Apr 12 2012 Book: Chinese Cuisine 101
Chinese cookbook with a unique approach.
Chinese Cuisine 101, by Jason Harper (editor) is a Chinese cookbook with a unique approach. It is a collection of recipes and accompanying essays by students in Harper's English class in Henan, China. That each recipe is written by an ordinary young Chinese, lends a strong tone of authenticity to the project.
There are some nice anecdotes and background stories to many of the dishes. We learn, for example, that the dish Eggplant and Fish in a Clay pot is the result of an ancient love affair between … an eggplant and a fish, and that the pork belly dish, kou wan rou, became famous after it became the favourite of the last Ming Emperor Chongzhen. The sovereign liked to dress down and mingle incognito with the common folk. Once when staying with a farming couple, he was served kou wan rou. Instantly smitten, he began extolling the dish, sending it on the road to fame.
As the editor admits in the forward, the writing is less than perfect, and readers will find some of the instructions imprecise: "Oil 2 spoons," "35 g fresh soup," for example, and may wonder, like me, what "amylum" is (starch!), but there is a rich assortment of mostly homestyle Chinese meals to choose from, and anyone with the slimmest experience with Chinese cooking will have no problem navigating these quirks.
Hailing from Michigan in the US, Jason Harper has been in China for five years teaching at Sias International University, Xinzheng. He is already at work on a second cookbook called Sichuan Cuisine 101, "… which was also written by my students,' he said. "It's quite a collection of fun essays about China’s spicy food. And I’m converting Chinese Cuisine 101 into an eBook (iBook) for Apple platforms, but I hope to eventually make both cookbooks available in eBook and print formats. It’s quite a task to do alone."
And which of the recipes in the book is his personal favourite? "Hot Chinese Cabbage (酸辣白菜 suānlà báicài) is what I order the most with dinners. It’s the perfect side dish: light, low-calorie, inexpensive, and when I find a restaurant that makes it well, I’ll go there just for that."
Apr 7 2012
News China consumes more food than America The rising wealth of its population, and inflationary food prices have made the China food market bigger than America's. Chinese are moving from a diet based on rice and pork to embrace dairy products, wheat, grains, and both red and white meat.
There was a time not so long ago when Taiwanese were quick to tut-tut China when food scandal news came out of the Mainland. Funny how they have been less vocal recently in the wake of home-grown stories of a un-nutritious nature, like this one: Aluminum in Taiwan pastries.
Apr 1 2012 Eggs cooked in 'Virgin boy' urine a delicacystory Given today's date I don't blame anybody for taking this as an April Fools' joke. It's not. In Dongyang, Zhejiang, eggs hard-boiled in the piss of young boys are a specialty snack.
Don't know if I could eat one – I thought most people agreed that the smell of stale urine was not very nice. Perhaps I could eat one if the egg was cooked in my own freshly discharged urine? Then again, I think I will stick with tea eggs. What about you – would you eat one?
Mar 28 2012 Interview with Chinese cookbook writer Ken Hom
"A steakhouse is out of kilter of yin and yang. Most people discover that balance in their body when they hit their 60s and go, 'God, I can't eat that steak anymore."
Hom has a new book out (no. 33), and as well as discussing dietary balance, shares a recipe for chicken stock in this short interview.
In Taiwan, as if an apparent Government bird flu coverup, and ractopamine (a lean meat promoting drug) in American beef wasn't enough; Labs find banned pesticides on fruit, vegetables. Items in question: kumquats, jujubes, leeks, mustard greens, green beans, and wax apples, available at your favourite RT-Mart, Matsusei, Far Eastern AMart, or Wellcome store.
And this from China: The Rough Guide: "Waitresses bring you beer and nibbles, including such staples as chicken's feet." Staples!
Mar 8 2012 Some Taipei restaurants
Mu Ji beef noodle soup, Taipei
I'm in Taichung and don't get up to Taipei so often, but these are a bunch of restaurants that I have visited there over the last couple of years, as part of a local eating series (though one is Italian) for a bike trade magazine. They are all in the Xinyi area. If you check them out, tell us what you think.
Feb 12 2012 Cultural Revolution Cookbook author interview Last month I wrote about this book here. Read an interview co-author Sasha Gong did with US–China Today. She talks about life during the Cultural Revolution, and the inspiration for the book.
"In China, with the way I grew up, if you worked in the factory and talked about food too much you were criticised and had very severe punishment."
Feb 11 2012 "Does Offering Smaller Portions at Restaurants Help People Eat Less?" Short answer, yes, according to this story. It seems that we may only need be offered an alternative, or directly ask ourselves the question, Do I really need this? If we are programmed by advertising, and hypermarkets (evolution?) to want 'more, bigger, cheaper,' we can hack the program with a secret weapon: our brains, by questioning our greed, which underpins the whole supersize, supersave phenomena.
Feb 7 2012 Here's that award-winning beef noodle recipe Hou Chun-sheng's recipe tracked down by Gary Soup. With over 20 ingredients this dish is "not for the faint of heart." If I ever get a completely free weekend I might try it. If you try the recipe, let us know how it comes out.
Feb 6 2012 "American ‘Chinese’ Food Comes to China" America saves the day again. As if KFC and MacDonald's weren't gift enough. Just what China needs; gloopy sweet and sour pork, and fortune cookies. God, I love globalisation. story
Feb 6 2012 Top Taiwan chef set to promote beef noodle soup in US Hou Chun-sheng (侯圳生) was the winner of last year’s Taipei International Beef Noodle Soup Festival. I'd love to get this guy's recipe. He uses fresh fruit and Chinese herb bags to add flavour, and it takes eight hours to make. You can try my recipe though. It's good, I reckon, and won't take so long, but, be warned, beef noodle soup is not a quickie type cooking job. Here is a picture of my soup:
Jan 22 2012 Happy Lunar New Year
Jan 16 2012 Chicken soup for the body If I am tired after a bike ride or a hike, no matter how hot and sweaty I am, it is always soup, usually with noodles, that I crave. The hot liquid and soft ingredients just seem to hydrate, soothe, and restore the old body quickly. Nothing else will do the job. Lucky I live in Taiwan where there is a noodle soup shop on virtually every road.
There are no shortage of contrasts between Western and Chinese food, but there are similarities too. One of these is the use of soup as a convalescent food [Soup: Why do we eat it when we're ill? –BBC]. When it comes to the conviction that chicken soup is a great panacea, the parallel is especially close.
The chicken may have been domesticated in what is now south China as early as 4,000 BC. Chinese believe that poultry, especially chicken is the most nutritious of all meat. Chicken is a warming food, good for the immune system, a great tonic for the whole body. It has different health effects depending on what other foods and herbs are combined with it. For example, chicken soup concoctions are an essential part of the diet for any pregnant or nursing woman. Chicken stock is an ingredient of many Chinese dishes.
This parallel has been fortuitous for Brands Essence of Chicken in its Asian marketing; a Western product that dovetails perfectly into traditional Chinese beliefs (Brand's now have other products that utilise Chinese foodstuffs and herbs).
Here are some Chinese soup recipes:
Ginseng Chicken Soup 人參雞湯 Ginseng has been treasured by Chinese as a tonic for thousands of years. This dish is a tasty example of Chinese medicinal cooking.
Jan 14 2012 Chinese tree offers hope for alcohol antidote [News story] Researchers at the University of California say an ancient Chinese remedy contains a compound which can prevent alcohol from having intoxicating effects on the brain. It can protect the liver and help prevent alcohol addiction. The compound is made from the oriental raisin tree (Hovenia dulcis) 北枳椇 běi zhǐ jǔ.
The researchers experimented on rats, noting that, "As well as sobering them up, the treated rats also exhibited fewer hangover symptoms; for example, untreated rats were more likely to cower in the dark recesses of their maze," behaviour that any human drinker would identify with.
We see this kind of possible silver bullet in development type headlines almost on a weekly basis, and in most cases that is all you ever get. Now, if the headline read, "Alcohol antidote a reality; on market tomorrow," that would really be something.
Jan 11 2012 New Chinese cookbook has Cultural Revolution theme
Even if you have only a passing acquaintance with modern Chinese history you will be aware that the Cultural Revolution did not produce much cheer. Mao's second 'Great' misadventure (following the Great Leap Forward), was prolonged, and odious, adversely effecting the majority of the population including many of the top brass. One component was the Down to the Countryside Movement, where schools were closed and students were sent to the countryside for 'reeducation.' Sasha Gong was one of 17 million young city dwellers uprooted and transplanted to far flung districts, forced to eke a living alongside farming folk. Though the whole arrangement was resented nearly as much by the peasants as the students, in retrospect Gong seems agree with Disraeli who said, "There is no education like adversity."
In the newly released Cultural Revolution Cookbook, she writes, "From 1969–1971, I learned to work in the rice fields and to plant vegetables. My team was also charged with building a school and cooking for hundreds of people in a communal kitchen." In other words, a back-to-basics rural education. According to American co-author Scott D. Seligman, "… one of the things that they actually did learn from the peasants was how to make do with what there was. They learned to cook with fresh, wholesome foods that were in season, to conserve scarce fuel and to prepare remarkably tasty and healthful dishes with enough nourishment to get them through long, arduous days in the fields."
The book offers recipes aplenty including, dredged fish with ginger and scallions, shallow-fried potato threads, and spicy white radish salad, plus personal anecdotes, facts, and reproductions of socialist realist propaganda posters that – viewed from a healthy distance of geography and time – are positively charming.
Native to northern China, soybeans (Glycine max) were cultivated as early as B.C. 3,000. Soybeans later reached other parts of Asia, probably introduced by Buddhist missionaries. The bean's high nutritional value, after processing, and versatility have made it extremely important in Buddhist vegetarian cooking.