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Spicy green peppers and mushrooms 香菇炒青椒

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abcdefg

A Norwegian friend with whom I shared this dish sent me an e-mail this morning saying he had tried a couple of my recent recipes but didn't like them much. Said he could not find really fresh produce easily and had to make a lot of substitutions. A Canadian friend mentioned something along those same lines earlier this spring. Ditto for a pal in New Mexico. All three often must use frozen or canned vegetables because of a harsh climate. 

 

And when I return to the US myself every year it's so disheartening to see supermarket shelves loaded with vegetables and fruits that look great but have no taste. Bite into a peach and it's like a mouthful of paper carton; munch down on a grape and with your eyes closed it might as well be a peanut. And forget about getting a juicy red tomato that actually has flavor. Even ripe melons are deceptively bland. 

 

Most of what I cook here in Kunming is designed around one or more fresh delicious ingredients, often showcasing them. This recipe, for example, relies on the long half-hot pointed green peppers being crisp and fresh, supplying both flavor 味道 and mouth feel 口感 plus a little bit of heat 辣味。That goes for the mushrooms too, it's easy to really taste them; they aren't just "filler." In a few more weeks I'll make this dish again using wild mushrooms, kicking it up even further, elevating simple food to new heights. 

 

Even the secondary ingredients 辅料 are important, such as the sweet and pungent spring onions, and the long-stem coriander. This latter is fragile and would not travel well. It cannot be shipped all over the globe. Artisanal fresh meat, whether chicken, pork or beef, is more interesting than something raised with less care and then long frozen. I can identify free range farm eggs blindfolded. 

 

What is my conclusion? If you want to make really good Chinese food at home, it requires good ingredients. Take the time to source them from an Asian market or from a farmer's market or co-op. If all ingredients have top flavor, then combining a few of them with proper technique is all that is needed. One doesn't need large dollops of this or that sauce from a jar or this or that exotic ground spice sprinkled on at the end.

 

Letting the ingredients shine through is the secret of these simple family-style meals 家常菜。As long as the ingredients are fresh and tasty, they don't need to be all "doctored up." All you need to think about is not destroying them by overcooking.

 

Chinese housewives and home cooks know that and always make a big fuss about buying prime stuff to put on the table. They are very demanding in the wet market, and I unabashedly do my best to learn from them, to follow their example. I ask lots of questions as I walk around and thank goodness they are usually very helpful. 

 

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Bibu
2 hours ago, abcdefg said:

Most of what I cook here in Kunming is designed around one or more fresh delicious ingredients, often showcasing them. This recipe, for example, relies on the long half-hot pointed green peppers being crisp and fresh, supplying both flavor 味道 and mouth feel 口感 plus a little bit of heat 辣味

 

great point, you are on the half way to a 老饕 now. 

 

You reminds me once on eating a McDonnad, i get the illusion of eating a piece of plastic, LOL. I live in Xian and Beijing most time of life, I get a similar feeling when I was in Beijing that the credients, vegis, meats does not has their nature flavor at all ,or not full of their flavor. Even though Beijing streets got all the variaties of foods from all provinces,  other countries ,it looks like , but it is not actually 100% with its flavor, crispy/smooth, stretchy/elastic of noodle, etc. 

 

I would suggest you reading this book: https://book.douban.com/subject/6254933/

 

 

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Alex_Hart

Everything here is upside down from the States. In the US, the farmer's markets are expensive and hard to find (my hometown had a market only once a week, and it wasn't nearby). Chinese 'farmer's markets' are everywhere and cheaper than the grocery stores, which makes it all the more baffling that the younger generation is heading to Walmart for groceries, or just living off of 外卖.

 

I guess the only option left is to start a homestead and farm our own veggies!

 

Nice recipe. Hangzhou has been full of these peppers lately, lightly scorched in the pan and served whole. Goes great with rice.

 

I agree, by the way, that a lot of Chinese dishes are dependent on fresh ingredients. It helps that we're in the south - the season is much longer here in Hangzhou than back home, and I'm sure it's even longer down in Kunming. Stir fries reign supreme because of these longer seasons with a large variety of vegetables - the markets near my home have a different vegetable every time I go. Yesterday, I saw something that the auntie described as a cucumber, but it looked more like a small watermelon. 

 

Though I do miss some of the veggies from back home, especially tomatoes. They're grainer and less flavorful here - what I wouldn't give for a Caprese salad! If Hangzhou wasn't so humid, I'd find a nice first-floor apartment and grow tomatoes, zucchini, and herbs in my 院子. Access to an ever-changing selection at the market, fresh homegrown tomatoes, and my tofu store (if I ever leave Hangzhou, I'm sorely tempted to kidnap the tofu man), I'd be in heaven. 

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abcdefg
2 hours ago, Bibu said:

I would suggest you reading this book: https://book.douban.com/subject/6254933/

 

That looks like an interesting book, @Bibu. Thanks for the recommendation!

 

@Alex_Hart Agree, good tomatoes have been hard to find so far this year. Don't know why. Not much acidity and often they are barely OK for cooking. But yesterday the tomatoes I bought were so fresh and full of flavor that I ate two right after getting home.

 

The vendor only had one basket of them. Said his daughter raised them outdoors 露天 instead of large scale, in a plastic hot-house tent 塑料大棚。Returned to the market this morning with the express goal of buying several more. Want to make one of my "easy favorites" tomorrow or the next day: Tofu, tomatoes and sweet red onions. Will post the method at that time. 

 

Main problem I have with the market is that I buy too much. Everything looks good and I absolutely must have some, regardless of whether or not the fridge is already full. 

 

Quote

I guess the only option left is to start a homestead and farm our own veggies!

 

I have a friend here who did that. Leased a piece of land out in the country and planted his own crops, raised a few chickens and ducks. Did it for two years after retiring as a professional chef. Said he had seen too much of what goes into commercially-raised food; wanted to do it himself "the right way." 

 

Unfortunately his plot of land was right where they built Kunming's new airport, so now he's in the same boat as the rest of us. 

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LuDaibola
19 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

In the US, the farmer's markets are expensive and hard to find (my hometown had a market only once a week, and it wasn't nearby).

 

It depends where you live in the US and, at present, I find myself fortunate to be living in Pennsylvania, in the middle of Amish/Mennonite country, where there are Farmer's Markets and roadside stands everywhere during the late spring and summer.  CSA's are also prevalent and that's how we get all of our produce, winter and summer (since we never know what will turn up in our CSA box, I'm saving all the wonderful recipes posted here).  When I lived in Manhattan, I found the Korean green grocers had excellent fresh fruits and vegetables and, in New Mexico, we also belonged to a CSA. 

 

And, yes, tomatoes are so easy to grow yourself that there's no excuse to be purchasing the "made-for-travel and the eye" supermarket variety.  I'm baffled at your comment about the humidity in Hangzhou in this regard.  Southeastern Pennsylvania is very humid during the summer and things grow very well here.  Or are you saying that you wouldn't want to be working outdoors in the heat/humidity?  Seems to me that, with a Caprese salad, the mozzarella would be the bigger issue as I've been told that China's not big on dairy products.

 

Oh, also, next to the state of Georgia, perhaps, Pennsylvania has the best peaches....we purchase a couple of bushels in season, freeze them and enjoy them all year.

 

 

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abcdefg
36 minutes ago, LuDaibola said:

CSA's are also prevalent and that's how we get all of our produce, winter and summer (since we never know what will turn up in our CSA box, I'm saving all the wonderful recipes posted here). 

 

Thanks, Lu. May I ask, what is a CSA box? 

 

Quote

It depends where you live in the US and, at present, I find myself fortunate to be living in Pennsylvania, in the middle of Amish/Mennonite country, where there are Farmer's Markets and roadside stands everywhere during the late spring and summer. 

 

You're lucky to be where there are retail farmers and fresh produce! Really improves the quality of life. 

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LuDaibola

Sorry.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Local farms--usually those that grow organic produce--offer a sort of subscription service to members of their community.  You pay a designated fee upfront and then, every week during a growing season, you go to the farm to pick up a box of whatever produce they've picked that week.  It's one way for a community to support local farmers and, for the consumer, since it's always a bit of a crap shoot what you'll get, it's fun and a bit of an adventure for the cook in the family (not me, though I offer suggestions, do most of the prepping and all of the cleanup)!

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abcdefg

I see. That sounds great! If I lived there, I would sign up in a flash.

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Alex_Hart
3 hours ago, LuDaibola said:

It depends where you live in the US and, at present, I find myself fortunate to be living in Pennsylvania, in the middle of Amish/Mennonite country, where there are Farmer's Markets and roadside stands everywhere during the late spring and summer.  CSA's are also prevalent and that's how we get all of our produce, winter and summer (since we never know what will turn up in our CSA box, I'm saving all the wonderful recipes posted here).  When I lived in Manhattan, I found the Korean green grocers had excellent fresh fruits and vegetables and, in New Mexico, we also belonged to a CSA. 

 

And, yes, tomatoes are so easy to grow yourself that there's no excuse to be purchasing the "made-for-travel and the eye" supermarket variety.  I'm baffled at your comment about the humidity in Hangzhou in this regard.  Southeastern Pennsylvania is very humid during the summer and things grow very well here.  Or are you saying that you wouldn't want to be working outdoors in the heat/humidity?  Seems to me that, with a Caprese salad, the mozzarella would be the bigger issue as I've been told that China's not big on dairy products.

 

Oh, also, next to the state of Georgia, perhaps, Pennsylvania has the best peaches....we purchase a couple of bushels in season, freeze them and enjoy them all year.

2

I don't disagree that there are wide regional and store variations, but I think that's the sad thing. 23% of Americans live in food deserts with no easy access to a grocery store. My old neighborhood had lots of markets, but I wouldn't describe any of them as farm fresh, and most of them were driving/bus distance, not walking distance. It was also a ~ 30-minute drive towards the city to find a farmer's market. I went to school upstate and it was the same story. If you lived on one side of town, you could go shopping for groceries at Walmart or a chain grocery store (Stop N' Shop maybe? I forget the name) with their sad looking veg. If you lived on the other side of town, there was a great grocery store called Wegman's with tons of fresh ingredients and seasonal variation, plus a farmer's market on Saturdays! 

 

Hangzhou has a huge number of farmer's markets scattered throughout the city - there are three within an easy walking distance of my apartment. These markets tend to all be small stalls with one or two people selling just a few vegetables, so I think it's easier to maintain a seasonal selection and fresher veg (since they sell out almost every day). Our markets are also much smaller than the ones in the southwest, e.g. Kunming, Guilin and Chengdu. Those cities have an even better selection of stalls. 

 

 

I joined a CSA for a semester back in college. Agree that they're awesome; I'd definitely sign up if/when I go back to the states. The American view of food also seems to be changing with a return to the local, fresh and seasonal movement. Hopefully, this is not just a fad. 

 

As to the apartment, Hangzhou has a lot of rain, humidity and cloudy days, plus little in the way of breezes (闷热). The buildings are also not built particularly well. This makes for very moist first-floor apartments that lend themselves to mold and bugs. 

 

The forum kept deleting random parts of my post so apologies if it sounds jumbled - had to rewrite random sentences several times... 

 

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LuDaibola
6 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

Hangzhou has a huge number of farmer's markets scattered throughout the city - there are three within an easy walking distance of my apartment. These markets tend to all be small stalls with one or two people selling just a few vegetables, so I think it's easier to maintain a seasonal selection and fresher veg (since they sell out almost every day). Our markets are also much smaller than the ones in the southwest, e.g. Kunming, Guilin and Chengdu. Those cities have an even better selection of stalls. 

 

I didn't mean to be disagreeing with your central tenet here.  It's obvious, just from viewing abcdefg and other's market photos that Chinese cities offer much, much better access to vegetables and fruits than can be found anywhere in the US.  And, although it's been 52 years since I was in Taiwan, I still fondly remember the sound and smells of those markets.  (I suspect that the present China, at least in more rural areas, is similar to what Taiwan was like back then.)  And eating regionally has one other huge benefit.  When we had the recent Romaine lettuce E.coli scare here it was nationwide and I'm not sure if they ever found it's origin.

 

6 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

23% of Americans live in food deserts with no easy access to a grocery store.

 

Thanks for pointing this out.  Bringing attention to these inequities is important, especially in the present climate here in the US for blaming the poor and immigrants for all of our country's ills.

 

6 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

This makes for very moist first-floor apartments that lend themselves to mold and bugs.

  
Ok, makes sense why you'd avoid a 一楼的公寓 then.  We have to be vigilant against mold too, but not so much bugs, for which I'm grateful.  BTW, if you want a laugh, here's a link to a hilarious thread on Forumosa.com that was begun by someone who didn't know how to get rid of a huge cockroach in their bedroom.  I posted some childhood memories there under the nom de plume of swshiner.  I still haven't made it back to Taiwan and, at the rate I'm going, I'm not sure that I ever will.  

 

https://tw.forumosa.com/t/oh-my-god-its-the-biggest-cockroach-ive-ever-seen-please-come-kill-it/68389/12

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Alex_Hart
1 hour ago, LuDaibola said:

I didn't mean to be disagreeing with your central tenet here.  It's obvious, just from viewing abcdefg and other's market photos that Chinese cities offer much, much better access to vegetables and fruits than can be found anywhere in the US.  And, although it's been 52 years since I was in Taiwan, I still fondly remember the sound and smells of those markets.  (I suspect that the present China, at least in more rural areas, is similar to what Taiwan was like back then.)  And eating regionally has one other huge benefit.  When we had the recent Romaine lettuce E.coli scare here it was nationwide and I'm not sure if they ever found it's origin.

 

Taiwanese markets have survived the test of time! I went last year and they're still a joy with lots of handmade goodies. Perhaps not comparable to China's southwest, but still better than a lot of our markets here.

 

1 hour ago, LuDaibola said:

Ok, makes sense why you'd avoid a 一楼的公寓 then.  We have to be vigilant against mold too, but not so much bugs, for which I'm grateful.  BTW, if you want a laugh, here's a link to a hilarious thread on Forumosa.com that was begun by someone who didn't know how to get rid of a huge cockroach in their bedroom.  I posted some childhood memories there under the nom de plume of swshiner.  I still haven't made it back to Taiwan and, at the rate I'm going, I'm not sure that I ever will.  

 

Haha, ah, well, the memories are better than the moment! I feel your pain. 

 

My apartment this year is pretty decent - we get tons of these little tiny bugs that fly out of the drains, and I kill around twenty a day. We also get lots of moths coming out of the ventilation hood over the stove. Bleach rinses, vinegar and baking soda, bug spray... Nothing quite gets rid of them.

 

My last apartment in Hangzhou was a real fixer-upper - 3200 yuan/month in a very expensive part of town. I thought I was getting a steal until I realized just how many holes there were hidden away in floors (under the washer, under the sink, behind the toilet) or in the walls (near the windows, in the kitchen). I stuffed them with plastic bags, newspapers, whatever, but no luck. The normal cockroaches were gross, but I could handle them. The thing that really got me was the flying cockroaches - giant critters that would randomly fly across the room from the window area and try to land on us. The mosquitoes were also unbearable. 

 

However, yeah, no mold. I've had three or four people here who lived on a first floor and all of them had a constant mold problem. Plus, it drops down to 0C/32F here in winter and there is no insulation or heating, so the first floor can get quite cold.

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LuDaibola
4 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

Taiwanese markets have survived the test of time!

Glad to hear this as I still hope to make it over there after my extensive dental reconstruction work (detailed elsewhere on the forum) is completed in another year.

 

4 hours ago, Alex_Hart said:

The thing that really got me was the flying cockroaches - giant critters that would randomly fly across the room from the window area and try to land on us. The mosquitoes were also unbearable.

 

Absolutely the way I remember it...ugh...those huge flying roaches.  And we slept under mosquito nets.  A child I used to babysit died of encephalitis so mosquito bites were no laughing matter.  The streets would be sprayed with DDT pretty regularly too.  Thankfully, I don't remember ever seeing a Huntsman spider though they're apparently quite common in Taiwan.  I'm completely roach and beetle phobic and, recently, after one of my favorite Taiwan vloggers discussed the bug situation there, I spent some time googling "hypnotism for roach/bug phobia."  The evidence that this is effective seems a bit inconclusive so I guess I may just have to stay in high end hotels.

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imron
15 hours ago, LuDaibola said:

Thankfully, I don't remember ever seeing a Huntsman spider

Go to Australia if you want to see huntsman spiders :mrgreen:

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LuDaibola
12 hours ago, imron said:

Go to Australia if you want to see huntsman spiders :mrgreen:

Uh, no thanks.  Like something out of a horror movie.

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imron

Huntsmans look scary, but they're non-venomous (or rather their venom doesn't affect humans) and among the least dangerous spiders you're likely to encounter in Australia.  Much better to encounter a huntsman than a redback or a funnel web.

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