Dried Abalone is one of those special ingredients, such as Shark fin, to use another example, that are highly prized, especially in Chinese cuisine. These sorts of delicacies typically just served for special occasions, not only because of the sheer expense, but also, because of the time-consuming preparation required.
For those unfamiliar, the Abalone is an open-shelled marine snail that is cultivated and harvested in many places around the world. The fresh meat is considered a delicacy in many cuisines, and one can also buy it canned, but the dried variety is most particularly associated with Chinese cookery. I have yet to try the fresh article myself, and so cannot compare it to the dried , but my experience is that dried abalone, while very tasty (and with a pleasant texture), owes much of its cachet, like, say, rare wines, or long-aged single malt scotches, to the expense rather than any special quality. That being said, though, it is definitely worth trying at least once… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Dried Abalone”
I have regularly had a jar of freeze-dried Chives from Litehouse™ in my cupboard for some time now and, at present, I also have jars of their Sage and Parsley as well. Those products are pretty decent, if not especially remarkable, and, when I came across a jar of their freeze-dried Lemon Grass I wanted to see if this might be a useful substitute to have on hand when the fresh article is unavailable… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Freeze-dried Lemon Grass”
When I was a law student, I shared an apartment with two other students, one of whom had recently moved to Canada from Hong Kong. Like many Chinese immigrants, he adopted a Western name for himself but his choice, which was Gordon, was rather a poor one as he couldn’t pronounce it. Accordingly, my other room-mate and I re-dubbed him ‘G’…
G. was not a particularly accomplished cook but he had learned a few basic dishes from his mother and, one of these, which he cooked on a regular basis, is the one I am preparing for you today. This preparation represents my earliest introduction to dried squid as a culinary ingredient and I have loved it ever since… Continue reading “Steamed Pork Patty with Dried Squid”
Dried Squid are used quite commonly as a cooking ingredient in the cuisines of China, Korea and the Philippines and are very popular, in various forms, as a snack food, particularly in Japan. The advantages of drying the product are not only for lengthy storage in the absence of refrigeration but, as with most dried foods, the flavor of the fresh article is considerably concentrated and enhanced.
Whole squid, untreated other than by the drying process, can be purchased in a variety of sizes, from over a foot long, to just a few inches or so in length and, once prepared for use, can be utilized in much the same was as fresh squid, albeit with some change in flavor and texture. Generally, good quality dried squid will still have quite a sweetish taste but as it ages it can be a little bitter sometimes so try and choose a product that has a nice, light color and avoid any that is very dark brown or is devoid of aroma… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Dried Squid”
My wife often buys those packages of factory-made jerkies that are almost ubiquitous in super-markets and convenience stores now. I’ll eat the odd piece occasionally but, to be honest, I am not terribly keen on any of them. I find they have very artificial, chemical tastes to them and the texture is very often very poor.
Years ago, before I was married, I used to buy some terrific beef jerky at our local farmers market. It was very simply seasoned and the thick, foot-long strips were cut lengthwise along the grain of the meat making them robust and chewy (unlike the thin, friable industrial varieties commonly available these days). It took a good 30 minutes or so to gnaw away at one of those suckers and that’s what made them so darn satisfying. Today, I am going to make some good thick pieces in the same manner, keeping the ingredients light and simple so as to leave the original taste of the meat and not completely mask it with hydrolyzed-soy and high-fructose corn-syrup… Continue reading “Beef Jerky”
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… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Chinese Preserved Pork-belly”
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… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Dried Scallops (Conpoy)”
If you have never yet used dried shrimp then you really think about adding this very versatile foodstuff to your pantry. Like mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, or raisins, the drying process concentrates the flavors of the original product and shrimp, in particular, pack an umami-punch that makes the dried variety very useful indeed… Continue reading “Foodstuff: Dried Shrimp”