Archive for January, 2012

‘Dance’ by Matisse in Nanjing beans

Posted by Fuchsia on January 30, 2012
Regional cuisines, Restaurants / 1 Comment

A few pieces in the press over the Chinese New Year:

Chopstick tourism – about regional government restaurants in Beijing. You can see on the right some of the extraordinary ‘four-horned beans’ (si jiao dou 四角豆) we tried at the restaurant in the Nanjing Great Hotel. Don’t they look like dancing figures? They remind me of Matisse’s ‘Dance’ paintings. Below left is a pic of the fabulous steamed lamb with flower rolls at the Ningxia Hotel, and on the right some of the wheaten staples served in the same restaurant. (Financial Times)

Sizzling Sichuan - eating in my old home-from-home, Chengdu. (Observer)

The Chopsticks Effect - I’m quoted in this nice piece about the history of Chinese restaurants in London. (Independent) Continue reading…

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The joys of garlic

Posted by Fuchsia on January 26, 2012
Cooking, Ingredients / 16 Comments

One Chinese vegetable that I always miss when I’m in London is green garlic, which the Sichuanese call suan miao 蒜苗 and people in other parts of China call qing suan 青蒜. These leafy, pungent alliums are the most common vegetable accompaniment to twice-cooked pork 回锅肉, and are also traditionally added to mapo tofu 麻婆豆腐. In Hunan, they are often used in simple stir-fries, perhaps with some of the glorious local smoked pork 腊肉. It’s rare to find them in England, so imagine my delight to find them on sale just before the Chinese New Year! You can see them on the righthand side of the chopping board in the picture on the left. As you will notice, they look very similar to Chinese green onions (a.k.a. scallions, spring onions), but they have flat leaves, like leeks, and a hint of purple around their bulbs. In my Sichuan cookery book I recommended using baby leeks for twice-cooked pork and spring onions for mapo tofu because green garlic is so rarely available, but if you can find it, snap it up and use it instead! (it takes rather less time to cook than baby leeks, and marginally longer than spring onions). Continue reading…

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Happy New Year!

Posted by Fuchsia on January 22, 2012
Chinese food culture, Cooking, Festivals, Sichuanese cuisine / 12 Comments

Last year I gave you a few photographs of Chinese New Year in Hunan, 2004. This year, here are a couple of photographs of Chinese New Year meals in the far north of the country, in a remote part of Gansu Province in 1995. They were taken in the village that is the subject of the chapter ‘Hungry Ghosts’ in my book Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper. (Please forgive the poor quality of the images! I may try to scan them properly another time!)

On the right, you can see a pair of fish (fish are an almost obligatory part of New Year’s Eve dinners because nian nian you yu is a phrase that can mean both ‘fish every year’ and ‘plenty every year’: so the dish is an auspicious play on words.) Continue reading…

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Chinese winter meats

Posted by Fuchsia on January 21, 2012
Cooking, Sichuanese cuisine / 4 Comments

In the last month of the lunar year, the Sichuanese often cure their own meats: spicy wind-dried sausages, smoked bacon and marinated, wind-dried pork (酱肉)。I was hoping to make some sausages this year, but didn’t have time, so I made instead some jiang rou 酱肉。 It is pork leg that is salted for a few days, wind-dried, marinated in sweet fermented sauce (甜面酱),rice wine, sugar and spices, and then wind-dried once again. You can see some in the photograph on the left, hanging outside my kitchen window. The weather is perfect now: cold but not freezing, rather like in Sichuan. Tomorrow night I will rinse some of the meat, steam it, slice it and then serve it as part of my New Year’s Eve dinner.

Afterwards:

I wanted to show you a couple of uses for this home-cured meat. On the right you can see how I served it on New Year’s Eve: simply rinsed, steamed, cooled, sliced and served with a dip of ground chillies (you can add a little ground roasted Sichuan pepper too, if you like). The meat has an intense umami flavour, a little like ham.

Another scrumptious use for it is to chop it finely and use it to add an umami deliciousness to fried rice or eight-treasure stuffings. Below you can see the fried rice I made with leftovers from the dinner: a little home-cured pork; an egg or two, beaten; finely chopped gai lan (Chinese broccoli); a little ginger and garlic; and a whisper of sesame oil to finish.

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