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Simple pleasures: Chinese pork and peppers 青椒炒肉丝

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Shelley

As usual a well presented and informative recipe from abcdefg.

 

Thank you and have a wonderful Christmas. What would you have as special, celebration meal?

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abcdefg

Thanks, Shelley. It's Christmas Eve here and I suppose this recipe was it. Just got back to Kunming last night and this was the first thing I wanted to make. Maybe tomorrow I'll have a roast duck.

 

Christmas here is not a big deal, but today when out and about I saw shop attendants and waitresses wearing Santa hats. The tradition here in Kunming (I don't know about the rest of China) is to give friends a single, brightly-wrapped apple on Christmas Eve. I saw lots of carts selling them today. You can barely see the apples in the lower-right corner of the cart. Makes a gay and extravagant present.

 

post-20301-0-45900500-1482583264_thumb.jpg

 

I've been told that this custom originates from a typically-Chinese play on words. Christmas Eve is 平安夜 ping an ye, which sounds a little like pingguo 苹果 apple.

 

A friend gave me one which was considerably more modest. I will enjoy it first thing in the morning.

 

post-20301-0-86704900-1482583781_thumb.jpg

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889

Looks delicious, but maybe something red in there to make it seasonal?  Red chillies or peppers, of course, but they seem so common. I like 枸杞, but I'm never sure what they go into, except 汤圆.

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abcdefg

889 -- Right, red bell peppers would work very well! Would surely look good and probably taste good too.

 

I always have to resist the urge to "doctor up" these simplest of traditional recipes by adding some (or all) of my favorite things. Sometimes I succumb to temptation and do it anyhow, thinking it might actually be an improvement. Then my Chinese friends are aghast because it is no longer what Mom used to make when they were back home growing up.

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889

That's an interesting point. Compared, say, with Japanese or Vietnamese cooking, appearance isn't all that important in Chinese cooking. Especially home-style cooking like this, where a dish made to look really attractive would seem to be putting on airs.

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skylee

请教 (X)

青椒 (O)

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abcdefg

Thanks, Skylee. Fixed it.

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skylee

Still, it should be 青, not 请 (unless that's what it is called in Yunnan?).

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abcdefg

哦,我很笨蛋。Thanks again, really. What would I ever do without you?

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SahaliyanUla

The simpler a meal is, the more tasty it can be.
I don't think it's a coincidence that a lot of people's comfort foods end up being specific memories from their childhood...
Looks great, thanks for sharing..!

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abcdefg

Agree, SahaliyanUla. Sometimes I make complicated things, especially when guests are coming for dinner. But when just whipping up something for one, I tend to stick to the basics.

 
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Luxi

Ordinary bell peppers in the UK have become almost flavourless. Green ones especially can be unpleasantly bitter sometimes.

 

I wonder if Galician padron peppers may be a good alternative? They are starting to appear more frequently in supermarket shelves here. The skin is rathernthin, but they could be just halved instead of sliced...and there's the added excitment of a rogue hot one lurking in the stir fry.

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abcdefg

Luxi, I haven't tried padron peppers, but the description sounds like they would work just fine.

 

I echo your opinion about green bell peppers. Afraid they aren't very tasty in the US either.

 

There are so many varieties of peppers in the markets here in Kunming. Different shapes, colors flavors. It's fun to try different ones. Sometimes a vendor will have 5 kinds side by side. I just ask how they compare in heat 辣度 and they tell me. But last summer an old lady tried to explain that there was much more to peppers than just the heat. It was difficult to put into words, but I'm sure she's right. I recall trying some dishes in Chengdu that used several kinds of peppers together and being surprised at how they complimented each other.

 

Wish I knew more about the fine points of their skilled use.

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SahaliyanUla

Luxi, if you can get anything like Hungarian peppers, they're nicely between mild and warm. A friend grew some which were a darker gold-white colour and were fairly hot, though again, not sure what the variety was...
There are many, many different cultivars, but the ones I'm most familiar with are these. I haven't had Galician peppers, though they sound and look tasty...

abcdefg, that sounds like a pretty great explanation.
Whether it's gullibility on my part or not though, I've a strong tendancy to assume old women expounding on things know their stuff. Hahaha!
It couldn't hurt to start a notebook with your thoughts on some of them? Who knows - it could come in handy, someday. And there are people (myself included) who like reading travelogues of things like that.

Edit: Forgot to include image. I should probably go get coffee.

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Luxi

Thanks for the tip on Hungarian peppers, they sound tasty. A quick search came up with several places selling those and other peppers' seeds, even plugs and plants in the Spring, Peppers aren't dfficult to grow in pots. That's a good project for 2017.

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abcdefg
It couldn't hurt to start a notebook with your thoughts on some of them? Who knows - it could come in handy, someday. And there are people (myself included) who like reading travelogues of things like that.

 

Haha! You're right about such notes coming in handy. And, like you said, I have found elderly food vendors at my local open-air market to be a gold mine of information. What makes it so nice is that one small stall will only sell peppers, for example, and they will have maybe a dozen different kinds, some fresh and some dried. So the person who sells them can also dispense wisdom about which ones are best for what application. The seller is often a member of the family that raises them, perhaps a husband and wife team.

 

By now I know some of these vendors and can just say, "Hello Mrs. Wang, I'm planning to cook such and such tonight. Which peppers do you think would work best?" She will say, "These are my family's favorite, and I always use them when making that dish. But if you wanted a little more heat, you could add a few of these others as well. Just be sure to chop them very coarsely. That way if your family wants to avoid them in the finished dish, they can just push them aside with their chopsticks. If you cut them too fine, they couldn't do that."

 

Or sometimes when I'm feeling even more adventurous, I can say, "You know, I've never tried these big, funny-looking peppers (pointing to some.) I've heard they are delicious, but I have no clue as to how to prepare them. Could you give me some suggestions?" And she will say, "My mother taught me how to first flame roast them to develop the flavor and then cut them up after removing the charred bits of skin. Use them that way in a stir-fry of tomatoes, celery and cubed chicken breast."

 

Sometimes she will even add, "It's best to buy that kind of tomatoes for this," pointing to a certain variety across the aisle that are oblong instead of round. "And get ones which are not too ripe or else they will fall apart." She might even call across to the tomato vendor and say, "Hey, Zhang, he needs some tomatoes for 鱼香茄子。Help him pick some good ones."

 

When I go back next time, I make a point of stopping off and telling them how it worked out or asking a follow up question that would let me improve my dish next time. Sometimes I even take them a photo of the finished product. They appreciate that and are eager to help me again on future visits.

 

So when I go to the open-air market, it's really fun and educational. A wonderful slice of local culture that is generally lacking when buying packaged goods at the supermarket. And each vendor becomes my volunteer professor. What a treat to be able to attend "Wet-Market University."

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SahaliyanUla

Luxi, go for it..! I'm always willing to talk about gardening, interior/urban or otherwise.
Though it sounds as if you've already got a plan and determination... Let us know how it goes, and how the finished product tastes!

abcdefg, and, well - thread, I suppose -
My family used to sell fresh vegetables, flowers, and occasionally meat (usually sausage as opposed to whole/half cuts). Not for quite some time of course, but...
Whenever a customer came back and mentioned how much they liked something, it absolutely made our day - it's rather lovely to see the tradition survive, in a different place!
Even though it's a part of my past, not my present, hearing that you do so still makes my day a lot brighter. I hope the experience continues to bring you, and your acquaintances, much joy!

(And this thread is making me want to share my 麻婆豆腐/bean-curd tofu..!)
 

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abcdefg

#18 -- I love to eat 嘛婆豆腐。It's always one of the first things I have when visiting Sichuan. And I've enjoyed it as far away as Shanghai and Beijing.

 

By all means, please do start a new thread and share your recipe. I'll look around and see if there are Yunnan variations. That should be fun.

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Alex_Hart

Nice recipe, abcd, and as usual a beautiful post describing the markets. Have yet to find something like that here, but also quite like the lady who I buy my veggies from. She asks me every day what I'm going to make tonight, and throws in some free goodies once in awhile. Hope I can find someone who just sells peppers one day!

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