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A Yunnan specialty: Wild mushroom sauce 鸡枞菌油
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkSummer is wild mushroom season in Yunnan, peak time for skilled hunters to find them in the forest and peak time for you to find them in the market. Peak time to eat them in a restaurant or make them at home. Today’s report is about a robust and spicy mushroom sauce concoction that can turn the humblest bowl of noodles into a memorable gourmet treat. It's highly prized in Yunnan, 云南特产，though not well known in other parts of China or in the west. Shown here with sautéed red bell pepper 红甜椒 strips on top of freshly made 碱面 noodles. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) In the interest of keeping costs down, one can use a mixture of several varieties of mushrooms, including some which are less expensive. But since we have had a bumper crop of Jizong 鸡枞菌 this year, Yunnan’s prized “termite mushroom,” I splurged and used just that one kind to make a deluxe version: Jizong sauce 鸡枞菌酱 or jizong oil 鸡枞油。 Here’s a quick look at the process. If you need a detailed recipe, let me know. Pictured below is a kilogram of jizong wild mushrooms, picked within the last 24 hours in the wild. Cost me 135 Yuan. Found them once again at Kunming’s main wild mushroom wholesale market 木水花野生菌批发市场。Getting a little more savvy about the acquisition process: Bought these from the back of someone’s van instead of from an official vendor who had paid rent on an inside stall. (Below right.) Before cleaning, separate the stems and tops. This prevents sand from the stem (菌柄) from washing into the gills of the cap (菌盖)。Nothing worse than biting down onto a mouthful of gritty mushrooms. Well, that’s not quite true. A poison “look-alike” mushroom would be worse. Fortunately, these jizong 鸡枞菌 are safe. It’s not a “tricky” variety. Once they are thoroughly cleaned, by which I mean trimmed and brushed and scrubbed and rinsed, shred the stems by hand and slice the tops into coarse chunks. The spices 调味品: Twice as much garlic as ginger by volume. A generous handful of dry red peppers 干辣椒。I use a local pepper which has lots of flavor but not too much heat. It’s the 丘北 Qiubei pepper, from Wenshan Prefecture 文山州 in the SE of Yunnan province. I will only use a tablespoon or so of the dried 花椒 (Sichuan prickly ash) shown here, not the whole bowl. At the end I’ll add some fresh green ones and mix them in. Heat the wok over medium heat, add a lot of fragrant rape seed oil 浓香菜籽油, 300 to 500 ml, and fry the aromatics until you smell them, being careful not to let them burn. Add the mushrooms after draining and shaking out all the rinse water 沥干水。Stems go in first to get a head start, followed in a minute or two by the tops. Stir almost non-stop in order to prevent sticking and scorching. Medium fire at first, then quickly change to low. As they cook, the mushrooms will “sweat” out their water and break down, reducing quite a bit in bulk. If you wish to moderate the effect of the chilies, you can pick some or all of them out after a few minutes. In about 30 minutes they start to take on a golden color. Add a small amount of salt at that point. No other seasonings. Continue frying them until the color deepens, becomes richer. Mine required between 30 and 45 minutes, constantly attended. I took off my shirt, put on headphones and tuned in to an audiobook. At long last, scoop everything out, all solids plus the remaining oil. Let it cool. This was the first time I have made this, so I'm not an expert. Kept sending WeChat snapshots back and forth to a friend who has made this at home for years. He would say, "add more oil" or "it needs to be more golden, cook it longer." The finished product can be stored in a crockery jar for a couple months, maybe more. I keep mine in the fridge, but am told that's being overly cautious. My friends just keep it on a kitchen shelf beside the 红油 (hot chili oil.) The Chinese name translates as "mushroom oil." 菌油 -- 鸡枞油 or 油鸡枞。The technique involved is not at all the same as what western culinary traditions call either a ragout or a ragu. Even calling it a "sauce" is a bit of a stretch. Wish I could talk it over with Julia Child, but she's gone. Is making this great stuff cheap, quick and easy? No, afraid not. Furthermore, it requires lots of oil and cleanup is a chore. But is it delicious? Yes, in a major way. Use it on noodles, as above, or as a condiment to give some zing to a bowl of chicken soup. Put some in with your wonton 馄饨 broth. Add it to fried rice. Slather some on a hot steamed bun 馒头。 The mushrooms retain enough texture to require that you chew them. As you chew they release layer upon layers of complex earthy flavors plus a huge hit of umami. Aftertaste is clean and almost sweet. An authentic “Bite of China.” An authentic “Taste of Yunnan.” 云南风味食品。Hand made at home with care. Better quality than what you could purchase on line or in a store. You know for sure that only top ingredients were used and you know that no shortcuts were taken. To my way of thinking, that makes it worthwhile.
A simple winter supper with ercai 儿菜
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkIf the weather’s gray, I don’t have hot water. Solar heater on the roof 太阳能热水。This is a recipe I developed during one of those spells to avoid as much dish washing as possible. It came out so good that I have continued to make it even when the weather is fine. It features er cai 儿菜, a popular winter vegetable I never met before moving here to Kunming but of which I have become very fond. Easy to use and plenty of flavor. Loaded with virtues; bursting with vitamins and minerals. It’s a member of the brassica family, and thus is related to cabbage, mustard and Brussels sprouts. One of those things your Mama would nag you to eat more of if she were here. It grows in much of China but is most plentiful in the south and southwest. Yunnan people can’t praise it enough. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) Today I bought a kilogram of the lovely stuff for under 5 Yuan. Saved part for tomorrow, washed the remainder, broke off six or eight “knobs” from which I pared away the damaged or tough outer leaves. Sliced them into thick pieces as shown. Bottom right photo shows what I mean. Knobs in the middle, trimmings on the right, slices on the left. The central heavy white stem I hold back and use later for soup. Thinly sliced the white part of one spring onion and one small sausage, about 50 grams. I buy top grade Guangdong style sausage for this kind of use. 特级广味香肠。This kind of sausage hasn’t been smoked and has a slightly sweet taste. Meanwhile I have soaked my rice. Important step: takes 15 minutes and allows the rice grains to swell instead of burst when heat is applied. Assembled the ingredients, a pretty simple collection. My rice in my rice cooker takes about 30 minutes to get done. Although it doesn’t require military precision, my general game plan is to add the sausage after the rice has cooked alone for 10 minutes and add the ercai in a steamer basket on top when the whole works is 6 or 8 minutes from done. Now that the rice is underway, lets make a dipping sauce, a zhanshui 蘸水。Here’s where you can use your imagination. My personal favorite is a tablespoon each of dark sesame oil 黑芝麻油, aged dark vinegar 老陈醋, and light soy sauce 生姜。Into these I mix a teaspoon of red chili oil 红油。You could use a store brand such as Old Grandmother 老干妈。It’s pretty good; but I use my own home made chili oil instead and I would modestly point out that it’s perfect. (Recipe here -- link.) After 10 minutes, quickly open the lid and add the sausage, more or less in one layer. Don’t dally; you want to minimize the escape of steam. About 12 minutes later, add the steamer basket of ercai with the minced scallion sprinkled on top. Again, work fast when raising the lid. The rice cooker will beep when it’s done. It usually takes a few minutes more than the usual 30 because both sausage and the vegetable add some moisture. Take the ercai out and add a sprinkling of salt and a dusting of white pepper. Serve it up 装盘。What I did here just to make it look nice was to put a scoop of rice in the middle with meat on top and vegetables around the side. Second helping less fancy. Not a huge belt-buster feast; but still a well-balanced, relatively healthy dinner. Good tastes. Total cost for two people under two dollars; total time investment under an hour. Minimal cleanup. All in all, pretty sweet! (If you can't find ercai, you could use another vegetable such as Brussels sprouts or baby bokchoi 小白菜。)
End of the season 青头菌
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkIt's almost the end of wild mushroom season: the summer rains are playing out, cooler days arriving. Selection is limited, prices climbing. I paid ￥60 for a little over 500 grams of 青头菌 qingtou jun ("green head mushroom") a couple days ago and they were decent but not prime. This is another of those Yunnan mushrooms that don't really exist to any significant extent in the west. Their Latin name is Russula Virescens and they grow in mixed mountain forests, broad leaf and pine. The best ones come from the lower NW of the province: Chuxiong 楚雄, Baoshan 宝山, Dali 大理。 Decided to make them into a hearty soup, building on a rich home-made chicken stock. Normally I would use them solo so they would shine, but this time they shared the limelight with several other vegetables to round out the flavor. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) Cooked them with 苦菜 kucai, 番茄 tomato，洋葱 onion, 大蒜 garlic, and chicken thigh meat 鸡腿肉。 Served the soup one day with rice and the next day with noodles. Tasted good; full and mellow. Recipe on request. Overall it has been a great year here for wild mushrooms. Plenty of rain with sunny days in between the showers. One will still be able to get good ones in restaurants for several more weeks, but they will cost more than most of us regular folks are willing or able to pay.
Stir-fried noodles 炒面
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkHere’s a quickie, cheap and easy, with endless variations. Last week I found some delicious red bell peppers 红甜椒 at the market. They were so good that yesterday I went back for more. Crunchy and sweet. 2.5 Yuan each. Used one today for this dish. Picked up some Yunnan cured ham 宣威火腿 and 2 Yuan worth of freshly made egg noodles 蛋面。 (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) Boil the pasta first, adding a dash of salt and a small amount of oil to the pot (half a teaspoon or so.) Undercook it slightly (“al dente”) and toss it with some oil as you take it out. I add ground white pepper as I toss it. Set it aside 备用。Save some of the pasta water. (Some cooks suggest rinsing the cooked pasta, but I don't do that.) Quickly stir-fry the thinly sliced peppers, some garlic, a spring onion, and the ham. When the peppers are no longer stiff and the ham begins to change color, add the noodles. This took me about 2 minutes over medium-high heat, using a flat bottom non-stick pan 平地不粘锅。Mix it all together, stirring and flipping gently 翻炒均匀。Add a little of the pasta water that you saved to help things blend without scorching. The ham is salty, so the dish probably won’t need any more seasoning. You can change the vegetables and you can change the meat; you can even change the type of noodles. But if you want it to come out reasonably authentic, best not to use too many ingredients; this dish should be clean and simple. Family style 家常菜。 All done 做好了。Serve it up 装盘。Chow down 动筷子。
Wild mushroom stew for supper 野生菌炖汤
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkBeen buying and cooking lots of wild mushrooms this season (summer 雨季)。Have gone a little bit nuts over them, in fact. They are Yunnan’s pride and joy, available for only a small portion of the year. Must be hunted in the mountains and harvested by hand, can’t be planted and grown like ordinary vegetables. Not sure if there is sufficient interest here to make it worthwhile to post complete and detailed recipes. Will gladly make them available on request but meantime what I’ll do instead is just give you a quick glimpse into a few ways they can be enjoyed, family style, without any special equipment or sophisticated culinary skills. A couple weeks ago I bought a batch of 鸡枞菌 jizong jun which only have a scientific name and a nickname in English. (Collybia termitomyces/”termite mushrooms.”) They must grow right above a termite nest in the wild. Can’t be cultivated. Chinese often call them “King of wild mushrooms” 野生菌之王 because of their scarcity, appealing texture and flavor. Easiest thing to do with wild mushrooms is to make them into a hearty soup or stew 煲汤/炖汤。That’s what I did with these. Made a chicken stew using half a full-flavored free-roaming chicken 土鸡。Didn’t mix the jizong jun 鸡枞菌 with any other mushrooms so as to let their flavor shine. After all they are “the King.” (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) Frankly, it’s a moderate amount of hassle to clean these, to get them from looking like the first photo above to the second. Requires scraping with a paring knife and scrubbing with a stiff toothbrush, plus judicious soaking, many rinses. Some edible wild mushrooms are known to contain traces of poison and make you sick if eaten raw or under-cooked; these are not among their number; these are completely safe. First chop the chicken and cook it in a pressure cooker 电压力锅, adding ginger, garlic and spring onion. When the chicken is barely tender add the mushrooms and finish by simmering with the top of the pot open. Simple and delicious. The mushrooms have a color and texture resembling that of chicken; they have a full-bodied flavor which is faintly nutty. Can serve this as part of a larger meal or with rice on its own. Bowl of soup; cup of rice. Another time I bought a combination of 青头菌 and 鸡油菌。These both are “safe” wild mushrooms (no traces of poison) and they go very well together. In combining mushrooms, one must consider texture as well as flavor: They need to cook at about the same rate. These are both less expensive than 鸡枞菌。 清透菌 qingtou jun (Russula virescens) can be translated as “green head mushrooms” but they aren’t common in the west. This is what 青头菌 look like. They have a slightly chewy texture 口感 and a subtle sweet note in their aftertaste 后感。 Combined them with 鸡油菌 jiyou jun (Cantharellus cibarius), called golden chanterelles in the west. They have a faintly fruity aftertaste and are sometimes nicknamed “apricot mushrooms.” Made a hearty soup or stew again, this time using small pork ribs. In China, pork ribs 排骨 come in two main kinds, the big hefty ones cut from up near the backbone, and the smaller ones from farther down near the front/ventral side . These smaller, more tender ribs are called 肋排段 and cost a little more. As before, started the pork ribs in the pressure cooker, adding the wild mushrooms when the ribs were just about done. Spring onions 大葱 on top for garnish and extra flavor. The beauty of these hearty mushroom soups or stews is that after eating them “as is” on day one and two, you can easily transform them into interesting one-dish meals by the addition of compatible vegetables and some pasta 面食。 Once I cooked in some mildly spicy green peppers and served them over curly noodles 火锅面 (a bit like ramen.) Another time I cooked in a green leafy vegetable 苦菜 and some ripe tomatoes 番茄, serving them with fresh rice noodles 米线。I either saute or blanch the vegetables before adding them to the left-over mushroom stew. These wild mushrooms also stir-fry well, and another day I’ll take you there, show you those. That's probably the most common way to find them in restaurants unless one is dining at a specialty establishment featuring wild mushroom hotpot 火锅 (delicious.) Links to other recent wild mushroom articles: https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58788-kunming-behind-the-scenes-wild-mushroom-wholesale-market-木水花野生菌批发市场 / https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58735-yunnans-termite-mushrooms-鸡枞菌-jizong-jun/ https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58742-turn-leftovers-into-fried-rice-剩菜变成炒饭/ ---------------------------------------------------------------- Informal Poll: Just for my own interest, could you let me know if you have ever had a chance to try fresh wild mushrooms? If so, was it in China? How about dried wild mushrooms? Comments? Questions?
Yunnan's termite mushrooms 鸡枞菌 (Jizong Jun)
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkThese elusive jizong wild mushrooms 鸡枞菌 (no English translation) grow in the high backcountry of Yunnan and their life cycle depends on being just above a nest of termites 大白蚁。Their marriage is an obligate symbiosis in that the mushrooms are the main food source of the termites, and the termites allow the mushrooms to reproduce by aiding in spore transfer. If the nest of termites moves, the mushrooms die. They will probably reappear next year above the new nest. (These 2 are from Baidu) Most wild mushrooms, these included, cannot be cultivated. One must hunt them in pristine mountain forests the way one might stalk large game. Two years ago, in August, I took a driving trip into the Tibetan parts of NW Yunnan, up above Lijiang, along the road to Lhasa. One side of the winding road dropped off a thousand meters into a gorge, the other side was dotted with the parked cars of intrepid local fungus hunters. It was open season. The price of these famously delicious Jizong mushrooms 鸡枞菌 has gone up and up since demand exceeds supply. Not only are they are hard to find and have a short growing season, limited to the wet summer months, but they are highly perishable. They must be searched out, plucked, transported to market, bought and used within 24 to 36 hours. A kilogram of prime ones will easily set you back three hundred Yuan. Though I go all out and buy the “real ones” when cooking for friends, this time I was only feeding yours truly 一个人 and opted for a less expensive substitute: a taxonomically related mushroom that can in fact be cultivated and costs a fraction of the glorious wild ones. They are called “small black jizong” 小黑皮鸡枞菌, being diminutive and of dark surface coloration. Unlike some wild mushrooms, these are completely safe to eat; no chance of lurking poison 没有毒。The seller even offered some for free raw tasting on the spot. He provided a cup of pungent dark chili sauce for dipping, as you see below right. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) If you need help reading the mushroom sign, above right, click the spoiler ("Reveal hidden contents.") Chinese call these 人工的 (“man-made”) and Yunnan natives look down on them. I think they are darned good but must agree that they don’t have that distinctive “explode in your mouth” quality of the best wild ones 野生的。One taste of those and you will sell your soul for a second helping. Worse than opium 抽大烟。 Purveyors of cultivated mushrooms aren’t even in the same section of the market as the wild ones. The “wild sellers” squat on the ground beside their baskets. They usually look distinctly rural, scruffy clothes, dirt under their fingernails presumably from digging up the roots. The “cultivated guys” have actual stands so you don’t have bend or kneel to check out their wares. They offer a large variety of mushrooms; after all, Kunming is a mushroom capital for wild and cultivated ones alike. The traditional home-style 传统家常 way to prepare these is to just stir-fry them with spicy green peppers and lots of garlic, and that’s exactly what I did. Bought a handful of the crinkly medium-hot ones on the left below. The same seller offered five or six other varieties, with gradations of fire 辣 and sweetness 甜味。Peppers are not just about the heat: they promote complexity of taste; they make food interesting. Here are the mushrooms I bought. 300 grams for 20 Yuan. 小黑皮鸡枞菌。The seller has already cut away the roots, "shaping" the bottom of the stem like a school pencil. Buy ones with the caps fully or half closed, not sprung completely open like an umbrella. I cleaned them with a wet paper towel and a small brush then sliced them in half the long way. Cleaned and washed a couple of large spring onions 大葱, three heads of single-clove mild garlic 独蒜 and three of the crinkly medium-hot peppers. For an authentic Yunnan flavor, it’s desirable to retain part of the white membranous center when you chop the peppers. It supplies a subtly bitter note which helps in flavor balance. I keep about half the pith and most of the seeds. If you wanted less heat, you could omit the seeds. You wind up with lots of finely sliced pepper and minced garlic. If you are timid about such things, this dish might not be for you. Oddly enough, they don't overpower the mushrooms like one might suspect first time around. Slap the spring onions with the side of your Chinese cooking knife 菜刀 and break them down somewhat. Then slice them on a bias, about 45 degrees. This gives you “onion feathers” that release their essence quickly when introduced to the heat. Lets their flavors combine in seconds with your other ingredients instead of requiring minutes. Yunnan ham from Xuanwei County 宣威火腿, aged 12 to 18 months. Hard to go wrong with this flavorful meat in a dozen different applications. Notice how it is marbled. I cut away the rind but leave the exterior fat. If you first put it in the freezer for 15 or 20 minutes that will allow you to slice it into fine slivers 肉丝 with very little effort. Cut across the grain. Ready now to rock and roll. Everything laid out below. Not pictured are my dry spices, namely salt and MSG, and my wet spices, namely light soy sauce 生抽, yellow rice cooking wine 黄酒, and aged dark vinegar 老陈醋。Set them out where they will be quick to use without having to search for them in the cupboard. If you anticipate being truly rushed, measure the liquid items into a small bowl so you don’t have to fumble with a spoon. Set your well-seasoned wok over high flame and when it gets thoroughly hot, just below the smoking point, add your cooking oil and swirl it around to coat. If in doubt regarding whether your wok is hot enough, sprinkle a few drops of water from your fingertips. They should “skittle” fast across the surface and disappear almost at once. 冷油热锅。 Add the garlic, peppers and ham. Stir and flip them continuously so as to have them cook rapidly and not burn. 不停的翻炒 When the garlic and peppers begin to soften and release their aroma 爆香，add the mushrooms. All new ingredients are added to the center of the wok; it's the hottest part. Leave them there a few seconds undisturbed before mixing with the other ingredients that you have pushed up the sides to make room. Gradually incorporate the new arrivals into what was there before. Continuing to use high heat, cook the mushrooms, peppers, garlic and ham together for a minute or two until the mushrooms become limber and develop a bit of golden color on their cut surfaces. Don’t walk away to check your Facebook; this dish can scorch and become ruined in the blink of an eye. Stir, scoop and flip with the wok tool 国产 nonstop as you shake the pan with your other hand. Blend in the “feathered” spring onions. Now is the time for your salt and MSG. Only use a little salt, because the Yunnan ham is salty. I added less than ½ teaspoon. A stingy pinch of MSG, probably no more than 1/8 of a teaspoon. One tablespoon each of vinegar, wine, and soy sauce, stirring after each new addition, so as to be sure they all get very well distributed. You want each bite to be more or less the same seasoning signature. As you see, it is taking shape. Continue to scoop and stir another minute or so. Presto, it’s done. Serve it up 装盘。 Prep for a dish like this can be somewhat laborious, but the actual "time over the flame," is no more than 5 or 6 minutes. This makes an excellent vegetable dish as part of a traditional Chinese family-style meal, along with a meat, a salad 凉拌, a soup 汤, and steamed rice 米饭。If I’m eating solo, like I was today, I turn it into a single-dish "gaifan" 盖饭 (as pictured below right) by putting it on a plate together with a small hillock of steamed rice. A bite of this and then a bite of that. Or I can even mix them a little bit with my chopsticks as I go along. Today I had a cucumber and tomato salad plus and ear of boiled corn to round out my simple meal. In the sad event that you don’t live in China, (you have my condolences) I suppose you could still make this dish using one of the more flavorful mushrooms, domestic or wild, from your homeland. They need to have some substance, a little bit of "chew," and should not be completely bland. If you are visiting China, especially the south, you could most likely find something similar in a restaurant by asking the chef for 青椒炒菌子。If you happen to be coming to Yunnan (lucky you) then it's a snap; you have it made. You will have your pick of mushroom dishes here from a slew of small, unassuming eateries as well as luxury establishments specializing in the precious wild ones.
Long green beans and eggplant 四季豆炒茄子
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkThis delicious flavor combination is popular all over China, especially in the summer months. The two main ingredients, long green beans 四季豆 and eggplant 茄子, are both thought to help the body deal with hot weather. I was reminded of how good it tastes this weekend as a guest at a business lunch in a “home style” 家常菜 restaurant known for its Yunnan take on such well-known dishes. Today I decided to make it at home while the mental image was still fresh in mind. Here's the restaurant version. I didn't think to snap a picture until it was nearly gone. Hence the half-empty plate. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) Yunnan food is not quite as fiery hot as that of Sichuan and Hunan, but it is definitely no shrinking violet when it comes to using a bold palette of spices. This dish is a good example of how Yunnan cuisine constructs a distinctive regional flavor. These beans 四季豆 are as long as my forearm. My neighborhood outdoor farmers market has several related varieties, all inexpensive and fresh. I picked a nice-looking bundle, paid 3 Yuan, and then moved on to find some eggplant. At this time of year lots of small eggplant are being harvested, some no longer than my outstretched hand, from wrist to fingertips. I bought 2 that were a little larger than that. Paid 2 Yuan for them. Bought a red bell pepper 红甜椒 for 1.50 and a couple of moderately-large spring onions 大葱 for one more Yuan. Ingredient total at this point was under 8 Yuan. Factor in some garlic and ginger plus bottled sauces, and you are looking at a lavish total investment of around 10 Yuan. Washed 洗净 and cut the vegetables 切段, making the sections of green bean and eggplant approximately the same length. The pieces of eggplant were strips, about the size of a finger 切条状。Finely chop a little garlic and ginger, smash and slice the spring onion, sliver half the red bell pepper, and set out a tablespoon of doubanjiang 豆瓣酱。This is a spicy fermented bean and chili sauce that originated in Pixian County, Sichuan. 郫县, not far from Chengdu 成都。 Not shown is one small rice bowl containing a mixture of my liquid ingredients, prepared so that they can be added quickly without having to measure when the pan is hot and food is cooking fast. (1 tablespoon of soy sauce 酱油, 1 tablespoon of dark aged vinegar 老陈醋, 1 tablespoon of cooking wine 料酒, and 1 tablespoon of oyster sauce 蚝油。) A second small rice bowl contains a half teaspoon of corn starch 玉米淀粉 mixed with about two tablespoons of water, to be added at the end as a binder and thickening agent 勾芡。 Preheat the wok over high flame; when it’s hot, add a couple tablespoons of cooking oil, 2 or 3 depending on the volume of the eggplant. I think rapeseed oil 菜籽油 works best for this since it isn’t overly delicate, stands up well to high heat and adds a little flavor of its own. Add the eggplant, stirring constantly until it becomes tender and starts to take on a golden color. Remove it to a pan and set it aside. If your wok is well seasoned, it won’t need washing at this point. You can just wipe it out with a paper kitchen towel and add another tablespoon or so of oil. Continuing to use high flame, add the cut green beans and stir fry them for two or three minutes, until they become slightly tender and start to look “crinkly” and develop speckling with dark in color. You don’t want them to actually scorch, but a little color is desirable. Below right, you can see the "breath of the wok" (wok hei or 锅气/镬气) as the beans near the end of their cooking time. It's closer to smoke than it is to steam. When you shake the pan, sometimes small tongues of flame jump into it. Adds depth to the flavor. Scoop them out into a pan. Set them aside. Wipe the wok and add a little more oil. (It won’t need much; a teaspoon or two.) Put in the ginger 姜末, followed by the minced garlic 蒜泥, thinly sliced red bell pepper 红甜椒丝 , chopped spring onions 葱花, 4 or 5 dried red chili peppers 干辣椒, and the doubanjiang 豆瓣酱。Stir fry these together until they are well mixed and you can smell the aroma. Add back the beans and the eggplant. Combine them well with the spices. Now add the bowl of wet seasonings, a pinch of salt 食用盐, a pinch of sugar 白砂糖, a pinch of MSG 味精。If it looks too dry, add a splash of boiling hot water (not cold water; you don't want to slow down the cooking process.) Cover and cook on low heat for two minutes. Remove the lid and mix in the corn starch slurry 水淀粉。 After it comes to the boil again, it’s ready to serve. Plate it up! Goes real well with steamed rice and part of a small roast chicken. At the restaurant it was just one component of a big lunch spread at a round table that had a dozen other dishes: chicken, pork, beef and fish. Vegetables that were steamed, boiled and fried. A couple types of soup. We rotated the center of the table slowly and had our fill of a fine assortment of Yunnan specialties. Can’t do all that at home of course, but still wanted to reproduce one small piece of it today and show you how. Here's the recipe all in one place if you would care to give it a try: (Please click "reveal hidden contents.")
Sweet and Sour Lotus Root 糖醋藕片
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkWe both know that sweet and sour anything starts out in the “win” column by default, but sweet and sour lotus root is even better than it has to be thanks to the vegetable it is built on being so all-around appealing. Even served mostly plain, lotus root is thoroughly delicious. Crunchy texture, similar to celery or apple, flavor subtly sweet. Lotus root exemplifies the notion of food which is "light, clean and refreshing." I probably should stop right there and beg your indulgence to play “Mr. Science” for a minute so we can get one burning issue clarified and out of the way: Lotus root is not really a root; it’s a rhizome. A rhizome is actually part of the plant's stem, not part of the root system. This lotus plant grows best in shallow lakes and muddy bogs and most of the stem runs parallel to and beneath the surface of the ground. This submerged stem is pinched into fat segments, resembling links of sausage. These segments store nourishment to feed the growing plant. They are chocked full of nutritional goodies and they are what is harvested as a foodstuff. Rootlets emerge from the nodes and go down, deep into the mud, while vertical stalks also originate at these nodes to go upwards, giving rise to spectacular holy flowers. Photos Baidu Digging them up is demanding stoop labor, not for the weak or dainty. You wade into the muck up to your knees and pull hard after loosening them with a stick or spade-like tool. Put the harvested lotus pieces on a flat-bottom boat or mud sled. Photos Baidu When you buy them in the market, the seller weighs out as many of these segments as you need. Sometimes two or three small ones are sold joined together. More often the individual “links” are 8 or 10 inches long and can be bought separately. The lotus lady where I usually get mine always asks how I plan to use it, so she can select pieces with the appropriate level of tenderness for me to buy. Today she asked, “你会炒还是炖？” (Will you fry it or stew it?) For stews, a big old tough piece is best. I explained my culinary plan, at which she nodded sagely and suggested one that “had my name on it.” I agreed, she scraped away most of the dried mud and weighed it. My trophy cost 11 Yuan, weighing in at a little over 900 grams. I try to select a lotus piece that is heavy for its size; but this is supremely inexact since I just heft two or three and make a face intended to convey I know what I’m doing, mostly for show. What does count, however, is to buy a piece of lotus that has closed ends. If the segments have been separated improperly, sand and grit get into the interior of the lotus are extremely difficult to fully wash away. The photo below right is taken end-on to show what I mean. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) Next stop was for a red bell pepper. Spoiled for choice, I easily found a beauty. Peppers are abundant and perfect now. A large, shiny unblemished one cost 4 Yuan. Green peppers were half of that. These peppers start out green, and to get red ones, the farmer must leave some on the bush longer to allow them to ripen in place before picking. Extra time, extra risk. Makes them cost a little more. At home I decided to cook it up for a lazy Sunday lunch. The plan was to have it alongside a grilled chicken leg with a glass of iced Dian Hong 滇红茶 Yunnan red tea. Listening to Mozart fitted in somehow and I had Don Giovanni coming through bluetooth earphones. It was the Vienna Philharmonic recording with Sherrill Milnes and Anna Tomowa-Sintow. Note: Strategic thinking is important here. If you prep things in the wrong order it’s more work. But no worries: you have just received a battlefield promotion from grunt private to full bird colonel, so “big-picture” strategy has become your bread and butter. What I advocate is to divide the task into several distinct and separate parts and address the lotus itself last. If you clean and slice the lotus at the outset, it will discolor to an ugly brown unless you submerge the slices in cold water. Then you are committed to drying them well before frying. Better to eliminate that step entirely by dealing with the lotus last. With that rationale in mind, I got busy on the sweet and sour sauce first. Six tablespoons 汤勺 of vinegar go in a bowl. Three of those are white vinegar 白醋 and three are dark aged vinegar 老陈醋。 White vinegar is more sour and acidic; dark aged vinegar is more mellow and rich. A half-and-half blend works out just right. One tablespoon of light soy sauce 生抽 completes the liquid part of the sauce. Add 4 tablespoons of granulated sugar 白砂糖, a teaspoon 茶勺 of cooking salt 食用盐，and a half a teaspoon of MSG 味精. Mix this well several times. The solids are granular and tend to settle to the bottom. Equal amounts of vinegar and sugar is the most common recipe equation. If you like your sweet and sour sweeter, go a little heavier on the sugar. The opposite holds true as well, and I’ve elected to use slightly more of the sour note in my mix today. Then I make the thickening sauce by combining two or three teaspoons of corn starch 玉米淀粉 and about a half cup of cool tap water. This doesn’t need to be exact. Slice the red bell pepper 红甜椒 into thin rounds, discarding the white pith and seeds. Crush and coarsely chop a head of garlic 蒜头。(I use single-clove garlic 独蒜 because it’s milder.) Survey your handiwork, checking mentally to be sure you haven’t skipped anything essential. Everything else is ready now, so turn your attention to the lotus. I go so far as to even put the pan on the burner (don’t turn it on,) add a tablespoon of oil, and get my spatula handy before starting "lotus work." I generally use a flat bottom non-stick pan 平地不粘煎锅 for this dish, even though a wok will also do just fine. Scrub the lotus with a brush under running water. The piece I bought today has both ends closed. As mentioned, that’s important because the last thing you want to turn out is an order of gritty lotus root. Serve it to the wrong table, and there goes your hard-earned Michelin star. Poof! Just like that. Peel it with a vegetable peeler or scrape vigorously with a very sharp knife. Work quickly; the clock is ticking now. If you dally, the whole thing will change from pearly white to muckle dun. Slice it into rounds about ¼ of an inch thick. If they are slightly uneven it doesn’t matter, but it’s best to avoid cutting large chunks, wedges or slabs because they will require more cooking time. Uniform pieces are one of the keys to success with this dish. Turn on the gas, medium flame, and quickly sauté the garlic. When you start to smell its aroma 爆香 (15 or 20 seconds) add the lotus and stir it briskly 翻炒 so as to coat both sides with oil. When it just barely begins to color 七成熟 add the sweet and sour sauce, stirring it to coat the lotus well. Cook it for a minute or so, still over medium heat, tossing the lotus so that all of it gets well sauced. Add the corn starch suspension; stir and toss a minute more. Add the red pepper rings. The lotus slices and the peppers should maintain their crisp texture; keep the flame at medium and shake the pan with one hand while you stir with the other. When the juice thickens 粘稠 and most of it has been absorbed, you are done. Transfer it to a serving plate with the remaining sauce poured on top. This is a dish which wins most prizes if eaten right away because the lotus and the peppers are still 脆嫩 crunchy but tender then. It’s not the end of the world if it comes down to room temperature, but don’t make it an hour or two ahead on purpose since it's less interesting if it becomes soggy. Sweet and sour lotus root is a warm-weather staple throughout most of China, and it is especially beloved in Yunnan. Hope you will try it and see what you think. Here's the recipe all in one place for your convenience: (Click the "Reveal hidden contents" tab.)
Tomato and Egg Soup (with Zhacai) 番茄鸡蛋榨菜汤
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkIt’s tomato soup in the summer, all over China. Here that usually means tomato and egg soup or tomato and tofu soup. This time of year, I make one or the other nearly every week. Both are easy, quick and delicious. Neither will break the bank. Good tomatoes are key: It’s worth paying a little more for ones which are vine ripened and fresh. I look for ones sold by small-scale outdoor 露天 growers instead of ones produced in huge quantities inside large plastic Quonset hut tents 塑料大棚。(Please click the photos to enlarge them.) I buy from a seller who is proud of his wares, who will gladly give anyone a taste. My minor wrinkle is to eschew his huge red perfect beauties and take smaller tomatoes that are blemished instead. Don’t look as nice but taste every bit as fine. 7 Yuan per kilo instead of 10. If the big tomatoes don’t measure up, I select miniatures instead, even though they are a little more work. Cut a shallow “x” on the bottom of each tomato; plunge them in boiling water for less than a minute. Cool them quickly under cold running water or plunge them into an ice bath. Slip off the skin, remove the stem and core. Cut them into cubes; sprinkle them very lightly with salt. (Salt early and often but do it with a light hand; don’t just wait until the end.) Finely chop the white part of a medium scallion; mince two or three coin-sized rounds of ginger. Then turn your attention to the dark horse that is the surprise star of this dish: Fuling Zhacai 涪陵榨菜 pickled mustard tuber. It is well worth a short detour. Beyond any doubt, zhacai is China’s number one pickle. It’s as much a part of everyday life here as sauerkraut is in Germany. The best of it comes from Fuling District in Chongqing Municipality. If the name Fuling strikes a note, it could be you heard it before as the place where Peter Hessler’s book was set: “River Town; Two Years on the Yangtze.” At harvest, this knobby and fibrous section low on the stem of certain varieties of mustard plant is first strung like a string of pearls and hung to air dry for several months. Then it is pickled in brine, chilies and spices for several more months. After that it is slowly pressed to extrude most of its moisture (the name 榨 comes from the pressing.) The best-known example of this condiment is made in Fuling, and that can be bought just about everywhere in cans, jars, or even small foil single-dose pouches. You may have had it served as part of an airplane meal to add a bit of spice to otherwise bland staples. Here in Kunming, I buy some which is locally made from my spice seller. Today I bought 200 grams 二两for 5 Yuan. They are a husband and wife team who hand make all the regional classics from scratch. For example, they also do a great job of Pixian Douban Jiang 郫县豆瓣酱 (originally the pride of Sichuan.) I quickly rinse a bit of this zhacai in a bowl of cool tap water to remove excess chili heat, though that is optional, not required. (I use it as is in other applications.) Chop it up to make it easier to eat. It retains a distinct crunch. No need to remind you how texture is valued here every bit as much as flavor. Ready to light the fire. Last minute check. What I usually do is run through the ingredients in the order I will need to add them to the skillet: Ginger, tomatoes, zhacai, scallions, water, eggs. I’m using a non-stick pan, so I oil it before it gets hot. One tablespoon of corn oil, swipe it around with a piece of kitchen towel. When my pan gets to medium, in goes the ginger. Never use more than medium heat with a non-stick pan; they just are not made for it. Don’t wait for the ginger to become brown; as soon as you smell its aroma, put in the tomatoes. Continue to work fast; these only need a minute or so to begin breaking down and releasing their juice. Add new things to the center of the pan, just like you did with your wok. Next up is the zhacai. Let it heat, then spread it around. Mix everything well. Follow that with most of the spring onions. Hold back a few for garnish. Stir well and let the flavors blend. Add 500 ml to 750 ml of warm or hot water. I have kept the pot of hot water that I used for boiling the tomatoes to remove their skin. It’s off to one side. Sometimes I make this as a thin soup when the rest of the meal is filling and heavy. Other times I make it thicker so it can be a more central part of the meal. Add about ¼ teaspoon of chicken essence 鸡精。This contains some MSG, so skip it if you prefer. Taste the broth to see if any more salt is needed. (Remember the zhacai is salty.) Now you are ready to add the eggs. Stir them a few times with your chopsticks and add a pinch of salt. Turn off the flame and pour them in gently without any stirring. If the soup is boiling hard or you stir vigorously, the raw eggs will break up and kind of disappear, just make the soup cloudy, failing to add an interesting texture contrast. Now give it one or two slow stirs with a spoon. Once the eggs are evenly distributed, turn on the flame and bring the pan just to a boil. Immediately turn it off again, garnish with scallions and serve. This is one of those soups that I had mentally written off as "ho hum" until I personally tried making it a year or two ago. Didn’t expect it to be so interesting and complex. Today it has become one of the reasons I look forward to the arrival of premium tomatoes every summer. Can’t wait to get some home just for this very purpose. Hope you will try it and see what you think. Here’s a condensed version of the recipe to help you along, in Chinese and in English. Tomato and egg soup – 番茄鸡蛋汤。(Click the "Reveal hidden contents" link below.)
Stir-fried asparagus and tomatoes 番茄炒芦笋
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkSpring means asparagus 芦笋 here in Yunnan. My neighborhood wet market has recently looked like the scene of an impromptu Kunming Asparagus Festival: Neat green stacks of them everywhere. Even saw white ones, raised underground in complete dark. For the next two or three weeks, quality will be high; prices will be low. Time to invite the “King of Vegetables 蔬菜之王” home to dinner. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) You might be surprised to learn that China is far and away the world’s largest producer of this noble and nutritious vegetable. 7.84 million metric tons were grown in 2017, only about half of them destined for export to other parts of Asia. (Graph in a footnote below.) The rest find their way onto China’s dining tables. Even though asparagus somehow don’t seem quite “Chinese enough” to carry the flag overseas, they are quite popular here. Today I combined them with vine-ripened cherry tomatoes 樱桃番茄, even though larger tomatoes would work just as well. I seized an unexpected opportunity: The vendor had priced them low to sell fast because she knew they would be mush by tomorrow if they stayed on her stand. I snapped up a kilo for 9 Yuan. Used a third of them in tonight's dish. It’s such a treat to able to find tomatoes that are grown in small batches, outdoors 露天。These beat the pants off ones that are farmed in huge volume inside large plastic domes 塑料大棚, picked green, shipped a long way in refrigerated trucks and then “quick-ripened” with ethylene gas. My bunch of asparagus cost 12 Yuan. They weren’t much larger in diameter than a Number 2 pencil. Lower grades were available for less, but these caught my eye and won my heart. To fix them, first snap off the woody base of the stalk. Don’t use a knife; that leads to waste. Discard these bits or freeze them to use later in a soup. Clip off the flowery tops and set them aside, since they take only seconds to cook. Cut the remaining stems into pieces an inch or inch and a half long. It’s traditional to do this on a bias 滚切, the argument being that this exposes more of the interior pith to the pan juices and lets them develop a richer flavor. Blanch 焯 these stem segments in lightly salted water for 5 to 10 minutes. It improves the result if you squeeze half a small lime into the pot. The shorter blanching time is for thin stalks, the longer time for thick ones. Mine were tender enough at 6. Took them out with a large strainer and cooled them fast with cold water to stop the cooking process and keep them al dente. Ready to stir fry now. Last-minute check, like a pilot settling into the cockpit of his jet: tender asparagus tops in one bowl, blanched stems in another. Tomatoes cut in halves or thirds, finely-minced garlic 蒜蓉 and ginger 姜末, about a tablespoon of each. I used young ginger 生姜 for this instead of old ginger 老姜 because it has a gentler flavor. I used single-clove garlic 独蒜 instead of the standard kind 大蒜 for the same reason. A tablespoon of neutral oil such as corn oil 玉米油。Rapeseed oil 菜籽油, popular here, would not be the best choice because it imparts too much extraneous flavor. Spread it around with a folded paper kitchen towel or the back of a spoon while the pan is still cool. Go for medium heat, adding the ginger when the pan is ready 加热后。Give the garlic a few seconds head start, then sauté 煸炒 them both fast until they begin releasing their distinctive aroma. Don’t let them burn 不要炸糊。I usually lift and shake the pan with one hand while stirring with the other. Add the tomatoes plus a pinch of salt and stir briskly until they start breaking down and letting go of their juices. Chinese salt 食用盐 is often extra fine. I would suggest getting in the habit of literally using your fingers to add salt by the pinch to reduce the risk of using too much. Then put in the blanched asparagus stalks. Another pinch of salt follows these. (Salt early and often, but with a light hand. Don't just wait till the end.) New ingredients go in the middle of the pan, as shown above. I’m using a flat bottom non-stick skillet 平地不粘煎锅 instead of my big wok because it fits the volume of the dish better. Medium heat throughout. Asparagus cook fast. Roman Emperor Augustus coined the phrase "faster than cooking asparagus" to describe quick surprise military action. In go the tender asparagus tops. Splash in a tablespoon of light soy sauce 生抽 and a tablespoon of dark vinegar 老陈醋。Sprinkle in a small pinch of sugar 白砂糖 and a small pinch of MSG 味精。Another pinch of salt if you think it’s needed after tasting. Stir and flip to combine 翻炒。If you want to give your dish a professional touch, now is the time to add a splash of 水淀粉。This is a teaspoon of cornstarch mixed in a cup or small bowl with two or three tablespoons of water. It binds the flavors into a unified whole and thickens the sauce so that it will coat the vegetables better. Gives the finished product a “restaurant polish.” Plate it up along with a bowl of steamed rice. Bearing in mind that China doesn’t really distinguish between a side dish and a main, you can make this recipe more substantial by folding in a couple of tender scrambled eggs 炒鸡蛋 at the end. In the event that you are tired of eating out at Mr. Wang's Noodle Heaven, where everything comes to you loaded with salt, sugar, and MSG, swimming in mystery oil, consider making something simple like this at home instead. Inexpensive, quick, delicious. Footnote: Table of world asparagus production: (click to display) Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/279556/global-top-asparagus-producing-countries/
Unlikely local sandwiches: Salted duck eggs 咸鸭蛋 and Lufu 卤腐
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkLast week we looked at the Chinese BLT; today here are two other sandwiches that you might not have tried before. The first one presses salted duck eggs 咸鸭蛋 into service. This is one more of those foods that is not well known in the west even though it is immensely popular everyday fare throughout the Sinosphere. You have doubtless seen them in stores and markets if you live here: blue-gray in color and larger than chicken eggs. Inside, the yolks are deep yellow with a rich, slightly-salty flavor. You may have run into them simply sliced open and served as part of a multi-course meal. Or perhaps your Beijing grandmother crumbled one into the morning porridge 粥 on winter mornings when she knew you were facing exams. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) (Photo above right is a Baidu stock picture, not one of my own.) They are made by brining duck eggs for several weeks and then packing them in a special red mud mixed with ash and salt, allowing them to air-dry. This loads them with flavor and cures them so that they can be kept without refrigeration at home for a couple of months. I buy them in the neighborhood wet market from Mr. Yang for 1.5 Yuan each. He offers some that are still covered in red earth as well as the "cleaner" edition on the right in the photo below. They are available in different sizes and he usually asks me if I want ones with a strong flavor or ones that are mild. (I opt for more flavor.) Note that these are different from "Century Eggs" or "Thousand-Year Eggs" 皮蛋 that we have talked about before. These don't have that strong sulfurous note; they simply are rich and somewhat salty. Very "egg-y" tasting. Slice a steamed bun/mantou 馒头 or a huajuan 花卷, which is what I've used here. Slice a ripe tomato and salt both sides. Part of a sweet onion completes this part of the prep. The baker was hard at work when I bought the bread, puffs of steam rising out of his stacked baskets. This time I decided to toast my bun in spite of it being fresh. Spread the toasted bread with mayonaise and put it together: egg, onion, tomato. Eat it "open-face" -- Continental style. Slightly messy to handle, but lip-smacking good! ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Another non-traditional sandwich that has now become a staple in my house is built around lufu 卤腐, a prized Yunnan fermented tofu, pickled in a spicy brine. Other parts of China have something similar called furu 腐乳 that is not quite as pungent. You can find it in crocks or jars in stores, but I buy mine directly from one of the spice and sauce merchants at the neighborhood market because it is fresher. The photo below left shows two kinds of lufu, both cut into square chunks. One is Shilin 石林 style, the other is the Yuxi 玉溪 variety. A single large cube of it costs 2 or 3 Yuan. Slice it prior to use so that it's easier to spread. If you are eating it beside a main dish as a table condiment 辛辣调味品, just pinch off a bit with your chopsticks. Slice the bread and do the same for a fresh cucumber. Slather on lufu and put it together. The result is intense. You will know you are no longer in Kansas. Both of these are treats you won't find at Subway anytime soon, so you are better off trying to make them at home. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Footnotes: 1. Here's more about "Century Eggs" 皮蛋 -- You can see how they differ from the "Salted Duck Eggs" 咸鸭蛋 used today: https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53530-century-egg-rice-porridge-皮蛋瘦肉粥/?tab=comments#comment-409678 2. Here's a short photo essay I found about how lufu 卤腐 is traditionally made: http://www.sohu.com/a/223291723_661256
China's best BLT and other extravagant claims
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkSince I'm in China I usually eat Chinese style, complete with rice bowl and chopsticks. But every now and then I get a definite hankering for one or another old favorite from back in the US. Earlier this week I succumbed to an illicit desire for a BLT sandwich (bacon, lettuce and tomato.) You know by now how much I hate to brag, but it turned out exceptionally well. Let me show you how to do it, here in your new China home, instead of spending a pile of Dollars or Yuan on a plane ticket back west. First buy some mantou 馒头。I know, I know, you would prefer a crusty San Francisco sourdough or a chewy loaf of deli rye from Brooklyn or Bronx. These steamed buns are not quite the same, but they will do in a pinch. I buy them at my local wet market where they typically go faster than hotcakes and consequently are always extremely fresh. That's important since they don't age well. This seller boasts a baking technique that originated long ago in Shandong. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) They start them over a large cauldron of simmering water outside the open-front stall. Don't think I've ever seen a taller stack of steamer baskets 蒸笼; ladder required for access. These metal baskets have holes in the bottom so steam goes up through all of them. An athletic young guy clambers up and down the stack re-arranging them and moving some over for immediate sale when they are done. It's a bewildering process; don't know how he keeps it straight in his mind. Several kinds are available, some made with corn meal 玉米面 and others made from whole wheat 全麦。Some are folded back on themselves several times, look almost braided, and are studded with sesame seeds 芝麻。These are called 花卷 hua juan. I buy some of each. They are still warm when I get them. The sign says: "Buy three, get one free." I usually go for supermarket sliced bacon instead of wrestling with a slab of the real stuff, 腊肉 la rou, which requires a higher degree of dedication. I would not presume to tell you how to cook bacon in the privacy of your own home, but I usually start it in a small amount of water to render and remove some of the fat. The last part of the bacon ritual lets it get crisp in the pan over low flame when the water has boiled off. The photo above shows a 花卷 on the left and a standard 馒头 on the right. If you feel the call to go whole hog, buy a slab of 腊肉 and knock yourself out. I've done it a few times and it yields good results. Also, you can slice it thicker than you can find in the supermarket. Here's where I buy it when struck with the urge to do it the old fashioned way. 47 Yuan per kilo 千克。 While I'm at the neighborhood wet market 菜市场, I pick up some lettuce 生菜. Though many varieties of leaf lettuce are available, I don't think I've ever seen tight round heads of iceberg 球生菜 for sale locally. The one I generally go for is a flavorful variety of Romaine. If the lettuce doesn't look nice, I make my sandwich with fresh spinach. Yes, don't remind me. That's not how they do it at Sal's Diner. As I rounded the corner with green leafy vegetables in hand, I saw a small boy walking a reluctant crawfish on a leash. 小龙虾 Arguably the most important ingredient of all is the top-shelf, partly vine-ripened tomato 番茄。I was excited to find these last time just by pure dumb luck. Tasted a wedge right on the spot and then bought a large bag full. The sign says they are local 本地 and grown out of doors 露天。The 正宗 is for emphasis, kind of like saying "genuine" -- pronounced "gen-you-wine," with emphasis on the last syllable. These develop more flavor than the ones grown in large plastic tents 塑料大棚。But I cannot claim any credit for discovering these on my own. I watched a local chef buy a bunch of them first even though they cost more than the ordinary ones. Once home, I washed the lettuce well and dried it by rolling it gently in a towel. Sliced a couple of tomatoes and salted them on both sides. Thinly sliced part of a big red Bermuda onion 洋葱。 Sliced the mantou 馒头 as well. Spread a bit of mayonaise on the bread and put it together. (Mayo and Mustard available at Carrefour or WalMart.) Eat these "open face" Danish style, lettuce on top. Otherwise it gets too thick for anyone except a crocodile to handle. Uncork a bottle of white wine or pop a beer. Who said you can't have all the comforts of home right here in the Middle Kingdom? Well, you almost can.
The Kunming Cucumber Rickey
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkIt would be best to confess up front that I have finally caved in to popular demand. Here's the drink recipe for which you have all been clamoring. Cuba has its Mojito and Daquiri, Mexico is home of the Margarita, and Kunming boasts the Cucumber Rickey. As the days heat up it's difficult to resist a refreshing after-work libation. With one as crisp and clean as this ready to hand, your prayers have been answered. I promise not to tell if you have more than one. The ingredients, a short list, are at their best right now. Perfect time to buy: quality high; price low. What you will need per person, be it man, woman or child. (Wait. I got carried away. No children allowed at this party.) 1. One small lime -- 青柠檬 2. A half or a third of a cucumber, depending on size -- 黄瓜 3. Gin -- 1.5 ounces or maybe even 2 if you don't have many pressing items on your agenda this evening 4. Simple syrup -- A tablespoon for each ounce of gin. (Footnote below on how to make simple syrup.) 5. Club soda -- 苏打水 (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) We have three kinds of cucumber in the local wet market just now. First we have these large ones, as shown in the photo, which I call "English cucumbers." Then we also have the long, skinny "Asian" ones, the length of your forearm. They are smaller in diameter than these "English" ones, with a thicker and darker green skin plus more prominent bumps. The third kind is the smaller "Persian" cucumbers, which have dark, smooth skin. Any of these will do just fine; they are interchangeable here. Don't let yourself be bogged down in detail when pursuing this project. Forge ahead. Victory belongs to the bold. No need to remove the cucumber skin; just wash it well. Slice about a third of it into long, thin slivers, as shown. I use a ceramic-blade peeling tool; but I could use my trusty Chinese vegetable knife 菜刀 just about as well. Use one whole lime if they are small. Too much lime juice is better than not enough so err on the side of generosity instead of parsimony. I cut two or three wedges from the lime and squeeze the rest into my glass. I dice an additional inch or two of cucumber, putting it into the bottom of the glass along with the wedges of lime. Add a tablespoon of simple syrup for each ounce of gin. More if you like your drinks sweeter; none at all if you happen to be a purist. (A "how to" on simple syrup follows below.) Notice, if you please, that all these photos are streaked with long shadows. Please construe that as evidence that the sun is well over the yardarm and it's time for a little righteous alcoholic refreshment. Now muddle this all in the bottom of the glass with a roundish soup spoon or similar. Add the gin and crush everything up a little more. The idea is to coax the lime and cucumber to release their delicious essential oils so they can diffuse throughout the other ingredients and become part of the whole drink. Bartenders have an actual dedicated instrument for this, but I would suggest spending you hard earned cash on more gin instead of a silly single-use tool. I first discovered this drink one very wet night in Kuala Lumpur when my plans got rained out and I took refuge in the rooftop bar to soothe my disappointment. Wind was lashing the palms outside by the pool, making quite a racket. I could barely hear the mellow jazz coming over the speakers. This drink is just as much at home on the Pacific Rim as it is in Europe or Latin America. The featured brand that night, being poured at a discount, was Hendrick's in the black bottle. It's a gloriously complex "craft" gin distilled in Scotland and it has cucumber and rose notes all its own to start with. But lately I've been buying Gordon's or Seagram's, since they are on special at the nearest Carrefour for only 49 Yuan per bottle (750 ml.) The glass that I use could probably be called a "large, sloping-walled old-fashioned," except that I bought it right here in China. Line it all the way around with the thinly sliced cucumber strips, add ice cubes and top it off with club soda 苏打水。Stir once with a light hand. That's all there is to it. Eat the cucumber as you go along. A variant of this drink includes mint, and I will take you there another time.
Dousing the flame: Eating smart during the dry days of spring -- 薄荷柠檬茶
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkEarly spring in Kunming is glorious. The cherry blossoms open in February; by the end of the month the peach blossoms are everywhere too. Soon the golden fields of rapeseed flowers turn the karst hills of the outskirts into a stepped yellow sea; the crabapple orchards start releasing their flowers when gusts of spring wind blows, covering nearby roads with a pink and white snowstorm. (Please click the photos to enlarge them.) Now it’s mid-spring; Tomb Sweeping Festival 清明节 has passed. It hasn’t rained here since before the start of the month, today being Wednesday the 17th of April. This means it’s great for doing outside activities, riding my bike, walking in the park. But it also means the internal humors that TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) prattles on so much about are holding my metabolism for ransom. I’m told one ignores these factors at one’s peril. It’s real easy to get sick just now; it's a treacherous time. 风热感冒 in particular looms large on the horizon. Skin gets itchy and dry. That’s easy to see. Nose gets crusty inside; in every block of sidewalk when I’m on foot, I meet people with tissue rolled up and sticking out from one nostril or other in response to a nosebleed. Scratchy throat, slight hacking cough, nothing productive. What’s going on deep inside is not quite as obvious. TCM deals with imbalance between heat and cold, stagnation of Qi 气; all sorts of other oddities like wind in the thymus or spleen. Incomprehensible stuff. Took me about ten years of living here to begin taking heed to this strange and very foreign business, based on principles that are at best difficult to grasp. Furthermore, these beliefs are not well proven by the western scientific method at whose alter I burned incense throughout a long working life. (Medical practice for 35 years; now retired.) Chinese people, average garden-variety Chinese people, young and old, believe in the notion of food as medicine. Food as curative medicine, to take when you’re sick and trying to get better, and preventive medicine to take in order to stay healthy. You can talk about this subject with cab drivers, tailors, waitresses and cops; you can talk about it with the tousled guy who sells cigarettes and booze 烟酒 at that stall on the corner, or the the uniformed chap who lifts and lowers the gate at the parking lot in front of that newish mid-range hotel in the next block. What they tell you when queried may differ in certain details, often going back to what their mothers taught them when small, but every single person you talk to will have something to say; nobody will just draw a blank and look at you like you are nuts. I grew up in South Texas, the son of educated but working-class parents. My personal deck of early memories contains quite a few do’s and don’ts, but outside of “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” and an abiding belief in the restorative powers of chicken soup when fighting a cold, I really cannot remember much in the way of “food as medicine” hand-me-down lore or parental advice. Not to say that such advice is not to be had in the west. But I’d say it’s not exactly mainstream, at least not to the extent that it is here in China. I can remember reading paper-bound books as a teen, bought for a dollar, about the powers of apple cider vinegar or the amazing abilities of natural honey. What else? Not much. Hmm, that cannot be right. Wait, let me think harder. When my memory strays much beyond those narrow confines, I dredge up recollections of that middle-aged lady with the flowing gray hair and the tie-died dress at the health food store urging me to buy this or that expensive herbal supplement instead of just a quick, easy bottle of “One-A-Day” multivitamins. If you get to know her, it won’t be long before she wants to refer you to her iridologist to have your irises “read.” She may even give you a hot tip about that new “colonic therapist” who just started business out on the north edge of town. Not to say that what she has to offer is wrong; but it is mostly “fringe” stuff, not well-accepted or mainstream. In China, however, by contrast, health maintenance advice based on eating right is completely mainstream. You don’t have to be a quasi-fanatical macrobiotic gluten-free vegan to have some degree of knowledge about what to eat and when in order to avoid various internal imbalances that most of us don’t even know about, let alone care about. I was in that last camp, not knowing and not caring, until very recently. I still don’t know much but have decided to at least start listening to the “folk wisdom” of some of my friends and neighbors about a few of the basics. My lady friend from the deep south of Honghe 红河州, my coach at the gym, who hails from Zhaotong 昭通, the smart young guy from whom I buy tea (from somewhere west of Dali, near Baoshan 宝山) the old lady who cleans my house once a week (native of Kunming back before so many streets were paved) and the man who parks cars at my apartment complex (originally from Chongqing) have all chewed my ear about this within the last few days. They did it out of concern from someone they perceive as at risk by virtue of being clueless and foreign. Surprisingly, they all said the same thing, as though they had been raised and rehearsed by the same mother: The weather now is warm, dry and windy. In order not to get sick I need to drink more liquids, eat more vegetables, especially green leafy ones, plus consume lots of raw fruit. It's OK to have meat, but it needs to take a back seat to the plant-based items in my diet, at least for the time being. The Chinese internet is full of more specific advice on how to go about this, how to carry it out. I cannot give you a truly well-informed opinion about which bits of this doctrine are right and which bits are wrong. But I can give a few ways to implement the simplest, most basic of these ideas in case you live in similar climate and seasonal circumstances. Having finally reached the end of this long and perhaps controversial intro, today I would like to simply show you one easy way to begin at the beginning. Learn about a “cooling” beverage that you can whip up at home. It quells the internal fires of late spring. As a bonus, it tastes good. You already know that Yunnan is in love with mint 薄荷 so it should come as no surprise to meet it again here. I've previously shown you how to prepare it as a soup and as a salad and as an ingredient in a stir fry. Today it stars in a beverage. I bought this handful of fresh mint at the neighborhood wet market this morning for 1 Yuan. Not all the vendors will part with such a small amount. They tell me their margin is slim and they don't want to bother weighing and bagging such a tiny sale. In the grocery store down the street it is weighed out and pre-bundled in bunches that cost 2.5 Yuan each. Sometimes I must get more than I want, but generally find some way to use the remainder. Wash it and pick out any bruised stems or discolored leaves. I typically wash it in three changes of tap water in a large basin. If that runs clear, then I stop. If not, I wash it some more. Put a quart of water in a pot and set it over high heat so it will come to a boil without wasting too much time. When you see a healthy rolling boil, put in the mint, leaves, stems and all. Don't stir it. Just let the pot return to a boil and then shut off the flame. Leave the mint alone for the next hour. Turn your attention to the citrus. Kunming has an abundance of these small limes 请柠檬。They are juicy and cheap whereas yellow lemons 黄柠檬 are expensive and often not very nice. The decision is easy: go with the green ones and don't look back. I squeeze five or six of them into a bowl. Then I cut the remains into quarters. Set them aside. After about 30 minutes, the mint water in the pot begins taking on a rich emerald color. Add the juice and the rinds into the pot. The water will still be hot enough to extract all the flavor from the solids. Don't worry about the seeds; you will strain them out later. No need to boil it again. Let it stand undisturbed for another 30 minutes, making a total time in the pot of one hour. If you put in the limes too early, oils come out of the peel that can make the resulting brew bitter. While the mint and limes are steeping 浸泡, get started brewing some tea 泡茶。I usually go for 红茶 red tea (called "black tea" in the west) but it's fine to use green tea if you prefer. Once or twice I've even used Pu'er tea 普洱茶。It's a matter of your personal taste preference. In fact, real tea leaves are not essential to this concoction at all. You can make it with just mint and lemon alone. Nevertheless, what I generally do is just put the tea in a bowl and ladle some hot water out of the pot. It's still got enough heat to work if you are generous with the leaf and let the tea steep for 5 or 10 minutes. I brew two or three bowls like this. pouring the liquid back into the pot each time. Now strain the contents of the pot: mint and limes. Hand squeeze the small lime quarters to be sure you have gotten all their flavor. Sweeten the resulting tea after it's strained. I use wild honey from Simao 思茅 (the famous city in Yunnan which has currently been renamed as Pu'er City 普洱市。) A generous tablespoon of this per quart of brew is just right for me, but you could use more or less. If you don't have access to good natural honey, don't despair. I've seen recipes that use rock sugar 冰糖 instead, as well as ones which use granulated sugar 白砂糖。If using the latter, I think it works best to turn it into simple syrup first. Boil one part sugar with one part water until all the granules dissolve. This way you wind up with a drink that is equally sweet all through instead of having sugar settle out at the bottom of the pitcher or glass. Here's the end result. First pour on the left, second pour on the right. Notice that it gets a little cloudy as it stands. This might prevent the drink from ever achieving the top rung of fame at Starbucks, but I assure you it does not affect how it tastes in the slightest. It might be pushing my luck to try to tell you how to drink it. After all we are all consenting adults here. Nonetheless, I will say that Chinese traditionally don’t drink this beverage ice cold. It would be unusual to see a local person serve it in a tall glass over ice. The old folks 老头 of my acquaintance will serve it and drink it 常温 chang wen, which means a cool room temperature, a few degrees below lukewarm. Bear in mind that China is the land of "beer off a shelf" instead of "beer out of the ice chest." You might have been surprised and even upset when you first ordered a “cold one” in a restaurant with a meal. Regretted ever getting onto the airplane. "Good heavens, I've wound up in a country that doesn't know beer is supposed to be cold." But by now I'm sure you are used to it even though it might have been a rocky transition. Personally, I store this drink in the fridge in a carafe and drink it from a glass, but without ice. That’s cool or liang 凉, cold enough to be pleasant without shocking the system. It’s typical to sip it slow, not quaff it off all in two or three big gulps. That is supposed to be better for the digestion. But since you are most likely equipped with a western stomach instead of a Chinese version, I will leave that step completely to your discretion. However you make it, however you drink it, this beverage is a winner, even apart from its medicinal qualities. Try it and see what you think. 薄荷柠檬茶。
Fennel tofu soup 茴香豆腐汤
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkFennel 茴香 (huixiang) here means the fragrant lacy fronds of the fennel plant; not the solid bulb that you are used to seeing in the west. If you've traveled much in China, you have probably met it paired with ground pork in dumplings 茴香猪肉饺子, but in Yunnan it's the prime ingredient of a very tasty soup. Yunnan takes pride in making main dishes out of several items that you are used to thinking of as seasoning or garnish. Mint is one such that we have looked at before. Link to that: Mint soup Today I'll show you how to make an honest, straight-forward soup from fennel and silky tofu. The process couldn't be more simple. My concern, however, is that you might not be able to get fresh fennel fronds overseas. Even though the plant has a long growing season, the fronds are delicate and surely don't travel well. Pretty sure they are usually just discarded, like carrot tops. Here's the kind of fennel we are talking about. Bought some this morning in the market. Three big handfuls at 1 Yuan each. (Fennel in the middle of the image.) Stopped a few minutes later on "tofu row" for 2.5 Yuan worth of Mrs. Zhang's best small-batch soft tofu (嫩豆腐)。Note how the firm tofu (老豆腐) in the foreground stands up straighter. The soft tofu towards the rear is bulging and leaning over. Please click the photos to enlarge them. At home I washed the fennel and chopped it into pieces a couple inches long. Three slices of fresh ginger 生姜 and a piece of aged dry tangerine peel 橙皮, just to kick it up a notch. Don't fret if you don't have aged tangerine peel; it's not essential; just leave it out. In fact it's worth pointing out that this is an extremely flexible recipe: if you want more fennel or less fennel, that's OK; if you want more tofu or less tofu, that's OK too. Make it the way you like it. Give the ginger a sharp whack with the side of your caidao 菜刀 cleaver knife to partly crush it and then put it plus the tangerine peel into about 750 ml of chicken stock. One can make this soup more dilute or more concentrated according to taste. If you're vegetarian, it's fine to use plain water instead of stock. Let these seasoning ingredients simmer about 10 minutes to extract more flavor. (Maybe next time I'll simmer them even longer.) Rinse the block of tofu and cut it into irregular pieces, suitable in size to be picked up easily with chopsticks. Gently add the tofu to the stock and simmer it a couple minutes with minimal stirring. This makes the tofu more likely to stay intact instead of falling apart. Then lift the tofu out with a strainer so it won't get too fractured and beat up while you cook the fennel. The fennel only takes two minutes or so. You want it to retain some crunch and not be completely soft. When it has reached that point, add back the tofu. Season with a scant teaspoon of salt 食盐, a dash of white pepper 白胡椒粉, and a half teaspoon of chicken essence 鸡精 ji jing. This latter seasoning, popular in China, is like granulated chicken bouillon plus a small amount of MSG. Let it come back to a simmer, and you're almost done. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed (might need a little more salt, depending on your chicken stock.) Serve it up. As an afterthought, I garnished the dish with a couple of thinly-sliced cherry tomatoes. I'm sure they caught your eye in the market picture up top. Obviously, I had to buy a few. Big tomatoes are not great right now, but these little ones have lots of flavor with a pleasantly tart finish. Served it with a bowl of left-over chicken rice. It probably would make a nice lunch alongside a grilled pannini sandwich.
Yunnan top shelf beef stew 牛肉炖山药
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkIt's been a cold and rainy October; perfect weather for beef stew. Sometimes I make this dish with shortcuts, but today I had time for the "top shelf" version. It took several hours, but came out delicious. Let me show you how to do it. Buy a good looking piece of beef; I most often go for brisket 牛胸肉 or a rib cut 肋排肉。You can use shoulder or rump, but they are tougher and take a little longer to get done. I ask my butcher to include a couple of marrow bones 筒骨; sometimes she is in a good mood and tosses them in free because I am a regular customer 老顾客。Sometimes I have to pay, but even then it's usually only ￥5 extra. Don't need to trim it, just rinse well under tap water 洗净 and cut it into more or less equal sized pieces 切块。This piece of beef weighted 600 grams and cost 38 Yuan. (BTW, you can click the photos to enlarge them.) Put these in a pan with cold water and let them soak 30 minutes. Don't add anything. Some blood will come out and slightly color the water. Here are before and after shots. I use that 30 minutes to prepare dry seasonings for the next step. Boil some water in your wok (no need to get another pot dirty.) Add a splash of yellow cooking wine 黄酒 and a few slices of ginger (don't need to peel it.) Simmer it for two minutes and scoop off the foam 去掉浮沫。Lift out the meat and discard that water. Don't worry about losing flavor; a couple minutes of boiling here just cleans the meat; the long, slow stewing yet to come will develop plenty more good tastes. Let the meat drain and then blot it dry with paper towels so it won't splatter too much when you brown it in oil. Here are the dry spices: a few dry red chilies 干辣椒 at 12 noon, two pods of cardamom 草果 at 2 o'clock. Smash them open with the heavy blunt handle of your knife so they will release their flavor more readily. Cassia bark is next at 6 o'clock. (It's a relative of cinnamon.) At 9 o'clock are two pods of star anise 八角，and in the middle are two or three bay leaves 香叶。Not shown in this photo is a tablespoon of rock sugar 冰糖。 Crush some garlic, two or three cloves, and slice it coarsely. Several large slices of ginger; no need to peel it; cut them big so you can pick them out later before serving. Lay out a heaping tablespoon of rock sugar 冰糖。(This will help give the meat a pleasant golden color. I've included a closer look at the magic ingredient that some people call "The Soul of Sichuan Cuisine." It's Pixian Douban Jiang 郫县豆瓣酱, a fiery paste, concocted of fermented soybeans, broad beans, rice and crushed chilies. It's beloved in Yunnan too, and I buy it in bulk from the spice lady at my nearby wet market so I can always have some in the fridge when needed. It's a staple in my house. A thoroughly worthwhile condiment. It's available in jars from your Asian market or from Amazon. Now you want to brown the meat. Put a couple tablespoons of oil into your wok (which you have dried well after using it to boil the beef) and stir the meat cubes around until it develops some color. One at a time, add the rock sugar 冰糖, ginger, garlic, and the Pixian doubanjiang. You probably recognize this way of starting the meat as typical of recipes for making red cooked beef 红烧牛肉。 Now scoop this out into your pressure cooker 压力锅 with enough water or stock to cover generously .Remember, your vegetables will be added later and the liquid level should be enough to cover them as well. I prefer to use stock, and usually have some in the freezer which I thaw and use for things like this in place of plain water. Add any remaining dry condiments. Deglaze the wok with cooking wine 黄酒 and pour that flavorful juice into the the pressure cooker as well. Put the big marrow bone in with the meat. Add two tablespoons of soy sauce 生抽, a teaspoon of dark soy sauce 老抽。 Close the top and cook it using the "beef/lamb" cycle 牛羊肉。On my pressure cooker that is 25 minutes. When it turns off, don't immediately open the lid with a "quick release" method; give it time to come down to zero pressure on its own. On mine, that means waiting another 25 minutes or so. I use that time to wash up any dishes that have accumulated during the meat prep. Clean and put away my wok. If you don't have a pressure cooker, this stew can be made in a big clay pot set over a burner of your stove, using a very low flame. That requires periodic stirring attention so that it doesn't run dry or scorch on the bottom. A better alternative is an electric clay pot slow cooker 紫砂电锅。These are common in China and usually cost about the same as a pressure cooker (￥350 to ￥450 or so.) Need to allow 4 or 5 hours of slow cooking time. Start it on high and reduce the heat to low after it reaches a boil. I used one of these for years and loved it; only this year did I buy a pressure cooker. When the cooking cycle completes, let the pressure come down on it's own as before. Open it and lift out any pieces of meat that offend you with too much fat or heavy gristle. It's better to trim it now than when it was raw; you lose less flavor. Here's what I discarded, shown below. The immensely-practical Chinese way is to leave it all intact, and let each person just spit out what they don't want later at the table. The remaining beef is now almost tender enough, but not quite. I washed the mint, lovely and fresh. It's an essential part of Yunnan cuisine and even the supermarkets stock it, a large bouquet of it for only a few Yuan. Furthermore, it goes extremely well with beef; the flavors are complimentary. Now add a generous handful of mint and give the meat another cycle, just like the one you did a few minutes ago. This is a good time to get the vegetables ready, except for the shanyao 山药 because it discolors if it stands exposed to air. (You can put it in cold water after cleaning it to retard that process.) I used half an onion. Slipped off the tomato skin by dunking it in boiling water for a minute or so, scoring it with a knife after cooling it enough to handle (using cold running water.) Next I got the shanyao ready. Wash it well with running water; scrub it a little 擦干净。 Since it grows in the earth, sand and soil remain when it is harvested. Shanyao 山药, the name literally means "mountain medicine," is a rhizome, it grows underground in sections up to about three feet long. The best of it is harvested in winter. Chinese Traditional Medicine calls it a "restorative" and "anti-aging" vegetable. Said to "nourish your Qi." It's a highly-recommended cold weather food: suitable for fall and winter. Then peel it and cut it into "rolling sections" 切棍块 -- rotate the stick of shanyao half a turn with each cut to wind up with wedge-shaped sections. It is mucilagenous and slippery; hard to handle. (That feature disappears when cooked.) I used 300 grams today (about half the amount of meat.) My carrot weighed 250 grams. When the second cooking cycle completes and the temperature comes down to a safe level, open the pressure cooker, remove the bone and lift out the mint. Also fish out big pieces of ginger, star anise, bay leaves, and cassia bark. Anything that you would not like as an alien surprise when you are wolfing down your stew. Add the vegetables and cook it on a short cycle of 8 or 10 minutes. On my cooker the fish program does a fine job of cooking the vegetables and blending the flavors. Be careful with adding salt; the doubanjiang is salty, as is the soy sauce. A pinch is OK, but don't overdo it. When it comes down to a safe temperature, open and serve. The beef is tender enough to tear it with your chopsticks. The meat has acquired a flavor profile similar to that of 红烧牛肉 (red cooked beef.) I garnish the serving bowl and each individual bowl with a few pieces of mint, not just for looks but so we can eat it as we enjoy the stew. That's common practice in Yunnan, land of mint and peppers. It's not quick and easy, but it's bold and balanced: worth the effort. Try it once and you will never look back.
Loofah gourd for supper 丝瓜炒火腿
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkIf you thought of loofah 丝瓜 as only being a luxurious exfoliating bath scrubber, well…stick around and prepare to have your horizons broadened. The young ones cook up into a very tasty vegetable that is popular in China, especially in the summer. Traditional Chinese Medicine ascribes it cooling properties 清凉, which is why your favorite Chinese grandmother 外婆 made it for you when growing up. She saw it as her sacred duty to keep your humors in balance. This is the kind of loofah you might be used to seeing. These are great for scrubbing away dead skin and are also good for scouring pots and pans in the kitchen. Loofah is a gourd that grows on a climbing vine, gaining maturity really fast. If picked young, it makes good food, and I'll show you how I cooked it up tonight. (Click the pictures to enlarge them.) Here they are at the market, each one adorned with a bright yellow flower. The flowers are edible and I'll show you how to cook those another time. Smaller loofah gourds are available as well, some only 6 or 8 inches long. This plant is related to cucumbers 黄瓜 and zucchini 小瓜。 Here, as all throughout the market, they are vying for table space with kugua 苦瓜 bitter melon, which are at their peak right now and selling like hotcakes. In selecting sigua 丝瓜, look for ones that are of uniform diameter, from stem to flower, end instead of ones that have a thick part and a thin part like a baseball bat or bowling pin. I bought two nice ones, firm and evenly colored, each about the length of my forearm. Together they cost 2.5 Yuan, equivalent to 30 odd cents US. Most of the ones on sale here are the "ribbed" variety, (shown below) because they have a better flavor. The smooth ones are slightly cheaper, but the better-tasting ribbed ones ones are really not going to bust your budget. Mine are laid out here with a couple fresh, sweet carrots 胡萝卜 and some garlic 大蒜 plus a small piece of ginger 老姜。 I bought a few mushrooms 香菇 and a couple large spring onions 大葱。Had some premium Yunnan slow-cured ham/huotui 云南宣威火腿 in the fridge and I pressed it into service. Had I not had any ham, could have used a couple pieces of bacon. One can also make this dish meatless or with tofu. Sliced thin pieces of ham then cut them into slivers. Washed the mushrooms and cut away the stems. Instead of slicing them, cut them into thick sections so they would cook a bit slower and retain more texture. Cut the carrot and the spring onion. Finely chopped the garlic and the ginger. Kept them separate from eachother so I could give the ginger a few seconds head start. (It cooks a little slower than garlic.) Got out several dried red peppers 干辣椒。After all, this is Yunnan. Once everything else was ready, it was time to prep the sigua 丝瓜。Do it last since if it stands too long after being cut, it turns brown. Peel it about half way, strips of skin removed but also leaving some. If you buy smaller sigua, no need to peel it at all. Cut it in rolling wedges, rotating the gourd about 90 degrees between cuts. This looks nice plus it exposes more cut surface area to the spices and lets it absorb more flavor while still cooking fast. The flesh should look white and homogeneous, without prominent cavities or seeds. All set. Ready to fire up the wok. At this point I like to pause and mentally go through the order in which I'll put ingredients on the flame. Items that require more cooking time go in first. I also set out all the spices I'll need right beside the stove top so as to avoid last minute fumbling. In this case, I set out some salt 食用盐, sugar 白砂糖, MSG 味精。A bottle of soy sauce 生抽 and another of aged vinegar 老陈醋。Put a teaspoon of corn starch 淀粉 into a small bowl with enough water to dissolve it into a slurry 水淀粉。 Wok goes onto high flame, when it's plenty hot but not smoking, add the oil. Add the main aromatics (蒜姜.) When they become fragrant 爆香, add the carrots. Once they begin to soften, add the ham, then the mushrooms. All this takes maybe 90 seconds. Stir constantly. Mushrooms release some of their moisture as they cook and following that, they reduce in volume. That's your cue to add the spring onions; don't wait for the mushrooms to brown. You've set the stage for the entry of the star, the tender and juicy loofah gourd/sigua 丝瓜。Put them in the middle, just like you've done with each new ingredient. That's the beauty of a wok for making quick-fried Chinese dishes like this: add new things to the hottest part in the center as you push other ingredients up the sides. Don't walk away. Keep stirring and flipping things 翻炒 as they cook. Turn the heat down to medium. If it looks dry, add a splash of water; don't let it burn. This is the point at which I add dry and wet spices, blending well. 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of MSG (optional), 1 tablespoon of vinegar, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Nothing overwhelming. The sigua gourd 丝瓜 itself has a gentle taste; don't want to hide it or cover it up. Poke a piece of gourd with your chopsticks to gauge resistance; indents easily when the vegetable is done; you can also stick it with a fork. The goal is to have it cooked through without becoming soft. Doesn't take long. Total cooking time is only 4 or 5 minutes. Just as everything is done, add the corn starch slurry. This thickens the sauce and binds the flavors. Serve it up. Goes well with steamed rice. And there you have it: a fresh, tasty supper from the lowly loofah gourd.
Triple cut red 云南红三剁
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkThis popular Yunnan lunch item is easy to cook but difficult to translate. It has no catchy English name. For several years I was sure 红三剁 meant "three red things that were chopped." This was always puzzling because it uses red tomatoes and pink lean pork, but combines those with very green peppers for color contrast. What happened to that third red ingredient? Regardless of the linguistic issues, I can show you how to whip it up at home. This is a quick and easy dish to make, doesn't require any fancy ingredients or techniques. Furthermore, it's difficult to mess it up; a good beginner 初级 project. A couple of nice ripe tomatoes 番茄，two or three long green peppers 尖椒, the white part of one large spring onion 大葱, a couple cloves of garlic 大蒜 and a small piece of fresh ginger 老姜。 Lean pork works best for this dish and I usually buy a piece of tenderloin 里脊。Marinate it 腌制 for 20 or 30 minutes with a couple teaspoons of cooking wine 料酒 and a teaspoon of corn starch 淀粉。Sometimes I also add a half teaspoon of sesame oil. Drop the tomatoes into boiling water briefly, score the skin with the tip of a knife and slip it off. Use a spoon to scoop out and discard the seeds and pulp in the center. Chop them fine. Mince the ginger and garlic. 剁碎 Slice the spring onion fine. Do the same with the long peppers, removing the white fibrous sections and some of the seeds. These long slender green peppers are not very hot; the lady from whom I bought them at the market described them as "mild and fruity." Still, if you don't like spicy things at all, you could substitute sweet bell peppers 甜辣椒 (also called 柿子椒）。 Gentle reminder: You already started the rice, didn't you? Don't even think about heating the wok until the rice is ready. My rice cooker just dinged, took about 30 minutes plus a 15 minute soak. I checked the rice visually to make sure the surface had those important small steam holes. (Those tell you it's done.) Fluffed it up with a couple of chopsticks. Unplugged the cooker (don't leave it on "keep warm" 保温 or you will wind up with overcooked rice.) Closed the rice cooker lid, and now we are ready to proceed with the stir fry. Double check to be sure everything is ready; once you start the process, it goes fast. Today I used 150 grams of finely chopped meat 碎末肉 with two tomatoes and two long green peppers. These ratios are not critical, and you can make this dish by eye if you just use roughly equal amounts of meat, tomatoes, and peppers. First quick-fry 翻炒 the lean ground pork 猪肉末 with the minced ginger 碎末姜。Take it out and set it aside when about three quarters done 七成熟。The meat does not need to be browned, but it does need to lose its pink color. Wipe out the wok and add a little more oil. (Most Chinese families use a stiff bamboo whisk for this.) Stir fry the green peppers and the minced garlic for half a minute or so over high heat, being careful to not burn the garlic. When you can smell the aroma, add the tomatoes and the spring onion. Cook a minutes or so, adding stock 高汤 or water as needed to keep it from becoming dry and taking on a scorched note 糊。 Add the cooked meat and stir well, adding more liquid as needed. The result needs to be slightly soupy, not dry. Add salt 食盐 to taste and MSG 味精 if you like it. I usually add about a fourth of a teaspoon unless my guests ask me not to. Stir fry for a minute or two on medium heat. (Don't walk away.) And voila, the finished product. Serve it in a bowl beside steamed rice. My friends and I usually spoon some out and combine it with fluffy white rice in our individual bowls. Sometimes I present it as a plated "covered rice" dish 盖饭 because that looks extra nice. Either way, it tastes top notch. Hope you will give it a try someday soon, especially if you are in the mood for something with no good English translation.
Alphabetical index of food articles
abcdefg posted a topic in Food and DrinkThe idea behind pulling this information together into one place is to make it more useful to people who are looking for recipe ideas or wondering about dishes they have seen on Chinese menus. Some of these articles have more information than others and not all were done with the same degree of care. My hope is that they still might serve as a starting point for someone who, for example, wants to know what to do with all that fine eggplant they are suddenly seeing in the market at a very low seasonal price or all those great looking wild mushrooms that became available after the summer rains started. Additions are more than welcome: This is not intended to necessarily be a one-person show. If you see something here which is incomplete and that sparks your interest, please fill in the gaps. For example, "Oh, he talked about tomatoes, but didn't even mention the way we always ate them in Chengdu. They were so yummy that way." Please share those tips and secrets with the rest of us by starting a new thread. I'll be glad to index it here and credit you with its creation. It seems that lots of the people who have posted here about food since about 2010 have just visited once or twice as a way to drive traffic to their personal blog sites or to stimulate attention for their YouTube videos. Nothing wrong with that of course, but it has kept the food and drink forum from growing as robust as it otherwise could have. This is a work in progress, so if you see problems with it or have ideas on making it easier to use, please don't hesitate to speak up. I will update the thread as more articles are written over the coming months. Asparagus and tomatoes stirfry -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58373-asparagus-and-tomatoes-番茄炒芦笋/?tab=comments#comment-453422 Bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich -- BLT -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58309-chinas-best-blt-and-other-extravagant-claims/?tab=comments#comment-452823 Bamboo shoots -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48192-adventure-eating-early-season-bamboo-shoots/ Bamboo shoots and ham -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41586-yunnan-bamboo-shoots-%E4%BA%91%E5%8D%97%E7%AB%B9%E7%AC%8B/ Beans -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52065-cheap-eats-for-the-end-of-the-month-beans-and-rice-tofu-and-sprouts/ Beef -- Mint-beef rice noodle soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57044-mint-beef-rice-noodle-soup-薄荷牛肉米线/ Beef stew -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57290-yunnan-top-shelf-beef-stew-牛肉炖山药/?tab=comments#comment-444476 Beefsteak -- Discussion of how to order it cooked in a restaurant -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/32348-eating-steak-in-china/ Bitter melon -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56911-taming-bitter-melon-苦瓜炒牛肉/ Stuffed bitter melon -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57137-stuffed-bitter-melon-酿苦瓜/ Bread -- Free form white bread in a stone hat -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59741-chop-wood-carry-water-bake-bread/ Broccoli -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/46802-broccoli-and-yunnan-goat-cheese-%E8%A5%BF%E5%85%B0%E8%8A%B1%E7%82%92%E4%B9%B3%E9%A5%BC/ Cashews -- Cashew chicken -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/50226-chinatown-supper-at-home-cashew-chicken-%E8%85%B0%E6%9E%9C%E7%82%92%E9%B8%A1%E4%B8%81/ Cauliflower -- Dry fried organic cauliflower -- 干煸有机花菜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57449-dry-fried-cauliflower-干煸花菜/?tab=comments#comment-445668 Cauliflower and tomatoes -- 番茄炒花菜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59249-seasonal-eats-cauliflower-time-番茄炒花菜/?tab=comments#comment-461065 Century eggs -- Century egg rice porridge -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53530-century-egg-rice-porridge-皮蛋瘦肉粥/ Celery -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48872-summer-veggie-feast-yunnan-style/ Celery stir-fried with smoked tofu -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59341-celery-with-cured-tofu-西芹菜炒豆腐干/?tab=comments#comment-461940 Cheese -- Yunnan goat cheese -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/46802-broccoli-and-yunnan-goat-cheese-%E8%A5%BF%E5%85%B0%E8%8A%B1%E7%82%92%E4%B9%B3%E9%A5%BC/ Chicken -- Yellow Braised Chicken 黄焖鸡 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57780-yellow-braised-chicken-with-rice-黃燜雞米飯/ Chicken thigh (dark meat)– http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/50226-chinatown-supper-at-home-cashew-chicken-%E8%85%B0%E6%9E%9C%E7%82%92%E9%B8%A1%E4%B8%81/ Chicken breast (white meat) -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52008-using-a-chinese-recipe-corn-and-chicken-stir-fry-%E7%8E%89%E7%B1%B3%E7%82%92%E9%B8%A1%E8%82%89/ Chicken breast or thighs -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59150-the-many-faces-of-kung-pao-chicken-宫保鸡丁/ Chicken wings -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57186-chinese-cola-chicken-wings-可乐鸡翅/ Salt baked chicken thighs in a rice cooker -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57244-salt-baked-hakka-chicken-in-a-rice-cooker-电饭煲焗鸡/ Chicken curry -- Chinese chicken curry -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57573-chinese-chicken-curry-咖喱鸡肉/ Condiments -- Lufu -- 卤腐 and 腐乳 -- (second part of this post) https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56777-crazy-for-pickles-泡黄瓜/?tab=comments#comment-439918 Corn and chicken stirfry -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52008-using-a-chinese-recipe-corn-and-chicken-stir-fry-%E7%8E%89%E7%B1%B3%E7%82%92%E9%B8%A1%E8%82%89/ Chilled Cucumber mint soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58454-chilled-cucumber-mint-soup-黄瓜薄荷凉汤/?tab=comments#comment-454016 Cucumber pickles -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56777-crazy-for-pickles-泡黄瓜/?tab=comments#comment-439918 Cucumber Rickey (drink) -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58295-the-kunming-cucumber-rickey/ Cucumber salad -- Smashed cucumbers -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53783-another-simple-classic-smashed-cucumber-拍黄瓜/?tab=comments#comment-412400 Curry -- Chinese chicken curry -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57573-chinese-chicken-curry-咖喱鸡肉/ Dim Sum -- Cantonese dim sum -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54982-enjoying-dim-sum/ Dao, Caidao 菜刀 -- selecting a kitchen knife -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53912-chinese-cleaver-cai-dao-桑刀-or-菜刀-–-carbon-or-stainless-steel/ (And more knife talk here) -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54134-show-your-cai-dao-wok-and-other-kitchen-equipment/#comment-415832 Dao, Caidao, Hong Kong cooking knife -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54306-my-new-hong-kong-knife-菜刀/?tab=comments#comment-416849 Dormitory cooking -- Minimalist Chinese food -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53539-survivor-china-minimalist-dormitory-cooking/ Duck -- Roast duck mango salad -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56489-roast-duck-mango-salad/ Edamame Chinese style -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54585-spicy-chinese-edamame-毛豆/ Egg and tomato soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58408-egg-and-tomato-soup-番茄鸡蛋汤/ Eggplant – Cold food -- Steamed eggplant and tomato salad -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/44902-summer-food-%E5%87%89%E6%8B%8C/ Eggplant –Steamed eggplant with lufu -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41554-eggplant-%E8%8C%84%E5%AD%90/ Eggplant -- Red cooked eggplant -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48252-hongshao-qiezi-%E2%80%93-an-eggplant-mistake-set-right/ Eggplant -- Hongshao qiezi 2019 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59126-red-cooked-eggplant-红烧茄子/ Eggplant -- Fish flavored eggplant -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/50126-yuxiang-qiezi-%E9%B1%BC%E9%A6%99%E8%8C%84%E5%AD%90-a-cultural-bridge/ Eggplant and tomatoes stirfry -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48872-summer-veggie-feast-yunnan-style/ Steamed eggplant with garlic -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56568-steamed-eggplant-with-garlic-vinaigrette-蒜蓉蒸茄子/ Scrambled eggs and tomatoes -- 番茄炒鸡蛋 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53734-the-basics-tomatoes-and-eggs-番茄炒鸡蛋/?tab=comments#comment-412117 Ercai -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59430-a-simple-winter-supper-儿菜蒸香肠饭/?tab=comments#comment-462513 Ersi -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48526-yunnan-simple-%E7%82%92%E9%A5%B5%E4%B8%9D-stir-fried-ersi/ Lu Ersi -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55635-yunnan-special-卤饵丝-a-rice-noodle-dish/ Fennel -- Fennel mashed potatoes -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53803-grandmas-fennel-potatoes-茴香老奶洋芋/?tab=comments#comment-412551 Fennel and tofu soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57547-fennel-tofu-soup-茴香豆腐汤/?tab=comments#comment-446386 Fensi glass noodles -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54529-chinese-glass-noodles-红薯粉条/ Fish -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51433-yunnan-spicy-fish-%E9%85%B8%E8%8F%9C%E9%B1%BC%E7%89%87/ Fried rice -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58742-turning-leftovers-into-fried-rice-剩菜变成炒饭/ Fried rice encore -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59434-fried-rice-with-what’s-left-炒饭/ Garlic -- Single-clove garlic -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/44552-kunming-tomato-season/ Garlic -- The anatomy of garlic; a key Chinese cooking ingredient -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58189-the-anatomy-of-garlic-a-key-chinese-cooking-ingredient/ Garlic stems and Yunnan ham -- 蒜苔炒火腿 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58187-gift-ham-and-garlic-bolts-蒜苔炒火腿/ Goose -- cured goose -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/52192-yunnan-mountain-mushrooms-and-nearly-wild-goose/?tab=comments#comment-402198 Huotui -- Yunnan cured ham -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52376-using-prime-local-ingredients-yunnan-huotui-%E8%8A%B9%E8%8F%9C%E7%82%92%E7%81%AB%E8%85%BF/ Green beans -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57072-liang-ban-凉拌-the-chinese-equivalent-of-salad-四季豆杏鲍菇凉拌/?tab=comments#comment-442671 Green beans 水煮四季豆 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57216-too-much-feasting-水煮四季豆，小瓜，茄子/?tab=comments#comment-443779 Long green beans and eggplant -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58702-long-green-beans-and-eggplant-四季豆炒茄子/ Ham -- Yunnan Huotui -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52376-using-prime-local-ingredients-yunnan-huotui-%E8%8A%B9%E8%8F%9C%E7%82%92%E7%81%AB%E8%85%BF/ Hongshao Rou (red-cooked pork belly) -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/44461-your-favorite-version-of-红烧肉/?page=2 Huotui -- Yunnan ham -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56709-improving-a-classic-火腿蒸乳饼-steamed-yunnan-ham-and-mountain-cheese/ Jiucai 韭菜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56328-chinese-chives-韭菜-two-or-three-ways/ Jiucai griddle cakes 韭菜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56335-chinese-chives-griddle-cakes-韭菜煎饼/?tab=comments#comment-435506 Jam -- Discussion of sweet fruit jam in China -- including pomelo honey 柚子茶 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59248-chinese-jam/?tab=comments#comment-461100 Kimchi fried rice Yunnan style -- 酸菜炒饭 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56195-a-yunnan-take-on-kimchi-fried-rice-泡菜炒饭/?tab=comments#comment-433973 Kucai 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 Kucai tofu clear soup -- 苦菜豆腐汤 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58219-a-dead-simple-week-night-soup-苦菜豆腐汤/ Liang ban -- Salads -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57072-liang-ban-凉拌-the-chinese-equivalent-of-salad-四季豆杏鲍菇凉拌/?tab=comments#comment-442671 Lily bulbs -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58750-fresh-lily-bulbs-in-season-荷兰豆炒鲜百合/?tab=comments#comment-456828 Limoncello -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55547-middle-kingdom-limoncello/ Loofa gourd -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57103-loofah-gourd-for-supper-丝瓜炒火腿/ Lotus root – lotus root and shrimp -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51357-spring-flavors-of-china-lotus-root-and-shrimp-%E8%99%BE%E4%BB%81%E7%82%92%E8%8E%B2%E8%97%95/ Lotus root salad -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/49345-hot-weather-eats-lotus-root-salad-%E8%97%95%E7%89%87%E5%87%89%E6%8B%8C/ Lotus root sweet and sour -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58478-sweet-and-sour-lotus-root-糖醋藕片/ Lotus seeds -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/49425-lotus-seeds-%E8%8E%B2%E5%AD%90/ Mango -- Roast duck mango salad -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56489-roast-duck-mango-salad/ Market in early summer -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56632-heres-the-backstory-in-photos-market-early-summer/?tab=comments#comment-438195 Mint, cucumber, and yogurt soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58454-chilled-cucumber-mint-soup-黄瓜薄荷凉汤/?tab=comments#comment-454016 Mint -- Mint-beef rice noodle soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57044-mint-beef-rice-noodle-soup-薄荷牛肉米线/ Mint -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51575-early-kunming-summer-mint-soup-and-mangoes/ Mushroom hotpot -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41836-mushroom-hotpot/ Mushrooms -- Wild mushrooms -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41537-wild-mushroom-time-again/ Mushrooms -- Wild pine mushrooms -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/49597-%E6%9D%BE%E8%8C%B8%E8%8F%8C-the-worlds-most-expensive-mushrooms/ Mushrooms, cultivated 香菇 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56622-spicy-green-peppers-and-mushrooms-香菇炒青椒/ Navigating the local wet market -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51465-a-trip-to-the-local-wet-market-%E8%8F%9C%E5%B8%82%E5%9C%BA/ Nangua squash -- Nangua zhou -- 南瓜粥 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55430-chinese-comfort-food-南瓜粥-pumpkin-porridge/?tab=comments#comment-427201 Noodles -- Stir-fried noodles -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58853-stir-fried-noodles-炒面/ Pea shoots and tofu soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/47614-wandoujian-toufu-soup-豌豆尖豆腐汤/ Peaches -- Poached peaches -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58514-local-peaches-poach-them-please-煮熟桃子/?tab=comments#comment-454606 Pears -- steamed pear with rock sugar -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51906-chinese-medicine-that-tastes-good-%E5%86%B0%E7%B3%96%E7%82%96%E9%9B%AA%E6%A2%A8/ Pear porridge -- Snow pears 雪梨 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57682-pear-porridge-for-winter-cough-雪梨粥/?tab=comments#comment-447385 Peppers -- long green peppers 尖椒 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55164-triple-cut-red-云南红三剁/ Pickled pears 泡梨 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57682-pear-porridge-for-winter-cough-雪梨粥/?tab=comments#comment-447528 Pickled vegetables -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52065-cheap-eats-for-the-end-of-the-month-beans-and-rice-tofu-and-sprouts/ Pickles -- Pickled cucumbers -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56777-crazy-for-pickles-泡黄瓜/?tab=comments#comment-439918 Pipa fruit 枇杷果/loquat -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58106-spring-fruit-hits-the-stands-糖水枇杷果/ Peppers, long spicy green peppers 青辣尖椒 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56622-spicy-green-peppers-and-mushrooms-香菇炒青椒/ Steamed pork ribs -- 粉蒸排骨 (+土豆) very simple dish (By DavyJonesLocker) -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57260-粉蒸排骨-土豆-very-simple-dish/ Potatoes -- mashed potato pancakes -- 头豆泥煎饼 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54917-too-many-potatoes-土豆泥煎饼-mashed-potato-pancakes/?tab=comments#comment-423551 Yunnan potato pancakes -- 云南洋芋丝干 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54060-yunnan-potato-pancake-云南洋芋丝干/?tab=comments#comment-414600 Potatoes and fennel -- 老奶洋芋 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53803-grandmas-fennel-potatoes-茴香老奶洋芋/?tab=comments#comment-412551 Pork loin -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41497-adding-meat/ Pickles -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56777-crazy-for-pickles-泡黄瓜/ Pork tenderloin -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/47975-suancai-chao-rou-%E9%85%B8%E8%8F%9C%E7%82%92%E8%82%89/ Quail tea eggs -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54342-quail-tea-eggs-鹌鹑茶叶蛋/#comment-417368 Quick food outside (快餐) -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41498-best-kept-dining-secret-%E5%BF%AB%E9%A4%90%E5%BA%97/ Recipe, written in Chinese -- How to use a Chinese recipe -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52008-using-a-chinese-recipe-corn-and-chicken-stir-fry-%E7%8E%89%E7%B1%B3%E7%82%92%E9%B8%A1%E8%82%89/ Red chili sauce, home-made -- 红油 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55120-making-your-own-chili-sauce-自制红油/ Rice noodles -- Mint-beef rice noodle soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57044-mint-beef-rice-noodle-soup-薄荷牛肉米线/ Sandwich using steamed bun -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58309-chinas-best-blt-and-other-extravagant-claims/?tab=comments#comment-452839 Local sandwiches using salted duck eggs and lufu -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58327-unlikely-local-sandwiches-salted-duck-eggs-咸鸭蛋-and-lufu-卤腐/?tab=comments#comment-453127 Shanyao and beef stew -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57290-yunnan-top-shelf-beef-stew-牛肉炖山药/?tab=comments#comment-444476 Seasonal vegetables -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56355-kunming-spring-bounty-seasonal-eats/?tab=comments#comment-435691 Shrimp -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51357-spring-flavors-of-china-lotus-root-and-shrimp-%E8%99%BE%E4%BB%81%E7%82%92%E8%8E%B2%E8%97%95/ Skillet shrimp without much oil -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/59090-skillet-shrimp-without-much-oil-少油煎虾仁/?tab=comments#comment-459584 Spicy Chinese twice-fried shrimp -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58622-spicy-chinese-fried-shrimp-油炸虾仁/ Sigua 丝瓜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57103-loofah-gourd-for-supper-丝瓜炒火腿/ Smoked pork -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55235-hani-twice-smoked-meat-烟熏肉/ Smoked tofu - https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56990-addictive-smoked-tofu-青椒豆腐干/?tab=comments#comment-441718 Snow peas -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/41474-chinese-vegetarian-cooking/ (post #7) Sprouts -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/52065-cheap-eats-for-the-end-of-the-month-beans-and-rice-tofu-and-sprouts/ Strawberries -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51173-strawberry-season-kunming-%E8%8D%89%E8%8E%93/ Suancai with meat -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/47975-suancai-chao-rou-%E9%85%B8%E8%8F%9C%E7%82%92%E8%82%89/ Suancai with fish -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51433-yunnan-spicy-fish-%E9%85%B8%E8%8F%9C%E9%B1%BC%E7%89%87/ Stir-fry -- making a stir-fry -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54191-stir-fry-chinese-greens-with-ham-苦菜火腿炒饭/?tab=comments#comment-415700 Sweet potato/hongshu 红薯 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57307-honey-steamed-sweet-potato-蒸蜂蜜红薯/ Taiwan night market snacks -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54703-taiwan-night-market-snacks-台湾夜市小吃/#comment-421567 The Three Fresh Treasures 地三鲜 -- Eggplant, potato, green pepper -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57487-the-three-fresh-treasures-地三鲜/ Termite mushrooms of Yunnan -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58735-yunnans-termite-mushrooms/ Tofu -- Sichuan Mapo Doufu -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55081-sichuan-fire-mapo-tofu-麻婆豆腐/ Tofu -- Tofu and ham -- Shiping tofu and Xuanwei ham sauteed with spring onion -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55009-tofu-and-ham-火腿香煎豆腐/?tab=comments#comment-424232 Tofu from Shiping Town -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54450-getting-the-most-from-shiping-tofu-香煎石屏豆腐/#comment-418192 Tofu and eggs -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/56975-sunday-brunch-tofu-and-eggs-豆腐炒鸡蛋/ Tofu in Kunming -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57002-neighborhood-tofu-a-short-practical-tour/ Tomatoes and eggs -- 番茄炒鸡蛋 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53734-the-basics-tomatoes-and-eggs-番茄炒鸡蛋/?tab=comments#comment-412117 Tomato and egg soup -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58408-egg-and-tomato-soup-番茄鸡蛋汤/ Tomatoes and green beans -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/44552-kunming-tomato-season/ Toon, Chinese Toon -- Xiang Chun -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53919-wild-china-spring-香椿煎蛋饼/?tab=comments#comment-413601 Wild mushroom wholesale market -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58788-kunming-behind-the-scenes-wild-mushroom-wholesale-market-木水花野生菌批发市场 /?tab=comments#comment-457176 Wild mushroom soups and stews -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58794-wild-mushrooms-for-supper-野生菌炖汤/?tab=comments#comment-457240 Wo Sun 莴笋 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54904-chinese-stem-lettuce-莴笋炒豆腐/ Wok -- Selecting and seasoning a wok -- http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/51217-wok-and-chopsticks/ Yangmei -- Seasonal fruit -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54402-yang-mei-season-杨梅-the-chinese-bayberry/ Yogurt -- Chilled cucumber mint soup (made with yogurt) -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58454-chilled-cucumber-mint-soup-黄瓜薄荷凉汤/?tab=comments#comment-454016 Zhacai -- 涪陵榨菜 -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/58408-egg-and-tomato-soup-番茄鸡蛋汤/ Zhou -- Chinese pumpkin porridge -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/55430-chinese-comfort-food-南瓜粥-pumpkin-porridge/?tab=comments#comment-427201 Zhou -- Chinese rice porridge -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/53530-century-egg-rice-porridge-皮蛋瘦肉粥/ Zhou/Pear Porridge -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/57682-pear-porridge-for-winter-cough-雪梨粥/?tab=comments#comment-447385 Zucchini -- https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/54552-when-its-too-hot-to-cook-小瓜蒸红椒/