This curious object, which looks for all the world like a little wooden apple, is yet another of those obscure culinary items that occasionally turn up in our local Co-op from time to time. They were identified as ‘Sharron Fruit’ on a hand lettered sign (a name which meant nothing to me), but each of the little fruit had a tiny sticky label on them bearing the name ‘Mangosteen’ (which was at least familiar). The appellation ‘Sharron Fruit’, it turned out, was actually the name of the Company from which the fruit had been purchased so it was obvious that the store employee stocking the shelves was not too familiar with the item either. In any event, whatever the name, I had never seen these before and naturally had to investigate… Read more
Posts from the ‘Foodstuffs’ Category
When I buy pre-made noodles, they are pretty much exclusively of the dried variety. I have, a few times, bought some packaged ‘meal-in-box’ preparations, commercially made Pad Thai and the like, for example, where the noodles came pre-cooked and vacuum-packed along with little packs of seasonings and sauces for a quick and dirty snack. None, so far, have ever been worthy of trying a second time.
The other day, I came across the noodles you see pictured above. The package suggests (urges) you to cook them with Kame™ sauces for a quick meal (and presumably these proprietary concoctions are available for sale somewhere), but these noodles, already pre-cooked and ready for the wok, come naked and alone. I figured I would give them a test-drive and see if perhaps they might be something worth having at the back of the store-cupboard for emergency, last-minute noodle fixes… Read more
This rather interesting looking item with the attractive, rather reptilian skin, appeared in our local Co-op recently. It was identified as a ‘Cherimoya’ but, while the name was somewhat familiar to me, I doubt if I could have identified as a fruit. After doing a bit of a search on-line, I discovered that it is native to South America (although cultivated as far north as California) and is also grown in southern Asia. Wikipedia tells me it is also known as a ‘custard apple’ in some quarters, but I have to confess to never having heard that name before. On tasting the fruit, however, it is rather apparent how that particular nickname came about… Read more
Today’s post features a very interesting food product that I have used in my kitchen many times over the years. Essentially, it is a salted cabbage pickle, somewhat like a rather dry Chinese version of sauerkraut, and is a specialty of the northern Chinese municipality of Tienjin. It is commonly available in Asian groceries, often packaged in vacuum-sealed plastic bags, but it also comes in a variety of attractive earthenware crocks, which, I have to admit, is probably what inspired me to buy it in the first place… Read more
When I was a kid growing up in England, a lamb roast was always served with my mother’s homemade mint sauce, or else a very nice mint jelly made by a Scottish company called Baxter’s. Once we moved to Canada, Baxter’s couldn’t be found and the only commercial variety we ever had in the house after that was a truly awful concoction I couldn’t stand. Honestly, I couldn’t understand why my parents continued to buy the stuff after the first time we had it as it was a horrible fluorescent green muck that tasted like toothpaste. Occasionally, over the years, I have managed to find imported varieties, including Baxter’s, in specialty stores, but I recently came across this domestic version from ‘President’s Choice’ that is really quite good… Read more
Preserving pork and other meats is quite common in cuisines around the world but this particular Chinese product, essentially a fattier cousin of the more familiar of jerky, is a favored treat in my kitchen. The appeal for me is that pork belly, when cured with salt and sugar, takes on a wonderfully fragrant sweetness that mimics the flavor of dried-apples. It is a fatty treat, to be sure… a fact which might make some cautious about eating it… but, in fact, since the cured rashers are typically used in small amounts to flavor other ingredients, you still may wish to give it try.
By the way, curing pork belly in this fashion is not that difficult in the home kitchen and, sometime in the coming months, I promise to do a post on the topic. For now however, I just want to feature one of the many commercial products available in most Asian groceries… Read more
This is an interesting little item I picked up at our local grocery not long ago. The name sounded vaguely Spanish to me and put me in mind of the more familiar ‘pomegranate’, from which we derive the word ‘grenade’. As it happens, the name is indeed Spanish in origin, and a little bit of research revealed that the fruit is native to South America (although it is now cultivated in Africa, Australia and New Guinea). Apparently, there is another variety of the fruit which is purple in color and they are both sometimes known as ‘Passion fruit’, especially Australia, the UK and America. That name was somewhat familiar to me, as is the ‘Passion flower’, which apparently is part of the same vine-like plant that produces the fruit. In any event, is was very curious to see what this curious foodstuff might be like… Read more
After sampling the Tom Yum soup at Bangkok Thai Garden in Ottawa back in December, I remembered a commercially made soup paste that I used to purchase quite frequently and, on an excursion to Chinatown, I managed to find it again. I couldn’t recall the brand name but I recognized the jar immediately and was surprised to see that the manufacturer is the same as for the Thai Crab Paste I featured in another ‘Foodstuff’s’ post last year. Anyway, while I enjoy Tom Yum soup well enough, I don’t make it that often but I discovered, in past culinary adventures, that this paste is extremely versatile and can be used in all sorts of preparations beyond the basic soup… Read more
Drying various foodstuffs very much tends to concentrate their flavors and this is just as true with scallops as it is with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, or anything else you can care to name. Dried scallops, even more so than the fresh, are quite extensively used in Chinese cookery, particularly in Hong Kong and the southern coastal provinces, but I don’t see them much used in other cuisines, which is a bit of a shame, really, as they are a very useful ingredient. Certainly, anyone with an interest in cooking Chinese dishes will want to have a stock of these on hand but they are also well worth experimenting with in other culinary preparations as they pack a unique flavor punch that is truly exquisite… Read more
Bamboo shoots are a common ingredient in Asian cuisine that most people have sampled at one time or another but, for the most part, usually only the ones that come in cans. Quite honestly, I don’t care for them when packed this way as the canning process imparts an unpleasant metallic taste that can only be remedied by lengthy soaking, during which time any other flavors get lost as well.
I love pickled or fermented bamboo shoots (see my post here) and also the dried sort, which will be featured in an upcoming post, as both of these have a very unique and delicious character (albeit something of an acquired taste, for some). The fresh article is, unfortunately, something I have yet to be able to cook with as the only times I have seen it in stores is when I was travelling and it was not practical for me to buy it. Accordingly, when I am in the south, I like to buy the brine-packed type you see pictured above. These are not nearly as flavorful as the dried or fermented products, but they add visual appeal and a nice texture to many dishes and have the added advantage of no nasty metallic qualities… Read more