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Summer food 凉拌


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The hot summer days always make me want to eat a little lighter and I often use a 凉拌 (a cold dish, sort of a hearty dinner salad) as the main part of a meal when the weather gets steamy.

 

Yes, I know Kunming is the City of Eternal Spring, but it it actually gets cold here in winter and hot in summer despite what the publicists say. Lately it's been closely approaching or hitting 30 in the afternoons.

 

Today at the outdoor market there were lots of young eggplant, the long, thin Asian kind. I bought three of them for 5 Yuan.

 

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I try to buy eggplant the same day I will cook it. Actually it will last a day or two in the fridge, but it looses something. Choose eggplants that have firm flesh. If you press the surface with a finger, it should spring back, not stay indented.

 

Tomatoes continue to be cheap and delicious. I buy the flavorful kind that are sold with some vine attached. Today they were 2 kilos 公斤 for only 5 Yuan. I raved about these tomatoes a month or so back. http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/44552-kunming-tomato-season/

 

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Part of eating light is steaming things when you can instead of frying them in a wok. This is especially true for eggplant, since it always soaks up so much oil. Today I was going to try steaming them.

 

So I cut the eggplants in half along their long axis. Then again into quarters. Once more across to make them easier to handle. No need to remove the skin, since it is tender and not bitter.

 

Meanwhile I sliced two big scallions 大葱, using only the white part, cuting them into julienne slivers. Made the sauce, consisting of a tablespoon each of 酱油 soy sauce, 绍兴酒 rice cooking wine, 老陈醋 aged vinegar, and 芝麻油 light sesame oil. This sesame oil is some that's ground fresh every day in the market and isn't as strong as some others that one finds in supermarkets.

 

I added half a teaspoon of coarse red chili powder with flakes to the sauce, plus half a teaspoon of salt and the same amount of sugar. Stirred it all up. Would have added garlic, but didn't have any.

 

When the eggplants were tender, between 10 and 15 minutes, I took them out of the steamer and tossed them with the scallions, adding about half the dressing. Let it stand while I went to work on the tomatoes. Washed them and then dropped them into the boiling water that I had just used for steaming the eggplant.

 

Left them until the skin barely cracked, then scooped them out, held them under cold water and slipped the skin off. (If you leave them to long they get mushy.) Chopped them coarsely and tossed them with the eggplant. Added the rest of the sauce and let the flavors blend.

 

This steamed eggplant salad, served at room temperature, and a bowl of rice is enough for a light meal. And the leftovers will be even better tomorrow. Easy to supplement with some BBQ chicken wings on the side if you require more substance or crave the addition of meat.

 

So it was a pretty good hot weather meal without much cost or trouble.

 

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Looks real good. I've never steamed anything apart from Baozi but this might make me start.

Do you have a separate steamer of some apparatus you put in your wok?

Side note...How did you cook the wings? :-)

This summer i've been making a lot of smashed cucumber salads. I usually smash one or two cucumbers with my cleaver. Buy a red or yellow bell pepper and slice is very thinly from the base, so you end up with thin circles or half circle (if they break) of pepper. Then i will dice up a tomato too. Add all that into a bowl. I use vinegar, sesame, a load of garlic, some salt and sugar. Mix it all up. I also had a good amount of cilantro. I don't have a photo unfortunately!

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@ChTTay -- I have a simple stove-top steamer; it's just a pot with a a perforated insert. Imagine you could use a basket-type steamer in a wok just as well.

 

Agree that 拍黄瓜 is another great summer salad. I make it a lot, adding other ingredients just like you said; basically whatever is handy. A couple months back, someone gave me a big bag of shelled roasted peanuts. Sometimes I even toss in a small handful of those to make it more filling.

 

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I bought these wings already cooked. A vendor at the open air market grills them over charcoal and sells them by weight. I usually ask him to count out a dozen and that comes to about 20 Yuan. He dusts them with spices as they cook, kind of like a 串儿 seller would, but this particular vendor specializes in chicken.

 

Have made them at home in a rice cooker, using Coca Cola. They come out tasty, but it involves a little more cleanup. Buying raw chicken wings and doing it oneself is a little cheaper.

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Kunming has lots of delicious food, much of it not widely known. I guess to the rest of the world it's "home of cross-bridge rice noodles" and that's about it. 

 

Many of Kunming's most savory treats are inexpensive items that are purchased in small, unassuming neighborhood cafes. A couple days ago I had a dish of 豆花米线 that could have easily won prizes in a cooking contest. The big clue was that, even though the menu on the wall offered a dozen other items, everyone I saw was having their specialty, home-style 豆花米线。Cost about a dollar for a medium bowl. 

 

Shopping at my neighborhood open-air wet market has been a real discovery. Many fresh vegetables and fruits are so extremely seasonal here. They suddenly appear today, three or four days later there are more, that's the peak. Then in two or three weeks, that item is gone.

 

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Right now these 杨梅 are everywhere, juicy and sweet. My dictionary says they are "red bayberry" in English, but I never even knew they existed before coming to Yunnan. They are a marker of the transition from Spring to Summer here. In another two weeks, they will be gone.

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When I lived in Yinchuan I loved the seasonal fruits that would turn up one day, stay a delicious few weeks, then disappear just as quickly as they came. Nectarines were particularly excellent. I also remember when it was melon season. I walked to school one morning and there were 4 different trucks parked on the street selling melons. They'd stay there all the time and have a guy sleep in the front overnight. These trucks were in addition to the normal fruit sellers, who also stocks different melons.

 

Anyway, a bit off topic.

 

On topic, anyone know how to make a decent 木耳 cold dish? Mine usually lacks something when I make it. Maybe MSG?!

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When I lived in Yinchuan I loved the seasonal fruits that would turn up one day, stay a delicious few weeks, then disappear just as quickly as they came. Nectarines were particularly excellent. I also remember when it was melon season.

 

I know what you mean. Bet you got great 哈密瓜 out there.

 

As to 木耳, I enjoy eating them as a 凉拌, from time to time, but don't know how to make them at home. The "magic ingredient" might be these fiery-hot small birds eye chillies. Local versions of 凉拌木耳 always have plenty of them, chopped up with their seeds.  

 

Here are some recipes I found, but have not tried.

 

http://baike.baidu.com/link?url=mBQEIMSgFbpg04Bmw5v0gftKf4agYyaQFJoRulfKu6MMSWiHa6J8LWqUCXxEDj21#1

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