and Chinese names are somewhat misleading.

 

Buckwheat.thumb.jpg.1007093b4a89d210faf19f8f4ab0536f.jpg

 

I'm talking about buckwheat, which isn't related at all to wheat or to buck in any of its many meanings.

 

The 'buck' part is a corruption of 'beech' and the 'wheat' part is related to 'white'. It isn't beech or white either! It has etymons in most Germanic languages.

 

The Chinese name S: 荞麦; T: 蕎麥 (qiáo mài) also includes the character 麦/麥, meaning 'wheat'. 

 

Buckwheat is a friend to those with celiac disease as it is gluten free, but see the warning below. Should anyone visiting China need to know, celiac disease is S; 乳糜泻; T: 乳糜瀉 (rǔ mí xiè).

 

Two types of buckwheat are grown. Fagopyrum esculentum, common buckwheat, mainly in the north including Inner Mongolia; and F. Tartaricum, Tartary buckwheat, in the southwest including Yunnan and Tibet. The latter is now being called Himalayan Tartary Buckwheat by the wellness wankers and paleo plonkers trying to cash in on the so-called Himalayan pink salt craze.

 

The grains are ground into S: 荞麦面粉; T; 荞麦麵粉 (qiáo mài miàn fěn), buckwheat flour, which is used to make S: 馒头; T: 饅頭 (mán tou), steamed buns

 

Screenshot_20240320_115157_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_53652682307437.thumb.jpg.b7338c630ae8845252564e1ddfd14622.jpg

Buckwheat flour

 

Screenshot_20240320_103434_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_49355475429447.thumb.jpg.ca2ed8b54af16e55fbc8f672bfcb3c5b.jpg

Buckwheat flour

 

Screenshot_20240320_103425_com.sankuai.meituan_edit_49499042182029.thumb.jpg.f80912a03789e49936d43d9a5d7f2bd2.jpg

Steamed buckwheat buns

 

and S: 荞麦挂面; T: 荞麦掛麵 (qiáo mài guà miàn), buckwheat noodles.

 

mmexport1710901830278_edit_48821600592549.jpg.77969cc9bc88b5caef779434d9ea3a72.jpg

Dried buckwheat noodles

 

 

IMG_20240320_123151_edit_56081370106025.thumb.jpg.c0481359d72ec146b598cf7e1185039c.jpg

Fresh buckwheat noodles

 

The noodles are used as any other and can be served in soups or fried.

 

Warning: Be careful. Many brands of buckwheat noodles also contain wheat, so aren't gluten-free. Pure buckwheat noodles are available. Check the  ingredients list. If you see 麦 listed without the preceding 荞, then that's almost certainly wheat.

 

In Yunnan province, the Yi ethnic minority make a type of flatbread called 粑粑 (bā bā). 

 

R-C(1)_edit_51635331623370.jpg.e6a7080f8607775d7bd0a1eca065d268.jpg

Yi ba ba flatbread

 

And, again, it turns up in congee mixes.

 

Do not confuse this with 糖油粑粑 (táng yóu bā bā), a sweet sticky rice snack made from glutinous rice and honey in Hunan.

 

For more on the history of buckwheat in China, see here.

 

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00334-017-0649-4

 

 

fascinating - I had no idea that buckwheat wasn't related to wheat.  I'm actually violently allergic to buckwheat and didn't realize that it was used at all in China.  I know it is used quite a bit in Japan.

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13 minutes ago, KennethT said:

fascinating - I had no idea that buckwheat wasn't related to wheat.  I'm actually violently allergic to buckwheat and didn't realize that it was used at all in China.  I know it is used quite a bit in Japan.

 

I'm not allergic, but I don't particularly like it. However, it is  very interesting. I was surprised to learn it is not only used in China, but originated here.

 

 

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