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Kombu Tsukudani (A Japanese Seaweed Relish)

Kombu Tsukudani 1

This dish is a Japanese preparation, very much like certain sort of Korean Banchan, which uses the edible seaweed known as Kombu for its main ingredient. Like its Korean counterparts, it keeps very well, can be used as a cold side-dish, and is particularly good as a flavorful topping for plain rice. It is not the prettiest dish in the world, perhaps, but it certainly packs a lot of flavor…  Read more

Culinary Chinese: ‘Wei’ to go…

CC Wei to go 1

Today’s first picture is essentially the same as the final one in last week’s post. In that lesson, we saw that a restaurant may advertise itself as featuring   ‘Chuān cài’ (川菜), or ‘Jīng cài’ (京菜), and mean, respectively, that Sichuan or Beijing (northern) cuisine is served. As in the above picture (and our lesson 2 weeks ago), we also saw that 川味 (‘chuān wèi’) or 京味 (Jīng wèi) might be specified. If you recall, I asked you to consider what the ‘Wei’ part might mean…  Read more

Sichuan Red-Cooked Beef (紅燒牛肉)

Sichuan Red-Cooked Beef 1

I have made mention of the Chinese cookery technique known as 紅燒, or ‘red-cooking’ in previous posts, and have even illustrated it in my Red-Cooked Pork Hocks recipe. That particular dish was more in keeping with the Southern and Eastern interpretations of the idea in which meats are braised in a seasoned liquid (basically a Master Sauce) and given a reddish color from the included soy sauce and, in some cases, from caramelized sugar.

In Sichuanese cookery, the seasonings are a bit different (often including Sichuan Peppercorns and additional aromatic spices) and the red-color is augmented with the use of 辣豆瓣酱, or Chili Bean Paste. Today’s dish does not follow any particular recipe (and for an excellent example of a traditional version see Fuchsia Dunlop’s rendering in Land of Plenty) but it does represent the basic idea…  Read more

The Joyce Chen Sushi Mold

Joan Chen Mold 1

I picked this little item up at one of our local stores about a month or two before actually using it. I wasn’t especially in the market for any such device, having no immediate plans to make Nigiri style Sushi, but at a mere $6.00 it seemed worth giving a try…  Read more

Chinese Preserved Pork Belly and Daikon Soup

Preserved Pork and Daikon Soup 1

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Culinary Chinese 101: Another Cuisine…

CC Beijing Cuisine 1

Last week, we learned that the characters 川菜 appearing on a restaurant sign or menu indicate that Sichuan cuisine is served. If you recall, the 川 character, pronounced ‘chuān’, frequently appears alone as an abbreviation for 四川, or ‘Sìchuān’.

Now take a look at the above picture… You will easily be able to find the川菜 characters again. Even without any English words as a help, you can correctly conclude that both restaurants in question have Sichuan dishes on the menu. However, that does not tell the whole story as both places, in fact, specialize in two different cuisines and we can tell that by looking at the character immediately preceding the ‘Chuān cài’ characters ….  Read more

Fried Udon with Greens and Mushrooms

Fried Udon with Greens 1

Today’s recipe is not wildly exciting from an ingredient standpoint but it does illustrate a useful technique for cooking noodles that works especially well for the lovely thick Japanese variety known as ‘Udon’. Basically, the idea for this type of stir-fry is to do a preliminary frying of the noodles in a good amount of fat at high temperature so that they become slightly toasted on the outside. This gives them a nice crisp, chewy texture that adds a different dimension to the dish than one gets from adding the noodles only at the end. I am using rendered pork fat in this recipe as it really produces a great flavor but you can use just vegetable oil if you wish…  Read more

Nihaizu and Sanbaizu – Japanese Seasoned Vinegars

Nihaizu and Sanbaizu 1

Nihaizu and Sanbaizu are both seasoned vinegars used in Japanese cuisine, sometimes as marinades or the bases for dipping sauces, but primarily as dressings for the salad type preparations known as ‘Suomono’ or ‘Aemono’ dishes. In this post, we will be looking at both preparations together as they are very similar in composition and function, with the latte being a sweeter elaboration on the former. Since both will last almost indefinitely once prepared, and since they each can form the basis for a whole range of more complex dressings, they are extremely handy to have on hand in one’s refrigerator…  Read more

The Celebrated Reuben Sandwich

Reuben Sandwich 1

History is a little bit fuzzy as to the ‘Reuben’ of Reuben Sandwich fame. Some say it refers to one Reuben Kulakofsky, who made the first sandwich for some poker buddies, one of whom owned a hotel in Omaha, Nebraska and later put the sandwich on the restaurant menu. Others claim that the sandwich is named after Arnold Reuben who was the owner of the now defunct ‘Reuben’s Delicatessen’ in New York and supposedly created the specialty. Either way, it appears to have originated sometime during the first couple of decades of the last century and is now a genuine classic.

As with everything culinary, there are variations on the basic theme but the original essentially consisted of Corned Beef on Rye with Swiss cheese, Sauerkraut and Russian dressing. Nowadays, the Russian dressing is almost always replaced with Thousand Island dressing (which is somewhat similar) and one can pretty much say that this is now a classic part of the sandwich. Today, but for a few tiny changes, I am going to be adhering pretty closely to the original…  Read more

Culinary Chinese 101: ‘Introducing… Sichuan Cuisine’

CC Sichuan Cuisine 1

Thus far, we have noted that our ‘菜’ character can mean either vegetable, dish or cuisine, and, in our last post, we looked at an example of it’s employment in the former sense using the common vegetable, Bok Choy. Today, we turn to situations in which菜 is used to refer to a type cuisine and, for a first example, we will look at the famously spicy culinary tradition of China’s western province of Sichuan.

So what’s with the introductory pictures of rivers?

Well, the rivers pictured above are all in China and, as you can see, there are four of them. In Chinese, the name ‘Sichuan’ translates as ‘Four Rivers’ and, happily for our present purposes, we can use this fact to introduce a couple of new Chinese characters to our growing lexicon…  Read more

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