Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mommy taught me: Fried Rice

One beautiful week in September, Ochro appeared in the supermarket. Mind you, I hated this vegetable at home, but when you're thousands of miles away from the people and things you love, all of that goes out the window. I immediately hauled a bag and raced home to prepare it. Problem was, since I didn't eat it that much, I didn't know where to start. So I did what any hungry person would do; I got creative or as Tim Gunn would say: Made it work. Here's a fried rice that takes Caribbean seasonings and local ingredients for the perfect blend of two homes in one.

Island Chao Fan (fried rice)

2 cups cooked rice, cooled (I usually flavor with rosemary and garlic)
1/4 cup carrot, diced
1/4 cup ochro, thinely sliced
1/4 cup tofu gan, diced
Chopped onion
Chopped green peppers
Dash of cumin
Black pepper and salt to taste
Favorite oil

1. Pour about 2 tsp of oil in the heated pan. Add seasonings and saute for about 30 seconds.

2. Add vegetables and tofu and stir constantly until cooked. When the ochro begins drying up is a good sign.

3. Add rice and mix together with vegetables.  When thoroughly cooked, serve with your favorite side dish.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bite me: 饺子 Chinese dumplings

Freshly wrapped dumplings ready to boil
Let's have a quick vocabulary lesson: A Caribbean dumpling is a tight dough of flour, water and salt that is boiled and served with salted fish, stewed chicken or steamed provision. Shapes vary from island to island and include long rods, table tennis balls or flat pancake. A Chinese dumpling uses a flat, thinner dough which is wrapped around minced meat or vegetables with a sophisticated, decorative close. Like Caribbean dumplings, technique is of paramount importance, and a skilled master can fold as many as 100 dumplings in 15 mins.
Boiled dumplings, best eaten hot.
The name is said to come from the Chinese word for horn (Jiǎo, 角) because of its shape, until it was eventually given its own character (Jiǎo,饺). Pork, beef, cabbage, and mushrooms  are common and delicious fillings. Dumplings can be boiled, steamed or fried and trust me, they taste AH-MUH-ZING.  They are mainly served with soy sauce and in Chongqing you gotta add that chili. Although enjoyed all year round, they are the must-have of Chinese new year, especially in northern China..sort of like salted ham is to Caribbean Christmas.
Steamed dumplings eaten fresh from a bamboo basket
I'm not sure why the dumpling lost its filling when it got to the Caribbean but I am grateful for both versions. So whether it's fighting over the last dumpling from a pot of Grenadian oil down or finishing a bamboo basket of steamed pork dumplings all by myself, you can ALWAYS count me in.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Bite me: 柿子 Persimmons

I've never seen the supermarket look so orange or filled with oranges. That's my indication that autumn is drawing to a close. And to think I nearly missed out on the most amazing fruit this season. My first thought was a sun-burnt tomato but that was impossible in this weather. Then I thought maybe a hybrid of some sorts. Yep, I was pretty lost. If you haven't figured out what fruit I'm referring to, then like I was, you're in for a sweet surprise.

Persimmons are abundant in autumn and when ripe, literally burst their skins like water balloons. The insides of this particular species are soft, pulpy and sticky sweet. Let's talk nutrients. Here in China it's said, 'Only eat an apple a day, if you can't find a persimmon' meaning it is basically twice as nutritious as your average fruit. What persimmons lack in copper and iron, they make up for in Vitamin C (daily requirement in just 100g). While you ponder on how to make persimmons a part of your life, take a glance at the table below.

Nutritional value per 25g of fruit

Vitamins (mg)

Minerals (µg)

A (µg)
B12 (µg)
Biotin (µg)
K (µg)

P (µg)


Folate - B9 (µg)

Niacin - B3

Pantothenic acid -B5

Persimmons are also great for the healthy function of your heart, lungs and stomach and removes 'heat' from your system, a necessity for us Chongqing residents. But as tempting as it is to do otherwise, only consume after a meal, using as little skin as possible.

Dried persimmon snack

Here's a little tip: If you can find this fruit in your area, freeze the pulp and make yourself a moist, lush fruit cake all year round. With health and taste in one bite, you can't go wrong.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Bite me: 山东杂粮煎饼 Shandong Multigrain Pancake

Heading back to the streets, I bring you le pancake. First let's take a glance at Shandong, one of the coastal provinces of China. With Korea and Japan as neighbours, the city maintains quite an economic presence but is obviously also well known in the cuisine department. How else would I taste a Shandong pancake in Shanghai, Hubei, Chongqing and Guangzhou....made by non-Shandongnians. So you know, somewhere on my 'Things to taste before I'm kicked out of China' list is a 100 % genuine Shandong pancake.

Starting with a multi-grain batter (杂粮),the skilled master spreads it unto a heated plate. This is joined by an egg and some chives which are heated just right to finish the race together.

It's time to fill 'er up
Now for the inside. Standard filling is meat sauce, pickled veggies, cilantro, lettuce and bumpy biscuit ( I'm pretty sure that's not the name).  Optional fillings are meat floss (肉松), pork or corn sausage and if you are in Chongqing, surely some pepper flakes.

Then it's cut in half and bagged. It's always prepared fresh because it should be eaten hot. Wish I could send you guys one because it's sooo good.  In the meantime, I'll eat as many as I can for you. Farewell till next post.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

真的吗?: Heating and Cooling foods

My supermarket is on fire this month. These rich, warn colors fill me up and over with joy and happiness. But what if I told you, they actually cool me down. Chinese medicine teaches that the body's yin (cooling) and yang(heating) can be balanced by an individual's diet and so accordingly, have arranged food into groups based on the energy they provide the body.

Let start with peppers, chili and ginger. When we consume them, we feel a burn  from mouth through tunnel to end, even hours or days later. These are considered heating foods. Other examples of high energy foods are chicken, mutton, shrimp, pumpkin, onion and some red-colored fruits. This is not a myth. Prior to my knowledge on this topic, there were two occasions where eating pumpkin soup lead to me removing my a 15 degree Celsius environment. I must also clarify that a hot meal does not guarantee making you feel hot but in fact, may cool you down depending on its main ingredients. For instance while hot green tea cools your down, hot chocolate heats you up. In Chongqing, high energy foods are often eaten to balance the effect of high humidity on the skin by literally 'pushing' the water out.

Milk, eggs, pork, beef, most beans, nuts and  fish, and in contrast to its color, carrots produce neither high or low energy and therefore serve as fillers in most meals.

Foods that remove heat are tofu, seaweed, most green vegetables and citrus fruits as well as fruits with a high water content like watermelon, pineapple and dragon fruit. What a blessing to have fruit and sunshine!

Expert holds various opinions on foods and their energies. Cooking techniques and the presence of other ingredients etc. also have the ability to change their effect. For instance, pig heart and meat are considered neutral whereas pig liver is considered heating. Therefore, these aren't hard and fast rules, just assistance when you experience different seasons and climates and need to cool down or heat up as necessary. Experiment sometime and let me know your experiences below.

For more reading check out the following links:

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bite me: 蛋挞 Egg tarts

KFC is best known for its 12 foot long smell but it's also known for its tasty desserts e.g. apple pie and parfait. In China, the most popular KFC dessert is the egg tart. It's a basic update of the European egg tart from the days when Portugal ruled Macau, south of China. It traveled further up to menus in Guangzhou, Chongqing and Chengdu and now, can be found in any Asian branch of KFC. Always served fresh and hot, this egg pudding is baked in either puff pastry or pie crust for a great snack to nibble on.
The popular KFC egg tart

The filling is slightly sweet in taste, with some versions including fruit or meat. Since it became a star (got its own television commercial), it can be found in bakeries and guess egg tart shops where they are bought by the dozen! With the winter close by, keep warm and eat with the fam.