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Yunnan potato pancake 云南洋芋丝干


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Shelley

And yet again another fine offering from abcdefg. Thank you. It reminds me of hash browns but of course with a chinese twist. A question: Do you cook the red bell pepper and scallions?

What is prickly ash? Is it uniquely chinese? or does it have a western name/equivalent?

Thanks again.

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abcdefg
1 hour ago, Shelley said:

A question: Do you cook the red bell pepper and scallions?...What is prickly ash?

 

Thanks, Shelley. The scallions and red bell pepper are raw, just wash and slice them thin. Actually, they aren't an essential part of the recipe and restaurants don't always use them. But I think they make it look nice as well as adding a pleasantly fresh taste/texture dimension.

 

Prickly ash goes by other names as well, most often Sichuan peppercorns, even though it's not truly a type of pepper. It's the husk of a small seed pod that grows on tall shrubs and short trees. Supposedly, it's a member of the citrus family.

 

It's what gives many Sichuan dishes their unique mouth-numbing quality. Not exactly hot; difficult to describe. It is the 麻 component of the 麻辣 seasoning duo. Dishes which are 麻辣 in flavor rule Chongqing and are famous in its hot pot 火锅 and other bold cuisine.

 

Even though this spice is most commonly associated with Sichuan, lots and lots of it is grown in northern Yunnan as well. I've walked through hectares of it up around Lijiang. Most trees were 2 or 3 meters tall; some were cultivated, while others were growing wild.

 

It can be used green, just as picked from the trees on which it grows, but more often it is dried and then sometimes ground into a powder. Several varieties are found. In Chengdu I once had a terrific and memorable whole fish served on a platter covered in a sauce that featured two or three kinds of these, both green and dried, along with several kinds of peppers. Made my mouth sit up and take notice, but in a delightful way.

 

These shown lower right are from my kitchen cabinet spice box just now. 红花椒。In some dishes I use them whole, in others I crush them with the back of a spoon. Sometimes I put them in the cooking oil at the start of a stir-fry dish along with dried chilies, swirl them around half a minute, then fish them out and toss them away, just allowing them to lightly season the oil, nothing more. Today I used them ground into a powder 花椒粉。

 

peppers.JPG.4df10fa6793a5ec11f884c4e4c1785bc.JPG

IMG_0107.thumb.JPG.ca02cf315215894b11ab8fc12a165d65.JPG

 

 

More here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zanthoxylum

And here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sichuan_pepper

 

Quote

Sichuan pepper's unique aroma and flavour is not hot or pungent like black, white, or chili peppers. Instead, it has slight lemony overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth (caused by its 3% of hydroxy alpha sanshool) that sets the stage for hot spices. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, they are not simply pungent; "they produce a strange, tingling, buzzing, numbing sensation that is something like the effect of carbonated drinks or of a mild electric current (touching the terminals of a nine-volt battery to the tongue).

 

(From the second Wikipedia article, linked above.)

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55 minutes ago, abcdefg said:

they produce a strange, tingling, buzzing, numbing sensation that is something like the effect of carbonated drinks or of a mild electric current (touching the terminals of a nine-volt battery to the tongue

 

That's a very good description! I like to hold a grain or 2 in my mouth as a healthier alternative to sweets or gum, chewing the grain now and then to trigger that tingly 'mild electric current' and a lingering citrusy-grassy-peppery flavour. No ill effects from this habit, so far. @Shelley you can find them in many supermarkets these days, I like Bart's, they are quite mild and feel fresh.

 

@abcdefg, thanks for another delicious dish. Thanks for the warning about the calories, I'll admire this one from a distance. Besides, my knife skills are way below 0.

 

 

 

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abcdefg
On 4/29/2017 at 7:33 PM, Luxi said:

Thanks for the warning about the calories, I'll admire this one from a distance.

 

Not sure exactly how rich this is, but I've learned the hard way that it doesn't come out well if made with too little oil. My wok is an old-fashioned cast iron model, 硬铸铁, well-seasoned but without any modern non-stick coating. Since this dish doesn't require high heat, a non-stick 不粘 flat-bottom skillet 平底锅 really might do it better. 

 

One of the reference recipes I used in learning how to make this dish commented that it was: 油而不腻 (made with oil but not greasy.) I order this dish sometimes at my favorite hole-in-the-wall family-style 家常菜 Kunming eatery, and it arrives at the table golden and crisp, but with quite a bit of visible oil on the plate.

 

Most recipes for potato pancakes 土豆饼 from other parts of China use an egg and flour as binders. They tend to cook up thicker and more chewy, and are usually smaller in diameter instead of covering the entire pan like this 云南式 Yunnan version does.

 

In any case, it's not something I would want to have every day. Saving it for special occasions works fine for me.

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Shelley

Thanks for the info. Don't think I will be seeking out prickly ash, it doesn't sound like the sort of thing I would like. I didn't like the tea that did a similar thing. I might add a generous dash of black pepper and salt.

 

I would like it as a main dish but it might make a nice change as a side dish instead of fries or similar.

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In some places, Sichuan in particular, you'll find this dish on the menu as 干煸土豆丝. As always with Chinese food there are many variations, but mainly this comes either as abcdefg's flattish dish or as a big loose pile of crisp fried shredded goodies. You have to ask what version a particular place serves.

 

Sichuan pepper should always be in there, though, without asking. And it's near addictive. Hard to imagine anyone not liking it.

 

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abcdefg
9 hours ago, 889 said:

In some places, Sichuan in particular, you'll find this dish on the menu as 干煸土豆丝.

 

Yes indeed, in Kunming too. Sometimes here in restaurants it also shows up listed as 干焙土豆丝。Yunnan restaurants typically also offer a shredded potato dish that just cooks the loose potato slivers a little bit and piles them up with scallions and cilantro leaves. These are completely white, only cooked enough to become limber. They are sometimes doused with a couple spoons of boiling oil as a finishing touch (炝)。

 

Quote

...a big loose pile of crisp fried shredded goodies.

 

Not sure quite how to break this to you, @889, but those are made by deep frying in oil, like the French fries at McDonald's. Ouch, from a health standpoint, but I realize we only live once and tomorrow we may die.

 

It's been my impression that Chinese often prefer potatoes that are not fully cooked. @889, have you found that too?

 

The ubiquitous streetside stands which sell fried potatoes, either as slices or chunks, in small paper packages with a sharp skewer stick for 1 or 2 kuai, seem to almost almost always deliberately undercook them. They fry them in deep oil and then toss them in another pan with a mix of spices. They are popular as a small "walking around" snack 小吃。I just wish they cooked them longer. These vendors attract middle school students like yesterday's trash draws flies. But I have given up on buying them.

 

As to Kunming street food, every now and then I do succumb to a variation in which shredded potatoes are shaped into a bird's nest along the sides of a large wire strainer and immersed in dark and nasty boiling oil until well done. Then they are sprinkled with spices. Crispy and golden. I will deny under oath with one hand on the Bible that I have ever tried this guilty pleasure, or maybe plead the fifth to avoid both perjury and self incrimination.

 

When traveling in the north, for example Dalian, Beijing and Harbin, I love the roasted potatoes, toasted in their skin, that one sees everywhere along the street. They so hit the spot when the weather is nippy and you can see your breath in front of your face. Even better that the roasted white potatoes, in my opinion, are the roasted sweet and red potatoes 烤白薯 and 烤红薯。

 

We have them here in Kunming in the winter too, but the local people tend to much prefer our special purple potatoes 紫薯, either steamed or roasted. They are small and pointed on both ends. I would wager they are part of every breakfast buffet I've ever had here (Yunnan) in the cheapest guest house or the fanciest star-level hotel.

 

The stereotype of the south only eating rice as its starchy staple food and the north only eating wheat products and potatoes, is far from true today.

 

Overall, I would have to say that Yunnan's favorite way to serve potatoes with a meal is probably "Grandma style" either with fennel, scallion or some other small green vegetable as an additive. Recipe and discussion here:

 

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53803-grandmas-fennel-potatoes-茴香老奶洋芋/

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Yes, potato-based dishes in China are usually sautéed very lightly with little oil, and as a result the potatoes seem almost raw by Western standards. The first time I tried a dish made like that I wasn't even sure what I was eating. This is pretty much everywhere in China.

 

But on the few trips I've made to Yunnan, I've found a tendency there to undercook everything, including meat. And an even more common tendency to load on the salt. Bad news if I forget to add 盐少一点! to my order.

 

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abcdefg
4 hours ago, 889 said:

Yes, potato-based dishes in China are usually sautéed very lightly with little oil, and as a result the potatoes seem almost raw by Western standards.

 

Agree. That has been my experience too.

 

Went out this afternoon to run some errands and passed a fried potato vendor stall, lower left, and a woman selling roasted white potatoes on one of those mobile "fire-barrel" carts. When people back in the US ask about the "real China," I always think of simple scenes like this.

 

IMG_20170430_154133.thumb.jpg.37edb30e2e4e11134da2165e703b6dee.jpgIMG_20170430_165205.thumb.jpg.9afd039301078c6f1c0b7ec181c72285.jpg

 

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Just wondering if any of you living in the northeast of China 东北 have run into these large potato pancakes, that are almost as large as the pan in which they were made? I've read on-line that they are less common there than in Yunnan and that northern restaurants typically serve smaller, slightly thicker versions.

 

@Publius, @ChTTay, @lips, @Napkat -- what has been your experience? Thanks.

 

 

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abcdefg

Thanks, Imron. That confirms what I had suspected. Is 东北银 a 口语 slang?

 

In restaurants they typically use lots and lots of oil to prevent it sticking to the pan and breaking into pieces. At home one can avoid excess in that department, but it requires a well-seasoned wok or fry pan.

 

IMG_0105.thumb.JPG.03d3131b2bf99a54b6c8759fe8406001.JPGI'm proud of mine and it has been a joy to use. Takes only two minutes after each use to maintain a lustrous patina. 

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somethingfunny

干煸土豆丝 wouldn't come out as a cake like this, and it would probably be fried a bit longer and in quite a bit more oil.  The 干煸 implies that the moisture in the ingredient has been deep-fried out.  It's a fairly common cooking technique in Sichuan and can be used to make a whole range of things - surely everyone has had 干煸四季豆?  It also works well with meats and is how dishes like 辣子鸡丁 are made.  Or was that 辣子鸡.  Someone once insisted to me that 辣子鸡 and 辣子鸡丁 were two different dishes.  Anyway, its all delicious, as you would expect with anything deep-fried in oil.

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889

I agree that in theory 干煸土豆丝 should be reserved for the loose form of the dish, thus:

 

http://www.wanhuajing.com/d263821

 

But in fact, usage isn't so strictly observed, and ordering 干煸土豆丝 off a restaurant menu will indeed sometimes bring you the pancake version of the dish:

 

http://www.xiachufang.com/recipe/1004932/

 

http://home.meishichina.com/recipe-305014.html

 

http://www.douguo.com/cookbook/811289.html

 

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abcdefg

The official names can be confusing; no doubt about that. The places where I usually eat these potato pancakes in Kunming don't have written menus, and that actually makes it easier. One orders standing in the front part of the kitchen while looking into the refrigerated display cabinet that has today's meats and vegetables.

 

I tell them I want the 大洋芋丝干饼, sometimes supplementing it with a hand gesture describing something large and round like a plate. When they confirm my order back to me, they drop the 大 and 饼,just saying 洋芋干。I figured that was probably short for 干煸 or 干煸饼,but I do not really know.

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somethingfunny

That sounds like an amazing place.

 

What happened the first time you went?

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