Once the yearend holidays and New Year craziness are over everyone begins to look to Valentine’s Day. Lovers are not the only ones wooing their partners. Marketers, the media and even bloggers take this opportunity to court their customers and readers. Chocolate companies package their products in red and white, and the media and blogs are full of advices and suggestions on how to charm your lovers. There are articles on how to make your lady or man happy, and how to celebrate the day as a single person. Not to be outdone I’m also going to give you advice on how to create an impressive dish for that Valentine’s Day dinner.
We usually plan our New Year’s Eve early. We would arrange to join friends for a dinner celebration either at a restaurant or at home. This year, however, with my busy travel schedule to Asia in November and December, hosting our family Christmas celebration and organizing Warren’s 60th birthday party we found ourselves without a plan. Fortunately, a neighbor suggested we join them and their friends for a late night champagne and h’or d’oeuvres gathering.
Also posted in Dumplings, Recipes
After fleeing prewar France with her American employers, Clementine and the Beck family settle along the New England coast. As the central character in Samuel Chamberlain’s book Clementine in the Kitchen, the Burgundian cuisinier struggles to adjust to her new environment. One day as she cycles along the coast near her new home, she looks at the ocean and is amazed and “livid with excitement.” She rushes home and announces “J’ai trouve de moules! De quantites des moules!” She “has found mussels! Lots of mussels!” Clementine is overjoyed that such expensive French delicacy litters the American shoreline.
Our good friend CK took us to the Chinatown section of Kuala Lumpur during our tour of Malaysia in August. Walking through a little alleyway we entered a small bustling wet market. These markets, still commonplace in Asia, are collections of vendors hawking multitudes of produce, seafood, poultry, meat and dry goods. Beyond the market there was an area full of hawker stalls selling prepared food. Weary shoppers could enjoy a snack or a hearty meal there. In among the stalls was CK’s favorite vendor selling yong tau foo. He still remembers skipping class to sneak a snack there. Passionate fans of yong tau foo lavish devotion on their favorite vendors for good reasons. Many vendors have been in the business for generations and have developed their very own special recipes. But if these recipes have been handed down through generations, why then is the yong tau foo we know of in Malaysia and Singapore so different from the traditional Hakka yong tau foo served in China or Hong Kong?
Summer in Shanghai heralds the arrival of bountiful local fruits like lychees (荔枝), longans (龍眼), peaches, and yangmei (waxberries 楊梅). Street vendors hawk them from overflowing bamboo baskets, which they carry on poles balanced on their shoulders. They are a welcome, yet increasingly rare, sight in modern Shanghai as urban life whizzes by. Although I’m not adept at the art of bargaining I would always try to get the best deal from the vendors. It simply is part of commerce in China. After successfully negotiating a purchase I would bring my fruits home, chill them and serve them at the end of dinner. But this is not the only way to enjoy these summer fruits. Cooking with fruits is a long-standing tradition in Chinese cuisine.
Hunting for white asparagus at the start of the summer is not exactly orthodox. But that is what I found myself doing a few days ago. It’s not that I haven’t had any asparagus this spring. There was an abundance of green asparagus in the farmer’s markets and Pathmark across the street from where we live. Over the last few months I’ve had them steamed with butter, grilled with olive oil, dressed with Hollandaise sauce and mixed in fried rice. But a few days ago I spotted some fresh and peppy looking mud crabs in Chinatown, which instantly suggested “white asparagus and crabmeat soup” like those found in many traditional Chinese restaurants in Asia. This notion suddenly became an obsession and I immediately bought some of the crabs and went on a quest for white asparagus.
Also posted in Recipes, Soup
In most Asian household fish paste is normally bought from the fishmongers because it is presumed to be a laborious proposition to make at home. In fact there are many specialty stores in Asian cities offering only fish paste and fish balls. These stores are often known for their own signature variety of fish paste or fish balls. But it’s surprising to know how easy it is to make fish paste at home.
Also posted in Fish, Recipes
October, which is the National Seafood Month, has been re-christened to National Sustainable Seafood Month by organizations concerned with the well being of our oceans and food supply. Our oceans are facing great dangers from over fishing and unfettered pollution. Last month Jacqueline Church, who blogs at The Leather District Gourmet from Boston, called for food bloggers to participate in a virtual blog event to highlight awareness of these dangers. She created the “2008 Teach a Man to Fish Sustainable Seafood Blog Event.” She asked bloggers to create and share recipes from sustainable seafood. I decided to participate in this event by contributing my favorite way of preparing a sustainable fish: Sweet and Sour Tilapia.
So it was on this July 4th weekend my partner, Warren, and I along with some of our neighbors went to the beach. Our wonderful friend Chick invited all of us to spend the weekend with him and his family at their beach house, which is in a small coastal hamlet of Slaughter Beach at the mouth of the Delaware River. Kim, the Yummy Mummy, and her family were part of the group. If you’ve been following her blog you’d know about the “horrors” that happened during the weekend. But don’t believe all of them!
Also posted in Recipes
Many Chinese vegetables are known to Americans as bok choy or simply Chinese cabbage. Although there is a wide variety of these “Chinese cabbages,” they all have a very similar, neutral, non-threatening taste recognizable to the American palate. But don’t be fooled, not all Chinese vegetables are bland and blah. There is also a large selection of mustard greens, not commonly known by Americans, that have much more distinct bitter and spicy flavors.