Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Daddy taught me: Spring in a glass

With the abundance of fruit this season, juicing and smoothie making comes naturally and constantly.  Enjoy the beautiful mix of fruit below. The frozen watermelon and banana gives texture and thickness and long an provides a natural sweetness with creamy tones.

Spring in a glass

200 ml milk
11/2 cups plain yoghurt
250 g paw-paw (don't you love that name)
300 g watermelon, frozen
2 large bananas, frozen
1 tbsp brown sugar
8 long an
Juice of one orange
*Dash of Angostura Bitters

1. Cut fruit based on your blender. If you got one of those super bullet thingy, no cutting for you. For an ordinary blender, cube with compassion.

2. First blend frozen and then fresh fruit together. Follow up with liquids and sugar. Lastly but optional, Angostura Bitters.

3. Decorate with edible flowers or sprinkle with bee pollen for the true spirit of Spring.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tea Cup: 王老吉 Wanglaoji

2 layer Hot Pot: Safety inside, fire outside.

In Chongqing, the city of spice and 麻 (numbness), yin and yang come into play and save the day. Eating hot pot is always accompanied with drinks of some kind. Coca Cola, orange juice and bean milk for the kids,  local beer for the after work lime and bai jiu (Chinese white liquor) for those who have mislocated their nerve endings. However for the first timers, not so often-ers and the 'never will get accustom-ers', this particular drink can prevent bruised tongues and bruised egos. Imagine diving into your hot pot, underestimating the waves of pepper before you but despite the danger, you don't want to leave just yet. Wang lao ji is the banana boat that allows you to keep the fun and thrill all at once.
Wang lao ji is a natural plant beverage with the ability to 'remove' heat from the body. All it needs is a super-hero endorsement. The mixture is made up of Mesona chinensis*, common frangipani, Microcos paniculata*, chrysanthemum, honey suckle, Prunella vulgaris*, and licorice root along with water and sugar. The healing properties of these plants include removing heat as mentioned, regulating the liver and kidney, halting dysentery and treating fevers and headaches. They are brewed together in a proportion known only to the makers. The result is a dark, sweet tea with slight velvety and bitter tones. First time drinking it, it awakens the taste buds and you may not like it. Try it a couple months later and you may not even recognize it. My story, at least.

This household drink even has its own name scandal but you'll have to come to Chongqing for me to share it with you. Over a hot pot dinner of course!

*Common name unknown

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bite me:自制香肠 Home-made Chinese Sausage

This week I had the opportunity of eating a Chongqing home-made sausage. You know something is home made when you can identify each ingredient's flavor distinctly. The preparation method is very traditional and usually practiced around Spring Festival when meat is plentiful and the weather is cool enough to prevent spoilage. It is much preferred to store in open air since a freezer tends to alter its flavor and quality. Hence, by the time Chongqing summer of 40 C comes around, most of the sausage will be finished. Basically, small pieces of pork are cured in salt, black pepper, prickly ash pepper (if you live in Southwest China), and Báijiǔ 白酒 (Chinese white spirits). After deep marinating, it is stuffed into sausage skins, tied at equal intervals and then hung throughout the kitchen to dry.  You may want to avoid night visits to the fridge for a while.

Before cooking, the sausage is soaked in warm water (55 C) for about an hour and then rinsed to remove excess salt. Finally it is boiled for 20 minutes and ready to eat. It is mainly served as its own dish. Left overs can be cut into fine pieces and used in fried rice. Flavor is compared among aunties and grannies, along with compliments and next year's requests.

This is nothing like your store-bought sausage because for one, the meat is chopped not ground or minced. You really feel like you are chewing on something. Secondly, you know exactly what you are eating, not isn't questionable body parts or left overs. After avoiding sausages for a long time, this makes me consider eating them again.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bite me: 大盘鸡 Big Plate O' Chicken

This dish makes you re-evaluate the way you think of chicken. From the north-west of China, the people of Xin Jiang 新疆 bring a blend of spices that always hits the spot when I have craving for curry. Truth is, a new craving has developed. Tomato sauce is flavoured with chili peppers, prickly ash peppers, green peppers, white onions, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cardamon and aniseed. Phew...just about every spice in the book. By the time the chicken and potatoes are 'cousumered' in this sauce, the final flavor develops into that familiar home made curry taste. Now you know why we appreciate this so much in Chongqing.

Of course the final choice and proportions of spices vary from restaurant to restaurant so it's up to the chef to do you right. Extra veg like spinach, cabbage or carrots may be added. It is served with a humble home made bread, noodles or rice. As seen by the BIG plate, the more the merrier so don't be stingy with this one.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

真的吗:Home in a Suitcase

I'm not sure if this is just a Caribbean thing, but generally when we prepare to leave home for a long period of time, we are loaded blessed with many gifts and essentials of food and the like. Kind of like young Maroon warriors on their first hunt after passing the Coming of Manhood ceremony. Kind of like maybe we may never see home again. Or just in case we land on a deserted island, we have all that we need. Smoke signal who?

I don't know about you but for the most part I'm grateful. Once I accomplish carrying those heavy logs of suitcases to my abode and receive a restorative Chinese massage, I go straight into promotion mode. Start marketing my goods as organic, untainted and the best tasting in the world. It also brings out the collectivist in me as I ration my treats to last as long as they can. Two minutes on a packet of ginger fudge seems long enough. Okay, I'm just kidding. But it takes muscles of control not to.

This time around my 'Home in a Suitcase' contains...

  • Confectioneries like Coconut Sugar Cake, Fudge, Tamarind balls and Guava Cheese

Cocconut Sugar Cake
Tamarind Balls and Guava Cheese 
Milk Fudge

  • Definitely Cocoa balls for cocoa tea. Also spices and herbs for all my cooking and baking needs like nutmeg, cinnamon, mint, rosemary, curry. Food never taste like home without condiments from home.

  • Angostura Bitters for sure. As a kid, before there was rum and coke, there was bitters and coke for all your diarrhea needs. It took me years to distinguish the taste from the memory and it's maybe the reason why I have never had Coca Cola cravings. However Angostura Bitters has proven to add that kick to any recipe and is quite the kitchen wing man.

  • Without Clarks Court Pure White Rum, my Sorrel Drink is incomplete. And it doesn't hurt to share with friends.

  • Saltfish for a finger-licking saltfish souse. To be welcomed by warm Coconut Bakes or Dumplings.

  • Farine which is a Cassava cereal has a variety of uses. Porridge, dumplings, baking and best of all mixed up some granulated sugar and eaten raw ( I'm an 80s baby). 

  • Snacks play a pivotal role in how long I spend in the books. There has to be some scientific explanation as to why one must snack while studying and why it is so effective. I will get to the bottom of this.

  • Fruit Cake and Bread from the Aunties to make up for missing Christmas.

  • Cheese. Real Cheese. Foreigners who live in China will understand.

  • Jam and jellies from De La Grenade. This brand is synonymous with nutmeg in Grenada for quite some time. Quality product from a quality source.

Nutmeg syrup, Nutmeg Jam, Nutmeg Jelly

Sometimes I worry that 20 years from now, most of these foods won't be available and my tummy will go into withdrawal. If you had a choice, what local food item would you carry into the future?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bite me: 巧克力香草莓 Chocolate Strawberries

Firstly, much thanks to marvelous person who came up with chocolate-covered strawberries. A combination of heart shaped berries and the food of the gods can only be considered eternal bliss. Seems like the Chinese have taken it a notch higher and placed the chocolate flavor in the strawberries.

The vendor claimed that chocolate was used in the growing process to accomplish the flavor fusion. To add to the hype, he offered to sell me milk flavored strawberries while treating me to a mischievous eye twinkle. Felt like Snow White buying that dreadfully beautiful apple. Playing along, I purchased a couple and put my friends to the test.

At first sniff, most persons registered notes of pineapple and of course strawberry but definitely nothing of a chocolate nature. It was much sweeter and less acidic that the most strawberries, especially as the season is coming to an end, so at least the vendor kept his promise that it was more 'deelishush'.

At the end of the day I was going to have my chocolate strawberries so I did what anyone would in my position. I melted 2 squares Belmont Estate Nib-a-licious Dark Chocolate. Double the antioxidants, double the fun...Next time I'm buying cheese flavored watermolon *wink wink*