10 Foods I Miss from China

I lived in China between 2006 and 2008. I first lived in a small town called Xiantao (near Wuhan) in Hubei province. I then lived in a larger city Zhenjiang (near Nanjing and Shanghai) in Jiangsu province. There is typical Chinese dishes found throughout China, but also foods that are very regional.

Meals in Chinese restaurants tend to be made for sharing. Every one has their bowl of rice and then there are several dishes in the centre of the table for everyone to share, like: soups, meat, fish, vegetables and tofu.  Dining out on your own can be tricky. If you’re going solo a Western franchise or street food would probably be your easiest option.

Chinese restaurants will usually bring you complementary boiled water to drink, even if you haven’t asked for it. Most Chinese people tend to prefer drinking boiled water over cold water.

vegetarian restuarant  veg restaurant food.
                                                                         vegetarian/ vegan

Vegetable dishes sometimes contain animal ingredients. There are some vegetarian restaurants which serve mostly vegan dishes. These eateries will have plant-based versions of traditional Chinese dishes and things like tofu scramble. If you don’t eat pork (猪肉 zhūròu),  lamian (soupy noodles) or anything from a lamian shop, will probably be a safe bet, as these stores are usually owned by people following a halaal diet.
       
You don’t have to be worried about getting dog meat (狗肉 gǒuròu) when you order something else, since it is considered a delicacy. At a buffet though, if you’re unsure ask someone what kind of meat (肉 ròu) it is.

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Food usually contains MSG. I could only ever find MSG in supermarkets and never any regular salt (sodium chloride).

Chinese foods I miss:

1.Stinky Tofu chou doufu 臭豆腐
Fried cubes of tofu in various spices, chilies and sauces. Usually served with brown vinegar. It’s a bit of an acquired taste for some, but strangely addictive. Mostly sold as a street food.

2.Re Gan Mian (hot dry noodles) 热干面
Street food. Noodles with spices (including chilies), things like spring onion, fresh coriander (cilantro) and a sesame sauce.  I only ever found this in Hubei province, since it is a regional cuisine. This is one of the foods I miss the most.

3.Fresh water-chestnuts  热干面
Chinese people like to eat freshly peeled water chestnuts.  You can even buy several water chestnuts on a stick as street food. I ate quite a lot of them. They’re a bit like a fresh pear, yet different. In south Africa you can only buy them in cans from Asian supermarkets. Canned water chestnut taste HORRIBLE raw. They’re okay in stir fries, but I’m not a big fan.

4.Lotus root ou / lian ou 莲藕
The root of  the lotus (water plant).  It can be prepared in various ways, including: boiled, fried or pickled. Tastiness depends on how it’s cooked. Lotus root is very common in Chinese cuisine and I miss it.

Steamed buns (bao 包) and dumplings (jiao 饺)
There are various types of steamed buns, including plain and with vegetable or meaty fillings. Bao are often eating for breakfast accompanied by a cup of sweet soy milk. Dumplings can be fried or steamed and can also have vegetable or meat fillings. Vegetable fillings may contain animal fat “for flavour”, so be aware of that.

6. Chinese greens vegetable: 蔬菜 shucai
Varies types of leafy greens, shoots and stem vegetables, often made with oil and garlic. (Some cooks will add bacon fat or lard to the veggies, with out specifying. So if you’re vegetarian/vegan/kosher/halaal look out for that.)

7. Pumpkin & Turnip
A restaurant dish.  You should be easily able to recognize it from the menu picture. It is shaped like a yin-yang with mashed pumpkin as the one half and mashed turnip as the other.  Something like pickeled onions will usually serve as the circles inside the two parts of the yin-yang. These two vegetables complement each other well. Again this is something you could probably easily make at home (Assuming you turnips are readily available and your cohabitants like pumpkin).

8. Fried eggplant eggplant: qiezi 茄子
Eggplant friend in oil with chilies and spices.  You could probably make this at home, though I don’t really make a lot of fried foods. In China I ate this all the time. At restaurants, at people’s houses and in school cafeterias (I was an English teacher).

9. Street barbecue
In my first few months in China, before I stopped eating meat, I used to eat a lot of barbecued mutton on skewers. Later, I ate things like barbecue eggplant, corn and other veggies.  Barbecued foods reminded me a bit of home. Though I never saw any Chinese people having a backyard barbecue.

10. Milk Tea (bubble tea)  naicha 奶茶
I used to drink this all the time. It’s was very popular with my Chinese friends (mostly women in their early twenties) . They have all sorts of flavours including strawberry, watermelon and chocolate. My favourite was taro and black sesame. I once had a lavender flavour which was the best thing ever.  Available hot or cold. Chinese people actually drink a lot of hot beverages, even things Westerners would normally drink iced. (A friend once bought me a orange juice from a KFC. It was hot! It completely took me by surprise. )
A few years ago a Asian drinks store selling things like bubble milk opened near my house. It wasn’t as good. Or maybe I just lost my taste for it. I don’r consume a lot of dairy these days, due to my food allergy.

©lowercase v   2017

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Foodie Alphabet

Nobody actually tagged me in this challenge, but I saw it on Beafree‘s blog, so I thought I’d do it just for fun. List a food you like, starting with that letter,  for every letter of the alphabet. I tag whoever feels like doing this. 🙂

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Apricots
Burgers (veggie burger!)
Coconut
Daiquiri
Edamame
Falafel
Garlic
Hummus
Irish coffee
Jalapeños
Kiwi fruit
Lentils
Mangoes
Nachos
Olives
Pizza
Quinoa (Could not think of a different one. Also, I eat quinoa all the time!)
Roti (the Indian wraps with a curry filling. veg/bean roti)
Smoothies
Tequila (that counts, right?)
Ugli fruit (okay I have not actually tried this, but it sounds cool)
Vanilla
White chocolate
X-mas cookies?
Ystervarkies (Afrikaans for Lamingtons, the Australian cakes). If that doesn’t count, then yogurt.
Zucchini

Peanut Oat Cookies

Yields up 12 dozen cookies.

This is a cookie from my childhood.  The are really scrumptious. My mother found the recipe in a 1990 collection called: Die Beste van Huisgenoot Wenresepte (published in English as: The Best of Winning Recipes from Huisgenoot).   Huisgenoot is a Afrikaans, South African magazine, also published in English as You.  The recipe was called “Koekies vir hongerige kinders” (Cookies for hungry-ish kids) and was submitted by a Mrs SJ Nel.

Supposedly this can yield up to 12 dozen cookies (yikes!), but I made mine kinda big so I got about 6 dozen.   Yeah, it’s a rather large recipe (so make sure you’re using a LARGE mixing bowl). You could probably half or quarter it. Or make the whole thing and have cookies for days!

peanutoat cookies

INGREDIENTS:

500 g/ 1 lb (2 cups)  baking margarine*
1½ cups soft brown sugar
4 eggs
1½ cups white sugar
425 g (800 ml /  3 cups + 3 Tbsp)  cake flour
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
200 g (1½ cups) peanuts (salt/ unsalted according to preference)
6 cups oats
2 tsp Vanilla essence

*I  normally use butter.  I sometimes replace 1/5  of the butter with  ±¼ cup peanut butter

Note:
If you mistakenly use barbecue flavoured peanuts it will be weird… edible, but weird (unless you’re into that kind of flavour profile, then go ahead and try it on purpose).

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C (350° F) — if your oven takes long. I usually do this just before putting the do onto the trays.
  2. Grease/ spray baking trays
  3. Cream  (with a mixer) the butter and brown sugar
  4. In a different bowl beat the eggs and white sugar until fluffy and most of  the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Add the egg mixture to the butter mixture and mix well.
  6. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together.
  7. Mix the sifted ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well.
  8. Add the peanuts, oats and vanilla and mix well
  9. Roll the dough into little balls and place on the baking tray and flatten with a fork…
    or scoop dough onto the trays with a spoon.  The dough spreads out quite a bit during baking,  so keep it smallish (unless you want giant cookies),  with enough space between cookies.
  10. Bake 16-20 minutes until golden brown.
  11. Allow to cool on cooling rack.

 

©lowercase v     2017 

 

 

White Chocolate Fail

I absolutely adore white chocolate. it is however the unhealthiest of chocolate varieties. It contains no cacao solid/powder and is loaded with sugar and other additives.

I tried to make my own dairy-free, sugar-free white chocolate with some cacao butter (which, by the way isn’t cheap).

I melted a chunk of cacao butter (it does smell like white chocolate!) and added some coconut oil, a teaspoon of coconut sugar and a teaspoon of stevia leaf powder. The mixture was a dark green slick oil.

I poured it into a small plastic ice-tray. The granulated coconut oil sat behind in the saucepan. Once it set, I could see that the stevia had sunk to the bottom of the mould.  A liquid sweetener would probably have been a better option.

white choc fail

It didn’t tasted too horrible, but it wasn’t even close to the treat I had hoped for.

I guess I’ll keep these blocks in the fridge, re-melt them at some point and add cocoa powder to make chocolates.

Have you ever made your own white chocolate?

©lowercase v   2017

 

Cardamom Cupcakes with Rose Frosting

On a whim I decided to bake  cupcakes today since it’s my dog’s gotcha day (adoption anniversary) and my birthday will be during the week.

I deliberately substituted some of the sugar in the cupcakes with stevia, since the icing would add a lot more sugar to the treat and I normally avoid sugar.

I ended up substituting some of the flour with brown rice flour, but that was simply because I didn’t have enough cake flour.

I considered using soy milk instead of dairy, but I was using wheat and sugar and the “normal eaters” don’t like soy milk, so I went with the dairy

I was going to bake some cookies for my dog as well, but I used the last of the eggs in the cupcakes… so dog biscuits will have to wait.

The cup cakes turned out to be pretty damn good. They do have a slight greenish hue due to the stevia leaf powder , but they taste amazing.  They go really well with coffee.

The are neither vegan nor gluten-free, but a slightly healthier version of regular cupcakes.  Here’s how I made them today.

 

Cardamom and Rose Cupcakes:

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Yields: 12-16 cupcakes. ( I got 15 cupcakes from this batter)

Ingredients:
1½ cup flour
1 cup brown rice flour
2 Tbsp psyllium husk (added because of the rice flour,  but also lowers GI)
½ tsp  baking powder
½tsp   bicarbonate of soda
½tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar,  or buttermilk.
1 tsp vanilla essence
½ cup sugar
1 tsp stevia powder
½ cup oil (or butter)
3 extra-large eggs

Method:

  1. Add the ACV to the milk and allow to curdle.
  2. Grease/spray a cup cake pan or line the pan with paper cups.
  3. Preheat oven to 180°C (350° F).  (My oven heats quickly, so I only switch it on before
    pouring the batter into the cups).
  4. Whisk together the dry ingredients.
  5. Stir vanilla into the milk.
  6. With a mixer, mix the sugar, oil and one egg. Add the other eggs one by one. Add stevia and mix until creamy.
  7. Add half the dry ingredients to the sugar/egg/oil mix. Mix well.
    Mix in half the milk.
  8. Mix in the rest of the dry ingredients followed by the rest of the milk.
  9. Pour batter into cups.
  10. Bake in oven for about 14-18 minutes… until pin/knife comes out clean.
  11. Allow to cool before icing.

Frosting:
(I didn’t measure the quantities for the icing, but you can use a normal butter-cream frosting recipe and just add rosewater flavouring)
Sifted icing sugar
room temperature butter
½ tsp vanilla essence
2 tsp rosewater.

  • Whisk  together ingredients with a mixer, creamy and pale with a mixer.
    (I mixed it with a spoon first before, to prevent icing dust spraying everywhere)
  • Smear onto cupcakes with a knife… or use a piping bag to decorate.

 

©lowercase _v 2017 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Mango Salad

There are many great recipes online for green mango salad, this is how I make mine. Sometimes the mangoes are ripe and it’s still pretty good. If you have a peanut allergy, use almonds (I’ve used raw almonds in this salad before and it was great).

mango-salad

INGREDIENTS:

Salad:
1-2 Large green Mangoes
1 Medium Carrot
Salad leaves (optional)
½ cup Fresh Mint leaves
¼- ½ cup Spring Onions, or 1 small onion (red onion works really nicely)
Bean sprouts (optional)
1/2 cup Peanuts
2 tablespoon desiccated Coconut (dried coconut), roasted

Dressing:
3 tablespoon Soy Sauce (Or  sesame/ grape seed oil plus 1/2 teaspoon salt)
3 tablespoon Lime or lemon juice  (I mostly use lemon, because it’s cheaper)
1 tablespoon agave, honey or brown sugar (or a few drops of stevia).
1 teaspoon Hot Sauce (or a 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cayenne/red pepper)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Roast the coconut.(In a sauce pan on the stove, stir occasionally, until brown.)
  • Chop the leaves and mint and put into a salad bowl.
  • Peel and coarsely grate, or chop  the carrot and mangoes and add to leaves.
  • Chop the onion / spring onions and add.
  • Add bean sprouts and peanuts.
  • Blend/ Mix the dressing ingredients together.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and mix everything through.
  • Sprinkle the roasted coconut over the salad.

 

 

©lowercase v 2017 

Tasted: Krispy Kremes

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts only recently came to South Africa. I once had a striped glaze Krispy Kreme at Hong Kong airport,  10 years ago. I’ve been looking forward to finding them here in SA. Today I saw a Krispy Kreme store at the mall, so I decided to take some donuts home.

I got 3 original glazed donuts 3 assorted frosting/ fillings to share.  (So I had one original and a third of each of the others. )

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Cookies N Kreme:
I love cookies & cream ice-cream. As a donuts topping, not so much. It was okay

Caramel Kreme Crunch:
Delicious. Though extremely sweet.  Too much filling for my taste. Most of the filling fell out when I shared the donut. I didn’t eat the spilled filling. Though overall, a very tasty piece of baked good(s).

New York Cheese Cake: 
I loved the filling. I’d eat it on it’s own. It overpowered the donut tough.

Original Glazed:
My favourite. Absolutely the best donut.

It was lots of fun to try the different flavours and I might try some more in future, but I think the original is still the best. If you just get one donut, go for that one.

They weren’t terribly expensive considering it’s a foreign franchise, though they’re not prices like super market donuts either.  For a special treat, they are reasonably priced. The order cost R71.40  (± $5.45).

 

©lowercase v 2017