Sunday, January 15, 2012

China - Day 3

Yes, it has been a really long time.  I'm not going to go into why - that is for next post.  I can tell you that I am back to cooking.  Two more countries checked off and I've already got a few recipe ideas for the countries after that.  No, I have not given up.

Please assume I had witty and hilarious things planned for this post.  I just forgot them all.

So, China.  I already made duck and vegetable stir fry, pot stickers and kung pao chicken.  I really wanted to make quail for the third day.  Kevin however, had other ideas.  And I obliged him.  Partially because he is cute and partially because it seemed like a good idea.

For him I would make Char Siu, or Cantonese Roast Pork.  The best part of that is Char Siu was one of the ingredients in Yangchow Fried Rice.  He could get a lot of his favorite things all in one meal.  It also seemed like a good way to round out our Chinese experience.

"Lean pork butt" was the cut of meat that the recipe called for, and I think I hit the jackpot.
The thin lice are much better than the thick ones.
You cut the pork into strips and then set it in a marinade for 1 - 3 hours.  I can get behind a recipe like this.  Not a ton of chopping.

Light soy sauce, sesame paste, brown bean paste, hoisin sauce, and Chinese five-spice powder.  More common ingredients not pictured.
While that sits it is on to the fried rice.  I made Kevin help me a lot because (1) it was his pick and (2) I told him he had to if we were going to keep the shrimp in the recipe.  I do not mix well with seafood.

This involved a lot more chopping.  There were four types of meat (chicken, shrimp, roast pork, and Chinese ham) alone.  I never found Chinese ham...hopefully the Canadian kind was acceptable.

Both the shrimp and chicken were marinated in their own sauce.  They both involved dry sherry, egg, white pepper, cornstarch, and sesame oil.  In fact, the biggest difference was whole egg vs an egg white.
My skills are unmatched.
We also got another chance to hydrate some dry mushrooms.  Yay!  This went with the other vegetables: carrots, green peas, cooked rice, and green onions.
They don't exactly look like the most appetizing things.
The consistency is very soft and velvety when they are done.
The pork had to cook before we could get too far with the fried rice, since it was one of the ingredients.  To do this we skewered the pork and roasted it.  We were supposed to actually hook the skewers to the top shelf and have them hang over a pan of boiling water.  Didn't have the right equipment for that, though, so we made do.
After 40 minutes, you baste the meat with a combination of honey, mirin wine, and sesame oil.  It smelled absolutely amazing.  Ten minutes later, the meat is ready to go!

Anxious to get his fried rice, Kevin immediately began dissecting it.

From there you are mostly stir-frying the ingredients.  They get cooked in groups and removed.  First some meat, then some others, then some vegetables.  There was an egg getting scrambled in there too.  Add some rice and then everything else back in for a bit and you have fried rice.

Scrambling an egg in a wok feels like using a sledgehammer for a nail to hang a picture.

More sesame oil, white pepper, and salt finishes off the dish and everything is ready to be served!

I can eat too?
The pork was delicious.  I think this is what we were looking for.  There was a lot of stuff I wouldn't have used on my own: mirin wine, brown bean paste, hoisin sauce.  There wasn't a lot of chopping that slows me down or complicated cooking maneuvers.  Simple and fragrant and delicious.  The honey really helped to bring everything together and make a unique taste.  I plan on making it again.

The fried rice was good.  Not quite what we were expecting, but we are American and have only eaten the kinds you get a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurants.  Drenched in salt and soy sauce.  This wasn't like that.  The flavors were much more subtle and delicate.  Probably much better, just something to get used to.  Can't expect the in-your-face version from your local delivery place.

Overall, what did I learn from China?  I learned that a country as big as they are can have very varied cuisine, which is not very surprising.  I learned the Chinese food I am eating here is sometimes closer to the real thing than I thought.  Sometimes much farther away.  But mostly I learned about ingredients.  I learned how amazing sesame oil smells.  I learned to not be afraid of something called brown bean paste.  I learned about some of the subtleties of soy sauce.  And I learned I was to use all of the stuff I went out and bought again.

Next time: Colombia

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