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Archive for May, 2010

As mentioned in the previous post, we took a side trip to Ningbo during this China trip.  Our first meal in Ningbo was at a cafeteria near the bus station where we arrived.  Although choosing this place was more out of hunger, it turned out to be one of the more memorable meals this trip.  Many meals were memorable, but, this one stood out because of its value; this was the first time I tried stinky winter melon (see previous post); and it tasted pretty good (except for the stinky winter melon).  Here’s what the cafeteria looked like: 

Cafeteria in Ningbo

Here’s what we (myself, The Cat, and The Cat’s brother) ate: 

Stir-Fried Shanghai Cabbage

Cauliflower with Ham and Bell Pepper

Chives with Scrambled Eggs

Steamed Egg Custard with Dried Shrimp

Won Bok "Mash"

Bamboo Shoots with Preserved Cabbage

Pig's Blood Pudding

Belly Pork with Steamed Egg

Cucumber "Salad"

Fish in Shoyu Sauce

Mapo Tofu

Along with the previously posted stinky winter melon we ordered 13 dishes, not including three orders of rice.  The cashier was a bit stunned to see three people take so much food.  When I looked around, the local patrons had an average of one vegetable dish, one meat dish, rice, and maybe one bowl of soup.  No wonder the cashier was scratching her head. 

The total bill came to 60.00 yuan.  At the time we were there, the exchange rate was between 6.7 and 6.8 yuan to one dollar (US).  So our lunch was under $10.00.  Everything except for one dish (I think it was the fish), was under one dollar each.  

The Tab

There was a smaller cafeteria style restaurant near where we stayed in Shanghai.  The prices were a bit higher (the cost of living in Shanghai is higher as compared with Ningbo).  For breakfast, The Cat and I had eight dishes with rice and a mixed grain gruel for about 7 dollars (US): 

The Mouse's Breakfast

 Clockwise from the mixed grain gruel is tomato and eggs, squash with black fungus, bitter melon, and Shanghai cabbage with mushrooms. 

The Cat's Breakfast

Clockwise from top left is celery and bean sprouts, Chinese mountain yam (shan yao), fish in shoyu sauce, and “lion’s head.”  Here’s the Wikipedia article on shan yao: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dioscorea_opposita

The Cat and The Mouse ate good and cheap in China, yum.

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Back in 2008, I got to appreciate stinky tofu.  During that trip, The Cat’s cousin mentioned that winter melon is also fermented into stinky winter melon (chou dong gua).  We didn’t get to try it on that trip, and did not really have a desire to (I think my limit is trying one stinky food per trip, lol).  On this trip, the stinky winter melon kind of snuck up on me like a stealth missile.  We just got off the bus from Shanghai to Ningbo.  It was around lunch time and we started looking for a place to eat.  After passing several street side eateries, we came upon a cafeteria and decided to eat there.  One of the dishes was winter melon, cut into cubes.  There was no smell or indication that is was stinky winter melon.  It looked like winter melon that was simmered in broth.  I chose the winter melon as one of my dishes.  When I sat down and put a cube in my mouth, there was an instant sourness that hit the back of my mouth.  The sourness was not a pleasant taste, more like an “acidy” spoiled taste.  I immediately shoveled down as much rice I could to counteract the sourness.  Apparently the people of this area like to pickle their foods (http://www.absolutechinatours.com/news/Ningbo-pickled-vegetables-2113.html).  The Cat said it was too sour for her.  The Cat’s brother tasted a piece and said that when he was small, his grandparents liked to eat stinky winter melon that was even more sour than what I tried.  

Stinky Winter Melon

To make the experience more intense, our host took us to dinner that night, The Cat mentioned that I had my first experience with stinky winter melon earlier that day and lived.  The host immediately ordered stinky winter melon  to be added to our dinner (which was better than the first time).  The next day, another official hosted lunch and heard that I was able to eat stinky winter melon.  He specially orders stinky winter melon for me.  So, in less than a 24 hour period, I got to eat stinky winter melon three times.  Lucky me. 

On a related topic, on our bus ride from Shanghai to Ningbo, the bus makes one stop to a rest area specifically for buses.  It’s like a little strip mall back home with several vendors selling snacks, drinks, etc.  Guess what one of the stands sells exclusively?  Stinky tofu, go figure. 

"Stinky Tofu" Shop

 The sign actually says “stink tofu.”

"Stinky Tofu" Shop Interior

The shop operators were eating lunch when I looked in but there’s some stinky tofu, already fried, at the left side of the shop. 

The Mouse is destined to experience “stinky” foods. I am blessed (lol).

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The inspiration for these dishes come from several sources.   During our previous visits to Shanghai, one of the dishes that were often ordered as an appetizer was mochi stuffed lotus roots.  On our last visit, I found out that some of the restaurants flavor the dish with Osmanthus flowers (guihua).  Totally unrelated, but at a family style Japanese restaurant that I frequent, one of the side dishes that often accompanies the entrée is pumpkin (Kabocha) simmered in a sweet shoyu sauce.  This past weekend, The Cat wanted to eat light (no meat).   

I “found” a package of dried Osmanthus flowers we purchased during a previous trip to Shanghai.  The Cat likes a syrup made with Osmanthus flowers but I never got around to making it.  I also “found” a few pieces of frozen Kabocha pumpkin.  Both were at the back of our freezer.  I simmered the Kabocha in a little water, sugar, salt, and Osmanthus flowers. 

Dried Osmanthus Flowers

Osmanthus Flavored Kabocha

 If you’re wondering what the design of the dish the Kabocha was served in, this is what the dish looks like empty:

 

The Cat's Dish

 We also had some frozen lotus roots in the freezer.  I simmered the lotus roots in a light shoyu, sugar, and Shao Xing wine broth.  

Simmered Lotus Roots

Lastly, I boiled a carrot and sprinkled it with roasted sesame oil, sea salt, and roasted black sesame seeds. 

Carrots with Sesame Oil, Sea salt, and Black Sesame Seeds

We ate the vegetables with two onigiri (Japanese rice balls) we bought at our local Japanese supermarket earlier in the day. 

Here’s the Wikipedia article for Osmanthus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osmanthus

Here’s the Wikipedia article for Kabocha: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabocha

The Cat said it’s getting harder to eat out.  Some of my cooking is comparable to eating at a restaurant.  🙂 

Enjoy. The Mouse

 

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One of our friends in Ningbo, gave us a package of “black fungus” to take home.  

"Black Fungus"

 

Here’s the description on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auricularia_auricula-judae.  The texture of the fungus tends to be on the crunchy side, no matter how long it’s cooked.  The Cat likes the texture to be on the softer side.  She said that the fungus is more nutritious. 

For The Cat’s lunch today, I stir-fried head cabbage with “black fungus,” dried mushrooms (rehydrated), fresh Enoki mushrooms, and thinly sliced pork belly.  I pre-boiled the fungus before adding it to the stir-fry.  I also rendered the fat from the pork belly to use in the stir-fry.   The Cat said yum.  The fungus is supposed to have medicinal properties (as well as the cabbage and mushrooms) but I think the pork fat balanced out the benefits. 🙂 

Stir-Fried Cabbage with Mushrooms and Pork Belly

 

The Mouse

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Inspired by eating all that shoyu pork in China, I made this variation of shoyu pork over the weekend.  This version has dried bamboo shoots, dried shiitake mushrooms, green onions, and turnips.  I cut back on the pork to make the dish more “healthy”. 

Shoyu Pork with Dried Bamboo Shoots and Turnip

The Cat said that compared to the dishes she ate in Shanghai, this one was close enough.   

The Mouse will keep trying. 

I’m sending this to Deb for her Kahakai Blog (http://kahakaikitchen.blogspot.com/).

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