Spiced-Soy Pork

Spiced Soy Pork 1

Today’s recipe is something of an experiment and you may want to read the notes carefully. The Chinese classic ‘Dong Po Pork’ is one of my all-time favourite dishes in Asian cuisine but, as unctuous and decadent as it is, it tends to contain a lot of sugar, which is something I try to avoid these days. Accordingly, I wanted to try something along the same lines but not so diabetic unfriendly. It is still basically pork-belly red-cooked in soy, but I have played around with the flavourings and needed to make an adjustment or two to the technique… Continue reading “Spiced-Soy Pork”

Notable Nosh: Lettuce with Oyster Sauce

Lettuce with Oyster Sauce

Lettuce is pretty much eaten exclusively raw in the west, and the idea of it in a cooked dish will strike many as odd. I recall, though, a Chinese woman being interviewed who, on being told of this, replied that, in all her years in China, she had never heard of it being eaten raw… only cooked. There is a lesson there, I suppose, but, suffice to say, both ways are good…

Actually, it is surprising that cooked lettuce doesn’t turn up on many menus in Chinese restaurants as it is certainly cheap and, one would think, fairly easy to prepare. I probably would have tried it before, if this was the case, but the offering you see above is my first experience with the dish.

I was surprised, when I first saw it being brought to my table, that the leaves had not been stirred in with the oyster sauce as I expected. As it was though, this gave me a chance to try the lettuce alone and I found it very good indeed. It was cooked until just barely wilted, so it maintained a slight crispness, but the normal lettuce taste was actually enhanced. With the oyster sauce it was even better, I have to say, but the first sampling was a revelation. I am going to have to experiment with this at home.

Anita Kuhnel Moulin-à-Vent Vieilles Vignes 2015

Anita Kuhnel Moulin-à-Vent Vieilles Vignes 2015

Today’s selection is a Beaujolais. As you can see, it was good enough to rate three stars but, given the price, and my expectations, it was actually a bit disappointing…

By way of a brief primer, the Beaujolais wine region of south-eastern France is sometimes lumped in with the much larger Burgundy region. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, however, as the reds of Burgundy are almost exclusively Pinot Noirs, while the Beaujolais reds are produced using the varietal known as Gamay, or Gamay Noir. Under the French name-control regime (AOC), the basic level grouping for this region is the plain Beaujolais AOC. Above this, both in terms of price and (usually) quality, are the wines produced in certain villages, and which are entitled to carry the ‘Beaujolais-Villages AOC’ designation on their labels (there are 39 such villages at last count). Beyond these, again in terms of price and quality, are the wines from 10 specific communes, all of which rate their own individual AOC, and which are collectively referred to as the ‘Crus de Beaujolais’.  Moulin-à-Vent is one of these…

This particular Moulin-à-Vent cost me $26.40 Canadian from the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ). It has an alcohol content of 13% and the sugar quotient rates in at 1.8 g/L. Thus far, the best Beaujolais I have tasted was from the Moulin-à-Vent AOC but, sadly, this one did not measure up.

The color of this particular Beaujolais is a very dark, slightly purplish red. The nose was quite muted and the aroma of dark, ripe berries is overshadowed by an earthy, somewhat vegetal quality that is reminiscent of dried mushroom. I also got a slight hint of jam but this was ephemeral and fleeting.

It is medium to light bodied and fairly dry, with low moderate acidity and tannins to match except for a slight astringency at the end. As with the nose, the fruitiness is very understated and there is the same earthiness, but with a few herbaceous highlights and a touch or pepper. On my second glass, I also detected a note of cherry that was a bit medicinal and not very pleasant.The finish was very short and, on the whole, the effect was not well-rounded. For one of the Crus de Beaujolais, it wasn’t especially good and I won’t purchase this particular vintage again.

Salted Duck Egg Fried Shrimp

Salted Duck Egg Fried Shrimp 1

A while ago, I downloaded a picture of an interesting looking dish which bore the title ‘Salted Duck Egg Yolk Fried Prawns’. There was no recipe, nor even any description, rather, it was just a picture of a dish enjoyed by someone in a restaurant in, I think, Malaysia or Singapore. Now, I have written about Chinese Salted Duck Egg before and I mentioned that you can purchase them in their raw state, or cooked. I do not know what was used in the dish that inspired this experiment, but I only had the latter on hand and so was limited to using that. Anyway, here is what I did… Continue reading “Salted Duck Egg Fried Shrimp”

Dim Sum: Steamed Sparerib in Black Bean Sauce

Steamed Rib with Black Beans 2017-07 1

Steamed pork Ribs, especially with Black Beans, is something I cook regularly at home but it is also a regular on dim sum menus everywhere. I most commonly prepare this as an entrée sized dish but a small plate of two or three makes a lovely snack at any time…

Generally, small sections of pork rib are dusted in flour after being lightly seasoned and then steamed with Chinese Salted Black Beans along with soy sauce, or rice wine, so that a nice light sauce is produced. Chilli can be included, as well as sugar, and the flour thickens things very nicely.

What was different about the ones I ate in in Vancouver’s New Town Restaurant recently (and pictured above) was the addition of a slice of Chinese Preserved Sausage. This added a unique umami depth and obviated the need for any additional sugar or other sweetener. I have not come across this before but I will be incorporating it in my own preparations in the future for sure…

Oil Sizzled Shrimp

Oil Sizzled Shrimp 1

Today’s little appetizer is adapted from a Chinese recipe I first tried many, many years ago. I can’t quite recall where I saw it, but I am fairly sure it is Cantonese. Although it is ‘oil sizzled’ the shrimp are actually first steamed with some aromatics, and hot oil is drizzled over them just before serving to really enhance the flavor. Once you have done the finicky part of ‘prepping’ the shrimp, the process is pretty easy… Continue reading “Oil Sizzled Shrimp”

Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Gato Negro

Well folks, this is the very first wine review I have attempted here at Sybaritica. I am going to be tweaking the format a little as I go, so I would appreciate any suggestions you might have to offer.

Anyway, today’s selection is a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, and the pertinent details are as follows:

  • Winery: Vina San Pedro Tarapaca SA
  • Region: Valle Central,  (Valle del Maule Subregion)
  • Price: $9.45 CDN
  • Alcohol: 13%
  • Sugar: 5.0 g/L

As you can see, I have given this wine a 5 star rating. I don’t expect this to be a common rating in my reviews and, as we shall see anon, this particular rating is somewhat qualified… Now, on to the review:

The color of the wine is a very dark, purple red, and it is fairly full bodied with a smooth, but not quite velvety texture. The nose immediately strikes you with a generic red berry fruitiness that quickly develops a deep blackcurrant quality, and there are some floral highlights and a background  vegetal quality that expresses itself most with a slightly sharp hint of stinging nettles.

The overall effect is off-dry, with moderate acidity, and tannins that are largely smooth throughout, but which produce a mild astringent effect near the end. On the palate, blackcurrant definitely dominates, but what I liked best about this wine was a fruity tang near the end that was very reminiscent of the wine-gum candies I used to love as a kid. There is a little spice component, that complements the candied wine-gum quality, and also, lurking in the mix, a very faint touch of licorice.

It is not a classically ‘great’ wine, by any means… the finish is a bit short and a rustic roughness makes it difficult to qualify it as well-rounded, but it is eminently drinkable, and, when you factor in the very low price, I would raise it from a four to a (qualified) five star rating. as being something I would buy to have on hand.

 

Notable Nosh: Steamed Crab

Steamed Crab 1

This was a very nice dish I enjoyed at a Chinese restaurant on my summer trip to Vancouver. The restaurant kept their own crabs alive in a tank (see the inset) allowing me to choose my ‘victim’ for the kitchen to prepare in a style of my choice… This was the first time I have been able to do this, and I really enjoyed it.

As to the type of crab … during my visit to Vancouver’s Chinatown, I saw several tanks of crab in various fishmongers… all the same type of crab… and in some notices, they were identified as 大肉蟹 which would be pronounced as ‘dà ròu xiè’ in Mandarin and could mean either ‘pork crab’ or ‘big meat crab’ depending on whether you treat the first two characters as stand-alone, or a compound. I asked my server what the crabs were called and she first said ‘Vancouver Crab’ but when I asked her what she called them, she said something that was so close to the aforesaid Mandarin rendering that I am pretty sure that it was the Cantonese equivalent (it was a Hong Kong style restaurant, after all). Anyway … I recall having Dungeness Crab in BC some 12 years ago and these looked the same so, upon comparing the shell markings to those in pictures of Dungeness Crab at Wikipedia, I am convinced that this is what I was served…

As to the preparation, I was given the choice of several different ways (all steamed) amongst which were included: black bean sauce, garlic sauce, ginger and scallion, and some sort of cream sauce… I chose the garlic. In retrospect, I think I probably should have gone with the ginger and scallion as ginger really does work well with crab (and fish in general), while the garlic came across as a little oily tasting after vigorous steaming. Still, I enjoyed it immensely, and, while it was a very messy dish to eat, the meat was so succulent and sweet I could have eaten two of the sizeable beasts. My final thought on completing this meal was to regret the unavailability of live crab in my own community so that I could reproduce the experience myself…

Chilli Clams

Chili Clams 1

A while back, I had some leftover King Crab legs after making a seafood soup. The crab was, unfortunately, not the best quality and I decided to jazz them up a little with a spicy sauce. I took as my inspiration the very popular Singapore Chilli Crab and made a ‘quick and dirty’, less complex version of the sauce for that dish that was based primarily on simple canned tomato sauce with Sriracha Sauce for the fire. Anyway, the end product was very good (despite the poor crab) and I wanted to reproduce it. Unfortunately, the only crab I could find was the same poor quality brand I had the first time, and Snow Crab, which I don’t much care for. Instead, I decided to use some clams I had in my freezer and the result was even nicer… Continue reading “Chilli Clams”

Notable Nosh: Pork Rillettes

Pork Rillettes

Rillettes is a specialty of French cuisine that can be thought of as something of a cross between the rustic Confit and a fine Pâté. Like a confit, it uses salt and fat to preserve meat but, as with the confit, the preserving process produces a lovely result that is prized in and of itself. It has been many years since I last made a batch, and I am still planning to post the recipe when I finally do again, but, for now, I am just going to share with you the very pleasant version I had at Play Food Wine in Ottawa not long ago…

This rillettes dish came with slices of pickled cucumber. They were clearly not a lactic acid ferment type, but were made using a very mild and slightly sweet vinegar. What set these apart is that the pickling medium also included some finely shredded seaweed of some sort (Wakame, perhaps), and this added a different level of flavor that was both unexpected and very good.

The rillettes here were quite bit more finely processed than others I have had. My own have tended to be quite granular in consistency, and others can be composed of tiny shreds, but these were very smooth and quite unctuous, almost like a pâté, in fact. The mix was not heavily seasoned, indeed, other than the expected salt, the only thing I could identify were some tiny brown mustard seeds. These, surprisingly, were softened to the point that I had absolutely no sensation of biting into seeds and their flavor had obviously been given up to the blend. The result was anything but bland, though, and the pork really spoke for itself without a lot of additional enhancement. I have to say that my own efforts, thus far, haven’t exceeded this particular dish.