December 5, 2011 by MaryAnne
As you probably already know (or don’t care), I lived in Turkey for 6 years before moving to China. For the first 2 years before I moved to Istanbul, I lived in a small city called Kayseri, on the edge of Kapadokya (aka Cappadocia to the tourism brochures). For a single foreign woman moving to Turkey, it was probably an odd choice of first destinations. It’s isolated, traditional, religious and quite conservative. I was one of maybe 4 foreigners in a city of 800,000 people.
My friends there were big on, well, fresh local food.
Most of the women there who were my age were busy at home being housewives and a huge percentage of those (if I ever saw them) wore headscarves and those ubiquitous raincoats outdoors. I was pretty much alone in my uncovered pixie cut bright red hair and, um, unique fashion sense, a glaringly bright foreign beacon amongst the sea of dark mustached men in the streets. Genders were segregated, marriages were often arranged ones and unspoken social rules were complex and frequently, embarrassingly broken by me. (more…)
Category Baked Things, Improbable Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Autumn,Flatbread,OMFG Yum,Turkish,wok,Yeast Bread,Yogurt | 14 Comments
November 22, 2011 by MaryAnne
One of the unexpected things I’ve learned over the years of living in inconvenient places and having to improvise ways of making the comfort foods of my homeland is that the home made version is so much better than the store-bought version whose absence I had grown to fetishize.
Things like a simple chicken noodle soup- I have a feeling I’ll never be able to go back to Campbell’s or Lipton now that I’ve been making my own for several years now. Hell, I even make my own noodles.
And pierogies, my old lazy adolescent stand-by? A half dozen frozen pierogies hauled out of the freezer, boiled for a few minutes and served with plain yogurt- a broke university student’s dinner of champions.
And now I’ve gone and destroyed that easy option. Why? Because home made pierogies are a hundred million bazillion times better than those frozen things. I just can’t go back. It’s a little bit heart breaking. (more…)
Category Pasta Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Autumn,frying,garlic,Lady Dough,Pasta,pierogies,wok | 11 Comments
November 13, 2011 by MaryAnne
I’m starting to think this blog should be renamed, “Watch me make flatbreads! That’s all! Kthnxbye!”
Although I’ve been busy cooking all sorts of other lovely things for our meals (remind me to tell you all about that spicy chicken noodle soup with the 2 heads of garlic some day), what has been weighing heavily on my mind has been an obsession with seeing how many different noodle dough recipes can be successfully re-jigged as unleavened flatbread dough.
I know, other people have more sensible hobbies like philately and methamphetamines but, really, I’ve got a thing for dough. Particularly multi-purpose dough. I want to mess with the noodle dough’s head until it has no doubt that it was ever anything but a chapati. Like Gaslighting but for flour products. I’m a bit sadistic that way, I guess. (more…)
Category Improbable Things, Pasta Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Buckwheat,Chapati,Flatbread,OMFG Yum,wok,Yogurt | 7 Comments
November 10, 2011 by MaryAnne
Shanghai’s frigid and grim season has landed with a cold, heavy thump. Last night in bed, my hands went kind of numb as I tried to read a book under my two thick duvets, with just my head and fingers poking out. Right now, I can hear the wind howling outside the flat, a rather dreadful feature of living on the 16th floor.
If you go up to the windows, you can feel a layer of cold air puffing through the cracks and thin panes. The wind is making it all rattle disconcertingly. Shanghai isn’t actually all that cold, at least not compared with, say, Beijing or Harbin, but it is in complete and utter denial about its lack of tropical winter balminess. Buildings are not particularly insulated and there is no central heating to speak of.
Kevin the Panda shudders at the thought of going out into the chilly overcast morning
Category Improbable Things, Soupy Stewy Things, Spicy Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Autumn,Beef,crock pot,garlic,OMFG Yum,stew,wok | 3 Comments
November 4, 2011 by MaryAnne
I should be trying to sleep right now. It’s nearly 10pm and I have an 8am train to catch tomorrow morning, whisking me off to the glittering metropolis of Hefei, the esteemed capital city of Anhui province which is about four hours away. A weekend of work awaits me there. The first time I went there about two years ago, there were hay bales on the train platform and rusty motorized tricycle taxis waiting outside the station.
With this in mind, I’m going to keep this one brief, to tide you over until I come back Sunday night.
First of all, I’m famous! Well, semi-famous. Famous in Shanghai, if anyone bothers to read the Dining Out section of Shanghai Talk magazine. After barely two months of existence, Wok With Me, Baby was inexplicably chosen to be featured alongside the highly esteemed Life On Nanchang Lu in a glossy monthly that’s actually worth reading for the articles (really!).
Look! I’m the one right there in the middle!
Next come the mansions and descent into cocaine madness!
But enough about me. You need something to eat while I’m away for the weekend doing unmentionable things in Hefei. I’m going to show you something that’s really really easy and really versatile.
Can I call it Eggplant Parmesan if the parmesan is optional and it contains Sichuan peppercorns and 5 Spice powder? I’m open minded if you are. Let me show you what I’ve made three nights in a row to go alongside dinner (Chinese tacos! Using Lady Noodle dough tortillas!). They’re that good. (more…)
Category Baked Things, Improbable Things, Spicy Things, Uncategorized | Tags: aubergine,eggplant,frying,Toaster Oven,wok | 3 Comments
October 26, 2011 by MaryAnne
I should preface this one by noting that I’m sick today. Part cold, part sore throat, part achy dopiness. Which is why I kind of screwed up some key parts of this recipe.
If you look below at the recipe, you’ll see it calls for 5lbs of pork shoulder.
On Monday afternoon, when I bought and initially prepared the piece of pork, I didn’t look at the size or weight or cut. I just bought a reasonably sized piece, fit for a household where one person doesn’t really eat meat (me) and the other doesn’t really like pork (Doug). However, I really like the pulled pork sandwich at Boxing Cat Brewery (about 80rmb) and thought it would be worth attempting at home. (more…)
Category Improbable Things, Soupy Stewy Things, Spicy Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Autumn,crock pot,Flatbread,OMFG Yum,Pork,wok | 9 Comments
October 16, 2011 by MaryAnne
Now this one…this one’s going to be a search engine disaster in the making. It may also be the one that gets me pushed over the proverbial edge of the Great Firewall. Sorry.
This stew is technically a basic Irish stew, though lacking in lamb and Guinness. I did, however, have some leathery supermarket Chinese beef and a bottle of Sinkiang stout from the far, far west of China, from what’s known on maps as the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (or شىنجاڭ ئۇيغۇر ئاپتونوم رايونى or Shinjang Uyghur Aptonom Rayoni or 新疆维吾尔自治区). I made the stew yesterday, along with the spicy roasted pumpkin soup. It was a lovely autumnal dinner. (more…)
Category Soupy Stewy Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Beef,crock pot,stew,Turkish,Uyghur,wok | 11 Comments
October 12, 2011 by MaryAnne
I’m in the middle of a personal dilemma of sorts this week. I’ve been feeling extraordinarily exhausted and unmotivated, craving hibernation and inactivity and solitude as much as possible. However, my inner cheerleader (damn her!) has been trying her best to get me out of bed, out of the flat, doing something, anything.
I kind of hate her.
One of the results of this has been an awful lot of cooking going on. Elaborate, multi-part recipes that take up most of the afternoon. Heavy, fragrant autumnal dishes that leave me feeling even more lazy and tired and unmotivated after eating them.
But so very, very yummy.
I’ll be extraordinarily fat by the time winter rolls around, at this rate.
This morning Doug asked me if we could do pesto pasta with chicken for dinner. I said sure. No problem.
Now, if I was sane I’d probably pop down to the import shop and buy a little jar of pesto and a box of pasta and a packet of chicken bosoms. Prep time would be, um, maybe twenty minutes, including the time it takes to bring the water to a boil.
Did I do that?
Let me show you what I did, and after you see what I did, I want you to imagine how insanely tired I feel now. (more…)
Category Improbable Things, Pasta Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Cheese,Gnocchi,OMFG Yum,Pesto,wok | 7 Comments
October 10, 2011 by MaryAnne
My unemployment is showing. I haven’t done a lick of work since the end of September. I’ve kept myself occupied with bursts of scone-baking (using the leftover whey from the ricotta cake topping from last week), minestrone-cooking, tortilla-wokking and waaaay too much reading.
Indeed, I’ve been very busy.
Very busy lying in bed, drinking coffee, and telling myself that I really ought to get my act together and do something productive for once.
So I have, briefly. I’ve made something new.
Or rather, something really quite old. Today’s recipe comes from, seriously, a 14th century cookbook called Kitab al-Tibakh (aka كتاب الطبيخ or Book of Dishes), which I was happily able to easily translate as the Turkish words are pretty much the same, though with different grammar linking them- kitap (book)+tabak (dish)). What we have here are (apparently) the world’s oldest recorded pasta shapes. They’re shaped like coins, by hand, squashed between your fingers. No need for a pasta maker or even a knife. I find that very exciting. (more…)
Category Improbable Things, Pasta Things, Spicy Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Beef,Middle Eastern,OMFG Yum,Pasta,wok,Yogurt | 8 Comments
October 5, 2011 by MaryAnne
So I’m cheating a bit on this one.
I have a secret weapon. A secret Canadian weapon. A secret, um, Surrey, BC, weapon. Which is also, technically, an Indian weapon. Or Pakistani, depending on which one I use. My aunt gave it to me, so you can speak to her sternly about my lack of Sino-authenticity.
I will admit it: the spices are not from ’round here.
Whenever I go home, my aunt (hi Pat!) goes shopping in her local Vancouver supermarket and buys me an enormous supply of Indian spice mixes. Jalfrezi, Korma, Biryani, Chana masala, the works. I have a cupboard loaded with these things. They’re all from India or Pakistan, and the instructions on the back pretty much assume you’re cooking for 15 people and happen to have, say, a side of mutton and a large barrel of ghee at hand.
I have, um, 2 very small pieces of awful boneless ‘Chinese top’ beef, whatever that is. They’re the kind of cuts that need to be marinated in something penetratingly acidic (hence my fridge full of citrus fruit and yogurt) and then cooked for a rather long time before they take on a texture that could be described as anything other than leathery. The recipe on the back of the box calls for bone-in chunks of beef or mutton, about twice as much as we have. We’re not big meat eaters here (I’m a lapsed vegetarian) and the photo on the front of the box, replete with enormous bones jutting out of rice, is daunting.
I’m a brave little culinary soldier, so I forge ahead.
Let me show you how to make a beef biryani with just a wok and a rice cooker. (more…)
Category Improbable Things, Soupy Stewy Things, Spicy Things, Uncategorized | Tags: Indian,OMFG Yum,rice cooker,wok,Yogurt | 5 Comments