‘Uncategorized’ Category

  1. Made in Jiānádà: Pork and Green Beans, China-Style

    July 8, 2012 by MaryAnne


    I’m not actually anywhere near my kitchen right now. In fact, I’m out in the wilds of Vancouver Island with my family, camping outside the gates of the Island Music Fest. My laptop is being powered by one of my dad’s spare car batteries and I’m stealing wifi from one of the sound stages. Music is drifting across the Grassy Knoll. No, not that grassy knoll. The other one.

    This recipe is one I made last week, before we drove up island to the Comox Valley for a week. Our culinary excursions here have consisted of reheating things we had made earlier on the tiny propane burner in the tiny little camper.

    For the record, eggplant with minced pork (to be posted when we get back) reheats fabulously.

    This is a whole other deal, though working within the porky paradigm. This is one we have eaten many times in Shanghai, though I have to limit my intake as Doug’s less of a green bean fan than I am. If I could, I’d live on spicy minced pork with green beans (and eggplant!).

    It’s very easy to make and the prep can be done in instalments. Do a little bit, walk away, come back later and do more. Assemble and cook when you’re ready.

    It goes well as a side dish or as a main dish with rice. We actually chopped up the leftovers into little pieces and used it to fill fresh Vietnamese rice rolls (you know, the discs that you soak briefly in warm water to soften), along with fresh cilantro, vinegared onions, scallions and a squeeze of fresh lime. Gorgeous. There are no photos of this because we ate EVERYTHING.

    They call these dry fried string beans in English in the recipe (technically it’s dry stirred- gān biān 干煸 – whatever that means) but they’re actually fried in oil, which isn’t exactly parched.

    Go figure.

    I kind of want to call out a square dance with this one, but with a hearty sìjì dòu instead of a do-si-do.

    Ladies and gents, I give you pork ‘n beans. Kind of. (more…)

  2. Made in Jiānádà: Lanzhou Lāmiàn (broth!)

    June 30, 2012 by MaryAnne

    The Super-Sized dinner version

    This is part 2 in my noodle series. Part 1 (the hand pulled noodles) is here.

    This is quite possibly the best broth in the whole universe. Except, perhaps, for a fine Tom Yam with all the bark and twigs still nestled at the bottom of the bowl. This one has its own mighty collection of bark and twigs, and plays the role of hearty autumn and winter to Thailand’s fierce summer in the Cartesian dialectic of soup broths.

    This is a broth that will make you pick up the bowl and sip away at the broth until it’s gone, leaving only a few stray chili seeds at the bottom, long after the noodles and greens have been spooned/chopsticked away.  The rich beefy scent, umami’d up to the hilt with soy, garlic, star anise and cinnamon, needs to be brought up close to your nostrils as you sip. The chilies and garlic will sternly resolve any colds you may have stubbornly residing in your system.

    Keep a few Tupperware containers of this stuff in your freezer for a cold, rainy day, then note how your mood significantly lifts after you heat up a bowl of it. Seriously. This stuff is mood altering, up there with crack and bath salts. (more…)

  3. Made in Jiānádà: Garlic Shoots and Smoky Bacon

    June 28, 2012 by MaryAnne

    The knife is to fight off anyone who tries to steal your bacon.

    Welcome to Part 2 in my series of as yet undetermined length on cooking Chinese food in Canada!  Part 1 is here.

    We’re still on safe, neutral territory here- no bear paw, no jellyfish, no shark fin soup in my drafts folder, thank you very much. I’m sticking with the things I eat regularly in Shanghai (aside from those guanxi-heavy banquets for work) and I have, by nature, really simple tastes. Veggies will predominate, as they ought to. (more…)

  4. Made in Jiānádà: Garlicky Chinese cucumber salad

    June 20, 2012 by MaryAnne

    Marinating the cucumber and garlickiness for half an hour in the fridge to make it super happy.

    Er, hello.

    It’s been a while. You may remember me as the person who used Xinjiang noodle dough to make pretty much everything.

    I’ve been, one might say, busy.

    I got a new job about two months ago. I can’t remember if I mentioned it. Academic director of a new start up school. Or, as I’d hoped to have on my business card, Queen of the Fire Spiders. Did I mention that the company that is in charge of this whole project is named Fire Spider? Yes. Hot, roaring, powerful and drops from the sky out of nowhere. Can’t get more auspicious than that. (more…)

  5. Lavash crackers qui rit (and crockpot hummus)

    May 21, 2012 by MaryAnne


    Oh. Hello. You might remember me from such diverse posts as Xinjiang Noodle Dough Tacos and Xinjiang Noodle Dough Pierogies.  I’ve been slightly out of commission recently, what with suddenly having 5 jobs and all.

    I must say, it sure is a lot easier to cook when 1. you’re actually at home (I’ve been either in Hangzhou or down in Xinzhuang and Qibao in deepest, darkest South Shanghai for much of the past month) and 2. not up to your ears in new and scary work projects with terrifying deadlines.

    For the past few weeks, we’ve been living on crock pot soup, take away pizza, and neighbourhood Hunan restaurant yummies.  My drafts folder here doubled in size, full of links and titles but no actual finished product. No time.  Also, no energy.

    Today, for the first day in yonks, I didn’t have to go somewhere immediately to do something workish (that would be scheduled for this afternoon). I cleaned the flat, drank 2 pots of coffee, and made lavash crackers and hummus. By hand. Which is still cramped. (more…)

  6. Made in Jiānádà: Lanzhou Lāmiàn (noodles!)

    May 17, 2012 by MaryAnne

    The noodles in the broth, ungarnished. Really simple, really yummy.

    This is Part 1 in a series on Lanzhou noodles. Part 2 (the broth) is here.

    This one has been a long time coming. Seriously. This dish is quite possibly the one thing we have eaten the most of in China. At 6rmb a bowl (like, 80 cents, maybe) and incredibly delicious, it’s hard to beat.

    I was introduced to Lanzhou lāmiàn on my second day in the country, still jet lagged and wondering what the hell I had gotten myself into.

    February in Shanghai, 2009;  cold, grey, grim, absurdly smoggy, rainy.

    I was flat hunting with Elaine, the admin assistant from my then new job, and I kept getting shown flats that were dishearteningly dreadful and embarrassingly over-priced (the laowai effect, I presume).

    Elaine took me to lunch at a tiny Lanzhou noodle place just up the street from the flat I would eventually take (and then get booted out of 3 months later when the landlord suddenly decided he was itching to sell).  She ordered me a bowl of piping hot 牛肉 拉面(niúròu lāmiàn), or beef pulled noodles.   (more…)

  7. Caldo Xochitl Tom Ka Gai (the Chicken Soup Remix)

    May 1, 2012 by MaryAnne

    For best effect, take a spoonful of rice and dip it in the broth. Eat. Repeat.

    This one started out as just a sauce, intended to use up the tin of coconut milk that had been hanging out in our cupboard for at least the past six months.  The recipe had promised me a multitude of uses- drizzled in soup, swirled into eggs, spooned into spring rolls. It was going to be my go-to sauce this week, just as the roasted garlic oil holds a permanent position in the fridge door. (more…)

  8. Tandoori Chicken Wraps (plutôt à la chinoise)

    April 18, 2012 by MaryAnne


    Spring has sprung! Shanghai is currently alternating between gorgeous, sunny, warm days and, well, the usual grim and drizzly murkiness that seems to be its default mood. I, however, have been feeling remarkably sane (highly unusual) and have been quite busy with lots of little cooking projects this week. Last night we had fajitas (but with spicy sauteed chicken), this afternoon I made a massive new batch of roasted garlic oil,  and tonight…we had something I hadn’t made in years: tandoori chicken.

    Or rather, toaster oven chicken in a style approximating tandoori chicken. With lots of peppers to go with. Lots.

    Yesterday, Doug hit the jackpot whilst picking up dinner veggies at the wet market on Taiyuan lu and came home with the biggest bag full of red, green and yellow bell peppers ever. It’s not pepper season here. Capsicum related foodstuffs of the fresh sort are thin on the ground right now. Bell peppers are like hens’ teeth. Now the crisper in our fridge is stuffed to the gills with the suckers.

    And my god but they are magnificent! I cut one of each colour open for last night’s fajitas and he could smell them from the living room. The jus (if you can call it that) from the raw red pepper was a lovely deep red that stained the counter top. These were crazy fresh.

    Peppers! Oh, and onion. But look, peppers!

    I haven’t figured out yet what I’ll do with the other half dozen still in the fridge. I’m sure I’ll think of something. Roasted, perhaps? Try my hand at a Turkish biber salcasi? It’s all very exciting. (more…)

  9. The Infamous Hangzhou Hotel Apple Crisp

    April 10, 2012 by MaryAnne

    A fine collection of hotel apples

    Things are afoot. Now that spring has suddenly sprung here in Shanghai, many of the winter worries that had been taxing my brain are starting to resolve themselves. I won’t go into them in great detail here- that’s what my other blog is for- but I wanted to note them because they represent a huge load off my mind.

    Living where we do makes some things a lot more complicated. Take my under-employment, for example. One of the reasons why I started this blog was because I suddenly had a lot more free time when my original job kind of…um, changed last June. Luckily, my company kept me legally employed under my original contract. I still work, but less than before and with more flexible hours. You may not realize how amazing and rare this is.

    To live here, you need to be legal here; to be legal here, you need a full time job that is able to sponsor you (or a Chinese spouse); to have a full time job frequently means working your ass off for a middling salary at a place that leaves you feeling miserable… just so you can legally be where you live. Taking a break is complicated; going part time or freelancing are nearly impossible; changing careers entirely is not even an option, as you need to prove you have at least 2 years’ experience to be sponsored. I was given the gift of one year’s worth of flexibility. That year is just about up.

    As well, to live here generally means renting- unless you’re married to a local, which makes buying more feasible if you can actually afford the insane housing prices. The rental market here is not in favour of the renter, nor is it in favour of foreigners. Our lease expires at the end of May and our landlord of two years (who is lovely–a rarity here) was planning to sell the flat over the summer.

    Thus, as you can see, I was facing a mad scramble not only to find a new job to be able to stay here legally beyond summer, but also had to start looking for an affordable flat in a decent neighbourhood that hopefully wasn’t a dozen steps down aesthetically from our current one. Rental prices here have been increasing 20% each year, and our current flat was already at the top of our budget. I was very stressed.

    Last week, two amazing things happened: our landlord changed his mind and said we could have the flat another year, and I was unexpectedly headhunted for a rather promising job for the new school year.  Also, the sun finally came out.

    Spring has sprung, the skyscrapers is riz

    I could finally exhale. (more…)

  10. Wok Fajitas! Fajitas in the Wok! Fajitas con Wok!

    March 30, 2012 by MaryAnne

    When it's slathered in cheese it looks almost exactly like the tacos I made last week...

    I bet you all think I live on tortillas and cookies, yearning for cheese and chocolate and fearfully snubbing the culinary options that surround me here in Shanghai.

    I mean, that’s pretty much what this blog indicates in its persistent quest narrative, chasing after elusive sachets of gelatine or powdered sugar (found the sugar but not the gelatine), with long hours spent over a hot keyboard trying to figure out how to make mozzarella cheese without rennet (or citric acid or lightly pasteurized milk, for that matter).

    I probably come across as a laowai so firmly jammed into her expat bubble that the thought of backing away from the toaster oven sends waves of homesickness and palpable fear coursing through her body.

    This is actually more indicative of how I eat outside the flat, on a day to day basis:

    Dumpling porn

    See, I can get marvellous stuff like this for cheap (these were 10rmb, or $1.50) everywhere around me.

    Most of my breakfasts are made up of a pot (or two) of coffee at home followed by steamed buns stuffed with tofu and greens or drippy barbecued pork, or hot and savoury tea eggs, or crispy fried rice cakes or savoury mung bean flour crepes stuffed with crispy fried wonton wrappers, chives, minced pickled veggies, cilantro and hoisin sauce en route to wherever I’m going.

    I like to maintain a balance. Cheese, chocolate and tortillas on the homefront; tofu, lotus root and grated radishes outside.


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