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Chinese stem lettuce 莴笋炒豆腐

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889

There's a notion in Western cooking that butter makes just about everything taste better.  "With enough butter, anything is good,"  famously said Julia Child.

 

Well, when it comes to Chinese cooking I'm of pretty much the same view about sesame oil. Doesn't your dish just cry out for a few drops of sesame oil there at the end?

 

(Julia Child spent World War II working in Kunming, but Chinese food didn't do much for her. No butter, perhaps.)

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abcdefg

 

3 hours ago, 889 said:

Well, when it comes to Chinese cooking I'm of pretty much the same view about sesame oil.

 

I share your view, @889, I'm a big fan of sesame oil too. Next time I'll try adding a bit at the end. Good suggestion. Might make it even better, especially if one were using tofu which had less flavor. The tofu this time was aromatic enough to give the dish a nice focus without sacrificing balance.  It kept it from being boring. I sometimes make this with sliced pork 肉片 instead of the tofu. Also, it comes out real good with slivers of Yunnan ham 云南火腿丝。

 

Didn't know about Julia Child having been a temporary Kunmingren 昆明人。I sure do admire her cooking and had read that there was more to her life than met the casual eye. Interesting character.

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abcdefg

@889-- Your Julia Child comments got me thinking and digging around. Wouldn't it have been grand if she had found a Chinese mentor chef the way Fuchsia Dunlop did years later. The entire western world might now know quite a bit more about Chinese cuisine.

 

Quote

 

It was in Kunming that Julia’s palate was first awakened, for she was surrounded by “sophisticated people … who knew a lot about food,” she recalled. During the two years she spent there, Julia said she and Paul “continued our courtship over delicious Chinese food.”

 

Historian and author Theodore H. White (“The Making of a President”) turned Paul on to dining in the “best eating places,” and Julia followed suit, enjoying the unique textures and flavors. She later remembered “nuggets of chicken in soy sauce, deep-fried or in paper; always rice, pork, [hot]-and-sour soup. The duck was always good, and everyone had a good time.”

 

She not only ate with great pleasure from the cuisines of China, Julia began to learn a variety of cooking styles from different parts of China, as well as Vietnam. “I am very, very fond of northern, Peking-style Chinese cooking,” she said. “That’s my second favorite [cuisine]. It’s more related to French; it’s more structured.”

...

As farewells loomed, he (Paul) and Julia lingered over spring rolls fried in sesame oil, napa cabbage with Yunnan ham, Chinese black mushrooms braised with greens and Peking Duck Three Ways (the crispy skin and then the meat served as the first two courses along with thin crepes, shredded leeks and sweet wheat paste; the bones turned into a soup with cellophane noodles, spinach and egg).

 

 

From: http://zesterdaily.com/people/julia-childs-first-culinary-love-china/

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abcdefg

Couldn't resist posting another Julia Child tidbit, this one about her cooking up a successful shark repellent.

 

Quote

She was later posted to Kunming, China, where she received the Emblem of Meritorious Civilian Service as head of the Registry of the OSS Secretariat.[9] When Child was asked to solve the problem of too many OSS underwater explosives being set off by curious sharks, "Child's solution was to experiment with cooking various concoctions as a shark repellent," which were sprinkled in the water near the explosives and repelled sharks.[10] Still in use today, the experimental shark repellent "marked Child's first foray into the world of cooking..."

 

From: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Julia_Child#World_War_II

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889

That's interesting. I thought I'd read in some biography that Chinese food didn't intrigue her much.

 

 

Edited by 889
Intervening post.
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abcdefg

Just think, if she hadn't gone on to become the mother of French cooking, she might today only be remembered for discovering a good Chinese shark repellent. Wouldn't that have been a pity!

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Zeppa

I  am interested in this because my Chinese teacher in Nuremberg said it was the main thing she missed from Beijing. I tried to grow it here in London, but the slugs got it. It is sometimes sold, without leaves, at See Woo in Lisle Street. But when I got hold of some I found the taste rather unpleasant. Perhaps that was because it was old?

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abcdefg

@Zeppa -- That's an interesting comment, about how much your teacher missed it. I think I will miss it too when I eventually move back to the US. Nothing else quite like it. Hate to even think of that day; there is a long list of Chinese vegetables that I have come to love. It has been such a pleasure to have them become part of my everyday life here.

 

3 hours ago, Zeppa said:

But when I got hold of some I found the taste rather unpleasant. Perhaps that was because it was old?

 

Could be. I'm not really sure. In researching the recipe I mostly used Chinese sources, but also reviewed what little I could find that was written in English. One of those English-language articles talked about how they found it bitter and strong, to the extent that they suggested par-boiling it briefly before using it in a stir-fry. I was very surprised because I've been eating it here for quite a few years and never encountered a bad batch.

 

My experience with it has led me to expect a mild flavor, a bit like celery and a bit like asparagus, with a slightly sweet aftertaste and pleasant degree of crunch. I sometimes have it raw in a salad. A couple of times when I haven't peeled it carefully however, the remaining parts of the outer layer have been fibrous and tough.

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Shelley

The bitter taste could be because some people are more sensitive to that green vegetable bitter taste from broccoli, cabbage etc. Young children have been found to be hyper sensitive to it and find it all very bitter and unpleasant. Parents have been advised to not force kids to "eat their greens" , at a later age they will come round to them and start eating them. I hated broccoli when I was young and not until I was in my twenties I actually started to like it.

 

It could be that a slight bitter taste is exaggerated in hyper sensitive people and so puts them off,  whereas you don't notice it.

 

 

 

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abcdefg

Good point, @Shelley, I hadn't considered that.

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Mindmaxd

I like wo sun too and I usually cook them,most time I use it to make 凉菜 with spicy oil or sesame paste,you can also use mustard oil.

Next time maybe you can try to use pan 平底锅 to fry tofu,that will be easier to make both sides heated,Here people like to use 香干 or 豆腐干 to fry with wo sun,shred 切丝them,tofu usually not easy to get flavor,so make some 芡汁儿 can make it taste better.

 

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Zeppa

I will try it again, but it wasn't that it's bitter - I like bitter gourd, which is sold a lot here as karela - it was a sort of muggy, off taste. Maybe it had travelled too long without its leaves, though most of the flown-in veg at See Woo seems fresh. I reject the definition of me as 'hypersensitive people'. I actually have that book called Bitter, by Jennifer McLagan.

If you are worried about not getting it in Texas, it should be really easy to grow. I haven't really got a vegetable garden that functions here, and I tried it in tubs, but I think the earth in the tubs was infested with slugs or something. But if you can grow lettuce, you should be able to grow celtuce.

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abcdefg

I understand, @Zeppa -- I like the gentle bitter of kucai 苦菜,  but have a hard time with bitter gourd 苦瓜。So you are ahead of me on the "吃苦 scale." I guess you just got a bad batch, maybe chilled real cold so it would travel well and then began to spoil when it warmed up. Try it again, by all means.

 

Thanks for the tip about growing it. I'm not currently set up for gardening, either in Yunnan or in Texas, though in the past I've grown lettuce (and battled slugs every imaginable way.)

 

Thanks for your comments, @Mindmaxd -- I've used 香油 with it in a 凉拌。 Also like it with 花椒油。 Haven't tried it with mustard oil or sesame paste. Good tips.

 

Agree with you about using a non-stick flat-bottom pan 不粘平底锅 to fry tofu. It's the best way and I usually do that, but this time used the wok so as not to have to wash two pans afterwards.

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Shelley
2 hours ago, Zeppa said:

I reject the definition of me as 'hypersensitive people'

 

I wasn't saying you specifically are "hypersensitive" just that this can happen.

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Zeppa

Sorry, Shelley, I wasn't sure. Have you tried celtuce?

 

Here's a UK site on growing it.

 

abcdefg: I will have a look in Chinatown the next time I get up there - maybe tomorrow (though there is a Chinese food festival on elsewhere). I will look out for kucai 苦菜 too - I don't know it.

 

There is a little shop in Dansey Place that sells Chinese greens grown in Kent, but it doesn't have celtuce. I just read somewhere else that probably only See Woo has it. And of course, not necessarily this week.

 

http://www.thehappygardeners.co.uk/celtuce/

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abcdefg
8 hours ago, Zeppa said:

I will look out for kucai 苦菜 too - I don't know it.

 

Here's some about kucai 苦菜。We get two kinds here, one is picked young; it's tender and less strong flavored. Referred to as 小苦菜。The other, bigger and more mature, somewhat more biter, is great for soups and stews. That's usually just called plain 苦菜。Don't think I've ever heard "老苦菜。“

 

https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54191-stir-fry-chinese-greens-with-ham-苦菜火腿炒饭/?tab=comments#comment-415700

 

Your mention of a Chinese food festival made me perk up my ears. Hope you have a chance to go and then tell us all about it. Let the organizers know that you are a Special Reporter covering the event on behalf of Chinese Forums. @roddy can probably print up a name badge and set of press credentials.

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Zeppa
7 hours ago, abcdefg said:

 

Your mention of a Chinese food festival made me perk up my ears. Hope you have a chance to go and then tell us all about it. Let the organizers know that you are a Special Reporter covering the event on behalf of Chinese Forums. @roddy can probably print up a name badge and set of press credentials.

Thanks for the link re kucai.

 

You know, you have persuaded me to go to this festival. I have only been back in London for four years and maybe I am getting a bit jaded, but of course I should go. But my write-up will be nothing like what you would manage. I don't know many restaurants at all. I suppose it is a trendy foody thing.

 

It seems the festival is in its third year. It showcases 13 restaurants. I have been doing a lot of photography so that alone would be a reason to go, but I have to get there at 11 because I think it'll be raining this afternoon.

 

Here is the link:

http://www.chinesefoodfestival.com/

 

For anyone who's in London, it is just by the south end of Tower Bridge. I have a longish journey because the train line I use is closed for engineering works. So it will take 1 hour instead of 30 minutes to get there.

 

I haven't uploaded any pictures here but I see there is a maximum size of 19.53 MB - I don't want to make the images too small so I hope the software handles them well. That is, if I get there and if I get any photos.

 

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abcdefg

@Zeppa -- I'm looking forward to your coverage of the event.

 

About posting photos, please don't make them too big. Those of us with slow internet will not be able to see them. They just hang up and never open. The ones I post are always under 100 kb in size, but when you click on them they enlarge to show plenty of detail.

 

The photo software is not terribly easy to use after the last forum upgrade, but it is functional. Here's how I do it. (There may be better ways.) One has the option of how to attach. I use the "choose file" option. I select the image from my computer's directory. These roses, for example, are only 81 kb. Once I select a place for them in the text (put the cursor there,) then I hit the "+" sign and the software inserts the picture.

 

roses.thumb.JPG.61b753f5ded2a9dfb456e6aefbbd6c67.JPGOne gets the instruction to "double click the image to resize." If I'm posting two photos side by side, I make the width 250 or 300 and tick the box that says "keep original aspect ratio." The height then takes care of itself. Click the option that aligns it left. If there's a second photo that you want to put beside it (to the right,) for that second one select "alignment none."

 

It's nearly impossible to get them three across without their being tiny (200.)

 

Regardless of posted size, double clicking enlarges the image . (I wish there were some automatic instruction to that effect, because many readers don't know that feature is available.)

 

Give it a try.

 

 

 

 

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Zeppa

Thanks for that. I do usually make photos that small, but then I worry that they won't enlarge.

Really you should have been at this event, then you could have tasted all the food, spoken to the sellers (some had difficulties with English) and described it all. I only tried two things and I took lots of photos but I don't think they are very interesting. I mean, a tent with people cooking in it? It doesn't convey very much.

I believe there was a series of high-class meals for £60, and there was also the possibility of signing up for a Chinese cooking course by the School of Wok, I think. But although I may go there one day, I didn't want to spend more time today. So here is a view of the tents from Tower Bridge - at the bottom left of the picture. The sky was good today! Building in the middle is City Hall, where the Mayor of London's offices are.

Chinese Food Festival London 9.17, from Tower Bridge

 

Just after I took this there was a warning sound and I had to hurry along as the bridge was opening to let this big vessel through -- but somehow I don't think you wanted to know that.

boat.thumb.jpg.b34a5efd57a874d04756b8b50928ccec.jpgtbraised.thumb.jpg.3ef697984929fa18af3dacf0a47202b9.jpgboat.thumb.jpg.b34a5efd57a874d04756b8b50928ccec.jpg

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