Monday, April 28, 2008

Peking Duck

When visiting Beijing one of the must-things-to-do (as must as the Great Wall visit) is to eat Peking Duck. This special way of preparing duck is over 700 years old and not much has changed until today. At some restaurants in Beijing you can even see a part of the preparation, like how the duck is roasted in a special oven.
When you order a duck in a restaurant you always get to see it and check if you like it. If you think it looks good (do not know what you really need to look for) it will be sliced and served for you.
The duck is served with steamed pancakes, sauce, onion, cucumber, radish, pickled vegetables, sugar and garlic. If you have never eaten Peking Duck before the stuff will demonstrate how you should do. Here comes a small summary.

First the skin dipped in sugar and garlic is eaten. And this combination is VERY delicious, sugar and garlic balance the fattiness of the skin.

Later you continue with mixing meat with sauce, onion, radish, cucumber and wrapping it in the pancake. Again, very very VERY delicious. The pickled vegetables are left for the end to refresh your taste buds.

The head of the duck was also served on a separate plate, but as we didn't try it no review on that one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spring = bamboo shoot

It is bamboo shoot season in China. With the arrival of spring come first bamboo shoots of the year. Bamboo shoots are new bamboo plants that have just started coming out of the ground. They are edible as long as you pick them before the first leaves start coming out. So if you let it grow bamboo shoot will eventually become a bamboo plant.

Bamboo shoots have many different sizes and shapes. But all need to be cleaned, sliced and cooked in plenty of water before eating, otherwise they taste bitter, I was told. So I did that. I cleaned, sliced and boiled them for about 30 minutes. And when done they were still a bit crispy and the taste was very mild. Kind of like asparagus but not watery. And what can you make with bamboo shoots if not quesadillas!

I made corn tortillas. The wonderful thing about living in an international city like Shanghai is that you can find special corn flour called Masa.
The easiest way to make tortillas is with a tortilla machine. No matter how you put the dough, it always comes out perfectly round. Mine tortilla machine has made it all the way from Mexico to China (it is called addiction).

When making corn tortillas it is important to get them inflated. And there is a trick for that! Put a tortilla in a very hot pan for a bout 10 seconds, or until it gets "skin" on the bottom. Then turn it around, and cook for 20 seconds. Then turn it around again and let it inflate. Late it cook for 10-15 seconds...done!

And what can I say, the perfect corn tortilla with melted cheese and slightly crispy bamboo shoots was wonderful!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Bamboo banana

This is one of the most creative ways of making a dessert...inside of a bamboo plant. This creative dessert is called "Bamboo banana". Bamboo because the sticky rice and raisins are cooked inside a piece of a bamboo plant, and banana because it reminds of a banana, the rice is yellowish and you peal the bamboo.It tastes quite good as well!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dulce de cacahuate

This is one of my favourite Mexican candies, dulce de cacahuate, peanut candy. In Mexico this style of candy is called mazapan, as in marzipan, but it does not remind of the type of marzipan I know (almond marzipan).

The texture of this peanut candy is really different and interesting. It is kind of dry, crumbles very easy but when you eat it, it just melts.

But what I wonder is, how do you make peanuts like powder without making butter? I do not know, but will come back to it when I find out. And eventually I will, because I cannot imagine it can be that hard to make this candy by your self. The ingredient list on the back says: peanuts, sugar and artificial flavour. Last one being the reason why I want to make it my self.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mango season

Mango season has started here in Asia. And I like mango, a lot. But I have never cooked with mango. I have a friend who has been telling me about this recipe with mango and chicken, have to try it. But first I need to get tired of the fresh mango, if possible.

If you have ever been to this part of Asia you have probably eaten a dessert with sago. Sago are small pearls made of starch that comes from sago palm. When not cooked these small pearls are white and when cooked they are transparent. They do not have any taste but look lovely in desserts.

So wanting to try sago pearls I decided to make coconut panna cotta with sago pearls and puréed fresh mango...delicious delicious.

Coconut panna cotta with sago and mango

0.5 dl sago pearls
1,5 dl cream
1,5 dl coconut cream
2 tbsp sugar
1,5 tsp powder gelatine
one fresh mango

Cook sago pearls in about 0.5 litre of water. Stirring frequently and adding more water when necessary. When sago is cooked (it has to be completely transparent) put it in a sieve and wash with water. You want to get rid of excess starch. Put aside.

Put the gelatine in a bowl with 0.5 dl water and let stand for 1 minute. Heat the cream and pour over the gelatine. Stir until gelatine dissolves. Heat the coconut cream together with sugar and when sugar is completely melted pour into the cream-gelatine mixture. You have to do it in this order as gelatine doesn't like sugar that much.

Pour the panna cotta in 2 moulds and divide sago between them. Let cool in the fridge until set. At least 5 hours. When set take out and heat the moulds in hot water for some seconds. What happens is that gelatine melts and you can easily un-mould. Serve with puréed fresh mango.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sponge pudding what?

When English is not your mother tongue and if you have never lived in an English speaking country you usually know only one meaning of a word. More over you never speak (or write) without mistakes, sometimes what you say makes no sense and you always make grammatical mistakes. Something like English on this blog.

If I now go back to: " usually know only one meaning of a word...". Well can you imagine my reaction when I saw a can that said "Spotted Dick" on a bakery shelf in a western-food supermarket here in Shanghai, haha? I could not believe it, but I bought it. Here you can read about the unusual name of this sponge pudding.

I wonder if Heinz had any difficulties in exporting this pudding to China because of its name. And can you find it in Saudi-Arabia? Poland? And what about kosher version? Can you serve it on Christmas Dinner? Who would say that a simple sponge pudding could be so controversial? Or is it just my own prejudice? But I am almost sure that Heinz has some really good stories, if they could only share with us!

When it comes to the pudding it self, it was very tasty for being food in a can.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Green tea cakes and cookies

Chinese were the first to start drinking tea, thousands and thousands years ago. There are excellent tea sorts that you can buy here, but you can also find many many different kinds of cakes and cookies made with green tea powder. I do not know how much Chines powder tea is similar to Japanese matcha but recently I bought both of them and will test.

Below you can see some of the green tea goodies you can find here in Shanghai. Almost all of them have red beans as well, and I understand why because they are really a match!

Green tea roulade with red beans. This is a VERY moist roulade I have ever eaten, it is really amazing.

Puff with green tea custard. I am not big fan of puffs but the green tea custard was excellent.


Chocolate puff with crispy top and green tea custard.

Sweet green tea tofu with red beans. This is one of my favourites.

Cookies with green tea and currants.

Matcha latte

Green tea bread with red beans.

Green tea layer cake. Between layers there is some kind of cream with red bean pieces. The cake is incredibly moist.

Green tea bun filled with red bean paste.

Green tea tiramisu served with red bean paste. Even thought not made with savoiardi it was EXTREMELY delicious, want a recipe now!

Green tea "marble" cake.

Green tea brownie with whole red beans. Was a bit too dry for a brownie but the taste was great.

Green tea madeleines.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Lamb and mutton in China

When I think of lamb and mutton I think of UK. British know their lamb! Before coming to China I never thought of lamb and mutton as a part of Chines cuisine. But oh was I wrong! In the very west part of China there is a small minority of Uyghur people and they have contributed to the Chinese cuisine with excellent lamb and mutton dishes.

Here in Shanghai there are many Uyghur restaurants. Usually outside the restaurant there is a huge barbecue where you can buy "take away" lamb skewers (picture). Lamb skewers are seasoned with some kind of special spice, but cumin and chili powder are dominating. I cannot even explain how tasty they are.

And on the menu you can find all kind of mutton, lamb, beef and chicken dishes. Below you can see some of them.

 Lamb skewers - outside the restaurant you can buy skewers that are mixture of meat and fat. Lamb fat is very tasty. But inside the restaurant you can order lean skewers with almost no fat at all. I like better fatty ones.

Pan fried lamb with naan bread and sesame...very very very delicious!

Mutton buns

Minced lamb with some vegetables eaten with thin pancakes.