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eG Foodblog: hzrt8w - A week of Chinese New Year celebration


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Good Morning Everybody!

And Happy Birthday to you! Yes! Everybody! Today is everybody’s birthday! Chinese custom has it: the 7th day of Chinese New Year is called “Yun Yuet” [Cantonese], which means birthday of everybody.

Today’s festivities… Well, after the first three days of CNY, festivities slow down. Today, the 7th day of CNY, is another highlight. Some would use the occasion to gather the family for one more meal. We have another family gathering dinner tonight. Eight days from now, the 15th day of CNY will be another highlight. It is called “Yuen Dan”. On that night, the tradition is to light some lanterns and have fireworks. It would signal the end of all these CNY festivities, where farmers will go back to another year of hard work, getting prepared for the crop seeding in Spring.

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This morning’s liquid breakfast: Langers Ruby Red grapefruit juice. I love grapefruit and grapefruit juice. More so than orange juice.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Last night’s midnight snacks:

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“Sa Chi Ma” [Mandarin]. A Taiwanese name. In Cantonese we call it “Ma Tsai”, which literally means “little horse”.

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They are fried dough made of wheat flour and egg, pressed together with sugar syrup. Some add sesame seeds and raisins. Then cut into rectangular blocks.

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Also munched on some Taiwanese “Rou Sung” – dried shredded pork. Taiwanese make this the best IMO.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Ah Leung, you're around the same age as my brother. His first job was working on a Vax. Do you remember those?

Although you may not like Dr. Pepper (I don't, but then again, I hate all cola drinks -- sorry), you might find it interesting that there's a place in Black Mountain in the North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains called Pepper's Deli, which has an extensive and fun collection of Dr. Pepper memorabilia. I'd call it a place worth stopping at if you're driving in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are lovely (though of course much lower than the Rockies!).

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Good Morning Everybody!

And Happy Birthday to you!  Yes!  Everybody!  Today is everybody’s birthday!  Chinese custom has it:  the 7th day of Chinese New Year is called “Yun Yuet” [Cantonese], which means birthday of everybody.

Toisanese tradition says you should eat chicken today - and on your actual birth date.

I'm "killing 2 birds with one stone" - making curry chicken stew to feed my curry craving and to follow tradition!

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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This is another flower plant that Chinese like for CNY:  “Shui Sin”.  Sorry… don’t know what the English name is.  It has a very strong fragrance.  I think some perfume makers extract the fragrance from these flowers to make perfume.

These are called narcissus, Ah Leung. And I am loving your CNY blog--a little late perhaps... :raz::smile:

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the ocean."

--Isak Dinesen

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Add the reduced Coca-cola syrup.  Add ½ cup of dark soy sauce.

hi Ah Leung

I made the coca-cola chicken last night. I came out very well but I made one change. I thought the 1/2 cup of soy sauce was too much and I had only lite soy sauce so I used 2 table spoons of lite soy sauce and it tasted good. My question is is it really half cup of soy sauce?

Thank You and all the pictures are amazing!

-h

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I want to show you what it is like shopping inside an Asian market. I went to S.F. Supermarket at the corner of Stockton Blvd and 65th Street. It is one of the bigger ones in town, comparable to 99 Ranch Market in many cities around California (and they haven’t made it to Sacramento yet).

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Some chopping block stacked on the floor. Chinese use chopping blocks for most of the chopping and slicing.

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Some gadgets (not sure what the proper name is) made of bamboo. Chinese in rural areas use these to sort out bad dried fruits, bad grains. The ones in the middle right are rice containers in Indonesian (??) culture.

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Assorted clay pots (sand pots) of different shapes and sizes. Good for making braised dishes and tonic soups.

(Interested Mizducky and jo-mel?)

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On to the seafood department. Rows and rows of fresh fish. The ones on the left are pomfrets. Not sure what the other two are. Fish counters inside Asian markets are often not very well labeled.

They provide fish-frying service, free of charge.

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Assorted fish and some big squid.

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Just pick the one you like, put it in a plastic bag and hand it to the fishmonger. They will clean it for you after weighing.

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This is the kind that I like and eat often: flounder.

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There are fish tanks in the stores to keep some live fish and shellfish. Here is a tank of California lobsters.

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Big mouth bass.

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Plenty of dungeness crabs stacked inside the tank. On sale for only $2.99 a pound.

Here is one of my recipes that features live crabs:

Crab with Ginger and Green Onion (薑蔥蟹)

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Live oysters with shell on. Here is one of my recipes that features live oyster with shells:

Steamed Live Oyster with Garlic and Black Beans (豉汁蒸生蠔)

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Live lobsters for $8.99 a pound.

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They have shrimp of different sizes. These are headless.

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Some with heads.

Here are some of my favorite shrimp (shell on) recipes:

Steamed Shrimp with Garlic (粉絲蒜蓉蒸蝦)

White Boiled Shrimp (白灼蝦)

Salt and Pepper Shrimp (椒鹽蝦)

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The bigger fish varieties. Good for Chinese soup or braising.

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Some salmon steaks and other bigger fish.

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Ready made shrimp balls, cuttle fish balls and fish balls. Good for stir-fries, hot pots and soups.

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The meat department selling pork, beef, lamb and various poultries. You can find just about any cut. They also sell intestines, bones, chicken feet, pork blood and many items that you don’t usually see in American grocery stores.

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Beef and pork belly.

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A big freezer holding the frozen squid, crab claws, sea cucumbers and many other frozen shell fish varieties. The counter space at the top: Assorted Chinese rice wines.

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ShaoHsing cooking wine (on the right) and other rice wines.

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This is one of my favorite Chinese liqueur drink: “Zhuk Yip Ching” [Cantonese], literally means green bamboo leaves. It is very sweet.

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A refrigerator keeping dried shrimps (top-mid left), salted fish and other assorted packages.

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A section full of different kinds of wonton wrappers and dumpling (jiao zi) wrappers.

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Another section full of tofu packages. Regular tofu on the bottom. On the top there are containers of silken tofu – a snack/dessert – eaten with ginger syrup.

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Another big freezer keeping all ready-to-eat dumplings: har gow, siu mai, potstickers, bread, etc..

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Regular aisle where they place dry goods. These are rice noodle packages.

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Assorted tea leaves in various jars and tins.

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The beverage section. These are boxed juices and Vitasoy – a very popular milk drink in Hong Kong. I grew up drinking these.

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More Vita drinks (Vita is a big food manufacturing company in Hong Kong).

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Cans of vegetables used in Chinese stir-fries: bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, baby corns, straw mushrooms, button mushrooms, etc..

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Some pre-mixed seasoning for making Chinese food: mapo tofu mix, sweet and sour mix, etc.. There is really no need to buy these pre-mix. You can easily make those dishes using combination of different sauces. But this is a time-saving for some.

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Packages of dried spices, chili peppers, fermented black beans, etc..

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Aisles of snacks: crackers, egg rolls, biscuits, etc..

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More snacks: bags of shrimp chips, dried squid, beef jerkies.

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Aisles showing packages of rice grains, beans and other dried goods.

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Soy sauces: you can find all kinds of makes and flavors.

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Aisle for Chinese sauces: brown bean sauces, shrimp paste, chili bean sauce, sesame paste, etc..

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Jars of pickled garlic and other items. They do carry a small quantity of Mexican food ingredients.

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Frozen egg roll wrappers.

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Frozen beef balls, pork balls, fish balls, etc.. Vietnamese like these very much.

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Chinese sausages (duck liver variety). Like that ones I ate for dinner last night.

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Whole preserved ducks, like the one (leg) I ate for dinner last night.

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They sell thinly sliced beef for making pho at home.

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They get their delivery of rice noodle products everyday. These are best consumed without refrigeration or else they turn hard.

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Packages of rich noodles (cheung fun). I love these. Steam them and eat with some soy sauce, sesame seeds, sesame paste and hot sauce.

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The fresh produce department. Counter full of onions, garlic, shallot and other root vegetables.

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Daikon at the front. Other vegetables on the counter.

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I usually find the staple Chinese vegetables at S.F.. These are gai choy and bok choy.

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Green onions, cilantros and other fresh herbs used often in Vietnamese food.

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I held up a package of fresh pennyworth (Rauma). It is the herb that can be boiled to make the drink I showed a couple days ago.

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Pennyworth was selling at $5.99 a pound.

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I held up another package. This is “Mung Toi” (not sure what language/dialect). In Cantonese we call this “San Choy”. A slimy vegetable usually used in soups.

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And this is the “A vegetable” (A Choy) that I posted the question on in the China forum.

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Today’s lunch. We went to TK Noodles (Stockton Blvd and 65th Street) to have a quick bite.

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We share 2 bowls of noodle soups. First one: Curry duck noodle soup (with rice vermicelli). The broth is heavy with coconut milk, lime and lemon grass. Slightly spicy-hot.

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Second one: Satay beef noodle soup. They make this one with wide rice noodle (“ho fun”). Slices of thin raw beef on top. The soup is made with Sa Cha sauce and ground peanut. Shreds of cucumbers and some cilantro placed on top.

Both were excellent, as always!

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Some gadgets (not sure what the proper name is) made of bamboo.  Chinese in rural areas use these to sort out bad dried fruits, bad grains.

I remember these from my childhood in the Philippines; we used these to winnow rice, separating the grain from the chaff. I also used it to scatter grain for the chickens.

Edited by Mooshmouse (log)

Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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We share 2 bowls of noodle soups.  First one:  Curry duck noodle soup (with rice vermicelli).  The broth is heavy with coconut milk, lime and lemon grass.  Slightly spicy-hot.

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Second one:  Satay beef noodle soup.  They make this one with wide rice noodle (“ho fun”).  Slices of thin raw beef on top.  The soup is made with Sa Cha sauce and ground peanut.  Shreds of cucumbers and some cilantro placed on top.

Ooh, those soups sound delicious. I love spicy citrusy coconut milk soups, and Mrs. C licks the plate whenever we have peanut sauce. :rolleyes:

I love our local Asian market, but after seeing yours I have serious Asian market envy. :biggrin: I would love to have that variety of seafood available – we can’t even get head-on shrimp around here. :sad:

Re narcissus/paperwhites/daffodils: all belong to the genus Narcissus. Paperwhites usually refer to the overpoweringly fragrant types forced into flowering during the winter. Common English names for Narcissus include daffodil and jonquil. To keep it food-related: don't eat Narcissus because they contain toxic calcium oxalate.

Awesome blog - I will be very sorry to see this end.

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Okay... I am going to finish a few random pieces before I get turned into a pumkin at midnight...

When I ran my errand at Safeway last Sunday, I dropped by Peet’s Coffee and Tea briefly because Peet’s is right next to Safeway. Though in a separate building, this Peet’s share the same architecture style as the Safeway’s.

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I heard so much about Peet’s in the California forum, including the one location inside the Ferry Building. I have been to it a few times and in different locations. I am not serious coffee drinker. I am not capable of distinguishing between Peet’s coffee and Starbuck’s and the coffee from a few other smaller chains (such as Seattle’s Best, even the Bad Ass Coffee at Kona).

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The wooden menu. Coffee beans behind the counter. This place always smells very good from all the roasted coffee beans.

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For me… a small decaf, house coffee. I didn’t even ask what blend it was. I couldn’t tell the difference anyway. $1.60.

It seems as if the mom-and-pop coffee shop is a Chevrolet, Starbucks would be a Camry. And Peet’s? It would be a Cadillac in terms of pricing. The coffee tasted good.

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They are totally serious about their coffee and tea. This is a showcase of all their different varieties of “chai”.

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They sell blended tea leaves in small jars. All given fancy names.

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Displays on both sides of the showcase island. More tea blends.

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Across the street from this location is a railroad intersection. There is a light rail system in Sacramento, much like San Diego and Los Angeles and San Francisco. Light rails run on a narrower set of tracks than regular rail cars.

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Random thoughts: Sacramento… this is where it all started. The last leg of the transcontinental railroad. The big four: Stanford, Huntington, Crocker, Hopkins… decided to build the railroad through the Sierra Nevada. Recruited Chinese labor to build the railroad. Among those, my wife’s great great grandfather. I am seeing part of that history right before my eyes. Without that event, many of the Chinese-Americans might not be here in this continent today. Nor would be my wife. Nor would be I. And I wouldn’t be here at Peet’s Coffee taking pictures.

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On the way home driving on I-80, came to this freeway interchange. One sign: San Francisco. Another sign: Los Angeles. Here I am in Sacramento. I have been living in all these cities, plus San Diego. It was San Diego that I first went to college, then to Sacramento for my master, back to Hong Kong and worked for a while, came back to San Francisco to look for jobs, settled with going to Los Angeles to work and live, and now back to Sacramento again. Like a big circle. Reminds of the theme song for “California’s Gold” – California Here I come… “California here I come, Right back where I started from, Where bowers of flowers bloom in the sun…”

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Random thoughts:  Sacramento… this is all where it started.  The transcontinental railroad.  The big four: Stanford, Huntington, Crocker, Hopkins… decided to build the railroad through the Sierra Nevada.  Recruited Chinese labor to build the railroad.  Among those, my wife’s great grandfather.  I am seeing part of that history right before my eyes.  Without that event, many of the Chinese-Americans might not be here in this continent today.  Nor would be my wife.  Nor would be I.  And I wouldn’t be here at Peet’s Coffee taking pictures.

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On the way home driving on I-80, came to this freeway interchange.  One sign: San Francisco.  Another sign: Los Angeles.  Here I am in Sacramento.  I have been living in all these cities, plus San Diego.  It was San Diego that I first went to college, then to Sacramento for my master, back to Hong Kong and worked for a while, came back to San Francisco to look for jobs, settled with going to Los Angeles to work and live, and now back to Sacramento again.  Like a big circle.  Reminds of the theme song for “California’s Gold” – California Here I come… “California here I come, Right back where I started from, Where bowers of flowers bloom in the sun…”

Ah Leung~

It has been such a pleasure to spend this week with you. I am most happy that you seem thrilled to be in your adopted homeland. It is a wonderful world, isn't it? So many opportunities...........

Thank you.

Best~

Kathy

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Tonight’s dinner at… you guessed right… Happy Garden! This is the family gathering for the 7th day of Chinese New Year – “Yun Yuet” (birthday for mankind).

First course was the soup with crab meat and egg white like I'd shown a week ago.

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Roast pork. These are very good. The skin was crispy and tasty. The meat was quite lean.

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Sauteed scallops with mixed vegetables: snap peas, baby corns, water chestnuts, carrots and celery.

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Cantonese Fried Chicken with shrimp chips as decoration. Condiment was the traditional salt and ground Sichuan peppercorn.

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Salt and Pepper Shrimp. Very crispy. Done well.

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Dried scallop (shredded) stir-fried with pea shoots.

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Steamed fish. Ginger and green onion mix on top, with light soy sauce splashed on.

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“Capitol” pork ribs. Sesame seeds and cilantro sprinkled on top.

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Beef “steak” stir-fried with Chinese broccoli (gai lan), and a mix of straw mushrooms and carrots.

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Chicken Chow Mein. The noodle part symbolizes longevity.

All eaten with plenty of steamed rice (except me and my wife), and Teet Kwun Yum tea.

Happy Birthday Everybody!

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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I think I can squeeze in this one: my wife making fat-free yogurt at home, for those of you who might be interested.

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Each time, she starts with a 128-oz bottle of fat free milk.

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She uses our two 14-inch pans to heat up (not to boil) the milk to lukewarm.

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She covers the pan while warming.

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Inside the yogurt are live cultures. She got her “mother” lode from the yogurt bought at Trader Joe’s. Each time she saves a small container of the yogurt to make the next round. This is like making sour dough, or the Chinese master sauce.

She takes the mother lode yogurt from the refrigerator, slowly adds the lukewarm milk to let they acclimate for 5 to 10 minutes.

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Pour all the lukewarm milk in a big pot, then pour the mother lode yogurt in it. Mix well.

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Divide the milk into different containers for easy storage. She re-uses the yogurt containers from the early days where they were bought from Trader Joe’s.

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Each container is sealed with a lid individually. She water-proofs it with a plastic bag. Place the container in a bath of lukewarm water.

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Leave all 4 or 5 containers of yogurt in the lukewarm water bath in the oven (just to keep them warm) overnight. The milk will curdle in about 12 to 24 hours. Then keep the containers in the refrigerator.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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This afternoon’s snack for the two of us before heading over for dinner:

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“Nam Yu” peanut. These are peanut roasted with Nam Yu (red fermented bean curds). My favorite.

A pictorial on how to make this at home:

Roasted Peanuts with Nam Yu (南乳肉花生)

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Some “White Rabbit” candies. These are milk candies. A favorite since childhood.

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Sesame candy.

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And the egg rolls (cookie rolls). Very popular in Hong Kong.

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A medley of snacks.

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We had this for dessert when we got home: “To fu fa”, or silken tofu. Ginger syrup is added to a few spoonful of silken tofu. Heated in the microwave for a minute. In the summer days it would be consumed cold.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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The legend of Fortune Cookies

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These are purely a creation in North America. When you travel in China, don’t expect the waitstaff to bring out a dish of Fortune Cookies to you after your meal. They, like me, probably have not even heard of this kind of cookie (I didn’t until I came to the USA).

I have read some stories about the origin of Fortune Cookies, some of which were posted in the China forum. But I cannot recall the details. It’s all for good…

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I have asked the waitress at Happy Garden to give me some extra Fortune Cookies to take home. Here, crack the cookie in halves right in the middle. Take out the paper slip which has your fortune printed on it.

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Here, I have my fortune in my hand! (And I am going to keep breaking more fortune cookies until I find a fortune that I like!)

This is my fortune. It said: You will be honored with a prestigious prize or reward.

How appropriate! Posting a week-long foodblog on eGullet and sharing my experience with all of you has been the most prestigious reward for me.

And there is a little game for fun that has been going around… next time you are in a group dining in a Chinese restaurant and they give you fortune cookies, read each fortune slip out loud. But in the end, add “… in bed”.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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This afternoon’s snack for the two of us before heading over for dinner:

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“Nam Yu” peanut.  These are peanut roasted with Nam Yu (red fermented bean curds).  My favorite.

A pictorial on how to make this at home:

Roasted Peanuts with Nam Yu (南乳肉花生)

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Some “White Rabbit” candies.  These are milk candies.  A favorite since childhood.

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Sesame candy.

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And the egg rolls (cookie rolls).  Very popular in Hong Kong.

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A medley of snacks.

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We had this for dessert when we got home:  “To fu fa”, or silken tofu.  Ginger syrup is added to a few spoonful of silken tofu.  Heated in the microwave for a minute.  In the summer days it would be consumed cold.

White rabbits...the kids' favourite...they used to think it was funny to watch kids not used to eating them trying to peel off the paper :biggrin:

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This is like a trip down memory lane of my childhood snacks. White Rabbit candies were my absolute favorite candies in the world.

I never cared for fortune cookies, but the almond cookies at Queen's Bakery in LA chinatown are the best! One of these days I'll figure out their recipe and do a pictorial.

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Well, folks… Like all great parties, it must come to an end. Here are my departing thoughts.

First: Thank you to all of you for your kind words and let me indulge myself to freely express my thoughts in the past week. The past week has been tough. The preparations, getting ready for Chinese New Year, the festivities, and blogging as much of my meal activities as possible. Taking pictures, selecting them, uploading them to the eGullet server, and typing my stories. All of these done while the festivities were going on, on top of my full time job and going to school two nights a week. This has been a lot of work, and I haven’t been sleeping very well. Part of it is the excitement of a new day, new things to explore, new food to taste, new stories to tell. Blogging is hard. Especially doing it back to back for 8 straight days. I wouldn’t want to inflict it on anybody, except a few posters whom I really hate! No, just kidding. But I do wish I can pass on the relay baton to the individual of my choosing. And before me, there are so many culinary masters on eGullet who I wish would take on and let us peek into one week of their lives.

There, you have seen my life for the past week. My under the lime light for eight days and five minutes of fame. I am a first generation immigrant to this beautiful country, the United States of America. I adore the unbound possibilities, the freedom to pursue what my heart desires. Like many first generation immigrants before me, my meal habits and food choices remain those that I acquired in my birth country. It is a matter of personal choice. I hope that through my postings, it will arouse some of your interests to the Chinese food culture.

To understand the food from a country is to understand the people, to understand their background. There are 5000 years of history in China. Festivities that are based on centuries of traditions passed on from generations to generations. Many symbolisms behind what we eat during the most important festivity of the Chinese culture: the Chinese New Year. I hope that in the past eight days I have revealed a tiny fraction of our rich culture enough to interest you to explore more.

I post regularly in the China forum. We would love to have you drop by and exchange viewpoints or post questions regarding Chinese food. Until next time, so long!

China and Chinese Cuisine

Xie Xie [Mandarin]

Doh Je [Cantonese]

- Ah Leung

Feb 2007

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Ah Leung,

I remember the White Rabbit candies too! I grew up with them... I love the thin wrapping paper. I actually prefer it from the actual candy. My son saw the picture and asked if we could have my parents send him a pack. LOL

I, too am sad that this great blog has to end... at the same time glad to have been a part of your life. Of course, we will be joining you at the Chinese forum. It's like being with family!

Don't forget to send me your snail addy. I already got your coke cans here ready for mailing.

Doddie

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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    • By liuzhou
      Sea fish in my local supermarket
       
       
      In the past I've started a few topics focusing on categorised food types I find in China. I’ve done
       
      Mushrooms and Fungi in China
       
      Chinese Vegetables Illustrated
       
      Sugar in China
       
      Chinese Herbs and Spices
       
      Chinese Pickles and Preserves
       
      Chinese Hams.
       
      I’ve enjoyed doing them as I learn a lot and I hope that some people find them useful or just interesting.
       
      One I’ve always resisted doing is Fish etc in China. Although it’s interesting and I love fish, it just felt too complicated. A lot of the fish and other marine animals I see here, I can’t identify, even if I know the local name. The same species may have different names in different supermarkets or wet markets. And, as everywhere, a lot of fish is simply mislabelled, either out of ignorance or plain fraud.
       
      However, I’ve decided to give it a go.
       
      I read that 60% of fish consumed in China is freshwater fish. I doubt that figure refers to fresh fish though. In most of China only freshwater fish is available. Seawater fish doesn’t travel very far inland. It is becoming more available as infrastructure improves, but it’s still low. Dried seawater fish is used, but only in small quantities as is frozen food in general. I live near enough the sea to get fresh sea fish, but 20 years ago when I lived in Hunan I never saw it. Having been brought up yards from the sea, I sorely missed it.
       
      I’ll start with the freshwater fish. Today, much of this is farmed, but traditionally came from lakes and rivers, as much still does. Most villages in the rural parts have their village fish pond. By far the most popular fish are the various members of the carp family with 草鱼 (cǎo yú) - Ctenopharyngodon idella - Grass Carp being the most raised and consumed. These (and the other freshwater fish) are normally sold live and every supermarket, market (and often restaurants) has ranks of tanks holding them.
       

      Supermarket Freshwater Fish Tanks

      You point at the one you want and the server nets it out. In markets, super or not, you can either take it away still wriggling or, if you are squeamish, the server will kill, descale and gut it for you. In restaurants, the staff often display the live fish to the table before cooking it.
       
      These are either steamed with aromatics – garlic, ginger, scallions and coriander leaf / cilantro being common – or braised in a spicy sauce or, less often, a sweet and sour sauce or they are simply fried. It largely depends on the region.
       
      Note that, in China, nearly all fish is served head on and on-the-bone.
       

      草鱼 (cǎo yú) - Ctenopharyngodon idella - grass carp
       
      More tomorrow.
    • By Duvel
      The first week of November are „autumn holidays“ in the area where I live. We wanted to use that time to go to Paris, but when my parents-in-law somewhat surprisingly announced they‘d be coming over from Spain for the whole of November, we scrapped that idea and looked for something more German …
       
      So … Berlin. Not the best time to travel (cold & rainy), but with a couple of museums for the little one and the slightly older ones to enjoy together, plus some food options I was looking forward it was a destination we could all agree on. The Covid19 warnings in the Berlin subway support that notion …
       

       
    • By liuzhou
      Big Plate Chicken - 大盘鸡 (dà pán jī)
       

       
      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

      Chicken chopped on the bone or 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 chillies,   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 1½ teaspoons light soy sauce, 3 teaspoons of Shaoxing and 1½ 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 chilies. 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 15-20 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, if in the USA, Shaoxing wine.

      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
      Way back in the 1990’s, I was living in west Hunan, a truly beautiful part of China. One day, some colleagues suggested we all go for lunch the next day, a Saturday. Seemed reasonable to me. I like a bit of lunch.
       
      “OK. We’ll pick you up at 7 am.”
       
      “Excuse me? 7 am for lunch?
       
      “Yes. We have to go by car.”
       
      Well, of course, they finally picked me up at 8.30, drove in circles for an hour trying to find the guy who knew the way, then headed off into the wilds of Hunan. We drove for hours, but the scenery was beautiful, and the thousand foot drops at the side of the crash barrier free road as we headed up the mountains certainly kept me awake.
       
      After an eternity of bad driving along hair-raising roads which had this old atheist praying, we stopped at a run down shack in the middle of nowhere. I assumed that this was a temporary stop because the driver needed to cop a urination or something, but no. This was our lunch venue.
       
      We shuffled into one of the two rooms the shack consisted of and I distinctly remember that one of my hosts took charge of the lunch ordering process.
       
      “We want lunch for eight.” There was no menu.
       
      The waitress, who was also the cook, scuttled away to the other room of the shack which was apparently a kitchen.
       
      We sat there for a while discussing the shocking rise in bean sprout prices and other matters of national importance, then the first dish turned up. A pile of steaming hot meat surrounded by steaming hot chillies. It was delicious.
       
      “What is this meat?” I asked.
       
      About half of the party spoke some English, but my Chinese was even worse than it is now, so communications weren’t all they could be. There was a brief (by Chinese standards) meeting and they announced:
       
      “It’s wild animal.”
       
      Over the next hour or so, several other dishes arrived. They were all piles of steaming hot meat surrounded by steaming hot chillies, but the sauces and vegetable accompaniments varied. And all were very, very good indeed.
       
      “What’s this one?” I ventured.
       
      “A different wild animal.”
       
      “And this?”
       
      “Another wild animal.”
       
      “And this?”
       
      “A wild animal which is not the wild animal in the other dishes”
       
      I wandered off to the kitchen, as you can do in rural Chinese restaurants, and inspected the contents of their larder, fridge, etc. No clues.
       
      I returned to the table with a bit of an idea.
       
      “Please write down the Chinese names of all these animals we have eaten. I will look in my dictionary when I get home.”
       
      They looked at each other, consulted, argued and finally announced:
       
      “Sorry! We don’t know in Chinese either. “
       
      Whether that was true or just a way to get out of telling me what I had eaten, I’ll never know. I certainly wouldn’t be able to find the restaurant again.
       
      This all took place way back in the days before digital cameras, so I have no illustrations from that particular meal. But I’m guessing one of the dishes was bamboo rat.
       
      No pandas or tigers were injured in the making of this post
       
    • By liuzhou
      Note: This follows on from the Munching with the Miao topic.
       
      The three-hour journey north from Miao territory ended up taking four, as the driver missed a turning and we had to drive on to the next exit and go back. But our hosts waited for us at the expressway exit and led us up a winding road to our destination - Buyang 10,000 mu tea plantation (布央万亩茶园 bù yāng wàn mǔ chá yuán) The 'mu' is  a Chinese measurement of area equal to 0.07 of a hectare, but the 10,000 figure is just another Chinese way of saying "very large".
       
      We were in Sanjiang Dong Autonomous County, where 57% of the inhabitants are Dong.
       
      The Dong people (also known as the Kam) are noted for their tea, love of glutinous rice and their carpentry and architecture. And their hospitality. They tend to live at the foot of mountains, unlike the Miao who live in the mid-levels.
       
      By the time we arrived, it was lunch time, but first we had to have a sip of the local tea. This lady did the preparation duty.
       

       

       
      This was what we call black tea, but the Chinese more sensibly call 'red tea'. There is something special about drinking tea when you can see the bush it grew on just outside the window!
       
      Then into lunch:
       

       

      Chicken Soup
       

      The ubiquitous Egg and Tomato
       

      Dried fish with soy beans and chilli peppers. Delicious.
       

      Stir fried lotus root
       

      Daikon Radish
       

      Rice Paddy Fish Deep Fried in Camellia Oil - wonderful with a smoky flavour, but they are not smoked.
       

      Out of Focus Corn and mixed vegetable
       

      Fried Beans
       

      Steamed Pumpkin
       

      Chicken
       

      Beef with Bitter Melon
       

      Glutinous (Sticky) Rice
       

      Oranges
       

      The juiciest pomelo ever. The area is known for the quality of its pomelos.
       
      After lunch we headed out to explore the tea plantation.
       

       

       

       

       
      Interspersed with the tea plants are these camellia trees, the seeds of which are used to make the Dong people's preferred cooking oil.
       

       
      As we climbed the terraces we could hear singing and then came across this group of women. They are the tea pickers. It isn't tea picking time, but they came out in their traditional costumes to welcome us with their call and response music. They do often sing when picking. They were clearly enjoying themselves.
       

       
      And here they are:
       
       
      After our serenade we headed off again, this time to the east and the most memorable meal of the trip. Coming soon.
       
       
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