Chinese Street Food, a cookbook review

I grew up on simple, home-cooked Cantonese food.  I remember a lot of soups, stir-fried gai lan, fried rice, stir-fried noodles, stir-fried bok choy, etc.  If my mom was feeling particularly ambitious, she’d make squid or fried fish.  But there were somethings that my mom would never make like joong (aka zongzi) because “it’s too much of a pain in the butt.”  (Totally her words, not mine.)

In short, there’s a lot of Chinese food that I missed out on.  And now that we’re all older, my mom is honestly kind of tired of cooking the same recipes over and over again.  (But not so much that she’ll acquiesce to my requests to make joong together.  lol!)

I’ve been looking for some fun cooking projects that she might like and I think I might have finally hit the jackpot.  “Chinese Street Food”, by Howie Southworth and Greg Matza, is a collection of recipes that try to capture popular street food across China, food that is the equivalent of Western casual take-out.

The book is divided into these chapters:

  • What’s in a Name?
  • Good Morning, China
  • Muslim Street
  • When Ma met La
  • You’ll Love This, We Promise
  • Simple Poetry
  • What Came With the Camels
  • Chinese Hospitality
  • Now That’s One Express Panda
  • Sweet Street

Personally, I’m not in love with these titles.  For the most part, I can’t remember what recipes are in most of the chapters.  But I’ll forgive it because I want to try all the recipes anyway.

The recipes probably most recognizable are mantou (steamed bread), biangbiang mian (table slap noodles), jianbing (pancake wraps), youtiao (fried dough stick), and (cong youbing (scallion pancakes).

But there are a lot of recipes that I completely don’t recognize and my mother doesn’t either.  The book is in English, but the recipes also come with titles in Chinese characters.  I’m not sure if they’re traditional or simplified characters, but I think they look more like traditional characters to me.  It’s enough Chinese that it sparked joy and interest in my mom.  I didn’t get a chance to ask her which ones she most interested in, but I really, REALLY want to make la niurou (cured beef), which starts off the Muslim Street chapter.  It’s basically corned beef but with Chinese seasonings.  As someone who was raised in Greater Boston and loves a good New England boiled dinner, this is a must!  (Fact!  I make corned beef every year.)

In fact, I was planning on making la niurou for this review, but I had trouble getting my hands on beef brisket in a short amount of time.  (But since the Jewish High Holy Days are around the corner, I’m hoping I’ll have an easier time of picking up some brisket this weekend or something.)

(Too bad though, I bet it would have tasted fantastic with the vegan ramen leftovers.  *blinks innocently*)

Anyway, some of the recipes that I want to make at some point are:

  • Steamed brown sugar-filled triangle buns
  • Baked sandwich buns
  • Sesame Millet Porridge
  • Red bean filled zongzi
  • Stewed pork sandwiches

While I did not make the cured beef, I did try out one of the simpler recipes in the book.  It was for peanut butter pancakes from the sweets chapter.   The ingredients were straight-forward: all purpose flour, yeast, milk, sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, eggs, oil, peanut butter, and soy sauce.  I really liked this recipe!  I’m not a huge “condiment” person so I only made a half-batch of the peanut filling which kind of reminded me of salted caramel.  I’m also not a sweet and salty person because I’m weird like that.  So when I make this again (and I *will*), I’ll probably just fill the pancakes with peanut butter or almond butter.

The pancakes themselves were easy to make.  They do require a little bit of planning because they are yeasted pancakes and need 90 minutes before cooking to bubble and rise.  But that yeast gave it a spongy texture that I really liked.  The yeast also adds a bit to the flavor.

The only thing about the recipe that I didn’t like was I wasn’t sure how big these pancakes were supposed to be.  I only knew that the recipe served 4-6, and I was supposed to use a small skillet with a lid.  (Yes, a lid.  These pancakes are not supposed to be flipped over.  You use the lid to trap steam and help cook up the top.  That was something that took me a bit to realize.)  In the end, I used two small ladles worth (as in salad dressing ladle) and made about 8 pancakes.

My overall impression of the book?  I love it.  And once you have what I consider to be the pantry ingredients, you are pretty much set to make a lot of the recipes.  There’s a lot of repeat use of dark soy sauce, Chinese black vinegar, Sichuan peppercorns, sesame seeds, sesame paste (or tahini), soy sauce, star anise, etc.  The recipes also don’t look too intimidating.

I think the next recipe I make, I’ll let my mom pick it.  (Well, if I don’t make the la niurou first.)

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to expand their knowledge of Chinese food, or someone who is looking for a fun new cooking project.

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Skyhorse Publishing for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

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Tea at the Langham Hotel, in pictures

1.  The Langham has a pink, old-fashioned looking taxi cab.

2. Their tea is more affordable than some other places around Boston, but still delicious.

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The house blends

The house blends

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Chicken salad was yummy but awkward to eat – I recommend doing it in one-shot which is not lady-like at all. Egg salad sandwiches were wonderfully life-changing, or something like that.

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delicious desserts with edible gold and silver foil

pink taxi!

pink taxi!

Missing from the pictures were are scones.  They may have been plain scones, but the raspberry jam, lemon curd, and clotted cream were awesome.  Clotted cream is like butter, except better.

In sum?  I loved it.  (^_^)

Staycation, day 4 (Mei Mei Street Kitchen)

We found it this time!  Mei Mei Street Kitchen is now under our food truck belts.

The menu offering is on the small side, compared to yesterday’s trip to Momogoose.  After much discussion, this is what we ordered:

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I got the barley salad with honey miso vinaigrette, scallions, cranberries, and peanut brittle.  (Mei Mei was able to accomodate my request for no cilantro.)

Continue reading

Staycation, day 2 (Fugu food truck)

Today, my lunch destination was the Fugu food truck.

I’ve been wanting to eat here ever since I saw their website… I might have to admit a serious interest in anything-steamed-buns.  (^_^)

Also?  I work in a location and live in a location that doesn’t have food trucks at all.  So, I feel very inclined to explore the food truck culture in Boston while I have the opportunity, especially on a gorgeous summer day like today.  (The cold air from yesterday?  Completely gone!)

First reaction?

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Fugu’s steamed buns were not what I was expecting.  The buns themselves were good (but then again, I suspect most places don’t make their own buns and source them from elsewhere).  The filling was not at all what I imagined.  Pork belly is often braised, and  theirs were very soft… but I think I wanted something like a quick sear on the pork.  A bit of crunch would have given it a nice contrast in texture with the fat.  The part that I was really nitpicking over the most was the sauce.  I don’t know why, but it tasted like it came out of a jar to me.  It’s probably just a personal taste preference thing… that or my taste buds are seriously spoiled by the steamed buns at Basho (which are pretty stellar, by the way).

No worries, though. Continue reading

Zukay Kvass

Disclaimer:  I’m not getting paid for this review in any way.  I won some in a giveaway and I thought it would be fun to take photos.  And then I thought that if I were going to go through the trouble of taking pictures, then I might as well review.
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I don’t know how to write reviews for a product that I both love and hate.  This is probably not the way to start a post, but there you go.  I am not the world’s greatest writer.

What do I like about Zukay kvass?  I like that it comes in different flavors.  I like that it’s a fermented drink.  I like fermented things!… even though I’m generally too lazy to ferment anything on a regular basis that’s not kimchi or bread.  Probiotics are good for you.  Natural, organic foods are good for you.  There is nothing to dislike about these drinks!  I even like the official website (I’m a nerd that way).

The one and only one thing that is keeping me from diving off the deep end into full-fangirl mode is that Zukay kvass are gently sweetened with stevia.  Even though it’s raw and unprocessed stevia, it still has that fake-sugar sweetness that is not my thing.  I’m not suggesting that I’m a sugar fiend.  I just have trouble with the flavor of many sugar substitutes.

I wish there were a choice of different sweeteners in the products, but that’s my only gripe.  I highly recommend Zukay kvass to anyone who is not bothered by stevia.  If you don’t like stevia, I recommend giving them a try with reservations.  I ended up drinking the kvass is intervals, instead of in one sitting.  It was a nice alternative to have on hand, but I’m sad to say that I don’t picture myself buying them regularly in the future.

Your mileage may vary.

 

Reference link:http://zukay.com/