Posted in Notable Nosh

Notable Nosh: Honey White Gourd Drink (蜂蜜冬瓜茶)

White Gourd Drink 1

As I was leaving a grocery store in Ottawa’s Chinatown recently, I happened to spy this interesting beverage in a cooler by the door and couldn’t resist giving it a try…

Although the English name of the main ingredient is ‘white gourd’ the Chinese characters translate as ‘Honey Winter Melon Tea’. The word ‘melon’ suggests a very sweet, succulent fruit in English, of course, but in Chinese, the term incorporates a far wider range of produce (a cucumber is a ‘yellow melon’, for example). I have yet to cook with the winter melon (I haven’t seen them in stores this far north), but they appear quite often in a number of Chinese dishes (soups and stir-fries especially) and are very much a savory, rather than sweet ingredient.

The ingredients for this Taiwanese product appear on the can as: Water, White Gourd, Sugar, Honey, and Caramel Flavor. On tasting, it however, I got no sense that I was drinking the juice of a vegetable . Indeed, the dominant taste was a blend of honey, caramel and, for some unaccountable reason, a slight hint of the overly rich synthetic hazelnut flavor one encounters in some commercial coffee blends. I can’t say I enjoyed it very much as there was no acidity to balance out the rather thick sweetness, and it wasn’t a drink that I can imagine being all that refreshing on a hot day. I won’t bother buying it again, I don’t think, but, hey… if you don’t try these things, how will you ever know?

Anyway, on a related note, about an hour after buying this drink, I happened to come across some actual winter melon in the produce section of another store not far away. If my travel plans permitted it, I would have happily bought one or two as this was the first time I have ever seen them outside of a restaurant and I would love to give them a try in my own kitchen. Next trip to Ottawa, perhaps…

 

 

 

Posted in Experiments, Recipes

Sweet Garlic Ribs

Although I enjoy experiencing all sorts of different foods from that varied cuisines of China, I also enjoy the western variety of ‘Chinese’ food from time to time and I have to confess to a certain weakness for the ubiquitous ‘combo’ specialty known as ‘Honey Garlic Ribs’. In truth, sugar, rather than honey, is used in just about every restaurant offering you are likely to encounter but that is actually fine by me as I have tried made with real honey on a number of occasions and wasn’t all that keen on the result.

Garlic ribs have to be pretty bad before I won’t eat them, but I am least fond of those cooked in copious amounts of sauce and braised for so long that, not only is the meat falling from the bone, but it has lost all of it’s chewy texture and flavor. This particular post will feature a version that is closely derived from a popular Chinese preparation in which fresh ribs are braised with rock sugar and fairly small amounts  of either water or stock to which soy sauce is added. My twist on the traditional kind uses regular white sugar, ribs that are previously browned, and just a little so Continue reading “Sweet Garlic Ribs”