Archive for May 11th, 2010

Another vegetable that The Cat missed is fava beans.  My only experience with fava beans (or broad beans) was the frozen, bagged variety bought at the local Japanese markets.  There is an outer pod and an inner membrane encasing the bean.  Removing the outer pod looks labor intensive.

Fava Beans in the Pod

According to Wikipedia, the beans begin to be harvested in mid-Spring.  Here’s the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicia_faba.  The map, also from Wiki, indicates that fava beans are fairly well-known in China.

Global Fava Bean Yields (From Wiki)

The Cat remembers fava beans were just boiled in salted water (similar to soy beans).  So for several years, that’s how I prepared the frozen ones here.  The frozen ones included the inner membrane which I usually removed after parboiling the beans in salted water.  It seems that currently in Shanghai, the beans are stir-fried with a slight corn starch and salt glaze.  I think sometimes the glaze included green onions or chives.  As the pictures show, we had the beans prepared this way more than three times (I got tired of taking similar pictures).  For some reason, more restaurants seemed to have fava beans on their menu than bamboo shoots.

Fava Beans, Part I

Fava Beans, Part II

Fava Beans, Part III

However, there were two times that the preparation stood out.  On the first night (dinner with The Cat’s nephew), the fava beans were cooked with salted belly pork (kind of tasted like a mild ham).  All the other times, the fava beans were prepared with the inner membrane left on.  The people either discarded the membrane after extracting the bean or ate the whole thing.

Fava Beans with Salted Belly Pork

On another occasion, in Ningbo (more on that in a later post), the beans were roasted (with membrane) with salt and bay leaves.  I’m not sure if there was any preliminary preparation (it was at a semi-official dinner, and I didn’t want to interrupt) prior to the roasting.  The texture was a little drier than the rest but it had a intense flavor that I didn’t taste when the beans were stir-fried.

Roasted Fava Beans with Bay Leaves

My favorite was with the salted pork belly.  When does anything cooked with belly pork taste bad?  Also, the inner membrane was taken off.  The roasted fava beans comes in at a close second.

For now, I’m all fava beaned out.  Although during the trip I did start to crave a nice Chianti wine and some … (sorry, first there was Po, now Hannibal Lechter). 🙂

The Mouse almost started to look like a bean.

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One of our goals on this trip was to eat seasonal vegetables that we don’t normally get back home.  One of these is fresh bamboo shoots.  When I was growing up, the only bamboo shoots I tasted came out of a can.  Those bamboo shoots always kind of tasted “tinny” to me.  After we got married, I discovered bamboo shoots imported from either China or Japan that was packed in plastic bags filled with water.  Although I thought they tasted far better than the ones from the can, The Cat was not impressed.  This is a picture of fresh bamboo shoots at a vegetable stand near where we stayed on this trip.  

Fresh Bamboo Shoots

The first night we arrived in Shanghai, The Cat’s nephew (and mine by marriage), met us in town to help us with our luggage.  Since he also helped to book the apartment we were staying at, he knew the directions.  There is a restaurant around the corner of the apartment that he wanted to try.  On the menu was hand peeled bamboo shoots.  

Hand Peeled Bamboo Shoots

The bamboo shoots were prepared by cutting them into smaller sections, cleaning them, and boiling them in salted water.  The bamboo shoots in the two pictures don’t look that different.  To eat it, you peel the outer casing until you get to the softer middle.  The process kind of reminded me of eating artichokes.   There is definitely a difference in texture.  I felt like “Po” eating this dish (I was looking around for “Master Shifu” to appear).  Now I know what bamboo shoots are supposed to taste like.  

I didn’t know it at the time, but with the packaged bamboo shoots, the texture seems like the bamboo shoots lost some of its “stalkiness,” it seems to be softer or a little “mushy.”  I guess the fiber breaks down after processing.  I won’t even comment on the  canned variety.   

On another night, we had bamboo shoots in a brown sauce.   

Braised Bamboo Shoots in Brown Sauce

According to a Shanghai guidebook.  Shanghai food tend to use a soy sauce and sugar base.  As the city was developing, the people did not have access to a variety of herbs and spices.  As a result, a lot of dishes we ate use a variation of the soy sauce and sugar sauce I call “brown sauce.”  


If The Mouse Eats Bamboo Shoots, Can The Mouse Become the “Dragon Warrior?”

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