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Jan Finster

Which Chinese dishes were an acquired taste for you?

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Lu
45 minutes ago, roddy said:

Guy had fed me god knows what, point blank refused to even nibble a piece of cheese...

Then you won. Ha!

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amytheorangutan

It’s not Chinese but I recently revisited “natto” because I tried it a couple of times about 8 years ago and really didn’t like it, but I just keep hearing how much Japanese people like it so I gave it another try last year, bought a pack of 3 servings and now I’m hooked. I buy it almost every week and become a bit snobbish about it, always looking out for some specialty natto brand at the grocery 😂
 

I read on wikipedia that it’s similar to 水豆豉 in China but I haven't tried it yet. 

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Demonic_Duck
3 hours ago, Lu said:

If I think long and hard, I think the only thing that had to grow on me was, weirdly, 珍珠奶茶. Didn't like the 珍珠 first time I tried it. I love the stuff now.

 

Oh yeah that's a good one. I've never really been much into bubble tea, though I'll get it on occasion, more as a social thing than anything else.

 

What I do love (but found really weird at first) is 奶盖, cheese tea, of the kind you can get from 喜茶 Hey Tea. Sweet and salty. Super delicious but takes some getting used to.

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Bigdumogre

Hot pot is a staple in my house and I try to make it atleast twice a month. The kids love the cooking part and making their own sauces. The best part is how complex the broth gets towards the end and I drink it like soup or add noodles. I also save the brith then have it again the next day by myself lol with the leftover meats and vegetables. 

Stinky tofu hit me like a ton of bricks the first time, they brought it to the table and I felt sick from the smell lol. Now when I smell it I walk towards it and take in that unique odor. 

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abcdefg
On 1/15/2021 at 6:45 AM, Bigdumogre said:

The best part is how complex the broth gets towards the end and I drink it like soup or add noodles.

 

Agree! Or add a ladle of broth to some rice in my eating bowl. 

 

Odd how Chinese seem to almost always need rice to complete a meal regardless of what else the meal contained. That's something that surprised me at first, but I gradually just accepted it as normal, and began doing it too. 

 

The hotpot I eat changes with the seasons. Usually have lamb 羊肉 hotpot in the winter, fish and shellfish hotpot in the spring 鱼和海鲜, wild mushroos in the summer 野生菌。Pork and beef any time. Not only the meat changes, but obviously the choice of vegetables reflects what is in season, fresh, and cheap as well. Tomatoes and cucumber and eggplant in spring, corn and white radish 白萝卜 in summer, turnips, hard squash and potatoes in fall.

 

In addition to the choice of ingredients being dictated by what is in season, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) considerations come into play as well. Hotpot is no exception to the rich lore of what foods keep you healty in each season, what foods warm you or are cooling and so on. 

 

A Kunming teacher friend took me to a modern hotpot restaurant that was modeled on a sushi bar. We sat at tables which were near a conveyor belt that brought a huge variety of ingredients withing arms reach. The plates were color coded in such a way that the waitress could calculate your bill at the end of the meal by surveying the empties near your place. 

 

 

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Takeshi

I'm surprised at how much people are saying hot pot. I love hot pot, especially made at home with the 小肥羊 package with local beef/lamb as it's usually done in Canada. Of course an authentic Chongqing hotpot is even better.

 

But I have never once enjoyed the hot pot in Hong Kong (the base is not spicy enough, too bland, it's all bad; but HK people love it for some mysterious reason). Also 海底捞 is honestly nothing special either (but it's passable; I think the attraction of 海底捞 other than the 变態服务 is that you don't need to fight with people or compromise over food choices, you can just get what you like, with your own pot, and it's an easy/simple safe choice), there are tons of better choices though. As some other people have suggested in this thread, maybe people who don't like hot pot have been eating the wrong hot pot?

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Jan Finster
On 1/15/2021 at 1:45 PM, Bigdumogre said:

The best part is how complex the broth gets towards the end and I drink it like soup or add noodles.

 

I am honestly surprised you do. I tried this (as a newbie) and was shocked at how salty the broth is. I have tasted sea water by accident several times and I am quite sure sea water is less salty. My Chinese friends told me that they do not recommend drinking it.

 

This leads me to another question about Chinese cuisine, namely how salty/savoury it is compared to Western food, which tends to have way too much sugar compared to Chinese food. When I eat Chinese 2 weeks in a row, it feels as if I had full English breakfast three times daily for a week. My ex would notice that my face was more "swollen"...How do you guys perceive this?

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abcdefg
3 hours ago, Jan Finster said:

I am honestly surprised you do. I tried this (as a newbie) and was shocked at how salty the broth is. I have tasted sea water by accident several times and I am quite sure sea water is less salty. My Chinese friends told me that they do not recommend drinking it.

 

It depends on the broth. In any supermarket one finds half a dozen or more pre-mixed hotpot spice packets as well as half a dozen or more blocks of hotpot seasoning. These latter seasoning blocks contain solidified oil (grease) plus the seasonings together. 

 

Unfortunately some of these  pre-made products are excessively salty, others are excessively spicy and so on. I make my own broth. My friends make their own. One doesn't want the broth to overpower the food that is being cooked in it. 

 

3 hours ago, Jan Finster said:

This leads me to another question about Chinese cuisine, namely how salty/savoury it is compared to Western food, which tends to have way too much sugar compared to Chinese food.

 

Don't mean to sound like I'm being evasive, but again it depends on what you were eating. Family style dishes 家常菜 depends heavily on the flavor of fresh ingredients, especially vegetables. If you cook those simply, salt is easily controlled. In inexpensive fast food restaurants, I've noticed a tendency for prepared dishes to sometimes have too much seasoning. Too much salt, too much pepper, too much MSG. 

 

Dishes which contain preserved meats such as sausage 香肠 and bacon 腊肉 tend to be saltier. Some preserved vegetables are also quite salty. 

 

I see it as difference between inexpensive restaurant food and home cooking. As I gradually became more aware of that issue, I found it easy to tell the waiter or cook to use less of this or that.  If they are heavy-handed with salt or MSG despite my request, I don't return. 

 

One thing that always caught my eye in Yunnan is the condiments that are set out on the table in noodle shops and small "mom and pop" cafes. You see chili sauce, you often see black vinegar, you sometimes see MSG 味精,you almost never see a salt shaker. In fact I would go so far as to say I have never seen a salt shaker on the table except in an establishment which is catering to foreign guests. 

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Jan Finster
22 minutes ago, abcdefg said:

Unfortunately some of these  pre-made products are excessively salty, others are excessively spicy and so on. I make my own broth. My friends make their own. One doesn't want the broth to overpower the food that is being cooked in it. 

 

I am sure you can make it according to taste, if you do it yourself. In China I have typically been invited for hot pot at quitgood restaurants. I remember this one at 什刹海 in Beijing (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g294212-d4036327-Reviews-Nan_Men_Hot_Pot-Beijing.html).It was excellent. The "food" from the hotpot was not that salty, but the broth and some of the dips were super salty.

23 minutes ago, abcdefg said:

. You see chili sauce, you often see black vinegar, you sometimes see MSG 未经, but you almost never see a salt shaker.

This is true. I guess much of the salt comes from soy sauce (?)

 

I guess it applies to anywhere in the world: cooking yourself is healthier :)

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abcdefg
23 hours ago, Jan Finster said:

This is true. I guess much of the salt comes from soy sauce (?)

 

Yes. I forgot to mention that soy sauce is often a table condiment along with the chili and vinegar. 

 

In all the hotpot restaurants I can remember, one makes his own dipping sauce: add a little of this and a little of that. It isn't a standard condiment like catsup or mustard which is just passed out. It is custom made to your taste. You do it yourself. 

 

Edited to add: 

 

I don't want to harp on this, but the hotpot experience varies widely depending upon one's level of savvy. The first few time I had no idea of anything except, "Put this in the pot and eat it when it's cooked." I had no awareness of broth or the dipping sauce. I only knew about the raw ingredients that would be added as the meal progressed. 

 

But my hosts, gracious native Chinese, took care of lots of details for me without my being aware when I was just starting out. Host ordered the broth just as we sat down. Usually there is a selection of at least three or four. Different levels of spiciness but also choice of "origin meat." For example the broth could have been premade from chicken parts, like a chicken stock. Or it could have been derived from beef bones or lamb or seafood or only vegetables.

 

Decent hotpot restaurant had options. Admittedly these options differed according to what kind of hotpot place it was. If the specialty of the house was Hunan-style crawfish 小龙虾 hotopt, then you were not going to be given bland broth in which to cook them. If it was a Yunnan wild mushroom hotopt, the broth would typically be something mild, like pigeon 鸽子 so as not to overwhelm the delicate flavors of the fungi. 

 

And when cooking your food, it isn't really all helter skelter. Knowledgeable hotpot fans first cook the meat, usually thinly sliced. Some thin slices of fat beef 肥牛肉 cook so fast that you should not even let go of them with your chopstics. Just swish them in the scalding broth for a few seconds so as to enjoy them rare. It is not "just dump it all in and fish it out later."

 

After the meats are just about finished, then the vegetables are introduced. Solid and hard items first, since they take longer to cook. Examples: potato, sweet potato, white radish, lotus root. Then the green leafy vegetables. Delicate ones first, hardy ones last. Cabbage, for example, usually brings up the rear because of its strong flavor. If you put it in prematurely, everything from that point on tastes vaguely like cabbage.

 

At the end, fensi and fentiao 粉丝、粉条 plus noodles 米线 and 面条。This is because they don't contribute flavor, they soak it up. So you want to afford them the richest medium for soaking up the accumulated good tastes. Tofu is flexible, can go in pretty much anywhere along the line. And it goes without saying that the broth must be kept topped off as the meal progresses. If the level gets low as it boils down it over-concentrates some of the flavors and seasonings. Tell the waitress: 加一点汤。

 

Gradually, over the years, I learned how to do it and It made a difference in the outcome. 

 

Once or twice I was invited to an "all foreigner" hot pot with classmates in a language school as part of the "getting to know eachother" BS. It was a disaster. Ignorant people dumping in a plate of half-frozen raw chicken legs right on top of corn on the cob then some noodles and scooping out random pieces to eat before safe internal cooking temperatures were reached.

 

Most diners were sick the next day. They were blaming that "damned Chinese food -- We shouldda stuck with burgers and fries." I quickly learned my lesson about those introductory "mixer" social dining occasions. 

 

Hotpot gets the reputation in foreigner circles of being totally casual and requiring no knowledge or skill. Then it turns out being a big mess. Making good hotpot is not really difficult, but it does have some guidelines which help make it a success.  

 

 

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Demonic_Duck
2 hours ago, abcdefg said:

MSG 未经

 

味精 😉 

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abcdefg

Yes, of course. Sloppy of me. I'll go back and fix it. Thanks! 

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xinoxanu

I am totally salivating over here and I've already had my supper. @abcdefg, fantastic description of how hotpot works. You should really write about food! 🤤

 

 

 

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Dlezcano

麻辣燙,茶葉蛋,松花蛋. Still can't get used to 鹹鴨蛋.

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Friday

Dongporou (东坡肉). Its just a giant piece of fat in 3 cubic inch piece, right? How can they call it meat?

 

Also all of the many cold meat dishes took me getting used to, cold mutton, cold rabbit, cold chicken, etc.

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abcdefg
On 1/21/2021 at 9:47 PM, Friday said:

Also all of the many cold meat dishes took me getting used to, cold mutton, cold rabbit, cold chicken, etc.

 

I'm puzzled by this. Do you mean meat dishes served at room temperature? Or meat pulled out of the refrigerator and set on the table while still at refrigerator temperature? Or perhaps meat sliced and served on a bed of ice? 

 

May I ask what part of China you lived in? Perhaps cold meat is a feature of some place in China that I never visited. 

------------------------------------------------------ 

Your post triggered the recall of something unrelated that I found strange in China: It took a long time to get used to room temperature beer. Or even to have a waitress ask if I preferred my beer warm or cold. 

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realmayo

For me, 东坡肉 was love at first bite. Hard to think of anything better except maybe Peking duck and that's also far from lean...

 

Duck necks, or various small chopped fermented/picked vegetables like 酸脆豆角 took the longest to get used to before I started needing them.

 

I associate cold meats with sichuan restuarants, e.g.https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2013/02/fuchsia-dunlops-cold-chicken-with-a-spicy-sic.html

 

 

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xinoxanu
2 hours ago, abcdefg said:

I'm puzzled by this. Do you mean meat dishes served at room temperature? Or meat pulled out of the refrigerator and set on the table while still at refrigerator temperature? Or perhaps meat sliced and served on a bed of ice? 

 

I think he means the room temperature kind, so cold as in "not heated before consumption".

 

Pretty common in Sichuan as @realmayo points out: necks, bones, hearts, livers, chorizo-style sausages or even Yunnan-style serrano ham are easily consumed cold, same with already fried veggies and random bits of meat.

 

In my experience, this has to do more with the way leftover food is consumed in these parts, since it's not usually refrigerated afterwards; instead, it's left on the table until the next meal, covered with an umbrella-shaped net to fend off bugs (also in summer and even overnight!).

 

PS: Gotta say that although cold dishes don't bother me at all (common in SW Europe, where I was born), it's indeed an acquired taste to eat the Chinese version of it: the texture of some food is simply not the best in that state and it's akin to drinking warm soft-drinks. Getting sick due to eating something that could have easily been refrigerated instead + the ensuing argument with a stubborn 奶奶 is not for the faint-hearted as well.

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abcdefg

OK, so it means cold as in 凉拌。 I understand now. Very long time since I thought that was strange. 

 

Quote

 

@realmayo -- What a fine recipe! Makes my mouth water. 

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xinoxanu

Or 凉皮 and its variants. 

 

Personally that one took a while to get accustomed to, because as a kid boy scout I ate a cold pasta salad and got sick. But hey, those kind of traumas tend to go away when you are being force-fed by your overbearing MIL, so now I love cold pasta 😂

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