I Am My Very Own Take-Away

DSC_1096We normally prepare our own meals, or we might think it convenient (or social) to go out for the odd curry (or similar). We very rarely get a take-away and never get a pizza delivered. The only exception that occurs once every couple of months is that I walk up to the local Chinese Take-away restaurant and get a portion of stir-fried noodles. I suppose that option will stay with us if we can’t be asked to cook, but hey…

I am not a great friend of following recipes, but Exploring China is so mouth-watering and stimulating to watch that I couldn’t help myself, denied business for Hongkong Gardens and made my own double-cooked pork noodle stir-fry:

Cut belly of pork into 1.5 .. 2 inch thick slices. Fry skin and opposite side in a non-sticking frying pan (or a wok) until it begins to colour, then add water (about half the height of the pork), close the lid and simmer for 30 minutes. A bay leaf and a pinch of salt won’t be wasted.

Meanwhile, peel fresh peas (frozen also OK if must, just add straight from the freezer when I tell you to), clean, wash and dehydrate a good portion of Chestnut mushrooms.

Chop a thumb-sized piece of Ginger into very fine dice. Finely slice a red onion, crush a clove of garlic. Dice a hot red chilly, and crush a handful of Thai basil. (Do not substitute with Italian sweet basil! Just use another herb – for example, mint and Chinese cabbage could work, a small amount of fresh curry leaves could also be OK. I use a mix od Thai and Mexican basil.) Crush some black and Sichuan red pepper (if you like Sichuan red pepper. I don’t).

Wash and cut a handful of Swiss chard.

When the time is up, remove the meat and use the remaining water to boil some suitable noodles. Flat rice noodles would be the most authentic choice, but I prefer egg noodles. Whatever you like.

Cut the pork slices into little pieces, maybe 10mm thick.

Remove the noodles and keep the remaining liquid (there shouldn’t be much liquid left).

Now comes the stir-fry: heat the wok (or the same pan after a quick wipe) with a ladle of mild oil. Sunflower oil, ground nut oil, grape seed oil will all be OK, but olive oil is not. Quickly fry the pork pieces until they look nice, then remove the meat and set aside. Fry all the chopped-up and crushed vegetables, peas, herbs and spices, stirring almost constantly. Add a ladle of rice wine, another of rice vinegar, another one of dark soy sauce. Add the remaining noodle liquid, and a tablespoon or two of dark Oyster sauce, and season with salt. Stir for 2 or 3 minutes, then serve and enjoy.

You’ll never look back.

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Exploring China

DSC_1039Are you watching the BBC’s Exploring China series? I am a late starter and begun watching with episode 3 of 4. Thanks to iPlayer, I could catch up with the first two, and I thoroughly recommend that you watch it while it is still on iPlayer (or when it comes around the next time).

Ken Hom and Ching-He Huang may not provide Pulitzer price qualifying commentary, but the food is convincing, most is appetizing, and the whole thing is a feast for the eye. They cover Beijing and surroundings (episode 1), the famous Sichuan provide (2), the jungle of Yunnan in the south west and Kashgar not far from the border to Afghanistan and Tajikistan (3), Guangzhou, Taiwan and Hong Kong (4).

In the true style of cooking programmes about real Chinese cooking, they tend to start with a live chicken or a visit to the livestock market to select the best lamb, and then all the way to the mouth. Maybe it’s nothing for the screamish, especially since they also delight in showing-off some of the more peculiar food items such as centipedes or deep-fried rabbit heads. They surely show some dishes that I do not want to try, but general atmosphere, technique and most foods shown are a pleasure to watch.

(Todays photo shows Vietnamese street food. It’s not Chinese, but looked just as mysterious and made us both curious and hesitant. We did not sample it.)


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Black or Green or White or …

mtKinabalu I learn something every day. Among the non-herbal teas, among those made from the leaves of the tea plant, I knew about black tea, and I knew about black teas. I also enjoy a variety of green teas, which often give me a much needed caffeine boost mid afternoon.

Interesting to find out there are also white teas and oolong teas. A friend bought some tea from China some while ago; I think this might actually be an oolong tea. More or less by chance, I recently bought a white tea (that’s how I discovered the existence of white teas to begin with), a Chinese Pai Mu Tan. It looks more like herbal tea, green-ish dried leaves and some stalks, basically. White tea actually closer to the harvest than green tea, with minimum oxidation.

Very refreshing!

I love a good coffee, but admit that I am increasingly fascinated about the variety of teas out there. Coffee seems almost boringly straight-forward in comparison.

Saving Fish…

Time for another book, since I have read two lovely ones during our holiday. So, today I shall mostly be recommending…

Amy Tan‘s Saving Fish From Drowning.

A reviewer on Amazon describes it as a great comic drama, and I guess this sums it up nicely. A group of middle-class people from San Francisco travel through China and Burma, but not everything goes as smooth as planned: It all starts with Bibi, the organiser and tour guide, dying. When the group heads off with a replacement guide, things start going pear-shaped due to their own ignorant doing, and due to other circumstances.

A brilliant tale, comic and dramatic and something for the heart. Very lovingly and insightfully written, as all of Amy Tan’s books are. Highly, highly recommended!

Royal Flush

TpaperchindoguAnother endless source of daily fascination: toilet paper brand names.

My personal favourite is Tesco’s very own Embossed Luxury. Somebody at the next checkout bought Sovereign’s Luxury. Apparently, Flora is number 1 in Egypt, and it’s not the margarine this time. China had it’s famous Thumbs Up in the 80s. Holy Tissue is sold out at justtoiletpaper.com, but the Virtual Toilet Paper Museum comes to the rescue with a large collection, including Capri, Cast-Away, Military Issue, Natural Value or Target, to name just a few. toiletpaperworld.com is happy to provide more unmissable facts on the subject, if you hadn’t enough yet.

What’s your favourite toilet paper brand name, fictitious or not?